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Martial Kilmurray

(Interview taped 8/17/1976)
I was born July 10, 1911 in a house on Tuxedo Square a few blocks from here. I was the 12th child, seventh son. My parents were both born in Ireland, my mother in Galway and my father in West Meath. My father was a carpenter. He built this house at 52 Prospect Terrace in 1915. He died in 1916.

I went to School 2, now Washington Irving. Lucy Marsh was the principal. Katherine Keener was my eighth grade teacher. I went to St. Cecilia High School. We shopped at local stores. There used to be a First National Store on Teaneck Road. It's gone now. Friedman was the local butcher. Ballestrini's had a store on Forest Avenue. Julia is still around.

I went to work for the Department of Public Works in 1930 for $50 a month. We worked 48 hours in a six-day week,, no over time. We had about half as many streets as there are today. Most of them were paper streets. Now they are putting in streets off Englewood Avenue and they are finding curbs and sidewalks that were put in years ago. The streets were marked off.

I got a good education. I went to St. Cecilia High and to Stevens Tach. After Paul Volcker left as town manager, he was a professor at Stevens. I took a course under him.

The town was debt ridden when Volcker came in. He didn't out salaries but we got paid in scrip.

I was 33 when I became superintendent of the Department of Public Works.

I had 17 men under me. We'd hire high school and college boys in the summer at 50 cents an hour. There are about 80 or 90 employees in the DPW today and they have a lot more equipment than we had. We looked after streets, parks, sewers and trees. When I retired they partitioned my job into three categories. Warren Ridley is head of the department now. 

How about snow removal? It used to be cleaned up quicker than it is now and without the Equipment they have. I had verbal contracts with six or eight carters and their word was better than their bond. It snowed no more than 2 inches before we'd go out. I would call Teterboro--that was before they had the Port Authority System--and we got a better report. It helps too to look out the window. We'd do the main thoroughfares first.

The 1947 snow storm was my baptism. Twenty six inches. Mr. Volcker, my boss, was at a meeting out of town. I couldn't get in touch with him. I called the superintendent of equipment for George Brewster -- I took it on myself because our equipment couldn't handle it. He gave me all the equipment he could and Teaneck was the only town cleaned up after that snow, I didn't get home for three days. I'd see that the family had bread, milk, etc.

Teaneck is blessed with trees but the leaves fall every year. You know they re coming. You don't got a heavy snow fall once in years. We'd cart the leaves to Pomander Walk, Churchill Road and Windsor Rd. There's good mulch there.

We supervised the garbage collection. The pick-ups twice a year which have been discontinued is a matter for PERC -- Public Employees Relations Council. The pick-ups were in their contract before. Residents pay $3.75 or so a month for garbage collection -- it will be $6 or $8 when they get their new contract.

New streets are the project of the Engineering Department. DPW is in charge of resurfacing. There are about 110 miles of streets in Teaneck. The last hurricane before Belle in '76 was in 1961, the year I retired. The 1951 hurricane was a bad one. It happened about the time Jim Brett was married for the second time.

Jim Welsh was manager then. He came in 1948, two years before Volcker left. He had been mayor of Steubenville, Ohio. Paul Volcker introduced me to Jim. It didn't take him long to handle things. He know the ropes because he had had experience. If it wasn't for Welsh, the DPW, Police and Fire departments would still be working for peanuts. He raised salaries when he became manager. In the next budget every one's salary was raised. He was a working man's man. He was well liked. I hear he is dead. He left when Hanniball became mayor.

Karl Van Wagoner was mayor when I started. I worked under him, Votee, Bratt, Deissler, Hanniball and Feldman.

Mrs. Kilmurray:  I lived in Teaneck in 1930 and in 1932 when I got married. I moved back. We have 7 children. Our son Frank is with DPW. Dick is a police officer, our son-in-law Nick Bock is a police officer and our nephew is a police lieutenant in the juvenile department. We have 11 grandchildren. Christmas is a great time when they are all here. Our son Thomas is a commander in the Naby stationed at Norfolk.

Mr. Kilmurrary:  I have a sister who is mother superior at Holy Name Hospital Convent--Sister DiPazzi. She and sister Canice went through probationary period together in 1928. There are just about 5 or 6 nuns now at Holy Name. On our 25th anniversary she came. It was the first time she had been in a public place in 25 years and she was with another nun. 

I have no desire to go to Ireland. My mother was 13 and my father 15 when they landed in New York. I have no ties in Ireland. I have a cousin over there some where. I don't know her married name. My ties are here.

My father was a house carpenter for Segal & Cooper in New York. He used to walk from the house on Tuxedo Square, down Forest Avenue to Dean street to get the trolley in Englewood. It took him 2 hours a day. He worked 6 days a week 10 hours a day. He'd come trudging up Forest Avenue. He came out here in 1898.

I want to put in a pitch for polio. I have had it since I was 13 months old. I'm 65 now. I don't know how I got it. They have the shots now. Now they've got the Swine Flu shots. I don't think I'll take them. I remember the little St. Anastasia Church. I remember John Sullivan. He was poolmaster. He took a lot of pictures. Our pictures and phonograph records were all lost when our house burned in 1426--we had Caruso, McCormick records.

We had a cow. They tell the story that they brought the calf in from the field the day I was born--the wind blow the door open. There were open fields all around--where Route 4 is. Every one had chickens and cows. We had no pigs--just children. It was my job every Saturday to wring the neck of a chicken.

Lots of people had horses.  I didn't know any of the Phelps family. I remember DeRonde had horses. He was on Teaneck Road south of Route 4. Then there were the Kellys and the Selvages -- Mrs. Kelly gave St. Anastasia church. The streets in that area were named for their family and friends--like the O'Hares.

We didn't know we were poor. People were good and kind. If some one was sick a neighbor came in with soup, a cake or a pie. Being neighborly seems to be a lost art. If you try to be neighborly now, they think you're being nosey. People move in and move out and you never know them.

 

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