From the front page of the old Lincoln Park Herald, a page from my dad’s scouting scrapbook.
To Honor Mayor William A. Dixon Jr.
By Richard Mabey Jr.
In doing rewrite after rewrite of my book, there are times when my inner being shudders at the task. One of the most powerfully positive people who was a great inspiration to me in growing up was the wonderful Mayor William A. Dixon Jr.
I earned five merit badges from Mayor Dixon. They were: Citizenship in the Home, Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation, Reading and Public Speaking. The good mayor used to have merit badge classes in the basement of his home. This was in the middle of the 1960’s and it was right at the height of the baby boom era. There would easily be 30 to 35 scouts in each of these merit badge classes.
I had the honor to canoe down the Delaware River, on a full week excursion, with Mayor Dixon for about four times. We would have a group of about 12 to 14 senior scouts on each Delaware journey. My dad and I would share a canoe. They were exciting, adventurous and wonderful trips down the Delaware.
I think one of the greatest honors ever bestowed upon me, came to me in January of 1970. I was 16 years old and a junior in high school. I was elected by the scouts in all four Boy Scout Troops in Lincoln Park, to serve as Youth Mayor of Lincoln Park for one full week. This was not a joke. This was not some cute little thing. This was real. And, any of you who knew the great Mayor Bill Dixon, knew that he took community service very serious.
I thought that this was pretty incredible. I got to have the Monday, of the Town Council Meeting, off from school. Mayor Dixon had written a letter to the Principal of Boonton High School requesting that I be given the day off from school to work with him that day in preparation of the Town Council Meeting. The request was granted. I remember how I thought that was the greatest thing since sliced bread.
I remember my U. S. History teacher, Mr. Winters, gave me a special assignment to write a report about what it was like to serve as Youth Mayor for a week. I grabbed the brass ring with everything I had. I put my heart and soul into that report. It was about 12 typewritten pages in length. I was very proud of that report. Mr. Winters gave me a grade of an “A” on my report. For many years, I kept it in a box of my most cherished possessions. Sadly, it was in the move from Central Pennsylvania to Central Florida that somehow the report got lost.
I earnestly believe that Mayor William A. Dixon Jr. was one of the greatest mayors whoever served as mayor of any American small town. The good Lord had given Mayor Dixon a sharp mind. He had a great love for people. He had a keen understanding of how a small town should be managed. He understood people’s frustrations. He truly loved America. He was an incredibly good leader. He was very serious about his job as Mayor, but still he had a good sense of humor.
I’m not putting down the public school system here. But here goes. I’m putting the cards on the table. I learned more about civic leadership, the heart of small town politics, and how to be an effective leader in serving in an elected position in the one week that I had the honor of working with Mayor Dixon than I learned in taking two full years of United States History classes at Boonton High School. Mayor Dixon was a great man.
Not just myself, but all of the scouts that served on the Youth Town Council that year made great strides to make Lincoln Park a better place to live. We had this long meeting, all the scouts on the Youth Town Council. We wrote up a long report of our recommendations of things that could be done to make Lincoln Park better. I had the honor of compiling everyone’s thoughts and typing them up into a neat and orderly report.
Well, one of the recommendations was to replace stop signs with traffic lights at a few of the major intersections in town. I’m not saying that our report made it possible. But, I really do think that we did have a powerful effect for the council to take under serious consideration putting in more traffic lights in town. Perhaps it was a coincidence, but by the end of that year, there were a few new traffic lights put up in some of the busier intersections in town.
In earnest effort; I write, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite and rewrite. When I come to portions of my book that pay tribute to great men like Mayor William A. Dixon Jr., I tremble inside. I look to the writings of Thomas Wolfe and Earl Hamner Jr. for guidance. I’m not saying that I am in their league. But, I am saying that I look to these two writers for guidance in their writings. Still, I tremble inside to be able to convey the greatness, the solid moral quality and the earnest leadership that good men like Mayor William A. Dixon Jr. provided for an American small town. I pray to the good Lord that I can succeed on some level.