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.

Thomas Costa
Former Mayor of Teaneck, Assemblyman & Freeholder

(Interview taped 8/11/1975)

My family came to Teaneck from West New York in 1920. Before that they lived in the Bronx. I was 7 or 8 when we came. We lived on the corner of DeGraw Ave and Beach St. My father had a pharmacy at Fort Lee and Queen Anne Rd. There is a piano store there now. He had had a pharmacy in West New York. I had three sisters and two brothers.

I went to Longfellow school. Mrs. Howland, a nice lady, was the principal. The school burned down in about 1926 or 27 and I attended classes at the Morningside Terrace Fire House and then at Emerson school. They gave us tokens to ride the trolley, but sometimes we would hitch a freight and jump off near the school.

I remember Tony Manne, we didn't go to grade school together but we had a coach, Mr. Weakly in soccer, basketball and baseball. Manne and I played on all three teams. We played on teams together through high school. I remember Thingelsted, Freitag, Willis and Putney.

Teaneck had no high school in 1928 when I graduated from grammar school. We had a choice of five high schools--Englewood, Bogota, Ridgefield Park, Hackensack and Englewood. I chose Ridgefield Park because they had the best team. Tony went to Englewood and Alvira to Bogota. When Teaneck High opened in 1929 we became the first graduating class, 1931.,

We had a two and a half story house. The trolley ran past our house on DeGraw--it went to Edgewater and Paterson.  DeGraw Avenue was not the main street--there was only a trolley trestle across the river. You went down the hill and over to Fort Lee Rd. When they built the bridge, Fort Lee Rd. became a dead end. There was another trolley trestle in Leonia. The trolley went through Frick's property--now an abandoned building on Teaneck Rd.

Across the street from us was an empty lot.  There were scattered houses. Mr. DeGraw had a big orchard between Morningside, Hillside and Teaneck Road. He lived in a nice house set back from Teaneck Road.

As the first class at Teaneck High School we were very proud of our school--wouldn't let anyone deface it. Alvira was the grounds keeper. There were 78 in our class.

When I was a boy we were knickers. My mother brought me up in the Catholic faith. She got me a blue serge suit for confirmation. Before that took place I went to DeGraw's orchard to got some apples, he sicked the dog on me and I ruined my new pants! I caught it for that.

We swam in the Overpack, rode ice bergs, caught muskrats. North of Cedar Lane was one big forest. I remember them cutting trees for the high school athletic field. When I was a Boy Scout we used to go camping for three days in the area of Rutland, Maitland and Warwick Avenues. It was all woods.

I remember George Grauscher. His father had a store at DeGraw and Queen Anne Rd. Gus Bectel's dad had a butcher store. His dad had a T-model Ford and on Sunday would drive us to Hook Mountain. James Romain became the Hackensack fire chief. Off DeGraw and Queen Anne Road, opposite the Methodist church lived a Mrs. Hackett. She was crippled. There was a fire and she was burned. I used to play with Buddy Hackett I wonder if he was relation to the entertainer. When the Methodist Church was first built we used to play basketball in the gym.

I used to help my father in the drug store, deliver prescriptions to Holy Name Hospital. Holy Name didn't have a pharmacy. I worked behind the soda fountain. When my dad would take a rare day off, my brother and I would see how many sodas and malted milks we could eat. After so many you just don't want it. Like the pancake race I won by eating 24 pancakes. I never wanted another.

My mother had played the piano at Carnegie Hall. She was a music teacher. My father lost the drug store during the depression.

We were a closely knit bunch of kids. We'd chip in to buy a 25 cents ball; we'd follow the semi-pre teams and when they broke a bat, we'd got it and stick it together with nails and tape. We shared everything we had.  Teaneck had a semi-pre baseball team. Harry Wolfe was the coach.  The Red Devils were the football team.

I wasn't interested in politics when I was a kid. Kelly was the mayor of Teaneck. He was able to pave all the streets in West Englewood and to install sewers, only the sewers were too small. Windsor was a concrete Road with no buildings near it. There was trouble later. A lot of people couldn't pay their taxes. The township acquired a lot of land in tax foreclosures. Clara Christensen had a folder 2 1/2  inch thick or land you could got for $8 or $9 a feet. Alvira and I bought what we could get by scraping our money together. Sidney Soons bought land on Maitland and Hudson, a beautiful area, for $12 a feet. He was going to build a park, but he didn't.

My mother wanted me to be a doctor. I went to N.Y.U. I didn't make good marks in science and language. Tony Manne was going to John Marshall Law School. I switched and became a lawyer. I had known Alvira Mannewall for quite a while, but I didn't notice her until my junior year in high school. She was the brightest girl in the class. I was the dumbest. We were married in 1937, I entered law practice in 1939.

I was on the board of education for nine years. In 1933-34 as president of the Alumni Association. I had gone to the board to see why some of the teachers were being pushed around. They asked me why I didn't mind my own business. I made up my mind I'd be on the school board one day. Dr. Conway, a member, asked me to run with him. I did and served 9 years. During that time we acquired property on Tryon Avenue for the Bryant School playground. We added to Whittier and Bryant schools and built Hawthorne. Every one then wanted a neighborhood school.

Mrs. Keener! I remember her at Longfellow. Once I waved to a friend through the glass in the door, she grabbed me, took me in front of the class and shook me till the buttons flow off my shirt. When I was on the board and she was having trouble with Dr. Neulen she'd say "Tommy, help me." She was the best principal we had. When we built Hawthorne, not a window was broken. When we build Whittier, they'd break 20 at a time. Mrs. Hoek was Dr. Neulen's favorite. She got the new furniture. Mrs. Keener got what was left. Mrs. Ricord used to call us in to help her too.

After the school board I ran for Council in 1958. I served 12 years, was deputy mayor for 7 years. I was mayor for four years--1966-70. I ran for the Assembly and served four years in the legislature--1968-71. The Republican leaders persuaded me to run for freeholder although I didn't want it. I served three years --1972-74 and was deputy director in 1974.

More people should got involved in government or minority groups will take over, we'll have a dictator or be governor by the very rich. If the public want to do it, it can be done. It can be done if people make up their minds. When I was mayor. We wanted a recreation center, I insisted that people will build for each other. When I was in the Little League we built a cement dug out ourselves. When you get it for nothing it doesn't mean as much.

When I was first on the Council they tried to got rid of Judge Draney. I was elected on the Teaneck Taxpayers League slate. I was on the nominating committee when they came in with the slate. I wasn't one of the 5. I became the 5th on the list with T. J. E. Brown, Marcus, August Hanniball and Brockman. Running against us were Milton Votee, Matthew Feldman and Brad Menkes. When the election was over, Hanniball was No. l, Votee, No. 2, Feldman, No. 3 Costa, No. 4. and Menkes won by one veto. I was the only one the Taxpayers' League elected. They forced John Draney out and made Leland Ferry attorney; fired the state from auditing the books and hired Lou Korb. They tried to fire Welsh as town manager, but didn't have anything on him. They wanted to got rid of Draney but Menkes and I wouldn't let them, Welsh, being a stubborn Irishman, left. His friend LaSalle was elected governor of Ohio.  Welsh had been mayor of Steubenville and decider to go back. We interviewed 70 or 80 people for the managers job, but none had qualifications as good as Schmid's so we hired him.

Tony Manne and I started the Little League, Teaneck Athletic Boosters. I helped start the City Club, the Volunteer Ambulance Corps, the Community Chest and the Student Loan Fund, the Youth Guidance Council. 

I've stayed in politics 28 years. Unless you give of yourself you get nothing back. Politicians got elected on promises forgotten after election. I know from experience that you can't give without getting the money from some where. It is unreasonable to say you can build two junior high schools for the price of one high school--you've got to put in two cafeterias--two science rooms etc. My motto in the assembly and elsewhere has been--Where is the Money coming from?

 

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