Imagine a Town Celebrating the Anniversary of Its Founding
on the Wrong Year Since 1937
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PRLog (Press Release)—April 10, 2013—What hasn't seemed to bother
the local politicians of West Orange, New Jersey, has proven more
than a little embarrassing to hometown author John Dandola. So
much so that it motivated him to write West Orange: A Concise and
Accurate History. Since timing should be everything, the book
appropriately goes to press today—the actual 150th anniversary of
the very first town meeting.
As a professional writer, Dandola has done more than his fair share
of historical research and accuracy is tantamount to him. His writings
almost always have an historical element so he has worked closely
with museums and historical societies both here and abroad. Among
the author's non-fiction books are two previous titles about West
Orange—one, written exclusively for use in the elementary schools
and the other, a formal history of the fire department for its centennial.
He has also used West Orange in his series of 1940's mystery novels
which present a detailed portrait of how the town was prior to and
during World War II (the latest installment in that series will debut
later this year).
"I'm a baby-boomer. When I was growing up here, it was very common for families to have been residents for more than a hundred years," Dandola explains. "But with the latest generation, no one stays. I'm suddenly a rarity."
How much of a rarity? Prior to the Revolutionary War, Dandola's Irish ancestors settled in what would become West Orange. His Italian ancestors arrived in town during the 1880's. His grandfather served as a personal messenger boy to Thomas Edison. By anyone's standards, Dandola's roots run very deep. So when West Orange sloughs off in telling its own story, he is not amused.
"I simply abhor goody-two-shoes local histories which are politically dictated or motivated," he says. "And such things are quite easy to spot not only by professionals but by anyone with a bent for history. The far greater sin is that those types of goody-two-shoes books, booklets, and sanctioned newspaper columns unfortunately deceive a great many residents."
The author's point is one which should not be taken lightly. It really should be of no little consequence that West Orange celebrates its founding on the wrong year; that the municipal website gives the wrong year for the founding of the Police Department (off by a full decade); and that the incorrect derivation for the name ‘Orange' is continually given as fact.
"It's almost as though they're saying that any resemblance between their fictionalized history and the real history is purely coincidental," Dandola laments. "I blame the politicians for slapdash efforts to get quick results. West Orange history has always been treated like a political bargaining chip not a cherished commodity. There have been years upon years of 'official historians' who have had no training whatsoever but were appointed as a political favor or because history was their casual hobby or because they had a postcard collection. Imagine having to wade through badly-written so-called West Orange history to find that none of it is ever completely correct or fully researched; too much of it is centered around irrelevant personal anecdotes; and all of it is sure to contain amateurish uplifting cliches designed to create childish pride. It's absolutely maddening. And the historic truth is so much more interesting and entertaining."
In point of fact, West Orange did not exist in any way, shape, or form in any record or on any map until the spring of 1863. Yet, in celebrating the town's 150th anniversary during 2012, someone actually said quite publicly that they were doing so to remain "consistent" to the years used for the 75th and 100th anniversaries. As an author and historian, Dandola is quite correct in being incensed by such ill-logic especially since he points out that the town didn't even bother to celebrate or acknowledge its 125th anniversary.
"Maybe it was me who confused them," he admits. "I was in Europe working on a screenplay when the 125th anniversary rolled around. Before I left the country I whispered in a few ears that the year they were using as the town's founding was wrong. When I got back, I discovered that they had done absolutely nothing in recognition of that milestone. This time out, the so-called 150th celebration was lackluster and half-hearted by any barometer but they still didn't bother to make an intelligent correction about the date. It takes such a convoluted explanation to condone the wrong date rather than just setting things straight once and for all."
In West Orange: A Concise and Accurate History, Dandola approaches the project with two goals in mind: to tell the town history in a chronologically linear fashion without going off on inconsequential tangents and to dismantle the falsehoods with detailed examinations and explanations.
"History is rarely shaped by noble deeds but it is quite definitely impacted by human foibles," the author stresses. "West Orange has always disavowed that. It's like your grandfather denying that his grandfather was a horse thief. The fact that there was a horse thief in the family would probably provide some colorful tales but there is a supposition that it must be hushed up because it somehow says something about you in the present. That's ridiculous. At West Orange's 150th year mark, it's finally time for me to take a stand and expose some of the horse thieves. If nothing else, when its time for the town's 175th anniversary maybe someone will actually read about what is correct."
West Orange: A Concise and Accurate History will be available on May 1st. Published by the Quincannon Publishing Group, it is not the usual collection of postcards with captions but a detailed history of more than 150 pages accompanied by original illustrations, original maps, and vintage images. Proceeds will benefit upgrades which are planned for Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church in West Orange. That parish celebrates its centennial next year. To place orders, contact Sales@QuincannonGroup.com.
John Dandola is a member of the Mystery Writers of America for his novels; the Writers Guild of America for his screenplays; and the Dramatists Guild of America for his stage plays. He is also the biographer of inventor John Hays Hammond, Jr., the "Father of Radio Control" who was a protégé of Thomas Edison.
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Copyright © 2013 by The Quincannon Publishing Group. All rights reserved.
The History of West Orange, New Jersey,
is Finally Set Straight by a Mystery Author
The correct year for
150th anniversary is 2013.