Interview with Martina Lawless, 1984 February 21 [audio](part 1)

Share/Save:
  • Discussing photographs in "The Workers' World at Hagley" publication; moving from the family hotel to a brick house on Kennett Pike; describing her siblings
    Keywords: Brothers and sisters; Brothers and sisters--Death; dwellings; Henry Clay (Del. : Village); Lawless' tavern; Priests; The Workers World at Hagley (Porter, Glenn)
    Transcript: Johnson: February 21, 1984. I'm interviewing Miss Martina Lawless, who lives at 109 W. 36th Street, and my name is Dorothy Johnson.

    Lawless: Well, where are you from?

    Johnson: I'm a Hagley volunteer.

    Lawless: I know, but you didn't live out that way did you?

    Johnson: No.

    Lawless: I didn't think so.

    Johnson: No, we originally came from...I came from Connecticut and we moved to New Jersey when we were first married, and now I live in Wilmington. I've only lived here for [10?] years.

    Lawless: I've lived here all my life. I was born in the old house. We were all born there. Then my father built a big place up on the Kennett Pike. The doctor told him to get out of the hotel. He wasn't feeling too well. His health was going down so...Did I drop something? I don't think so. It might be just from that microphone.

    Lawless: I wonder now that the tape recorder's going if you could tell me again - point out your mother in this picture.

    Johnson: This is my mother and my brother Daniel. And that's my father and my brother Father Tom and Kitty. Kitty's the oldest one, and then Father Tom and then Daniel. That's all that were born at that time. And that's my father and that's my mother.

    Johnson: And this was taken before you were born.

    Lawless: Oh yeah. Yeah. Daniel was dead before I was born. He died, it was the diphtheria. Oh, diphtheria, what do you call it, panic going on out there, and he was one of the ones. He was just starting to school, and, you know, they used to carry slates. And my mother always said it was the slate is where he got the germ. See they used to wash those slates. He'd just been to school. He was just five years old.

    Johnson: And what school was that?

    Lawless: St. Joseph's on the Brandywine. That's where it was. Do you have a picture of Old Saint Joseph's? Do you have a picture of the church? The school. Of course they remodeled the school. [They find a picture]

    Lawless: Oh sure.

    Johnson: Are you in this picture?

    Lawless: God knows I might be. (laughter) I wouldn't know myself at that age. We had our picture, as kids, all taken over at Father Scott's house one time. Each class.

    Johnson: Do you recognize anybody?

    Lawless: Mmmm. Who was the priest, you know? Gosh. No, we all went there. Yeah, there's the old church there. There's our burying lot, right there. And over here is that statue belonged to my grandfather and grandmother Lawless. That statue was shipped in from Italy. Yeah, here's the old church. This is the front. Now this is in the back. Yeah. There's a plot there waiting for me. Yes there is.

    Johnson: They just call this a Sunday School group. They don't say who they are.

    Lawless: We all...I remember having our pictures taken over at Father Scott's house. Each class. What place is that where all those men?

    Johnson: Would that be the..Barney Hunter's store where they had the elections?

    Lawless: Oh, could be. They used to have the elections at my father's hotel, too.

    Johnson: Oh, when did they do that?

    Lawless: When I was a kid. And they used to...we had a porch that went over this way, and they used to, when they were electioneering, they used to go up and down the hill hollering. And then they'd end up on this porch and somebody would make a speech from this porch. I remember that. Us kids, we were at the window looking out, you know. Now that's Kitty. I have this picture someplace. I don't know where it is.

    Johnson: Did you - Grace Toy, did you talk to her? She did a painting of this place and sent it to us. Now what was her married name? His first name was Bill. Oh, I haven't heard from her for a long time. Katherine Hackendorn is the only one that...Oh, that's the old mill. Breck's Mill. That's where we used to have all our card parties. St. Joseph's card parties were always there. Yeah. Old Breck's Mill. You don't have any names under these pictures.

    Johnson: I wonder if I could start now by asking a few questions about your background?

    Lawless: Sure.

    Johnson: Could you tell me your age?

    Lawless: My age. [laughs] I'll be 83 the first day of May, believe it or not.

    Johnson: Could you tell me in which villages you lived when you were a child?

    Lawless: Well we lived right at the hotel. Then like, I was born there. Then my father built a home...Doctor told him to get out of there. He owned a lot of property up along Barley Mill Road. Went all the way up in the Kennett Pike. And that's where he built the home that we were in. And it had 48 windows in it. Believe it or not. Facing the south we had four bay windows, and each one had three windows in it. And it was a three story house, brick. And it was on the Kennett Pike above where the...you know where the hospital is...right above Pelleport on the right. I used to steal flowers out of Pelleport when I was a kid. Louise Foster and I used to steal them. They'd be all along the fence. Daffodils and things. And we used to steal them. That's on the Kennett Pike.

    Johnson: How old were you when you moved there?

    Lawless: It was the year my sister graduated. About seven years old, because I would have been eight. I may have celebrated my eighth...because she graduated in 1908. This is her work. That's the only one I have left of hers. I've given the rest of them away. She had all kinds of horses and different things, and they're all gone. Here's one. And she did three horses over a trough. I gave that one away. But I still have this one. Now my niece is also an artist. And she did my brother. That's my brother. And he's gone.

    Johnson: And was he a priest at St. Joseph?

    Lawless: No. He was an oblate of the High School, you know. Salesianum High. Oh, he was one of the builders of that.

    Johnson: What was his name?

    Lawless: Father Lawless. Father Tom. Everybody called him Father Tom.

    Johnson: How many brothers and sisters did you have all together?

    Lawless: I had four brothers and one sister.

    Johnson: What were your brothers names?

    Lawless: Father Tom was the oldest. Well my sister was the oldest, Kitty. Kitty was the oldest of the whole family.

    Johnson: And she's the one in that picture.

    Lawless: No. I don't have a picture of her.

    Johnson: I thought when I showed you this picture...

    Lawless: Uh uh. No, I don't have no picture of her. Oh yes. You're right. That's her there. That's her, and that's Father Tom in there too. And the baby is Daniel. He died, the third one. He died with diphtheria. Had an epidemic and they didn't have all these vaccines and things.

    Johnson: So many people died.

    Lawless: Yes. And it was a time out there. What did you ask me? My age?

    Johnson: To list your brothers. Father Tom was the oldest.

    Lawless: No, Kitty was the oldest. Then Father Tom, then Daniel, and then John, and then Bill and then me.

    Johnson: You were the youngest?

    Lawless: No. My brother Gus is the youngest. He's still living. He's not in good health, but he's living. But he's uh... well he's mentally all right, but he has emphysema. He's never been in the hospital. Never been operated on in any way at all. Tonsils, adenoids. Nothing all kids have. But I've had them all.

    Johnson: You have.

    Lawless: I had a tonsils operation twice. Cause they had to stop in the middle of the first one. The heart was bad. Here comes me boyfriend that does all my errands. Oh he's wonderful. What would I do without him? [Tape stops]

    Lawless: He puts things in my g...I don't use the garage and I let him have it. And he does everything for me.

    Johnson: That's nice.

    Lawless: Yeah. In the summertime cuts the grass and that sort of thing. He's wonderful. He lives alone. He's a widower. Living alone in the great big house out there. I'll tell you who owned that house before he bought it was Jewel Martin. She married a...it wasn't her marriage name...but her father's name was Martin. He was a powder worker. He lived on Breck's Lane. And, yeah, he lived out there on Breck's Lane. They're all dead, of course. That's whose house he's living in. Beautiful place. [Adjusts microphone] I wish I could think of more. I wish I could find some of those things. See, I don't go upstairs at all. They brought me down here a long time ago, and I've been down here ever since. Because on account of the heart I don't...Now what else?
  • Her father's date of birth and death; her current medical issues; her maternal grandparents' family farm and her grandparents marriage in England
    Keywords: Cardiac pacemakers; Family history; Immigrants; Irish Potato Famine; Throat--Cancer
    Transcript: Johnson: Do you remember your father's name?

    Lawless: Oh sure. Thomas J. Thomas J. Lawless, and his father's name was Thomas.

    Johnson: And where was your father born?

    Lawless: My father was born...I don't know just where. Oh, he was born right there at the hotel. They had that place for years. I'm sure that's where he was born.

    Johnson: You said your grandfather...

    Lawless: Yeah, my grandfather had the place. Sure. So that's where he was born.

    Johnson: Do you remember what date he was born.

    Lawless: April. He was born April 9. And what year I don't know. I can't remember what year. But it was April 9. No, April 7 was his birthday. April 9 is my niece's birthday. April 7 is my father's birthday. And he was 55 when he died. And that was in 1913.

    Johnson: Oh great. We can figure it out.

    Lawless: He had an operation in Philadelphia. He had an operation for cancer of the throat, and he was getting ready to come home. Course they didn't do any of those things down around here at that time. He was up in St. Agnes' hospital in Philadelphia. And he was getting ready to come home when he had a hemorrhage, and he didn't survive it. They have all those things taken care of today. You can imagine how I felt when they told me I was going to have an operation. I didn't know there was a thing wrong with me. I didn't have a pain or an ache and I never even noticed my stomach swelling and I had a five-pound cancer in there. I'm cut from here to here.

    Johnson: Where did you have this operation - was that in Wilmington?

    Lawless: Oh, Yeah - in the Memorial, Yeah. The doctor did it, he's not around here any more. Oh, he was wonderful. He said, "I'm sorry I had to take your belly button." I said, "Well that's just terrible; what am I gonna do with my bikinis?" [laughter] Oh, he was nice, but that came out perfect - even with the bad heart. My brother was awful worried but the doctor told him not to be worried, I'd be monitored all the time. They watched me very closely, so I got through with that. But I've had heart attacks since and I guess I will. And then they put in this pacemaker.

    Johnson: Well, probably things will get better after you've had it for a while.

    Lawless: Oh, I had the other one and it didn't get better. It became infected. I had to go in December and have that taken out and have another one put in - a brand new one. Now this one don't seem to be doing well. I've had a heart attack since I had this one put in. This is the brand new kind. I just come home from the hospital about a week ago, yeah - another heart attack. It's really something - I must be made of iron, the way they've been.

    Johnson: I hope so. [laughter]. Do you remember your mother's name?

    Lawless: Susan. Susan A. Carney.

    Johnson: How do you spell Corning?

    Lawless: Carney. C-A-R-N-E-Y

    Johnson: Just like the actor, Art Carney?

    Lawless: Yeah, that's right.

    Johnson: So where was she born?

    Lawless: She was born up on the Brandywine. No, she was not. I'm sorry, that's where she was living. She was born on Penny Hill. You know that little old house up there - that stone house with the stone wall around it, on top of Penny Hill?

    Johnson: Yes.

    Lawless: That's where she was born. That's right, that's where my mother was born but her age we never knew.

    Johnson: Then I won't ask you that.

    Lawless: We never knew.

    Johnson: She didn't tell you?

    Lawless: No, she didn't know, and she didn't bother. We never knew what month she was born in or anything. No, but we did know my father's. But that's where she was born. That little old house is still up there with the stone wall around it.

    Johnson: Yes, it's a pretty house.

    Lawless: Yeah, it's an antique place now. Well, that's where she was born. And then they moved - her father and mother came here from England - and they moved up to...you know where the twin bridges are up in - have you ever been out in that part of the country?

    Johnson: In Pennsylvania?

    Lawless: No, they're still in Delaware, I think. Yeah l.

    Johnson: Oh, the big Delaware Memorial bridges?

    Lawless: No, no, no. These are...they 're....let's see where. You go up through Montchanin and you go all the way out that way and there's twin bridges out there and my grandfather had a farm out there and that's where they lived. Oh, we used to love to go up there as kids. We went every Sunday and my grandmother would - here we had horses and carriage - my grandmother would hear the horses going over the bridge and she'd get out the bread and the butter and the jelly and all that stuff. My nurse was to come today but she's not coming. Oh, she's after Elsie.

    Johnson: That's the woman that was next door?

    Lawless: Yeah. Been trying to get a hold of her. She finally got hold of her. She's deaf. She had an automobile accident Thanksgiving time. Her car was demolished. She was lucky.

    Johnson: Is that when she lost her hearing?

    Lawless: Oh, no, she hasn't been hearing for years...No, she's not having any good hearing at all.

    Johnson: I'm so glad they found her.

    Lawless: Yes, she couldn't...well, she was upstairs and she just didn't hear the bell I guess...I don't know. I really don't know. She had an appointment to meet her and take her somewhere.

    Johnson: Do you remember the name of your grandfather when you were - the one you used to visit? That would be your mother's father.

    Lawless: Carney - John Carney.

    Johnson: Would you know when he was born, by any chance?

    Lawless: No, because they were married in England probably. They went to England, my mother used to always say. They had a potato rot in Ireland and a lot of people went to England to get work and that's how they come to be there and that's where they were married. And my brother studied in Rome and before he come home mother had him take a trip to Ireland and then he went over to the church in England where they were married.

    Johnson: Isn't that nice.

    Lawless: Yes.

    Johnson: Do you know what the name of that church was?

    Lawless: No. And I was in England too but I don't remember the name of the church, I really don't. I don't know whether we went to that church or not. We didn't stay in England but we were in Paris. We weren't far from England.
  • Her sister's artistic and musical talents; Father Birmingham naming her "Martina; " playing baseball at her home on Kennett Pike with her brothers; her brother Bill, a DuPont Co. engineer, and his death
    Keywords: Baseball; Boarding schools; Brothers and sisters; Catholic schools; Company. Waynesboro Plant; Drawing; Dressmakers; E.I. du Pont de Nemours & amp; Embroidery; Engineers; Immaculata University; pen sketches; Piano teachers; Villa Maria Academy
    Transcript: Johnson: Did you ever go to Ireland?

    Lawless: Oh, sure! We landed in Ireland.

    Johnson: Oh, what part of Ireland?

    Lawless: We went over on the...by ship and we landed in...now you got me...and I don't have my...if I had my book, which my niece took home to read over. My sister sat down every night and wrote in that book, and she took it to look it over and she's never brought it back. I always kept it there. I never let anybody have it, because every night of that trip - we were gone for ten weeks. First we went to Ireland. I can't remember where we stayed in Ireland. We stayed two or three different places in Ireland before we went to France - to Paris, Monte Carlo - we were in Monte Carlo and we were in Paris and we were in Switzerland. I don't know, I can't...see it's all in that book but she's got it. Isn't that a shame, because that would give - she was a wonderful person for doing things like that. Me, I never bothered. She was an artist and a pianist and that kind of thing and me, I was a household person. I was the housekeeper; I couldn't draw anything but I could sew.

    Johnson: Where did you learn to sew?

    Lawless: My mother, she was a dressmaker.

    Johnson: Oh!

    Lawless: Yeah, and I could sew and I could do embroidery. She did gorgeous...we both went to boarding school in West Chester. She was ten years older than me and the academy was in West Chester at that time. Then they built a big place - Villa Marie - Immaculata - and that's where I went, to Immaculata - but she was in West Chester and they had...oh, they did gorgeous sewing, laces and things. She could do those things. But make a dress? Uh-uh, that was mine; I could make the dresses.

    Johnson: And where did your mother learn to make the dresses? Did she go to school here?

    Lawless: Oh, I don't know where she learned. She was a dressmaker for years before she was married. They used to go someplace then, I don't know where. These dressmakers used to have places where they did sewing and people came in and learned, so I don't know anything about that.

    Johnson: Where they could apprentice, I guess.

    Lawless: Yeah, an apprentice, yes.

    Johnson: After she was married, did she go on and continue to sew for people in the neighborhood?

    Lawless: Oh, no, just for all of us. She didn't do much of that, only for us. Of course there were six of us. She had enough to do.

    Johnson: She had her hands full. [laughter]

    Lawless: She could take my father's pants - the bottom of my father's pants that weren't worn out - and make pants for the boys.

    Johnson: Oh!

    Lawless: Oh, she was clever. She could make coats and all those kind of things. Yes, she was!

    Johnson: Pants are hard to make.

    Lawless: Yeah, Oh, I imagine they are. Well, I used to sew some but Kitty was no good at the sewing. She was, as I say, that beautiful, lacy work she did, that was beautiful...and her art!

    Johnson: Her art work is beautiful.

    Lawless: These are the only two around here now. All the rest of them are gone. The one over there was pretty too. That just went a couple of weeks ago. I'm gradually seeing where these things are going, because my time is not too long - because I am 83 and I can't expect to live a hundred years - and that's hers but the three horses on the trough were very pretty. They were very pretty. And then she had a book - I guess it was this big and she used to do all this pen sketching - it was all pen sketching referring to her music, all the different musicians and all the different things about 'em, then a little pen sketch around them you know.

    Johnson: What did she play?

    Lawless: Piano. She taught piano for years. But when the war broke out there wasn't nothin' like that doin' so she went to work in the bank at 6th Street there. Yeah, that's where she worked. Well, anyhow, she used to sit down and do a pen sketch for everybody that was gettin' married - beautiful! But this book, my nephew has that now. My father had it bound. And it was all about music and the different musicians and everything, but each page was something about music on it and then pen sketching around it and everything. And he had it bound. And as I say, my nephew has that now. I never thought I'd let that go to anybody. And then they also have that one that I had there of our trip that would have been very interesting to you. Of course, she was the one - she did all that stuff. Every night she'd write down somethin'. But they wanted to read about that. Their daughter went to... where are the bull fights? Spain. She's comin' home, though, she'd been there for some time. She'd been teachin' down there and learning the language. So her mother told me the other night she's coming home to stay now. We were in Spain. We just missed the bull fights. [Laughter] Oh, I wanted to see a bull fight, and my sister didn't want to have nothin' to do with bull fights! So, we went down but it was too late - I was too late for the bull fights.

    Johnson: What was your sister's married name?

    Lawless: She didn't marry - neither one of us. She was Katherine. She had the traditional Lawless name, Katherine, and when I was born they were havin' a big fight. Well, she was the first one and my mother let them go ahead and name her and then when I came along - see there were four boys between me and she - they were having the same big fuss again, what was my name gonna be and there was a big, oh, a wonderful priest out there at St. Joseph's - he was a big man and a very determined man. So, my mother was a very calm person and she told him about it and he said, "Now, don't you worry. I'm going to name that baby and let them come to me and see what happens. I'm naming her! I'm giving her a name for herself." And that's where I got it. That's where I got the name. It's no family name at all.

    Johnson: It's an unusual name.

    Lawless: Yeah, well he did it.

    Johnson: What was his name?

    Lawless: Father Birmingham. He was out there at St. Joseph's and then he was moved to St. Patrick's and that's where he died. He developed typhoid fever down there. He was real young when he died. Oh, he was a handsome, big man. We used to have a big picture like that at home. We don't have [laughter] I don't know where they all went - of him - oh, he was a handsome man. He says, "I'll name her, and let 'em come to me." So, that's where I got my name. My middle name is Delores and that was for...we both went to boarding school, both my sister and I and that was a friend of hers, a nun, Sister Delores.

    Johnson: And did you take that name when you were confirmed?

    Lawless: Yes, yes. But my first name is Mary on account of May. I was born in May and it's Mary Martina Delores but I just use the two, Martina D. That's what they'll find in all kind of any kind of thing that is registered anywhere, that's what they'll find. And I was so different from her. We weren't alike at all. Oh, no. Oh, I had all the boys. I was born with all those boys around me. I was a tomboy.

    Johnson: You couldn't help but be.

    Lawless: I could play ball as good as any of 'em.

    Johnson: Did you used to play baseball?

    Lawless: Sure.

    Johnson: Where did you play?

    Lawless: Well, we had that big home out on the Kennett Pike. We used to play in the field there and we had a tennis court in that field, too. Yeah, that was where the baseball was played. I mean we didn't go into any big baseball teams. We just had our own. It was called "Coxie's Army". [laughter] Oh God, that brother of mine Bill! God rest his soul. Oh, I miss him so much. He had a wonderful job with DuPont. He was an engineer and he was down Waynesboro, Virginia, at the plant down there but that was his final plant where he was. He'd been in several places belonged to DuPont but that's where he was managin' and that's where he was going to stay. He had a heart attack right over his desk one day - passed out without any warning. No, that was a terrible shock.

    Johnson: Yes, it must have shaken up the people he worked with, too.

    Lawless: Oh, my God, yes. Oh, they all loved him. He was a character. The men all loved Bill because he was with the men. I mean he'd be wherever...if they were in the ditches, he'd be in the ditches with them. He'd go and see how they were making out. That's the kind of a guy he was. And then they had a place out in the mountains and he used to say to me, "Oh, Teen, (he always called me Teen) you haven't seen nothin' yet. You have to come out to my place in the mountains and see the bears." And I says, "Are there any snakes out there?" and he said, "Yeah." I said, "I'm not goin' near the place." He had a little place and he and these men from down at the plant they used to go there gunnin'. Oh, he was a character. He really was. He was a graduate of Notre Dame. Yeah.

    Johnson: Was he the only one of your brothers to be an engineer with DuPont?

    Lawless: Yeah, oh, yeah. My brother John was an electrician and he was in Atlantic City. He was the electrician at the...oh, what's that big hall down there the Beauty Pageant and everything is?

    Johnson: Convention Hall.

    Lawless: He was one of the electricians at Convention Hall. And my brother was car salesman....the other brother. And the other brother died.
  • Her uncle "Bath; " description of Mount Pleasant House (Lawless' Tavern) and her accidentally setting fire to it as a child; her mother's Singer sewing machine
    Keywords: Burns and scalds; candy; dogs; Fires; Mirrors; Mount Pleasant House (Lawless' Tavern); pets; Singer sewing machines
    Transcript: Johnson: Now getting back to your father's father, what was his name?

    Lawless: Thomas.

    Johnson: J. Lawless?

    Lawless: Mm,hm.

    Johnson: Do you know where he was born?

    Lawless: No, I don't.

    Johnson: Was he born on the Brandywine?

    Lawless: Oh, he was born out there somewheres. He was born after his parents came from Ireland and he was the youngest of the family. He had one brother but he died. Daniel was his name. And my father was Thomas and he was the youngest one and the rest of them were girls.

    Johnson: Do you know where they came from in Ireland?

    Lawless: They didn't come from Ireland. They were all born here.

    Johnson: I mean his parents.

    Lawless: I don't know, no, no I don't.

    Johnson: By any chance do you know what your grandmother's name was - the woman your grandfather married?

    Lawless: Which grandmother?

    Johnson: Now this would be grandmother Lawless.

    Lawless: Yeah.

    Johnson: Do you remember anything about her?

    Lawless: Now let me think about it. Yes, I know. I know the name. I have relatives in Baltimore...We used to call him Uncle Bath...What was his name? It wasn't McGrath...No, that was...his daughter married a...I've cousins still down there...Noland!...Bath Noland! I guess it was Bartholmess, I don't know, but we always called him Uncle Bath. And we loved him. He worked on the railroad and when he'd come up to see us he'd buy us all something. Mom Russell had a candy store. Oh, we were just full of candy while Uncle Bath was around. He was a wonderful person. That was the name. I guess it was Bartholomew but we always called him Bath - Noland - and they were from Baltimore. Yeah, as long as I ever remember, that's where they always lived. I still have cousins down there. Their grandchildren are down there. There's two of them that I know that are down there. Yeah.

    Johnson: And do you know how your grandfather came to acquire that building that became a hotel?

    Lawless: It was his father's. Yeah, it was his father's.

    Johnson: So they've really had that for a long time.

    Lawless: Yeah, oh, years and years. Yeah, it was his father's because I'll tell you why. When he got married he didn't live there. When he got married, he lived in a little house up on the Kennett Pike near where he built the big house. It was a small house and it was on the comer. It's all gone now. And when they were married, that's where they went to live. Now, I don't know how many of us were born there. I don't think very many of us were born there. And then they moved down to the hotel and that's where most of us were born. I was, anyhow.

    Johnson: Do you remember anything about that building when you were little? Do you remember how your room looked or anything like that?

    Lawless: What? The old hotel?

    Johnson: The old hotel, when you were living there.

    Lawless: Oh, sure, I remember. Outside of the...You don't have a picture of it, do you? I could tell you...

    Johnson: [Shows picture]. Well, this is the only one.

    Lawless: There was a...They used to have election talks... [looking at picture] oh, that doesn't show it...no, it was over this way more [pointing]. There was a porch over there [pointing] with a railing on it and that's...They used to do a lot of electioneering up there [laughter] and come up the hill. And this uh...[looking at picture]...let's see. Oh Lord. See, I was only five years old. No, I was ten when we moved from here.

    Johnson: Do you remember what the house was like inside? Did you have curtains on your window?

    Lawless: Yeah, I set it afire one time.

    Johnson: The house!

    Lawless: Mm-hm.

    Johnson: How did you do that?

    Lawless: In the middle of December...middle of winter.

    Johnson: How did you do it?

    Lawless: Gus was a baby and they heated a lot of times there with gasoline...you know, those little heaters and things...The house where we lived, there were steps down to the barroom and a door there - it was private - and above that were these two rooms, but not...they didn't join our place. Now, we had a big, great big, old-fashioned kitchen and then another - like a big dining room and another room that we didn't use all winter because it was so cold. We had drawing doors that pulled together. We closed that over for the winter, and my brother and I were fighting over a mouth organ, the two of us. And it had a rocking chair sitting beside that buffet, I guess you call it or china closet or something. But I got up in the rocking chair to get some my mother had put it up, and I didn't do a thing but push over the oil stove. I set fire to the house, and I went down - there was a doorway there, right there [pointing] that went down to the hotel part - and I guess my father heard the screams or something, but he come running and he got it in his hands. He got burnt terrible bad. So, well, anyhow [laughter] they got everybody out and they forgot me and they said, "Where's that other one." [laughter]. They said, "She's in there." I was on the couch, jumping up and down saying, "Gee, isn't it fun."

    Johnson: Oh! [laughter]

    Lawless: That's what I was doing. So, they grabbed me. Some neighbor of ours let us have their...most of their house...until they got repaired.

    Johnson: How much of it went up?

    Lawless: Well, I just don't remember. That whole stairway there was gone, I guess. There was a stairway down to the hotel and then there were steps that went up to our bedrooms on the same landing there...quite a good-sized landing. That's where my mother had her sewing machine. She was a beautiful sewer. She made beautiful clothes. She used to make all our clothes...And my father's hands were burned.

    Johnson: After he finally put the fire out, did he have to have...?

    Lawless: Oh, I don't know how they put it out, but they almost left me in. But, anyhow, he tried to catch the darn, old stove, see. And some one of the neighbors let us have their house. And he was all bandaged up and we could do what we pleased, because he couldn't spank us then. [laughter] He couldn't do a thing, poor soul. Oh!

    Johnson: Do you remember anything about your mother's sewing machine; what make it was?

    Lawless: A Singer. An old Singer. Yeah, and it folded down into the...and made a table top, like. Yeah, the old Singer. Boy, that thing worked! She certainly did work on that, yeah.

    Johnson: Do you remember any dresses she made for you?

    Lawless: Oh, she made dresses, she made coats and she made pants for the boys. She made everything! Everything we wore, she made. Of course, not underwear or anything like that. Hear my pal? That's my pal out there. Do you hear him bark, hear him growl?

    Johnson: Oh-huh.

    Lawless: He's next door. He's a vicious dog, but he likes me. He's tied. He never gets out. He's one of those sled dogs or something, you know.

    Johnson: Oh, mercy! They really like the snow, don't they?

    Lawless: Oh, yeah. Well, now....[looking at picture]...See, this doesn't show the other part of the house. [Pointing] That must have been...it sat back further. Now, my aunts lived in this part [pointing]. This was another house, but it all belonged to my father.

    Johnson: Were they your father's sisters?

    Lawless: Yeah, mm-hm.

    Johnson: Do you remember any of the people who came into the tavern.

    Lawless: No, I was too small.

    Johnson: No stories or anything?

    Lawless: I remember one night it was supposed to...we used to have a dog that they used to keep down there and somebody tried to get in one night and they cut out a panel on the door and the dog went out the panel. [laughter]

    Johnson: It just ran away?

    Lawless: Yeah.

    Johnson: What a watchdog! [laughter]

    Lawless: [laughter] oh, God, You'd laugh sick. Here was the door. It was right here [pointing]. Yeah, and the name was on the top here [pointing].

    Johnson: Yes, that says, "Mount Pleasant".

    Lawless: Now, I have another...I have a picture that Grace Toy's did...a painting, but where it is I wouldn't know - of this old place. This isn't the latest picture. My father remodeled this place and he put in a bathroom and all that stuff here.

    Johnson: Would that be after they got running water?

    Lawless: Yeah, that's what he added to that and, oh, he spent a lot of money on it. He got new mirrors and oh, he got gorgeous mirrors from some place in Baltimore. And when the fire happened - they had a fire - those mirrors were ruined. We only saved a piece of one, and my mother had it framed. I don't know whatever became of it. It's gone, too.

    Johnson: What year was that fire, do you know?

    Lawless: I don't know. I can't remember. I know we were up on the Pike. We were livin' up on the Pike. We weren't livin' there then.
  • The tavern kitchen; her mother struggling to run the tavern after her father's death; sneaking into the powder yards in her family's automobile; the Packing House and other explosions; her brother riding the trolley with Pierre S. and Lammot du Pont
    Keywords: Bars (Drinking establishments); Bartenders; Du Pont, Lammot, 1880-1952; Du Pont, Pierre S. (Pierre Samuel), 1870-1954; Explosions; Kitchens; Plumbing; powder yards; Sewing; Sewing--Study and teaching; Stoves, Coal; Street-railroads; Taverns (Inns); Taverns (Inns)--Management
    Transcript: Johnson: When you did live down here, do you remember how they used to give you a bath? Did you bathe outside?

    Lawless: No, a tub in the kitchen [laughter] Sure, a tub in the kitchen. We'd line up Saturday night, yeah.

    Johnson: What was your kitchen like?

    Lawless: Oh, a big kitchen. We had a big kitchen.

    Johnson: Did you have a big coal stove in the kitchen?

    Lawless: Yeah, oh, yes. And then they had those belly stoves through the house, you know, they called them belly stoves.

    Johnson: Yes. Did they burn coal?

    Lawless: Mm-hm. But part of that old house...it was really modern. It had hot water heat in that old place. [laughter] Oh boy...I certainly...

    Johnson: Do you remember if your mother made you brush your teeth every night?

    Lawless: No, I don't remember that. Oh, after we moved. We moved up on the Pike. Course, we were older then. But no, I don't remember that. Maybe she did.

    Johnson: Did you have any jobs to do when you were little? Did you have to help clean that stove?

    Lawless: Oh, I had to dry the dishes and dust and do that kind of thing. My mother made us, and I always had a needle in my hand. She taught me how to sew - embroidery and everything. She always...we sat down in the evening and we had something to do. Of course, we never had television in those days.

    Johnson: That's right.

    Lawless: No, No.

    Johnson: Did the boys have things to do, too?

    Lawless: Oh, they had their chores. They'd have to bring in the coal for the kitchen stove and bring in some wood and stuff like that, you know. That's what they did. We had an...off the kitchen...We used to call it the shed and in that shed there'd be wood cut, you know? There was no fireplace in that old house and I was surprised when my father built the new house, that he didn't put a fireplace in it - but he didn't.

    Johnson: He didn't?

    Lawless: No, there was no fireplace in the new place either.

    Johnson: But it probably had central heating.

    Lawless: Oh, sure, hot air. It was a mess. It was a dirty mess, hot air, yeah. Oh, yeah, great big furnace in the cellar. That was a big house. Yeah, well, we had a lot of property out there. The two brick houses are still out there, that my father had built. They're still there. Mrs. Beatty lived in one. I don't know who lived in the other. Mrs. Beatty's dead now. I don't know who they are in there now, but those two houses are still there, and they're the only thing that is out there - belonging to us - that did belong to us. Hallock du Pont bought all that stuff. He bought all our property when my father died. It was just impossible for my mother to handle all that stuff. And she was trying to run the barroom and they turned it into sort of a grocery store. They tried everything, but it just didn't work because, I don't know, she wasn't able to do those things and the boys were young and a couple of them away at school, college, and it was just was impossible for her. The trouble was, my father never let her have anything to do with the business.

    Johnson: So, she really didn't know how?

    Lawless: She didn't know the first thing...now he used to blend whiskey. He knew all that kind of stuff. He'd get the whiskey from the brewery and he'd blend it, and they called it bar whiskey, and it was cheaper than the regular whiskey. She didn't know anything about those kind of things. She'd have to buy the real whiskey and pay somebody to bottle it. [Tape is switched]

    Lawless: We were the only ones had a car out there for a long time. Automobile. And he'd want to go immediately down to the powder yards. So one of my brothers would take him in our car. And I hid under the back seat one time and went through. Went down the powder mills with them.

    Johnson: How old were you then?

    Lawless: I don't know. About ten. Something like that. I hid under there. And they found out I was in there, oh my god, I near got killed. But I went through the powder yard. You know, it was...none of my people were in the powder, but so many in school with me, the children, their parents. And when there'd be an explosion, I don't know whether you ever saw one or not, but of course I saw several. The last one I saw, you know there was a big one. During the war, they had a whole lot of young boys up there working in what they called the packing room, the packing house. And that stuff didn't look any more like powder than it looked like me. It was like a little cube thing. And that's what they were packing. Well they claim that it was set off...I'll never forget it as long as I live, to see those machines coming down that hill with those boys on the back of those cars. I don't know how many were killed that time. But I was going to say, when we were in school, we all knew what an explosion sounded like. We all knew that. And these kids that had people in the powder yard knew exactly where their father's powder place... where he was working. Did you ever see one? They were built in the ground. To save...the explosions.

    Johnson: Yes. They still have them there.

    Lawless: But this explosion happened in the Packing House. And I can see those cars coming down that hill yet. And they claim that was set off...the war was on then. And then there was another big one over at...across the river. Oh my God, I'll never forget that.

    Johnson: Did you see that go off.

    Lawless: Yeah. We were sitting at the dining room table. We had this big house, and of course the bay windows faced the south. We were sitting at the dining room table eating our supper when we heard this. Looked out and I can see that ball of fire yet. I can still see it. Going up into the heavens. Oh, there was an awful lot killed that time. They were burnt. An awful lot of them were burnt. Oh, it was terrible. That didn't happen up in these yards. That happened across the river. That big explosion. A friend of mine was in the hospital the same time they were bringing those fellows in. They were burnt terrible. So awful. Well that's how the du Ponts got their money, in case you don't know...sacrificing. And Pierre du Pont, Lammot du Pont, rode the same trolley my brother rode going to school.

    Johnson: Did they go to the same school?

    Lawless: Oh no. They were going into the DuPont building. They were older than my brother. They were on the same...they got on out there on the Pike. That big mansion. I think they tore it down, didn't they? Oh, I think that went down. I haven't been out that way for a long while. But anyhow, it was Lammot and Pierre. They didn't have any cars. They were on the same 5 cent ride that my brother was on going to school. They were going to the building.

    Johnson: And where was your brother going to school then?

    Lawless: Salesianum.

    The same one that's down there now. He joined the order, and he was the one who really planned the building of that building. The big one on...he was wonderful.

    Johnson: Now the time you went into the powder yards. You hid in the car. When you got there, did you get out of the car?

    Lawless: Oh no. Oh no. Uh uh. Oh heavens.

    Johnson: When you were a child, did you ever go up to the powder yards with anybody to play?

    Lawless: Oh no. We weren't allowed. Oh no. I was never in the powder yards until the whole thing was demoli...you know they did away with it.

    Johnson: Around the 1920s.

    Lawless: There's a few old mills up there. You know how they were built in the side of the earth like? That was to help explosions and some prevention. And they were all trained that if they knew anything was going to happen to jump in the Brandywine. That ran down right along there too, you know.
  • Visiting her friends, including the Seitz family, in Upper Banks; her friend Connie Martin; Fourth of July picnic and Irenee du Pont's fireworks
    Keywords: Church fund raising; church picnics; Du Pont, Irenee, 1876-1963; Female friendship; Fireworks; Fourth of July celebrations; Fourth of July orations; Seitz, Pauline; St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church; Upper Banks
    Transcript: Lawless: And Crowninshield's house was the old office. Wonder what's doing with that big house up there now?

    Johnson: The museum has it now. They let people through to see it all the time.

    Lawless: Oh, that's right.

    Johnson: It's really beautiful. Last summer they put an air conditioning system inside. It was closed for a few months.

    Lawless: 0h for heaven sake. I used to steal flowers around there. Some of my friends lived in that Upper Banks. There were a few little houses. Are there any there any more?

    Johnson: I think they tore those down.

    Lawless: Yeah, there was quite a little village down there.

    Johnson: Do you know the names of any of those friends?

    Lawless: The Seitz's. They were big DuPont people. The Seitz's were great friends of ours. One of them was a great friend of my sister's. Pauline. They're all gone. Pauline stood beside me at my sister's funeral. Pauline, she was a beautiful musician. She could play the piano like nobody's business. And she worked at DuPont. She used to come to our house on the Pike for dinner, and she'd sit down and play. And my mother put my brother and I..."Now you go on upstairs," the two of us, "and go to bed." We'd be sitting on the top of the steps listening to Pauline. Oh yeah. She was a beautiful girl. She was just one of those...like something you'd see in...they're French, you know. They were French. All the way through.

    And that's the way with Connie Martin, my dearest friend who died last year. They're French. Now her father was at the powder mills. He worked in the mills. Eugene Martin. And he married a Frenchwoman, her name was...I can't think of the name. Was a great friend of my mother's. They lived on Breck's Lane. After the mother died they left...they all left. Of course the boys had gone and Jewel had gotten married. There was nobody home but Connie. So when her mother got sick, she come over to live with Jewel down on 28th Street. She married Joe Haley. Now the Haleys lived up around there, but none of them were powder people. None of them worked in the powder. Sylvia Haley and Ben Haley, they were coal - they sold coal. That's what they did mainly. But after Jewel died, Connie went into an apartment. Now, she's dead. I can't believe it. Oh, I miss her terrible. Then her nephew, he turns around. Within a year the two of them. [Addition comments on Jewel and operations] She's gone. Why I'm sticking around, I don't know.

    Johnson: Because you have to tell the Hagley Museum all about it.

    Lawless: Oh, a lot of our people lived up there. I don't think there's many houses up in there now, are there?

    Johnson: I think they tore most of them down.

    Lawless: That's what I thought. Is the old office still there? Not the big one. There was a little stone place. It was the first one.

    Johnson: I think that's still there.

    Lawless: That was on the road to the big Crowninshield's...Crowninshields lived in that big office for a long while. And...yeah. The little old office is just a small little place.

    Johnson: Did you ever play with the children up in Upper Banks?

    Lawless: Oh sure.

    Johnson: Do you remember anything you did up there? Do you remember the bell house that was there?

    Lawless: Yeah.

    Johnson: Do you remember ringing the bell or anything?

    Lawless: No, not too much, no.

    Johnson: Do you remember any of the games you might have played?

    Lawless: No. Really and truly I didn't go up that way too much. No. That was - I would say that would be a mile and a half from where we were. We used to walk it. Now the reason I was up there was my uncle was married and lived up there. And he had three boys. Well, anyhow, she was a very sweet person, his wife. She had T.B. and she was sick for a long while and my sister used to take me along with her when she would go up to see her. See, she was 10 years older than me, my sister, and we had garden flowers or something we had to take up to her. She was a sweet person. Yes. Well, she lived in the Upper Banks. Oh, I knew a lot of people that lived up there. The Seitzes, and the Godfreys, and oh, I don't know how many - Callahans and oh, I don't know. They all moved from up there, you know. They all left up there.

    Johnson: Well, I guess they went on to other jobs.

    Lawless: That's right. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Did you know any of the Haleys?

    Johnson: I think there was a Haley that was leading the parade at the Fireworks. Have you ever been to the Fireworks down there? The past two years they've had Fireworks - in the early days when the du Ponts first would play with their explosives powders and make fireworks for the Fourth of July. They've been trying to recreate those fireworks.

    Lawless: Oh, for heaven's sake. We used to have picnics. You know where Hallock duPont lived? Of course, Hallock, I think, died, didn't he?

    Johnson: Yes.

    Lawless: Well, his wife - is she still living on Kees' Hill, on top of the hill there?

    Johnson: I don't know that.

    Lawless: Well, Kees' Hill is where we always had the Fourth of July picnic, and that's where he built his home - on Kees' Hill. And St. Josephs always had a big picnic on the Fourth of July and they had an old platform of boards that they had for dancing and half the boards were broke. Oh, it was a terrific day - it was wonderful! Every Fourth of July they had that picnic.

    Johnson: What kind of dances did they do? Was this formal dancing like the waltz or fox trot? Did they do square dancing?

    Lawless: Yeah. Yeah, oh yeah. I can see sometimes those boards were half broken. Oh, and then they just had a violin, that was the orchestra. Somebody was up there - they built a stand on top of the dance floor, and that's where the music was. And John F. O'Neal used to always give a speech.

    Johnson: And who was he?

    Lawless: [laughter] He was from out St. Joseph's there - John F. O'Neal. He always - he was a great politician and he used to get up there and give a speech every Fourth of July. Oh, yeah. That was a great day down there - had the worst time getting in to that place - the road was terrible.

    Johnson: Did you walk there?

    Lawless: Oh, sure. There was no other way of going but walking. We just lived on top of the hill, anyhow. Oh, everybody walked.

    Johnson: Now, did they have fireworks there?

    Lawless: No, no, there was never fireworks there.

    Johnson: Did they ever have fireworks around here when you were little?

    Lawless: We had our own - we always had a few of our own, but my mother was very careful - made us be very careful with them. But, they used to have fireworks down on where was it - oh - was it the air place - the air -

    Johnson: The airport?

    Lawless: The airport, they used to have them down there. But I never went down there. I tell you where they used to have them here - Irenee du Pont had them. He had marvelous fireworks, but try and get near it. He had fireworks.

    Johnson: Where would he have had them?

    Lawless: Outside of his home there up in - where is he, his place? Oh, isn't that awful. His big place. You don't know where Irenee du Pont's big place is?

    Johnson: Somebody would know.

    Lawless: I could take you there. But telling you where - It's a gorgeous place. Well, that is where the fireworks used to be. And we used to go to Lenape in the daytime and have a picnic and then we would come back and watch the fireworks. And then they started to have them down at the airport. Of course, that was later on. But, that's where they would have them. You couldn't get anywhere near the place, it was so crowded. But you could see them for a long distance.

    Johnson: Did they have ice cream at the picnic and things like that?

    Lawless: Oh, sure.

    Johnson: Did they sell it? Did they make it there for you?

    Lawless: Oh, at the picnic? Oh, they sold it. It was St. Joseph's on the Brandywine had the picnic and it was for profit, of course, they had cakes and all, and everything else.

    Johnson: Did your mother help to make some of the cakes and things?

    Lawless: Oh, sure. Everybody helped. Oh, yeah. It's on the top of the hill where his home is. He's dead, of course. I don't know whether his wife is still alive or not. That's Kees' Hill. That's where his home is. Yeah.
  • Christmas traditions, including chopping down a tree, hunting other evergreen decorations, Midnight Mass, and presents; sledding and ice skating but not being allowed on Barley Mill Lane or the Brandywine
    Keywords: cedar trees; Children--Safety measures; Christmas decorations; Christmas presents; Christmas trees; Evergreens; Flexible Flyer sled; ice skating; Midnight Mass; Sledding
    Transcript: Johnson: What about Christmas? Do you remember anything about it?

    Lawless: Christmas?

    Johnson: Yes.

    Lawless: Oh, we always had blizzards usually.

    Johnson: Did you have a Christmas tree?

    Lawless: Oh, always. We always had a Christmas tree. You know what we had it trimmed with a whole lot?

    Johnson: What?

    Lawless: We used to toast - oh, what do you call them - popcorn. Corn, yeah. And then we would thread it. That's what the Christmas tree was trimmed with - a whole lot of it. And then us kids would start eating it - while it was still on the tree, we'd start at the back and think mother wouldn't see it. And we used to trim it with great big angels, paper angels and things - all those kind of old-fashioned things.

    Johnson: Did you make these?

    Lawless: No. I never made any of those. No.

    Johnson: Could you buy them?

    Lawless: Yeah. Angels and, of course, balls and tinsel. I never had a lot of the stuff they using today. Didn't have any of that. But we used to have to go get our tree ourselves.

    Johnson: Did you cut it down yourself?

    Lawless: Oh, sure. That was traditional.

    Johnson: Where did you get it? Where did you cut it?

    Lawless: Well, where there were fields out there. They would be spotting them for a long time and then they would go get them. [laughter]. You know where Pelleport is, don't you?

    Johnson: Yes.

    Lawless: Well, of course, they have beautiful shrubbery and everything. Some man went in on Pelleport lawn and tried to cut one of his pine trees...No. And we used to go out in the woods and hunt for them. And we hunted laurel and there was never any - any - like this tree out here - this thorny tree - holly. There was never any wild holly but there was laurel.

    Johnson: And would you put the laurel outside of the house, then, or would you put that inside?

    Lawless: No. It would just depend on what we were going to do with it. But then there was some kind of little moss - pine moss or something - that was about this long - it was a little pine thing and we used to make things out of that. That grew on the ground. Ground pine, I think they called it. And then along with it there was a little thing - a berry - a red berry with green leaves. We used to go picking all that stuff. But the moss pine we used to get a lot of that. Well, I don't know whether they still sell that down at King Street Market or not, but they used to. That would live all winter. You would just put it in water. It would be about this long; it was like pine. It was the prettiest thing. And the we never had a tree like they have today - the trees - the Christmas trees. Ours were mostly cedar - no pines. We would go to the woods, you know, looking for those things. It was mostly cedar and not these beautiful pines they're shipping in now.

    Johnson: I guess they get those from Canada.

    Lawless: Oh, I imagine so. I don't know where they come from, but we didn't have those. But there were a few of those others around and we would go hunting in, them. [laughter].

    Johnson: Well, it must have been fun. Did you go in a group?

    Lawless: Oh, sure. There was always a gang - a gang. Somebody had the hatchet; somebody had the ax and somebody had some rope. Oh, gee. But that custom has all died out. That used to be so much fun and it meant so much. It don't anymore. Kids today couldn't be bothered doing that kind of stuff. But we did.

    Johnson: Did you have candles on the tree to light when it was in the house, then?

    Lawless: Well, after the fire, my mother wouldn't allow any. My mother was too afraid.

    Johnson: Before that did you have them?

    Lawless: Yes.

    Johnson: Do you remember what that was like?

    Lawless: Not very much, no, because I was very small.

    Johnson: Would they just light it on Christmas Eve? I think I remember hearing that you could only light it twice, Christmas Eve and maybe Christmas night.

    Lawless: Uh-huh. Yeah.

    Johnson: Would it have to be watched closely?

    Lawless: And they used 'to have midnight masses, you know, and that was quite traditional out there in the country at St. Joseph's. That midnight service.

    Johnson: Well, you were very close so you didn't have far to go.

    Lawless: No. No.

    Johnson: About how many people would go to midnight mass?

    Lawless: Oh, the church would be packed. Yeah. And then before they started to have them in town, people from town would come out there to the midnight mass. Yeah - old St. Joseph's. Of course they renovated that inside and out. It's not the old...

    Johnson: What would you do after mass?

    Lawless: Go home.

    Johnson: Would you have a party then or did you just go to bed?

    Lawless: Oh, no. We didn't have things like that, you know. You'd have to go to bed.

    Johnson: Would you presents be under the tree then the next morning?

    Lawless: M-hmm. Yeah.

    Johnson: Do you remember any presents you got?

    Lawless: Oh, I was always getting a doll, you know. And I was always praying so hard before Christmas that I would get a doll. And I always got a doll. My mother was so handy with sewing she always made nice little dresses for it and baby carriage, and one time I got a little fur muff; I remember it so well. A little muff with a fur and a little choker of some kind of fur. Oh, boy, I thought I was a millionaire. Oh, the things we used to get. And then there would be the candy canes on the tree, you know.

    Johnson: Did you have a sled?

    Lawless: Huh?

    Johnson: Did you have a sled?

    Lawless: Oh, did we have a sled! We used to sled like nobody's business. We had the hills out there! Yeah, we used to sled. A lot.

    Johnson: Would you go on that hill on Barley Mill Road down there?

    Lawless: Oh, no, we weren't allowed down there.

    Johnson: Where was your hill?

    Lawless: Well, we'd go out the other way. No my parents never allowed us down there. It was too dangerous. I went once I think. I was on what we used to call a toboggan. It would hold about four or five people. I went down Barley Mill Lane one time on that toboggan [laughter]. No, we weren't allowed down there. Too dangerous. See, what they had in Barley Mill Lane - - the powder trucks used to come up with the horses carrying the powder and they had what they call these humps. That helped the horses to get up the hill. And, boy, they were something on the sled. Boy! Jump up and come down! Very seldom my mother ever allowed us to go down there. Or my father. No. We would sled up around our own place.

    Johnson: And did you buy your sled? A lot of the powder workers' children said their fathers made them in the machine shop there.

    Lawless: That's right. No. None of my people worked in the powder.

    Johnson: So, you'd have to buy your sled?

    Lawless: Yeah. The Flexible Flyer - when that came out that was something. That really was something. We were all praying for one for Christmas.

    Johnson: You could steer that,could you? And the others were just straight.

    Lawless: M-hmm. We had plenty of hills out there to sled on. We weren't allowed on any of those - Breck's Mill or Barley Mill Lane. We weren't allowed on those. No, it was too dangerous.

    Johnson: Did you go ice skating?

    Lawless: Oh, yes. Never on the Brandywine. We weren't allowed on the Brandywine. No. There were two - a couple - Ruperts had a lake and that was out from us. And then there was Coleman's Lake but that was about two miles away. But we wouldn't think a thing of walking two miles, and we'd go out there sometimes. And then the smaller lakes, this Ruperts' Lake - that wasn't too far from us. We skated there. We weren't allowed down on the Brandywine. Mm-mmm. Too dangerous.
  • Halloween traditions; the grocery delivery man bringing hard candy; storing carrots and turnips in the basement during the winter; birthday cakes and her mother's baking
    Keywords: Birthday cakes; Canning and preserving; Christmas cakes; Delivery of goods; Food--Storage; fruit cakes; Halloween costumes; mock pie; Rockland (Del.); rusk
    Transcript: Johnson: How about swimming in the summer? Did you ever go swimming in the Brandywine?

    Lawless: No. Oh, we weren't allowed in the Brandywine. Uh-huh. No. Us kids, we were never allowed. Very seldom ever went down that way. I had a lot of friends down there; went to school with them and all, but uh-huh. Us children, we weren't allowed down there. Uh-huh. And we had a little village of our own up there, you see, up around St. Joseph's. We had our own little village several houses up around there. Some of them have been torn down. They all had children. We had our own gang. And the Creekers we used to call them, the other ones, and we thought they were bad people. The boys, they were ornery kids, you know. Halloween they'd come up around our way and take off our gates and all that stuff. Oh, we were never allowed down there. No. No. We had quite a little...

    Johnson: Did you ever go around yourself on Halloween?

    Lawless: Oh, no.

    Johnson: Houses?

    Lawless: We went around, but not alone.

    Johnson: Would you go in a group?

    Lawless: Oh, sure.

    Johnson: Would you dress up?

    Lawless: Oh, sure. We'd just go up and down Church Street there and went around. That's the only places we went. We never went down the hill.

    Johnson: Do you remember what your costumes were like?

    Lawless: Anything you could get a hold of. [laughter]. I wore my mother's coming-out dress one time. It was blue. I can remember it was a blue - like a taffeta it was an awful pretty thing. I wore that one time; I can remember that. And she made all her own clothes, of course, and all the baby clothes.

    Johnson: Did they have make-up in those days and could you put on her powder and her lipstick or anything like that?

    Lawless: No - uh-huh. We didn't have lipsticks. Some kind of a crazy face. Oh, we'd put on anything just to go out. And carry the bags - we'd get some apples or oranges or something in the bags - Yeah.

    Johnson: Did they give as much candy as they do now or was it more things like...

    Lawless: No. It was more like apples and oranges, something like that, you know, or maybe the mothers would bake cupcakes or something, but never the things they get today. Of' course, we didn't have that; we didn't have that hard candy in those days. No. I remember the grocery store man. I remember that - when he'd come and mother paid the bill, he always had a little bag of candy for us. And that's the first I ever remember that stuff. Yeah. We used to have taffys on a stick.

    Johnson: Did your mother make those or did you buy them?

    Lawless: No, we could buy them. And then there was a woman down the street. Her husband had died and she had a little candy store. Ma Russell we used to call her. And she had sour balls and those things on a stick and oh, she had two or three different kinds of candy she used to sell - hard candy. It was all hard candy.

    Johnson: Do you remember the name of the man who brought your groceries - who was your grocer?

    Lawless: Ewing. I don't know whether they're still in Rockland or not. Ewing was the name. They had a place in Rockland. Had a grocery store in Rockland.

    Johnson: And did he take orders and just bring them or did you go down to the grocery store and pick things up.

    Lawless: Oh, no. They were way up in Rockland; that was two and a half miles from us.

    Johnson: So, he'd just take your order?

    Lawless: Mm-hmm. He'd come along with his truck. He'd have a lot of stuff in the truck and that's mainly how you bought in those days. The farmers would come along like in the spring - come along and have watermelons and all that stuff in these trucks. And that's how we got it. Otherwise, we wouldn't get them unless we went to town to King Street to get them.

    Johnson: Did you have a little garden around your place?

    Lawless: Oh! We had a big garden.

    Johnson: What did you grow?

    Lawless: Hmmm. Oh, almost everything, I guess. We had tomatoes and we had potatoes, onions, lettuce, cabbage, turnips. We had a big place out there, you know. What else did we have?

    Johnson: Would you store some of that during - through the winter?

    Lawless: We had carrots. You could store carrots and turnips and that kind of stuff. You'd take dirt down in your basement. We had a huge big basement. A whole pile of dirt and put them in this dirt and leave them in there all winter and take them out whenever you wanted them. And, of course, my mother did a lot of preserving. She made chili sauce and chow-chow and all that stuff. She was always preserving peaches. There was a peach orchard not far from us and we always had the peaches.

    Johnson: Would you help pick them?

    Lawless: Oh, no. No. And then there was another man that sold apples and every winter my father would get a barrel of apples and put them in the pantry. We always had apples on hand. We were taught to have an apple every night before we went to bed, we'd have to have an apple. That was my job - to go get the apples every night. Yeah.

    Johnson: Was the pantry on the same floor?

    Lawless: On the same floor as the kitchen and the dining room. There was the kitchen and then there was the pantry. And then there was the dining room, and then you walked down a hall and there was what we called the library and then the parlor - we called it a parlor. They all had bay windows in them. Great big bay windows. It was a big house. I wish I could find a picture. I wouldn't know where to look now. People have been doing so much around here, I don't know what they're doing. I don't know where that album is. I have an album with all the old pictures in it.

    Johnson: What about your birthday? Do you remember if your mother made a birthday cake for you?

    Lawless: Always! She always made a birthday cake. We always had a little celebration on birthdays.

    Johnson: Did you have candles?

    Lawless: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

    Johnson: Did you all have the same cake or did she make different cakes for each one?

    Lawless: I don't remember. But she was a good baker. She used to set bread, I know, every Friday - every Friday night she set bread. For the holidays she used to make raisin breads and rusks and were they good! This one woman as soon as she found out my mother had made the rusks, she was down for dinner. She wanted to get a taste of the rusks. And she made a wonderful pie crust, too. And she had what she called a mock pie. It was made out of cranberries, cranberries and raisins. And it was a really good pie, but her crusts were delicious. And then we'd make the fruit cakes. We'd start on the fruit cakes right after Thanksgiving - we'd start making the fruit cakes. Of course, we were in the liquor business and we couldn't save much because the place went dry; they took everything away from us. Well, anyhow, she managed to save some and she'd soak towels in brandy and wrap those cakes in brandy. Boy, were they good! And she used to make a dark one and a light one. They were really good. Yeah. Oh, she was a wonderful cook.

    Johnson: Do you have any of those recipes which she used?

    Lawless: I wouldn't know where they went. I never saw her write down one. I never saw - I got some newer type books, you know. No.
  • Closets in the house on Kennett Pike; her curly hair; gathering flowers and participating in May Crowning at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Church
    Keywords: Catholic children--Religious life; Catholic traditions; Mary, Blessed Virgin, Saint; May Crowning; Pelleport (Wilmington, Del. : Dwelling); St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church
    Transcript: Johnson: Do you remember anything about your clothes when you were little? Where would they have kept your clothes in the house?

    Lawless: We had closets. We never had any cedar closets, but I remember we had a lot of closets in the new house that my father built up on the Pike. And then we had the third floor. I think mother put some of the winter things up there in the summer. I don't know, but I think she did. But we all had big closets in each room. And there were four bedrooms.

    Johnson: Do you remember anything about the way you wore your hair? Did you wear braids to school, have it cut short?

    Lawless: I had curls.

    Johnson: Was it naturally curly?

    Lawless: Yeah. I made a mistake. No. I wore long curls almost to my waist. I'd pin them, and I started to have terrific headaches, and the doctor said it was the hair - too much hair - I'd have to have something done with that hair, so they cut it off. And they tied those curls together, and my niece had a doll's thing made out of it for her doll - out of my curls. Oh, you should see the hair I have a lot of hair. I have too much - I want my hair cut - I'm trying to get somebody to do something. No, he said I'd have to do something because that's what was causing the headaches.

    Johnson: Did that help?

    Lawless: Oh, yes, tremendously heavy hair. I used to curl them. I remember one night I was at the Playhouse to a show. I used to curl them and pin them up all along the back as I grew up. Pin them up - pin them up. The whole back of my head was curls and this woman - this was some other woman - and she said to this other woman, "Do you think that hair's real?" I turned around and I said, "Do you want me to pull it or do you want to pull it?" She said, "Oh, I'm sorry." I said, "Yes, honey, it is real." And a hat, no hat you could wear with all that, you know. Oh, I had a lot of hair and it was very pretty, and all of a sudden it started to turn gray. I got gray very young - very young. Yeah. My mother cried when she saw the gray hair in my head. Yes she did. She just couldn't believe it. But, there it was. My sister had - her hair was sort of a reddish brown - not black or not brown, it was - I don't know what you would call it. She didn't have nice hair. Well, she had nice hair, but she didn't have hair like I had. And I had a brother had the same thing. Oh, he had the most gorgeous curls you ever saw - tight, tight curls. Yeah. Kitty didn't have them. I finally went and got them off; tied them with a string or with a ribbon and I gave them to my niece and her mother had a doll's wig made out of them for Christmas that year.

    Johnson: That was a nice thing to do.

    Lawless: Oh, yes. That was nice. I don't know whether she - she's my godchild. I don't know whether she has ever done anything with those or not. But, you know, you have to be very careful with hair. It would become mothy like. If you weren't careful with it. So I don't know what she did with it. But that's the first Christmas that her mother had that and my hair what she done with it. She had a doll. She got her big doll and she had my hair put on it.

    Johnson: Do you remember your mother shampooing your hair when you little?

    Lawless: Yeah. My mother had beautiful curly hair. Gorgeous. Beautiful. Where is she? She's here somewhere. That's my nieces. Oh, I don't know what did I do with that. I don't have it right here. I don't know where my mother's picture is. My, this hurts. I got arthritis in this hand. I've got it terrible bad. This is doing pretty good, but it's starting again. See I've had it in my knees, too. But it don't hurt there. No. Can I get you a coke or something?

    Johnson: Oh, no thank you. Do you remember what it was like at the end of the day? Did your mother tell you a story before you went to bed?

    Lawless: No. We said our prayers. Oh, yeah. We had to kneel down beside the bed. That was our job. To kneel beside the bed. And the month of May - are you Catholic? You're not Catholic.

    Johnson: No.

    Lawless: Well, the month of May is devoted to the Blessed Mother. And my birthday is the first day. And that's my first name is really Mary. And then my middle name is Dolores which is part of the Blessed Mother's, too. Dolores is the sorrows of the Blessed Mother. Well, anyhow, I used to have an altar every May. I had this statue and I used to have this altar and I used to go pick up flowers - couldn't do it today - wouldn't dare do it - I used to go down back of St. Joseph's Church and all through the woods and everything and pick wild flowers - violets and everything - would be blooming in May, see. And I would get all these flowers and I had myself an altar. Every month of May, I had the altar and the statue and I always had the flowers. And I'd go along. [laughter]. "Here she comes," Mrs. Reese would say. "Here she comes," and I'd have my little apron on and I would have it all full. I'd stop and I'd have the string - take the string with me - cut little pieces, enough to tie a bunch and then I would lay a bunch down and tie it and then I'd go along and pick some more and I'd tie that, and then when I'd come back, I'd pick them all up. I'd have bunches. I was always by myself. And I'd have my apron full - bouquets of flowers for my altar.

    Johnson: And where would your altar be?

    Lawless: It was in the bedroom. No, it was in my bedroom. Oh, yeah. Oh, yes. See, I was right near the Church. We were right near St. Joseph's. And, of course, I was always down around there with the sisters and everything. And in May, you know, we used to have the crowning to the Blessed Mother. I don't know whether you know about that or not. Well, it's a big celebration in the month of May and your name is supposed to be Mary. But my first name was Mary, but anyhow, there was an old priest there. He was a very strict somebody. I crowned the Blessed Mother. Everybody was laughing at me putting my head around the front to see if the crown was on straight. I wasn't paying any attention to anybody else. So Father Scott says "I want her to do it all the time. She does it to suit me." I did it three times, one right after the other, and the mothers got to raising heck. Thought their daughter ought to have a chance. So they did after that. But, the three times I crowned. Father Scott says, "Leave her alone. I want her to do it. She don't make me nervous." Oh, boy. That was in May. That always happened in May. That was the old church. I haven't been in it since it has been renovated. I'd like to sometime. Not too far. Out on the Brandywine there. You go out the Kennett Pike. You know where Pelleport is?

    Johnson: Yes.

    Lawless: It's right across from Pelleport. Yeah. The old church is still there. There's nothing belonging to us out there any more. It's all down. Oh, yes, there is. The two brick houses are still there. But I mean anything else - where we lived. No. But the brick houses are still there. I hope I have helped you in a way.

    Johnson: You certainly have.