The history of this unique endeavor is written by an eye witness to the “rise and demise” of America’s Fourteenth Colony. The story is the result of the author retrieving original documents to verify the people and events of an odyssey that spanned five decades. The story is collaborated by the survivors and the beneficiaries of an experiment, for a better way of life, by a group of predominately Eastern European and Russian Jews with their political “shades of red” philosophy settling into what was a predominately “conservative” Chatham Township, a rural community in Central New Jersey. It is a story of objection, rejection, suspicion, ridicule and ultimately, assimilation and acceptance. The story has been influenced and colored by the author’s personal observations and personal experiences while growing up in the Colony. Bert Abbazia was a “Colony Boy”.
While the Colony seemed to be a “safe haven” for its members and their families, life did present the Colonists with their share of sadness, tragedy, grief and sobering moments. Tragedy did strike in 1933. It was about 7:30/ 7:45 AM on March 23rd, 1933 that a thunderous blast rocked everyone in the Colony and the surrounding neighborhood. The vibrations from the blast were both immediate and long lasting. There was a victim of this horrendous, cowardly act, the victim was Morris Langer. Langer, his wife Ida, and his two daughters, Ruth and Florence lived at 12 Maple Street. Little did the Colonists realize at that moment that the notorious “Murder Incorporated,” just “paid an over night visit” to the Colony. During the night, at about 1:30 am a bomb was wired to the starter of Langer’s garaged car by a professional hit man. The time was established by the barking of a neighbor’s dog. Children on their way to school that morning were jarred by the site of the gapping hole in the garage roof. Some of the neighbors rushed to the Langer home and quickly realized the extent of his injuries. Langer’s legs bore the brunt of the blast. One of the first neighbors at the scene was Rae Weiss. Rae happened to be one of the few women in the Colony who could drive a car. Rae drove Langer and his wife Ida to Overlook Hospital where Langer went through long, extensive surgery to save his life. Langer succumbed to his injuries four days later on March 27th, 1933. All the Colony members and their children were invited to a Memorial Service that was held at the Community House where a ten by fifteen inch bronze plaque was unveiled commemorating the tragedy. The plaque gave the time, date and circumstances surrounding Langer’s death. Colonists, young and old, were shocked by what they read and saw. The plaque adorned by a HAMMER AND SICKLE described his death as “assassinated because of his activity in the labor movement.” Above the plaque was a picture of the deceased Langer, lying on a table, with a cloth covering his body from his thighs to his bare shoulders. The photo revealed the lower part of his body was minus one leg. While the plaque and the picture were eventually mysteriously removed from the Community House, the memory of the plaque and picture has never been removed from the minds of those who viewed them. The assassination was the results of Langer’s very vocal and active efforts to Unionize the Hollander Fur Company in Newark, New Jersey. In February, 1933 a conference meeting between representatives of the Needle Trade Workers Industrial Union and The Protective Fur Dressers Corporation was convened. On this night, Morris Langer spoke up very strongly against the Murder Incorporated controlled Protective Fur Dressers Union. For the next month Langer received and ignored numerous death threats. Two of the principals of Murder Incorporated Louis “Lepke” Buchalter and Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro allegedly assigned Jacob Shulman, a reputed bomb expert, to “muzzle” Langer! Shulman completed his ASSIGNMENT on March 23rd, 1933.
Bert Abbazia was born the second son of Oreste and Frieda Somer Abbazia, original Colony members on August 14th, 1927. He is the “product” of what in 1927 was considered a mixed marriage. His father had been a practicing Catholic in his formative years while his mother was an agnostic Romanian Jew. He enjoyed a happy, carefree childhood growing up surrounded by nature’s gifts at 252 Lafayette Avenue in the Colony section of Chatham Township. Bert earned eleven varsity letters and received All State recognition for Soccer and Basketball while at Chatham High School. Upon his graduation he enlisted in the US Navy at age seventeen and served on the USS Houston during World War ll. August 14th became a significant day in the author’s life. Not only was August 14th his birth date, it was the day Japan surrendered in 1945 and the day Bert was honorably discharged in 1946. Within two weeks after his discharge he enrolled at Seton Hall College. The year, 1949, saw Bert start Done-Well Cleaners, graduate Seton Hall University and marry his high school sweetheart. He and his wife Theresa are the proud parents of three daughters, six grandchildren and six great grandchildren.
With each passing year he had the realization that “the environment and the circumstances” surrounding his upbringing were unique. “Here is a story that was waiting to be told and I had to tell it!”