It is customary now to think of the days before the first of the great World Wars as a kind of pastoral symphony where simple people wandered in an unhurried, peaceful existence, untouched by any world except the few square miles around them which they called the home town. However, a reading of the newspapers of that day, which must be one of the principal sources of any history of those times, seems to indicate that that idea is not correct, and that the differences between the world of 45 years ago and the world now is only relative.
Unfortunately, all copies of the Millburn-Short Hills item for the early years of the 20th century were destroyed by fire, but the Newark Evening News, the Newark Sunday Call, and the Newark Evening Star (later, Newark Star Eagle), had a wide circulation in Millburn and all carried some Millburn Township news.
In 1912 man's inventions and discoveries had not yet progressed beyond his capacity to use them wisely, but he was striving vigorously to reach that goal. Without radio and television he was not instantaneously aware of the world's woes the minute they happened; atomic fission with its possibilities of good and evil existed only in the minds of some scientists, space travel was something to be found in the "Little Nemo" script of the comic sheets, and the potentialities of the airplane were still only dimly perceived.
However, We news coverage of the local papers was broad and world-wide in its scope, and from them one now gets the feeling that the young America was moving out of the tight little world in which it had once lived. The foment and excitement of a new, modern world comes through the headlines.
Pages of these papers were devoted to an exciting, recently perfected invention called the "Automobile," which was even then changing the face of every small town in the country. Columns were devoted to its operation, repair, where to go and how, and news of motorists who were making the first long trips. "Do-it-yourself" articles gave minute direction on how to adjust and repair engines. Other pages carried advertisements of new models, of which there were many, showrooms, parts suppliers, and service stations.
Millburn Township, lying in the path of many crossroads, was early influenced by this fascinating new method of traveling. Now, alongside of the trolley, with its pleasant clatter and warning bell, running down Main Street at seven or eight miles an hour, raced the motor car at unheard of speeds. New Jersey passed a law in 1912 limiting speed to 1 mile every 5 minutes in districts where houses were less than 100 feet apart.
The Township fathers worried. In their annual report, issued early in 1912, they recommended that a steam roller and other road machines be purchased to scrape and oil the roads, as they said?"the combined traffic of horse drawn vehicles and automobiles had greatly deteriorated the macadam roads."
The problem they posed in their report was, "where could they find a binder which would accommodate automobiles, but would not be too slippery for horses?" Time, of course, was soon to dispose of that question as the horse became a museum piece, and Millburn's blacksmith shops, harness makers, livery stables, and stable suppliers one by one closed their doors forever. However, new businesses were replacing them. Soon Millburn had a taxicab run by Mr. Patrick Skelly, and its first garage and service station, operated by Julius Wittkop on Millburn avenue, where the Suburban Dress Shop is now located.
However, the trolley was not to be driven from the local scene for 15 or more years yet. It was not only an important means of transportation for shoppers and workers in and out of Millburn, but was a source of much fun, too. Trolley cars took the residents, as individuals, families, or in larger excursion groups to places as far away as Seidler's Beach, Sewaren, Boynton Beach, and even to Lake Hopatcong. of course, the small minority who owned automobiles went even farther across the rough roads of New Jersey, in the first of many Sunday jaunts away from home.
The "society" news in the papers reflects the change in the social pattern. People were spread out more, taking vacations away from home, visiting relatives in far-away places, or staying at cottages at the seashore. Boys were beginning to enjoy camping trips, too. One reads in August, 1912, that Earl Warner, Robert Marshall, Ray Oliver, and Winfield Griffits went camping at Roe Pond; William Pittinger visited for two weeks in Nova Scotia; Ethen S. Bosworth visited Fitchburg, Massachusetts, and Fire Chief Thomas A. Douglas entertained his brother-in-law, William Stoeckle, at his cottage in Port Monmouth.
Social life at home more often than not centered around the family upright piano. The majority of the songs they sang were frankly sentimental, and among the favorites were, "The End of a Perfect Day," "Little Gray Home in the West," "My Rosary," "in the Good Old Summertime," "Love Me and the World is Mine," "Down by the Old Mill Stream," and "Mother Macree," to name only a few which were then in their heyday. Some songs reflected the new inventions; "He'd Have to Get Under," and "All Alone by the Telephone." But even in the songs a new sophistication was creeping in, and the ragtime rhythms of " Alexander's Ragtime Band" and "Everybody's Doin' It" startled with their offbeat accents.
Motion pictures as a source of public entertainment came to Millburn, too, and in its own nickleodeon on Millburn avenue where Marx's store is now located, the first flickering images of love and romance, Indians and cowboys, and other deathless heroes made their debut. Motion pictures were often the features of church and club socials. At St. Stephen's on Christmas afternoon in 1912 a party was held for the poor children of the town, and after the tree and presents, as a special treat, a moving picture was shown.
Millburn had its own baseball team, the Millburn A. C., which successfully challenged many neighboring teams. Interest in baseball was high, not only in the home team, but in the great professionals, and Ty Cobb and Walter Johnson were national heroes.
The Millburn bicycle races had been abandoned by 1910, but interest in bicycle racing was still keen with the interest focusing on the star riders of the new Velodrome in Vailsburg where Frank Kramer was everyone's favorite.
Interest in the theatre was tremendous. Most Millburn folks went to Newark for their entertainment where nine legitimate theatres offering fare from straight drama, through vaudeville, and burlesque, were located. In 1912 they laughed and cried over Eddie Foy and his seven laughing Foy kids in "Over the River," or William Farnum. in "The Littlest Rebel." The plays of Gilbert and Sullivan and Shakespeare were in many repertoires of the nearby playhouses, and audiences thrilled to the talents of Mrs. Fiske, Maude Adams, George Arliss, DeWolf Hopper, Marie Dressler, George M. Cohan, Anne Held, and many other theatrical greats.
About this time women's skirts moved up and from below the ankle bone almost to the shoe top, probably as another result of the automobile, as with the invention of the self-starter (1910) and gradual elimination of the difficult cranking job, women began to realize that they, too, could drive cars if their skirts were not so long. On the stage, skirts grew even shorter, leading Parcy Hammond, an eminent dramatic critic of the day to write, reprovingly, "the human knee is a joint, and not an entertainment."
Most shopping expeditions took the ladies to the Township of Newark by trolley, although some of the more affluent journeyed by train to New York City. Cash was not too plentiful in 1912, but then one did not need so much. One reads advertisements in the Newark papers that year showing what seems now like unbelievable bargains. At. L. S. Plaut's Beehive (now Kresge's) in Newark, cotton yard goods were on sale at 5-1/2 cents a yard, and boy's wash-trousers, 45 cents a pair. At Hahne's in the same month, ladies' gloves were advertized at 19 cents a pair, shoes at $1.00, and washboards at 50 cents. Bamberger's offered neckties at 10 cents, and the latest novels, including "The Light that Lures," "House of Bondage," and "The Duke's Price" for 45 cents a copy. At Siegel Cooper's in New York, one could buy a brass bed for $12.50 and a man's shirt for 39 cents.
At the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, lard cost 25 cents for 2 pounds, butter was 31 cents a pound, and bacon was 17 cents. A case of Ballantine's light export beer sold for $1.00 and a barrel of flour was $6.50.
Old timers in Millburn in 1938 say that life was very pleasant here in those days before the war; that everyone knew everyone else and they had happy times together. Much of their community social life was connected with their churches to which almost everyone belonged, and in the new fraternal order and lodges which were opening here.
However, the old population was changing, too. The predominantly English and Scotch stock of the 18th and early 19th centuries was being augmented by migration from all over Europe. The first Irish and Germans had arrived here soon after 1840, and then came in increasing numbers as time went on. After about 1880, people from Italy came, and later representatives of other countries found homes in Millburn Township, induced by the prospect of work in the mills and on the railroads.
The census figures of 1905 give the native born population at 2335 out of a total of 3182. The foreign born population was broken down into 86 English, 232 Irish, 103 Germans, 160 Italians, and all other countries, 266. A count a few years later shows the Italian population doubled, the people from Russia, Greece, and Poland with a scattering representation of other countries, becoming new citizens of pre-war Millburn Township.
In 1912, Millburn Township worried about juvenile delinquency, although it did not call it that, and passed a curfew law. Mrs. Harold A. Hack, head of the Neighborhood House, was principally responsible for the passing of the ordinance. She appeared before the Township Committee and made a complaint that children were roaming the streets late at night. As a result, Jerome T. Congleton, Township Counsel, drew up an ordinance, which was quickly passed, requiring every person under 14 years of age to be off the streets by ten o'clock.
A warning whistle was blown by the Millburn Electric Co. at 9:45, add at ten o'clock a policeman patrolled the streets armed with a strong light, which he flashed into alleys and other hiding places. Those boys of 1912 who are middle-aged men today, say that few had the courage to remain out after curfew. Penalty for violation was severe, and ranged from $1.00 to $50.00 fine, and not more than six days in jail, or both. The law was enforced until after the first World War.
Civic pride was mounting and in 1912 a fund was started for a fountain, to be 9 feet 8 inches high, of cast iron, and to cost $375.00, to be erected at Millburn's four corners, and to be "for man and beast." The Fountain Committee consisted of Joseph H. Rimback, George Berstler, and Edwin D. Pennell. Evidently sufficient funds were never collected, as the fountain was never erected, and the beasts continued to drink from the trough outside of the Millburn Hotel at the corner of Main Street and Millburn Avenue.
In November, 1912 a hardy perennial, the Wyoming Literary Society, which first appeared in these pages in our history of the 1880's, held its first meeting of the new season at the home of Charles F. Coaney of Prospect avenue (now Sagamore road). The Short Hills Girls' Basketball Team triumphed over the Springfield girls, and sidewalk superintendents closely watched the construction of the new Town Hall. During the construction, Millburn's recently acquired chemical engine was housed in the Millburn Electric Company shed.
The years from 1912 to 1917, that uneasy breathing space before the cataclysm of World War I, seems to have passed quietly enough. Efficient, modern ways were manifested in the Township government, many of the physical properties of the Township were renovated, and the school system's standards were greatly improved. The completion of the new Wyoming School about 1910, and the White Oak Ridge School in 1912 [N.B.: renamed?], adequately met the needs of the increasing number of pupils. The appointment of such men as Dr. Frank B. Jewett to the Board of Education and Dr. Charles B. Dyke as Superintendent of Schools, brought new blood into the public schools. Both of these men served the Township in those capacities for nearly a quarter of a century. With Dean Emery, who also served the local school body for many years, they are credited with being the founders of the present modern school system. Their work was later carried on by such Board Presidents as Dr. Luther Gulick, Walter A. Staub and Judge G. Noyes Slayton.
There were wars and rumors of wars, and the great war did not burst upon the country out of the blue. In 1912 Turkey and Bulgaria were engaged in a spirited war, and the Near East was seething. Diaz led a revolution in Mexico. The world leaders were worried that all of Europe would be drawn into the Balkan War, and the feeling between England and Germany, was the cause of great alarm. In fact, when same rapprochement was reached between the banks of England and Germany, a Newark News writer hailed it as possibly the first great step to prevent collision between the two countries. So strong was the feeling of threat of war that Washington ordered strict censorship of war news, lest one improper word would bring us into the conflict.
"Preparedness" became a subject of thought and debate, and in August, 1912, war maneuvers were held on a national scale. One of the first to leave Millburn to take part in the great games was Philip Ross, who left for Connecticut with his Field Battery A of East Orange.
In that momentous summer of 1912 when the world was rushing with breakneck speed toward the end of a way of life which would never come again in this memory of living man, New Jersey's Gov. Woodrow Wilson, was nominated for the presidency of the United States. To oppose him, the Republicans put up the rotund Mt. Taft to run for another term. Into this fairly normal slate of affairs, the vigorous Teddy R. led his charging horde of bullmoose, and as elsewhere, the voters of Millburn were split three ways. The close division of their sentiments may be read in the votes cast here in the election in November. Wilson received 265 votes, Taft 188, Roosevelt 189, Debs 5. and the Prohibition candidate, 5 votes. However, in the Congressional race, the Taft candidate came in first with 171 votes, the Progressive standard bearer received 148, the Democrat's nominee 139 votes, and the Socialist's 7 votes.
Millburn, like most other towns across the nation, seems to have entered the war psychologically long before the declaration date. It had its Anglophiles, and Germanophobes, its long debates over the merits on both sides, and even its hates and pointings of fingers at neighbors suspected of being pro-German.
When finally, the long years of debate came to an end on April 6, 1917, the Township entered the war with a gusto and enthusiasm which no future war would ever know. The glamour has gone out of war now, and the voices and bands are silent, but in 1817-1918 the young men who left Millburn for camp were sent off with speeches, gifts, songs, and band-playing. Many boys were quick to enlist, and some joined the ambulance corps for foreign service even before the declaration.
Unfortunately, it has been impossible to obtain any complete information as to how many and who from Millburn Township went into service. if any role or roster was kept of service men, it has long since been destroyed or mislaid. However, from our invaluable source of information, Edward Lonergan, we learn that the Township gave wholeheartedly to the nation, and that approximately 150 young men joined the armed forces. A few girls, too, took places as nurses or as office workers.
Mr. Lonergan was appointed to the Irvington Draft Board which had jurisdiction over Millburn. Later, Mr. Lonergan, who was Postmaster, had to assume his duties of Township Intelligence officer, and his place on the Draft Board was taken by Edward Pennell.
Millburn Township, small as it was then (the population was about 4100) stepped into high gear to win the war. A Millburn Red Cross organization was quickly completed and went into action. In July, 1917 it held a first exhibition in the Denman Building on Millburn Avenue, of samples of surgical supplies made for the National Society by local members. It announced that the purpose of the exhibition was "to foster interest among local residents in the work." The exhibition evidently brought results, for on October 1 of that year, a shipment of three boxes each containing 142 dozen surgical dressings left for headquarters.
An associate was formed here under the Hoover Federal Food Conservation Commission to meet food problems, and war gardens were laid out and planted on Millburn avenue where the high school stadium now stands. A Home Guard met regularly for drill on the Fandango Mill grounds, and served ably during the war much as a Civil Defense group might function now. During the Morgan, New Jersey explosion it helped evacuate residents of that area, many of whom were brought to Millburn and fed in soup kitchens set up here.
"Jitney" buses, fare five cents, made their appearance on Township streets, used principally to take men and women to work in war plants. Their coming carried the same threat to the trolley that the automobile had carried to the horse a decade earlier.
Knitting, canning, Red Cross work, and meeting troop trains en route through the town with packages of goodies, kept many Millburn Township women busy throughout the day. The assumption by women of an important place in the war life of the nation brought an increase in their demands for equal rights in the running of the nation. In 1917, woman suffrage occupied a big part of the minds of many women. On July 18th of that year, a group of women picketed the White House to force President Wilson to consider their plea. Among the 16 who went to jail that night in Washington for disturbing the peace was Miss Julie Hurlburt of Short Hills. The ladies spent two days and two nights in the workhouse, but on the petition of representatives of the New Jersey Branch of the National Women's Party, President Wilson pardoned them all. Mrs. A. J. Rose of short Hills took part in the petition to President Wilson. Miss Cora Hartshorn, of course, had long been an advocate of extending the franchise to women, and to all the intrepid pioneers, their associates and others like them, goes the credit for the final admission in 1920 of women into the political life of our country.
On July 22, 1917, in the Newark Sunday Call, a short paragraph appeared in the news from Millburn. It probably did not attract much attention at that tine, but in view of later events, we shall quote it in full:
"Guy R. Bosworth of Ocean street, a member of the Hospital Corps in the U.S. Army, who accompanied the first contingent of American troops to France, spent part of last week with his parents. He arrived at an American port last week on a transport which had carried 1200 to France. He will return to duty tomorrow."
What makes this paragraph so poignant is that in the papers just three months later, on October 21st, appears the account of the sinking of Guy's ship, the "Antilles," on its third trip to France. All on board perished. Guy, 26 years old, a graduate of Millburn High School and the New Jersey College of Pharmacy, thus became not only the first war casualty of Millburn Township, but he and the one or two New Jersey citizens on board with him were the first New Jersey men to die in the cause of democracy.
Millburn's second to give his life was Frank Nazzaro, who was killed in action a few months later. His death was followed by the death of Joseph Boslavage shortly before the Armistice, on October 15, 1918. At the time of his enlistment, Guy Bosworth was a junior pharmacist in Campbell's drug store, and young Mr. Boslavage was a fellow worker in the same pharmacy. Three bronze placques at the bases of three trees in Taylor Park now stand as their memorials.
Millburn has always given generously to its country's needs. Three casualties do not seem large, but it is a little higher percentage than for the country as a whole. The total number of casualties of the United States (killed) was 48,909. Based on a population of ninety-eight million, the percentage killed was about .0005%. Millburn's three out of its 4100, represented a percentage of .0007¼%. The same higher figures for Millburn prevailed in World War II.
Armistice Day came at last and the young men came home to the biggest parade and reception the town had ever seen.
But an era was ended, and soon the 1920's, the greatest decade of expansion the Township has yet known, was upon it.