All interviews were taped and documented. They are available through the Reference
Department of the Teaneck Public Library. The Library is not responsible for the accuracy
of the statements nor does it necessarily endorse the opinions expressed.
Audio recording of the interview with Clara Christensen
(Interview taped 7/2/1975)
We came to Teaneck May 27,1925. We lived at 1235 Longfellow Ave. I went to work for the town an June 15,1925--you can't say I know the politicians. I went in as a clerk to take council meetings. William D. Wilson was the Deputy Township Clerk. I was deputy clerk the following year.
We had a brand new house--my parents, brother Peter, sisters Olga and Amelia and myself. Mother didn't like it at first because she heard the Borden cows mooing all night. She wanted to go back to the Bronx. It wasn't too long before they took the cows away. The Borden's lived in Miss Scott's house on Teaneck Road. Now an apartment house.
When I started we had the township form of government. It changed to council-manager form in 1930. When I first went in there were mostly Republicans, then the Democrats with Kelly, Gleockler and Reilly. They had many wild council meetings about the time the council-manager plan was adopted. I can't remember about them bringing in chickens under their coats. But I've heard about it. People expressed themselves in these days. Charles Wisner kept strict tabs on everything. The Taxpayers League backed the Council Manager plan. Among the members were "Pep" Jessurun, Donald Waesche and Everett Maguire.
I went to work for Mr. Volcker when he came. At first I sat in his office to introduce him to the people. When he got better acquainted, I had a separate office. Henry Diehl was township clerk. I became clerk in 1947. I acted as manager whenever Mr. Volcker was away or was sick.
I remember Karl van Wagner, a councilman, objected to my acting as manager because I couldn't slide down the pole at the fire house. I asked Mr. Volcker how many times he had slid down the pole, he said never. Mr. Van Wagoner was really very nice to me. When I hear about women' lib, I wonder. I never had any trouble.
I worked under all the mayors from Bodine on--Lacey Walker, Christian Gloeckler, Van Wagener, Clarence Brett, Henry Deissler, Milton Votee, August Hannibal, Lacey Walker, Thomas Costa and Matthew Feldman. I retired in 1966.
When I first went to work the town offices were in the old school on Church St.& Teaneck Rd. It was turned ever to the town by the school board. I shared a desk with Dr. Reynolds, the plumbing inspector. There was one girl in the engineering department. Mr. Graffin was the collector. Mr. Wilson was there during the day. There was a large engineering department. There was a lot of improvements of streets and all. The police department was downstairs, also the jail and council chambers.
We moved to the new town hall in 1926. We had a finance department and tax office--before the assessor did his work at home. The plumbing and building inspectors were downstairs. We had a nice council room which is still being used. In the old building we had to keep the doors to the council room closed because the police department was operating there. Jake Brinkerhoff was the custodian, he used to walk around with old fashioned peppermints in his pocket.
Our neighbors were the San Georges, Metcalfs, Stricklands, Diggelmans, Burgers and the Volckers. The street was named for Longfellow of Hallberg & Longfellow realties. They had an office in what in now the parking lot next to the Presbyterian Church. That's where I met Mrs. Bodine, the wife of the mayor, when we first came. She asked if any of us know stenography. The town was looking for a girl to write up the council meetings. I took a test and got the job. Some times council meetings lasted till 1 or 2 a.m. and I had to be at work at 9.
I remember when Henry Deissler was clerk. Before they had voting machines, we stayed up till 4 or 5 a.m. on a presidential election.
We had a nice group of people at the municipal building. Working for Mr. Volcker was a pleasure. He used to go all ever town checking things--he was an engineer.
Peter started working at the West Englewood National Bank. Now the Garden State National. He is now president of the Peoples Bank in Montvale. He went to School 2 and to Englewood High.
We used to conduct sales once a year. Ellie Norton was the auctioneer, Bill Hacker was the treasurer and I called the sale. We sold bicycles and even men's clothing. We also sold property which reverted to the town after foreclosures. This was acquired during the depression when people couldn't afford paving assessments, etc. We sold some property on side streets in many of the best sections for $15 a feet--Trafalgar and Pennington. Many who bought sold it at a profit. Buyers had to got a search to see if assessments for street improvements were pending.
I was in complete charge of municipal elections--getting out the ballots, accepting petitions, setting up voting places. I was Mr. Vo1cker's secretary and took his dictation until I had an assistant. After he left I worked with Mr. Welsh and with Warner Schmid. He came as an administrative clerk while Mr.Welsh was manager and than came in as manager.
Shopping? We bought our clothes in New York. Groceries at the City Market.
I got a car in 1926 when we went to the new town hall and worked nights. I worked for the assessment commission at night. They worked on street improvements and sidewalks. I bought a Chevy from Mr. Flannery and he taught me to drive.