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Birdsall Lake Como’s First Mayor

Fought Drunks, Blew Up Debt


This morning I am researching Lake Como’s 1924 secession from Wall Township (to see if it can be undone) and would like to share and (comment on) an article I found on the borough’s web site.


The history of South Belmar
(Lake Como)
as reported by the Asbury Park Press in 1962


In 1924, the Borough of South Belmar was formed out of the boundary of old Wall. It is a small , interior municipality, bounded on the west by the railroad, on the north by Sixteenth Avenue, on the east by “B”street, and in the South by Lake Como and Polly Pod Brook. One of the original settlers of the area now making up South Belmar was Jeremiah Newman, who was born in 1798 and died in 1828. (I really like the name Jeremiah. Nobody names their sons that anymore.) His gravestone, at the Newman Family Burial Ground on Leslie Street, Belmar Gardens, is still legible. Mr. Newman arrived in the area around the 1817, and as with most early residents, devoted his original efforts to farming. But this not always successful, and he and his neighbors soon began to turn to the sea to make part of their living. The farmlands were eventually divided into smaller tracts, and later were developed under numerous subdivisions according to a much less regular pattern than is evident in the neighboring Borough of Belmar. It is interesting to note that the Lake Como was known as Three Cornered Pond in the early days, and the area immediately to the west was known as Polly Pond Bog.

When the borough’s first mayor, Claude W. Birdsall (that name rings a bell), a municipal engineer, presented his first message to Council June 3, 1924, he outlined three main areas in which the community needed improvement.

They were sanitation, street repairs, and the parks, Mayor Birdsall put sanitation at the top of the list, because there was no garbage or sewage disposal in the borough. (Must have been pretty smelly there)

He also considered street repairs as an immediate need, since auto traffic was increasing and the gravel roads were inadequate.

Parks were at the bottom of the mayor’s list, although he regarded Lake Como as the Borough’s chief asset

Voters Were Divided

When Mr. Birdsall presented his message, the borough was little more than a month old. it had been created May 6, 1924 by a referendum in which 152 voters favored the separation of Wall Township and 115 were opposed. (I plan to challenge the absentee ballots)

However, once the borough was founded, its citizens became fiercely proud if their new identity and have strong supporter of local government since. (Where are their proofreaders?)

The mayor’s improvement plans were soon put into actions. (Was English a second language for this writer?) Bids were asked for trash and garbage disposal, and a pickup system was organized. Streets were graded and widened to the proper standards, and confusing dead-end road were extended. (Proofreader still on coffee break)

Police Force Expanded

Police protection had been scanty up until this time. Borough Council too (k) speedy action by appointing five special policemen to serve without pay until December of that first year. (Appointed without pay? Were they drafted?)

In June, Borough Clerk Mrs. Grace B. Hoff was instructed to inform Coast Cities Railway Co., which operated the trolley system, that the roadway adjacent to the tracks on F Street needed gravel. The line then ran between Long Branch and Sea Girt and was one of the bigger financial enterprises at the Shore.  (A road needed gravel? That’s part of their history?)

In the summer open trolley cars were used, and on busy days riders taking the air hung from the cars in clusters. Fleet conductors had to be contortionists as well to collect fares, especially on the shorter runs. (This grammar is becoming a pain in the neck, something I don’t need right now)

During the first month of the borough’s life, a disorderly person ordinance was adopted to cope with intoxication (it took them that long? It should have been the first day!), loud and abusive language, alms collectors, indecent or immodest pictures, gaming places, and other violations of public property. (Indecent, yeah ok, but I think immodest pictures should be allowed.)

Another measure was adopted to prevent dogs from running at large. They were required to wear muzzles during the warmer months when rabies was usually more prevalent. (No vaccines yet, I guess.) Licenses were set at $1.00 for male and $2.00 for a female. (Discrimination!)

The writer goes into a general (and poorly written) history of eastern Monmouth County and returns to the subject of Mr. Birdsall’s tenure as mayor near the end of the story:

Report Discouraging

In September 1924 Norris J. Wolley, borough collector, gave his first official report. It was discouraging, to say the least, for a new borough intent on improvements. The cash balance was 141.03 and outstanding notes totaled $500. It was necessary for the Council to authorize a $500 emergency note to pay the bills. (Same old Lake Como.)

It was not until July 1926 that the borough was ready to float a $20,000 bond issue for sewage disposal, and a $75,000 issue for improving the water supply. (Borrow and spend! Yippee!)

Residents had been using cesspools and wells, and the bond issues provide (d) them with sewage and water services from Belmar. (Matt’s using the money for the pavilions.)

Wait 26 Years for a Park

The shore of Lake Como, the last goal on Mayor Birdsall’s initial list, was not made into a park until 1950. World War II had been over (for) five years and it was dedicated as the Denman, Fisher, and Perkins Memorial Park in honor of those who died in service.

Mayor Leroy F. Walling, who had held his office for the past 10 years, observes that through the years Mr. Birdsall has witnessed the fulfillment of the pro-proposals (huh?) made in that initial message. It was just this year, continues Mayor Walling, that Mr. Birdsall designed the storm drains laid in F Street to carry off water from flash rains, and the mayor expects that Mr. Birdsall will continue to play a significant part in the borough’s development in years to come. (This article was written in 1962. Have they gotten rid of him yet?)




  1. Anonymous wrote:

    Here’s what I take from all these Lake Como stories. They’re broke. The financial shell game they’ve been playing has been going on for years and the s#%t finally hit the fan. Which brings me to the real point. Can anyone truly believe that mayor Matt holds the secret to government finance with all this spending and yet zero municipal tax increases. Get ready people, Belmar could be next.

    Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 7:41 am | Permalink
  2. OLD MAN wrote:

    I’m not nearly ready. I need an infusion of cash. Oh well ……….

    Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 8:10 am | Permalink
  3. Just Passing Through wrote:

    Alka-selzer time old man salute.

    Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 10:41 am | Permalink
  4. Tom Dilberger wrote:

    Belmar could be next.
    Not could be next – we are next.

    Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 10:51 am | Permalink
  5. A VOTER 2 wrote:

    The best thing is for Belmar and Lake Como to be merged into Wall, that would eliminate the unethical self serving Mayor and Council and I guarantee they would not have to be sued anymore.

    Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 11:56 am | Permalink
  6. ALLTRUMPEDUP wrote:

    Matt and crew don’t have a CLUE safely and efficiently man a Police Dept., IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF BELMAR RESIDENTS. Are they really going to negotiate an agreement with some incompetent financial guru from LAKE COMO who didn’t see this fiasco coming? I don’t want my Belmar Police Force spending all weekend nights at Lake Como BARS.

    Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 12:26 pm | Permalink
  7. Just Passing Through wrote:

    #6 The cops at all the bars are off duty and are paid by the Bars, not the towns.

    Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 1:03 pm | Permalink
  8. admin wrote:

    When there is trouble other cops have to come. They are paid by us.

    Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 1:11 pm | Permalink
  9. taxandspender wrote:

    When the State Police are called to assist a municipal police department during an inadequate security incident, how much does that municipality have to pay for the professional services of said State Police responders? Is there an hourly wage used in calculating the State Police help? Are Lake Como police officers members of the same PBA as Belmar’s Police Department? If so, is the individual used by either PBA in negotiations with their respective boroughs the same PBA representative?

    Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 2:47 pm | Permalink
  10. ALLTRUMPEDUP wrote:

    JUST PASSING THRU also clueless. Don’t even challenge me on my 27 plus years. Who do you think makes the arrests, does the paperwork, processes the drunk, spends time responding to the drunks outside of the bars, enforces the traffic conditions, and on and on? THE POLICE OFFICER DRIVING AROUND IN THE POLICE VEHICLE BEING PAID BY THE BELMAR RESIDENT.

    Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 3:10 pm | Permalink
  11. Just Passing Through wrote:

    #10You misunderstood my comment was about the ones hired by the bar NOt the arresting ones. Belmar is very quiet not like Asbury or Newark the extra work due to the bars is nothing compared to other towns including Wall which probably makes more arrests than Asbury Park.

    Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 4:19 pm | Permalink
  12. ALLTRUMPEDUP wrote:

    Mr.TandS.NJSP do not charge for an occasional mutual aid call. Belmar and Lake Como both belong to NJPBA Local 50 however negotiate separately. It is virtually impossible for Matt to evaluate numbers for a fee in a three week period. A Police Staffing Survey conducted by a consulting firm needs to be done, at the very least. The safety of Officers’ and residents of Belmar need to be considered.

    Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 4:57 pm | Permalink
  13. taxandspender wrote:

    All Trumped Up: 100% in agreement. We need Professional Police more now than ever before year round.

    Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 8:54 pm | Permalink
  14. ALLTRUMPEDUP wrote:

    Just Pass Thru is correct in that Belmar is quiet NOW due to the hard work of prior administrations in doing away with the LOUD,OBNOXIOUS,ROWDY,OUT OF TOWNERS GOING,FIGHTFEST,DRUNKFEST bars that now occupy LAKE COMO. Yes, Wall makes a lot of arrests as they have the time to PATROL THEIR RESIDENTIAL STREETS AT NIGHT and AGRRESIVELY ENFORCE THE TRAFFIC LAWS. If Wall had 5 bars they wouldn’t have the time to keep their residents safe at night.

    Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 10:56 pm | Permalink
  15. Just Passing Through wrote:

    The real problem is Belmar is SMALL it cannot handle lots of bars, or LARGE crowds like larger in square miles can, that why everything is so magnified due to our small size.

    Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 9:49 am | Permalink
  16. ALLTRUMPEDUP wrote:

    Correct JPT- Wall is a perfect match. Advice to Lake Comoans: #1-Hand out pink-slips 12/1/15#2-Lay off non essential employees 1/1/16 (Police already cut 20%).#3-Fire Louise Mekosh-save $130k (hire a newly grad. college student).#4-Elect ALL new politicians#5-RAISE TAXES#6-Put up more parking meters.#7-Merge with Wall Twp.

    Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 10:27 am | Permalink
  17. A VOTER 2 wrote:

    The best thing for Belmar and Lake Como is to become Wall Township, there still will be Belmar Beach, but there will be responsible accounting practices, competent ethical people running it and no more lawsuits and Judges telling the Dictator of a Mayor he can’t do that.

    Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 12:27 pm | Permalink
  18. Anonymous wrote:

    tax man cometh to Bmar. Cash busiNess TIPS from the tipsy

    Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

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