Category Archives: Opinion

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

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 of 2020, 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 Back-to-School with an RFH Science Teacher & Assistant Superintendent

A look back at RFH science teacher James Parker and Assistant Superintendent Donald Trotter Photo/George Day
A look back at RFH science teacher James Parker and Assistant Superintendent Donald Trotter
Photo/George Day

A reprise, originally posted in 2017, in honor of back-to-school time … 

Back-to-school time has arrived.

And with back-to-school thoughts come hopes of a good teacher or two and memories of the ones who we thought were the coolest. Then there were those administrators who weren’t just a Charlie Brown teacher voice cawing over the ol’ daydreaming student’s non-thought process. Some, or one in particular, are remembered as a real education innovators.

Continue reading Retro Back-to-School with an RFH Science Teacher & Assistant Superintendent

Back to School & Walking the Rope

Our annual reprise of back-to-school memories and walking the rope in Fair Haven …

“But I don’t wanna walk on the rope next to her!” I cried from under my freshly-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.

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9/11: Day’s End Reflection, 20 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 …
Continue reading 9/11: Day’s End Reflection, 20 Years Later

Fair Remembrance: All’s Fair in the Middle

Our annual reprise about what it really means to be a “fair” kid …

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 many a “fair” kid, back to that middle haven. It’s home.

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Retro Fair Balloon Lady

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

A reprise to honor the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair and those things that never disappear like helium balloons into the dark sky … Memories of a special lady — my mom.

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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Retro Fair Family Affair Spin

Tom Kirman and daughter Rebecca work the Big Six booth at the Fair Haven Firemen's Fair in 2014. Photo/Elaine Van Develde
Tom Kirman and daughter Rebecca work the Big Six booth at the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair in 2014.
Photo/Elaine Van Develde

In anticipation of the return of the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair, we take a look back again at a game of chance, its history and families that spin together. 

Most often, working at the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair is a longtime family affair.

So, the Retro Pic of the Day today is an ode to just that, in addition to featuring those behind the booths.

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Retro Fair Confections’ Commandeering

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 returns this year after COVID. This is how they did it and continue to do it at the fair … 

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.

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 a.m.. And, even further back, to 1965 or 66, Mrs. Topfer made those apples, too.

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Retro Fair Candy Apple Daze

Candy, Ray and Marion Bennett tend to the candy apples at the Fair Haven Firemen's Fair circa 1979 Photo/Fair Haven Fire Department Yearbook, courtesy of Evie Connor Kelly
Candy, Ray and Marion Bennett tend to the candy apples at the
Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair circa 1979
Photo/Fair Haven Fire Department Yearbook, courtesy of Evie Connor Kelly

The Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair is making a much-awaited return this year. With the fair, of course, comes goodies. Confections. Fair food. Most of those goodies will return with the fair. One that won’t is the seafood along with the front dining room. The burgers, hot dogs, fries, ice cream and cotton candy in the Out Back (out in back on the grounds) will return. But one favorite that hasn’t made a comeback and won’t still — the candy apple. So, we look back and reminisce about a fair treat and tradition gone with this reprise …

Who better to one of those at the helm the candy apple operation at the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair than a woman named Candy — Candy Bennett?

The Retro Pic of the Day offers a glimpse back to fair days in 1979 with yet another fair family affair at another booth — the candy apple booth (or corner of the Out Back, or what used to be called the hot dog booth).

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Beautiful Days in the Neighborhood: Remembering Conrad from the Block

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

Fred Rogers

And sometimes that meeting comes every day with the same person on the same street for about half a century. What is left stays … in the neighborhood heart.

“How ya doin’?” It’s what I heard in a friendly, mellow cadence from across the street pretty much every day for most of my life. It was a soothing, subtle reminder that I was home and a good neighbor was always there, looking out, never judging, nitpicking or naysaying. Caring, instead, with a knowing smile and a few simple words.

Knowing. Knowing that we were all there for the same reason. Neighborhood. Simple gestures. That’s all it really takes. And take it to microcosmic heights unknown is what this one neighbor did. Daily.

The neighbor was Conrad. Conrad Decher. The forever Fair Haven guy from my 54-year block was laid to rest on Monday. His spirit, however, will always be fluttering around. The flutter. It’s gentle. It’s not grand, not intrusive. Still, it’s deliberate. It stays — a subtle, soft, strong, consistent gesture. Like a heartbeat. After all, here, in the heart, stays the neighborhood.

Continue reading Beautiful Days in the Neighborhood: Remembering Conrad from the Block

A Fair Haven Mom’s Legacy: The Biggest of Little Things

Her life was meaningful, and she made a positive impact wherever she went. Her family is very proud of the legacy Joyce left behind.

Family of Joyce Scanlon in her obituary
Joyce Scanlon
Photo/family via Thompson Memorial Home

Legacy. Positive impact. Moments. Impressions. Intricate inflections from one person in the neighborhood. They’re bigger than a neighborhood kid in a small town would think. Snippets from somebody’s mom who likely never knew she or they would be remembered. They would matter.

Then you become an adult, and start to age. And you’ve unwittingly become, or hope to become, that person to someone. You’re somebody’s mom. Oh, there’s not just one of those moms. In a small community, there are many — if you’re looking hard enough to see the microcosms. If you pay attention to those daydreams that made your mind wander about who that lady really is beyond a mom. If you tuck the little things revealed in the musings carefully away in that niche of your mind that rears itself to remind you of what matters.

When you’re that neighborhood kid and all through adulthood, every single time you pass by the home of your childhood friend and classmate, you smile and sigh contentedly — a homesick stalker. Of course, you should have stopped. But it never really occurs to you that one day you won’t be able to and it’ll be up to you to remember the little things. They won’t leave.

The drive-by brings back a waft of simple thoughts of that lady with the bright blue eyes, warm smile and caring way all wrapped up in a no-frills stretchy hair band. It’s then that you know you’re lucky to have grown up with yet another one of those people in your life.

And you remember. You just never forget those little things, like the time you were at that sixth grade Stokes trip and she was volunteering there. She was there for all the kids. And they surely had their moments, too. But, that one day, when something profound was on your wandering, weird mind and you found her by the lake, likely deep in her own thoughts, escaping kids like you, she saw you, smiled and listened as you rattled on about something you thought was so very deep and important.

It was likely that you were scared of that night’s square dance or that the boys, maybe even hers, would capsize your canoe just for laughs. You couldn’t swim. Only in the pool in your back yard or at Camp Arrowhead. A lake was different. In your weird little mind, it had the potential to swallow you whole into the belly of some ominous beast. Or you had anxiety about the popular kids in your cabin. You philosophized quite seriously about all of the kid stuff, earnestly believing in your maturity and depth. She listened like you were a peer. You remembered. She saw you, that kid. You saw her. That mom, a grown-up lady.

It seemed like your secret. She understood you like no other. From then on, she was your secret pal. There were sporadic conversations as you got older, grew up with her kids, in the Acme, at an event or walking down the street. There may have even been more big girl chats. The knowingness was in her eyes each time, even if she struggled to remember your name, whose kid you were, which kid of hers you knew. She always somehow saw you and understood you. And though you’d like to think you were special to this neighborhood lady, somebody’s mom, she just unknowingly had that effect on everyone. She just saw everyone.

And, years later, when you never stopped, but always asked about her, feeling as if this somebody’s mom would terminally be around, you find out it’s too late to stop, to tell her. Her son, your friend since kindergarten, sends a message. She has passed away. Who was even thinking that she had already gotten to the age of 90? Not this kid … at 60. That somebody’s mom who knew every kid mattered, who had that unknowing effect, was Fair Haven’s Joyce Scanlon.

Rest In Peace, Joyce, knowing you mattered in that little town in that special niche in the world — and far beyond.

Here’s what Joyce’s family had to say about her in her obituary

Longtime Fair Havenite Joyce E. Scanlon (nee Nelson) passed away on July 20. She was 90.

Immersed in the community, while raising four children, Joyce worked in the Fair Haven school system for many years, coached girls’ softball, and volunteered in any way she could. She also was an avid participant in Boy Scouts, beginning as a den mother, then working endless summers at Quail Hill Camp as the Arts & Crafts Director until she was awarded the scouts’ highest honor from the Monmouth County Council.

Joyce was also lifelong Yankees’ fan, attending Babe Ruth’s funeral at Yankee Stadium as a teenager.

“She loved movies, took adult Spanish classes, and cooking. Maybe most (paramount) of all was her love of nature and animals.
She adopted many animals and loved them all. She traveled to Maine nearly every year of her life, most often camping.
Her genuine, kind personality led her to
many wonderful friendships and experiences.”

Family of Joyce Scanlon

Born in Kearny, Joyce graduated from Kearny High School, where she was the drum majorette leading the Kardinal Marching Band at every parade.

After high school she attended Bucknell University, focusing on creative writing and a general pursuit of greater knowledge as a member of Delta Zeta sorority.

After school, she worked for Blue Cross in Newark before marrying Martin J. Scanlon in 1957, who moved in across the street from her on Stuyvesant Avenue. The couple moved to Fair Haven where they remained, raising their children and living their lives out.

Joyce was predeceased by her parents, Harry and Kathryn Nelson, and her loving husband of 52 years, Martin J. Scanlon.

She is survived by: her children, Ellen, and her husband Cameron, Harry, Jim, and his wife Veronica, and Steve, and his wife Patti; her grandchildren, Alex, Matt, Lynelle, Carolyn, and Holly; and her step-grandchildren Jake and Madison Clapp.

Visitation will be Sunday, July 25, from 2 to 5 p.m. at Thompson Memorial Home, Red Bank. A graveside service will be held on Monday, July 26, at 10 a.m. at Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Middletown.