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Alma Crotta Brennan
(Interview by Janet Schmitt & Jane Talbert, taped January 1976)
I have lived in Teaneck since September1915, I came here with my father, mother and sister Carol from New York. We first lived at 1615 Teaneck Road, then on Washington Place and then in our home at 1623 Teaneck Road.
We had a coal stove in the kitchen and a coal furnace. We always had electricity as I recalls but we had gas jets in the kitchen and bathroom because the electricity would go off. We always had a bathroom.
I went to Washington Irving School 2. In the early grades I recall going to school in the old fire house across the street. We were promoted every two years. There was Reception A and Reception B and class 1A and 1B. Mr. Jay was the principal later, Miss Marsh. I remember Miss Keltner in the second grade. Mrs. Keener in the sixth grade and Miss Miraglia, later Mrs. Hoek in the eighth grade. I went to Englewood High School. I was a member of the last Teanack class that graduated there. Teaneck High was built in 1929. I graduated in 1930 with my class from Englewood High.
Our neighbors were fairly close. You remember the Liebl Printing Company--the Liebls were our neighbors on Washington Place and the Dayson Lamp Company family lived across the street. There weren't too many farms. The Ackerman property where the telephone company is was the largest. He'd let people cut through his property to go to the train.
I never traveled to the city to work but my sister did and my father. Where the Armory is was farm area. We had a bus that ran on Teaneck Road to Englewood Avenue. We'd take the bus to go to DeGraw avenue to get the trolley to go to Palisades Amusement Park.
We always had milk delivered. Man came around selling vegetables. The ice man came. Winters must have been colder then, many people just put a box in the window to keep things cold. We had a garden. My mother put things up. There was a store at Washington Place and Teaneck Road.
As for entertainment, my parents didn't become too much involved. I took piano lessons and belonged to the Girl Scouts. We had a ball team and almost every Saturday we'd go to the fire house where we had a good night's entertainment. I have gone to St. Anastasia Church all my life, I was married in the little old church by Father O'Neal. There wasn't too much in the line of social activity in our church. Some of my friends went to other churches where there were activities. Viola Lebeck was a good friend. She went to Christ Church.
Restaurants? My father owned what you might call a restaurant, It was what Italians call a "ponsione" or boarding house. He served meals. He was in the wine and liquor business before prohibition, He used to bring grapes home for wine, He worked in New York.
Some Teaneck children went to Leonia High School--from the other end of town. I guess the dividing line was Cedar Lane or Forest Avenue. From Forest Avenue north they went to Englewood.
One mayor I remember was Kelly. He built all the streets. When he them built they were no where -- like Windsor Road or West Englewood. We have a big block dance when they were completed. I feel the town has fallen off in celebrations like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. We Girl Scouts used to celebrate all day. One year I was the one to put the wreath on the monument at Camp Merritt. We'd have the governor and big politicians from the state. There would be all kinds of track and field events. The Girl Scouts had a big routine. Our leader was Elizabeth Gilmore.
I have a picture taken at the Blue Bird Inn in 1927 complete in Girl Scout uniform. Every one went to the Blue Bird Inn. Two of my uncles worked there. It was on Teaneck Road at Cedar Lane--where Volk's is. It was a restaurant. Most political things were held there for many years. Burned Down? I don't remember. That's what I have heard.
The Municipal Building was at Teaneck Road and Church Street in front of what is now the playground of Washington Irving School. Later it was moved to Bedford Avenue and Teaneck Road. The library was there before that. I believe it was started by the D.A.R., because Mrs. Greenlaw was active in both the D.A.R. and the library.
The first Police Chief I recall was Murphy. The policemen were Davis, Bublitz and Jess Witham. I believe he still lives here. I saw a picture of him when they were having that problem with the high rise in Glenwood Park. The Fire Department? I don't recall that very much. We never had a fire. There was a fire bell at Teaneck Road and Tryon Ave., across from the school. If there was a fire, so many rings would tell where it was and bring the fire department like the siren now. It was strictly a volunteer fire department. Most of the services for the town were around Forest Avenue and Teaneck Road. There was a fire department in Glenwood Park and Morningside Heights.
We used to have like spelling bees contests when we'd go from one school to the other. You had to walk. We took our lunch to school because it was too far to walk although we had an hour for lunch. There was a bakery and a delicatessen across the street on Forest Avenue where you could get a sandwich.
Transportation? There was a taxi. People like the Ackermans, the Roemers and the Andreases had transportation. Every one else had to walk. Forest Avenue was a main road. We has bus transportation to Englewood High. I graduated from eighth grade in 1926. I had Miss Tepper in eighth grade. Miss McGeown was well liked by all. Mr. Jay was principal later Miss Marsh.
We had one of the first telephones--a stand up phone. We shopped off Washington Place and Teaneck Road. Bread was delivered by a man from Englewood. My father brought things home from New York. Onee he came home with a big box of Italian cookies and a fruit cake. He put it in the rack over head and when he got home and opened it he had two or three boxes of Christmas ornaments, My father and mother thought that was fine, but we didn't.
My mother never sawed. People used to come from Englewood and sold clothes, linens and things. Either in a horse and wagon or carrying a satchel. I don't recall a newspaper. The Bergen Evening Record was one of the first in the county.
I think the parades we had were one of the biggest events. Every one came out. There was always one or two in organizations that took over. Mr. Guthrie was very active in the Legion. One of the service clubs had charge of the July 4 celebration. Captain Wild was always active.
We had no hospital at first. Holy Name just celebrated its 50th anniversary. I had my appendix out in 1926 and went to Englewood Hospital. That was where my doctor went. Holy Name opened the year before.
The Phelps estate was still open then. It was where Holy Name is now and on both sides of Cedar Lane. West Englewood was the main station then. This was more West Englewood than Teaneck then. There was a station in Teaneck. Mr. and Mrs. Hanks was in charge of the West Englewood station and the post office. There was a path from Teaneck Road to the station. It was farm lane--beautiful orchards but just don't get caught trying to take one of Ackerman's apples. Mrs. Cady--her husband was an architect--lived in a house with beautiful lilacs. There's an apartment there now. The area around Bryant School was called Knickerbocker Heights. Some people who moved there lived in tents before they built their houses. My aunt and uncle. Mr. and Mrs. Silvestri, lived behind where Bryant School is. My aunt and uncle the Crottas lived across the street. Dr. Nelden had a sanitarium on Englewood Avenue. Mr. Buffet built in that area. They named Buffet Terrace for him. There were the Fields. Mr. Black and Mr. Deissler who later became mayor.
Teaneck Road was the main artery. Ackermans where the telephone company is and where the Food Fair is lived two elderly women, the Loziers. They used to stop children on the way home from school and tell stories. They showed us a place where slaves were buried. When I came home from a Girl Scout meeting I used to run. Below Route 4 were the Stevensons. Miss Fickerman, the music teacher lived at Sheffield and Teaneck-Road, now a liquor store. I took lessons from her. She held her recitals in some of the old homes because there were no large meeting places. On River Road, next to the Andreases was an old military academy.
What is now Votee Park was Central Park; I remember in grammar school they'd tell us to wear old clothes to play in and we'd have a picnic in the park. There wasn't a dress code then, but no one would go to school in dungarees. I remember some children would wander off and we'd have to hunt them. There were so many lanes in the park they could get lost.
When I was growing up I only knew the area from Liberty Road where the Armory is now located to Forest Avenue and the Catholic church. To got to DeGraw Avenue we took a bus to Hackensack and the trolley from there to Palisades Park across the street.
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