Newspaper in Bergen County Attic Catches Glimpse of Fair Lawn in ’50s
WALDWICK, NJ – A homeowner discovered a wad of Paterson newspapers in the attic of her Waldwick home half a century ago and told a slice of Fair Lawn life in 1959.
When Crystal Paras moved into her new home about a month ago, she found several copies of the Paterson Evening News in a trunk.
A May 1959 issue of The Paterson Evening News Paras found Fair Lawn stories ranging from a nationwide cleanup by a local Boy Scout troop to an advance payment for a junior high school spring concert for candidates seeking leadership roles in the club.
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“I plan to keep the newspapers as the story of the house I live in,” said Paras, who estimates the house was built around 1850. Paras said she was still walking through things to see what other items are hidden.
Their first discovery – papers from the late 1950s – is a throwback to the golden age of journalism – a time when the public could rely on newspapers to be a source of breaking news at the local, state, national and global levels .
Starting in 1890, Paterson Evening News was one of several daily newspapers to call the city home. At one time it was one of the most influential newspapers in the region, led by Harry Haines, a powerful and well-connected publisher, said Giacomo DeStefano, director of the Paterson Museum.
“Newspapers kept the region informed of what was happening in their community, country and world. It was an important part of people’s lives, ”he said.
In the 1950s, Paterson and the surrounding communities saw the post-WWII boom. The country is generally in a good mood and people feel good as winners of the war and industry, DeStefano said.
After more families bought cars, employees were able to leave the cities and set their sights on the American dream of home ownership.
“Paterson was a microcosm of it,” DeStefano said.
Many city factory workers moved to nearby communities, bought houses, and commuted to work every day.
“Almost everyone at Fair Lawn and Garfield were from Paterson – that was their hometown,” DeStefano said.
Although they no longer lived in Paterson, they still read newspapers around town to keep up with current events, he said.
As one of the state’s largest cities, Paterson was a hub for industry, entertainment, shopping, and other social activities in the 1950s, DeStefano said.
Paterson and Newark were viewed as the “shopping meccas” of North Jersey, so the newspapers were filled with advertisements to attract people from nearby cities to shop, DeStefano said. The first malls opened in North Jersey in the late 1960s and became the shopping destination of choice for many families.
Paterson still had several silk and textile mills, but DeStefano said they “were slowly and steadily moving out of town and New Jersey state”. He noted that even back then, it was “expensive to do business” in the Garden State.
It was not uncommon to see Fair Lawn, Garfield, and East Paterson (now Elmwood Park) in the headlines, and often the newspaper had sections designated for news from these cities.