|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:||July 10, 1984|
|TRANSCRIBER:||Jackie Kinney (2/17/1985)|
(I) When did you stop using Wendell Place?
(N) Really there were, we had a walkway put up, the maintenance guys built a walkway for us and Wendell Place is used this year by hockey players
(I) I thought they stopped using it?
(N) It never was a "official" skating area. It was always sort of a quasi-official area. Central Park or Votee was the, until they put the mounds in there, but I always liked, even before the water froze, we'd let the water in by opening a storm drain at that north end of that pond and the water would simply run in and when, before it was frozen it was aquatically attractive area. Ducks could come in or whatever and land there and then when it did freeze and we had to set the flow of water, control the flow of water because there was such a heavy seepage underneath. Ice has to be supported and it is supported by water but if we just turned, closed that valve altogether, the water would go down and then you would have what you would call shell ice and once it broke down, you'd have a problem. But the fire guys used to come out when Joe Murray was the fire chief or Bill Lindsay too for that matter and those guys would come down. I'd ask for them about eleven, between eleven and twelve or twelve and two and Dottie and I would go down there with shovels and I'd take about seven shovels down or scrapers and we'd get on skates and anybody who we could get to help us we'd be there until two o'clock in the morning scraping that ice and then ask the guys to spray it so there could be a nice surface in the morning.
(I) When did this stop? And why?
(N) It stopped, well it stopped really about when that bicycle thing went in of course that just made it impossible
(I) No. I mean the use of the fire department. I don't remember them in my mind.
(N) My guess would be and this would be open to question but I think when the unions went in and talked with the fire people that this wasn't really a part of their responsibility.
(I) How long ago was that?
(N) That's probably a good eight, ten years.
(I) Because I don't remember the fire department at all and I am here twenty six years. I am down there all the time. All I know is when my grandson Mike was skating when he was younger down there, it just froze. And it was pretty nice. Except that you didn't have many days later on.
(N) No, that's right. You would run into a period of four or five years when you'd get maybe only eight, nine days or something like that. Or less which was difficult you know. But when it was there, it was super.
(I) One other interesting thing is the bicycle pass that we just recently put in which has its history. I know you were a part of that.
(N) Yeah. That turned out to be a whole lot bigger project than I had ever any idea that it would be. As a matter of fact, if I felt it were going to be $195,000 project. or whatever it was, I really wouldn't have had any part of it. Frankly. The putting up of a number of signs that are around, I thought that the layout itself, and I was involved in the layout, I thought was done from a very pragmatic point of view to try to avoid where possible the most densely trafficked areas and also the least hilly so that there could be some semblance of avoiding the ridges in town and yet to get from one side of town to the other. It was very practical but if anybody told me it was going to cost $190,000 to do it I would say forget it. I don't care if it is free money. There is no such thing as free money.
(Y) No free money. Somebody is paying for it, we are paying for it.
(N) Yes, of course. The other thing that I think I had as much fun with Lou was the retired men's club.
(I) Yes. What about that?
(N) That was interesting. That was kind of fun. That started in, I had gone to a recreation conference over at Buckhill Falls at the Buckhill Inn and the sessions were conducted there, J .W. Faust, who, this was in 1946
(I) Oh , soon after you got here.
(N) 1946. Right. In February of 46 and the sessions went until about 9 o'clock at night and after the sessions, I don't know if you know Buckhill Falls but there is just nothing to do at all up there at night, some of the guys went down to bowl or someplace and I just strolled into the library and found a copy of the Fortune Magazine and I probably looked at it because it was one of many that I couldn't afford. In thumbing through it, there was an ad by I don't even remember the company that said, in 1947 there will be 11,000,000 people 65 years of age or over in the United states and that floored me. The impact on me at that statement, I couldn't believe it. That's almost 10% of our population. So I went back and thought about it for a long time. Then I saw Ira Balis who lived up the street from us, used to walk down Church Street on the way down to Mr. Murphy's to get his paper or Charlie Pearl's. Bill Bullock who was my next door neighbor was about 84 and they'd go down there and fight and I'd see Hirman come back and I talked to him and I decided that he spent so much time down at Charlie Pearl's and over at Mr. Murphy's because either there was something home that he didn't want to do or there was nothing that he wanted to do and therefore this became his. . so I wrote to the clergymen, members of the clergy in town and asked if they would send me names of men who were retired from active business or professional life who might be interested in getting together to talk about stuff and on the 21st of October, 1947 we had our first get together. We had seven guys, Henry Willis who had a photography studio in New York, a very prestigious outfit, we had a fellow named Monahan, I think his name was, from West Englewood Avenue, we had William Hire, Bill Hire, Bill was about 75 at the time I guess or close to it. There were seven fellows and we talked about the possibility and they thought well this sounded like a good idea for them to get together once a month and I'll tell you frankly at that point in time Lou, somebody said how about the ladies. Well we said the ladies have their Ladies Aid Society in the church, they have or in their parishes wherever, there seemed to be a whole ton of things for the ladies, the Women's Clubs, a whole ton of things for them to do but this age level among the men seemed to me it was kind of a left out group. So we built that up and we had speakers come in and if the boys wanted to play cards, if they didn't want to hear the speaker, I'd bring in movies or bring in entertainment and the hardest part of it was finding, we took trips, I took them to Radio City, I took them to West Point
(I) You, in other words, really conducted this thing?
(N) I did the whole thing for about three years. Three or four years. Took them to the United Nations and had them set up there. We had a luncheon over there.
(I) You had a regular organization?
(N) Oh yeah. Went every place with them. Every place with them. We built it up, we had about 90 men and of course over the period of time, I'd say about seven or eight years later, maybe longer than that, there was a growing interest in the senior citizens so to speak in, not only in our region but nationwide and frankly I'm not sure at this point, well I know that the guys meet on Tuesday down at the (inaudible) I am not sure that because of the tremendous activity, very positive activity that senior services center that I think probably it exists in name only. Not that it is a bad thing. The fellows meet and have but I think it served its purpose.
(I) There are other organizations that came in and picked up where they have something to do. It was a good pioneering move.
(N) But it was a lot of fun. It really and truly was a lot of fun. Herk Levick was one of the guys. Hercules Levick was about five feet four maximum, standing on his toes and probably 105 lbs. and he was a member of the Big Six, typographical union in New York. He worked at the Brooklyn Eagle and Horace Greeley was editor
(I) That was a long time ago.
(N) A long time ago. Herk told me, you know, he said Greeley couldn't spell for a damn. And he had been there over fifty years and his biggest concern was if he retired, what in the world would he do. But the guy had a great sense of humor and was just a pure delight. Great conservationalist. Always with a little needle. Delightful. Just a delightful guy. And Hiram Balis of course, Hiram was the father of Fred Balis who was president of the bank down here, the National Community Bank and Bill Beaumont was, he had retired from New York. Interesting, one day I asked all the guys to bring in some award that they had received. Everybody received something, whatever. And it was one of the most fascinating programs
(I) If you live long enough, you got to get something
(N) Surely right. So they came in with all kinds of things. Yellowed newspaper clippings. Bill Beaumont, Beaumont Avenue was named after his family, he and Herk Levick were two cronies but he came in with a medal that had been given him by the New York Herald Tribune in February, he was a commuter to New York, and of course came across on the ferry, this was before the bridge of course, and in February somebody fell overboard and Bill jumped in and saved him and it happened on board there happened to be somebody connected with the paper and they had a picture and the whole thing and they gave him this lovely writeup and this very, very nice medal. Well it was a great source of pride and rightfully so and it was fun to hear Bill tell about it because here was a fellow who was having some difficulty walking, you weren't thinking of him in the context of jumping overboard to save a fellow passenger in the winter. Lou Gallipo brought in a PSAL medal for running races from New York. Great. Herk at 80 was climbing ladders to help Bill paint his house. Just delightful people. So I felt is was a real treat just to know these guys. Henry Willis was a southern gentleman who had that photography studio and the unions wanted to come in and set up a union and he said, don't do it because it you do, I am going to sell and I am not going to sellout to anyone person. I'll sell this piece of equipment to somebody and that way he would be finished.
(I) Why. Did he have that many workers?
(N) He had maybe fifteen, twenty. And they were going to do this and that's what he did. He sold out and sold
(I) Is that right? He actually did it?
(N) Yes. Of course you have to bear in mind that the times were, traffic wasn't what it was now and in 45 we had fifteen sleigh streets in town, all over town. Grenville Avenue, in there you had four cross streets going right into River Road. Garden Street, Tryon Street, Elizabeth Avenue, Kipp, Norris, and they go right across River Road but there wasn't any traffic at that point in time. As a matter of fact, if you want an interesting story, Garden Street I took high school kids who were reliable and you'd give them a barricade and a lantern and they'd go from about 4 o'clock until 5:30, took the barricade down, go back at 7:00 until 9:30 . 50 cents an hour then. And I'd go around to check and see that the barricade was up and then to monitor so that . . and the objective was really to provide all the children with a safe coasting. You don't want to spoil the fun. If somebody is going to throw a snowball, don't panic with it but on the other hand, if they are going to take a little girl's sled and spin it around and spin it around, that's, you don't do that and as a matter of fact, at Garden Street for a couple of weeks the coasting guard at Garden Street was Buddy Volcker, was Paul Volcker, Jr. and his father called me down. He was the manager
(I) This Buddy Volcker, is this the one that is now the head of the
(N) Yeah. His father called me down and said I see you have Buddy on the payroll. Not only that but you get to the point where you know the guys that you are not going to have any problem with. These are the fellows that are there 15 minutes early, stay until the last dog dies, and the kids love him and this kind of thing and he was one of these boys. So Paul, Sr. said I want you to fire him. I said, well, I don't want to do that. He is one of the best people we have. I said I am sure you have a reason for this. Yes, he said, I do. As a matte of fact, I have three reasons for it. I said, well do you mind telling me what they are? He said, no. First he's my son, therefore he shouldn't be on the public payroll. Secondly, I don't know what you are paying him but whatever he is making, there are a lot of kids in this town who need it more than he does therefore you better get rid of him. And third, if you don't get rid of him, not only are you going to need a new sleigh street guard at Garden Street, I am going to need a new recreation superintendent.
(I) That was a very convincing argument.
(N) On the other hand, I said since you signed, it was the civil service technically, if you signed the form, therefore you appointed him, why don't you fire him? He said, Dick, fire him. So it was a Friday. I'll never forget it. And I went over to Garden Street that afternoon and I saw Buddy and I said I, this has to be your last day. Oh, said he. Did my father say something? I said, yes he did. He said, that's OK. And that was it. And it has since occurred to me that I'm probably the only guy who has the questionable opportunity to ever fire Paul Volcker Jr. from anything.
(I) Did he insist that you fire him without letting him know that his father wanted him fired?
(N) Paul Sr? No, he didn't say anything. He just said, you get rid of him. I am sure Buddy didn't know. That's the way Paul was though. There was no funny business.
(I) Let's get back to a couple of questions in the town. You came here, by the way were you married when you came here?
(I) Oh, you picked up more than a job here. There were not many Jews then. Jews started moving in later. Were there any problems in that connection, as far as you were concerned. I mean as far as you can recall, I don't mean personally.
(N) You mean in program development and so forth?
(I) No, in the town itself. Jews begin to move in.
(N) Oh yeah, sure. Sure. There were some, well you heard someone say, very interesting, you heard someone say that a Jewish person moved into our street. What's going to happen? About fifteen years after that, a very close friend who happens to be Jewish said to me, on Churchill Road, we had our first black move in here. I said, don't tell me because I heard the same story about fifteen years ago from another angle. So that there was some of that but it very soon dissipated Lou.
(I) Was there any exodus from the town?
(I) That you are aware of, I mean.
(N) No, I wouldn't say so. If any, it probably would be minimal. I don't know of any personally that moved for that reason. I think that the quality of people who moved into this community were people first of all who were searching for the kind of community that Teaneck represented and I think that's probably had a lot to do with it. And not only that but then became integrated in the total community, what was going on in the community as well. And I think that probably made any transition easier for everybody.
(I) Well that's a relatively easier transition. Then we had the blacks move in.
(N) Much more difficult. Much more difficult.
(N) For the same reason as I told you that I think when the first black moved down the street, it probably caused some consternation and whether it is right or wrong is not the issue. The fact that it existed was the issue. And again I think that the quality of people who were moving in had again a lot to do with the, while it was not an easy integration, I don't mean that, I think from an outside point of view, it probably was a lot easier than it would be in a lot of other communities because the people
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I relieve that one of the many real fine attributes of Teaneck is the fact that whatever problem it had, it faced head on. It is not a sweep anything under the rug kind of town. If it is political or social or cultural or whatever, and I think the fact that what was happening and the change in the complexion of neighborhoods and the people were being, I relieve, evaluated more on the kind of people they were than their differences have helped a great deal. The schools themselves, the Harvey Scribner's coming into town at the time he did had, I think some of his academic programs were, caused a great deal of consternation among many of the teaching personnel in the system but his insistence and his promotion of the integration was probably one of the best things that happened to the town at that time in easing the way for the degree of integration that this community has presently.
(I) You wouldn't say there was an easy time of it.
(N) No I wouldn't say it was an easy time of it. I think it would be a much more difficult, well it was certainly more difficult in Tenafly. Many, many years ago in the late 30s, early 30s, when black community moved into Tenafly
(I) Is there a black community there?
(N) No, there isn't because they were burned out.
(I) Oh , I was not aware that they had one. They were burned out.
(N) Yes and so Teaneck chose not to go that way and I think that is one, among the many reasons was first the quality of people who were seeking to improve their lot in life and they had sought out this community found probably more readily, were more readily accepted than otherwise might have been the case. I don't think it was easy but 1 think it was easier here than it probably would have been in a lot of communities that both of us could name.
(I) Well would you think that because Englewood was so close, especially to where the black area really developed, did this spillover?
(N) No. Englewood's development I would characterize it, and I could be wrong on this, but hear me, was not unusual any more than East Orange or where many of the black people were brought into Englewood to be domestics for the homes on the hill and I think the same is true in East Orange and South Orange and some of those communities. That was not the case in Teaneck. The people were not "brought here" so to speak to be domestics or to work for, they came into this community to buy homes and to become residents of the town and there's a big difference and I think that accounts for the acceptance.
(I) Yeah. I think that's a very interesting point. The difference between Teaneck.
(N) I believe that.
(I) Well is there any other things that stand out in your mind?
(N) Well first as you know, my tenure with the department was really very happy, very positive
(1) Why did you retire?
(N) Well I really think that it needs a younger person for starters. I was becoming saturated but I had all kinds of support. I had support from all factions of this community and really it is as much good luck as good management. I am sincere about that.
(I) There is a saying, you know, I've been very lucky in (inaudible) but I don't really believe it's luck.
(N) Well quality people really responded. This is a very responsive community in any case. I struck out on several things too that really hurt, really and truly hurt. But listen, you know, we had proposed a community building in Central Park that went down, not just a little bit, it got clobbered 6 to 1. And I proposed the purchase of the Phelps Manor Golf Course and it didn't go and I felt very, very bad about that.
(I) What about the swimming pool that didn't go? Did you play any part in that?
(N) We got pounced on that but that was a very unfortunate thing and I think the, I was almost in shock, you know, after it got beaten to the point that it did that a couple of people could come up and propose identically the same thing and get it through on a private basis and yet with the tax abatement, I have a problem with but those are strikes, you know. Those are things that I struck out on.
(I) Would you say that the question of integration played a part in the
(N) No question about it.
(I) It has not been an easy time with integration.
(N) No, it hasn't but I think the progress that has been made has been remarkable. Has been super. On both sides of the issue. I think that there are people that are both black and white who are accepting each other to a degree that maybe surprises themselves and that's a positive thing Lou.
(I) Would you say there is a lot of polarity in this town?
(N) There is some and I think that's inevitable. I think that's inevitable. I don't know that time may erase it at some point, you and I should both live so long, you know. I would like to think, we'd all love to think that it will totally dissipate. Who knows? That golf course seemed like such a sure fire thing to me.
(I) Golf course. What's the golf course?
(N) Englewood, no the Phelps Manor Golf Course just east of Cedar Lane, it was all built, it was a going concern. It was a going operation. Part of the Phelps estate. It was, it ran along Route 4, south of Route 4, Country Club Road, Club Road was, you took that into where the clubhouse was. 18 hole course in there. Fieldstone Clubhouse Lou that you couldn't replace today for one million and a quarter minimum .
(I) Privately owned?
(N) Yes, it was owned by the Phelps estate but it was pub1ica1ly operated but it had a field house with a luncheon, a restaurant and a pro shop and I could foresee it, I did a study at that point of every community of Teaneck's size in the United States that operated a golf course and I had close to a 30% return.
(I) You mean you were operating it, the town was operating it?
(N) No. It was being operated by the Phelps estate. He had a manager in there who operated it and
(I) On a profit basis?
(N) Yeah. Well that's what the rates were
(I) What year was that?
(N) I did that study in 1946.
(I) Again, a little after you got here. And it had tremendous potential. I could see putting tennis courts adjacent to the clubhouse, using the 17th fairway as a training area for beginner skiiers and cross country ski areas. A little pool adjacent to it. It could have been a delightful, absolutely delightful spot.
(I) What happened?
(N) The, well again, bear in mind the whole thing, there was $385,000 but the town was about a little over, between $3 and $4,000,000 in debt and Paul wanted to, he was really working to get things on a pay-as-you-go basis and Jim Welsh who was Paul's assistant in 1950 came in, they put everything on a pay-as-you-go basis. They didn't bond anything. And then the next project was that community building in Central Park and Jim had set aside $350,000 in the surplus to be applied against that. The whole project was $1-1/4 million; it was $350,000; the council decided not to do it but they took the $350,000 and used it for other projects that made themselves look very good but that's not why it was initially put there. But that was a blow because I think the need probably exists as much now as it did then but it will never be.
(I) It would have gave the town a different character.
(N) It could have been a stabilizing influence in a whole lot of ways. In a whole lot of ways. With the golf course, first the potential was there. It added to the social image that the community had of itself whether in fact it existed is academic. I said no, we need the ratables. Chairman of the Planning Board was a guy named Thornton Bishop who was active also in the Labor Board I believe but he was also, which I didn't know, on the County Park Commission and part of their long range plans was that golf course down there. When Thornton got to Paul that was the end of it. We need the ratables, OK? What happens? That 60 some odd acres or 80 acres or whatever it was, they built all the homes that are east of Cedar Lane and east of Teaneck Road and north of Cedar Lane, practically, were put there on the golf course property which meant a second junior high school, a second elementary school, another elementary school, increased police, fire and public works. They don't pay for themselves anyway so it was really a net loss.
(I) Just like the Glenpointe down here.
(N) The whole thing was a net loss. Besides not having
(I) You mean it was offered to the town for sale and the town turned it down?
(N) Whether it ever came, I am not even sure it even came to a vote. I think it may have been done
(I) Another interesting thing I remember took place was this (inaudible) park.
(N) Well that was another thing. We had a detailed study made of that. I thought it had tremendous potential. We had financing for it on a matching grant basis. Interesting story on that too was that we were one vote shy on having that implemented and the guy, when it had to be reviewed by the people from HUD from the Philadelphia office in order, and they were to say YES or NO on this thing, and I went with the manager to meet with these people, the guy from HUD was a guy named Earl Wheeler who I had known from those recreation conferences in Butler Falls. At that time, he was the recreation superintendent in Butler, PA and had become involved in this HUD and was assigned to the Philadelphia office and he said, gee, if this is everything you say it is, you got it and they approved it and we couldn't get the approval from one vote shy.
(I) What is your opinion why, or would you rather not discuss it, why you couldn't get that one vote?
(N) Well the vote as I recall was a political commitment that one of the members of council had made, at least it could have been the vote, that he would not vote for anything that would increase anybody's taxes 5 cents.
(I) I thought and I might be wrong, that's why I asked for your opinion, that they they were afraid they would be defeated for the bond in referendum.
(N) You didn't need a referendum. No. The council can bond money. They don't need a referendum to bond to issue bonds on projects, capital projects. No.
(I) No. Now I'm very angry why they didn't built the pool. I was under the impression that the politically astute people thought it would be beaten
(N) No. Politically I think in some instances that I can think of where they don't want to take, make a decision on it, they will go to what they call a "non-binding referendum" which so they are saying well we are going to let the people decide and then if the people, if it is really close then they will say well we don't. . and if they were opposed to it then they can say we don't want it.
(I) I thought if you get enough signatures on a petition, you can force a referendum for a bond.
(N) You can. Yes you can. If you get enough, 10% of the assessment from the preceding election on a petition, you can force a referendum.
(I) Do you think that the fact that Argonne Park had been practically in a black area had an effect on it too?
(N) I don't know. I studied that thing more than you could possibly know and I was involved in the design to a pretty good degree too with Bob Kensey and no, that really didn't have that much influence on what we designed
(I) Not the design. I mean the final decision not to have it.
(N) I don't know. I just really felt not to submit it would be wrong because it was a popular thing.
(I) The plans were beautiful, no question about it. Recently we had an opportunity for Washington Irving School to be the recreation center. What's your feeling about that?
(N) That could have been a very, very nice place, that center operation. It would have been a delightful place.
(I) I think the Board of Education let us down.
(N) I thought it was too bad.
(I) I know. I had proposed this about a year ago and I was fighting for this for a long time. Especially for the teenagers.
(N) I guess the other thing that has been a real turn, I've had a lot of things that were turnons here, some of them athletic, some of them social and some of them cultural. That summer band thing was a lot of fun.