From This Week Magazine of N. Y. Herald Tribune, November 6, 1949
Democracy For Export
There's a new wrinkle in political education. The Army has put Teaneck, N.J., in pictures to show occupied countries free government at work ...
By Howard W. Young
Photographs by Victor De Palma
Seven stories above lower Manhattan's bustling, noisy traffic, an Army officer leaned back in his swivel chair, clasped his hands together and stared at a picture of General MacArthur signing the surrender document aboard the Missouri. The officer was thinking.
This week, three months after the idea first bloomed in that officer's mind, a series of photographs was being tacked up in U. S. information centers and on street-comer bulletin boards from Tokyo to Vienna. The pictures, some of which are shown on these pages, will help teach citizens of the occupied countries what real democracy looks like and how it operates.
But the displays are not, as one might expect, simply a collection of photographs depicting men and women going to the polls, worshiping in their fashion, enjoying a hearty Thanksgiving dinner or cheering a political rally. Nothing as obvious and unsubtle as that Honest and direct, they illustrate the government of a single U. S. town - Teaneck, N. J. Officially the brain child of the Army's New York Held Office, views of town-council meetings, housing projects, schools, police and fire departments, town health clinic and town-sponsored clubs - all have been grouped together without brash propaganda to show Hans and Matsuzo, Gretchen and Haruko what a democratic community does with self-government.
Turning Words Into Pictures
The Army's purpose is as straightforward as its exhibits. When the occupied nationals see in pictures something about what they've heard in words, the political-education problem will be eased.
In picking Teaneck from a list of 10,000 towns, the Army labeled it "a model of democracy" -a place where everyone knows his public officials, where every voter really can have his say. To keep the citizens up-to-date on town issues, regular publicity is handed out to the homes, and even copies of the 64-page annual budget report - survey of the town's administrative affairs are slid under the front door of every home in the community.
Divorcing national party politics from Teaneck's local government, town-council elections every four years are held in May. The five winning candidates then elect one of their number mayor, next appoint the town manager. Ever since the council-manager plan was adopted in 1930, the office has been held by Paul A. Volcker, a kindly, gray-haired executive who runs Teaneck's administration like a successful business enterprise. Mayor Clarence W. Brett, like most of Teaneck's working males, commutes to his Manhattan office five days a week.
Other town officials also lead a double life as far as professions are concerned Architect George M. Cady, as building supervisor, set up one of New Jersey's first veterans' housing projects. Barnet S. Bookstaver, a physician and surgeon, serves for a dollar a year as the director of the department of health, and New York advertising executive Alvin Gardner directs the town's public relations.
That this community across the George Washington Bridge was chosen to represent America across the world has of course given civic pride a boost. Real-estate agents are already advertising Teaneck as "the model town" to entice new residents. But many people have already discovered the town for themselves. Seventeen years ago, Francis A. Murray visited Teaneck to train volunteer firemen, liked it so well that he stayed on to organize and become the first chief of the permanent fire department.
He Made 300 Shots. These and other officials like Police Chief Cornelius Harte, Supervising Principal of Schools Dr. Lester N. Neulen, Public Librarian Agnes Norton and Deputy Manager James T. Welsh are all included in the 300 photographs taken by Victor De Palma in three days of shooting under the direction of Lucile Annin, representing the Army, and publicity man Gardner, representing Teaneck. De Palma covered every activity from square dancing in the schools to a get-together at Retired Men's Club, a low-dues social organization run by the town's Recreation Director Richard Rodda.
The membership list of the Retired Men's Club includes a couple of millionaires as well as some men a long way from that financial position. But the majority, like most of Teaneck's 35,000 inhabitants, represent the large, comfortable group of Americans loosely bunched together under the heading of "Upper Middle Class."
For Teaneck is not a typical town; it's a model town. It embraces no factories, sprouts no slums. One of Manhattan's myriad outlying bedrooms, it has a sort of snug, chintzy atmosphere that could never be attributed to industrial communities like Lynn, Mass., or agricultural centers like North Platte, Nebraska.
The adults are reasonably well-to-do; the children--and there are many of them--happy and non-delinquent; the landscape picturesquely free -- by law -- of billboards and roadside lunch stands.
Twenty per cent of Teaneck's six square miles have been reserved for parks and playgrounds, and most of the rest of the land area contains private, one-family homes planted amid medium-sized suburban lawns and gardens. There are some big buildings and apartment houses, but relatively few.
Uprooting GraftIn government, too, as the Army discovered, Teaneck is a model. Politics in the derogatory sense of mudslinging and favor-coddling, while not unknown, usually fail to sway the minds of the majority. Graft doesn't get a chance to take root with public spirit keeping watch over the community.
In fact, Teaneck is fast achieving such stature as America's "model of democracy" that another photographic suggestion has cropped up. "After the exhibits are over in Europe and Asia," an official of the National Municipal League recommended, "why not send them on a tour around the United States? They might teach Americans something, too,"