Teaneck's Demarest -- He Wears 90 Years Lightly
By Mildred Taylor
(From: Teaneck Public Library Teaneck History File. Article written around 1960)
Many changes have taken place in Teaneck since George Vreeland Demarest was born 90 years ago in a house at Teaneck Road and Copley Avenue, but he is as salty today as he was when he served on the school board, as a member of the Township Committee and as a member of Hose Company No. 1.
His eyes sparkled as he mingled with a large group of friends who came to celebrate his 90th birthday last Sunday at a party in the garden of his home at 12 DeGraw Ave. He has lived there since he built the house for his bride, the former Miss Rachel Moore of Brooklyn, 58 years ago. She had been up since 5 a.m. preparing for the surprise party.
He was so busy shaking hands, accepting congratulations and recalling old times that he couldn't find time to finish his piece of home-made cake nor wipe the lipstick smudges off his cheek.
Moderation, minding one's own business, and keep the Ten commandments constitute his prescription for a long life. He has smoked and chewed tobacco since the age of 10. He has worked diligently. For 61 years he was a bookkeeper with Bogert and Hopper, Inc., New York City, retiring 11 years ago. He has long kept a garden. His tomatoes, beans and flowers are doing fine this year, as those gathered around the long picnic table in his back yard could see.
The house where he was born has been torn down. It stood across the street from the Brinkerhoff-Demarest Homestead at 493 Teaneck Rd., second oldest house in the county. The 1729 house is now occupied by his niece, Mrs. Frederick Schuh. Members of the Demarest family exclusively have lived there for well over a century.
"I went to school in the one-room building next to the gas station on the east side of Teaneck and Fort Lee roads," he recalled. "The district included Little Ferry and Ridgefield as well as the south end of Teaneck."
He chuckled as he recalled throwing spitballs and occasionally being kept in after school to clean the dried gobs off the ceiling.
He was chairman of the Teaneck School Board building committee when Longfellow, School No. 1, was built and saw to it that the had bell from the old school on Fort Lee road was moved tot he new school. It remained there for a long time, but disappeared following a fire scene years ago.
"We used to keep an eye on things when I was a member of the Township Committee," he remarked. "We know what was going on --used to ride around town inhorses and buggies in the evening to check up. That place down the Terhune Park they're making the fuss about -- that used to be a hollow where Chris Terhune and I caught bull frogs.
"Folks don't give things to the town like they used to. There aren't many Edward Ammann who in his will gave his home and the land on which it stood to the Township for a park. Fred Andreas was another good man. He gave his property to the town for a park. Bill DeGraw wave land in his meadow for a turnout and right of way for the trolley line that used to run through Teaneck. The entire right of way was donated by public spirited citizens."
Years Of Change
The sprightly 90-year-old man glanced in the direction of Teaneck road. Many new homes and a junior high school (Thomas Jefferson) have risen on what was once farm and meadowland. He recalled that once there was a sawmill, a gristmill and a wagon making shop in the fyke. He as in his possession Indian relies dug up on the adjoining Demarest and Westervelt farms, the diary of his father, James Brinkhoff Demarest, who was a private with the First New York Cavalry during the Civil War.
Mr. Demarest is the only living member of Teaneck Hose Co. No. 1, formed in 1911. He was honored recently at a testimonial dinner given at D'Elia's Restaurant and attended by Mayor Matthew Feldman, Deputy Mayor Thomas Costa, Councilmen Milton Votee, Bradford Menkes and Samuel Bartoletta, Township Manager Werner Schmid; his son, Daniel Demarest of Wyckoff; son-in-law, Lawrence Landrine, Fire Chief William Lindsay and former chiefs Frank Murray and Kenneth Ridley.
About 90 persons sign their names on a keepsake board at last Sunday's birthday party. Amont the guests were the Demarests' neighbors, Mr. and Mr. Edward Young, their daughter, Mrs. Landrine; Miss Agnes C. Norton, Teaneck Library director, neighbors past and present and many members of the widespread Demarest family.
Mrs. Demarest, wearing a brown hand crocheted dress, had painted on a flagstone in the walk a map of New Jersey. Guests were intrigued with her wall walking staff of Swiss design which he had gotten in the Catskills. It had a tiny peephole in it through which visitors viewed a snow scene.