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.

NARRATOR: Wendell Browne
INTERVIEWER: Ethele Brone; Clifton Cox
DATE OF INTERVIEW:    December 2, 1983
TRANSCRIBER: Jackie Kinney (11/1985)

Do we have your permission to use this tape in our training session?

You surely do.

(I) Wendell, how long have you lived in Teaneck?

(N) I lived in Teaneck approximately twenty three years.

(I) Where are you originally from?

(N) I am originally from new England, East Providence.  Born in East Providence, lived in Providence until about 1935 until I went away to school.

(I) can you tell us something about your parents?

(N) My mother and father were (tourists).  My father was born in Virginia.  He left there when he was about fifteen years old and my mother was born in East Providence and they met and married and had five children.  My mother's background is Shenecock and Mulatto and English and my father I don't know too much about but I know I had a grandmother that was part Indian.  Her name was Sharo.

(I) What did your father do when he moved to Providence?

(N) When he went to Providence, he was about fifteen years old and he was alone, worked, struggled, and finally went to live with a sister and he really educated himself, went into the Post Office, went to school nights and studied with a lawyer (lawyer Heathman from Rhode Island) and finally became a lawyer himself so he came up the hard way.

(I) do you know any of your mother's relatives?

(N) I know quite a few of my mother's relatives, cousins, Uncle Jonah, Aunt Edith and they are all in New York, around Yonkers or Mount Vernon.  Many of them have passed away at this point but the young ones do have grown children.  We hear from them occasionally.  

(I) You worked in New York at the VA Hospital, can you tell me something about that?

(N) Well, I came out of the service. I thought I was going to be the greatest coach in the world but being in the service, seeing what had happened to people, sick.  since I had a physical education background, I was called on to do many physical education activities in the army which I transferred over to civilian life so I went into Howland General Hospital and worked with paraplegics, became a therapist, transferred to the VA in New York.  Worked under Doc. Abramson, became proficient in paraplegic, neurological and orthopedic treatments, therapy treatments and twenty seven years later, I became chief (of surgery).

(I) It took you twenty eight years to become chief of service.  You were acting chief before that?

(N) I was acting chief of service (rehabilitation service) before that.  Supervisor before that.  And there were periods, there were long periods of five or six or seven years and then became supervisor and became division supervisor, then assistant chief and then chief.

(I) You also taught too.

(N) I was actually the first person to go away to school for the orthopedics and prostetics.  You know, that is the artificial legs and so forth and then at Long Island University, I was called on to teach because one of the professors went away and give a semester of what we would call a short course in rehabilitation medicine.

(I) So how are you enjoying your retirement now?

(N) Well I retire two years ago.  I keep active - walk and jog - jog and walk - play gold, bowl, travel, read and basically enjoy every single minute and I hope that the youngsters that I turned my part over to have as full a life as I had so they can retire and enjoy their life as I am.

(I) Thank you very much Wendell.

END OF SIDE A

BEGIN SIDE B (2/8/1984)

I am Clifton Cox, representative of the Teaneck Oral History Project.  May I have your promise to record this conversation which becomes the exclusive property of the Teaneck Public Library.  You will answer Yes or No.  Thank you very much.

Yes, you may record anything that you think is relevant or important.

(I) Your name is

(N) Wendell Phillips Browne.

(I) And you are married to

(N) I am married to Marie Fitzgerald.

(I) you and Marie have how many children?

(N) We have tow children.  Philip, my oldest, my son and Maryellen, my daughter.  Philip is 29 and Maryellen is 26.

(I) And they both went to school here?

(N) Both went to school in Teaneck, St. Anastasia's through from grade right through to graduation and after graduating from St. Anastasia's they went to private school.

(I) How would you rate the schools in Teaneck?

(N) I think the schools in Teaneck since I've been here, have really done comparatively, compared to other schools in other areas, did a very very creditable job and I can see the testament from many of the graduates and the things that they have gone on in life as they have pursued which is very indicative of the better school systems.

(I) I understand that Teaneck was one of the first towns that took the problem of integration to heart and really tried to do something that was positive.  Is that correct?

(N) Yes that is correct.  I heard before moving to Teaneck that it was a very progressive township and that they were, in fact I was told that they were trying to make it a model for the country which interested me greatly and after having lived here, I could see the many advantages of living here.

(I) Did you originate in Teaneck? Where did you first settle?

(N) Well after the service in the army, I settled in Brooklyn and then when I decided to buy, I thought of New Jersey which was close to my work and looked around in through Englewood, Teaneck, Hackensack and this area and I decided to buy in Englewood, buy a tow family house leading to my own home later on somewhere in new Jersey.  I am glad at this point that I finally settled in Teaneck in about 1960.

(I) How do you feel as a North American Indian living in Teaneck.  Teaneck has a great historical background and was once the property of the Lenai Lenape Indians.

(N) The Lenapes which actually the Delaware Indians.  Lenape is the smaller group of the Delawares.  And I worked with a girl whose grandmother was Lenape and I talked with her about the actually she showed me a picture of her grandmother all in her dress, Indian regalia, and it interested me to the point where, when I went home to my home in Rhode Island, I it inspired me to get a little more information on the Delawares because Indians roam so much, you can find a Lenape or you can find a Seneca out in Missouri somewhere actually because they move around.  But the history of Teaneck is an Indian name.  It wasn't spelled TEANECK at that time.  It was TENAC. So little by little, the interest of my Indian background, when you find out one thing, it seems to make you want to find out some more.

(I) I noticed that there are several markers in the area which indicate that the Mohawk trial comes right through, right from Englewood right through Teaneck.

(N) One of the supervisors that I worked with was a Seneca Indian.  He passed away and it seemed very much necessary that at the time to give him some honor or credit for being born and raised on a reservation, going to school, struggling and achieving the final position of a supervisor in rehabilitation medicine and in his passing, we dedicated a plaque in his memory at the Long House and this gives you a feeling of sort of well, blood brother type thing.

(I) Your church affiliation is with St. Anastasia.

(N) St. Anastasia's Catholic Church in Teaneck and when the children were growing up there in the the school, of course I went through the regular mother, father, of course my wife also went through the Den Mother type thing and then through the Scouts and basketball, C.Y.O. and into the Little League baseball and also the football.  They have what they call Ivy League football and got a great deal of satisfaction out of it.  And the people, other people in Teaneck, from other churches and so forth.

(I) What are some of the best features of Teaneck that maybe you can pinpoint for us at this time that you would like to mention.

(N) Well I think access to New York and cleanliness of the whole town generally speaking and the as far as the township, the government is concerned, they have many interesting features for everybody, all classification, all races and creeds which you do not find in many other states and many other towns.  offhand, I think about the access, when I say access, I mean shopping and the large malls.  It is a very accessible place and it's not jumbled up.  Jumbled is a bad word but it's not full of business.  It is strictly residential which is a good feature.  People would possibly be interested in living in the area.  Of course it is close to all the airports.  I looked when I bought here, I looked at the access and I speak of that specifically because to me it was like the spokes of a wheel. I was in the middle and I could have been in thirty minutes go to anywhere. All the airports, all the, wherever I had to go.  It was a spoken wheel for friends in one town or in another town or in New York, Pennsylvania would take you just a little better than an hour.  Access was very important.

(I) What are some of the negative features if you can think of any at the moment?  What would you like to change about Teaneck if you had a preference?

(N) Like anybody else, I would like to see them hold the line on taxes.  I mean this is relatively a feeling of everybody but I think the taxes are a little out of touch and nothing seems to be done too much about them and if the taxes are this high, two of the things bother me very much.  One thing is having to pay for garbage and things like that.  In this area, a township should have some sort of garbage pickup where it doesn't cost.  You pay enough taxes for this.  And then too, of course crime is rampant everywhere but we have a good police department.  The crime is a bad part in all communities today but our police department and our surveillance and so forth.  According to my observations, are much better here than they are in other places so negatively, I'm stuck on I think the garbage pickup for the taxes we pay and the taxes being too high but there isn't too much negative at this point that I can say about it.

(I) Would you say Teaneck has improved over the last decade?

(N) Oh I think so.  I think that from 1960 through the 70s, they have many, many areas, the township and the council and the people who run the township and the manager and so forth have been considerate of many things and they have adjusted to the things and the changes that have taken place which is not done in many other towns and I admire that feature of change.

(I) You were talking before about your wife. She used to sell these World Book Encyclopedias and she brought out the point about Teaneck seemed missing from the map or something to that effect? Could you explain that a little bit?

(N) Well, we were looking up something to do with Teaneck in the matter of distance from Teaneck to some other place on the map of New Jersey which is contained in the World Book and like other maps of other states in the World Book, they are pretty comprehensive.  Living in Teaneck and looking at a map of New Jersey and seeing surrounding townships and surrounding cities on the map and not seeing the town I live in which is Teaneck, we were quite concerned. So at a meeting, she brought this up at one of her business meeting brought it up and was asked to write directly to Chicago and the producers of the World Book, at that time and they immediately got in contact with her and thanked her and wrote her a very, very nice thank you and from that point on, this must have been back about at least ten years ago, and from that point on, Teaneck appears in the World Book year after year and I hope it will be there forever.  So we have Marie to thank.  I have a wife who should go down in history.  As a part of Oral History.

(I) Wendell, in your profession as a well-known physical therapist and supervisor in your field, do you have opportunity to work on or help any renowned persons that you can bring to mind? 

(N) Well I have to say Dr. Abramson who was an orthopedist shot while he was helping non-commissioned officers bring in some of the wounded in Europe.  He was shot in the back and paralyzed.  And I was one of the first therapists who worked with him in trying to aid in his rehabilitation.  Consequently, when we reached the point of high rehabilitation, he became a chief of service and asked me to come into her service.  Of course there were others in the service at the time who were probably just as experienced as just as qualified as I was and it was a matter of working and helping and he has published many, many, many papers checking many of the personal experiences he had and we had together and my name is on several of the rehabilitation articles.  A couple of articles about Posher appeared in THE JOURNAL OF REHABILITATION and I got credit for assisting and just before retirement, a Dr. Fisher who is seemingly becoming one of the exponents of pain and how to reduce pain and pressure by using pressure points tomography and some of the more up to date things in his research. Of course I now am retired and when you look back, sometimes it seems to me that I would like to have stayed just a little bit longer to see how these things actually affected the patients in the rehabilitation field who needed rehabilitation in the field of pain and so forth.

(I) Then there might be a change that in the future with your vast knowledge of physical therapy, you might be able to help some of the senior citizens in a certain way in giving their nurses or hospitals advice on how to.

(N) Well I have lectured Columbia University and I've lecture in St. Cecilia's and I've been given academic credit, extra credits for supervising and running, it isn't really running, but as a, introducing people at several conventions I've gotten extra credits for doing that.  Two credits for this and two credits for that and a coupe of little cups and things like that but I feel like this.  Once I try to keep up with what's going on and I'm always available for consultation, no money involved.  I give the advice that I know has worked and if I can't give it, I have, I know people and I am associated with people that I can refer people with problems to and it gives me a great deal of satisfaction.

(I) Now this is a question I am going to ask.  It's a little involved I guess but do you find it easy representing your people.  When I say your people, I mean the Native American which is the American Indian.  Do you find it easy representing them in your everyday life or your contact with the world, Teaneck or

(N) No I really don't have any problem.  Everybody seems to be surprised once you say that you are a native American or you're of Indian background, everybody eyes are, Oh I didn't know that and then they start asking you a lot of things that you can't always answer.

(I) You don't advertise it that you are.

(N) NO I don't advertise it.  I've always been taught to consider myself an American and I fought in the war as an American.  Not as a, I got a scholarship as an American Indian to (Dave) University but I didn't, I don't advertise background because I think everybody who lives in this country and exists in this country should be an American whether whey are aboriginal or whether they are any other kind of citizen. But it is interesting that in this area of course you don't have trouble.  The troubles are at St. Joseph's out in South Dakota and in some of the places out there and I think that in many instances, there hasn't, Indians don't want to be absorbed into American society as Americans.  They want to be left alone and they want to be educated and they want to be clean and they want to .. they want things that everybody really wants but without being forced to become like you are supposed to be as an American citizen.

(I) They would like to pursue their own culture

(N) They want to be educated, they want to be clean, they want recognition for whatever just like anybody else.  However, historically they are grouped in a, in the reservations in the west because the reservations in the east are just about disappeared except for the Tonowanda Reservation. The northern reservations in New York and Canada, on the borderline, Minnesota and so forth.  But since this is a country of freedom, they should be allowed on the reservations to be as free as possible and to pursue their own religion and to pursue their schooling, their education and so forth with the same right as any American citizen has which is a very difficult thing to really achieve.  And in talking to Russell Meade and some of the others when they were having problems, I was privileged to talk to them and they like everybody else want to be like themselves and their contribution in the wars, not only current, but in the wars throughout the United States.  if it wasn't for the cooperation and the help received from some of the Indians, we couldn't have accomplished in the development of the United States the things we did.  So they I feel honored to be an American as an American citizen whether it is aboriginal or otherwise.

(I) Well Wendell I've known you for let me see, would you say ten year, fifteen.

(N) Probably more like well, don't tell your age now.

(I) But I know you are a father and a husband and have a proud family and well liked and we want to thank you for your contribution and the Teaneck Oral History project will be enhanced by your words and we may come back in the future for some more interviews.  Thank you very much.

(N) Well I appreciate your asking me and I hope that some of the ideas that have been presented will be accepted in the manner in which I've given them.

 

Back to Teaneck Oral History (2)

Back to Township History Main Page