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Robert P. Fitzpatrick, Police Chief
(Interview taped 6/30/1975)
My family moved here from Staten Island in 1928.We lived at 360 Sherman Ave, in what was then called the Phelps Manor Section. My brother Joseph is an attorney, my brother Ben is retired from Bendix Corp., and My sister Virginia, now Mrs. Clancy, lives on Sherman Ave.
I went to Bogota High School as Teaneck did not have a high school then. Teaneck students went to high school in Bogota, Ridgefield Park, Englewood and Hackensack. When Teaneck High opened including pupils from the ninth and tenth grades, I was one of the tallest kids. I was in the second graduating class--My brother Joe was in the first class, '31. I remember the Beau Ideal Club with Tony Manno and Howard Ward who became Teaneck's first purchasing agent. John Kelly was mayor. Jessurun was active in the Teaneck Taxpayers' League. Mayor Chris Gloeckler was active in the fire department before he was mayor. The police-fireman pension plan always had a civilian member and he served in that capacity,
I started in the police department on June 15,1936, At the time there was a $4500 surplus in the police department budget-- the cost of the salaries of three policemen. I started at $1500 less the Economy Cut of 10%. I went on the force with now Lt. George Botyos and Lt. Ellie Norten, now retired. We bought our own uniforms which were quite expansive even in those days.
Taxes then were quite low. After the Municipal Manager came we went through an economy period. It was during the Depression and there were many unemployed. Prices went down instead of up in that recession,
There was quite a heck of a lot of building going on in Teaneck then. People were moving here in great numbers. There was good transportation. As many as 1,000 people would got off commuter trains in the evening, They used a lot of manpower in building. They used to dig foundations for houses. One man and a horse pulling a two-handled machine dug the foundations.
I remember being cold walking the beat. Police cars were not equipped with heaters. We used to set a lantern in the back to keep warm. There were no police car radios as we have now. We had receivers from the county transmitter.
Jess Witham was one of the original force. He joined in 1914 and retired in 1956. Joe Bublitz joined in 1915 and retired 1947. William Jahnes was one of the first policemen. He was then in the fire department. Murphy was the first police chief. I didn't know him. Jake Brinkerhoff was the desk sergeant. They say he kept all the policemen's hats in back of the desk. If some one wanted to talk to the lieutenant, he'd put on a lieutenant's hat. Bill Lutthans, Tom Kilmurray and Joe Weiss were other old timers.
Crime in Teaneck? There was the Norman Redwood murder case. He was a union leader shot here in 1939. Prior to that there was a triangle murder case. A building inspector named Graham was involved. Shot the other man in 1930. It was a big trial with Gaudielle, the big criminal lawyer.
Traffic? Traffic was heavy on Route 4. There were serious accidents and many fatalities. There was no divide, only a white line. No lights. Later they put in a small divider and added a barrier. Now the state is going to raise the barrier. There are still many accidents there. It was heavily traveled from the beginning. People used to go to the Margaret Street bridge to watch the traffic go by.
Entertainment? We had house parties. Neighbors got together. We'd sit around and listen to the radio--Fred Allen, Amos and Andy, Jack Benny. Main Street Hackensack was narrower than and a streetcar went down the middle. I remember when Amos and Andy were being tried for murder that a thousand people would line up around a store listening to the trial on the radio. We had more local entertainment then--baseball teams that were good.
The Depression? One of my first duties was to drive the poor master Old Man John Sullivan. He was succeeded by Mr. Plunch, the father of one of the men on our force. The police used to deliver food baskets. School crossing guards were set up as a make work program. We used to have lodgings in the police station to put up people for the night--as many as 30. Hoboes used to sleep under railway bridges. Most people were looking for work. They were going to New York state to pick apples. One was a lineman. He traveled with his cleats looking for a job.
Speakeasies? Where Ronald's furniture store used to be was a place called the Palm Garden. There was the Orange Grove across from the police station on Cedar Lane. They had a miniature golf course. People served home brew all around. There was the Entertainers' Club in a radio station in Hackensack. You had to have a card.
The trolley car and other transportation was good. You could got back to Teaneck any time day or night. I used to go into New York. Go to mass at 2 or 2:30 a.m. at Holy Cross, take the 125th St. ferry and got a street car there. The ferry ran all night. Before Route 4, the main east-west highway was Fort Lee Road. The trolley ran through Bogota, Hackensack and to the Franklin Turnpike. Fort Lee Road was concrete across the meadow, then cobble stones on the hills. The trolley ran on DeGraw Avenue.
Traffic lights were manned by police. They were in the center of the road on concrete bases. People kept running into them. There was one on Cedar Lane and Teaneck Road for many years. Then there was one enclosed booth in the middle of Cedar Lane.
Police now use cars, we used to go on foot. There were call boxes which the cops used. The desk would ring all the call box to report trouble. The cop would then got a ride or walk to the scene. We used to work seven days with one day off. Some times the day off amounted to just a long lapse between shifts. Before the days of voting machine ballots were counted by hand. I remember staying on that job till 4 a.m. on. night and left because I had to be at work at 8 a.m. We had 8 hours on 8 hours off. I did strike duty at Bendix. In those days communities were hostile to strikers. It was different when they found out that it worked.
We used to got involved. Once the Teaneck High Alumni showed up at a Board of Education meeting, weren't welcomed. So they organized and ran a school board slate of their own.
Being on the police department as long as I have you learn that when you arrest a criminal you don't have a satisfied customer.
Teaneck has been doing things for many years that are now on the state level--like youth guidance.
Dick Verlini started driving a bus at Camp Shanks during World War I. He is a school crossing guard and works in Amman Park this summer. Buck Brahman was the first mail man. Had a tavern in the Lorraine Ave area. Louis Warren, chauffeur to Capt. John J. Phelps works in Feldner Cadillac at 278 River St., Hackensack. Capt. Phelps drove the first car, a Stanley Steamer, that Dick Ackerman ever saw. Capt. John lived on River Rd. It was two houses put together. Had about four heating systems. There was a greenhouse near the river and a carriage house across the way. He had a town car with a high body so he could wear a high hat. He had a steam yacht he used to sail up the river.
Old Man Flannery's father had one of the first gas stations. Mr. Elliott on River Road had the first gas station. Used cans to pour the gas in. Then there was J. Balestrini at 38 Forest Ave, and Davenport West who lives in Englewood.
A hundred years ago there was a fire company in New Bridge. Used to keep the apparatus in the Demarest Barn. I saw a picture of it on one of the Walker Atlases. Pat Montgomery knows about that.
Mr. Hanks, the station master at West Englewood, lived upstairs. Handled baggages and express and I think the mail.
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