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Mrs. Edythe Whipple
(Interview taped 8/13/1975)
I moved here Nov. 1, 1912 from Jersey City where my husband's family lived. I was pure New York City. We lived in flats and want to church. My father and his sister brought me up. When I came here it was like going into another world.
It was raining the day we moved. The men had to carry our furniture from West Englewood Ave. to Ogden Ave--there was no road on Ogden. They were laying the pipes for water, gas and electricity. I had never seen the house my husband had bought. We were married in Jersey City. He got an apartment. I worked in New York as a designer and model in a place on 23rd St. I had to suffer to got to work. My husband's office was at 11th Ave. and 43. He was a news reel camera man and had to go all over the world. We no sooner got here than he was sent to Panama to photograph the Panama Canal. I was 20 with a 4-month's old baby.
We negotiated for the house through a New York office. Since I was making more than my Husband the house was put in my name. It's been that way ever since. It's better that way. Although we moved in the worst rain storm I remember, we didn't lose anything--we had little to lose. I had to adjust to having no gas, no water, no electricity. The first thing we got was a pipe in the front yard to get water. Our only neighbors were next door and across the street. We had to cook with coal on a combination stove. We had a furnace but no coal man. He was down by the railroad station. Coal was $5 a ton delivered in baskets. I'd wait until it was almost gone before I ordered, then I'd keep my eye on it to make sure we got a ton. There was a weights ant measures department in the county. Once I called them. The coal man had to take all the coal out and measure it. It was short and he was placed under arrest. I decided then to use coal.
The next big hurrah was electricity. That meant carbon lamps, they'd last forever. Before we got electricity, we used kerosene lamps. Light and gas fixtures were in, but we had so service. Our neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. Race across the street and Mr. and Mrs. Thorne to the west. The Ferrys lived nearby. Leland was 11 years younger than I, but when snow came I wanted to go belly whopping down Ogden Avenue. It was great fun. The second winter the wives wouldn't let the men come out.
Electric irons had just come out. I had an electric toaster which I still use.
The people on the other side of the tracks seem to have been jealous of the newcomers. Mr. Ayers developed Ogden, Rutland, Maitland, Warwick Avenues and Winthrop Road. He was gracious to all. If you couldn't pay your mortgage, you were forgiven. This good man died bankrupt. The ramps ever the tracks were built by Judge Venable of Newark and West Englewood Avenue, the business district, went down. Mr. Ayers was going to use State Street for a big business district, but he died a poverty stricken man.
Our house cost $4800. I had $200 to put down and got two mortgages at 8%. People today are paying what I paid 30 years ago. I brought up my son carefully. I had a great woman doctor in New York. She died of senility like my husband did. My son is a certified urological surgeon. He turned out better than any Teaneck boy I know of. He studies until he was 36--never earned a cent before that. He retired last year because the insurance people wanted him to pay $30,000 for malpractice coverage. He lives in Manhassett, L. I. He has six children, attended Princeton, worked at Bellevue Hospital and Jersey City Medical Center. My son and I are more or less in conflict. He's of a driving nature. I don't drive myself.
I carried cash in to New York to pay the mortgage. I loved going on the train with its comfortable seats and the ferry ride to Cortlandt Street. There were two cable cars on 42nd St. We had the IRT subway going west and the Lennox Subway going east. I'd take a late train coming home so Ii could see the liglits. My father was a musician, worked late. He lived with me, but that was later.
The two tracks of the West Shore only came to Bogota--then there was one track to Teaneck where there was no station, just wooden stairs, or to the West Englewood station. Then it went to Bergenfield, no further. When we got on the train in Weehawken we rode in style. Then came the tunnel and every one began coughing because of the soft coal--it was misery but luxury. There was wonderful passenger service as time progressed. There was a lovely old fashioned station at Weehawken. Later we got four tracks and the coal shoveling disappeared.
Houses were being built. Mr. Ayers finished one street at a time. A man who had a farm between Bergenfield and Teaneck started a bus line #78. He later sold to Public Service. We had one of the best bus systems in Teaneck. When I came there was a man named Bodine in city hall. He didn't know how to talk. Mr.Shaw know how to talk. He was No. l from my site of the track until Mr. Ayers decided he wanted a mayor from our side. Mr. Griffiths, the manager of the Pennsylvania Drug Stores, had a friend in New York employed as a public servant. He led Mr. Griffiths into the mayor's job. He started a program for sidewalks. I got a walk that's still in good condition.
About 1926 a big boisterous man named Mr. Kelly was elected Councilman. He began a program of expansion, improving the roadbeds. This program went west of the railroad to River Road and to the Phelps Estate. The politicians used to meet at the Blue Bird Inn, a place more elite than a lunch wagon. It became a Republican hangout. Kelly, a Democrat, built all the roads. He was put out of office, but he made Teaneck a desirable real estate location. The Phelps estate would declare certain sections open to builders.
Women got the vote in 1920. I became interested. The first vote was for president in 1920. The voting place was the little wooden office of Mr. Ayers in West Englewood Park, across from the post office. The sewer for all West Englewood was in back of the office--later they moved it up toward Bergenfield. I went to vote. Men were beginning to take an interest in me. I had made friends with state and county politicians. I would write little articles.
Mr. Borg had a small office on Main Street, Hackensack. He had Mr. Ely, a wonderful man check on everything. He took a liking to me. Mr. Borg used to print all the news of each town. I suggested he have a Voice of the People. He called in Donald Borg. I think that is what made people interested in politics. They began fearing me. They feared Mr. Borg awfully, he was indicted. There were two factions in the Republican part. The press of the state came to his rescue.
Until 1928 I was only interested in New York City. I bought vacant land in Teaneck, a plot at a time. My husband was a camera man who worked too hard all his life. He had no interest for the building business. I got so interested in politics I sat in the state Senate to find out what they did down there. Senator Mackay was making money on 15% mortgages. The Senate had nicer seats than the Assembly. One day I went to the governor's office. He had a man in the outer office who found out what you wanted. I suppose I was good enough looking for the receptionist to take an interest. The Governor was Mr. Moore. He saw me.
Zoning was the big subject in Teaneck. I had bought six little plots--60 by 120. We had residents who were against zoning. Teaneck appointed a zoning board headed by Archie Hart, the county prosecutor who lived at Cedar Lane and River Road where Fairleigh Dickinson is. I went to Mr. Hart and said I don't want zoning. I want to build two-family houses, Mr. Hart was impressed. He told the building man "She's resourceful. Give her permits before zoning goes in." I never built the houses because my husband would not join me.
When anyone ran for governor or senator they'd ask me to help. If I liked them I would write articles.
I still have these permits. My husband retired in 1956. I sold the land and it's been supporting me all these years. I bought him a house in Florida and a nice boat for $3600. We had a car. He wanted a Cadillac. He went there in '56. I never went there to live. I'm saving the house for my son.
Along came Mr. Andreas. He wanted to give his property to the town after he died provided he could live there without paying taxes. I said his son could reclaim the land. It became a state wide case. I had a good lawyer. It went to the Supreme Court. The court rules Andreas would have to pay taxes. I had enough looks to got what I wanted. The best way to get along is to be a diplomat. You can be definite and also diplomatic. I don't believe in women's Lib. They want to out-do the men. I believe in being equal. When I was young woman were treated poorly.
The first library was started by Mrs. Jordan and two other women they called the sobbing sisters. Mr. Bodine was a good listener. Today we have a fine library, but I don't think they are treating it right.
When I came here the post office was in a little store on West Englewood Avenue. Mr. Frey, a plumber, was the postmaster. We had two deliveries a days, we'd put a box on the curb.
Mr. Ayers put in gravel for his first roads. When Mr. Griffiths came he put in curbs and made that water ran into the sewer. The roads were 40 feet West Englewood Ave. 50 feet. Senator Mackay ant Brewster, the big road builder, were friends. He wanted the West Englewood Avenue job. It was then a county road. Mr. Ayers said "Go See Mrs. Whipple, she will get the contract." I went to the State Highway Commissioner about changes in the road level. The State Highway Commissioner must have taken a liking to me--but we never got any further than talk because I didn't like him. I talked an Mr. Golly. Mr. Brewster got the job. No one on West Englewood Avenue had to pay for roads.
Mr. Hanks came after Mr. Frey. He asked me to get him the post office. He didn't got it. He was the Station master. I didn't know the congressman.
The Taxpayers League started in 1928. Mr. Morton was the brains. Mr. Van Wagoner was the spokesman. I was the only woman member. It started because taxes were too high. They went after the Board of Education, a great spender. They went after Lester Neulen, the superintendent of schools. Mr. Morton said examine the high school construction to see how much money was wasted. The Taxpayers League inspected the plumbing system and found that all the fixtures were brass as specified. Later Mr. Van Wagenor said I move that Mrs. Whipple be removed from this group. A member escorted me home. I became a factor because the TPL was throwing fear into the politicians. They wanted a manager so they would hold elections only every four years. Waesche wanted to be township attorney, but he hadn't passed the examination.
They had a big meeting. Mr. Convory called me. Citizens would have 10 minutes to talk. I took my 10 minutes. I said Mr. Waesche lived in Ridgefield Park before coming to Teaneck and he was then preaching against the manager system, now he wants it. What is up his sleeve? When the Taxpayers League was elected, Mr. Waesche was turned down because he hadn't passed the exam. From then on it was nothing to me, I never belonged to anything after the Taxpayers League didn't want me.
I'd always go to the Board of Education meetings to talk against taxes. Mr. Brett, my neighbor, was president of the board. I alone defeated one school budget.
Cedar Lane was a dirt road. The ground was very high. At Queen Anne road, there was a horse farm on one side where you'd see horses sticking their heads over the railing. I don't know why they made Benjamin Edwards tear down his cleaning plant if that side of Cedar Lane was restricted and now they have big buildings there.
When women were called for jury duty, the men of the town must have decided I should be on the first jury. I was called. At recess a man asked me to try and change the jury's mind so I'll win this case. I said Yes, all right. To this day they don't instruct the jury as to what to do, so you go in ignorance. I understand they said "Don't call her, she's too good looking."
(Mrs. Whipple was accompanied by her friend Louise Beggi-- whom she had known for 50 years--since Louise was 16. Her family lived on Lafayette St., Englewood.)
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