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: Fred Rola
INTERVIEWER: Virginia Stilles
DATE OF INTERVIEW:    March 27, 1984
TRANSCRIBER: Jackie Kinney (1/4/1985)

Do we have your permission to use this tape for a study program in the library? 

(N) Yes, you have my full permission on that. 

(I) When did you move to Teaneck Fred?

(N) I moved to Teaneck March 31, 1955. I had this house, 1 put a down payment on this house almost a year before and it took about that length of time to be able to get this house because there were so many problems before I was able to make the final decision, they make the final decision to sell the house to me.

(I) What was your reason for moving to Teaneck? 

(N) The reason is that I had a studio in New York. For one thing, my profession is photographer. I am a architectural photographer and the building that I was in was being renovated and they are going to tear it down. So I started looking around in early 1954 and it took me about all that time to look and I finally decided to buy the house that 1Isaw here in Teaneck. The proximity of Teaneck to Manhattan is very convenient for me so I decided to stay, to buy this house in Teaneck.

(I) Did you meet with any restraints when you moved to Teaneck in the schools or churches?

(N) Yes the restraint was very, they were very strict at that time in Teaneck especially. The people here are very, very cautious to who will move into the neighborhood. I had, that's why I said it took almost close to a year before they finally decided to sell the house to me. The people here are very suspicious of any foreign born to come into the neighborhood and with all the convincing I had, we had to do with the authorities and the community at large, finally the real estate agent had said, it is all right. It has become now, they decided then that they would sell the property to me. However, after I had moved into this community, the tension was so great that you could almost feel it in every day, every time you move around in the community. The people are very suspicious and they said that they don't want anybody, especially the colored people and at that time, as most people know probably, in the early 1950s, late 50s, the people here are always against anybody moving in that are not whites. And so we had, we felt that the discrimination is so hard in here. However, eventually it had died down and we were able to sort of have a little bit of relaxation without being discriminated against.

However, in the, about the 60s, if you recall, after the affair in Albany, Georgia when Martin Luther King had started the move to integrate the south. The people here in Teaneck suddenly realized that eventually the community will have some colored people coming in so if you recall, about 1960 when Kennedy was the president of the United States, the tension has begun to almost die down and you could see, I could feel, that the community is relaxing and they let some colored people come into the community. I know that the West Englewood section of Teaneck had been the first one that was hit and all the people in that section of Teaneck had been very afraid that the value of the property will come down because more and more colored people are moving in. However, that did not scare us at all because we feel that discrimination is not in our blood. Eventually when I first move into this block where I live in, I was the first one and it took about what, about five years I relieve and all the white people that were in my neighborhood began to sell their property and you could see, even I was approached by real estate people to sell my house to a colored family because they don't want me to be among the colored people here but however, I said, no, I am not going to sell the house. I am going to stay here regardless of who my neighbor is and that's the reason why I like it and the people are now more and more to my liking and we have not only friends and neighbors but we had, I feel that the community had now been an integrated community rather than first time when I move in in 1955 that the tension was so high.

(I) You have children I relieve. Did they go to public schools or private schools?

(N) I have three girls. The first girl was enlisted at St. Anastasia Catholic School when we move in in 1955. There was one opening for a girl at the kindergarten school and we finally, the Mother Superior, finally said we were able to get that place for her so we decided to give it to her. All that time the discrimination was very rampant here in the community, my child always come home crying because she was called all kinds of names, either like Chinese or Mexican or Puerto Rican or whatever it is because they feel that her face doesn't look white and her, the features of her face is different from the white children. However, the teachers there at the school were very kind to her and they tell her that to disregard everything that she hears, everything that is said to her and just go ahead and do her work at school. So later on when the other two children were became school age, they were accepted at the same school.

(I) Did you become involved in any political organizations?

(N) I was not really involved in any political organization but I had been very close to the political leaders in town and became friendly with the police officers and the fire department officers. In fact, one of my nearest neighbors in the community was Fire Chief Lindsay who has recently retired and is now living in Florida. The Chief of Police, all the police officers, detectives were friends of mine and they were very kind to me and that helped a lot because with them on my side, I didn't have to worry about anything at all. The, lately I became involved in some political phase in the community, the Teaneck Township Manager has approached me to see if I wanted to be involved in the community so I decided to say yes to rum so he had appointed me as a member of the Rent Board which I am doing now for the last three years and also I became involved with the Teaneck Housing Center. I am one of the Board of Directors there. And lately I got involved with the AARP, the senior operations of Teaneck, the senior citizens of Teaneck, the VFW and all these little non-political organizations.

(I) After your children came over here and they got into the Catholic school, I believe you said she, they were the first ones to be taken into the school, how did it work out?

(N) Well in the beginning, as I said, at the beginning the first, my first child was what, six years old and the second one was not quite school age yet. However, when my oldest daughter was on the first grade, my wife got involved with the community, with the church organization, and she volunteered to be, to help on Sunday in some other affairs of the church and eventually they had asked her to do something to enhance the love of the community by doing some promotional work like trying to communicate to the people here in Teaneck something about the country she came from so she got involved in the community and we had dances, presented Filipino dancing groups to the community and eventually after those things were done not only at the Catholic school but also in the public school, we had been asked, she had been asked to go to different schools, to lecture something about the Philippines so that people would eventually know although some people would know about the Philippines but not all the children know anything about it so with this dancing group that she had had and her lectures, that helped us a little bit, not only a little bit but I think more to our liking and we had been from there on we had been accepted in the community and people begin to know us and we had friends here in our house who were invited and we would invite people to come over to see how we lived. 

(I) How did you overcome the feelings of the people in the, in your immediate neighborhood ?

(N) As soon as we move into the house, I said to my wife, I think the only way we can be friends with the people around us is to get them here so we, one Sunday I asked everybody in the neighborhood, in my block, to come over for a little drink and so we can have chat together to exchange views and talk about where we came from so they would know us much more by doing this rather than hearing anything from anybody about us. So we spent one Sunday here about a couple hours talking together and from there on, the people in my neighborhood, we were all friendly and we exchanged views and we talked together and we get together whenever we can so that is tile only way we could get to know each other.

(I) Fred, you started the Philippine organization in Teaneck. Do you want to tell us about that?

(N) Well, as I recall, I was the only, I was the first Filipino I believe that started to live in Teaneck. Gradually maybe five years after that another Filipino family moved in on the northern part of Teaneck which is closer to Bergenfield and then there was a doctor that came in so there were about three or four Filipino families in the early 60s here. Gradually Father Henry, tile pastor of our church, said Fred, I notice that there are a few Filipinos already in Teaneck. I am glad that the Community accepted them as they have accepted you. And so I said do you want to organize a club so that you could get together as some other nationalities do like the Italians and the Puerto Ricans and the Mexicans but I talked to Father Henry then at that time that there were too few yet. So we let it go and then when Fr. Henry move out and was replaced by Fr. Joel came in, then there were more and more Filipinos coming in. Mostly doctors, nurses, engineers and IBM operators. So in the early 1979, Fr. Joel left and Fr. Cecil became the pastor. At that time, there were about approximately 60, 65 Filipino families in Teaneck.

So Fr. Cecil called me and said Fred, I think if you don't mind, I have the list of the Filipino parishioners here that I would like you to contact them and if you would, we would like you to form a sort of an organization so that the Filipino community will be also known in the community so we decided, my wife and I, decided to call people and one Sunday after that we call everybody and we had a tentative meeting at the rectory with Fr. Cecil and there were about 15 of us at that time so we decided the following Sunday to organize to make an organization and we called this organization the Filipino American Society of Teaneck and we had it in short word FAST. We organized this and there were only about 15 of us who started it but up to now, which is five years later, we have approximately 130 family members so with that, the township manager of Teaneck had been very aware of the existence of the community organization and in fact he had asked me whether I could recommend some other people to work for the Teaneck township but apparently the problem is the money situation. The township usually pay less than what they can get from the outside so mostly I haven't had one yet to recommend to him to work for the community but eventually I think one of these days I will be able to do that.

(I) Now that you've lived in the community for a few years, how do you feel about living in Teaneck?

(N) I would not hesitate to say this because I like Teaneck very much. The proximity to the big city is very ideal and people now are, I can feel that the community now is not only integrated, the love among the people here I think is extremely well. If I compare it from 1955 to this year, I would still be living at this time I wish that situation at that time was the same situation that we have today. People here I could be moping around Teaneck and people would say, Mr. Rola, where are you going? And I said, I am just moping around. They say what are you doing now? Would you come over to the house for a little drink? Which I never had that happen to me at that time. Right now, I could mope around with my wife near the church or in public places or in shopping center, we always run into people who say, all right, why don't you come over and have a drink with us tomorrow and I like this because I think I can vouch for the goodness of this community. Not only the leaders of the town but also the police officers and all the merchants are all friendly and I hope that we will continue to be like this in time to come.

(I) Fred, this has been a very interesting interview and I am sure Teaneck is glad to have you as one of its residents. Is there anything else that you would like to say before we close the interview?

(N) I would like to say that at this, that I should be a part of the community and I have tried to do the best I can. If ever the community needs me, I am there to help them out. Any time the township manager asks me to do something for the community, I do it. And I hope that you people, friends and neighbors who are able to do anything for the community, please do it because a community is only good when all the people living in it work together and love each other and help each other in time of dire need. I have always believed that when one is in trouble, the neighbors should help out. I have had an instance here where we have had a family that there house was completely burned down and they haven't got any place to go so we rallied, the church rallied with that and a lot of people put together their time and energy and money to help this family out so that they can reorganize themselves again as one family rather than living apart from one house to the other. So I would like to advise you, my friends and neighbors, that let us cooperate together. Let's forget all this petty jealousies and let us not look at the color of the skin. Let us look at the person as if that person is you and disregard the color, disregard her nationality, her color of her skin and the way he behave himself, disregard that. Let us work together with the love for everybody and let us work together because the community is not any good and will never succeed if there are always tensions among people living in it. 

(I) Thank you very much Fred.

 

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