|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:||William (Bill) Moore|
|INTERVIEWER:||Orra N. Davage|
|DATE OF INTERVIEW:||March 15, 1984|
|TRANSCRIBER:||Jackie Kinney (5/20/1984)|
This is Orra Davage interviewing William Moore, also know as Bill, for the Oral History Project of the Teaneck Public Library.
(I) Bill, when did you first come to Teaneck?
(N) In September, 1938.
(I) How was it you picked Teaneck.
(N) Well Teaneck High School looked like a good place to teach and I was ready to do some high school teaching.
(I) Were you just out of college?
(N) No. I had taught five years in a business school in Jersey City and before that, between college. Really, I had worked three years out in Western Electric in Kearny.
(I) What did you do at Western Electric?
(N) I was a clerk, personnel clerk, and thought that I was going to stay there for the rest of my life but I switched over to Columbia University and got my degree there and then finally my Masters degree there just before I started to teach in Teaneck.
(I) What was your Masters in?
(N) In English.
(I) So 1938 and you moved into Teaneck. Were you married then?
(N) Yes. I was married just before I moved into Teaneck.
(I) What did you do for housing then?
(N) Well we first rented a house on Cherry Lane, 276 Cherry Lane and it was a very pleasant place. We were there one year and we started looking around and we found this house on Edgemont place and it delighted us and it has delighted us ever since. That is one reason while we are still in Teaneck.
(I) Did you have the help of real estate people
(N) Yes. We had real estate people. In fact the man who sold us this house had just inherited it from his mother who had had it built, custom built by a very famous builder around here in those days Van Zader, a Dutch builder, and Mrs. Storm who was an antique dealer here, a well known one, died two years after she had this house built and she left it to the son who was a realtor with Alexander Sommer. Actually we came first to look at the lots across the street, there were two lots there together and we talked of buying those but then we found that his house across the street was for sale. He didn't tell us that until the next day and then we came right up and looked at it and we bought it but later on we bought those lots too. Elston Howard's home stands there now. I am 109 and he is 110. And let me tell you a little about those lots. They were just vast open area, really growing up with all kinds of shrubbery and everything and I cleared all of that myself and I built a, I had horseshoe pitching out there, I had a badminton court, I had a rose garden. It was a real park. And during the war years, there were eight victory gardens there. I used that lot for a victory garden.
(I) Oh, that's fantastic. This house is just lovely inside.
(N) I have been told by many that it is one of the best built houses they have ever seen. Everyone who has ever done any work in here has told me that. And this is a funny thing, while Elston's house was being built, I was over there talking with the builders and one of them said, is your house one of the old Dutch house built in the 1720s. I said, no but thank you for the compliment. It is a good replica.
(I) When was this that Elston
(N) Well Arlene and Elston built there 22 years ago I believe and they have been such wonderful neighbors. Poor Elston died two years ago last Christmas I believe and that was a great loss to us. He was one of the finest men I have every known. I adored him to the limit. But Arlene and her children are still there. They are good neighbors. Delightful.
(I) So you had a job when you came and you found a house.
(N) I found a house, yes.
(I) Bill, tell me about the configuration of the school system back then?
(N) Well, Dr. Lester Neulen was our superintendent and he continued to be for many years and the high school administration consisted of three or four People, Mr. Charles Steel, Jr., Miss Helen V. Hill and Mr. William H. Wilson. Of course then the high school and junior high were together, you know, until 1954 when we outgrew the building and went on double sessions for three years. Finally in March of 1957, Benjamin Franklin Junior High School was completed and so the junior high moved over there. And they were too much for that building so then they built Thomas Jefferson two or three years later and half of the school, of course moved down there. I taught in the high school really a total of 42 years. I retired in 1972 but they talked me into coming back and doing some substituting and I did that for seven years. But the last three years I have been completely disconnected from it. But I had many happy years there. I was chairman of the English Department for twenty years. I taught a course called creative writing that was very well known. We had the first creative writing course in the state of New Jersey. I didn't start it. It was Mary Galvan who started it but I took it over the next year. The second year and the third year that I had the course, we decided to publish a book of the writing of the students and we called it THE FIRST LEAF from O. Henry and then of course we had THE SECOND LEAF and THE THIRD LEAF right on through to the THIRTY SECOND LEAF. There was only one year in there between the twelfth and the thirteenth leafs that there was no creative writing class but I am very proud of those thirty two leafs and what it meant to the students. Many of them today are well known writers all over the country.
(I) Can you name some of those?
(N) Well, no I can't. I can name a good many of my well known students that have been in the Creative Writing classes. Leah Binger was one of the out standing ones; and Paul Brown; and Connie Rodda; and Adelaide I can't recall her last name.
(I) They went on to do writing.
(N) Writing and teaching and different things to do with writing. One of my, perhaps my most famous student, was Paul Volcker who is chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and he was also in my Hi Yi Club which I sponsored for twenty five years. A boys service club ranging from twenty five to seventy five boys each year. Paul was treasurer and I did him and maybe that's where he learned to handle big money, I wonder if I might go on with another story about Paul right now.
(I) Oh I'd be delighted to hear it.
(N) Well Paul was first township manager, Paul A. Volcker Sr., and a very distinguished man. Well Paul Jr. was in my homeroom in 217 at the high school and he was absent one day and the next day he brought in the usual parental not although it was a bit extraordinary coming from the township manager and it was a type written letter that read: Dear Mr. Moore, Please excuse Paul's absence from school yesterday. I took him fishing. I figure that a day of fishing is worth as much as a day in Teaneck high school. Paul A. Volcker, Sr. Well I didn't know what to do at first. There was nothing on the slip that we use, homeroom teachers use, to pass on to the other teachers that says, 'excused, went fishing.' But I excused Paul anyway and I have been glad ever since that I did. First of all, I have come to believe that Mr. Volcker was absolutely right and secondly, Paul still loves to go fishing and I think that a day of fishing with his dad was worth as much as a day at Teaneck High school. This Hi Yi that I mentioned did so many services for the school. Now there's where I came in contact, close contact, with some of the finest boys in the world, the finest men in the world right now. In addition to Paul Volcker, there are hundreds and hundred of others how have prominent positions everywhere. We met every Wednesday night during the school year. One Wednesday we would have a business meeting and have a speaker. Dick Woller our township recreation chairman spoke to us many times and Dr. Bookstaver, the well-known school doctor, often was our guest speaker. Then the alternating Wednesday nights we had sports. They played basketball or whatever was in season and we went on all kinds of trips. I went with the boys to Pawling, New York to a camp. I went to other camps with them and we did all sorts of things. We put on a show almost every year. I made several hundred dollars.
(I) This was in the High School?
(N) In the high school only in what is now the Helen V. Hill auditorium. It was a very wonderful club which doesn't exist anymore. I am sorry to say. Now going back to school in general, let's see, I mentioned Dr. Neulen who is still in this town. I thing he is 85. He was superintendent for so many years. And Mr. Steel died three years ago, I believe, or maybe more. And Mr. Wilson is dead but Miss Hill is living in Scottsdale, Arizona and I hear from her frequently.
(I) What about the student body at the time when you first came.
(N) Well it is hard to remember. Everything is so pleasant. There was nothing disagreeable it seems to me in those days. The student body
(I) Was primarily white in those days?
(N) It was primarily white. There was one black student in the High School the first year that I was here. His name was Augie Campbell. I don't know what his real name was but everybody know him as Augie. And he was captain of the football team. A very distinguished young man. I believe he went into the service and it seems to me that I have heard that he made the service his career. I wish I know where he was now and how he is. Of course the war came on soon after I came here and boys were pulled out of my classes right and left and some of them never came back. There is a tree for each one of them on the school grounds, you know, which a little memorial piece of drawing at the foot of each tree. Those were some very sad times.
(I) Did you teach Tommy Costa?
(N) No, Tommy had graduated just before I came here. A year or two before. I've known Tommy all these years. I taught, I believe two of his brothers. I remember them very well. Tommy became Mayor later on. and I taught all the Mayor's children up through the years. Mayor Brett and Mayor Feldman. I taught two of Sen. Feldman's daughters I believe.
(I) Did you teach Bob Morrill?
(N) Yes, I did. That reminds me of a story. I read years ago that every teacher should treat every pupil in his class as if that pupil was going to be a member of the Board of Education some day. Well, I don't know how I treated Bob, but we were good friends and he has been a member of the Board of Education now for many years. Not until after I left the system, I believe. But I did have others on there during my teaching time, boys whom I had taught came up and got on the Board of Education. A story of Bob Morrill - this was in Room 109 where I taught for 24 years and the Gym classes pass right along that room to and from the athletic field and one day as they were passing, we had those window things that open this way, you know, and somebody threw in a pair of dirty gym pants and they landed right on Bob Morrill's head and I said to him, 'Bob, this is a mark of distinction for you.' And I've kidded him about it many times since that that got him on the Board of Education, I am sure.
(I) That's pretty good.
(N) Bob Morrill was in the class of '55. 1955. I didn't mention the fact that we had to go on double session for three years from '54 until spring of 1957. We were on double sessions, split sessions I guess we called them. The junior high would have to use the morning and the senior high the afternoon and we would reverse that. And oddly enough, many of us felt that those years, those three years, we accomplished more that ever before. You had shorter periods, you were there less time on the whole and you put more into it. The one thing that suffered I think was the after school activities. They suffered. But they pulled themselves right back into shape after we went back on single sessions.
(I) Were you responsible for any after school projects other than the Hi Yi Club?
(N) Well we had a writers club for several years. Yes, I was responsible for that. And of course the Teachers Association. I was in all those years. And the Credit Union. I was an officer in that for many years.
(I) Tell me about the Teachers Association.
(N) P. T. A. Well I was president of the that for two years and three months. There were the busiest years but when I took that job on the principal, Miss Hill, said 'you can't do it. You couldn't possibly do one more there.' But I managed to do it. I had a good helpers and we have always felt we accomplished as much in those two years as ever had been accomplished or ever would be. Jean Sumner and Joan Politaire were on my staff and how we worked to get publicity in the papers and incidentally, during that time, we had a very distinguished speaker. We had many of them but Dr. Eugene T. Maleska who was editor of the crossword puzzles for the New York Times, he came over and gave us a lecture one afternoon. I still write to him occasionally and he remembers me. He remembers his visit to Teaneck and our superintendent at the time, Dr. Scribner. He also had in one of his puzzles one day Elston Howard's name and I wrote him and told him that Elston Howard is my next door neighbor, was my next door neighbor, and he wrote back a beautiful letter about how much he thought of Elston Howard and that he was one of the finest men he had ever known.
(I) Now that you mentioned Elston again, what can you tell me about the difficulty, if any at all, that Howard had in getting the house over here?
(N) Well, I don't know of
(I) Did they buy the land from you?
(N) Not from me. I sold the land to a Mr. Yankner in Fair Lawn who had pestered me for it. We really didn't want to let it go. And finally we decided well, we liked this house so much we would probably never build over there and I sold it to him and after several year, he retired and he wanted to build and he found it too expensive and so forth and he sold it to Dr. Fox here in town. And I kept thinking a house would start up over there, Dr. Fox's house, and one day when I came down from New England where I had been to visit my sister, the first thing I heard was Elston Howard has bought the lot from Dr. Fox and is going to build. Now whether he had any difficulty getting it or not, I don't know. I never did know a thing about it until I got back and heard that he was going to build. And he started building right away and I never heard any conflict about it at all.
(I) Of course, the neighbors wouldn't put up any
(N) No. None whatsoever. I suppose Elston was our most famous resident here for many years. I used to joke and say, people used to drive down Edgemont Place and look at my place and now they are all looking over there. Guess who lives there - Elston Howard lives there.
(I) And you taught his children?
(N) Well yes. When I was substituting I taught Sheryl. Elston, Jr. was in the high school when I was still teaching there but I never had the privilege of teaching him but I did catch Sheryl many times when I was subbing.
(I) You have had a variety of experiences here in town since you have been here. When did you get on the library.
(N) Well now, Mayor Clarence Brett drove up here one day in May of 1947 and asked me in his charming but insistent way, persuasive way, if I would consider accepting a place on the Library Board. And I remember I said to him, well, I am going out west for the whole summer. And he said, that doesn't matter. We don't need too much in the summer anyway. Well he talked me into it and I said yes. So I was on the library board for 32 years.
(I) And who was the librarian in '47?
(N) In 1947 it was Miss Agnes Norton. And the president of the board was Mr. Frayle and he soon resigned, he had a number of years, and Mr. Alan Walsh was named president. So I served on the library board with great pleasure for 32 years.
(I) Tell me about the town when you first moved in.
(N) Well it was very different from what it is now. I believe there were 12,000 people in Teaneck when I came here and now I think there are 30 or 32,000.
(I) How had the bridge opened?
(N) Oh yeah. The George Washington Bridge had opened. I know I drove up here from Jersey City once just to see Route 4 and George Washington Bridge. Route 4 had just opened and it was a spectacular highway. But there were many open spaces in Teaneck in those days besides the lot across the street from me, there were areas all over town not developed at all. In fact, the whole area east of Teaneck Road was a vast gold course and well, back to Votee Park and that area there. Voter Park had the circular track there at the same. It was cindered. I used to ride that track when it was.
(I) You had a bike even then?
(N) I had a bike 43 years ago. Yes I did. And I rode on that cindered track. The trees around it which are now dying of old age I suppose were then just little saplings. There was nothing built up along Palisade Avenue, not at this end at least. All of those houses were built since I came here and Cedar Lane itself, the downtown part, was much as it is now I think although there has been a change or two but now all of these doctors' buildings down this way on Cedar Lane, in fact where the Acme is now, was a great wooded area where all those apartments are was a wooded area for years after I came here. Beautiful trees. Every one of them had .. and Holy Name was a very small establishment compared to what it is now and Teaneck Road was a narrow two lane road. I used to ride my bike up and down that. They widened that about 40 years ago and I remember that one of the old distinguished Dutch Houses in this town belonged to Mrs. Schuh, Mr. and Mrs. Schuh, whose son I taught. He is now a distinguished doctor, Fred Schuh. That whole kitchen end of that house, that house was built with the end to the street, to the road, you know, and that had to be cut off when Teaneck Road was widened. Then later on I had the pleasure of being part of the dedication of that house as a landmark house, historical landmark.
(END OF SIDE 1 - BEGIN SIDE 2)
(I) Tell me about the architect for the Methodist Church.
(N) Well the architect for the new half of the church was Mr. Bergen who died recently out in the west at the age of 96 or 97. Mr. Charles Haerter built the addition. He also built Teaneck High School, one of the finest buildings in the country I've been told by many. Mr. Haerter's daughter incidentally, was a teacher in the high school for many years. Now
(I) What did you and your wife do for recreation or social life?
(N) Well there used to be much more social life in this town, it seems to us, than there is now. We used to go to so many big dinners and things down at the old Casa Manor on Cedar Lane.
(I) Is that where Pathmark is now?
(N) Yes. Right in there. All the retirement dinners. I went to Mr. Volcker's retirement dinner down there. And that's where we had the big kick-off dinner for the First Community Chest that Teaneck ever had. Incidentally, I got put on that committee Mr. Steel suggested my name to a Mr. Bowles who is now a public relations man in New York City and Mr. Bowles said to me, 'We need some songs, Some parodies to sing at this dinner. Words put to tunes that are familiar. What about your creative writing class giving us some of those.' So we went to work on it in class and the kids came up with some very funny things, delightful things. I took them down to the nest meeting and that serve everybody fine. And then somebody said, 'Well now, who is going to lead the singing?' Well I had never done such a thing and I don't sing every well in the first place but I did it. I went over to Mrs. Schwanewede's to rehearse. She was to be on the dias. And so we got through it all right and we had a rip-roaring big dinner down there for the kick-off of the First Community Chest in Teaneck.
(I) Do you remember the years/
(N) No, I don't, but I would say it was at least 35 years ago. It must have been. Mrs. Schwanewede was the wife of Bill Schwanewede who owned Schwanewede and Fralee Engineering Company here and
(I) He is still in business, no?
(N) Young Bill, whom I taught, is the head of that business now. Mr. Fralee left it and I think he is no longer living and Mr. Schwoanewede himself passed away but young Bill is running the business. Well the whole atmosphere in Teaneck used to be, it seems to me, more friendly and more warm than it is now and I think that is because there are so many transitions, people move in and move out. One lady said to me one day, 'nobody moves out of Teaneck. They just move someplace else in Teaneck.' But I am no sure that is so. But except for Mrs. Feinberg three houses down the street, we are the last anywhere around here, that were here 45 years ago. And the neighbors used to get together and have good times together, picnics in the backyard and such things. They still do in parts of town I know, but it just happens that we don't here. We used to go to the theater a great deal. It was no problem to go over to New York. You could drive right in and park your car and go to the theater for $5 a ticket. Or I've been hundreds of time for $1.25 stand-up room and I saw the whole series of Gilbert and Sullivan at one time when the company first came to New York. I think I stood most of the time for $1.25 and enjoyed every one of them. But commuting to New York has become a real problem for us and we don't do much of it. My daughter lives over there and we go to her and she comes over here. I used to go to my home in Tennessee a great deal and we used to travel greatly all summer, you know. We would take off here and go all over west, driving, 10,000 miles a summer was noting up into British Columbia and around there but we don't do that any more. We had the most wonderful trip in 1947, our first trip out west. When the west was really the west and beginning to grow and boom and the Grand Canyon, for instance, when it had just a few cottages or cabins scattered around on the rim, you know, and you had no trouble getting one. We went for one, would be there on night, and we'd stay there a week. I walked to the bottom of that canyon twice and back up. Right down to the river. But the whole west was so surprising to us then and the places that we went through like Grants, New Mexico. It was just a little spot on the road then and they say it has grown until it is just massive, you know.
(I) But you always came back
(N) Always came back to Teaneck, Yes. We certainly did.
(I) This, I guess, you can call your home.
(N) It has been my home for 45 years now. I still have the home in Tennessee that my parents left and I get down there when I can. It is rented and the people are taking good care of it. Since I am not able to go into my own home there and enjoy it, I just haven't cared to much about going down there in the last five or six years. Now what else can we hit upon?
(I) I hear that you were a volunteer fireman. This means that Teaneck has not always had a paid fire department, right?
(N) Well I think we had a paid department then but we had an auxiliary volunteer fire department and I was on it for several years. I would go down there training, climb the ladder and everything and one of the jokes about that is that I decided to clear off this lot in front of my house that Elston Howard bought now and I set it on fire to burn some of the brush and it got, it spread and it just swept the whole thing and at the very time I was supposed to go down and be with the volunteer firemen, we had a training session, first thing I know they were all up here helping me put out this flame that had raced all over this lot. It had just gotten out of control. I have a way of doing that, letting fire got out of control. Another interesting man in this town whom I've had a lot of contact with was George Cady, the architect, who designed the beautiful firehouse on Teaneck Road and the wings of the Teaneck Public Library, those two side wings, you know. And his daughter, incidentally, Barbara Peckum, is now a librarian, works in the library, George Cady.
(I) Well then, you've had your fingers in some of everything.
(N) It seems like it. I've forgotten all about that auxiliary firemen business. Now my wife won't even let me climb the ladder to the first floor to clean out the gutters and I used to climb that ladder that sits straight up on the truck and go down the other side.
(I) Well this maybe has made your latter years here then a bit more comfortable.
(N) My latter years and the ladder years. Yes, very much more comfortable. So many memories. I want to say that one of the pleasure of living on in this town is that I meet up with so many of my former students and the parents of former students. Sometimes in Acme or in the Post Office or in the bank, no telling where, I meet a parent whom I haven't ever really known and he or she will tell me, my son or my daughter, had you, Mr. Moore, and he is now way off somewhere doing something wonderful, you know. Mrs. Adelman the other day all about her two boys, one is a famous pianist and one is a teacher in the University out there and every time I meet her, it just does my heart good.
(I) Well you have certainly given us a lot of information about the town and thank you very much for your time.
(N) You are quite welcome indeed. I hope some of it well be useable.
(I) I am sure it will.