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Frank Burr 

(Interviewed by Richard Rodda. Transcription: 11 pages)

Interview touches on his observations as mayor of a multi-racial, multi-ethnic community (p. 11). Discussions are divided into three six-year periods of his civic involvements--The Board of Education, the Community Relations Board and Township Councilman and ultimately Mayor.

Mr. Burr moved to Teaneck with his family in 1944, because his wife, who was a teacher in Hackensack, had heard other teachers admiring the Teaneck school system. Mr. Burr states that he became interested in civic affairs when Brad Menkes won the election for council by one vote (p. 2).

Frank Burr became directly involved with the education process as a result of the half sessions conducted in the schools' scheduling, which he says was very awkward and made getting an education difficult (p. 3). He formed a committee with twenty-five other similarly motivated people for the purpose of gaining some power to build schools (p. 3-4). This committee involvement, on which he became chairman, led to his being elected to the Board of Education. Frank Burr served six years on the Board of Education from 1955 to 1961. During that time Eugene Field, Thomas Jefferson and some of the stages of Benjamin Franklin schools were built as well as the high school gymnasium and the addition to the gymnasium. Teaneck had experienced a post-war growth surge that necessitated the need for more schools. As a result the ever increasing student population was straining Teaneck's inadequate facilities. The narrator was chairman of the Board of Education for two of the six years he served and describes his time there as an exciting adventure. He recalls other members who served with him on the Board and the various controversies concerning the school building projects, specifically the strike when Ben Franklin was being built and the need to find an alternative location for the Eugene Field School after residents succeeded in defeating the proposed "Acme" location (p. 4- 5).

From 1962-1968, Frank Burr committed another six years to being chairman on the Community Relations Board. This new responsibility was assumed against a backdrop of looming panic, because the black population in Teaneck was being pushed into one corner of the community. The challenges facing Teaneck at this time required a restructured Community Relations Board and a redevelopment of concerns. Mr. Burr believed the Board needed more vigor to be of any effect at all. There was also a certain instability in town with old time residents' obvious resistance to the influx of Jewish people and blacks. Some successes highlighted by the narrator were putting Jewish members on the Community Relations Board and on the Board of Education, and later on they were influential in having the first black member on the Board of Education and then elected to the Council (p. 6-7). The narrator discusses how he and some other members of the Board went to other towns to promote the concept of an open community and how they appealed to real estate people explaining "if Teaneck simply opens and then (the surrounding community) is kept closed by everybody around them, Teaneck will ultimately be another what you'd call ghetto...because they are ...refused space elsewhere." Mr. Burr recalls the hostilities, indifference and at times frightening reactions to the project. He concludes "So these visits to other towns and councils and real estate people to this day have not really any great extent...the battle goes on in some of these communities..." (p. 8) The former mayor describes the work undertaken by the Community Relations Board as "doing great things for humanity." (p. 7)

In 1968, Frank Burr is unanimously invited by the Council to serve out an unexpired term, which turns out to be the beginning of his next six year session of service to Teaneck. He is ultimately made mayor and turns his attention to the redevelopment of the Meadowlands of Teaneck, specifically, the confluence of Routes 80 and 95. The former mayor recalls that period as being "a strain" and "difficult" and an issue that "became unfortunately very political." He credits Jim Moore as being the "conquering hero" of the whole project and regrets that quality homes were built instead of the ten-story apartments originally planned. He says the homes are too expensive and not selling. The former mayor admits he was surprised and quite pleased to have the street in that area named after him (p. 9 - 11 ).


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