Interview with Jennie Sicco Leto, 1983 March 5 [audio]

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  • Family's immigration to the United States; Father's job in the powder yards; Buying groceries
    Keywords: Blakely's tavern; Brandywine Creek; Free Park (Del.: Village); Gaino family; Hagee's tavern; Hagley Yard; Immigration; Italy; Squirrel Run (Del.: Village); Upper Yard
    Transcript: Johnson: Do you want to start way back with what you remember about your grandfather and when he came to America?

    Leto: Oh. My grandfather came with the Gaino here.

    Johnson: What year was it?

    Leto: 1870. And then my aunt Mary, she came before my father.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): This was taken in Wilmington. 1878. We had this enlarged and restored.

    Leto: Give her a chair.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): All right. I'll give her a chair.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): This is my great grandmother...

    Johnson: When they were here, my grandmother was 15 years old. They used to live at Walker's Mill. My mother was 15 years old. And this picture, that's my grandmother. And my Aunt Catherine.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): And her grandfather.

    Johnson: And she didn't like it down there where she was. They told me she was scared of the crick.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): She was afraid of the Creek. Children drowning in the Brandywine.

    Johnson: They had a little boy. They would rinse the clothes in the crick.

    Everyone talks at once.

    Leto: And so she was afraid. They didn't stay. My sister had this. And she gave it to me when I went to visit her. She said this was mom when she was a little girl. This was grandmom and this was Aunt Theresa. I knew Theresa. I knew her well. I used to know. My mother didn't know her because I wasn't even born.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Her mother died...

    Johnson: She went there 1927 and Aunt Theresa, she met them at the station. The train stop. She brought them a package of sweet cookie or something.

    Leto’ s daughter: Where was this, mom?

    Leto: In Cassina.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Oh, back in Italy.

    Johnson: Would you tell me your father's name? Your mother's name first.

    Leto: My mother's name was Maria. Mary Antoinette. Mary on the passport. I had her passport and I lost it. The second time she came to this country. But if I look good maybe I still find it.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Mary Antoinette Cassollio

    Johnson: And your father's name?

    Leto: Charles Sicco. In Italian they call Carlos Sicco. He was 24 years old when he came to DuPont. See he just got off from the army and he went work here because he had the address...his sister and his brother-in-law, they already came back home from DuPont. Maybe they can find the record. But everybody's dead now. But they have the children of the family. The son was married. See the daughter, when I was three and four years, she was still living. They called her Madalena Madeleine. Her father and mother, they're the ones that were here. And she was 94, 95. And then I went back the following years and she wasn't there. She passed away. And I used to ask her a lot of questions. I say, "You were born in America?” And she said, "No. I was born after my father came back from America.” They used to live in that house. She showed me the book.

    Johnson: Where the Gibbons House was?

    Leto: They used to live near Hagley Yard. That tall house. She had a house full of boarders. My aunt. Before you reach the gate.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): She's talking about the Gibbons House.

    Leto: See I get nervous.

    Johnson: Oh, don't get nervous. What did your father do in the Yards?

    Leto: Oh in the powder mill I guess. I don't know. But when he came back the second time, he took care of my grandfather's mill.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): He replaced his father-in-law in the Mill.

    Leto: That's the house.

    Johnson: That's the foreman's house.

    Leto: Yeah. She had a house full of boarders. All French people. They used to go away on Friday night. Come back on Monday. They used to go home and have good times.

    Johnson: Is this the house here?

    Leto: It was the house near the gate. See I used to pass there to carry soup to my father. They gave my grandfather grinding? Drying mill. Then they moved my father to Upper Yards. Then Sam Buchanan, they used to live Squirrel Run. They had 11 children when he was killed there. I remember just like now. We all run to see who it was. Then we went to see Mrs. Buchanan there. She was there. The house was full of people. And she look at me. I said, "Oh." I got scared. I said maybe next my father.

    Johnson: And your father was working in the Grinding Mill?

    Leto: See that's the way. And then my Aunt Mary and her husband, they used to live in that house. She used to go to Wilmington with a big basket. She used to buy the stuff on King Street. And she used to carry the basket from Wilmington to Free Park.

    Johnson: Walking all that way?

    Voice: No. She'd take the trolley.

    Leto: And see there was a store - Hammers? – past St. Joseph. And used to be a grocery store on Squirrel Run. I forget her name.

    Johnson: Beacom?

    Leto: That's it. Beacom. Were always up here at Squirrel Run. And let's see... Blakely... Blakely's store. And she had one son. And the other store was down here on this side. I forgot the name. We used to go to the post office to get our mail. There was a post office there. I don't know if it's there yet. Time pass and I have to depend. She would take...my son would take...she would take me too. I don't know. Now we passed the other day the saloon there, I guess. A beer garden or something.

    Johnson: Hagee's?

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Hagee's.

    Leto: There was a store there across the street from that big building. On the corner was a grocery store there.

    Johnson: You mean Henry Clay?

    Leto: Yeah Henry Clay. See that big building we stop there.

    Johnson: Breck's Mill?

    Leto: Yeah. Breck's Mill. And there on the corner was the grocery store.

    Johnson: The opposite of Breck's Mill?

    Leto: Yeah.

    Leto: And I don't know why my aunt, she used to run to Wilmington shopping buy meat. Because there she had the garden. They had chickens. But she like to go there. And my father told me my sister was crazy. She wanted to save money. She didn't want to spend at store there on Squirrel Run. I used to go there. My grandmother used to send me there. They used to give me the buck...they give me the bill...when I pay every month. They give me back a candy. I used to eat them all. Isn't that awful?

    Johnson: What did you used to get at the store?

    Leto: Stuff what you need. She had lots of chickens, and she would kick chicken. The butcher would come twice a week. She would buy...oh...what I liked, she used to buy hot dog, and she used to make fried potatoes. Then when the potatoes was nearly done, she used to slice the hot dog and put them in the potato. They were delicious. I never forget that. And every lunch she would make soup. Boiled chicken or boiled meat. Then at night she would have homemade spaghetti. She used to make her own bread. She used to buy the big can of Spry. Then they'd buy butter, too. Then the butcher come twice a week and she used to buy a lot of meat. Because she had my father to feed, my Uncle Dominick and my grandfather, before he died. She had four or five to feed. And the brother-in-law. See my Aunt Theresa, she went home 1900. She went home with Rosalie once. One daughter, one son and one baby. The little boy was 2 or 3 years old. He took sick along the way. And then they had to stay in New York for 10 days, so my Uncle Dominick he had to go to New York and stay with them. They had the quarantine, they called it. Then he came home, back to Free Park. Then my aunt took the children and she went back. The two children. She lost one in New York. He was buried. He died. She went home. See, her mother wasn't feeling well. She went in 1900. Then in 1902, she came back to stay in Flea Park. That time, my grandmother, she left Flea Park and went to Italy, see, with the other daughter. And then she put me...she didn't want me to stay here to wait my aunt come back with my uncle, my father and his brother-in-law. She took me to Chicken Alley to live with Mrs. Nicolai. Her husband was living...he was working the Refiner in the Upper Yard. And then my father wanted a house. He wanted a house in Flea Park, but they didn't have any. They said, "We have one in Squirrel Run if you want it." My father said, "All right." And so Mrs. Nicolai she was living at Chicken Alley with her husband and two children..she have Mary and the boy was named Dominick..he passed away about two or three years ago. Mary's still living. She lives..in...She married. Her husband passed away. And he's buried down in Wilmington. The same I go. My husband's there. And she's named... uh... Corona. What's the second name?

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): I don't know.

    Leto: He used to rent the store. When I go down the cemetery, I see. Well anyhow, Mary's still living. All the gone. She didn't want to stay in Chicken Alley. But there was other people..I forgot. They were French people. And she didn't want to stay, because it was an old house. But it was clean. She was clean. She showed me how to cook and everything. She moved to Squirrel Run with us. And then when we were in Squirrel Run, I made friends with Bessie Beacom. Her mother, she always wanted me to go to her house on Sunday afternoon. They were really religious. They used to go to church, Mt Salem. And we used to go St. Joseph. And I just could picture today, Bessie and her brother walking first. Then Madeline and the mother and father walking back on Sunday go to church in Mt. Salem. And Bessie used to come and see us every week after we moved. Every week.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): A long story.

    Johnson: I like it.

    Leto: And then she said to me one day..seemed like she knew I knew she would get sick and die...and she said, "You know. I got a letter from DuPont. They want me to tell them the history about Squirrel Run." And she wanted me to go with her to tell the story. And I said, "Oh, I don't want to bother. They didn't ask me. They asked you." But she knows more than I do, because she was a friend of Mrs. Crowninshield. She was teaching her in the Sunday School up there. See, Bessie used to go there. She knew them well, see. I didn't know Mrs. Crowninshield. I heard about her. I never see her. When Mrs. Crowninshield passed away, she was eighty years old.
  • Visiting Winterthur; Grandmother's risotto recipe; The family garden and keeping chickens; Making household objects out of flour bags; Going to school
    Keywords: Chickens; Crowninshield, Louise du Pont, 1877-1958; Du Pont, H. A. (Henry Algernon), 1838-1926; Electircity; Flour bags; Gardens; Polenta; Risotto; Saint Joseph on the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church (Wilmington, Del.); Sheets; Underwear; Winterthur
    Transcript: Johnson: Did you know any of the du Ponts or did you see any of the du Ponts?

    Leto: Oh I met the father of this Mrs. Crowninshield. He was a nice man. But I didn't know the mother. I didn't know nobody. I went up and visit the house when I was about 16. Winterthur. Because I knew this lady and this man, married, they used to work there. And they want to take me to see that. And she ask me if I want to work there. I said no. I don't wanta work. I was around 16 years old. They took me in the room all silver. And the man was there polishing the silver. And they had another room. All dishes and everything.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Mom, What did your grandmother cook for lunch?

    Leto: What you say?

    Johnson: Did she ever make rice?

    Leto: Oh, she make everything.

    Johnson: Tell us about risotto. How did she make risotto?

    Leto: She made it with chicken broth. Sometimes she would have chopped meat fine. Then she would put chicken liver. A little chicken liver. Not much. Just a little piece. She put onion in the broth. Parsley. Lotta parsley. Oh she had a garden there near the house. See they have another..she had a lot of chickens. And she had a great big garden. If I ever go there, I'll show you where the garden. They have a toilet way down by the fence.

    Johnson: Close to the garden. In the garden?

    Leto: Yeah. We don't have the toilet in the house at that time. We don't even have electric then. We have lamp. They put electric on the outside, and then they didn't put it in the house. Then she had a little garden by the fence. She used parsley year round.

    Johnson: Herbs. How big was the garden?

    Leto: Oh boy. Big. As big as this house. She used to raise potatoes all year round. Beans. Everything. She had along the fence there...the walk...flowers. And for my grandfather, every Saturday, she make a bunch of flowers and she make me take it up the graveyard for my grandfather.

    Johnson: Was the garden bigger than this room?

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Bigger than this house.

    Leto: And she had a lot of chickens. She used to make me go get the eggs. She said, "Watch when the chickens stand there. They're gonna hatch. Don't touch those." She had a big chicken coop. Oh it was big. They had shelfs. And I used to go up there and get the eggs. And I could tell which...if it was good or not. And then she put the chick outside the fence. They had a little coop. And the mother would stay there. The chicken. And the chick they go round. Another thing, she used to make me go pick the wild cherries. Used to make juice to drink.

    Johnson: Where were the wild cherries?

    Leto: In the fence. There was a fence. A hole there. Because they have the gate. And they used to go there. Oh the stories. I could talk all day about her.

    Johnson: What else did she cook?

    Leto: She cook anything

    Johnson: Polenta?

    Leto: Oh yeah. In the nighttime she used to make polenta.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Corn meal mush

    Johnson: Did she make her own pasta?

    Leto: Not polenta. She used to buy the meal.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Corn meal.

    Johnson: Was the main meal at lunch time or dinner time?

    Leto: Oh no. She no make it lunchtime. They make soup for lunchtime. And at night she would make spaghetti by hand. Then you roll it like you make a pie crust, you know. But she had a big one. And cut it. She used to do all of that. She used to make pants for me out of flour...

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Sack.

    Johnson: Out of the flour bags. You mean underpants?

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): She didn't waste anything.

    Leto: She used to make slip for me.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): She used to buy big bags of flour.

    Leto: And she used to make bread, everything.

    Johnson: I see. And then she'd use the bag to make your clothes?

    Leto: She used to make sheets too.

    Johnson: How often did they change the laundry?

    Leto: Poor grandmother. She was strong.

    Johnson: What did you do as a little girl? Did you have much time to play?

    Leto: Oh, everything. Sometimes I used to sleep at her place.

    Johnson: No...

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Well see, she went back to Italy when she was two years old and then came back to America at 12 or 13. She had gone to school in Italy, but when she came back to America, she went to St. Joseph.

    Leto: I went to St. Joseph.

    Johnson: Because she couldn't speak English, they put her in first grade. A big girl.

    Leto: They make fun of me. The kids. And the other girl...my cousin Jenny. She was born in Italy. See the father... they were married, and they left the wife there with the two children: Jenny and Jimmy. Her name was Joanna like me. My grandmother's name. See the first daughter they put the name the grandmother. If it's a son they put the name the grandfather. That's like me. I'm named Joanna like my grandmother. And my father didn't have no boys. He had daughters. And then they put names like the sister, brother, anyone. And who would baptize somebody...like me, Mary...they put my mother's name. And Rosalee was the first. They put my husband's mother's name. The second, Joe, they put my husband's father. And my father, he had his father's name. I have upstairs the book. He was named Joseph.

    Johnson: May I tell the lady why you stayed in Italy when you should have come back? Your father had two years off from the Company, but the reason you stayed is because your mother died in the interval. And you stayed there. Then came back later.

    Leto: See, my grandmother told my grandfather, "I'm not coming to America till you move from that house."

    Johnson: On Walker's Bank? Ok.

    Leto: So he told her, "I got a house up Flea Park.” My uncle Dominick was living there. And my grandfather was living with his wife. And he said, "Yeah, we got a house. If you want to come, come after me.”

    Johnson: In 1896.

    Leto: I remember like a dream. I was seven years old. My grandmother and grandfather came that day. And my mother just had...Helen...the one she died in Squirrel Run...she was born. Two or three days she was born. And my grandmother said "Don't get up the bed. It's cold." It was March 30. The end of March. Then came April. She died April 9. She said, "Don't get up. You're going to catch cold." She said, "That's all right. Isabella's going to cook dinner." That was my grandmother's sister. She was living with us. Her husband died of heart attack. So she got up and caught pneumonia. She got sick. And April 9, she went.

    Johnson: What year was that?

    Leto: 1896.

    Leto: And then they put me to sleep, and Virginia Ferrara, a cousin, and her mother and father, they left to America. And came ? was name Rodino. But was Mr. Ferrara's sister. She used to live there with her husband, daughter and wife. And they went there. She have a son. The son didn't want to come and live. He said, I'm going to California. I'll come later on. So it just happened that I asked Madeleine Ferrara, "Where's Charlie?" Virginia was telling me when I went to see her. She said, "Oh he came to see us. He was fooling with this girl...Guina's girl...and all at once we didn't see him no more.

    Johnson: Well the Ferraros lived next to you at Walker's Bank.

    Leto: Next block. Let me finish the story. So when I went Italy, 1972, we went there. I went to the cemetery, and I see the name...on top of the ground...I see Charlie...named Carlo Rodino, they wrote. So then Mrs. Ferraro, they came with us in Italy. I was a little girl.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Mom. This doesn't have anything to do with the Hagley story.

    Leto: All right. I'm sorry.

    Johnson: Tell me what you played with when you were a little girl.

    Leto: I went to school.

    Johnson: St. Joseph's.

    Leto: Yeah.

    Leto: Oh, I was tall. The teacher teach me there. She came in this church. And I have my children there. And she came sit in the car with me and my husband. See, they don't let them stay long each place, the nun. They move them.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): She became one of the nuns teaching here. One of her teachers was a nun here in Kennett Square.

    Leto: She put me right away in the second grade. I knew how to write. I knew everything. Only what I need was the language. That's all.

    Johnson: But then you didn't want to go back to school? Some of the girls wanted you to work?

    Leto: Yes. One girl, she was 11 years old. And they were around. Hudson Mill. They would go around to houses. All those girls went to work. They all quit school. Annie was 11 years old. She quit school. She said, "Oh. Come on." I said, "No, my grandmother don't want me. She wants me to go back to school." She said, "All right. you go back." 'When it's summer time.” My grandmother and grandfather said, "You're gonna be sorry. You need the language." I said, "Mr. Hudson told me I'd learn more here than what I learn in school." Isn't that awful they tell me that. He was named Billy. The other one was named..I forgot..the tall one. Annie she said, "Oh my mother needs me. They need money." And my father, he was a watch man on the bridge. They couldn't walk the bridge at night. They were bugs. Even my father told me, they couldn't walk ? ? It was a wooden bridge that time. Now they make nice bridge.

    Johnson: Why couldn't they walk on the bridge?

    Leto: They were thugs. They would get you. Get your money. So they had to put a policeman. Annie's father. And she used to live right outside the mill. There was two or three houses there. Annie and the brother. The brother left second grade and went to work there. Annie Catalano. But then she married McDonald. She died two or three years ago.
  • Getting indoor running water from Alfred I. du Pont; Neighbors from Squirrel Run; Leto's childhood chores; Cooking and recipes; Celebrating Christmas
    Keywords: Chores; Christmas; Cooking; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irenee), 1864-1935; Gnocchi; Indoor plumbing; Photographs; Squirrel Run (Del.: Village); Water
    Transcript: Johnson: Would you tell me the story again about the water and Mr. Alfred?

    Leto: In that day Lammot wasn't there. Alfred I. He give them anything they want. But he couldn't hear I think. He give anything they want. They needed lumber, he give. The water spigot in the house.

    Johnson: Tell it over again. You didn't have any water in the house. You had to go to the spring.

    Leto – There was a spring there. Water was running all the time. It would go down the crick. Then they gave us water there. And Mrs. Ferraro too.

    Johnson: You were telling me, Mrs. Leto, that Mr. Alfred gave your father the pipes so that you'd have water.

    Leto: In the house. And then everybody want it.

    Johnson: Then you didn't have to go with the bucket.

    Leto: Yeah the bucket. (laughs) And then those people...Lynch...the ones next door. They wanted. And it was nice. Everybody was happy. But it was bad you had to go to the bathroom outside. They have a toilet outside in the garden. And at Squirrel Run we have to go up in the woods. We have to wash the clothes. We have the spigot outside. But the drinking water, we have the spring. We have to walk and get the water. And for the garden. Everybody had a garden up there. And the drinking water. The spigot near the crick in Squirrel Run. We used to get the water to wash our clothes. And Betsy Beacom, before she leave in the morning to go to school, her and her brother had to carry the water from the spigot. She we have one spigot for our block and one for the other people. Consono and Carey. Josephine Carey, she was my friend. She was Catholic. But Betsy, she wasn't Catholic. She had to go to church at Mt. Salem. But Bessie was nice. Her mother was so nice. And Mr. Beacom. When I used to carry soup to my father in the yards--he wanted soup in the kettle--Mr. Beacom said, "Jenny, you can't go in there. In the Yard. Sometime I used to run and go. Sometime he would take it to my father. He got hurt in the refinery explosion. He hurt his back or something. So they gave him the job at the gate there. Where you go upper yards. He would stay there in a shack or something. Because he knew me. We lived Squirrel Run. And Betsy used to come our house. And I used to go their house. But every Sunday, Mrs. Beacom, she would call me around four or five o'clock she send Betsy over.

    Johnson: Would they say prayers at that time?

    Leto: Oh yes. Before we eat. My father too. Thank God. They were religious people.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Mom. I think the ladies want to know what kinds of jobs you did around the house. How did you help your grandmother?

    Leto: Oh. The only thing she make me do is peel potatoes. She made me get eggs. See, the house where grandmother lived, we live on the side, and the other people live in the back.

    Leto: Oh. Sometime candy. Like that.

    (Looking at pictures.)

    Leto: That's my Uncle Joe. He lived next door to grandmother. That house still stand. We passed it that time. It was a double house.

    Voice: The one next to Christ Church?

    Leto: Yeah.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): The big house on the corner.

    Johnson: What would you get Christmas morning?

    Leto: Oh, get a pair of stockings. They give you clothes. A pair of shoes. They make you believe the Wise Men came and they left the shoes in the window. They left them there.

    Johnson: Did you get special cakes or cookies? Special food?

    Leto: Oh yeah. They make those dolls. Then they put eggs. And they make a doll and they make a face. They cook it and they put eyes...

    Johnson: Like gingerbread men?

    Leto: Yes. And my grandmother used to make a cake. Potato cake. She used to have. And the rice cake. They make the pastry like you make pie..a pastry. Then they fill it up with rice. Sausage. Beat an egg. Beat all that stuff. It was delicious. Instead of making pie, they make pie with rice. Pie with potato. It was good the potato, because you mix it with eggs. You boil your potato first. Then you mix it with eggs. They put parsley. All the things you like best. It was delicious. Go make coffee. You want coffee or ginger ale? We don't have no wine.

    Johnson: Oh I have to drive. I couldn't drink. I don't want to put them to any trouble.

  • Giving a lemon verbena plant to P.S. du Pont and possibly finding it again at Longwood Gardens; Leto's children siblings
    Keywords: Du Pont, Pierre S. (Pierre Samuel), 1870-1954; Hagley Yard; Immigration; Italy; Lemon verbena; Longwood Gardens; United States
    Transcript: Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Mother. Tell them the story about your grandmother brought this (lemon verbena) in a small thing.

    Leto: Oh yeah. Go get that book. I put it over there. Then Rose went to get the whole history. I put it in the drawer. My grandmother, when she came from Italy, she had a little plant. She kept it growing It grew tall. And my Uncle Dominick put it in a tub. She had an old tub she didn't use anymore to wash clothes. And she put the plant in there. She plant it there. And then it came tall. A big bush like this. And so my grandmother was leaving for Italy. So my uncle was friends with Pierre S. du Pont. He was young then. He was the Boss of Hagley Yards.

    Johnson: Your uncle?

    Leto: No. Pierre S. du Pont. He was young. Oh. She's coming now. So she showed me that book, and I said, "Oh, that's my grandmother's plant. She gave it to P.S. du Pont before she left for Italy.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): He saw the plant and he liked it...

    Leto: So she gave it to him. See, my grandmother...my uncle..said, "What am I gonna do with this plant. It's gonna die if I don’ t take care.” So my uncle said, "I'll ask my boss. See if he want it.” He said, "It's a plant my mother take..."We call it limonina.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): It's lemon verbena.

    Leto: So my grandmother, she used to pick the leaves when they fall. She put them in a bag, and she used to make tea to drink. It was good. She had it back of the stove. I can picture that stove..a big stove. And she had the bag back there to dry the leaves.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): She would keep this plant in the house during the winter, and then in the summer she would put it in the yard.

    Leto: And then I told her, "Oh that's my grandmother's plant.” And she went and called the boss right away.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Well she gave it to P.S. du Pont, her grandmother did. And she'd been talking about this plant for years. So I said, "Alright mom, we'll call Longwood Gardens and see if they have a lemon verbena.” So they looked it up in their records and said, "Yes. We have a record of this plant. No date, because it goes so far back that it wasn't dated according to when they received this plant.” So she's been wanting to go over there and find this plant of her grandmother's. So I called David Foresman and he said, "Yes we have one in the herb garden. Bring her over and we'll find it." So one day last September we went...

    Leto: October

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): It was already getting cold...

    Leto: They had already the frost.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): We went through the herb garden and must have missed it. But one of the gardeners went and got the chief herb man, and he came out and found it for us. And you would think she found a million dollars to see that plant of her grandmother.

    Johnson: That's wonderful. In Longwood yet.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): And they were so nice that they gave her a few pieces to take home. They said “ We'll start a plant for you." So any day now, we expect a call from Longwood Gardens.

    Leto: Not till May.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Maybe May.

    Leto: We plant-- It didn't catch.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): We couldn't start them. The ones they gave us.

    Johnson: Wrong season!

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Yes. So this was a big thrill for her.

    Leto: Oh, I told them everything. He came, P.S. du Pont, I guess he was 22 or 25. He look at me. My grandmother was in the house, and I called my uncle Dominick. I said, "Somebody wants to talk to you.” He knew already he was coming. My mouth is so dry, I talk so much.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Do you want a drink of water? Or tea?

    Leto: I'll take tea. And I was looking for this book. She took it down to Florida. They were all winter. I miss. I miss her. She used to come every morning. And Rosalie every morning.

    Johnson: How many daughters do you have?

    Leto: I have four daughters.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): And six sons.

    Leto: And six sons. Yeah.

    Johnson: How many sisters did you have, Mrs. Leto?

    Leto: Oh I only had Helen. She was born when my grandmother came. And Sadie. She just passed away three years ago.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): And then you had Theresa...

    Leto: Oh, in Italy. She die 82 years old.

    Johnson: You were the oldest, weren't you?

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): She worked hard all her life. You ask her how did she play? She worked. She didn't play.

    Leto: When we move in this house, I scrub all this house on my knees. So sore. We put the electric before we walked in. Didn't have no toilets.

    Johnson: How long have you lived in this house?

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Since 1925.

    Leto: The day after Easter.
  • Childhood home at Squirrel Run; DuPont's centennial; Grandfather's death; Grandmother's return to Italy; Job at Hodgson Bros. woolen mill
    Keywords: Blumenthal's; Celebrations; Chicken Alley (Del.: Village); DuPont; Floors; Free Park (Del.: Village); Hodgson Bros. woolen mill; Homes; Kerosene; Kitchens; Storage; Wages
    Transcript: Johnson: The houses at Hagley. Did they have a wood floor or brick floor?

    Leto: Wood floor. And my grandmother have a kitchen on one side and a cellar on the other side where she keep all the stuff. And she used to keep the potato up in the garret.

    Johnson: There was a wood floor in her kitchen?

    Leto: All wood floor. And the porch outside was wood. Oh we have a nice house.

    Johnson: Did you keep the meat in the smokehouse?

    Leto: Oh no. We have a cellar. But the butcher come twice a week.

    (They are having coffee.)

    Johnson: I'd like you to tell them the story about the big picnic in 1902.

    Leto: Oh yeah. 100 years. And they all give us tickets. They gave one for my father. One for me. One the uncle and one the other man. The brother-in-law. And my father gave the ticket to me, because they receive a telegram from New York. They have trouble. Someone had to go to New York. And my uncle was in a ballgame. They had a ballgame up in the field.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): They called your father and your uncle...

    Leto: And this other man. He receive a telegram. He was living in the city. The name of Dominick Pisalla. The brother of this lady she live in Chicken Alley. He was living in the city. He had a fish market. So they receive a telegram. My grandmother was in the hospital. And my grandfather. They was both in the hospital. And my grandfather, he pass away.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): You forgot to tell them that your grandmother and grandfather were on their way to Italy...

    Leto: It was 1902, and he was retire...35 years.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): From the Hagley Yards and was going to Italy. And they stopped in the hotel, and what happened in the Hotel?

    Leto: They went to bed. My grandfather didn't know about gas. He thought it was...kerosene. He blew the light out. And my grandfather was a fat man. And my grandmother was skinny. She didn't die. They took the gas out of her.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): The next morning, when it was time to go to the ship? It was time to go on the ship...

    Leto: Was nine o'clock in the morning, and they didn't...

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): And they knocked on the door and nobody answered. And what did they do?

    Leto: They smell gas. They broke the door. My grandfather, he died just that minute. My grandmother she was unconscious. They took her to the hospital. My grandfather too. But he didn't come back. When they came the next day, it was the Fifth. My grandfather, I remember, was in one of those boxes. They had ice on the bottom and holes there.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): They transported the body from New York to Wilmington in ice. I found his obituary in the 1902 paper. That was in New York. James Persolio. That was her grandfather. He came to America after the Civil War and started working at Hagley. Then when...Did your father take his place?

    Leto: Oh. He took his place after he come back the second time.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): First he worked in the lower yard. Didn't your grandfather work in the graining mill, too?

    Leto: Oh yeah. He work all that time.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Later, her father was moved in the Upper Yard.

    Leto: They gave the mill to him. But then they built another in the Upper Yard. They put him up there. And Sam Buchanan took my grandfather's mill. But when I was there in Flea Park, I used to carry soup to my father in the Lower Yard. They was right there near. When he was in Upper Yard, we moved to? Chicken Alley. But he stayed there with my uncle till my Aunt came from Italy. See my grandmother went away in September.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): That was after her husband died in July. She stayed at Hagley in September.

    Leto: She had to go home.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): They had a lot of problems in Italy, her family.

    Leto: See my Aunt Catherine and her husband, they take care of the place. The house- When I went there with my husband I went to my grandmother...see they had a gate to go in. The lady saw me. Oh, I was crying. And my husband, he didn't want to come. I know what's going to happen.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Are you talking about your father's death now?

    Leto: Oh, we skip.

    Johnson: Oh, you're talking about when your father was killed.

    Leto: Oh, I skip. Oh. I don't know no more. See we're talking about and then I go to when I went there with my husband. After we got married, he wanted me to go meet his mother in Italy. And my father didn't want me to go. He said, "You're going to have a family. Stay here. I had to go for my mother. She pass away. And my brother wanted to separate the property. Take each one a share.” He said, "You're young. You stay here."

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): She had her first child over there. My sister Rosalie. She's the oldest one.

    Leto: And she always regrets. She said to me, "You didn't listen to your father."

    Johnson: What they might be interested in your telling is your father, how he died. Does that hurt you to tell about it?

    Leto: My grandfather. Let's talk. We were on my grandmother. Right?

    Johnson: That's right. Let's go back to my grandmother.

    Leto: That's good. Who made that?

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Your daughter Mary.

    Leto: You know last month she had a real estate man here? And they had property to sell.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): You better not talk about that. It's all on the tape recorder. Now tell about your grandmother.

    Leto: Oh, the picnic. And they gave us tickets. So I took mine, and I didn't take my uncle and the other man. They gave you two package. An orange, an apple and a tomato. And a sandwich. And at each tree they have orange juice. One have lemon. One have another. Every tree they have different drinks. Then they have a flat board. They have a band. They were dancing. Oh those old people. Those young people. They have trap shooting. They have benches to sit down. And the father and the mother, they have a daughter sitting between. One of the bullets went on -- of this girl and come out here.

    Johnson: From the trap shooting?

    Leto: Yeah.

    Leto: It missed this man. It didn't go straight like it’ s supposed. It went by mistake. And that girl fall down. They pick her up and take her to a doctor. And she was all right. It didn't kill her. It happened just like this policeman. They shot him the other day. You drink. So that's the way it is, and they went home. My father was there cause they closed the yard. They closed all the business.

    Johnson: That was in 1921?

    Leto: That was in 1902.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): The hundred year celebration. And that was the fourth of July. And her grandfather died on July 4, 1902 in New York.

    Leto: The day my grandmother and my uncle came on the train. They came all together. And this man named Dominick, the brother of this lady living in Chicken Alley. I was living with them.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): My mother was living with this family because her grandmother had gone to Italy.

    Leto: And this time she took me back with her. And then I was working the mill that time. And the lady next door, I don't know her name, was walking with me. From Chicken Alley we'd walk every morning.

    Johnson: What were you doing at the Mill?

    Leto – Taking care the bobbin. The bobbin machine. They come fill them. Put them in. And when they're full, they go on the big bobbin.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): That was a cotton mill.

    Leto: And the lady living next door to my father, she was working there. She was making...wool. See they had wool.

    Johnson: Where was this? Across the crick.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): She calls it Hodgson Mill. We call it Walker's Mill

    Leto: And the boss, the short one. He married one of the girls. One of the mill girls. And she had a son, Billy. And the other man, he was so nice. He used to come around to see everything Ok. He used to treat us nice.

    Johnson: How many hours did you work a day?

    Leto: We had to leave home...it took us an hour. Almost an hour from Chicken Alley. And at that time it was cold. Wintertime it was ice. And at that time it was a long step from the church there. You go down Squirrel Run. There was a long step and we had to hold ourselves because it was slippery. I forgot her name. She was such a nice girl. And then there was another one. We used to pick her up near Christ Church. She lived in a house there. They got all those girls and boys out of school to work in the mill.

    Johnson: How much did you make a week?

    Leto: Oh, I'm ashamed to tell you. They didn't even give 10 cents a day. When my grandmother...I finished school in June. First of July I started work. 10 cents a day. My grandmother told me, "Jenny..." See they put my name Jenny. They didn't use her name. I said, "They're no good to me.” She said, "Promise me you'll go back to school in September." I said, "All right." Instead, I told my friend to tell the boss, "You tell him my family want me to go back to school. They want me to learn the language.” "Oh," he said. "Tell your grandmother and grandfather you'll learn more here than you'll learn in school.” Isn't that awful.

    Johnson: How many hours did you work a day?

    Leto: We started half past six and we worked until 6 o'clock. And we take a quarter off for dinner time. On Saturday we worked till quarter to 1. They take a quarter hour every day to make that day. 6 o'clock we work. And when we reached work, my hands and feet were frozen. I had to warm myself. And they turned the heat off at night, and those big pipes made a lot of noise in the morning. I'm laughing now. Then I used to cry. And I quit. My father said, "I don't want you to work there. Go back to school.” Then my sister, Sadie, and my aunt came. My aunt said, "I want you to go back to school with Sadie." Instead I went and worked at Blumenthal's. Then I used to make a dollar a day.
  • Leto's father's death at Hagley
    Keywords: Cathedral, Cemetery; Du Pont, Pierre S. (Pierre Samuel), 1870-1954; Explosions; Hagley Yard; Hunter's store; Safety; Strikes; Training
    Transcript: Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): OK. Have some more tea. That wasn’ t at Hagley, though. That was in Wilmington.

    Leto: And we had to move, because they had the strike. Nobody...They gave my father two or three months (off), because he had to run the mill. The first month, then another month, then another month. My father said, "I can't go back. I'm gonna get killed someday.” They put all new people there. And he didn’ t want to go back. We moved to Wilmington. That’ s where I met my husband. In Wilmington. He was working there.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Well go on with your father. Did they keep coming to ask him to go back to work at Hagley?

    Leto: Yeah.

    Johnson: But he didn't want to go back, because it was dangerous.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): He said they had too many new men who didn't know the job, and he didn't want to go back because it was too dangerous.

    Leto – He said he was going to get killed. Another time I didn't want to tell him. I didn't tell him. I didn’ t know what to do.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Oh, the man came to see him and you were there?

    Leto: I went hiding next door to Cherchio. He saw me, and he told me...he saw me and he came over there...he said, "The boss, he's going to raise pay. Tell your father to come back." I didn't know what to do. I stayed two or three days without telling him. And then I have my conscience. I said to myself, "If he's killed, I'll be sorry."

    That morning, my father, he couldn't sleep all night. He told me to wake him up in the morning. See the trolley was passing our house. We lived 814 Madison. I went and waked my father up and said, "Pop, the trolley passed." He used to get the trolley from there and get off near where there used to be Hunter's Store. A grocery store there. He'd get off and walk there. Past the Crowninshield house down there. He walked down Upper Yards. He used to get up early and make coffee for us. So he made coffee early.so he just got an egg and broke it in his cup. Then he said "Oh, I'm late." Then he just passed the door and he said, "Good bye." He said to me while he was sitting there putting his shoes on, he said to me, "I didn't sleep last night. I didn't close my eyes. I dreaming bad dreams all night." In the afternoon pop came home...

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Her husband. My father.

    Leto: He came home at 4 o’ clock. I said, "I don't know why pop didn't come yet." See, he got so much flour. He grind the flour and he finish what he had to do.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Flour? Powder

    Leto: Every day he get home at half past two. I said, "Look, it's four o'clock. Pop isn't here." He couldn't talk. He knew. See he was on the road with the horses. He was working for Bavaria Company. He was down in Yorklyn. He was with his brother, delivering beer for Yorklyn. The ground shook. He heard the explosion. At that time the trolley car would come to Kennett. Used to stop near the bank. He got the trolley. He told his brother, "It's my father in law. I'm sure." So he run and got the trolley. He came up the Hagley Yard. Right away he got off the trolley. This other trolley. The one at Yorklyn come up the Bank. He got the West 6th Streetcar. It come near Hagley Yards.

    Voice: Rising Sun Lane?

    Leto: Yeah. Then he come past Squirrel Run, see. He got off the trolley and they said it was Charlie Sicco.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): They said it was Charlie Sicco that was killed?

    Leto: Yeah. And the paper, right after pop came home. He was out of breath. Then the newspaper came. I went to the door and got the newspaper. It said, "Explosion at Hagley Powder Mill. Two men were hurt. Nobody killed." See it was the first paper that come out. They just put that. Then the second paper, I didn't see it. At night, everybody would come in.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): I have a copy of that. I didn't show it to her. But my mother hasn't seen it.

    Leto: No, don't show it to me. I get nervous. So that's the way it is. And then ...

    Johnson: Your husband wasn't working at Hagley?

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): My father had started working at Hagley, and he said, "No, I don't want to work here. It's too dangerous."

    Leto: He saw the spark. The horses. He told Mr. Wilson it was too dangerous.

    Johnson: Her father? Wasn't he living in Downtown Wilmington?

    Leto: We had moved.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): They had moved. But they came to ask him to come back because he was so good at the graining mill.

    Leto: Two or three times he quit. Not only once. But he came back. And the last time, he was a friend with P.S. du Pont.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): He came to ask him to come back to work.

    Leto: I didn't tell him. But if I didn't tell him and he found out, he would have got mad.

    Leto: So that's the way it is.

    Johnson: Did your husband also work there?

    Leto: He didn't even work a week.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): He took a job there, but he thought it was too dangerous...

    Leto: I'll tell the story.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): You tell the story.

    Leto: He saw the spark, the horses. He told Mr. Wilson. Wilson was his boss. He said, "Oh, you scairdy cat.” That's nothing. He said, "You want to work?" My husband said no. So he made his time and he said, "Go up the office."

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): Get your pay.

    Leto: Get his pay. And he warned my father, "Don't you go back. You listen to me." And he said, "Oh, my boss is nice. I like him." And that morning when I wake him up, he said, "I couldn't sleep last night. I don't know what's wrong with me.”

    He said, "I always find nails. Things not supposed to be there. New people. They don't know what they're doing." See he had to put the flour into those things...

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): You mean the powder?

    Leto: Yeah. The powder. I said the flour. (Laughs) It's like a mill. You never went in a mill like they grind the wheat and the corn.

    Johnson: Yes. Those big wheels.

    Leto: And turn around. He always find nails. Different things. And I had those things. I give them to the man when he came to see me. He said he was going to give a thousand dollars each. I said, "I don't want no money. Give it to my sister."

    Johnson: You mean after your father died, they wanted to give you a thousand dollars?

    Leto: Each. Four daughters. I said, "No. I don't want it. My husband makes plenty money." He used to work for Bavaria.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): A brewery..

    Leto: Beer. West 6th Street. Then we bought a house up there, so it was near the work. So I told my sister, when I went to see my sister there, "You receive the money? They find? Pop. They give a thousand dollars and I refuse. I said, "Send it to my sister, my share."

    Johnson: Oh, you mean send it to your sister in Italy?

    Leto: Yeah.

    Johnson: And did they ever give it to her?

    Leto: They give it to the lawyer. I asked my sister, and she said she didn't receive anything. I refused it. Me and Sadie, we didn't need it.

    Voice: She refused the $1,000 when her father was killed.

    Leto: I signed the paper. Then they had a meeting one night. Four...it was four Du Pont. They called us, the girls. And I told them there, "Send it to my sister and my Aunt Isabelle." She took care of my mother when she died. See, Helen was here with us. He got a house for her up in Squirrel Run. Because he was working the powder mill. They gave him a house. And that man, he came before the funeral. He wanted to know if he was living up there. They would bury him at St. Joseph. I said, "No." He was going to move up there with Helen, my sister. But he was still home.

    Voice (Mary, Mrs. Leto’ s daughter): So your father was buried in Cathedral Cemetary. Right.

    Leto: Yes. And we always bring flowers. All summer I bring to flowers to him. The stone has fallen over. And they said to pay $35 to put it up. So I pay $35...