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: Ruth Landrine
INTERVIEWER: Ann McGrath
DATE OF INTERVIEW:    May 30, 1985
TRANSCRIBER: Jackie Kinney (12/1985)

Previous Page

(I) But what about the literary club? Do you remember any of the ladies, did they meet here?

(N) Oh, they would meet at the different houses. There was a woman by the name of Mrs. Van Riper and she lived down the other side of Fort Lee Road. And then Aunt Fannie, my mother's sister-in-law, my father's brother's wife. And Aunt Mamie, one of my father's sisters. And Mrs. Farrant. (end of tape 1 - side 1 - begin side 2) The church over here that is Evangelical Church, that was a Methodist Church. I guess probably it was non-denominational at the beginning. Aunt Rachel gave the property for that church over there. Aunt Rachel DeGraw. And these were people in the community and my mother, as I say, was a great organizer and she put on a cantada with these people in it and the story of this was supposed to be The Young Ladies Single Blessingness Debating Society and these were all supposed to be spinsters and they all went different ways and they were no longer spinsters when they came back and this was my mother and she married a cowboy, this is what the story was about, and she had ten children I guess it is (she is counting from picture) no eight children. This is my brother and this was me. And this was my mother. And then all these different people in the community, a lot of them I can recognize,

(I) Now this was a show?

(N) A show. They put on a show.

(I) And who came, everybody came? They were all in it.

(N) It looks as though the whole community was there. That's what I thought when I saw it. I thought who came to see it. But of course there were other people because the people in the community, well Oakdene Avenue was still there and houses were on Oakdene Avenue all the way up to Queen Anne Road. Then there were a few families in houses on Queen Anne Road. And then there were quite a few houses down on Walnut Street and Maple Street and then what is Morningside Terrace now, that used to be called Elm Street and there weren't many streets

(I) How would they publicize a show like this? 

(N) I don't know.

(I) It wasn't a church function then? They just used the church. 

(N) Oh, it was a church function. All these people went to the church. And everybody went whether they were, well of course there would only be Catholics and Protestants. That was all there were then.

(I) Really. And was the Catholic Church St. Anastasia?

(N) Yes, St. Anastasia and I guess St. Joseph or Holy Trinity over in Hackensack. I don't think Leonia had a Catholic Church at that time.

(I) So there was very little diversity among the people. Mostly what, there were Dutch and English and

(N) Oh no. Down in Glenwood Park there were a lot of people would come in and that was a community where people could buy land quite reasonable and there were Hungarians and Germans and Polish. In my class in school, there was a Roman Stabinsky, his father leased the land from my father as a farmer. Then there was Lawson and they were Danish and they lived in a little house they leased from my aunt and they rented the land from her and he farmed the land. This was just a little lane that went through here.

(I) Who had the greenhouses?

(N) Well his name, the most recent one, was Jakowski but before that it was Deery that had the greenhouses and maybe you've talked with the Mortensons.

(I) Yeah, Ida.

(N) Ida. Well her father bought a house that my father built up on Queen Anne Road. I don't know why, my father just bought a piece of land up there, I guess from Aunt Rachel, yeah it had to be from Aunt Rachel, and where the Grand Union is now and he bought a piece of land up there and he built a house all by himself, just like this house, identical.

(I) It's not there though, that house is gone?

(N) No. And then he wanted my mother to move up there from here and she said, move up to that wilderness. Why the trolley doesn't even stop there. She wouldn't move up there. And

(I) We are not even talking a half a mile, are we, to the Grand Union?

(N) That's right. Just about that. So Papa sold it to Fritz Damerall. He was Alsacian/Lorraine. And he was a florist and that's Ida Mortensen, Ida Damerall's father.

(I) That's great. So your mother gave shows and she had a literary club.

(N) And then she had

(I) Was she involved in politics at all?

(N) No, not in politics at all. She had what they call Larkin Clubs. Did you ever hear of that? Up in Boston, Larkin was in business and they'd send out magazines and then people could form clubs and then buy produce and sell it and then you get coupons and stamps and so forth and then you could when you saved enough stamps you could buy practically anything - furniture, rugs, everything - and my mother wanted, well she had two of these clubs and the produce would come and it would be soap and vanilla extract and you name it,

(I) Household things.

(N) Yeah. And they'd come by the West Shore Railroad and then my brother would have to take his express wagon and go over and get them or we'd get Uncle John if it was anything large, Uncle John was Aunt Rachel's son, and he would go over with the buckboard and bring it from the West Shore Railroad and I always remember Mama had been saving and saving her coupons and she wanted to buy a new rug and she was very independent. You know, She wouldn't ask my father for money for a rug. No, she would earn it herself this way.

(I) Was that unusual? It sounds unusual for ladies in that day and age.

(N) Yes because I don't remember anyone else

(I) They were usually content being a housewife

(N) I don't remember anyone else that had that urge and push that my mother had.

(I) She was like a business woman.

(N) Right. And yet she could sing and paint, that picture up there she, that's a charcoal of Abe Lincoln and she copies that from a Lincoln penny. She just put the penny there and she copied it. Of course, her brother, Uncle Al, she was one of eight children, and Uncle Al was an artist. He did murals and he taught my mother to paint and Mama said that Uncle Dan, that was another brother of my mothers, Uncle Dan and Uncle Al would always argue. They were a very gregarious family.

(I) Would they get together for all the holidays?

(N) They would get together at the drop of a pin and Uncle Al and Uncle Dan would argue and Uncle Al said, black is not a color; neither is white a color. And Uncle Dan, who wasn't an artist, said it is a color. It is black or it is white. And Uncle Al said, no, they're shades and black and white are not colors and they are shades and he was the one who taught my mother to paint.

(I) When the families got together, would your mother sing?

(N) Everyone would sing. Everyone would sing. My mother could play the piano, she couldn't read a note but she could play anything by ear.

(I) Were there any other instruments that this family could play?

(N) My brother played the banjo but otherwise no one else played any other instrument but my mother's sister, Aunt Kitty, of course she played the piano and other cousins and so forth. It was a big family.

(I) What kind of food would you have when you all got together?

(N) Oh most delicious. My mother was an excellent cook.

(I) Is there anything that you wouldn't eat today that you ate then? That you don't eat that much today that was popular?

(N) Too late I started keeping this, my mother's recipes. They were in a book and then they started getting worn and I thought, oh my goodness, this was a recipe for pumpkin pie. And my pie crust, this was my mother's handwriting, this was her handwriting as she got older and couldn't see so well. But this was her writing and you ask what she cooked. My oatmeal lace cookies, applesauce cake

(I) All very Americana.

(N) Ruth's layer cake, this was mine. (looking through cookbook) Now this was another thing. Mother always make blackberry cordial and I still have some

(I) How would she make it, in a crock? 

(N) No, she'd make it, what does she say here? Warm and squeeze the berries, one pint of juice, a pound of sugar, quarter of an ounce stick cinnamon, quarter of an ounce of mace, two tsp. cloves. Boil all together for quarter an hour. Strain and to each fruit add one glass and she has underlined brandy. And I still have it. Whenever I have an intestinal grip or something, we just take some of that

(I) Was it used as a medicine also? 

(N) Oh yes, yes.

(I) For colds or just stomachs.

(N) No, not for colds. Just for stomachs. For intestinal, not stomach. And that was blackberry cordial. Then she has her recipe here for chili sauce. Poor Man's Pound Cake. Watermelon Preserves.

(I) That's something that you don't see that much. The preserves, the watermelon.

(N) This was her favorite and that was one of my mother's drawings. She was always drawing something.

(I) She was talented.

(N) This was her French Chocolate Cake. I have to tell you something about that. Up where the firehouse is now, that used to be the volunteer fire department. Oh, I'm going on and on.

(I) They used to have parties.

(N) Boy did they have parties. Before they had the firehouse up there, they had a little hand pulled fire cart and they kept it over in the barn in back of our house here. That barn was part of the DeGraw barn. Right side that was a big house there and this was the barn that went back but that was rented to the Lawsons. He was a farmer that rented and planted all the land with corn and tomatoes and cabbage.

(I) Now when there was a fire, who would go running? Who would get that?

(N) They had rings. I am going on and on because one thing leadsto another. And they had them at different places in the town and then when there was a fire, there'd be a certain ring and they'd all come running down

(I) Could they tell from the ring or were there a number of rings?

(N) A number of rings to tell the location and this was a big piece of metal and then it was on a frame and we had, at one time, they were doing some work on the trolley tracks and they took pieces of metal that they weren't using and then the work car would come along and they'd pick them up but my brother and a couple of the other boys took a couple of pieces of this metal and it was heavy because this is what holds the rails together and then they had spikes. And my father had a grape arbor and he had, it was metal the crosspieces, so they tied one of these things on to that metal grape arbor and then they got a hammer and they started pounding it. Well they were having more fun. We were having more fun because we were playing. This was, we were firemen and we were ringing the bell. And the first thing we knew, I can't remember the name, not McCarthy but some name like that, he was a tinsmith and someone else from Queen Anne Road, a some kind of business that was up there, they all came running down

(I) On foot. They would come on foot.

(N) Yes, and they thought there was a fire but they didn't know, they couldn't locate this ring or this sound. They tried to follow the sound. Well, they took that thing down in a hurry and we were so horrified. Here we were having such a good time and then after they got over being angry about it, then they all had to sit down and laugh about it.

(I) So if there was a fire, would they pull this by hand?

(N) They pulled it by hand and then they'd throw the hose in the creek or the water, the brook, and that was the pump.

(I) Was your father a volunteer fireman? Do you remember any big fires that you actually...

(I) He was a volunteer fireman. No, they didn't have any big fires. They just had

(I) No big houses. Brush fires?

(N) Brush fires mostly, yeah. And the first big fire that I know they had but this was before I was, remember at all, was whoever rented the house that my grandfather lived in or the Copleys bought afterward, the barn caught fire and they lost horses in there. But this was before I was old enough to even remember about it. I just remember them telling about it. But the worst fire, of course, was when the Teaneck school burned but this was in 1922, sometime around there. But that was the one big fire around here.

(I) Which school was it?

(N) The Oakdene Avenue school. They were putting an addition on and evidently the workmen didn't put something out that they were working with and two o'clock in the morning, the whole thing went up.

(I) The whole thing was lost?

(N) Yeah.

(I) Do you remember the politics of any of these men?

(N) My father yes, he was a black Republican. No Democrat was any good.

(I) And who ran the town?

(N) But these were his best friends but until they started talking politics, you know, and when they talked politics, if he was a Democrat, it was just terrible. And that's all you had, of course, just Republicans and Democrats.

(I) And who would run the town?

(N) My father was, the Town Hall used to be up here where the Town House is now. There was a building the other side of that and that's where the Town Hall was and my father was, I don't know, he was something in that. And I don't know what they had .

(I) But they got along peaceably, right? 

(N) Oh yeah. No problems.

(I) Back to the firehouse. Do you remember when the firehouse was built? It was still a volunteer fire department?

(N) It was a volunteer fire department and you were asking about the gatherings. That must have been 1910 or 1911, something like that, because I know when about 1915 or 1916, they disbanded it and then they had a paid fire department because they had two pool tables up there and the men would go up, and they would have a good time when they would have their meetings playing pool and my father bought one of the pool tables and we had it up in our attic and Willie DeGraw, a cousin of my mother's, he had one over there but I just don't remember back the dates, the exact dates.

(I) Did they have better equipment in the firehouse or did they still just have the old hand pump?

(N) They had the hand pump. They took it up there but then they bought it, they bought an automobile, what do they call it?

(I) Fire engine.

(N) I don't know a certain make that they had. 

(I) They collected money for the stuff?

(N) Yeah. I don't know how they collected it. I don't remember that but they had one up there.

(I) Do you remember any other organizations your mother or father belonged to?

(N) My father, the only organization that he belonged to was the fire company. That was all. And of course my mother, as I told you, all these organizations and she would start. That's what I wanted to tell you about. The rug that she bought. And when it came, Uncle John had to go over with the buckboard and bring it over because it was a 9x12 rug. And when Mama put it down, instead of it being flowers in it, it was, instead of it being blue, they were sort of a rose color and she was very disappointed. And I remember coming home from school one day and seeing Mama down with a dish of dye, blue dye, and she was down on her hands and knees and she was coloring all those pink flowers blue with the blue dye, just so . intricate and working so hard and it did, it looked so pretty.

(I) Did it work, did it last?

(N) It didn't last because after we walked on it, then it went back to the original color. But by that time, she wasn't worrying about it anymore. I always remember Mama just down there coloring it.

(I) What about you and your husband? Have you belonged to any organizations in the town?

(N) No. The only thing I ever belonged to of course was the alumni, the Nurses Alumni, and my husband, when we were married, we were married August 1, 1929 and August 3, I should say, 1929 and the stock market crash was in October and his boss went out of business. He was an auto electrician and my husband worked for him in Englewood and he went out of business because all businesses crashed and by January, you couldn't get any work at all. There was absolutely no work. My husband tried to get a job working in a garage. He couldn't get a job. He tried to get a job even as a milkman. Couldn't get any work. He said I'll dig ditches but there was no work. And of course in those days, you didn't have relief, you didn't have any kind of security of any kind at all. And so my husband, his boss had gone bankrupt so Lawrence decided to, if he paid his boss' debts then he could take over the, business which he did and he worked, he worked day and night. Our children saw very little of him because he was working over in Englewood and that's the business that he is selling now after fifty five years.

(I) Wow, that's a wonderful story. Did you discuss this move of buying the man out?

(N) We didn't. He just did it. By this time, I was pregnant and our first, Leola her name is, our first child was born December 1 and what he did with business, that was a man's job. He worked that. And that's what he worked with, his hands and his head.

 

Continue on the Next Page

Back to Teaneck Oral History (2)

Back to Township History Main Page