Teaneck in 1949, A 'Model Town'


Who says Teaneck is a model town? In the late 1940s, at any rate, an agency of the U.S. Army designated the town as such, when it selected Teaneck as the subject of an exhibit to represent a "model" American town.

For three days in September 1949, Victor DePalma, a freelance photographer hired by the Army, working with Lucille Annin, the Army's representative, documented a broad range of citizen participation in government, public and civic activities in Teaneck.

The result was an exhibit consisting of 60 black and white photographs. The exhibit was intended to travel to the still occupied lands of Japan and Central Europe, to be used as a tool in the U.S. government's postwar re-education and re-orientation program demonstrating American democratic processes by showing how a small city government was organized.

It is not surprising that Teaneck, with its progressive government and well-known and respected town manager, Paul Volcker Sr., was chosen.

Volcker and Alvin Gardner, an enterprising public relations professional and Teaneck booster, seem to have been instrumental in the choice of Teaneck and in assisting the Army in carrying out its assignment.

As part of the Centennial celebration, an exhibit on Teaneck's history as a "Model Town" will be on display at the Teaneck Library from November through the end of the year.

Sponsored by the Historical Subcommittee of the Centennial Committee, with support from the library, the display will center on the 1949 exhibit -- how it came about and how it was produced -- and it will also focus on the broader historical context in which it took place: what Teaneck was like in this period, not only politically, but socially.

It will also examine a number of questions that are still of interest and concern to Teaneck citizens, including what it means to be a model town, and how has Teaneck seen itself, has wanted to be represented, and has been represented in the past and in the present.

Information and materials for this exhibit are currently being collected. These include personal recollections and memorabilia from private collections. Teaneck residents who have information about or any memorabilia connected with the 1949 exhibit (photographs, clippings, correspondence, motion picture footage, etc.), or documenting that period in general, may contact exhibit organizers Erika Gottfried at 692-8351 or Richard Kearney at 928-0070.