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I am interviewing Mr. Angelo Cafarelli of 324 Frances Street in Teaneck. .
(I) Mr. Cafarelli, I'd like to know when your family arrived in Teaneck, where they lived and what they did.
(N) Well they arrived here in 1924. They came from New York City at the time and my father, at the time, was a lithographer by trade and an artist by heart's desire. My father originally came from Italy in 1901 with his brother and his father and the rest of the family followed about two years later.
(I) That's interesting. And where did they live in Teaneck at this time?
(N) They lived in this house which was turned over to me eventually.
(I) That's wonderful. Your father was a lithographer in Teaneck too then.
(N) Well no, he worked in New York City most of the time and he soon started to paint scenes of Teaneck and the surrounding area that his real life work was painting.
(1) Do you know where any of them are now?
(N) Well I know there are four portraits in the Paterson Court House of three judges and an ex-governor, one of the governors from the 1920's. Maybe 1930. And it is hard to say where some of the others are.
(I) Do you know where the landscapes may be?
(N) Well except for various small ones in homes of friends of ours,
(I) In Teaneck?
(N) Well yes, there are some in Teaneck. I wish I knew because there was a period in the late 30's and early 40's when my father was on the W.P.A. Art Project and he painted extensively. He gave them a painting a month. But I've tried to locate some of those but they don't know what happened to them. There were two in particular that I wish I knew where they were. One was the Arcola Mill in Paramus and the other was the, a famous house, you probably know it and I think it is in New Milford and we originally had Christmas cards made from those two but those two I wish I could locate.
(I) You don't have any of the Christmas cards that we could use if
(N) No but I have reproductions of other paintings, I have slides.
(I) I am going to ask whether we should ask you so that we could borrow those at some time.
(N) Yeah I have them. I have slides.
(I) Do you remember any family stories about Teaneck, what it was like, what
(N) Well of course the part of Teaneck here was known as Phelps Manor and it was from the old Phelps Estate which apparently covered a large part of the area around Cedar Lane, north and south of Cedar Lane and maybe it went east and down towards River Road but I am trying to think of one of the stories. Well, Palisade Avenue was not called Palisade Avenue then. I think it had just been paved around that time and Frances street was definitely not paved and one story which is not a story, I mean it is a fact. The trains to New York, there were two tracks but in the mid-20's, there were gates at Cedar Lane. There was no bridge. The trains crossed right over. And the bridge was built sometime in the middle to late 20's so it was a little dangerous there.
(I) Do you remember whether there were as many houses as this when
(N) No, I can tell you exactly. There were four houses on Frances Street. One at the corner, one at the top of the hill, the house that Bob McGrath lives in now was there at the top of Frances street and one other house and the house on the corner, 333, was a builder, Mr. Borris, lived in that house and he built several of these houses and this house and the house at 327 Cedar Lane which is in back of us were built by George Schultz and they were somewhat identical in their original form and we bought it from Mr. Schultz. Of course the house is very enlarged now on Cedar Lane, it has a lot of wings on it.
(I) Do you remember anything else about Italian families in Teaneck at that time?
(N) Well I remember there were large families. There was a Lemone family and a Dorio family and they had the farms in the vicinity of Palisade Avenue and Cherry Lane and eventually they became more extensive with them and they began to sell fruits and vegetables there.
(I) They still do.
(N) Yeah, and well I am trying to think of about what else may be of interest that I knew.
(I) Mr. Cafarelli, when were you born?
(N) I was born in 1920 in New York city and came here before my fourth birthday in August of 1924 and the house was new. Teaneck had a sort of a very smell of brand new stores. I can remember walking along and smell the fresh paint on everything. Everything was new. A few stores on Cedar Lane, one or two on Palisade Avenue and those were the very strong impressions I had of walking into these places and allover the town, you would see the horses pulling the plows that were digging land for new houses. That was the chief thing I remember.
(I) That's interesting. What about transportation at that time? I mean how did, you went marketing on Cedar Lane.
(N) Well on Cedar Lane there wasn't too many, there was on the corner, right here, a market called Sheffield Farm store on Palisade Avenue near Frances Street and I remember it was run by a Mr. Hollenbeck. They used to say, go to Holly's and get... There were a few stores on Garrison near Cedar Lane. One of the first I think was the delicatessen but I was on the track of something ... the houses were just springing up allover. Of course Route 4 was not built. The George Washington Bridge was not built. That is not before 1930. So there was nothing at all between about past say Grayson Place up to West Englewood Avenue on either side of the tracks. That's what I was going to say - transportation, there was a bus, big blue and white, yellow bus that went to Hackensack. That was the big thing, going to Hackie. There were three movie theaters there although I didn't frequent them too often and there were three 5 and l0's all in a row.
(I) On Main Street?
(N) Yes, all on the same ... one is still there and to get to New York, of course, you could go on the train to the ferry. That was the way the commuters went, the West Shore Railroad to Weehawken and across on the ferry. I went many times as a young boy. I took a piano lesson in New York city by going on that route.
(I) Every week?
(N) Every week. When I was ten, it was decided that I was old enough to go alone so ... meanwhile you could also go, you would somehow get to DeGraw Avenue and take a trolley to the 125th Street Ferry and then that brought you in too. It was right there and there was the subway there. And if you didn't want to walk to DeGraw Avenue, you would take the bus into Hackensack for 5¢ and then you could take the trolley there for an extra nickel. It would increase your round trip into New York by 20¢ but it would save you walking a mile and a quarter to
(I) Well tell me, do you remember any particular stories from when you were young. Your recreation, what you did for recreation?
(N) Well, we went on picnics and we didn't have a car. I guess at one time we must have been taken up to the Palisades. I remember going on a picnic there. We have family pictures. We went to visit friends a lot. We had the family out from New York City since they weren't out in the sticks like we were, we had them out a lot and my father had worked with a young man as an usher at Carnegie Hall and since we were interested in music, he still knew the housemen there and he still was able to get me into concerts sometimes without paying. We went to concerts. My father being an artist, we went to all art galleries and that didn't always please me because if I was in New York for a piano lesson, I didn't want to spend the afternoon but my mother was a writer and so I had to go with her for a while because she wanted to go.
(1) How did you amuse yourself in Teaneck? The children?
(N) Well I remember, you mean on weekends or
(I) Just generally after school what you did.
(N) We played games a lot in the open here. We'd build huts up in the corner of Cedar Lane and Queen Anne Road was one of my closest friends and we were always up there. Also, when I was a little bit older, when I was about 13 or 14, I raised homing pigeons and there was a club you could belong to. A lot of them sent them to very long races. I didn't send mine to all of those long races but I did have a lot for a while which didn't please the neighbors too much.
(I) You mean you kept them here?
(N) They were in their, they had a special large coop. We eventually built a large one. At first we had a small one. But that was a recreation. I remember certain things very strongly. I remember a playground at the Longfellow School.
(I) Is that where you went to school?
(N) I went to school there. I wasn't so near. I was nearer to Emerson but you see at the time when I enrolled, there was a train crossing Cedar Lane and they figured you could go on the bus and you wouldn't have to cross that where the tracks are. It was a little dangerous.
(I) It is a matter of safety.
(N) And you wouldn't have to cross Cedar Lane. You'd be on the bus all the way.
(I) Now, you must have memories of the Depression. Can you tell me about them.
(N) Yes. I remember when my father was laid off from lithography and we didn't know what we were going to do because at that time, the mortgage was being paid off and of course I didn't understand all of it but it was a linkup. If you don't pay the taxes, then the town forecloses and you lose the house and that was the one thing that my parents sort of saved for and planned for and had come from New York City to be here so I remember receiving cans of vegetables and beans from a relief center on Teaneck Road and Forest Avenue and going there and I remember that was just about the time when my father bought a small car and had learned to drive and so our life changed a little as a result of that but then losing the job was worse. No help. He was, one time he went in a snowstorm all the way to the Bronx to answer an ad and the ad in the New York Times clearly said, portrait painter and yet he couldn't figure out quite what it was but he was a portrait painter. He did very many portraits. But when he got there, he discovered to his dismay that it was a typographical error and it meant to say, portrait printer so it was work in a photographic studio. One letter changed it.
(1) Do you remember whether there were many people in Teaneck out of work in the Depression? Or if many people lost their houses?
(N) That's a little hard for me to know because I was just about 11 years old but I don't recall that. I recall of course being in New York a lot and seeing the apple vendors and lines and I remember that prices you couldn't pick up things for but as far as remembering in Teaneck, no, I think what happened was Teaneck was still growing so much and of course right after 1930 when the George Washington Bridge opened, there was a sort of boom in Teaneck and then Route 4 came in after that. It was like everything was new. The high school opened in maybe 1929 and I entered into it in the junior high. I happened to be a class ahead or something in 1931 so that was like a brand new school. They said, this is the pride of the county. A $1,000,000 school sitting up on a hill here, you know. Otherwise I would have had to go to the high school in either Englewood or Hackensack. There just wasn't a high school. An interesting story about something to do with my music was, well this has two parts to the story. One part was that my father loved music so he wanted to have a piano or something, a keyboard instrument to play on so one time he came home with a fairly large harmoniun which was a small organ and he brought it on the side of a taxi. I don't know how he got it all the way from New York. And since he played by ear and didn't read much music but he taught me to play by ear. This was when I was five. So I played on that harmonium for about a year or so and I knew about four or five pieces and he would just put my fingers on it and I would go and my mother was art chairman of the Women's Club so one day the president of the Women's Club, the very first president, Mrs. Walter Lipman who lived in a large home on Teaneck Road came in and I was turning somersaults on the floor and he said, my goodness, I wish I could turn somersaults like that and my father said, well, he can do something else though besides that. So I sat down and played on the harmonium at which point, she said, if he had a piano, I would teach him. So first thing you know, we got an old upright piano put in the front hall and Mrs. Lipman started to teach me and I used to walk over to Teaneck Road for a lesson and after about a year and a half, she said I think I've taught him all that I can and I was playing fairly hard music but then now the story is that as a result of knowing a lot of people in the Women's Club, I was asked to play for them and this was a couple of years later. Not too many. Maybe the year after that. I had this teacher in New York that my father knew. So one time, my mother took me by the hand and said, now you are going to play for this Women's Club meeting and that particular day I was afraid to play and I sort of ran out of the building which was way up somewhere where the golf course is now and I left the building and she was trailing me and she finally caught up with me and brought me back and I had to play and that was reflected years later when the BERGEN RECORD wrote an article about me as an adult and I was telling this story so the headline said, No More Cold Feet and when I showed this to a professor in New York, he said, that's exactly right, no more cold feet.
The Steuben House was the name of that other painting that I would like to locate that my father painted but you see, as they said on TV a few times on certain Channel 13 programs, a lot of these paintings were destroyed from the W.P.A. so I really don't know what happened to them.
(I) That's too bad. Do you remember any situations, first when Jews moved into Teaneck and when blacks moved in? Do you have any remembrance of that?
(N) Well it largely has to do with my profession. There was a post-war baby boom and Jewish people moving into Teaneck. For some reason, in the mid 1950's, a tremendous number of people started to study the piano and I seemed to have, at one time, I had perhaps out of 40 students, I had only maybe 7 or 8 Gentile students and all the new students, one lead to another.
There was a time, you see, when I reduced my teaching in the late 1940's because I went back to studying in New York. Then in the early 50's when most people of my age were married and had a family and I didn't, I had to start and say, well, I am not doing too much with teaching and I ran a small ad but I got only one answer from the ad but this lead to more students in West Englewood and I went in about two years, I went from teaching 18 hours a week to about 60 hours a week for two or three years in the late 1950's and the bulk of this was families that had moved in the Jewish community and everybody knew everybody else and I just wondered, I said am I going to get, well then of course I had some from out of town. The black students, I had one black student in the 60's from Hackensack and I didn't have any for a long time after that. I know they started to come in around that time, the blacks, a little after that in the 1960's but I just link up those two things. I was returning to teaching but I didn't do very much about it. I joined the Professional Music Teachers Guild of New Jersey which was then called the Bergen County Music Teachers Guild and right after that, I got a lot of students but not through them.
(I) I see. But you don't remember any, you wouldn't in this area maybe, remember anything about the steering of the real estate people or blockbusting or anything like that?
(N) I recall it vaguely. I am just trying to discern whether, I recall it with the blacks. I don't recall it with the Jewish families. I recall people saying, well you are up, people were moving away from that area near the armory because I had people there that I was teaching and then they moved away.
(I) But you don't really remember anything about the controversy or the passing of laws or anything like that?
(N) Not so well. Maybe I didn't read the papers in those days. I remember controversies about why they should have so many schools now that the child population is lower. I had a lot of parents talk to me about a lot of things connected with that. And I find that the children nowadays are very loaded with extra-curricular things. A lot of them have something to do every afternoon.
(I) They are very organized.
(N) Yeah, they are. But I don't know how that has changed. I think that has been pretty much for the last twenty years, twenty five years. But I am trying to think of the things that relate to Teaneck more than they relate to me as far as this.
(I) Mr. Cafarelli, I think maybe we should talk a little more about your mother.
(N) Well my mother comes from a midwestern family. She was born in St. Louis, grew up in Cincinnati and you could say as far as I remember, she had perhaps three Jewish grandparents and one that was English/Dutch Protestant so it is a mixed background. Maybe it goes back even further. Maybe 7/8 instead of 3/4. But one thing that might be of interest is that her mother was a suffragette and walked with Susan B. Anthony and knew Susan B. Anthony. I have a letter from Susan B. Anthony. And my mother was interested in art and studied art and painting and sculpture in Cincinnati and did quite a few paintings and several sculptures and when she married my father, she sort of devoted herself to him. Later she became a writer on art and wrote for the, THE INTERBORO NEWS which was in Teaneck, not a large paper like THE RECORD. She also spoke on art on I think, it was WBNX in Hackensack on radio. But she did review various art galleries in New York for the paper out here. So then later on in the 1940's, she did some more paintings, mainly watercolor, on vacation. However, by that time, it was just devoting herself to my father's art. But she was a music lover. She didn't play any instrument.
(I) Tell me. She was a member of the Women's Club in Teaneck.
(N) Yes, she was art chairman of the Women's Club. She knew of course Mrs. Ferry, the founder, Mrs. Lipman and the lady who was the second president, Clara B. Ferry who was very prominent in affairs and during those years, those were the years of the 30's, it turned out to be the years of the Depression and they, well for some reason, they always seemed to get me to play the piano for them.
(I) Tell me, do you remember any of the other activities in the women's Club. I mean were there any civic activities?
(N) I am sure they did. It is just hard for me to remember all those things. We have the clippings but I am not going to
(I) You are not going to look them up now.
(N) I can't remember. I know that, I am trying to think of some other people. Some of the ladies are going strong still today. I am trying to think of the names. Mrs. Strickman.
(I) We've come to the end of this part of the tape so I am going to say thank you.
END OF TAPE.
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