A retired fire chief, a used-book store owner, a celebrated civil rights activist, a former mayor and a chamber of commerce president.
A cross-section of community leaders recently turned their love of the township into a common cause – the establishment of the Teaneck Historical Society.
The members of this new non-profit aren’t just history buffs looking to get-together once a month and trade stories. They want this venture to give birth to exhibits, lecture series or other types of history programs that attract both young and old.
“We want to respect the history and learn from the history,” said Robert Montgomery, a lifelong Teaneck resident and retired fire chief who is serving as the society’s president.
Without careful stewards to research and preserve it, history can be too quickly forgotten, Montgomery said.
“Things start to fade from memory after 30 or 40 years,” he said. “We want to be able to tell people what the township was like before they got here. Knowing your town’s history helps you feel more of a bond to it.”
Age-Friendly Teaneck was instrumental in the historical society’s founding, viewing its creation as part of an overall mission to promote more social and civic connections between young and old residents.
Leaders believe that young people are often just as interested as older residents in knowing more about the place that they live. But what’s been missing in Teaneck is a communal effort to study and share Teaneck’s history.
The society plans to collaborate with Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck Public Library, the township-run Historical Preservation Commission and local schools. Montgomery, who has over the years assembled an assortment of fire department memorabilia, would like to see a permanent public exhibit space for some of those items as well as a 1933 hose wagon truck that Teaneck converted from a horse-drawn carriage and used until the 1970s.
In the year since holding its first meeting in April of 2017, the historical society has elected officers, registered as a non-profit, adopted bylaws, opened a bank account, and begun to collect dues as a first step toward raising money for future programs and events.
The specifics of future events are still taking shape but Montgomery wants to do more than just teach about William Walter Phelps, Gen. Thomas Van Buren and other prominent early residents of Teaneck.
“Prominent figures get streets and parks named after them but people who have lived here and built their lives and paid their taxes don’t often get acknowledged,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery wants to tell the stories of the “ton of other people who were just as dedicated to the town” while also giving residents a more detailed picture of what life was like for regular citizens at different times in Teaneck’s history.
Current trustees/Founding members
President - Robert Montgomery
Vice President - Larry Bauer
Secretary - Jackie Kates
Treasurer - Howard Rose
Trustee - Theodora Lacey,
Trustee -Sue Brody