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 Firehouse Santa ‘Sleighing’

Mary Ellen and Tim Kelly with Santa at the Fair Haven Firehouse circa 1987. Photo/Evie Connor Kelly
Mary Ellen and Bill Kelly with Santa at the Fair Haven Firehouse circa 1987.
Photo/Evie Connor Kelly

This is our annual reprise celebrates the upcoming traditional pics with Santa at the Fair Haven Firehouse and continues our hunt for those classic pics of miserable children not enduring their mandatory torturous visit with Santa very well at all. Send us YOUR miserable children on Santa’s lap photos! Email them to [email protected] We’re checking our list and waiting!

Sometimes no matter how hard you try, that classic Santa pic with the kids just goes terribly awry. And we’re pretty sure that this Sunday’s visits with Santa at the Fair Haven Firehouse will be no exception.

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Looking Back: A Tale of Firehouse Santa Tradition

Santa and Elaine Van Develde circa 1961

Because Santa Claus is everywhere these days … our annual reprise …

By Elaine Van Develde

It’s that time of the year when a longstanding Fair Haven tradition comes to mind and heart — those classic kid photos at the firehouse with Santa. There’s the park. Then there’s the firehouse.

I remember …

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Retro RFH Hip & Hooray Boys

The boy cheerleaders of RFH Powder Puff Football 1977 Photo/George Day
The boy cheerleaders of RFH Powder Puff Football 1977
Photo/George Day
The boy cheerleaders of RFH Powder Puff Football 1977
Photo/George Day

There’s nothing like a good ol’ RFH cheer. It’s just hip, hip … happening! Cheering has changed over the decades at RFH. Still there’s nothing quite as unique as this cheer crew. So, for cheer’s sake, we give these guys an annual fall encore of this Oct. 8, 2015 Retro Pic of the (George) Day from two views! Cheers!

The 1977 RFH Powder Puff Football game was a good one that made for some great photo ops.

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RFH ’78’s David Memmott: Picture of a Childhood in a Classmate Gone

“What’s that? An iPhone 1?” he quipped as I tried to capture a moment between him and his lifetime friend at a reunion committee party with my sad little smashed-screen phone. Click. “Shut up, Dave! Jerk!” I, a 58-year-old woman child, sniped back, with a 10-year-old kid giggle and arm punch.

Then there was the knowing laughter and the look that was only understood among those like us who had had a lifetime of it. The deep all-knowing complex simplicity of a childhood shared in one little world of a small town by the river.

Continue reading RFH ’78’s David Memmott: Picture of a Childhood in a Classmate Gone

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.

Old News: A Royal Red Bank Procession

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Red Bank, arriving at the train station, in 1939
Photo/courtesy of Karen Allas

It was a parade fit for royalty — the king and queen of England kind of royalty, to be exact.

With the death of Queen Elizabeth II and all the honor and ceremony that has come with it, retro minds go back to a royal day in Red Bank when the queen, who just recently died at 96, having ruled for 70 years, was only 13. Her father, George VI, was king. Her mother, the first Elizabeth, was queen. And while visiting the United States and Canada, the royal couple made a stop in Red Bank.

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9/11: Day’s End Reflection, 21 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 First Day of School: Walking the Rope

Our annual back-to-school Fair Haven rope walk reprise …

“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. It was the 60s. The memories are there, but fuzzy. I can sill see it — with my reading glasses, of course. 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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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 everyone’s first friend on that first day of school as a kindergartener. My first friend and neighbor in Fair Haven was Pam Young (second from right), who passed away in July of 2020 … Everyone can relate. Go back with us. Remember your first day of school and that first friend …

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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Fair Remembrance: All’s Fair in the Middle

Our annual reprise about what it really means to be a “fair” Fair Haven 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 Sweets Queens

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 and the Felsmann family to honor them in light of their recent loss of Millie Felsmann’s son, John, or “Smokey,” husband to Trudy and dad to his fair-raised children. He didn’t like getting his picture taken, so we will respect that and honor him via his family. This is how they concoct and serve up those sweets 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, after all, 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 Grab Bagging Balloon Lady & Buds

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

For decades there was what was referred to as The Grab Bag Booth at the Fair Haven Firemen’s Fair. The booth was there for kids to get consolation prizes, featuring, of course, real brown paper grab bags full of goodies, that parents could buy if they didn’t win at the wheel games of chance. And there were balloons … and some fair ladies to keep the fair goodness going strong.

The Grab Bag Booth is now gone from the midway. At one point, for many years, my mom, Sally Van Develde was the chairwoman of the booth. This piece is an annual reprise to honor the booth’s goodness, 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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