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Millburn: 1857 - 1957
The Second World War

By the Millburn Centennial Committee

Originally appeared in 1957
This Web version, copyright 2004

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The inhabitants of the Township of Millburn again moved into war on a rain-threatened Sunday afternoon, December 7, 1941, when the fatal news was flashed over radios that Pearl Harbor had been attacked and a state of war existed between the United States and Japan. Events moved quickly. Many young men were already in camps under the Selective Service Act of 1940, and the first Draft Board consisting of Stephen Barker, Norman Wiss, and Harvey Morehouse Roberts, was in operation.

The civihan population voluntarily mobilized itself almost over-night. Many joined the various Red Cross units, the Civilian Defense, the auxiliary Police and Fire departments. Others found places either as members of, or clerks to, the various local Federal boards, or manned the Civilian Observation Post of the Aircraft Warning Service. At regular and unannounced intervals, air raid drills were held and each block had its captain and corps who patrolled the streets checking on blackout violations.

The people learned the intricacies of ration books and points for meat, fuel, grocery staples, automobile tires, sugar, coffee, and gasoline, and the meaning of "freezing" of prices, wages, jobs, and rents. Many yards contained "victory" garden plots, and women vied with one another in home canning projects. Several tracts of vacant land were made available for war gardens on a larger scale. Cigarettes, silk stockings, butter, gasohne, and beef became rarities, and queues formed when word spread that some such article was temporarily available. People saved tin cans, rags, scrap metal, rubber, and paper for the regular scrap collections.

Members of the greatly augmented Millburn-Short Hills Chapter of the American Red Cross worked overtime conducting blood banks, home nursing and first aid classes, nutrition courses, and workrooms devoted to sewing, knitting, and hospital requirements, and acting as liaison agents between home and the armed services. The Motor Corps, among other duties, drove draftees from the Town Hall to the Induction Center in the Armory in Newark, without benefit of bands, cheering throngs, or songs. Many women also belonged to the Women's Voluntary Service Corps and supplemented the work of the Red Cross in a variety of ways.

All places of worship kept their doors open daily for prayer, and each congregation had its units engaged in work designed to give spiritual and physical comfort to servicemen and women.

Most social organizations either temporarily disbanded or adjusted their activities to the emergency. Many housewives and professional men took jobs in war plants, often working on the night shifts when their regular day's work was over. Almost all life, it seemed, except the life of war, ceased in the community.

When news of the surrender of Japan came in August, 1945, it was received without wild demonstration. Too many stupendous events in too short a time-D Day, Battle of the Bulge, the Rhine Crossing, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, the death of President Roosevelt, V.E. Day, the Atom Bomb-had jaded emotions, and left people every-where empty of every feeling except relief. The fighting men came home from the four corners of the world without the fanfare which had greeted returning heroes in bygone days.

When it was all over the statistics were compiled:

1642 men and women served in the armed forces, of whom 44 were killed. The first three to die, Francis D. Day, George F. Gallion, Jr., and William F. Kaupp, lost their lives at Pearl Harbor, Corregidor, and aboard the torpedoed destroyer, "Jacob Jones".

Millburn had served its country well. Out of the entire population 14% were in service, and 2.6% died. These figures run above the average for the entire nation of 12-plus % in service, 2.5% killed.
(Based on 1940 census, 11,652 (Millburn population)., U. S. census, 1940, 131,820,000; served, 16,172,566; killed, 407,828.)

A memorial to the armed forces was included as part of the new Millburn Public Library, and two hand-inscribed books containing the names of all service men and women, and those who contributed to the Memorial, are enclosed in glass cases in the Memorial Hall.

The end of a great war is a good time to pause for a reflective look backward. At the beginning of the long road leading from 1920 to 1945 stood a country village; at its end, a mature community, more than tripled in population.

The modern settlers, like their pioneer prototypes, were home owners, not renters, and almost four out of five, or about 79% of dwelling units in the community became owner-occupied. This percentage, based on 1950 statistics, towers far above the national 51 %, the State's 53%, and the County's 38%, and places Millburn Township in a unique position among all municipalities (Only Essex Fells 83% exceeds Millburn in Essex County.).

Obviously, citizens of a community devoted to the establishment of their own homes are keenly aware of the necessity for good laws to regulate the development of their community, and for good schools, and other advantages for their children, and many of the ordinances passed, and Boards created, during the decades between wars, mirror that realization. A Shade Tree Commission, a Planning Board, Board of Improvement Assessment, Board of Adjustment, Recreation Commission, Local Assistance Board, and Library Board, all composed of public-spirited citizens appointed by the Township Committee, and serving without salary, provide the necessary controls, help preserve the beauty of the Township, and supervise the functioning of recreational and cultural institutions, within a framework of law and public interest. The nine members of the Board of Education also serve without pay, but are elected on a non-partisan basis by popular ballot. The Board, under the direct control of the citizens, free from political allegiances, has evolved in Millburn a school system noted throughout the State for its high scholastic standards.

A new Township seal, designed by E. Stanley Turnbull, a local artist, was adopted in 1939. The emblem is reproduced on police cars and other municipal equipment, on town and school pubhcations, and on literature embracing Township cooperative activities. Picturing a millwheel by a tree-shaded pond, it identifies Millburn with its historical background.

By the end of the Second World War many changes in American life had become apparent. The small independent merchant operating the general store or the corner grocery was disappearing, and also the decentralization of businesses was under way. Millburn, based on a commercial survey covering a 50-mile radius of potential customers and clients, emerged as the hub of a new shopping and business center. Within a few years after the War, supermarkets, department stores, specialty shops, and large insurance companies became established here, and more are still seeking space within the municipality.

To meet the threat of such an expansion to a community devoted primarily to homes and family living, ordinances were passed strengthening zoning and building laws, compelling the establishment of adequate parking facilities for each business building, providing for the widening and straightening of streets, and the better regulation of traffic.

With the end of the Second World War, too, America entered the Atomic Age, and the era of an uneasy peace-two forces then almost invisible, dimly realized, but nevertheless insistent facts to be reckoned with in every small American town. Under the Selective Service Act, the young men of Millburn performed their military service when called. Many were serving in the East when the smothered war burst into flames again in Korea in June, 1950, and 175 more men were drafted during the period of the Korean hostilities.

Once before in this history the headlines told the story. Now, again, the mores and manners of the new times move into focus as the newsprint pages turn:

Five-man Civilian Defense Council Reorganized – to give help in immediate and long range phases of atomic and other disasters; State Air Raid Tests Scheduled; Volunteers Needed for Ground Observation Corps at Chatham Observation Post; Wyoming Church Guild Presents U.N. Flag Made by its Members to the Township; Korean War Veterans Eligible for Veteran Tax Assessment Exemption; Clothing Collection for American Relief for Korea;

Street Lights Reach Total of 1,002, an Increase of 25% over 1945; Essex Street Widened and Extended; New 4158 Volt Feeder Electrical Energy for Wyoming Section; Two More Miles of Sewers and Two New Pumping Stations for Northwest Short Hills; Dutch Elm Disease Attacks Millburn's Old Elm Trees; Parking Meters to be Installed; Town Mosquito Spraying Program Inaugurated; Christmas Light Project to Light Millburn Business Center; Radar Speed Timing Unit Purchased by Police Department; Telephones Converted to Dial Use; Building Operations in 1949 Reach $2,458,490; in 1950, between 6 and 7 Million; Prudential Insurance Company to Develop 289 residential lots between White Oak Ridge Road and Canoe Brook Road;

Permit Granted for 128-family House on Millburn Avenue; Chubb In- surance Underwriters Present Plans for Large Office Building; One-way Streets Planned for Millburn Center; Millburn's Worst Storm with 100- mile Winds Creates Havoc; One-family B Zones Eliminated in Short Hills; Ordinance Passed Setting Minimum Foundation Areas for Houses; Off-street Parking Ordinance Passed; Ordinance Passed Rezoning Outly- ing Sections; Police Chiefs of Millburn and Livingston Meet to Discuss Highway Accidents Caused by Deer; Tax Rate 4.96 (1950) ; 7.01 (1956) ; Eisenhower Club Formed; "Volunteers for Stevenson" Hold First Meeting (1952);

School Enrollment 2492 (1952) ; 3029 (1956) ; 190 Persons Register for Adult School (1950), 900 Register (1955) ; Store Windows Decorated By Students for Hallowe'en Celebration; High School Graduates 171 (1956) ; Minimum Salary for Teachers Raised to $3,500.00 (1955) ; Town is Host to Foreign Students; Mrs. Robert H. Freeman Elected First Woman President of Board of Education; Mrs. Anna H. McCollum and Miss Averill C. Killey Honored for Combined Service of 106 Years in Millburn Public Schools;

Little League Baseball Club Plays First Game; Parade Precedes Opening (May 10, 1952) ; 152,697 Persons Use Recreation Facilities in 1951; A. Ross Meeker Awarded Special Certificate of Appreciation and Letter of Citation by National Recreation Association for Outstanding Service in Millburn; Edward S. Pettigrew Wading Pool Dedicated in Taylor Park; All Arts Conference; Easter Egg Hunt; Community Concerts Inaugurated; Record Crowds Attend Fourth of July Community Celebra- tion; March of Dimes; Drives for Funds to Fight Cancer, Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Heart Disease, for Mental Health and to Help Retarded Children; 655 Children Receive Salk Vaccine;

High School Paper "The Miller" awarded first place, for fourth time, by Columbia University Scholastic Press Association; Millburn, First Municipality in Essex County to Utilize Mercury Lights for Main Streets; Millburn Vote Record of 93.01 % Tops All Other Communities in Essex County (1952) ; County Record of 100 Pints Set by Millburn Blood Bank. (All items are taken from Millburn and Short Hills Item years 1950-1956).

The headlines have told the story of the closing years so well that any amplification would be repetitious; the history of one place which began, like Genesis, at the beginning of the world, is now approaching the drawing of another curtain.

From the perspective of history the inhabitants of the Township of Millburn may view the long journey by which they have come to the year 1957. It has been a journey along a curious road, unique in its turnings. History often records a movement from the farm to small town to manufacturing center. Few have taken the steps, as Millburn has, from a farming settlement, to manufacturing center, to a beautiful suburban community. From the vantage point of 1957 those turnings are clear.

The history has unfolded a story of the first men who made the place their home. Then came other men from across the seas who brought civilized skills and energy to the task of carving a community out of a wilderness. They were primarily farmers, those early immigrants, with simple knowledge of carpentry and other crafts, and almost 250 years ago in a remote area of Elizabethtown and New Ark they cultivated their home farms, and later fought for them when help was needed.

With the opening of the 19th century the new industrial age began when agriculture was laid aside as the principal occupation, and the people of the northern part of the newly created Borough of Springfield began the manufacture of paper and allied products.

Their goods moved down the expanding highways and across the country on the new railroads in constantly increasing loads. More and more small industrialists built their plants along the ponds and river, and people of different racial origins and religious affiliations established homes as the need for labor grew.

The desire for independence from its mother borough of Springfield gained momentum, culminating in the Act of the Legislature of March 20, 1857, establishing the community as a separate Township.

This period of industrial growth lasted for more than a hundred years from its beginning in 1790. However, soon after the opening of the 20th century, a third transformation which had its beginnings in the 1870's began to be manifest. The success of the Short Hills and Wyoming developments, with their pretty homes and pleasant suburban life, became a powerful inducement to others to seek homes in a place combining natural beauty with easy accessibility to work in the nearby cities. As the paper and hat manufacturers disappeared, through many causes, their shops were closed forever. It needed only the impetus of a great war's aftermath to complete the trend, and transform Millburn to a mature and outstanding community of homes.

In its growth toward maturity, too, came the recognition of the necessity for more personal participation in the educational, civic, political, and philanthropic requirements of the communty, and also the value of sharing in artistic, social, and recreational interests. As a result many organizations and associations were formed. They, working together with the churches and schools over the years have helped to make Millburn Township the fine living place it has become. Organizations in existence for fifty or more years have been dealt with at length in the early history. Some others are here briefly mentioned.

The Parent Teacher Associations work in close cooperation with the schools to supplement their work and needs.

The Millburn Scholastic Boosters organization helps needy boys and girls up to and through higher education. Its funds come from the annual dues of its members.

An Adult School under the Board of Education offers a wide range of evening studies.

The Chamber of Commerce promotes local business interests.

Ten civic associations look after sectional interests of home owners.

The Millburn Fourth of July Committee, Inc., was incorporated to sponsor and arrange the annual Township all-day celebration of Independence Day.

The first troop of Boy Scouts was Troop No. 12 of Wyoming. Later a troop of Girl Scouts was organized. Over 2,000 boys and girls and their leaders now participate in various scouting activities, including Senior Service, Mariners, Ship, and Explorer Troops.

The Junior Service League provides assistance to the Library and engages in other social service work. It sponsors "New Eyes for the Needy, Inc." in its national work of providing eye care for indigent persons.

Associations like the Millburn-Short Hills Arts Center, Inc. and the Village Chorus provide outlet for artistic interests. The Women's Club of Millburn, the Garden Study Club, and the League of Women Voters have fostered interest in many facets of community life.

The work of the Millburn-Short Hills Chapter of the American Red Cross needs no amphfication here. A list of some of its activities was set out at length in the history of the war years.

The Community Council organized in 1934 coordinates the activities of those organizations which are directly related to community needs and interests.

The Paper Mill Playhouse established in 1934 is a modern theatre in the remodelled Diamond Paper Mill. It produces contemporary plays soon after their Broadway runs. A semi-permanent cast, often augmented with guest stars, take part in the daily performances.

Three international service clubs, Kiwanis, Lions, and Rotary, have chapters here.

Many township veterans belong to veterans organizations and their auxiharies; several national fraternal societies, as well as political and patriotic associations are established in the community.

Besides the Short Hills Club and the Racquets Club, the Wyoming Club and the Casa Colombo offer tennis or other sports, and features of club life to their members. The East Orange Golf Association formed in 1924 built a course on the East Orange Watershed property in the White Oak Ridge Section, and with the Canoe Brook Country Club provide their form of recreation for many residents.

The Millburn National Bank, which has recently become a part of the National State Bank, and the Investors Savings and Loan Association, are strong financial institutions, enjoying the confidence of business houses and individuals.

Another story could be told of the men and women whose names have not been mentioned, who lived out their hves and left their marks upon the place-farmers, millers, artisans, merchants, housewives, teachers, artists, clergymen, politicians, business and professional men, humble men and rich men, for the list is long. But histories are written by human beings, who are fallible, and to append an incomplete list would be less kind than no list at all.

A few statistics are in order to complete the scene.

As of the closing months of 1956 the population is estimated to be 17,500. Ratables amount to $50,502,519.00; tax rate, $7.01. The annual budget for 1956 is as follows:

Township Municipal Government $ 970,909.00
Public Schools 1,587,158.00
County Government 978,193.00
  Total $3,536,260.00

BONDED DEBT (issued or authorized) AS OF SEPTEMBER 1, 1956, WAS:
Municipal Government $1,866,550.00
Board of Education 3,489,000.00
  Total $5,355,550.00

Cost of one pupil in public school is estimated to be $446.14 exclusive of debt service. Including debt service the figure is $526.86. In the budget of 1857 an allotment was made of $2.00 for the education of each "scholar" in public schools. The comparison provides eloquent testimony to the changes one hundred years has brought, a change not only in money values, but in attitudes.

Millburn Township approaches its centennial with a conscious pride in its achievements of one hundred years, and although a centenarian in calendar time, it is still bursting with health and youthful vigor.

Its drama has been played against the background of America, for it is, of course, in microcosm, America itself. It has lived through many phases of economic and social development, and has had its growing pains, its moments of glory and despair.

Another Act will end on March 20, 1957, but the play will go on. Only the actors will change and the new story has not been written. The many men and women who have played their parts and built the framework for the unfolding story have built well and turn in confidence to their children to carry with fortitude and good conscience the story of tomorrow.

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