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.

Frank Leers

(Interview taped 7/23/1976)

My family moved to Teaneck about 70 years ago. Prior to 1930 we lived in Bogota near the Teaneck line--Larch Avenue. it was the so-called Bogota section.  My first recollection is that on numerous occasions developers held auctions in circus-like tents. No builders were sent in to complete the buildings. This development stopped at North Avenue.

There was a good deal of commercial raising of vegetables. Around our home on Larch Avenue. Farmers cultivated the land arriving at about 6 a.m., to work ground that had been leased to them. Jill the children went to Bogota schools.

There was a smaller development taking place in Glenwood Park. From 1913-17 I went to Leonia High on the trolley. We often saw deer in the Glenwood Park area.

Queen Anne Road was sooth of Cedar Lane. North of that it was Westfield Avenue. It wasn't a dirt road--macadam.

I remember 65 years ago they used to take a lot of movies for the Fort Lee studios. They did their field work in the cornfields around Johnson Avenue. You'd see Indians going through the corn with knives in their teeth ready to kill the new settlers. The ruins of the Phelps estate where the town hall is were still standing.

East of River Road around Cedar Lane and North Avenue was where a race track had been, I was told, That was before my time.

One thing I remember was the Railroad's two-track line built by Philadelphia interests of the Pennsylvania railroad -- the Vanderbilt interests had the New York Central. The high point was around Sagamore Avenue. Long freight trains would come in the early morning, huffing and puffing along. The boys in the neighborhood knew they frequently had gun battles. Raw silk was shipped from Japan. Highjackers would get on the train and dump the bales off as the train was going up Teaneck hill. The railroad cops would go after them. A barber in Bogota told me about bullets coming through the wall. That was before they had a four-track line.

Before World War I this was a port of embarkation for horses and mules. Sometimes when you walked along Cedar Lane would be solid with animals. Two or three days later you knew they had been there. A substantial part of military transport depended on horses and mules.

People look politics very seriously. An irate Teaneck citizen once came to a council meeting with a chicken under his coat. At intervals he'd pinch the chicken which would let out a squawk.

A great deal of the land was owned by Phelps. It had been assembled for him. His father was a Founder of the Delaware Lackawanna railroad, Phelps was a congressman and later ambassador to Germany. They said he could ride from the Hackensack to the Hudson on his own property.

Sunday schools used to hold picnics in the pine grove around Lincoln Place and Wyndham Road. Many of the trees are still standing. There was a pond with trees around it decorated with such romantic symbols as hearts and arrows. It was a very nice area.

I remember when Route 4 came through. The original plan of the state highway department was to have it about 15 feet higher than it is. There was so much fuss about the Chinese wall that they put it through the way they did. Teaneck was one of the first, probably the only town that protected Route 4 from commercial development.  It could be done by zoning, but you can't count on that because what one board does the next can change. Property owners were persuaded to exchange property along Route 4 for tax lien property the town had acquired. Thus Teaneck protected its part of Route 4 from becoming a Gasoline Allay.

Cedar Lane has always been business zoned. Business has always done pretty well. There was an old diner at the corner of Chestnut and Garrison. I had that property. There was a Grand Union there, then Sherwin Williams and now a bank. On the other side was Woolworth's. Apparently they couldn't make out, Carl Mellone's is still there, Panzenhagen opened up with a small butcher shop.

The area from Garrison to Beatrice street was all farms. Where Lowell School is was the Henderson Seed Company, one of the largest in the country.

Garbage disposal wasn't much of a problem. Nearly every one had chicken coops in their back yard. They took cares of the garbage. As a boy in Bogota I raised hundreds of chickens.

I have learned not to predict. The unexpected always happens.  I don't see any objections to two-family houses. In the late twenties when I was building inspector in Bogota, I suggested we allow two family houses.

 

Back to Oral History of Teaneck