Interview with Walter Aurand, 1981 May 14 [audio]

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  • Analyzing liquor for a large bootleg syndicate during Prohibition
    Keywords: Bootlegging; Chemistry, Analytic; Liquors--Quality control; Prohibition; Quality control; Smuggling
    Transcript: Tremaine: Side 1, Tape 1. May 14, 1980. Interview with Mr. Walter Aurand.

    Aurand: This was during the Prohibition Period, and one day, Rose Brooks, who was telephone operator up there says, "Walter, there's a man up there by the name of such and such to see you." And I said I didn't know anybody by that name. And she says, "Walter, he insists on seeing you." Well I says, "All right. I'm doing an experiment right now, but I'll be down in 15 minutes." So I went down and asked, "Where is he." And she told me, and I went in there, and this man said to me, "Without you saying one word, I want to tell you something about yourself." He outlined my history from the day I was born. And the more he talked, the more my mouth opened. And when he got all through he said, "You think I know you?" And I said, "I think you know more about me than I know about myself." "Well," he said, "I want to tell you something. I represent the biggest bootleg syndicate in the East. We want you for our chemist. You're not going to do anything illegal. All you're going to do is analyze. And you set your own salary." "Well," I said. "You've stunned me. I don't know what to say. But please give me a chance to just think it over." So he said, "Take my telephone number at home." So I went home and I told my wife, "I think I'll take it. I'm doing nothing illegal." And I said, "the money's wonderful." So I called up this number that he gave me, and he said, "Remember, you're always going to be known by a number so no one will ever know who you are." I said, "Well according to the proposition outlined to me this morning, I'm going to accept you." So in two days I had my first sample. Now when they they had a boatload of liquor come into the Atlantic, they went out and chased that boat around and around and around, then finally went aboard and picked a bottle at random. So nobody ever knew where the bottle was coming from. And that they sent to me in wet sawdust, so it would have never been broken. I analyzed it the same day, and put it back down whether it was ok or not. Well all during the 12 years I worked for them I only turned down two boatloads of liquor. (Laughter) Everything else was fine. They sold all to reliable people: clubs and things of that kind, and they never sold anything unless my ok was on it first. And in all the 12 years I worked for them, I only turned down two boatloads of liquor. And one was a synthetic rum. And I saw a letter later...they showed me the letter...that the company had offered $10,000 for the chemist who could tell that was synthetic and not real. Course, they didn't know who I was...cause I was operating under a number. The other thing I analyzed...uh...they used to send alcohol in gallon containers. And I analyzed this gallon of alcohol. It was picked out of the boatload. And it was ok. After that was ok, I went to an [Elk?] club in Connecticut to make up some gin for them, and the gin clouded. And it scared the life out of me, because I'd okay'd it. And I immediately sent for another sample, and they picked another gallon out of the boat and sent it to me. I analyzed it and it was ok. I thought, "What in the devil have I done now." And I finally found that they had these cans made 8 oz. short. And my analysis was so concise, that I found that out. Now you can imagine what that meant in a boatload of liquor and money. So that was another thing, they wanted to find out who I was. They said "Nothing doing. We'll never tell who he is." And they used to come to my house the first Monday in every month, and they'd say to me, "How'd you make out this month? How much do I owe you?" And maybe I'd analyzed two or three samples. And I'd say, "Oh, I don't know. Maybe $500-600." And they'd pay me just like it was money rolling off a tin barrel. (Laughs) So I really made money during the time that I analyzed for these people. But I was doing nothing illegal. But I had a great experience with them, but I went back to Delaware from New England, and then I had to give it up.
  • Biographical details; perfecting tracer bullets at DuPont Experimental Station during World War I
    Keywords: Genealogy; Military supplies; Military weapons--Research; Military weapons--Testing; Research, Industrial; World War (1914-1918)
    Transcript: Tremaine: Well, perhaps we'd better start now with your name.

    Aurand: Ok. Walter G. Aurand.

    Tremaine: And your address?

    Aurand: 4550 Cove Circle. Apartment 309, St. Petersburg, Florida.

    Tremaine: And your age?

    Aurand: Eighty nine...Yes, I stun everybody (Laughs)

    Tremaine: Telephone number?

    Aurand: 391-4187

    Tremaine: Father's name?

    Aurand: Hammond W.

    Tremaine: Where was he born?

    Aurand: I don't know. You may find some of this on here. I'm not sure.

    Tremaine: And your mother's name?

    Aurand: Laura.

    Tremaine: And her maiden name?

    Aurand: Calloway.

    Tremaine: And do you know where she was born?

    Aurand: Oh ... her name was Parvis. My wife's maiden name was Calloway.

    Tremaine: And do you know where she was born?

    Aurand: Dover, Delaware.

    Tremaine: And did she work at all?

    Aurand: No.

    Tremaine: Did your father work?

    Aurand: Yes.

    Tremaine: For whom did he work?

    Aurand: Well he worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad. He was a piece inspector in the freight repair shop.

    Tremaine: And did you have any brothers and sisters?

    Aurand: Two sisters.

    Tremaine: And names in birth order?

    Aurand: Sadie was the oldest. Jenny was the youngest. Is that on there?

    Tremaine: Yes. Well wait a minute. These are his children. What was your grandfather's name?

    Aurand: Hammond Wiser.

    Tremaine: And do you know where he was born?

    Aurand: He was born in Shamokin, Dam, Pennsylvania

    Tremaine: And what was his occupation?

    Aurand: He was a ferryboat captain. He operated between Sunbury, Pennsylvania and Shamokin Dam.

    Tremaine: And your grandmother's name?

    Aurand: Parvis. Annie Parvis.

    Tremaine: And do you know where she was born?

    Aurand: I think in Cheswold, Delaware. That's four or five miles away from Dover.

    Tremaine: Was she employed at all. No?

    Tremaine: What about your other grandfather?

    Aurand: Oh, he was a farmer in Dover, Delaware. I have to think, because I'm going way back.

    Tremaine: You don't remember his name?

    Aurand: Uh, George Parvis.

    Tremaine: And his wife's.

    Aurand: Annie.

    Tremaine: And her maiden name?

    Aurand: I don't know that.

    Tremaine: You worked at the Hagley Yards?

    Aurand: No I worked here at the Experimental Station.

    Tremaine: Was it caIled the Experimental Station then?

    Aurand: Yes.

    Tremaine: And what did you do?

    Aurand: I perfected tracer and incendiary bullets in 1917.

    Tremaine: You were there in 1918 then, when they had an explosion?

    Aurand: No, I left in 1917. I was there from 1915 to 1917.

    Tremaine: Where did you go from there?

    Aurand: That was 1917 wasn't it. Nineteen seventeen to 1920, my wife's uncle told me if I would take his son and do something with him, he would give me half interest in a grocery business. But I couldn't do anything with the boy; he was just incorrigible, that was all. He did all right for about a year and a half...he was not to do anything at all with money...The money was handled through me all the time. And all of a sudden I get a notification through the bank that my account was overdrawn. I said, "What do you mean, I got two or three thousand dollars in the bank." And I went up to the bank, and he had gone and signed his name to checks. And I went over that night and I handed the keys over to his father and said, "Take the business. I don't want it."

    Tremaine: When you were working, did you wear any special clothes?

    Aurand: At the Experimental? Just ordinary clothes.

    Tremaine: Were they like ordinary clothes today?

    Aurand: Yes.

    Tremaine: What did you carry in your pockets?

    Aurand: Keys or watch. That's about all.

    Tremaine: Did you wear a hat or a cap?

    Aurand: Didn't have to.

    Unnamed speaker: You were working in the Experimental Station, so did you wear lab coats?

    Aurand: Just to...I went in the lab...I had my own private laboratory on the second floor. And I just went in in my working clothes. That's when they put me to work on perfecting tracer bullets. Well I had nothing to go on...to start with on tracer bullets. The only thing I could start with, I mean I thought I could start with, was either Red Fire that you use in parades, or Roman Candles. And that was where I started. And from that I experimented with different things to try to get this bullet, because they told me they needed the bullet for airplane work, because every tenth bullet in a plane was a tracer. So the man who was guiding those bullets could watch where they went. Well the first ones I made were red. And they were a failure, for the simple reason that it exposed the muzzle of the rifle and do everything, and I couldn't control them. I tried to control them with certain kinds of grease, and I couldn't do a thing with them. And we lived on West 8th Street in Wilmington, Delaware. And one night I give a leap out of bed, and my wife says, "What's the matter with you?" And I said, "Something just came to me." And I jotted down on a piece of paper, went in the next day and started. And inside of six weeks I went to Pompton Lakes, New Jersey and took a crew from the Experimental Station. Oh about 10 men. And went to work and started manufacturing tracer bullets out in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey.

    Unnamed speaker: That's fascinating. How it came to you.

    Aurand: It's a fascinating story. Well, when you're studying experiments, your mind is functioning all the time. You're after something. And this thing came to me. And that bullet was so intense, that I could shoot it straight at the sun and you could see it. But it was a dangerous bullet.

    Unnamed speaker: Are they still using that sort of tracer today?

    Aurand: No. I don't think they are because they're outdated; they were used for airplanes at that time. Because the fellow who was in an airplane had no idea where he was shooting. But the incendiary bullet, that was a cinch. That would set anything on fire when it struck. That was a phosphorous pellet. That was loaded in the comb of a bullet. A copper capsule would seal over. And soldered on the side. So when that gun was fired, the solder melted, and the minute the phosphorous came in contact with the air or anything, it caught on fire. (Laughs)
  • Safety precautions, explosions, and accidents during his time at DuPont Experimental Station
    Keywords: Bullets; Draft; Draft resisters; Explosions; Industrial accidents; Industrial safety; Military weapons--Testing; Research, Industrial; Work environment; Work environment--Safety measures; World War (1914-1918)
    Transcript: Unnamed speaker: May I ask you...DuPont has a reputation for being very safety conscious. When you were working in your lab, did you ever...at that point had you begun to use safety glasses or anything that would protect you while you did your experiments?

    Aurand: No.

    Unnamed speaker: So that sort of control had not been started yet?

    Aurand: No it hadn't. I had a lab. One day I was called in the office, and Mr. Leech says to me, "Here's an order for 500 detonators for the Edgar Arsenal." I said, "My God." He said, "How soon can you get them started?" I said "Not if I build a building up there on the side of the hill. Cause that's the most dangerous thing in the world. It's loaded with fulminate of mercury." So I had a fellow, Garceau, that worked for me, and I showed him this. He says, "When do I start?" I says, "Soon as I build that building up by the side of the building." You know, he went up and loaded those 500 detonators, and not one of them ever exploded. And I built this building up there: three sides with wood and one side with pasteboard facing the crick, so that if you had any trouble it would blowout that side.

    Tremaine: Did that building have a name or number?

    Aurand: No it didn't. It was a building...I could go out here and go down and show you where the building was. I don't imagine it's there anymore. But it was built up alongside the crick. For the simple reason, everything was towards the crick if it exploded. But this man that worked for me at that time, he had no fear of powder. No fear of explosions. He said anytime you're afraid of anything, give it to me. In all the time he worked at the DuPont Company, which was 27 years, he only had one explosion one time. He was hauling a load of black powder from Hagley Mill up with a mule...a team of mules. And they struck a spark and exploded that whole thing. And it knocked him unconscious. When we revived him, the first thing he said to me was, "I knew that those goddamn mules would kick me sometime." So I said, "Kicked you? Everything blowed up except you." (Laughter) But he had no fear.

    Now the incendiaries, that was a phosphorous pellet, I'd say loaded in a bullet, and the man who worked for me one day called me down there. And he said, "Look." And he reached up there and pulled out a tooth. Then he reached up and pulled out another tooth And I thought, "My God. You got your gums salivated." So I took him in the DuPont building, and they fixed him up with a beautiful set of teeth cost about $1,000. He was perfectly satisfied. And four or five years ago I came out to the Experimental Station and said, "How's your teeth?" He said, "Same ones." (Laughter)

    Tremaine: What was the man's name? Do you remember?

    Aurand: No, I don't think I remember. There's been so many things happened in my life...

    Unnamed speaker: So you only worked for the DuPont Company during that period of 1915 to 1916.

    Aurand: I think up to 1917. I guess what's on there.

    Unnamed speaker: How was life in Wilmington at that time when you were working for DuPont?

    Aurand: Well I lived at 1117 West 8th. You come right out the front of the house every morning, get on the car and go out up the top of the hill, and I'd walk on down. At that time Wilmington on the West Side was a beautiful residential section. Around Van Buren, Franklin, Harrison. We were only a square and a half from Eighth Street Park.

    Unnamed speaker: Did you take your lunch to work?

    Aurand: Yes. Because sometime I'd work on an experiment, and I wouldn't want to leave. And all the time I worked at the laboratory there, I only had one explosion. I was doing something on synthetic glycerins, where I had to evaporate them over a night. This work was piling up on me, that I bought a new oven. And I didn't properly test this new oven. And one Sunday morning I went out there to do some work, because I was so piled up with it. And it sparked and blew the spark in there where I hadn't tested it. It blew that door right off this oven. And it grazed me across the back. It didn't hit me. I telephone Mr. Leech and he says, "You going home?" I said, "Damn right I am. I'll be back tomorrow morning." That's one thing he always told me: "If you ever have any bad luck, an explosion or anything, pack up your bags and go home. Forget about it till the next morning. Then you get over it."

    Unnamed speaker: I guess it scared you pretty much? (Laughter)

    Unnamed speaker: You were living here in Wilmington with your family. Did you have children at the time?

    Aurand: Yes.

    Unnamed speaker: Did they go to school here in Wilmington?

    Aurand: Let me think back. I didn't have any at that time. I got divorced from that girl and married another one, and I had two children. Two girls.

    Unnamed speaker: So they weren't here in Wilmington when you were here.

    Aurand: One was with me this morning, Velma. She works for some accounting firm on the Philadelphia Pike. They live in Holly Oak.

    Tremaine: Excuse me, is that Elsa Calloway?

    Aurand: That's my wife.

    Tremaine: Your second wife.

    Aurand: Second. Yeah.

    Unnamed speaker: Did they have any Company picnics or get-togethers that you participated in? Did you have any contact with the people that lived down around the Hagley area here?

    Aurand: No I didn't. As a matter of fact, when I came out - usually came out the trolley, walk down the hill to get to the Experimental Station - I didn't go outside of the Experimental Station ever. People often asked me, "Did you ever go to the Hagley Yards?" I said, "No, I never did." I had no contact out there. All I was doing was analyzing. And I worked for them, as I say, I perfected these two bullets. Then I commenced to go in to other kinds of experimental work. And I got so that I wasn't doing anything but analyzing different things. Then I quit and went with Wallace Silver people in Wallingford, Connecticut. And I was up there from 1920 to 1932.

    Tremaine: When you were doing the bullet work here, was there any place that you tested the bullets?

    Aurand: Down near New Castle we had an experimental field. We'd make a batch of bullets up in the morning and then put them through the heating process. And then we'd pick 20 or 25 or them, take a couple of machine guns and maybe a hand rifle, take them down to New Castle and test these bullets out. And these bullets had to go better than 350 yards to be seen...so's you can see them. And 35% of them had to go 500 yards. So the man that was testing these...or shooting these bullets from the rifle...he could always see where he was firing.

    Tremaine: Do you remember where in New Castle?

    Aurand: Well it was between New Castle and Delaware City, but I don't remember where. I used to take a corp of men down there, about 8 men down there, in a small wagon. We had to go and test these bullets out. And some of them were not brave. But it was a dangerous job, because if they backfired...it would just scare the living daylights out of them.

    Tremaine: If something did happen down there, if someone was injured, was there any way to...was there a hospital or an ambulance?

    Aurand: Nothing except from New Castle. Course they could run them in a car. Thank God I never had any accident down there. All that time when I was down there. And finally I went to...took these men to Pompton Lakes, New Jersey. Took like 8 or 10 with me up there. Put them up at this hotel. And that's where they worked up there, and the bullets were perfected. Then I left them there. I had one serious accident up there. I was sorry to say. This composition that we made was so intense that a small grain of dust under your fingernails could set that stuff off. And I used to...I had a building built someplace out here up on the side of the hill. It was all made out of wood. And I took these girls up there one time to experiment. To show them what to do. Now they kneaded this with their hands. Now if there was any spark underneath their nails, that could set this off. So when I got ready to put this into perfection, I said to my wife one morning, one Monday morning, "I feel wonderful this morning. I'm going to take a shot at it this morning." I told Mr. Leech here, "I'm going up on the side of the hill. If you see the building go up, it's me." So I went up there and I started with one pound. I finally wound up making 8 pounds at a time. I came back and I said, "Well there it is up there. You can go up and see it for yourself. It's one to eight pound?" So that's what we put in. We knew how much we could make at one time, because it was so powerful. But as I say, I had three girls burn to death one Sunday night.

    Tremaine: Oh they burned to death?

    Aurand: Yeah. They went up there one Sunday night. I could never tell what happened for the simple reason they were just charred to death. They weren't allowed to go up there with jewelry or any metal on their bodies at all, because this stuff was so powerful, that any spark from anything could set them on fire. I always figured they had dirt under their fingernails. That's the only thing I could think...

    Tremaine: Why were they up there on a Sunday night? Wasn't that unusual?

    Aurand: No. We started to work on Sunday night. When I first started with Midvale Ordinance before I came out here. That was when I started as a chemist. I worked Sunday from 7 o'clock Sunday morning to 7 o'clock Monday morning. That was 24 straight hours. That would fire you today. But I never intended my men to do that, and they didn't have to. We only worked 8 hours after that.

    Tremaine: Did you have a cot there to take a little snooze?

    Aurand: Yes. I had a place underneath the benches where I could lay down and go to sleep. If I was working on an experiment and I had some time in between, the Company gave me the privilege of laying down and going to sleep if I wanted to. The only thing I had to wait for was when the boys come in from the open hearth with a piece of steel that had been poured out of the furnace, with a block of steel about that big square. And when they came in the front door, they dropped it in a kettle of oil. They roused me if I was sleeping. And I'd get up and pour the drillings out and make an examination of it. And I had to report back to the open hearth in 30 minutes. So I had no time to waste because they were holding it. The open hearth was 50 tons of steel to pour. If they hadn't the right carbon content in there, it wasn't what it was made for. But I was very fortunate, although I did have one Sunday night one of the furnaces broke loose, and a man was down at the bottom. So we buried the whole 50 ton of steel in his memory. But that was the only accident I ever had. I was very fortunate.

    Unnamed speaker: Did they have a lot of accidents at that time?

    Aurand: No. We didn't. I always say I had some kind of [?] I think today a lot of the accidents are carelessness. When I was working out there at the time, I think all the men that were working with me realized this and were very, very careful in their work. So I never had anything happen except those three girls that one Sunday night. Course I wasn't there. It was a lot of fine work, and I enjoyed it. But I had some funny experiences. I had this one fellow that worked for me, and he was about to be drafted. Every time he would go in to be drafted, he had a rapid heart. And I said to the people in the draft bureau, "I think this man is doing something to himself, but I can't find out what it is." So they said, "Well let's set up an appointment that he don't know anything about." So I grabbed him, got him in the car one day and told him, "We're going to New Castle to test some bullets." Instead of that I rushed him to the testing station at Tenth and Market, and he went through perfectly. And I said, "If you don't tell me what you've been doing to yourself, I'm going to send you Thursday into the army. If you tell me what you did so I know what to do, I'll give you a three-months period before you're drafted." And he said, "Well, when they get ready to do it, I'd go down there and get some nitroglycerin, and shoot myself a shot of nitroglycerin in the arm." Of course that gives him a rapid heart, and when he took the test, he would fail them.

    Unnamed speaker: So he eventually went into the army.

    Aurand: Yes. He eventually went into the army.
  • Developing lead-free tissue paper for wrapping silver; laboratory supplies and scales; selling candy to other workers
    Keywords: Balances (Weighing instruments); Candy; Laboratories--Equipment and supplies; Research, Industrial--Laboratories
    Transcript: Aurand: I left there in 1917 and went to Wallace Silver people. I did some fine-testing up there. I now have perfected - and the patent's in my name in Washington - I perfected the tissue paper to wrap silver. That was a great thing. I started with lead acetate, but you see the girls who were wrapping silver always had a tendency to have a sponge in front of them. They'd have a tendency to do this.

    Tremaine: With their fingers.

    Aurand: And it was using lead, and they would get lead poisoning. So I went to cadmium. It was a yellow compound and non-poisonous. I didn't give a darn whether they licked their tongue or what they would do with them...And another thing about...I perfected the paper to this extent, when it come in any contact outside, that paper would absorb the sulfur before it got inside the silver. And the compound that I used was cadmium acetate. And that turned slight yellow the paper. But that wasn't bad. With a slight yellow, the paper wouldn't make any difference to you whether it was black or what it was. But I've had a lot of fun in my life.

    Tremaine: Your chemicals that you used. Did they come in certain kinds of containers different than what they use nowadays.

    Aurand: Well the phosphorous pellets came all in oil. They were in cans, because phosphorous when it comes in contact with the air will burn. So that's the way they come. The other chemicals, I just bought them ordinary.

    Tremaine: Where did you buy them?

    Aurand: Well I'd put an order through, and they had certain chemical houses where Mr. Leech used to buy from. I don't know exactly what it was.

    Tremaine: And they would come loose?

    Aurand: No. Come in jars.

    Tremaine: In Jars. Even the powders?

    Aurand: Yes.

    Tremaine: How big a jar? 14 inches?

    Aurand: Yes, about 12 or 14 inches.

    Tremaine: Brown?

    Aurand: Yes.

    Unnamed speaker: Metal tops?

    Aurand: Yes.

    Unnamed speaker: How was the quality of the chemicals? Did they have a good standard? Was the quality good throughout, or did you get bad batches?

    Aurand: I will say this. I bought all CP Chemicals. That's chemically pure. I didn't even buy USB. Because that would have something in it I didn't want. So as long as you bought Chemically Pure chemicals, you didn't have to worry about what you were going to do, because you knew you were working with good materials.

    Unnamed speaker: So you never had a problem getting materials for your experiments? You always got the materials you needed and the quality you needed?

    Aurand: Yes.

    Tremaine: And in your lab? How was that arranged?

    Aurand: I had a corner in this building halfway up the hill here.

    Tremaine: Did the building have a name?

    Aurand: I can't think of the name at the time. But my laboratory was on a corner room, and Mr. Leech gave me a key so that nobody else could get in there except me. Of course if I had any men working for me, which I did, they'd have to wait till I came to work before they got in. I used to do something that was a benefit to everybody, but I made money at it at the same time. I used to keep about six kind of candies in my case here. And the fellows that wanted a candy bar would come in, drop a nickel and take the bar and put the money in the jar. And I don't think I ever lost a piece all that time. And I'd be doing something, they'd come in, figure out what kind of candy they wanted and drop the money in the jar. (Laughs)

    Tremaine: Now was this stick candy?

    Aurand: I had several different kinds of candy. Mostly chocolate.

    Tremaine: Where did you buy it?

    Aurand: From some house on East Fourth Street in Wilmington. A candy - a wholesale candy place. I'd go over and buy them, take them out there. I don't think I ever lost a nickel. (Laughs)

    Unnamed speaker: How did you start supplying candy?

    Aurand: Well I was a candy-eater myself. And I thought, "I'm eating this candy, why not sell it out here?" Because there was no place they could buy it. The boys would just come up there, and I'd have maybe six or eight kind of candy. They'd pick out their own, drop a nickel, and there wasn't nothing to it. (Laughter) [Break in audio.] ...anything else you can think of?

    Tremaine: Well, the instruments you used - what type of instruments did you use? Are they the same as they are today?

    Aurand: Yes. The chemical balances are. I will say this, I had one chemical balance that I could take a postage stamp and weigh it. And put two or three [?] on and weight them.

    Tremaine: Was this kept enclosed in glass?

    Aurand: Yes indeed.

    Unnamed speaker: How large was it?

    Aurand: About that wide and about that deep. And all closed in. And all gold-plated weights. And the little weights, when you got down they were all grams.

    Tremaine: So about 18 inches by ...

    Aurand: About 8.
  • Civic work in Wilmington and Florida, grocery shopping, the introduction of electricity, getting a social security card, and an incident with an exploding bullet at DuPont
    Keywords: Bars (Drinking establishments); Electrification; Grocery shopping; Industrial accidents; Industrial safety; Juvenile delinquency; Men--Social life and customs; Men--Societies and clubs; Social security cards
    Transcript: Unnamed speaker: Could you tell us something about your social life when you worked for DuPont? What did you do in your free time?

    Aurand: Well, let's see. I was always civic-minded. (Laughs)

    Unnamed speaker: Did you get together with other employees of DuPont? With your friends?

    Aurand: No. This was on the outside. I had a bowling team, and it won the championship two or three years. They were at St. Luther's church at 8th and Shipley. No, St. Andrews. I used to go there to church. And they had a bowling team that won the championship two or three years. But I've always been in civic work. All my life. Even when I went to the University of Delaware.

    Unnamed speaker: Can you remember any particularly interesting civic-minded project that you did during those times you were here?

    Aurand: Well I was the Commissioner of District 3. I was a 32nd Degree Mason. I was in the [Madeira?] Chamber of Congress three different years. I was a [G?] Rotary Club president for two years, a secretary for two years. See I've had civic work.

    One year we had a juvenile problem on the beaches. We called a meeting at City Hall of Madeira Beach. Different civic bodies. And my wife and I took charge of this. We kept the kids off the streets. We rented a hall up in Indian Rocks, and three times a week we'd go up there and play phonograph records and take the kids cookies and things like that. And the mothers and fathers entrusted these children to us, for the simple reason that when they came in at 8 o'clock I locked the door. And they didn't get out. The mother and father knew where they were. And we got to be known as "pop" and "mom." (Laughs) My wife and I have done a lot of good civic work, and we've enjoyed it. And we really combated that juvenile delinquency. There was nothing...no more of it took place. Just on account of that.

    Unnamed speaker: Can you recall back during the time you lived here in Wilmington? Did they have problems with that sort of thing?

    Aurand: No. I don't think so. Let's see. We lived out here on West 8th, and I don't remember anything of that type going on here at that time. I went clear down on the eastern side of town to Scott Church, which was 7th and Church. And there I did a lot of civic work with boys and girls. They had meetings down there, and go through different social functions. It become one great big nice group of nice boys and girls. Never had any trouble. We controlled that juvenile delinquency, I'll tell you right now. We cut it out. But today it's awful.

    Unnamed speaker: When you were living here in Wilmington, did you trade with any of the local merchants? Did you buy bread in a specific place or...Your wife probably took care of all that, but do you recall?

    Aurand: Well I'm trying to think of where we did buy. There was no such thing in those days like Publix or Winn-Dixie. It seems to me we bought at a little grocery store in Wilmington between second and third. Was a very fine grocery store. I got to know this place down there, because I had a school teacher, Mr. [Wilde?], he used to send me in there each week for a certain kind of tea. I got used to going in that store, and I commenced to buy there. They sold fine groceries. And even though I had to walk here in town from out West 8th, I still liked it because it was one fine grocery store.

    Unnamed speaker: Did they deliver or did you have to carry it home?

    Aurand: No. I had to carry it home. But I'd go two or three times a week. That's one thing: as long as I've been married and successful, I've always done the shopping.

    Unnamed speaker: That's a fine thing.

    Aurand: Well, I started with my mother. When we lived on East 4th Street - 113 - King Street Market was there at the time. The farmers used to back in there Wednesdays and Saturdays and sell their merchandise. My mother would give me money Saturday morning and say, "Go on to market." And I'd go. Of course, one thing I had to buy was chicken. But I did all the grocery shopping for my mother, and I got used to it. And I do it now. My wife, once in a while, she'd go but she says, "No. You do it. You're good." She says I go haywire. We were in a liquor store during the summer at Madeira Beach sold package goods only. One day when we just went out there I gave her a $20 bill to go up to Winn Dixie to go up and buy a couple articles and she came back with a whole damn basketful. I said, "That's the last I'll ever send you. I'll do the shopping from now on."

    Tremaine: When you were shopping for your mother, did you put the groceries in a paper bag or basket?

    Aurand: Basket.

    Tremaine: Did you carry them home or pull them in a wagon?

    Aurand: Well we'd go to King Street market and buy some at this stand and some at another stand. But my mother had one peculiar coincident, and I'll never forget it. Always had to buy a chicken that had to weigh 3 1/2 pounds. (Laughs) I remember that. But I had no trouble shopping.

    Tremaine: Electricity. Do you remember when electricity first came in around here?

    Aurand: We had gas lights when we lived 113 East Fourth. We had gas lights here at home. We moved down to 318 East Fourth Street, and there I had electricity in the house.

    Tremaine: Do you remember when electricity first came out here?

    Aurand: Yes. When I first came out here. But I can't tell you what date that was.

    Tremaine: Someplace I read Alfred was the first...Alfred I. du Pont, around 1900 had electricity?

    Aurand: Yes. One of the du Ponts. What was his name? Alfred? I used to have one of the du Ponts that used to come in - out on the Concord Pike there was a tavern. A great big stone tavern. Concord Pike and something...I can't remember. Grubb Road? No, it's one square down from Grubb Road. No, it's between Naaman's and Grubb. But I had this one du Pont man used to come up every afternoon in his life and spend about two hours and sit - not at my bar - at a table he'd sit. And he would just sit there and drink. Never got out of the way at all. He'd have maybe three or four drinks. When he had three or four drinks, he'd say, "So long buddy. I'll see you tomorrow." I can't think of his first name. But he never got out of the way. Was never no trouble.

    Tremaine: You ran a tavern?

    Aurand: Well I was working. I was working. Before I went into business for myself.

    Tremaine: Well you didn't have electric lights in your lab, then?

    Aurand: Yes I did.

    Tremaine: You did. Well were the lights hanging?

    Aurand: Hanging. There were different sockets in the wall.

    Tremaine: In the wall too?

    Aurand: Yeah. It was nothing like this, like the fluorescent.

    Unnamed speaker: You said you were involved with prohibition...liquor, earlier. When you lived here in Wilmington, did your parents...were there liquor stores or did they make their own?

    Aurand: No. That was before prohibition. Because right after prohibition was repealed - I can't think of the year, I saw that the other day and forgot to jot it down - liquor was repealed, I went to work for a man at 35th and Market tending bar. And that was when liquor was first. And when I was there at 35th and Market, I was one of the first men to ever get a social security card. And I've got that original social security card at home from way back in 1917. And I've still got that same number: 222-07-97l. (Laughs)

    Tremaine: Oh it was shorter then.

    Aurand: Yes. I'll never throw this away.

    Tremaine: Speaking of throwing things away, do you by any chance know anyone who might have workmen's clothes from that period? Workmen that might have been working for you, testing powder and all. Their clothes were probably worn out and thrown away. But they are looking for some old clothes the might have belonged to the workmen.

    Aurand: Most of them wore regular clothes. I'd think they'd be all worn out by now, it's been so long ago.

    Tremaine: Yes. [Portion of audio repeats.] Even the men that did the testing and the powder and all, they had just regular clothes and shoes?

    Aurand: Safety shoes.

    Tremaine: They did have safety shoes? Did they have some sort of metal in the toe?

    Aurand: Because I used to have, it's a funny thing, I can remember this very plain. I was making two kind of bullets down here. One was for one type of rifle and the other was for another type of rifle. Now every time we were pressing those bullets under and changed from one bullet to another--to press them it was a piece of metal to hold down the pressure. Because maybe one was a 3,000 pounds per bullet, another might be pressed at 3,600 pounds per bullet. But one day we had a fellow there working this machine, and he forgot to take the block out and it went down and this bullet exploded. Course it never hurt anybody. But he was a man with a wooden leg, and I'll never forget him as long as I live. He had a hold of this. He was afraid to let go and his wooden leg was shaking like this. (Laughter) The other fellow went out through the front door and I could see him running. And I just stood there because I wasn't afraid of it. I knew it was just a bullet. All because they had forgot to change the block.

    Unnamed speaker: Did you ever have anybody who was so blatantly careless who worked for you that you had to ask them to leave?

    Aurand: Just trying to think of one fellow I had working... No, I can't. Except this one fellow I was telling you about who used to go down and shoot his arm full of nitroglycerin. What a chance that man took. I can't think of anything else. I'll be glad to answer if you can ask it.

    Tremaine: You have some papers there. Anything... I think I've copied most of this.
  • Judging beauty contests at the beach; being a college sports reporter; developing his interest in chemistry; grammar and high school experiences
    Keywords: Beauty contests; Chemistry, Analytic; Chemistry--Education; College students--Conduct of life; Elementary schools; Fathers and sons; High schools; Sports journalism; Sportswriters; Teacher-student relationships
    Transcript:
  • More DuPont experiences including traveling by train and laboratory smells; relationship with his employees at DuPont and a New England silver company; smoking cigars; final remarks
    Keywords: Expense accounts; Industrial accidents; Laboratories; Personnel management; Reminiscing; Research, Industrial--Laboratories; Smoking; Supervision of employees
    Transcript: Unnamed speaker: When you were working here in Delaware for the DuPont company, you weren't involved in any of the social activities through the Company?

    Aurand: No. I don't think we had anything.

    Unnamed speaker: Some of the people we've interviewed from down in the Mills said they had picnics.

    Aurand: Well yes, down in the Mills they may have had. But I worked in this building that was just about halfway up the hill.

    Unnamed speaker: You were a professional.

    Aurand: Yes.

    Tremaine: The picnic we spoke of was the Fourth of July picnic or the holiday. How did you celebrate the Fourth of July?

    Aurand: Had to work.

    Tremaine: Did you have a vacation?

    Aurand: No. Unless we took it ourselves.

    Tremaine: With pay or without?

    Aurand: Without. (Laughs)

    Unnamed speaker: Things are certainly different now.

    Aurand: You're darn right.

    Tremaine: Carney's Point opened in 1894.

    Aurand: Carney's Point?

    Tremaine: Yes. Were any of the men that you worked with, did any go over there?

    Aurand: No.

    Tremaine: Well you spoke of taking people here to Pompton Lakes. Did any of those people come back here after they set up, or did they stay there?

    Aurand: Well some stayed and some come back. The ones that came back I would give their jobs back again. They were very excellent workers. I had one boy that I took with me, he was a young boy. Only around 18. He was very bashful. So I sic one of the girls on him (laughs) in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey. He wasn't bashful after he got through (Laughter). It was a corp of about 8 or 10 I used to take up to Pompton Lakes. And they didn't do anything but instruct the girls up there what to do, and then I would bring them back. I kept them up there at a small hotel for the weekend, and then I would always bring them home by train. Course I would go up there first thing...used to go up there Sunday night and stay in New York and go out to Pompton Lakes first thing Monday morning. But it was very interesting.

    Tremaine: How did you travel?

    Aurand: Train.

    Tremaine: Train from here to New York and then to Pompton Lakes?

    Aurand: My father was a railroad man, and had passes all over the world. And when I traveled Pullman, I got [?]

    Tremaine: Did the Company pay for your transportation?

    Aurand: Yes they did. I'll never forget the first time that I - where was I sent at that time? Yeah this was up at Pompton Lakes. And I came back, and Monday morning when I got back after being up there a week I made my expense account. And I'll never forget this as long as I live...Mr. Leech called me down there and said, "Is this your first trip?" I said, "Yes it's my first trip." "Well," he said, "you don't know how to make an expense account." I said, "What do you mean? That's exactly what I spent." He said, "I know." But when he got through, that expense account looked like a swindle sheet. He said, "You'll know how to make it from now on." I said, "Yes I will."

    Unnamed speaker: Were you able to keep the extra or did you have to split it with Mr. Leech? (Laughter)

    Aurand: No. I was able to keep it. He was a really fine man.

    Tremaine: Do you remember any of the odors or smells around in the area?

    Aurand: Out here?

    Tremaine: Yes. In this area.

    Aurand: No I can't remember. I do remember in college, because we had an enclosed laboratory with a low ceiling. I used to come home and my mother would say, "My Lord. Take those clothes off and get in the bathtub." Cause you could smell the fumes. But today they have all those blowers and everything else. But we didn't in those days.

    Tremaine: You didn't have them when you were down here? You just opened the windows?

    Aurand: Yes.

    Tremaine: What about in the winter time?

    Aurand: Well. We had to keep the windows open but we had heat.

    Tremaine: What kind of heat?

    Aurand: It must have been electric, cause it came through the ceiling. Through the registers that were around the room. I know it was always comfortable.

    Tremaine: Do you remember anything about promotions? Did attitudes change toward people who were promoted?

    Aurand: Well I had so few working for me. And I don't think in the years I was out here at the Experimental Station that I ever had one man quit on me. I told them one time, when I first came out here, I had a talk with them. And I said I want you to remember one thing: I may be your boss, but I'm your pal. Come to me with your problems. I don't care whether they're domestic or whatever. And I had the same thing happen with the Wallace Silver people in New England. The superintendent called a meeting - I'll never forget this in my life - the superintendent of C. D. Morris of Wallace Silver people, called a meeting one afternoon. He was going through the plant all day long. And people would say, "What's this meeting for?" I said, "I don't know, but C.D. says he wants to call it." So then we all went down to his office after quitting time about half past four. He said, "Well, I want to tell you something. We had a man come up here from Delaware to work with us, and I severely criticized him for the way he was pals with his men" - and girls. We had several girls - But he said, "I want to tell you something. We have something to learn from this Delawarean. Cause he's increased his production double in this time that he's been with us." So he said, "Maybe it's right. We shouldn't be too distant." Because up in New England they were very staid in their ways. I couldn't do it. I wasn't born there. Before long I had them - he said, "He's got the right idea, so from now on we'll all practice this."

    Unnamed speaker: You were the southerner of the group.

    Aurand: That's right. (laughter)

    Tremaine: What about the three girls that were killed in the powder accident...Who took care of the funeral arrangements?

    Aurand: DuPont.

    Tremaine: And did they take care of the families?

    Aurand: Yes.

    Tremaine: Did the women have children? Or were they young?

    Aurand: They were young girls. But that was a shock to me, cause they were wonderful girls. That's one of the few accidents I had.

    Unnamed speaker: Did you smoke?

    Aurand: I did. Now when I lived up in New England, I smoked 50 cigars a week.

    Unnamed speaker: Well they made them right there in New Haven.

    Aurand: Made them right there. A certain kind of cigars, I had an order in the store.

    Unnamed speaker: I'm very interested in what you say, because Connecticut is my family's home.

    Aurand: Whereabouts?

    Unnamed speaker: Norwalk. Westport.

    Aurand: Is that right? But I was a continual smoker. I played cards a lot. We had, when I was in Wallingford, five civic organizations there. And we played cards once a week for the championship of Wallingford. And you were there and you were just smoking. That's all. You would just smoke, smoke, smoke, smoke. So I got in the habit of smoking.

    Unnamed speaker: You didn't smoke when you were here though?

    Aurand: No. I was sitting on the bench in St. Petersburg, and I said to my wife - we had a package store, a liquor store in St. Petersburg - I said, "See that cigar. I'm all through." She said, "You can't quit." I said, "Hell I can't." I've never smoked since. She smokes all the time.

    Unnamed speaker: Do you remember the names of the brands of tobacco that they smoked while you were living here?

    Aurand: No I don't. I smoked cigars. I didn't smoked a pipe. I didn't smoke cigarettes either. Just cigars.

    Tremaine: Can you think of anything that would be of interest that you know?

    Aurand: No. I certainly can't.

    Unnamed speaker: In the next few weeks or so, or few days, if you do remember something, would you mind dropping us a note? What they're looking for is they have documented much the way the work environment was - the black powder mills, the Experimental Station - what they're really interested for us is to find out what life was like then. What life was like to work for DuPont. What their home lives were like. Social life.

    Aurand: Well, we had very little social life. I can't hardly remember anything social that we had. Just simply business and go home.

    Unnamed speaker: That's why we're pressing these questions. To find out. If you had been a housewife, we'd be asking you what kind of soap did you use? How often did you change the sheets on your bed? Did you put slipcovers on your furniture during the summer?

    Aurand: See there's not as many questions to ask a man.

    Unnamed speaker: Well you've been very helpful.

    Aurand: I'm glad to be of any help. If I can think of something else, I'll certainly get in touch with you. I may run through some of my notes and see something else.

    Unnamed speaker: And if you have any pictures or mementos of that time, they would return them to you. Photographs.

    Aurand: I was trying to think...It seems to me there was very little pictures taken. Not like today when everybody owns a camera. I'll look through all my pictures at home to see if I have anything of interest. It seems to me that very few pictures were taken. Cameras were something of a rarity.

    Unnamed speaker: What were the streets like between your home and the Experimental Station? Were they paved?

    Aurand: Yes.

    Unnamed speaker: Have you driven through that area lately? Does it look similar to the way it looked when you lived there?

    Aurand: Well my daughter took me to some of the things down at the Hagley Yard. They've been beautified a lot since our time. But outside of that, I can't remember anything that has been changed. The old golf course is the same. We came down through that this morning. I recognized that.

    Tremaine: That was a golf course then?

    Aurand: Mmmm-hmmm.

    Tremaine: For whom?

    Aurand: I can remember this. At lunch time I used to go up on the terrace on the tee-off. And I knew a professional very much - I can't remember his name now. But I'll never forget one girl. We were sitting there one noon and this girl came out. She was an immaculately dressed girl. And she teed her ball up here and made a swing and missed it by about six inches. She stepped back about six inches and she called that ball every name in the English language. Then when she got all through, she turned to us and she said, "Excuse me, gentlemen." Then she teed-off that ball, and she must have hit it 300 yards. (Laughter) The professional says, "Did you ever hear anything like that?" I said, "Boy, that was really funny." She didn't miss any words of what she said. But if I do think of anything else, I'll certainly get in touch with you.

    Tremaine: I wondered if you would sign this? ... All right. Today is the fourteenth. You've been very helpful. This is the type of thing we want to know before it's lost forever. If we don't get them, they're gone.

    Aurand: It's been a pleasure to talking to both of you.

    Unnamed speaker: Thank you. Have a good trip back to Florida.

    [Final remarks on moving to Florida]