Erik Soldwedel

Erik Soldwedel
Erik Soldwedel

NPS Intern Barbara Krasner

Reverend Erik Soldwedel, born in June 1958, has both family and religious roots in Paterson. His grandmother, Millie Brice Miller Soldwedel, was born and raised in Paterson. Her father, Warren, has been an engineer for the railroad. Millie worked as a secretary for the railroad, and her brother, Louis, was a certified public accountant and a musician. Millie sang as a coloratura vocalist on Paterson's radio station, WPAT. While Erik was born and grew up in Ridgewood, he was a member of the Drum Corps; he marched with the Muchachos and drilled at the Paterson Armory. He and his family took the trolley to Paterson, the commercial center, where they shopped. But the 1968 race riots took their toll on the city. Even the Drum Corps trained in Teaneck because of the civil unrest.

Politics returned Erik to Paterson in his late teens to support Pat Kramer. "You were drawn to Paterson," he says. His work for the Tim Kean gubernatorial campaign landed him a job as director of consumer affairs. Many of his cases involved Paterson residents and, unfortunately, Paterson fraudulent businesses.

Faith and a desire to help others brought him back to the city as well. Since 2016, Erik has been serving as interim clergy at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Paterson. He was ordained eleven years ago to be a deacon in the Episcopal Church and he worked for six years in Newark. He is proud of the strides St. Paul's has made in offering biligual services, especially the afternoon services completely in Spanish. A men's shelter started thirty-seven years ago. Bathrooms, showers, and form accomodations were installed in the church. He also notes the Family Souper Cafe and the clean-up actions taken to lessen the opiate crisis, including assistance cards, provision of energy bars and water, and clearing of shrubs where, he says, it was not unusual to find some twenty used needles on any given day. Of his service, he proudly claims, "I'm giving back to Paterson what Paterson gave to my family."

 
 
Interview Transcript

Barbara Krasner

00:00:02.02
This is Barbara Krasner, oral historian for the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, and today is July 31, 2018. And I am here at St. Paul's Episcopal Church with Erik- I hope I pronounce this correctly - Soldwedel?

Erik Soldwedel
00:00:18.91
That's correct!

Barbara Krasner
00:00:20.53
So, that's S-O-L-D-W-E-B-E-L

Erik Soldwedel
00:00:21.04
D-E-L

Barbara Krasner
00:00:23.62
D-E-L. Thank you.

Erik Soldwedel
00:00:25.14
D-E-L Soldwedel

Barbara Krasner
00:00:26.41
Soldwedel. And I'm going to start with a very open-ended question.

Erik Soldwedel
00:00:34.57
Sure!

Barbara Krasner
00:00:36.14
Tell me about your connection to Paterson.

Erik Soldwedel
00:00:39.63
My connection to Paterson currently is that I am the interim clergy person at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. My connection to Paterson goes deeper and longer in my maternal grandmother was born and raised in Paterson. Her father was an engineer. And now this is where I'm bad. I guess it was Lackawanna here in Paterson or Erie, I don't know. He was an engineer here in the city, and his name was Miller. His name was Warren Miller. And he hurt his legs in an accident and became a roundhouse engineer. He had two children. He married Jenny Lunger. And Jenny Lunger came from Warren County, from Washington, New Jersey, and her family where the Flori's. They had the Flori Organ Company and the Cornish Piano and Organ Company. Anyway, long story short my grandmother was here. She worked for the railroad as a ticket agent after she graduated secretarial school. And her brother, Louis, was a Certified Public Accountant and a musician. He was a concert pianist and a violinist, and he had an orchestra here in the city. And that's my direct connection to Paterson.

Barbara Krasner
00:02:17.39
So, what was your grandmother's name?

Erik Soldwedel
00:02:19.31
Her name was Minnie Brice Miller Soldwedel.

Barbara Krasner
00:02:24.27
Minnie Brice?

Erik Soldwedel
00:02:27.06
Brice was a family name from Pennsylvania, from Wilkes-Barre.

Barbara Krasner
00:02:30.02
So, B-R-

Erik Soldwedel
00:02:31.94
B-R-I-C-E like Brice but pronounced "breese."

Barbara Krasner
00:02:36.18
Oh okay.

Erik Soldwedel
00:02:37.10
Miller. Miller was her maiden name, and she married my grandfather John. And she used to sing on WPAT.

Barbara Krasner
00:02:48.00
Oh.

Erik Soldwedel
00:02:48.75
And her name was Minnie the Pearl. She was a coloratura soprano.

Barbara Krasner
00:02:53.86
Oh. So, music runs in the family.

Erik Soldwedel
00:02:59.11
Music runs in the family as does art. And my, as a child I marched in Drum Corps. I marched in Hawthorne Muchachos, and we practiced every Tuesday night in the winter at the old Paterson Armory. And that was my second entrance into Paterson, part of that my mom had surgery at the old Paterson General, and I remember being snuck in there to see my mom when I was underage.

Barbara Krasner
00:03:29.59
So, your grandmother was born and raised here.

Erik Soldwedel
00:03:30.17
She was born and raised here.

Barbara Krasner
00:03:33.78
And so, her family came from Pennsylvania?

Erik Soldwedel
00:03:35.47
No, they came from Warren County.

Barbara Krasner
00:03:39.06
Okay, so Jennie came from Warren County.

Erik Soldwedel
00:03:40.85
Right, but there was family in Pennsylvania as well. My grandmother, Minnie, her family roots go back to before the American Revolution. And her first cousin, Bertie or Bertha, married Alvin P. Sloan or Alfred Sloan. So, she was connected to Sloan Kettering and the General Motors type of thing.

Barbara Krasner
00:04:10.26
Okay. So, what brought your family to Paterson?

Erik Soldwedel
00:04:12.44
Well, work, for one thing. My great-grandmother was a school teacher. And from Warren County, there was work here in Paterson for young school teachers. And she met the man of her dreams. And she so married him and they stayed here. And they raised their two children here. My great uncle did not live terribly long. He died in his- I wanted to say he died in his late twenties, maybe early thirties. He had ulcers so he bled unfortunately bled out, I would say. But, I do know from what my grandfather told me because my grandmother when I was- She died in 1961 or 2. I was about three and a half/four years old. I have recollections of her and memories of her, but not- They're strong visuals. My grandfather, her husband, died in 1984. And I was an adult, and I knew him well, real well. So, and he came to Ridgewood from, his family lived in West Hoboken, which is Union City today. And his father had an architecture firm in Hoboken. And he came up to Ridgewood and worked for a carpenter by the name of Joe Christopher. And Joe Christopher would get most of his materials that he needed here in Paterson because the mills were here-

Barbara Krasner
00:05:49.57
Right

Erik Soldwedel
00:05:50.42
-and all the big equipment. So, and then during the second World War, my grandfather worked at the Curtiss Foundry Wright plant here in Paterson. And it's interesting when my father was brought up in Ridgewood, his mother would take him here once a week to shop because you take the trolley. They had the great trolley line that went from Paterson all the way to Suffern. And you could travel back and forth to Paterson to do what you needed to do.

Barbara Krasner
00:06:27.30
Well, that's a long haul from Suffern to Paterson!

Erik Soldwedel
00:06:28.88
But, on the trolley, my parent- My father lived in Ridgewood so the trip wasn't that long. But, people would come because Paterson was the closest big city.

Barbara Krasner
00:06:38.91
Right.

Erik Soldwedel
00:06:39.59
You know, you had Meyer Brothers here and Quackenbush. And then there was for furniture, you always had the great furniture stores here in town as well. My parents bought their first pieces of furniture here before they got married in '53, you know. So, that's the piece that I find fascinating. And then, I have in my possession at home I think there's four chairs. My grandfather got them here in Paterson at an auction. There was eight of them. They were dining room chairs. And whether they belong to Hobart or not, I don't know. But, I have three of them. I have four, but one is, I don't think I can do anything with it. But, I have three of them, but to me, you know, it's a Paterson connection.

Barbara Krasner
00:07:36.54
Right.

Erik Soldwedel
00:07:37.18
So, history to me is extremely important. And to be sixty years old, and to be back in Paterson now, serving this church is a great, great honor for me because this congregation is 200 years old. We are the longest worshipping, continually worshipping, congregation in the whole of Paterson. In fact, where city hall is, that's where our first church was.

Barbara Krasner
00:08:04.57
Okay.

Erik Soldwedel
00:08:05.35
It was taken by eminent domain. And this where we're sitting in now, this building was built as a memorial to the second World War. The church is 1897, and the parish hall is 1895. And that's the third worship space. The second was across the street where the old Masonic lodge is. And that was sold to somebody who bought it stone by stone by stone. They brought pews over. They brought glass over. I don't think they brought the gas lamps. And I'll show you pictures in the hallway. There were gas lamps. They're not there. But, the altar and the reredos, that carved back, we have in the sanctuary now as the chapel. It was dedicated as the chapel reincarnation and then re-dedicated after Dr. Hamilton, who was here for- I want to say- forty plus years- and he built this building, the church. And we're about to re-dedicate this year in memory of all the Paterson saints because at one time there were six episcopal churches here. And they're now all closed, and they're back under one roof. And it's interesting we have a western wall of glass that's all from the second church. And the glass is interesting. People come in, they go, "Oh, those are the Tiffany glasses." And I said, "No." We're blessed to have eleven Tiffany windows in this church. And the interior of this church was designed by Tiffany.

Barbara Krasner
00:09:46.75
Oh

Erik Soldwedel
00:09:48.17
The granite to build the church is pumped in pink granite. The interior of the church was designed by Tiffany. It's all wainscoting. It's all oak. The only thing that's chestnut is the old altar. We have four Tiffany mosaics in the church and a rood screen that was designed by Tiffany and built by Gorum (sp?). At one time you could tell there was a lot of wealth here, a lot of wealth, a lot of wealth in this church. So, I think that was one of the pieces that attracted me to come here was Paterson history.

Barbara Krasner
00:10:31.03
So, let's just back up for a minute.

Erik Soldwedel
00:10:31.66
Sure.

Barbara Krasner
00:10:32.28
First, spell Flory for me.

Erik Soldwedel
00:10:34.93
Who?

Barbara Krasner
00:10:35.99
Flory.

Erik Soldwedel
00:10:36.68
Flori. If I'm not mistaken, it's F-L-O-R-I. I'm pretty sure that's what it is.

Barbara Krasner
00:10:45.54
Okay.

Erik Soldwedel
00:10:46.82
If you look at Cornish Organ, you'll find Flori Organ probably. And Alvin P. Sloan, who was my grandmother's cousin's son used to live in Washington, New Jersey. He's the former mayor. See, the family was connected between two. And I would like to envision some place along in historical lines that you would travel before the railroad from Western New Jersey to Paterson by canal boat. And, I'm sure they all came down by canal boat to this spot here because there's just too much that happened in Paterson, too much commerce was here to, you know, to ignore it.

Barbara Krasner
00:11:38.54
Which canal would that have been?

Erik Soldwedel
00:11:43.43
I have no idea! It just would have to be something to do with the Passaic River basin.

Barbara Krasner
00:11:46.97
Yeah.

Erik Soldwedel
00:11:48.33
Has to! I can't see how you couldn't, you know? When I used to drive to Newark every day from Mahwah, I would go down 208 and come down Route 20. And then, take 20 to 21, and I thought about how people used to travel on the Passaic River-

Barbara Krasner
00:12:05.21
Right

Erik Soldwedel
00:12:06.62
-from Paterson to get to Newark. How did you do it otherwise? Because there used to be a canal you could from-

Barbara Krasner
00:12:10.87
Well, the Morris Canal when it was in Newark.

Erik Soldwedel
00:12:16.58
Right. But, there had to be some sort of canal base up here. There had to be! I can't see how they could have done it otherwise. But, you know-

Barbara Krasner
00:12:27.97
Okay. So, let's back to you.

Erik Soldwedel
00:12:28.87
Sure.

Barbara Krasner
00:12:30.00
And so, where you were born?

Erik Soldwedel
00:12:32.20
I was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey, June 30, 1958. I am the second child of three, born to Warren Soldwedel and Solveig Casper Soldwedel.

Barbara Krasner
00:12:49.56
Okay. Your mother's name again-

Erik Soldwedel
00:12:51.14
Solveig S-O-L-V-E-I-G. Maiden name Casper like the friendly ghost. Soldwedel

Barbara Krasner
00:12:59.72
And where was she from?

Erik Soldwedel
00:13:02.49
My mother was born and raised in Teaneck. Her father came to this country from Norway and dropped the "S-E-N" when he came into Ellis Island.

Barbara Krasner
00:13:08.88
Ah!

Erik Soldwedel
00:13:10.63
He was Caspersen. And her mother was from Sweden. Her maiden name was Strum.

Barbara Krasner
00:13:20.83
Okay.

Erik Soldwedel
00:13:21.81
And my mother came down when- the day she got her first permanent. She was baptized because she said that she found Jesus, and she was baptized at Madison Avenue Baptist Church. She had been baptized as an infant, but somewhere along the line she met somebody, and that's why she came here. So, her claim to fame to Paterson is where she found Jesus.

Barbara Krasner
00:13:45.76
Okay! Okay, so you were born in Ridgewood.

Erik Soldwedel
00:13:56.07
Yes.

Barbara Krasner
00:13:56.72
But, what did you do here in Paterson? So, you shopped here?

Erik Soldwedel
00:13:59.99
We shopped here as a family. There was always a connection to Paterson, strictly because of family. You would have old business connections. You'd come here. Paterson was the commerce center, and I remember at the time of growing up in Ridgewood at the time of the riots and the all the upheaval between that period of time when the riots started and then the assassination of Martin Luther King, which really set it all off. There was a tremendous change and shift. Until that point, Paterson was a place you would come to. And then, after the riots, you didn't come to Paterson as much. And I don't remember as a kid how bad it was here. I know it was bad in Newark. I don't know how bad it was here. But, I think the city took a terrible toll when it happened.

Barbara Krasner
00:15:05.06
And I think the riots were later here.

Erik Soldwedel
00:15:07.70
Much later here. Much later here.

Barbara Krasner
00:15:08.26
Because Newark was '67.

Erik Soldwedel
00:15:10.61
Right. I don't think the riots happened here until the late '60s. At best, maybe the early '70s. But, again, I don't- I can't tell you because it wasn't- I didn't pick up the newspaper to read it. You know, I was-

Barbara Krasner
00:15:25.12
And you were a kid.

Erik Soldwedel
00:15:26.65
I was a kid. I was in school. I was always interested in history. I was interested in current events. And I have to say we started coming here, we would come to Paterson, as I said, to do drill at the armory. And that was in the evening. But, there was one year we didn't come here, and we went to Teaneck instead. And that could have been when there was unrest, and maybe that's why we didn't. I don't quite recall. And then, I got- I was re-introduced again to Paterson later on in my late teens. I was very active in Republican politics in Bergen County. I was elected the youngest municipal chairman of the Republican party in Mahwah. And there was a favorite son to Bergen County was Lawrence Pat Kramer, who the major of Paterson. So, we all got to know Pat well. So, you'd come to Paterson for functions, whether it was at the Brownstone, so there was a political interest. And then also one of the people I marched with in the Drum Corps, Michael DeLuccia, his family had a funeral home on Belmont Ave. DeLuccia Funeral Home. So, you know, Paterson was just part of the constellation. You just- You were drawn to Paterson. There was reasons to be drawn here, just important reasons to be drawn here. And then, later on, being active in the church, this particular congregation starting the men's shelter, thirty-seven years ago, was a draw for us to come and help support, to cook food for the men, to prepare meals, to bring gifts, to bring warm clothing and whatever. Then, we got very involved when I was attending church in Ramsey. We came down here one Monday a month, and then when there was five Monday's, the fifth Monday, we would come and cook, besides that fifth Sunday, we would come and cook. So, I got very active with that. And then, this church created a program La Communidad San Pablo, the community of St. Paul. And it was to help support the Spanish ministry in this church. And with that support, my wife became a board member. So, I was involved peripheral for that reason. So-

Barbara Krasner
00:18:18.14
And what's your wife's name?

Erik Soldwedel
00:18:20.72
Linda. L-I-N-D-A. And she hyphenates it with her maiden name Aprile A-P-R-I-L-E. Hyphen Soldwedel.

Barbara Krasner
00:18:33.47
So, in between your late teens and your involvement with the Republican party, what did you do?

Erik Soldwedel
00:18:38.85
What did I do? I worked in campaigns and then I was eventually hired by- I worked on the Kean campaign when Tom Kean ran for governor, and I was hired to work as a consumer advocate. And I worked in the office of consumer protection and the division of consumer affairs. And many of the cases I was investigating involved Paterson residents or fraudulent businesses throughout the state. And unfortunately, some were based here in Paterson.

Barbara Krasner
00:19:16.32
Yeah. And, what brought you into this church?

Erik Soldwedel
00:19:29.87
Well, I was ordained eleven years ago to be a deacon in the episcopal church. And as an ordained deacon, we do everything but give absolution or consecration. And I worked for six years on the bishop staff in Newark, running a young adults service corps project called Newark Acts, similar to Americorps. And we had people working throughout different social service agencies for the dioceses. And I watched Paterson closely, wanted to bring someone here. And when I left that position- it will be two years ago next month- September that is, I interviewed originally to be the interim at Holy Communion around the corner. And the bishop said, "I'd really like you to interview with St. Paul's." And I said, "Okay." They had had a priest who left, a rector, had been here for many years. He moved on to Washington. They hired another priest, and it didn't work out, and she left. And they were without anybody. And I was trained in conflict resolution, congregational growth development, and interim ministry. And it was suggested that I come here.

Barbara Krasner
00:21:04.07
What year was this?

Erik Soldwedel
00:21:06.76
This was 2016. It was in September. I interviewed. They liked me but said they couldn't take me. So, I started doing Sunday supply here. And when I came in December after the first Sunday I did in December, they said, "You can come on board limited January 1." And I said, "Sure." And by the end of March, they made a firm offer to keep me in part-time. So, I'm here. I'm supposed to be here somewhere around twenty-five hours a week- sometimes it's twenty-five; sometimes it's forty. It all depends. I came here seeing or wanting and desiring admiration for this church. This is the only community I know that has been able to be successful with a bilingual, ongoing bilingual, ministry. They saw years ago the need to plant an opportunity as an entrance for people of Hispanic background to come to this church. So, they created this afternoon service that they do was 1:30. Now, it's 12:30. And in addition to the 10:00 service that happens in the morning here which is traditionally English- excuse me- what we've been able to do is- When I came here, the priest who was before me- Excuse me. Can you put me on pause for a minute? She did all the services because she was from Costa Rica, and she could speak and write in both languages. They were using supply. I found somebody to come and do the 12:30 service every week. And I was doing the 10:00. And we were able to rebuild this congregation. It had gone down tremendously. We doubled the attendance in 2017 and increased the giving for 2018 by 20 percent.

Barbara Krasner
00:23:24.09
Wow.

Erik Soldwedel
00:23:24.59
So, and you say, "Wow." It is a wow. But, when you're down to thirty on a Sunday and now you're bringing in seventy, that is more like it, especially when your sanctuary seats 500. But not anymore but since they took pews out. So, I went back to the roots of this church, what they were for. Dr. Hamilton, when he was here, when the silk mill workers went on strike, he worked for the soup kitchen here and education for the kids. And so, while they were taking care of the union employees, he was also pastoring to the owners of the mills on Sunday. It created a big tension, but it helped. And from that work, started Community Chest here in Paterson, which is now the United Way. I admired that. I admired Luis Leon saying to the city founders, city fathers, "We're going to start a men's shelter here." There's women's shelter. There were women, but no men's shelter. So, they started that. And they used to sleep in the parish hall. Now, they sleep in a regular dormitory underneath the church.

Barbara Krasner
00:24:34.04
Wow.

Erik Soldwedel
00:24:35.75
He started that. And then, Tracy Lynn came in. Tracy I knew because she was the associate at Christ Church in Ridgewood when I was a member there. She started the Community Development Corporation, the food pantry, the many programs they did for women. And she did some remarkable women, or work with the women who used to work across the street as prostitutes. And that all closed up. She welcomed them into the church and worked with homeless people. So, there was a rich heritage here.

Barbara Krasner
00:25:12.00
Yeah.

Erik Soldwedel
00:25:12.56
And when I came here, what we found was a church that needed a focus again. And the opiate crisis in this particular neighborhood was horrendous, absolutely horrendous! You'd walk outside of this church, and you'd see up to twenty-one discarded needles on the ground every day. And what we did is we started Operation Cleanup here, went to the city, complained to the, then, mayor, to the council, got their attention. Mayor Warren Williams or Williams Warren was tremendous in helping us. She made this part of the anchor as the safe city street imitative. We're very active with that. The Community Association for Van Houten Street meets here. And what we did is we cut down shrubs, and we made it difficult for people to shoot up. And we put new lighting outside. And we constantly give junkies water, energy bars, and whatever else we can give them plus a card showing them where they can get help and offering them whatever assistance we can give. It's made a difference. And it's steeped in this church. The culture of the people in this church is truly social activism. And I identify. So, for me, this is a wonderful place to be. And it's a no- For me, it's a no-brainer to connect the people of this community back into the city, and I've never been so disappointed. In the last mayoral race I couldn't vote. And I was so- I was just- I was watching from the sidelines, you know. I'm watching from the sidelines what happens with the taking back the school system, electing their own Board of Education. This is going to be fascinating. There's so much that can happen here. We have neighbors who come to us now. We have a young man who works with us three days a week. His mother and his four siblings live in an apartment down the street after they lost the place they had before. And, they're all going to be baptized, but they're connected here. They come to the Family Souper Cafe. They want to know about the history of Paterson. They want to know about the history of this church. So, in some small way I feel l'm giving back to Paterson what Paterson gave to my family. My grandmother was a wonderful, wonderful woman- well-educated. Her mother was. Her father had to be. Her brother was. They did a lot. They did a lot. The city of Paterson, Paterson General Hospital, a doctor there saved my mother's life. This is an important city to me.

Barbara Krasner
00:28:13.52
So, how did he do that?

Erik Soldwedel
00:28:16.36
My mother was thirty- I don't think she was quite thirty yet. And she had the beginnings of colon cancer, and he took care it. She didn't have a bag. She didn't have anything with her. She went on, and my mom's still alive. My mom's going to be eighty-six in-

Barbara Krasner
00:28:44.01
God bless her!

Erik Soldwedel
00:28:44.43
Thank you, in November. So, I was a kid, you know, being snuck into the hospital. Dr. Becker meant something. So, you know, and that's where it all goes back to. So, you think about that. You think about this guy who was, you know, we lived in Ridgewood. Why wasn't it happening at Valley? Because the doctor was in Paterson, and he was the best you could get. And it wasn't at St. Joe's. It was at Paterson General. And Paterson General was an old hospital then. And it was soon after that, they opened up Paterson General on Wayne. So, it speaks to me. And then, what's interesting is my father sold insurance for most of his career. And he sold commercial insurance. And one of his best clients was here in Paterson, Charles Roberts Ribbon Company. They produced ribbon that was used to bind books, and the Gallant family owned it. And they became close personal friends of my parents and our family. And Bernie Gallant's parents- Bernie Sr. and Tessie, I guess, and Bernie Jr. and his wife all were very friendly with us. And they had a very active business here in Paterson, very active business. And there was ribbon in my house because of it, you know. But, it was made here which was part of this city. There used to be a company here that made boxes for decorative boxes for people. There's some small cottage industry left in this city, and I'm hoping that it comes back. And to be here now, many people would say, why am I not looking at retirement? I finally found what I love to do so I'm not going to retire.

Barbara Krasner
00:30:40.73
You're too young to retire.

Erik Soldwedel
00:30:44.19
I am too young to retire. It's a great place to be, and I'm hoping I get to stay because there's a lot here. And I learn people's stories every day, that the- When Dolores was sitting here, to know that she was the second female police officer in the city, she's been in this church since she was five years old. She's the church historian. She's an honorary deputy mayor in the city of Paterson. Those are important pieces. Winter Harper, who turned 100, he's a member of my congregation. He and his wife came here from the Caribbean. They raised their family here in Paterson. He had businesses here in Paterson. He's been active in the masons. The masons are now coming back to meet here come September instead of meeting in their hall because their hall had a fire in it. But, they're going to come here. That connection is so important. They're steeped in history. Thinking about the beauty of what's going to happen at the Falls too. As a kid I used to marvel at the Falls. You know, people would say to me, "I went to Niagara." I said, "I've been to Paterson." Paterson Falls were something! They still are. To think about Hamilton and his vision and how it ended, and then to know a little bit about Hamilton, his family, his descendants settled up in Eagle Valley, New York. And there's a private episcopal chapel to one of his descendants, Elizabeth Schuyler Pierpont Morgan Hamilton. She died when she was eleven or twelve. The crypt is where the altar is. It's a private little chapel up there, and Alexander Hamilton III, when I first went to that chapel because it was the only place you could go and get the old prayer book of 1928, he and his wife would sit in the front row. Well, no one stood up or sat down or kneeled until Mrs. Hamilton did it first. And you knew who they were, and they could trace their roots right here to Alexander Hamilton. And to think that he was a product of a mixed marriage. That's Paterson. Paterson's a true melting pot, and it's historical in very way. Cook Locomotive built their plant here. All the silks barrens were here. Newark was known for insurance. Elizabeth was ship-building, if I'm not mistaken. Paterson was silk and the locomotive works. It's phenomenal. We got a great library right down the street that's rich in heritage. I think there's a lot here. And I'm hoping- I'm hoping against hope that things turn around. And we got to embrace the new culture here too as well.

Barbara Krasner
00:33:43.62
Yeah.

Erik Soldwedel
00:33:44.76
When you think about Paterson being called the West Lands when this church was settled in 1817, so when this was settled, this was the West Lands. It then became Paterson. You had Dutch and German and English people. Along the centuries more and more have come in- Italian and Irish. And now, you've had this long population of West Indians, Jamaicans, and Barbadians, and people from Trinidad and Nicaragua and Honduras and Belize. And now, there's a tremendous population from Egypt, from Saudi Arabia, from Sudan. And they're all here in Paterson, and it makes it richer and richer. And lo and behold, I sit here and I think my sister-in-law has been teaching at School #9 now for I just found out it's been eleven years. I mean, it just seems like yesterday she started. And we're considered the risk-takers in the family because we both go to Paterson every day. And there's nothing to be on risky about being here. This is a great place. It really is. And I, again, for me, it brings me home. I would love to know more about my great uncle and what he did. I know very little. I know very little that he had an orchestra here. I knew very little that he made his living as an accountant, but he was a musician.

Barbara Krasner
00:35:18.13
Right.

Erik Soldwedel
00:35:18.78
His mother was a schoolteacher and an artist. I have two of her paintings at home. They were nature scenes. You know, she did studies of flowers which was typical somebody in the 1860s and 70s. That's what you did, you know. But, what did he do? You know, my grandmother's singing. I just remember her voice being sweet and beautiful, you know.

Barbara Krasner
00:35:39.06
Yeah.

Erik Soldwedel
00:35:42.01
Those are things that- And WPAT was a trademark here. I guess WPAT closed before 1990.

Barbara Krasner
00:35:52.23
I remember it though.

Erik Soldwedel
00:35:53.76
I remember it well. We used to listen to WPAT Paterson. It was a big station. It was an important station, you know. You had WWDJ in Hackensack, and WPAT here in Paterson. And WPAT was our big station that we listened to.

Barbara Krasner
00:36:12.71
Yeah.

Erik Soldwedel
00:36:13.31
It was important.

Barbara Krasner
00:36:14.17
Did you used to go to the stadium?

Erik Soldwedel
00:36:15.29
Hinchliffe Stadium. Yes. Went down there for sports events. My parents told me they took me there as a child with my brother to see mini cars race. I don't remember that. My brother does, but I don't. I remember being there for Drum Corps shows and band competitions and a football game or two. And I was totally taken back by the setting of that stadium, where it sits and what you could see beyond the stadium. It was really quite something. And my neighbor growing up when I was living in Mahwah, grew up in that neighborhood. And I refer to him as Uncle Ed. He ended up growing up in Paterson, and he pushed a broom as a kid at Hawthorne Chevy and went on to be their CEO. He talked about going to the stadium and with the family and everything. So, the stadium was very, very important, very, very important. Beautiful stadium! And I hope they can do something with it now, you know. It's a shame that the armory burnt. There's a great plan to do something with it now - luxury housing. Luxury housing is not going to work unless we have the services to support it.

Barbara Krasner
00:37:35.33
Yeah.

Erik Soldwedel
00:37:36.34
And we need housing for those who need to work in those services. I have five people wanting to see me to see what I can do to get them housing. I can't. I don't have anything. I can only beat the doors down like everyone else does. But, there's nothing here. And it's sad. It's really sad because there's so much that could happen. I have a friend who works here in Paterson. He's worked here, I guess, fifteen plus years. He's in children's protective custody for the state of New Jersey and has really good job. He's a deputy director. He started as an investigator and became the area investigator and chief investigator. And he used to say the biggest growing cottage industry in this city was crime and police protection. I don't think that's the way it is anymore. When you think about we have less violent crime from guns than any other city in the state, and we lead the nation against it, I don't know. I don't know why. Maybe it's because people were embracing what we were about. I think the play Hamilton had a lot to do with it! It brought people's minds back to who Alexander Hamilton was.

Barbara Krasner
00:38:53.79
Yeah. Yeah.

Erik Soldwedel
00:38:55.05
You know, I mean, you've probably been to the Falls more than I have, but to see that statue, it makes a difference.

Barbara Krasner
00:39:02.74
Oh yeah. Yeah.

Erik Soldwedel
00:39:03.13
It really does, doesn't it? You know, I remember when I just started here, there was a protest march about immigration right after Donald Trump was sworn in. And we marched from the Federal Plaza, the Federal building, past city hall to the Falls. And that's where we ended up. There had to be 2,000 people there. It was a cold day. The snow was coming down, but you could sense when you were walking that distance, I had the first sense that I did as a kid, marching in a parade here in the Muchachos. I remember doing the evening parade here. And there was something about marching in a city where there's tall buildings but not terribly tall, when you're playing those brass instruments and the drums and they echo and you're like going in the canyons, it gives you a sense of- And then, you look up at the buildings, and you see the architecture of these buildings, and you go, wow! This is really something, you know. I'd like to know more about it. So, I want to stay.

Barbara Krasner
00:40:24.88
So, is there a particular way you want to be remembered?

Erik Soldwedel
00:40:30.87
I want to be remembered that I cared about this city and I cared about it through the faith, hope, and love expressed at St. Paul's. Our patron is Saul of Tarsus, who had a conversion experience and came out as Paul. He's one of the- He's considered an apostle who never met Jesus while Jesus alive. He saw Jesus on the road in a vision. And, he's the most prolific epistles you'll read to the people of Rome, Corinth, Ephesia throughout all of the period of the time. And, the one piece that he wrote that I talk about the most- Our faith is found in God. Our hope for everlasting life is in the resurrection of Jesus, all supported by the gift of love which is the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit transcends Christianity, Judaism and Muslim because we all believe in God, the same God. And we believe in the gift of the Holy Spirit. We're the only faith that has recognized Jesus as the Messiah. That's okay. We're all connected. We're brothers and sisters. And that faith, hope, and love is what connects me. And that's what I hope I'm known for here in Paterson.

Barbara Krasner
00:42:15.08
Well, good.

Erik Soldwedel
00:42:15.17
Thank you.

Barbara Krasner
00:42:15.69
So, we'll end on that note.

Erik Soldwedel
00:42:16.63
Great!

Last updated: June 10, 2019

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72 McBride Avenue Extension
Paterson, NJ 07501

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