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: Julia Downs
INTERVIEWER: Lou Schwartz
DATE OF INTERVIEW:    March 12, 1984
TRANSCRIBER: Jackie Kinney (10/24/1984)

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(I) There was nothing on Teaneck Road?

(N) No, I don't know when the buses started coming to Englewood.  When I went to high school, the girls in this area went to Englewood High School and the ones that lived over on the other section of Teaneck around Garrison Avenue, that way, they went to Hackensack High School and the ones in Glenwood Park went to Leonia High School but there was a trolley that ran along DeGraw Avenue and they used to take that I guess over to Leonia.  They went to church.  See, those people never went to St. Anastasia's either, they went to church in Leonia because the trolley went along DeGraw Avenue and it went over to Leonia junction.

(I) Oh, it went to Leonia, not Bogota.

(N) Leonia, yeah.  When I went to Holy Angels, I used to get the trolley at Englewood to Leonia Junction and I used to change for the Fort Lee Park and that  used to take you up the hill to Holy Angels.  Holy Angels was where Mediterranean Towers is now.  That's where it was then.  Not it is in Demarest.

(I) When did they made a high school here?

(N) Gee, let's see.  No my brother that just died was 69 years old and he had to go one to Englewood High School.  Alma Brennan is 70 years old and she graduated from Englewood High School so...

(I) Englewood High School?

(N) Yes, Englewood High School.

(I) But what about Teaneck High School.

(N) I don't think that was built until 1930, was it? You would have to look at the thing.  I know my brother would have had to go.  He went to Stevens Prep but he would have had to go one year to Englewood High School.

(I) You didn't have anybody going through Teaneck High School up in Teaneck?

(N) No.

(I) So you didn't have any connection with it?

(N) No. Because my brothers went to Stevens Prep in Hoboken and the girls of us went to Holy Angels.

(I) When did the Blacks start moving in?  You said they were always here.

(N) Well, there was only that one family when I went to school.

(I) When did they start moving in in larger numbers?

(N) I am trying to think when they started to come in here?

(I) What effect did it have here?

(N) Well I'll tell you the truth, they never bother me.  I had very nice black neighbors.  Now the woman across the street, I know that time was 1972 when Tom was in the hospital and he was so bad, she used to stand at the door and watch form me.  That's when I was robbed and she used to watch for me to come in at night until I got in.

(I) When were you robbed?

(N) September 1, 1972.  When he was in the hospital.  I was timed.  I was coming home from work, eating and going right out and coming back at ten o'clock.  

(I) Do you have any white neighbors at all here?

(N) Oh yeah, The people that live in the house that I was raised in.  Mrs. Smith has lived next door, she's white.

(I) But all the rest are black?

(N) No.  Well Wolf is around the corner, Mrs. Davis, her husband was the deputy chief.  She lives on this corner.  That was the house he was raised in.  And then down the street, there is two or three white families.  Mrs. Armstrong

(I) Oh, so the block is mostly white?

(N) No, I guess it is mostly black.

(I) Do you have any problems on the block?

(N) No, we don't have any problems at all.  The woman, when her husband was living, he used to go after those black kids.  When they were doing anything, he used to go out after them.  And I remember one day when two of the kids said, I'm bringing my father up and he said, that's just what I want.  Bring him up and I am going to tell him to go back to Harlem where he came from.  But you see, the people that came in here, they wanted to keep the neighborhood refined.  See, there was a lot of noise.  See, they could drop the atom bomb in here in the house on me and I wouldn't hear it when I sleep but the noise used to bother them across the street from the park when they, you know, at night.  The one here, Mackel Park.  They used to get so mad at Freddie Green because he didn't do anything about it..  See, they thought he should handle the black kids and Freddie Green said to me a white cop would make out better with them than I would.

(I) You mean black kids.  He's changed his mind since, I think.

(N) I don't know what his problems is.  I still thing there is bigotry between him and the chief.  It always seems to

(I) Oh yeah, It is very bad.

(N) And I know Freddie all his life. He was raised here.  He was raised down the block.

(I) You know him when he was a kid?

(N) Sure, I knew him when he was a kid.  He was raised here.  He was a nice kid.  He was always a nice kid.  And then the other, what was the name of the other fellow, he lived up near you.  He was on the D. P. W.  He was raised here in Teaneck and he used to be around here all the time too.  He died since.  But Freddie Green played here with the white kids and nobody ever thought about it or anything.  I think his wife is white.

(I) No.

(N) She looks white.

(I) Well, she is almost white. there is some black in her background.

(N) My son said he thought she was white.

(I) Well, she is more white than she is black, let's put it that way.

(N) Any my daughter-in-law and her are girlfriends.

(I) Oh yeah.  She was raised here too?

(N)  I don't know whether she was raised here or not but they worked together in People's Trust.  Right out of high school.  So she may have been raised here.  But Ingrid, the three times I was taken out of here in the ambulance, when she heard it was the call, she came herself.  (END OF SIDE 1 -- BEGIN SIDE 2)

(I) Well she's a very nice person.

(N) Well she used to come in here.  See Michael's wife, her mother and father died in, her mother - her father was dead since she was a kid - her mother died in November and they were getting married in May and she lived in the apartment down on DeGraw Avenue and we were afraid to have her living down there by herself so she came up here to live with us until they got married in May and so Sandy used to come in here all the time, see, so that's how we got to know her.  Plus when Friddie knew that she knew us, that was the friendship, but she was very pleasant, Sandy.

(I) About twenty years ago, it is exactly twenty years ago, there was a big struggle in the town on the question of integrating the schools.  Were you involved in any way?

(N) No, I was never involved with the public schools at all because you know my children did not go to public school so I was never involved with the P.T.A. or anything like that.  I am voting since 1928 and  I never voted yes on a school budget in my life. And I still say no because every time anything came up to give any kind of aid to the private schools, the bigots that belonged to the public school are the ones that went out and fought it and turned it down.  I had to donate the time that I think it is Miner that allowed them to buy some kind of computers or something like that for the Catholic schools and that's not too long ago, and that was after my children were out of school, but we had to donate to ay for them so the state wouldn't take them back.

(I) Well you weren't in any way concerned about what was going on in public schools?

(N) No, no.

(I) When the question of integrating the public schools came up, you had nothing to do with it.

(N) No, no, nothing about it at all.  And when they started talking about the busing, I always said, well, when I went to school, no matter where they came from, they had to walk.  The had to walk to Englewood High School, they had to walk to Leonia High School, they had to walk to Hackensack High School. When I was a kid, if you wanted a loaf of bread, you had to walk to Englewood to get the loaf of bread.  There was no other where to go.

(I) How far would that be from here? Englewood and where?

(N) Well, I guess down on Palisade Avenue. Right by Dean Street there, there was Lane's, no stores in Teaneck.

(I) No stores at all in Teaneck?

(N) No stores at all in Teaneck.  A&P, when I was in high school, the A&P opened a store on Forest Avenue and they didn't make out.

(I) Forest and where?

(N) Right there on the left where the stores are opposite where Balestrini's is there.

(I) On Teaneck Road?

(N) Well no, on this side of Overlook.  And there was a butcher there and the A&P opened next door to him.

(I) When did the first stores come?

(N) Safeway opened up on Forest Avenue up where that United Motors was there, where the pizza place is now, and those stores came there I guess in the 1930s or so. 

(I) What about Cedar Lane, when did the stores start there or was that too far for you?

(N) Oh yeah.  I was never in Hackensack when I was a kid.  I was never in Hackensack until I learned how to drive a car.

(I) But Cedar Lane, say you went to shop

(N) Cedar Lane I think was developed in the 1920s.  The Phelps Estate was sold, that was where Holy Name Hospital is and where the Town Hall is and all in that area there, Francis Street, Merrison Street, Cherry Lane, that was developed in maybe 1922 or 23 in that area.  And that's when the stores started to come in to Cedar Lane when it was developed.

(I) Well when the stores came in on Cedar Lane, did you go shopping there or you still went to Englewood?

(N) Well, by that time, we were driving.  You could go any place.  My father bought a car in 1919.  Let's see, I was 17 in 1924 and I got, my father made me get my license so I could take my mother to the store.  There was no male chauvinist in our house.  Get you license.

(I) In 1924 you got your license.  I guess you were one of the first women to get it.

(N) Oh, no.  All of the girls around, because so they could take anybody who had a car, they, so their mother could get, take their mother to the store otherwise the fathers had to do it.  And in those days, don't forget, the men worked on Saturday.  Well when I first went to work, we worked a half day on Saturday.  There was no 40 hour week then.

(I) What were your taxes? In your first house.

(N) Well this is my one and only and then they'll roll me out here and down the aisle in St. Anastasia's.  $120 when I moved in here.  $10 a month on my mortgage.  See, my mother owned the property so when we built the house, that was our down payment.

(I) But you had the land.

(N) We had the land.

(I) But your taxes then were

(N) $120 a year.

(I) And what are they now?

(N) They are about $1,800.  Or $1,900.  They've been going up every year.  And I blame it all on the schools.

(I) It is only 2/3 on the schools; 1/3 to the town.

(N) Year.  Well one thing about the town, since they got this form of government, I will say that they have kept the taxes under control.

(I) You feel that way.  Even though we are the highest taxed town in Bergen County.

(N) Well I blame it all on the schools. 

(I) Well every town had the same schools.  The proportion in every town, what the school taxes are and what the town gets are about the same.

(N) When you compare the town with the county and the schools, the town is, they're low.

(I) Well, you are not concerned about those taxes too much.  The township part.

(N) No.  I go out and vote no and if any of these old fogies tell me about the taxes, I always say, why don't you go out and vote no on the school budget.  But some of them say, I never even know there was a school, that the one mistake I think is we don't get a sample ballot for the school election because there was a lot of people that do not buy, now of course they have the Teaneck News floating around, the Suburban, but I am talking about years ago when the only paper was the Bergen Record and people that didn't got the local paper, they worked in New York and they bought the New York paper, they didn't even know there was a school board election.  And they changed it from, it used to be in February I think at one time and then the weather would be bad, now they changed it to April.  Now I still have to vote for the absentee ballot because I already applied for it thinking I was going to Cape May.

(I) Yeah, Marguerite is going to handle that.

(N) NO. I handle my own.  I just called up Terry Burns and I said, get me an application.  Wait till I tell you.  so Terry said, you are supposed to get that from the School Board.  So I called up the Board of Education and I get this woman, she had an accent, I don't know what nationality but she sounded Spanish.  She didn't even know what I was talking about.  Let me tell you.  So I called Terry back.

(I) Who is Terry?

(N) She is on the Board of Elections, County.  But I mean I worked over there so I know them all by their first name.  So she answered the phone and when I called I said who am I talking to and they said, who is this?  I said this is Julia, who is this?  So she said you are supposed to get that form the Board of Education.  Now I wanted the application for the absentee ballot.  And so anyway when I called the Board of Education, so I called Terry back, so she said all right, I'll call Hartman and he will sent it over to you so I got the two of them and signed them and sent them in so now we have to vote, once you apply, you have to vote on the absentee ballot, you can't go to the polls.  The book is marked.

(I) You made a good point.  I never noticed it myself.  You mean for the Board of Education elections, we don't get a sample ballot.

(N) No.

(I) That's a very interesting thing.  Maybe we can look into it.

(N) and people have told me that that's the excuse on the thing.  That they don't get a sample ballot so they don't know there is an election.

(I) Maybe that is something we should look into.  We get sample ballots for every other election.

(N) Yeah, who shouldn't they put out a sample ballot? At least, if they put out the sample ballot, I mean like now outside of Mesereau, I don't even know who's running yet.  Of course, I will read about it in the paper.  And when they come up in front of me, two or three organizations

(I) Well you will be at the next chapter meeting.  You will see it anyway.

(N) Well that's what I said but I mean you know you ask them questions.  In fact, I got after Bobby Maher because he is my insurance agent.  Of course, I know him all my life too.  I know his sister.  His aunt and I went to school with his father.  And I got after him because he made the statement at our meeting that he wouldn't close any schools last year.  When he was running, he said he wasn't in favor of closing the schools and I met him outside and I said, Bobby, you didn't make no heat in here.  And he said, what's the matter Julia? I said, you never should have said in here that you didn't want to close schools.  I said 90% of the people in this audience are for the schools being closed.

(I) This time he took the lead, you know, in closing the schools.

(N) Well, he got the word now.  And he should have known because he was on the school board one before.  And he had to get off all of the insurance because his father was carrying the insurance so that's why he couldn't run again.  They called it conflict of interest.  Somebody brought it up.  But then the father gave up that, either he have it up or he lost it, I don't know which.

(I) Well he ran for one election. He gave it up, I think, and then he ran for one election.

(N) Well his father was on the school board at one time.  Big Bob was on it.

(I) You mean it is like an inherited job.  Can you think of anything else of interest that used to be in Teaneck?

(N) No, I don't think so.  I mean I remember when they put on the paid fire department.  I really don't know what year that was.  The original fire house was the one where Goodyear Tire is now.  That building.  When they built that firehouse, then they made it a paid fire, on Teaneck Road.  The volunteer fire department was next door where that apartment is now, back of that building.  That was the volunteer firehouse.  And then they had one in Glenwood Park and they had the one on Morningside.  That was a volunteer fire department.

(I) And why did they, in your viewpoint, why did they change over to a paid department.

(N) Well the town expanded and, you see, when we had the volunteer fire department, they didn't have horses or anything like that.  The men ran with the hose cord tied.  They had to putt it and so they had one in each section of town that was developed by then when they developed over in Phelps Manor and they developed the West Englewood section there was no way of protecting the town with a volunteer fire department.

(I) Well, many other towns have volunteer fire departments, but they are smaller, but they have volunteer fire departments.

(N) Well they have paid drivers and things though.

(I) I suppose they couldn't get enough volunteers.

(N) Oh I imagine so.

(I) Were any of your boys in the fire department?

(N) Yeah, My youngest one, Michael, is on the fire department.

(I) Now?

(N) Yeah. He's on twenty years.  When he came out of the Army, 1962.  He is on 22 years.

(I) And all the time he is in it, it has been a paid department.

(N) Oh, it has been a paid department since I was young.  Chief Murray was, the old Chief Murray, was the first fire chief, the paid fire department.  There was a lot of friction there because Ridley was the chief of the volunteers for years and years and they didn't make him the, Volker didn't make him the chief and so there was a lot of friction.  Arty Ridley, he's dead now.  He was on the fire department and he always hated the Murrays with a passion but we always knew why.  And then when Michael went on it was Lindsay.

(I) One of the Lindsays.

(N) Well the other one is still on the fire department.  There are only two Lindsays.  The young one.  But his father was the chief.  And then Joe Murray came up after him.  But they never played politics in Teaneck with the police or the fire.

(I) What do you mean by played politics?

(N) well I mean they always appointed whoever came out top on the test.  Now the only reason Burke has it is because Thompson didn't want it.  He came out top and Burke came out second on the police. But they have never played politics.  If you came out 1, 2, 3 on the test, you got the job.

(I) What did you know about Volker?  Did you know him?

(N) Well I didn't know outside of that he was very honest and he straightened out the town because when he took it over, it was just everything was politics here.

(I) Was he from Teaneck or did they bring him in?

(N) No, no, they brought him in.  None of them were from Teaneck.  Welsh was from Ohio.  I don't know where they brought Volker from.  But the one that is the head of the Federal Reserve Bank, he was young when the father was made, he went to school here in Teaneck.  He was raised in Teaneck.

(I) But he didn't have any position in Teaneck, did he?

(N) No.

(I) Because from Volker it went to Schmidt.  Or Welsh to Schmidt.

(N) It went to Welsh.  Welsh was his assistant.  But they never played politics.  I remember when Eddie went to college and he wanted to get on the D. P. W. and he didn't get called and I went down.  Welsh was the manager then.  So he was hemming and hawing.  I said that's all right.  I wouldn't ask for my son to go on the D. P. W. until he was 18 because I know the insurance laws in the state of New Jersey if you are running machinery.  I said but you got your son on there and he is 17, John Heeney's son is on there and he is 17.  But when I go home, I'll call up Charlie and tell him what is going on in Teaneck.  When I got home, Eddie was sitting here and he said, Schmidt was the assistant, he said Mr. Schmidt just called me and told me to go and start work tomorrow on the D. P. W.  They never wanted any trouble in Teaneck.  If you know what the score was, you know, like when I said that to Schmidt, he forget I was around.  Because he should have known, you know, we had trouble here with dogs.  And I used to go to mass every morning during Lent.  Every morning I would come home and there would be a dog out here and I am scared of my life of dogs.  So anyway and of course the cops would come and, hey, the dog catcher wouldn't be on in the morning.  So I'm on my way to work, and when I got over I was mad enough and I sat down and I wrote a letter to Schmidt.  And I said that it is no time for dog catchers to be out from 9:00 to 5:00.  I said by then the dogs are back in eating their breakfast.  The time for a dog catcher to be out is 6:00 in the morning when the people open the door and leave them out and at 7:00 at night when the people are in.  I said I don't think any policeman with $200 worth of uniforms should have to be jumping over hedges to catch a dog.  I said but after whatever number of years it was in Teaneck I have come to the conclusion that Teaneck has gone to the dogs.  So Saturday morning the bell rings and Tom goes to the door and I was in my robe yet.  So the guy comes to the room and he said I want you to know you wife has upset Mr. Schmidt and Tom said, who's Mr. Schmidt?  Because Tom never was interested in anything connected with politics or anything.

(TOM COMES IN AND TAPE ENDS)

 

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