|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:||Louis N. Feibel|
|DATE OF INTERVIEW:||October, 1985|
|TRANSCRIBER:||Jackie Kinney (11/1986)|
... Lou Feibel of the Feibel Bowling Alley who grew up in Teaneck township. Lou, is it all right if we use this tape as a part of the Oral History Program of the township?
(N) Definitely. I would be very happy to do this.
(I) Since you did grow up in town, are there any outstanding or ... characteristics of the community that you can recall specifically or generally that existed while you growing up in the town as compared for instance to what you know the town to be presently?
(N) I did some thinking when you had asked me for the, permission to do the tape or to interview me. The first thing I guess I recall, we moved here in spring of 1931 and we lived over what is now the Deep Sea Fish Market. It was then Morello's Department Store, I remember that. And we lived there for about two or three years and as a kid then, I was what four years old, I can remember the Fourth of July Parade. That was the first thing that I really remembered about Teaneck. Specifically the horses, a lot of horses in the parade and being new in town and having the bakery right there, the existing Butterflake, was dad's original bakery and that was Feibel's Bakery. And I can remember standing out in front of that. We had a great "see". And from there we moved to Chestnut Street and rented in a two family house there and just several years ago, I was in Florida. In fact, in West Palm Beach Airport. With mother. And a couple came up and said, "Aren't you Lou Feibel?" And I said, "Yes." They said, "Well, you lived above my folks in a two story house on Chestnut Avenue. The Whites." And you know, it was just such a bolt out of the blue but because of the bakery, we got to know so many people in the town, in the county for that matter.
Another highlight would have been the old, I guess it was on front street, the milk company, Sheffield Farms, because they supplied the milk for the bakery and I got a chance to ride in the wagon. They used to deliver it by horse and that was a big one for me. I would go down early with dad and then ride back to the dairy and then walk back home. Of course that has changed radically. Then I guess the next thing I can remember really, I went to Lowell School when it was brand new. Kindergarten and first grade. And then I transferred over to the old school at St. Anastasia in the old building that had burned down. Big thing for me was riding the school bus from Helen Street, we had moved to Helen Street by that point, over to St. Anastasia's over on the other side of town. That was the first time I really got to see the whole thing because we had one bus that went through the entire town and picked up the students for there.
(I) Route 4 was relatively new at the time I gather.
(N) Right. Route 4 hadn't, well of course the bridge hadn't been completed then when the folks first put the bakery in and that was one of dad's, he was frightened because then Cedar Lane was really the main east/west thoroughfare and one of the main reasons he bought the bakery was because of the traffic pattern and of course when they put the bridge in, he thought it was going to really hurt him. But anything but. It brought the population into town and the surrounding areas.
People that didn't want to come in to Jersey because of the commuting but once he saw that, then he was very pleased about it. But along those lines too, I can remember just after the bridge was built, not just after, probably about four years after, the town had put up an ordinance to eliminate the angle parking on Cedar Lane and I can remember dad coming home saying, there goes the business. We are finished. Because there wasn't any parking at all then. And when he went to the curb parking, the way it is today, he thought that that would eliminate that many cars and it would really hurt. Then of course they developed the municipal lots which ... but I can remember him going to the council meeting and also fighting with Neil Hart about it.
(I) Neil Hart was the ...
(N) He was the police chief. And it was upon his recommendation that they went through with this. And he was a good friend but I mean, they had a few words over it.
(I) Do you remember the other stores on Cedar Lane at the time?
(N) Well I can remember, of course next to dad then was, when we first moved in, it was Peterson's Market, a combination of a fruit store and meat market. And next to him, of course, was Nick Napoli. He became very good friends through Rotary too with dad. Orner's.
(I) Orner's is presently the paper store.
(N) Rockland's. It was Orner's at that point. I can remember going to buy a pack of cigarettes for dad then. We used to get two for a quarter, two packs of Camels. He always sent me from the bakery to there. I could always get a piece of candy for a cent. It was like one big family on the ... you know of course across the street the Panaterias are still there. The shoe store. Finn's Market was a butcher store. Bischoffs, of course. Where I spent plenty of time. And money. Of course the lower part of Cedar Lane when I was growing up there wasn't any. It ended actually where J&J is. Where the Elms' Tavern or whatever it is, Louie's Charcoal Pit now. And that's where it ended. At that point, there was nothing but woods really going down that part of Cedar Lane. Then they put an apartment house backed on it and the Casa Manor.
(I) Now the Casa Manor was what?
(N) About 1939/40. The Casa Manor was probably the largest banquet facility at that point in the state. It started basically as, by Engel Fell, he was a good friend of theirs too, had a gas station and opened a small tavern and then built it into a large catering house. And of course you remember that very well Dick with the Rotary Club meeting there every Wednesday.
(I) And that's the present site of what?
(N) That's the Pathmark, exactly. Except the building place is new. They knocked down the old building. The only part that they kept, I guess, was the lower part where the tavern is now but the rest is all rebuilt. In fact, that whole part was a parking lot at that point. It was never paved. you'd get in there and never get out with the mud. Then we moved, as I said, to Helen Street but we were the only house that was existing there. There were two houses built on Helen Street at that point. And it was on the corner or Helen and Tilden and going down to Tilden was just strictly woods. All the way down to the lower part and then you started with houses again at Lincoln Place. So during our stay there, I saw that entire area develop. Literally hundreds of homes going up there. Of course, we had a nice field behind us where we used to play ball all the time and then of course they built the houses on it and that was the end of that.
(I) They had many vacant lots then, is that right?
(N) Oh yeah. During that whole, in fact I remember too when Ted Bideweider's church was built there too on Claremont and Helen Street.
(I) That was the Grace Lutheran Church.
(I) And that is presently the synagogue.
(N) That's correct.
(I) Grace Lutheran moved to River Road.
(N) That's right. I remember that. I can remember that, he used to have on Christmas Eve it was tough enough sleeping anyway and he used to have recorded Christmas carols coming out of the top of the steeple of the church and I can remember getting a little angry about that because, you know, you were so excited as a kid anyway but that was part of Christmas in the neighborhood. He'd run it for probably two or three days. Including Christmas day. It gave an air of Christmas to the neighborhood. Whether you liked it or not was another question. But it was nice.
(I) Was the Woolworth store, did that exist at that time, Lou?
(N) Not when we first came to town, no. That was built also.
(I) That's the corner of Garrison Avenue and Cedar Lane. That southwest corner, the northwest corner.
(N) That had remained vacant for a long time. They had a Big Bear Market and the Teaneck Theater, they were built. The Big Bear Market I can remember very well because, well this time of year, around Halloween, they had backing, in other words going towards the north side of town in the back of their store, they used to store all their bottles and cases and stuff so on Halloween we used to do a job on that all the time. I can remember going in there and taking the bottles out, filling them with muddy water and dropping them around different areas but I can remember that so vividly. A bunch of guys in our neighborhood, we'd go down to the back of the Big Bear, that was standard procedure every year. We'd get all our missiles from there.
(I) What happened to the Big Bear?
(N) You know that's a good question. I think they, that's probably turned into two or three stores now in that area. But then they rebuilt stores. Maybe where the dress store is. But no, the Big Bear was below that, wasn't it?
(I) County Discount.
(N) That's right. Yeah, they did have a fire, that's right. And of course where the Columbus Savings is was the A&P. The store manager of that, in fact, married one of the girls who worked for dad in the bakery. Well a lot of the people that used to come in the bakery eventually married some of the store girls that were there. It was like a whole neighborhood thing. Joe Grazel and his wife met there. Steve. So the bakery was kind of a cupid area too.
(I) What about the social life, Lou, in the community at the time? What did kids do?
(N) Well, you know, it was funny. Our neighborhood was, began on Helen Street, Tilden Avenue and that area. Sports was a big thing. We kind of just played that all day long. The other big thing, the event of the week, was always a Saturday movie. Double feature and a serial, that was always the, you got six or eight together and you'd go down there.
(I) Was that the same movie house ...
(N) Same, exactly. God, I haven't been in there in about thirty years. But yeah, we used to go down and that was a big thing Saturday mornings. We'd go to that. And then of course as you got older, the football games in town became important. During that period, probably when I was about ten or eleven, twelve, dad had a, he sponsored a semi-pro football team.
(I) What years were they, do you remember?
(N) Oh, this would be what? Late thirties or early forties. He sponsored a team called the Teaneck Red Devils who were in a very strong league at that time. Teams from Englewood and Ridgefield Park, Bogota and we had a great team. We had, they had programs and the whole bit. It was a real, that was a big thing every Sunday afternoon.
(I) Where did they play their games?
(N) We played our games at Teaneck High School field. They used to, just the same as you did with the Teaneck High, you would come through the gate and pay the tickets there, the same thing. I remember dad loved that. He just, was always sports minded anyway and they just come in here one day and said that they needed a sponsor, into the bakery that was at that point. And he asked what was involved and they told him, you know, uniforms and cleats and stuff like that, helmets, and they gave him a figure and he wrote out a check for them and they went, you know, off the wall. And they even got a uniform for me so I was the mascot once in a while. I'd go up there but I was kind of scared of doing that, these guys were so big and all. It became a real part of the town, Sunday afternoon that was the big thing. They had a big following. And some of the fellows that were in that, we had a team that bowled here in the Bowling Center, I can't think of the name of the, (inaudible) Construction and Pete Lucas, one of the stars on that team that bowled on the construction team when we were one time reminiscing, every time they'd come in on a Thursday night, we'd rap about it. All the fellows that were on that, one of the first to die from Teaneck in World War II, Sonny Tackler his name was, and he was a good football player. He was one of the first and he was on that team. That was a ... I liked that time.
The other things would be social life, gee, I don't know. Just a normal party circuit. I went away to high school so during those years, I was just mostly a weekender in Teaneck. Kept up my contact, you know with the regular social things that you do in high school. That's about it. I'd go to the games. When I wasn't playing out at LaSalle or anything like that. Some of the changes of course I mentioned the traffic pattern changed when the bridge went up and, as I said, contrary to our thought that it would become less, it became heavier because of the fact of the amount of people that had moved in and even then when Route 4 was jammed, they would still use Cedar Lane and pick it up again at Teaneck Road or go Fort Lee Road over to Leonia or something like that.
(I) what was the size of the community at that time, do you remember?
(N) I think in one of the realtors reports that dad had when he was looking around for a house after we had rented, I think it said around 7,800 to 8,000 people at that time and again that was about 32, 33.
(I) Would you say it was a stable community?
(I) Middle, upper middle, income level, would you say?
(N) Yeah, I would say it was probably upper middle all the time. Again, it was a lot of commuters. In fact, you could always set your clock by the 80 or the 72 that used to, the 80 came out of New York and stopped on the corner of Garrison and Cedar Lane.
(I) Bus, is that right?
(N) Yeah. And you could see the same people getting off and getting on in the mornings. You got to know them because of that. When we first got into the bowling business here, when I first; got active in it, which was the late 40s, the train was still running, the West Shore commuting. In fact, even earlier than that, in the mid 40s I started to work Sundays to bring up soda cases and stuff and we had a regular trade at the bar from the commuters that got off the train that lived on Palmer Avenue and Vanderlinder and they had a regular social gathering. That was every afternoon, well they'd usually get home about say 5:30, 6:00 or whenever it was from New York and then they'd have a couple here and that was it. It got to be a very, again a close knit group. Dad got from everybody in the whole area through that. That we saw change completely once that railroad stopped.
(I) When was that?
(N) The railroad stopped in late 50s, I would say it was late 50s. I am guessing on that. They also delivered the mail with the train at that point. And you remember John Foster, well Wally Foster still works for the Post Office. His dad had the right to deliver the mail from the truck or rather from the train to the Post Office and he did that for years and in between trains, he would be in here all the time so we got to know him.
(I) Now the Post Office was where?
(N) At that time, the Post Office was where the Julius Richards Building is, where that vacant lot ...
(I) Just north of Cedar Lane on Palisade Avenue.
(N) That's correct. And then of course they had the sub-station up in West Englewood. And when they had decided to put the Post Office in its present site, I can remember at that point, dad and I bought the lot where our existing parking lot is now, the north lot, and because of the slope of the land, it was going to be a little tough grading and so on and we went to the Post Office Department who had already purchased the land and asked them if they would really swap and because it would have been closer to them for the train, etc., etc., but they wouldn't do it. They insisted on keeping that and they built at that point. Of course the opening of that Post Office, we had all the Frank Osmas was the one that gave the dedication speech if you recall.
(I) He was the Congressman at that time.
(N) And they had two or three big men from the Post Office. In fact, they all met in my office and put their programs together. Merrill Tucker was then assistant P.O. at that point. That was a big ceremony. They had blocked off all of Palisade Avenue. A lot of the town people came down to see it.
(I) Now as the community grew, there were different ethnic and racial groups that came in. What impact did that have from your observations, if any?
(N) Well let's see. From, after dad sold the bakery and built the bowling center, well the bowling center went up in 41 and he kept both businesses until 45, and in 45 I started to get active. The only difference that we saw then was that it was a little more, we had a little more activity as far as our junior programs and our women's, ladies afternoon league. As opposed to when dad first started, because he had pinboys then. We didn't have automatic machines. So that the only time they could start bowling was when the kids were out of school, 3:30 when they could get here or 3:20 whenever it was, so we were limited at that point but as the town grew and we got the automatic machines in, then you saw a complete difference. You saw the ladies leagues that were formed and we drew from all other communities but mainly from Teaneck. We went from like one league to five within a short period of time after the advent of the machines.
(I) So it was really a positive impact then.
(N) For us, yes, definitely.
(I) Would you suspect that that would be the same of the businesses on the Lane?
(N) I think they were, I would definitely say that the growth was definitely in favor of them, sure. You saw a lot of changeovers there. I guess at one point in the late 50s, early 60s, there was a dropoff because of the malls and everything coming in. Of course the same thing happened to Main Street, Hackensack. As far as during that period for us, no, we, bowling is cyclical like anything else but we kind of, as far as our Teaneck input, has remained basically the same over the last probably twenty five years. The only difference now is, again, the women's leagues have gone down the other way now because of the amount of women going back to work. Need of two incomes. So we felt it there definitely.
(I) Did you see any, in the bowling programs that you've conducted, with the different racial and ethnic groups coming in, there was no problem in terms of their being absorbed into the leagues or anything?
(N) Not at all.
(I) An easy transition, would you say that?
(N) Absolutely, yeah. First time that we really saw any transition was in the Cub Scout and Boy Scout movements and there was just absolutely no problem at all. Your own Recreation Program was, that was as smooth as could be. You never had any problems with that. And that's going back about twenty years in that program and no, that was fine for us. We did very well.
(I) What about the local government Lou. Did you notice any changes in the governmental structure over the years?
(N) Again, I can only look at it from my viewpoint. Of course naturally the tax structure has bloomed. Until Glenpointe, we were probably one of the top 10 taxpayers except for someone that has a bunch of real estate but I'm talking about as an individual. We saw that change but along with the increase, the departments that we have most to do with, Recreation, Fire and Police, their services increased the same way. We've had a good relationship with all three departments all the way along so we felt that the increases were justified. Naturally you needed more police, you needed more firemen, etc. And as far as that goes, we've had Health Department, relationships were good.
I've only been to the council meetings at times when I've had some problems that I wanted aired or something like that and they have always been responsive. I just, well it is only a year ago I guess, we had that problem with, there was an ordinance on the books since 1950 that stated that a place that had a liquor license must close completely between 2:00 A.M. Saturday and 12:00 noon Sunday and when it said, close, that's exactly what they meant. Now it was written all licenses and it had never been enforced really because we are opened Sunday morning with our B'Nai B'Rith League and I had a league from Sears and Roebuck. In fact I even had the Police League bowling here for several years. So one day a policeman came in with a little sheet of paper and he said, you are notified that we are going to enforce Ordinance (whatever the number was). And I said, well, you know, I have a contract with the leagues, what can I do? And he said, well, you'll have to take your chances. So I went down and spoke to Werner Schmid and he said, they are in the process of changing the ordinance and to come to a caucus meeting first and then to a council meeting. The reason for the change was the way it was worded, the Glenpointe operation, the hotel, would have had to empty their rooms from 2:00 Saturday morning till 12:00 on Sunday and so it was completely unenforceable. But they moved on it quickly. Like I said, they didn't sit there and say, we'll wait until the next council meeting and, they changed the wording to exclude bowling centers, supermarkets, hotels, they put them in there specifically.
So that's just an example of what I've encountered. We've had only one problem here with any alcoholic beverage control problems and again the council acted well on that. We had a, they are very stick as I guess most people know, we had a, during the summer, you have a fruitfly problem just like anybody else, either early spring or early fall. And we have (hoars) on a vermouth bottle and once in a while, a fruitfly will get in there if you don't cap it at night or something. So we had an inspection of our liquor which they do on occasion, every six months or so, and he found two fruitflies in that and two in one of our slow moving bourbons or something. So he said, it is tainted whiskey and wrote out a whole thing. So it had a chance of either closing or paying a fine. And I had to pay a $1,500 fine for those two bottles. But I can remember the council gave me an option to pay the fine rather than impose a closing. But that was an experience. But yes, I've had good, in fact when dad constructed the building, I can always remember him, Paul Volcker then was the township manager, and dad said that he was glad that he was here because he was so strict being an engineer on his own right that when dad came down with the plans, he sat right in with the Engineering Department, Volcker did, and said, I want this, I want that. For example, the building, as you know, it's situated on a hill, it is built out over a hollow really. So when dad, they excavated underneath and built the 16 lanes straight out towards the railroad and the bracings in the back of the building, by insistence of Paul Volcker and the Engineering Department, had to be double braced because he said, in the event, we had two exits in the back, in the event of a fire and everybody moves to the back of the building, he wanted it not to go down. So anyway, we put it in, we double reinforced whatever they did, wanted, followed the plans, and then in 54 when we put the machines in, the first thing the guy (END OF TAPE)