Old News: Stokes Law, Order & Grub

This reprise was originally published on June 9, 2022 in honor of the usual end of May to early June Stokes trip. History has taken a turn and those sixth graders, still going to Stokes, are now going at the end of September. Here’s to looking back on the Stokes experience and how it was written about by former longtime Fair Havenite, Stokes parent and Red Bank Register editor, Art Kamin. Indulge in our experience of the Stokes past when it was a relatively new tradition …

When it comes to Fair Haven kids tripping to Stokes State Forest in the sixth grade, old news is always good news and mess hall time means bug juice and Sloppy Joes. And in 1974, it also meant the long arm of the Fair Haven law was cooking up the grub and keeping the kids in line … up.

Yes, back all those decades ago, one of the Stokes helpers was Louis DeVito, eventual police chief, but then lieutenant on the force. We know Bill Lang was in the kitchen cooking up some mischief and goulash, too. Stokes even made the paper back then. That’s because the editor of The Daily Register was Fair Havenite Art Kamin. His daughter, Brooke, was on that trip. So was he. Back then, such things were still newsworthy — the real sort of community journalism brand.

Besides, he thought Stokes was quite the height of hands-on outdoor educational experiences, so he wrote what he knew in a column about it in 1974 when he was there with Brooke’s class. And he knew way back then that Stokes would always be talked about. He was right.

“They’re still talking about Stokes here,” his lede said. “The memory, it seems, will linger on for month after month and year after year. It will transfer from class to class.” Right again. It’s 48 years later and it’s still something to talk about. The lingering? Well, Stokes is its own good ghost.

Kamin had also tripped to Stokes with his son, Blair, in 1969. For the article he did in ’74, though, Fair Havenites John (Jack) and Steve Croft took the photos. Yes, Fair Haven had its own little family of journalists. It still does. Ahem. And, this one is still talking about it.

We’ll get back to Kamin’s own Stokes parent experience at some point, like his misadventure doing the compass thing with the Pathfinder class and getting a gaggle of goofy sixth graders lost. That tidbit somehow didn’t make the column. Everyone did hear about it, though, from the lost kids, who just thought it was a great adventure — even though they were late for dinner.

Hey, Kamin had a way with words, not direction for sure. There was also a time when he drove a group of Girl Scouts to Camp Sacajawea and didn’t make it there until after nightfall. A bunch of giddy girls waiting thought that group had gotten abducted by aliens. They made up fireside stories about it to go with their before-lanterns-out S’mores. Then the leaders remembered Kamin was driving. And, hey, to be fair, let’s not forget that there were no GPS gadgets back then — just compasses, maps and bifocals.

If he were still alive, he’d be emailing me with an editorial note, for sure, probably about something innocuous like “Pathfinder wasn’t the actual name of the class, Elaine.” He knew the truth and may try to argue some of my semantics or proper names, but couldn’t deny a factual report from the most reliable of sources — a bunch of very frank sixth graders.

But we digress … back to those kids being late for dinner with a full plate of angst, giggles and anticipation. There was a long arm of the law in the kitchen, order outside of the mess hall — with the raising of the hands of the gathered to shut their yaps, stand at attention and get in line — and some popular grub being served up inside.

That grub, or a favorite of the kids’ anyway, was good ol’ Sloppy Joes — giant vats of it. Do kids these days even know what that is? It’s a mess of hamburger, some sort of tomato sauce and seasonings slopped onto a soft bun. No one really knows who Joe was, but the thing was very sloppy. To accompany the Joes, there was what we called bug juice. That would be Kool Aid — the green dye number 5 kind. And it was laced with what our parents thought was the healthy alternative of cancer-causing saccharine. Who remembers that? Oh, we clamored for the bad-for-you bug juice and the green tongue it gave us. Slurp.

Hey, this was the era of the frozen Swanson TV dinner being a very cool luxury. So, yes, Sloppy Joes were gourmet. There are faint memories of some fruit being served. Maybe. The Hamburger Helper variety of food and goulash were mostly what stood out, though. With Bill Lang commandeering the ’70s foodie menu, though, we know there was also some spaghetti and meatballs at some point. And the kids clamored for all it, putting Joe first on the popularity list, of course.

From the looks of the Stokes mess hall doings of more recent years, though, it seems as though meals have gone a healthier route. But, who knows, in another 50 years, the mess may be a neat pile of proper nutrition pills — at the Mars Stokes.

Still, there will probably be a Fair Haven on Mars for the Mars Stokes experience in another 50 years from now. After all, this kind of community experience is the kind that binds and transcends time and even galaxies. What became the Stokes tradition began in 1967. That was, indeed, a at least a couple of lifetimes ago — 55 years, to be exact.

As Kamin said, “Stokes in this municipality only means Stokes Forest in northern New Jersey.” Still true. “And Stokes Forest, to seven years of sixth graders, means much more than what has become a nationally recognized environmental project.”

Much more, indeed. For instance, the greatest of lessons learned from the Stokes experience, as described by Kamin, are “developed” rather than immediate. “Time has a way of making the Stokes experience more meaningful,” he said. Right again. They’re still talking about it, writing about it.

Why more meaningful with time? Well, it all goes back to the community family ideal. And ideal is what it was and is in Fair Haven. “After all, Stokes is a community effort and the 130 sixth graders who take part in it sense this early,” Kamin said. Yes, they do. And, for generations, it gives them something to talk about, to write about, to emulate.

Speaking of emulation … I will, with full humor, interject my own editorial note to Kamin that he couldn’t argue — and certainly can’t email about. He said that all the kids were 12. Not all, Art, including your son, Blair, who had turned 12 that summer of ’69. The copy editor missed that one. Some of those sixth graders had summer birthdays. I know. I share that summer birthday and some kid birthdays with Blair and the Kamins. Bobbing for apples comes to mind. Hmmmm. Just had to slip that note in. But, back to the community thing — as if it ever really veered.

This Fair Haven kid was a sixth grader at Stokes in 1972, and, again, in 1978 as an RFH camp counselor, dubbed CAT. We haven’t made it to the Stokes on Mars yet, but the “more meaningful” notion is ever evolving and expanding, starting with the mess hall mindset and bringing it all neatly back to community with a word spill. While most may have never gulped bug juice again, it will never be plain ol’ Kool Aid again, either.

And I’d bet just about every Fair Haven kid who ate in the Stokes mess hall has a hankering for Sloppy Joes or goulash to ease homesick pangs. And when the long arm of the law reaches out, some will remember the ladle at the end of the arm serving up the slop in the ’70s.

Now, raise your hand if you want to get back into that mess hall to gobble up a plate of community as it should be. I have a hankering. That would be Stokes Mars 2072 for me. Aha! Still ’72. See? They say that we come back to what our soul loves. See you at the Stokes Mars mess hall, kids. My hand is raised.

Retro Fair Haven Tigers Cheer!

Fair Haven Tigers cheerleaders circa 1973 or '74 Photo/courtesy of Karen Memmot Hooten
Fair Haven Tigers cheerleaders circa 1973 or ’74
Photo/courtesy of Karen Memmot Hooten

A reprise of a cheery Retro Pic of the Day, originally posted in September of 2016, in honor of the spirit of football for the pint-and-a-half sized of the Rumson-Fair Haven area … 

Can we have a retro cheer for the football season of a pandemic kind ahead?

Continue reading Retro Fair Haven Tigers Cheer!

In Memoriam: Longtime Little Silver Resident & Former RCDS Board President, Charles Hill Jones Jr., 89

Longtime Little Silver resident and former Rumson Country Day School (RCDS) Board of Trustees president, Charles Hill Jones Jr., also of Palm Beach, FL, died on Sept. 28. He was 89.

Charles H. Jones Jr.
Photo/Rumson St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee
Continue reading In Memoriam: Longtime Little Silver Resident & Former RCDS Board President, Charles Hill Jones Jr., 89

Focus: Reuniting with the RFH Class of ’82

What a great way to celebrate our 40th RFH reunion. Thank you to a plethora of classmates for traveling long distances back to our hometown for an epic 4 days of togetherness, laughs and a few tears … RFH Class of ’82 ROCKS!” ~ Joanne Distefano Garelli, RFH Class of ’82 Reunion Committee member

It’s been a little more than 40 years since the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH) Class of 1982 did the Pomp & Circumstance graduation walk.

And this past extended weekend, a good showing of classmates showed up to celebrate those four decades gone by with four days, one for each decade, if you will, of reuniting.

Continue reading Focus: Reuniting with the RFH Class of ’82

Retro RFH Boys of Soccer

RFH Boys Soccer Team of 1977-78 Photo/George Day
RFH Boys Soccer Team of 1977-78
Photo/George Day

Yes, soccer season has kicked in.

We’ve paid ode to the season with a couple of Retro Pic(s) of the (George) Day from RFH and the boys’ team in the late 1970s.

Well, following through with the soccer theme and the series of photos from the ’70s, here’s the team — the boys of RFH soccer in the year 1977-78.

Oh, and lest we forget those cool RFH science teacher coaches, Mr. Russell and Mr. Parker.

There are a lot of familiar faces here, many of whom are still in the area. Recognize anyone?  Favorite player? Favorite coach/teacher?

Thanks, again, to George Day for this gem of a photo!

Prosecutor: Uncle & Nephew Plead Guilty to 2019 Murder

Thirty-two-year-old Omar Rivera-Rojas (also known as Juan Carlos Rivera-Rojas), and his 20-year-old nephew, Alberto Rojas-Hernandez, both of Lakewood, pleaded guilty on Friday to first-degree aggravated manslaughter charges stemming from a 2019 Howell slaying, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Lori Linskey announced.

Continue reading Prosecutor: Uncle & Nephew Plead Guilty to 2019 Murder

Retro RFH Reunion Hoopla

RFH Class of ’78 10th reunion
Photo/George Day

Well, the time has come for yet another RFH class to have its 40th reunion. That would be the RFH Class of ’82.

The RFH Class of ’78 is headed toward its 45th. The 40th is a biggie. But there’s always that first, too. The 10th reunion.

For the Class of ’78, that was in 1988. So, to the Class of ’82 from the Class of ’78, I think I speak for all of us reunion professionals when I say “Cheers to reuniting!”

We’ll let you know on Monday what antics transpired at the ’82 reunion. In the meantime, take another look back at the RFH Class of ’78’s first at the Molly Pitcher Inn in August of ’88.

This table was up and away with a little purple balloon, it appears. These reuniting folks are still friends!