Monday, May 7, 2012

Westwood Avenue

Coming into River Vale from Westwood on Westwood Avenue as you cross Fondiller's bridge was the one and only street light that our town had. Don't even know why it was there. We thought that it was a mistake or when they put lights in Westwood they had one left over. 

Continuing east on Westwood Avenue, as you passed the chicken farm on your right, you would come to Rockland Avenue, same as you would today. One difference is that back then you could have stopped on your right and bought gas at Jandris's gas station or you could have gone inside and purchased some basic canned goods or other odds and ends. If need be, you could have driven your car around behind the gas station and have it repaired by Al Jandris who had a nice repair station back there. This also was a frequent stop for penny candy for the school kids like myself. I believe that the Jandris house still stands directly across from Rockland Avenue. The gas station was next door on the west side. 

Another couple hundred feet and you came to School No. 1, which when I first went there in 1935, was a wooden school on the left side and an brick school on the right. About two years later the old wood school was knocked down and a new school was erected and joined to the existing school on the right. I can remember walking amongst the construction equipment and on make shift walkways that were put there by the WPA construction workers who built the place. 

On the property immediately next to the school (east) was an old house that could hardly be seen from the street although it was only set back about 25 feet. This place was covered with overgrown shrubbery and thick with trees all around it. There was, what we thought, a very old man and a very old woman living in there that young school kids were afraid of. Little did these kids (us) know that this woman had been a secretary to one of our presidents and was a very accomplished woman. I'm pretty sure that she was a secretary to Warren Harding, although I'm not positive of that. Many years later The Bergen Record had a big write-up about this woman, Mrs. Workman. 

Continuing east on Westwood Avenue and having passed the four corners you would pass on your left a small dirt road that led back into the woods. This went down to a favorite swimming spot on the Hackensack called "Far Eastwood". This was at a rather large bend in the river and was a nice clean place for swimming or just "hanging out." Many people from Harrington Park, Closter and the Dumont area used this spot because you could get there by car, bike or take the number 12 bus to the four corners and walk a short distance. This was one of the better spots for river swimming. 

This particular dirt road received much attention sometime about 1948 or 1949... Seems like every once in a while when someone no longer wanted an automobile they would drive it into the woods someplace, take the plates off it, and just walk away and leave it....There it would stay until it rusted away or it got stripped of anything strippable.. One day in the summer this exactly what happened to someone's unwanted automobile.. It's fate was a bit different though. A couple of our local young men saw the thing and thought that it would be great for target practice. They spent the better part of an afternoon shooting holes in the thing and then walked away. Another citizen saw this car in the woods suffering from a couple hundred random bullet holes and called the police. We had police from all over the place plus a team from the Bergen Record on site ...Thinking this was a mob execution, at least, the thing got areawide publicity for a couple of days, with photos. When the authorities determined that this was just some random activity they seemed to know exactly who to talk to.....and they did. I have been told recently that the target shooters spent some time as "state guests" for their participation.

Leslie's Bridge
A bit further, as you reached Cooper Lane, there was a little gas station and store directly in front of you (long since gone). Westwood Avenue bears left and heads for Old Tappan. Just after this left turn, you would pass, on your right, the Huttick chicken farm where you could hear, see and smell hundreds of chickens trying hard to produce eggs for Mr. Hutticks egg route. The Hutticks moved to the Blairstown area in the mid-40's. 

Another couple of hundred feet and there on your right was Van Orden's tulip farm. Sure was a pretty sight when all the tulips came into bloom in the spring. 

A little bit further and you would cross Leslie's bridge, leave River Vale, and enter Old Tappan.


  1. Why was it called Leslie bridge. No one seems to know, thanks

  2. I want to thank you for your writings about River Vale I was born there in 1947 and lived in a small house on the westside of what you used to call School Number 1 on Westwood Avenue I remember Peters General Store and the Texaco station across the street I visited there in 2013 to attend an uncle's funeral. Your writings took me on a trip down memory lane and some very pleasant memories thank you.