For Beverly Ann Hansen of North Bergen, it’s been a long, circuitous route, but the journey has brought her back to where it began: Hudson County.
She was born in Jersey City, lived in Hoboken after birth, went to grammar and high schools in West New York, and spent her formative years in North Bergen.
Dances and Dick Clark
As a teenager growing up from 1957-61, it was the “Hub” dances outdoors in West New York and Friday night shindigs at the local parish in the same town that kept her busy.
These “two-step” activities were fun, and eventually led her to the Mecca of dancing; a television studio in Philadelphia where a young host named Dick Clark was making his name.
“I went two times to ‘American Bandstand,’ ” she said of her visits in 1959 and 1960. “I was invited by Father Fanelli of Our Lady of Libra Roman Catholic Church. I went with Richie and Jimmy Conrey and Father Fanelli.”
“It was great to see all the people you see on TV, and to know you were dancing on the air and would be on the air,” Hansen said. Calling it one of the best experiences of her life, she said meeting the Bandstand host was pure fun.
“I slept in the Amazon in a jungle hut. I was left alone while the others went alligator hunting.” – Beverly Ann Hansen
Home sweet home
Her fondest memories of life date back to the place she really called home, a half block off of Kennedy Boulevard on 88th Street in North Bergen.
It was here that her father, George Birkland Hansen Sr. of Hoboken, decided to lay down his roots.
“Dad and mom created 1200 88th St. North Bergen into a sanctuary,” she said. “In 1961, they planted pine trees around properties. They stand tall today, and can be seen from a plane coming into Newark.”
She added, “Dad carted huge rocks from Tonnelle Avenue quarries up the hill in a Ford Model A Roadster and landscaped with tons of gravel, pines, and flowers. He made goldfish ponds with waterfalls and a 20-by-40-by-8-foot in-ground pool.”
He also laid the groundwork for his professional life in the township.
“My dad founded Hansen Brothers Storm Windows and Doors at 1954 Bergenline and 76th Street,” his daughter said. “Then in 1957, he moved store to the corner of 85th and Bergenline.”
‘The Calendar Man’
Although her father had that thriving business, he was more renowned for something else, according to his daughter.
“Dad was known as ‘The Calendar Man’ and he hand-delivered Hansen Brother calendars from the 1940s on,” Hansen said. “He tipped his hat and gave a big smile. He was so polite.”
Getting out on her own
But now Hansen was growing up, and headed out into the world on her own. After graduating Union Hill High School in 1961, she got a job working for Eastern Airlines at 10 Rockefeller Plaza in New York.
“Where the ‘Today’ show is, that’s where I sat,” she said.
Once she entered the business world, her life really took off. Within two years, she was the executive secretary for the airline’s president, Floyd D. Hall.
“I still came home to 88th Street each day,” she said. But life was by no means normal anymore for this single woman.
For work, education, and pleasure, she began traveling around the world. And because she worked for Eastern Airlines, she could do so easily and inexpensively.
“I traveled to Vietnam, four times through Africa, South America, to the Amazon, and to Mexico,” Hansen said. “I flew to South Vietnam during the war to see my brother in the Central Highlands. I flew over the Andes with an oxygen mask on me. I had no fear.”
And the Andes flight wasn’t on a jet; it was a propeller plane, and worse, she got stuck there for five days because of bad weather.
While in South America, she may have invented the term “roughing it.”
“I slept in the Amazon in a jungle hut,” Hansen said. “I was left alone while the others went alligator hunting.”
When she got back from the Vietnam trip, Eastern wanted her to write a book about her journey. But Hansen declined.
“I was planning my wedding, and I didn’t have time,” she said.
Marriage and children
Hansen did go on to marry a fellow North Bergen resident.
“He lived on the block,” Hansen said. “It was like marrying the boy next door.”
The couple went on to have and raise three children. Although they divorced years later, this high-flying traveler is proud of all three of her children and what they have accomplished. One is an Air Force Academy graduate now working for NASA, another won a state wrestling title while at North Bergen High School and went on to Syracuse University, and the third is a flight attendant for United Airlines.
Memories and memorabilia
Hansen retired years ago, but has kept busy collecting and organizing all her memories.
In fact, Hansen has so much memorabilia (photos, newspaper clippings, promotional flyers) relating to her life and Hudson County over the last few decades that she has started to contribute some of the materials to historical groups.
“I have started donating to the Hoboken Museum lots of local history,” she said.
Recently, Hansen has spent a lot of time traveling again, visiting her children in California, Florida, and Connecticut. But her home base still is North Bergen, where she is most comfortable.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.