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Mrs. Harry Davis

(Interview taped 9/29/1975)

I have lived in Teaneck since Aug.14, 1926 as a bride. I had been living in Tenafly with my brother following the death of my parents when I was 14. My first home was at 291 Thomas Street--Shoffield Farms had a warehouse and platform at Chestnut and Thomas Street. I think the house in still there. We lived upstairs. The last person I know who owned it was a patrolman.

From there we moved to Congress Street, then to Forest Avenue, then Van Buskirk Road. We moved from Van Buskirk to Shepard Ave. and in 1943 we moved to the Homestead here. My husband's parents and family had been living here while we were moving about.

This house was built in 1900 by Mother and Dad Davis. They had six children--five boys and a girl. Mother Davis died in 1917. Fred Davis, Harry's father, went on the Police Department and stayed there till he died in 1935. This street, Overlook, was then known as Parkway. There were few houses around. The house next door was built in 1927--Smithers' house was there, but they didn't live there then--a teacher lived there in 1927-28. Most of the cement block houses were here then, but not the bungalows.

My husband was a volunteer fireman from March 1922 until he went on the paid department June 1, 1929. K. V. Ridley was chief at the time. We did not have the council-manager form of government then. Those who went on at that time were William Lindsay, Roy White and Nels Johnson.

Harry was with the department for 39 years. He was Deputy Chief when he retired. When he was a volunteer I used to make coffee and go to the fires. I took the children. I had five.  I raised four girls, my boy died shortly after he was born. My daughter Harriette married Arthur Ridley, son of the chief. My daughter Beatrice married George Bowker, now a patrolman. My daughter Alice married Louis Kelter, now Deputy Fire Chief and my daughter Gwendolyn married to Warner Bassett of the road department.

Yes, I still got the short wave calls of the fire department. I have a Potrone. I used to get both police and fire calls but now the police dept has its own band. The sound doesn't bother me at all. We first bought Harry a Helicrafter. It was always out of tune, so in 1960 the girls and I bought this for him. He asked why did he need it since he had a direct phone to headquarters.

I was on the Bess Myerson program with Harry because he told why I deserved the Big Pay Off in the late 1950s. I got some jewelry, a sports outfit and a negligee.

One big fire I remember was the Big Boar store on Cedar Lane on the same side with the picture show. That was the first super market with carts and all. The fire was around 1945 or 46. I remember when the Blue Bird Inn burned. Harry was overcome with smoke so they took him to Holy Name hospital across the street. That must have been in the late 20s. In the winter of 1928 when Harry was a volunteer and was employed by the road department they had one of those big snowstorms. He drove a snow plow for 72 hours, came home to get some sleep and next thing you know he went out and fought a fire that night. Policemen are nice, but some Firemen are more sacrificial.

I have scrapbooks of everything pertaining to the fire department. Here is a clipping about a fire at Neldon's Sanitarium on Aug. 28, 1924. That was on Englewood Ave. at Gaylord Terrace. The Clover Club burned in February,1926. That was on Teaneck Road about where Route 4 is now, on the east side around Forest Avenue.  Teaneck Volunteer fire Department helped put out a fire at Englewood Hospital in May, 1925. When we had a Volunteer department we'd go all over -- Bergenfield, Bogota, Hackensack. Chief Murray Sr. came here to be an instructor in fire mathematics. After he was here 10 weeks they hired him as fire commissioner. During the early 40s he ran training schools and people came from all over. There are only six paid fire departments in Bergen County to this day.

I always participated in local affairs--Girl Scouts, etc . When my three girls went to Bryant School I was classmother in charge of classmothers reminding them to bring their cakes etc. I worked with St.Paul's Church and on Teaneck 75th anniversary committee. I have tutored handicapped children in hand crafts at Whittier, Longfellow and Teaneck High.

I was in charge of the tea during Teaneck's 75th anniversary celebration Sending out the invitations and all. It was just great to see so many people there. I got the autograph album with all of their signatures. I hope to participate in the Bicentennial. Harry and I would have gone if he had lived. When we were married Aug.14, 1926, we didn't go to Niagara Falls; we went to Philadelphia where they were celebrating the Sesqui Centennial. We would have celebrated out 50th anniversary in '76.

He retired at 65 because he had to. He watched the progress of the fire house they were building on Windsor Road. I picked up 75 nails they were using and kept them as souvenirs.

When Harry was at the Morningside Terrace Station a youngster climbed a telephone pole during a bad storm. He and Frank Denny and Charles VanSlyko got the boy off the wires.

Our social life? In the 20s Company 4 Fire House used to have dances. They were down on Glenwood Avenue and later were where Ronald's warehouse was. It was the first company disbanded when the paid fire department went in. That was on Glenwood near Hemlock, I dyed my wedding dress to wear to a Christmas party.  We planned a big celebration in 1935 to celebrate 40 years, but my father-in-law died.

Here are articles about lots of fires. There was one Dec. 23., 1935 started by a Christmas tree. A man came down from upstairs got to the vestibule and opened a door.  It was a coat closet door, not the outside. He died in that closet.

Firemen used to got lots of calls to rescue boys going on rafts in the Hackensack liver. 

After I was married I worked three weeks as a cashier in the Dumont Theater--not the Dumont Municipal building. That was the first theater that had talkies. I rode the Dumont-Hackensack Bus---five cents each way. Dick Verlini's 78 bus was 15 cents from Englewood to Hackensack.


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