|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.|
Audio recording of the interview with Olive Hazel
|DATE OF INTERVIEW:||February 22, 1984|
|TRANSCRIBER:||Jackie Kinney (5/18/1984)|
Good day Mrs. Hazel. This is an interview with you being an educator, a long resident of Teaneck, having resided at 41 Westervelt Place.
(I) Where were you born please?
(N) I was born in Manhattan, New York City.
(I) Did your family always live in Manhattan?
(N) Yes. We lived there. My parents were from Barbados, West Indies and they came over early in the century and they were among those who progressed and pushed and were successful, I would say.
(I) Did you do your elementary school in New York also?
(N) I did all my schooling in New York, all the way through Hunter College with a Bachelors Degree and a Master Degree from Columbia University. I did some other work toward a PhD but I decided that I wouldn't finish that.
(I) Were you on your own or did your parents support you with payments for your schooling?
(N) My schooling was free. Hunter College is a free, or was a free college. But then, of course, when I went to Columbia, I had to pay tuition because I was working.
(I) What were your particular interests in your college courses?
(N) Well I was a mathematics major with a science minor and I did graduate work in psychology.
(I) Did you join any political organizations or fraternal organizations?
(N) I am a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha. I was initiated in Tal Omega in New York and I belong to the Iota Epsilon Omega over here but I have not been active with them recently.
(I) How long did you live in New York after you were married?
(N) Well I came here in 1955 and I guess eight or ten years after I was married, I moved over here. I came because Teaneck had that great reputation for educational standards and I was not too happy with what was happening in New York.
(I) So that was your reason for choosing Teaneck.
(I) Well how was the community in Teaneck when you came here?
(N) Well we were the second colored family on the block and the other people on the block were very polite and friendly and we got along very well. The one next door had just moved in and she moved out so I don't know too much about why but everybody seemed to think they ought to move out. I mean the white people thought they should move out. But it is very interesting. We have a white family who moved in about a year or two ago.
(I) Right now property is so high, they are lucky they can get a house regardless of who lives next door.
(N) Yes, I guess so.
(I) Well, you first bought here, not rented.
(N) No, we bought the house.
(I) Did you become involved in community affairs immediately after you came to New York, I mean New Jersey.
(N) Well of course I was interested in the school and the P. T. A. and I was a member of the Episcopal Church but other than that, I don't think I did too much about joining.
(I) Did you enjoy your involvement?
(N) Oh yes. And some of those people and I are still friendly so it was a good union, I guess.
(I) I am sure you have continued your sorority ties.
(N) Well I did but I am not active now so I guess you won't be able to say that.
(I) Was your sorority active in helping with your selections of a home in Teaneck?
(N) No. I had a friend who lived in Englewood and moved to Teaneck and I think she had as much to do with it as anybody. It happened that she had been a student of mine in North Caroline and she moved up here and we kept together all those years and now she has moved back to North Carolina and we still keep in touch.
(I) Do you have children?
(N) I have one son who has a managerial position with Ford in the North American Ford. (phone rings) I was talking about my son. He is in a managerial position for North American Ford North American Automotive Operations so I think he has done quite well as far as position and what have you is concerned. He lives out in Gross Point Park, Michigan and he has two, a boy and a girl. Yeah, they are big. All of us are big so they would have to be big too.
(I) Were your son and your husband active with you in the involvement with the community when you first came?
(N) Oh yes. Yes. We were fairly active when the busing was proposed. We were not in favor of it but it is a case of opinion, I guess. However if I sit next to you doesn't do me one bit of good unless I am going to exert myself or unless the teacher is good enough to make you feel that you want to work. I was a member of the Youth Guidance Council which is a group that has to do with children who have had a brush with the law and I worked with them for a couple of years and finally I decided that we had no power and we really weren't doing anything worthwhile so I resigned but whoever was chairman said that if I ever changed my mind, I should come back.
(I) How did you find the school system in Teaneck?
(N) Well it was good, There is no question about it. And as I said, I was active in the P. T. A. and I got to know a little bit about some of the teachers and, of course, from the work that he was doing and produced, indicated that they were doing a good job.
(I) As an educator in the past, and also from schools in New York, in the P. T. A. did you offer your services as an educated parent?
(N) What do you mean? Services in the school?
(I) At the P. T. A. meetings.
(N) Oh no I didn't. If I had something to say, I said it, but I didn't push myself anywhere.
(I) But even so, if you say something, you know what you are talking about. You could make changes, you know, in some of the things other people had not thought about.
(N) I see.
((I) Well now we had a problem with the busing. We were against it, I understand. You had your good reasons for being against it.
(N) Well, of course, as I said, if you have a drive or if you have parents who are interested in you and know what to do about it, there is no reason why you should feel that you must associate with other kinds of people or I don't know whether that is what I want to say or not but I always felt that we were as good as anybody so there wasn't much anybody could do about that in thinking so we didn't need.
((I) Well you presented your opinions in the media, in the newspaper, I understand.
(N) Yes, I went to the meeting and spoke to them and the newspapers said I was the only one that didn't receive any boos but, of course, they went through with it anyway.
(I) As an objector that took the of the school system, how did your neighbors support you?
(N) Well, I don't know, it's like anything else, if you agree with me, you'll support me and if you don't, you won't. it is as simple as that.
(I) But how did you black friends and neighbors feel about your decision?
(N) Well I guess some did and some didn't like it. I had a delegation come to visit but they didn't change anything and I didn't change anything for them either. I thing it is a case of your own personal philosophy. And I find that some people from southern areas don't think as we do and therefore they would be more interested, I guess, in busing than I would be. Of course I grew up and went to school with white people all my life and, as far as I know, we never had any problem. They'd come to my house; I'd go to their house. We'd study together and so we just never thought about it.
(I) How did your son feel about your opinion?
(N) Well he felt the same way because he lived with us and what else could he feel. Although one day he said he wasn't sure we were right because some kid in his class with whom he had been walking home had said that he was afraid of white people when he came to Teaneck and so i guess somebody like that needs it.
(I) Do you have any idea of what could have been done to help the situation rather than having busing?
(N) Well I told them that I thought if they made every school a perfect school, so to speak, nobody would be concerned about white one they attended and they would all go to neighborhood schools. Of course there was a school, I think that had a reputation for being better than the others but then I've heard other people say that was a myth so I don't know. But if you make your school an outstanding one, a good one, there isn't anything that you are missing, I think.
(I) Do you feel once the decision was made by the school system, do you recall an improvement or do you think there was an improvement?
(N) I don't guess I am really qualified to say whether there was an improvement or not. I know a lot of buses go by that are half empty and whatnot and it seems that something isn't working and of course it is costing money that should be investigated and corrected.
(I) While you were teaching in the schools, how were your colleagues who worked with you?
(N) What, in New York? We had a wonderful time. We got along very, very well.
(I) In spite of the fact, I am sure, they realized you were very verbal in your opinions about what you thought was right or wrong.
(N) That's right. They appreciated it. And would add their own or agree or disagree depending upon how they felt about it. But I had no problem along those lines at all.
(I) Does Teaneck has a smooth way of integrating schools now or does it still
(N) As far as I know, they are using the same system they used before except that I have heard that they had a black door in the high school and how that happened, I don't know.
(I) Well now with this trouble that they are having at present with the closing of schools, do you see any good about that, closing school?
(N) Well to me it seems to be the same kind of problem you would have in your own home when it came to a budget. If you don't use something, you don't need it, so you won't buy it. If you've got it, you try to find a use for it or sell it or whatever is needed. And I realize that most people don't want their school moved but that's the normal public reaction. It seems to me that if you only have a handful of kids in a school, you don't need that particular school. You have to teach them someplace else. And you have to find something to do with the school that would be to your benefit and since we are talking about money is so scarce and we need so much of it, it seems that we ought to understand that it's a fact of being a necessity.
(I) So your experience as an educator and a very find lady having been involved in your community, what do you think would be a good step for Teaneck now?
(N) Well I think the schools need to be upgraded because you see the reports from the S. A. T. scores and whatnot and they are not good. I realize it is a national problem but that doesn't excuse us so we need to get back to those basics and demand from kids. The alternative school might be good for some child who knows exactly what he or she wants to do and doesn't need much direction but the other kids who seem not to know exactly what they want or what they must have in order to be employable, they need to be directed and well directed.
(I) Is there anything else that you would like to talk about in reference to Teaneck?
(N) I don't know but I know the sewer up the street needs to be fixed and it has been like that for a couple of years and I have spoken to the county about it and they tell me that it has been cleaned up but water, when it rains, is up there anyhow so I guess there are other spots like that too and I also, I asked Mr. Schmidt once if there was a rule that said streets should be swept once a week and he told me, no, there was no such rule. so that accounts for some of the appearances on the streets around here. And the Recreation Center, the outside needs to be attended to, with all the junk that is out there, it is not picked up. Offhand I don't know anything. But I am glad they didn't get McDonald's in here because we would have never been able to get out of the street. And, as I said before, I contacted the county and they put a sign up there that said, don't block the intersection and in his letter he said, if the people read the sign, you will get relief, which indicated that he know nobody was going to read it.
(I) Well I thank you for your candid report toward busing in Teaneck (inaudible) and the Teaneck Oral History Project would like to thank you for your time.
(N) Well I thank you.
(I) You are a nice person. How many people would come out and say what they mean.
(N) They one thing and mean something else. Well I've never been like that so everybody knows where I stand. And if something occurs that I think needs to be changed, well I will do all I can to change it but if I make up my mind that it is useless, I say, all right, I will live with it. Thank you.
(I) You have been a beautiful lady.
(N) Well I thank you for that.