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Mrs. Vida Muller
(Interview taped 11/17/1975)
I have lived in Teaneck all my life. We moved here when I was 2. We were the David Hooks family. My parents wanted to raise their family in open surroundings. My younger sister and my brother were born here in this house, which was new when we came. There were three girls and a boy. I went to Teaneck School 2. We walked a mile. We were unsophisticated in lots of ways, but very responsible in other ways.
I remember my kindergarten teacher, Miss Rice. My brother was born that October. I went to school and said Guess What we have at Our house! The teacher took me on her lap and I talked about the new baby that I had just barely had a peak at. I remember Miss Marsh, a very strict disciplinarian. One thing about school I remember--we had one snow day in my school career. It was a blizzard. We were told to walk close together so we wouldn't get lost in the snow. It was a beautiful snow. We played all the way homemaking snowballs, forts and angels in the snow.
Most of our life centered around the little Episcopal Church, now a synagogue. Our minister Mr. Howard helped us put on a Broadway Show. Our mothers made the costumes, blue on one side and yellow on the other. The theme was a trip to Europe and, I was a colored porter. I sang though I really can't. Gloria Weiss who had a good voice sang "My Hero" from "The Chocolate Soldier." We played two nights to Standing Room Only--then twice again and in the fall two more nights. We rented some costumes from New York.
This was one of the first developments of Nelson Ayers. Around here were beautiful shrubs and trees. Phelps brought lots of trees here. There were wild flowers, big violets and ferns. About where Windsor Road cuts through there was a spring with a big tin cup hanging there. The hoboes used to come there for water. The hoboes told us tales and stories. When we told my mother we spent many hours with the hoboes she didn't like it. They were usually alone, you seldom saw two together, but they were talkative and told good stories.
I remember once Mr. Madison bought ice cream cones. He covered them with something--we didn't have plastic or waxed paper-- and hid them under the leaves of the skunk cabbage there. We hunted for them. That was great.
West Englewood, Ogden, Maitland and Warwick Avenues were being developed,. Where Essex is there was a farm. There was one north of West Englewood. There was a big Phelps house on the left. It was all open fields--no houses. I don't remember cows, they were mostly truck farms.
They used to close Ogden for a play street. One night we went over to a farm, down a hill and into the woods. It was dark. It was kind of dangerous but we didn't think about that. After playing we'd go to someone's house for cocoa and coffee for the adults.
We had electricity and gas for when the power was shut off. My father turned the petcock for the Gas until the electric came on. We had a coal furnace. The house wasn't insulated too well. We used fire places upstairs. We undressed before the fire and would run upstairs to bed. My mother would put hot water bottles in the bed. We had a coal stove in the kitchen. That was handy, you could keep things warming on the back of the stove. The streets were not full of houses--one here and there.
All the men worked in New York. We played ball down by the station and -- when the men came home they'd play with us -- a fire plug or a manhole would be a base.
My father cut down 36 trees on our property. Mr. Ayers didn't like to take down trees. My father was on the Board of Education. He led a tree chopping when they cleared ground for the athletic field. Tommy Costa recalled that. It was a big day. Every one in town worked on it. Teaneck always had a volunteer fire department in those days. My mother told how once a shed in back of the railroad station burned while 35 women and one retired man watched. There was no water -- nothing they could do. No men were home.
When we were young my grandmother made our clothes. Later we usually went to New York on the West Shore. You could get a train any time. There were many trains and you could go and come when you wanted. Macy's was the place to go. We didn't have too many clothes. Mother would spend a whole day shopping maybe twice a year. There was always something special for children at Christmas. We'd go to shows. I never go now. Twenty years ago we didn't have television. New York was there and you could go. The railroad was cheap. We never felt hickish. We did more than kids do now.
We'd play kick the can, cops and robbery, running games. We'd make candy on Sundays. Have the girls over and make a batch of candy. It was wonderful.
There were no stores around here. There was Etten's and Mr. Brarman from Englewood delivered meat. There was the ice man. Goodmans had a tiny dry goods store--parents of the present Goodman. The post office on that street was THE post office. At Teaneck and Bogota there was a pole with a big arm out where the mailbags hung. The men sorted the mail on the way to Weehawken.
We had a phone and a car- a 1918 Dodge. It was marvelous. We ran it for 10 years and sold it to a boy who drove it to California and back. He told us he never had any trouble. However it had low compression. When we'd go to camp in New England there was a hill the car couldn't go up. We'd get water from a brook and wait until the engine cooled. We got the car from Kobbe and Flannery.
I don't know that my family banked. If they banked. It wasn't here. I worked in New York when I first started. After the war, I had been away and decided I'd like to work locally even for less money, but there wasn't that much difference. You had to have a car. I was glad I made the change. But it was great to go to New York on the train and boat. You made lots of friends. We used to even have birthday parties on the train.
I don't remember Holy Name Hospital, but I remember when the Phelps home was there. We were always associated with Englewood Hospital. I remember the old town hall and the library. Cedar Lane was a dirt road, but we didn't get to that end of town much. There was nothing on Cedar Lane. My father was on the Board of Education.
Back in the 20s Halloween was so much fun. It was not the trick or treat idea nor like Cabbage Night. There was much running around, wheeling and dealing, and some one chasing you. It was fun giggling and laughing. You didn't know what you were scared of. Thanksgiving was more a time for costumes. Halloween we'd have parties with cooked spaghetti and peeled grapes for eyes. Once we got 50 cents. There were 7 of us and we sat down to figure how we'd divide it--7 cents a piece. We took it back. We put on Plays. There was penny candy--some 5 for a penny.
I don't remember swimming. My father was a camp director and we were away for the summer--did our swimming there. My father used to take us to Harrington Park. There was a long stream where you could skate for miles -- not a thousand people on a block of ice. Winters used to be colder. We used to pile as many people in a car as we could get. Drivers were mostly older people. Children didn't have cars.
I didn't belong to Girl Scouts. I belonged to the Girls Friendly Society at church. I think it is still going.
I was in the first class at Taneck High, I went a year and a half to Englewood. The school was brand new. Children came who had gone in Bogota and Englewood. This brought us all together. We had a football team. I think Harry Rothenberg played the whole game--defense, offense and all.
Parades? I remember the one during World War I. I was small. The parade drove down our street and ended up at the bandshell. Some one put us in front and we walked very slowly. That was a permanent bandshell. There was a big railroad station in gay 90s style. Painted green. There was lots of action there with the express, the engines and shipping. The railroad was very important.
This area has a lot of history--back to the Revolution. River Road is one of the oldest. The railroad helped the town grow.
We had a church bazaar every year. Every one worked for that. They served supper and there were things in the afternoon, a big fund raiser. You did it and you went. Every one was participating.
As the town developed, younger families moved in. Now there are many Jewish families here. Their children are on this street, running in and out of the houses. Our little old church is now a synagogue. Our new church is quite differentia not that active now. Church is no longer the center of social life but Father Denny is trying to make it so.
I think Teaneck was marvelous in the teens and 20s. There was open space and it wad close to the city. I had hoped I'd never live too far from New York and I haven't been there in 10 years. Now we have shopping here and New York has changed. You used to get tickets for a Saturday matinee easily. Now you get tickets and wait six months. My father was a fisherman. Some Sundays we'd get up at 6 a.m. and go to the Saddle River, catch six trout and at 8 call the family to breakfast. Now you have to go all the way to Netcong and still not find fish.1 guess you'd have to go to Idaho.
It was a happy childhood. You remember the good things and forget the bad. Children are more sophisticated now with TV. They can have shows every night. I don't think kids are happier. Palisades Amusement Park was a big event. We went once every Year--a marvelous experience. We didn't have that much money. We had to use our imagination. We made puppets, played marbles -- your mother made a sack to keep them in. We never worried about dating. There was no pressure on us. Now they're afraid they're not socially acceptable if they don't date. We had a chance to develop.
Teaneck Public Library
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