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Frank A. Weber
(Interview taped 10/29/1976)
I came to Teaneck on June 30, l923 when the West Englewood Bank opened. I came from New York. We were in the old building on Station Street. We had had it remodeled. The Green Kitchen was next door. I came as assistant cashier. In 1924 they asked for the resignation of the cashier and I became chief executive officer--others had honorary positions.
We stayed there on Station Street until 1928 when we moved into the beautiful new building at the Plaza. It's an interesting story. It was started by Nelson M. Ayers, a developer. When the Hudson Bridge was built it started a land boom. Every one was going to be a millionaire. The same thing happened on Long Island when they built the Queensborough Bridge. There was the problem of a bridge at West Englewood Avenue. With the ramps and all it would have ruined the shopping center there.
Ayers bought the property and developed it. He asked us to buy a plot. We had bought property in West Englewood. He made a deal with the New York Central Railroad. They had that location and one near Central Park. They said if Ayers would put in the ramps, they would build the bridge. It was a big project. He put in the ramps, saved streets and put up apartments. He signed a contract with Public Service of New Jersey for $10,000 a year so the area would be lighted at night--all the wires were under ground. We moved in in 1928. The apartments were at Lozier Place.
The depression came and Ayers lost everything. We made mortgages and many small loans.
It was a real community. We had moved to Bergenfield in 1912. Our house was built by Mayor O'Niel on Washington Avenue. Mr. Fisher bought the house. He was with Brady Studios in Fort Lee. He used to visit my father. One day I got a call saying they were going to do a Russian picture in Teaneck. We walked to the Phelps Ruins. There was a cellar entrance where they placed a wonderful door. They took a scene of the Russian as he walked down the stairway. Those were beautiful ruins.
I used to solicit accounts after the bank closed. I met Captain Phelps working on his property on River Road. I gave him my card and asked him for an account. He said "I had no money." But that fall I got a stack of checks. He lived in Stoney Creek, Conn. and Orlando, Fla. In all the years he had the account he drew only three checks. He became old and couldn't see. I'd send him clippings which his daughter Rose read to him. When anything in town needed funds I'd go to Captain Phelps. He said "I'll give a donation but don't mention it came from Captain Phelps. It was anonymous. When they had Paul Volcker's big dinner I asked Captain Phelps and he sent $100. Paul Volcker and I were very good friends. Phelps was fond of him. Paul wrote him a letter. Phelps gave to the Red Cross. The Teaneck Symphony, I was treasurer of that. Thornton Bishop was active in that. We held concerts at the high school. Some performers they paid and some played for free. At the start of it Phelps sent a real fine check.
I'll tell you a story about Votee Park. One day a man came into the bank with a set of plans. He asked for a mortgage on his house. I asked where his property was and he said along the railroad tracks. He bought it when the developers were going strong, I said there are no sewers and no water there. He said I think I can make a deal to pipe water from West Englewood Avenue and I can put in a cess pool. I went to Votee who was mayor then He said this could be serious. A few weeks later they started the Growth & Development Committee. I was chairman. They came up with the idea that that was a good place for a park. They exchanged some plots. Much of the land was in foreclosure. It took some years, but that's how Central Park came into being. For years some held out--there was no access. Now I think the town owns it all.
The town wanted a fire house at Route 4 and Sussex Road. The neighbors didn't want it although there was no fire house in that area. Thornton Bishop, a great renderer, made a rendering of a bridge near the tracks at Forest Avenue. It did not come into being. West Englewood had no fire protection.
My dad moved to Bergenfield in 1900. He bought a home in Bergenfield that had a double outhouse--a status symbol.
Mr. Hanks lived in the railroad station in Teaneck. He was the postmaster. I used to have dinner often with the Hanks. He had a bus that went to Lake Tiorati, as a young fellow I went there.
Abe Etten was charming. His daughter had polio and a doctor from Austria treated her--her name was Pearl.
I remember the polio epidemic of 1916. I lived in Bergenfield and volunteered to be at the railroad station to see if any one with children got off. They had to go back to New York. Many came out by car. The police department then was probably one man.
I put my mind to the bank. I recall the episode you speak of.
One day I got a call from Ted Morgan of the police department asking if he could use the bank--the county and local police were involved. It seems this bookmaker who lived in Teaneck had accumulated a lot of money. The case was going on in Hackensack court. A witness told of a bookie who had a safe under the bar in his cellar. They raided the place and found the money in a Campbell Soup box. It was almost full. They counted it all in the bank. Ann Schaff was one of the employees that counted. The bookie said "My mother was a great saver." I said how did your mother do it? Some of these bills were printed after your mother was gone."
How did we get through the depression? Our bank did. On Dec. 27, 1932 my son was born. I said it was time to look for a house. We had a three-room apartment. I found a house on Sussex Road and bought it the day before the banks closed. Our bank was in fine shape.
I bought the house knowing the bank would not close. The bank examiner came to see me and asked why we had not closed with all the other banks. I cashed checks and took deposits. It was illegal. F.D.R. had closed the banks. The bank examiner said please close the doors. I never did close them. All banks lost depositers. Our deposits shrunk. Some banks were closed. The Bergen County Bankers Association tried to save some of them.
Until the day I left our bank had only 7 foreclosures. Some due to family trouble, some couldn't make the payments. We waived interest. Many had made enough payments and we carried them. There was a man on Garden Street. I waived the quarterly interest and told him to stay in his house and he could pay when he got a new job. We did that in 10 or 15 cases.
Our bank is now the National Community Bank with two branches in Teaneck. The National Community has 14,000 banks on the U.8.
Lu McBride: That is why people never forgot Frank Weber.
Note: William Schilling was president of West Englewood Bank in 20s. He 1ived in large house now occupied by the Carriage Club at Route 4 and Teaneck Rd. Later Bernhardt's Restaurant--after Schilling left.
Note: Mr. Weber has a painting of old West Englewood Railroad Station when it was occupied by Clifford Hanks, postmaster and station agent. The picture by Hazel Kitts Wires shows washing fluttering from the line above the station.
Note: Dr. Andrew Nelden was an officer of the West Englewood Bank in the 20s and 30s. He had a sanitarium on Englewood Ave.
Note: Mr. Weber has a room whose walls are lined with plaques and citations received during his long banking career and as a civic leader.
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