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.

NARRATOR: Edward & Cleo Bonnemere
INTERVIEWER: Gladys Levy
DATE OF INTERVIEW:    November 30, 1983
TRANSCRIBER: Jackie Kinney (8/1985)

(I) Mrs. Bonnemere, I do have your permission to make this tape for the oral history project and I want to thank you for taking your time.  Now will you please tell me when did you move to Teaneck and why?

(N) My family and I moved to Teaneck in 1954 from New York. We had friends living in Englewood who had asked us about moving to the suburbs. We had two boys ages one and four. So my husband and I thought it would be a great opportunity to move to the suburbs. Our friends were in real estate and they drove us around in Teaneck which was just beginning to become interracial. We found a house that we wanted and moved on March 15, 1954.

(I) What was your impression of Teaneck?

(N) My impression of Teaneck was like a melting pot meaning there was a variety of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. I entered my oldest son in St. Cecilia's Catholic School in Englewood because there were no blacks enrolled at St. Anastasia's due to the fact that the classes were all filled.

(I) Did you feel that there was room for one more student in that class?

(N) Oh yes. We were given the impression that places were being held for families who had more than one child in the family and the place was being held for them. But as the population of blacks increased, more pressure was applied to the school problem and more black students began to attend.

(I) Did you join any of the community groups?

(N) Yes I did. I joined the Teaneck Civic Conference which we called the T.C.C. because it was an organization that fought against blockbusting. We had meetings. Meetings were held at different homes, cottage parties were given. We also gave a fund raising dance to hire a lawyer to keep a liquor store from the community but we did not win that fight.

(I) After both of your children were in school, how did you spend your time?

(N) I was home for the next ten years and I was really involved in activities in the community but then I went to work for the Urban League.

(I) What was your job at the Urban League and what does Urban League stand for?

(N) The Urban League is a non-profit organization which caters to its, it is interracial, and we take care of employment, housing, education. Those are the main things and we try to help people find jobs in different areas and it has been very hard. We try to match their skills with different job orders that come in.

(I) And what is your particular job that you do for the Urban League?

(N) Well, since I've been there for quite some time, I have been, I guess I am very flexible person, I have been able to travel to different places when the Urban League had their conferences in different cities. Every year, the Urban League naturally meets in different places and I have been a representative for different phases of our organization. It could be Health and Welfare and you go to different workshops. You go and get the information and bring it back and try to implement it to the different communities. They have workshops and you give information out. I've worked in Housing. I was the first housing counselor for Bergen County. That was the program to find out the different laws and things for housing. I was president of SPRY.

(I) Tell me some of the functions of SPRY.

(N) SPRY was an organization where you, it is somewhat like a job bank for seniors and you more or less match the person's skills with a job order. Someone will call in and ask for let's say a secretary and then you look through your listings of clients and you see if the client fits that particular order and then you send them out for it.

(I) Mrs. Bonnemere, tell me something about your two boys.

(N) As I have said previously, I have two sons, Lawrence and Gary. Gary works for the 3M Company and he attended Teaneck High School and also graduated from Hiram Scott College in Nebraska. Lawrence attended Fordham Prep in New York City and graduated from Boston University. Gary is the father of two children, a little girl two and a son eight who attends the Teaneck public school. And Lawrence doesn't have any children. He is married but no children.

(I) Does Lawrence live in this area?

(N) No, he is in Houston, Texas. And he works for the First City National Bank of Houston as a commercial banking representative.

(I) Mrs. Bonnemere, last year I read in the Daily News that you received an award from Cardinal Cooke. Could you tell us something about that award and why you were receiving that award?

(N) This award was given to my husband Eddie who is a musician and he could not attend this affair but he asked me to stand in for him.

(I) Who was giving him this award and for what?

(N) The award was given through the Black Catholics and there were two awards given, one for the work that Eddie has done and through the Handmaids of Mary.

(I) Tell me something about Dr. Bonnemere. What are some of his functions?

(N) Eddie has taught music for the New York public school system for thirty five years and he is now ready to retire and there is going to be a retirement tribute for him on January 26th. He is known as a composer and a writer and he wrote the first jazz mass that was given and that was at St. Charles Roman Catholic Church in New York I think about six or seven years ago. He every first Sunday of the month, he plays for jazz vespers at St. Peter's Lutheran Church and he has been doing that for the past seventeen years. He is also an organist for St. Mark's Roman Catholic Church in New York. Although he plans to retire, I am sure that is not really what he is going to do per se. He will continue with his writing and composing. In fact, he has several places now, people who have asked him to come and give workshops in North Carolina and Connecticut regarding music and I am sure that this will keep him busy. In fact, it may keep him even busier than what he has been doing even though he is going into retirement.

(I) Now I understand that Dr. Bonnemere has a band. Do you think he will continue to have this band? 

(N) Yes I do. I think he will now be able to even give more time to the band. It may not be on a larger scale but I am sure that he will even have, well he has a choir now. He works with a choir so with the band and the choir, with all of that combined, I am sure it will expand. (END OF TAPE) .

 

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