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.
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.
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 following story was first published on Sept. 7, 2016. In honor of the week-long Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair and all its tradition, including that famous clam chowder, here it is again …
The recipe for the famous Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair Manhattan clam chowder was considered a highly-guarded secret. People flocked to get their fill at the fair, because they could only get it once a year. It was a secret taken to the grave with former Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair Chairman James Acker.
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.
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.
Aug. 25 was the 42nd anniversary of the release of Bruce Springsteen’s iconic Born to Run album.
The Boss, who until recent years made Rumson his primary home, has been a known fan of the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair. He’s been seen countless times casually roaming the grounds — though more often when his kids were little.