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.

Joseph & Son Paul Zitelli

(Interview taped 7/30/1975)

I came to Teaneck in July 1914 from Bergenfield where I had a shoe shop with lots of customers.  I bought seven lots on Lincoln's birthday.  My wife know nothing about it.  Jordan owned all these lots.  I built a little place on West Englewood Ave, 14 by 15. Maybe I was the first merchant on West Englewood Ave. Kube had a little stationery store where the barber shop is now.  He lived on Washington Place. Abe Etten the butcher came after me--1916. Di Bella had a barber shop until it was time to go to war.

We lived first on Shelbourne Places when we came from Bergenfield.  I had gone there in 1908. I wanted to go back to the other side.  My father passed away.  I go crazy. I write to my mother asking does she want to come. Then I write I am going to got married.  I send picture of my wife.  After a month she decided to come and bring the three children.

I make the store bigger ant finish upstairs for house. When Paul was a little baby, 15 days old, he got whooping cough. Then he got mumps. Dr. Pitlkin took care. He charged $2 every time he come from Bergenfield.

I made Dr. Pitkin's mother's shoes. The people on 52nd Street in New York couldn't make shoos right. Dr. Pitkin sent word "I want Joe".   He says you come over here.  She had a closet full of shoos. I say I make the shoes in a week. When I bring them he says "How much?"  I say $100.  The doctor say give Joe $100. You charge what you want,  I charge what I want. We are professional men. I say if you don't want it I take shoes back.

I learn shoemaker trade like going to college. I start when I was 10 while going to regular school. My boss was very particular, knew his trade.  When I was 18 I finished learning.  When I was 21 I went to Catania.  Tony, my old boss, came to see me. My new boss said to him "You are good, but this fellow is better. The first shoos I make for my sister who was born with a club feet.  She went to specialist, had shoe with a big brace. After I make her shoe she did not need a special shoe. I make correction.

I made Mr. Lobeck's shoes for 20 years.  One day he bring in shoes for sales. I say this foot too short--other long. He says I paid a lot of money for my shoes. I said I'll make them for you. He was tickled to death. I made shoes for Mr. Diehl, the councilman and for the Tuttle brothers in Englewood--horseback riders.

Later I sell that shop and started a dry goods and shoe shop where Cutlers is now.  We had a big fire in 1923, no insurance. I sold my shop to build next door.  The doctor says I should stop because I get headaches.  Business was bad in the dry goods shop. I had sold shoe shop for $500.  I bought it back for $2,000. I stayed there till 1942 then I came to the Plaza where Holder was. I didn't want to move but Frank Weber from the bank and Betsch the lawyer said you better move here, a better spot.  Paul was then in the service. I stayed there until 1955.  Doctor said I was working too hard. One night I sleep in the chair, couldn't got upstairs. I say "if any one comes along today I'll give my shop away. I was working, a fellow from Newark came and say "you wanna sell the shop?" I say I think it over, come back in a couple of  hours. I hate to give it up. He came back. I said all right. he says "how much?" I say $8,000. He give me $4,000 cash. That's where the shoe shop is now.

I stayed idle a year and a half.  I go crazy.  There was a store below the drug store on Teaneck Road near Monterrey and library. I say "How much you want?  He say $3,000. I had it six months. Mr.Betach say Joe, you better get your money back. I couldn't got a clear title.

Leland Ferry was my customer. I used to walk from Bergenfield to get his shoes. John Murphy, vice president of Canada Dry, was another customer.  He lived on Rutland and later Winthrop Road. After his wife died he moved back to Rutland. Chief of Police Murphy was a customer. He had a son who limped.

Before I came there was a shoe maker on Forest Avenue, 1912-13. Scaffidi came after him.

Frank Weber was the first cashier at the bank--West -Englewood National.  Paul's account number there is still #165.  Where the bank is now was all a hill.  There were about 1800 people in Teaneck when I came. Clifford Hanks was the station master. Lawson Graffin was the tax collector. He was into everything. Used to collect the taxes on Sunday.  He lived on Bogert Street. Dickerson Road was a farm. Beaumont Avenue was a football play field.  Lou DiBella was born in apartment over my shop. Now he lives on Pennington Rd.

I bought this house in 1942 while Paul was in service. Brown of Brown and Hanselman built it. Lauzens had lived here in the depression, they lost it. Three or four days after I brought it for $8,500, a real estate man asked me if I want to sell. He will give me $3,000 more. DiBella got the house after Lauzen had it. The house was built in 1923.

For recreation--when we were not working seven days a week--my wife and I would go to New York to the opera four or five times a year. Families used to got together at Daria's farm or Limone's farm on Palisade Avenue. Sometimes we would take Henny and Joe Weiss's taxi.  Queen Anne Road was a cow path called Westfield Ave. Charley Curry was the county cop.

Paul Zitelli started at the old wooden school No.2. Attended classes in the old police station until Bryant School was built in 1926 High was built in 1929. He was in first class to graduate after 4 years there--1933. Mrs. Kirby was in charge at School 6. Miss Tepper and Miss West were at School 2. To get to school 6 (Bryant) he would cut through Ackerman's orchard on Teaneck road, come home for lunch and go back. Made the trip 4 times a day to Bryant and High School. No bus.

Joseph: Taxes on this house in 1942 were $195. Today they are $1600. Kids go to school on the bus, we pay.

Paul: Today every town, city, country is in trouble. Police, firemen, teachers all want better pay,

Joseph: In 1905 I work for 50 cent a week. 


Back to Oral History of Teaneck