Thomas Rooney

Thomas Rooney
Thomas Rooney

Photo courtesy of NPS Intern Barbara Krasner

Thomas Rooney served Paterson for decades, first as mayor for eighteen months, and then as Sixth Ward councilman for 28 years. Born, raised, and still living in Paterson, Rooney says it is his goal to die here, too.

He was born in 1927 and has lived in South Paterson in a predominantly Irish neighborhood, now mostly Muslim. He attended St. George’s grammar school and St. John’s High School. After graduation from high school, he joined the U.S. Navy and prepared to battle against Japan. But before he could ship out, the war ended. He stayed with the Navy on the aircraft carrier, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and remembers the day he met President Eisenhower, who inspected his turret.

After discharge, Rooney returned to Paterson and, after attending a television repair school in Newark for two years, set up his own television repair business. He also decided having engineering skills would be an advantage, so he attended Newark College of Engineering four nights a week and earned his degree in electrical engineering.

He first ran for mayor of Paterson on an independent ticket in 1966 and then again in 1969. The number of votes for him increased, but not until his third try as a Democrat in 1972 was he successful. He served as mayor from January 1, 1973 until June 30, 1974 when Paterson adopted a new plan for city government that included the mayor and a council.

Rooney ran for City Council, representing the Sixth Ward, for seven four-year terms—a total of 28 years. His engineering background gave him the analytical skills to help the city in other ways. For example, when a storm blew off the roof of John F. Kennedy High School, Rooney suspected faulty materials. His insistence on standards—a rallying cry throughout his life that continues today—made a positive difference.

Rooney was also instrumental in helping establish the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park, developing and presenting a proposal and building a model.

 
 

Interview Transcript

Interviewer:

Today is Sunday, August 2, 2015. This is Barbara Krasner, oral history intern at the Paterson/Great Falls Historical Park. And I am here with Paterson, South Paterson. Good morning, Mayor Rooney, how are you?

Rooney:

Good morning, Barbara.

Interviewer:

Tell me about your connection to Paterson.

Rooney:

Well, my connection is that I was born here in South Paterson on Knickerbocker Ave between Main St and Getty and here we are eighty-eight years later. I'm still between Main St and Getty about five blocks from the house in which I was born. I was born on the second floor. My mother had a midwife because in those days they didn't bother much with doctors and hospitals. So that's where I started. And then I grew up here. Went to school a block away from this house now in St. George Grammar School and then to St John's High school downtown Paterson. And Paterson, a couple times we moved in Clifton renting a little bit but always moved back into here. So in this house at 11 Grove St now we've been here for fifty-four years, my wife and I. And our daughters were born here, raised here. They've moved out, are married now, have their own homes. But that's been the story of my whole background as far as Paterson is concerned. I was born here, raised here, hope to die here. And I've been involved on different levels for most of my life by far I wanted no part of politics was inconceivable that I would ever be involved in anything like that. I went to a technical school after I came out of the Navy. I went into the Navy when I seventeen. We were still at war with Germany and Japan. And a couple weeks before I was called to boot camp, Germany surrendered. And I went to boot camp then in Samson, New York for ten weeks. Then we were given a ten-day boot leave to come home. And that was August 6, 1945 and when we went back we were supposed to go to California, get on the ships, and go invade Japan. But on the way coming home from Samson to here, we started hearing on bus something about an atom bomb. Nobody knew what an atom bomb was. Anyway it turns out that they bombed Hiroshima August 6 of '45. Three days Nagasaki. And a few more weeks the war was over so we never did get to go invade Japan, but I spent another about a year in the Navy, was assigned to the commissioning of a new aircraft carrier, Franklin D. Roosevelt. And we took it on a shake down cruise down to Cuba, Guantanamo, and then down through Rio de Janeiro. And one thing happened to me in that episode that has affected my whole life. We were at the commissioning with the Franklin D. Roosevelt was commissioned in the Brooklyn Navy yard. I think it was October of '45 and they assigned me to one of our large gun turfs because President Truman had come to commission the carrier. And it was a large one, five inch fifty-four. And so I went there and they told me how I should behave because he was going to come into my gun turf and what questions I should ask of him, would he like to see this or that. So I went into the gun turf, and the other ceremonies got over. He came. They left me in there and told me how to behave and everything. But anyhow I assumed, I took it for granted the first people I'll see would be the secret service because it's only this turret that I was with that gun in up on top of us and so I waited for them to come. And all of a sudden, Barbara, just this white hat comes into the hatch. The man had bent over because you have to bend over to come in in his all white suit and here he is the President of the United States and just me. And I keep waiting for the Secret Service to come. Nobody showed up. Just me a lonely seaman and the most powerful man on planet earth and he talked to me like I was just like a nephew or something. He was like a kindly uncle talking to me and so I asked him these questions and showed him this and that. And I asked him would he like to see the magazine, how it works bringing the shells up to the turret, and he smiled and he says, "No, son, I'm already familiar with that, how it works." Oh my goodness! It had such an effect on me. And then he thanked me for showing. Nobody else ever came. And I had like two parts of my brain working. One is the one that I'm supposed to do in explaining and asking him questions of would he like this or that. And the other part of my brain is saying, where's the secret service? Why do they have this man in here with me? They don't know me. I could be like a John Wilkes Booth. I could kill this man. Where is his protection? I don't like this. But then he thanked me and left, but that stayed with me all the rest of my life because when I see a lot of men, a lot of these politicians on different levels, there's some of them get title and it's like they're the supreme being of some kind, and they look down on the rest of us. But he was the most powerful man on the planet, had just ended World War II and saved the lives of how many people, killed them with the atom bomb naturally but the invasion of Japan, they were certain that would take several years because of the way the Japanese fought on those islands over there. But in any event, he did it. But that always stayed in my life. So I'm talking sense, oh, a free hold, wow, or state assembly man or senator or a congressman and all those but even lowly politicians seem to have this attitude oh, I'm really something now because I have a title. But of all the things that happened during that time in the Navy which were nice. I liked that a lot. We had several man that were killed on the ship even thought he war was over including one from my own compartment. They called general quarters one day so you had to go like crazy to get to your post, and he made a mistake. He was supposed to go in the lower hatch by the deck instead he climbed up the ladder on the outside of the turret and they threw into automatic control which swung the around and crushed him against the side of the ship. There was only a four-inch space, Sketch from New York. And then we had two other fellows that were killed also, again, even though the war was over. One of them was one of those who works with the airplanes up on the flight deck. And they had propeller-driven planes then, no jets on the ship. And he made a mistake, just a loss of concentration for a second. He had his head cut off by the propeller. And there was one other that he was on the flight deck. The planes were landing and when this one plane landed on coarse air, the inverted goal wing and so the pilot must not have shut off his controls on the guns and when the thing hit the flight deck, the fifty-caliber machine gun sprayed the deck up in front. And this man was up on the front of the flight deck, way up by the bow, and it cut him in half. But it shows when you have machinery like that and there is no war, the danger of that was over, when you're dealing with machinery and other humans, you're still in danger just like driving a car now. You can do everything right but the other fellow doesn't so you get killed. But I liked that. And then that gave me what they set up the GI Bill of Rights then so that you got so many credits for going to school and there was a $52/month thing. We got $20/week for 52 weeks to help pay your expenses which now sounds like totally paper clip money. But at that time it wasn't bad. So after some time they were just coming out with television shortly after that and I became interested in that. So they had a television school down in Newark to learn to repair them and I used the GI Bill to go two years down there, and then started my own business, television service. And then a friend of mine from high school, he had gone through college then and got a degree in electrical engineering and I asked him about that, what was it like? And he showed me the books that he had. So I decided I wanted to get a degree in electrical engineering. I didn't want to work as an engineer, but I wanted that knowledge so I signed up. I had to go back to high school first for one course and then I went to Newark College of Engineering which is now New Jersey Institute of Technology. And it took me nine years most nights four a week. In the meantime, I had my own television installation and sales and repair business. And I had that from my father's house, father and mother, which were next door, and just did all of that until one thing led to another and I became mayor. So I left a TV repair business to be the mayor of the city.

Interviewer:

So the mayor's a full-time position?

Rooney:

The mayor is two full-time positions. The mayor of Paterson. That was a different form of government than we have now because we had had the same form for sixty-some years. It was a strong mayor form. There was no city council. There was a board of alderman but they had powers over pinball machines and dog licenses and things like that. The mayor was, I used to joke about it being a legalized dictatorship because it was. There was no restraining power on the mayor. You were truly like a dictator. The mayor appointed people to the Board of Education, all nine members. They were not elected as they are now. The mayor picked who he wanted on the Board of Education. There was also a Board of Finance for commissioners. He appointed all of them. The Board of Fire and Police, Public Safety- he appointed them. Public Works, he appointed them plus a lot of other positions. You elect a mayor and then he can't blame anybody for anything because it's all on his plate. You have total control. So anyhow shortly after, right after I won that, the state Supreme Court somebody from here had challenged the legality of it. And the state supreme court said that this form of government we had, the strong mayor, was unconstitutional. It had to be changed immediately. So the change came. They investigated different forms of government that are allowed in Jersey and cam up with Faulkner Plan B which is a mayor and a council which I liked then. I supported that even though it meant that I was going to lose being mayor, but the mayor had too much power. You could use it for good or you could cause a lot of troubles with it. And they held the election, and Pat Kramer, who had been mayor before me, he beat me which he did naturally. He beat everybody for mayor. Nobody could beat him, even Frank Graves and so I was out. We were elected to three year terms at that time, but halfway through my term the court said it had to be changed. I was not allowed to have the full three years. So I ran against Pat and he beat me 161 votes. But anyhow.

Interviewer:

He beat you by 161 or he had 161?

Rooney:

No, he beat me by 161 out of how many thousands, I forget. I had run twice before that as an independent in '66 and '69 and the first time I ran I was total unknown. I got 368 votes. Three years later I had been elected President of the Paterson Taxpayers Association. Did a lot stuff, investigation of the Kennedy High School roof and a report. And I went before the Posaic County Grand Jury with the evidence. It had not been constructed properly. So anyhow the second time in '69 I received over 5,000 votes and then for the third next one coming up was in '72 and the people who supported me said, "You're never going to win as an independent," because it was a partisan election (democrat party/republican party) and then independent is the little people who are wasting their time. So they said, "You should run in the democrat primary." So I did. And there were four of us that ran against each other in the primary, and one was the party choice, the party leader's choice, Senator Joel Azara. And they interviewed the rest of us but the other was Bill Pascrel who's been our Congressman for years now. Then there was Sy Anarelli who wound up becoming head of the freeholder board later and myself. And I won which was unthinkable because it was not supposed, like the city went wild down here. And the parties were all upset. But anyhow I won. I became the democrat party candidate. That was in June. And campaigned through the summer, and they put me on the ticket. Bob Row was also running for re-election to Congress. So November came and Ed Engelhart was the republican candidate for them and he was supposed to beat me because the newspapers were backing him and everything. But I had built up support from taxpayers especially because I ran a tax rike in '71 against the city. I led a tax rike. Our taxes were going too high and that had been my main opposition and fighting against this and this is too much and calculating percentage increases in all the different departments and what was okay and what was excessive. And so the people put me in. It really was a grass root thing. And I lowered taxes by 10% that first year which I had said I would do. And I did it. I don't know much how much nitty gritty you want to get into but the way it was done was that at that time the federal government was sending in, they got all these programs, and they had this kind of a program, revenue sharing. And Paterson was going to get $4 million and it was discretionary money. They encouraged the cities to take it to start new departments. And I took it and applied the whole thing toward lowering taxes because I figured we had enough government already which we did. So I lowered the taxes. And then the next year I lowered them again but the opposition went to Trenton where he had connections and forced it, I had it, it would have gone down I forget how many more percent but instead it went up 2%. But then the election came and there were several people running against me but Pat was the real, nobody could beat him for running for mayor. Nobody could beat him. He ran for Senator one time and lost big time, and I couldn't believe it. When I read all the numbers in the paper, I couldn't believe that this happened because he never lost. So anyhow I lost as mayor. I was mayor from January 1, of '73 to June 30 of '74, a year and a half out of the three years. And I challenged my supporters that we should be able to at least finish out the three-year term, but the court said, no that it had to be now. We had to get to a new form of government so when I lost I was out. And then I didn't come back again until that was in '74 and in 1980 I ran for city council, the sixth ward had opened up and I don't know if you know or not but we have six wards, each ward has its own councilman and then there are three that are at large. And so I won that in 1980 and then I won six more four-year terms after that four-year term so I was the sixth ward councilman for twenty-eight years and mayor for a year and a half before that so it was just under thirty years.

Interviewer:

Did you have any positions before mayor?

Rooney:

No, nothing.

Interviewer:

So you just went right into it.

Rooney:

I went right in for mayor, right in for mayor.

Interviewer:

Why?

Rooney:

Well, because my customers that I had that TV business and I was going through all these homes and fixing TVs and installing antennas and all of that. And they were talking about Paterson, the taxes had gone up and up and they did not like the welfare system because then I got involved with that and found out what it was because so many people were coming from other parts of the country into Paterson. And a cab driver told me one day before I was anything, he said, "These people come here. We pick them up down in Newark at the train station," or some place else, I forget where, and he said, "I have it written down on a piece of paper, Paterson Welfare Department, 32 Fair St, Paterson, New Jersey." And he says, "They give us this and tell us to take them to 32 Fair St, and they get on welfare." And in the meantime, the city had been cooperating with the federal government building these federal housing projects which has been a grievous mistake. So anyhow I found out more about that. And basically the welfare system at that time, I don't know what it is now, but it was saying to the women, get rid of your husband, get him out of the house, and we'll give you money. Because if he was there, they couldn't get the support. And it was breaking up families. I'm very old-fashioned or traditional or whatever you want to call it but you break up the family and you got troubles coming ahead. You really, really in spite of all the fancy talk, it's best by far if you have a good, solid father and a good, solid mother and then things seem to work out as good as they can for human beings who we are kind of a weird people anyhow. The things that people do. But the point was that was part of my program, lowering of taxes, had to be. And those are my main two things. So I promoted them, pushed for them publicly and then when I lost the first election in '66, the Paterson Taxpayers Association, which was only really a few people then, they asked if I would be their President. And I said okay. I found out what it was like and so they made me President. The night I was sworn in as President, there was a severe wind storm, rain storm, everything. And I read in the paper the next day or two that the new, we just built, the city built Kennedy High School, and the roof had come apart it said. So President of Taxpayers, I took it upon my self. I went up to the school. Oh dear! I don't know how I did all these things. But I went up there and found my way to the roof. The roof was not broken but the roofing had been torn off. It was all outside the school and the long lengths of metal flashing was all over. So I had a truck at that time from my TV business and I got some of these materials and put them in the truck and took them and then I went to get a copy of the specifications from the companies that made those materials and did like an engineer. By that time I had my degree so I went at it like an engineer. And there were serious violations of the materials that were used and the way that they were installed. So I took pictures of it when I was there and put together a report and made it public. And it showed that for an example the drains up on it was a flat roof but there was a slope to it, slopes in different places, and the drains were put on the highest part of the, in other words, when rain came down, it went away from the drains and pooled in these big puddles all over the roof. And so I went to see the architects, they were downtown, [?] Brothers, but they had designed and I showed them this. And they had seen in the newspaper because it was in the papers already what was there. And he said, "That's impossible. That's impossible." The other one shaking his head, "Can't be. Can't be. The drains are on the lowest part so the rain water goes into the drain." And I said, "Well, that may be the way you think it's supposed to be," but I said, "here are the pictures that I took." And it showed the water puddled away from drains. "That can't be. That's impossible. It can't be." I was down in their office. And I said, "Well, it obviously, if that can't be are you saying then when you built it that the drains were on the lowest part of the roof and now the roof has sagged and it's below the drains?" "That can't be. That's impossible." So anyhow we wound up with nothing. It was wrong. It was built wrong. So anyhow then the prosecutors office called and they wanted me to go before the grand jury and I did. I went down with my truck and brought all these things and big sections of roofing and the nails that. They used nails that I ran a test a dad's house next door with a scale, and I found that the specifications call for sixty pounds of pressure to remove a nail. And if you pulled them out with his scale twenty pounds only so it had only one-third the holding power. So no wonder that the wind whipped it up and blew it off. So I testified before them, and they came out with three things they came out with, an indictment or no bill or something and the presentment. And they came out with that and ordered that whole section of roofing had to be replaced and they did. But I was disappointed because somebody should have gone to jail for that. It was an absolute, positive violation of the specifications that were agreed to, and it could've killed people when that stuff blew down off the roof.

Interviewer:

Right, premises liability.

Rooney:

Right, right. But it was just it cost them $23,000 the Board of Ed, I think it was, to replace the roofing. But that always stuck in my mind. Here later on once you get deals and this guy knows that guy and all that kind of stuff but that's very disheartening because I was raised, I went to Catholic school with the nuns and then even in Newark College of Engineering, the standards of engineering are here and you do not go below that, whatever it is. So in any event it disappointed me and it opened my eyes if this is going on that we found out about, what else is going on? So anyhow those are reasons ultimately that I decided I was going to run which was really, it was a joke, the papers made a thing out of it. And I was a TV repair man and I wanted to be mayor and all of that. But on the third try I won the democrat, became their candidate.

Interviewer:

So on the third, oh, right, right, right.

Rooney:

Yeah because '66 I got 300 and some votes, '69 I got 5,000. Then in '72 in June I won the democratic primary and became their candidate but boy they didn't want that at all, the leaders, they didn't want that at all. And I understood their position because party because I had never been active in the party. I didn't want to be in a party because if you're in a party, the top ones decide how you're going to vote if you get there and what the policies are going to be. And you either carry them out or they don't choose you for the next time. But I like this. I like being my own boss. I think a lot about things and what's good or what I think is not good and that's the beauty of this form of government because you're not elected by a party. There's no democrat or republican. Anybody can run on their own, and you make your presentation to the voters and raise your money and all that and whoever the people picked, that's it. The party, I know still has some influence over it, but it's not like it was before. This is much better now. Much better this way.

Interviewer:

So what prompted you to run for city council?

Rooney:

Well, I had lost in what was, boy oh boy, '74, boy so many decades, '74 and was out of it and I was hired by a Chamber of Commerce and then I figured that's enough, you know, and I've been mayor and why would I want to be councilman? But the mayor ahead of me, Frank Graves, who was really powerful, when he lost to re-election, he ran for council. So I figured if Frank can do it, go from the highest position to a somewhat lower, then I but I didn't like what I was reading in the paper. They're doing this and they're doing that. And I don't like that. I don't think that's a good policy. And so I said I think I'll run for council. And I did in '80 and won. Again, I was against opposition, but I won. And I figured I'll try a term at this and see how it goes but if anybody told me then I would run and win seven four-year terms, that's impossible. I don't want that. I would never, never, never want that. I didn't want politics for years. One of the courses we had in Newark College of Engineering, English, and that teacher got into things like the real world not the engineering world but the real world and some time before semester was up, he says to me, he says, "You should be a lawyer or you should run for public office." And I said, "That's impossible, impossible because," I said, "I can't stand up in front of people and talk and I know if you're a lawyer you have to not only talk, you have to go into a court room. And a public figure, forget, because they have to be talking all the time and I'm not that way." In fact, when I first did run for mayor, talking to interviews for reporters that was okay because it's one-on-one like this. But they called, once the candidates had all declared, and I was this unknown dependent and they had a public speaking thing, whatever you call that.

Interviewer:

Press conference?

Rooney:

No, it's like a debate or something, but you would get up and present your thing. And it was an awful hot in August, down by the Christopher Columbus housing project which have since been torn down, out in the open. They had us up on the stage and there's there men that I had read about in the paper all the time- Pat Kramer, Mike Devita, and oh my goodness and here I am up there with them. And so we each had so many minutes to talk and I think there was a rebuttal, I forget. But when I got out and I'm in my suit and everything and tie which I would be with you except this is more casual but when I got up to the microphone and there's all the people down there and my father's down there. And everything went wrong. It was terrible. I was shaking like anything, stand there, my legs are shaking. I'm breaking into a sweat because it's hot anyhow. And my tongue would keep once in a while getting stuck because everything was dry and keep getting stuck to the top of my mouth. So anyhow I went on and made my presentation and some of them clapped and some didn't because they're in the housing project there. But when I got all done, I came down and talking to my father and I said, "That was terrible, wasn't it?" And he says, "What?" I says, "I was shaking and my mouth was dry and all." He says, "Tommy, nobody could tell that." And I said, "Oh, this is a good father. He's lying to me." Oh, I'm sorry to do this but this. But anyhow he did that a couple times and after a while it was fine. You do it a few times and it's fine. And I was always work out. That's one thing where engineering helped me. I never wanted to work as an engineer for a company, but I wanted that knowledge. And they told us at one of the orientation sessions down there that what you're going to learn, going nights it will take you eight/nine years but what you will learn here will help you in all aspects of your life because it will teach you to analyze situations, to break them down into components, which the best approach, which is the second, which is third, which is doable, which is not. And that's the way it all worked out even in politics and in finance down there. So anyhow but I'll never forget dad. "No, Tommy," he says, "nobody could see that." And I said, how could you say that. I didn't say that to him but it was terrible awful, awful, awful.

Interviewer:

Well, so let's back track. And let's talk about your parents. So were they immigrants?

Rooney:

No, Dad was born and raised down here in Cliffton. His father, they had about seven children, I think, grandpa and grandma. And my grandfather, dad's father, he died when dad was thirteen. And dad was not the oldest or the youngest, he was in the middle, but as they came into the older ones had to go to work. In fact, I'm the first one in the whole Rooney clan that ever went to college and graduated but the others as soon as you turn sixteen, you had to go. So he went working in the mill after grammar school. They didn't even have high school, the older ones.

Interviewer:

So when you say the mill, what exactly?

Rooney:

Well, it was some kind of a mill that cloth or something. He didn't talk about it too much but those spindles or whatever they call them, you had replaced them as one was runned out. So at sixteen instead of going to college or anything, he was down there. I think it was before sixteen because I don't know those years, it was 100 years ago so I don't know if you had a way until you were sixteen. But in any event…

Interviewer:

And was that a mill in Paterson or a mill somewhere else?

Rooney:

No, I think it was in Clifton, that one.

Interviewer:

Okay.

Rooney:

And so the older ones had to go through work, of course, because the father who had been a contractor who built St. George Rectory down here, among other things, he died so the older ones had to go to work. And it was hard. But see and then my mother was born and raised on a farm in Illinois, her parents were tenant farmers. They didn't own the land, but they did the work and then split the thing somehow with the owner. And after I was born, they were married. Dad went out there to visit some former neighbors they had from here. And at church on Sunday, they got introduced around and he met who would future be my mother and they started writing to each other because there were no smartphones and everything, no Skype and everything then. But it was all letters back and forth. And they went out in the next year and the next year. So they met in '21 and in '25, four years later they got married. And mom moved here. And they rented the thing on Knickerbocker Ave right down here between Main and Getty on the second floor where I was born two years later in '27. But see I was, my whole thing comes from people who works. In other words, there's no wealth or no great stature or anything in our family. And it was just, you worked. If you could work, if you could move at all, you work. And the school, same thing, old-fashioned stuff. Teacher was the boss of the class. The principal was the boss of the school. Student was the boss of nothing. This whole thing now where students I know as educators you're trying to raise their self-impressions and everything and that's good, build up confidence. But there was no such thing as a kid talking back to a teacher. I mean it was what is was.

Interviewer:

Or anybody who is older.

Rooney:

Or anybody. That's right. I said, yeah. And now I've heard them, even when I was mayor one time, we had a thing up there, a fire of some kind, and the cop was telling people to get back out of the road onto past the curb. And I was mayor, and I moved back because he has authority over me. Technically, I have it over him, but then later they started with this thing, I got my rights. And I heard a little kid one time, he's a little higher than this desk and the cop told him to do something. I forget what, just a silly thing, but the kid says, "I got my rights." And I looked at him. What are you talking about? What is this we got into? All these little kids, they got rights. I never heard I had any rights until I was up in my twenties because in school you never had any rights, and you never. And then I went to work on a railroad for a year, nights, after I graduated high school and then I went in the Navy. On the railroad I had no rights. In the Navy you positively had no rights. But this whole thing of I got my rights. That came I guess somewhere in the sixties or something like that with the riots and everything.

Interviewer:

And we're going to come back to that. What railroad did you work on?

Rooney:

The Erie.

Interviewer:

Erie.

Rooney:

Now I think it's Erie-Lackawanna or something like that. Dad worked on there. He was a lucky at that he said because during the thirties when I was a kid and growing up, dad had a job. And even as like a kid I didn't really realize the depression and all the great impact that it had because they never talked about. They never complained about it. He had a job. He didn't make a lot of money. And mom didn't work because we had, by then she had four of us, and another one came years later. So she worked during one year as and Curtiss Wright down here, and the reason she did that was because they had rented the house next door, 13 Grove St. They had rented other places before and then got into this. And it's a beautiful home. She loved it. And then the owner because the depression was having to sell it. And she was in tears. And so the people next door, Vic and May Zimmer, said, "What are you crying about?" because she was outside crying. And they said, "What are you crying about?" and she told them, she said, "We're going to have to move out because the owner has to sell the house." So he said, "How much does he want?" So he wanted $5,000. That was in 1938 so that was in a real depression. And he had just couldn't $5,000. But she says, "They want a $1,000 down, and I don't have $1,000 and can't get it." He says, "You do have it," he says, "I'll get it to you." He says, "You pay me back later." So he gave them the $1,000. They lived in that little house next door to mom and dad. And oh dear, so they took on a mortgage of $4,000 which now is nothing, but in those days that was rough. And so they took that on. And then we lived there and now my daughter is there now. Dad died decades ago from cancer, and mom lasted longer than that. But she had a stroke that almost killed her, cerebral hemorrhage where something in her brain opened up and the blood went out and everything. And it took her a long time. And dad was still alive and he helped her with the rehabbed and everything. He made the thing you pedal with your feet and doing other exercises and finally she got where she was back on her feet again, had to use a walker which Joan is using now upstairs. She's got bad arthritis. So it wound up with her taking care of him a few years later when the cancer went all through his body and he couldn't do anything. So we helped him. And then he died over there. And she was there. And my brother and I when he passed away and took care of him. And then she lived for quite a while. He died in '77. She died in '93. But she got back again where she could make herself a cup of tea and everything. But the point is, and I don't mean to digress too much on all of this, but the point is we're brought up with very definite, there's right and wrong. There was not a lot of the gray stuff. I hate doing this. I hate like this. But it's all these things come back to me, you know, like they just happened. And raised with high standards, and I expect high standards in my city. That's really what it got down there. And this is what breaks my heart about Paterson now. And I've said different times publicly when I was on the council that the attitude of so many people is it's only Paterson, anything goes. That's our motto: Anything goes. The literal loan, just take that, when we moved in here, this house was over in Kentucky Ave. Route 80 was coming through in '61, and you could get a house for nothing. And we had it moved $1500 you buy the house and cost covers getting moved. So mom and dad owned these two lots here that we played in. And they changed them over to us, Joan and I, and so we bought one of those houses in '61, had it moved over here. And we've been here ever since. But a year or two after we moved here, I was going out to the car, didn't have a driveway then, we parked out in front. And something caught my eye over here. And it was on the sidewalk. And it was a little, green paper. So I walked over and picked it up. And I don't know if you've ever paid attention to it or not. Wrigley's chewing gum had each individual stick, there were I think five in there, each one's wrapped in a green paper.

Interviewer:

Right, spearmint.

Rooney:

And it was one of those papers, yeah! And it was one of those papers was on the sidewalk and I walked over and when I saw what it was, and I'm thinking how can anybody do that? Why they would they throw that on my side because there was nothing else there. There was no litter. Now I go out constantly and pick up other people's litter- bottle they've thrown out of the car. The city, it breaks my, it really does because people say, "Well, that's how it is," but that's not how it was. See, this is the difference. People who come here more recently, they accept all of this as normal, all this filth and garbage that's in Paterson- old tires and bottle and cans and everything. That's all accepted as normal now, and that's not normal. And that really, really, really bothers me. And because it doesn't have to be and we get in an argument one time at a council meeting and somebody says, "Well, there's nothing you can do about it. It just comes." And I said, "It doesn't come from God. It doesn't come from nature. It comes from other people breaking the law and throwing their stuff all over the place." But that's, I don't know how I got off onto that but that's- And the same thing with noise. In those early years, I'm not saying that those were like you died and went to heaven and that's how it was here because it wasn't. But there was very great consideration for neighbors. I mean we were told like when they were renting the house next door and another house some place and I had a chalk mark and I started to make a mark my brother how high he was. I was going to make a wall. "Oh, Tommy, you don't do that because you never mark up someone's property." In other words, those are the standards that I was raised by, and they're not the standards that exist now. And I don't see when they're going to be the standards for maybe I don't know when, when.

Interviewer:

Can you talk about the neighborhood you grew up and what that was like?

Rooney:

Yeah, the neighborhood was ideal. It was always a working man's neighborhood. It was not like upper east side and all of that. Everybody worked. And it was heavily Irish, a lot of Irish. Some Italians. Some Syrians. George Hyac (sp?) another, he and Agnes were in my class in St. George's. But it was little stores, but people went to work and people had the stores. And you had respect for your neighbors. And you knew almost everybody like on Grove St we knew everybody. And you could sit on the front porch and people walking by, "How are you?' this and that. And then it sounds unrealistic now. Younger people probably don't believe it that it could be. But you really did not lock your doors or close your windows when you went out. You just closed the door. You didn't lock everything up and make sure all the windows were closed because if there were burglaries, I never heard about them. And that was all during the 1930's and even during the war years. But anyhow then the other thing my mother went to work once, I think it was for a year, Curtiss Wright during the war down here. And she took the evening shift from eleven until seven in the morning to make up to earn $1,000 to pay back Vic Zimmer who had loaned them the money to buy the house. And then she wanted to be home. She didn't have a desire for becoming President of General Motors or anything like that. And Joan is the same way. She just wanted to be a wife and a mother and have the home and we were able to do that. It wasn't easy, but we did. But those are the standards that i was taught. And every summer we would go out to visit mom's folks in Illinois. Dad worked on the railroad. He had a pass so she could ride and the kids could ride for nothing. And she'd bring food along with her so you didn't have to buy food. And we'd go out there and that was a hard life. Grandpa had horses at that time. He didn't get into tractors. He didn't like tractors because he says the oil and stuff spills out and it can wreck the soil. And he said with the horses that was natural fertilizer for the soil. So he would never bother and he didn't ever bother with tractors. Now of course, you think of plowing your field with a horse, that's ridiculous But he would take me for a ride on his equipment going down. He'd strap me in and we'd go out in the fields and just all this big fields of oats. They grew a lot of oats. And then there'd be corn. And the corn would grow so high. And I was a little kid and this thing is towering over me. Go down in there, my brother and I hiding from each other. But anyhow it was hard, hard work that he had cows so they had to wake up very early in the morning and go and milk the cows and then come back. And they had a full breakfast like a dinner- ham and eggs and all the things you're not supposed to eat. And then we'd go back out again and work more. And they would work until dusk, through dusk until it got dark. In other words, I guess it's the way humans did it for thousands of years, right? Night time came, you slept. In the day time you did your work. And so I grew up there. And as a little kid it was like you went into this wonderful place so different from the city.

Interviewer:

And how long did you stay when you went?

Rooney:

Two weeks. Yeah, dad had two weeks vacation. And then they would send back with mom bunches of boxes of eggs and they'd ship back chickens because we raised chickens. The back yard they had made it a chicken coup. They would lay the eggs, and then mom would kill and dress the chickens. See that's another thing that's different. I grew up a chicken was a thing walking around, and you had to kill it and you had to de-feather it. And you had to do all these things until finally you wound up with a piece of meat. But now I don't think most people know where the meat comes from, what it looks like originally and what has to be done to get it wrapped up in plastic or whatever. But that's really my background. Very religious. Very religious. And the ten commandments, you obeyed the ten commands, and God was watching. And you think you could away with something, but you may get away with it down here but he's watching. And sooner or later you're going have to account for what you do in life.

Interviewer:

So what made your parents choose Paterson?

Rooney:

Well, at that time Grandma was living on Crooks Ave in Paterson with the kids and her sister, Aunt Rose, who worked in a mill down here on Gold Ave, Hand's Mill. And she's the one that saw that this house was for rent. She was walking from that mill on Gold Ave up here to go to Crooks Ave. She saw there as a sign on here for rent. And that's how we would up getting not this house but theirs next door where my daughter and her husband live now. So we've been in that house for a long time, since 1938.

Interviewer:

Right. And what were your parents' names?

Rooney:

Thomas and Eva. Eva Irene Houston.

Interviewer:

Okay.

Rooney:

In other words, it's very, very down to earth I guess, ordinary everything for background. You know, if you come into the Rockerfellers or the Kennedys then your way of life is going to be very, very different. But they never pushed me to do this or do that after I got out of the Navy, I went two years to Newark to television school. And but that was all on my own doing. They never pushed me do this, do that, never pushed any of this. But you had to do your homework which I wanted to do. I liked school. I liked school a lot. But those years of going down to Newark College of Engineering and running my TV business six days a week up here, they were hard because most years were four evenings a week, three hours a night and sometimes four. And one of the orientation sessions, again, he got up and he's telling us what it's like and everything and he said, "one thing I want to make clear," he said, "for every hour of class time, you will have at least one hour of homework. If you don't intend to do it, quit now because you will never get through this college." And he went on to explain, he says, "You know, it's one thing to be in the class and watching the teacher do work or you're doing it and he's doing it with you." But he says, "You can't call that knowledge your own until you can go by yourself and do it by yourself. So he says that's what homework is for." And he says, "If you don't intend to do it, there's no point. Just quit now because you'll never get through here."

Interviewer:

I can remember that for my own students.

Rooney:

Yeah, yeah. And the thing with the, another thing, because some of these things when you're a little kid, I don't know if the adults really realize what an impact they're having on you, but the sisters in St. George's used to write on the blackboard JMJ (Jesus, Mary, Joseph) and then under that they would write a little saying. And the one that stayed in my life all the time was a two-liner: Pray as though everything depends on God, but work as though everything depends on you. Because it's true. I don't behave like this normally. I'm sorry I'm doing this but when I talk about these things, being on the council once or twice over the years, I'd start saying something and it would connect with my mother or father and I choke up right there. I apologize. But the thing is that and that's how I live my life because that's logical, right? You pray to God. Pray as though everything depends on God. Then there was the "but." Work as though everything depends on you. And it works. It's a good system.

Interviewer:

So were you involved in any of the scrap metal drives or victory gardens in World War II?

Rooney:

Mom had the, they didn't call it a victory garden, it's just since they moved when they moved next door, she took that whole backyard and except for a little part that was grass because coming from the farm out there, they grew their own food so to her it was natural you got soil and you grew. I didn't pay attention to what she was growing. But she even planted, they came out with these dwarf fruit trees where they wouldn't grow up into full size. One was spliced onto a trunk and a root from another brand and somehow they wouldn't grow that big. They were only maybe eight feet tall. And they would have wholesome peaches and stuff. And she planted some of them. And then she'd go out and she'd harvest the tomatoes. We got tomatoes. But she did that before the war started and also after the war was over because that was part of her whole nature, her upbringing. You have soil and you plant. And the scrap drives, I don't remember that that much. We had to turn things in because dad said we have to look. Yeah, but it was done more by him than by me because I was only, what, fourteen when they bombed Pearl Harbor. But then you had then I remember she had a deal with stamps of some kind, rationing stamps. And when she'd send me tot he store, you're going to need two of these coupons or red stamps, whatever they were, I forget. Because she would make the list and then calculate how many stamps and I would go down and get them. But they just accepted things as they happened, you know? Like now people have asked me, what did your grandfather die of? Well, I don't know because they never talked about what anybody died of. We had other uncles and aunts and people, grandparents, and they died. So you died, you died. You'd bring them to the, the undertaker would come and take them, and then you'd have the wake and then you have the mass and then you go to the ceremony. But there was no like now all this analysis nowadays of what specific little virus or something. And I understand it all, but it seems like they solve for one virus and ten others pop up some place so I don't know where we're going. I think there are possibilities for real, real, real big scale plagues or anything for the way that it's going.

Interviewer:

So talk about your family traditions. How did you celebrate holidays?

Rooney:

Well, the main holiday was Christmas. And that was like the build-up for Santa Claus. When you're little, Santa Claus is coming. And I always wondered how did he get down that chimney because that didn't look like that was- oh dear, dear, dear. Oh my goodness. No, it was just traditional. Every year there'd be this tree. And when we were little, you believed that Santa Claus came and took care of everything. And you wake up the next morning and there's a tree with lights and that foil on it and presents under the tree. And wow, wow, wow and all this. And then, but it was all very, very simple. I think the biggest present they ever got us was a little railroad train.

Interviewer:

I had a feeling.

Rooney:

Yeah, yeah.

Interviewer:

Lionel?

Rooney:

Lionel. Yeah. I don't know if there was anything else because I never heard of anything else. But there was just a round track or oval track under the tree. And boy that was a wonder how that little thing you could turn it on. And dad explained how it had to be plugged into the wall and then the transformer and the motor and you can make it go backwards. But we never got into it with the different switches and everything. It was just an oval thing. But that was a big one. And then I was interested in toy planes when I was little. I'd get one of them. And then I got where I would make these model planes. You had to cut all the pieces of balsa wood and glue them together. Make this and then take the tissue paper and cover the wing over with that. And I did that until I was in upper teens. I made some beautiful planes. The war planes that was had during World War II, similar to what we had under Roosevelt. And Lindbergh's plane, the Spirit of St. Louis. That's how we spent our time, doing things like that. And we had chores to do around the house. That's what I mean. All I ever heard was, you're responsible for this or you're chore is to do that or you help out by doing that. They never told me I ever had any rights whatsoever until I was up in my twenties. And they didn't give me any, what do you call them, complexes or anything like that. It's just that's the way it was, and that's the way it was. And we had our friends and we would go to their house and they would come to our house. Mom and dad always made it friendly and everything for them to come here. But there never was, I don't remember any kind of like a commotion like when I went to my friends' house, you would never think of raising your voice or shouting, and they would never do it when they came to our house. It was just the standards were high, but they were normal. That's just the normal, simple way of life. And so they took care of us, and you had to do your homework and whatever chores there were for each of us. You just did them. And my sister, Mary Ellen, they got four boys and one girl. And she would help mom out with the shopping and the going to doing things around the kitchen and the house. And again, it was just like it was very simple. It was very simple. We had a telephone. In the earlier years we had a radio. There was no TV. That didn't come until after I got out of the Navy. Oh, the other thing I remember about being young. And boy oh boy that's like it happened five minutes ago. Dad had a big, red easy chair by the radio. And he smoked. Everybody smoked. And when I watch these older movies on TV, the ladies are smoking, the men are smoking. It's terrible. But anyhow he smoked. And I was a little kid. Oh dear. And he was sitting in his chair, smoking, reading the paper, listening to the radio, and I went over by him and I put my arms on the chair so I was, I would have been this small like this because my elbows were, I had to reach up to get them on the arms of his chair. And says, "Dad, what is it like to smoke?" And he looks at me and he smiles and he says, "You want to try it?" I says, "Yeah."

Interviewer:

Was he smoking a cigarette or…

Rooney:

Yeah, a cigarette. Yeah, a cigarette. And so he smiled. He put the paper aside. It's just like it just happened now. He took the cigarette and he says, "Put it in your mouth." So I put it in my mouth. And he says, "Now breathe in." So I [inhaling sound] Oh, whoa, I thought I was going to die. I thought I was going to die. I really, truly thought I was dying. I was coughing and sneezing. And my eyes are just pouring water out and everything else. And I'm all bent over. Finally I look up to him and he smiled unlike anything. So finally when I was able to talk, I says, "How come you don't do that?" And he says, "Ah, Tommy, if you smoke enough of them you get used to it." Well, I said, "I ain't smoking one of them ever. That's terrible."

Interviewer:

That was his point.

Rooney:

That was his point, yeah. And the whole thing was- That was it because I truly thought I was going to die. I couldn't breathe right. And he just smokes and blows the smoke out. And it looks easy. But then he didn't one other time too. The Irish had a saying, if you have a cold, you take warm water. Not warm, warm milk. You heat up the milk, and you put in one spoon of whiskey. So he had, he never drank. And he had this little, tiny glass of whiskey way up on the top shelf in the closet there. And he took that and he took a spoon, put it into the thing, sealed it up, and put it over. Started to drinking. I said, "What does that taste like?" He says, "What? This milk?" I said, "No, the stuff in the bottle." He says, "That's whiskey." And I said, "What does that taste like?" He said, "You want to try it?" The same thing he had done for me some years before with the cigarette. And I said, "Yeah." So he took a little tiny, mom had some little glasses for planting things. And he put that down and poured a tiny little bit of it into there. And he says, "Just drink that." So I took it and swigged it, whoa! Fire! Fire! Terrible, terrible, fire. And the breathing wasn't going right. Nothing's going right. So it was the same thing. Then I realized what he had done. He did the same thing that he did with the cigarette.

Interviewer:

You fell for it again.

Rooney:

Oh, I fell for it again. By then I must have been eleven or twelve. Yeah, eleven or twelve. And I have never had a sip of whiskey since. I don't have any desire for it. I hate beer. Well, that was another thing. Mrs. O'Neal who had two kids that my brother and I played with. They lived down here. And she took us one time to Palisades Park, and she was sitting out in the thing. Everybody's out in the tables there or swimming or whatever. And she got a glass of beer. And I did the same thing with her. I was watching her drink it, and it has all this stuff on top. And I said, "What does that taste like? Do you like that?" And she says, "Yeah," she says, "do you want to taste?' I said, "Yeah." So I took it, and I started to take a sip and there's all this froth. And it felt like all soap suds in my mouth and everything. And whoa! And I put the thing down. I didn't like the taste. But mostly I didn't like all that froth. And I never had a sip of beer ever since. I've had once in a while somebody would offer you a little glass of wine. But I don't, I like milk and I like coffee. I like tea, iced tea, hot tea. I like all that. But in other words, I think that's why I have quite good health now because I haven't had cigarettes especially because when you get older and then you learn what they can do to you. And that's bad. And the liquor, you can become addicted to. So I haven't had all of that. I like ice cream which is not good for weak. But anyhow that's what our life was like- very, very simple.

Interviewer:

What was your favorite meal that your mother would make?

Rooney:

Oh dear. I like everything except for the spinach. I couldn't eat spinach. She'd say, "Spinach is good for you, Tommy." I said, "Yeah, may be good, but I don't like it." But it was all meat and potatoes and a vegetable all the time. And she was an absolute, superb cook. Maybe the stew that she made because that would be all. She'd chop up this meat and the other things and the thick gravy. I don't know. I haven't thought about the food in a long time. But pancakes, oh, they were good! Butter and syrup on top of them. And she'd make those things that had to go in that special, waffles. Make them. But it was just mashed potatoes usually and a vegetable. But she could make other kinds of potatoes too- fried, french fried potatoes, and those little, tiny fried potatoes went good with everything. All just nothing fancy. No pheasant under glass.

Interviewer:

Did you ever go out to eat?

Rooney:

They never went out to eat. It was during the Depression and you were lucky enough to get food to bring, afford the food at home. No. I can't recall ever where they took all of us, we went to the diner or something like that. We didn't. And the depression, they never talked about it.

Interviewer:

Did your father have a car?

Rooney:

We didn't have a car until after I came out of the Navy. I was nineteen. And by that time the government or the companies were allowed, they didn't have to make the tanks and stuff anymore for the war and they were making cars again so people were buying the newer cars and selling off their old ones. And one dealer down some place off Main St, he had, it turned out it was a 1938 Plymouth four-door and $200. And we talked about getting a car. They didn't have anything against it, but mom used to drive. She drove out in Illinois on the farm. Dad never bothered. But anyhow that was it. That was in 1945 or 46. Yeah. Because I was out of the Navy and working again back on the railroad and then going to school. So that was the first car we had. It was in '45 or '46. We got a $200 Plymouth. And at that time they were all stick shifts, no air conditioning. In fact, when they came out with air conditioning for cars, I was thinking, that's really silly because if it's hot, you open the windows and drive and you get the breeze. Now I wouldn't buy a car if it didn't have air conditioning because just opening the windows and having hot air come on you. But in other words I was brought up my whole life has been very simple, very down-to-earth, and no great adventures going to there and Joan and I would go down to the shore. We drove out to Illinois a time or two to see my grandparents.

Interviewer:

Did you ever go to the parks here?

Rooney:

Dad would take me to the one park, especially that one on Market St by St. Joseph's Church. Isn't that terrible? I can't think of the name of it. But anyhow they had a bandstand out there, and the band would play on Sunday. I think it was Sunday afternoon. And we would walk over because we didn't have a car. You walked everywhere. And it was so beautiful, so beautiful. The music and the people and the pathways to walk around and people talking and listening and then clapping when the music that was played. And it was music. It wasn't like this noise that goes on now that they call music. But then he would take me up sometimes to Hinchliffe Stadium to watch different times there'd be those car races and then the Paterson Panthers, the football team that played. And that was it. That was really special. But see even there now you would think, well, you're going to walk up to Hinchliffe Stadium? Whoa, that's impossible. Then you did all this walking, walking, and walking. There was no cars. Most of us had. When we moved here on this street, 1938, I remember there was one car that was down the street and that was all. And you would never imagine that it could be like it is now that all of us would have two cars to a family, almost a car for every person. Families where they've got four people- two adults, two children- each one has their own car and not enough parking space. But it was like a different world, it really was. And yet it's the same buildings and everything basically. But those garden apartments were not over there. The gas station was not there on the corner. There was one, big, old house that took most of the block except for the church, Mrs. Hinchliffe's house and had that wisteria or whatever those plants are that grow there with the big clumps of purple or dark blue.

Interviewer:

Or was that hydrangea?

Rooney:

No, not a hydrangea. I have one of them in the backyard. It was a vine that grew up with these things on it. And she was nice. She had all the space in the back and when I got into high school and I got interested in basketball, dad asked me one time, she had a big tree right across Grove St there on that property and he asked her if it would be okay if he made a backboard and a basket and put it on a tree so Tommy and his friends could play basketball there. And said sure.

Interviewer:

Nobody would agree to that now.

Rooney:

Well, no, they wouldn't agree. And the city would say, "Well, that's the city's responsibility. What is the city doing for you?" But he did. And it was just all dirt. But the dirt became like concrete after a while. Well we dribbled on there and shot and we had a lot of fun, a lot of fun, hundreds of hours of playing basketball. And there again, see, that's another thing. We did not, they never said we had to look to the government to do this. It's us. What can we do? What can we do ourselves? So and it worked. I'm glad I had a life like that. Now it's so complicated. As far as drugs go, I know you didn't get into that. There were no drugs all through high school. In Navy some guys smoked. No heroin. No marijuana. I never even heard of that until later years. Cocaine never heard about it. Coke, Coca-Cola, and then you find out supposedly originally they had cocaine in the Coke. But all of these temptations that are there now just we didn't have them. They just were not there.

Interviewer:

What was your first introduction to the Great Falls?

Rooney:

Again when I was a boy and Dad took me up there. I guess one of the times, maybe more, when we were going to Hinchliffe Stadium, he would take me over by the Falls. And that stayed in my mind. I mean that was awesome. That was awesome. Where you could stand up there and look at all that water coming down and the sound coming from it and the spray coming up. And I remember when the sun was shining I guess the right angle or something, the rainbow would be beautiful, beautiful. The spray is coming up and there's this rainbow in among all the spray. And that stayed in my life too. That's how I got involved with this thing. I don't know if you ever saw one of them or heard of it. That's how I got involved with this to create up there a park.

Interviewer:

Yes, let's talk about that.

Rooney:

Tourist attractions, yeah, yeah.

Interviewer:

So tell me about that.

Rooney:

Well, coming on the council and different people in proposals do this and that and build a housing project down around there. And our specialists would tell us there's no other use for that property, nobody wants it. And this one proposal came in would have to be done and massive, but it would give some revenue to the city [?]. So I voted for it because they told us there was nothing else. And then later on I was against it because I got involved thinking the Falls and then that whole area around there with those old mills that were burning down or had burned down. And somehow it all just came to me that this could be a tourist attraction. It should be. And they're saying how Alexander Hamilton was up there and all those other people. And it became what it became. And I was thinking instead of all the just nothing, the decay and everything, we could make that into a park that would be a tourist attraction. And then I got to thinking about it and thinking about it and going up there. And sometimes I'd go up there and go down and sit by a rock on the river. And I still did that again fairly recently. And sit on a rock or a log is even better. And it's like you're not in a city. We're supposed to be one of the most crowded cities in the United States, but when you're up there, you hear the sound of the water going over those silver rocks. And it's like music, I know the great composers design music from that. But all you hear are the birds and on a breezy day, you get the leaves blowing back and forth. And a couple times I saw a rabbit up there. I don't know how in the world they got there, but they go huffing along. But in other words, I was not in the city anymore. I was out there's this place that's like 1,000 miles from any cities. And I remember one day I was up there and boy I was in this thing where I'd visualize Indians how it used to be there and they'd be coming around. And all of a sudden I'm really, really into this. I'm like expecting- sounds to stupid- expecting any time an Indian could come along. And all of a sudden I hear this noise and then I became aware it's a helicopter going over head. And I got mad at the helicopter. Get out of here! I'm all by myself, and I'm talking to this helicopter. What are you doing here? Like he was an intrusion on to where I was. And then all of a sudden I realized that's silly talk. That's stupid talking like that because he belongs here. But that's how it got me into this idea. And then I started thinking how to piece it together so I wound up putting this thing together, this proposal which I made copies and presented it to the council and the mayor at that time and the public and it really, really caught on. And then I made the next of those in 2001, right? I forget. May, I think, of 2001. And then I got invitations from different groups to discuss it with them so at one place was down in the chambers that the freeholders chambers and I had made a thing with slides to project the transparencies to project them and using the pictures that are in here. And it was a big hit. And the one man attorney, Pat DiIanni, at the end of it he says, "Tom," he calls me over and he says, "Tom," he says, "do you think you could make a model of that?"

Interviewer:

Oh, I've seen the picture of you with the model.

Rooney:

Yeah, and he says, "Could you make a model because then it would be clearer for people to understand?" And I said, "I don't know. I've never, how could you make a model of that?" So anyhow I got to thinking about it and ultimately I did. And I found a store that sells those like for model railroads and the scenery and everything down in Cedar Grove. And I went to the engineering division downtown. And I got topographical maps for that area so it would give you the contours of the land and the distances and everything. And I brought it upstairs into my library and put a table out there. And anyhow I bought a kit first from them, how you make this stuff and how you use this and what goes here and the colorings and the trees and all of that. And I made a little model. And I got familiar with how you do it. And then I took on I said maybe I can. So I picked out the area that I would want—the Falls and the ATP site and the river.

Interviewer:

It's ATP stands for?

Rooney:

Allied Textile Processing. That's where they would die linens and things. And so anyhow I started, and I made it two sections. And one is the chasm, and the other is the ATP site. And the river is in there too. And I had it all together in my head, how I wanted it to go. So I got the big pieces of styrofoam foam and that was the base. And somehow I projected, I got a projector with I had my camera and a projector and I put this big base thing of styrofoam up against the wall, the bookcase, and projected these contoured lines from the map, from engineering, up onto this and then I drew all of them onto this thing. Oh dear. And then put it down and started building it from there. So when you see it, it really is. I got some of them somewhere around here. In others words, I wanted and I built it to scale.

Interviewer:

Here's a picture.

Rooney:

Yeah, I have some.

Interviewer:

No, this is the article I printed out.

Rooney:

Oh, from the New York Times?

Interviewer:

Yeah.

Rooney:

Yeah, there are some bigger pictures I took. So I built the one section with the Falls, the chasm itself, and then I built the other section. And I had to change the scale. The one with the Falls and the chasm, one inch equals eight feet. On the other one, if I kept the same thing, it would three times as long and three times as wide. So it's one inch equals twenty-four feet. And it all came together in my head. It took me eight months, nine months, to do this thing.

Interviewer:

Well, good thing you had your engineering background.

Rooney:

It all came together.

Interviewer:

And your model planes.

Rooney:

It all came together.

Interviewer:

Yeah.

Rooney:

It all came together. Yeah, that's some of the things that are on it.

Interviewer:

Yeah, when I looked at the picture, I was impressed with the boat.

Rooney:

Yeah, the boat. Now the boat I couldn't find a boat like I wanted so they had model some place there was model cars and some buses. And what I wound doing was buying several of the buses. And they're like poured lead or something. And I cut off the top. And the whole top of the bus, turned it upside down, and it became one of these things. But anyhow this was my- And then the mayor wanted me to, at that time, Joey Torres, wanted me to bring it down to city hall so we could see it. And I did. I brought down in the council chamber and then when everybody saw it there then he wanted it down in the lobby of city hall. And he left it there for a couple years.

Interviewer:

Let's not cover up the mic.

Rooney:

Oh, oh. So he had it down in the lobby and then three times we took it down to the league of municipalities.

Interviewer:

Can you actually get that close?

Rooney:

Pardon?

Interviewer:

Can you actually get that close to the water? To the Falls?

Rooney:

Not now. That whole thing would have to be built, that ledge.

Interviewer:

Yeah.

Rooney:

And my idea is to build it out of the same, not out of where the steel would show and all of that, where it would look like a natural projection…

Interviewer:

Oh I see…

Rooney:

of a ledge from the rock wall.

Interviewer:

Yeah.

Rooney:

And it would be covered with fresh, wet concrete. And then the wet concrete, you would take some of those sections of the wall that have fallen over past generations that are down under the water, bring them up and grind them into like a sand and have that. That would be the ledge. So it would be the same rock that is on the wall itself so if it rained they would all turn the same color, dry the same color. But the whole purpose is to get people for the first time ever to be able to walk down into the chasm and instead of looking at the Falls from up on top looking down at it to be down below looking up at it. Because my wife and I, we went on our honeymoon to…

Interviewer:

Niagara…

Rooney:

Niagara and we were down by the bottom, not only on that Maid of the Mist but also somehow at that time you could get down at the bottom and look up. And it's totally different from up on top looking down to down below looking up. And in that chasm, can you imagine what the sound reverberations must be down in there and to have the mist coming up and everything? But anyhow that's my proposal. And the…

Interviewer:

So where does it stand now?

Rooney:

Well, where it stands now is I'm on the—I got appointed. The council appointed me four years ago to the Passaic, the state took it over, and they made a proposal which I didn't like parts of it. And then Congressman Bill Pascrell has been pushing down on Washington. And he finally got it named a National Park. So it's one of the National Parks. And then the Secretary of the Interior formed an advisory commission, no it's the Great Falls National Historical Park Advisory Commission. And I think there are nine of us on it. I got appointed to that by the city council because of all the work I had done. And got a three-year term and then you can have one more and that's all. And so I've been on it now four years. I have two more years to go and then I'm all done with that. But at that time I'll be ninety anyhow. So at some point it's time to…

Interviewer:

to step back…

Rooney:

To step back like I did with the council. You know, I mean twenty-eight years on the council, at some point you had to stop that. But that's the whole story about this. But I want the Indian village. But the thing with the, here's me and Kramer. That's another. We used to go at it. Oh my goodness!

Interviewer:

Yeah.

Rooney:

And now we're really, really together on this thing. He's on the commission also. And we see eye to eye on this whole thing.

Interviewer:

So…

Rooney:

Here's me when I was mayor.

Interviewer:

Oh, look at that.

Rooney:

[?] standing at the mayor's desk happy as can be.

Interviewer:

I'm going to take a photo of that one. So…

Rooney:

This is the one that you were talking about.

Interviewer:

No, it was this one. Oh yeah, same thing.

Rooney:

It's the same thing, yeah, that's the original.

Interviewer:

So you mentioned drugs and I don't necessarily want to talk about that, but it brings me to the sixties. And so when did you start seeing changes in Paterson?

Rooney:

Well, the first changes, see, during all my younger years, Paterson to me was South Paterson. We didn't have a car. Dad would take me once in a while to one of these parks or up to the Great Falls. But to go to the Riverside section, I had no idea where it was. I didn't care. It didn't have any meaning to my everyday life. Hillcrest [?] section though that's too far away. The east side, the upper east side section, where the things were. I was never up there at all so to me Paterson was South Paterson. And I rarely did any shopping. I don't really like shopping. But downtown I knew there was downtown. I don't think I was ever in city hall until I was an adult and bought this property. And then went down and had a fight with the tax assessor the first year, a shouting fight. I was really mad. I don't think I was ever that mad in my life. But the first thing that I was- to me, and I know this contradicts all kind of theory and everything, the turning point in Paterson was when they got involved with the federal government and the Alexander Hamilton housing project over there in the Lakeview section because that was totally out of whatever you call it with the rest of the character of that whole, entire section - totally, absolutely- all those big, high buildings going on. But they built it for the returning veterans, that was about 19- I guess - 52, from World War II. And in the beginning it was fine. I wouldn't want to live in one of them. But then things started to change. And the first thing I read in the newspapers almost like just a little mention is the Jews are moving out of Paterson. And the Jews which I never really had any contact because they were not in South Paterson but their standards and on education I guess especially very, very, very high. Eastside High School where they attended was "the" high school to go to. It was "the" high school. It was above Central, it was good. Others were okay. But Eastside High School that's where you went. Then as they moved out, then the population started to change. And this I really don't like to get into because you're not supposed let the population changed and then in the sixties came those riots that were nationwide. And we had some down here also in Paterson. And for some reason by that time I guess I had been at the Paterson Taxpayers Association. I was President. But anyhow I wound up riding in a cop car with the chief at that time and going through some of these neighborhoods. And it was bad. It was bad. So I would say that to me the turning point where was those, the more, and again, this goes against the common thing, the more Paterson got involved with the federal government and federal programs, the further down we've gone. The cities and the towns that have remained less involved or not involved at all with the federal government are doing well. We're down here where we are now and still dependent on more federal programs, more state this, more state that instead of being like years ago, I never heard of anything from the federal government. I never heard of what did the state do. We did it all down here by ourselves. Now those Christopher Columbus projects which they built for the returning veterans, ultimately now, I guess a few years ago, they became absolutely crime-ridden, all kinds of crime over there, shootings and everything else. We put like a trailer over there for the police to have a station, a police station. And when they were showing us about it and trying to get council approval which we did, and they said they had to have extra stuff in the kitchen in the roof ceiling because when people are shooting down at it, it has to be protection up there so it doesn't shoot the cops. And I'm thinking what kind of thing. I mean there you're really down. The drugs were horrible. The crime was horrible. So they ended up tearing it down. Then I don't know if that went first or Christopher Columbus. I forget. Those four. Again, the public housing projects.

Interviewer:

So you said Alexander Hamilton, Christopher Columbus.

Rooney:

Right, Christopher Columbus was down by the river downtown. If you go well anyhow it was down there. And for low income people, you got to help the low income people, encourage more low income people to come. And so we did. They built them. And then they had a senior, they got some senior citizens housing. And the thing that got me concerned also with them is that they're not assessed and taxed as the rest of us are. They receive tax abatement they call. They are completely exempt from the lowering taxes to the value of the property. If the taxes here go up 10%, 50%, 100%, they're not affected by it at all. They make what they call a pilot- a payment in lieu of taxes. And it doesn't begin to approach what they should pay if they were paying like the rest of us. So the more of them that have been built, the more our revenue has been restricted which means that whatever portion of the tax bill they do not pay has to be paid by the rest of us. We pay our share plus the share of these tax abated properties.

Interviewer:

Can they pay it?

Rooney:

It's a state law.

Interviewer:

No, but if they didn't have this special thing, would they be able to afford taxes?

Rooney:

How about the rest of us? If we weren't able to afford it, the regular taxes, would we be able to stay? We wouldn't. You've got 1,200 properties now they tell us that are in foreclosure in Paterson. The people either can't pay it or decided not to pay it. Some areas they just give it up, walk away from it, it's too horrendous. But anyhow that was a turning point. And then once the crime started and then once the drugs started which is a lot more recent, I mean drugs, I can't believe the record had a big story I guess a year or two years ago. I don't know if you saw that but it's on the city's home page, "Heroin City" and a long, extensive, in-depth article about heroin in Paterson in detail. Boy, those reporters really, really, really did a job. People don't like to read that stuff or hear it, but it's there. It's real. And it's one of the reasons why we're down so low as we are and the crime is as high as it is. Joey says it's going down now but it's nice.

Interviewer:

In the '68 riots was governmental assistance brought in?

Rooney:

I don't recall neither because at that time I wasn't really involved in a lot of this stuff. I didn't and I'm not sure the papers were printing everything that was going on, to tell you the truth. And since then the papers are basically gone from Paterson. The Herald News is gone. That was taken over by the Record. And they don't even sell newspapers anymore. I use this thing, this laptop more to read the paper every day. I don't go out and buy a paper. But and I prefer the paper to tell you the truth. I love these things. They're great. Computers are wonderful, but it's not the same as reading the paper. But I don't know. But from then we had gone downhill. We went downhill. And it's to the point now, I wish the mayor would, Joey and I worked really, really good for years. We were on the council together. When I was running for mayor, he was not in it at all. And he and his family supported me. So later when he ran for mayor, I was happy to support him. But the problems are so great. It's so great because the mayor and the council, you know, the council I watch their meetings on TV and they got all these wonderful things they're going to do. When I was on, it was the same time. Oh, we got a plan for this. You know, we're going to do this. We're going to do that. You don't have the money. This is what troubles me now is the depth of the borrowing that they're going to on bonding, and that troubles me because it's like I'm watching Grease with all of their bonded debt. And the United States, $18 trillion. The numbers are so big now nobody really comprehends what you're talking about. They don't, a trillion dollars. If you had a million dollars in a pile and you had a million piles with a million in each one, that's a trillion. But I don't know. And it's what the condition, the more we've gone into the financial troubles, the more things naturally decay. The potholes are horrendous in this city. Idiots. Idiots. There's some streets a little ways from here that you wouldn't believe you're in a civilized city. It's horrendous down there. In other words, I don't trust the federal government to help us. I really don't. They must have the best of intentions with these federal programs, but the federal programs have made us more and more on federal aid, certainly on state aid because as we've lost our ratables, you lose the ability to pay for things for yourself with your own internal money, you would call it, in the city, those of us here. And as you have more properties that are either tax abated like those or completely tax exempt- the hospitals, the churches, the schools whether private or public, the whole public school system- tax exempt, completely tax-exempt and yet it's a major cost. That's another problem because when I was mayor that school budget was about $30 million a year. Now it's now five hundred and forty something or five hundred and fifty some million dollars more than half a billion dollars a year in education in Paterson. And now we're saying well, we're not doing enough for the kids. You're spending one and a half million dollars every day of the year on our education system and now Joey wants to raise a new tax for a fund for recreation. We're spending $2.5 million on recreation. He wants it to be another $3 million a year on that. But that's going to raise the taxes 5-6%. And the people are not going to like that. He's got this petition going. He should have checked with me before he took off on this course because and then Andre Sayer we got these special improvements districts, they call them, SIDS, where you take a part of the area and you can make the sales tax only 3.5% and they get special thing because you raise their taxes by 5%, not one or two family homes, but all the other properties have had their taxes raised 5% every year on top of what they would pay normally. Now if Joey's going to put another 5% on top of that, then they're up 10% and then there's going to be the regular city increase on top of that. So at a time when taxes are so high that people are really, really hurting, they're going to raise the taxes here, if all that goes through, 12-13% at one time and continue it on that level and go higher in a year.

Interviewer:

That's huge.

Rooney:

So our ability to raise taxes have gone down because so many properties have been burned out. You lose the ratable. They don't pay their taxes or the mortgage. You lose them as ratables. They don't pay taxes. So our tax base has really gone down and down. And the numbers of properties that can pay while our costs naturally go up and up and up- police, fire, everything costs more, health. So we're in a bad, bad, bad financial situation. We really are. And read the newspaper every day and it breaks my heart because there's very few mice things that they're pointing out happening. Every day is a stabbing or two stabbings or shootings or murder or cars stolen, muggings, muggings, I think they only put a few in out of all that happen. But people knocked down and beaten and everything. In other words, the image of Paterson from outside is I would never go and live in that place. I don't even want to shop there. I don't even want to shop there.

Interviewer:

So what keeps you here?

Rooney:

This is my home. This is where I want to die here, but I don't know if I will because at some point, Joan's eighty-seven, I'm eighty-eight. The average death for a man in America of dying is seventy-six so I'm already twelve years longer than I should be. She's six years longer than she should be. So who knows? And even the immediate future, the next year, two years, do we know? Are we going to be here? Are we going to be capable of taking care of our own house? If we're not then our children, two daughters, told us come live with us. So I don't know what's going to happen. But I want in my life- The other thing I had planned out, my church where I went to since I was at St. George's over here, they closed that down. The diocese did because there were not enough of us. It's heavily, heavily Muslim here. But some other branch of the Catholic Church from Garfield bought it. And they have services there now. And you're putting a lot into it. I had it all figured because the Mentions Funeral Home is right there on Michigan Ave. So I figured this is very good. I can die here, and they take me to Mentions and fix me up and then walk down 100 feet to go in church, have my funeral. Now Mentions is gone. That's been taken over by a Middle Eastern thing that I think they only cremate, I'm not sure. And St. George's is not St. George's. I have to go up to St. Brendan's now. So my undertaker's been taken away and my planned church has been taken away. So I have to figure out. But I don't know. But I've spent a good part of my life, decades, trying to make the city better. And so many people were, so many good people worked so hard for so many years to make this city come back up again and we failed. It's not up.

Interviewer:

What do you want today's generation to know about Paterson?

Rooney:

I want them to know that the condition it's in is not normal. This is totally abnormal to what the city should be. And the basic things that they can do, what can the average person do? Simple. Don't throw your litter onto the sidewalk, into the road. Don't throw the bottles into the street. Show respect for your neighbors. Don't make loud noise. You don't have to have your boombox going there at 1,000 db. You just show respect. Show respect. And the laws have to be enforced. This is another thing that really bothers me that the laws we have, we have beautiful laws. We have laws against noise, right? You can't make noise. It doesn't mean anything. A lot of people play their things loud and people have to call the cops. And they get into difficulties. We have anti-litter ordinances which mean absolutely nothing. They should be enforced. In other words, it's these basic, they call everything now this term "quality of life." It's like a cliche, but it's become a meaningless cliche because it's tossed around so lightly. Yeah, improve the quality of life. Well, what can you do to improve the quality of life? You can improve the cleanliness, the noise. The adults have to take charge of the children again. This has been a major turning point throughout the country is that all the years I was growing up, the adults were in charge of the children and the children knew it. And something happened in the sixties and wherever and Woodstock and all the rest. Now the children, to a large extent, are in charge of the adults, not just the thing because I've had teachers when I was on the council and even before that that would open up to me because they knew I didn't say anything about any. I was a clam basically. And what they have to put up in the classroom in these little kids and they would take the kids to the principal and say, well, this one is beating up the other one. And the principal would say, "Smooth it over. Don't rock the boat. When you rock the boat, then it doesn't- Do what you can do." But the teachers were down the stretch really and downhearted because for decades I guess all generations the teacher would go to the principal about a troublesome child and that child would be taken care of. The teacher came before the kid. And so the kids are getting away with murder. And some of the stories that I've been told firsthand information plus what I've heard from others and reading the paper, a lot of stuff goes in the schools nowadays would have been totally, absolutely unthinkable in the past. Now when the adults take charge of the children again, then you got a chance. If they're going to let the kids rule the adults then nothing else is going to work because these kids are into selling drugs. We see them around here. We got that going on here. The other day, a few days ago, the house four houses down was in the newspaper, 25 Grove St, drug arrest there, $4,000 and I don't know how many packets of heroin and cocaine or, not cocaine, marijuana. Arrests made there. I've called the cops I don't know how many times over at least fifteen years now, seven years I've been retired, eight years on the council. Call the cops again and again and again. Drugs sales going right here. You saw a garbage can out in the road here between my driveway and my daughter's and her husband's. And they put that out there because the cars would pull up into our two driveways and on the cell phone and some guy would come running from the corner and over to the thing. And boom, boom, and da ta da and then drive off. And that deters some of them from parking here. But it's not even legal to have it out there. But it works. It keeps many, many, many of the cars from not pulling in here. But they will pull some place else. Police have made a few arrests around here, but nothing at all. I know that the big trouble is that other parts of town, the first ward, the fourth ward, the fifth ward, are so bad that the police are almost totally concentrated on those areas because we don't have shootings down here yet. But if you continue to have drug activity going on, it will come. It will absolutely come. So I'm trying to forestall it by getting just enforce the laws that we have. I tried to get them to put a camera up there on the corner. One of these things that ties into police headquarters, and they haven't done it yet. So anyhow what I'd tell the young people, how are you going to get them to understand what it was like when we were young? I don't think they even comprehend that. First thing you'll do is stop watching those videos and those musics which are pounding, pounding, pounding oh the cops are no good and all this. I can't understand half of what these people are saying when they're singing. And when I do I wish I didn't because a lot of endless obscenities. Endless, endless, endless obscenities. And that's become more common now too. The standards that to us were normal are no longer normal. There's a new normal now, and it's not just in Paterson. It's all over the place. But if they want to build the city up again, you have to change the perception of Paterson from outside people. How many businesses are going to want to come in here and start? We've been lucky in South Paterson. We've had several new ones start up, big places for a local area. Center City, that big project downtown, that was supposed to be in the late eighties, that was then they came and showed us the model, thirty-two story office building. I forget how many story. Three-hundred-unit executive hotel. And a galleria, a high-priced stores they were talking about. What are those places they have in Paramus Park and others? Upscale, really upscale stuff. And it all looked wonderful, you know. But then I went over their, I asked for a financial report for them and went over that because in addition to other things I don't think I mentioned I was for ten years a certified financial planner. And so and that's been my specialty with the city because I'm good with numbers. I was good as a kid, and I'm good at financial analysis. And I had my own little financial business from here, and I had clients come down here. But the thing is that what business is going to come here really? I mean you read just the newspaper every day. How are they going to get anybody to locate down on some of those streets in the fourth ward and the fifth ward? They're not paying their taxes now, and they'll let the houses go, let the properties go. We don't want to be here. We'll take the loss whatever it is, but get out of there. Now if that starts going even further out from there into the Lakeview section and the South Paterson and especially up in the second ward there off of Union Ave, I don't know what we're going to do. In other words, and I know I'm an optimist by nature. I've been an optimist all my life. In fact, one of the first books I have in my library upstairs is Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking. So maybe that's why I'm still here is because that still affects me. But I do want to pass away here in Paterson. I know if at some point like if Joan died, I wouldn't need an entire house and a yard. If I died first then for sure the girls will take her in, and one doesn't live in Paterson now, and the other one I think she would move to be up by her sister. So who knows where I'll die. But the Paterson I was born into and raised in is not the Paterson that's here now. It's not even close. But the one thing we're fortunate down in this part of town is that these Middle Eastern folks are they have money. However, they've come here because they go around and they're wearing like the traditional dress, the long dresses and the ladies dress very modestly, very modestly. Other parts of town they don't. And the girls it's not right. And they open businesses. If you drove around here, you'd see all kinds of little restaurants and suites and big buildings going up there. I'm lucky because my house has had new construction over here on Pacific St like an L-shaped mini mall. And down over here where the undertaker used to be, they got a big building there. Down further there's another big building going up. Up the corner here, across Main, is the [?] Pharmacy which was just a little store they rented over here and then they did well and they built that whole thing over there, hospital supplies and everything. The problem that all of them have is adequate parking. The one has pretty good. The other's going to be very good. But so I'm fortunate this part of town is holding on and going up except for the young men. And the young guys are they hang around the gangs on the sidewalk and the ladies don't like it. A couple times I call the cops because they had put chairs out up here and the chairs would be on each side of the sidewalk and all the ladies and girls had to walk in between these guys. And you could tell because I'd go in the car and watch and the ladies would like tense up as they'd have to walk through and the girls would go through and some of the girls are not dressed modestly. And you see the guys talk to them like that as they go through. The young ladies are fine. The adult men and women are fine. Ambitious and they have the family unit. See that's the thing, all these Muslim people. They took over a Presbyterian Church down there on Betty Ave and turned it into a mosque. Up in the Lakeview section, they have another mosque up there. And so apparently they're very religious. And those are the most religious. They're praying five times a day. How many of us kneel down and pray five times a day? Then the extremists, of course, which are setting the reputation of everybody else that are cutting people's heads off. So what would they do? I would say that it has to start to a large extent in the schools. The schools, the teachers and the principals and the top management absolutely have to insist positively no argument, no discussions. You have to behave. You're coming to school. Whatever it is outside, whatever your living conditions are, you walk in this front door, it's all different. Here we have high standards, and you have to meet those standards. And the teachers have to know that they're backed up totally by the top management in the school and then down at their main office. It has to be. There's some of those schools, I don't know how the teachers take it. You go in with such high expectations you're really going to educate all these young people and then you find the kids don't want to be educated. They're talking and laughing and throwing stuff at one another, and they won't do homework. I don't know if they have homework anymore.

Interviewer:

I need you to stop doing that because it will show up on the mic.

Rooney:

Oh, I don't know if they give homework. I don't know what's going on. But I don't know, it's very, very, very difficult. The standards have to be raised again in this city in all aspects. And noise and litter and behavior in schools and behavior toward one another. Just the common courtesy. Good morning. We used to say good morning to everybody. Now you figure the guy is going to knife you or mug you or something. But to raise the quality of the people that we have, thousands of them, how are you going to educate children where thousands, tens of thousands, have no intention of learning anything? If I would was a teacher, I've thought that so many times, if I were a teacher in some of these schools, how would I do it? I could I do it? They don't want to learn what I'm trying to take knowledge from my mind and put it in theirs, and they will have no part of it. They have no part of it. Very, very, very difficult. So if you can build up the family unit again which is I guess being talked about more than it had been in the past lately and then that's good. The men if the men don't change, then nothing else is going to work. The men have to take responsibilities. The men have to treat women with more respect, not like they do now. That can come maybe from some of the church leaders. Become more vocal on these things. Point out the things that are wrong and insist that people in your parish, your church, come up to these standards. You have to come up to these standards. The school has to insist that they come up to these standards. The thing of all the police we have in schools now. When I went, that would be totally unthinkable. You don't have a cop in the school. What are you talking about have a cop in the school? But there's nothing like high-priced. I always think we ascend in more programs, more government aid, more government this. And it isn't that at all. We've had billions upon of billions over the years of federal and state aid coming in here and it hasn't brought us back up again. It has to come from the local officials, the mayor and the council people, from the clergy and from the major businesses and the local businesses too. In other words, don't let this gang hang outside your store. Just insist they have to move on. But to make that happen, where is the, like when we used to have these major newspapers here, at least that would be going out to thousands and thousands of people every day towards so they could be a great, what, opinion-shaker or thought-mover. Now how many people in Paterson even read a newspaper every day? How do they know what' going on in our own city? How many of them will go on the tablet? Some do, I know, to read the paper. But we have tens of thousands of people in this city who are not interested at all in raising standards. And the people who are crying for it, especially in those really bad areas, it's like they're not being listened to. They got a hopeless case.

Interviewer:

I'm going to close this out, I think. I reserve the right to come back to you with other questions.

Rooney:

Yeah, yeah, any time.

Interviewer:

So it is now five of one and this is Barbara Krasner at the Paterson Great Falls Historical Park closing out the interview with former mayor Thomas Rooney. Thank you so much, Tom.

Rooney:

Well, thank you. I hope it all does some good to somebody some place.

Interviewer:

Yeah.

Last updated: June 19, 2019

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