Sept. 11 marked the 35th anniversary of the iconic Fair Haven Whistle Stop owner Frank Leslie’s death. So, in honor of Mr. Leslie and the wonderful memories he and his wife, Barbara, gave so many Fair Haven kids, we are reprising our piece on the Leslies and their oh, so sweet after-school stop. Thank you, Frank Leslie. You are remembered. Thirty-five years? Wow.
By Elaine Van Develde
Sometimes all it takes is a jawbreaker, a slice of Elio’s frozen pizza, pinball and friends all enveloped in a gingham-curtained room with a jovial giant of a dad host to make a bunch of kids smile.
The following piece, with a few changes as time goes on, is published annually on 9/11 as a testament to never forgetting …
It was a beautiful Tuesday. The sun was shining. The air was crisp. The coffee even tasted especially good.
I remember. Most of us remember where we were on Sept. 11, 2001 at 8:46 a.m.. I know I do. I also remember how everything went from bright, crisp, fragrant and optimistic to dark, dank, acrid and fearful in one second. I remember how it wasn’t about us observers, storytellers. It was about them — the victims, their loved ones, their message.
For me, a professional observer, a professional storyteller, thankfully close enough, yet far enough, yes, it was so very much about them — painfully so. I wasn’t one of them. I was lucky. I was grateful. I watched. I listened intently. They shared.
I was a reporter living in Fair Haven and covering Middletown. On what started out as a typical day, they ended up unwittingly, graciously, lighting a less traveled path for me. For many.
Our annual reprise of back-to-school memories and walking the rope in Fair Haven …
“But I don’t wanna walk on the rope next to her!” I cried from under my fresh-cut kindergarten bangs. “I wanna walk on the rope next to Pam!”
Pam was my neighbor. She was my best buddy.
It was 1965. Or was it ’64? It was the 60s. One thing’s for sure: Our Fair Haven kindergarten class was the last to have its first year of school at what was called the Youth Center, now the Fair Haven Police Station and Community Center on Fisk Street.
We kindergarteners were also the last to be tugged down the street on a rope, yes a rope, headed by an official-looking police-type lady.
Knock-kneed, nervous and all dressed up with somewhere to go, this gaggle Fair Haven neighborhood girls of 1965 lined up so their moms could get that classic first-day-of-kindergarten shot. And there wasn’t a smile among them.
The following piece was originally published on Aug. 31, 2015. It is being re-run, with changes only in the amount of years that have passed, in memory of my father, Bill Van Develde, former longtime Fair Haven Fire Company member, president and captain of the Fire Police and chairman of the stock room at the fair, on the anniversary of his death on Aug. 31, 1983. RIP, Dad. You are missed. Thank you for all the embarrassing moments that I didn’t appreciate enough. Thank you for making Fair Haven my home. Thank you for being a real dad. See you later at the fair …
By Elaine Van Develde
It’s been 36 years, but I can still see his face and that kooky Brylcreemed hairdo. I can still hear his crazy belly laugh and that signature “Take ‘er easy, buddy!” I can still see him slapping kids on the back, forever clutching his trusty clipboard, pencil perched behind his ear, sweat on the brow and finger wagging.
There was a time when there was one. Now there are three. We’re talking Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair chairmen. Yes, there was one person in charge of all that’s fair, getting it started and keeping it going. That guy was James Acker back in the day a few decades ago from the late 1960s to early ’80s. Then it was Gary Verwilt, former longtime Knollwood School teacher.
This Retro Pic(s) of the Day story was originally published on Aug. 25, 2015. It is being run again in honor of the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair, which runs through Saturday night. This is how they did it and continue to do it at the fair …
By Elaine Van Develde
When it came to cotton candy — that fluffy spun light blue and pink sugar on a cone that melts in your mouth, on your mouth and many times on your hands, too — Millie Felsmann was the pro at the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair.
Don’t get us wrong, here. We know that Millie also commandeered the candy apple making. Yes, Candy Bennett was there, too — for many hours a day, making and selling those candy apples, apropos name and all. And, in another Retro Pic of the Day from 2015, we touted her as the candy apple lady.
The night is still. A light is on. Trucks are out of the bays. Cartoony faces and ghosts in empty seats on unassembled carnival rides stare back in the dark. Someone’s cooking at the Fair Haven firehouse. It’s fair time.