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: Ida Mortenson
INTERVIEWER: Ann McGrath
DATE OF INTERVIEW:    April 1, 1985
TRANSCRIBER: Jackie Kinney (9/1985)

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(N) They always used to have affairs there, dances.

(I) And the volunteer company would put it on. Do you remember any of the people involved?

(N) My father, my uncles. I have a picture of all the firemen.

(I) So this was a social group. What kind of affairs would they put on? What would they do and how often do you think?

(N) Well a couple of times a year. Mostly all the dances. Young people would go. The older people too but mostly all the younger people.

(I) What kind of music?

(N) Not this jazz music. It was. .

(I) But is wasn't square dancing, regular dancing.

(N) Right.

(I) And would you have food and refreshments there?

(N) Well they served some, yes, they did serve food and drinks like there wasn't such a thing as hard liquor in those days for youngsters.

(I) Do you remember the government in Teaneck at that time, the political scene? Do you know who was running the town?

(N) No, I don't remember. My husband was active in Teaneck politics. He dabbled in that. But I don't remember what it was. Town council?

(I) Did they have a mayor? 

(N) I can't remember.

(I) Do you remember, did you use the library? Was there a library? 

(N) Not then there wasn't. Not until the Phelps Estate burned down. I remember when it burned down. 

(I) What happened to that?

(N) The Phelps Estate? It burned down. No, the Phelps Estate didn't burn down. They tore it down.

(I)  This is where Holy Name Hospital is now? 

(N) Right.

(I) So you remember them building the hospital.

(N) Oh yes. That was a huge big. .

(I) Do you remember how old you were when they built it?

(N) When they built it, oh I wasn't here when they built it. Oh, the hospital? Oh, I don't remember the dates they built it. But I couldn't have been more than ten years old.

(I) Did you watch them? I mean, would you come and watch them building it?

(N) No. Because it was quite a ways down.

(I) So I was asking you about the library. Did Teaneck have a library?

(N) I don't think so. Not then.

(I) Do you remember when they put the library in?

(N) Well when they built the Town Hall, you know, with all the municipal buildings.

(I) And that was the first library you remember? 

(N) That's the first I remember.

(I) I was going to ask you about the manors, the beautiful houses in Teaneck. Which ones do you remember that you thought were so pretty?

(N) Well I remember the Stewart Mansion. That was opposite our house. And you see we lived this side of Teaneck and there weren't too many big mansions there

(I) On the east side you mean.

(N) Yeah, but I do remember the Phelps Estate and the other estate on River Road. They were the big mansions.

(DAUGHTER) The one that was on the corner where Volk's is.

(N) Oh, that wasn't so . .

(DAUGHTER) That was a beautiful house. I remember it was the Blue Bird Inn.

(I) Was that a regular inn, the Blue Bird Inn?

(N) Well it was a home before that. That's where Volk's are now. 

(I) And it was like a hotel or a boarding house?

(N) That's where we used to go dancing too. They had lots of recreation in there.

(I) It was a regular inn? And where else did you have recreation, would you go out when you wanted to go out at night?

(N) The Blue Bird Inn and the firehouse. Then in Bogota they had in that firehouse they had dances too.

(I) You did a lot of dancing.

(N) Yes we did. That was our recreation.

(I) Now you said you played with some of the Stewart children. Or the Phelps children?

(N) Phelps. Frances and Phelps.

(I) And you were telling me about the ponies. Can you tell me something about that?

(N) Oh, that was the Stewart's yes. They were right across the street from us. But my playmate was Lorina Carroll. They had a horse stable on the corner of Queen Anne Road and Cedar Lane. They were multimillionaires. And she was really my friend, she was the only one that we had. She came from New York. All summer long, I would be with her, playing with her, and her father took us to the Vanderbilt estate in Somerville to see the horses and of course she had a governess and a footman and we used to go riding in the pony carts with our governess or the footman and sometimes we'd have four or six ponies on their cart. Everybody would look at us, drive through Hackensack.

(I) When you said they had the stables, you mean they kept their horses out here?

(N) Oh yes, on the corner, well not all of them but they had their stables there on what is now Carroll Place.

(I) These were their own private horses or they would rent out horses?

(N) I don't think they rented them out although Estelle told me that she used to rent horses for horseback riding in there. I never, we used to go horseback riding through the, well it was all woods from Queen Anne Road to Teaneck Road, it was all regular wooded area. That's where we used to go horseback riding.

(I) And you said the Stewart's showed their ponies, they were ... they went to horse shows a lot?

(N) Well they went to horse shows. I know they got blue ribbons all the time. I don't know what happened to them. I think they moved to Canada somewhere.

(I) Were there any other stables in Teaneck? 

(N) No, not that I know of.

(I) Did people own their own horses and stable them, where did you keep your horse?

(N) In back of the Stewarts. In the big barn.

(I) Do you remember your horses? 

(N) I certainly do. We had one horse, he was a show horse, bought from Mr. Carroll. His name was Snowball. It was a show horse. Beautiful.

(1) Did you ever show him?

(N) No, the reason they sold him is he was too old to do all this fancy things but he was wonderful to us. We could do anything to that horse.

(I) And would you ride him or did you drive him? 

(N) We could ride him?

(I) And did you ever drive him though?

(N) Oh yes. But he was hard to drive because when we went out, it was fine. Coming home, he was raring to get to the stable. 

(I) What kind of carriages did you have in those days?

(N) Oh, I wish we had them now. We could sit front and back and get in the middle like, step up.

(I) Do you remember the names of them, what they were called?

(N) No 1 don't.

(I) Did you enter them from the back or the side? 

(N) Side.

(I) And you had a driver?

(N) Well, papa, my father or my brothers drove when we went out in the carriage.

(I) Did women ever drive? 

(N) Oh yes.

(I) You could drive?

(N) Oh yes.

(I) Were you good!

(N) Well they wouldn't let me drive. Because I was always very tiny.

(I) Now did your mother work, I forgot to ask you that? 

(N) No.

(I)  She never had to work. Now I know you've had four generations in Longfellow. Maybe we will follow up on that. Your daughter went, then her children also went to Longfellow. Where did she live when she got married?

(N) Well she went back to, for a year and a half, she went back to overseas with her husband. Then she came back and she lived with me for a while. Then she bought the house on Queens Court where she still lives, opposite where I used to be. She was right opposite.

(I) And how many of her children went to Longfellow? 

(N) All of them. Five.

(I) Now the teachers must have changed in those years. Do you remember any of their teachers?

(N) I know Miss Martin and I don't think Miss Holland was there any more. I don't remember them.

(I) Now you have a great grandson that goes to Longfellow? And how is he related? How does he come back, through your grand-daughter?

(N) My great grandson? My daughter is his grandmother.

(I) Now I am getting confused. He is your daughter's daughter's son. And his name is what?

(N) Chak Lawson.

(I) And his father was, you were telling me something interesting about his father. Who was his father?

(N) Lawrence Lawson.

(I) Where did he come from? 

(N) Alaska.

(I) You were telling me he was an Indian. An Alaskan Indian. Where does he live now?

(N) In Brooklyn, I believe.

(I) How old is your great grandson now? 

(N) Five.

(I) He just started Longfellow this year? That's the fourth generation. I just wanted to add that because I don't think we followed up on that. Let's get back to growing up in Teaneck. You had a volunteer fire department. Were any of the men in your family involved in that?

(N) My father, my husband, my brothers, they were all in there.

(I) Do you remember any big fires they went out on?

(N) No. We used to have along side of our house, about a hundred feet, was a great big round bell and they used to bang that bell when there was a fire but I don't remember any. .

(I) Who would bang it?

(N) Anybody that knew there was a fire. 

(I) And where was the fire house? 

(N) On Morningside Terrace.

(I) That was fairly close then. Was anyone ever hurt? 

(N) Not that I know of, no.

(I) What about the police department? Do you remember having a police department growing up?

(N) Well not at first I don't think there was any. 

(I) Do you remember when it was established? 

(N) No.

(I) If there was a problem, who would you call?

(N) Who would you call? There was one problem and I don't think there were any police involved and that was one night about 12:30 there was a neighbor who lived right in back of the Gulf Station on Queen Anne Road, on DeGraw Avenue, William Westervelt lived there. His wife was a, gosh, I don't know. .

(I) It doesn't matter. Just tell me what happened.

(N) That night, somebody banged on our door and it was William Westervelt and he said, Jesus Christ, come down. I killed Irene. And he did shoot her. He said, come over. My father didn't want to go alone so he went up to get a neighbor, Mr. Lucien Deery who (END OF SIDE 1 - BEGIN SIDE 2) and at that time, the trolley cars were running on DeGraw Avenue. So fortunately my father and Mr. Deery came to the house and Westervelt had another gun ready to kill my father and Mr. Deery but the trolley car just came along and stopped and my father stopped the car and the people got out and some men got out and they helped subdue Westervelt. So..

(I) So this was handled without the police?

(N) Without the police so there were no police. 

(I) And what do you think happened to him?

(N) Mr. Westervelt? He, well they put him to jail. He finally died. He wanted money from her and she didn't want to give it to him because the money that she had was from the Ladies Aid, she was the treasurer or something and he wanted to go fishing and she wouldn't give it to him so he killed her.

(I) Do you remember where he went to jail, where he was put in jail?

(N) Yeah, Hackensack. And he is buried in back of the old church on the green. He is buried there.

(I) Tell me more about your neighbors now.

(N) Neighbors. Our first neighbors.. .

(I) Now this is when you were married or when you were a child?

(N) When I was a child, our first neighbors that came to Teaneck were the Palmers on the corner of, the house was being built. There was Francis(es), Carol and Steven and Richard, Oakdene Avenue, and then the next neighbors I think were the Greens, Gweny Green, she is still living. She must be over 90. She wasn't born in Teaneck. And Adelaide. Then the next were the Groves on, the Groves and the Wilsons. They were our other neighbors. Other than that, there were none on Queen Anne Road except the Palmers that just built their home there.

(1) There were no houses there. 

(N) No.

(I) Where did you shop?

(N) Shopping, there used to be a truck come along for meat every week and that's where, we'd have to shop in Hackensack. There was a big market, Shure's Market, in Hackensack. But the biggest thrill we got when we got a little Grand Union right opposite, below where we used to live on Queen Anne Road between DeGraw and, a little tiny Grand Union. Or was it the National. And the next big thrill we got was when we got gas and electric.

(I) You remember that?

(N) Oh yes. Because we used to have a kerosene lamp, you know. 

(I) How old were you when that happened?

(N) When we got the gas and electric? Oh, in my early teens. 

(I) How did they work that? They brought in a main line and everyone...

(N) I imagine so. Yes, they were digging up there.

(I) Do you remember the day the electricity was turned on in your house? 

(N) No.

(I) You just remember they put it in.

(DAUGHTER) Mother, you have a picture of the fire bell.

(I) I'd love to take any pictures. I will bring them back too. Ida, tell me about your father's business.

(N) Well he, when we came over from the other side, he worked for the Phelps Estate and on Teaneck Road there was the greenhouses and papa used to take care of the flowers and they also used to grow grapes in those greenhouses. Inside. So when he got tired of working for them, he thought he'd start his own business so he built, at first, three greenhouses and he specialized in sweetpeas and chrysanthemums. Business thrived so he built another big greenhouse and still thrived until he was 50 years old and he gave the business to my older brother. Well my older brother wasn't so good at taking care of the fires at night and things like that so he gave it up and my father retired and sold the greenhouses. They took them apart to a (inaudible) in Hackensack. So then they moved in with me because they rented their home there where the greenhouses were and they moved in with me until my father died at 82. So he was with me 32 years.

(I) Do you think that your children had a good an education as you did in the Teaneck schools?

(N) No, they had far better. My daughter went to very exclusive school, Seminary, and no, they had a better education because. .

(I) What about in Teaneck though. Do you think the school system has gotten better?

(N) That I wouldn't know. I think they were very thorough when we were young.

(I) I wanted to ask you about the ice cream parlor. One of you mentioned the ice cream parlor. Where was that?

(N) Well the first one was on the corner of Queen Anne Road and Fort Lee Road. The name was Maddens and they had candies and a few groceries and also ice cream.

(I) Horne made ice cream?

(N) Oh no.

(I) They brought it in?

(N) I don't know where they got it from but that was a treat to go down and get it.

(I) And then the first little store you remember, you think it was called the National or the Grand Union.

(N) Yeah, the National.

(I) When did Cedar Lane start building up?

(N) I remember Cedar Lane when there was one house on the corner of Palisade and Cedar Lane and of course the Carrolls place up on Queen Anne and Cedar Lane and then you went all the way down to almost River Road. There was on the right hand side going toward Hackensack, it was a big hill, a great big red house there. I don't remember who lived there. But you see they had to cut down those hills to make Cedar Lane and I remember we'd have to go over the trestle, no there was no trestle to go across the tracks. And we used to . .

(I) Just a road. And did they have flags and a bell. What did they have there?

(N) Gates I guess. Gates when the trains went by. Not a store, no.

(I) Well let's trace the history of ice cream. Where was the next ice cream parlor?

(N) Oh, I don't remember. I really don't remember. 

(I) Do you remember when Bischoff's came?

(N) Well they are not here too. Maybe fifteen years, twenty maybe. That isn't long.

 

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