It’s somebody’s birthday; and, at a young 83, you could say she’s got the whole world in her hands.
Well, she had a a big Fair Haven chunk of it in her hands and heart, anyway, when she taught guitar, marched with a group of kids in parades and ran the popular home away from home in this one small town that made a simple, profound impact with a slice of Elio’s pizza, a jawbreaker or frozen candy bar or 20, some music and, most importantly, the company of what turned out to be lifetime friends.
She is Barbara Leslie, former owner (with long deceased husband, Frank) of The Whistle Stop in Fair Haven. Kids walked there after school to play pinball, socialize, prank, grab a slice, sweeten their lives up and create some cavities and great memories. And while they were up that not-so-complicated or competitive or expensive after-school activity downstairs at the little red house on Forman Street, Mrs. Leslie taught guitar lessons in a little upstairs room in the place.
She taught a couple of chords to play a plethora of songs and bring some smiles to kids’ faces who heard themselves making music for the first time. And she organized a band of merry, pint-sized guitar players to all the fame and fortune of many marches in parades, strumming and signing He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands and a little Kumbaya.
I remember … Many others do, too. I remember my first walk, guitar slung over my shoulder, lace-up hip hugger bell bottoms and pigtails in check, all of one block to master those two chords and get come callouses. Nothing calloused about it.
It was a great song to march to, Mrs. Leslie’s. Still is. And the folk singers played on … and sing a happy, ever youthful, birthday to you, Mrs. Leslie.
She told us today that she doesn’t feel so young, but is “up and running!” and her fondest memories of Fair Haven are, to this day, The Whistle Stop and being with all the kids and families there.
Then there was the strumming and the parade march. That takes coordination; and she’s got it down. Right in step with knowing that there’s no place like home.
Enjoy your day, Mrs. Leslie! You still have all of Fair Haven in your hands! Thank you from all us guitar strumming, jaw breaking Fair Haven rug rats!