The varied wildlife in my neighborhood is one of the most enjoyable perks of suburban living–hawks, skunks, raccoons, opposums, wild turkeys, countless common and uncommon species of birds, chipmunks, (harmless) snakes, flying squirrels, foxes, rabbits, deer, box turtles and much more. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, however, one young resident of Short Hills appreciated that wildlife for the income it provided him.
The Millburn-Short Hills Historical Society recently acquired a copy of Al. Nunan's Trappers' Supply House catalog for 1953-1954. A search for information about the unusual catalog uncovered a December 1949 article about Alfred J. Nunan, which tells us all about the young man's hobby and gives us a window into life with the animals back then:
"There is one fifteen year old boy in Millburn who does not like football, baseball, or ice hockey. In fact, he even holds an ardent dislike for them. He is Al Nunan, son of Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Nunan of Hillside avenue, who would rather take a look over his animal trap lines any day.
Trapping, and activity associated with it, has become Al's first and foremost interest since, in 1946, he borrowed some traps from a neighbor and set them for 'coons and weasels which had been causing trouble in the Nunan's garden.
First victim of Al's traps was no less than a skunk, which wasn't supposed to get into the act at all. Al skinned it according to the methods he read about in books, and salted it, according to the methods he believed to be correct. Sears, Roebuck in Philadelphia, to whom Al now sells most of his skins, refused the skunk skin because the salting process had made it unfit for further use. A real disappointment to him on his first venture of that kind.
Two 'coons and a 'possum also became victims of Al's traps during the first year, all in his own back yard.
In August of '47, he caught four 'coons, which were exhibited in the Surprise Lakes Museum in Watchung Reservation. In September of 1948, he was written up in "Fur, Fish, and Game" sportsman's magazine.
Al is now a student at Morristown Prep. He hopes to take up animal husbandry in College and eventually be a government or state trapper, possibly for the Canadian government.
Fishing and hunting hold secondary interest with him. Surf casting and fly fishing are his favorite methods in that sport, and as a hunter he has had luck with pheasant and rabbit.
A member of the Madison Game Protective Association, he has become the buddy of every game warden in the state, and often sets trap lines with them.
Al's latest project under the subject of trapping is a trappers' supply house, which he operates from his home, selling all kinds of lure, traps, and the necessary accessories.
He also now keeps a "'coon hound," a black and tan dog, which tracks down 'coons for him. Al has four live 'coons in his cages at the present time, and he is experimenting in breeding them. He says they "eat anything, but I give them mostly dog food and fish."
Al's hobby has brought him many enjoyable days in the open air, learning the ways of animals through experience with them, and by reading. When asked who taught him all he knew about animals, he replied that most of his knowledge had been picked up on his own. He has learned to catch them, skin them, and keep them, all of which make a hobby which occupies most of his time."