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A New Season in Hackensack

By Barbara J. Gooding  

            As homeowners, when each season approaches we think of all the tasks that either need to be done or, if by luck, could be held off to next year.  Being a Baby Boomer, my memories of growing up in Hackensack and what needed to be taken care of are a far stretch from how things are done today.

            If we take a start at winter time, lets think of the car. Chains needed to be placed on car tires.  When the snow arrived, out came the shovels and their handles were not ergonomically bent to save your back when trying to remove a foot of snow.  As many did on our block, we had a gravel driveway.  We’d shovel the snow-covered driveway only to move the gravel onto the lawn or into the street.  As soon as the snow melted, our next task was to shovel the gravel back on to the driveway.  There was, however, some fun involved. We’d form a circle with snow borders, fill it with water and have our own variation of an ice skating rink.

            To keep one’s home warm, coal was delivered usually to the side or back of your house, placed in a shoot that lowered to the basement. You’d  then shovel it into a large cellar coal bin or closet only to periodically shovel it into the furnace. Ultimately, through grated metal floor vents on a first floor came the toasty warmth of that burning coal.        

            But the cold months would at last give way to spring.  The uninsulated heavy wooden framed glass windows that usually hung by outside exterior hooks would be changed out to screens. It definitely was not a job for anyone with weak muscles.

Out came the push lawn mower and the rakes. If you didn’t apply any form of bug deterrent, there surely were dandelions available for picking to make a salad or some wine.  Hedges were maintained by a good set of manual trimmers. Many neighbors planted a Victory Vegetable Garden of tomatoes, peppers, rhubarb and more which we simply supported by sticks, poles and chicken wire.  If some low-lying dead tree limbs needed to be trimmed, we’d shimmy up the trees to do it.

            Come summer, just like today, so much seems to come alive to all of us.  It was common to have horse-pulled carts with the vendors that would arrive on your street to sharpen your knives or collect your old rags.  Dugan delivered bread and pastries and the jingling bells of the ice cream truck announced its arrival. As a young kid, there were always a few things you could do besides household errands to earn a few cents such as saving and then turning in soda bottle caps or returning the crate of empty soda bottles that were purchased from Seilheimer’s. 

             Depending on the type of refrigerator you had, you may have been waiting for an ice delivery.  Most homes however by the mid-50’s had a small freezer area in the top of their ice box.  It could hold a small amount of frozen items and a couple of metal ice cube trays, which, if you held them more than 10 seconds, would stick to your fingers.  Should you have run out of milk and it was rather late at night, there were no 24/7 stores but there was a nearby street vending machine for 50 cents.  I remember the one on Anderson Street near the railroad tracks.

            With the coming of fall and its tumbling leaves, out came the rake again as not many neighbors could afford any kind of lawn service. For a period of time, you were allowed to burn your own leaves in a steel barrel.  What a great smell!

            We truly had a wonderful life growing up living in Hackensack!


Barbara J. Gooding is a creative and historical writer who resides in Hackensack. She may be contacted via The County Seat newspaper or bjgooding@gmail.com. James Kozak contributed to this report.


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