An aerial view of East Orange in 1963, looking
north. Route 280, known then as the East-West Freeway, has yet to
be built parallel to the railroad tracks, but the Garden State
Parkway travels up the right side of the photo.The "Gold
Coast" luxury Apartment Buildings of Munn Avenue parallel
the Parkway. On the other side of the tracks are City Hall and
the Main Post Office.
A Centennial Committee was formed to coordinate events. Mayor
Kelly chose George E. Stringfellow, a distinguished resident, to
be chairman of the Centennial Committee. Hundreds of citizens
were mobilized by the Executive Committee to make this one of the
biggest and happiest celebrations of them all. The celebrations
started on March 16, the anniversary of the first Town Meeting in
1863. The Mayor and members of the City Council, dressed in
appropriate Civil War costume, entered carriages for the parade
which led them from the High School, in a roundabout fashion, to
the City Hall. An Inaugural Ball was held.
The Centennial Committee at the Inaugural Ball in November of
Seated L-R: Graham M Skea, George E. Stringfellow, Mayor James W.
Kelly, Jr., Mrs. Robert Wuensch, Robert S. Blind;
Standing L-R: Thomas Cervasio, Mark A. Stuart, Mrs. C.F. Germain,
H. Austin Bonn, William P. Spengler, Robert H. Seitzer, Raymond
Seely, Charles E. Moreau, W. Nelson Knapp II, and Isaac Holt.
Parties were planned. A mammoth parade to end all
parades was set for November 23, filled with more than a
dozen bands, myriad floats and colorfully designed costumes.
Then came the tragic blow of November 22. The death of
President John F. Kennedy halted all thoughts of celebration.
Instead, the city went into shocked mourning. A grief so deep had
not been seen by an entire people since the assassination of
On the appointed Day of National Mourning, crowds assembled
at City Hall at 10 a.m. for a period of silent prayer. As the
National Anthem rang out, the crowd turned its face toward the
silver pole as two Girl Scouts and two Boy Scouts quickly ran up
the flag to full mast, then gently lowered it to half staff as
the Anthem ended. Two members each of the East Orange and
Clifford Scott High School bands blew Taps, the echo tearing at
the silence. Then it was over, the wet-eyed crowd slowly filing
away, most to go home and watch the Presidents funeral on
Schools were closed. Policemen wore black bands of mourning
across their badges for 30 days. Most businesses, except for
emergency services, closed their doors.
On Thanksgiving Day, Mayor James W. Kelly Jr. read the
Thanksgiving Proclamation at the union services, the last
proclamation issued by the departed President.
The city awoke to new resolve the following day. The work of
building a better nation, as well as a better city, must go on.
In this, East Orange takes a back seat to no community. Its first
hundred years give ample evidence. It had simply arrived, as its
Centennial slogan said, At the Crossroads of an Honored
Past and a Great Future.
The Centennial Committee published A Centennial History
of East Orange, co-authored by Mark A. Stuart, Managing
Editor of the East Orange Record, and Jessie Boutillier,
President of the East Orange Historical Society.
This reprint of the 1963 Centennial Book is
available now from our online publisher.