Fourth of July

Today, July 4, 2024, is the Fiftieth Anniversary of my first Fourth of July with the Florham Park Police Department.

I had the choice to be in Florham Park and do something memorable for the Fiftieth Anniversary, but I’ve moved on in the last twenty four years and decided to go to Oklahoma and have a quiet day, removed from the past.

Things were different back then. Honestly, if you asked me where the time went, I would be hard pressed to tell. Many wonderful things have happened in that interval. I certainly am not the person I was then, but it seems like a flash of lightning and here we are, fifty years later. My first day on the department was July 1, a Monday. I don’t recall having a uniform issued to me that day, but I do recall Lt Frank Einloth attempting to educate Bob Hauptman, Bernie Wysocki and me on what it was to be a Florham Park Policeman.

Somewhere in the next two days a semblance of a uniform was cobbled together from Shrank’s Uniforms in Morristown., Frank Einloth attempted to give us some idea of what the job was all about while was responsible for running the Police Desk and doing all the dispatching. It was a futile assignment.

The Fourth of July started early, as it always does for the Police Department.  There are a ton of things that needed to be done early in the day in preparation for the annual celebration.  We arrived in our police costumes, and someone gave us gun belts and revolvers.  We were told to take a police car and post Elm Street with no parking signs. No training, here’s a gun and a Police Car, have at it. Seriously, things are MUCH different today.  

Hauptman was a hot shot and wanted to drive, and in a portent of the future, I was the one to jump in and out of the car and staple the No Parking signs to anything that didn’t move.  We had started at Ridgedale Avenue and worked North on Elm Street. We were about halfway down Elm Street at Emmet Field when a burglar alarm was reported for Lex Depp Cadillac (now Open Road Cadillac on Columbia Turnpike). The desk dispatched someone other than us, and Hauptman decided that we should help. We were not dispatched. I jumped in and Hauptman took off.

I knew less than nothing. While we were racing at just under the speed of light down Elm Street, I thought that it might be a good idea to go to a robbery with a loaded gun.  I had never checked the pistol. It was empty. I those days we had a six-inch revolver with a swivel holster with two rows of bullets. The holster was prevented from folding on itself by the insertion of two 30-06 rifle bullets on the very ends of the bullet rows. I later found out that the pistol was a Smith and Wesson Model 10, previously known as, and unchanged from, the S&W Model of 1899.  It had a lanyard ring on the butt so if you dropped it, your lanyard would keep it from being lost. We had not been issued the Sunday Dress Uniform yet, but there was a white lanyard and white gloves in my future.

The bullets on the holster were there for decoration and were all copper sheathed armor piercing bullets (or so it was later explained). As Hauptman swerved down Elm Street. I loaded the revolver and put it in my holster. We arrived at the dealership; it was a faulty alarm. I soon found out in my career faulty alarms occurred about 99% of the time. We were complemented in a strange “What the heck are you doing here?” manner for being willing to work but were reminded to go back to posting signs and not take it upon ourselves, in the future, to just leave what we were doing and act independently.

The rest of the day was not as eventful. I was told where to go, what to do, where to stand, and somewhere around 11PM that night, I was free to go home and was told to be back the next morning at 8 AM. I did well at the Police Department. I retired as a Lieutenant and started the Support Services Section of the Department. In the twenty-six years I was there, I served under two Chief’s of Police, Chief Richard ‘Zeke’ Ruzicka, the last of the old guard, and Chief John ‘Jack’ Treiber, the beginning of the new. In their own manner, they were both good Chief’s of Police. Chief Ruzicka brought technology to the Department, and Chief Treiber took that start, expanded upon it, and made the Department one of the best Community Policing Police Departments in Morris County, far before Community Policing became a ‘thing’. Jack created a modern Police Department. A twenty-six-year career with only two Chief’s made it difficult to advance. There was very little movement in the Department. As a contrast, in the twenty-four years I’ve been retired, there has been five Chiefs of Police.

I saw Law Enforcement transform from a blue-collar occupation to a profession. I saw the transition from ad hoc training to professional, well thought out, documented, essential training. Laissez-faire attitudes became Policies and Procedures. More importantly, it transformed me for the better.

The Fourth of July, unfortunately, has become my least favorite holiday.  On that day, I helped the fun occur, kept the great people of Florham Park safe, directed families to the festivities, kept traffic moving during the fireworks, parade and festivities. It was a non-stop day that started at 6AM and ended at 11PM. You finished the day exhausted, soaked with sweat, and gritty. Today I prefer sitting quietly, enjoying doing whatever tempts my fancy.

On the good side of the Fourth, I remember three fun occurrences. The first, I was working a midnight shift and was not required to do Parade Duty. I would be back that evening at around 5 PM for the start of Fireworks Duty, so I went to Mike Renahan’s house on Keyes Street and saw the entire Parade for the first and last time in my professional life. I do remember getting caught watching the parade and being told that I was supposed to be at home sleeping. It is the only time I remember seeing the entire parade in twenty-seven occurrences. The second was when I was the last vehicle in the parade and was tasked with removing all the No Parking signs on the parade route. It was great to be there. I got to wave and say hello to everyone. I felt like that Mustached guy at the end of the ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle Show’. The final time was when I suffered from an impacted kidney stone, was transported to the hospital, treated, and was free to go home. No fireworks duty. For the first time in my married life, I was able to see the fireworks on Indian Lake and Denville.  It was a treat.

So, enjoy your Fourth of July. Remember why we celebrate this Holiday. Think about the freedoms that that event guaranteed, and keep in mind those that protect our rights. Happy Fourth of July!

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