Retro Neighborhood Kids: Bathing in the Beauty of Firsts

Bathing beauties of a Fair Haven neighborhood in 1965
Photo/Elaine Van Develde

This Retro Pic of the Day is being run again as an ode to priceless firsts with your first friend, your first real neighbor and the warmth of those times under the summer sun. It is a thank you to that neighborhood kid, the tallest of us kids, with the fancy, flouncy, skirted bathing suit, the flowery bathing cap and the chutzpah to give this Fair Haven kid many firsts with questionable veracity, but always loyalty and love.

Pam, my Parker pal. We all have this first friend. Remember her now. Tell her. Thank her while she can still hear you and smile before something takes her away. Never the memories.

The piece below was written for Pam to be read to her in hospice. The piece about this summer moment snapshot? Rerun of a classic — one of those firsts. The hope is simple: a first captured to put a smile on her face and help her face a last. I love you, my first friend. Thank you for being that number one.

For Pam …

When you’re four years old and you’ve just moved into a house in Fair Haven, you’d never imagine in your wildest dreams that the first friend you made, your next door neighbor, would ever go away. After all, you were both eternally young and full of hope, dreams and dress-up days when you wore your mother’s clothes and lipstick on your eyelids. Pretty. Yeah, it was. 

The whole scene. It was childhood perfect. Truly. You think that she is immortal. Because, in a way, she is immortal. She symbolizes all that is right with home and jump starts decades of great memories. 

And when she moves away, you still feel her there and wonder why she’s not knocking on your door asking, “Can Elaine come out and play?” she surprises you with a pop-in visit at a play rehearsal, reminding you that she’s still around. Always tucked away in a safe place in your heart. 

Then, decades later, after losing touch, but always in one another’s minds, you reconnect. Shortly after, you are told that she is in hospice. And your mind races back to where you first met and how you were so very happy to have arrived in the same cozy spot. The spot where no one can take her or home away. Home. Heart.

And suddenly the good neighbor on Parker is back, shooing the all the bad that came after her away. 

Please hold my first friend and best neighbor in the light. Pam. My first best friend. The one I cried over when I couldn’t walk to school next to her on the rope. The one who told me about the birds and the bees in my front yard with authority — and some questionable facts that left me freaked out for years. The one who let me believe that I would marry David Cassidy and helped me pick out a dress and pose for my stalker photo to him. The one who always wanted to play with me and never scowled at my imperfect front porch. 

The one who brings me back where I belong. Home. The one who makes it all better there. You never, ever forget your first neighbor and friend. Irreplaceable. Godspeed, Pam. I am always home in my heart with you standing next to me. 

About these retro bathing beauties of Parker …

Back in the summer of ’65 …  the heat was on, and some pint-sized bathing beauties were set to walk the walk, if the suit and the bathing cap fit.

It didn’t take much for this gaggle of little girl neighbors in Fair Haven to make their own simple fun, even if it just meant striking a pose for the Brownie camera.

Back in the day, when beach clubs were still somewhat affordable, these neighbors and best friends opted for a dip in the ol’ backyard, above-ground pool. Yes, they were popular and actually considered quite cool in the Rumson-Fair Haven area, once upon a time.

Oh, this dynamic foursome found lots to do without electronics. They played kickball and hopscotch in the road and called, “CAR!” when neighborhood parents driving the more modest Chevys and Fords looked out for them, too. After all, playing in the street (dare I say) was, yes, quite common then.

And when dusk hit, doors opened and moms yelled, “Dinner!” or rang a bell, all scurried home, unless, of course, they were already inside, like this crew sometimes was. There were those dress-up days, when these girls got into one mom’s make-up and decided it would be groovy to put red lipstick on their eyelids as a makeshift eye shadow, and kinda missed the mark on the lips.

Going home then meant a surefire shriek from mom at the sight of some little horror story ghoul girls scribbled in red lipstick with gigantic heels and mini dresses that doubled as little girl gowns.

But, a dip in the pool erased it all. OK, sometimes it stained.

So, everybody in the pool? Step aside for these gals of the summer of ’65!

Recognize them? And how about those bathing caps? What was your favorite suit of the era? Just about every one is covered here … the bikini (who’s that gal?), the standard one-piece with buttons, and the flouncy, skirted one-piece. You?

John Caroli
BCS Wealth Management