Growing Pains: Police & Fire Department Organized
By Mildred Taylor
Source: The Teaneck Shopper, Wednesday, October 21, 1970, page 32 - Supplement
Teaneck experienced growing pains in the early nineteen hundreds. The township, organized in 1895, was changing from a farming to a suburban community. The town fathers were concerned with police, fire protection and sewers. The book of ordinances was filling up.
The first volunteer fire company had been organized in 1904 with headquarters in a building at Forest Avenue and Teaneck Road. Organizers included K. V. Ridley, William G. Kaltenbach, John Sitzman, Gus Huey and Carl Carlsen. The Cedar Volunteer Firemen's Association was formed in 1908, apparatus being stored in Joseph Douglas' barn on Linden Avenue. Teaneck Hose Company No. 1, serving Lower Teaneck, was organized in 1911 when the Glenwood Park Firemen's Association was also formed.
Each company had a hand drawn host cart. Companies responded to alarms sounded by beating on locomotive tires strategically placed about town. the volunteer associations were organized into the Municipal Fire Company in 1915 with K. V. Ridley as chief.
In 1917 the Township Committee spent $125 to buy fire apparatus on sale in Edgewater. In 1920 an American LaFrance pumping engine was purchased for $4,285. Kaltenbach, the first paid fireman. was appointed in 1920 and in 1923 the Central Fire Headquarters was built at Teaneck Road and Fairview Avenue. By 1929, there were ten paid fireman in Teaneck; the rest volunteers.
Tow constables had preserved law and order in Teaneck since the organization of the Township. They had their hands full by 1910 when the population reached 2,082. In 1912, the town fathers put teeth into law regarding hawkers and peddlers. The offense for peddling without a license was $5 for each offense or imprisonment in the lock-up. Foot peddlers paid $3 for license fees, for a one-horse wagon the fee was $5 and for a two-horse wagon $7.50.
The constables had to cope with an increasing number of automobiles from New York with their bright headlights about the time the Township committee began looking into the matter of a paid department.
Henry Clausen and John Brower found that the going wage for policemen was between $50 and $65 a month. The town fathers agreed on April 2, 1914 that two policemen be appointed at $60 at month, one for the north and one for the south of Cedar Lane. Jesson Witham and William G. Jahnes reported for duty on June 1 "To preserve public peace, prevent crime, detect and arrest offenders protect rights of person and property, suppress disorder in public place; enforce ordinances, serve notices, papers, etc."
The contract for transporting prisoners to Hackensack was awarded to R. T. Davison -- $1.5- per trip for vehicle carrying four. Badges and two Indian motorcycles were ordered.
Two new policemen - Joseph Bublitz and Edward Murphy, who became chief, were added to the force in 1915. Each officer was to have town uniforms, one provided by the township and one by the officer. Two iron cells at $175 less toilet facilities were authorized.
Trouble was in store for the forward-looking town fathers. Voters defeated a referendum authorizing an appropriation of $4,000 to maintain the police department on January 6, 1916. Police officers were told they would have to terminate their offices on January 21. The equipment was turned over to the town treasurer. The policemen were retained as constables at $2 a day.
The citizens realized with a start what they had done at the ballot box. A special election was held on February 29, 1916 and the police department was re-established. In April, William Lutthans and T. J. Kilmurray were named to serve with Bublitz, Witham and Murphy.
The public was informed that "the police room is no lounge. Officers must keep people as far away from the police desk as the end of the railing." A motion was made at that township meeting decreeing uniforms be purchased and furthermore (there being no ladies present) that smoking be allowed after 10 p.m. when the board was in session.
The high cost of living was a source of concern in 1917. Fire Chief Ridley reported that coats and boots for firemen would cost $9 per man. In view of wartime inflation, Frederick McGuire recommended that policemen's pay be raised to $75 a month, the chief to get $90.
Teaneck boys were joining up to serve with England and France. The chief of police was registering volunteers. Permission was granted to use the fire house on Elm Street for Home Defense. The township purchased $125 worth of wooden rifles for the Home Guard units. By november, 1917, Camp Merritt had become one of the largest troop concentrations in the east.