Albert A. Klaiber, according to the articles that follow, left
Hackensack High School shortly after April of 1917. To understand why so much ink is given to this young man as opposed to others, I will lay out my understanding of the situation at the time by the material I have gathered.

The patriotic fervor of the day moved him to be one of the first to join the service. He was extremely well liked. Albert had played football for Hackensack and done well and then broke his arm against the then arch-rival Englewood High School.

To make a further connection to Hackensack High School, in the 1918 Senior Critic newspaper it lists a junior named Robert Klaiber who played football and was on the student council. This probably was a brother or cousin. This would have meant that all the students and their families would have felt a connection to Albert Klaiber from the graduating classes of 1916 to the class that had not even graduated yet 1919 and even beyond.

Albert Klaiber was that guy who represented many of the families' sons of Hackensack. The article on his funeral says that many high school students attended the memorial service and men from Camp Dix and Camp Merritt on furloughs came also. Some letters that Albert sent home are included in the memorial service article and are very moving. In one of the letters, Albert Klaiber writes that he had seen enough of the world and once he gets back to Hackensack he would never leave again. That made me think of Lee D'Arminio, who during World War II fought on Omaha Beach and the Hurtgen Forest, and went back to the first ward in Hackensack and to Saint Francis Church and never left.

The article on Albert Klaiber's funeral service started on the front page has moving letters sent by him to his mother and father. It had stirring statements by the people eulogizing him, all under the headline of that day August 19, 1918, FATAL RACE RIOT AT CAMP MERRITT. What a challenging discussion to ask what were the white families thinking and what were the black families thinking that day when they read the morning paper.

We have a great gift in this school because we have a direct account of what the black families were thinking that day from page 74-83 in E. Frederic Morrow's book, WAY DOWN SOUTH UP NORTH. He expounds on the experience of his family and particularly his brother Eugene in a very clear way and at the end on page 83 E. Frederic Morrow writes, “This is not to belittle the terrific sacrifices of the tens of thousands of brave white American soldiers who answered the call of duty and fought to rid the world of the scourge of autocracy and inhumanity on the far-off battlefields of France.

But what seemed so sad and irreconcilable was the alleged purpose of America's participation in the war, and the plight of her black soldiers who helped to win it. They were permitted to suffer and die for Democracy, but not to live in its spirit nor be embraced by its sheltering arms.”

E. Frederic Morrow was born in 1909 and would have been around nine or ten years old. His sister Nellie K. Parker (Morrow) was getting ready for the tenth grade and Eugene was in the service. This funeral, I would say, was something that formulated this statement. He saw the sacrifice, he understood as he grew older, to understand the cause was a just one, but then there is this injustice to his family and friends.

Let us never forget those who fought for freedom during World War I both at home and abroad.

Written by:
Bob Meli
June 8, 2008


Albert Klaiber