Scene Around: Whistling & Stopping Home with Barbara Leslie

She’s that lady who taught guitar to many a Fair Haven kid. She rowed the musical boat ashore and marched, played and sang with them as Fair Haven Folk Singers in parades. She’s Barbara Leslie. Her iconic base of song and play? The Whistle Stop.

But, few know that the quaint, tradition-making shopkeeping career didn’t start with the Whistle Stop. It all began in Holmdel, or a small section of the township once dubbed Everett, which is more like the Lincroft section of Middletown now, with her own childhood and its iconic spot start.

And, recently Leslie went back to her cafe/community hangout roots when she lunched with her daughter Linda Leslie Morse at Almost Home in Holmdel, the site of her grandmother’s general store back in the 1930s. Before it became Almost Home, the spot had an incarnation as Sunnyside Market & Deli. But that was many decades after the 1930s when Leslie got her start as a general store keeper.

“So fun to hear her childhood stories helping her grandmother out,” Morse said. “They had an old photo of the store so of course we needed a picture! I am truly blessed!”

Leslie shared those blessings as the granddaughter of a general store owner, along with her husband Frank, with the kids of Fair Haven in the 1970s and 80s at Whistle Stop.

The eclectic shop was that iconic place that no child of Fair Haven has forgotten from his or her youth. Flush with antiques, penny candy, nuked frozen Elio’s pizza, dogs, antics and laughs, everyone went to the Whistle Stop after school. Just like everyone went to her grandma’s store. It was a spot people gravitated to for some good, cheap, quality old fashioned kid bonding.

Leslie taught those guitar lessons upstairs in the shop. Her secret, she once told us, was that she only taught the kids three chords. Kept it simple. And the simple was the baseline beat for a flourish of song-filled memories.

Thanks, again, for the strumming, the smiles, the beacon of old Fair Haven sunshine, Mrs. Leslie! Now, does anyone remember the list of songs to be played with those three chords?

— Photos/Linda Leslie Morse and Frank Leslie

John Caroli
BCS Wealth Management