Tag Archives: Willow Street School

Childhood Time Capsule: Fair Haven Fiona & Our Secret Club

“Once there was a way to get back homeward. Once there was a way to get back home … “

Golden Slumbers ~ Paul McCartney & John Lennon

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.  

“Known for her esthetics expertise and excellent ability to connect with people, Fiona spent over 20 years at Barney’s New York, Beverly Hills, as top performing sales professional in cosmetics, skin care, and home fragrance. 
With a keen eye, vivid imagination, and the ability to envision the end product, Fiona was gifted in creating things, whether artwork, a stylish outfit, or home décor. She leveraged these skills professionally and personally, enjoying decorating her home in the Los Angeles suburbs by creating unique designs from carefully curated items at the local thrift and discount stores.
Fiona enjoyed exploring and taking weekend excursions with her husband, James. She filled the 61 years she was given with gusto and was proud of her Scottish heritage. Her son, Boris, was a constant source of pride and joy.” 

Loved ones of Fiona Wilson Phillips in her obituary

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.  

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider a donation in Fiona’s memory to your local Veterans association or City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, Duarte, CA.  

Retro Fair Haven 8th Grade Grads

Fair Haven eighth grade graduation from Willow Street School (Sickles) circa 1946
Photo/courtesy of Jane Croft


It’s an unprecedented graduation time in Rumson and Fair Haven this year. These pandemic days, in Fair Haven, eighth grade students are being met with a diploma, Superintendent Sean McNeil, Knollwood School Principal  Amy Romano and a mini front-yard graduation snapshot in time and ceremony. It started this week. 

While eighth grade graduations have taken place in various venues over the years, from what was Willow Street School (now Viola L. Sickles School) to Knollwood and then to Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, there’s never yet been a front lawn march to Pomp and Circumstance. Yet, this year’s comes close. 

So, in honor of the eighth grade students graduating Knollwood School’s Class of 2020, we take a look back in a reprise of an eighth grade graduation post from June 18, 2018, featuring the Class of 1946. 

Continue reading Retro Fair Haven 8th Grade Grads

Retro Fair Haven Fifth Grade Class Act & Reunion

Lately, in the Rumson-Fair Haven area, for the students who have little to no knowledge or cares about a vote on a $15 million plus referendum, it’s been all about school pictures. They’ve been more worried about striking that pose without some missing teeth, bad hair or the wrong outfit. Then there’s the class photo. Side-by-side posing and playing around, the snapshot is a lifetime keeper. Call it a class act.

Continue reading Retro Fair Haven Fifth Grade Class Act & Reunion

Retro Fair Haven Kindergarten Daze

A Knollwood School kindergarten class of 1956 or ’57
Photo/courtesy of George Martin

Well, school is back in session. Students are settling into the classroom routine. And for some, it’s a new experience. We’re talking kindergarten kids.

While many, or most, in this era have already been to some sort of pre-kindergarten class, that was not the case years ago. In fact, the first day of school really was a first day in a school for kindergarteners. And it could be traumatic for both parents and students.

Yes, it was only half a day of school, but it was all new: the drop-off (or rope walk), the first-day outfit and haircut, the new friends from the other side of town, the teachers, the classroom. All of it.

Then there was the school itself. There was a time when there were three school buildings in Fair Haven.

Continue reading Retro Fair Haven Kindergarten Daze

RFH Reunion Time: Retro Fair Haven Class Act

Mrs. Scott’s Fair Haven Willow Street School second grade class of 1968-69

Summertime is reunion time for all good Rumson-Fair Haven Regional     High School alumnus. This weekend it’s the RFH Class of ’79’s turn to turn back time four decades.

Continue reading RFH Reunion Time: Retro Fair Haven Class Act

Retro Fair Haven Kindergarten

Fair Haven Youth Center kindergarten p.m. 1965-66. Class Photo
Fair Haven Youth Center kindergarten p.m. 1965-66.
Class Photo

Recent talk about kids moving on up to full-day school and into middle school from elementary prompted a look back to what Rumson-Fair Haven Retrospect thought was the first kindergarten class in Fair Haven at Knollwood School.

It turns out that we were wrong. Many people responded saying that they had attended kindergarten at Knollwood and what was Willow Street School in those earlier years.

We’re not sure if it was that things got switched around a lot back in the late 1950s and into the mid- to late-60s or if, perhaps, it was the morning classes that attended Knollwood and Willow Street or the kids were just split among classes due to that Baby Boom, but we do know that there was a rope and kids were walked to kindergarten at the Youth Center in the borough in 1965-66.

So, the Retro Pic of the Day is a look back at that afternoon kindergarten class to which yours truly, your editor, was toted daily at the tender young age of 5. Yikes.

There are a few familiar faces in this photo. Some are still in the area. One is a popular funeral director. Another just recently wrote a book and has a younger brother who is a popular landscaper/photographer.

Oh, and the teachers were Mrs. Oliverson and Mrs. Wikoff (sp?).

Recognize anyone?

— Elaine Van Develde

Retro Fifth Grade at Willow Street School

With all the ceremonies of Rumson and Fair Haven students’  transition from third to fourth grade and impending RFH graduation,  thoughts reverted to a time when there was no such thing — not that there’s anything wrong with it, though. It’s pretty adorable, really.

No, there really wasn’t a transitional ride or walk from one school in Fair Haven or Rumson to the next. And, in Fair Haven at least, back in the late 1960s and early 70s, students simply went to the school to which they lived closest — until that big ol’ jump to middle school, when everyone in the borough went to Knollwood for seventh and eighth grade. And no one got driven to school. They all walked or rode bikes together.

Oh, and what is now the Viola L. Sickles School was Willow Street School.

So, the Retro Pic of the Day offers a glimpse back to those days when fifth grade was at Sickles (well, Willow Street) and one of the most popular teachers of the era taught there — Mr. DeMarco.

I’m pretty sure that he won several awards in various capacities, not the least of which was some sort of teacher of the year for the state, I believe.

Speaking from experience, he really was a memorable teacher. Very patient. Very kind. Very intelligent. His lessons sunk into our little brains. Thanks, Mr. DeMarco.

Pictured is a class from the early 1970s. Many of these little faces are grown-ups in the area with their own kids. Recognize anyone?

Congrats to all the transitioning students!

— Elaine Van Develde