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This is Ann McGrath interviewing Ida Mortenson for the Teaneck Library Oral History Project. We are in her home on Elm Avenue. It is April 1, 1985.
(I) Ida, how long have you lived in Teaneck?
(N) Eighty eight years.
(I) And where were you born?
(N) On Queen Anne Road in Teaneck.
(I) Do you remember what Queen Anne Road looked like in those days?
(N) It was a dirt road. They used to call it Westfield Avenue.
(I) Where did your mother and father come from?
(N) My father came from France; my mother from Germany.
(I) And do you remember your mother's maiden name?
(I) Do you know what it means? Does it have a meaning?
(N) No, I don't know.
(I) Ida, there have been six generations of your family living in Teaneck and starting with your grandmother. What was her name?
(N) Augusta Kegal.
(I) Do you remember your grandmother? What was she like?
(N) Very well. She was a little, wonderful little girl. She worked for a Doctor Knapp in Hackensack.
(I) What kind of a doctor was he?
(N) General practitioner.
(I) Was he your doctor? Did she go to him?
(I) And she was his nurse?
(I) And where did she live?
(N) With my, well she lived on Fort Lee Road below Teaneck Road.
(I) In which house?
(N) Well there was only two houses there. There was the school house and next to the school house is where my grandmother lived.
(I) Where did she come from originally?
(I) She did come from Germany. And then she had how many children?
(I) Five. Two daughters, three daughters and two sons.
(I) And your mother was her daughter?
(N) My mother was her daughter.
(I) And what was her married name, your mother's married name?
(I) Is that also a German name?
(N) No. Originally it was spelled Damreaux but we changed it.
(I) So it was French. Do you remember when it was changed?
(N) Oh, I don't remember.
(I) Before you were born.
(N) And you had, what happened to your family, your immediate family? Who settled where? Of your brothers and sisters?
(N) Well, I had two brothers, one brother is in Pittsburgh. He stayed in Pittsburgh, and the other brother was in California. My oldest brother was very ill from the First World War and he went to California and he died. Well he came back home to see us and he died in the Veterans Hospital in East Orange. And I was with him most all the time.
(I) But you were the first generation that went to school in Teaneck?
(I) And do you remember what schools you went to?
(N) Yes, that was on Fort Lee Road, next to my grandmother's.
(I) What grades did you go there?
(N) First to the, I think fifth or sixth and then we moved to Oakdene Avenue School, the Longfellow School.
(I) You mean you moved your house? Where did you live there?
(N) I always lived on Queen Anne Road.
(I) That's right. I forgot to ask you, where on Queen Anne Road?
(N) Well, it is where the Grand Union is, that was all my father's property.
(I) So it was Queen Anne Road and DeGraw, the corner.
(N) Well, it was near DeGraw.
(I) The house is no longer there.
(N) Oh no. I wish it was.
(I) So then you went to Lowell. So that was quite a long trip in those days to get to Lowell School from there.
(I) Oh Longfellow. Was it a brand new building?
(N) Oh yes.
(I) Do you remember it being put up?
(N) Oh yes indeed I do.
(I) Were you the first grade to go in there? First group of children?
(N) Oh yes. We were the first group of children. We had a Miss Martin and a Miss Emily M. Holland were the teachers, two of them.
(I) So that would have been like sixth grade.
(N) Yeah. Well they had all the grades. Oh there weren't many children. There were only about two or three rooms you occupied and each room only had a few children.
(I) Did they close the other school then on DeGraw?
(N) On Fort Lee Road.
(I) Do you remember the name of the principal at Longfellow?
(I) And did your whole family go to that school?
(N) My children, my grandchildren and now my great grandchildren.
(I) All in Longfellow?
(N) All in Longfellow.
(I) Now where did you go to high school?
(N) I didn't go. I'm sorry, I went to private school.
(I) And where was that?
(N) Well in Hackensack. It was a Lutheran School.
(I) For your four years of high school you went there?
(N) No, I didn't graduate from high school, I am sorry to say.
(I) That's OK. And after high school, after you went to the Lutheran School, what did you do then?
(N) Well I went, I ran away, I borrowed money from our tenants to go to New York to get a job and I got a job in Best & Company. At $6.00 a week.
(I) How old were you?
(N) Oh, I was only sixteen I think. And I stayed at Best & Company until I was married.
(I) And did you live in New York?
(N) Oh no, I commuted.
(I) How did you commute?
(N) West Shore Railroad. $4.85 a month commutation.
(I) To where?
(N) To 42nd Street and then I walked up to Fifth Avenue and 35th Street.
(I) And how did you get across the river?
(I) Do you remember any of the ferries? Do you remember what it was like to take the ferry? Where did it come in?
(N) It came in in Weehawken and it, then it stopped at 42nd Street and 11th or something like that.
(I) At the dock there. How long was the trip?
(N) Oh, only a few minutes. Ten minutes. Across the river.
(I) So how long was the whole commute for you every day?
(N) Oh, no more than an hour. Of course it wasn't so crowded as it is today.
(I) How about weather conditions on the ferry. Was it difficult in the winter?
(N) We never had any trouble. No.
(I) The river never iced over?
(I) That's incredible. And what did your brothers do?
(N) My one brother was an electrician and the other brother was, worked for Okanite Company. He was an executive there at Okanite Company.
(I) Did the boys go to high school?
(N) Oh yes.
(I) Do you think there was as much pressure for girls to finish school in those days?
(N) No, there wasn't any pressure. Oh, my parents wanted me to go but I didn't want to.
(I) Now I know your mother lived here in Teaneck. Where did your father come from? Is he a Teaneck person?
(N) My father? He came from France.
(I) Oh he came originally from France? And how did he happen to end up in Teaneck?
(N) My grandmother wanted her daughter to come over and my grandmother lived here a long time before they came over so my grandmother sent for them. Well, they didn't send for him because my father's people were very wealthy and they had, my mother had one son in Germany and of course they had, they call them babysitters now, but they used to call them governesses but they had this girl come and take care of the baby and they came over.
(I) So one of your brothers was born in France?
(N) Yes, in Germany.
(I) But you were born here.
(N) I was born in Teaneck.
(I) Were you the youngest?
(N) No, I was the middle one. My youngest brother was, I had a brother younger than me.
(I) So we have that cleared up. Now then, you worked at Best until you. .
(N) For a year and a half.
(I) Ch, you got married young.
(N) Very young.
(I) Now how did you meet your husband?
(N) By commuting.
(I) He was a commuter from Teaneck too?
(N) No, he lived in Bogota.
(I) And his name, which we have, was Mortenson. Where did his family come from, originally?
(N) Philadelphia, they lived in Philadelphia. He had a sister living in Bogota and he lived with his sister.
(I) Do you know what the name Mortenson means?
(I) So you met him commuting and how old were you when you were married?
(N) Eighteen years old.
(I) And you then lived in Teaneck. Where did you live as a married couple?
(N) With my mother. For a number of years until after my daughter Helene was born and then I moved, we bought a house at 455 Queen Anne Road.
(I) What street is that near?
(N) Between Copley and Oakdene.
(I) And how long did you live there?
(N) Well, I didn't live there too long because my husband had this automobile accident and he was in the hospital over a year so I gave it up.
(I) This is after your children were born?
(N) My son was born after the accident. He never saw his father. So then I went back to live with my mother who also lived on Queen Anne Road.
(I) And you brought up your children?
(N) Between mother and myself.
(I) Did you go back to work?
(N) Oh, I went back to work and I am working ever since. I just retired last year.
(I) Where did you work?
(N) Well I worked for Bendix in the Purchasing Department and then after that, I . .
(I) Where was Bendix at that point? .
(N) In Teterboro. And I also worked at Arnold Constable for almost twenty years, a buyer for children, infants and children's wear.
(I) Where was that store?
(N) Hackensack. I started in New York but when they opened in Hackensack, I was a buyer for children's wear.
(I) And then all your children went to where, what school?
(I) Through which grade, right up through. ..
(N) All the way through, yes. Oh no, my daughter didn't. She went to private school.
(I) What school is that?
(N) She graduated from Holy Angels and then she graduated from Seminary Collegiate in Hackettstown. And then she went to the University of Pittsburgh. She was the biggest and the youngest to graduate grade school, the biggest and the youngest from high school and the biggest and the youngest in college. She graduated very young, not even twenty years old when she graduated from college. She was a brilliant student.
(I) Tell me now about Teaneck, was there a difference when you grew up in Teaneck than when your children grew up?
(N) Oh yes. There were some differences, naturally.
(I) There must have been a lot of building that you remember. Do you remember what other schools were built as your kids grew up? Was the high school built?
(N) Well it was built years later. I remember when it was built. Because my son went there for a little while but then he went to private school again in Pittsburgh.
(I) You mentioned two teachers that you had. Do you remember which children went to Longfellow then of yours.
(N) They went all the way through.
(I) Do you remember any of their teachers?
(N) Emily M. Holland and Miss Martin, they were the only two teachers there. Later on Miss Ireland and Miss, I don't remember later on. They were all out of there. I don't remember how many. .
(I) Let's go back to you as a child. What would you do, did you belong to any social groups or church groups as a child?
(N) Well not social. We used to go to prayer meetings over on Teaneck Road there, they used to call it the chapel, we'd go there Sunday mornings, Sunday afternoons and Sunday nights. That was the only recreation we had. We always went to. .
(I) What denomination was it?
(N) I am a Lutheran.
(I) Is it still a Lutheran church?
(N) No, it is a community church.
(I) You were telling me about the dances in the Morningside Terrace. .
(N) They always used to have affairs there, dances.
(I) And the volunteer company would put it on. Do you remember any of the people involved?
(N) My father, my uncles. I have a picture of all the firemen.
(I) So this was a social group. What kind of affairs would they put on? What would they do and how often do you think?
(N) Well a couple of times a year. Mostly all the dances. Young people would go. The older people too but mostly all the younger people.
(I) What kind of music?
(N) Not this jazz music. It was. .
(I) But is wasn't square dancing, regular dancing.
(I) And would you have food and refreshments there?
(N) Well they served some, yes, they did serve food and drinks like there wasn't such a thing as hard liquor in those daysfor youngsters.
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