It’s baaaaack! So here’s a reprise in honor of the upcoming time-honored sixth grade trip to Stokes State Forrest. Take a trip back with us again. Remember?
It’s that time of the year when Fair Haven schools tradition takes hold and all good Knollwood sixth graders go on their trip to Stokes State Forrest. The buses rolled out of town this morning. Two years ago marked the 50th anniversary of the most wonderful time of the year for those sixth graders. Wow.
School’s out alright. And the heat is always on to seek out a good time among class friends. So, there’s nothing quite like a final class trip to — with class clowns, friends, foes and teachers. Yes, teachers.
This particular trip was taken in 1974 to a dude ranch somewhere with Fair Haven’s Knollwood School soon-to-be grads and teachers. Where, none of the old folks in the pictures can remember. Hey, some of us don’t even remember the trip.
Beating the heat with a cool memory …A reprise in honor of school days done and a traditional prequel to summertime for Fair Haven kids …
Once upon a time, in those school days right before summer, when Knollwood School kids gathered on Sportsman’s Field for, well, some Field Day fun, let’s just say it was a bit hard to keep them focused.
A reprise in honor of those eighth grade graduations … Congrats, grads!
The Fair Haven Knollwood School grads are styling every year. And, the truth is that the eighth grade graduation attire has improved to the point of even parents turning wannabes of that mini-fashion world.
You’d have to admit, though, that fad dress-up attire has been kinder to the male gender over the years — except for the leisure suit. That was an unforgiving polyester fashion fail.
There’s always a way. And for childhood friends, the way is always niched in those time-capsuled moments, until the capsule cracks …
“There is a crack in everything,” musician/writer Leonard Cohen said. “That’s how the light gets in.” The jarring news that childhood friend Fiona Wilson Phillips had died brought me back home with a jolt — a jolt that gaped the time capsule fissure, light seeping through. She had gone there, too, in snippets of her own light. It was all we needed — all any childhood friend needs with that sort of shake-up. The light brings a smile, warmth. Going back home nourishes the soul, after all. If only for a moment.
The truth was that we hadn’t stayed in touch, but we always had our after-school fourth grade club. It wasn’t Paris. It was better. And when we’d see one another at reunions, we’d smile, say the name of our secret kid society out loud and flash back. Our secret. Our way to get back home. Another truth, though, is that we were always there. I think she might like it if I bring her husband and son back to that place from which she came — the club. They’d never been there. It was a secret, after all.
Kid moments. Secrets. The place to which only a few had gone. The places, times we remember, if only for a bright, colorful, warm second. Often people pay no mind to them — the memories. They should. Everyone’s had them. We had ours. The light shines on them.
The pin spotlight veers through those cracks to this …
I don’t know if it was Paul McCartney, the frozen M&Ms or just the kid connection in the random fandom. I do know that one piece of each day from those weekly meetings of the unofficial Paul McCartney Four club (PM4) of 1969 is embedded in my memory like little slivers of glass chards, each having its place in a delicate crystal jigsaw capsule now cracked, a bit shattered. Slivers scattered, stuck, making way to let that light in.
Once those reflective pieces are stuck, they can no longer be broken. They shine. When one person leaves, each splinter stings with the movement away. Fiona had left the Earth, never the club. I certainly hadn’t thought about the PM4 club every day.
I remembered, though — four 9-year-olds deciding to celebrate Paul McCartney as their favorite Beatle weekly with frozen M&Ms, soda, drooling and dancing in one’s living room. It was me, Carolyn, Anne and Fiona.
I can’t even remember why it was Paul McCartney who united us for those weekly meetings and M&Ms, but, for some reason, we chose to grow up in that way together — at that time. I don’t know how it ended up being us four either.
But it was. We were all in Miss Sloane’s fourth grade class at Knollwood in Fair Haven, of course. We thought she was cool. We thought we were cool. She liked us. We were a little obsessed with our young, groovy teacher. We four walked into Red Bank (imagine that, helicopter moms of today!) to “pop in” on her at her apartment. She really must have thought we were a band of nutty little freaks.
But I digress …
We had bonded over our inadvertent stalking of Miss Sloan. When she got married and was expecting a baby, we had to find another target. Somehow, maybe in a conversation on Sportsman’s Field, we decided that we all loved Paul McCartney. What I or any of the four have no recollection of, however, is why it was Paul and not John or even Ringo. No matter. We had bonded over it. We made a pact to meet once a week. And somehow we decided that Ann would be sure to get the M&Ms in the freezer for our meeting day. They were our decided delicacy.
We would meet at Fiona’s on Grange Walk and walk over to Ann’s on Laury. I had no den in my house, so that was out for meetings. Carolyn had a cool house on River Road, but there were too many kids sure to bust up our secret meetings. Ann’s house was by the pond. No one was ever home — or at least we thought not.
We listened to the Beatles, or mostly Paul, because that was our club purpose. We jumped up and down and danced to When I Saw Her Standing There and I Wanna Hold Your Hand — WOOOOOOO!
We swayed and popped M&Ms to The Long and Winding Road, Yesterday and giggled like Gremlin hyenas over You Know My Name. We never knew what to make of that. Way ahead of our pre-teeny bop minds.
We thought, for sure, though, that one of us would marry Paul. Don’t you just love how fine it is for kids to be completely delusional? Still, we secretly waited for one another’s wedding invite.
The memories are static — crackling, jumbled, fuzzy. One thing that’s vivid, though is the light that shone through those cracks, the sound of the laughter, the smiles on those little faces. We were happy. So happy over a bag of M&Ms, Paul and time together. Remembered.
So, for Fiona’s sake, honor your connections to home. Find a way to get back homeward. Let that light in. Stay there for a minute and smile.
Fiona’s high school yearbook quote was “After all, it’s only a weed that turns into a flower in your mind.” ~ Thomas Benton.
Later in life, I learned, she loved Leonard Cohen, who wrote about the cracks. Ironic. But what about Paul?? No mind. He’s still there somewhere. Now and then come together today … Cohen says those cracks let the light in. The light turns that deeply-rooted weed into a flower. Soak up the light in the secret club of your youth … Rest In Peace, Fiona. Thanks for the clubbing, the dance and the sweet.
More about Fiona Lynne Wilson Phillips …
Fiona Lynne Wilson Phillips passed away on Jan. 30 in the comfort and care of her husband and family after a battle with colorectal cancer.
Fiona grew up in Fair Haven, the daughter of James and Sybil Wilson, who still live in their home there.
She loved coming home …
“Fiona enjoyed returning to New Jersey to visit family and friends and attended several RFH high school reunions, including her 40th reunion held in August 2018 in Sea Bright,” her family said in her obituary.
A Fair Haven-raised girl, Fiona, of course, attended Knollwood and what was Willow Street elementary and middle schools and graduated from Rumson Fair Haven Regional High School (RFH) in 1978.
After high school, Fiona joined the US Army for a four-year assignment and was stationed in Alabama, Texas, California, and Germany during her service.
Following completion of her military duty, Fiona went on to train in the beauty/aesthetics industry completing advanced training and certifications in cosmetology, makeup, and hair. She based herself in on the west coast and honed her skills in various assignments in professional makeup, hair and wardrobe styling in the entertainment industry.
Fiona is survived by: her husband, James Phillips; her son, Boris; her step-sons, Cary and Colin; her sister, Jennifer Jaskowiak; sisters-in-law, Jenny Wilson and Margaret Clayton; parents, James and Sybil Wilson; nieces and nephews, Madeline, Gavin, Sophie, and Kelli; and extended family and friends across the U.S. and internationally.
Fiona was predeceased by her brother, David Wilson.
A private military funeral honors service will be held at California Central Coast Veterans Cemetery, Seaside, CA.
Students called her Mrs. B. She was Jeannie to fellow teachers. She was Jean Burgess — Nellie Jean (Badida) Burgess. She taught in the Fair Haven schools for 33 years. The valued longtime Fair Haven wife, mom, teacher, colleague and friend to many passed away peacefully on Jan. 28 in Chester, VA. She was 73.
Today would have been the day that the happy little campers came home from their post-Memorial Day week of adventure with classmates, teachers and parents.
So, we take a look back at some Stokes moments of bunking, hiking, pranking, do-se-doing your partner and all-around exploring back in the 70s, from youngsters to those high school counselors. Remember those?
There were RFH seniors chosen to be counselors, dubbed CATS. Each couple of CATs was assigned to teach/counsel sixth graders in their area of expertise. There were bug experts, hiking troopers, rowing aficionados, swimmers, and story tellers, dancers, singers and guitar players.
There was a square dancing night. And there was plenty of practice that ensued before it. What square dancing song stands out in your memory? And how about those campfire nights? Song always sung? How about the traditional story told? Who got lost in the woods with the compass/pathfinders class? Who was a CAT?
These are the moments … graduation moments. In this case, eighth grade graduation milestone moments. Those moments surrounding classic snapshots taken by the river, a couple of walks, a dance and some goodbyes to elementary and middle school days in Fair Haven and a hello to high school.
Eighth graders in the Rumson-Fair Haven area have graduated. They’ve walked their walks. They’ve struck their grad poses. And, they’ve dressed the part. Quite well.
Photos are popping up all over social media. And these crews of grade school cronies seem to have a panache we eighth graders of the 1970s lacked. There they all are … posing, arms wrapped around one another, sporting stylish clothes, tans and toothy grins.
Why did the retired Knollwood School teacher cross the frozen river?
To teach her grandchildren to walk on water Rumson-Fair Haven area way? To get to the other side? Or, perhaps, to just celebrate a time-honored area tradition? Maybe a bit of all three.
Former Phys Ed and Health teacher Eileen Kubaitis, nonetheless, geared up, grandchildren in tow, and took the trek across the Navesink the other day when the water was frozen. How could one resist? When the weather is pretty frightful, but there’s such a simple adventure in the offing, the only thing to do is get walking — on water, or ice, as it were.
A lot of people in the area look forward to doing this when the water freezes, giving them a walking path across the river to the Middletown side.
Kubaitis and company were no exception. They were among quite a few others recently. Though, the retired Knollwood teacher tells us that they didn’t actually reach the other side, but came close. “We stopped about 20 feet away because at that point no one was in front of us,” she said.
Hey, they had fun and did their R-FH area civic duty to do their best to get to the other side!
Don’t try this at home, kids … at least until the ice freezes up again.
The big thaw has begun …
According to the National Weather Service, temperatures will reach a high of 40 degrees today with a low of about 26 tonight. Tomorrow, weather will be about the same with mostly sunny skies and a high of roughly 39 degrees.