|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:||Not Indicated|
|TRANSCRIBER:||Jackie Kinney (11/24/1984)|
Lou Schwartz of 41 Irvington Place in Teaneck, NJ. I am going to begin the way I think we ordinarily do when and where you were born and lived before you came to Teaneck.
(N) Well, I was born and raised in New York City in 1912 which comes to be 72 years old. I came to Teaneck in 1959.
(I) And we always ask questions because it seems that Teaneck
(N) My ethnic background is Jewish, not very religious but very Jewish.
(I) Now, when you first came to Teaneck, what did you find here?
(N) Well let me tell you how I came to Teaneck. My wife went back to work after the kids were fairly well grown up, went back to school, got her teaching license and then had difficulty getting a job in New York City, difficulty actually in getting her license since they claimed she had a lisp. And I have a lisp but she has none. And so she applied for a job in New Jersey and got a job teaching here. At the same time, my daughter who had been married and with a small child, about three years old then, was having difficulty so we bought this house and all moved together. My daughter’s family and us. That was in 1959.
(I) And what was it like in this area? Not all the houses that are here now were here then.
(N) It was, all the houses that are here now were here then. It was all built up. But the most peculiar thing happened was that when we moved into this block, on Irvington Road by the way, not Irvington Place, people came and stared at us and we wondered why. And that took us a little while to realize why. We were the last white family to move in on this block so they were probably wondering why the hell are we moving in here? We had no idea of the fact that the neighborhood was going black nor would it have made any difference to us. Somehow or other, no matter where we lived, it always went black or partly black. As I say, we were the last white family to move in and as soon as one of the black families moved in, the first one, there was a surge to get out of here at which point we discussed it with our neighbors who were all white. There were no black yet. There was just the first black family. And we came to the conclusion with most of them that there was no sense running away. One had, my immediate neighbor next door, had moved here just a number of years ago because she had run away from a house where it became black, where a black family had moved in, took a big loss and was prepared to run again which probably would have wiped her out. The result was we, half the block, decided not to move, did not move, and there was still quite a number of white families and about half the block did move and what stands out was what we considered the worst elements on the block moved, the most troublesome moved, so the block became much nicer.
(I) What do you mean by the worst elements?
(N) Well, the most quarrelsome I would say. One of our immediate neighbors, she was wheeling her six month old baby in the carriage and she gave him a smack for some reason and she said, ‘Look, Jack, he’s crying.’ Another incident to show you what I mean by the worst element, the kids were playing in the street and by that time I think there was a Chinese family here and there was the one black family and all the kids are playing together, the white and the black kids, and one white kid says, ‘Are you going to mix with them?’ And they said, ‘Who, What?” And he said ‘You know, them!’ He didn’t even realize that from the family he was speaking of, don’t mix with, who you weren’t supposed to mix with - so here he is speaking to a black kid and asking if he is going to mix with them.
(I) Did you get involved in any groups that had to do with trying to keep Teaneck integrated?
(N) Yes. Well I was involved with NECO. North East Community Organization. At that time, it was pretty strong. It had been going for some time and had been changing. What had happened, they tell me, it was started by white and black people that lived in the area and eventually most of the white ones, even the big leaders, moved away. So there were many changes when we got involved with NECO. It was just an effort to keep the area more integrated. That was its main purpose. Later on, it became the organization of the black people really in the community.
(I) By the time you got here then, the anti-semitism that I’ve heard about wasn’t so apparent.
(N) Well since I am here, I never, there was no apparent anti-semitism. Probably because the block was in the process of changing. There was one Jewish family that only recently went to Florida. Otherwise there has been no problems here along that line.
(I) As long as you’ve been here.
(N) As long as I’ve been here. Speaking, of course, of this particular block. Not that I am well acquainted with these people on the block since my field of activity is town wide, not just with the block itself.
(I) When did you first become involved in other affairs of the town?
(N) Well the first affair I got involved with was when my grandson, whom we adopted, because a little after we moved out here, my daughter split up with her husband about three months after we got here and we started raising the child and my daughter ran into many problems, so much that we actually adopted the child and have raised him since he was two years old and he is now 27. Quite some time. I got involved in affairs of the town mostly through the child. I had determined that not to get too involved any more. All my life, I was very involved and I was going to take it easy. Being 45 years old, at that time I was considered almost old age, I was going to take it easy. However, having started to raise a child, it got me involved. First, at eight years old, he joined the Cub Scouts and so I got slightly involved with that. And then he wanted to join Little League, play Little League Baseball, we went down to Votee Park where the Northern Little League was located and I took a look at the managers pushing the kids around and the parents screaming their heads off and I said to him, ‘This is not for you.’ However when he was nine years old, he was determined to play Little League Baseball. And once he was determined, then I went with him. Became a coach first, then a manager for two years and then became the president of that league.
(I) The first time I remember seeing you or hearing you was when you were before the Council complaining about the lack of integration between the north side and the south side in little league.
(N) Yes. The Little Leagues were originally organized, see the whole concept of Little League I never did like. That is their method of organization. It serves the interests of the managers and the coaches more than it serves the interest of the kids. Little League was organized on a national scale along professional lines. Major Leagues and Minor Leagues and all the trappings.
(I) You thought it was too competitive?
(N) It was highly competitive and much of the joy of playing was taken out of the game. However, there is no other form of activity and therefore that’s why I went into it. In this town, the Little League is organized on the basis of 15,000 population, at that time, and since this town had about 40,000, there were three little leagues. It started with one and then kept spreading off. And just accidentally, because at that time there weren’t that many blacks in the town anyway, when it was first organized, the division was such that when the black people started moving in, all the black people lived in the area of the northern little league and the other two little leagues were solidly white. But since the issue never came up of changing and it was very difficult to change it anyway and it would be resisted tremendously by the other two little leagues which were white. So that’s how we had a, there came about a situation where the northern little league baseball was really a segregated thing in this town and remained so did remain so and has remained so to a great extent even today.
(I) Because you were suggesting that the town cut off funds unless they got themselves integrated.
(N) There’s a whole thing behind that. When I first started off as the president, I found that although half the little league was black kids, there was only one black manager and no black coaches. Evidently they were discouraged. There could be no other reason. As a matter of fact, my kid when he started playing on one of the teams, his manager and the coaches both said that they would win the championship without taking any of them in which meant they were going to keep their teams all white. Which they succeeded in doing. Which you can understand was not the most healthy situation in town. When I took over as little league president, this was interesting too. The little league at that time was controlled by six people – they have as I said a major league and a minor league. The major league was supposed to be the better kids and the minor leagues was the weaker kids. The managers of the six, and they kept it confined, six teams in the major league, six teams in the minor league, and that’s all that can play. If you had more applying, they couldn’t play. The six major league managers controlled the league. They were the board of directors – made all the decisions, and they wanted to be managers. A manager couldn’t be president and they are not going to give up their managership so they selected me as someone who was meek and mild to be president of the little league. All of them assured me of their support.
And there were some interesting things in northern little league. Different from the other little leagues. It was a little more progressive you could say. For example one of the rules they had was that every child must play 30% of the time. Little League had no such requirement. The other little leagues did not have that requirement, so that some kids could be on a team a whole year and play nothing or may be just a few innings which is the most discouraging thing that could possibly happen to a child. So as I said, they had some progressive ideas along these lines. However, I noticed that as, you see you play for a championship, and as you reach the end of the season and the games start getting more competitive and hotter and the managers are determined to win, they were no longer playing the kids 30% of the time. When I raised the question that you must play the kid 30% of the time, they said there is no rule of a penalty involved so something which I proceeded to do. I called a special meeting, oh by this time I had enlarged the executive board or the organization. After a short while, a new constitution was drawn up which anyone who participated in the organization was a member of the organization with full voting rights. So at this point, there were no longer six people controlling the situation. When they weren’t playing their kids 30% of the time, I called a special meeting in which resolutions were adopted to the effect that if the kid did not play in 30% of the time, I had the power to install them in the game and to insure that we knew what went on, charts were put up in the little league field which after each game, the manager had to submit a report of how many innings each child had played.
(I) They most have loved you.
(N) And it had to be countersigned by the opposing manager. Since they kept books, and on the walls of the little league clubhouse I kept a chart showing each game, how many innings each child played and when this resolution was passed, they must play 30%, and they put a team on the field, using the microphone, I would announce which kids were going to be playing and interestingly enough, three of the managers quit after that season.
(I) But the parents must have been happy.
(N) The parents, of course, were much happier. Well that was only one of the things. There were many things in little league which were bad and which, over a period of time, were changed. Give you an idea. Number one, there was only six teams in each league, twelve teams – twelve times fifteen – that number of kids could play. If more signed up, they were not selected. We changed that. We made it a floating thing, that every kid that registers, must be on a team. If you need more teams, we made more teams. If you need less, we made less. Number two, they have tryouts. Tryouts was for the managers sake, more or less. That the kids would come out before the season starts or at the end of the season, there were tryouts, the managers would select whom they wanted on their team, and what would happen is that the kids would be in a state of trauma. Here you are dealing with kids from eight to twelve years old. Well the twelve year old didn’t have to try out anymore. They would try out and then they would have to wait for weeks. Are they going to be on a team or are they not going to be on a team? And one of the first steps was that I did away with tryouts. Since everyone was going to play, there was no need for tryouts. How would we select the teams? From a hat. Very interestingly, we found that the teams were just as well balanced when you selected from a hat as when as when the managers selected. So that was one thing that we went into. Secondly, as I said, we did away with the undemocratic set of rules of just six major league managers and not only did all the leagues have a right to be on the board, but also the women who worked in the canteen. So the women started taking a more active role. This was also the period of time when.
(I) What time was this? What was the year about?
(N) This was, I started when the kid was then nine years old, it was nineteen years ago. A few years after that, the women’s movement started coming up. In the 60s. And they started coming up and that was important. We had the first woman manager just about that time. Winnie Ferrar by the way. It didn’t last very well at that time. It sort of wasn’t right for it but we gave it a shot. As I say, there was no tryout. Then we did away with a number of other features of little league. We did away with the concept of majors and minors. And that was important for many reasons. Many of the kids would play, they would come in at eight and stay till twelve years old and remain in the minor league. If they weren’t selected by a manager, they never left the minor league. Then managers would look ahead. They would want to win the championship let’s say in two or three years so when it came time to select, they may select a nine or ten year old for their major league team, leave the older boy who they didn’t think would develop well, and see some bright spot of the younger boy that would in three years around, become a big star. That in itself isn’t as bad as the fact that you often have brothers playing. And very often the older brother would remain in the minor league, the younger brother would be above him in the major league. He wasn’t a bad ball player. They thought when he was twelve, he would be a better ball player. And the trauma in that family you can understand was very bad. So we did away with the concept of major and minor leagues and instead, put on age groups. In every league, it was based on age. 11 and 12 were the major league; 9 and 10 were the minor league; and we had what we called a T-Shirt league, 8 year olds which eventually became from 6 to 8. So it was only a question of ages so you can’t have the situation that one big twelve year old faces a little ten or nine year old. And it worked out very well.
Then we went to the concept of every child must play 30% – that wasn’t enough playing time since you only play a six inning game and if you only play a 30%, what would happen is if they are playing a weaker team or a game that they didn’t care about, they would let the kid play the whole game and then for two games, he would play nothing. We changed that concept so that every child must play in every game and must play three innings. They must have a turn at bat. So all the children had a good chance of playing. It had a number of other concepts. When you are practicing which is an important part of little league, if the manager knows the kid is not going to play, he is not even going to practice. He lets him do insignificant things. If he knows he must play in every game, the manager concentrates not only on practice but on teaching him because it becomes an important factor. Another incident that came up was the hair incident. Remember the kids started wearing long hair. That was the period they started wearing the long hair. Little League in all it’s wisdom decided no long hair allowed. We here said the kids could do whatever they like. The only way they could punish you was that when you set up a tournament team because at the end of the season, you have a tournament team. Four teams, best players are selected to play in the Little League Tournament. Which in itself is a horrible most competitive tournament that possibly could exist. The kids just blow up. The way they could punish you is if you left the kids with long hair is that they were not allowed to play in the Little League Tournament. The team would be disqualified. Lo and behold, we have two kids with long hair. And we put it to the kids. Do you want the two with the long hair to be taken out or do you want to say, we stick together? And the kids all voted to stick together. First I was notified by a big shot in the area.
(I) You mean not in Teaneck.
(N) In the area, you play within a certain area, they call it a district, that they can’t play with long hair. So we had a lawyer at that time, Jack Walsh, who was one of our managers. He opened a suit against the whole little league asking an injunction against the whole Little League Tournament and he assured me that he had lined up a judge with long hair and we notified the people here, the little league, and naturally under those conditions, they permitted our kids to play. Very interestingly in one of the leagues, the older leagues which I will speak about later, a kid had very long hair, these are the kids 13, 14, and 15 which they couldn’t control at all but we thought we’d fix it up a little better. Our pitcher was one of them with very long hair, the women fixed him up with bobby pins, pinned his hair on top and put a cap on it. We go to play in Lodi and first they raised objections to the long hair but we had it under the cap so they didn’t raise it too much but then he was a pitcher and he was getting beat up, that is he was getting hit, and every time somebody got a hit, he let one curl come down and then another curl come down until it was all pulled down and they wanted to forfeit the game but they didn’t dare. We told them about the injunction. But we overcame the whole process of the hair after a year or two when they realized they cannot control our kids at national invitation. That was one interesting concept.
At the same time, that was when girls were trying to come into little league. We were the first little league in the country, I believe, that took girls. There had been a number of girls asking to come down because the little league, of course, didn’t permit girls and so had been turning them down. Besides, most of the men, of course, were strongly opposed to that. But there was a suit at that time in New Jersey in one of the courts and I thought the time would be right then to introduce it. I introduced it to our league and, as I said before, women were allowed to participate then in the making of decisions. Anybody who worked in that canteen, and there was a lot of them, was allowed to participate. I raised the question not only from the point of view of justice but from the point of view of why should we be forced into it by the courts. Let’s beat them to the blow and take the girls in our own. And we had, of course, a lengthy discussion and it was voted in primarily because the women were involved although there were some women who were very strongly opposed to it as you will find women now opposed to many aspects of women's liberation. They believe it should go on the way it always has been going on. So we took in girls and we had enough, about one or two on each team. I think it still exists. It never went beyond that. One of the girls was extremely good. She made national television. She made the national NOW Magazine. She was on television and all. She was very good. Dressed in a uniform, you wouldn’t even think she was a girl because she was as slim as the boys, as fast as the boys and had short hair.
(I) Are you telling me that girls are slower than boys?
(N) Yes and they haven’t got the background of the boys. In the Olympics, you don’t see the women racing with the men. Their records are less. But that was so. Most of the girls couldn’t play well. I spent special time trying to teach them how to throw for example but some of them were natural athletes and just like little boys, I don’t know how they learn, they learn to throw well, I made a study of it, as I’ve done in every field I’ve gone into, and on the whole question of how you throw a ball and I used to teach them on the side and how you bat and everything else. But especially girls coming in, you know, nine and ten years old, never participated in athletics are not going to pick it up as quick as boys that have been playing ball all their life. And interestingly, the girls that did well, a few of them, most of them didn’t go in high school and become good athletes and I found something else out. It seems that there are different roles of developing. Some did. But I know that some of the best ones didn’t, even dropped out of sports. When the girls reached twelve years old, thirteen years old, they began to lose interest in boys sports I found because we tried to involve them in thirteen year old league and practically none, only the exception gets involved. The Little League tried to overcome this by having special sports for girls, softball instead of hardball and that’s what they had. We were, by the way, going to be thrown out of the Little League but we left it before we got thrown out.