Category Archives: Opinion

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

9/11: Day’s End Reflection, 19 Years Later

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.
It’s this one storyteller’s perspective.
Through this one fortunate observer’s eyes and heart, it went like this …
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Retro Back-to-School Neighborhood Line-Up

First day of kindergarten in Fair Haven 1965
Photo/Sally Van Develde

A back-to-school reprise dedicated to my first friend, Pam (second from right), who passed away in July, and everyone’s first friend on that first day …

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.

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Retro First Day of School, First Friend & The Rope

Our annual reprise about that first day of school and walking the rope in Fair Haven is dedicated to the memory of Pam Young, my first friend and Fair Haven neighbor. Pam passed away on July 7 at 60. The memories of her are forever etched in my heart. No one ever forgets their first friend, first neighbor. All the firsts with that special first are indelible. Thank you for knocking on my door that first day and asking if I could come out and play. I will never understand why that lady wouldn’t let us walk together on the rope … I also never forgot. Not a thing …

“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.

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Fair Remembrance: All’s Fair in the Middle

There are a lot of significant beginnings and endings this time of the year. 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 has always brought me, and probably more than a few others, back to that middle. It’s home.

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Fair Remembrance: Chairman’s Footnotes

James Acker
Photo/Kathy Robbins

On the year without the fair … We look back to a story originally published in 2015 all about just how the largest firemen’s fair in the state was run and a bit about that famous clam chowder. The details come straight from a longtime fair chairman and his son years later … RIP, Jim Acker. All’s fair ….

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.

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Fair Remembrance: Someone’s in the Kitchen

Just when the guy in charge of the kitchen has retired, a pandemic comes along and obliterates the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair and all that annual fine fair food. So, on the year without a fair, we look back again to our 2015 story of fair food, who did it all back in the day, what was done, how and who’s still cooking. Can you wait another year? The absence of fair food wafting through the air likely has everyone drooling for the next fair already … No one’s in the kitchen this year but the ghosts. They’re always there …

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.

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Fair Remembrance: My Balloon Mama

The following piece was originally published in August of 2015. Here it is again, on the year without a fair, in honor of the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair and my mom, Sally Van Develde, to whom this site is dedicated along with my dad, Bill … 

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

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.

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Simple Summer: Guarding a Sea Bright Dawn with a Friend

On Monday morning, I’m going away with my friend …

It may have been a Saturday in the Sandpipers’ famed song Come Saturday Morning, but it sure looks like this Monday captured at Sea Bright’s sunrise today by longtime Fair Havenite and Knollwood School teacher, Andy Dougherty.

When morning has broken on a final summer’s day, nothing compares to the serene veracity of the moment, especially when shared with a childhood friend.

The softness of the vivid colors, the loud silence, the magic in the clouds’ formations, the whole world inside each droplet of a wave’s crash. The hush frozen in time in a minute’s worth of snapshots.

The simplest of moments atop a lifeguard stand with a best friend. Saturday or Monday, the awakening calm of the dawn, the moment remains, many of them …

“Just I and my friend. We’ll travel for miles in our Saturday smiles. And then we’ll move on. But we will remember … long after Saturday’s gone.”

The simplest of summers. Remember the moments. Savor them. Exhale with a smile.

Fair Remembrance: The Fair Art of Candy Apple Making, Cotton Candy Spinning & Ice Cream

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 would have been running this week. On a historic summer without the fair, we remember how some fair traditions got started, like lost fair art of candy apple making, waffle ice cream sandwiches. Then there’s the art of spinning cotton candy, something that was formerly mastered and commandeered by the late Millie Felsmann, also the champ of candy apple making. This is how they did it and continue to do it at the fair … Until we meet again at the Out Back in 2021 …

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. Yes, Candy had a lot do do with those candy apples — but Millie was the boss. She, along with her troupe of kids and Candy, Betty Acker and Mrs. Frank, started work on those apples as early as 6:30 a.m.. And, even further back, to 1965 or 66, Mrs. Topfer made those apples, too.

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Fair Remembrance: Ode to Opening Night of The Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair

The bustle is hushed. The night remains still at the firehouse grounds. Trucks are in their place. There are no empty carnival rides, no tents, no fresh, sweet scents of cotton candy and fried fish wafting through the air. No one is cooking in the kitchen. All is quiet. Lights are out. A beacon in the mind’s eye casts shadows of decades before. The ghosts are all there, snuggled together on their grounds. They still came home. They are everywhere as we remember opening night of the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair, which would have been this Friday BB, on a historic year without the 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.

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Longtime Fair Havenite, Songbird Lillian Lauer: Still Hitting the High Notes at 90

Remember those days as a kid when you thought everyone over the age of 30 was ancient? That view from the pint-sized sprouters and adolescent awkward can offer both good and bad perspectives. Better these days, as a near senior (gulp), as it seems that those people we thought were ancient are, decades later, somehow ageless.

That’s the case with one Fair Haven mom and lead Church of the Nativity songstress: Lillian Lauer. The longtime striking blonde, French twist-coiffed Fair Havenite, who loved for decades to tend to her garden, children and lead soprano singing from the church mezzanine, turned 90 on Aug. 7. And, as the Jackson Browne song that was as popular as Lauer’s twist and song in the 70s goes, she’s “still the same … still aims high” in both song and youthful spirit.

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Retro RFH Best Buds & A Bridge Message

With RFHers’ graduation, sentimentality has set in. It’s that milestone summer of senior year … There’s nothing like a few best buds, a graduation summer, a message of forever friendship and the bridge — RFHers’ iconic cement billboard of sorts left over from the McCarter estate in Rumson.

So, to pay tribute to both buds and the bridge, the Retro Pic of the Day offers a glimpse of both in a milestone moment of friends paying homage to one another by painting the bridge way back in time.

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