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Helen Bradner Devoe
(Interview taped 7/17/1975)
I was 4 and half when we came to Teaneck from Now York in 1917. We didn't intend to stay. My father was ill and we put him in Neldon's Sanitarium, suggested by the Zeobs, friends from Now York. My mother rented a house on Westervelt Place to be near him. She was a dyed in the wool New Yorker. My father was a pharmacist, then a traveling salesman. We stayed in the Westervelt Ave. house nine months. Etton's was the only market. Across the street lived the Moore family. I believe Raymond became a priest. Dorothy took me to school. I was used the Central Park in New York.
I remember once on Bogert Street a cow was tethered. I didn't know a cow from a bull. Some boys told me it was a bull and was going to got me because I had on a red hat. I tore away, fall and knocked out two front tooth.
Buffet built the house we lived in. He was able to sell. My mother went into New York. This was 1918 and prices had skyrocketed. She had turned down Mr. Buffet. Mr. Moore found these two houses. His family bought one. There were those who said we were snobs, moving into "Mortgage Heights" as West Englewood was called. There were just three streets, West Englewood, Ogden and Rutland. Later they began developing Maitland. The rest was all woods. There was a farm with a big barn, Mother would walk there to get vegetables. I think it was a relative of Rekow's. Every once in a while a cow would come on our lawn. They had guinea hens. Once a motorist hit one. My father said we'd have guinea on the table, but it was just stunned.
We all coasted on this street in winter. There was a gate keeper at the railroad crossing named Pete. He knew all our names. If a train was coming, he blow a whistle; if not, we'd coast clear across the tracks to Queen Anne Road.
Jordan put up a blockade so we couldn't take a short cut to School 2. We were not supposed to take the other path because of tramps. That was his property. He didn't want a street there. Jordan's wife and Mrs. Greenlaw started the library in a washerwoman's house across Teaneck Road. There was a fire where the fire house in now. I found one like it recently while driving to work in Connecticut--on 303 in Norwood, I think.
When we came they still had the band shell on West Englewood. It was Always wet there. There was a story that during World War I Teaneck men organized a militia and used to practice drilling in this area.
My father went back to work in New York. Worked 12 hours a day. He always got home to vote on important issues. I went to Washington Irving School, carried my lunch. Our parents thought there should be a school within walking distance for every child so they could get home for lunch. Se now they have the schools and bus them all over town.
I went to Englewood High 6chool.We used to ride some of those old buses that had been condemned. One was a squarish one we called "The Puddle Jumper" the other was long and we called it "The Ice Wagon". I think Dick Verlini owned them. Once one broke down and he had to got another one to take us to school,
There was the Hazelton family. Mr. Hazelton was quite an organizer. He used to put on movies at the Teaneck Club. We'd sit there when the reel would break. The old town hall was alongside the school. They added a wing tot he school when I was in third grade. We had classes on Fairview Avenue in the old fire house where they had hoses all rolled up on carts.
Forest Avenue stopped at Teaneck Read. One day I came to school on my bike and was told to put it in the cellar. There were gypsies cooking their breakfast in the Forest Avenue woods. They were going to cut my tires with big butcher knives.
Where17 West Englewood Avenue is now there was a beautiful old home. It belonged to Dr. Ayers. Once a year they'd string Japanese lanterns all over and have a fair. How fortunate we were as children to come out here. I was an only child, so was Ruth Brooks who came from Bogota.
We formed a club called the Busy Bees when we were 8. Dorothy Lawson, Ruth Brooks, Elsie Eberline etc. We'd pick each other up every morning and go to school together.
We had a coal furnace. There was a gas fixture in the kitchen. The electricity was not on the day we came. Mrs. Cathie learned we had no light, so she came with a gas lamp for the kitchen. We got electricity the next day. The Cathies lived on Rutland. Lots of people had chicken coops in their back yard. The Morrills were here. So were the Ranges and the Bergers who had a big bobsled. They lived on Rutland. Lloyd Schroeder lived on Ogden.
We could have gone to Teaneck High to graduate, but we stayed at Englewood which was accredited. Three of us went to the same business college--Packard'3--Dot Lahr, Lucille Manno and I. I wanted to go to college to be a teacher, but along came the depression. I went to Jersey City Normal and fount I didn't want that. I taught Sunday School at Christ Church.
When they built Whittier School it only went to fourth grade. I was in fifth. When they opened Whittier we all marched, wearing middies and skirts, from school 2 to the cornerstone laying.
When we lived on Westervelt Place I played with Viola Lebeck. I remember Lucy Marsh, the principal. She'd clap her hands sternly. She were glasses and looked old to us. She scowled at every one. Mr. Jay came after her. I was out of school 9 weeks when I had scarlet fever. We were quarantined. The milk bottles accumulated on the back perch because everything had to be sterilizer. My hair fell out. My mother took me to Best's to have it singed, but it still came out. They said cut it. I think it was Mr. Manne who cut my hair all off like a boy. My mother sent along a boudoir cap. When he got in front of some people, he pulled off the cap and said he'd always wanted a boy. It was horrible. The boys teased me. When I got back to fourth grade we had a pretty teacher--Miss Allen. She sent me on an errand. I hated it because I had to face another class. But she wanted me out of the room so she could tell the other kids not to tease me.
For our eighth grade graduation we wrote a play about the Revolutionary War. That was our graduation program in the Oakdone School. Afterwards, Mr. Hooks, the superintendent of schools, presented the diplomas.
The land was not graded around our house. My mother wanted a screen door. She was going to see Mr. Ayers about it. She went to a Red Cross meeting and learned that a family in the area who was very religious had said the world was coming to an end. My mother remarked, "If that is the case, I won't bother Mr. Ayers about the screen door."
We put on plays. Bordine Rogers was great at making costumes--for fairies and all--and at decoration. Clifford Ott's sister found a dead bird. We had a funeral. There was a lovely stream which, for some reason, went up hill in the pine woods section. We'd pack a picnic lunch and go to Phelps Woods. Vida Hooks and I said later that we learned a lot from tramps. They traveled a lot on freight trains.
Old Pete at the railroad crossing had a lantern at night. We were glad when they built more houses on this street. There were about four cars in town and we know the sound of the different horns. My mother would sometimes got on a milk wagon or an ice truck to ride to Englewood. My birthday is March 2. It always snowed. We were having a party and had to get the ice cream from Englewood. Mrs. Zeek bundled up and pulled a slat ever there 2 1/2 miles to get the ice cream for the party. What neighbors and friends!
The men around here went together and bought a big ladder, a lawn roller and a wheel barrow. They would work on each other's places. My father had a radio head set. One night the president was going to speak. Mother set the dinner on my little table so we could listen. The food was crackly and all we could hear was "Crunch, Crunch." He got another set and put wires around the upstairs room. Once he woke me up at midnight to tell me he had gotten Cuba!
Dorothy Quadorf and some of the other girls told me one day that Richard Dix was coming to town to a real estate office. I said I'd rather sleep.
Mrs. Edythe Whipple was very active in polities. She was a Democrat. We didn't know a Democrat. She wrote articles about Senator Borah and other people and left them on our porch. Her son Ralph Whipple is a doctor on Long Island. When he was married. Jim Bishop wrote a column saying Ralph would be 32 air miles away from his mother. Mrs. Whipple was a woman ahead of her times.
Shopping? We went to Mr. Etten, to Grey's hardware where the post office was--the plumbing was in the basement. The West Englewood Market is there now. There was Bourgeois Candy Store at Palisade and West Englewood where you could got a bag of penny candy that would last a week. He and Mrs. Bourgeois started that Baha'i temple on Evergreen Place. He later designed the Baha'i Temple in Wilmette, Ill. They sold their place. Mr. Ayers wanted my father to start a drug store there.
Mr. Cutler came and opened a drug store. There was no more penny candy, just nickel bars. He introduced the Jimmy cone--with chocolate sprinkles on it for 10 cents. You'll see pictures of that old building with the door across the corner if you go to Cutler a today.
Zitelli was the shoemaker. He had been on Etten's side of the street. Built his own building across the street. The bank was where Adriano is now. I remember Mr. Levine the tailor. Mr. DiBella owned the barbershop before Mr. Manne took over. DiBella went into the coal business.
Hanks, the stationmaster ran the post office when they moved it from Frey's store to the railroad station. The Bramhoffs had a deli and sold ice. Klober came in and made it a grocery store. I remember when the ice man came around and would put 100 pounds in your ice box. You put a card in your window to tell how much you wanted. The Petersons were the first around here to have an electric refrigerator. Hazel Peterson is now teaching voice at Bradley University in Pooria, Ill.
I remember Mrs. Ayers got a Miss Blankhorn to come out from New York and give dancing lessons for boys and girls in Christ Church and later in Mrs. Ayers big home. That lasted about three years. Dorothy Fickerrman taught piano.
Sheffield Farms was where the West Englewood Electric shop is now. If you took your own jar you could got a full pint of loose cream for 21 cents.
We had to go to Englewood for a doctor. We went to Dr. Valentine Rusch. Aunt Zeeb got him for us when I had the measles. I was sick five weeks. There was a big eye, ear, nose and throat man in Englewood. He operated on my father here in this house. Deviated septum. Dr. Helff was the first doctor I remember in Teaneck. Dr. Clarke was where Dr. Peter Hunziker is now.
I love this town regardless of the changes. It has a great spirit. Every one was so kind in the old days. I work in Greenwich, Conn., now with AMAX, Inc. -- American Metal Company Limited which has merged with Climax. They wonder why I didn't move to Greenwich. I want to stay in my house in Teaneck.
The Busy Bees used to make things for the fair at Christ Church. Fairchild N. Ferry the senior warden wanted to do something for the Busy Bees, so he let us have the church hall for a night. We decorated the community room, had prizes, we all brought props and decided to give recitations, piano solos, etc. Mr. Brooks, our MC used to take us to ball games and write poems about the Busy Bees. He brought a floor lamp as a prep, Mr. Peterson brought a victorla for dancing. When it was over, we had to clean up for Sunday School the next day. I remember as we left the church Mr. Peterson was out front operating the victorla and Mr. Brooks was waving the floor lamp at a baton. They all agreed it was the finest night they had had at the church.
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