Interview with Daniel Toomey, 1969 August 7 [audio](part 2)

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  • Description of his house in Upper Banks; his father and other workers pitching quoits; playing near the charcoal house; the guard at the gates near Free Park
    Keywords: frame houses; Free Park; lunch pails; Mills and mill-work--Employees; peeling willows; Quoits
    Transcript: Scafidi: The following is Tape No. 69-2, the continuation of Side 2 of Tape 69-1. The interview which you will hear is the concluding portion of the interview with Mr. Daniel Toomey which was cut in the middle at the end of Tape No. 69-1, Side 2. Did you walk with a bunch of other children?

    Toomey: No, well you might get two, three, that was it.

    Scafidi: Did you take a dinner pail with you to school or did you come home?

    Toomey: That's right, that's right. We had a sandwich and stuff like that down there.

    Pizor: How big was the house you live in, was it two-story or one-story?

    Toomey: Let me see, there was a kitchen, one up there, another one - one, two, three. I think there were ten rooms in our house, yeah. Because my father's people was in there. They were all big houses, frame houses.

    Pizor: Did you have a big fireplace in the kitchen?

    Toomey: No, just a cook stove, and the next one was, you know, wooden stove or something like that.

    Scafidi: Did you - was your kitchen down in the basement or halfway?

    Toomey: Down the steps, you're right, then four steps up.

    Scafidi: I don't know whether you remember, was there any sort of dumb waiter arrangement to go up and down from the kitchen, or did you always eat down in the kitchen?

    Toomey: No, ate there in the kitchen. And the next steps, as you say, then there were another room, then we had what they called a parlor. You very seldom ever sit, and there were about ten steps to get up to your bedroom.

    Scafidi: Did you have any heat in the bedrooms?

    Toomey: No, no heat at all. And your toilet, oh you had to walk from here pretty near half a mile out.

    Scafidi: You really had to be sure you had to go.

    Toomey: Yeah.

    Pizor: How many brothers and sisters did you have living in the house?

    Toomey: Just five.

    Pizor: Five, and your parents.

    Toomey: Yeah - they're all dead but two of us now.

    Scafidi: You say that your father's people lived with you, too? Your grandparents?

    Toomey: Yeah - William Casey, he had charge of the what they called the coal house. He used to have to go over there every night and all like that. And this man what was taking me through the yard, I said, "My God, this ain't it. This is where we used to play at. Well Mrs. Carpenter got it now." I can't understand why that didn't come in with the Museum.

    Scafidi: Well, you know, when things get split up, they don't...

    Toomey: Bobby Carpenter and Hallock du Pont, Mrs. William K. du Pont, Lammot du Pont and all of them, I know them like that.

    Scafidi: Did you know them when you were - first meet them when you were a boy?

    Toomey: Yeah.

    Scafidi: Did all of you play together, or know each other?

    Toomey: Yeah, yeah, we played together - Bobby, [?] Carpenter and all of them. I didn't have enough sense to marry one of them [laughs].

    Scafidi: You might marry somebody in the neighborhood.

    Toomey: Yeah - I'm still single.

    Scafidi: When you said your father's people lived with you, was this pretty usual in the area, to have three generations?

    Toomey: Well, William Casey, he had charge of this refinery you know, up above, but they're about all out. That's the only one I can tell you about.

    Scafidi: What did, say your father and his friends who worked with him down there, what would they do when they came home from work?

    Toomey: Well I'll tell you what they used to do. Back of that big barn, you know, they used to go up there and have a little beer and they used to pitch quoits. And they used to pitch quoits up there all the time. Main man that had charge of that barn then was named Blathers, he's dead, Jake Blathers. And they used to go up there and watch them pitching quoits.

    Scafidi: They could get horseshoes right off the horses I guess.

    Toomey: Yeah. And another thing what happened up there, you'd see the women. Mart Dillon used to bring down these - man dear, they used to sit up there at night pretty near ten o'clock at night, eleven o'clock. Mart Dillon used to bring them down in there, peeling willows.

    Pizor: Was that how you met Mr. Dillon - when you were boys?

    Toomey: Yeah. Man they used to peel them and the women used to fight - they used to have a big old bag around them. Man dear, they used to fight over them, I don't know how much they got.

    Scafidi: Piece work do you think?

    Toomey: Well I couldn't tell you about that, Margaret would have to tell you about that.

    Pizor: Did your mother ever peel willows?

    Toomey: No, not that I know of.

    Scafidi: Did you have any sisters that might...

    Pizor: You were near the old charcoal house, weren't you?

    Toomey: That's right, I know where it's at.

    Pizor: Did you ever go down there, play down there?

    Toomey: Yes Sir, played there many a time.

    Pizor: Did they burn charcoal while you were down there?

    Toomey: Yep, and and we used to get the dickens about going down there when they were burning too.

    Pizor: Was it safe?

    Toomey: No.

    Scafidi: People always trying to chase you out from around the building?

    Toomey: Yeah. And then there were another place down there where DuPont's had all around there where they cut out posts what they put in there - his name was Casey, too, old Mike Casey. Finally after a bit we'd go down there, man he'd get after us like I don't know what. And they used to - you know these posts you know, what they used to put in the ground, and man that man was down in there and he'd work his head off.

    Scafidi: Was there a fence around the powder yard between the Upper Banks and the yards, or could you just walk down in?

    Toomey: No, no you could walk down and you could go down Barley Mill Lane, Breck's Lane or any one - walk right straight in through the two gates. And over by what we used to call Free Park, you could go down in the back there. And they had a guard there, some old man, I don't know what the heck his name was, they called it Free Park, and that's where the danger was at there.

    Scafidi: Did they try - if they saw you coming through the gate, did they check you for matches or anything like that?

    Toomey: Well, this guard might, now I'll tell you the truth, you could go down in there on your own risk. Now if you had your father, uncles, you know or something like that, you wanted to go down and see, he'd let you go on down, and you would see him sitting along the creek, with a fishing line or something like that.

    Scafidi: At work?

    Toomey: Yeah, and them barrels used to roll [makes the sound] and they'd roll like the dickens. And that was 48 hours a day, day and night. And when you heard an explosion down there, why everything was up in the Upper Yard.

    Scafidi: What happened when there was an explosion?

    Toomey: Everything was just quiet.

    Scafidi: I mean did everybody just duck and then run for the gates?
  • His aunt working for the family after his mother's death; St. Joseph's Fourth of July celebrations; the neighborhood physician, Dr. Samuels
    Keywords: Barbershops; Dr. Samuels; Father Scott; Fourth of July celebrations; Grocery trade; Laundry; Physicians; Priests; Samuel Frizzell; Saturday soup; St. Joseph's on the Brandywine; Telephone; Working class--Religious life
    Transcript: Toomey: They only had one barbershop and it's name was Sam Frizzell, had that store, had to walk pretty near two miles to go to the store. And he'd come back on a Saturday - they called it [good?] wagon - no bread man or nothing like that. And the Rising Sun from the Upper Banks, you had to walk pretty near two miles. And them women with the baskets, you ought to have seen them. Lugging, you know.

    Pizor: Did your mother make much stuff at home?

    Toomey: Well, I'll tell you the truth, I couldn't remember much about me mother, she died, but her aunt, man they used to roll stuff and all like that - make bread, and what the heck they call these - noodles and stuff like that. Used to see them with the board, man they used to make that. On a Saturday, that was her day off, they had a pot there, it was as big as the dickens, there's your soup.

    Scafidi: Did they keep it on all day?

    Toomey: Yeah, we don't work tomorrow. Her day was off. And what they had, all this you know - washing clothes and stuff like that. They didn't have no washing machine.

    Scafidi: Did they wash in the house, or was there a special place?

    Toomey: They had two tubs, had to carry the water and put it in there, they had to heat it to get it warm. I walked from here, well I'd say halfway up to that light, filling up them tubs.

    Scafidi: That was your job?

    Toomey: Yeah. my God, after she got that water heated and all like that, she used to get out - there were no systems at all, you know, like there are today.

    Scafidi: Did you ever, remember having electric in the house, or was it all lamps?

    Toomey: All lamps, all the time I lived up there was all lamps.

    Scafidi: Gas or Oil?

    Toomey: No, gas, no. All wood stove and stuff like that, coal.

    Scafidi: What were the special days, holidays, that all the people may have looked forward to when you were a boy?

    Toomey: Fourth of July. That Catholic church up there, St. Joseph's, was right down there next to the Rising Sun car where it stopped at, and that's where they all gathered.

    Scafidi: What kind of affair did they have - picnic or...

    Toomey: No, it was just soft drinks, dancing and stuff like that, people that could dance, you know, and they'd get out there and dance and jig and stuff like that, but it was mostly just a family affair.

    Scafidi: But most everybody brought their family - it wasn't just Catholics?

    Toomey: Anybody could come there.

    Scafidi: Was this occasionally held on something called Daddy Key's Hill or Key's Hill? We heard somebody talk about having big picnics at St. Joe's on Daddy Key's Hill, just wondering if you ever heard something referred to by that name.

    Toomey: St. Joseph's used to have it there and then it dropped off after the Rising Sun car - Bobby Carpenter bought all that ground in there and he put a stop to it.

    Scafidi: Who was priest up at St. Joe's when you were up there, do you remember?

    Toomey: Father Scott. That's where I was christened at.

    Scafidi: Still go up there occasionally?

    Toomey: No, just don't go to no church, tell you right to your face, which I ought to go, it won't hurt anybody. [laughter]

    Scafidi: Was the priest there and the minister over at Christ Church, were they, you know, community figures or did they just drop into the background and only on Sundays?

    Toomey: Well I'll tell you, you take in my neighborhood, they were all just like that. They were sociable and all like that. A lot of times the children would go over there to Christ Church, this and that and all like that. They were all - you didn't hear nothin' like what's going on today.

    Scafidi: Did you have a doctor who was handy or what happened when you got sick?

    Toomey: A doctor when you got sick up there, his name was Samuels, Dr. Samuels. He's dead and gone. That was the only one around, he had to come around with a horse and wagon.

    Scafidi: Was there some way you get a hold of Doc Samuels or did you have to send somebody for him?

    Toomey: No, they had a phone up there. You had to ring it on top and he would get in touch with him, but he might not get there right away, but it would be an hour or two hours maybe.

    Pizor: When he came, did he have a horse-drawn buggy?

    Toomey: That's right and you know them phones used to be up on the wall and you had to ring it?

    Scafidi: Wonder if he had an answering service? Like doctors now [laughter]. Was there a dentist at all, what happened when somebody had to have a tooth pulled?

    Toomey: Well, I don't know. They must have had to take them in town, I'm telling you the truth.
  • Lack of crime and neighbors taking care of each other; father's and mother's deaths; planning to visit Hagley
    Keywords: Bars (Drinking establishments); beer; Childbirth; Crime; Neighborhoods; peeling willows; Rural conditions
    Transcript: Pizor: Were there any police in the area if somebody got in a fight or something, would you call in the police?

    Toomey: No, not in the Upper Banks, no. There were no police there at all. They had a constable name of what they called Campbell. By the time he got there why you could be killed and shot and everything.

    Scafidi: Were there many fights around that would have required a policeman?

    Toomey: No, you take there in the Upper Banks, Free Park and stuff like that, Christ Church, you never tell. The men used to go out there and pitch quoits, drink beer, and they seemed to be sociable. It ain't like here today.

    Scafidi: Would you, let's see I don't know whether you would have been old enough to remember, would you call the area a place where men liked their beer or did they all - was there a big temperance movement?

    Toomey: Not in my neighborhood. There was Free Park, Montchanin and all of them, and there was never no trouble in there. You might hear tell of a robbery once in a while, you know, but you never heard tell of any killing or anything like that. And these men used to come home there and pitch quoits and the women, out in back of that barn, you know where it's at, man they used to peel willows there, ten, eleven o'clock at night and they used to have a big bag around them there. They'd peel them willows what Mart Dillon brought in there - you never heard tell of no trouble. And their little child would go out there and play and all like that. You never heard tell of it. And you never hear tell of any fighting or anything like that in the neighborhood. If you got sick, my God, this woman was up there to what's the matter with you. She used to, you know...

    Scafidi: Smother you.

    Toomey: Yeah. No, but I mean they'd go on up there and do your work and stuff like that. But today they don't do it. I'll tell you one time in that neighborhood, Montchanin, they heard tell of it over at Christ Church, like your wife, you know, oh Mrs. Toomey or Mrs. Clay is sick. She'd be over there and do your washing and all like that. And maybe take your child home. But it's not today.

    Scafidi: Do you ever recall anybody having to go to a hospital or anything or did they generally get nursed at home?

    Toomey: Well, I couldn't tell you about that. If a woman was going to give birth to a child or something, that was all done at home.

    Pizor: Do you remember when - who gave you the word that your father had been killed - who brought the word to your mother and to your family that your father had been killed?

    Toomey: Well I'll tell you, I was young, I couldn't tell you. And she died, it was consumption, and about four weeks after it she was dead. I just couldn't tell you. It was one of the DuPont men anyhow. I think it's on the calendar up there, when he got killed and all like that.

    Scafidi: Were there any local characters around, people talk about so-and-so, like oh the town politician, the town know-it-all, the gossip?

    Toomey: Ain't nobody in here, this is a small state, you know.

    Pizor: Did you ever go across the creek when you were a boy?

    Toomey: Yes Sir, DuPont Experimental Station, yeah. I knowed it well. Old Simon Dougherty's store and Jeff Blakeley had the saloon up Rising Sun Lane, Pat Dougherty had the other saloon. Your face looks familiar to me, what's your name?

    Pizor: Pizor, P-I-Z-O-R.

    Toomey: And the Betty's right across there. Heck, I was born and raised right there, you seem to know a lot about Henry Clay.

    Pizor: Yeah, been around there.

    Toomey: I know it all in through there - the golf course, Alfred I. du Pont's and all like that, in and around that neighborhood. I'd like to take you up through the yard some day.

    Scafidi: Well, we'd be happy to have you out again.

    Toomey: Well, she'll be home tonight - some day next week or something, we'll walk up through the powder yard.

    Scafidi: That would be very good.

    Toomey: We can start right there at Hallock du Pont's, right there at the bottom of Barley Mill Lane and walk slowly on clear up.

    Scafidi: We could either give you a call, or you could find the time when it's convenient for you.

    Toomey: How about you calling me around about Tuesday or Wednesday.

    Scafidi: Okay, fine.

    Toomey: And we can start right there at Hallock du Pont and walk slowly on up through there. But I can't understand that museum, why they didn't go on up in Bobby Carpenter's place.

    Pizor: I don't know.

    Scafidi: I guess they just cut it off at property lines, you know, when the split the powder yard property, they probably just ran the museum in where nobody...

    Toomey: I'd like to show you in through that there, my grandfather used to go over these big lids you know. This old one down here in what they called the Upper Banks where I was born and raised at, why they ain't nothing there, just the smells, you know. But walk up along the Brandywine there and stuff there, I'll show you where the mills and stuff was at.

    Scafidi: Okay, well why don't we do that. I'll give you a call on - well let's say the middle part of the week, Tuesday or Wednesday.