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: George Spath
INTERVIEWER: Ann McGrath
DATE OF INTERVIEW:    April 2, 1984
TRANSCRIBER: Jackie Kinney (4/28/1984)

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(I) Did you know him well?

(N) I knew the Greve family all my life. I went to school with his sisters. Marge and (what was his older sisters name). I can’t think of his older sisters name. I knew the Green family very well.

(I) How would you describe Fred?

(N) Fred, he is a good guy. He is a nice guy.

(I) Did you ever work with him?

(N) Somewhat, yeah. I think Fred is a fair person.

(I) Well, how many black officers are there now, do you know?

(N) Now, in 1984. I can’t say right now. Maybe four, five. I am not sure.

End of side A- Begin side B

(I) George, how many children do you have and what are their names and where were they born?

(N) We have four children. Lynn is our oldest. She was born on February 3, 1952; Barbara is our next. She was born on August 7, 1953; Ricky was born on May 28, 1956; and Gray was born on November 17, 1960.

(I) Where did they go to school?

(N) Whittier school and then to Ben Franklin Junior High School and the oldest three went to Teaneck High School and graduated from Teaneck High School. Lynn in 1970; Barbara in 1971; and Ricky in 1974. And Gray graduated from Bergen Catholic in 1979.

(I) Did any of them go on to college?

(N) They all went on to college?

(I) Where did you send them?

(N) Lynn and Ricky went to Springfield college; then Lynn went on to Boston college and got her Masters in English and Rehabilitation. Ricky was a Phys Ed major at Springfield College. Barbara is a nurse. She graduated from Pace. Gary, my youngest guy, went to Springfield also for two years and then he decided he was going to follow his father’s work and go into police work. He took the examination and he is in the Teaneck police department.

(I) Do any of them live in Teaneck?

(N) Not now, no.

(I) What did you think of their education? Could you compare it with yours in the same town?

(N) Well to break it down, I think that their education at Whittier school was absolutely fantastic. I attribute that to the teacher or teachers that you had at that time. You had Miss Hope as the Principal and they had teachers like Miss Bauer, Miss Pierce.

(I) Do you think they had the same education you did?

(N) Up until that point, I’d say ours was a little bit more structured. I think at that time, anybody raising kids at that time has a rough time. A lot of it was because of the ‘let them do their own thing bit’ in the school system, which I think, really ruined a lot of kids. Children definitely need structure and we went through a period of time there where they weren’t getting it. But speaking for our own, I think that they received a pretty good education. They had good teachers where they got the basics in grammar school.

(I) How about the high school? Was that pretty much the same as when you went there?

(N) No. Like I said, I think when they went to high school, it was a lot freer but where they lacked, where they dropped off, we picked up here in the home and saw to it that they, it wasn’t as free and free-spirited as they would have liked it to be.

(I) Would you describe your home as a strict home?

(N) I’d say our home was a combination of love, affection and also being strict.

(I) Did you have any problems being Teaneck policeman and bringing your children up in Teaneck?

(N) No. Not one.

(I) How can you compare living in Teaneck today with living in Teaneck when you were a young boy?

(N) Well, I think today Teaneck is more urban than suburban unless you just happen to move over from New York city and then it is the boondocks but I think it is a lot different. A good example of that is, which I didn’t mention, as a kid I remember going to the Teaneck theater on a Saturday afternoon and there was a little alleyway between the theater and the store, maybe about three feet wide. Well we used to ride our bicycles down to the theater, jump off of them, put them in the alleyway, go to the movies and come out and they were still there. Locks, I mean nobody ever thought of a lock on a bicycle. And I daresay that this wouldn’t be so today.

(I) Did you lock your house?

(N) I’d say if we went away for a day or so but ordinarily, no.

(I) Would you leave your keys in the car?

(N) Would I? No. Not even

(I) What organizations have you and your wife been involved in since your marriage? Have you worked in any political campaigns?

(N) No. As a police officer, I felt very strongly about not being involved in any political campaigns or being involved period. And Elaine followed the same course. We just stayed out of politics. And I don’t think the town welcomed it although they never said anything about it.

(I) Have you or your wife belonged to any organizations?

(N) Well I was involved in coaching. Ivy League Football, Little League Baseball.

(I) What year did you coach?

(N) I coached Little League I guess back in the late 50s, off and on through the 60s. I coached Ivy League football from 1961 until 1966. I coached Babe Ruth baseball from about 1964 off and on through 1970.

(I) Is that a big job coaching a team like that?

(N) I enjoyed it very much.

(I) How much time did you take?

(N) Well you figure during the season, maybe you practice four days a week.

(I) What time?

(N) With football, we were fortunate because our football team which was sponsored by the recreation department, we coached in the afternoon and we were down there. We had practice starting at 4:30 which was great because the kids were out of there, able to get home, have their dinner and do their homework. Naturally on Saturday mornings, we would coach them and then play our games on Sundays, Sunday afternoons. And baseball would be about the same way. After dinner usually or right after school, depending on our schedules and when we could get the most kids.

(I) When you say you were lucky, what were you comparing yourself to?

(N) We were lucky in a sense that not only for ourselves but for the kids, like I say where they could come home from school and go right down and play ball and then finish up, come home, have their dinner and do their homework and be in the house where they belonged. We didn’t practice under the lights or anything like that. We felt that they should be home at night and fortunately our schedules permitted us to coach like that.

(I) Do you remember anyone else who coached with you? Any other name?

(N) In football, our whole coaching staff was made up of Teaneck policemen. There was Joe Kilmurray my partner and former chief of police; Bob Kronwurst who is still with the police department as a Captain; Tom O’Brien who is still with the police department and myself.

(I) Did you belong to any other organizations?

(N) I belonged to Teaneck Youth Guidance Council.

(I) What does that involve?

(N) The adjustment committee of the Youth Guidance Council would review cases of youths that were involved, usually minor cases, anything from larceny, first offenders even on a break and entry.

(I) Was this a volunteer position for you?

(N) More or less.

(I) Were you expected to be in this position?

(N) Yeah. We were pretty much expected to sit on this but I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

(I) I am sorry to interrupt you. How did it work?

(N) The procedure was that they would review, the people on the youth guidance council., would review the police reports pertaining that were referred to them by the Youth Bureau and again I say for minor infractions, runaways, incorrigibles, minor crimes or first offenders. They would review these cases, discuss them, call for a parent conference when needed, advise the parents of what their feelings were, if they felt that the child was in need of psychological help or was in need of just plain discipline, stronger mother, stronger father, they would make their opinions known to the parents and if they could, they would advice them where to go for help.

(I) Would you speak to the parents privately or with the children?

(N) Yes. They would have a parent conference with the parents then they might call the child in by him or herself and then sometimes, depending on the case, bring both parents and child in.

(I) How many people were on the council?

(N) On the Youth Guidance council - now this is the adjustment committee of the Youth Guidance council - I would say we had anywhere from 15 to 20 people. Most of the time people that would attend. We met every two weeks I believe. We’d get anywhere from seven to twelve people, depending on their schedules and so forth. But they were all dedicated people who were honestly and sincerely for the most part interested in the good and welfare of the kids.

(I) Do you think they did a good job?

(N) Oh they did a very good job.

(I) Are they still working today?

(N) Yes to my knowledge, the Youth Guidance Council is still in operation.

(I) How would someone be appointed to this besides yourself and the immediate

(N) They are screened, I believe, by members of the Youth Guidance Council along with a recommendation if they have a special interest I believe they go through the Youth Bureau. Then their letter is forwarded to the Youth Guidance Council and they are screened and interviewed and appointed.

(I) Are you familiar with a group home, a girls home, here in Teaneck?

(N) Somewhat. I didn’t have too much to do with it.

(I) How do you think that has worked out?

(N) I think it has worked out pretty good. I didn’t, I thought that we had enough problems in Teaneck. I didn’t agree with taking from outside of Teaneck but over the years that I was still working it was in operation and I think it served its purpose. I think that the leaders, they had a few good leaders, but most of the time they would leave and go on. That was weak but I think the idea is good.

(I) Is it still running?

(N) To my knowledge, it still is.

(I) How about other organizations?

(N) I belonged to the Marine Corps League.

(I) Do you attend meetings?

(N) No.

(I) Anything else?

(N) I belong to the Knights of Columbus, that’s past tense. I am not a joiner.

(I) How about your wife? Did she join any organizations?

(N) P.T.A., women’s club.

(I) What do you think Teaneck will be like in 1990? By the turn of the century. Where is heading?

(N) Well I think it is going to be a heck of a lot busier than it is right now. If they still run the town, I am talking about with township manager form of Government, the Mayor and Council being non-partisan, I think we can still expect a pretty good town. I think that if we start to come in with public politics, we are making a big mistake and we will fall into the same as some of these other towns which I am not going to name.

(I) In your nineteen years in juvenile work, what were the biggest problems that you saw developed or developing with children?

(N) Well I would say, starting in juvenile in 1963, we started to go into a permissive age. Parents became more permissive, teachers, school administrators. The drugs. Parents decided that they wanted to be buddies with their children instead of parents. That was the cause, I feel, of a lot of problems. Kids couldn’t go out and do things on their own. As I mentioned earlier, growing up we did just about everything, formed our own clubs, our own activities outside of the dances and so forth help once in a while on Saturdays or Fridays up at the town house, I think kids enjoyed doing things without having it done for them. So many times I used to hear kids complaining, well we have nothing to do. And I think it is because of the way that they were brought up that they had to have direction. They had to have a coach to form a group of kids playing ball with other kids where we didn’t. We would choose up sides, call a couple of kids up, maybe get twenty or thirty kids. But it seems today they have got to be directed, They have got to be turned and set in the right direction. They are like robots.

(I) Do you think there is a space problem, they don’t have the space?

(N) I really don’t know what the cause of it is or how it started. I just know that it does exist and I think it is a problem that kids just do not want to go out and take things, do things on their own. They are looking for too much involvement. What are you going to do for us?

(I) Now what about the drugs? How do the drugs affect your work?

(N) Well I would say in the early to late 60s, we first started off with occasional marijuana and then we got into the heavier drugs. I am talking about, with juveniles under the age of 18, we had heroine, the use of heroine in the schools. We’ve had people coming in from out of town selling drugs on Teaneck Road, on Cedar Lane, up at the high school. Heroine and LSD were starting to bother us a little bit. They were causing a lot of problems and I think when I left the Youth Bureau in 1982, I think that the use of heroine had gone down and LSD and, but I think the other, marijuana started to pop up more and drinking, teenage drinking. I think one of the most ridiculous laws was when they dropped the drinking age from 21 to 18. I mean I could never get an explanation as to why but what we saw then, we saw younger kids starting to drink whereas when the law was 21, you might see a kid 18 or a senior in high school have a couple of beers or whatever but when the law was changed to 18, an 18 year old and a 15 year old had rapport with each other where they could go up to them and say, ‘Hey, Charlie, how about buying us a six pack?’ And what we were getting was kids twelve and thirteen years old drinking in little league dugouts and the fields and woods and even out in the street.

(I) Do you think that is changing now that the age has gone back?

(N) Oh I think that it is going to, absolutely. Absolutely.

(I) And do you think that the drug problem is changing?

(N) From what I understand, I think it is still there. It still exists but hopefully it will subside somewhat.

(I) What kind of child would take drugs?

(N) I don’t think that you could break that down and say well, this is the poor deprived child. I have seen it from the wealthiest kids in Teaneck to the poorest kids in Teaneck, if we have any really poor kids.

(I) What was your major headache with Juveniles, number one problem.

(N) I would say incorrigibles. Kids who were not controlled by their parents.

(I) Would that be any specific type of child?

(N) No. It didn’t matter if they were wealthy, if they were poor, a good parent controls their child and regardless if they were poor or rich, black or white, it made no difference. In fact, some of your wildest kids I think were the wealthier kids whose parents thought that love came in the way of a credit card to Bloomingdales rather than giving them love and showing them, and showing interest in what their activities were or no, you can’t do this, yes you can do that. They skipped all that by saying, here you know, here’s $50 or here’s my card to Bloomingdales. Go over and have a ball. And that certainly is not the way to raise kids. It is not the way to show them that you love them.

(I) And when you ended up with these kids at the police station, how would you handle them?

(N) Some kids you can put your arm around and that’s what they needed. And other kids you had to chew them out from one end to the other and make the walls rattle because they never got it anyplace else. They weren’t told, no. They weren’t told that there were certain things that they can’t do.

(I) You said you wouldn’t coach children today.

(N) From what I’ve seen, I’ve been out of coaching for a few years but I still manage to get up to watch games, little league, Babe Ruth, and just from what I’ve seen with the kids or maybe it is the coaches, I don’t know, it might be a combination but I think playing sports had its good points and has its bad points but I think kids don’t want to take orders. They, if you are going to have a team, you are going to have to have organization, you are going to have to play together as a team and I don’t think that, they just seem that they are a little bit wild. That they are individuals and you can’t be like that. If you are on a team, you have to play together.

(I) What about soccer? Did you play soccer when you were little?

(N) Both my sons, Ricky and Gray, played in the soccer program in Teaneck with recreation. They played it in Junior High school and they played it in Varsity high School. And Ricky played it in college. I never played soccer.

(I) Do you like it?

(N) I like football better.

(I) Tell me about your retirement. How many years and months have you been retired?

(N) I retired, officially I went off the book so to speak, October of 1982. However, I left the police department the first of August 1982 and went on what we call terminal leave and that’s the unused vacation time and so forth that you have coming to you.

(I) And how do you spend your time in retirement?

(N) Working.

(I) Can you describe it a little bit?

(N) All right. I am working now as an insurance investigator and I work for a company that represents approximately twenty insurance carriers. They are big names which I am not going to go into and basically my investigations are fraud and liquor liability investigations but what I like about it is I make up my own hours pretty much and I don’t have to go in at nine o’clock and I don’t have to punch out at five o’clock. I make up my own hours and it is rewarding and I enjoy it very much.

(I) Do you use any of your knowledge that you got from the police department?

(N) 100%.

(I) If you had to do it over again, which one of these jobs would you choose?

(N) Between what I am doing now and, I never regretted being a police officer.

(I) Do you do any police work now?

(N) No.

(I) You are finished with it.

(N) Well I am still active in the P.B.A. I still go to P.B.A. meetings once a month and I hold office. I am a trustee.

(I) Do you ever go into the city? New York city.

(N) Occasionally to Shea Stadium or Yankee Stadium but not as much as I used to. I really don’t enjoy going into Yankee Stadium. I think there is too much trouble over there and it is not the same again like everything else used to be.

(I) When you say trouble, what kind of trouble do you mean?

(N) Well you’ve got people that are smoking pot and drinking and fighting right in the stands right in front of you and I think that the language, if you brought your wife or your daughter or somebody to a game, this is every time I’ve been.

(I) Is the Meadowlands the same way?

(N) From what I understand, it is. I have only been there a few times to Giant games but I understand they have a few problems. I don’t know if it is as serious as Yankee Stadium or Shea Stadium.

(I) Do you think this is an age problem, certain age groups that is into all of this?

(N) I think it fits into exactly what we talked about before.

(I) You are talking about kids.

(N) I am talking about kids, in this case we are talking kids nineteen or eighteen years old.

(I) What is a police volunteer?

(N) I don’t know of a police volunteer. I know of a police auxiliary. The auxiliaries were started right around World War II and actually what they were was Air Raid wardens and when I came on the department in 1956, they would come out and assist us or ride with us on the 4 to 12 shift and at that time, a lot of them were older men but since then they have gotten quite a few younger fellows and I understand that they are training them.

(I) Did you ever work with one? Did you ever take one with you?

(N) As a patrolman, yeah. They used to come out and work with us but it has changed a lot. Don’t forget, I’ve been out of that since 1963. I think that they serve a purpose. They are not to be where they would enforce the law but they would assist the police department with traffic control, doing parades, different functions around their town but no way get involved with police work.

(I) Do you plan to end your days here in Teaneck?

(N) That we are undecided about. I certainly would not, and we’ve talked about this many times, pull up our roots and go three thousand miles to the west cost and I don’t think I would ever want to live in Florida all year long. I’d like to spend about three or four months there but, my roots are here and even though Teaneck has changed, it is not the same town that I grew up in, or even as I worked in for that matter for most of my time on the police department.

(I) What do you miss about those days?

(N) I think the togetherness. I think there was a feeling of, a Gungho sort of a feeling, to use that terminology, a feeling of togetherness. I think that the people came into Teaneck because it was a good school system, it had a good reputation. We were voted an outstanding town in, I think it was 1948, by the Army Corps Of Engineers, I believe, I am not sure. Our school system was tops. And it seems that we get people coming in to Teaneck who move into Teaneck because they know it has a terrific school system but they are going to change it anyway. And a lot of them have come into Teaneck with that idea and have screwed it up, so to speak. Because I certainly don’t feel that our school system is what it was. I think our town council; I think our township manager (Tape ran out)

 

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