Svelte and coiffed and young and lovely, the girl from the Rumson Dock goes sunning … and when she suns … she gets her picture on a 1959 Rumson post card.
You’ve likely seen the card. It’s been in circulation for decades. But, that girl sitting on the dock has always been somewhat of a mystery — until now.
She’s Alice Mansfield and she was a Rumsonite of a different kind years ago. She’s 81 years old now and still quite fit, lovely and fabulous with a story to tell about her dock days.
“Oh, those were the best years of my life,” Mansfield said in a recent chat. “I was there from 1956 to 59. I do have the post card. I believe the picture was taken in the summer of 59, judging by my bathing suit. I was 19. That pier, or dock to us, was at the foot of Lafayette Street, where I lived (inland a bit).”
Mansfield is the girl sitting up. The other girl, she said, was a girl named Maureen. The last name escaped her. “Her parents ran the luncheonette at Pauels Boat Works,” she said. “That dock was owned by the town. The boat yard was Pauels (now Oceanic Marina). I don’t remember when they sold, but they were given lifelong rights. Mr. and Mrs. Pauels lived on the second floor in the building. The luncheonette was on the first floor. The mom ran it and later rented the luncheonette out to a family from Atlantic Highlands. The girl on the dock was their daughter Maureen.”
But how Mansfield ended up on that dock in Rumson was another story. She’s from a large family of 12 — the Coyle family, headed by mom Blanche, a working single parent, a rarity back in the day.
Mansfield, or Alice Coyle at the time, was the 10th child.
“We had been living in Red Bank,” Mansfield said. “The dock was our hangout even before we actually moved to Rumson. Going there meant getting away from it all. It was the late 50s when we moved to Rumson on Lafayette. I formed more friendships in Rumson than high school in Red Bank. You did what you had to do every day and then it was off to the dock. Down to the park and on the dock. It was our way of life. Everything was just magical there.”
When the youngest of the Coyle kids and mom Blanche got to Rumson, they were living in, basically, what Mansfield described as a halved trailer across from the school that was on Lafayette back then. They called it the tin roof house, as when it rained, it poured a little tin tap dance of drops. Over their heads. Relentlessly. Space was quite tight, too, she said. Everyone, she said, had odd jobs, such as babysitting, and all pitched in to pay the $35 a month rent. Yes, $35.
Then, in about 1958, they moved two houses down from the tin roof house. There was no tin droning in the duplex they relocated, or upgraded, to, but there was no real bathroom either.
“If you can believe that,” Mansfield said. “Yes, in Rumson, here we were with this outhouse type structure built onto the back of the house. The bathtub was like a fold-up rubberized canvas. We kept it hanging over the kitchen door. At bath time, we had to set it up, heat water from the kitchen sink and pour it in to take a bath — something like you see in cowboy movies. My mom and I probably shared the water because it was such a chore. That was 1958.”
There were two bedrooms, she said. Her mother and she shared one and her two brothers shared the other. Other than that, the luxury Rumson has become known for, was nearly non-existent in that neck of the Rumson woods. The toilet was yet another story.
Imagine this, Mansfield said: “The seat was kept up, because when you sat down, the water underneath you ran. So when you got up, the seat popped up and exploded with water. It scared the living daylights out of anyone who used it. We always prayed that any of the kids that came over wouldn’t have to use it.”
Sunning and romping at the river was the equalizer. Everyone down on the dock was the same in the same house of Rumson — the dock. No one knew or cared about exploding toilets and shared rooms there. It was all about teen sunning, funning and growing up.
How the postcard came about? “Ken Card took the photo for the post card,” Mansfield said. “I wasn’t even aware that the picture had been taken at the time. He used to come to the dock and take all sorts of photos. This one, he mailed to my brother Johnny when we were in Florida. The postmark on the original I have is May of 1960. Picture was taken in ’59. I remember. We moved to Florida in late ’59 and then it came out on the postcard and was in print at Rumson Pharmacy. It was sent to us.”
At the time of the photo, Mansfield said she was dating Pete Pauels, of the boatyard. He was the one in the family who did the physical labor. “He was always the one on the docks,” she said. “I used to take out my compact mirror and ‘check my make-up’ to see where he was.”
Mansfield’s brother was friends with the Pauels brothers and other Rumson guys. “I was 18 and turning 19 when I was dating Pete,” she said. “I was always at the dock. We all were. But, while I was dating Pete and trying to spy on him with my compact mirror, little Johnny Kavookjian (of the dock gang family), who was a little kid at the time, used to bring buckets of sand for me to lie on to make it smoother on the dock. You get ore after lying on the dock for a while. I don’t know how many buckets of sand that kid brought for me. It was so cute. And he put a big heart in chalk or paint or something in Pete’s garage that said ‘Johnny Loves Alice.'”
And who wouldn’t? She is the mysterious, or not so mysterious, girl from the Rumson Dock.
Since her dock days, Alice Mansfield has been around … the dock and then some. After Florida, the Long Branch native who ended up that short-term Rumsonite, got married in 1964. The youngest in the family and Mom moved to Fair Haven and she’s been in Oceanport for quite a while. Though, to ask her is to hear, over and over again, that her Rumson Dock years were “the best years of my life.”
And the girl from the Rumson Dock goes a walking … and now, when she passes, we can say “Ahhhhh … ha!”
— Elaine Van Develde
— Photos/courtesy of Alice and Joanie Mansfield
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