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: Josephine Morten
INTERVIEWER: Lou Schwartz
DATE OF INTERVIEW:    May 18, 1984
TRANSCRIBER: Jackie Kinney (1/20/1985)

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(I) They were beginning to institute I think junior high schools then.

(N) Well I don't know the purpose of it. They say something about the social impact on the kids. I never felt it, did you?

(I) No. They also seem to worry about every time the lower grade is going to be effected but there is always going to be a lower grade, I guess. You haven't ever found any difference

(N) I never did. And I had two brothers and two sisters when I went to school. They never did. And we had a wonderful education in New Haven. Believe me, it was wonderful.

(I) Can you think of anything else? Changes that have taken place?

(N) Well in the first place, the town has grown in population, you know that.

(I) Let me ask you. How did the wars effect this town? You lived through two wars in this town, right? The first World War and the second World War. 

(N) No, the first World War I was in New Haven. The second World War 

(I) What happened during the second World War?

(N) Well a lot of our boys went to war and were killed. There is a plaque in the high school you know, you've seen it, haven't you? With the names of the boys who were killed in World War II.

(I) Yeah, I've seen it.

(N) And we had the blackouts and we had the men that walked around being sure that the lights were out and the curtains were drawn and people would contribute blankets and shovels and things like that, you know, in case

(I) Did you play any special part in all that?

(N) No, I didn't. 

(I) And did Lou, your husband?

(N) I wasn't married to him at that time so I don't remember what he did originally from Jersey City.

(I) And you say he played a part in the form of government here. Was he on the council or something?

(N) He was one of the first councilmen.

(I) That's before they changed the form of government or after?

(N) When they changed the form of government and they had the mayor and council, Lou Morten was one of the first councilmen.

(I) Did you attend meetings then? While he was on the council. 

(N) Of course. Of course I did.

(I) Can you think of anything special that happened that comes to your mind?

(N) Well he was a stickler for perfection. And I used to call him a Stormy Petrol (?) and he would go there on legal paper and I want to tell you, maybe he was a controversial figure, but he knew what he was talking about and one thing I have to say, which is strange, he was an honest liar.

(I) You say it like it was an unusual thing.

(N) Well you know what they say, but for instance, we would go to dinner maybe occasionally to Jersey City or someplace like that, usually on his birthday, a few friends together and they would arrange for someone to sing Happy Birthday to Lou. These young lawyers would come up to Lou Morten and thank him for what he had done for his training and so forth. As a matter of fact, even Judge Breslin one time remarked, "I remember Lou Morten and he did very good for me when I was young." He had a very fine reputation as an honest man. And that's something.

(I) Let Me ask you another question. Are you aware of the relationship betWeen the manager and the councilor the manager and the mayor then as compared to now?

(N) Well then, let me tell you, one of the finest men who ever lived was Paul Volcker 

(I) Who is now the head of the

(N) No, that's his son. Mr. Volcker, well you couldn't find a better man. And the relationship between the town manager and the council was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. I don't know what it is now. I haven't gone to the town meetings. I have my questions in my mind but I don't dare say them.

(I) One of the big changes that took place in the town was when blacks started moving into part of town. Right?

(N) Yeah. They are moving in the northeast section of the town. We had very few in the beginning. May I say this? If you go through those areas, those houses are kept beautifully, their lawns and their gardens are beautiful and I don't know why there should be any friction. There is but I don't know why. Because they have beautiful homes and they keep them beautifully.

(I) You say there is friction. In what way do you notice the friction?

(N) Well I haven't been teaching for a while, as you know, but I know in the schools and I know for a while there when I was at the high school, there was a certain door a white kid didn't dare go out from because that was taken over by the blacks. They would beat the hell out of them.

(I) My white kid always went through that door. 

(N) On Elizabeth Avenue.

(I) Yeah, Elizabeth Avenue.

(N) But there are two doors. One to the west and one to the east. It was the east door.

(I) But this was a period of time when there was great tension in the country between blacks and whites, wasn't it? See I live in the black area. That's why my kid had no problem.

(N) I don't know but I know various mothers that would call me that their youngsters were beaten up going there or you'd have to pay them a toll to get out the door. I had a girl, this is funny, in the seventh grade I had a little black girl, she was the only one, Suzy Brown, and for the whole year Suzy Brown never took off

her coat and I never forced her to. Bill Wilson was the vice principal then and I never knew why Suzy Brosn didn't take off her coat. She sat all day in class and didn't do a thing. Little Suzy Brown.

(1) And you never found out. 

(N) No, never found out.

(I) You know it is exactly twenty years ago that the town integrated the school system by closing one school down. Were you involved in any way with that? 

(N) What school did they close down?

(I) No, they didn't close it down. They made Bryant a central school. And then they 

(N) No, I wasn't involved in that. No, you heard of Harvey Scribner who was our superintendent of schools. There was a lot of objection to Harvey Scribner but I have to say this. I believe that he was the cause of us not having any race riots. I think he was twenty years ahead of his time but there was only one thing that I argued with him about. At that time, I had well the retarded kids and we were housed in our school building.

(I) You worked in the Schitz system when Harvey Scribner was there?

(N) Yeah. And the seniors are practicing for graduation and two of my children were permitted to go up to the platform and I remember one of them had her picture in yearbook. I don' t remember the other one. And I objected to Harvey Scribner because I remember my son studying until two o'clock in the morning, fortunately he was an honor student. You know what he said to me. "Oh, what the hell, Mrs. Morten, half these kids didn't earn their diplomas." Now I don't relieve in that philosophy. I relieve that you should be paid according to your work.

(I) Now you said that you feel because of Harvey Scribner, there was no race riots. In what way do you attribute that to him?

(N) I can't put my words together. They will admit, and I still have contact with some of the girls, you know, that yes, I don't understand just how he did it but he integrated, well wasn't that when the busing started. Well that's it.

(I) Well that's part of it. What about the Chief Fitzgerald. He was also chief at that time (Side 1 of tape ends) (begin Side 2) This question of why we had no race riots, you mentioned that one of the reasons you felt strongly was Harvey Scribner and I asked you about Fitzgerald, one of your former students.

(N) Well I only substituted with him, you know. That's when I had that class of boys with logirhythms.

(I) And one of his, I would say, strong police officers, Freddie Green

(N) Well I had Freddie Green in the seventh grade. And if you remember a couple of years ago when we got those stickers to put in our car, well I went down to the Ambulance Corps to get my sticker and Freddie Green was there and we just threw our arms around each other. We are so glad to see one another.

(I) Do you know that that was Freddie Green's program, that he initiated it? 

(N) No, I did not.

(I) Yes he initiated that program. He had a grant. That program that you put the sticker of your election district in the back of your car so the police riding around can see that that car belongs in the neighborhood. That was a program that he initiated.

(N) Well not too long ago, I had to go to the senior center in Hackensack to get a voting card. I was taking a trip and I was parking in that area there and this man was helping me to park, he was a black man, and he looked at my car and he said, 'Oh , you come from Teaneck." He said, 'I do too.' So those are really great.

(I) Yes, I've had a similar experience.

(N) Well I have a high regard for Freddie Green. I'm very sorry. I read about a little problem which he had because he was being a human being in my opinion.

(I) Well since Fitzgerald is no longer chief, Freddie Green doesn't receive the same treatment .

(N) Now, I have a black family on my street and across the street I have a a mixed marriage and you couldn't ask for better neighbors. You see, I think Teaneck is wonderful.

(I) You know that Teaneck was declared a model city. 

(N) Oh, I remember that.

(I) Do you think it was really so? Does that apply?

(N) Oh yes. 

(I) Why?

(N) I don't know. The whole atmosphere was so wholesome. We never had to lock our doors or close our windows. You could go away all day and leave, you didn't have to be afraid to walk down the street or take a walk. We would walk to Hackensack at night.

(I ) When was the last you could do this?

(N) I would say about twenty years ago. Now I have to have safety locks on my doors. I had an intruder in my window here. It is different. I wouldn't walk down Cedar Lane at night on a bet.

(I) Well not just Teaneck. Anywhere.

(N) I know. Well I think that what has ruined us, now you know this is a woman, is Route 4 and Route 80. We are too accessible to New York.

(I) Well before Route 4 and Route 80, you had the George Washington Bridge.

(N) We went over by the ferry. We didn't have the bridge. We took the ferry. Go into New York for a quarter.

(I) Wouldn't you say what drew those roads was the construction of the bridge?

(N) Well I remember Mr. Steel saying when they put in Route 4 and the George Washington Bridge, 'the honeymoon is over.' And he was so right. To me, well

(I) Let me ask you another question - what do you think of the Teaneck Public Library? 

(N) I love it. 

(I) Why?

(N) Well, in the first place, the personnel is very gracious and helpful. You have the accessible books. If they don't have them, they'll get them for you and of course our Friday morning program you couldn't beat.

(I) What about the Friday morning program? How long have you been in it? 

(N) At least five years.

(I) But you weren't there at the start of it.

(N) No, I wasn't there when they first started it. That was John Feidel and I think it was Ida Gagliardi's husband and a few others, Tom Monroe, remember Tom Monroe?

(I) In other words you are there five years, about the same length of time that I am. Will you explain the Friday program anyway so

(N) It is mentally stimulating. Most of the people there have something to contribute. We don't go to be entertained. We go to be informed and as far as the social activity with our coffee and danish, that's beautiful and you make lovely friend ships there and the trips that we take to me are all informative.

(I) How did you happen to come to the Friday program?

(N) Well I used to live next door to John Feigel am I think it was Hilda that got me to go to the meeting after John had died. That's how I started going and I hate to miss it. I like it very much. (tape is turned off, then continues) well listen, when I first came to town, we had Phelps Mansion. Did anybody tell you about the Phelps Mansion?

(I) What about it?

(N) Well Phelps had been ambassador and he was planning to make Teaneck a second Tuxedo Park. Now his

(I) What's Tuxedo Park?

(N) Up in New York State. He had this big mansion. He had a mill. He had bridle paths, 40 miles of bridle paths, I don't know.

(I) Right here?

(N) Yeah. This used to be part of his, what shall I say, 

(I) Estate?

(N) Yeah. Stables or whatever. And there were big apple orchards going to Fort Lee Road.

(I) And we haven't got an apple now.

(N) No. No. And he had his own private little railroad station and I think he had caretakers there. We used to be able to get the train down there to go to Hoboken.

(I) From where? 

(N) From East Englewood. Where the old station used to be. Oh that was lovely. It was really lovely. Then before they built Fairleigh Dickinson University, there were some beautiful homes on the river there and I remember there was one that belonged to the curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and there was also a huge estate across and our little newsboy used to be so scared because it was so spooky at night, you know. we didn't have the lights or anything like that.

(I) What newspapers were there? 

(N) The Bergen Record. 2¢. 

(I) The same Bergen Record?

(N) Yeah. 2¢. I knew John Boyd (?). I had met him and he was quite a politician. As a matter of fact, he started as a poor man and he invested a few thousand dollars and look what he became. Do you know that Frank Packard was married to John Boyd's daughter, the one who recently died. Oh yeah.

(I) And what do you know about Fairleigh Dickinson University? 

(N) Well, what's his name, Scaramelli, no,

(I) I know who you mean. The first president you mean.

(N) Yeah. Well I'll have you know that Dr. Little who came here from the state of Washington and was our principal at the high school. Teaneck is a funny town. They crucify people. Anyhow, he was instrumental in beginning a junior college down there at the Hackensack River.

(I) What did they call it. Do you remember?

(N) No, I don't remember that. Well anyhow Charlie Steel and Sylvia, what's the president's name, Sammartino, Sammartino came from Rutherford. Sylvia Scaramelli's father, I think he owned the bank., he was influential in helping Sammartino who is a bright man

(I) When was this? Do you remember when they started it?

(N) Wait a minute now. Well it was after World War II I think, and it was an old wooden building. None of the structure that is there now. And then there is a place in Rutherford called somebody's castle and Sammartino had gone there.

(I) That is the administration building down there.

(N) Yeah. Well that had been a castle. I remember going through there. The poet Robert Frost was there. And then Charlie Steel and Marina Scalanti, what a team they were. Marina Scalanti was the vice principal and he came from Lodi. They ran that school like a watch.

(I) You mean the high school or the

(N) The high school. Then we had the high school and the junior high school together. It was a wonderful team, I am telling you.

(1) And they moved into the college?

(N) Well then Charlie Steel became very active in the college and Dean Gallanti, he became dean, and then he went on to Rockston to open the Rockston branch

(I) You mean in England

(N) No, in England. And Al Robison and his wife, Ann, went over to investigate various chateaus. I don't know whether it was France or Spain, to open a branch over there but that fell through.

(I) And that was the beginning of Fairleigh Dickinson University? 

(N) Well this was when the expanded.

(I) And they went over. Before you mentioned that was the beginning when Samnartino 

(N) Well first it was Charlie Little, Charles Little, and then it was Samnartino. And however Marina Scalanti and Charlie Steel got involved, I don't know, but we used to, that was the beginning of the Town and Gown Club.

(I) What is the Town and Gown Club?

(N) Well it's sponsored by Fairleigh Dickinson and on Sundays, they would have programs and they would have trips and I want you to know that they were good. I haven't gone anymore because it is not the way it was.

(I) And who were members of the Town and Gown?

(N) Any townsperson who wanted to join. The fee used to be $5 a year, I think it is $6 now or whatever it is. But it isn't the way it used to be. This was long before the Hackensack campus was built you know. And it is not the theater that they have now. It was another theater. And you would find the townspeople down there on a Sunday afternoon. We saw some very wonderful plays. Not the amateurs either.

(I) You mean they would bring in players? 

(N) They would bring in players, yeah. 

(I) And this doesn't exist anymore.

(N) Well I've been going down there occasionally now and they are the students. And whoever the woman is that plays the piano, she drowns them out. I think I am going to tell her myself to stop peddling. So I think I had enough now, haven't you?

(END OF TAPE)

 

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