James
A.
Howell


JAMES A. HOWELL served as the Chief of Camden's Electrical Bureau for many years. He was born in Camden NJ in 1878, the son of George S. and Edith Howell. He grew up in the neighborhood around Locust Street and Kaighn Avenue.

By the time of the 1920 Census, James A. Howell was living with his wife Cordelia at 286 Kaighn Avenue in Camden. The Howells at the time had three children living at home, a son, James A., and daughters Arlene and Ella. 

In late 1926 or 1927 James A. Howell succeeded John W. Kelly Jr. as Chief of Camden's Electrical Bureau. As Chief of the Bureau, his duties included installation and maintenance of the fire alarm call boxes through out the city, a critically important task in a time where telephones were still uncommon in most homes and many small businesses. He also had the task of installing maintaining traffic signals.

The 1947 Camden City Directory shows Mr. and Mrs. Howell as living at 522 Line Street, and James A. Howell still being employed by the City of Camden.    


Camden Courier-Post * January 24, 1928

Megaphone Not 'Mike' is New WCAM Equipment

Camden's Municipal station, WCAM, has added a new piece of mechanism to the usual broadcasting apparatus. A megaphone has replaced the customary microphone.

Jim Howell, announcing from the Walt Whitman Hotel studio last night, said "I will now turn the Megaphone over to Bessie I. Bossert." Further on in the program he again turned the "megaphone" over to someone.

Dan McConnell still holds the championship at WCAM, however, for Howell's error didn't compare to the time, several weeks ago, when McConnell broadcast two rounds of a bout at Convention Hall before he gave the names of the fighters.


Camden Courier-Post * January 25, 1928

NEW STREET LIGHTS
City Workers Start Laying Out System
of "Safety Islands on Cooper Street

City employees today started installing a new system of traffic lights and laying out six “safety islands” on Cooper Street, under the direction of James A. Howell, acting chief of electrical bureau, and Charles Humes, captain of police.

The traffic lights are known as the “three-way auto signal” type and are expected to speed up traffic. They can be operated from a central point, in unison, or separately by hand. City officials say the may eventually be placed also on Penn and Linden Streets.

The safety islands, which will be concrete elevations in the middle of the street, will be placed at Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Broadway, Seventh, and Eighth Streets. These will make possible safer crossing of the street by pedestrians. The street between Fourth and Ninth is 64 feet wide..


James A. Howell (wearing headphone) at Central Airport - October 29, 1931


Camden Courier-Post - February 8, 1933

WOMAN RESCUED IN FIRE

An aged woman was led through smoke to the street yesterday when Morris Toll discovered fire in his tailor shop at 1019 Market street. Toll ran to the front door and called to passersby to summon firemen. Then he dashed upstairs to the third floor, where Mrs. Elizabeth Knowles, 80, lives. He helped her down the stairs through the gathering smoke, reaching the street just before firemen arrived. 

Mrs. Knowles was taken into a neighbor's house, as firemen extinguished the blaze. Chief James A. Howell, of the Electrical Bureau, said he believed the fire started either from an overheated iron or from worn wiring. Toll said the damage was about $500, mostly to garments in the shop for repairs, cleaning or pressing. Many of these were carried out by firemen and stretched on rails erected on the sidewalk for safe keeping. 

Toll's wife, Anna, was shopping. Their daughter, Rose, 18, was at work. and their son, Daniel, 13, was at school. 


Camden Courier-Post - June 19, 1933

A False Alarm of Long Ago 
Spectacular Run of Firemen and Steeds in '79 When First 
Alarm System Was Given Try-out

By BEN COURTER

THERE were two alarms of fire Saturday evening, one at Fourth and Hamilton streets at 8:29 o'clock, and another at the West Jersey Ferry, an hour later. People in the vicinity of the first-named place turned out to look at the machines propelled at lightning speed by snorting equines, and wondered what it was all about; and some of them thought the wide-awake fire boys were beside themselves, as they asked, for the particular house, in the neighborhood of box 24 upon which, with steam up, their apparatus was able to put on, the water. The firemen and people were quietly informed by a party that drove away in a barouche that it was a designed deception.

Under date of October 6, 1879, that was the introduction to a two-column story under a display headline. But, it was, a single line-"False Alarms." Readers of the period must have been as much mystified as were the firemen and citizens mentioned in the article, for it was not until more than half a column had been devoted to that incident that the public was let into the great secret. It was a test of the first fire alarm system introduced into Camden. 

Interest in that incident is revived by the city commissioners last week entering into a contract with that same concern to install in the new City Hall a system for somewhat more than $51,000. That first "system" cost the city $2000 but it was a big sum then and just about 10 times more space was devoted to it in the old Post than in the Courier-Post last Thursday week.

Paid Department 10 Years Old 

Camden's paid fire department in 1879 was just 10 years old. It already was winning approval of even the recalcitrants, who had asserted back in 1869, that the old volunteer companies would certainly be missed; that the "professionals" would not have as much interest in putting out a fire as the boys who ran with the Perseverance, the Weccacoe and other organizations, usually bitter rivals. Not infrequently the volunteers battled over hooking up their hose while the fire burned, a event by no means outgrown since that occasionally happens even now, as files of the newspapers prove.

But on that Saturday night 54 years ago, it developed that those who drove away in the mysterious barouche were J. W. Morgan, Crawford Miller and F. P. Pfeiffer; fire commissioners of city council, along with R. S. Bender and Thomas Beatty. They were but carrying out orders to see that the system worked and it was John T. Bottomley who issued those orders. He was Camden's big mill owner but more to the purpose in that particular incident, president of city Council. He had approved the fire alarm system but did not intend putting his O. K. on that $2000 bill until he had seen it in practical operation.

So unknown to the firemen, and the citizens as well, it was determined to test that system by way of turning in the alarms. So an alarm was pulled at 8.29 and "Bart" Bonsall, son of Henry L. Bonsall, publisher of the Post, narrates, in just 15 seconds flat the bell was sounded at No.1 Engine House at Fourth and Pine Streets. In two minutes hose cart No. 1 went bounding out with Driver George Hunt at the reins, followed by Ben Cavanaugh and his faithful nag "Jim" with cart No. 2. Then came Jake Kellum and William Davies with the engine No. 2 drawn by "Dolly" in 2.45. After that was engine No.1 driven by Edmund Shaw and the horse "Alec," coming along in 3 minutes and 5 seconds. It was explained Shaw was held up by the sandy roadway at Fourth and Line

Spectacular Sight 

Anyhow, it must have been a great sight for the old-time families who then resided along the Middle Ward Streets as the racing steeds bounded over Fourth Street, then into Third over a mighty bumpy roadway.

But they arrived and vainly sought the blaze. It was while they were hunting that the barouche came along and the commissioners let them into the great secret. "Bart" doesn't relate what the firemen said about the false alarm, but, like as not the heat of their expressions was a good substitution for the fire they failed to find. 

The system was one of those nine­day wonders that had the town on its toes. Everybody listened for the alarms in those days, for when they were sent in the bells in the fire houses pealed the number of the box. The strokes could be heard surprisingly far. Since there were but 11 boxes it was not long before many knew just where the fire was located and made a bee line for the scene. Old volunteers, particularly, never quite lost their interest in fires and, whenever they heard the alarm, hot footed it to the scene of excitement. 

That was all right when Camden was little more than a village, but as the community grew it became a serious proposition, since the racing citizens often interfered with the firemen. Thus about 30 years ago the fire bells were silenced. Now none know of an alarm coming in save the various houses and the Courier-Post which has a wire attached from headquarters bringing in the alarms so that reporters and cameramen may get on the scene quickly as possible. 

Ordinarily, little thought is given to the need for instant and accurate sounding of an alarm made possible through the expert work of City Electrician Jim Howell and his aides. If it were not for that perfection and the speed with which friend reach the scene the losses would he large. And the insurance companies would be around with a "pink slip" as they were some 20 years ago. That meant a 25 percent addition to fire rates. Camden's motorized department plus the work of City Electrician John W. Kelly soon rid the city of that "slip." 

That system of long ago didn't include the cops. Now it takes in both departments, as it has done since the days of Chief Samuel Dodd, back in the early 90's. 


Camden Courier-Post - February 8, 1933

As Police Inaugurated Two-Way Radio Hookup

The Camden police department yesterday changed over to two-way radio communication with its red patrol cars. Promptly at 4 p. m., Chief James Howell, of the electrical bureau, pulled the switch and Chief Operator Ed Garrity sent out the first messages to Cars 1, 2 and 3 to come in for inspection. All answered "O.K." Garrity is seen sending a message while Howell stands by. Patrolman William Michalak is shown answering one of the tests.


Camden Courier-Post * February 24, 1938

CAMDEN POLICE TO GET 13TH RADIO PATROL CAR

Camden policemen who operate the police-radio squad cars may have grounds for superstition. 

The 13th police car to be equipped with two-way radio communication apparatus will be placed in service next Saturday, it was revealed yesterday by James A. Howell, chief of the city electrical Bureau.

"Camden will be the second city in the State and one of several throughout the country to have 13 cars with two-way radio equipment," Howell said. 

Originally Commissioner Mary W. Kobus, director of public safety, ordered 10 cars be equipped. The system worked so satisfactorily the number was increased, Howell stated.

Jersey City with 24 is the only New Jersey municipality with more two-way equipped cars.


Camden Courier-Post - August 26, 1941

Henry Magin Laid to Rest By War Veteran Buddies
TRUCKS OF FLOWERS IN FUNERAL CORTEGE

Funeral services for City Commissioner Henry Magin were held today with his colleagues in official and veterans circles participating.

Services were conducted in city commission chambers on the second floor of city hall, in charge of Rev. Dr. W.W. Ridgeway, rector of St. Wilfrid's Episcopal Church.

The casket was carried by war veteran associates of the public works director, who died from a heart attack Friday. A color guard from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion preceded the casket, followed by the four remaining members of the city commission, Mayor George Brunner and commissioners E. George Aaron, Mrs. Mary W. Kobus and Dr. David S. Rhone.

A guard of honor lined both sides of' city hall steps, 22 policemen on one side and 22 firemen on the other, representing Magin's age, 44 years.

Hundreds of men and women waited outside the building to pay their respects as the solemn procession filed by. Mayor Brunner had declared this morning a holiday for city employees. The casket was borne by Thomas Jackson and Samuel Magill, both past Legion commanders; Leon McCarty, past commander of August Walter Chapter, Disabled American Veterans; Richard Jermyn, past commander of Post 1270, Veterans of Foreign Wars; Benjamin P. Thomas, past captain of Sparrow Ship No. 1269. V. F. W.; and William Miller, past State commander, D. A. V.  

Three trucks were required to carry the floral pieces from the scene of the services to the National Cemetery at Beverly, where burial took place.  

An estimated 8000 persons from all walks of life paid their respects to the late official by viewing the body as it lay in state in the commission chambers.

The throng of mourners of Camden city and county was the largest to converge on a public building since the funeral of Fire Chief Charles Worthington, who was killed while fighting a fire almost 20 years ago. His body was placed on public view in the rotunda of the old county courthouse.

File Past Bier  

A continuous progression of people filed past the flag draped bier for more than three and one-half hours. Scores of Republicans and hundreds of Democrats joined in the tribute.

Services were conducted by Camden lodges of Elks and Moose. Military rites were conducted by the Fairview Post, American Legion, of which Magin was a founder and past commander. The tribute was led by Mitchell Halin, post commander, and C. Richard Allen, past department commander. 

James W. Conner, chief clerk of the city water bureau and past State Commander of the V.F.W., conducted rites at the grave.  

Mayor Brunner and Commissioners Kobus, Aaron, and Rhone came early and remained throughout the hours of viewing. Mrs. Helen Magin, the widow, and daughter Helen, attired in deep mourning, arrived shortly after 7:00 PM.

Embraces Widow, Daughter  

Commissioner Kobus, who knelt in prayer before the bier, arose and went over to Mrs. Magin and her daughter. Mrs. Kobus embraced and kissed the widow and daughter of the late commissioner. They were in tears.  

Three firemen and three policemen maintained a vigil as a guard of honor. They were Patrolmen Jack Kaighn, George Weber, and William Deery and Firemen Arthur Batten, Warren Carter and William Reed.

American Legion and V. F. W. members in uniform alternated as members of the military guard of honor. A detail of 50 policemen was under command of Acting Lieutenant John Garrity. Fifty firemen, under supervision of Deputy Chief Walter Mertz, assisted the patrolmen in handling the crowd, which at times choked the stairways leading to the second floor.  

Freeholders Arrive  

Albert H. Molt, director of the Board of Freeholders and Freeholders John J. Tull, Oscar Moore, Ventorino Francesconi, Stanley Ciechanowski, Earl Armstrong and Emil J. McCall arrived shortly after 7:00 PM. Moore and Tull wore American Legion overseas caps. Albert S. Marvel, clerk of the board, accompanied the freeholders.

Employees of the various bureaus in the department of public works, headed by Commissioner Magin, came in delegations with the highway bureau having 150, the largest number.  

Frank A. Abbott, acting director of the department, accompanied by James P. Carr, superintendent of Streets; led the highway bureau employees. Abbott is deputy director of revenue and finance and first assistant to Mayor Brunner. He was named by Brunner as acting director until the City Commission elects Mr. Magin's successor.

County Clerk Frank J. Suttill, City Clerk Clay W. Reesman, Fire Chief John H. Lennox and James A. Howell, chief of the city electrical bureau, attended, as did Albert Austermuhl, secretary of the board of education. Every city department sent a floral piece.

Outstanding Floral Tribute

Outstanding among the floral tributes was a six-toot broken circle of varied flowers, an offering from Mayor Brunner and Commissioners Kobus, Aaron, and Rhone.

A floral chair was sent by the Camden Police and Firemen’s Association. The word “Rest” was made up of flowers. The offering of the Veterans League of South Jersey, an organization formed by Commissioner Magin and of which he was the first president, was a large floral pillow.

The freeholders and county officials gave a large floral basket. Floral tributes came from the employees of the board of education, the RCA Manufacturing Company, the police and fire bureaus, Pyne Point Athletic Association, the Elks, Moose and several Democratic clubs.  

The floral tributes came in such numbers yesterday afternoon that Funeral Director Harry Leonard and his assistants could not find room for them in the commission chamber proper. They were banked on both sides, in the rear and over the casket.

Among prominent officials and citizens who came to pay their respects were Congressman Charles A. Wolverton and his son, Donnell, Assemblymen Joseph W. Cowgill and J. Frank Crawford, Sidney P. McCord, city comptroller, Thomas C. Schneider, president of Camden County Council No. 10, New Jersey Civil Service Association.

Others at Bier

Others were Sue Devinney, secretary to Mrs. Kobus; Fred S. Caperoon; Henry Aitken, city sealer of weights and measures, Horace R. Dixon, executive director of the Camden Housing Authority; George I. Shaw, vice president of the board of education.

Sgt. Ray Smith, chairman of the Elks Crippled Children Committee and commander of East Camden Post, V.F.W.; Albert Becker, commander of Camden County Post 126, Jewish War Veterans; Dr. Howard E. Primas and Wilbur F. Dobbins, members of the Camden Housing Authority; Postmaster Emma E. Hyland; Samuel E. Fulton, member of the Camden local assistance board.  

Also former Assemblyman Rocco Palese, former Freeholder Maurice Bart and wife, County Detective James Mulligan, Deputy City Clerk William D. Sayrs, Mary King, secretary to City Clerk Reesman, Charles W. Anderson and John W. Diehl Jr., former members of the housing authority, Walter P. Wolverton, chief clerk of the public works department; Thomas J. Kenney, Maurice Hertz, Isadore Hermann, chief of the city tax title bureau; S. Raymond Dobbs; acting chief of city property, John Oziekanski, building inspector, Harry Langebein, city assessor.

Oliver H. Bond, housing manager of Clement T. Branch Village; former Judge Joseph Varbalow, acting city counsel John J. Crean, assistant City Counsel Edward V. Martino, Paul Day, secretary of city board of assessors, former Assemblyman William T. Iszard, Harry Roye, district director of NYA; Victor J. Scharle and Martin Segal, Democratic and Republican registrars, respectively, of the Camden County permanent registration bureau.  

Mrs. Marian Garrity and Mrs. Mary F. Hendricks, vice chairman and secretary respectively, of the Republican City Committee; Dr, Ethan A. Lang and Dr. Richard P. Bowman, members of the board of education; Edward J. Borden, Carl Kisselman, Harry A. Kelleher, Samuel T. French Sr., former Freeholder Walter Budniak, Coroner Paul R. Rilatt, County Treasurer Edward J. Kelleher, William Shepp, of the city legal bureau, Marie Carr, stenographer, mayor's office; Samuel T. French Jr., member, board of education.

Also John C. Trainor, member of the Camden County Board of Elections; Antonio Mecca, funeral director; Alexander Feinberg, solicitor of the housing authority, former Freeholder John T. Hanson, Sterling Parker and Paul Reihman, member of the county park commission.  

James O’Brien, commander of the Camden Disabled American Veterans, was in charge of services by veterans at the cemetery. Former Freeholder Edward J. Quinlan, county vice-commander of the American Legion, directed last night memorial services and was in charge of the firing squad at the grave.  


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