In the 1970s CETA Volunteers collected oral histories from nearly two dozen of the Township's seniors. Very little is known about the circumstances of the older interviews. The momentum for the project ceased when the CETA program was disbanded and for nearly two decades the cassette tapes were stored in a shoe box lost on the library's shelves. When the tapes were rediscovered in 1999, efforts were made to ensure proper storage and subsequently, a grant from the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office enabled Woodbridge Public Library to conserve, preserve and digitally convert these interviews and made the entire oral history archive accessible online.
Councilwoman Velasco on the Words of Woodbridge Oral History Project
Originally this project was initiated in a conversation with Caroline Ehrlich, Chief of Staff, when we discussed an intergenerational project for the month of May which is designated senior month in Woodbridge Township. As a former educator, I valued the use of oral histories as a significant source of data; textbooks were homogenized versions of past events. With the full support of John McCormac and the Woodbridge Board of Education (BOE), the project was launched at Evergreen Senior Center in May 2008 with middle school students interviewing senior citizens.
After reviewing the early transcripts, I realized what a treasure trove of information was to be gained from these interviews. The interviewees spoke of an earlier Woodbridge, one that transformed from a pre WWII population of 40,000 to a virtual population explosion of 90,000 in the post WWII ear. Since I was a newcomer to this Township, I marveled at their ability to accommodate this transformation. I wanted to capture this snapshot of history. No textbook adequately could describe the wrenching changes experienced from having open spaces with cows and orchards in backyards on Main Street to one of the most densely populated townships in the state of New Jersey. This transformation was a microcosm of what America experienced: the waves of Southern and Eastern European immigration, heavy industrialization-coal, petroleum and railroad, the growth of suburbia, the expansion of its infrastructure-highways, parkways, turnpikes, Metropark, etc.
Even with all these wrenching economic and demographic changes, the senior citizens interviewed still want to remain here – their home. In fact, Woodbridge boasts a senior population of close to 20%. It successfully has transformed from a small town to a thriving metropolitan area, retaining its small town character in the ten different sections. It absorbed the waves of newcomers and transplants integrating the people into the economic and political tapestry.
Hope you enjoy the interviews and realize the true treasure of Woodbridge – its people.
Brenda Yori Velasco
MALS, Kean College, 1983
BA, Newark State College, 1965
1996 – 2014 Councilwoman, Woodbridge Township
1983 – 2006 Chairwoman, Social Studies Department, Solomon Schechter Day School
1974 – 2006 Teacher, Solomon Schechter Day School
1965 – 1968 Teacher, Linden High School
Middlesex County Committeewoman
Greater Colonia Democratic Club
St. John Vianney Lector
St. James School Advisory Board 2007 -
St. John School Advistory Board 2007 -
St. John Vianney Anniversary Campaign, 2006
Kiddie Keepwell Camp, 2001-2004
Woodbridge Township Cultural Arts Commission, 1988-1998
325th Anniversary Woodbridge Township
Woodbridge League of Women Voters, Past President 1974-1975