Category Archives: Opinion

Editorials, letters to the editor and other articles reflecting on iconic people, places and traditions related to them in the area.

A Rumson-Fair Haven Veterans Remembrance

Their faces are the faces at the core of a close-knit community.

They were neighbors, dads, and just plain friendly faces around the Rumson-Fair Haven area towns. They were also veterans.

Continue reading A Rumson-Fair Haven Veterans Remembrance

Retro Halloween Parading

It’s a longstanding tradition — the Fair Haven Halloween Parade.

I remember it well — from my first parade trek back in the late 1960s to the ’70s, 80s, 90s and now.

It all started at age 7 with a wish to be Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. That little dress-up fantasy was foiled when my mother couldn’t get the gingham outfit together, my pigtails were not so poised for the silver screen look and my sister refused to crawl down Hance Road as Toto. I guess it was bad enough that from the age of 3, she was forced by this pint-sized dominatrix 5-year-old Dorothy to crawl on a makeshift Funk and Wagnall’s encyclopedia Yellow Brick Road to Oz in the living room.

Continue reading Retro Halloween Parading

9/11: Day’s End Reflection, 17 Years Later

 By Elaine Van Develde
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.
It’s this one storyteller’s perspective.
Through this one fortunate observer’s eyes and heart, it went like this …
Continue reading 9/11: Day’s End Reflection, 17 Years Later

Retro First Day of School: Walking the Rope

“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.

Continue reading Retro First Day of School: Walking the Rope

Reflection: All’s Fair in the End

There have been a lot of significant beginnings and endings lately. The end of summer. The beginning of locals’ summer. The start of school — new chapters and first days.

But, what about the middle? The end of the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair brings me, and probably more than a few others, back to that middle.

Continue reading Reflection: All’s Fair in the End

Remembrance of the Fair Stock Room Dude — Dad

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. 

Retro Fair Haven Firemen's Fair stock room days in the 1970s Photo/FHFD booklet
Retro Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair stock room days in the 1970s
Photo/FHFD booklet

By Elaine Van Develde

It’s been 35 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.

That’s the vivid, comforting ghost image of Bill Van Develde I still see and hear roaming around on the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair grounds. He was chairman of the stockroom back in the 1970s and 80s and he was my quirky, big-hearted dad.

He drove the kids nuts, running them all over the fair grounds, shuttling stuff from the stock room to the booths and back. It was rare to see him sitting down.

He loved the fair; and he was all about the business of keeping things stocked.

He loved the Fair Haven Fire Department. He loved his compadres there. He loved those kids. He loved Fair Haven.

And 35 years ago on Aug. 31, he died at the age of 57. It was fair time. He didn’t make it that year. It was a first. The fair grounds that were usually robust with the nuances of yet another fair character seemed still and sullen.

Some of those kids he had regaled with his bad jokes, drove a little loopy in the name of the fair and back-slapped into a fair oblivion were now young men. One was there in the ambulance with the First Aid Squad rushing him to the hospital days before. A few ended up being teary-eyed pallbearers, missing his annoyingly caring way.

The notion that such simple gestures of volunteerism and community compassion mattered became very clear when I — a 23-year-old a little too impressed with pretense for Dad’s taste — was smacked upside the head with poignant gratitude the day of his funeral.

The tears and heads bowed in sadness, casket hoisted into that shiny, white, flower-laden firetruck — the far-reaching impact of one simple guy who just gave a crap, as his no-frills self would have said.

He just did what he did because it was the right thing to do to be part of a community, he enjoyed it and he cared. A lot. And he cared the right way — just because. He didn’t want, even rejected, any public accolades and even as much as a pat on the back.

He used to joke that when he “croaked,” he wanted “no damn rigamarole.” Sorry, Dad, they couldn’t help it. You deserved it.

Yes, it’s been 35 years.

I still see him darting past me at the fair, pencil poised for that checklist, hooting, hollering and hurrying. Check! And he always turns around when he sees me out of the corner of his eye and shouts, “Hey, Eya, did ya get yourself some supper? Hows about a hot dog? Got any tickets left from working with your mother? Always make sure you have a dollar in your pocket. Need a dollar?”

No, Dad, just hearing your voice and seeing your face again is priceless.

Thank you, Bill Van Develde, for bringing me to Fair Haven and giving me many fair times ever after. You are missed. And, yeah, I know, calling you a dude is just plain ornery of me.

Retro Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair Balloon Boss & Buddies

Sally Van Develde selling balloons at the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair Grab Bag Booth

The following piece was originally published in August of 2015. Here it is again in honor of the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair, which is running through Saturday night … 

Growing up in Fair Haven with parents in the fire company, Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair time meant time spent inflating punch balls during the day and helium balloons at night.

Continue reading Retro Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair Balloon Boss & Buddies

Retro Fair Cotton Candy & Candy Apple Boss Lady

Millie Felsmann making cotton candy at the Fair Haven Firemen's Fair circa early 1990s Photo/Elaine Van Develde
Millie Felsmann making cotton candy at the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair circa early 1990s
Photo/Elaine Van Develde

 

 

Millie Felsmann and her candy apples back in the 1960s Photo/courtesy of Monica Felsmann
Millie Felsmann and her candy apples back in the 1960s
Photo/courtesy of Monica Felsmann

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Well, she was — she was Candy, the candy apple lady.  Continue reading Retro Fair Cotton Candy & Candy Apple Boss Lady

Fair Reflections: An Ode Opening Night of the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair

Opening night of the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair … 

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.

Continue reading Fair Reflections: An Ode Opening Night of the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair

Retro Fair Kitchen & Dining Room Folks

The following piece was originally published on Aug. 27, 2015. It’s just about fair time again, so it’s time to take a look back at how things were and are done a pivotal place at the fair — the kitchen and dining room.

By Elaine Van Develde

Someone’s in the kitchen at Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair grounds.

And while they may have, at one point another been with someone named Dinah, as the old ditty goes, it’s a definite they’ve been with someone named Mike, Dale, Sue (x2), Raquel, Ethel (x2), Mary, Anne, Amanda, Skippy, Hodgie, Mary Ellen, Joe, Evie, and, oh, yeah, Andy and a few others.

And they certainly haven’t been strummin’ on any ol’ banjo. They’ve been way too busy — cutting, peeling, filling, flouring, husking and just plain cooking.

Except there’s nothing plain about what’s cooking in the fair kitchen, who’s cooking it, when, where, why or how.

Continue reading Retro Fair Kitchen & Dining Room Folks

Simple Summer: Gone Fishing

It’s summertime and the living is, well, let’s say pretty fishy if you live in the Rumson-Fair Haven area.

In fact, it’s downright status quo when you grow up in the area to do so with some sand between your toes, a fishing pole over your shoulder, a crabbing net and trap and a bucket in which to tote your catch home — even if that catch is a couple of river rocks, some seaweed and a dried out crab shell.

It’s part of the magic of living by the Navesink River — growing up Rumson-Fair Haven style.

It’s a simple concept. And it’s one of those fabulous things in life that’s free. A walk, a view, a little fishing for a great summer day.

So, the Simple Summer feature today is all about fishing for some fun down by the river — honing in on a little spot by and on the Fair Haven Dock.

The catch is a keeper.

Take a look at our slideshow above for the whole picture. (And don’t forget to click on the lower right icon to enlarge!) See you down by the river!