|Raritan Gained its Independence from Bridgewater in 1948
|2018 marks the 70th Anniversary of Raritan’s independence from Bridgewater.
Raritan had been a part of Bridgewater Township since Raritan was first established in the mid-1700s.
But in 1948 Raritan voted to become a separate town.
|Harry Truman was President in 1948
|In this article we will take a look at what Raritan was like in 1948.
It was much different than today. Within its borders Raritan had most everything that one needed. Except for going to work (if your job was even outside of town) there was little need to venture outside of Raritan.
There were all kinds of stores, taverns, social clubs, athletic and recreational facilities, and churches - all within walking distance.
|Most families did not own a car as they did not need to. Perhaps 25% of families had a car. Those who worked locally could walk to work.
It was three years after the end of World War II and the economy was growing. Jobs were plentiful.
The largest employer within Raritan was the Raritan Woolen Mills which employed about 200 people. There were several other smaller factories in Raritan that employed dozens of people each. Along the river was the “Kenyon Machine Shop”, “The Supreme Fur Dresssing”, and “The Somerville Water Works”. Scattered around town was the “Treiber Dress Manufacturing” on Route 206, the “Van Schrader Shirt Factory” on Second Avenue, and the “Macaroni Factory” on First Avenue.
The Central Railroad employed many as well.
|For those that did not work in Raritan there were trains and buses to get them to work.
Buses went to The Johns Manville Facility in Manville. Trains would stop right in the middle of the large complex that was Calco Pharmaceuticals which was on the border of Bridgewater and Bound Brook.
Those who worked further away in Dunellen at “Art Color” also had convenient train access.
|Many worked at Johns Manville
|Almost of all the houses in Raritan in 1948 were heated by coal. There were three coal suppliers in Raritan.
Two coal yards (Scarponi Coal and Gallagher Coal) were right next to each other along the train tracks between First and Second Avenue.
Each coal heated home had a coal bin which was like a small room in the basement. A window on the outside of the bottom of the house would allow the coal to be dumped right from the coal truck into the basement. Coal deliveries would be needed every few weeks.
|Besides coal, another product was regularly delivered to the home – ice. The modern electric refrigerator was still a rarity back then.
Instead there were “ice boxes” which were simply large coolers that required fresh blocks of ice every 2 or 3 days. These blocks of ice were delivered to the home
by “John Valko and Sons”.
Almost every store in town was owned and operated by a Raritan resident. Many lived in the back or above their store. Most of the shoppers and the clerks knew each other quite well.
|Back then no one who ran for town council promised to “revive the downtown” as the Raritan downtown and several side streets were thriving with business.
Parts of Anderson Street and Thompson Street were as busy as any main street.
Raritan had 15 “Mom and Pop” grocery stores scattered about town. All of these are now closed.
There were eight barber shops and five candy stores. To socialize over a few drinks there were 15 small taverns.
To obtain a mortgage two local banks - The Raritan Savings Bank and The Raritan State Bank - served the public.
|A list of what businesses were open in Raritan in 1948 can be found by clicking here
|There were five active churches. Three are still in operation in the same church building - St. Ann’s, St. Paul’s and St. Joseph’s.
St. Bernard’s parish has since moved to Bridgewater. Their old church building is now the “Shrine of the Chapel of the Blessed”.
The Third Reformed Church shutdown and the building is now a Hindu Temple.
|There was an auxiliary train track that ran from the train station down the middle of Lincoln Street across Somerset Street down toward the river.
This was for supplies to be delivered from the train station to the factories and sometimes to the river for further transportation down the river.
|There were a number of active social organizations that had their own halls. These halls were busy on Friday and Saturday nights with card games and dances.
The “Star of Italy Mutual Aid Society” had their hall on Anderson Street where a parking lot for St. Ann’s is today. The “St. Rocco Society” used the upstairs at 23 Anderson Street. The hall for the “La Fratellanza Society” was on the north-east corner of First Avenue and Second Street. The hall for the “Marchigianni Society” was on Second Street.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) had their hall on Somerset Street where the Italian Bakery is today.
These organizations were not just for social events as they sometimes provided assistance to families that fell on hard times or families that had just arrived in this country.
|The VFW Hall
|Besides gaining their independence, Raritan had another major event in 1948.
For that was the year that the Basilone Statue was unveiled.
|A handful of the businesses that were open in 1948 are still with us today in some format. The “J&J Barbershop” is still open. It is owned and operated by the son of the original owner. The “Conroy-Bongiovi Funeral Home” which was at 27 W Somerset Street is now the “Bongiovi Funeral Home”. It is on the corner of Bell Avenue and Anderson Street. “Tropiano’s Appliances” which was at 33 West Somerset Street has become “Tropiano’s Jewelry” which is at 9 West Somerset Street. “DeLucia’s Bakery” is now “DeLucia’s Pizza”. It is owned and operated by the great-grandson of the original owner. They still use the same oven! The Anderson Tavern is now DeCicco’s Tavern. An Atlantic Gas Station that was owned by Angelo “Moonbeam” Sena on East Somerset Street is today a Shell Station.
|Moonbeam Sena's Gas Station
|There were many recreational facilities right in town.
The gym at the Washington School was used in the evenings for adult basketball and volleyball leagues.
There were bowling leagues held in the basement of St. Joseph’s School.
A baseball field on Somerset Street, where the post office is today, was used extensively.
A movie theatre – The Raritan Playhouse – was at 23 Anderson Street.
The park on Sherman Avenue had a new kiddie pool.
|Raritan had its own weekly newspaper “The Raritan Valley News”. It came out every Thursday. The office was at 19 Wall Street.
All of these newspapers from 1948 have survived and have recently been digitized. Some of them can now be viewed at the Raritan Library. These newspapers are a treasure to the historian as they show a detailed picture of what Raritan was like back then.