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A Fair Haven Corner Spot Reminiscance

Once The Corner Room, or Esther's, Gourmet Picnic is now closed. What are your memories of the place?

If you grew up in Fair Haven, it's likely you have some good memories about a lot of cornerstones in the borough.

One, in particular, that comes to mind now is the old Corner Room, referred to as Esther's dating back to the 1970s. Most recently it was the Gourmet Picnic. And, after several years of serving up fine baked goods, sandwiches coffee and other eats, the shop is now closed.

It was listed for sale for several months and people were talking about it, but now the lights are out, doors are closed and it has apparently been sold, according to other business associates in the area and a note on the eatery's Facebook page.

Hearing of the closure brought back some memories of a spot where kids used to have lunch, hang out and walk around town before heading back to the Viola L. Sickles School, which used to be Willow Street School.

Allow me to take you on a modest adventure back in time to lunching at Esther's as a fifth grader. Yes, fifth graders did lunch then.

First of all, rather than ordering in gourmet lunches from what are now the mighty fine eateries around town, we 10 and 11-year-olds would get a pass to go out for lunch.

And it was a non-discriminatory activity, because the price was pretty much the same at Esther's for a pretty standard lunch that, in those days, pleased everyone. For $1 we could get a cherry coke and a burger. Fries may have been on that plate, too. Sometimes, we'd go for a milk shake, which, I think, was about 25 cents more, if that.

After we filled our bellies with basics that some may scoff at today, we would ramble down River Road to what we called the waterbed store, because, well, waterbeds were sold there.

I don't remember the name, but it was fascinating to us gawky, pig-tailed, bell-bottomed 70s girls. We all wanted one, and for very innocent reasons. It was the craze then, but parents really weren't quite as accommodating as then as they are now.

They were very expensive and if we poked a hole in it, they figured we'd drown, flood the house, or, worse yet, just have too much fun bouncing around on the thing, swishing back and forth and not getting homework done.

It really was all that simple. So the nice man with the, come to think of it, kinda freaky looking moustache and polyester shirt would let us sit on the thing for about five minutes and giggle.

Next, we'd go to the penny candy store, Janell's (someone correct me if my spelling is wrong). What a sweets feast wonderland that place was! It sends me into diabetic shock and a drool fest just thinking about it. Sad, but satiatingly true.

There was candy everywhere. Cases and jars and racks ... all filled with classics, like jawbreakers, Twizzlers, Swedish fish, Red Hot Dollars, Dots, Pixie Sticks and anything else your scrawny little juvenile self desired. Willy Wonka had nothing on this place.

Those sainted (in our minds) owners would probably be sued and sent to the evil sugar influence pokey nowadays. Nonetheless, we, got a bag full of candy for a few cents and it just made our day.

After the jaunt of cokes, burgers, waterbed rides and a candy topper, we'd make our way back to school. And, yes, we sat in class with either a Swedish fish stuck in a filling or a jawbreaker resting in the side of the mouth and looking like a freakishly swollen jaw.

I remember the girl who worked there (family) used to recommend the jawbreakers 'cause they lasted longest. Needless to say, no one answered questions in class in the afternoon, or something would fall out of their mouths or they'd choke trying to camouflage it and talk. Guess what? We survived and thrived.

OK, mercury fillings were on the rise in those years. And sometimes, just sometimes, a toothache and an empty store can bring back a soothing memory or two. Burger and a jawbreaker anyone?

What are your memories of the Corner Room (Esther's) or the Gourmet Picnic? Tell us about them. And, if anyone has a photo of Esther's, please upload it or email it to me at elaine.develde@patch.com and I will post it.

JC February 01, 2013 at 03:41 PM
Cheeseburger's and Cherry Cokes ; lunchtime at Esther's.
Bonnie February 01, 2013 at 05:00 PM
Great article, I also have many fond memories of Esthers. There were glass tabletops which amazingly we never broke, but I do remember making a friend laugh so hard her choclate milk shot from mouth, nose all over and we were immediately kicked out, ahhh, the good old days when adults were allowed to discipline children for misbehaving. Thanks again for the memory. Bonnie
L. Bonnie Hallowell (Grimmer) February 01, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Esther's opened in the late 50's I think. As a teen I worked at the corner store for a couple of weeks and I graduated from RFH in 62 so it had to be in the 50's when Esther's opened. Esther's father was one of the steamship's captains back before my time. Her grandson lives on McCarter Ave. and I know he would have pictures.
Elaine Van Develde (Editor) February 01, 2013 at 05:55 PM
Wow! I did not know that. Thanks so much for that info! Do you know her grandson's name?
L. Bonnie Hallowell (Grimmer) February 01, 2013 at 06:30 PM
Her grandson is Ed Brett, his mother was a long time Fair Haven school teacher and daughter of Esther.
Bill Dowd February 01, 2013 at 06:36 PM
Lovely story...
Elaine Van Develde (Editor) February 01, 2013 at 07:25 PM
Oh, I didn't realize Esther was Mrs. Brett's daughter. I actually had Mrs. Brett! How funny. Forward this link to Ed and maybe he'll do us the honor of sending some photos. ;)
Evie Kelly February 01, 2013 at 07:35 PM
Elaine, when we were kids, Esther was no longer running the place but the name stuck. Being able to buy lunch was a big deal for us, mostly we just walked home at lunch time. There was a small candy counter in the back where we would buy candy. There also was a mural painted on the dining room wall. How about the Black Sheep? They sold leather stuff and incense and all that 60s and 70s stuff. That family lived in a big house on Fair Haven Rd across from McCarter's Pond that is no longer there. The last name was Manson and Merle, I think that was her name, was in our grade.
Evie Kelly February 01, 2013 at 07:36 PM
PS - I think Mrs. Brett was Esther's daughter.
Elaine Van Develde (Editor) February 01, 2013 at 07:50 PM
Hey, Evie. Check out my story on Nature's Emporium's pending closing http://patch.com/A-1xl9. Black Sheep used to house it in a corner. I definitely remember Black Sheep. Loved it! Everyone came there to buy Nature's Emporium stuff and get those custom-made sandals and belts. Lisa Manson's family owned it? I don't think so. I believe her dad was a judge and they lived on Buttonwood on the pond. And, yes mam, that lunch certainly was a big deal for us, wasn't it? Forgot about the counter in the back.
Evie Kelly February 01, 2013 at 08:05 PM
Not Lisa Manson, Merle Mason. They weren't in FH all that long, didn't attend high school with us. I said Manson but it was Mason. Sorry about that. I saw your article about Nature's Emporium. thanks for sharing.
Elaine Van Develde (Editor) February 01, 2013 at 08:21 PM
Ah, gotcha. I was getting confused ... Oh, wait. That's the age ... ;)
Lezlie Feiring February 02, 2013 at 05:51 PM
It was in the late 50's when Esters open. I was in 4th or 5th grade. Back them we were walking still walking home for lunch. My big treat was to eat lunch there when it rained. Ester served grilled cheese or tuna salad with fries to us kids because it was quick and easy..this would have been around 58-59. One of my friends mom ate her breakfast there fo many years. She later moved to south sea bright but still ate at esters every morning.
Churd February 04, 2013 at 09:37 PM
My great-grandmother would take me to Esthers. I always got a hamburger on white toast, because it seemed more so much more grown-up than a bun...
APO 301 February 08, 2013 at 06:11 PM
The actual Esther's started out as a little hole in the wall place on the side of Bob Cameron's ESSO gas station. Her name was Esther England, and if I remeber correctly, her husband was Lester, they had A son Billy, and a daughter Lois (Brett), Billy lived on McCarter Ave, a couple of years older than me, and Lois also, Before Esther opened her own little lunchroom (as they called it), she worked the soda counter at the Fair Haven Pharmacy for the Margolies. I guess I was somewhere around 13 when she started. I learned how to sneak cigarettes, and learned how to curse and smoke in there.Started out a little place, and grew into what it is today, and old building was torn down and new complex was built in it's place. Lots of memories for me in that place too. My guess as to when she started, was around the late 40's, maybe '47- 48' ??
APO 301 February 08, 2013 at 06:18 PM
Forgot to mention. Esther's grandson is Chris England, he used to work for Gary Clark the plumber, but haven't seend him in a long time. They no longer live on Mcarter Ave. can't remember other kids names.
APO 301 February 08, 2013 at 06:36 PM
Sorry for adding a d on the end of seen, happened by mistake.
Marla Moorman Murray November 10, 2013 at 01:00 PM
Evie, The girl you went to school with is my sister, Merle, our last name is Moorman, it was my brother Mason Moorman you are remembering. We were the ones that lived in the huge house across from McCarters Pond and our mother Evelyn Viscardi owned the shop where the Black Sheep once rented from her. our store was called the Fair Haven Mews and Lee and Ginny Yarnell who owned The Black Sheep bought it from us when we moved (to NH). Thank you for the memories of Jannells candy store and the burgers and cherry cokes at lunch. By the way, my name is Marla.
Marla Moorman Murray November 10, 2013 at 01:07 PM
Oh, and the incense store you are remembering was owned by Don Chandler, I think it was called Chandlers. I cannot however remember the name of the card shop across the street from the store (it was next to the drama school/theater and the drama teacher there was named Mr. Waymouth)
Marla Moorman Murray November 10, 2013 at 03:03 PM
correction on the incense store it was called The Tea Taster owned by Don Chalders and he had a son named Malcom and the card shop was also a candle shop (maybe called the "Candle Light Shop"?)

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