One thing I really like about living near a small town is getting to know the people that you see on a regular basis. Ren’s Mobil is in the center of Amherst and Tom has been pumping gas there for a long time. When I first met him he was a student at UMASS; now in addition to working at Ren’s, he plays bass in the band Outer Stylie (Psychedelic/Rock/Soul). It is always great to see him, talk about music, and get some gas. He is consistently cheerful and totally cool.
The New York State Museum is looking at some older style newsstands that are slowly being replaced by a more modern version. I was in the city yesterday on a mad dash down Broadway starting at 178th Street and ending around Times Square. It was very windy, rainy, rushed and a total blast. We were helped out by Harley Spiller, who is THE expert on the stands and in particular the paperweights used to hold down the piles of papers. An amazing and very cool guy. This stand is on the corner of 46th and Broadway.
When I was growing up in Meadville, there were tons of oak trees. In the fall the acorns would start dropping and be everywhere. Sometimes we would fill our pockets full and inevitably someone would start throwing them,which would lead to some massive neighborhood battles. One day Don Blackmar’s father got involved in the effort, and since he was the only adult, just about everyone started heaving them at him. He got really pissed and took it to a level way beyond parental discretion. It was unusual to see a parent go over so far over the edge in what was mostly just a benign game. I never felt the same about him after that.
Since my mother died in March of 2009, I have been going through lots of her things. She seems to have been a saver of many of the same kind of momentos that I favor. I have always been interested in “official” documents, and when I saw this passport, I knew I wanted to keep hold of it. Yesterday I started thumbing through the pages, and it is so filled with information about a specific time in my family’s life that it really hit me.
For reasons that I have never fully understood, my father, who was a professor of German at Allegheny College went to Innsbruck, Austria sometime in the Summer of 1956 to spend several months studying or teaching at the University of Innsbruck. The plan was for my mother, sister, brother and me to come to Europe in December of that year to join him for the holidays. These are the first two pages of the passport. I like that the “Foreign Address” given was c/o American Express, Innsbruck, and that in case of problems my grandmother was to be notified. I remember her house on Torrey Road in Grosse Pointe very well.
Two great signatures on the above pages; Vera Louise Crispin and John Foster Dulles.
I like the above pages the best. The photograph was probably taken at the Stanton Rand Studios in Meadville. That’s me on the bottom right. I am surprised that the immigration stamp from our return into the States is on this page. All other stamps are on the next page. Interesting to note that travel to Hungary was right out. We would be in Austria, which in 1956 was still occupied by Soviet troops (more on that later).
I have always loved rubber stamps, and these are full of information. Since there is no stamp for our departure from New York City, I can only guess at the date. I actually have a dim memory of leaving from the Meadville train station sometime in late November of 1956, arriving in New York and checking into a hotel for the night. We boarded the USS Constitution the next day. I have a few memories of the ship; swimming in the indoor pool, sneaking into First Class, throwing ping pong balls over the rails, and celebrating Bob’s birthday on the 2nd. Before arriving in Genoa, we stopped in Casablanca and since my mother was travelling as a single mom, one of the ship’s officers offered to take us to the big hotel for part of the day. I remember sitting on a balcony overlooking the harbour and drinking Coca Cola out of bottles where the logo was in Arabic. I was scared shitless that the ship would leave without us. Nest stop was Messina (Sicily) of which I have no memory. We finally arrived in Genoa (Genova) on the 10th, where my Dad met us. We got on a train the next day, and went through customs at Brennero (Brenner Pass) and entered Austria. Innsbruck was totally cool. We stayed at Pension Bender on Dr. Glatzstrasse which was directly across the street from a Soviet Army post. We used to look out the windows in the morning and watch them march around the compound. Weird to think about now. I remember eating lots of soup. For Christmas, our family and lots of Dad’s friends went to Lermoos in the Alps. (I know this is getting a bit long, so bear with me. It seems kind of self-indulgent to be doing this; it is mostly for my brother and sister and their families.) So, after Innsbruck, a train out of Austria through Germany. Arrived in Holland on 25 January at Venlo Station, left on a ferry from Hoek the same day, and arrived in Harwich, UK on the 26th. While in England we were in London for a few days staying at the Ivanhoe (which is now a dump, but used to be nice), and then we went down to Redruth, Cornwall to visit my dad’s family. The triangular stamp at the bottom tells of our departure from Southampton on the SS United States on the first day of February, 1957. We were delayed by a day due to “heavy seas”, and arrived in New York City on the 7th in the middle of a tugboat strike. The captain of the United States docked the ship without any tugs, and it was huge news in New York. Made the front page of the Times.
“Hey, purple stuff”! A while back, Cris and I started seeing this plant near wetlands as we were driving around the Northeast. It was often near highways and at first we really liked seeing it. At some point I read an article about how it is a very invasive plant called Purple Loosestrife that rapidly spreads and is taking over wetlands at a scary rate. Cris had a hard time remembering the name, so it became a bit of a joke with us. We’d be in the car and the first to see it would call out “Hey, Purple Stuff”. (Akin to our “THERE”S the sewage treatment plant”.) Anyway, Peter and the Pearl and I were walking today and there was tons of it near the UMASS football field. It was very windy and beautiful, and I liked how the goldenrod looked next to it.
Cris and I were walking in Northampton today and I saw the fungus on the left growing on a tree. It was about 9 feet off the ground so I guessed at the framing. Just missed the right side. As I was taking the picture, a woman driving by got our attention and said there was a bigger one on Olive Street. So we drove over and saw the one on the right. I like the first one a bit better, but the one on Olive is huge.