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This is Ann McGrath. I am interviewing Jo Paquin at the Teaneck Library. It is April 9, 1984.
(I) Can you tell me anything about your family name?
(N) Well Paquin is a French name. It is property pronounced but we never used anything but the Anglicized version. The family goes back on my father's side to New Arcadia in the 1600s. My grandfather, who was a doctor, was Paquin. He was born in three Rivers, Quebec and his father before him was Master, what do they call it, Millwright and he would would travel and design and build mills for various locations. he would go as far into the United States; he never, my grandfather, never made his residence in the United Stated but he would come as far as Massachusetts and up into Ontario and various other places to build mills.
(I) What make the family move to the United States, your father's family?
(N) Well the family didn't as a matter of fact. It was my grandfather's older brother or two of them I think and they brought him over when he was only five or six years old and they homesteaded out in Iowa and that's where my grandfather grew up and went to school. He graduated from the University of Iowa, that was it, and most of his internship was served during the Civic War. To the best of my memory, he was born in 18??; my father was born in 1868, three after the end of the Civil War.
(I) Where did your grandfather bring up his family?
(N) Well in various part of, my father was born in Tripoli, Iowa and which is, when you came right down to it, Three Rivers, Quebec and Three Cities, Tripoli translates to three cities, various places in Iowa and Minnesota my father was born and brought up.
(I) And how did your father get to come all the way east?
(N) Well Daddy graduated with a B. A. from the University of Minnesota. I think he was supposed to have been in an earlier class but he had to stop out so long, so many times to earn his way, he not only earned his way but he sent money home and put his half sister through normal school and so I think he was the class of '94 when he was 26. He should have graduated four more years before that but he had to spend time working. Then he did campus correspondent work for Minneapolis Tribune while he was a student at the University of Minnesota and six months after he was graduated from the university, he became night city editor of the Minneapolis Tribune. He stayed there until he was called to take a job with the Chicago Tribune in 1898. He worked there for two years and then went to the Chicago American in 1900. They sent him east in 1907 to work for the American and the evening paper was the Journal and so he worked for the Journal and then he transferred from there to what is now Kind Features Syndicate when it was then International Feature Service which became King Feature Syndicate and Daddy started to work for them, for Hearst, in 1900 and he stayed with Hearst until he died in 1943. In New York City. And I started to work, I was supposed to have started to work as my father's assistant the day that he was buried but I didn't for a couple of weeks after the funeral but since then, in an unbroken line, we have worked for, Paquin's have worked for Hearst from 1900 straight on through until I retired in may of 1982.
(I) Did you ever meet one of the Hearst's?
(N) Yes, Bill Hearst, Jr. I've met. I've also met Damon Runyan and Mark Hellinger and Walter Winchell, George McManus of Bringing up Father. As a matter of fact when I was working on the Teaneck High School paper, at one period there when I was in school, it went broke and they couldn't print it so they had to mimeograph it and I learned to do mimeograph work, they sent a representative from I think it was the A. B. Dick Company at that time, taught you how to draw on stencils and use silk screens and all that sort of thing. And I did interviews with a lot of these people to try to raise, as they say, raise hell and sell papers, you know. So I had interviews with Walter Winchell and Milton Gross.
(I) For the T High News?
(N) For the T High News and some of them gave me sketches of themselves. George McManus gave me a whole thing with empty balloons to fill in any way that I wanted, you know, and Milt Gross made a big character of me that was on the front. We used it on the front of the thing, no it was an illustration. But anyway to make a long story short, the series of five or six interviews, we made enough money so that the next season I did myself out of the job as art director and went on to be a reporter on the paper. We had made enough money to go back to printing again.
(I) What was your mother's maiden name and how did you mother and father meet?
(N) My mother's maiden name was Josephine O'Hara and they met when she became my father's secretary in 1911. My dad was married at that time and his wife was an invalid and when she died, my father and mother were married a year after that she died. But she had worked for him for four years and that is how they met.
(I) Did they have a family right away? Did they live in New York?
(N) Yes, they lived in Washington Heights. We lived on the top floor of a building overlooking Fort Washington Avenue which had an unobstructed view. My father being from the , unobstructed view means you didn't look into another wall or across the street into another. Daddy was from the west and he liked to see a long ways and we moved away from Washington Heights when they were going to blast and build apartments across the street and so while I lived in New York, I went to the Barnard School for Girls which is a beginning school. It can go all the way through to college. So we moved to the Bronx then, up near the golf course, Van Cortlandt Park. My father loved golfing and there I went to school in, I think it was the fifth and sixth grade at the Academy of Mt. St. Ursula taught by the Ursuline nuns and they had about a ten acre property up to 200th and Bainbridge Avenue, I believe it was, it was a lovely school, French background nuns. And then Dad got sick of being in an apartment so we looked for houses out on Long Island. Mother didn't like the island because it was flat, you know and low and Daddy didn't like it because it was low either so we came out to Teaneck and the house that we bought was on top of a rise and nothing obscures it from either direction. When the leaves are off the trees, you can see the towers of the George Washington Bridge looking east and you can see the Ramapo Mountains looking to the west.
(I) And he would commute every day?
(N) Yes Daddy commuted on the West Shore Railroad and then when they still had the ferries, you know, and the trolleys. The George Washington Bridge was not yet opened when we moved here which was August of 1928 and they were still building Route 4. They had just laid the concrete on Cherry Lane and I think most of his life, maybe just till the last few years, maybe from about 1940 on, he took the bus instead of the, he stayed with the trains until the, I can't remember when the West Shore closed down as a passenger line, but until then he used the train.
(I) Now you had brothers and sisters?
(N) I have one brother and one sister. I am the oldest. My sister Marjorie is the next; my brother Sam, Jr. who died last August was the only boy. He was an engineer.
(I) And where did you all go to school when you first
(N) When we first came to Teaneck, we all went to school at Holy Trinity Parochial School in Hackensack. There was no Parochial school yet in Teaneck.
(I) And what grade did you attend that school?
(N) Seventh and eighth. I graduated from eighth grade and then came to four years in Teaneck High.
(I) What are your earliest remembrances of Teaneck, just sights that you liked and things that you did.
(N) Well I used to love to go into, we used to call it the Pine Woods. You know where Route 4 crosses the railroad track. Well north and west of there is almost all undeveloped country. I mean you could go out and pick bayberries and bittersweets and that sort of thing for winter bouquets and I used to know people who would go out and pick elderberries and make elderberry wine. You know how they had their own little thing in the cellar. Well it was a nice town. It was a clean town. The people were very friendly. And of course my dad, not very long after he came to Teaneck, a group of men got together and they formed the Teaneck Taxpayers League.
(I) What date was that?
(N) Well we moved, I don't know exactly when the thing was formed, probably in 29.
(I) Right after you moved.
(N) Probably sometime in 29 because we moved here in August of 28. To the best of my memory, I was still, I was only 12 years old in 28 so the dates are not quite clear.
(I) And what did the taxpayers league do?
(N) Well they investigated first the feasibility of changing the form of government from what we had which was a committee form of government or a commission form of government, committee form of government, to find out whether or not they wanted to bring the municipal manager form of government to study and see what would do to improve the government here. The Township was about $1-½ million dollars over its legal debt limit at the time when we first moved to the town. Its police and fire ratings as far as insurance purposes were concerned were something like D and E which meant that the townspeople paid considerably more for their insurance than they should have had to do. Well what they did, what my dad did for one thing, he wrote a series of articles, I am not sure if it was sixteen weeks or thirty two weeks, sixteen weeks I guess it was or maybe a few more than that, which ran every day in the Bergen Record to tell the people what this new form of government would or could do. And after that, they canvassed people, I don't know what committees did because I didn't work on those things then, but they held a referendum and the referendum to throw out one form of government and institute the municipal manager form of government. So my father was on the original council which the election was. He took office I think in November of 1930. The election, I think was May and they took office in November.
(I) What was the voting, what was the referendum, how was it handled in those days. Were there voting machines?
(N) I don't believe, wait a minute. On the first election I don't remember but very early, as soon as it was feasible, Teaneck had voting machines. They didn't have the ballot boxes type think at all.
(I) They would be in just one or two places or in one place at that time.
(N) Not it was districted. It was districted. How many districts there were, that I can't remember but maybe records here or maybe from Hackensack would show you, tell you that.
(I) How did they go about finding the town manager at that time.
(N) Well they knew
(I) Was the council formed first
(N) The council was formed first and they elected Carl Von Wagner the first mayor and it was done on the basis of the fact that his was the largest, he got the largest number of votes and that was the automatic way of doing it.
(I) And then they advertised?
(N) I don't think they advertised. I don't know how they did it. Whether they just investigated and found out but I know they brought up Paul Volcker from Cape May where he was the township manager before he came here.
(I) Do you remember Mr. Volcker?
(N) Oh very well.
(I) He would visit your house?
(I) What kind of a man was he in those days?
(N) Oh he was just charming, perfectly charming. His son, Paul, Jr., of the Federal Reserve, looks a great deal like him.
(I) You know his son too?
(N) Yes but his son was younger. His daughter, Rugh, was a classmate of mine in Teaneck High School. There was Ruth and there was Louise and Paul Jr., other than that, whether there was another small boy, that I don't remember.
(I) Do you remember where they lived?
(N) I think it was Longfellow Avenue. I know it was up somewhere off Church Street.
(I) And how well did this new form of government do?
(N) Well it worked out great. As a matter of fact, not too many years after it was instituted, it was written up as one of the model towns of the United States in the National Municipal Review, the Army I think I don't remember the year, it was in the 40s, brought film crews, took pictures, you probably heard of that. But it was the best kept town. As I mentioned before, the police and fire ratings which had been D and E went up to A and B which meant that you didn't have to pay twice as much to keep your house safe as you did before.
(I) Was that a volunteer force then, do you remember, or was it paid?
(N) I think wait a minute, that I can't remember. I couldn't be positive of that. I know very soon after, but whether or not it was a paid force before, but it was a paid force afterwards.
(I) Do you remember any other tremendous problems that your father dealt with in those early days?
(N) Of what nature do you mean?
(I) Well just government or problems that had to be solved in the town.
(N) Not especially. No.
(I) I want to digress a minute and ask you if the railroad was safe? Were there many accidents along that railroad tracks when your father was a commuter?
(N) The only accidents I had ever heard of were youngsters who should not have been there crossed and there were a couple of accidents that I can remember but maybe two or three.
(I) Because there was no bridge, no Cedar Lane Bridge at that point.
(N) Oh yes, Yes. When I came here there was. The Grayson Bridge was there too. But the thing is, where accidents happened had nothing to do with the major crossings. They were maybe three or four blocks down where kids tried to, instead of going up to a bridge, tried to cross.
(I) Well I shouldn't have asked you but I wondered about that.
(N) And of course the township had nothing to do with that at all.
(I) What was the most interesting thing that you remember about the early council when you think back. Is there anything special?
(N) No. As I remember, I was fascinated with the design of the council meeting room which remided me of the New England town meetings.
(I) Where was it held?
(N) Well, let's see. I haven't been to a council meeting for so long now. It was in the municipal building but whether or not they have redesigned it any. All I know is that it was up higher than where the people sat and it was white painted railings all the way around. I don't know if it is that way any more because I haven't been to a meeting in a long time.
(I) Was your father's interest, since he was so busy in politics, did it disturb your home life? Was it hard on the family?
(N) Well it was to one extent. We had had a very close knit family life. Daddy used to read aloud to us. I can remember that ever since my earliest remembrances of my father, he was sitting in a rocker in our nursery and he'd sing us to sleep every night and I can
(I) Do you remember any of the songs he sang?
(N) Oh yes, I can just sing you a little bit. If I can, I will:
Sleep now my brave little Prince
(I) Why did your father sing to you?
(N) Well he had a trained voice. As a matter of fact, he and Madame Ana Shane Renee who was one of the top voice teachers at Julliard Foundation helped to start the whole music department in the University of Minnesota back when my father was in college and she trained him from I think his natural voice was baritone or what but she had brought him up almost to a tenor. But he loved to sing and he know so many songs and he know songs that almost I've never heard anyplace else. One of the jobs that he had when he was working his way through college was to work on a surveying team that surveyed up on the north woods in northern Minnesota and these people, they came from everywhere. There were Irish immigrants and there were Germans and just about everything. French and there were even Indians that were in these parties and so he learned these, he learned songs and
(I) Did he every perform, really perform?
(N) No. Just for his children.
(I) Tell me about your junior high school days. Was it difficult going to another town for school?
(N) No. Mother used to drive us over and sometimes she would drive us home for lunch. Come and pick us up and take us home for lunch. Other times if she was going to be busy, she would fix us a lunch and we would have our lunch at school but I never had any trouble at all.
(I) Did you like Holy Trinity? did you think you got a good education?
(N) Oh yes. I liked it very much.
(I) Tell me about your home life. You mentioned that the bridge players used to come. Do you remember who they were?
(N) Well Daddy played bridge but mother was not a bridge player. Mother and daddy also were in a group that played poker and poker was much more my mother's game than bridge but bridge is my game. As a matter of fact I was B. J. Becker's editor for better than 25 years before I retired and he's the international star who also writes a syndicated column.
(I) Who was in that bridge game, do you remember?
(N) Well Ordell Demlichy who was, at that time, our township attorney who later became superior court judge. There was Walter Jeshurun who
(I) Are these all Teaneck people?
(N) Yes. Walter Jeshurun who was one of the founding members of the Teaneck Taxpayers League. There was Lily G. Morton who was one the council. There was Frederick T. Warner who was also on the original council. They were the major ones if I remember correctly. And I thing I mentioned five and my father. And when one couldn't come one time, another one would come another time. And they used to alternate houses, you know.
(I) They were serious players?
(N) Oh yeah. Oh they were. On the night that they played, the ladies left and they came home just in time to fix the refreshments or something like that but they got out of the men's way.
(I) Did they play late into the hours?
(N) Oh they would play until midnight or one o'clock. When they would play they would start about maybe eight and they would play anywhere from midnight to one o'clock.
(I) And who were the poker players?
(N) Of the poker players. Well they were mostly not Teaneck people at all. They were newspaper people that came from New York that my mother and dad know from years ago.
(I) That wasn't an organized game though.
(N) Oh no. No. That was once in a while an occasional thing. They only poker playing we ever played was the family game of penny ante, a family deal.
(I) Teaneck High School must have been almost a brand new building when you went there.
(N) Yes I think it either opened, I started to go there in September of 1930 and I think it opened only two years before. It was then only half of the building that it is now. It had the center staircase and the wing on the right, the south wing. The north wing wasn't built but junior and senior high school was conducted in that semi-building.
(I) But they were separate.
(N) Well they were separated and we had staggered hours and classes, you know.
(I) Staggered in what way? Half day?
(N) No. If I remember correctly, some of our times of length of classes were slightly abridged, shortened, so that, and then we had study periods and that sort of thing.
(I) Were you all using the same rooms or were they separated into different floors?
(N) While some were in study halls doing things, other people were in those classes. That's the way that they did it.
(I) Do you think they actually needed more space even then?
(N) Oh yes.
(I) How soon did they build the other wing? Were you going to school when they built it?
(N) No. I was out of school when they, I graduated in 1934 and it was still only part of the building. They didn't have the stadium built then either you know, with cement seating that they had knocked down bleacher stands that they use at football games.
(I) Can you tell me about, do you remember any teachers that you had in the high school and their names?
(N) Yes. I think in the 9th grade there were two teachers that I liked very much. Agnes Duffy, my Latin teacher, and Elizabeth Pason, she was first year algebra. I liked her very much. Others that I like there was Dr. Albert Kroner, a chemistry professor, and how he put up with me I will never know because I couldn't even light a Bunsen burner. I was scared stiff to do the experiments. So one of the fellows from school, I'd write the papers and he'd do the experiments. And we got each other out of class. Then there was Mary Galvan, God love her. She was my shining light. She taught both English and Journalism. I had her for Journalism. She was one of my all-time favorites. And there were others but those were the outstanding
(I) What were your favorite subject besides Journalism?
(N) Well I had English that I liked and art. I wanted to take shop but they wouldn't let me.
(I) No. NO women took shop?
(N) No. Not then. You could go in after school and join something but I never had time for that because my extra-curricular things were all taken up. I had the T High News and I had the Art club and I had the Playcrafters.
(I) Do you remember any plays you were in?
(N) I wasn't in. I was, well there was one teacher, I am not going to mention her name but let's say nice she wasn't. And I tried out for the part of Jo in Little Women and this was not only my name but physically it was me. I had long flowing black hair and I had read the book a million times and I practically know the lines by heart and we tried out and, anyway, I got the part of the understudy to make a long story short and a girl named Nancy Snow, she got the part of Jo and then I learned it and three weeks into rehearsal, Nancy Snow dropped out and instead of putting me in, the lovely teacher, in quotes, moved Meg over into Jo's part and moved Meg's understudy up into Meg. Well I though to myself, you can be a rat if you want to buy I won't and at the same time, I was head of the poster committee for the, I made as many posters as the rest of the committee for the Playcrafters, on bulletin boards and through the town, poster. I never stopped doing that but I couldn't even look at that teacher from there on in.
(I) What did the art club do? What were your activities in the art club?
(N) We did all kinds of things. We did sketching, we did, things I did, I did portraits in charcoal. We did border design, I did chip carving we would send away for boxes, unfinished boxes, and then chipcarve them and there was a sign in Teaneck High School, it is still there, that I mad. It is outside the chemistry class and it shows, I chipcarved that one too out of oak slab. Shows a retort and it says, active atoms. Active Atoms was the name of the chemistry extra curricula club. I think it is still there. It was still there the last time I went up there about fifteen years ago.
(I) Do you remember the art teacher's name?
(N) Elizabeth Geary, oh yes. she was another big favorite.
(I) She was good?
(N) Oh yes. She was very good. And she would let you do things. She was innovative. She would let us take five minute poses, people sitting on a stool or something like that, either just do a face or do a rough of the whole figure. We designed wallpaper, we did all kind of things. Lettering we did.
(I) Were you in any other extra-curricular activities in the school?
(N) The T High News. Playcrafters.
(I) Who helped you out with the T high news, which teacher?
(N) Mary Galvin.
(I) And what did you do on the paper, everything?
(N) Well the first year I was one it, I did some reporting. I was the art director. I did the news stories I was telling you before about the interviews with Milt Gross and that sort of thing. Well that's what I did mostly, that and the art work on the
(I) How often would it come out?
(N) Once a week. It was either once a week or once every second week. You know it is so long ago now I can't remember. We are going to have our 50th anniversary on the 26th of May. Fifty years is a long time.
(I) How do you rate your education at the high school?
(N) Oh I think we had excellent teachers. I think we got a very good education. There was no fooling around either. I mean you did your work or you were..
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