«HACKENSACK - HERITAGE TO HORIZONS PUBLISHED BY: THE HACKENSACK BICENTENNIAL COMMITTEE TERRY LARK, EDITOR DR. IRWIN TALBOT, PHD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR ...»
Among the earliest projects was making a summer playground for two of the public schools, and establishing domestic science (Home Economics) classes in the Broadway School. The women helped finance as well as conceive the ideas they worked on. They initiated Clean Up Days and Clean Up Weeks in Hackensack to help beautify her and when World War I started they were fast to work for Belgian War Babies.
In 1916 they voted in favor of giving women the right to vote in accord with the Women's Suffrage movement and from the moment our country entered the war every Woman's Club department did special war work. They contributed services for the men of nearby Camp Merritt and particularly for men blinded in the war.
Working and being innovative, the Garden Club was a "first" in the entire state and inspired early understanding and appreciation of conservation of natural resources. By 1922 there were more than 700 members and from this one club women started their own chapters in neighboring towns.
The Woman's Club also worked to gain a charter on the 15th of June, 1916, for the Hackensack Chapter of the American Red Cross. Branches and auxiliaries were then established in fourteen neighboring towns by 1917. The chapter contributed to the $78,000 raised by two war fund drives.
Woman's contributions were cutting and making hospital and refugee garments, surgical dressings, and knitted garments. The war time program included canteen service, motor car service, camp service, home service, nursing service and Junior Red Cross which assisted exservicemen and their families. The Jr. Red Cross raised over $1,500 to help establish a children's hospital in France.
An even older organization, the Oritani Field Club, was the result of cooperation of two existing tennis clubs in 1877, tennis being almost as popular then as now.
The Pastime Lawn Club headed by F.A. Anthony, and President John B. Bogert of the Hackensack Lawn Tennis Club agreed to enlarge their horizons and create a club that could offer more variety in sports activities.
Together the groups purchased the Anderson property on Main Street running down to the River.
The Oritani Field Club was incorporated in December 1887, with one of the first projects being a toboggan slide and readying the area for an ice skating pond, as well as cutting bushes and leveling ground to have a ball field ready in the spring. The house committee renovated the residence itself, which included bowling alleys and enlarged billiard rooms.
The public opening was a really gala occasion on the Fourth of July, 1888, when about 5,000 people assembled on the grounds, where that evening there was a grand display of fireworks.
Just after Work War I, in July, 1919, a group of 15 ex-servicemen applied for an American Legion Post charter as a result of their meeting at the home of Otis Gregg. The post was named after Captain Harry B. Doremus, in honor of the man who led their company and was killed in the Meuse-Argonne offensive of 1918.
In 1919 the cornerstone was laid for the original home of the Hackensack Hebrew Institute at State and Meyer Streets during a period of strong growth in Hackensack. That structure is presently the site of the local Salvation Army facilities.
Chapter VIII Our newer citizens... and schools… In 1775 when J. Hector St. John de Crevecouer asked, "What is this new man, the American?", he answered his own question: "They are a mixture of English, Scotch, Irish, French, Dutch, German and Swede. From this promiscuous breed, that race, now called Americans, have arisen."
Obviously, except for the Indians, every one of us is an immigrant or descended from an immigrant. We know the English and Dutch settled in the Hackensack Valley, creating plantations comparable to those in Barbadoes, to escape religious persecution, as adventurers and for a wide range of reasons of self-improvement.
The largest number of immigrants came to the country between 1820 and 1920. During the socalled "old immigration" prior to 1883, most were from England, Scotland, Holland, France and Scandinavian countries.
How did they know about Hackensack? A few were bondsmen in the early days, searching for freedom and a new start. They were indentured, having their fares paid by an employer to whom they were then under contract, guaranteeing that they would stay and work for that person for a specified number of years, whether as a servant or other type employee. By 1900, $20 could bring a steerage passenger from as far as Finland or Sicily to New York, the great port of entry close to Hackensack.
Many of those who came had little real knowledge of what America was like and New York was a shock to them. Hearing of New Jersey so nearby and so rural by comparison, they chose this area. Some started from Europe in hometowns near a large port where the agents, employed by shipping companies or the new industrial organizations, made some fairly wild promises to lure.
workers here to fill jobs. Often this tied in with periods of economic woes, crop failures or political upheavals in their homeland. Tire Germans, Irish and others came looking for "the land of opportunity" with the hope of a "second chance".
In their native lands many had heard about America as a kind of Utopia. When they landed at Ellis Island there were agents scouting out possible workers who could be used as cheap labor.
There were jobs available in the silk mills in Hackensack and Paterson, or in local brickyards.
Newcomers settled immediately in Hackensack for the employment here, or to work in the paper mill across the river in Bogota.
The same conditions existed from 1890 to the 1920s, when the second wave of immigrants came over from Italy, Ireland, Poland, Russia, Greece and other countries. Large homes in Hackensack needed housekeepers and maids, while experienced men were needed for the important Hackensack River barge trade and for building the railroads. Stonecutters and construction men were in demand for building the new subways in New York. As overseas communications improved, the word was spread to the most remote villages about jobs in America.
Hudson Street had been known as the German Section of town as newcomers arrived during the 1860s, pushed by the famine in Germany. There were German saloons and the language one heard on the street was often German. The Irish had left their homes after the terrible hardships produced by the potato famine in the 1840s, when half of Ireland's people lived on small farms.
The potato, their main source of food, suddenly was nonexistent. Between 1845 and 1847 about 750,000 persons had died of starvation and disease in Ireland and many others left, most coming to the United States. Whereas the Germans had been craftsmen, such as carpenters, or house servants to the rich, the Irish came here as laborers and to work on the river barges and boats. So many dwelled between Essex Street and the railroad on Union Street, the area was known as Little Dublin.
When Victor Emmanuel III ascended the throne in Italy in 1900 he placed heavy tax burdens on the people and the successive political upheavals induced 3 million to flee to the States from Italy in 1914 alone. They took over the laborers jobs held by the past generation of Irish. Italian stonecutters were needed in the construction industry and in building the railroads and subways.
The Hudson Street area held more and more Italians, who were replacing the Germans. With the growth of rail lines in Poland and the end of serfdom after 1860, it was possible for the Poles to leave the struggling economy vat home and try America. Many of these people had worked small farms in Poland, thus "the change to laboring for low wages at industrial jobs was undoubtedly difficult. Most of the ethnic groups similarly wrestled with the English language and an unfamiliar way of life. Hackensack's brickyards and the paper mills in Bogota and Ridgefield Park were among the places they looked to for a new job.
The tremendous rise in population, in Europe in the 19th Century, the relatively small area to accommodate so many people and dramatic technological, changes causing unemployment were among the factors which caused people to leave Europe for America. Other causes which led people to look for the new and better way of life included crop failures, debts and political changes.
The influx of new residents brought changes to the old Dutch atmosphere in Hackensack as a consequence of its proximity to New York City. They found neither paradise nor the streets lined with gold, as the stories out of California and the Yukon gold rush stories may have led them to believe. Instead, they discovered a reasonable chance for education and improvement in such places as Hackensack and Bergen County. Groups of incoming immigrants tended to cling together. Often only second generation families dispersed throughout town while clinging to the respective churches and friends.
In 1870 losses from bad crops, coupled with large tax increases caused Greek families to become desperate and many in turn looked to new opportunities in the United States, giving up the farming they had known and going into service trades, restaurants and other occupations.
Fleeing the persecutions of the Turkish massacres in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Armenians came and managed to use their skills in silk, rug weaving and artistry in jewelry design to good advantage.
Problems in Russia played an important role in inspiring Jewish immigration here, particularly around 1905 when hundreds of cities and villages were attacked. Other Jewish immigration from many parts of the world resulted from persecution. They brought their talents as tailors, teachers, merchants, traders and workers. Some found jobs while others entered various business enterprises.
Hackensack was by now the largest shopping area in the county. Saturday for most families in Bergen meant to Hackensack to shop, a visit to the movies, a chance to eat out. The variety of services to be found were due in no small measure to the abilities of the many groups forming Hackensack's population.
An influx of immigrants from South America came in the 1960s and 1970s from Colombia and then from Ecuador. Today, Central Bergen, of which Hackensack is a part, has the largest proportion of Spanish speaking immigrants in the County. Included are people from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Spain, Venezuela, Mexico, Costa Rica and Central America.
Most of the newcomers were from larger cities in their own homelands. Their reasons for settling in Hackensack were given as location and being a quiet city, proximity to Farleigh Dickinson University and Bergen Community College and the opportunities to study, obtain work and make-a better life by improving their economic status. Newcomers to Hackensack have been appreciative of the educational opportunities here from the days of the Washington Institute to the present time.
How did Hackensack react to the influx of the various groups who immigrated here? Hackensack cared. An assistant to the principal of the night school (which began in 1906) asked permission to use one classroom on Saturday evenings to instruct the Italians and help them to become better citizens.
The Board of Education agreed and the classes began in 1908. Foreign born students remained part of the evening school until 1920, when Miss Ruth Sprague was appointed principal and English as a second language became an independent branch of the educational tree. Hackensack cared.
The English as a Second Language School has emphasized various languages to meet the needs of incoming groups. In 1975, most of the newcomers were from South America. In 1976, people are arriving from such countries as Iran, China, India, Hong Kong and Japan. So successful is this special school for children and adults that in our time Hackensack has become a model for other school systems which are only now beginning to help their newest citizens.
Hackensack's preeminence in the area of education is not recent, for people in the Hackensack Valley have always held learning to be of great importance. The General Assembly of East Jersey, in 1693 ruled each province was to provide a schoolmaster and three townspeople to make decisions regarding financing of a school.
In May, 1976, this Bicentennial year, the Evening School for Foreign Born Adults at the Middle School, sponsored by the Hackensack Board of Education achieved an enrollment of 462 students from 43 school districts and 56 foreign countries.
In 1923 Miss Mary Michelini joined the staff. This dedicated teacher rolled up a blackboard, packed a brief case with books and pencils and went to the homes of foreign families. She literally walked miles, from one end of the town to the other; from Jackson and Washington Avenues to upper Main Street, to the Fairmount section. She taught in one hour sessions mothers and other adults who could not come to school at night. For 7 years Miss Michelini gave home instruction to small groups of Polish, Italians, Russians, Jews and others. In 1945, she became Principal of the Broadway Evening School, serving, 18 more years for a total of 40 years of service to newcomers.
The next Principal, Mrs. Alice Falb, served from 1963 to 1976 during which time the site was changed from the Broadway School to the Middle School, a better location with more suitable furniture for adults. The principal at this time is Richard Vega.
How Schools Progressed Originally churches, farms or barns were used as classrooms. The first actual school building was built in 1730 next to the Paramus Dutch Reformed Church. On that site today is a schoolhouse museum.well worth visiting.
Before slateboards, writing was done in broad shallow sand boxes with a stick being used to trace letters and numbers. Teachers often made the quill pens for writing on paper. Before hour glasses were used, teachers made a "noon mark" on a doorsill or floor in order to tell time.
Books were scarce. Pupils, too, were scarce in the sense that they attended school only when not needed for chores on the farms. School then was an out-of-season exercise for children of the agricultural community.
It wasn't until 1820 that the State of New Jersey authorized townships to levy taxes for the support of schools. By 1840 Hackensack had six schools and 280 pupils. The first superintendent received $20 a year as his salary. The directive for hiring teachers required only that they be 16 years of age or more and have completed elementary school.