So, you wanna know Bloomfield?
There they were: Fred Branch and Jean Kuras, authors of Bloomfield and Bloomfield Revisited of the “Images of America” series, and Mark Sceurman, publisher of Weird NJ, discussing the process of putting together both Bloomfield volumes, and answering the many questions from the standing room only crowd. The afternoon also included a visit and tour of the Historical Society museum, which sits on the third floor atop the children's library.
“When we (Jean and Mark) knew we had Fred,” said Kuras, “we knew we had Bloomfield history.”
The trio planned on having the initial Bloomfield book completed within a year, but then Arcadia Publishing of New Hampshire, the publishers of the book, called and, according to Sceurman, wanted it “tomorrow.”
So the three met once a week at branch’s Bloomfield home, planning strategy and immersing themselves in township memories.
“The dining room at Fred’s house was filled,” said Kuras with a fond recall. “With our book, we wanted as much history put into it as possible.”
The group sifted through old books, photos, microfilm and news clippings to find content for the first book, with special respect and honor paid to soldiers of the military. A bulk of the material - some of it used in the book - was put on display for the audience to see that Sunday afternoon. Sceurman, Branch and Kuras got all the usable material together, provided the best photo captions they could, and sent everything to Arcadia. The book was published in March 2001.
Then, Arcadia approached the trio about a second book.
“I remember saying to Fred regarding second book, ‘That’s impossible.’ Well,” recalled Kuras, “the second book was also a joy.”
Bloomfield Revisited, the follow up to the initial book, was published in August 2006.
And when it comes to current Bloomfield being added to historical annals, certainly Sceurman’s wildly popular, cult-like publication Weird NJ will be recognized.
“Weird NJ started in Bloomfield as a newsletter for my friends," said Sceurman. "It has turned into a phenomena.”
Following the 45-minute theater presentation, most of the audience took advantage of a rare Sunday afternoon museum opening and tour. A lot of the memorabilia collected in the museum is in relation to the Dodd and Oakes families, two well known Bloomfield names. But the rooms abound with old furnishings and artifacts from historical buildings in town (remember the Royal Theater? Come see it, but don’t sit in the few displayed seats), an old school bell, uniforms and dresses, dolls, dishes, signs, township photos, maps, books of records and figurines.
Sheila Hughes, a Bloomfield resident since 1985, said the museum was “good, very interesting. I like it. It brings back my childhood, reminds me of when I was a little kid.”
Sisters Noreen Toglia and Mary Bender saw the event in the paper and couldn’t wait to attend. Bender, currently living in Whippany, owns a copy of Bloomfield.
“I love it,” Bender said about the museum. “I’m going to come back.”
Toglia was a Bloomfield resident from the 1940s through 2007. She now lives in neighboring Nutley.
“It was great. It really has a lot of old memorabilia," she said. "It brings back aspects of my life.”
One can easily spend a Wednesday or Saturday afternoon not only learning more about Bloomfield, but also about its importance to Essex County - and America. Encouraged for all is a visit to truly appreciate Bloomfield’s past.