Six Guys from Hackensack: Looking for the Real New Jersey with George Kirsch

Aired: November 25, 2012

If we believed TV shows, New Jersey is only populated by mobsters, “real housewives,” and tanning enthusiasts. In reality, New Jersey is a microcosm of the rest of the nation—and has often been on the leading edge of change. We were one of the first truly racially and ethnically diverse states, we helped created industrialization, and we pioneered suburbanization as well. This real New Jersey is the subject of George Kirsch’s book Six Guys from Hackensack: Coming of Age in the Real New Jersey. A history professor at Manhattan College, Kirsch talks with Bob Mann about life in Hackensack, memoir writing and the history of baseball—his professional passion.

As Kirsch says, “Hackensack was the heart and soul of Bergen County before the George Washington Bridge.” Located in northern New Jersey, Hackensack in the mid 20th century was a diverse town, as represented by the six guys of the book’s title. Kirsch describes his return to Hackensack following the death of his wife and the inspiration for his memoir.

While the 1950s are often remembered as the heyday of American security and prosperity, there was a dark side as well. Racism divided the nation—though schools were integrated in Hackensack, as Kirsch describes. The Cold War and polio both cast long shadows over Kirsch’s youth that shaped him and his friends.

“If anybody writes that Abner Doubleday invented baseball on an exam, not only will they fail, but they’ll be expelled!” In this segment, Kirsch talks about the history and mythology of baseball, including its connection to New Jersey.

 

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