|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.|
|DATE OF INTERVIEW:||August 23, 1984|
|TRANSCRIBER:||Jackie Kinney (7/1985)|
(I) How was your other son's experiences in school?
(N) Fabulous. Wonderful.
(I) Did he, was he into extra curricular activities?
(N) Yes, he sings with the madrigal. He is with Playcrafters. Gee, I am just trying to think. He is such an involved kid.
(I) Did he have Laurie Cohen. I've heard that the teachers have changed now, have they?
(N) Oh really? He had Laurie Cohen.
(I) Last year?
(I) Oh, maybe she is still there.
(N) Yes. In fact yesterday we went down to New Hope and we drove in and I said, there's Bucks County Playhouse and Edward said, I knew I had been here before. The Playcrafters were there last year. And he just hadn't realized where he had been. So he got all excited. He said, this is where we ate and this is where we did this and. . And just something like that, taking the kids down to participate in this whatever it was, competition among high school theater groups, it is so exciting for them. You know, having taught in a school, in a high school and in the public school system, boy, I can really tell you some differences. And
(I) Well, getting back to Mark, what did Mr. Delaney say? What provisions are they going to have for easing the ninth graders in?
(N) I spoke to him in June and things were even more up in the air then than they are now but he said, don't think for a minute that we are just dumping the ninth graders in without giving any thought to how we are going to deal with them and he really, we want to work with them in terms of study techniques, for example, and he said mostly that there is, they plan to keep a really sharp eye on them. I am sure by now they've worked out various plans. Then it was much more, even more than it is now.
(I) I know we are going early to school. They have two days, I think,
(N) One. Because Mark starts a day ahead of Edward. And they don't think of them really as just other high school kids. They are viewing them as kids who are a year younger and haven't had any experience exactly like this. I think that is very important.
(I) What do you think of the high school band?
(N) Oh, well, the conductor isn't somebody who excites me terribly but the band is terrific and I've conducted these bands. Not recently but in years past, I walked in and
(I) Can you divide the two? Can you divide the conductor from the band?
(N) No, I'm just speaking in terms of personality. I have great respect for his musicianship and for what he expects of the kids. I have a student who plays in the band, a private student who plays in the band, and she talks to me about Mr. Levelli and everything she tells me, I approve of. He made us do this, that and the other thing. He won't let us do so and so. Good. Great. He just doesn't smile enough to suit me, that's all. But when I walked in to conduct a band when I was subbing, you know, they started to knock around and do, and I got on the podium and said, come on now, show off for me. I am a musician. And once that got across to them, they stopped. All I had to do was pick out one mistake that was being made on purpose and from then on, they were fine. They were a joy to conduct. There's a whole lot of esprit de corps so I hope it is still like that. I hate marching bands but it is a necessary evil.
(I) Okay. Let's get back to you. Have you belonged to any groups or organizations in Teaneck?
(N) Yeah. That's another reason Teaneck was good for us to move to because I'm one of these get-involved types. When we first moved in and I was casting about for friends, I got involved in the PTA a little bit at Bryart School but as soon as I found out (inaudible) I stopped being involved in PTA again because of my personal feeling that I don't like parents being watchdogs in school systems which is not necessarily the function of the PTA but the one I was involved with did a little too much of that to suit me and so I just disassociated myself.
(I) Do you have any reasons why, I mean, you think it is not a good idea?
(N) I think it is fine if the parents and teachers are supporting each other but my feeling there, in that particular year, in that particular situation, was that it was more, not more of, but almost an adversary situation. It was a combined Washington Irving and Bryant PTA. And when one mother, who shall remain nameless, said, we have to watch and make sure they take good care of our children, I said forget this. This is not for me. Hawthorne wasn't like that but by that time, I was just very involved in other things.
(I) Well, let's talk about the other things. What is your favorite involvement?
(N) My favorite I guess was TAP but that came about much later. The thing that really got me totally involved in the town, of course, was the bicentennial.
(I) We'll start there then. How did you get involved in that?
(N) There was a thing in the shopper looking for somebody to coordinate the bicentennial and I was looking, you know I have this belief that nobody ever does any volunteer thing for altruistic reasons and I've done a lot of volunteer things. I was looking for administrative experience. And so I filled out one of those little things and I got a call from Judy Dissler whom I had met one day at the Board of Education or someplace. I don't know. I crossed paths with Judy somewhere. And I got a call from her and she said, look, I have a friend who wants to do this but she doesn't want to do it alone and I saw your application. I guess she was on the initial committee that was just pulling things together.
(I) Do you remember when they started?
(N) Well I got involved in 1974 and they may have been going a little bit before that. And she said, I remembered you from our conversation and I think you'd really work very well with this other person and would you be interested in doing it with someone else? I said why not and it turned out to be Paulette Zisk who is a dynamo.
(I) Now the two of you were working on what, what aspect of it?
(N) We coordinated everything. Isaac McNatt was the chairman and Paulette and I had an office (bell rings) in the municipal building annex and, which was also fun because it was downstairs from the offices of the Redevelopment Agency and since I live on Glenwood Avenue, I was really always well posted on Glenpointe. Anyway, we pulled together something like 50 township organizations. Paulette did more of the administrative stuff simply because she works so fast and so thoroughly that I couldn't keep up with her and I tend to be more of the PR type person. I think we worked well together. We had a good time doing it. And we ended up with I knew half the people in town and she knew the other half. I mean I know hundreds of people in town as a result of that. And what was so fabulous about it was here we were working together, here was a group of people working together, who under normal circumstances would have had nothing to say to each other. Not all of them but many of them.
(I) So you established a committee?
(I) How many people, about?
(N) Probably, certainly 25, maybe more. It might have been as many as 40. They all represented different organizations and then other organizations were in town but didn't necessarily send a representative. We had political conservatives and political radicals and old people and kids and certainly every ethnic group you could think of. It was so much fun.
(I) How was the spirit of it? Was it very patriotic and. .
(N) It was very patriotic. You know, it was the one time that everybody was allowed to be patriotic without being embarrassed. And what was interesting about the bicentennial of Teaneck which set it apart from that of many other small towns was that it wasn't (END OF TAPE I - SIDE I - BEGIN SIDE 2) an excuse for getting dressed up and pretending we were revolutionary ladies and gentlemen but it was a reason or an excuse for getting things done in the town that we should have gotten done anyway such as beautification or having a large interdenominational religious service or just pulling diverse groups of people together to work together on a variety of projects..
(I) Can you tell me what your activities were? Do you remember your outline?
(N) Well I just mentioned for example this interdenominational service which involved choirs from eight or ten churches and synagogues and a whole assortment of clergymen. We had no clergywomen at the time. We got some of the schools involved. Actually two of the art teachers, Leon Wilburn and I think Tom Fitzgerald, whatever his first name is, were the two art teachers who were most involved. Mr. Fitzgerald had his class paint a mural on Ferician Cleaners whose description escapes me at the moment but very interesting. It was there for a long time and was then replaced by another mural.. We sponsored kind of this not an herb garden that's on the municipal green. Well Grace Kriegel was the Garden Club's representative. She presented the project to us. Then you see people would bring to us different things they would like to do. We would act as a clearing house. We wouldn't, we weren't necessarily in a position to give them financial support but we could pull together the township services, we could then go, or Isaac McNatt who was the chairman, Paulette and I were the coordinators, through Isaac who certainly knew everybody to speak to, we could get whether it was the DPW involved or the Police Department or the Fire Department, you know, he was able to reach those people or we were just by using his name and eventually we didn't have to use his name. Eventually they knew us. We were sort of given the run of the whole municipality. We coordinated Teaneck's aspect of this hilarious strategic retreat through Bergen County. What's his name, Bob Herb, was in charge of it. It was, I mean, I would never
(I) Is he from Teaneck?
(N) No, he's not. But he just sort of went from town to town. We were involved in certain things on a county-wide or state-wide level. Never in a million years did I expect to be involved in this project with policemen and firemen. This is just not within my realm of experience or whatever. Which is why, for me at least, was not only fun but just valuable. The people I met through, oh Mildred Taylor, for example, who wrote the HISTORY OF TEANECK, Mildred was representing the Women's Club and was one of our, fabulous women, and Paulette and I were very flattered because her husband always refers to her as Wonder Woman. He eventually told us we were Junior Wonder Women. I took that as the highest compliment that I think he meant it as such. Well that was really, I mean that sort of solidified us in Teaneck even though it was something I in particular was involved in. Through that, as a family, we met an awful lot of people.
(I) What did you actually do with this retreat? I mean did you have to show up on retreat?
(N) I didn't retreat. I just sort of hung around at the armory and helped serve doughnuts.
(I) Teaneck Armory?
(I) Is that where they began or ended?
(N) No, but that was one of the way stations and we stood there and waited for them to come along and we fed them.
(I) Were they dressed in costume.
(N) Oh yeah. You know there are all kinds of historical groups that make a specialty of re-enacting this, that and the other thing. And of course they reached their absolute peak in between 1974 and 1976.
(I) Did they have both sides, the colonial and the. .
(N) I don't remember. That's a good question. No, I think it was just, I don't think there were any redcoats. There may have been though.
(I) Do you remember the route through Teaneck? That might be interesting.
(N) There was some whole discussion about how they were going to get to Teaneck from Englewood because there was some street that we wanted them to go on for some reason, I don't remember what it was, but then somebody else said no, that wasn't historically accurate and there was this whole debate. A high school boy, I wish I could remember his name, a high school boy in town had researched this whole thing in this area and I think we ended up dividing the troops or something. Some people went on one route and some on the other. And they met at the Armory and went from there, did they go up Teaneck Road, they may have gone up Teaneck Road. You know, there are route markers all along. They went like allover the state. This went on for days and days and days so they meandered. Who knows what their reasons may have been for meandering.
(I) Keeping away.
(N) Yeah. It was a riot.
(I) What other memories, what other celebrations do you remember?
(N) Well actually the 4th of July, 1976 we did have a parade. And we who did have the whole, we found everybody in town who was born on the 4th of July who at least owned up to it, including Eleanor Kieliszek's daughters, I think, does she have twin daughters, I believe so, well in any case there is a daughter or daughters born on the 4th of July, we found Vita DeBernardo who was a member of the committee who said when she was a little girl, she had come from Italy, she always thought how fabulous it was that everybody made such a fuss on her birthday which was the 4th of July and so we got big convertibles for them to ride in and of course, fire engines and a little covered wagon had been made and something else with a windmill on it and I actually marched in colonial jazz.
(I) And the windmill was like the logo or symbol of Teaneck?
(N) Yes. That came from the Teaneck Tricentennial I believe which was before we moved here. That logo was created then. And it has been used ever since when necessary.
(I) Did we have fireworks?
(N) We must have but I don't, you see back then we used to have fireworks at Fairleigh Dickinson so we were probably still doing that. You know, back then, it sounds so long ago. But you know, now there are no local fireworks. Undoubtedly there were that year.
(I) Was that the end of the, was July 4th the end of . .
(N) No, the end of the year was the end of the celebration but things wound down after that. I mean, everything sort of aimed towards that date and there were things that continued past that but I can't think of what they were. They were probably just the end of long range projects.
(I) Other than the non-herb garden, is there anything else in Teaneck now. .
(N) That's left from it? That's a good question. Well, you know, one of the projects was supposed to be renovating the library and of course we now have a renovated library that didn't happen the way it was supposed to. But the whole movement to renovate the library was a bicentennial project.
(I) Did it come from your committee?
(N) It is my understanding that when the bicentennial, the little nucleus first formed and that Eleanor Kieliszek was pulling together, that they started meeting in the library and it grew from there with a few local historians.
(I) How about some of your other Teaneck activities?
(N) Let me just think for a second. Which came first? The Advisory Board on the Arts was formed by Mary Topolski probably around 1977, 1978. You know the first Folk Festival was a bicentennial festival and that's something that the Advisory Board on the Arts now sponsors. But the initial one was more than a Folk Festival. It was a huge thing in Votee Park. Something more similar to what the Housing Center did this past year at Fairleigh Dickinson but bigger. So it seems to me the Advisory Board on the Arts probably started in about 1977 because one of the first things that happened was that they picked up the slack and continued doing this annual event.
(I) What is the purpose of the Advisory Board?
(N) Well, Mary wanted to put this together for a variety of reasons and one was that there was so many people in the arts, visual and performing arts, living in Teaneck as you know that we felt perhaps they should know each other. They should know what each other is doing. There were also a lot of things forming such as Teaneck Artists Perform which also was founded by John Kiper in 75/76 around then and Mostly Opera, John Grandy's group, was also started at the same time and there was this proliferation of performing groups and it was felt by a variety of people, Mary apparently was the moving force behind this, that they should be aware of each other and of course the concerts at the library were going on. I started the concerts at the library by playing on the grass with oboist friend. We just one night played out there and after that, I was asked if I would put together a concert for the library and they've been going on
(I) You mean it wasn't a planned thing?
(N) No, we just went and did this thing and Olive Tamburelle came out and said, would you consider putting together a concert in the library and I did and, as I say, they've had them constantly since then. I've played since then but that was the first one.
(I) Did you get any kind of crowd?
(I) Nobody knew you were going to be there of course?
(N) Oh, on the grass. No, just kids riding by on bicycles, we were just doing it for the fun of it because I had this dream, I wanted to see music in spots allover town and so this was just a gas.
(I) Who was the other player?
(N) Oh he was an armature oboist named Jack Walinsky and we were just playing for fun. We played some duets. It is funny how one thing grows from something else. As I say, there was this proliferation we had the library series and we had certainly the long-standing things like civic music, Mostly Opera, Teaneck Artists Perform and there were some dancers around who were starting to do things. Visual artists, you know, tend to be less in groups than performing artists for obvious reasons so we felt it would be nice to have a clearing house, to have perhaps mutual strength in numbers, to be a little lobbying organization.
(I) Who did Mary Topolski approach?
(N) She approached, well she started out approaching the town
(I) Council, you mean.
(N) Yeah. And she called me, she got my name from somebody, I don't even remember who. I had not known her before that. And she was really about to give up the idea and I nagged her into pursuing it and she did and lo and behold, the Advisory Board was formed and she was the first president.
(I) Does it have any legal status on paper?
(N) It is one of the township advisory boards. My own feeling about it, I am still on it but really in name only because I never formally resigned but I just moved on as people tend to do. It did sponsor this poetry anthology that was published a couple of years ago. It certainly, as I say, it kind of underwrites, not underwrites but supports the Folk Festival.
(I) Do you remember who was on the first board?
(N) Robbie Wedeen, I was not on right away because I was in school the night they were meeting so I joined later. Sandy Gardner was on it. Maybe Louis Gardner also, I am not sure. John Grandy. Pearl and Roy Bennett who support the arts, they're not performers. Gee, I am trying to picture people.