Our History

A Short History of Short Hills Association (Written by Elaine Becker)

On May 5, 1911 some 150 residents met at the Casino (later the Racquets Club) in Short Hills to organize The Short Hills Association.  One of the oldest organizations in the township, its stated purposes are to promote the interest and welfare of the Township of Millburn; to preserve the general character of the Short Hills area; to protect the interests of its residents and to encourage participation in civic activities.  Over the years the issues of concern – budgets, taxes, education, roads, police and fire protection – have changed more in form than in substance.

One of the first problems addressed by the new association was the need for a mounted patrolman for the Short Hills area.  Later the Association supported the abolition of grade crossings, advocated the appointment of a Health Officer and participated in World War I preparedness drives.  At the annual meeting in 1921 there was a distribution of a $500 reward, which had been offered by the Association for detection, and conviction of criminals responsible for seven burglaries.

The Association inaugurated its “Good Citizenship Award” in 1955 for outstanding service to the township.  This award was bestowed over the ensuing twenty years (though not consecutively) and the last recipient in 1975 was Harry L. Edgcomb, who served nine years on the Board of Education.  Also in 1975, the first woman, Joan Daeschler, was elected to the Council.

The constitution of the Association also directs the Council to study and examine problems and activities of the elected and appointed bodies and to submit reports and make recommendations to members.  Accordingly, Council members attend all meetings of public bodies and the Council advises the membership on local elections and other issues of importance to the community.  In 1964 the Association sponsored a factual study of teacher’s salaries.  In 1965 the Association and the Chamber of Commerce jointly proposed recommendations to the Township Committee for improving off-street parking and traffic flow.  The Council was represented on the Advisory Committee on Declining Enrollment and just this year (1988) a Budget Advisory Committee was appointed by the Board of Education, a committee the Council had advocated for several years.

The Council of the Association is guided by the views of the membership and with this in mind questionnaires have been submitted to residents from time to time.  In 1968 members were polled on the proposal to pave Highland Avenue.  The results were used to achieve an agreeable compromise with the Township Committee on this project.  Other questionnaires have been more comprehensive, encompassing downtown cancers, education, housing, recreation, township services, environment and dangerous intersections.

Consistent with its aims to promote citizen participation in civic activities, many former Council members have continues their community service in elective or appointive office.  These include:  Earl Cryer (Board of Education and Township Committee), Jacob Oxman (Board of Education and Board of Adjustment), Robert McQueen (Board of Education, C. Lawrence Keller (Planning Board), Carl Klemme (Board of Education), Alexander B. Lyon, Jr., (Township Committee), Donald L. Campbell (Environmental Commission and 1986 Charter Study Commission), John Navin (Township Committee), John Penney (Township Committee and Planning Board),  Joan Daeschler (Local Assistance Board), Robert Lydecker (Township Committee),  John L. Dugan, Jr.,, (Township Committee),  Frederick L. Combs, III (Board of Education), Elaine Becker (Environmental Commission and Planning Board,  Karen Clare (Board of Education) and William J. Caveney (Township Committee).

For several years the Association annually provided to residents of Short Hills a directory of all elected and appointed township officials as well as local churches, civic associations and other groups.  This service was discontinued when The Item Newspaper began publishing Townscape.  In 1982 a digest of township ordinances, prepared by Councilman Bob Lydecker, was sent to the Short Hills community and it was also made available to interested citizens and groups in the township.

Each year, the Annual Meeting of the Association features a program of timely local interest.  Topics have included: long-range planning, property taxes, burglary and our community, declining enrollment and closing schools, Mr. Laurel II court decision, non-partisan municipal government.  In 1980 the Association sponsored and essay contest amount high school student to ascertain their views on the most serious problems facing the township.  Winners were given monetary awards and they discussed their opinions at the Annual Meeting.  To celebrate the bicentennial of the US Constitution, a special forum of three federal judges, all residents of the community, addressed the topic, “Interpreting the Constitution Today.”

Over the years the Council has returned surplus funds from dues back into the community by supporting worthwhile endeavors that the Council feels improve the quality of life in Millburn-Short Hills.  In 1968 $1,000 was contributed toward the operation of a youth center in the old Washington School (now Schoolhouse Plaza).  Other community groups which have received support include: C.L.E.A.N., Township Beautification League, Chamber of Commerce Art Show, Millburn-Short Hills Volunteer First Aid Squad, Scholastic Boosters, Charles T. King Student Loan Fund, Cora Hartshorn Arboretum, and Neighborhood Association.  Special donations were made to help finance uniforms for the junior police and to help a summer campership program for needy children.

Today the Short Hills Association abides by the same purposes that were enunciated in 1911 and continues to be a vital organization in the community.