Fred Blohm was born to Fred and Daisy Blohm during a thunderstorm on June 12th, 1933, at 93 Erie Street in Dumont. The youngest of 5 children, the doctor took one look at his red hair and declared that he would be trouble. The family moved around several times throughout Dumont, eventually settling at 390 Milford Ave.
His childhood was not the happiest- Fred’s father had a drinking problem, and a kind word was never passed between mother and father. Still, it wasn’t all bad. There were happy memories of all of the family kids playing on a giant see-saw that his father had build in the backyard, tales of sleighriding and playing “chickie” with the neighbors across Kinderkamack Road, and lots of music and performing. His parents both were very musical, Frederick playing all of the stringed instruments in a band and Daisy singing in her low, husky voice. Its no surprise, that with his familial talent, his introduction into the world of entertaining others via a grade school play where he played a jester, and the guitar and guitar lessons he recieved around age 12-14, that Fred would use his musical talents to entertain others for the rest of his life.
Fred’s first public performance was as a blackfaced yodeling cowboy* in a minstral show at Dumont High School. Soon after, he met George Edwards, his musical partner for many years. They played the talent show circuit, appearing on “The Ted Mack Show” where they yodeled and played guitars. After High School, they tried their hand at entertaining in the Catskills, getting paid in room and board and the occasional tip. Eventually, Fred got a job with his brother at the St. Joe Paper company, where he worked for the next 18 years. He and George continued to play together until George went into the Air Force. At that point, Fred played with a few other acts, but his heart wasn’t as into it.
*Yes, I agree this would be problematic nowadays, but nobody was thinking about it then.
In 1948, still in High School, Fred was introduced to the aunt of a friend of his, at a carnival. Betty. They hit it off, and in 1953, before he left for the Air Force himself, Fred asked for Betty’s hand in marriage; they were engaged. At Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, he joined the entertainment troupe, where he washed out of electronic school, and was soon sent to Turner Air Force Base in Albany. Here he was a member of the Service Club at the 811th Air Base Group. And then, on one of the hottest days of the year in 1954, he and Betty got married and honeymooned in Atlantic City. Fred returned to Georgia, alone, but soon enough Betty joined him.
In 1956, Timothy Paul was born. When Fred’s stint in the Air Force was through, the family moved back to the northeast, where Fred’s job at the paper company was waiting for him. They stayed with Betty’s mother for awhile, but then eventually bought a house in Garnerville, NY. Meanwhile, they had a daughter, Eileen Marie, and Fred began picking up more musical work. In 1961, their second son Eric was born, and by 1965, they moved to a brand new house in Oakland, NJ, to be closer to Fred’s job.
Here in Oakland, Fred got involved in coaching baseball for his son Tim’s Team. He was also still travelling back to Rockland County to play with the band. In 1971, he finally quit his job at the paper company and took a job as a salesman at Mark/Trece, a company that made rubber printing plates. He also started getting involved with some local musicians, often playing weddings locally. He did this for quite some time, and enjoyed it.
Later, as an “older’ adult, he joined a softball league in town and enjoyed many successful seasons. In August, 1999, Fred came inside from riding his lawnmower. He was having pains in his arm. He had a heart attack, and it was a fairly life-changing event. He then dropped 60 lbs and began trying to live a healthier lifestyle. Eventually he went back to work part time, but it proved to be stressful and eventually he retired.
Having spent the last many years near his oldest son’s family, watching his first grandchild grow up and graduate high school and go off to college, Fred and Betty decided to retire to Wilmington, North Carolina where their other two grandchildren were still growing up. In June of 1998, they sold the house in Oakland and moved to Wilmington- Just a few blocks from Eileen and her family.
In Wilmington, Fred was very active musically with most of the local Nursing and Retirement Homes. He played with a group called “Music of Yesteryear” and got involved with many other retirees from New Jersey, as well as with the local Senior Center. He had a decent amount of local friends, and at least once a year, he and Betty would travel to New Jersey to see friends and family there. Likewise, his family would visit him in North Carolina. He often looked forward to performing with his sons at the Retirement Home.
In his late 70’s, Fred was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis, which he attributed, in part, to playing in smoky venues before good ventilation was really thought about by the people who design such things. He began relying on oxygen. As his physical abilities lessened, his wit, sense of humor, and ability to tell a good story did not wane.
Fred, the man who could not pass a graveyard without telling you the “all of them” joke no matter how many times you heard it before, my grandfather, passed away peacefully in October of 2014, just a couple months after he attended his grandson Adam’s wedding- a wonderful event where he got to spend precious quality time with many family members, including his brother Bill, whom he hadn’t seen in awhile. Although it was rough, he had a great time.
At his service, Minister and family and friends spoke, telling wonderful stories, anecdotes, and jokes from his life. He left behind a legacy of music, stories, and morality that those who knew him will treasure forever.
“His life was gentle, and the elements So mix’d in him that Nature might stand up And say to all the world, This was a man.”
-W. Shakespeare, Julius Caesar