Interview with Edward Devenney, 1984 March 27 [audio]

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  • Family and living history; chores and working at the DuPont Experimental Station
    Partial Transcript: Bond: This is James Bond on March 27, 1984 at the home of Ed Devenney, 108 E. 38th [Street]. We're going to talk about living and working along the Brandywine in the early days. What's your age now, Ed?

    Devenney: Well, I was born in '97. You figure it out.

    Bond: That makes it about 87, doesn't it?

    Devenney: 1897, I was born.

    Bond: In which of the villages along the Brandywine did you live?

    Devenney: Well, I lived all over it - up and down the creek, the Brandywine. Henry Clay was the main road, along where the post office is, and Wagoner's Row - that was the main road on up to the main gates. Of course, there wasn't anything there, just a row of houses and a lot that run up to the railroad - the Reading Railroad. We walked mostly everywhere. Everybody walked.

    Bond: Did you live on Wagoner's Row?

    Devenney: No, that's too far up. That was the end of the trolley line.

    Bond: Which area did you live in, as to your house?

    Devenney: Mostly?

    Bond: Yeah.

    Devenney: Henry Clay.

    Bond: Henry Clay?

    Devenney: Yeah, the main road. The post office was down there and Pat Dougherty's saloon and...

    Bond: O.K. What was your father's name?

    Devenney: Thomas.

    Bond: Thomas?

    Devenney: Yeah, He was from Maryland.

    Bond: Where was he born?

    Devenney: Maryland...Donegal, where they eat potatoes, skins and all!

    Bond: Really?

    Devenney: That's right [laughter].

    Bond: Do you remember his birth date?

    Devenney: No, I don't. It's in March, but I don't know...he never said anything about it and that was it.

    Bond: What was your mother's name?

    Devenney: Annie.

    Bond: Where was she born?

    Devenney: Lowestoft, England.

    Bond: Lowestoft?

    Devenney: It's a fishin' place, where my old grandfather he smoked fish.

    Bond: Oh!

    Devenney: Even in Wilmington. He had a market at King and Madison Street, him and his son - two sons. Jim, which of course he was the main one. He went more on the professional side. He was great for college and, you know, school.

    Bond: What were your brothers' and sisters' names in their sort of order that they were born?

    Devenney: Oh, Lord! Well, there was nine of us - six boys and three girls. [pause] I'm number one.

    Bond: You're the oldest?

    Devenney: I'm the oldest. Six boys and three girls!

    Bond: What were your grandfathers' names and where they were born?

    Devenney: Benjamin Taylor. He was I say in Lowestoft, England. He was a great - they had mills there. Oh, I tell you, one main thing was there, silverware, or chinaware!

    Bond: Chinaware, yeah.

    Devenney: Beautiful blue. Oh, my grandmother brought a set over here when she lived on First Street, when they come over here. It's gone, disappeared and gone. Well, you couldn't expect to keep things like that. We still had some of it left up the creek, but gradually, you know. Beautiful silverware. They called it silverware, but there wasn't anything silver about it. It was chinaware.

    Bond: What were your grandmothers' names?

    Devenney: Grandmother? The one in Ireland, she's dead and gone. She's buried up here in Greenhill Cemetery. They brought her over here when they settled in the old farm. Uncle Ed brought her over. He's my namesake. So was my grandfather. Three Edwards, Grandfather Edward, Uncle Edward - he rode the police horse in town, the first one in the city of Wilmington. Uncle Andrew, he was the Sergeant of Police all during the first World War. Boy, boy, boy! [laughter]. He hasn't been too long dead. He died up here in Silver - or Hollyoak. No, Claymont up there. His son's still living, Andrew - one of his sons. Uncle Andy used to chase me off the coast down here when I was young. He'd come down there and watch me on a Saturday night. "What are you doin' down here now on a Saturday night?!" You know, they had girls walkin' the streets. Oh, they had to - boy, they chased them out of here. They were all from down state. You know what they for for?

    Bond: Yeah, I can imagine [laughter].

    Devenney: Oh, yeah, but some of 'em, I'll tell you, were beauties. Oh, boy! [laughter]. Old Alec Dever, a friend of mine, I used to go up and down the street with him and everything. He had one of his own, a favorite, you know. I thought to myself, "Not for me." [laughter] I may come away from here wrapped up. You know what I mean?

    Bond: Yeah. Do you know other people that might be available for interviews like this, Ed?

    Devenney: Jim Cammock. He's still livin'. His father was blown up. And his brother, Bob. I don't know, I think Bob built a house in Florida. Whether he's still there or not, I don't know. James Cammock. His father was killed up in Hagley, no, Birkenhead, I think they called it. It was close by the refinery. No, by the iron bridge.

    Bond: Well, we'll see. Someone may have talked to him already and if not we'll find out about it.

    Devenney: Could be. He was a great basketball player and what not.

    Bond: Was he about your age?

    Devenney: He's, I think, a little older than I am. There was three of us, Tom McCray, he was a machinist at Bancroft's, me, and Jimmy Cammock.

    Bond: Around your home when you were growing up, just think about some of the chores that you remember, such as cleaning or cooking, or cooking, or taking care of the children, or gardening or caring for livestock.

    Devenney: [Laughter]. Everybody, kids took care of themselves if they were any age. [Laughter].

    Bond: Did you have any specific chores you had to do?

    Devenney: Yeah, haul and chop wood. Yeah, stack it for the winter.

    Bond: Where'd you get the wood?

    Devenney: Every flood came along the Brandywine, you stood there with a big long fork and hauled it in - as much of it as you could get - and stacked it for the winter and cut it up. See, some of the houses I lived in, Walker's Banks and that, had a cellar in the front of it, you know, a cellar door there and all. Mrs. Copeland had it all fixed - well, she remodeled the whole village up there, you know.

    Bond: Mrs. Copeland, you say?

    Devenney: Yeah, Mrs. Copeland.

    Bond: And you lived on Walker's Bank then also, did you?

    Devenney: Oh, yes. The Experimental Station's right down the road from it.

    Bond: Oh, I know the buildings in Walker's Bank.

    Devenney: Well, you see, we walked - I just walked from my house up to the Experimental Station gates. I don't know whether those old gates are still there or not. It's been many years since I've been up there.

    Bond: Well, the lower gates are still there - down close to the bridge on the Brandywine.

    Devenney: Yeah?

    Bond: Yeah, they're still there.

    Devenney: Huh, ye gods, huh!

    Bond: Well, you chopped wood and put it up for the winter. What other chores did you do?

    Devenney: I went to work, I say, when I was fourteen. I was close to the Experimental Station, so that's where I landed, helpin' the chemists and moppin' lavatory floors and all the stuff that goes with it. I went all through that stuff.
    Synopsis:
    Keywords: chinaware; chopping wood; chores; Copeland, Pamela C. (Pamela Cunningham), 1906-2001; DuPont Experimental Station; Greenhill Cemetery; Henry Clay (Del. : Village); James Cammock; Joseph Bancroft and Sons Co.; Lowestoft (England); police horse; silverware; Wagoner's Row; Walker's Banks
  • Swimming in the Brandywine; dancing lesson at Breck's Mill; morning routines and the meat wagon; attending Alexis I. du Pont School and the neighborhood bully, "Dog" Hodgson
    Partial Transcript: Bond: What sort of activities did your family do together? Did you play games?

    Devenney: Oh, we had basketball up there and baseball, of course.

    Bond: Did you go fishing or swimming?

    Devenney: 0h, everybody fished - swimmin' - that's all we had to do.

    Bond: You swam in the Brandywine?

    Devenney: Absolutely. You ran out your door and stripped before you got in, dove in the Brandywine, swam across or up and down - whatever you wanted to do.

    Bond: Wasn't there a beach along by Walker's Mill - sandy beach?

    Devenney: Well, it was all a beach, yeah, sandy.

    Bond: Did the girls go swimming there too?

    Devenney: Absolutely! They dressed in skirts. [laughter]

    Bond: Well, did the boys wear swimming suits?

    Devenney: As little as they could, yes. [laughs]

    Bond: Did the boys and the girls go swimming together?

    Devenney: Absolutely. Oh, yes. The boys taught the girls, mostly, you know. Oh, the old overhand, you know, and even the broad stroke. We had men came out of town - some of them were well-educated men. They'd start at the lower dam down in the Experimental Station, it was right there, and take the broad stroke. Do you know what the broad stroke is?

    Bond: Yeah, breast?

    Devenney: Yeah, and swim from one dam to another. They started down in the Experimental Station, that dam, and went up to Breck's Mill dam.

    Bond: O.K., that's down below the bridge, then?

    Devenney: That's Breck's Mill. No, it's the bottom of Breck's Mill.

    Bond: Yeah, all right.

    Devenney: The mill that sat there was called Breck's Mill. All those are owned by old British cotton makers.

    Bond: Oh?

    Devenney: Oh, yeah, sure. Then Alfred I., when things calmed down, that was his playground - his bandstand in there and everything.

    Bond: Well, I've heard, didn't Alfred I. have a band?

    Devenney: He had everything! Bugle corps up Meadowbrook, and Meadowbrook's up where the trolley switch was.

    Bond: And where was the trolley switch, up by Wagoner's Walk?

    Devenney: Right below there, what we call it. There's a little, nice, clean brook there, right across from it, going up toward Christ Church. That's where I was confirmed and married [laughter].

    Bond: You were? Did you play any musical instruments?

    Devenney: No, I often wanted to, but it cost money to learn. The only thing I ever played was a mouth organ, that's all [laughter].

    Bond: Did many people play a mouth organ in those days?

    Devenney: Most everybody up there, yes.

    Bond: Did you have dances?

    Devenney: 0h, Breck's Mill was a real dance floor, I'll tell you! The whole third floor of it there. Miss Kate McClaferty used to come out and teach you.

    Bond: Regular dancing classes were they?

    Devenney: Oh, yes, cheap - didn't cost much to learn.

    Bond: How old were you then, about how old?

    Devenney: That was when I starting to begin to work - in my teens, you might say.

    Bond: O.K. Well, then did they have dances once a week or once a month?

    Devenney: Only about once a week, mostly Saturday. Oh, you could go in town and take lessons easy from Miss Kate McClaferty and Miss Kate McKuhen. Miss Kate McKuhen was on Delaware Avenue and Miss Kate McClaferty, she was on - was it Washington Street? Pythian Castle, that was the name, The Knights of Pythias owned the hall. Was it West Street? I think it was, going toward, you know, the Christiana River. That's toward the east, you know.

    Bond: When you were at home, describe a typical morning during the week - who got up first and who woke you up, you know.

    Devenney: The poor, old mother. She got up.

    Bond: Was she the first one up?

    Devenney: Oh, yes, she had to be to rouse everybody and to get the breakfast and all that stuff. She had one baby after another. God almighty! Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay!

    Bond: Where did you keep your clothes?

    Devenney: [Laughter]. Oh, gee. Oh, in old trunks, if you could find them.

    Bond: Did you have closets in your house?

    Devenney: Oh, yeah, oh yeah. There was closets in there, oh, yeah.

    Bond: Did you have to do any chores before breakfast?

    Devenney: Well, not many unless you were goin' down and get some more wood or something.

    Bond: Did your mother cook breakfast?

    Devenney: Mother did everything, God rest her soul. [laughter]

    Bond: What did you have to eat for breakfast?

    Devenney: Mostly oatmeal.

    Bond: Did you have milk or coffee?

    Devenney: Yeah, we had a little milk over it, over the oatmeal.

    Bond: Did you ever have eggs and meat for breakfast?

    Devenney: Yes, if you could afford it, yeah.

    Bond: Do you have any memory, Ed, of how often you might have eggs or meat during the week?

    Devenney: Huh, it's a shame my mother's not here. She could tell you. Well, I'll tell you, you lived as cheaply as you can, you know, what I mean, you could. 'Course, at that time stuff like that was very cheap. You had a butcher come around with a horse and wagon - Jack Carney and Jim Gilson - and all the women gathered - see, like Walker's Banks over there it was a block here and the next block over here [demonstrating] - and the wagon came along and, of course, all the women was there waitin' for him with their plate. They all carried plates for the meat. [laughter] And also, that was the place to get some news. Oh, the latest news.

    Bond: Did the butcher bring the news or did the other women bring the news?

    Devenney: Oh, well, together. The women exchanged the news, but getting in the news was...an old friend of mine, Johnny Dorman, he would send the news around. Oh, God, he'd get those women, and my mother'd ask me, "Ed, does Johnny Dorman go fishin' at midnight?" I said, "Sure." It was a sin to tell lies like that, 'cause he was closin' the store up. What you doin', crossin' yourself?

    Bond: I was just crossing myself. You said it was a sin to tell a lie.

    Devenney: Are you of that faith?

    Bond: No.

    Devenney: I'm not either.

    Bond: I'm just plain, old Methodist.

    Devenney: Uh-huh.

    Bond: When you went to school, where was the school? And how did you get there?

    Devenney: Alexis I. du Pont School, named after the man that built it. In fact, everything was du Pont, du Pont, du Pont. We had wonderful teachers, very nice people. And the principals - they had principals in those days, you know - a man - and they laid the whip onto you if you were mean.

    Bond: Oh, they did?

    Devenney: Oh, yes, they would, and so did the teachers. They weren't...hah, I'll tell you if you misbehaved, which a lot of them damn boys did, why "Hold out your hand." Bang! A ruler, and that ruler was, you know, had an edge on it.

    Bond: That makes me think. Did you know any bullies in the neighborhood?

    Devenney: Yeah, one.

    Bond: Do you remember his name.

    Devenney: Yeah, "Dog" Hodgson.

    Bond: Dog Hodgson?

    Devenney: Yeah, that was his nickname. His father ran the woolen mill, an old Englishman and the meanest man on earth to work for. Oh, boy!

    Bond: Did you have any problems with this boy?

    Devenney: Always problems with him. If he saw you standing alongside the creek down there, he'd sneak up in back of you and give you a shove and throw you in the water. If you had your Sunday suit on it didn't make any difference. Mean, Oh, God! Everybody hated his guts! He was mean. Of course, his father was a pretty hard man to work for, old Billy Hodgson. But he wasn't mean, I mean just that he was, you know...

    Bond: Did you ever a way to get even with him, the boy?

    Devenney: One Irishman fixed him good. He threw his boy in the creek. We called it the creek, you know. Corney Houton, this Irishman, and he was Irish. He fixed him! He wouldn't take that kind stuff on his boy.

    Bond: Did he just hit him?

    Devenney: Hah, did he hit him? [laughter] Corney Houton hits you, he hits you to stay, and down you went.

    Bond: Well, did the boy stop being a bully then?

    Devenney: No, he never stopped. Every chance he got, he'd sneak on again.
    Synopsis:
    Keywords: "Dog" Hodgson; Alexis I. du Pont School; bandstand; Breck's Mill; bugle corps; bullies; Christ Church Christiana Hundred; dams; dances; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Iré né e), 1864-1935; Hodgson woolen mill; Knights of Pythias; Meadowbrook; mouth organ; oatmeal; principals; Pythian Castle; trolley switch
  • After school activities and supper; hucksters, gardens, and animals; Mrs. Copeland taking over the Walker's Banks property; wells and outhouses; getting punished by his father
    Partial Transcript: Bond: What type food did you have for lunch, or did you take lunch to school with you?

    Devenney: Yeah, yeah, you could, yeah.

    Bond: Did you take sandwiches?

    Devenney: Like that; that was the only thing you could use. Bread and a slice of dried beef or anything like that.

    Bond: What were some of your after school activities?

    Devenney: Ho-ho! Down to swim if your...or goin' after chestnuts, walnuts, pickin' walnuts, all that kind of stuff - anything that was edible or good to eat - anything you could save, you know, for that time, why you went gathering nuts, and the girls mostly went berrying, You know, goin' after berries. Oh, blackberries was all over the place, ye Gods.

    Bond: Did the boys and girls go together, or did the boys stick to themselves and the girls stick to themselves?

    Devenney: No, the girls mostly went off by themselves. Well, naturally, the boys traveled together.

    Bond: What was a typical weekday evening like? What did you have for dinner and all that?

    Devenney: [Laughter] Well, they say you lived as cheap as you could. Of course, you could buy from the butcher right at your door every week, every day he come along - roasts, you know, stuff like that. I don't know - steaks, whatever you could afford. Got it as cheap as you could.

    Bond: You mentioned the butcher coming by with the wagon, did other grocers, green vegetable peddlers come by with wagons?

    Devenney: Once in a while we'd get what you call a huckster, you know.

    Bond: What all did he sell?

    Devenney: Well, vegetables, apples and oranges, that kind of stuff, you know. 'Course, the boys mostly stole that kind of stuff, if they could get their hands on it.

    Bond: [Laughter] Where did they steal it?

    Devenney: From a tree! Any, any, the closest farm. Oh, you helped yourself, that's all.

    Bond: Did the farmers mind?

    Devenney: Well, not unless they caught you. [laughter]

    Bond: Did you have a garden?

    Devenney: Mostly everybody did.

    Bond: Where was the garden located?

    Devenney: Mostly the side or the back of the house. It was dug by hand - fork - you know, raked over an'...

    Bond: What all did you grow in the garden?

    Devenney: Potatoes was the main thing, tomatoes.

    Bond: Did you keep chickens?

    Devenney: Oh, absolutely! Mostly everybody had chickens, oh, yes.

    Bond: Did you have a cow?

    Devenney: No, not unless you had a farm.

    Bond: Did you have any animals besides chickens such as rabbits or pigs?

    Devenney: Oh, I had several rabbits, yeah.

    Bond: Did you keep the rabbits for food or for pets?

    Devenney: Mine were just for pets. I couldn't stand to kill 'em.

    Bond: Did you have electricity in your house?

    Devenney: Not until Mrs. Copeland took over the whole property.

    Bond: Do you remember about what year that was?

    Devenney: That's what I'm tryin' to think. We burned coal oil, mostly. Lamps, you know, with a chimney on 'em. It was the time they made some sort of a division of the company - a dividing up of the land - like Breck's Lane, that went over to Chick Laird, all of that territory. His mother, you know, was P.S. du Pont's sister.

    Bond: Oh.

    Devenney: Oh's right! [laughter] That's the way they divided the land up up there - everywhere! It was divided like that. That's Chick Laird's property and this is Mrs. Copeland's property. And Mrs. Copeland got all of Walker's Banks, yeah, clear all the way up to the keg mill.

    Bond: Up to the keg mill?

    Devenney: Yeah, that's where they made the powder kegs in the old days.

    Bond: Did you have a well?

    Devenney: Oh, absolutely! Finest drinkin' water in the world!

    Bond: Did each house have a well, or was there just sort of one well for a lot of houses?

    Devenney: Well, on Walker's Banks there was, let's see, as you came down the hill, there was a well right there, with a stone house over it - a door on it. Nice, cold water - clear as crystal. On the other side of that block of houses - they're still there, those houses - there was another well, right there. But you carried the water for Monday's washday, you know, carried the bucket from one block of houses to another. The wells were divided. I don't know who divided 'em in the old days when they were built, but they were all divided sort of evenly. The ones on top were pumps, you know. [laughter] huh, geez. The well water was good, I'll tell you, it was beautiful.

    Bond: Another subject - did everyone have his own outhouse? Or were there community outhouses?

    Devenney: Oh, no, every house had its own; as close, you know, as they could get 'em without annoying one another.

    Bond: What were they, one-holers or two-holers?

    Devenney: Most of them, let's see, two or three-holers. Some of 'em were quite large, you know, in length.

    Bond: Did anyone tip over the outhouses at Halloween?

    Devenney: Oh, yes, yes. I'm guilty of that.

    Bond: Really?

    Devenney: Yeah. But the man lived in it caught you, look out for you! Boy, he had no mercy! 'Course, we had a lot of fun out of it. It was actually really fun, you know, but it was a mean trick when you come to think of it - a hell of a time to think of it at my age, of stuff like that [laughter].

    Bond: Checking back a little, when you ate dinner, the evening meal, what did you call it?

    Devenney: Supper.

    Bond: Supper?

    Devenney: Yeah, breakfast, dinner and supper, that's all.

    Bond: Was supper a big meal, or was it a smaller meal than the noon meal?

    Devenney: There wasn't any noon meal. Everybody worked away, you know.

    Bond: O.K. Did people say grace before the meal?

    Devenney: Depends on your denomination.

    Bond: What denomination were you?

    Devenney: Episcopalian.

    Bond: That's right, you were married in Christ Church.

    Devenney: [Laughter] Yeah, that's right, I was confessed, I was christened at Old Swede's Church.

    Bond: Oh.

    Devenney: That's right.

    Bond: Was there much table conversation at supper?

    Devenney: No, uh-uh. Father was the boss! He told you, he said, "The ills that you perform!" He met other fathers on the way home, you know, and they'd say, "Tom, you take care of that boy of yours now. He's gonna' get in trouble. And the old man got home, you know, and over the supper table he looked at you and, "What were you doin' today?" Uh-oh, you knew that you'd been told on, you know, and you got punished accordingly. My father had a brutal temper - I mean a mean Irish temper! He'd pick up his foot and hit you a slap, but the worst thing he had was a strap, a leather strap about three inches or so wide, and he had it cut in strips. They were about eight or nine inches long and it had a handle-shaped on the leather. And man, I'll tell you, did that thing bite. Wow! But you behaved. That's the way you behaved.

    Bond: You got the message fast.

    Devenney: You got the message fast, I'll tell ya'. You could only take so much of it, then you learned to behave. See, if you stole somebody's apples or somethin' and they're not far from you in their yard or somethin', well, they'd catch you, you know, and they'd meet your father comin' home from work, wherever he worked, you know, in the lower yard - what you call the Experimental Station - lower yard. You got squealed on. Even at school, the girls told the teacher about your behavior and, of course, you had a report card [laughter]. You had a report card and that was information, too. [laughter].

    Bond: Were the teachers pretty strict?

    Devenney: They had to be. You know, I mean there weren't any mean whippings - the principal did the whipping, if there was any whipping to do.
    Synopsis:
    Keywords: blackberries; chickens; Copeland, Pamela C. (Pamela Cunningham), 1906-2001; Discipline of children; electricity; Episcopalians; Halloween; hucksters; keg mill; Laird, W. W. (William Winder), 1910-1989; leather strap; Lower Yard; lunch; outhouses; Punishment; rabbits; supper; vegetable gardens; Water-supply
  • Relationship between the du Pont family, particularly Alfred I., and their employees; rooms in the Walker's Banks house and paying rent to Mrs. Copeland
    Partial Transcript: Bond: What time did you go to bed, I'm speaking about when you were about ten, twelve, fifteen years old?

    Devenney: Well, you burned coal oil, you know in the lamps - no electric until later on. I forget when that was now. Let's see, when did they put electric in up there? I guess the same time that Mrs. Copeland put the water in. She made all those fancy repairs up there.

    Bond: She put water and electricity in both at the same time, did she?

    Devenney: I think it was closely the same time. Yeah, she went around and she took interest in all, my mother and everybody. She'd talk to you, you know. She was a very nice woman.

    Bond: Now, that makes me think, Ed, how were the du Ponts and the Copelands and people like that, were they pretty decent people to you, or did they get way up here and you were down there?

    Devenney: No, they didn't, no, they didn't. Well, of course, they were ordinarily away up. They didn't want you, you know, in their circle or anything, but Alfred I. du Pont, hah, boy! He was the most loved du Pont of the whole crowd, I'll tell you! All of them were called "Mr. Alfred" or Mr. Eugene" of "Mr. Felix". You daren't call a du Pont by "Mr. du Pont". You called him his first name and "Mister" ahead of it, you know. Always "Mister", like "Mr. Alfred". Of course, the men all hollered at Mister Alfred, "Mister Alfred". They'd bow to him and everything. And he thought the world of his men.

    Bond: He did?

    Devenney: 0h, he did, I'll tell you.

    Bond: Were the du Ponts good people to work for?

    Devenney: Yes, Yeah. Alfred I., he was the king of the crop. They wrote a book called "The Family Rebel". Did you ever read it?

    Bond: No, but I've heard about it.

    Devenney: Well, read it!

    Bond: O.K.

    Devenney: It starts, you might say, from the bottom of Breck's Lane, that's Breck's Mill. Have you seen Breck's Mill?

    Bond: Oh, yeah.

    Devenney: Then you know. It starts up, goes on up where Alfred I. built his own home, right there about the middle of the hill, a beautiful home. We used to visit there on Halloween. Mrs. du Pont was always out there with money or givin' you somethin' [laughter]. She was a nice woman. She well, they ended up in divorce, anyhow. He had two daughters, Madeline and Bessie and a son, I think, young Alfred. She ended up on Kennett Pike in a place called, what did they call it? French, French, no Chevennes. It's right up the Kennett Pike on the left goin' up - beautiful home. That's where she went after she divorced Alfred, I think, I don't know. But when she was down the creek, when she lived there, oh, she'd help your baseball team. She'd always take a whole book of chances and say, "Now, if you're going to give money out, you give it to the poorest one in the village, you know." See, we'd chance off a ton of coal and stuff like that - stuff that was really needful, you know.

    Bond: Getting back to the house where you lived, how many rooms were in the house?

    Devenney: Well, let's see. They broke, Mrs. Copeland broke our house up on account of our large family. She increased it. Of course, just made it double what it was, you know. See, the first houses built was, well there was three - pretty big kitchen, you know. The kitchen and dining room were all the same and everything like that. When she broke our house up, man, we had more room than we knew what to do with.

    Bond: Did she give you sort of two houses?

    Devenney: That's right, yeah yes, she did.

    Bond: You said in the first house a kitchen and a dining room combined. What other rooms were in the house?

    Devenney: Well, there was a room which...if you wanted to make a livin' room.

    Bond: O.K. the living room was separate?

    Devenney: Oh, yeah, yeah.

    Bond: Did you spend much time in the living room, or was that sort of a Sunday parlor type of room?

    Devenney: [Laughter] Sunday! Oh, God. That was for things like funerals and all stuff like that, you know, but it made the house a lot nicer, you know, and of course more roomier and everything. And Mrs. Copeland come around and looked you over once in a while. 'Course you paid her the rent.

    Bond: Mrs. Copeland collected the rent?

    Devenney: Not herself. It came in to her. The old du Pont rent house was up near Christ Church, called Flea Park. It was right down on the road that went down.

    Bond: From Christ Church down toward the Brandywine Manufacturers' Sunday School on Blacksmith Hill?

    Devenney: Yeah, yeah, that's right.

    Bond: You say, "The du Pont Rent House." Was this a house where you paid rent?

    Devenney: That's right. Everybody just walked up there and paid the rent. Well, there used to be one old guy, he'd take it up for you or somethin' - George Cheney, he was sexton of Christ Church - one-armed guy.

    Bond: He would take the rent money up there for you?

    Devenney: Oh, yeah, he lived up there. He lived right there at Flea Park. He had the top house. The church was here [pointing]. He was sexton of the church.

    Bond: O.K. and he had the first house in Flea Park, then?

    Devenney: That's right, yeah.

    Bond: Did all the boys sleep in one bedroom?

    Devenney: Oh, sure.

    Bond: How many bedrooms did you have in the house?

    Devenney: It depended on the size of the house.

    Bond: I was thinking of the house you lived in.

    Devenney: Well, you see, everyone of them had an attic. They made the same use of the attic, you know. Oh, that was bed, too. They called it, "the garret."

    Bond: What kind of furniture did you have in the bedroom?

    Devenney: Well, a bed, naturally.

    Bond: Did you have a chest-of-drawers?

    Devenney: Eh?

    Bond: Did you have a chest-of drawers?

    Devenney: Yeah.

    Bond: Did you have pictures on the wall?

    Devenney: Huh. I had one hanging there that I'd love to have again. It was the - given to me when I worked up there on the DuPont powder wagon. Beautiful picture. I don't know whether it's still in our family or not. See, there were so many deaths in our family and they divided up - get married here and there, and pictures got scattered and everything. Our brother Bob, he worked at the Experimental Station. He got most of the pictures and things. Yeah. That - beautiful picture - painted by Howard Pyle, I think, or some big painter here. But the Company made prints of it all and give it to its employees. Everybody got one.

    Bond: Did anyone tell you bedtime stories when you were a boy?

    Devenney: No. [Laughter]. Nobody ever told me anything, only behave myself. The old man tended to those things. The time of night you went to bed and your behavior, that's all. All those Irish fathers were alike. That's it.
    Synopsis:
    Keywords: "Alfred I. Du Pont, the family rebel" by Marquis James; Breck's Mill; Du Pont family; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Iré né e), 1864-1935; Du Pont, B. G. (Bessie Gardner), 1864-1949; Flea Park; garret; Howard Pyle; Industrial relations; rent
  • Irish Italian relations in the Brandywine villages; drinking wine the Italians made and local saloons; summer picnics and taking Lundy's goat to a political parade
    Partial Transcript: Bond: Did all the Irish live together and all the Italians live together?

    Devenney: Mostly. The Italians flocked together, yes. They were great togetherness. Naturally, the Irish moved in one end of a place like this house here, and the Irish next door and tried to keep together and get together because we all went up to St. Joseph's Church except the Episcopalians and Methodists at Mt. Salem. Greenhill.

    Bond: was there any ill feeling between the Irish and the Italians?

    Devenney: No, not what you'd call ill feelings. The Italians made good wine.

    Bond: Did they?

    Devenney: Oh, yes, and they were liberal with it.

    Bond: They were?

    Devenney: [Laughter]. Yes they were.

    Bond: Did the Irish make it or just drink the wine?

    Devenney: Oh, they just drank it. They didn't know how to make wine. The Italians made their own wine - beautiful wine - 50-gallon barrels. And they'd open it - opening time - let's see, when was that? Used to get in it with their feet in the washtub.

    Bond: Yeah?

    Devenney: And mash the grapes. One lived next door to me - old John Montcalm - next to the woolen mill up there. [pause].

    Bond: He'd stomp on the grapes?

    Devenney: Yep. Stomp 'em out. Yeah, boy, oh, boy. That wine was delicious. Boy, oh boy. Opening day, was I think, the opener - tapped the barrel, you know. It was around - getting close to Easter. The old man next door to me, Old John, He'd...

    Bond: How old were you?

    Devenney: Oh, my teens - fourteen, sixteen.

    Bond: Did you drink wine at home? In your home? With a meal?

    Devenney: Oh, no. If it was given to you, or you bought it. It was cheap to buy if you wanted to buy it. My father, he didn't think much of wine. He liked his Irish whiskey.

    Bond: Did people - did the men spend much time in the saloons?

    Devenney: That was their downfall. My father's anyhow. Well, there was saloons close there, see. We had Jimmy Dugan's at the top of Rising Sun Lane. Down in the next, Jeff Blakeley's by the railroad. And you go round, come around and next was Pat Daugherty's, right below the post office. But, of course, the main one was Pat Daugherty's - I said Pat Daugherty's. Then, there wasn't any on Breck's Lane on the foot of the hill. The next one up was Tom Lawless' Saloon. His father was a priest, Monsignor Lawless, A highly respected man if there ever was one. He was a short man, walked along with head down. Always meditating. Smoking a pipe. And everybody called him - well, his title was Monsignor, and that's what all of 'em liked to call him, you know. And he'd say "Aye, tut, tut, tut. Call me Father Lawless, please." Monsignor. That's what he got. His sisters - one of the sisters still living over here, over on 36th Street. She's the one I buy my Mass Cards from - when I want a Mass Card, that's where I go. I've been goin' over there for years.

    Bond: Did she live up in Walker's Bank area?

    Devenney: No, she lived up at the top of Barley Mill Lane.

    Bond: What was her name?

    Devenney: I can't - that's what I'm tryin' to think of. There was three or four girls; there's only one left. There's still some boys left - some men left. But, Tommy Lawless who owned the taproom at the top of Brecks' Lane next to the sister's house, the school. I could take you for a walk through St. Joseph's Churchyard - two cemeteries - and show you the ones I helped put in there. That's not much to think about, but I went through a lot of it. They thought nothing of calling on you even if you lose a day's work. They'd want you to be pallbearer. Oh, I'll do that. You bet. Lose a day's work; they'd do the same for you. Your father or mother, or sister or anybody else. They were good that way.

    Bond: Were there any activities the whole family engaged in on a weekly basis?

    Devenney: No. Oh, everybody went to church. Picnics, church picnics - and all that kind of thing.

    Bond: How often did they have picnics and things like this?

    Devenney: Mostly in the summer. They all turned out.

    Bond: Was it a church picnic, or - were they church groups that did this or just family got together?

    Devenney: No, mostly church groups.

    Bond: Did the family do much visiting with friends and relatives? [pause]...letting your coffee get cold there.

    Devenney: [Laughter]. Well, it got cold.

    Bond: When I get interested, I talk a lot.

    Devenney: So do I, but it takes me so long to think. Since I had that stroke, I've lost a lot of memory.

    [Unnamed woman]: You still have a lot left.

    Devenney: Yeah - [Laughter].

    Bond: I wish I had that much memory. Well, these church picnics, you said they were mainly in the summertime?

    Devenney: Oh, yes. And each faith to its own.

    Bond: Oh.

    Devenney: Hibernians - that was a Scott's or, I mean, Catholic lodge. Ancient Order of Hibernians, is what it was. Oh, they had their own Lodge Room up at St. Joseph's Hall over the Church, near the Church - or next door to it. They even had a, you know, a parade -

    Bond: Were there a lot of parades in those days?

    Devenney: Mostly in town.

    Bond: Well, did you go down town to see the parades?

    Devenney: Yes. Well, the carfare was only a nickel.

    Bond: Oh. You took the streetcar downtown?

    Devenney: Oh, yes - unless you wanted to walk.

    Bond: Long way to walk.

    Devenney: Well, we walked Lundy's goat in there on Saturday - on Election night - or close to Election. To put him in the parade - Democrat parade. Gosh. [Laughter].

    Bond: Lundy's goat?

    Devenney: Yep.

    Bond: Who was Lundy?

    Devenney: Lundy's kept the newspaper route. Served - you know - the Lundy family - see - Ed, Robert - Robert he was on the People's Railway all the time, motorman, conductor, you know. And Matthew, and Johnny. They served the papers. Quite a paper route. Yeah. I served them for a while. They paid you for it.

    Bond: Did you have a job, then, as a paperboy.

    Devenney: Uh - not too long. If you wanted to earn a few pennies, why -

    Bond: Where was your paper route?

    Devenney: Right across from the - Lundy's lived across from the old post office. Right on the main - Henry Clay Street. Oh, they had a big shed there and houses built up there. A big shed down at the bottom of them, you know. They had woodshed where they stored the wood. A stove to burn. You burn a wood stove for cookin'. The parlor stove - [laughter].
    Synopsis:
    Keywords: Ancient Order of Hibernians; carfare; church picnics; Greenhill Church; Irish Americans; Irish whiskey; Italian Americans; Jeff Blakeley's saloon; Jimmy Dugan's saloon; Lundy's goat; Mass Card; Monsignor Lawless; Mt. Salem Church; pallbearers; paper route; parades; Pat Daugherty's saloon; People's Railway; saloons; St. Joseph's Church; Street-railroads; Tom Lawless' taproom; wine
  • Men's and women's societies; his father's work at DuPont and later Joseph Bancroft and Sons Co.; his apprenticeships in the Hagley Machine Shop during World War I
    Partial Transcript: Bond: Were there activities that the men engaged in on a weekly basis such as Masons, Odd Fellows, going to the tavern?

    Devenney: What was it you said?

    Bond: Were there any activities that the men did together?

    Devenney: Oh, yeah. I was going to tell you that the Hibernians had a Fourth of July picnic. Oh, by God; they really turned out on what we called Kees's Hill. That's half way up Squirrel Run on the way to...

    Bond: All the way up to Buck Road?

    Devenney: That's right! I'm thinkin' of Buck Road. That's where our minister lived. He had a beautiful home up there. Of course, that was owned by the DuPont Company. That was all du Pont land. Everything up there was du Pont land. And that's all there was to it. I'd say the time they split it up - well - of course, the minister I don't think he paid any rent or anything, but it was a nice home. I went up to see him a couple times. There was a beautiful library. Mr. Ashton - he ended up by marrying me. That's what I get for visiting the minister. [Laughter].

    Bond: What would Katherine say? [Laughter].

    Devenney: Oh, she's said it many a time. [Laughter]. Good thing she didn't have a whip in her hand. I'd come home, you know, a little under the weather, you know, from being out with these boys.

    Bond: This was the Hibernian Club?

    Devenney: No, I didn't belong to Hibernian - my, God, no. I belonged to DuPont Masonic Lodge in Wilmington. But it was organized out where I grew up. Yeah. I'm a sixty-year member. This year my sixtieth year - Grand Master sent word for me to come in and have a dinner with him and - Bedford Club is a club there in Masonic Temple. Right in Wilmington - third floor. I told him I couldn't make it; I didn't want to be...see, I'm in people's road and they're in my way. This - see how I'm fixed.

    Bond: You're doing great. Well, you said that Katherine didn't appreciate it when you came home a little under the weather.

    Devenney: No, she didn't. [Laughter]. Well, she has her own organizations, you know. She has Eastern Star, of course. But, I belonged to the Red Ladies - Pocahontas, they called it. They had an order - the Red Men - ladies' order, you know. I belonged to that. Most of the men did- We'd go in to their entertainments and stuff. They had, you know, things of their own. They met in Red Men's Hall down Shipley Street in town.

    Bond: Were activities that your mother and her friends engaged in - the women did like sewing clubs or did they just get together and visit?

    Devenney: Mostly visiting. I don't think they had any. Of course, they all knew one another and they met at each other's houses - like sewing bees. They called them sewing bees, and stuff like that. All those kind of things.

    Bond: How often did they do this type thing?

    Devenney: Well, you might say as often as they liked. I don't think they had any what you'd call stated...

    Bond: No schedule?

    Devenney: No.

    Bond: How often did the man go down to the corner saloon? Your father, say, and his friends?

    Devenney: Every pay night.

    Bond: How often were they paid?

    Devenney: Once a week. Mostly Saturday night was a big night. Mostly end up in fights. That's water over the dam.

    Bond: Did the Irish go to one saloon and the Italians to another?

    Devenney: Italians mostly kept to themselves. They drank the wine at home or they'd have their company in with them, you know. They would - a lot of them still intermarry, you know. Then, that's the time. If you got invited to one of their weddings or christenings, you were in!

    Bond: Well, what was a wedding like? What all did you do?

    Devenney: Ohhh! Mostly wine, dance, sing. Oh, yeah.

    Bond: Was it a very long celebration?

    Devenney: Oh, yes. Yes, yes, indeed. Not as long as a Polish wedding. The Polish generally lasted three days. [Laughter]. Many a one of them I've been to.

    Bond: Were there many Polish people worked around the powder mills?

    Devenney: No. No. There were Morocco shops all through Browntown. Did you ever hear of Browntown?

    Bond: Yeah.

    Devenney: Over where the morocco shops were.

    Bond: Morocco - Morocco leather?

    Devenney: Yeah. Leather factories - all over toward -

    [Unnamed woman]: Out Maryland Avenue.

    Devenney: Maryland Avenue - that's right.

    Bond: Were there any activities that children did every week? Like Sunday School.

    Devenney: Oh, yeah, they all went to Sunday School. You better get to Sunday School or look out. Of course, that was in the morning. And in the afternoon, you played ball or did whatever you wanted to do - as long as you didn't get into trouble.

    Bond: Did you go hunting?

    Devenney: Yes. Yes. If you were equipped to do it. I had a .22 rifle. I hated to kill anything.

    Bond: Did your father do any hunting?

    Devenney: No. He never had time.

    Bond: Where did your father work?

    Devenney: He ended up at Joseph Bancroft and Company.

    Bond: Did he ever work in DuPont powder mills?

    Devenney: Refinery - oh yes, yes. He was up - he worked up where they made the saltpeter - the refinery. There was a swinging bridge. See, I can't think of the names of those bridges - the names of them.

    Bond: Well, I know which is a swinging bridge - a suspension bridge, isn't it, across the Brandywine?

    Devenney: Yes. It was.

    Bond: Up around the keg mill, or someplace.

    Devenney: Up Chicken Alley. The refinery was situated right in there above the swinging bridge.

    Bond: How long did he work for the refinery?

    Devenney: I don't remember. No. See, I had an uncle that was killed up there. Birkenhead they called it.

    Bond: Do you know when that was?

    Devenney: I think 1904.

    Bond: Was that a big explosion?

    Devenney: Well, I think it killed two - my uncle - Uncle Bill McDowell.

    Bond: Did people worry much about the powder mills and explosions?

    Devenney: Night and day. You never knew when you were going to get blown out of bed - I mean. Rock the house - it would rock the house so much. Yeah.

    Bond: Did that happen very often?

    Devenney: Too often. Yeah. I knew all of them - all the men went up. Can't help but think of them once in a while, you know. Well, I was tellin' you about Jimmy Cammock. His father was blown up. Up there at Birkenhead, I think it was, where Uncle Bill was blown up, too. There's a little strip of land in there where there was four mills - the grinding mill. See, I built black powder machinery and I don't know [Laughter] them that way.

    Bond: Where did you work - in the machine shop at the mills?

    Devenney: Yeah. Right there at Hagley Mill - Hagley Shop - that big shop - the old machine shop.

    Bond: A lot of that is the Hall of Records now?

    Devenney: No. That's up in Barley Mill Lane. This is down right close to the creek. Great big beautiful stone. Oh, boy. Beautiful shop. Plenty of room in it and everything. Oh, yeah.

    Bond: How long did you work there?

    Devenney: I started there, I'd say 1914. To serve my trade, and I served that all through the First World War. Yeah. I got six cents an hour, ten hours a day. But, it was, of course every six months, I got two cents raise. I was serving an apprenticeship, see. When they mean apprenticeship, they mean you learn by working! Those machinists you worked with they saw to it that you behaved yourself, too.

    Bond: How long an apprenticeship did you serve?

    Devenney: Four full years. They kept you to your word. Yeah.

    Bond: Did you have to sign an agreement that you'd stay four years?

    Devenney: No, I didn't sign anything. You agreed when you took the job - when your father signed. I don't remember whether my father signed a paper or not. But I got the job because my Uncle Bob who was a teamster - he drove teams up there, you know. He got the job for me. See, most of these Irish sons that you find living up at Squirrel Run - all over - would serve in trade - carpenters, electricians - you could learn anything up there, You know. Yeah.

    Bond: Once you served your apprenticeship, you started out making six cents an hour and you got a two cent raise.

    Devenney: That was the first day you started you got six cents an hour. Ten hours a day.

    Bond: Once you finished the apprenticeship, then did you get a big raise. In pay?

    Devenney: Nope. No, if you stayed on, you got the minimum or maximum wage at that time. See, I quit during the War - was dismissed. I made up - let's see. The wage at that time - a full-fledged machinist - that's when you're finished at the end of four years - I got 78 cents an hour. The top going was 80 cents.

    Bond: You worked there in the machine shop at the powder mills for a long time.

    Devenney: Yeah - my whole trade all the way through.
    Synopsis:
    Keywords: Ancient Order of Hibernians; apprenticeships; Beford Club; Birkenhead mills; Browntown; DuPont Masonic Lodge; DuPont saltpeter refinery; Eastern Star; explosions; Freemasons; Joseph Bancroft and Sons Co.; Kees's Hill; machine shop; Men--Societies and clubs; morocco leather; Polish Americans; Red Ladies; Red Men; Red Men's Hall; saloons; sewing bees; swinging bridge; teamsters; Women--Societies and clubs; World War (1914-1918)
  • Working in machine shop at Hilles and Jones Co. after getting laid off at DuPont and later getting a job at Carney's Point; playing marbles as a child
    Partial Transcript: Bond: And then, where did you work after the powder mill. Did you work until the powder mills closed?

    Devenney: That's right, I did. I was laid off. Yeah.

    Bond: Then where did you go to work?

    Devenney: Well, naturally, you tried to keep on with the Company, but machinists were gone then, you know. Everything had been built. I did manage to strike a job. An old friend of mine who was a great man in the Red Men - Ed Sears - he was a boss at Hilles and Jones down at 9th and Church. They built shipyard machinery - you know, all that stuff. I managed to strike a job with him. Boy, they sure cut wages after that War. Boy, did they slice them! Ye Gods! Boy, oh boy, oh boy. No more 68 cents an hour; down they came. Boy, you took a job whatever you could get. I went from there to 65 cents was my next one. Then I got a job with him - with Hilles and Jones. I met him at Red Men's meeting, you know, and told him I was out of work. "I'll see old Jim Scott," that was a boss at Hilles and Jones. "I think we've got a slotter vacant. Did you ever run a slotter, Ed?" I said, "Well, we only had one up there at the shop but, I said, I ran a little bit." Well, he said that was enough; the men around will show you. And there was always men - once you've served a trade, you know, you were in the hay. Nobody would let you down. If you're stuck, do it this way. Not a labor union. Of course, Hilles and Jones was unionized at that time - after the War, you know, after it was over. In fact, Hilles and Jones, Hollingsworth, shipyard - they built ships, You know and everything down there.

    Bond: Well, when did you get back working with DuPont?

    Devenney: [Laughter]. That's funny way. Just trying to think where I was at the time...that I heard that the job was open at Carney's Point. I knew the place. I knew that you took the ferry boat to get over there and all that stuff, And there was a lot of men worked there. Smokeless powder plant - Plant No. 1 it was called. Plant 1. Now it's blown down. The explosion they had just wiped everything as clean as that floor. That's the way it is today, right alongside the river. Yeah. Started all over again. 65 cents an hour for them. [Laughter] Instead of going down, or up, I was going down. But I was thankful to get the job that time. When that War was over, everything just seemed to cave in.

    Bond: And you went to Carney's Point and just stayed there the rest of the time you worked for DuPont?

    Devenney: That's right - that's right.

    Bond: Let's get back to some other things about seasonal events. Did they have Fourth of July parades or big celebration on Fourth of July when you were a boy?

    Devenney: Well, there was always little parades here and there, but I mean not - It had to be some elaborate celebration to have a parade. They were all held on Market Street, up and down here and there. Some of these celebrated days - I don't know.

    Bond: Was Christmas much of a celebration when you were a boy?

    Devenney: Very little. You hang up your stocking.

    Bond: What would you get in your stocking?

    Devenney: Oh, a few sour balls, hard candy, something like that.

    Bond: Did you ever get an orange?

    Devenney: Occasionally, yes, fruit, yes.

    Bond: Did you have any toys when you were a boy?

    Devenney: Have what?

    Bond: Did you have many toys?

    Devenney: What do you mean, toys? Toys were just for monkey business. [Laughter] Too much money to buy stuff like that.

    Bond: Well, did you make your own toys?

    Devenney: [Laughter]. With hatchet and saw - if you wanted to - if you could.

    Bond: Did you play marbles?

    Devenney: Oh, yes. Oh, it was everybody's favorite game. Kneeling down on -

    Bond: How did you play marbles? What kind of a game was it?

    Devenney: [Laughter]. Gee -

    Bond: The reason I ask you, some people talk about - when I was a boy we had one ring and we had to shoot marbles, but I've heard people talk about two rings.

    Devenney: Yeah.

    Bond: What kind of games did you play with marbles?

    Devenney: Well, it depended on the gang you were with. The idea was to knock the main - the head commie - they called them commies in those days. Was to hit that main one there in the center. Some shot that way and others shot - those guys that shot that, boy, I'll tell you, could they slam. You knocked the main commie out of the ring.

    Bond: How many people played marbles? Just two people or were a whole lot of them?

    Devenney: Well, it could be anybody. Couple of guys would start it themselves - in the schoolyard mostly.

    Bond: Did you take turns shooting?

    Devenney: Oh, yes, yeah.

    Bond: Did you keep shooting until you knocked all the marbles out?

    Devenney: You made your own thing up, where you wanted it.

    Bond: Did people play for keeps?

    Devenney: Oh, yes. You kept the ones - or you traded them. It was a matter of trading between, you know. The winner - the winner take all, you know, in marbles. [Laughter] Gee.

    Bond: Did you have favorite marbles? What did you call the one you shot with?

    Devenney: Oh, that. They were recognized as men. They were like the head man, you know. Some of them were real pretty - oh, beautiful marbles. Some of those fellows I went to school with, by God, they were good shots. Man, they could stand there and Bang!

    Bond: Well, did you kneel down when you played marbles?

    Devenney: Mostly kneel, yes, on the ground. Oh, yes.

    Bond: Was the idea of some of the games - or most of them - just to knock the other man's marbles out of the ring.

    Devenney: That was a principle of it, yeah - to knock the favorite. See, there was favorite commies, as we called them. Some of them were real pretty. They called them men. [Laughter].

    Bond: Did girls play marbles?

    Devenney: Very seldom. They had jacks and all that stuff, you know.

    Bond: Did the boys ever play with jacks?

    Devenney: Not that I remember. [Laughter]. They had more sense.
    Synopsis:
    Keywords: Carney's Point (N.J.); Christmas; Fourth of July celebrations; Hilles and Jones Co. (Wilmington, Del.); jacks; machinists; marbles; slotter
  • 1915 Packing House explosion and aftermath; boats on the Brandywine for transport to work and fishing; beer kegs on Holly Island after weddings; DuPont providing jobs to children of killed powder workers
    Partial Transcript: Bond: Do you remember any houses that were built or torn down when you were a boy?

    Devenney: Well, I remember the ones that got blown up.

    Bond: Were they actual dwellings where people lived up that were blown up with powder mill explosions?

    Devenney: Oh, absolutely. God! Out would go your windows. Tuesday, November 30th, I was home in bed. I was on the night shift. Up at the shop. Up she went. God. I don't know how. I was asleep. It just broke half the windows of the house and rolled me out of bed. The house just shook like a - oh well.

    Bond: Do you know what year that was?

    Devenney: 1915. Tuesday, November 30th, 1:30 o'clock. Killed 31. And those beautiful horses - the ones that pulled the powder cars, you know. Horses we boys loved - used to ride horseback on them to the horse stall. That horse must have thought there was a fly on it or somethin'. Horse was that big, you know. Beautiful horses! Oh, we went up the old barns where they kept the horses, you know, and the men that were teamsters, of course, they were up to the stables every Sunday to make sure the horse was fed, you know, and everything.

    Bond: Where were these stables - up along Wagoner's Row?

    Devenney: Yes, not far from there. It's on the way - you go down and over the swingin' bridge - over there.

    Bond: Did they have a lot of horses around the mill?

    Devenney: They pulled the teams mostly in the powder cars. You had to get powder, you know, from one place to another. Different grades, see. Blasting powder, rifle powder and shotgun powder and all - it's all divided, you know.

    [Unnamed woman]: The horses were killed in the explosion?

    Devenney: Yes, that's what hurts to see things like that happen, but - they used to pick the men up in pieces that were blown up. Got paid for it. Got a dog, tied him on a rope around him and held him in your hand and let him sniff his way along, you know. After every explosion the corpse went over the crick like that. All you picked up was a piece of black meat like that. And you got paid for doin' it, though. The dog would sniff it out for you, you know, wherever it was. See, it goes up in the air and then it comes down over in the woods someplace. Across the crick. Wasn't very nice to look at but what are you gonna' do - you got paid for picking it up.

    Bond: Were these people that worked for DuPont or did they just pay boys to go do this?

    Devenney: Oh, you'd - the job you went after. You just went where the explosion was and fell in line. You had a bucket and if you'd picked it up with your hand or picked it up with your glove or whatever you had. But, you got paid for doin' it. A lot of it you did, but the hell of it was that you knew who it was. Yeah, the fellow I - Billy Bird was his name - at the Greenhill Sunday School. Oh, they gave him a great big funeral. My God, it was beautiful. But the trouble is they didn't know who they were - blown up in pieces. Gods.

    Bond: Did this type explosion happen very often?

    Devenney: Thank God, that's the only one I remember. That wasn't too long ago. That's the year I had my heart attack. At Carney's Point.

    Bond: Do you remember social events that were held at Breck's Mill? Dances and -

    Devenney: Oh, everything. I say Hibernians had dances there. Any social organization. Breck's Mill was always open to everybody.

    Bond: Were children ever allowed in the powder mills?

    Devenney: No, by God - nowhere near it. We used to sneak up along the banks of the crick, you know, for fishing. It seemed to be always better fishing up there than it was [Laughs]. See, all those old Irish lived up there had a boat - a flat bottomed boat.

    Bond: Were two-man boats...?

    Devenney: See, if you lived over on Walker's Banks and you worked over at Hagley, well, you couldn't - you had to walk all way around and go over the bridge - to the post office and up again. Looked like you were doin' double work. So, they let them build their own boats in the carpenter shop and you kept it right in front of your house at the wharf or wherever you tied it up to, and when you'd get up in the morning, you'd go down and get in the boat and they'd have long paddles - big paddles like that - yeah. You stood up - most of them stood up and paddled. It was easy. [Laughs].

    Bond: Did you actually paddle or did they just pull across?

    Devenney: Well, that was up to you. Most of them used the paddle. It was a nice easy stroke. And the first few minutes you're over, where are you gonna' dock it. And during the day, somebody'd come along and use it fishin'. [Laughs]. So it did double duty.

    Bond: You started to say when you were a boy, you'd sorta' sneak up where the fishing was always better.

    Devenney: Yeah. It seemed to be. There was fishin' holes - spots up there. Called them fishin' holes, you know. Sun fish were bigger - and bass - once in a while blue bass. Catfish - carp.

    Bond: Could you get in the powder mill that way then?

    Devenney: You'd better not go near it. No. They didn't want anybody monkeyin' around there. They saw you on the bank, they'd tell you, "Get out of here!" See, between the - there's a little island up there called Holly Island. That's a favorite fishing spot and it's where everybody - we - we stopped for fishin'. It divided the keg mill there which was the keg shop where they made the kegs here. It was Holly Island in between them. And that's were they had tapped their kegs of beer on occasion. On a Sunday, it was on Sunday. Just haul it up there and tap her - after a wedding. See, everybody who got married those days had to buy a keg of beer.

    Bond: Oh.

    Devenney: Oh, absolutely. Ooohhhh - you try to get off without it - God help the bride and groom. [Laughs]. Well, that's what you get for gettin' married. [Laughs].

    Bond: Well, did the bride and groom come to these affairs?

    Devenney: Yes.

    Bond: Who bought the keg of beer?

    Devenney: Oh, the old bridegroom, yeah. Yes. [Laughs]. He'd maybe show up; maybe he wouldn't. Mostly it would make him mad because he had to shell out five bucks. That's what the keg was - five bucks.

    Bond: How did you get the keg out there? On a boat or?

    Devenney: Well, you could either do that or of course the brewery would deliver it. They'd come out there with a keg. If you had a wheel barrow and you wanted to push it there, well, all right. It didn't make any difference.

    Bond: You mentioned Holly Island, I guess you had to go through the water to get to Holly Island, didn't you?

    Devenney: Oh, yeah. Well, there was plenty of flat boats. Probably the bridegroom owned the boat - it didn't make any difference.

    Bond: Did you know of anyone who ever got a job with the powder mill because their father was in an explosion?

    Devenney: Yes - that was Cammock I was tellin' you about. They let him work for 50 years. Wanted him to work. Every man who had a son that was killed in the powder, he had a job for life. Absolutely. I told you du Pont's were good in a lot of ways. They made sure that you - your funeral was taken care of. I mean all those things, you know.

    Bond: Did they give the women jobs if their husbands were killed, or give them free rent, or something?

    Devenney: Well, they didn't hire women - not anywhere around the mills or the shops or anything. Mostly sons.

    Bond: So, if the father of a man was killed in the mill, they would give his son a job.

    Devenney: If it was possible, yes. Yes, they'd hire him and put him to work. They all learned trades, you know. Those Cammock boys - two of them. Yeah. Oh, boy. [pause] Man he loved to play baseball, basketball, anything.
    Synopsis:
    Keywords: beer kegs; Breck's Mill; explosions; fishing holes; flat-bottomed boats; Holly Island; horses; teamsters
  • Worst and best smells; French people in the community; Flexible Flyer sleds and ice skates; dating customs
    Partial Transcript: Bond: Do you remember the Brandywine Manufacturers' Sunday School?

    Devenney: Huh - you got me there. I know where you mean. I know where the building is and everything. That's what they called it - the Sunday School. Yeah. It's where the woolen mill is now - the old woolen mill. Billy Hodgson's place.

    Bond: Well, there's another one up on the hill up towards Flea Park.

    Devenney: Oh, that one. Oh, the one I remember is across the crick where I lived. Yeah.

    Bond: What are some of the sounds in the neighborhood that you remember?

    Devenney: Dogs, mostly.

    Bond: Did you hear anything from the powder mills?

    Devenney: You heard when they went up, by God, don't forget that. Oh, boy. [Laughs].

    Bond: What was the worst smell you can remember?

    Devenney: Uh...sulfur. That's the base of black powder

    Bond: What were the pleasant smells you can remember? What was a pleasant smell you can remember?

    Devenney: Well, mostly around the houses there was lilac bushes. Lilac is my favorite perfume and favorite flower. Beautiful thing. They were imported - all came over from France with a French family. The du Pont family - they brought - oh, they brought them all over here. The French couldn't get along without a lilac bush.

    Bond: I never knew that.

    Devenney: Oh, boy. Yes, yes. They brought them over from France. Of course, you don't - well you cut them - grow 'em from little bushes, you know.

    Bond: From cuttings.

    Devenney: Yeah. There wasn't hardly a front yard or a back yard that didn't have a lilac bush in it.

    Bond: Did you have flower gardens?

    Devenney: Yeah. A lot of them had roses. A lot of people had roses. Old Mr. Thompson across from the post office, he loved his roses. Beautiful bushes. Old Peter Bazou, the Frenchman, him and his sister lived right above the post office there up on the top of the hill next to Lundys, the newspaper people. Boy, boy, he loved those roses. Peter Bazou. He worked the storeroom up there for - until he died, I guess. Him and his sister lived there. Of course, they were absolute French, you know. I mean French through and through. Spoke the language. Yeah. All those French loved flowers and I mean they all had them.

    Bond: Were there many French people in the community?

    Devenney: Well, up - further up from where I lived. Of course, I say Peter Bazou and his wife lived right across from Walker's Banks. Pete had a great big wood pile. He used to fish for wood. Every time a little flood would come, Pete would rake in that wood and stack it up on the big tree down there. Sometimes some of the boys would steal some of it, you know.

    Bond: Any boys we know?

    Devenney: [Laughs].

    Bond: What was considerable luxury when you were a boy?

    Devenney: Well, gifts. Sled, stuff like that. Anything that was useful, you know.

    Bond: Did many children have sleds?

    Devenney: Well, if you could afford to buy any. Especially those Flexible Flyers when they came out. Oh, my God! They were really a du Pont luxury. [Laughter].

    Bond: Did any of the common people have them?

    Devenney: They made them themselves - out of wood. See, there was a lot of hills out there where we lived and everybody had a sled got on that hill.

    Bond: Was there much ice skating then?

    Devenney: Ice skating? All the time. Oh, boy, I loved to skate. My skates had wooden soles. That's the way they were made.

    Bond: Did they have metal runners?

    Devenney: Yes.

    Bond: But wood soles.

    Devenney: Yes. Yeah.

    Bond: Did a lot of people skate?

    Devenney: Everybody that could. Yes, yes, yes. Boys and girls skate together this way and that way.

    Bond: Did boys and girls do much dating? Or courting in those days?

    Devenney: Well, the thing is, it depended on where you lived - whether you were allowed in that place or not. You're courtin' that girl, you get the hell out of there. Like if you lived down here and gone up to Chicken Alley [Laughs] or other places, say courtin' that girl, you better watch your step.

    Bond: Were you supposed to just court girls that lived in your immediate neighborhood?

    Devenney: That's right. That seemed to be - I don't know. It seemed to be the thing to do, you know. Don't get out of your territory.

    Bond: Was this because of social reasons or...?

    Devenney: Sometimes it's that and religious - mostly religious reasons.

    Bond: Would Protestants go with Catholics?

    Devenney: They weren't supposed to. That, of course, came from their family, you know. Father and - especially the old man - the Irish. Keep away from that girl; she's not your kind. That was the saying, "She's not your kind!" Course, I never - They intermarried sometimes, but the man generally went with her - turned Catholic with her. Then it was all settled.

    Bond: When young people were married, did they get their own house or did they live with their parents? What did you do? When you were first married?

    Devenney: Let's see. [pause]. See, my wife lived down at Forty Acres. Down there by Lincoln Street. [pause].

    Bond: Well, did you move in with your parents or her parents?

    Devenney: No, no, no. Only for a couple of days when we came back after our honeymoon.

    Bond: And you had your own house, didn't you?

    Devenney: No. No. We didn't have our own house until - we rented Aunt Mattie's apartment here. It was the third floor over here on 40th Street. They fixed it up for us. See, Catherine was a favorite of her aunt's. So, we rented and furnished it and stayed there twenty years and then we moved over here. Built this shack here. [end]
    Synopsis:
    Keywords: Dating (Social customs); Dating (Social customs)--Religious aspects; Flexible Flyer; Forty Acres; ice skating; lilac bushes; Peter Bazou; roses; sleds; sulfur