Interview with John Hawkins, 1984 March 27 [audio]

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  • Early life and family background; Description of "the Valley"; Growing up in Wilmington during Prohibition
    Keywords: American Civil War (1861-1865); Baltimore, Md.; Brandywine Creek; Explosions; Forty Acres; Greenville, Del.; Hagley Yard; Hoope's Damn; Italian Americans; Joseph Bancroft and Sons Co.; Little Italy; New Castle, De.; Prohibition; Pullman; Railroad passenger cars; Railroads; The Flats; United States Navy; Wilmington, Del.; World War (1939-1945)
    Transcript: Wagner: Name, full name.

    Hawkins: Ready now - John Victor Hawkins, Sr.

    Wagner: And your address.

    Hawkins: Present address, 160 Christiana Road, New Castle, Delaware.

    Wagner: The Egyptian House.

    Hawkins: Also called the Egyptian House.

    Wagner: And your age?

    Hawkins: I'm 67 this April 12.

    Wagner: And your phone number.

    Hawkins: Phone number is 328-8115.

    Wagner: Let's have your father's name.

    Hawkins: My Father's name, John Aloysius Hawkins.

    Wagner: Place of birth.

    Hawkins: And his place of birth was Baltimore, Maryland.

    Wagner: Do you know his birth date?

    Hawkins: I do not know his birth date.

    Wagner: Death date.

    Hawkins: And his death date was 19th of - December 31, 1941.

    Wagner: And your mother's name.

    Hawkins: My Mother's name was Lydia Catherine Hawkins, formerly Lydia Catherine Ferguson. And she passed away in 1958, I do not know her exact date of birth.

    Wagner: What's her origin?

    Hawkins: Her origin is this area here, and her people were called tenant farmers. They farmed in the area which we call - where Hoope's Dam is now, they also farmed in the Greenville area, which is close to Hagley, they also had a tenant farm in New Castle. (Phone rings - recorder turned off.)

    Grandfather Ferguson, that's on the Ferguson side, that's where we left it?

    Wagner: Right.

    Hawkins: So, people that do this tenant farming, and I think that I just mentioned New Castle, and the name over there is Squire Janvier. The name Janvier is – the old records you see a lot about the Janvier – Squire Janvier, and particularly in the grave - the tombstones and whatnot, the name Janvier is all over the place. He was known as a Squire, apparently owned a lot of property there and rented these places out. That's my Mother's background. They were Scotch, and as I mentioned to you, I showed you the picture of Robert Turnbull Ferguson, who is my grandparent of my Mother, who was in the Civil War in the Navy and apparently lost at sea, and I supposed in those days missing in action for seven years, long enough for his wife and people to declare him deceased. And unfortunately, or fortunately, how you look at it, he did return home and discovered his wife was re-married to man by the name of Porter, he was a railroad engineer at that time. So they parted friends and he went to Philadelphia and joined the police force. The picture that I have that I showed you is Robert Turnbull Ferguson, in a policeman's uniform with the old Keystone cop hat, which was the type of hat which the Philadelphia policemen wore.

    Like I said, it was unusual that he was one of 24 sons, Scotch family. Can't imagine all those people at one table. So that's some of my Mother's background.

    My Father was born along the Patapsco River, his father was also in the Navy in the Civil War. And actually, as I remember as a boy, he was one of the biggest men I've ever seen in my life, he was huge. He was a marine blacksmith, and in those days they talked about iron men and wooden ships, that was an old expression. So my Father grew upon the street, one block from where Babe Ruth was born, and today where the Babe Ruth Museum is. This is close to the harbor in Baltimore. It was a large family and it seemed in those days it was quite the thing to have a large family and this helped financially because lots of times the children would go out and work, which is typical of the industrial revolution. So, however, in the case of my father's family, the mother passed away at an early age, or early, and the children were scattered. My Father came to Wilmington and settled with his people in the area known as the Forty Acres, where it was predominately Irish. The rest of his family, his brothers, he had several brothers, wound up in St. Mary's Industrial School, and this is where Babe Ruth got his start. The story is that Babe Ruth was recognized by an individual at St. Mary's called Brother Mathias, and it's quite a story.

    That’ s the general background of my Father, now unfortunately when my Father came here, he went right to work. I think he was ten or eleven years old, in those days the idea of education was not pushed too much, so his education was very limited. Later in life, I mean he felt strongly about this, and from what I gather, he went to work, different jobs in that particular area. At that time there was a lot of morocco, Wilmington was known as the morocco center, and he did work in morocco plants. He was known as a huckster, at times he was a huckster, it was quite common in between jobs to go around selling vegetables, selling fish.

    So what's the next story, about his connection with Hagley?

    Wagner: My information is that he went to work in the box factory in Hagley Yard.

    Hawkins: Yes, yes, that's all I know about it, he told me...

    Wagner: You don't know how old he was?

    Hawkins: I don't know - I would gather he was close to thirty when he went because, looking back in World War I, about that time, he would have been about thirty. I understand he missed the draft, and he was married late in life like me - I was thirty-five, I think he was around twenty-nine, something like that, or thirty when he married. All he ever told me was that he worked in the box factory at Hagley and at one particular time he missed the large explosion, which killed several people, as he was coming on the shift. He looked across the Brandywine and saw all the debris and he mentioned parts of bodies and whatnot. I must say that he was scared to death, most of the time he was scared working in Hagley. I imagine he was there about a year, or maybe two years. But like I pointed out earlier, I think it's a loss when families do not put down, or write down, what they did, or what someone did, what they accomplished during their lifetime. And it's like I was trying to research my own history, to join an organization, and all I could find out from a relative of mine was that we came here, or we were here when the DuPont Powder, the Conestoga wagons blew up on Market Street, which didn't tell me much. But, that's what you're left with.

    Now my - it seemed like these people had everything in their head, but nothing down on paper.

    Wagner: Back to the boxes a minute - what kind of boxes?

    Hawkins: As far as I know, they were wooden boxes.

    Wagner: For powder?

    Hawkins: For powder - I would gather, I mean from the powder I've seen the World War II was not, I don't think the type of boxes changed too much, they were wooden boxes. One of the - I remember during World War II, it felt good to see a box of powder that had the name Wilmington, Delaware, written on it. I was over in North Africa at the time - black powder, and they were wooden boxes. Now I imagine that’ s what they used there, I suppose they had to be very careful driving nails or anything like that, and they thought of wooden boxes because of the: if you visit Hagley you know the problem with sparks and metal.

    Wagner: Where did your father go after Hagley?

    Hawkins: After Hagley, as far as I know, he went back to morocca, and then he worked at Pullman. Now Pullman's was where he became a finisher for Pullman cars, doing upholstery work. At that time he - in talking to him later on, he said he lost one of the finest jobs he ever had because at that time unions were getting started and unfortunately the union was not too successful with the Pullman Company. He lost his job, and from there he went to Joseph Bancroft Mills down in the - they called the Valley. So I think most people who worked in the area, knew the area, knew what the Valley was, they knew Rockford, they knew what Kentmere was.

    Wagner: Tell me where the Valley was.

    Hawkins: Now as I knew it, the Valley went from Rockford down to generally east to Kentmere, in that area, along the Brandywine, the Brandywine Valley. I don't know the exact extent of what the Valley was, but that was the general area.

    Wagner: What's there now?

    Hawkins: Starting with Rockford, if you went down the hill to Rockford, a long time the mills and the buildings that were part of the mill, were I suppose, going into decay from non use - today there are art studios down there, in fact the gentleman that made the Madonna has his studio there. There's another friend of mine who has a printing press in that area, press, I mean a printing company. That's becoming quite built up right now, and it was for a long time rundown. The last time I was there, it's looking very nice.

    In fact, I can comment too on the Rockford – Rockford Road, as you go down the hill to Rockford Road – I used to meet my Father at the mill- at that time I used to sell the Saturday Evening Post, I was about ten years old, and going down there, it was like going back into the old industrial part of England, I mean if you saw the picture of "How Green was my Valley", do you remember that, the movie "How Green was my Valley" - it reminded you of the old English or Welch village where people lived in tenant-type houses, low income. And of course today that's changed because it's a rather, you might say, as sophisticated area looking right now, built up, quite different. It's comparable to Rockland. Now Rockland is not far from there, still along the Brandywine. When I was a boy I used to visit my, one of my uncles on my Mother's side, a Ferguson, where the Rockland Paper Mills were. And at that time, that was a rather low, that was a low-income area too.

    Wagner: How did you get there - bicycle, walk?

    Hawkins: No, at that time they were called flivers, you know, the old Ford flivers were running then, and two of my uncles had early cars. In fact, I had an aunt on the Ferguson side who had one of the first cars, first Fords, in the area. They was the type with the old brass front and open black running board and all that sort of thing. It was quite something to take a trip down there, and you'd go down to Rockland, but yet all I recall, it was like a barber shop, and there was Abe's Store: very little down there other than just low-income houses. Today.

    Wagner: No taverns?

    Hawkins: No taverns, no, because that was during Prohibition. Well, I had an uncle that at that time made near beer, that was permitted somehow.

    And living in that area, looking at it today, if you went down there today, the Rockland area- you've probably been down that way - it's built up with beautiful homes down there, they're very expensive homes, and so it's - I think it's terribly important that somebody is trying to record all this and put it down, have pictures and whatnot of what was, and what is, because that's important.

    Wagner: Alright, now what area did you grow up in?

    Hawkins: I grew up in the Flats.

    Wagner: Tell me where that is.

    Hawkins: And the Flats, that is owned by the Bancroft Company, the Bancroft family was well known in those times as the Woodlawn Trustees. The Woodlawn Trustees, I have to give them credit for something, the area which we know now as Hagley, from Hagley on out to what we would call Thompson's Bridge, that particular – which is several miles north towards Talleyville, in that general area, they had been able to keep that as countryside - they used the term Chateau Country -but people who are particularly wealthy and live out in that area don't like that name, however I think it is appropriate because of the beautiful homes and rolling hills, and the Woodlawn Trustees were able to keep it that way, which is commendable, I think. I think, like in New Castle, we hope that it stays that way.

    Wagner: Right - now Flats, give me some landmarks.

    Hawkins: That Flats - today if you went to that general area from Fourth, on the south side would be Fourth Street to Ninth Street. East and west would be Bancroft Parkway and Ferris Street. Still, the Flats today have not changed too much, pretty much the same as it was when I was a boy. It's low income - at that time my Father, I might as well tell you because I think it's worthwhile to know these things, he averaged about twenty dollars a week and in those times the idea was your rent should be about one-quarter of your monthly income, and that's what he paid a month, twenty dollars a month for rent in the Flats.

    Wagner: Did he own his property?

    Hawkins: No, no that was a rental, strictly rental, month to month. There's a lot of fond memories about the Flats because of a lot of activity there at one time. The Flats were very close to what is now called Little Italy. That's an interesting area too.

    Wagner: Was there ever any contention - competition?

    Hawkins: Oh yes, there was a lot of contention, I could say a lot about that because when I grew up, it was known, in the Prohibition Era, there was a lot of bootleg places in Little Italy. This was about the first generation Italians, and it was difficult for them, difficult for the people on the other side of Union Street called the Flats. At that time, my people had a very difficult time understanding houses being painted light blue shades, and pink, and seeing people on Sunday playing a game called bocce and smoking Italian cigars and making wine: these things were sort of foreign to the people who grew up in another type – another world. However, later on when I served in the Army over in Italy, spent a lot of time in Italy, I began to have a very deep appreciation for these people and their background, their culture. There were times when I think we thought we were more cultured than they were, and in talking to them later, they had the feeling that we were not as cultured as they were because they knew more about opera and literature they thought than we did. However, that has disappeared, that idea.
  • Sunday activities; Childhood games and toys; Experiences in World War II; School; Keeping in touch with old friends
    Keywords: DuPont Experimental Station; Friends; Games; I-95; Italy; Laird and Company; School; Scooters; Silverbrook United Methodist Church (Wilmington, Del.); Skates; Texas National Guard; Wawaset Park (Wilmington, Del.); World War (1939-1945)
    Transcript: Wagner: What did you all do on Sunday when you were young?

    Hawkins: Well when I was - on Sunday I usually went to church, I think I went to church, the church I went to is Silverbrook Methodist Church, at least three times a day. There was a morning church, and Sunday School and then there was usually a group would get together in the afternoon, and then usually church service in the evening. Then during the week, prayer service on Wednesday.

    Wagner: No baseball games on Sunday afternoon?

    Hawkins: No, not too much, no that wasn't -not like today when there's so much commercial - lack of time and commercialism and everything else in the sports – no not in those days, at least not with me.

    Wagner: What games did you play when you were a kid?

    Hawkins: Well I played baseball when I was a boy, I played golf. There was a golf - Wilmington Country Club wasn't far away and I used to caddy. And then there was another interesting area right close to Wilmington Country Club called Wawaset Park, and this particular area, I think, was an area of extremes you might say, because people in Wawaset were considered wealthy. At times we called it Snubville. The people in the Flats, I guess, had a feeling about it. They were very beautiful homes, still are today, and then we had the Wilmington Country Club which certainly reflected well. Then beyond that was Westover Hills and the Westover area. And beyond that Greenville, of course we seldom got to Greenville because that was quite a ways out.

    Wagner: Bicycles, roller skates?

    Hawkins: Yeah, we did a lot of that, lot of bicycling, lot of roller skates, oh yeah, we used to build our own cars, you know, get box cars, box automobiles, you'd get a frame, a wooden frame. It was quite a thing if you got a set of wheels, it was like getting a small fortune to have a set of wheels of some sort. I put wheels on boxes and we'd steer it with a rope and you'd have a headlight made out of tin cans and candles at night, it was a big deal. Do you remember that?

    Wagner: I do, I remember scooters.

    Hawkins: Yes, scooters, skates, you'd put a skate on a piece of wood and a box there with handles and it was a scooter.

    Wagner: How about things like marbles?

    Hawkins: Yeah, well that's something I wonder about, you don't see too much of people playing marbles today. I remember General Patton one time talking about champion marble playing when he was a boy. And I remember this because I attended a school right across from St. Thomas' Church which is now Charles B. Lore, at that time it was known - the schools were numbered – it was No. 25 School. And every spring we'd have a marble contest to see who was the champion marble shooter of the school, and then he would have a contest, we'd get into a contest with someone in the city, you know, different schools. And there was another game we used to play beside ring marbles, it was called putts. Do you remember that?

    Wagner: I don't know that.

    Hawkins: Well putts was a game where you had five holes in the ground and you would shoot a marble from one hole to the other. There's another local name.

    Wagner: The same marble?

    Hawkins: Same - no, they used to use a big marble. This was called...

    Wagner: Shooter.

    Hawkins: Used to call it a mannie, yeah, a large marble, an aggie.

    Wagner: Where did you get these marble; dime store? Or trade them?

    Hawkins: No, there was a lot of trading marbles like you used to trade movie, cowboy cards - do you remember that too - go to the local store and for a couple of pennies buy a card, and then get a stack of cards, movie actors and actresses and then match cards and then I suppose whoever had the biggest pile of cards was the richest one in the neighborhood or something like that.

    I don't know, in making a comparison today with what we did then, you can hardly say that when I was a boy things were better necessarily, but they were different, and I'm sure my parents said the same thing. My Mother used to have a saying, she'd say "Every generation gets weaker and wiser,” whatever that means. Certainly you wonder about the present generation and its appreciation of what you did, you know, but it's not so far removed from your thinking. I go back to World War II, go back to it, jumping ahead, but still going back: I spent a lot of time in a place called Casino which was the Benedictine Abbey in Italy. And when I left this particular area after the battle of Casino, there wasn't a tree left or a building standing, including the Benedictine Abbey which goes back to St. Benedict around the year 400. The entrance to the Leery Valley - this was total devastation, however, when I went back six years ago, I took my son with me and the abbey has been restored like its original state and you would never know there had ever been a battle there. In fact, the group that I was with, I said – you approached it and I said, "There's the abbey,” they said, "What's that, what took place here?” And it doesn't take long for people to forget: here was a space of a few years, a major battle and a lot of lives lost and a great historical edifice which was called the link between the Dark Ages and the Ages of Light where learning was carried on and this was totally destroyed. It's like it never happened. Behind the hill at Casino there was a huge hill, and finally it was captured by the Polish Infantry, the Poles get credit for taking the hill. There was such devastation there - the tanks and vehicles and everything were buried with the men in one huge cemetery. It was interesting to me, it was interesting to go back there. I had strange feelings about people who were with us, with me at the time, who did not know what this all meant.

    Wagner: Okay, I'm gonna bring you back to Wilmington.

    Hawkins: Yeah, bring me back to the present: jump way ahead, now let's go back.

    Wagner: Okay, let's see, you went to Charles B. Lore School, you said, and you went to Wilmington High?

    Hawkins: Yeah, well no, Charles B. Lore, then I went to a school called Willard Hall, or No. 28. Now that's another funny story come to mind, because today, that was 8th and Adams, today where 8th and Adams and where the school is, is now a part of I-95, the super highway. And every time I go by there with my son, I’ ll start singing the alma mater of 28th School, or Willard Hall, and he says to me, "I think you're nuts, Dad." (Laughs) It was something like, "In the harbor close, and the anchor lies the good ship Willard Hall,” and that was the alma mater, so that was junior high. And I went from junior high to Wilmington High School and 10th and Jackson. In those days was no school busing, it was all walk.

    Wagner: And you carried your lunch?

    Hawkins: Yeah, you carried your lunch, right. Very few people could afford to buy their lunch, you know there was a cafeteria, but it was - you did carry your lunch, right?

    Wagner: And the teacher was always right.

    Hawkins: I would say so, yeah, I met a lot of fine people in the school - teachers. I remember, want me to tell you about one particular teacher?

    Wagner: M-huh.

    Hawkins: At Wilmington High, the name was Catherine O'Neil, which was Irish of course, can't miss. Catherine O'Neil was very young at the time and she had a car and she called it Michael, and it was a green car. I found out later that her people lived in what is now Colonial Park, and it was one of the big houses there. Apparently her people had one of those morocco shops, or was a partner in what was called Ford Morocco which later, I was a small boy when this was destroyed, a huge fire in Wilmington destroyed the property. And Catherine was a very fine teacher, I mean there are certain teachers that stand out in your memory because they made things come alive. I mean what was on the outside became very real instead of something out of a book. At that time after she left, we became good friends. I met her family, we were always very close. She left and went to Columbia, married a professor up there and then they went to - the two of them -went to Ireland and wrote a book and did research on ancient Gaelic, the ancient language. So that's one teacher that stands out in my memory, unlike so many of them.

    I can think of people like Ralph Talbot and several others, school principals that really made quite an impression. To me the teachers were the salt of the earth, very fine people.

    Wagner: Were you employed by DuPont?

    Hawkins: No, when I - I graduated in 1936 from Wilmington High School and I - at that time we had another situation similar to the day, doing a job and very difficult. Fortunately in selling - I did sell Saturday Evening Post, I had a magazine route and the only gentleman I met was a partner of Laird and Company. Laird and Company was - the head partner was Phillip Laird up there in New Castle, and I went to work because this gentleman was one of my customers and he knew I was looking for a job, and I went to work for Laird and Company in the Mail Department. At that time it was the fourth floor of the DuPont Building, and I never intended to stay with them, but I did and then I racked up 46 years in the brokerage business and finally the whole company was taken over by Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith. That was a long run being in the Market, stock market. During that time I met a lot of people, lot of people who lived in Greenville and who were very much into the history of the area we're talking about, including Henry Sillaman, Henry, whose home is Hagley. Do you know Henry?

    Wagner: No, I don't.

    Hawkins: Well that's - his estate is right in back of the powder mill, called Hagley. He was one of the partners.

    Wagner: Do you remember when DuPont moved from the mill site over to where it is now, the new Experimental Station?

    Hawkins: I knew, I remember it, yes. I wasn't too involved with what too place there, but I do remember, I remember the early days of the Experimental Station because it was subject of conversation and it was rather an important place in many ways. Most people that worked there were considered to be scientists or Ph.D.'s or what not. It's like an identity all of its own to work for the DuPont Company, work for the Du Pont Experimental Station. It go so we used to think: years later I would go to the YMCA and quite often meet men there who worked for the DuPont Company, were chemists and whatnot, and it seemed like they all - we used to call them – they used to think alike and act alike - be that as it may though, they were fine people. They usually would ask you what school you went to, then what college, but sooner or later all the nonsense would break down - I have a lot of fond memories there. So what’ s the next question?

    Wagner: Okay, do you keep in touch with old school friends?

    Hawkins: Yes I do, like all points of history, I think it's very important to stay in touch with people. In fact I try - I try to resurrect memories whenever I can, bring people together. I think an example of this is my association with the old - I was in the Texas National Guard, jumping down to Texas during World War II, and this is a very active organization in Texas, however in this area I try to stay in touch with this organization. At that time, when I was with the 36th Division, I used to keep what is known as a Unit Journal. Now this has some bearing on what we're talking about, about history, because a Unit Journal - when I first went into the Unit, I was given the job of taking care of the Journal - there was a Major said to me, "I want you to know morning, noon and night What the Old Man is doing and where he goes, meetings and everything he attends, because it's very important.” So, from then on and for the next three and a half years, every day I had to keep a chronological list of what was going on and put this together at the end of the month like a book which included maps and narrative on battle stage, ammunition, everything that took place in a military sense, casualties, awards and all sorts of things, and this was compiled for the Unit and sent back to the War College. Today it's part of American history. As a result of keeping this Unit Journal, it has given me occasion to keep these memories alive because quite often if somebody is writing a book, I'm contacted for references. I still have copies of the Unit Journal. And the older you get, it seems like it becomes more and more important to resurrect -right after things happen, usually people are not too interested, they want to move away from the event, which is particularly true in military history. Then a few years go by and people begin to be concerned -what did I do, What did - somebody wants to know what happened to my brother, what happened to my sister, I was hurt at the Battle of the Bulge, tell me what took place so I can prove, make my claim, all that sort of thing, and it's very important. So it's important, I think, like you say, to resurrect...
  • Siblings and family; Chores; Outings; Music; Religion and spirituality; Groups and clubs
    Keywords: Catholics; Chores; Concord Pike; Electricity; Family; Horse and buggies; Methodists; Music; Piano; Plumbing; Polishing brass; Presbyterian; Protestants; Quakers; Siblings; Sledding; Snow; Swimming; Talleyville, Del.; The Flats; The Oddfellows; The Patriotic Order of America; U.S. 202; YMCA
    Transcript: Wagner: I never did ask, did you have brothers and sisters?

    Hawkins: I have one brother, Earl Frances, and he's three years younger than me. He's an electrician and he's now retired, lives near General Motors, in that general area.

    Wagner: Can I ask if your mom parceled out chores when you were little, were you each responsible for chores?

    Hawkins: Yes, she certainly did. My - well I think what my Mother did was very useful later on because I used to have to scrub the front doorsteps and polish brass and scrub floors and wash clothes and iron which was good training even for a boy. Still comes in very handy, polishing brass, I remember in the Service you had to polish brass. And back in those days it was very important in the Flats that your front door, which was - the mailbox was made out of brass, the bell, the knocker and the doorknob, everything was brass, and it was, I guess it was competitive to keep the front of your house looking good and shining and polished: I did all those things. Yes, she gave us a lot to do and it didn't hurt, and also she taught me how to scrub floors, she always said you scrub the surbase as well as the center of the floor, you know, you don't just hit and lick, or miss, you get the whole thing, which is good.

    Wagner: Now you, of course, had inside plumbing and electricity and all of that?

    Hawkins: Yes we did, however, the in - now I'll say this that the time I was growing up I remember - I used to - Talleyville, now that has a bearing on the whole area of Hagley and the rest - at that time most of these areas did have what we call back houses, or with no plumbing. And we were still using oil lamps and I distinctly remember still as a boy, driving a horse and buggy up the Concord Pike on a Sunday morning to get a newspaper. I had relatives there and we would visit in the Talleyville area which is not far from Hagley. Today it's unheard of to be driving a horse and buggy up the Concord Pike, but those were the days we were moving away from oil lamps, toward plumbing and that sort of thing. (Interruption when someone calls and he goes to see what is wanted.)

    Wagner: I was going to ask you what kind of family outings did you - where did you hang out on Saturday nights when you got a little older?

    Hawkins: Well, alright that's something - it was quite a common thing to hang out, the people who lived in the Flats, mostly boys, no girls, those days girls didn't hang around, we used to hang around the corner at Front and Union. Now at Front and Union was a drugstore and it was quite a common thing to hang out, boys would hang out there, but never girls, only the boys, and usually these were people that I knew at church, too, most of them.

    There's quite a history connected with that particular area.

    Wagner: What did you all do besides look at the girls?

    Hawkins: Well, we would talk, did a lot of talking, and then there were a few cars. Maybe one boy in ten would have a car, you know, when you got older, you were high school age, perhaps go riding with him, see how fast he could go, you know, then brag about it later on, how fast he'd been driving. And then there was a lot of church activity too, there was an organization called the Epworth League - do you remember the Epworth League in the Methodist Church? It seemed like I - I remember the first time I had to talk in the Epworth League, I was scared to death for two weeks ahead of time. You know, you had to get up and give a talk, lead a prayer, and that sort of thing, I was scared silly. The thought of getting up in front of people, you know, just scare you to death. And today, of course, it's quite different, but this was all good training.

    Wagner: Did you go swimming?

    Hawkins: Yes, swimming was probably my favorite activity.

    Wagner: Where?

    Hawkins: At the YMCA, the YMCA was at 11th and Washington, the same YMCA that's there today. I remember joining the Y when I was about: in fact I earned a membership selling Saturday Evening Post. At that time the Y membership costs $5.00 a year, this is quite a difference from $150-$200 today. And I did a lot of swimming and this went on and on and on even when I was working for old Laird and Company and through the years. I used to go swimming like year 'round at the Y, I still have a membership.

    Wagner: Sledding - were the winters colder then than they are now years ago?

    Hawkins: It seemed like the winters were colder and the snow was deeper, although I think a lot of people say that was because you were smaller in stature, I don't know, but it just seemed to be a lot more snow. I remember one time walking to Wilmington High School from the Flats, which is roughly a mile and a half, something like that, that area. And it was so cold the principal had instructed the teachers to stand at the door and as students came in, put a towel over their ears so their ears wouldn't break off, it was that cold, you know, rather than go in there and have a sudden change of heat: they put the towel over your ear to protect your ear, everyone that came in, it was very cold.

    Wagner: And musical instruments?

    Hawkins: Well I used to - I always loved music. My Mother, here's an old story, my Mother tried to give me piano lessons, and piano lessons were - a man by the name of Manuel, and he lived at 8th and Broom and he gave piano lessons at $35.00 a half hour - thirty-five cents, not $35.00, thirty-five cents a half hour which is rather, by today's standards, quite cheap. However, I didn't pay attention, I fooled around more than anything else, I wish years later that I had paid attention, it's the sort of thing you do. I suppose that's an old story, your Mother trying to teach you something, you doing something else, but today I still wish I could play the piano well, I fool around with it, I fool around with the organ and listen to a lot of music, but I do not play well. Except the time – the Boy Scouts used to have a drum and bugle corp – your good husband remembers this because he was a drummer, rather good. I always remember one boy, when we had a drum and bugle corp, we used to meet across from the YMCA and we would always practice setting down, never: and when it came time for a parade, nobody could keep step, they could play music, but they couldn't keep step. And there was one boy, he used to be the cymbal player, and I don't know how he survived because every time he used to clap the cymbal she would blink his eyes - he'd go like this you know, and he was a joke. I think he'd probably remember this boy.

    Wagner: What about - were you all religious people, did you say Grace before - well you must have because you went to church a lot.

    Hawkins: Yes, yes - now that to me religion is - I like to use the term spiritual because it was very important in my family to go to church - now we've got a strange background because in my family there are ministers and priests, there was Quaker and Presbyterian and Baptist, you name it, there was a little of everything in my family. In fact part of my Mother's family, one of them was a priest at St. Anthony's Church, and of course today I have a very good friend there at St. Anthony's, Father Robert, who is an extremely good friend, and on my Father's side, too, there were Catholics and Protestant. And I always took a deep interest in religion because I think it's very important to me, a lot of people say why are you doing this, why are you into this, why are you into that, why did I build a house with Egyptian architecture - there's a lot of things I think are part of you, you don't know why they are, but they are and (telephone rings and recorder turned off).

    And I distinctly remember a lot about it because I was five years old and started in the Cradle Roll and church was like the center of your life, it became - I think we found the same thing when we went to Italy years later, that the church was the focal point of a lot of community activities, whatever you called community activity, and of course there were several churches around and several communities if you want to put it that way, but it made a very deep impression and even at that time we had what is later coming to the Fundamentalist and the Evangelicals, Modernists, all these trends and these trends always interested me because today it's especially interesting, I teach an adult Sunday School in New Castle. And just last Sunday we were talking about trends, and looking back I remember so many churches where they had split because of beliefs in the fundamentals or belief in the modern approach to religion. It's very important and I think from experience, you learn a great deal what it really means to the relationship to who you are, but when I hear the term that somebody is religious, I wonder about this because I like to use the term spiritual, I rather think that somebody is spiritual in their approach, rather than religious, because somebody can appear to be churchy, you know, or attend church a lot and they make an impression on somebody, but deep down are they really spiritual in their treatment of their neighbor, do they keep the two commandments, you know, loving God and loving their neighbor. Is this really being done, or is it just taught? So quite often people are labeled as religious and you wonder what this all means, what does it mean, is it something to be avoided or is there some depth there, it's terribly important.

    I think to me probably the two most important things in my life are history and religion.

    Wagner: Now did you or your father belong to men's groups like: well...

    Hawkins: Men's clubs?

    Wagner: Right: Masonic organizations or...

    Hawkins: My Father belonged to an organization known as the Moose, and years later I became involved with the Odd Fellows. Then, speaking about organizations, Betty, today it's worked into this. Those are the things I belong to, you want to know, there's just a lot of them. I suppose I was always a joiner, and it's good and it's bad, sometimes you get terribly involved as a joiner. It seems to be a trend that most of my family joins things.

    Wagner: Now what about your mother, did she - two questions, did she work outside of the home, ever?

    Hawkins: No, never, she was strictly a homemaker. And, making a comparison today, there's a different economic picture, entirely different picture. Most women today have to work. No, she belonged to an organization known as The Patriotic Order of America...which I think made a lot of difference and I lay a lot of this to her belonging to a patriotic organization, they felt that way.
  • Celebrating Christmas; Celebrating the Fourth of July; Circuses and parades; Halloween and Mischief Night; Selling bottles to bootleggers; Buying food at the corner grocery store; Shopping during the Great Depression; Childhood home
    Keywords: Bootleggers; Celebrations; Christmas; Coal; Fire Works; Forty Acres, Wilmington, Del.; Fourth of July; Great Depression; Grocery stores; Halloween; Ice cream; Mischief Night; Prohibition; Street-railroads; The Flats; Wilson Line; Woodlawn Trustees
    Transcript: Wagner: What were the big things around Christmastime, did the family have any special...

    Hawkins: Christmastime was, well it was just a time for family - I think the night before was very important because here again we go back to the church. There was always Christmas carols and where we lived in the Flats, Christmas Eve was probably the most illuminated time of the year because everybody had candles in their windows and you can imagine hundreds of houses, you could look down the row and see a hundred houses with candles in the windows, this was something that you remember.

    Wagner: Christmas tree?

    Hawkins: And Christmas trees too, yes.

    Wagner: Electric?

    Hawkins: No, not too much in electric, most of it was just decoration, in fact I still have a lot of the old decorations today, you know the little figures and the little trains and the angels and balls and that sort of thing. That's a lot of nostalgia there, I think you hold onto that. I hold onto old things anyway.

    Wagner: Fourth of July?

    Hawkins: Now, there's a story too, Fourth of July - I have a plate downstairs, I'll show it to you later on, but once a year we got ice cream and my Father used to go out to a place on Union Street called Winstons and buy a plate of ice cream every Fourth of July. There was just no ice cream in the freezer all the time or available or at the store, it just wasn't available. It was there, but you couldn't afford it - and I'll show you the plate - in fact it meant a great deal to me, my Brother had this plate hidden away for some time, and I got it out of the dust and put it out in the dining room. Yeah, Fourth of July -and fireworks too, in those times, of course, fireworks were permitted, it was legal, up to I guess when I was about twelve years old and there was an accident in the Forty Acres involving a store selling fireworks, had an explosion, and after that the City of Wilmington, and the State of Delaware enacted a law to forbid fireworks unless under supervision. So fireworks are illegal now.

    Wagner: Family trips?

    Hawkins: Most family trips were limited to the Wilson Line, do you remember the Wilson Line, the steamer, the boats - one called the City of Chester, the City of Wilmington, the City of Philadelphia, the Brandywine, the Thomas Clyde - remember the different boats? It cost thirty-five cents to ride from Wilmington to Philadelphia and that was about the extent of travel except going by trolley, at those times we did have track trolleys from Wilmington to - from where I lived in Wilmington to New Castle was considered an excursion, or Riverview Beach. Riverview Beach is right across from the New Castle proper on the Jersey shore.

    At those times there was also a beach down there called Deemer's Beach, do you remember that? I know you remember all these places.

    Wagner: Well, I'm asking the questions, you're telling me.

    Hawkins: Yeah, I know you're asking the questions, yeah, but a lot of these things really jump out at you. Deemer's Beach, there was no beach per se, but it was a big swimming pool at the edge of the water. I don't know what's there now, I think it's all reeds and weeds probably.

    Wagner: Nothing there now.

    Hawkins: Nothing, right.

    Wagner: They took down all the old pagodas and all of that.

    Hawkins: Course it had something to do with the Deemer property and the Deemer...

    Wagner: How about parades or when the circus came to town, do you remember the circus coming?

    Hawkins: Yeah, I remember when the circus came to town because that was usually at 31st and Market, it was 30th and Market where Speakman Company is now, or across from the Speakman Company. It was a huge open area and when I was a small ball it was still having parades from the railroad station clear to that area with elephants and ornate wagons drawn by horses and that sort of thing. Of course today when they set up, it's all self-contained, you know, in some small area.

    Wagner: Halloween, did you get dressed up for Halloween, or just Mischief Night?

    Hawkins: Yeah, we got dressed up for Halloween, and we had a Mischief Night, which is usually throwing corn around or using a little instrument you would use to put on people's windows to make a noise, that sort of thing. It wasn't too extensive, we did go around and we did collect food, I don't think we got as much food then as you do today in the Trick or Treat.

    Wagner: Oh, you did go door to door?

    Hawkins: Oh yeah, we went door to door, in the Flats. Of course the Flats was - get a number of houses, you had hundreds of houses there - the Flats - was a Lower Flat and an Upper Flat, so you had a lot of families.

    Wagner: You don't remember - there was a hand down in the Powder Mills led by Alfred I. du Pont, but that was before your time.

    Hawkins: I knew about that, in visiting Hagley, I know about the band. There used to be bands, Salvation Army Band used to Visit the area, the Bancroft Parkway area.

    Wagner: Remember any local taverns, infamous taverns?

    Hawkins: No, course like I say, most of my recollection was during the era of Prohibition and I do remember, it was quite a thing to go to the movies on Saturday, the Park Theater, we have several other neighborhood theaters around, and in order to go to the movies, a nickel was a lot of money, and I used to earn money by selling bottles to bootleggers (laughs). I knew where the speakeasies and the bootleggers were, and if I could get a couple of bottles, I would - fine Methodist at the time - bottles to the bootleggers.

    Wagner: Yeah, no wonder you went to church so much.

    Hawkins: Yeah, yeah - talk about putting things together.

    Wagner: Did you all have your own food garden, did you grow your own food?

    Hawkins: No, I had a flower garden, I was in a contest one time given by the 25 School for the Wilmington area, the School Board and the system there had a contest to see who had the best garden and I won a blue ribbon growing flowers, under the supervision of my Mother of course.

    Wagner: Your mother made you...

    Hawkins: She didn't make me, but she helped me, and I was anxious to do it.

    Wagner: When it came time to go food shopping, where did your mother shop?

    Hawkins: You know most of the shopping was at the local grocery store, and that is something in American history we should remember because at that time I would say the corner grocery man was probably the finest person around because he kept a lot of people in food on debit, you know, you'd go in there and charge up a pound of meat or a pot herb, you remember pot herbs, make soup out of pot herbs, and during the Depression there was no super markets around and so these people really carried the neighborhood, at least where I was that was the story. Now that wasn't true if you lived on a farm, something like that, you grew your own.

    I have relatives who lived on a farm, and when you went to visit, of course you could pick up, in the proper time, corn and beans and tomatoes and apples and all that sort of thing, but for the most part you depended on the corner grocery store for your staples.

    Wagner: What about clothes shopping and shoe shopping?

    Hawkins: I remember - well shoes, let's start with shoes. You might get one pair of shoes a year, maybe, and when they wore low, my Father used to do his own shoe repair, that was another thing, you don't see much of this anymore, when your shoe got worn, he would do his own shoe repair. And what I remember about this, quite often if you walked in church, your shoes would squeak, make a noise. Because the leather was so tight, you know, it was nailed on tight, it wasn't professional, but you had to do those things because clothes and food, so many things were limited during the Depression. I say Depression because so much of my early life was in these times and as far as clothing, you might get one pair of trousers a year when you started school in the fall. All summer long you wore old clothes. When you started to school of course you had to get dressed up, maybe one pair of trousers, one sweater. I remember one time my Mother bought me a nice pair of gray flannels, going to Wilmington High School, and after the first week I was in a chemistry class and spilled sulfuric acid down the trousers. Well the teacher then whose - her husband was mayor, Mayor James, mayor of Wilmington at the time, and Mrs. James was the instructor and right away she put ammonia to neutralize the acid. However, the spots turned pink and during the rest of the week the spots fell out, you know. So that's what happened to my good clothes. Other than that, maybe get one suit a year, one pair of trousers, very limited.

    Wagner: What was considered a luxury, what was the one thing you wanted most in your whole life when you were a youngster?

    Hawkins: I think the thing that impressed me most when I was a boy was housing. I always had a certain – I wouldn't call it envy or longing to have a bigger house and a house of your own. Because we lived in the Flats which is essentially an apartment, you didn't dare make too much noise and disturb your neighbor, it wasn't too private, and everybody knew your business which sometimes isn't too terrible it all depends on how you grow up, and I always wanted to move out into the country or - of course when I moved here, it was country.

    Wagner: Who owned your housing?

    Hawkins: In the Flats?

    Wagner: Flats.

    Hawkins: That was the Woodlawn Trustees.

    Wagner: Were they big houses, what size houses?

    Hawkins: No, the Flats had like a kitchen, a hall and one, maybe two bedrooms and a living room, without central heating.

    Wagner: Fireplaces?

    Hawkins: No, no fireplace, it was strictly a stove, a chunk stove and quite often in the wintertime the room that was most heated was the kitchen. Everybody headed for the kitchen. And that was the time it was called a range in your kitchen and hot water and everything was contained in that one thing and that was a coal heater, heated by coal. And one of my jobs I had was polishing - remember the black stove, you had to polish the black stove - I can still smell the polish.

    Wagner: Where did you keep the coal, in the cellar or in a shed?

    Hawkins: In the cellar, coal bin. That was quite something too, you had a scuttle, a coal scuttle and you had to carry the coal upstairs.

    Wagner: What did you do with the ashes?

    Hawkins: The ashes were hauled out and collected by the City, except in the wintertime you used the ashes for the...

    Wagner: Then you had garbage collection, you had all the amenities.

    Hawkins: We had garbage collection, yes. Yeah, that was well organized, collecting ashes and collecting trash and collecting garbage. In fact I've said it was better organized than it is today.

    Wagner: What about refrigeration?

    Hawkins: Ice boxes, we still had ice boxes. It was very rare to have somebody with what you call Frigidaires, that was the first ice box, electric ice box. But those were the days when you'd follow the iceman around and try to get chunks of ice. There were also ice houses where your mother would send you out with a wagon or some kind of a wheeled vehicle and pick up ten cents worth of ice, twenty-five cents worth of ice.

    Wagner: How much ice was that?

    Hawkins: A ten cent piece of ice would fill the ice box in the average refrigerator. That would last two or three days.

    Wagner: Five pounds, ten pounds, how much?

    Hawkins: That was twenty-five pounds I think, bout twenty-five pounds. Of course if you had enough money, you could get a bigger piece. You also, most every house in those days had a snowball scraper, do you remember the snowball scraper?

    Wagner: Yes. What did you do with - do you still have yours?

    Hawkins: What - my snowball scraper?

    Wagner: Snowball scraper.

    Hawkins: I think it's around somewhere because I keep things, I'm a clutterbug, I keep a lot of old thing. Old jars, I keep old milk bottles and jars and hat pins and clocks and all sorts of things.
  • Clothes as a teenager; Getting married; Neighborhood crime and safety; Food and Cooking; Becoming an adult; Bingo games as a form of financial aid; Going to funerals; Entertainment and fighting as a boxer
    Keywords: Adulthood; Bingo; Boxing; Cathedral Cemetery; Clothes; Cooking; Crime; Entertainment; Food; Funerals; Great Depression; Hairstyles; Marriage; Milford, Del.; Money; Rites of passage; Safety; Shows; Silverbrook United Methodist Church
    Transcript: Wagner: Did you keep any old clothes, do you remember what you wore as a teenager?

    Hawkins: Yes, yes. As a teenager, yes I do. I remember the first time I went to long pants, most of the time I had knickers. I remember having to wear long underwear, that was another thing that bothered me. In general, my Mother made me wear long underwear, and it was embarrassing to me to take gym, everybody else was wearing nice gym suits and here I turn out with long underwear on. And I remember one teacher, he said, "Why don't you put on your father's gumboots while you're at it." (laughs) But that was her thought, course in the summertime, you didn't go to school in the summertime. They had, they called them B.V.D.'s then.

    Wagner: With knickers, what kind of socks did you wear?

    Hawkins: And knickers, well you had long woolen socks and knickers, oh they were a lot of trouble too. But of course today I guess it's a novelty, the styles keep going around and going back. I remember something else about styles, when I was a baby, now this is going back a ways, but boys used to wear, used to have bobbed hair - remember that boys' bob? And Mary Janes, quite a common thing, and black straw hats which is particularly feminine today.

    Wagner: Did you go barefoot?

    Hawkins: Yes I did, I did quite a bit, it saved on shoes and socks.

    Wagner: Where did you get married?

    Hawkins: I was married when I was thirty-five in Milford, I was married in the Presbyterian church in a night service, or an evening service, candlelight service. In fact, Marjorie was - I always used to kid her because she was starting school when I graduated from high school. See I'd have been considered a cradle robber at that time, but that worked out fine.

    Wagner: I know what I wanted to ask you, in the neighborhood, you know how there's a high crime rate most everyplace nowadays, would you leave the house unlocked or a window unlocked?

    Hawkins: Yeah, yeah you could, in fact you could leave the doors unlocked. There was not too much of that, I mean there was a lot of petty - maybe some boy in the neighborhood would steal your bike, but before the night, the day was over, night was over, your Father or some policeman, they would have picked it up. It just didn't seem to exist, at least not what we hear about today. I'm sure it was there, and you'd have an encounter with the police, I remember one time I had an encounter with the police, who later became a good friend, and fortunately he was a friend of my Father- what happened, there was an Italian boy that lived across the street from me and we were playing, for some reason on a hill, and he started throwing bricks. Well, I started throwing bricks back at him, but just as I threw, he ducked and the brick went over a hill and almost hit a police car. Well, the policeman came after me and fortunately my Father was there and he called the situation. I don't know, there was not too big a problem then as far as locking the house or locking your bikes or your equipment or anything else. There were very few cars, you could look down several blocks of houses and see maybe one or two cars. People didn't have cars.

    Wagner: What about nicknames, did your buddies have nicknames?

    Hawkins: Yeah, I think everybody had a nickname.

    Wagner: Do you remember any colorful nicknames?

    Hawkins: Well there was always a Stinky and always a Fatty and Buzz and Tink, I remember a lot of them. I think people are known better by their nickname than their regular name. In fact you - it's amazing after a while to find out a person's real name, after the nickname.

    Wagner: What about barbershops and beauty parlors, do you remember anything there?

    Hawkins: Yeah, I remember there was an Italian barber that lived down Union Street and we became friends over the years. I remember going to him one time, my Father used to take me to the barbershop and he scared the daylights out of me because I remember the first time, I had just gotten out of a - in those days you didn't go to a hospital, you went to a doctor's office for any kind of a minor operation, and I remember I was so afraid of anything that had instruments. And looking at the barbershop, he had scissors and tweezers and all that sort of things, scared the daylights out of me and he had a hard time giving me a haircut. Yeah, a lot of things. In fact, that man's son, today, I think is a dentist in town.

    You know, thinking about Italian families, when I was a boy, we lived with an Italian family for a couple of years, and that's how I became very fond of spaghetti and all that goes with it.

    Wagner: That's something I want to ask, was your mom a good cook?

    Hawkins: Yes my Mom was a very good cook. In fact, you know, when Hagley recipe, the book that you put out recently, her recipe for apple pie won the State contest and it's in the Hagley cookbook – good cook.

    Wagner: Any special treats beside apple pie?

    Hawkins: She used to make pudding, it was some kind of an English pudding that she made with a syrup, a sauce, that I was very fond of.

    Wagner: Suet pudding.

    Hawkins: Yeah, suet pudding, right, do you remember that?

    Wagner: M-huh, ate a lot of it when it was economical.

    Hawkins: Cut it up and slice it - yeah lot of it - you know lots of times that was a meal. I know you remember a lot of these things too.

    Wagner: What was your most cherished possession when you were a little - oh, I know what I want to ask -what about, when were you considered an adult, when did you start...

    Hawkins: I supposed I was considered an adult when I was, well there are stages in life, when you were twelve, you lived to be twelve to join the Boy Scouts, that seemed to be a highlight. And then when you were eighteen, of course the kids in those days were always saying "When you're twenty-one, today I am a man.” You know, when you were twenty-one, I don't know what the girls said they were - twenty-one, I guess they were women. But that was when you were considered an adult. Now I used to wonder about my Jewish friends who had their ceremony when they were twelve and considered adults, and that was very noticeable that they did change after twelve. Did you notice that, when they had their Bar Mitzvah?

    Wagner: Yes. When you went out to earn a living, did you still stay at home and contribute to the...

    Hawkins: Yeah, in fact I guess for several years before I went into the Service, my Father was killed in a car accident. I was about nineteen, just about the time I got the job at Laird and Company and from then on for several years, I had a family responsibility. My brother was still in school and my Mother and my Grandmother, so I had a responsibility there.

    Wagner: Your grandmother lived with you?

    Hawkins: Yes, off and on she lived with us. Sometimes we had other relatives like uncles and aunts living with us too.

    Wagner: Did your mother ever have to take in boarders during the Depression?

    Hawkins: No, she never took in boarders, but I'll tell you what we did do during the Depression, used to have Bingo games. In the Flats, one neighbor would help another neighbor that way by holding Bingo games in various houses, you know, if the neighborhood thought that you were in trouble, they would hold a couple Bingo games in your house and collect the money that way, prizes, which helped.

    Wagner: What about funerals?

    Hawkins: Funerals, it seemed when I was a boy I was always going to funerals. I suppose because most of my people were older than the average. I had a hard time accepting young parents because it seemed like my parents were much older and it seemed parents, to me at that time, should be older, you know. Yes, we were always going to funerals, of course Irish people would have wakes, you know, and it was quite a thing. It seemed like there was always an aunt or an uncle being buried, quite often.

    Wagner: Where were they interred usually? Did the church have a graveyard?

    Hawkins: Usually interred...right, in Silverbook Cemetery or in the Cathederal Cemetery across from: Catholic - I have a lot of relatives buried there and in Silverbrook.

    Wagner: Well ghost stories, that would pertain to the powder yard. Do you remember how your house was furnished, did you salvage any objects from your house?

    Hawkins: I salvaged some small - I wish I could have salvaged a lot of things from the house, in fact, course the piano, the piano was always the center of activity in the house it seemed like. In those days people would gather around the piano and sing a lot, you know, groups get together. And I remember some furniture that my Mother had, now my brother has some of it, I have one or two small pieces, chairs, but there were some very fine pieces that are considered very valuable today. In those days you had mission furniture, you remember mission? And overstuffed and you'd have some Victorian chairs that came from some other part of the family and you took these things for granted. I always think of another thing, player piano, you remember player piano? And I was always very fond of a player piano and there was a time when people were giving these away, they couldn't unload a player piano. Today they cost thousands of dollars. That's another thing about the past.

    Wagner: Can you think of other entertainment, any pranks, will I guess I asked that, any pranks that you got in trouble with when you were...

    Hawkins: I remember those - we used to put on a lot of shows in the neighborhood, backyard sort of thing. I don't know if you knew a fellow by the name of Al Childs or not, do you know this name, ring a bell? Well Al Childs was quite - I don't know, he was a real organizer when I was in Boy Scouts and he liked to put on shows. And the shows were usually given in somebody's backyard with a - you'd get your mother's sheet and this was the curtain, and you had a lot of black face, stuff like that - cork, you put cork on your face, you know, of course today that's frowned upon to have black face comedians. But we used to do a lot of that sort of thing. And then we did a lot of boxing too. We were always setting up a ring somewhere, I mean a rather odd looking ring, but nevertheless, boxing, you know, two boys boxing in different ages, weights.

    Wagner: Didn't lose any teeth?

    Hawkins: No, I never lost any teeth, but I was always being matched with somebody about twice my size which is always a little rough. Well it taught you something, you know.
  • Memories of mother doing the laundry; Making root beer; Household objects; Chores; Changes to hygiene
    Keywords: Blueing; Carpentry; Chamberpots; Chores; Clothespins; Hires Root Beer Extract; Irons (Pressing); Keepsakes; Kettles; Laundry; Octagon Soap; Scales; Scrub boards; Trunks; Washtubs
    Transcript: Wagner: Now I'm going to ask - these things might seem silly, but I'm going to ask you if you remember wash tubs? And scrub boards?

    Hawkins: Yes I do, I remember doing the wash several - many, many times, and my Mother having the - I've mentioned this many times about - Monday morning, let's see, Sunday night she would start soaking the clothes in the bathtub with bluing, I mean just soaking them. And then Monday morning, in the kitchen, I remember a box, she had a big box and set up the tub and the wash board and for hours it seemed like, she was bent over the wash board. With a big piece of Octagon, yellow soap, scrubbing. And then later on you put those clothes back in the bathtub and bluing, you know, and hang them out. It was rather a matter of pride if the woman didn't have nice wash, you know, because the neighbors would comment. Yes, I remember doing it myself.

    Wagner: Now she hung them out all year 'round?

    Hawkins: Yes.

    Wagner: What did she do in the wintertime?

    Hawkins: You know I can't remember what she did in the winter, other than just hanging the clothes up and they were frozen, and bringing them in and slowing drying them in the heat. Now today, I do the same - I mean today I do my wash in here and I hang them up in the basement or use the dryer. I don't use the dryer at all, I use the basement.

    Wagner: How about irons?

    Hawkins: Yeah, the iron was the - what do they call it – the sad iron that you used to heat on that stove, that big all-purpose stove and you put a handle - you have several irons sitting on the stove and from time to time, take them off. In fact, I still have some of those irons downstairs. I have one for a weight down in the library.

    Wagner: Did you have a telephone?

    Hawkins: No, no we didn't have telephone until, well we moved to Richardson Park in 1943, something like that, ‘ 42, and then we had the first telephone. But there were phones, people did have telephones in the Flats, but that was considered a luxury.

    Wagner: Now, I'm going to ask about a cabbage slicer, did your mother ever put down sauerkraut?

    Hawkins: No, no I never her making sauerkraut. I remember her making root beer and things like that in crocks, but never sauerkraut, no.

    Wagner: Tell me something about root beer.

    Hawkins: Well, my Mother used to have the - remember the old Hires Root Beer Extract, and in fact, the funny part of it is, tonight when I go to Philly, one of the men up there I'll see is Edgar Hires, who is the Vice President of the Hires Company. And I remember, it wasn't too many years ago, saying, "Edgar, what in the world ever happened to root beer, it doesn't taste like it used to?" And he said, "Well, the government made them take sassafras out of the extract." Now his grandfather was a pharmacist to begin with, and that's how Hires got started. My Mother had Hires Root Beer Extract and she would mix that with yeast and bottle it, and then, was it like three days sit in a corner and heat and whatever, in three days it was supposed to be ready and it was terrific root beef. Root beer today doesn't taste like it at all, does it?

    Wagner: No, but you did have to keep it out of the sun because...

    Hawkins: Oh yeah, we had more than one explosion. Same way with grape juice.

    Wagner: Now let's see, I asked about the ice box, told me about the stove, ironing boards - clothes pins, spring or...

    Hawkins: No, no, we had the other type, the one same as the model in Philadelphia that stands out (laughs)...

    Wagner: The Buchon one.

    Hawkins: Yeah, of all things. No, the clothes pins haven't changed too much. Big statue up there.

    Wagner: Now ice tongs, you had to have those because of - when you carried the ice back.

    Hawkins: Yeah, yeah, yeah - and I think I still have a pair of ice tongs downstairs. Another thing I remember too is scales, remember the scales you used to hold up to weigh fish and weigh - I still have a couple of them downstairs.

    Wagner: Well that's interesting. Tea Kettle, everybody had a tea kettle.

    Hawkins: Yeah, a tea kettle.

    Wagner: Foot lockers, I know they're not talking about military foot lockers, they’ re talking about...

    Hawkins: Yeah, well I know what they're talking about. They call them steamer trunks too, that type. That was a source of novelty in my house, for my Mother to open up that trunk because there were so many things – she was the only one that had the key - and I was always curious to know what was in it because it had – on the top there were any number of post cards, she used to collect post cards from all over, you know. Today I wish I had a lot of those post cards. And then there would be something underneath, maybe somebody's old uniform or special keepsakes. Special things were kept in those steamer trunks or footlockers. In fact, my brother still has one of them, you know, the type with like wooden bands on it, not at all like...

    Wagner: Did you ever have to saw wood or chop wood? You said you...

    Hawkins: Yeah, yeah I learned to saw wood and chop wood. Well I learned carpentry at Thomas Bayard Junior High School. We had a carpentry teacher there, a woman who was very good, and I learned how to use the saw, learned all the mechanics of using a saw in that particular school. And I learned to chop wood at home, of course, we had to.

    Wagner: Coffee grinder, or did you get ground coffee at the store?

    Hawkins: No, the only time - we bought coffee - the only time we ran the coffee grinder was when I went to visit my relatives in Talleyville and they had one of these old churn type, you know, it looked like a box with a handle on the top of it.

    Wagner: Stereopticon?

    Hawkins: Stereopticon was - I knew about them, we did not have one at home, but I remember on a couple of occasions visiting relatives, here again, that had more equipment than we did and were wealthier, and had stereoptican, yeah.

    Wagner: Now you did not have chamber pots, 'cause you had inside plumbing?

    Hawkins: Yes we did have chamber pots.

    Wagner: Oh you did?

    Hawkins: (Laughs) In the Flats we had chamber pot - I don't know, I think this was a carry-over from living on a farm. While there was a bathroom at the end of the hall, still people still used chamber pots, like it was convenient. Because when they get out of bed at night, it was cold, very cold. And I remember another funny - I remember something the other - somebody on television the other day commenting about this the other day, about sanitation today and why children live longer, infant mortality rate is down because they said we are more concerned about hygiene than they used to be. And you can imagine this, you don't have to use too much imagination, but I had relatives who lived on what they called Bread and Cheese Island, this is below Newport. Do you know where Bread and Cheese Island was? And they actually threw - they used pots on the farm and threw it out the window. I remember one side of the house, I stayed away from that side of the house, really. But this was like an accepted thing, you know, they wouldn't accept it today, run away from it. I remember bathing in the - being on the farm and bathing in the tub, you know, round tub.

    Wagner: In front of the stove.

    Hawkins: Somebody carrying water, yeah, in front of the stove. And the old pumps, the pumps that you had to prime, that sort of thing. And the water - do you remember drinking iron water? I was very fond of iron water. They call that brackish water, and today - let me see - a long time, I guess my son-in-law used to eat out a lot. We'd go to the Augustine Inn, do you know where the Augustine Inn is? And they had iron water. A lot of people put up their nose at it, but I loved it.

    Wagner: Have you been down there recently?

    Hawkins: Yeah, it's hardly - the Augustine Inn now.

    Wagner: I noticed - let's see, it says "chest of drawers,” well you have lots of chest of drawers.

    Hawkins: Here again, Yeah, my Mother had a chest of drawers, another one of these treasure areas where she kept everything locked and I was always hanging over her shoulder when she unlocked it, if I knew about it, because with all those little goodies in there that - relics that you weren't supposed to see and you'd like to see, right.

    Wagner: Okay, fans?

    Hawkins: Yeah, I remember - well, fans always remind me of church because everybody had a fan in the summertime in church, to keep cool. But other than that, that was about it, you know, the - Yeatman and some of these people who were funeral directors always. Every time you looked at a fan, it had an advertisement of a funeral director.

    Wagner: No air conditioning?

    Hawkins: No, no.

    Wagner: Were the summers hotter?

    Hawkins: I think they were, maybe you just got used to it. Of course the idea then was to have ice cream or soft drink or something. This was supposed to cool you off, of course you know it didn't cool you off. Even at work, I remember first working at Laird and Company on the fourth floor of the DuPont Building, there was no air conditioning then. And Phil Laird used to send out and get ice cream at Hannah's. Do you remember Hannah's ice cream down - old Phil Laird would send out in the summertime and buy ice cream for us.

  • Riding the trolley in Wilmington; Household objects 2; Changes to the area around New Castle, Del.; Importance of sharing and remembering history
    Keywords: American Civil War (1861-1865); Beds; Bread and Cheese Island; Delaware City, Del.; Fort Delaware; Mattresses; New Castle, Del.; Shaving; Straight razors; Street-railroads; Trolley Square, Wilmington, Del.; Trolleys
    Transcript: Wagner: Okay, trolley - where did the trolley - you said it went all over Wilmington. Where did it start, and where did it go, where did it stop?

    Hawkins: Well, there were two car barns, you know, the car barn which is now called Trolley Square, that was the base for a lot of the coming - and of course the trolleys went through several stages. When they used to have four-wheeled trolleys of all things, they looked like the Toonervilles, and until the time when they had automatic treadles, I mean the transportation went through some really different types of stages. And then there was another car barn, or trolley barn, out, let’ s see, that was Sixth and Holland, somewhere out the lake, right across from Wawaset is today, there was another trolley barn. It was quite an extensive trolley system, all around Wilmington. The most outstanding was Delaware Avenue, that's Delaware Avenue No. 10. But then there was No. 8, the 8th Street trolley, all the way out 8th Street to Wawaset from downtown. And the 6th Street trolley. Quite often trolleys would run off the tracks, too, that was another common thing. The trolleys would go along and they would go off the track and then they'd have to have an animal or something to come out, you know, horses to move it to get it back on the track.

    Wagner: And how much?

    Hawkins: My first recollection was eight cents, and then it went to ten, then fifteen, then twenty, all the way up.

    Wagner: Okay, shaving mugs, shaving mirrors?

    Hawkins: Not too much recollection there, the shaving mugs. I know my Father had shaving mugs.

    Wagner: Straight razor?

    Hawkins: He used a straight razor. I never used a straight razor, I always had a safety razor.

    Wagner: Iron beds?

    Hawkins: Yeah, I remember iron beds, brass beds. I'll tell you one thing I remember about beds, you don't mind me mentioned it: bed bugs. On farms especially (laughs) and the same at Bread and Cheese Island, they used to have mattresses made out of corn husks, and they were the worst things to sleep on. When I was a kid I spent a lot of time on that farm and sleeping on corn husks was something else. Wasn't corn cob, it was the husk that they put in, a filler like they would with straw, you know. But I don't know what it was, I have never run across beds here of late, such a thing as bed bugs, but there were a lot of houses that had bed bugs in those days.

    Wagner: Well, you just didn't throw everything in the washer like you do now.

    Hawkins: Yeah, that's right, that's true.

    Wagner: Now you say that when you came out here, this was down State Delaware, right? This was empty territory?

    Hawkins: Yeah, this was open country. In fact all that was here was Bents next door and a couple people across the street, the quarry and Charlie Pettite's place here, and a few houses, and that's it.

    Wagner: And when did the airport come?

    Hawkins: My first recollection of the airport was World War II when they built the army air base there. There was quite a lot of talk, you know people live in what was Hog Swamp Road, you know airport road, about the territory and about the property and what not. Of course I missed a lot of the building, because just about that time I was drafted, went in the Service, didn't get into all this.

    Wagner: And this was the Poteet Farm?

    Hawkins: Yeah, on the...

    Wagner: It was divided or sold off?

    Hawkins: On old maps it is know as Poteet - if you looked on a very old map, it was called Poteet Tract. Now when I first came here, there's quite a story about Charlie. He was a farm, in fact he kept company with my Mother. When my Mother first saw him, she sort of shied - she came out here to visit me, and she shied away from Old Charlie, and I wondered what's this all about, and she said, "Well, that's another story.” I don't know what it was all about. But I found out later that they kept company when they were young people and Charlie was married - course married and had a grown family and I found out - he is one of the finest neighbors I've ever had, he and Spence, I've never had better neighbors, because they can never do enough for you. You know, Spence was never riding over you or getting in your way, but he was always there to help. The same way with his wife and kids. And Charlie got so that he was like a member of the family. When we went away on a trip, you know, you always call back home, say "I'm here,” we'd always call Charlie. Charlie as like home base.

    Wagner: Very good. Well, can you think of anything else I should know for my tape here - any other gems from long ago?

    Hawkins: No, no, except, Betty, to say that I think it's very important to remember the past. I've been a Director of Fort Delaware since - for a long time, and that, I think, is terribly important to preserve and keep the stories going, you know, of the time of the Civil War and times in between and before. Because these things are lost, it doesn't take one generation can lose everything. A recipe is lost in one generation, a good recipe. So if somebody doesn't keep it going, doesn't note it down, it is, it's lost, until somebody discovers it.

    I belong to another organization called the Rose Ecrusions, the Order of the Rosy Cross, and this goes way, way back to what they call the Order of the White Brotherhood, in ancient Egypt. This thing was resurrected many, many years ago in Southern France. And at that time the man who was called the Imperator of the Order, went there and had to do a lot of digging to find out anything. The French are very cagey about telling their history or anything connected with local history. So it took a lot of doing and what at one time would be a thriving organization, self-contained, within one generation was lost, simply because somebody put everything in a box, put it away, and somebody later on doesn't even know what it's all about, so a thing can be completely lost if somebody doesn't (can't understand word – means preserve the history). I think today we're going into more detail, we have movies, we have tapes, all those sort of things, and I just wish my Mother had talked on a tape, that my uncle had talked on a tape, and told me something about the family, you know. The Fergusons, and of course the Fergusons claim that Scottish decent - there was a Ferguson that stole Annie Laurie from Bobbie Burns, you know, and all this goes back in history. So it's great to hear your relatives tell you something, but unless somebody makes a permanent record of it, it's lost.

    Wagner: That's the truth.

    Hawkins: Which is obvious, but obvious is still not like here.