The Grande Dame
Aileen Cramer was one of the last of Woodstock’s grand dames. The daughter of jut-jawed artist-photographer Konrad Cramer and artist Florence Ballin Cramer, Aileen was Woodstock aristocracy. Her white hair and regal bearing, combined with a background in theatre, gave her a formidable aspect. The flaneur couldn’t help falling for her. Sometimes they climbed Mount Guardian together, or cleared trails there. On fine summer mornings, they might go for a drive in her sporty Kharman-Ghia convertible, which was graced with freshly-cut flowers in a vase.
Aileen served, noblesse oblige, on the boards of the town’s leading arts organizations, as well as the Town Board. The flaneur watched her shock fellow board members by simply speaking her mind. This is a rare thing these days, and it can be intimidating or endearing, depending on your strength of character.
It was Aileen who taught the flaneur that a true Woodstocker enjoys a love-hate relationship with his home town. Toward the end of her long life Aileen announced that she was “ready to go.” Shortly thereafter, she went.
Rush Harp called himself an assassinologist. He was obsessed with what he considered to be a conspiracy surrounding JFK’s murder in Dallas. Other than this crotchet, he was as normal as any retired IBM-er with some bucks might be. When the flaneur stopped by the Harp homestead on Wittenberg Road, Rush would fill him in on the latest in conspiracy theories over coffee. His place was a bachelor’s lair, full of surprises; once he showed the flaneur a Thompson submachine gun he had just purchased. He liked to invest his money — at one time he owned Woodstock Times.
A chubby, generous eccentric with a ready smile, he was always ready to come to the aid of those who called him. “Rush to the rescue” was his motto. All he asked of others was they listen to his theories. When asked how he was, his invariable answer was “supreme.”
He carried on his “research” by telephone, which he would invariably answer, “Hello, telephone.”
He died in 1982, and his friends threw a memorable memorial party in Town Hall with lots of dancing. (Rush loved to dance.)