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.
“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.
Students were back to school in the Rumson-Fair Haven area this week. Those classic first day of school shots were plastered all over Facebook.
And 50 years ago, or 51, to be exact, in September of 1966, while 91,000 students and 4,700 teachers headed back to public school classrooms in Monmouth County (13,014 to parochial), according to a Red Bank Register story of Sept. 6, 1966, the anticipation of the photo taken with that Brownie camera mounted as that picture of the day developed — taking weeks at times.
And those photos were classics … Mom-styled hair gone awry, buck-toothed and missing tooth grins, shiny Mary Jane shoes, Buster Brown penny loafers and, well, cheesy fashion in which to pose and say, “Cheese!”
At Knollwood School in 1966, half a century ago, there was a first-grade class, headed by Mrs. Ginny Kamin (deceased Red Bank Register editor Art Kamin’s wife) and filled with some area kids who ended up becoming entrenched in the community. One of those kids was me.
Some are no longer with us. Others have moved away, but keep in touch. Others, still, have stuck around and raised their children here, too. One common thread is that none of them have forgotten their hometown and likely that walk to the first day of school so many decades ago.
For me, the memory of the badly side-combed bangs kinda sticks like the Dippity-doo that was in them. Sorry, Mom. So do those little faces that seemed to loom like the Man in the Moon back in that slightly nerve-wracked elementary school daze. And it seems like yesterday. Yes, that’s scary. It’s especially scary since it wasn’t, in fact, yesterday.
Back in those days, we walked to school with a buddy. For me, those buddies were my best friend and neighbor Pam Young and Jeff Lang. Pam and I met up with Jeff at the corner and the three of us walked the rest of the way together. Yes, Jeff occasionally would carry my books. I remember that vividly. He is gone now, but that memory is a vivid and enduring one. So is the memory of Mrs. Lang waving to us from the front porch and reminding him to do just that.
The first day of school photos were taken on the front porch, in the front yard or on the sidewalk before the first stroll back then. There was that wait for the film development. Remember that? Then there was the wait for the annual class photo, like the one above, when the picture people grabbed a comb from a tub and gave all the kids a really bad comb through before that elementary school grimace moment. Not a good hair day for most of us little kids subject to Mom’s fashion whims.
It’s all a walk down a Fair Haven memory lane with a stumble or two for good measure.
What’s your first day memory? Stumble? Who did you walk with?
— Elaine Van Develde