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2014 VETERAN’S DAY REMARKS

BY J. MARK MUTTER

 

 

      We’re here to remember not the greatest generation, but the greatest generations – not just the World War Two greatest generation, which we’ll recognize first, but later generations, too - those who fought in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

      Of the World War Two generation – what was Toms River like back then? Who were the men from here who went off and fought?

Some of them are here with us today - men like Mr. Hirshblond who served in the Navy, in the Atlantic on a destroyer.

 

TOMS RIVER & WORLD WAR TWO

      Toms River was a small, bustling village. The 1940 Census on the eve of our entry into the war was just over 5,000 people (today it is 91,000).

      The war changed the world; it changed Toms River, too.

      Right across the street from here was the Toms River Service Center - a USO-type facility run by area churches, the Jewish Farmers Association and the local Masonic Lodge. It provided rest and comfort to thousands of GI’s and Navy personnel on leave, many of them from down the road

stationed at Lakehurst.

      The Center located in the “Professional Building” on Washington Street, gave out candy, cigarettes, fruit and soda pop. There were books and newspapers, and Christmas and post cards, and writing materials were given out free of charge. There was a pool table, a shuffle board and a new electric “music box”.   There were dances, socials and holiday events. And there were rules – strict rules. According to the “House Rules”: No gambling. No profanity. No liquor. And No girls admitted without an escort.

      Two blocks away, Toms River High School – now South – formed a War Stamp Club and before the war was over, 7 separate War Loan drives had been organized, raising thousands of dollars for the war effort.

      Next door, the then Bishop Library, our Township Library – now part of the County Library – was headquarters of our local war rationing effort. It was the drop off spot for much needed war materials – tires, cans and metals.

TOMS RIVER’S LOCAL HEROES

      These are of things and places here in Toms River. But what of our people? The local men - some of them just teenagers – who in Lincoln’s words, gave the “ultimate sacrifice”. They are long gone, but they are still here with us, today.

      Simple, white monuments across the street from here, dot the Court House lawn and mark their sacrifice.

      There was Edward Butow, Toms River High School Class of 1943, U.S. Army, killed in action just two years later by a mortar shell in house–to-house fighting in Germany.

      Gene Denniger, Class of ’24, killed in North Africa, in 1943.

      Ed Godfrey, Class of ’39, U.S. Navy, was killed when his submarine, the USS S-44, was destroyed in 1943.

      Calvin Johnson, Class of ’43 -killed in Germany–several weeks before V-E Day in 1945.

      Arnold Marsh, Class of ’40, who lived on Walton Street, was killed on Iwo Jima in 1944.

      Harry Pomeroy, U.S. Army, was killed in the Philippines in 1945. Mortally wounded, he kept to his machine gun on a landing craft on Biri Island, against Japanese mortar fire.

      As the war went on, August, 1945 saw the last boy from Ocean County to die during the war. William Ziemer was a 1938 graduate from Toms River High School and enlisted in the Navy Reserve Air Corps in 1941. He served as a fighter pilot aboard the carrier USS Intrepid and was shot down in the Pacific in 1944. After eluding capture, he was eventually found by an enemy patrol and was sent to a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp where he spent six months in solitary confinement. He was subjected to regular beatings and received no medical treatment.

      Bill Ziemer died in captivity on August 2, 1945, just one month before the Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri, the last boy in Ocean County to die in uniform during the Second World War. While men and women were far away defending our way of life, the Service Center remained busy at home.

Private organizations made pledges of $3 or $5 or $10 per month-whatever they could afford-in support of the war effort. As their records reveal, it was only an afterthought to approach the then Dover Township Committee for a donation of public monies as well.

A FIVE YEAR OLD GIRL

      The story of one little Toms River girl and her donation tells the whole story of the Service Center. Her name was Sheila Browne, a five year old girl, who gave her birthday candy to the servicemen at the Center as her contribution to the war effort. In a thank you letter to Sheila, the Center’s secretary wrote: “It is a very nice way to show that you, even though just a little miss, think of others…It is not always the size of the gift, but the motive back of the giver that counts.” The letter is dated August 23, 1943 - the height of the group’s activities.

THE TRUE SPIRIT OF TOMS RIVER

      Whoever would understand in his heart the true spirit of our town will see it in the Service Center, The War Stamp Club, the library as a war rationing headquarters --and in the lives of heroes like Bill Ziemer and his fellow Toms River graduates who died for us, and in a little girl named Sheila Browne, who lived for us.

      It is a story of a town that is hopeful, big hearted, idealistic. It is daring decent and fair.

      It is the Toms River story in the middle of a war story. It is our story.

11-11-2014

 

 

 

 
January PDF Print E-mail

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY

BY:  J. MARK MUTTER

    This month, every four years, the Governor of New Jersey is sworn into office -
the orderly transition of power, or the continuance of that power, under our state constitution.

Read more... [January]
 
May PDF Print E-mail

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY
By: J. Mark Mutter

On May 2, 1782, the British Commander-in-Chief at the end of the Revolutionary War ordered an official halt to further raids along the Jersey coast.

Read more... [May]
 
April PDF Print E-mail

 

 

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY

By: J. Mark Mutter

 

 

            April and the American Civil War - - April 9, when Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln five days later in Ford’s Theater.   For the Union, with the war’s ending, it was a time of great celebration; with Lincoln’s murder, it was a time of great tragedy. How did Toms River react to these historic events?

Read more... [April]
 
February PDF Print E-mail

 

 

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY

 

By: J. Mark Mutter

 

          On February 21, 1798, the New Jersey legislature passed “An Act incorporating the inhabitants of Townships, designating their powers, and regulating their meetings.”

 

          All 104 Townships that were then in existence were listed – including the then Township of Dover, now Toms River.

 

          Our Township had been created some 32 years earlier – in 1767.

 

THE ROYAL PROVINCE

 

          This was the period of time of the “royal province” of New Jersey in which the number of townships dramatically increased before independence was declared.

 

          Originally, New Jersey had separate townships in both “East Jersey” and “West Jersey” – as the province was divided into two parts before 1702.

 

          With the reunification of the province – we were then part of the British Empire – the number of Townships grew throughout the 1700’s.

 

          There were three ways in which a township was formed during this period:

 

          (1) By royal charters from the King or Queen, known as “letters patents”. Stafford Township, the oldest municipality in Ocean County, was created in this manner in 1749.

 

          (2) By orders from either the Cape May, Morris, or Sussex County Courts.

 

          (3) By acts of the General Assembly. Seven municipalities were formed this way – including Dover Township which was established on June 24, 1767.

 

          The creation of the non-incorporated Dover Township in 1767 means our community is nine years older than the United States.

 

          Once part of the royal province of New Jersey, our early records were destroyed when the British attacked and burned Toms River in 1782 at the end of the Revolutionary War.

 

THE DOVER TOWN BOOK

 

          Our first records still in existence are from 1783 – in the Dover “Town Book” and contains very basic information from the Annual Town Meeting held in March of each year.

 

          Those first meetings were held in public taverns or private homes – typical of those times – and organized the town for the year ahead before the planting of crops. Most of our early town leaders were farmers.

 

          The meetings were simple – electing a clerk, an overseer of the poor, and the building of roads and bridges. (These meetings can be accessed on our Township website at www.tomsrivertownship.com, go to “Forms” to “Historic.”)

 

          With the 1798 state law enacted this month, our Township, like all others then in existence, was “incorporated.” Thus, “municipal corporations” were introduced to New Jersey, a concept still with us today.

 

          J. Mark Mutter is the Toms River Clerk and Historian, and Chairman of the Semiquicentennial Committee that is planning the Township 250th anniversary in 2017.

 

 

 
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