Book offers images of then…and now

Township Historian John Katerba hopes to keep the past alive forever

By: Bill Greenwood
      MONROE – For Township Historian John Katerba, a photograph is worth more than a thousand words. For him, it’s a way to keep the past alive forever.
      In his new book, "Then & Now: Monroe Township and Jamesburg," a picture taken in September 1944 is featured. In the photo, a Monroe soldier named Warren Southworth is seen standing in front of a World War II honor roll on which the name of every Monroe serviceman was written. Three months later, he was killed in the Battle of the Bulge.
      For Mr. Katerba, publishing the picture was his way of immortalizing a man that many residents may have forgotten or never knew about.
      "Our memories are too short today," he said. "We forget things too soon. Hopefully, this will get people thinking a little bit."
      However, preserving the past isn’t Mr. Katerba’s only aim. He also wants to instill a feeling of hometown pride in present and future Monroe and Jamesburg residents. It is for that reason that he went about assembling his new book, which was released Monday by Arcadia Publishing.
      "It gives them a sense of the town of where they’re living," Mr. Katerba said. "Especially for newcomers to the town, it gives them a sense of what was here before."
      The book, which is part of Arcadia’s Then & Now series, drives that point home by including a modern-day photo with all but two of 84 pictures from the past. While taking the present-day photos, Mr. Katerba tried to stand in the exact same spots where the past pictures were taken.
      However, that approach caused some trouble for Mr. Katerba, who often found his view obscured by trees in the spring, summer and fall. He said about 95 percent of his pictures needed to be taken in the winter, after the leaves fell.
      "That wound up being the hardest part of this book, having Mother Nature work with me," Mr. Katerba said.
      He said about 50 percent of the people who he either interviewed or received photographs from for his previous book, 2001’s "Images of America: Monroe Township and Jamesburg," have since died. Also, many families with whom he spoke gave him photos that did not have any information attached to them, making it difficult to write captions.
      However, Mr. Katerba was able to determine many of these answers by poring over the photographs looking for clues and then asking township residents for help putting names to the faces and places contained within.
      "It’s like you’re a detective," he said. "You’re a history detective."
      Even with these hardships, Mr. Katerba has created a book he can be proud of, and he hopes local residents will be, too. However, he also hopes that readers will do more than simply read. He wants them to take action.
      "I hope it instills an interest in the past, of course, and I hope it sparks an interest in their past," he said. "I hope it sparks an interest in them to start their own collections. We’re all historians, and we don’t know it."
      "Then & Now: Monroe Township and Jamesburg" is available for $19.99 at area book stores, independent retailers and online book stores. It also can be purchased at