but Nobody Came
Besides the utterly astounding fact that West Orange, New Jersey, celebrated its 150th Anniversary a year too early, worse yet is that no one cared and no one attended.
It had been my concern—a very real and honest concern—that the way West Orange history has been presented would pass on the wrong information (once more to their own detriment, the politicians made sure to leave me out of the equation entirely). After all, the so-called historian who was appointed by the Mayor and the Town Council doesn't know how to accurately research or interpret history let alone write a correct sentence and what he was passing along was all too often incorrect. But once this "celebration" in the wrong year was finally over and done with, several sources came forward to reveal that—thankfully—such misinformation hadn't reached all that many people.
1) The complete lack of proper far-reaching publicity. The West Orange Chronicle, known locally as The Worst Orange Comical, has taken such a hit in circulation that it has not only physically downsized to a small tabloid format but that format allows for only the first four pages and last four pages to be of West Orange content with the center sections focused on news from all the surrounding towns served by that publishing company. The bottom line: most people haven't been reading what the "appointed historian" has written in his weekly column which is now going into its fourth rerun of each article because no one bothered to figure out that there's not that much history about which to write a weekly column in the first place.
2) The talks given by the "appointed historian" at the West Orange Public Library were poorly attended. In fact, no one even showed up for his last two. The most populated talk was given by a retired teacher from the high school. That was about the history of organized sports in West Orange and it topped out at twenty attendees.
3) Regardless of the spin given by the politicians, West Orange has become a transient town due largely to those politicians. Taxes are disproportionately too high for property values. There is little care as to how the town looks or is maintained. Since its inception in 1863, West Orange always had generations of families remain—even with one family member living in the original house owned by their ancestors. The town is located close enough to New York for an easy commute but because of taxes and poor maintenance and poor political guidance, younger generations have fled. Those who move in, just as quickly move out.
4) Unjustifiably, new residents are being catered to in recounting the town's history. This is becoming a national problem but it must be addressed.
The first settlers in what would become West Orange were Puritans during the 17th century. The town's Anglo-Saxon roots only changed in the later part of the 19th and early 20th centuries when Irish and Italians and Scandinavians and Germans settled here. Now, we have a fairly large black population and a burgeoning Hispanic population but none of those groups played any part in the town's long history. Yet due to political-correctness and certainly not historical-correctness that suddenly must be readdressed, analyzed, even cheated to include them.
West Orange had one former slave very quietly live out his life here. From all accounts he was well thought of and treated as an equal. But that does not elevate him to more importance than the average anyone living here at the same time. We had a Civil War veteran who was thought to be light-skinned black or part black. He owned a farm on the border of West Orange. Again, from all accounts he was well thought of and treated as an equal. But that also does not elevate him to more importance than the average anyone living here at the same time.
And it most definitely does not mean that such minorities were not welcome as has been suggested as of late.
What it means—both logically and historically—is that transportation (and more importantly jobs) didn't allow for everybody to relocate wherever they wanted throughout the history of any place. Historically, people settled where they could afford to live and where they could find a livelihood. But that doesn't stop West Orange from misguidedly trying to alter or slant its history in such a regard.
5) In much the same manner, the "appointed historian" quite inappropriately used (and was allowed to use) his newspaper column as a forum to go on about his mother and father and grandparents and aunts and uncles, none of whom had any historical significance whatsoever.
6) The so-called Commemorative History and Ad Book—words which hardly belong together—never seems to have materialized. The Recreation Department, which ran this so-called celebration stated, "We don't know whatever happened to that. We've never seen it." *
7) Makeshift committees are never the way to go.
Back in very late summer of 2011, a "committee" was gathered. (The 100th Anniversary had multiple committees and preparations for the celebration were more than two years in the making. The 150th wound up having nine or ten months for preparation.)
Of course, they misrepresented who would serve on that "committee" by telling people that I, the local author-historian, local boy-who-made-good-in-the-arts would be involved but then political heads prevailed and I was not so much as informed about any such meetings let alone was I ever invited to any. The loss, as they say, was the town's because I could have pulled off the type of celebration we had for the 100th Anniversary and I could have done it on a shoestring because of my talent and my connections (although I would have insisted that the celebration be held in the correct year just as I would have insisted on an iron-clad contract because of the way the politicians have tried to cheat me in every single past endeavor I've undertaken on their behalf).
Instead, what the town was left with is best summed up by the first suggestion of the "committee": "Let's have a 1950's Doo-Wop Concert!" Because nothing says 150th Town Anniversary better than a doo-wop concert. After all, in 1863, weren't there teenagers just hanging around the street corners singing a capella while watching the horses and buggies go by and ogling girls wearing hooped skirts?
That, in and of itself, proves exactly why all of this went so terribly and embarrassingly wrong. But, hey, nobody's paying the least bit of attention…
*Almost too comically, the Commemorative History and Ad Book finally appeared one month after the "event." Its design borrows heavily on my original design for the West Orange Fire Department Centennial Album. Also, its front cover photograph was hardly a good choice since it is one which has been repeatedly used over the years by Our Lady of Lourdes Church in its many anniversary albums (the photo shows a view from what eventually became that church's property). The back cover photograph, too, has been used before in other publications. The inside pages are comprised of some ads (which were still being sold two weeks prior to the "event") and a handful of articles reprinted from the West Orange Chronicle. It is hardly fair to charge advertisers for recycled articles—especially articles which have already been re-run four times in the newspaper. This is what happens when people with no experience are put in charge of such things.
to read about
The Great West Orange History Flub
to read about John Dandola and
West Orange's 1883 murder cold case
along with how he has addressed other town history in his mystery novels
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