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Ethel Brown Davis 

(Interviewed by Dorothea Rodda on 1/31/1984. Transcription: 21 pages)

Summary: 
The Brown family is a historical family with more than five generations that can be traced in the Englewood/Teaneck area. Their father and grandfather were born in Englewood, their great-grandfather, however, came from Palisades on the Hudson. The narrators explain that a branch of their family once belonged to the John Street Methodist Church in 1791 and that this family branch is down on record as being "free blacks." They also describe a family reunion of Browns from Westwood and Park Ridge at the Sparkhill Church built in 1840, and recall that "they all knew Papa." (p. 1 and 19 -21).

The narrators remember as children living on Hellerman Road in Merry Spears' house. Afterward they moved to a farm on Ivy Lane where they had cows, horses, raised 400 pigs and grew vegetables. Mr. Oswald Brown says the pigs were fed on the food Englewood Hospital threw away and remembers going to pick up the garbage every morning and every night. The family sold the farm in 1921 and bought a two-family house on Aspen Terrace, which was then called Pine Terrace. The house at the time of this interview is said to be 115 years old, and the evergreen growing nearby and described as twice as high as the house is estimated to be 58 years old. Ethel Davis recalls the tree being given to her when she was in the second grade from Bryant School for Arbor Day. Mr. Brown suggests that they faced some difficulties coming into the neighborhood, as they were the only black family, which consisted of two adults and twelve children.

Mr. Brown started with the Cunard Line in March of 1926, and his father secured work with the township of Teaneck, through the efforts of an Episcopal pastor, who "took him down to City Hall and told them to put him to work." Mr. Brown notes that a picture of his father was taken in 1930 holding an electric cutting device and that the picture is hanging up in the City Hall. Their father worked for the town till he died in 1938 and states that the president of the BERGEN EVENING RECORD paid for the funeral, as he had gone to school with their father.

The narrators relate an interesting account on pages thirteen and fourteen concerning early attempts by real estate people to develop lots in Argonne Park. Their father was approached and given some money to keep his children inside the house, because they were trying to sell the property. Ethel Davis remembers they built a model house in the park and brought people in from New York to see it with the idea you could have one built. The narrators recall that finally the house was vandalized, and a tub was removed. Mr. Brown claims policemen took lumber, and firemen took cinder blocks and soon "the whole thing was leveled off...and everything was gone."

Mrs. Davis describes the events that surrounded the purchase of her home on Englewood Avenue in 1940. When she inquired about the house in person, she was told it was sold; however, over the phone she was told it was still available. She learned that blacks were on the left hand side of the street, and "they weren't putting in blacks on the right hand side of the street." Mrs. Davis states that friends, Irving and Ethel Vincent, bought the house for them and then turned it over in our name (p. 17).

Interview Comments:    Also interviewed: Mr. Oswald Brown, brother of the narrator.  Mr. Ben Davis, husband of the narrator was also present during the interview.

 

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