Guttenberg will honor those who lost their lives defending this country and those who were responsible for creating the town 150 years ago at two events this coming Saturday.
On May 30, the town’s annual Memorial Day service will be held at 11 a.m. at the Veterans Monument, located at J.F.K. Boulevard East (for more information, see sidebar).
A display of town memorabilia will be held at the Galaxy Mall at 12:30 p.m. The Anna L. Klein School choir will perform at both events and light refreshments will be served to guests, compliments of the Green Kitchen and Bennito’s Restaurants and the mall.
T-shirts and hats for the 150th anniversary will be sold for $10 and will help underwrite some of the cost of the upcoming events. There will also be $5 keychains for sale. The town has planned events into the fall to celebrate this historic milestone.
“It’s really amazing,” said Mayor Gerald Drasheff. “In the lifetime of people that are still living in Guttenberg [for their entire lives], the make up of not just Guttenberg, but Hudson County has changed [dramatically].”
The town, whose 150th anniversary was March 9, was founded in 1859 from land that was originally North Bergen.
Drasheff said that the area has gone from primarily blue-collar workers working in factories along the waterfront, to a residential area faced with new challenges. He hopes that residents will realize how far the town has come when they view the memorabilia.
“I don’t think what people are striving for has changed that much,” said Drasheff.
Joanne Martin, a lifelong resident and the town’s Urban Enterprise Zone director, has been spearheading the search for memorabilia as a member of the town’s 150th anniversary committee. She said that the anniversary meant a lot to her because her family has lived in town since the late 1800s.
Her grandfather worked at a Wonder Bread factory, before eventually becoming the superintendent of public works for Guttenberg. Martin was the town’s first councilwoman in the 1980s.
She said she still had fond memories of growing up in town and attending the Klein School. Martin played basketball at the school and said that Chief William J. Brunner, the police chief at the time, went out of his way for the children in town. He used to pack as many children as he could fit into the Department of Public Works truck and take them to Bear Mountain and baseball games throughout the area, said Martin.
Martin said that Brunner would take the girls’ basketball team to Chase Bank in New York City, where they would play against the employees.
“[When my brother was in the Little League], Chief Brunner would give them a dollar for every homerun they hit, and my brother always used to get home runs,” said Martin.
Martin remembers many buildings in town that no longer exist. For example, the area where the Veterans Monument now stands was once housing built for veterans returning from war. Martin said only one house still exists from that era on 70th Street.
Martin said postcards, lent to the town by John Prellberg, will be displayed.
Sean Sullivan, a North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue member who is in charge of Guttenberg’s firehouse artifacts, lent the town numerous pictures of Guttenberg’s original Volunteer Fire Department. Sullivan had several of the photos restored.
Councilman Alfonso Caso, a member of the anniversary committee, said that it was amazing to look not only at the old photographs, but battering rams, fire engine lights and other items that have survived time.
Martin said that the department was a big part of Guttenberg’s history, which became a part of NHRFR 10 years ago.
“It fascinates me because I love history,” said Caso.
Then to now
According to a publication printed by the now-defunct Hudson Dispatch newspaper commemorating the town’s 125th anniversary, the area was originally a Dutch province, settled in the early 1500s. The portion containing Guttenberg was once owned by Tielman Van Vleck, the founder of the former township of Bergen, and Dirck Claesen, who owned Caven Point in Jersey City.
In the 1700s, Guttenberg was not the scene of any Revolutionary War battles, but it was close to several.
“The immigrants that came and settled in Guttenberg were looking for a better place to live.”–Gerald Drasheff
In the late 1800s, the town had a population in the hundreds, and was an area of breweries, hotels, a brand new police and volunteer fire department, hard-working immigrants, dirt roads, and swamps.
Drasheff said that when he first moved into the Galaxy Apartments in 1996, there were still tanks that once held vegetable oil near what is now called Bull’s Ferry. So as to not upset residents, they painted on top of them so that the industrial landscape was not so harsh.
Martin remembered that the town once had a factory that produced pencils and rulers.
Now Guttenberg is one of the most densely populated towns in America, composed of small homes, the towering Galaxy Apartments, and commerce, with a population over 10,000.
Drasheff hopes these stories, as shown through photos, will help people imagine the struggle that the town’s original residents went through, even though the demographics of Guttenberg have vastly changed.
“The immigrants that came and settled in Guttenberg were looking for a better place to live and a better place to raise their families,” said Drasheff. “Everybody still wants the same thing.”
Tricia Tirella may be reached at TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com. Guttenberg’s Memorial Day event
At 11 a.m., Guttenberg will hold its annual Memorial Day event at the Veterans Monument, located at J.F.K. Boulevard East.
Larry Giancola, a lifelong resident of Guttenberg before recently moving to Pennsylvania, has organized the event along with the other members of their Memorial Day Committee.
He said Pamela Schwarz will be honored this year as a Gold Star Mother. Her son, Michael, a lance corporal in the Marines, was killed by a sniper in Iraq on Nov. 27, 2006.
Giancola explained that his nickname was the “mud midget,” because of his love of drive four-wheel drive vehicles in mud.
Connie Piano, of Woodbridge, N.J., will be given their Support Our Troops Award.
“She took it upon herself to send care packages and letters of support to troops, both men and women, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and you go to her house and you think you’re in a shipping department,” said Giancola.
Giancola said that the 41 Guttenberg residents that have died in war will be read, along with any Memorial Day Committee Members that have passed away, and that a bell will be rung for each of them.
“There are three types of veterans,” said Giancola. “Those who went off to war and never came back, those that were traumatized by what they had seen or what they heard and don’t like to talk about it, and the third group, those that had to come back with whatever conflict they were involved with.”
Giancola, who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, said that he is representing those other two groups that made supreme sacrifices for this country. – TT