Seven Mile Times

August 2018

The Tags that Bind

His Hat Holds Nearly Every Stone Harbor Beach Tag, and a Family History

By Dave Bontempo

Stone Harbor beach tags from 1972-2017 with ‘The Hat.’

Bryan and Stephanie Cogliano with Bryan Jr., Bradley and Brody.

Bryan Cogliano has been tagged, in a manner Facebook would envy.

 

His one-of-a kind hat draws abundant social chatter, all through town. Cogliano has an unusual treasure, featuring the Stone Harbor beach tag for every year dating back to 1972. He has extras at home, bringing the combined total to more than 120.

Talk about a lifetime pass!

 

“Over the last six or seven years, I get stopped all the time when I am wearing my hat,” says Cogliano, a native of Lower Pottsgrove, Pa., whose family history in Stone Harbor goes back five generations. “Every day someone will come up and want to talk about it. It seems that on every other street, a lifeguard will come down from the stand and ask, ‘Wow, you have all the years?’ ”

 

Well, almost. Technically, Cogliano says, the 1971 badge is not part of this collection. Yet the collage of colors weaves a unique journey of his family through Stone Harbor. The hat represents a personal beach-tag evolution, from pragmatism to adolescent coolness and, finally, nostalgia.

 

Cogliano has sand, and Stone Harbor, in his shoes. As a certified financial planner for Lincoln Financial Advisers in Berwyn, Pa., he maintains business ties with prominent local establishments and travels here every week. He also spends considerable time here in the summer. Cogliano’s family, in one form or another, has spent every summer in Stone Harbor since 1930. There is a potpourri of history and anecdotes stored in some place other than his brain. Who says you can’t wear a scrapbook on your head?

 

Bryan’s late grandmother, Claire Edwards, is the link to the tags. It was she who assembled them and taught Bryan about the family’s deep roots here. The tags themselves denote 47 years of family history, compiled by “Nana,” who connected him to 42 more.

 

The family’s Stone Harbor saga began in 1930, he says. Bryan’s great-grandfather, Dr. Thomson Edwards, and his wife, Carmella, purchased their home on 98th Street at the height of the Great Depression. It cost a whopping $4,328 and was a status symbol for Thomson, a physician in the military. He would later be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, according to Bryan.

 

A different home, on the same street, was purchased by Thomson and Claire Edwards, Bryan’s grandparents, in 1967. Edwards was a Pearl Harbor survivor and appears in the 1938 Stone Harbor Lifeguard Beach Patrol picture in the Stone Harbor Centennial Book from 2014, Cogliano says.

 

Edwards also worked several jobs as a youngster in Stone Harbor, Cogliano notes. Fast-forward to 2008, when Meredith and Robert Cogliano, Bryan’s parents, purchased the home from his grandparents. His father had worked several years at the hardware store on 96th Street, among other endeavors. In 2012, however, they sold the home and moved to Sanibel Island, Fla.

 

Just like that, it all changed. Eighty-two years, one street, now a yesterday.

 

Bryan picked up the reins and has been renting on 97th Street, roughly 25 yards from the two homes previously owned by his family. It’s an emotional portrait of time spent, memories shared.  Bryan and wife Stephanie have added three boys, ages 10, 8 and 6, into the tradition. That will grow in December, when a baby girl is due “and that will make everybody happy,” he says with a laugh.

 

Thomson Edwards (Pop), at top right with 1938 SHBP when he was 19.

 

One could technically assert there are six generations. Or at least a five plus one.

 

“We found one of the only homes that is dog friendly,” he says. “We have a red retriever lab mix.”

 

Bryan worked here at Stone Harbor Pizza, proposed to and married Stephanie here. The kids love their unofficial second home. For Bryan, the memories are second to none.

 

Cogliano says his grandmother loved revealing branches of the family tree to an interested student.

 

“Nana was quite amused and pleased with my hat, as was my grandfather, Pop,” he recalls. “She was proud of my interest in being a tag protector and collector, and in the town, as she and my grandfather had many happy years together in Stone Harbor.

 

Claire Edwards (Nana) and Bryan Cogliano with the next generation: Bryan Jr., Bradley and Brody.

 

“When she moved full time back to West Chester, Pa., she was happy to get updates on what was changing in town and to get pictures, especially the 100-year Stone Harbor anniversary book,” he says. “That’s where she located an old picture of my pop as a lifeguard in 1938. She called me excitedly, stating that, ‘Your handsome grandfather is pictured on page 72 in the upper right-hand corner!’ – and it made her day. She had me pick up several more books so she could send them to extended family members. Nana loved bragging about my grandfather, between his Stone Harbor stories [which included tying a red handkerchief on top of the old water tower] and Pearl Harbor survivor stories.”

 

Nana kept the tags in a drawer/table next to the front door and would pin the current seasons to a pillow, enabling people to remember to take them to the beach.

 

“She would issue friendly reminders to grab your tag on the way out the door,” Bryan recalls. “She however, did not go to the beach; if she did, it was later in day, briefly, or up to the gazebo on 101st Street.

 

“When the next season came around, she would put prior seasons in a plastic bag in the table or throw them in the drawer. She said when they were first required/sold in 1971, no one could believe it and she didn’t recall if she even purchased one that season. I have every year from 1972 to current and duplicates for many of the years.”

 

Thomson Edwards (Pop)

 

Cogliano’s favorite tags include 1976, the year he was born, and 2002, when the water tower was pictured. It’s a good thing he has duplicates in a shadow-box case. Some tags, especially from the 1990s, are becoming worn.

 

The tags at first became beach status for Bryan.

 

“I started organizing them and putting them on my hat in the early ’90s – as a youngster you were always looking to be 16 to drive, 18 and 21, etc.,” he recalls. “Experience and being a seasoned veteran was key. With all the prior seasons’ beach tags, I got instant beach-experience status – a key ingredient as a youth rocking the dope hat!”

 

Bricks outside the Stone Harbor Firehouse to honor the Edwards family.

 

Eventually, there would be a second hat. He grew out of the original and now has the permanent version. Like his own growth, the beach-tag hat evolved along a parallel plane.

 

“I would always get compliments on it and that was great,” he recalls. “In recent years, I would leave the hat on top of the spade-shovel handle at the beach [where he dug holes] when I would hit the waves with the kids.

 

“A couple years ago, someone stopped me at The Golden Inn tiki bar and advised me on what the 1971 tag recently sold for on eBay, it was pretty wild. It was somewhere like $3,000-$4,000. I was told to be mindful of that one-of-a-kind hat you have got.

 

“When I told my grandmother what the 1971 tag went for, she said that’s about what my great-grandfather paid for their house on 98th Street in 1930. So, when others ask me, and I’ve been asked, what would I sell the hat for, I say,  ‘It’s not for sale, but I will consider trading it – straight up – for any property in Stone Harbor.’ ”

 

The beach-tag bonanza crystallized when Claire passed away last September at 96. The badges connect him with a lady who, ironically, rarely went to the beach. Claire and Thomson, Nana and Pop, spent many hours at the bird sanctuary and at the gazebo. That’s where Bryan proposed to Stephanie. All the history ties back.

 

There are many ways to pinpoint a family’s journey, but this has to be one of the most creative. The tags are a permanent part of Cogliano. There was a time he was forced to wear them. Now he won’t leave home without them.

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