Charles ‘Bud’ White of Little Silver gets his first look at the Barefoot Bulletin in decades. Below, page one of the August, 1945 edition, dated five days before the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. The entire set of bulletins is now archived online. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
Seventy years ago, just about halfway through what was then proving an epic war fought on multiple fronts around the globe, a bunch of “the boys overseas” began getting mail from a Red Bank woman named Margaret Rullman.
They all knew her, or knew of her: she was the wife of a prominent surgeon in town. And she knew all of 29 of them, or their families. Each of her recipients was an original member or connected to the Barefoot Yacht Club, an informal gang of river rats who had been sailing, skating and hanging out on the Navesink River for the past decade, since they were pre-teens.
Rullman – aided by Katherine Lippincott, mother of one of the boys, and Louise Sayre, whose daughter Barbara was the group’s only female – called her monthly missives the “Bare Foot Bulletin” in their honor, later shortening the first two words into one. The initial edition went out in September, 1943, and began with a parody of Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees:”
I think that I shall never see
An outfit like the BFC [Bare Foot Club]
A group that did in summer wear
A nest of seaweed in its hair…
Then Rullman got right down to the business at hand, which was letting the boys elsewhere know what was going on at home while also keeping them current on what their companions around the globe were doing in the war effort – information gleaned from their own letters sent stateside.
Over the next 29 months, including six editions after the war’s end, Rullman delivered the homefront news in snappy, affectionate, ‘you remember this guy’ prose that belied the awful carnage and heartbreak of war.
Charles ‘Bud’ White, now 90 years old and living in Little Silver, was one of the Barefooters, on Navy Patrol Craft Escort 856 in the South Pacific, far from his home on Red Bank’s Elm Place, when the letters started arriving.