Interview with Martin Dillon, 1969 July 28 [audio](part 1)

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  • He and his father buying willows at various locations near Hockessin and peeling them to sell to DuPont Co. for charcoal production
    Keywords: Charcoal; Hockessin (Del.); Kaolin mines and mining; peeling willows; Rural children; Rural children--Employment; Willows
    Transcript: [Unnamed speaker]: This interview with Mr. Martin P. Dillon of Sunset Farm, Avondale, Pennsylvania was held in Dr. Wilkinson's office on Monday, July 28, 1969. Present at the interview were Faith Pizor and John Scafidi.

    Dillon: My name is Martin Dillon, of Avondale, Pennsylvania. I'm 78 years old. January 12, 1970 I'll be 78 years old.

    Scafidi: And you hauled willows in here with your father?

    Dillon: That's right, from when I was 7 years old until I was lO, three different years.

    Pizor: Was your farm located in Avondale then?

    Dillon: No, we lived in a place called New Garden, about two miles this side of Avondale but he used to buy the willows mostly around Hockessin, so we didn't have to haul them so far.

    Pizor: The willows didn't come from your farm then?

    Dillon: No, you buy them from other people's farms.

    Pizor: How did he get into this type of a business?

    Dillon: Well, I don't know. I have often wondered myself because there wasn't much money in it. $7.50 a cord that's all they got for them delivering here, and you cut a cord and skin them, you peeled all the bark off of them, and they didn't want only little ones. The big ones we had to throw away. Just wanted the stuff that would make charcoal easy.

    Scafidi: Did you have to peel them before you brought them in?

    Dillon: Oh yeah, and dry them.

    Scafidi: Dry them. How long did it take to dry them?

    Dillon: Month or six weeks ahead of time - cut them along in May and haul them this time of the year, in August as a rule.

    Scafidi: Because it was slack on the farm this time of the year?

    Dillon: No, because they would be dry enough. They would slide off the wagon if you tried to haul them when they were green, right after you peeled them.

    Scafidi: How many cords did you bring in in a wagon like you showed me?

    Dillon: Hardly a cord, 3/4 I imagine, $5 worth.

    Pizor: Was your father always a farmer?

    Dillon: No, he was a horse dealer; that was his job; he dealed all the time in different things; that was one of the reasons I guess he went in this willow business. There was no money around - if you made a nickel you were lucky. You only got 75 cents for 12 or 14 hours of work.

    Pizor: So the 5 dollars really wasn't too bad?

    Dillon: It was better than a lot of other jobs you could do and it was cash. So many things was notes.

    Pizor: So he only did this once a year though? He'd work with willows in May? And he had other things he did the rest of the year?

    Dillon: Oh yes. He didn't make no special job of it - you couldn't you had to peel these things just in the spring of the year right when the sap first went up the trees. Then, it would get tough and hard and you couldn't peel them.

    Pizor: Do you remember anything about the place where your father bought the willows in Hockessin?

    Dillon: Oh yeah, I know several different places. He bought them at Golden's Clay Yard, and then he bought some off a man named Kelton that was up at the B& amp; O Railroad toward Landenberg, and different places.

    Pizor: Were these big farms?

    Dillon: He bought off a man named Garrett. Yes, Golden's Clay Yard, they had 150 acres ground around there.

    Scafidi: Was that a clay mine?

    Dillon: Yes, they washed clay there. To make candy.

    Scafidi: Candy?

    Dillon: Sure. The best candy made is made out of white Kaolin clay to this day. That's the filler of it. Pure white.

    Scafidi: I thought maybe - I heard that they used that for pottery sometimes.

    Dillon: They do, but that is the second grade. The first goes into candy. That is what you eat when you eat the best candy.

    Pizor: In other words, like Golden's, they primarily had their clay works and...

    Dillon: These willows grew around their place.

    Scafidi: Were they mostly a nuisance, the willows?

    Dillon: Well, every place they dug a hole to dig the clay out of, when they were through with that hole they would plant a willow tree right in the middle of it so as to know not to go back there any more. The willows will grow right away as soon as you stick them in the ground. After a while they got big and they had a lot of them so we used to get them off of them.

    Pizor: These other farms or farmers weren't interested in doing this themselves?

    Dillon: No, if it happened to be planted or had low ground you had willows.

    Pizor: What would your father do? He'd go over and make the deal to get these willows?

    Dillon: That's right. He'd give them so much for all of them. I don't know how much he give to tell you the truth. I never heard him make the bargain.

    Pizor: Did your father have to cut them down?

    Dillon: Oh yes. Willow trees at that time would grow on a big kind of a stump and they'd spread all out and after they were cut off the next time they'd be more yet, so they were cut about every two or three years.

    Pizor: What did he use to cut them with?

    Dillon: Just a plain old axe. Like you cut wood. Four feet long.

    Scafidi: Did you have to dress where you cut them off or would they just grow in?

    Dillon: Cut both sides and haul them out of there. Weren't much bigger than that. The biggest, 3 or 4 inches in diameter.

    Scafidi: Did you peel willows yourself?

    Dillon: Many a time.

    Scafidi: How do you do it?

    Dillon: You do it with a husking peg, like corn, that's how you get the bark started. You use your fingers until they got so sore you couldn't do that then you'd get the husking peg. You'd break it loose and if it was peeling good the peel wouldn't even stick--it was all right then but when you're pinching just a little at a time, that's when to quit.

    Pizor: How long would it take you to peel a piece of willow piled about 2 or 3 feet high?

    Dillon: Less than a minute. If it was peeling easy you could do it in less than a minute. It will run the whole length of the stick; it won't break loose.

    Scafidi: Your father went out in the spring and cut these?

    Dillon: We peeled them the day we cut them. Then we threw them on the pile to let them dry. Then you would load the wood, and bring them down here.
  • Other people involved in buying, selling, and peeling willows; route they took from Hockessin to Hagley with a load of willows
    Keywords: Barter; routes; Rural children--Employment; Wagons
    Transcript: Scafidi: Was this known pretty much around that you could sell willow?

    Dillon: Oh yeah. Up around where I was, there was more of them done it. All the fellows are dead who did do it. Dan McCurran, [?] Pyle, Herman Marvel, some more. Some of the farmers, too, individually. They would cut them and bring them in here anyway. They would buy them off anybody.

    Pizor: Do you know of any other places that were buying willows?

    Dillon: I don't think there was any other place. Of course, they moved this away toward the Carolinas, didn't they? ...to move the willow business to North Carolina...

    Pizor: Did your father have to check with DuPont first to be sure they wanted the willows?

    Dillon: I don't know. But there were always buyers for them. So, they needed them all the time. They always piled them ahead too. That big old yard full of them.

    Pizor: Did just you and your father go to cut down the trees?

    Dillon: Oh no, anybody you could hire, even the other kids, give them 5 cents or 10 cents a day. Didn't get much.

    Scafidi: That cart or wagon that's in the picture, was that specially made for this sort of thing?

    Dillon: No, it's just an old hay wagon, that's what it is.

    Scafidi: Did you have to tie the willows on in any way?

    Dillon: No, you just piled it on.

    Pizor: About when was the first year that you remember your father selling?

    Dillon: Well, he was selling before I can remember. I don't know when he started; I expect about 1895 or something like that.

    Pizor: When you were helping him that was about what year, do you remember?

    Dillon: '98, '99, 1900, 1901.

    Pizor: Why did your father stop?

    Dillon: I don't know. I guess other business got better, I don't know.

    Pizor: Was it considered somewhat of a skill to know how to peel?

    Dillon: No, anybody could do it.

    Scafidi: 50 cents a day or lO cents?

    Dillon: lO cents. Couldn't get no 50 cents no; men didn't get any more than that.

    Scafidi: Was the time when you bought the willows in or during the spring when you peeled them, was that sort of a time when everybody got together to visit each other?

    Dillon: Oh no, that was just a day's work.

    Scafidi: No happier than any other?

    Dillon: It was a sad day for me a lot of times. I wanted to go play, and I had to go skin willows.

    Scafidi: Was it good or no good to peel them in the rain?

    Dillon: We wouldn't work out in the rain. If it rained, we would go home or some place. It wasn't that important. They wouldn't spoil you, though.

    Pizor: Did you have any sisters or brothers?

    Dillon: I had six sisters. They skinned willows, too. Anybody that had two hands.

    Pizor: We have a knife that looks like a paring knife.

    Dillon: To peel willows with? You were lucky enough to have that. We had to use a husking knife that they use to husk corn, had little hooks on it and straps goes over your fingers.

    Scafidi: You pulled a strip down and then peeled around...?

    Dillon: No, it would run right down if you held it right...

    Pizor: What was done with the peelings? Was there any use for that?

    Dillon: No, leave them right there...melt away.

    Pizor: Do you know how much your father would pay the farmers?

    Dillon: I guess he would trade something for them as near as I know. I don't think there was much money exchanged.

    Pizor: You and your father would take the wagon and bring it wagon down here?

    Scafidi: First of all, how did you get here, what route?

    Dillon: From Hockessin? Well, we'd come down a place called Mt. Pleasant - you don't know it I guess. It's on this back road from Hobson's Garage out here on the [pike?], that's how we come. Down through Wooddale where the stone quarry used to be, and then come right up through Hoopes Dam where it is now, and it would come out up above the old pear tree.

    Pizor: Yeah, the white tree that's dead now?

    Dillon: That's where we come out. I've tasted those pears many a time, and they were as bitter as gall. I'd be so hungry it didn't matter. Then we'd come on down to this side of Greenville and come in that first road and come right down.
  • Arriving at Hagley and having the willows measured; eating supper at William Casey's house in Upper Banks; taking the horses back to Hockessin for another load of willows; payment
    Keywords: Charcoal; Draft horses; Horses--Feeding and feeds; Measuring instruments; Payment; Quarries and quarrying
    Transcript: Pizor: You said you stopped at the first office or something?

    Dillon: That's where we used to get them measured.

    Pizor: Mrs. E. Paul du Pont's house?

    Dillon: The big house up at the top of the...private home now isn't it? The first office was down in here. Then they moved up there. They were up there when I come here, but it had been down in here - this little old stone building...

    Scafidi: Who did you meet when you came to the office?

    Dillon: Oh, you told them you had a load of wood; man would come out with a stick, and have a long stick with numbers on it...he'd count it up and tell you how much you had on it.

    Scafidi: You couldn't tell?

    Dillon: No, I guess not. Course, I never had no dealings with him; I was just along, that's all.

    Scafidi: Did your father ever act mad as though he were cheated?

    Dillon: No, he never did. Always satisfied that way. Never heard him growl or grumble in any way about the measurements.

    Pizor: What did he do when he was finished being weighed in?

    Dillon: We'd go back up the road and at the first place we'd come where the road was nice and wide we'd go to sleep for the night.

    Scafidi: This was almost a two-day...

    Dillon: It was almost a whole week when we came to haul willows from Hockessin down here. We wouldn't go back up to Avondale or New Garden. We'd just go on the road, back and forth, night time you'd go to sleep, in the morning you would get another load of willows.

    Scafidi: Did you keep the same team of horses going all the time or did you switch teams?

    Dillon: You'd trade horses any hour if you met someone who wanted to trade horses.

    Pizor: What did you do with the willows once they were weighed? Did you dump them off on the side?

    Dillon: This here [William] Casey, he was the boss in the yard. He'd say, "Put them over there," and you'd throw them in a pile.

    Pizor: This was near the office?

    Dillon: No, near the mill. There was a mill down in there. I guess charcoal. I was afraid to death. I wouldn't go in there. I was afraid it would blow up any minute.

    Pizor: So, in other words you got weighed up at the house?

    Dillon: Up top of the mill. Unless you came in at quitting time. I've been in at 6:00 and 10:00 at night and Casey would take care of us.

    Pizor: He'd count it and then...?

    Dillon: Come in there one night; I hadn't had no supper, no dinner, see and he said to my daddy, "Have you fed that boy anything to eat?" and I said, "No, I haven't had anything to eat all day." Then he'd give my father a good talking to and he'd say. "You come into the house and I'll give you something to eat," and he said, "You ain't going to get nothin' old man." And he didn't get any supper.

    Pizor: Where was Casey's house, near the charcoal...?

    Dillon: I think it was torn down. It seems to me there were two or three stone houses in a row down there at that time. He lived in the first one of them. Double house, I'm pretty sure.

    Pizor: Do you remember what the inside looked like?

    Dillon: No, just a house. I was so glad to eat I didn't look around. But this Casey was related to people that lived right near me.

    Pizor: You dumped the willows and slept on the side of the road?

    Dillon: Oh yes, I've slept all alone on the road back to Hockessin.

    Pizor: How early would you start the next morning?

    Dillon: Just break of day. Horses would have their dinner and be all set to go.

    Scafidi: Did you carry anything for the horses or just let them graze?

    Dillon: My daddy could do more with nothin' than anybody I ever seen in the world. He made you do it. He made the horses work and me, too. He didn't eat. I've seen him go for fully two days. Wouldn't eat. Never seen anybody like that.

    Pizor: Was your father a thin man?

    Dillon: A little man. Size 5 shoes. I'm big compared to him. I don't know how. He didn't feed me too good.

    Pizor: About how long would it take you to go, say, from the mills back up to Hockessin?

    Dillon: Oh, I don't know that. We would leave there in the morning, maybe 8:00 and we'd get in here maybe 1:00 or 2:00. If we were making good time and everything. Then we'd start back and sometimes we'd get clear back to the willows, and if we did we'd leave the horse in the field there but if we got a late start, if it looked like good grass for the horse, that's where we stopped.

    Scafidi: What would happen if one of your horses went lame or threw a shoe?

    Dillon: Keep on going. I've seen that happen. Horse get lame from it.

    Scafidi: Would he be able to get any help here if it happened on the way down?

    Dillon: What, to shoe the horse? No, there was a fellow at Wooddale there who shod the horses a time or two I remember because they used to blast in that Wooddale quarry, they would blow stones all over that road. They don't do that no more when they blast. That time they didn't understand it. Road would be just...well, you'd have to get under something when they were blasting.

    Scafidi: They didn't give a yell or anything?

    Dillon: No. They know...people all knowed to hide when they start. Used to go off about 10 or 12 times. Right at dinnertime they would do it every day. While the men were supposed to be away eating.

    Pizor: Where was your father paid?

    Dillon: Up there, up at the office when we would go back he'd give him his check if he wanted it.

    Scafidi: Did he get check or cash?

    Dillon: Check. I've never seen him get cash. He might have gotten cash but I never seen it.

    Pizor: Where would he go and cash his check?

    Dillon: Oh Lord, I don't know. Maybe down at the grocery store down at the corner, is it called Rising Sun? A big grocery store and I believe a hotel, saloon. Down there, a big old building. Soldiers were up here, Spanish-American soldiers, they were guarding the place. I remember them all being in camp up here, too, right across from the office.

    Scafidi: Did they give you any sort of trouble, the soldiers, did they try to search the wagon? Were they worried about sabotage?

    Dillon: No.

    Pizor: Well your father made, say $5 or $7.50 for a cord, and it took him more than one trip to bring a cord...

    Dillon: It would with our outfit. That particular one would be about 3/4 of a cord.

    Pizor: How much would he cut up at Golden's - three or four cords?

    Dillon: Oh no. Maybe 30 cords, 20 or 30 cords.

    Pizor: In other words, that was a good week's work?

    Dillon: Well, you wouldn't cut that many. Maybe it would be three weeks getting them out of there and cut.

    Pizor: He'd sell maybe 30 cords to DuPont at $7.50. He's making a few hundred dollars. That would last him for a while.

    Dillon: Maybe.

    Scafidi: Parents didn't discuss that sort of thins with their children.

    Dillon: No, they didn't. Money was scarce in those days. There wasn't much money around.
  • Missing school to work; landscape and labor force at DuPont Co.; working at the brickyard at eleven years old after his father's death; his family's house near Hockessin
    Keywords: Brickmaking; Child labor; Fathers--Death; Hockessin (Del.); Labor supply; Working class--Education
    Transcript: Pizor: In May, when you would cut the willows were you in school at that time?

    Dillon: I was supposed to be but I wasn't.

    Pizor: In other words, for something like that you would get out of school?

    Dillon: They didn't make you go to school, believe it or not. If you went all right, if you didn't, nobody would bother you. Today you couldn't do it.

    Pizor: What school did you go to?

    Dillon: Where I went? Sunnydell, right on Lancaster Pike up by Hockessin.

    Pizor: How big a school was it?

    Dillon: There used to be about 60 children. One teacher taught them all. 8 grades. I don't know if she taught them much or not.

    Scafidi: When you got here did you notice that there were a number of kids playing or that there were a lot of people around or there weren't many people?

    Dillon: Never noticed. Casey, I don't think had any children. The horse stable used to be right coming down the hill. Do you know where it was? You know where they kept the work horses?

    Pizor: Was is near the barn when you came in? There is a big barn.

    Dillon: It's right on the road that comes down and shut off now. Where that green is down there about 200 or 300 feet used to be the horse stable where they kept the work horses. They had some whopping big horses here, too.

    Pizor: Was a lot of this area farmland?

    Dillon: I don't know. It was clear a lot then; there wasn't a bush hardly from the office down to Rising Sun. That was an open field. But that's all grown up now. I do remember that. That used to be all open. No high fence, just a driveway.

    Scafidi: Aside from the fact that you knew you were going to the powder yards would you have known it if you just walked up the lane?

    Dillon: Oh, yes, I knew it.

    Scafidi: If you hadn't known it, did it look just like any other place?

    Dillon: The willows was piled all outside and they used to wheel them in on some kind of a cart and then wheel them in some vats or something to make charcoal.

    Pizor: Were you ever allowed to drive all the way down almost to the mills?

    Dillon: Down to the creek? I was never down there. Had no business down there and didn't know they were down there.

    Scafidi: Could you smell anything?

    Dillon: I don't remember. I don't think so.

    Pizor: Most of the men that you met, were they young men or old men?

    Dillon: Working here? I would say they were middle aged - 40 to 50.

    Pizor: No young fellows that looked like 15 or 20?

    Dillon: I don't recall any. No.

    Scafidi: Did they seem to be Irish or Italian?

    Dillon: Irish, nearly all of them.

    Pizor: Did you ever go in the office?

    Dillon: Up there? Yes, I've been in there.

    Pizor: Were there many people in there when you went in?

    Dillon: Yes.

    Scafidi: Do you remember what it would look like when you walked in?

    Dillon: Not now.

    Pizor: Do you happen to recall whether most of the men were dressed or whether they looked like workmen?

    Dillon: Oh yes. You mean up in the office? Yes, like today.

    Scafidi: Tie and a collar?

    Dillon: Yep.

    Pizor: After your father stopped hauling willows, did you ever peel willows for anybody else?

    Dillon: No. Yes, I did one summer afterwards for a man named Dan McCurrans. He'd give me some money. I didn't get any money from my daddy.

    Pizor: He didn't pay you?

    Dillon: No, I never got a nickel. I don't know how much old man McCurrans give me. I guess 25 cents a day. That was normal wages for boys, 25 cents.

    Scafidi: Did you give it to your mother?

    Dillon: Pretty much. I give my mother all the money I ever made until I was 23 years old. There are not many people can say that but it's the truth. I did. I've never been sorry for it.

    Pizor: What was the first job you had, regular job?

    Dillon: Brickyard. Bricks, 3000 a day for 50 cents.

    Scafidi: Piece work?

    Dillon: Yes, it was piece work. You had to make 3000. If you got done a half hour ahead of time you could go home. You could make 500 over for like Saturday if you wanted to go home early Saturday. You could build up through the week like that, 400 or 500, maybe 1,000 bricks then you could make a short day like Saturday.

    Pizor: About how old were you?

    Dillon: When I worked in the brickyard? Eleven years old.

    Pizor: You quit school? That was a full time job?

    Dillon: No, I went to school a couple of months in the winter time until I was 13.

    Pizor: Where was this brickyard?

    Dillon: In there near Kaolin.

    Pizor: A lot of boys your age working in there?

    Dillon: Four or five different boys there. Not a lot.

    Pizor: You figured you help out at home?

    Dillon: I had to. I wanted to eat.

    Pizor: Was your father still a horse trader?

    Dillon: No, my daddy got killed. He was killed when I was ten years old.

    Pizor: That was when you stopped hauling willow I gather?

    Dillon: Yea. I worked for McCurrans the next summer I think. I never come here with any myself.

    Pizor: Your sisters have to work also?

    Dillon: Oh, yes.

    Pizor: What was your house like? Where did you live?

    Dillon: Brick house. It is still there. On Lancaster Pike. Are you acquainted with that area between Hockessin and Avondale?

    Scafidi: I'm thinking of places like the Stone Step Inn.

    Dillon: Past there.

    Scafidi: Down near, I guess it's Avon Green now. You know that restaurant that keeps opening up and closing.

    Dillon: That's right near Avondale, Avon Green.

    Scafidi: So you are between those two points.

    Dillon: I had a cider mill there. I guess you don't remember that. That was 1923. That's before you were born.

    Scafidi: You stayed in the same area all the time?

    Dillon: I live within two miles now of where I was born.

    Pizor: How did you pay for your house? You lived in a brick house, a nice house?

    Dillon: The family happened to have it paid for.

    Pizor: So you didn't have to worry about that.

    Dillon: No, that is what kept us together. If we had no home I guess we would all have gone in the aid society. I don't know. He happened to own it. We just got a couple of cows and made a living there. It wasn't so fat but we lived.

    Scafidi: Do you have any stories about hauling willows that you haven't told us? Did you ever hear that when you came up here at night that there might be ghosts running around?

    Dillon: Well, I was pretty good at telling them myself. [laughs]

    Pizor: When you came up here did you ever see other guys pulling wagons in?

    Dillon: I never seen anybody in here at night but us. And I guess we were the only ones because Casey used to always be half mad, "What are you coming in this time of night for? I ain't supposed to work all night."
  • Leaving highway work for self-employment; hauling potatoes, horse trading, and butchering; buying a farm and selling parcels at a profit
    Keywords: Animal welfare--Standards; Draft horses; Freihofer Baking Company; Hardart; Horn & amp; Horse trading; Mushrooms; Self-employed; Slaughtering and slaughter-houses; Supplee-Wills-Jones Co. (Philadelphia, Pa.); Tanneries
    Transcript: Pizor: After your brick job what did you do?

    Dillon: I carried mail for a year, worked with [?] for two or three years, worked on the highway and one day they told me, October 1, we worked ten hours a day for $1.50, first of the month we go to nine hours, that will be $1.35. I said, "Well, I'm quitting." I went and bought a horse. I paid $17 for a horse and I started hauling potatoes down here to Wilmington. I could make 50 cents a bushel on them and the old horse could pull 20 bushels, and that paid me $10 and I used to make three trips a week so I was much better off than working on the road. From that day I never worked no more for nobody. I have always done something else.

    Pizor: Where did you get the potatoes?

    Dillon: From a farmer, different farmers.

    Pizor: Where did you drop them off?

    Dillon: Wasn't any trouble selling potatoes then. Everybody lived on potatoes nearly; sell every family 30 bushel.

    Scafidi: Would you hawk them down the street?

    Dillon: You got acquainted and you know where to go. A lady would say bring me 5 bushel or 10 bushels tomorrow. It wasn't no trouble to sell them then at all. You couldn't sell them at all today I don't think but at that time you could sell them.

    Pizor: Cash?

    Dillon: Oh, yeah.

    Pizor: How long did you keep up with that?

    Dillon: Hauling potatoes? Well...I was 25 or 26 years old when I quit hauling potatoes. Then I got to butchering. Then I bought a farm.

    Scafidi: Any special reason why you stopped hauling potatoes?

    Dillon: Well, each time you get better at something and make more money. You don't go back to the slow job. I made $300 a week killing cows. That was money then. And you know something, if you get another world war - 1913 the hides off a cow was worth as much as $40.

    Scafidi: Untanned?

    Dillon: Yeah, down on Church St. That and the meat together, why you could do good.

    Scafidi: When you butchered did they give you the hide?

    Dillon: I'd buy the whole cow.

    Scafidi: You'd buy it and butcher it and...

    Dillon: Sell the meat and the hide.

    Pizor: Where was your farm?

    Dillon: I stayed in this same place my daddy owned until I was 33 years old. I was there 29 years and then I bought a place up at Toughkenamon - $25,000. Everybody said I was cheated and in two weeks I had $30,000 worth of ground sold off of it. I had all the buildings and I forget how many acres left.

    Pizor: Paid off your farm pretty fast.

    Dillon: I could have done that about four times. I didn't have no education, but I did know the value of a lot of things.

    Scafidi: Was there a big mushroom boom going on at the time? Why did they buy the land?

    Dillon: Yes, that's right. Five acres, 10 acres. I bought a farm and I give them what they wanted. And wound up making that kind of money.

    Scafidi: Did you ever have any dealings with the DuPont Company after you stopped hauling willows?

    Dillon: Only on their farms. See, I went in the horse business about '26. I guess I got in it pretty good and up until near 1950. I was in about 25 years and I used to sell them horses on all their farms. Draft, or work horses.

    Pizor: You raised them on your property?

    Dillon: No, buy. That's too slow raising them. I want to get them today and sell them today.

    Pizor: Where did you buy them?

    Dillon: Oh, I used to get a lot of them outside of Philadelphia. Bought a lot of horses out of Freihofer Bakery. They was working 3,700 horses when I first started dealing and they'd have two or twelve horses go bad every week. You know, they'd go lame on the streets.

    Scafidi: They didn't want to pay the upkeep on them?

    Dillon: They weren't allowed to work a horse, cruelty. It's all right in the country, as soon as that horse hit the soft ground he wasn't lame no more. I used to get them off all the farms, like Supplee-Wills-Jones I got horses. Then I got a lot of western horses.

    Pizor: Then what would you do, call around and see who wanted some?

    Dillon: I was busier hunting the horses than I was selling them. It was a bigger job to find the horses than it was to sell them at that time. They were in demand. The tractors and the trucks took that all away. You couldn't give a horse away today.

    Scafidi: Did you ever have any contact with a place in West Chester called Hoopes Bro. and Darlington? They make wheels.

    Dillon: No. I never needed wheels. I could always find plenty of wheels other places.
  • Growing crops during World War II; business philosophy; butchering cattle and selling hides to local morocco tanneries
    Keywords: Agriculture; Business--Philosophy; Morocco leather; Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945; Slaughtering and slaughter-houses
    Transcript: Pizor: Did you ever do real farming?

    Dillon: Yes, Ma'am. When Roosevelt asked us to grow crops, you remember, beans and peas. I planted 700 acres. I had 350 acres of soy beans and 135 acres of lima beans, 60 acres of peas, 40 acres of tomatoes and 25 acres of pumpkins. I used to raise pumpkins for Horn & amp; Hardart. I sold them pumpkins for 8 or 10 years.

    Pizor: What did you do with the rest of your crops? Did you take them into Wilmington to market?

    Dillon: No, the tomatoes I put in the cannery, Phillips in Newark. I rented the ground around Newark. It's better than buying it. The beans I got them over here and froze them, lima beans and peas and then...

    Pizor: How did you make these deals with these different companies?

    Dillon: Go and see them. Go right in their office.

    Pizor: You're quite a clever business man.

    Dillon: I know how to do that. I didn't go to the hired man, I'd go to the boss.

    Scafidi: Was there anybody in the area who taught you how to do this? Or you just figured it out yourself and went and did it.

    Dillon: No, I'd be more apt to tell them I guess.

    Pizor: Well, your father was a little bit of a horse trader?

    Dillon: Oh yes, he'd trade anything. Just like I was. I was in every kind of a business you can think of. I hauled machinery down south and sold it, Second World War, old automobiles. Anything that looked to me like it was agoin', I got in.

    Scafidi: When you were butchering you said you could sell these hides to the morocco tanneries, did you do this a lot? Was it a pretty steady item?

    Dillon: Well, I could get about 15 a week because I would gather them up all over. I'd go to Downingtown, Coatesville, all over the country. I didn't get them in one place.

    Scafidi: You bought them from farmers rather than stockyards?

    Dillon: Oh. yeah. I didn't fool with no stockyards. They was smarter than I was. I didn't want to deal with somebody smarter than myself. Always catch a guy dumber than yourself if you want to make any money.

    Pizor: How much did you have to pay for a cow?

    Dillon: I've paid as low as $2 and up to maybe $30 or $40.

    Scafidi: Did you do any fattening up? Or just bought them for slaughter, that's it?

    Dillon: I killed them 5 minutes after I owned them.

    Scafidi: Did you do the killing there?

    Dillon: Right where I buy him and kill him. I could take him away faster that way.

    Scafidi: Did you have anybody helping you?

    Dillon: Oh yeah. One man, he worked for me for seven years.

    Scafidi: And if you were to sell the hides to some morocco tanneries, did they always want them or...?

    Dillon: Oh yes. There was a real demand for them then. Yes, sir.

    Pizor: Old you ever try to sell the hides just in the market place?

    Dillon: No. Got too smart for that. I got into that morocco. I had them all beat.

    Pizor: Who was your best customer for morocco?

    Dillon: Dougherty and...Dunbar and Dougherty, down there at 5th and Church. They would take all I would bring them. Hughie Dougherty anyway. I was all right after I got in the morocco shop.