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.

Jack O'Brien

(Interview taped 7/29/1975)

My mother bought this house in about 1917 when I was 2 or 3. I was born in 1915. Started school at School Ne.2. went to Teaneck High for junior and senior classes. Graduated in 1935-- the north stairs were up and the south stairs were down. I hung around with older kids, Connie and Louise Jordan, Herbert DeVries, Tommy Snow. We belonged to the Anarchist Club. We had High Water Day when we rolled up our pants at least to the knee. We were suspended for a week for doing that. Charles Littel was the principal. He was always in the right place at the right time.

Edsel Wilhoyt was head of the music department. He wrote the Teaneck High Son Alma Mater-- "On the Hill She Stands Majestic," Tony Loudis wrote the words. Edsel had a model T, he used to drive to New York across the 125th St. Ferry. He had a Stradivarius violin he locked in the care. Ono day he walked off the ferry, get on a subway and went home. When he got there, a policeman was waiting for him. He had forgotten his car on the ferry. It was locked and they couldn't got it off. All the other people had to back their cars off! Talk about the absent minded professor.

When our high school was new we had one of the finest music groups in the state. When school opened, Wilhoyt had at least 15 instruments across the stage. He could play 10 or 15 instruments and he got together an orchestra. I wound up on string bass because I was big, and could reach. I disliked that instrument with a passion. We had a state championship orchestra and band the third year the high school was in existence. There was Al Peinecke and his brother, the two Austin boys --Stanley played the cello and his brother the Trombone. They went to Juilliard.

When I got stuck I always know you could use the high school library. Didn't appreciate it till I was out of school. Yes, we had a marching band, the blue and whites. I was mostly interested in the Orchestra. I remember Ravel's Bolero. Johnny Hammill who married Ruth Martin played the snare drum. It was fantastic.

I remember when the Teaneck Library opened. Mrs. Jordan was on the committee. She was a sparkplug of everything civic.  If it was important, Mrs. Jordan was there. We kids pitched in. I rode Helen Krause on the  cross bar of my bike. Her brother Bobby went along and Louise and Conrad Jordan and so did Ralph Greenlaw--old Mushwheels. He had disc wheels on his bike. Coming home after the dedication I had Helen K. on my bike and forgot about the gate house on Teaneck Read--near Caddys. There were two steps up and two steps down. We crashed as I was pedaling along. Helen went over the handlebars. The house was one of those show places where carriages went through the gates.

Laurel Terrace was like it is today, but it was not paved. They did that two years ago. Burt Gottlieb and his mother lived next door.  Then the Pousts.  Ann Kennedy lived in the big double house. Then there was Tedy Schwartz and the Imhoffs lived next to them. Then the McDonalds -- Evelyn, Elvira, Bucky and Harold.  Henry Settler end his mother.  The Jordans lived on West Englewood Ave. I went to school with Connie from Kindergarten on. He had long curls and when we started he said, "Jack, stand beside me. Connie is an operating engineer in California. He served in France during World War II and speaks French like a native. George Credo came along when we were in third grade.

The Settlers belonged to the Lutheran church. The pastor at St. Paul's was one hell of a nice guy -- named Schnabel. He'd invite all us Catholics to come to their picnics. We're all close neighbors and we'd go to Greenwood Lake on the trolley. The trolley would stay on a siding and bring us all back. When the Catholics were having a tombela - Pastor Schnabel would say to his people, "Come on, let's make a good showing. He practiced ecumenism 30-40 years ago. There was a lot of animosity in our town. Some of our dear Irish neighbors thought if you were not a Catholic, you would go to hell. They were shocked when our priest said that was not so.

My mother was a liberated woman 50 yearn ago. She came to New York from Nova Scotia to be a nurse. Trained in a Jewish hospital. They knew she couldn't eat meat on Friday. Both my father and mother came from St. Johns, Nova Scotia, an independent colony. Her father died in 1932 and Dr. McCormack said my mother needed a change so we went back on a visit. My grandfather would take me "for a bit of walk."  We'd walk 20 miles around the pond. My mother was with the Henry Street Nursing Service and knew Henrietta Weld. She started a Mothers' Club for immigrant women. She commuted in to the city on the West Shore.

I got a scholarship to a progressive school they started. It was not for scholarship but because they wanted some poor kids. My mother said they could have hers. There were only 8 to 12 kids in a class. It was at 165 W. 12th Street across from St. Vincent's. Rich kids went there.

My mother said there used to be a shelf in the West Englewood railroad station where commuters could leave their lanterns. The area there was all woods and a crook. The bank stood alone on that corner for years. First the bank was on Palisade Avenue where Adriane is now. When they built the big bank there was so much water and quicksand there they had to build it like a boat.

Abe Etton owned this house before we came. He later lived on West Englewood Ave. next to Greenlaws. Benny Segal had a paint and glass store on West Englewood Ave. east of Etton's store. Comfort Coal was across the street. Frey moved in afterwards. Paul Zitelli's father had a shoe repair shop. Archibald Jordan was a corporation lawyer for Jack Frost Sugar. He had an office on Palisade Avenue. He was active when his wife sparked him. He fought the closing of West Englewood Avenue at the tracks. He owned where Cutler's Drug Store is. The Jordans owned a lot of property.

Laurel Terrace used to be Elm Terrace. Queen Anne Rd. was Westfield Avenue here. Where the gas station is now the people had goats and a pony. I think it was the Butterfield house. The town is changing. It's human nature to object to change. I liked the formality of the old days.

George and Henry Crede and I used to rent a rowboat on the Hackensack River for 25 cents an hour from George Benson. He wasn't too strict on the clock. For 50 cents an hour we could got a canoe. Edgar Benson was a friend of William Roomer.


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