|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:||Pamela FitzPatrick Lorelli|
|DATE OF INTERVIEW:||May 9, 1984|
|TRANSCRIBER:||Jackie Kinney (1/28/1985)|
(I) What were some of the pressures that were exerted in the neighborhood?
(N) Well I never listened to conversations as a child because my parents would never they never said anything and they never would have permitted me to listen and I never heard the adults speaking but I do remember that the real estate agent came to my mother and father's house. We lived on a huge piece of property, it was deep in the corner of the dead end, it was three lots, it was like a park and he told us that we could sell the house and it was best to sell now because our property value was going to go down. And what we should do is sell and get out. And my father, a very quiet man who never raised his voice at anyone, I remember him telling him to get out and he was frantic, he was so angry that they would dare. And he was angry because he felt that this real estate agent subjected his children to this and this was something he was trying to avoid. He didn't want us to come or realize what was going on.
(I) And this is what went on in the surrounding areas and that's why it was so quickly went all black.
(N) Right after World War II, well not right after World War II but in the beginning 50s, Englewood, there is a section of Teaneck near the Armory, deep into that section, Englewood borders Teaneck and what happened was that a black family bought a house in Englewood. That was the fourth ward of Englewood and that was black. Bought a house and she thought it was Englewood. When he went, Teaneck was called West Englewood, the section that I lived in was called West Englewood, our mail came to West Englewood. So there was a confusion in his deed and when he went to register his child for public school, they said you live in Teaneck so he came to Teaneck to register. People went absolutely berserk. They burnt a cross on his front lawn. There was no KKK in Teaneck but yes they burnt a cross on his front lawn and my father remembers because my grandparents were Irish Catholics. They understood what it is like to be treated badly because of what they were and they understood in Ireland, even though my grandfather was not a poor man, he understood how people looked down their nose at anyone that was Catholic so they had a real empathy for the blacks at that time and if my father remembers his parents always talking about it. How terrible it was. How this was supposed to be America, people should be treated equally. And my uncles went down there and they were crazy, they were helping the man put out the fire on his front lawn and they begged him not to move because, and a lot of other people too like the church people, they begged him not to move because they thought he had every right and that was the first black family that went to Teaneck public school.
(I) Do you have any recollection of what their name was?
(N) No, I don't know their name. I could ask my mother. She would remember.
(I) Now this would have been in
(N) I would say 48, 49, 50, 51 and then what happened was that that side of Teaneck Road between where that Popeye Place is now and north to Englewood, black families started to move in and a lot of the white people started these block associations to say they wouldn't move but then they moved anyway so even as a baby, that section of Teaneck had a lot of black people in it. Beginning 60s. But then there were no blacks on the other side of Teaneck. That was the marker. No black families bought on that side. Then the black families bought on that side of Teaneck or the side that I lived on which was the west side of Teaneck Road. And then the same thing happened. People just moved out like crazy. Of course after a few years, it stabilized. For example, When blacks moved into the sections of Bogota, that never happened. When they moved into the sections near Thomnas Jefferson, it never happened. But it seem that the, I am not trying to just put my finger on the real estate people, but they only brought blacks to that section. They never showed them houses in other sections.
(I) Well you knew about too eventual legislation, the blockbusting that was directed specifically at them so that now perhaps they are a little more subtle but you don't have the blockbusting. let's go back to your school for a few minutes. I was interested to know what your, all the impressions were of the central sixth for instance.
(N) I didn't like it as much as fifth grade because I didn't have the same teacher which I really liked. I liked having a basic core teacher that I stayed with most of the day. The classer were larger. And it wasn't, I didn't think the curriculum was well organized or the classes as well presented as when I was in fifth grade. But, oh and I remember something specifically I didn't like. We could not go out for lunch. We had to sit in the cafeteria and after we ate, we had to be quiet, As a child, this was very difficult for me to sit in still like that. But I remember a teacher that I liked a lot, Mrs. Lacey, and I still read about her in the paper. She was my science teacher and she was very creative. She was one of the more creative teachers. She did interesting science projects. She would have us growing different plants, we had animals in the classroom and she was pregnant that year so we were all very, very interested in her belly and she would let us, you know, she never said anything. At that time you didn't dare. But we all noticed that she was having a baby and she used to talk about that she was going to have a baby and we used to touch her belly and she was very, very kind. Everyone loved her. All the children loved her. (END SIDE A - BEGIN SIDE B)
(I) So everyone loved Mrs. Lacey as a teacher.
(N) Everyone loved her and she was another teacher like my fifth grade teacher that rarely raised her voice and I became a teacher when I graduated from college and I always remember Miss Lacey and especially Miss Lyndahl, how they would control the class so when I became a teacher, I wanted to be that type of teacher that did interesting things and the controlled children well through other means, like through reward system that she used.
(I) What did, well let's jump to your own career then. Maybe we can get back to Mrs. Lacey and the sixth grade. You've mentioned teaching yourself. Where did you go to school?
(N) I went to William Patterson.
(I) And what was your degree?
(N) My degree was in education and I almost also have a Bachelors Degree in Criminology. I am seven credits short of a Bachelors Degree in Criminology so I had a double major all through college.
(I) I remember you always being interested in being a policewoman.
(N) Yes. I wanted to do that and I was dating my husband. As soon as I graduated from high school, I started dating my husband, Charlie Lorelli from Teaneck. We went to high school together. And I could just see that it wouldn't be practical for me to, we knew that we wanted to get married and we wanted to have children and police work is just too difficult but I am glad I took the major because it was incredibly interesting and I took a lot of law courses and sociology courses so the curriculum was wonderfully interesting which is a huge plus when you are in college, usually the courses are kind of boring.
(I) Was police work open to woman at the time?
(N) Yes and no. I went to Bogota. Bogota was having
(I) About what year was this?
(N) I would say 1974. That's the time I went to get a job and they wouldn't give me an application because they told me a man might care along. We only have one more application. So I said, "What do you mean, you won' t give me an application." I would never take anything lying down. So I went to my college professor and she came with me, Mrs. Riley, she had been a policewoman for twenty five years and she went in and told the police chief that she had seen more action in one day than he had seen in thirty years and that if he did not give m: the application, she is going to be responsible for suing him. He gave me the application and I took a physical examination. I was physically better than 9/10 of his men that took the exam and it was the chief of police test which Teaneck does not have. Teaneck has civil service. Chief of Police means they can pick who they want. OK? So I took the exam and they did not pick me although I scored very, very high on the exam. But Police Chief test means you pick who you want. In Teaneck you pick the high scorers. So it was open to policewomen but there were very few and in Bergen County there weren't any when I started .
(I) There are now.
(N) There are now, yeah. But I could see that teaching would suit me, I began to think that teaching might suit me better and my parents were really apprehensive about me going into police work and they thought a teacher would be wonderful and both of my parents always had a great respect for teachers so that was the greatest thing for them - that I became a teacher and my mother would tell anyone she saw that her daughter was a teacher.
(I) What did you teach and where?
(N) I taught elementary school. I taught in North Arlington. I taught first and second grade and I taught in Paterson, downtown Paterson, I taught fifth and sixth grade. My specialty was in reading but, of course, when you teach elementary school, you teach everything so my specialty was reading. I also coach. I coached the girls track team; I coached the high school cheerleaders; I coached the gymnastics team. So I was at school, I never got out of school on time. I was always there until five, six o'clock.
(I) Why did you give up your teaching career?
(N) I gave up my teaching career when I had my first son in 1979. I wanted to spend more time with him. At the same time, I didn't want to not work at all and I've always been involved in athletics. The whole time I was teaching, I was also teaching for the Recreation Department some dance course or some movement course or something so then I started teaching exclusively pregnant women. Then I took certification on Natural Childbirth instructor and developed an exercise program for pregnant women which I am doing now. I am still doing. I have about seven classes a week. I also give instruction in Natural Childbirth to couples.
(I) Where do you teach these classes?
(N) I rent a church for the day classes and for the evening classes, I rent Clatter Studio which is right down the block from me. And I have about seven classes a week. I love it. It is a wonderful, it is wonderful people to be with because they are all usually so happy and it is still being a teacher which I really do enjoy.
(I) What is it that you teach? What are the exercises?
(N) The exercises prepare a woman's body for labor and also strengthen and tone the body so that she will look better and feel better during her pregnancy. We do a lot of abdominal toning but not the same type of abdominal toning we do when you are not pregnant; it is a completely different program. It is really quite specialized. I have so many women that come to me that exercised before but they wouldn't dare go to just any exercise program because some of the exercises, of course they would not hurt the baby in any way, but they could strain and pull a muscle which you want to avoid when you are pregnant.
(I) May we go back to your early days in growing up. We got to as far as the sixth grade with wonderful Mrs. Lacey and some of the more creative teaching that she did and she brought in extra people to the classroom to enrich. What kind of things?
(N) Her husband came in one day and he gave the whole school, we met in the gym, a discussion and a talk on weather and he came in with big maps and films and slides and all the children, of course we wanted to study weather at the time, all the children drew the pictures on our paper and I remember that, I remember how much the children liked him. Of course, we all loved her so anyone she brought in, you know, would have been wonderful. But he was really quite interesting and he presented it very much at a sixth grade level even though we knew he was a college professor.
(I) What were relations like in the fifth and sixth grade. Now I know from your description and from a picture that you had a pretty mixed class, 50/50 in Washington Irving. But what was it like at Bryant School once it was an integrated school?
(N) It was very good. Children all seemed to get along and like each other. I think there was more of a loyalty to neighborhood than to anything else. You sought out those children that were maybe in your neighborhood that you knew better, that you would walk to school with.
(I) But this was a mix of all, not just color but other religions too.
(N) And there was no talk of religion in sixth grade. The children used to say what religion they were. I am Catholic, I am Jewish, I am Protestant. And the teachers never discussed it much, religion, but they used to talk about things like brotherhood and being kind to others and how everyone is different and everyone is unique and how everyone has to live in their environment and but I don't really remember there were no problems, I remember that. There were never any problems because of religion or race at all. The children basically got along very well.
(I) And in the junior high, did this continue?
(N) No. When I was in seventh and eighth grade, I used to, from my neighborhood, my best friend was a black girl, Jay Joyner, and her and I were absolutely inseparable and her family and my family, they loved the fact that we were friends because they both approved of us being friends because they thought our families were similar and they had similar values and that. So I used to, if she wasn't at my house, I was at her house and we were still children though. we were in seventh and eighth grade and we used to go to the dances together and I used to dance with all the boys from my neighborhood and that's when something struck me that people didn't look at me, people gave me funny looks when I would dance with the black boys which, you know, didn't mean anything to me. And then she told me that she felt that people would look at her if she danced with a white boy so I said OK and things were great and we would go to parties, I would be the only white girl there, and it was great. We were neighbors, we were friends for years.
But when I started to date boys, I dated boys from other neighborhoods and they had no experience with my friends and they weren't, they didn't feel as comfortable at attending a party and that in the neighborhood because they felt they'd be singled out because they were white and also I kind of began to realize more things. I began to realize that people didn't think it was a great idea for blacks and whites to date each other and it never came up because these were really my friends and you don't date your friends. You date someone else. Someone that you meet in another way. But then when I was in, I still continued to have my girlfriends in the neighborhood, but then Martin Luther King was shot and that was really the time when a lot of black people started to get hostile. The children started to get hostile. Never to me because I lived in their neighborhood and it was too many years we had built up as a friendship that they would be hostile to me so that never happened. But I noticed more of a hostility towards whites in general and they used to make statements about white people in general which always used to infuriate me because I felt that that was terribly, terribly unfair.
You know, I didn't mind them making specific statements but when these girls would make general statements, I always used to just tell them I thought they were being unfair and don't say these things in front of me and you know don't categorize me with other people just because you think that certain people have likes and beliefs and by ninth grade though, blacks and whites are still friends but it just wasn't like it was when we were children. Although I still had friends, I don't know how many people that didn't live in my neighborhood made friends with other races. Not as many as, not too many.
(I) And in high school
(N) In high school, things got better because the discipline was better at the high school. The classrooms were more, they were, you were put in a classroom according to your intelligence by test scores in some classes. Of course, not in gym or art or anything like that so the discipline was better and there seemed to be not too much of a problem in eleventh and twelfth grade. But in tenth grade, there were problems. The year before that there had been a bad incident where a child got put through a glass window at the high school at a dance and blacks and whites increasingly separated. What was interesting in fact
(I) May I just interrupt you a moment? What was the incident of the child being put through a window?
(N) There was a dance at the high school. I was in ninth grade. And a white child went through a window and was very badly cut. It made the New York Times, it was on the TV. I don't even remember really what happened but after Martin Luther King was shot, I think a lot of people, a lot of the black children got more involved in their heritage and in being black and they were making statements about being black and being black was very important to them and maybe the feeling was that they should basically stay with each other and just be friendly with each other rather than mixing so much with the white children. I don't think that the white children wouldn't have wanted to be friends with them. That was not the case at all because Teaneck basically I think the average child in Teaneck was brought up by parents who chose Teaneck so that their child could be in a mixed situation but it was obvious that a lot of the blacks didn't want to mix with the whites.
(I) It was a pretty valuable experience growing up there.
(N) It really was because I learned a real tolerance of different types of people. Although my family was Catholic and we went to church every Sunday, I knew that wasn't the only type of person in the world and there always seemed to be a lot of, in the history class and in the English classes and in the lunchroom, there always seemed to be a lot of discussions of different political ideologies, different views on things and generally speaking, the thing I thought was amazing about Teaneck High School was that anyone that wanted to could have had friends because there was someone for everyone.
(I) Did you find this same tolerance of other people when you left Teaneck High?
(N) No. people are much more provincial. They have less experience with different types of people. I think it has been an asset for me, I think it will always stay with me because I learned how to understand that people are different and how people do things differently, how they look different and I just find it is very helpful in life to realize that because if you are not tolerant, it is difficult to get along.
(I) You no longer live in Teaneck although you are almost next door. But your mother Maizie still lives in Teaneck?
(N) And all the aunts and uncles.
(I) Do any of your cousins also have this long red hair that seems to have care from your grandmother?
(N) No. No, there are all shades of red. Not as red as me but basically red highlights.
(I) Well you came from grandma.. What was her name now?
(N) My grandmother's name was Margaret, Margaret Tansy.
(1) Fran grandma Margaret. Well it has been a pleasure interviewing you. Thank you very much Pam. Bye now.