Oral History Project

Members of the Hoboken Historical Museum and the Friends of the Hoboken Public Library initiated the Hoboken Oral History Project in 2000. The initial focus of the Project was to capture, through the recollections of longtime residents, “Vanishing Hoboken”—the working-class identity and tradition of multi-ethnic living that has been disappearing as the city has gentrified over the past twenty years.

Interviewees told stories about mom-and-pop shops, the city’s many movie palaces, vaudeville performances, political campaigns, ethnic traditions, and factory jobs. A second series in the Oral History Project was introduced, “Hoboken Memoir,” when it became clear that there were notables in the city willing to talk about their personal experiences in addition to the topics mentioned above.

Some transcripts were edited into short texts that were published (with images supplied by the Museum, the interviewees, and the Hoboken Public Library) into small booklets called “chapbooks.”

A more detailed explanation of the Hoboken Oral History Project and the origins of the word “chapbook” may be found at the end of each of the booklets.

We hope you enjoy reading these Hoboken stories online. There will be more to come! Click on a cover to open a Portable Document File (PDF) read each chapbook. It will take 1 to 2 minutes for the PDF to load.

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The Hook: Recollections of Donald “Red” Barrett

Featuring the memories of longshoreman Donald "Red" Barrett and photographs he took of Hoboken's working waterfront from 1955 - 1970.

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Spirit of '76, Recollections of Jack O'Brien

Jack O’Brien has been playing the fife in various Hoboken fife and drum corps for over 65 years.

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Hoboken Was Just Like Heaven for Us

Hoboken educator Amada Ortega remembers how she and her husband Manuel were welcomed by their neighbors when they arrived from Cuba in 1948.

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Two-Wheel Man: Recollections of Peter “Chipper” Falco

Featuring Peter “Chipper” Falco, one of the founders of the 40-year-old Hoboken Motorcycle Club.

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When People Got Together and There Were Feasts

Tom Olivieri, a former tenant’s rights activist and city cultural affairs official, has long been at the center of cultural and civic activities in Hoboken’s broad-ranging Hispanic community.

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We Did Have Wonderful Times

Two former Girl Scouts and Scout Leaders Lee Raines (1924- 2006) and Catherine Ruchhovansky remember the fun they had.

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The Firehouse: Recollections of Bill Bergin

Bergin's early years chasing fire engines on a bicycle, his rookie training as a firefighter, and accounts of some of the blazes he fought during his 31 years with the Hoboken Fire Department.

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Boats, Ships & Everything

Jack Quinby (1930-1995) was a marine engineer at Hoboken’s Lackawanna Railroad Terminal and worked as a fireman on coal-burning tugs and ferryboats.

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Always Helping People, Recollections of Evelyn Smith

Evelyn Smith recalls the contributions of her parents, Leo and Sarah Smith, to the Civil Rights Movement and trade unionism.

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Kid: Recollections of Patsy Louis Freda

In its pages a single interviewee conveys the story of two lives intertwined—of Patsy Freda and his “bride and best friend” Edna (McLaughlin) Freda, the woman he called “Kid.”

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Sweet Cigar Charlie, Rigger Specialist

Charles Kosbab (1915-2001) was a rigger at the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard in Hoboken (and its predecessors, W. & A. Fletcher Co. & United Dry Docks) for 53 years.

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A Nice Tavern, Remembering the Continental Hotel and the Union Club

Paul Samperi describes his father's ownership of the Union Club and the Continental Hotel during Prohibition and beyond.

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In the Terrace: Recollections of Joan Cunning

Joan Cunning recalls over 50 years in the life of one extended Irish-American family, on one small Hoboken street.

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The Simple Dialogue of My People

Louis LaRusso II (1936-2003) was a Hoboken-born playwright who featured the working class people of his beloved city in over half of the 70 plays he authored.

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The Fruit Truck, Recollections of Domenick Amato

“The Fruit Truck, Recollections of Domenick Amato” focuses on the peddlers who used to sell produce from trucks parked on Hoboken street corners.

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Hoboken Circus Maximus at all Times

Judge Charles DeFazio, Jr. (1905-1996) was an attorney and self-described “political gadfly”

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Club Zanzibar, Recollections of Dorothy McNeil

Dorothy McNeil worked at Club Zanzibar, an African American nightclub at 601 First Street in Hoboken.

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I’d Rather Lose a Clam than a Customer

“I’d Rather Lose a Clam than a Customer, Recollections of Michael “Brother” Yaccarino" tells the story of Biggie’s Clam Bar, founded in 1946.

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Everybody Seems to Know Me by the Paper Hat

Albert “Heget” Hegetschweiler (1914-ca. 1990) was a woodworker at the Soborg Woodworking Company on Clinton Street, which specialized in work for the maritime industry.

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Soup Spy, Tea Acolyte

Carol Ann Wilson discusses the after-school jobs she held at the Maxwell House Coffee and Lipton Tea factories in Hoboken.

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We Were Downtown, Recollections of Marie Totaro

"We Were Downtown, Recollections of Marie Totaro" about growing up and living on the west side of Hoboken.

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Schackenberg's Luncheonette, Never a Plain Coke

Betty Silvani is one of the daughters of Schnackenberg’s Luncheonette, founded by her parents in 1931 on Washington Street.

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The Minute I Walked into the Place, I Was Home

Paula Millenthal Cantor is the great-granddaughter of one of the founders of Congregation Adas Emuno and an alumna of Stevens Hoboken Academy.

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The Pigeon Guys, recollections of Vinnie Torre and Lynne Earing

“The Pigeon Guys, recollections of Vinnie Torre and Lynne Earing” on the sport of pigeon racing.

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A Form of Doctor, Recollections of Marvin Stemple

Marvin Stemple is now retired as a second-generation Hoboken pharmacist.

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It Takes Fifty Years to be a Chef

Owner of Giorgio’s Bakery, Giorgio Castiello, and one of his daughters, Mary Grace, discuss Mr. Castiello’s introduction of traditional Italian pastries to Hoboken residents.

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We Were Not As They Thought

Angel Padilla describes his migration from Santorce, Puerto Rico, to Hoboken, in the 1950s,and his ties to St. Joseph Church, the first parish in the city to do outreach to the Puerto Rican community.

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