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From: Bergen Evening Record Weekend Magazine, Oct. 19, 1957, p. 13
Bergen's Own Madison Square Garden
By William R. Steng Jr.
Billy graham's crusade journeyed across the river from the Eighth Avenue arena in New York City to the arena on Teaneck road in Teaneck last month and once again the Teaneck Armory assumed its role as the Madison Square Garden of Bergen County.
Down through the years the Armory has played host to conventions, dances, home shows, and numerous sporting events, including the roller derby professional wrestling, professional tennis, midget auto racing, and amateur boxing. The Bergen Evening Record library supplied a ticket to these days gone by and a look at some of the heroes who drew the plaudits of Armory crowds.
Strolling down memory lane you might recall the first event staged at the Armory was a dog show sponsored by the Kennel Club of Northern New Jersey in March 1938. The show has become an annual affair and each year draws more than a thousand entries.
One of the most popular events seen at the Armory was the Bergen Evening Record Athletic Association's Diamond Gloves. Amateur boxers 16-years-old and over throughout Bergen County supplied fans with many a thrill. The first Gloves tournament at the Armory was in 1938, and 8,000 fans saw 16 bouts on opening night.
The Gloves was conducted in other parts of the County after 1938 and until 1941 when it was interrupted by World War II. In 1947 the Diamond Gloves returned to Teaneck Armory and continued until 1949 when it was disbanded because the draft took so many find young boxers from Bergen it was no longer possible to run the tournament.
The tradition of the 135-pound boxers opening the 16-bout card each night, and names like Pat Best, Dave Archer, and Mike Amatrula are now memories of days gone by.
World War II closed the Armory to other sporting events just as it called a temporary halt to the Diamond Gloves. The end of the war brought the return of many top athletes to Bergen's sports palace.
On Nov. 2, 1949, Governor Alfred E. Driscoll welcomed the roller derby to the Armory and the Jersey Jolters beat the Washington Generals, 16-13, before a crowd of 4,000. The Armory became the site of Jersey Jolters homestands from 1949 to 1952 and in 1953 was the site of the World Series of Roller Derby.
Moose Payne, Sid Harneck, Toughie Brashun, and the Bergen County trio Frank Baeli, Herbie Plump, and Millie Bruno, thrilled many a fan as they spun around the Teaneck track.
Antonino Rocca, Gene Stanlee, Tarzan Hewitt, and Skull Murphy are a few who have given wrestling fans their share of excitement. Auto racing fans have had their moments too. In January 1952, Tee-Que midget auto racing made its first showing in the Metropolitan area at the Armory. Tony Bonadies, Tony Romit, and Dick Dowd buzzed around the track at an average speed of 110 miles-per-hour in Tee-Ques.
The speed of the Harlem Globetrotters wasn't quite as fast as the midget racers, but they had enough wizardry to down the Philadelphia Sphas, 72-51, on Nov. 13, 1955, before 4,000 fans. In the other half of the double-header the Washington Generals beat the Boston Whirlwinds, 73-56, despite a 23 -point performance by the Whirlwind's Bevo Francis.
On March 1 and 15 back in 1953, the Jersey Titans downed the Elmire Colonels, 81-76, and the Wildes-Barre Barons, 99-93, Sherman White, Ed. Warner, Gerry Calabrese, and George Kaftan are a few of the stars who have played on the Armory court.
Jack Kramer, Pancho Segura, Don Budge, Frank Sedgeman, and Tony Trabert are a few of the professional tennis players who thrilled crowds at the Teaneck area. any one who sat in the Armory on Feb. 16, 1953, is not likely to forget the titanic struggle between Jack Kramer and Frank Sedgeman. Sedgeman defeated Kramer 10-12, 10-8, and 12-10 in an 2-hour match of 62 games before 3,000 delirious fans.
Other past events at the Armory include dog obedience shows, expositions, food shows, track meets, boat shows, and bingo. Bingo games are best remembered for the traffic jams they created when the thousands in attendance started home.
Completed in April of 1938, the Armory, built at a total cost of $950,000 of which $475,000 was a Public Works Administration grant, was erected to house a National Guard unit in the Bergen area. It has fulfilled this purpose, but it will best be remembered by many as the Madison Square Garden of Bergen County.
Teaneck Public Library
840 Teaneck Road, Teaneck, NJ 07666
Tel.: (201) 837-4171, Fax: (201) 837-0410