Thomas Krampf: A Chronology

Genealogy of the Krampf Family in the USA

Krampf home page

Tom Krampf:
Early memoir/biography

based on a text developed with him for a website in 2014
(still very much a draft)

Early Life

Thomas Krampf was born on October 9th, 1934 at the no longer extant Polyclinic Hospital in New York City. The son of Freehold Transcript news reporter Melvin C. Krampf, originally from western New York, and foreign language teacher, Inez Monsillo, a first generation Italian from Brooklyn; the family moved to New Jersey following Tom’s birth. It was there that some of the foundational experiences of his life would occur.

An event that would foreshadow his later fall from a window in France, Tom attempted to step out of a second-story window as a young child. At the last second, an African American maid, Sadie, quickly grabbed him. According to Krampf, “this was the story not only of my dependency on women, but also my imagination of some mythical dark skinned woman, who, at the last moment, would always step forward to save me.”

His most influential experience as a child, however, may have been at the Freehold Raceway. His father had helped resurrect the location from an old dirt track that dated back to the 1900s. While his mother worked at one of the ticket windows, his father helped with the location’s publicity.

For Tom, however, it was his time hanging out at the stables, or with his sister in the bushes, that, while observing the riders restraining their horses, he learned the quest to develop skills and become receptive to grace and beauty often carried with it the potential for danger.

Tom also carries memories of the second World War, an experience which would influence his further nonviolent temperament. When President Roosevelt declared war, his father, Melvin, listening in, blurted out “But Roosevelt promised our sons would never fight on foreign soil.” Melvin tried to enlist in the army, but was denied due to poor eyesight. When the war ended, Tom watched as an “almost delirious crowd trampled a Japanese flag on the sidewalk.”

A more important conflict from Tom's childhood, however, may be the one that existed within his own family. The family was divided into two sides: Tom and his mother, and Tom's sister and father. This rift in the family was accentuated by Melvin's quest for upward mobility, which led him to become somewhat of an absent parent. The conflict led to altercations that Tom would later regret, including an instance where Tom struck his sister, causing profuse bleeding.


Thomas Krampf is an alumnus of Dartmouth College. A member of the Class of 1956, Tom originally applied to Dartmouth at the urging of his mother, who was appalled at the education he had received at his local school. Once he arrived at Dartmouth, Tom discovered that students from the school were often children of alumni who had received their education at preparatory schools. As a result, Tom began to very deeply feel his social inequity. Coming from a disadvantaged background, Tom was even the recipient of a letter that tactfully hinted he should not attend Dartmouth if he felt out of place or the cost of attendance had created too strong a financial stress on his family.

Tom's attitude toward Dartmouth changed, however, once he took a Modern Poetry course with Professor Tom Vance. There, he heard Hart Crane read poetry for the first time, changing his worldview and opening a difficult door through which he could walk despite his feelings of alienation within a culture of privilege. He took on a job washing dishes at a local restaurant to help pay his way as he studied English literature. One of the few English majors at his school, Tom worried about the financial burdens he may have been causing for his parents as well as the corporate world he was meant to enter upon graduation from an Ivy League school. He decided not to enter business, instead opting to travel to Europe using money his uncle had gifted him.


While in Italy, Thomas received notification from his local draft board that he was draft eligible and that they had refused to extend his permission to stay out of the country. He returned to the United States in 1956. However, once he returned to the United States, he learned that his local draft board was not ready to take him immediately. This caused Tom to enter a period of great confusion, mental stress, and insecurity.

Trying to escape the “maternal grip,” Tom rented a small unheated room in Greenwich Village. This did not enhance his creativity and he began several trips to Middletown, New Jersey to volunteer himself for the draft, although he would change his mind and walk away instead. While on the subway, Tom saw the African American lady again, his thoughts returning the freedom and salvation she could offer him. He did not pursue her and, having nowhere else to go, Tom offered himself to the draft. This caused a split in his personality to grow deeper as he was as willing to punish himself for this act almost as much as the military was willing to punish him.

Time in Europe

Thomas Krampf first travelled to France after graduating from Dartmouth College, having been influenced by some “ideas” about writing that were influenced by his studies of both Henry James and Ernest Hemingway. He found himself isolated from the college life that seemed to be taking place in every cafĂ©. Somewhat disappointed by his time in Paris, he left for Italy.

While in Italy, Tom found himself very comfortable with southern Italian workers and families, later reflecting that they were “his people.” Tom lived for a month in Rome in a poor section of the city, unable to get a job with the European Herald Tribune. Later, he hitchhiked north to a youth hostel in Florence, meeting Françoise, the woman he would marry four years later. He was very impressed by her gentle singing and guitar playing. They agreed to meet again, but Tom was too shy and insecure to follow through. Shortly afterwards, he returned to America.

Having lived through the second World War, Tom's wife, Francoise, carried memories of the Exodus, when millions of French fled Paris and other provinces for the free terriotries of the south in order to escape the Nazis and the Vichy government. Following the war, Francoise also lost her father, a solider in the French arm, because a nurse forgot to give him a transfusion after surgery for a stomach ulcer.

Despite these hardships, after visiting Francoise's hometown for the first time, Tom remarked that “he was amazed at the stability of her childhood.” For Tom, the symbol of this stability was “the old cherry tree” Francoise and her brother used to climb in the garden,” a sharp contrast to the chronic American disease of always picking up and moving on.

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