Interview with Ella Fitzharris, 1980 May 5 [audio](part 1)

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  • Games played as children; getting pattern books for paper dolls and her First Communion dress from Madeline Ferraro; going swimming and canoeing in the Brandywine; bedding and bedroom furniture
    Keywords: baseball; Butterick patterns; canoes; Catholic children; DuPont Experimental Station; feather beds; Ferraro family; First Communion dress; Games; hide-go-seek; jacks; jump rope; McCall patterns; paper dolls; pattern books; Seamstresses; seersucker; Sunday School; swimming; tablecloths; tabourets; tabourettes; voile fabric; wash basins; Women dressmakers
    Transcript: Martin: This tape is the interview for Ella Fitzharris, 166 Brecks Lane. Interviewers are Dot Tremaine and Carla Martin. The Date is May 5, 1980. The interview will start at about Footage 77.

    Fitzharris: And my grandmother sorta...she lived in the neighborhood. She sorta took care of us til Dad got home from work. But...ah...

    Tremaine: What sort of games did you play?

    Fitzharris: Well, baseball was one of my main things. I don't know whether I was so good at it, but we played baseball from the time I think I was about 8 years old up until I was about 17. We played, naturally, the hopscotch, jump rope, hide-go-seek. You know...jacks, that was a very popular thing.

    Tremaine: Did the boys and the girls play together?

    Fitzharris: Baseball, yes. And hide-and-go-seek. But the other things like jumping rope and playing jacks and all...And then another big thing in our life....I don't know if anybody's told you about it...an old lady who lived across the Brandywine, Mrs. Ferraro. There was a row of houses over there, right near the DuPont Experimental Station. And she was born in that house. She died in that house at the age of 95. She was a dressmaker. And she sewed for, well, quite a few rich people, but also for us around the crick, you know. And she had lots of pattern books. And we used to make our own paper dolls, things like that. And she would give us the pins to pin the dresses on, because, you know, they didn't have paper dolls then. That was one of our highlights. Miss Ferraro. Everybody went to Miss Ferraro, and she showed no partiality. She kept a book for me this week, my family, and a book for somebody else the next month, you know. She was a great old lady. It's too bad somebody didn't interview her. She was fantastic.

    Tremaine: Where did she get her patterns?

    Fitzharris: Butterick. Butterick and McCall. I remember those two. She may have had others, but I do remember those two names. She never married. She lived with her sister. Never married. And two brothers. One of her brothers...

    Tremaine: What were their names?

    Fitzharris: One was Pierre. He worked for the DuPont Experimental Station. And Eugene worked for the Hallock DuPont estate. And of course Madeline and Delphine, the two ladies, they just stayed home. Delphine kept house, but she would also help if the sewing got too piled up. But I'm Catholic, you know, and of course when it come time for me to make my First Communion, my father didn't know anything about picking out dresses. She volunteered to make me a dress. And she dressed me for that day. And it was funny cause my grandson just made his yesterday, and I was telling my daughter how pleased I was that Miss Ferraro...she just took me under her wing like I was her daughter, you know.

    Tremaine: What was your dress like?

    Fitzharris: What I can remember, it was a voile. White voile. A plain dress, but it had...what do you call them...gimps. A fancy thing went over, like a vest. A real wide sash. Oh, I'm telling you, I thought I was the best dressed child going, cause my dress was homemade. But I just wish people knew Miss Ferraro more. When she died, she had been living over there, oh, I guess four years with nobody in the house with her at all. So the maid would come put her to bed at five o'clock and lock the door and go out. And you know, it was really sad. But she did really die in the hospital, you know. She was in the hospital about two days before she died. Everybody knew the Ferraro family.

    Martin: Did she only make ladies clothes?

    Fitzharris: Yes. She made a lot of uniforms for nurses. You know, when they used to wear pinstripe pinks and blues. But she was quite expensive in her day, but she was a marvelous seamstress. Nothing was too fancy for her to tackle. And yet she had all those people come in, but she always had time for us. We'd knock at the door and ask if she had anything for us, you know.

    Tremaine: Were there doorbells in those days?

    Fitzharris: No.

    Tremaine: Any type of bell on the outside?

    Fitzharris: No. The only bell I remember was down one of the other houses I lived. It was sort of a turn thing. It had a bell right on the door and just turned. But as far as electric doorbells, nobody had anything like that. They used to kid about the houses. Originally they were right on the street, but they used to say the bill collectors banged so hard, that's why so there are so many houses back. [laughter] I remember people talking about that. But after I got to about the seventh or eighth grade, I could travel a little bit further, you know. After Sunday School on Sunday we used to walk up through Rockland and Montchanin and come down by the DuPont Experimental Station. That was a long walk on a Sunday afternoon. And we had canoes. I didn't own one, but a lot of the families around here did. And we used to go canoeing. Course you had to learn to swim in the Brandywine, you know. And...

    Tremaine: What did you wear when you went swimming?

    Fitzharris: Well, I can remember in the beginning, when I was about 8 or 9 years old, we just wore dresses and like bloomers. You know how they used to wear them? But later on we had this one-piece black bathing suits with those wide white belts, you know. But...uh...you just had to learn to swim if you lived out here, because if you got to a certain age, and you would go out in a boat, the boys would upset you. But they'd watch you, you see, so you gotta sink or swim. Many a time I was upset and I came up underneath the canoe. But it never bothered me.

    Tremaine: Did you wear anything on your feet?

    Fitzharris: Never. Even when I got older. A lot of them did, but I never did.

    Tremaine: What did they wear?

    Fitzharris: Rubber. They looked like the old fashioned rubbers, but they fit real tight. I remember the lady next door talking about her bathing suit. It was like a long dress. And they wore things on their head, and they also wore black stockings and white, sort of white rubber things. But we never did that. We just went barefooted. Barefooted more than shoes in the summertime.

    Tremaine: You'd play barefooted?

    Fitzharris: Yeah. Uh huh.

    Tremaine: Did you take them off as soon as you got home from school?

    Fitzharris: Well mostly. But uh...we never had a whole lot, but what we had was practical. We had a lot of fun. I have no regrets about my childhood. Course, not having a mother made a little difference, too.

    Tremaine: Did you do any of the housework?

    Fitzharris: Dad had some lady come in once in a while. She did the laundry and things like that. Then I had an older sister. But we had to do pretty much for ourselves.

    Tremaine: Did you make your own bed in the morning?

    Fitzharris: Oh definitely. And we had those feather beds in the wintertime, and if you don't think that was something trying to make them smooth.

    Tremaine: You didn't use a featherbed in the summer?

    Fitzharris: Not in the summertime, no. They were too hot.

    Tremaine: What did you use?

    Fitzharris: The mattress. See they put the...they had...what I can recall, they had the spring. Then they had this mattress. But then in the summertime, they'd put the featherbedding underneath the mattress. Oh I thought that was wonderful when you could make the bed with the mattress. It was real straight. But I can remember my dad saying, "Too many bumps. Too many bumps." My sister and I slept together, you see, and if the bed just didn't look right...

    Tremaine: Was there a spread over it?

    Fitzharris: Yes. We had a...they were sort of like a heavy white seersucker in the summertime, but in the wintertime they were like those real heavy...like they use now. Those George Washington things. We had old-fashioned furniture, but we survived. We had a good time.

    Tremaine: What was in your bedroom?

    Fitzharris: We had a bureau and a chest of drawers. And a chair, I remember. And right beside the bed there were, they called them "tabourets" but they were like tables. They were about so square...

    Tremaine: A foot square?

    Fitzharris: Yeah. They were high. They weren't low, even with your bed they were high. And each one of those had an oil lamp and a clock on it.

    Tremaine: About 36 inches.

    Fitzharris: Yeah. The beds were high then, too. They weren't low.

    Martin: What did you keep inside them?

    Fitzharris: It was nothing. It was just a table. You know, it was all open. Course we had our own bureau that we kept our bed linens in. Everybody in the house was all in one drawer...in one bureau, you know. That was in dad's room. And then my sister had part of the bureau, and I had the other part. Had those old-fashioned wash basins. I'd love to have one now. We had one in each room, but, of course, after mother died, I don't know what happened to them. It seemed like a lot of...I'm not saying stealing...but it seemed like a lot of things just disappeared, you know, after mother died. Like linen tablecloths. I remember my mother used to entertain an awful lot on Sunday. I don't particularly remember the tablecloths, but I know my aunts had been talking about them. But after I got around ten years old, we just had the ordinary cotton damask tablecloths. I don't know where they ever...they disappeared.
  • Her mother and father's early history; cutting across the railroad and sledding in winter; doing homework in the evening; neighborhood children watching Mr. Louie, the black coal delivery man, from the Rising Sun covered bridge
    Keywords: Alexis I. du Pont School; Charles Banks; coal stoves; coal wagon; covered bridge; meat wagon; mushroom business; Number 7 trolley car; pebble dash house; railroads; Rising Sun station; Saint Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic School; sledding
    Transcript: Tremaine: What was your mother's maiden name?

    Fitzharris: Lowther. Ella Lowther.

    Tremaine: And where was she born?

    Fitzharris: I'm not quite sure, but I think down...you know where Wilcastle is? There's a church there now across the street. And there's an old-fashioned pebble dash house. Whether she was born there or not I don't know. But I know dad talked about her living...that's where she lived when they got married.

    Tremaine: Was she employed?

    Fitzharris: No. I don't know how old they were when they got married. But...

    Tremaine: Do you know when she was born?

    Fitzharris: Let me see. I'm 69. I was 7 when she died. So that's 62. And she was 38 when she died. 38 and 62. She'd be about 100, I guess. My father would be about 105.

    Tremaine: What was his full name?

    Fitzharris: Michael Joseph Farren. He worked up at Hagley. It was DuPont's then. And he retired from the DuPont Experimental Station.

    Tremaine: And where was he born?

    Fitzharris: He was born...they call Charles Banks. It's a place up near Christ Church somewhere. Where I don't now. I think they had Upper Banks and Charles Banks and Free Park, but he was born up there somewhere. And he lived up there I guess until, he must have been 19. And then they moved down and they lived here around the Brandywine here. He also lived in that house that's still standing, over there next to the Experimental Station. My grandmother lived there. Mrs. Ferraro lived on one end, and they lived on the other. Course there was three or four families in between there. They weren't old-timers. They came and went, you know.

    Tremaine: Where would they go when they left?

    Fitzharris: Well some of them went, like, to Montchanin. Some went on up to Kennett Square.

    Tremaine: Did they have a better job?

    Fitzharris: I don't know why they left. They left when we were kids, and that didn't interest me. But I know there was family that lived there by the name of Baldo. Italian lady. Very sweet lady. When her children got married, they went into the mushroom business. But where...the mother and father...I don't know.

    Martin: So both of your parents were born around here then?

    Fitzharris: Yes.

    Martin: How about your grandparents, did you know them?

    Fitzharris: Let's see. My mother's people were born somewhere in England, and my father's people were born in Ireland. My mother...my father's mother and father said they lived in farms next to one another - I think it was in Donegal. But I don't know what part of England my mother came from.

    Martin: Then who came here first, your grandparents?

    Fitzharris: Yes.

    Martin: Did they ever say anything about the trip?

    Fitzharris: No. I remember Dad talking about his mother saying when they got into New York, how rough it was. You know when you're young like that, I just feel so sorry that I don't have anyone to ask. All my aunts are gone. My uncles are gone. There's nobody that you can find out things. Like my daughter said, "Gee mother, there's so many things I don't know." She's writing a book herself. My daughter's writing a book. She's taking all these notes down. and all these things I told her about. She said, for instance, the railroad that used to go along here, she said "I just have a vague idea how it looked." Well, I remember walking across it, you know. And you just forget about those things. I did have some pictures, but I don't know where they are, of when the railroad went across. We used to walk across it cutting a shortcut. We come down through the field here from St. Joe's and over the railroad. Then we come down by the tavern - Mrs. Hagee's tavern, you know. That was a shortcut. But then in the wintertime it was even better when the Brandywine would freeze. We could walk across the ice and go up right by the Museum. Take our sleds to school and sled all the way down. Cause then the snow lasted, you know. It's not like now. We used to... everybody took their sled to school. You got on right at Montchanin Road and...lucky you didn't hit the wall here, because the road was different then. The wall was there and there was a railroad. The Number 7 trolley car, see, ran through here, too. So they were real close, and there was a big bump. Oh, we used to enjoy that.

    Tremaine: Did you have to carry school books?

    Fitzharris: Oh yes. We had schoolbags with the strap over our shoulder. And we also used to sit on them, if it would get slippery, and slide down. I wore more schoolbags out that way, more than carrying the books. My sister wouldn't do anything like that. She was very sedate. But I was a tomboy.

    Tremaine: What was your sister's name?

    Fitzharris: Elizabeth.

    Martin: Was she older or younger?

    Fitzharris: Three years older. I had a brother that was older than that. One brother older, one brother younger than I am, too.

    Martin: What were their names?

    Fitzharris: James. He died. He lived in California. Francis lived in Philadelphia. He died suddenly. My sister died. I'm the last one. You see, you don't have nobody. No mother, father, sister, brother. There's just nobody to ask.

    Tremaine: Where did you do your homework?

    Fitzharris: At the kitchen table.

    Tremaine: All the children?

    Fitzharris: Everybody sat at the kitchen table, and we'd do what we could. And then Dad would help us. And the oldest...my older brother, he would hear my lessons. And my sister would, too.

    Tremaine: You all went to the same school?

    Fitzharris: All went to St. Joe's. Then we went to Alexis I. afterward.

    Martin: Was this before dinner or after dinner?

    Fitzharris: After dinner. The dishes had to be cleared away and the kitchen had to be straightened up. And the fire was really pepped up. It was an old coal stove, you know. Then we all sat around...

    Martin: Did you burn coal or wood in it?

    Fitzharris: Both wood and coal. Mostly coal. Would start it with wood. But the wood wouldn't...it would make a nice heat, but it wasn't uniform, You know, you had to watch it all the time. But coal...you just bank it and it was nice and warm.

    Tremaine: Where did the wood come from?

    Fitzharris: My dad cut it from the different trees that had fallen down around the neighborhood. And then if there wasn't any, you had to order it. It came by wagon. I don't know where it came from. But I remember we got a load of wood. Another thing that used to interest us, when the DuPont Experimental Station used coal, they used to bring the coal in on the train, right there at Rising Sun. And there was one man...one black man...Mr. Louie, we called him. I don't know what his last name was. But he had this dump truck...a dump wagon. And trip after trip, all day long. That's all he did...would bring that soft coal to the Experimental Station. I often wonder, afterwards...I don't know how they put the coal from the train to the wagon. Of course, when he brought the coal down he could just tilt the wagon. But they couldn't have had too many tons of coal if they had just this one wagon. We used to sit on the covered bridge - the Experimental Bridge was covered - we used to sit there and watch him. He always waved to us. It was a big thing to see that wagon.

    Tremaine: He had a horse?

    Fitzharris: Oh a real big...a fat horse. Everything was horses, then. When we were young. The milk was delivered by horse and wagon. The vegetables...a man would come around and sell vegetables by horse and wagon. Also a meat truck...a meat wagon came around. There again, I don't understand how that kept the meat. You know? We didn't have refrigeration like they do now on trucks and things. When you go to the store today, you're wondering if your frozen food is going to keep til you get home. [Pause while Mrs. Fitzharris answers telephone.]
  • Shoes, laces, and stockings; swimming in the Brandywine and saving a little boy from drowning as an adult; hitting an apple tree while sledding; filling the oil lamps; ice cream and ice delivery
    Keywords: accidents; cherry pies; chores; Diamond Ice and Coal Company; Dr. Samuels; DuPont Experimental Station; high-top shoes; homemade ice cream; ice delivery; ice wagon; kerosene; near-drowning; oil lamps; refrigerator; sledding; stockings; swimming; tomboy
    Transcript: Fitzharris: Why don't you just call me Ella? What else do you want to ask me? I do all the talking. Probably nothing that you're interested in.

    Tremaine: Oh yes. It's so interesting to know what things were. Like the little details. The type of shoes. What type of stockings.

    Fitzharris: This is funny. I don't like to talk about it, but people know it. I was short and fat, really fat when I was a child. And of course we wore high-top shoes that were laced. And the laces just weren't long enough. My dad had to get extra laces and sew them together so they were long. And all my girlfriends had real thin legs, and their shoes would overlap. My cousin used to have to wear two pair of stockings so her shoes wouldn't overlap. My shoes were about...oh, I was huge when I was small. Wasn't that funny. But I used to think, "Oh if I ever lose weight so I don't have to wear shoes with two pair of laces..." I guess I wore that til I was about 13. But then I...course I'm not thin now, but I did get much thinner then. But I could run and play baseball and everything. It didn't hinder me. But I could swim; never learned to dive, but I could swim.

    Tremaine: Did they dive off the bridge?

    Fitzharris: No. We had a diving board right in front of the tavern, you know. That was about the deepest part that would be safe, cause the Brandywine's all rocks, you know. Course, after you became a good swimmer and you weren't afraid to tackle it, we'd jump off and swim all the way down to the dam at the DuPont Experimental Station. And then swim back. That was really good exercise. But everybody, practically everybody around here knew how to swim. And sometime or other, someone has saved somebody. I was...when we were living here, both of my children were swimming. Jack...he was my younger one...he couldn't swim across the Brandywine, but my daughter could. One Sunday, I went down to get them and call them for dinner cause I thought they weren't going to be on time. And this...remember Willard Stewart had his photography shop over here at the Brandywine...at the Mill. Well his father-in-law was sitting along the bank, and she had one of his...not his children, but his brother's child...was sitting there. And the grandmother was just talking and looking at the Brandywine, and the child somehow or other got in the water. And the current was pretty swift right there. So I had just called my daughter, and she had almost gotten to the bank...of course, my son had to walk around. He couldn't swim...when this little tyke fell in the water. Well, I was petrified. I was all dressed. I can remember the outfit and everything. It was navy blue linen dress and I had blue shoes on. Sort of a suede. I went down there to call them, and of course when I saw him go in the water, I jumped in. That child was so frightened, he put his arms around my heck. And I was, too, because I thought I was going to come in. So my daughter put her hand out like that, and he broke his grip. So then I could put him under my wing and swim in with him. Oh, I'm telling you I was petrified. I thought for sure...now there again, if I couldn't swim...The grandmother didn't even know it until we had him in, she was so busy talking, you know. So it's funny how things happen. Everybody tried to save the other one, you know. And we never went into the Brandywine alone. There was always four or five of us. That was the rule. That you couldn't go in because something might happen to you. The same with ice skating. You never went in unless you had your friend with you.

    Tremaine: If something did happen, was there a doctor to call?

    Fitzharris: No. There was one incident that a man was drowning, and it just so happened the playground man came down. They just put him in the car and took him away. There didn't seem to be an ambulance then. Everybody more or less knew what they were supposed to do, but I never actually saw anybody trying to save somebody like that.

    Tremaine: But if someone was sick, there was no particular doctor?

    Fitzharris: Well everybody had a family doctor. Doctors came to the homes then. I think there was about three or four doctors that come into the neighborhood. I remember one name was Dr. Samuels. And there was a Doctor Buckmaster. But everybody more or less had the same doctors, you know. But they would come any hour. I remember one time I was sledding, and I ran into an apple tree. Tomboy I was, you know. My cousin was on my back. We were coming down the hill down the Brandywine here, and I hit...I asked her to roll off, but she didn't roll off soon enough, so I hit the apple tree. And uh...I remember my mother calling...my sister took me home on the sled, and I remember the doctor coming. He must have come real quick, because he sewed my leg up. And he said to my mother, "Lucky. An eighth of an inch more and you wouldn't have her." I'd of bled to death. But see, children don't think of things like that. But that never stopped me from sledding. [Laughs] Used to sled on this hill, too. Oh, that was a steep hill. Have you ever seen any pictures of the piers that held the railroad up? Sometimes you'd go down here and barely escape hitting them too, you know. I went over this wall down here one time. The wall was broken. I went over and got all scratched up. As I say, I was just a tomboy. [Laughs]

    Martin: Did you have chores to do around the house that you had to have done before you could go out and play?

    Fitzharris: Oh yes. We had to fill the oil lamps. We had to wash those shades. The shades would get, you know, with oil, like a tube? They'd be smoked. Well they had to be washed every night. Every day, I mean.

    Martin: What did you wash them with?

    Fitzharris: Just soap and water. But if you forgot them...Like we had to have them done, and dad come home and it was time to light the lights. They were dirty. Oh, I just won't go in to what happened. But we had to fill them. I remember the oil came in 5-gallon cans that were like a...it was a can, but it was surrounded by wood. We used to have to tilt that. I'd tilt it and my sister would hold it. We had to fill the lamps. We'd put it in...like an old pitcher. Then we'd fill the oil lamps. We had an oil lamp in every bedroom and then in the...family room, it had a bigger lamp. It had a real big green and white shade. Almost like a...like a table lamp, you know. That was sort of aluminum or silver. You had to shine that. You weren't supposed to touch that, only when you really had to. I remember my dad coming in...and of course you couldn't see if that needed oil. The other lamps you could see...And I remember sometimes my dad would come and take the top off and stick his little finger down, just to see if we filled it.

    Tremaine: Where did you store the container?

    Fitzharris: In a shed outdoors.

    Tremaine: Was anything else in the shed?

    Fitzharris: That's where the wood...and the coal. And the lawn mower and things like that. We didn't have a basement. And the shed was bigger than this room.

    Martin: Was it kerosene that you used in the lamps?

    Fitzharris: Yes.

    Tremaine: I'm trying to get sizes. What size was the shed?

    Fitzharris: Oh I'd say 15 x 20. Anyway. Just about what this is.

    Martin: Wooden shed?

    Fitzharris: Yes. They were tall. Very tall. High ceiling like this. We had a cherry tree outside. I remember getting cherries off that. My sister and my mother making cherry pies. My sister made 'em later, of course. But when I was small, my mother used to make cherry pies. My father used to make ice cream an awful lot. Fresh strawberry and fresh peach. You know. We used to look forward to that. You took the ladle out, so we could have that. You took a spoon and, you know. That tasted better than having a dish of it, you know.

    Tremaine: Where did you get the ice from?

    Fitzharris: That...I don't...there was Diamond Ice and Coal Company on Pennsylvania Avenue and Union Street. They used to have an old ice wagon come around, too. White. The wagons were white, and they were painted blue on the inside. Drawn by horses, and later on they had cars. But I remember they...we used to have signs we'd put in the window: 25, 50 or 75 pounds of ice, you know. And when the man would chip that, all those little pieces...we used to get on the back of the wagon and ? those, you know. Make a cold drink of lemonade or something like that.

    Martin: Where did they bring it?

    Fitzharris: House to house.

    Martin: Did they bring it around back to the kitchen?

    Fitzharris: Well, we had refrigerators...We lived across the crick and there were just doors in front, so they brought it right...The kitchen and the main family room was right next door, you know. Like a long porch. And they would bring it right there. He'd put it in the refrigerator. Mostly they were like top icers. You put the ice in top, and the refrigeration was in the bottom. Two doors.

    Tremaine: And then it must have melted.

    Fitzharris: It melted. And there was a pan underneath. That was another chore. You had to dump that pan every day. If not it would run over. Then, if it run over...there again, it would be my father. But you could...if we did it every morning, it was no problem. The biggest problem was...on Saturday morning we'd maybe be doing other things, and we'd forget it. And then it would get so full that sometimes we'd spill it. But...dad...he was pretty strict.

    Martin: How did he punish?

    Fitzharris: How did he punish? Mostly by going to your room and not talking at all. Just going to your room for an hour. I don't remember my dad ever smacking me. I think if he did...sometimes I'd a rather had that than going to my room and sit there. No book. You couldn't read or anything. You just had to go up to your room and sit there quietly. There again, it didn't hurt.
  • Saturday chores and their aunt shampooing their hair; her father's poor eyesight; St. Joseph's Fourth of the July picnic and her knowledge of Alfred I du Pont's annual boat rides
    Keywords: Alexis I. du Pont School; Alfred I du Pont boat rides; cataracts; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irenee), 1864-1935; eye doctors; fine-tooth comb; Fourth of July celebrations; furniture polish; glasses; grab bags; haircuts; hot dogs; larkspur; lice; pigtails; potato salad; Riverview Beach; Saint Joseph on the Brandywine; shampoo; Wilson Line ferryboats
    Transcript: Tremaine: You said you did other things on Saturdays?

    Fitzharris: Well. You had to dust and clean. Things like that.

    Tremaine: What did you dust with?

    Fitzharris: Just like old shirts, old cotton underwear, things like that. I don't remember the name of the polishes when we were small, but I remember we had some kind of furniture polish.

    Tremaine: It was bought?

    Fitzharris: Yeah. Uh huh. And I remember too that quite often...I don't know how often...when Dad would be off, he'd take the beds all apart...they were wooden beds. He'd take them all apart and we'd have to scrub the slats. Make sure everything was clean. We could never understand why he did that so much. We found out later why. [Laughs] He was very strict that way. That and with our heads. We all had very thick hair. And sometimes, you know, children do get lice in their hair. That was another thing that he was very afraid of. Fortunately we never did. And my aunt used a fine-tooth comb our hair. Oh, did that hurt with thick hair, you know. But there again, she took care of our hair that way. We used to go up there once a week and she would shampoo it and make sure we didn't have any company in there.

    Tremaine: What did you used for the shampoo?

    Fitzharris: I think just soap. Ivory, I think.

    Tremaine: It wasn't soap she had made?

    Fitzharris: Oh no, no. It was just regular soap. But ah...see, there were things we just wouldn't neglect. We knew we just had to go certain...Of course she had quite a few children of her own, but she did that for us. My dad used to say, "If you ever come home and I see you scratching your hair..." I don't think I'd of scratched my head if it had itched. [Laughs] I'd be afraid that I might have.

    Martin: What did they do if the children did get...

    Fitzharris: I remember people talking that there was some kind of a purple...I think it was larkspur or something. I don't know, but they said it had a terrible odor. They would put it on their hair and rub it through, and then shampoo it and fine-tooth comb it. But they say if you ever got those things in your hair, it was terrible. I don't know.

    Martin: They never shaved their heads or anything?

    Fitzharris: Nobody that I know. They may have. I remember when I was going to high school...when I talk of bugs, I itch...when I was going to Alexis I. du Pont School...uh, the freshman class...there was a girl sitting in front of me. She had them. And it was terrible. She had long hair. She didn't go to school very long after that. We used to think, "I wonder why she didn't get her hair cut." You know, it'd be easier to take care of. Oh, that must be awful. Course, then they didn't have the convenience like they have now. All those different things. But I will say one thing: my dad really made us keep our hair just...it was straight. Wasn't anything fancy. But it had to be real clean.

    Tremaine: You didn't use curlers or anything?

    Fitzharris: I didn't. I had my hair cut in bangs. And I remember one day I decided I wanted to have pigtails. Well that was all right. I could have pigtails, but they were so thick. I just got them to about here and I had to have them cut.

    Tremaine: Down to your shoulders.

    Fitzharris: Because...Oh the pigtails were real thick, you know. And they didn't look nice. So I just had my hair cut short after that.

    Tremaine: Did you wear any earrings or rings or anything...

    Fitzharris: I was just a p1ain...I did have one ring I used to wear. But we just didn't go in for things like that. Course that was an expense, too. We didn't have...

    Tremaine: How about glasses?

    Fitzharris: I don't remember any of the children that I run around with wear glasses.

    Tremaine: Did your father wear glasses?

    Fitzharris: Oh, he had very bad eyes. But, as far as children...I don't think my mother ever wore glasses.

    Tremaine: Did he go to Wilmington to get his glasses?

    Fitzharris: Yes. He had several doctors; I know one doctor he went to, Dr. White. He had cataracts, and he also had detachment of the retina. But then they didn't know what to do for it, so he just lost the sight of his eyes, there was no way to take care of it. So he always did have bad eyesight. But my aunts and uncles, people like that, I don't think they did.

    Martin: Were there any special activities that you and your family did together?

    Fitzharris: Yes. Like we'd go to Riverview Beach on the old Wilson Line ferryboats...you know? We'd go over there and then St. Joseph's on the Brandywine, they had picnics every Fourth of July. That was a family affair and started like 9 o'clock in the morning. And they had all kinds of booths and they also had the fiddlers there. And the dance hall. The old people would dance. That was up just about where Mr. Hallock du Pont's home is now.

    Martin: What sort of food did you bring to the picnic?

    Fitzharris: Well, I remember potato salad. I remember that. And ham. They had hot dogs. But I don't think that we really ate too much of what they bought. They had ice cream there, things like that. We saved our money. It wasn't a whole lot, but you could do a lot with a nickel. And they had grab bags, things like that. That's what we were more interested in. But everybody would go up to St. Joseph's picnic.

    Martin: Did everybody go? Not just the parishioners?

    Fitzharris: Oh anybody could go. Anybody at all.

    Martin: Firecrackers?

    Fitzharris: Firecrackers. Oh the bands. And those old fiddlers, you know. Everybody would wear their best clothes. It was just something to look forward to.

    Tremaine: Ladies wore the long dresses?

    Fitzharris: The long dresses, with shirtwaists and belts, you know. High collars.

    Martin: If it was hot out?

    Fitzharris: The men wore...they used to always wear those things. They were lighter weight. But I remember...we never went on them...but I remember Alfred I du Pont had boat rides every year for all the people who worked for the company. They took them, I guess, up to Philadelphia. And took their pictures. I saw some pictures down at...oh...what's that museum down at Rockford?

    Tremaine: Delaware Art Museum?

    Fitzharris: Art Museum. They had a picture down there not so long ago of that particular boat ride. And all the ladies had those huge hats with the big flowers. Carrying their children. Some of them had parasols. But that was another big occasion...going to Alfred I du Pont's. Evidently he just paid for everything. He must have been very good to the people. Course all of the du Ponts were good to the people. People had no rents, you know. And I think the younger people...like the Lairds...Mr. Laird? At one time, he owned this house, and he was really a nice person. Course, my aunts worked for the du Ponts, too. Child's nurse and domestic work, you know.

    Martin: Was that the highlight of the family activities for the year? The Fourth of July picnic?

    Fitzharris: That was mostly, the Fourth of July. There again, you know, everybody visited, and you made your own fun. All your cousins would come to your house today, or next week they go someplace else. But they just never...we had no way of traveling, you know. You had to stay around.
  • Her aunt's wedding on her birthday; her mother's death; powder yard explosions; morning and after school routines; her family's vegetable garden
    Keywords: birthday cake; card parties; Catholics; cats; Delaware Hospital; Erysipelas; euchre; hedges; lunch bags; morning routine; Mt. Salem cemetery; paring potatoes; pets; powder mill explosions; raking leaves; vegetable garden; wedding cake
    Transcript: Martin: How did you celebrate a birthday? Your thirteenth birthday?

    Fitzharris: That was a sad thing. You know I never had a birthday cake after my mother died. I was seven. And I never had a birthday cake until I was 25 years old. I just...well nobody ever thought about it. But one particular cake, I'll remember. When my mother died - she died in June, see, and I was 7 in June. My aunt got married, and my mother took care of her wedding on the 12th of June, which is my birthday. My aunt said to me, she said, "Ellie, you're going to get the nicest birthday present you ever had for your 7th birthday." Well I had cousins that were twins. We always played together. Well, they couldn't understand why I was getting a birthday present, when they were 7 ten months before that, and they didn't get a special present. So we waited all day and my aunt got married. Came home from the church, and I kept saying, "I want to know what my birthday present was." And my aunt said, "You have an Uncle Hughie." Well, I'm telling you. That was the most disappointing thing I ever...[laughs]...From that day, I never called him Uncle Hughie. I was really disappointed. I liked him. But I said to my aunt, "I thought I was going to get something nice." And I can remember my cousins, they were so disappointed, too, that the wedding cake...I think my mother made the wedding cake...they took their fingers all around the bottom of the plate before the wedding cake was cut, and my cousin said, "That'll show you, Lizzie. That'll show you." But I never had any birthday cake.

    Martin: Was that the general rule? People didn't celebrate birthdays?

    Fitzharris: No. I think people that had parents...that had mothers that would make them cakes. But nobody ever made one for me. I was 25, and I got one...maybe I wasn't quite 25. One of the neighbors made it for me.

    Tremaine: What did the wedding cake look like?

    Fitzharris: It seems to me that it was about that high. I can't remember in detail. But it was a high. It wasn't like one of those real high tiers...but it was big...it seemed like...

    Tremaine: It was just one layer?

    Fitzharris: No. It seems it was two. My mother was, they say, one of the best bakers on the Brandywine. I don't know whether she was or not, but she'd bake for everybody. Like, they had card parties. Mother and dad would go to card parties. That was their way of getting out. I think that would be maybe about once every two months. I think euchre was the card game they played. I don't know it. But they'd have cake or coffee afterwards, because they said my mother always made cakes. She never went out much. There again, mother wasn't Catholic. Dad was. But she did more for our church than she did for her own. She said she couldn't take care of both of them. But when she died...she always said before she died that she'd like to be a Catholic, but she died so suddenly that she was buried in Mt. Salem cemetery. Dad had the minister down. And I think it was quite nice. She had given up her church, but still the minister came down and conducted the funeral and everything.

    Tremaine: What was her church?

    Fitzharris: Mt. Salem. She's buried up there. Dad is buried at St. Joseph's.

    Martin: How did she die?

    Fitzharris: Well, my brother was in a play at St. Joseph's. And she had a little tiny pimple on her nose. And he forgot, I think, part of his thing, and she kept rubbing her nose, rubbing it. And she got Erysipelas. And that was contagious. And they lanced it. The doctor come out and he lanced it, and took her in to the Delaware Hospital. Well, they wouldn't admit her, because that was contagious. And they brought her back on the 17th of June, and she died the 25th. She went out of her mind, the pain was so great. There again, if it were now, they would be able to take care of it.

    Tremaine: Was there a long mourning period in those days?

    Fitzharris: Well, I remember we went up to my aunt's a couple of days before she died and stayed there at night. After the funeral...I just don't remember what...people were coming. That's why I say, there again...I just don't know.

    Martin: An unhappy time for you.

    Fitzharris: Yeah. True. Then around that time, too, before that, I remember when the powder mills used to have an explosion. I can remember when they used to shatter the windows. One of the things, I was always afraid to go in the attic. They kept the potatoes and things stored in the attic, cause we didn't have a cellar. And I used to always be afraid of going up there and finding...now this is a [?]...I always thought there'd be a body or something from the explosion. Because they did blow the bodies. People lived up...my friends lived up across from Hagley Museum way up there in the woods, and some of the bodies were blown across there. But I was always afraid when it was time to go up to the potatoes, that I would see a body. Isn't that crazy?

    Martin: No.

    Fitzharris: Because I remember the men used to go around with those bags and pick up parts of bodies that were blown up.

    Martin: But they didn't have that many explosions did they?

    Fitzharris: Yeah. They had quite a few.

    Martin: What we've read was "the big explosion of this year and the big explosion of that year." But they had smaller ones?

    Fitzharris: Oh, they had small ones. But people would be get their hands - I don't know whether it was an explosion or not, but I know my dad had something done to his fingers. He had two or three fingers cut off when he worked up there. What that was, I don't know. I remember my parents talking about, like when they had an explosion, the gates would be shut and the doctors and priests would come down from St. Joe's, not knowing who was going to be killed. There used to be a man up here by the name of Mr. Buchanan. It's too bad he wasn't interviewed. He worked there, and he knew quite a bit about it. Did you ever hear anybody talk about Bill Buchanan. He worked up there. He knew quite a bit. I think they used to interview him quite a bit. Course, he's gone now.

    Martin: How'd you get up in the morning, when you were a child and you had to get up for school and you had to be on time?

    Fitzharris: Mike would come up and get us. We had a clock, but Mike would come up and say, "Up" And you just got up.

    Tremaine: What did you do first, then?

    Fitzharris: Well, I remember we slept in long heavy pajamas or nightgowns - flannel nightgowns, you know. Put a robe on and come down, and course we didn't have any bathroom. We had to get washed with the basin. Course if the weather was cold, we didn't get washed upstairs, but if it wasn't we had the basin and the thing we could get washed.

    Tremaine: You brought water up the night ahead?

    Fitzharris: Yeah. We'd come down and have our breakfast. Mostly like a cereal. Milk or coffee or something like that - toast. And just hurried around. Scrambled around. We had to pack our own lunches. There again, we didn't have a mother. Packed our own lunches and sat around til it was time to go to school. See we always had to be ready. It wasn't this last minute rushing around. We had to be ready cause dad had to be at work at 8 o'clock, and we didn't leave until 8:30. But we had to be ready when he left. Then, we'd go on and walk across the Brandywine, over the bridge, up here through the woods.

    Tremaine: What did you pack for lunch?

    Fitzharris: Sandwich. Piece of fruit. Maybe a piece of cake or cookies. Never a big lunch. And then we used to take a bottle that would be like maybe milk or something that. Mostly coffee or tea. And the sisters would put them on top of the stove to heat them of course.

    Tremaine: What did you carry your lunch in?

    Fitzharris: In a paper bag. I never had a lunch box. I don't think many children did; it was just lunch bags. And the square of wax paper. No roll to tear off. Just a square of wax paper.

    Martin: So you would get out of school at what time?

    Fitzharris: Quarter after three.

    Tremaine: What time did you get back here?

    Fitzharris: About twenty minutes of four. When we got home, we'd have to change our clothes. And then my sister would have to pare potatoes or whatever vegetable we were going to have. Then when Dad got home at quarter to five, he would supervise the cooking. We didn't have too many varieties. We had a vegetable, but there was always a potato and some kind of meat. They were the main dish. You really had to have meat. My father was a great...I think that's why I don't eat much meat today.

    Martin: Did you - I guess the vegetables were purchased from the truck that...

    Fitzharris: Trucks. And then in the summertime everybody would have a little garden patch. Tomatoes and peppers, things like that.

    Martin: Did you have a dog or any animals?

    Fitzharris: We had one cat. And that's the only one I can remember. Course I think my brother, before I can remember, I think he had a dog. But I had a cat. And I liked that cat all right, but something happened to it and I've been petrified. I wouldn't pick a cat up if you gave me a ten dollar bill. I'm so afraid of them. I love dogs. But I don't like cats.

    Tremaine: Where was your vegetable garden?

    Fitzharris: In back of the house.

    Tremaine: Was it large?

    Fitzharris: No no. But everybody had quite a bit of ground around those houses. If not, you could use the field which would be where that road goes up to meet 141. [portion of audio repeats]

    Tremaine: Did you water the plots at all. Carry water?

    Fitzharris: I don't remember doing it. I remember Pop carrying water. But I didn't

    Tremaine: Did you go out and weed?

    Fitzharris: No. He cut the grass and things like that.

    Tremaine: You didn't have to weed the garden?

    Fitzharris: I don't remember doing that. We had a hedge around the lawns, and he had a certain time to cut that. I remember he said it had to be cut three times a summer. Maybe four. And he always had a neat hedge. And the leaves had to be raked up. The last time they had to be raked was the day before Thanksgiving. I remember that. The yards had to be cleaned, because it might get cold.
  • Evening routines; ordering groceries from Gregg's grocery store; Pat Daugherty's tavern; telephones and the DuPont Experimental Station telephone operator; her father's pipes, hats, shoes, and work clothes
    Keywords: blue chambray shirts; Brinkle Avenue; Bull Dog polish; cigars; Comet tobacco; Delivery of goods; Derby hats; Elizabeth McGonigle; Granger tobacco; grocery delivery; Hagee's tavern; Homework; Laboratory Technician; Panama hats; Pat Daugherty's tavern (Tom Toy's tavern); pipe; roller towels; skimmers; Telephone operators; tobacco; Vim truck; work clothes
    Transcript: Martin: What time did you all have to get into bed? Was it flexible?

    Fitzharris: Well, we were all in bed by 9 o'clock.

    Tremaine: Did it make any difference what age, everyone - all the children...

    Fitzharris: My sister and I always...course, my younger brother lived with my aunt, because he was too small. He was only two when my mother died. But my sister and I did everything in unison. We washed and dried the dishes together. She swept the floor tonight; I would do it tomorrow night. Dad would get the water in and make sure we had plenty of water. And then we'd just start our lessons, and we just had to do them. And there was no thing the next morning of going over your lessons. You had to know everything before you went to bed.

    Tremaine: When you did the dishes, where did the water go?

    Fitzharris: There was a drain out in the back yard and you'd throw it in. There was no basin, no sink.

    Tremaine: You had something other than a sink to catch the water or you used a basin to do the dishes?

    Fitzharris: Basin. Of course that's when I was real small. Later on they had spigots and all. I do remember we had two pans. The dishes were washed in one pan and they were rinsed in the other pan. And another thing, so many people around the neighborhood had - when they washed their hands, they had roller towels. We never had roller towels. We always had separate towels.

    Tremaine: Your own?

    Fitzharris: No. Each day we'd have a towel we'd hang up. But so many people had those roller towels they kept rolling around. I used to think that was wonderful, but we never had one. Why I don't know. I guess ours was really better, because every day you just put a clean towel up.

    Martin: There are some names here that they gave us: Sam Frizzell's grocery store? Does that ring a bell?

    Fitzharris: That I might say because I heard it. But I think it was over in Rising Sun. Not too familiar. But there was a Gregg grocery store over there. I remember that.

    Martin: Is that where you did your family shopping?

    Fitzharris: They did...early things...but then after they left there and the place was torn down, they went down to Brinkle Avenue. It's between 17th and 19th. There's a garage there now. And they had a store there, and they delivered. They came up...I remember they had a VIM truck. That name just stands out - the Vim truck. And Harry would come around...He would walk up. He would take the orders in the morning. And then Pete...I think his name was Pete...he would deliver them in the truck. But everybody knew Harry [Phelps?]. He came up and worked for Gregg.

    Martin: So you wouldn't even have to go in there yourself? You'd just give the orders and they'd...

    Fitzharris: They would...He'd come in to everybody's houses and sit by the kitchen stove, I remember. I can still see him. Real thin old man, you know. And had this pad with everybody's name on it. I don't know what they did, whether they paid on delivery or whether they did it by month. I really don't know.

    Martin: How about Tim McCartney's Blazing Rag Tavern?

    Fitzharris: A little before my time.

    Martin: Tom Toy's William Penn Tavern?

    Fitzharris: I remember Tom Toy's tavern. In my day a man by the name of Pat Daugherty had it. That was my cousin.

    Martin: Oh...

    Fitzharris: Lived right up here. You know where Hagees's is. Hagee's tavern. Well then there's a...it used to be apartments...There's a house you go up the steps to the side of it. There's two garages on bottom and there's two stories there. Well, my cousin, Pat Daugherty, had a saloon where those two garage doors are. And he lived above it. What year I haven't any idea of date, but I know he lived there. He married my cousin, her name was Bonner, and they built that house where Dobbs lived. You know when you come down from Hagee's, then there's this building I'm talking about...this complex. Well there's a red brick house that had the nice driveway into it and the red deck. Well my cousins built that house. Their name is Bonner. Jim Bonner. Lived there for years. His children lived there, and then after they...the children, which would be my cousins, they were older than I am...Their niece got sick...she had quite a few children...so they raised the Leach children there. Then after the aunts died, Mr. Laird bought that house. I think Mr. Dobbs bought it from Mr. Laird.

    Martin: How about...Do you remember anything about Alfred I du Pont's band?

    Fitzharris: No. I've heard of it, but I don't. I heard people talking about Alfred I.'s band, but I couldn't tell you anything about it.

    Tremaine: Did people from here go away for vacations like they do now?

    Fitzharris: Not to my knowledge. They may have. I don't remember Dad having a vacation. Maybe he did. I couldn't say. I really don't know. But I don't think so. I guess never thought about it. Never had the convenience.

    Martin: What was the most luxurious thing someone could have in those days? The thing that most everybody wanted and not often would get.

    Fitzharris: Well I think when the telephone...I remember when my friends got telephones. That was fantastic. And I remember when my cousin...my uncle bought their first car. When somebody had something like that, they shared it. You know, like, for example, when somebody got a telephone and you didn't have it, they'd say, "Make sure you come to my house to use the telephone whenever you want." Or if you had a car, "I'm going here, I'll be glad to take you." Everybody shared. It was just like one big happy family.

    Tremaine: What room would the telephone be in?

    Fitzharris: Well I remember the lady up the street had one, and she had it in the living room. Like right in here.

    Tremaine: On the wall?

    Fitzharris: No, it was one of those you had to pick up. You know. Had a long thing like this. You had to hold it to your ear.

    Tremaine: Was there an operator?

    Fitzharris: Yes. Used to be at the DuPont Experimental Station, they had an operator. Her name was Elizabeth McGonigle. And she was an operator for years. I can remember she lived up in what they called Squirrel Run where the Hagley Museum is. She used to walk home every day for lunch, and I'd thing "Gee. I wonder why she doesn't take her lunch." But she walked from the Experimental Station, have her lunch and walk back. Everybody knew her. She was a wonderful operator. Then she retired, and that's when they had the calls come in from the building and all. What else would you like to know?

    Martin: Would social status in the community depend on someone's job at DuPont? You said that everybody was...uh...helped one another.

    Fitzharris: I don't think - not to my knowledge. Everyone was more or less on the same level.

    Martin: No matter what their job was?

    Fitzharris: Yes.

    Tremaine: If they got a better job, they didn't move to a another...

    Fitzharris: No. And they didn't look down on you because you didn't have as quite as good a job as they had. Nothing like today.

    Martin: Did your father smoke?

    Fitzharris: Oh, a pipe.

    Martin: What type of tobacco did he use?

    Fitzharris: Comet. Then when that..I guess that went out...they didn't make it any more...in later years he smoked Granger. He smoked a pipe around the house, but when he went out he always smoked cigars. He'd never take his pipe out.

    Martin: Was it a special pipe?

    Fitzharris: No. He had several. There again, you'd see him sitting and cleaning that pipe. He always had plenty of pipe cleaners. But everybody used to talk about it...

    Martin: Did he enjoy his job at DuPont?

    Fitzharris: Very much. When he died he was a Laboratory Technician. By the way, this is his picture. I think he was a kind nice looking guy.

    Tremaine: Oh yes.

    Martin: Is that your mother?

    Fitzharris: Yes. It was took right before they got married. My brother had that copied for me for Christmas several years ago. I think he was really a handsome guy.

    Martin: Curly hair.

    Fitzharris: Oh, very curly. Very particular. That's what my children say: "Even when pop-pop was older...he used to shuffle...he always had a shine on his shoes." Never had a whole lot, but he was a very particular person.

    Tremaine: What did he shine his shoes with?

    Fitzharris: Black paste. I think it was called Bull Dog polish. It was in a can like this. Round. He had a brush he'd put it on with and a soft cloth to shine it up.

    Martin: Did most of the men wear hats then?

    Fitzharris: Derbys in the winter, and the stiff...I remember pop used to wear Panama hats. But in later years they had those stiff...like they wear for inaugurations...skimmers. Always wore a hat. Even working around the yards, he wore a cap. I don't know why he always wore a hat.

    Tremaine: When he went to work, too?

    Fitzharris: Wore a cap when he went to work.

    Tremaine: Many of the photographs show the men with the caps...

    Fitzharris: And the blue chambray shirts.

    Martin: They're trying to locate some of the workmen's clothing. Everybody has the dress clothes. Nobody has everyday clothing.

    Fitzharris: That's strange.

    Tremaine: Well, they wore out.

    Fitzharris: That's true. And they never had that many. You bought maybe two suits and they just wore them and wore them. There again, I think man had an awful lot of patches. Women had to sew.
  • An Italian woman doing her family's laundry after her mother's death; textile and dish storage; women wearing gloves and hats; weddings when the couple had different religions; her brother's birth
    Keywords: Bellanca Aircraft Corporation; bleach; Catholic church; china closet; Clorox; closets; diapers; dishtowels; doilies; gloves; Joseph Bancroft and Sons Co.; Laird, William W., Mrs., 1878-1938; laundry; Morris chair; muslin sheets; Octagon soap; religion; Squirrel Run; straw hats; washboards; wringer washing machine
    Transcript: Martin: How did you wash clothes?

    Fitzharris: Wash? With a washboard. I remember people used to scrub them with washboards. Then the first washing machine come out were [water?] automatic. Then the wringer washing machine.

    Martin: What sort of soap did they use in the washing machines?

    Fitzharris: I remember one particular kind. It was called Octagon soap powder. And they also had Octagon brown soap. Things were real soiled, they rubbed the brown soap on, you know.

    Martin: Any other additives?

    Fitzharris: I think. I don't know, but they used to have something like Clorox. They'd have to, because with the white clothes and things.

    Martin: Who did the laundry at home?

    Fitzharris: Well, my mother did until she died. After she died, my father paid an Italian lady to do it.

    Martin: Where did she live?

    Fitzharris: She lived way up in Squirrel Run. And we used to take it up to her on Monday morning. My sister and I carried a clothes basket. And my sister and I used to take the dirty clothes up. Then on Friday afternoon we'd pick them up. Now why it took that long I don't know. We had to change our style of walking. We had to go down through where Hallock du Pont lives, down that way, then down through Squirrel Run. Carry the clothes basket all the way across the Brandywine. We used to get so disgusted. The dresses on top were starched, you know. You had to be just-so...they were square baskets. You had to be just-so not to muss them. I could never understand why everybody else had their mother wash their clothes, put them on a line and take them down and iron them. They were there, but that was our duty. I don't know why he couldn't get somebody that was closer. Maybe nobody would do it.

    Tremaine: Did she do laundry for other people?

    Fitzharris: I don't know. Just know that we had to go...Then if it rained on Friday afternoon, we had to wait and go Saturday. Cause they didn't have plastic or anything to put over top of the baskets. We had our chores. [laughs]

    Tremaine: Did you have sheets on the bed that went to?

    Fitzharris: Everything. She did everything for us. They didn't have sheets like they had today. They were made out of unbleached muslin and bleached, you know.

    Tremaine: How many sheets would you have in the house?

    Fitzharris: I couldn't tell you, but I know when we changed the sheets we always had enough. It wasn't this thing of taking them off and washing them, putting them back on again. Cause as I say it took a week before we'd get it. But all our dresses had to be starched.

    Tremaine: And you said you kept your sheets in the dresser?

    Fitzharris: Yeah. Deep bureau drawers. Those old-fashioned bureaus with the mirrors.

    Tremaine: What else did you keep in that dresser?

    Fitzharris: Pillow cases and the doilies for the tables. Bureau scarves. Then another one we'd have for towels. Then in the kitchen we had the dish towels, because everybody had an old-fashioned closet with pull-out drawers. And you kept your dishtowels and your washcloths in there.

    Tremaine: What were the dishclothes made of?

    Fitzharris: Linen. Linen cloths. I have one linen dish towel I've had for years. And I don't think there's anything like linen dishtowels.

    Tremaine: Doesn't leave that lint.

    Fitzharris: No. I don't like dishwashers. I guess I'm old-fashioned, but I don't like dishwashers. Do you like dishwashers?

    Martin: No. I enjoy the time off from not having to stand there and do the dishes? They really don't do as good a job.

    Fitzharris: I like plain hot water. Wash and rinse and put them right away. When I go to my daughter's...she has a dishwasher. Of course she has four boys and I don't blame her. But when I go over there, sometimes I stay overnight and make breakfast for the younger ones. I always wash the dishes by hand.

    Tremaine: Where did you store the dishes?

    Fitzharris: We had those old-fashioned closets went from the floor to the ceiling, you know. In the bottom there was two doors and a shelf. And then there was like a dresser space where you keep your coffee and things like that. And then there was three shelves behind closed doors. Of course everybody had a china closet for the better dishes, you know.

    Tremaine: Would that be in...

    Fitzharris: That'd be in the dining room or the family room, whatever. Some houses...when my family were over there, we only had two rooms. A kitchen and like a more-or-less family/dining room combined. We had a china closet and a dining room table, then we had a couple...were they called Morris chairs or something. They were pillows, like front and back but you could recline them. We had several of those and some straight-back chairs for the dining room. But that was all together. But the good dishes were kept in there. Cut glass and things like that, you know.

    Martin: Do you remember your aunts...did they wear any make-up?

    Fitzharris: I don't think so. I don't really think so. They always had rosy cheeks, I know that. I don't remember. There again, their hair always was just...they all had long hair...but it was always just-so, you know. Wore it up. They all had beautiful combs and all.

    Martin: Did they were gloves when they went out?

    Fitzharris: Oh yes. Gloves and hats. You had to have a hat. I remember one of my aunts, my mother's sister, saying, "When you get down in the dumps, always go buy a new hat." That was a morale builder. And she always did, too. They didn't have one hat. They had several. The more flowers, the better dressed, you know. Great big straw hats with great big roses on them.

    Martin: Do you remember when your aunt got married? Did they move into a house right away?

    Martin: Yes. She worked for Mrs. Laird, and she moved into a house down on 16th Street. It was a nice house.

    Martin: Did he work for DuPont also?

    Fitzharris: No. He worked for Bancroft, I think. And then he worked for the Bellanca when they had the airport out here on Center Road. He never made a lot of money, but they certainly had a lovely home.

    Tremaine: Did they have like a bridal shower?

    Fitzharris: I don't remember a bridal shower, but I know they had an awful lot of people at the wedding. And everything, beer, you know how they do. And a wedding cake and all kinds of food.

    Martin: Did they have to ask their parents permission to get married?

    Fitzharris: Evidently they didn't have to ask their parents for permission. When my dad got married, they just got married quietly, and when they came around here and told my grandmother, that's my dad's mother, she said - he said she said, "Well if you weren't a married man, I'd turn you over my knee and spank you. You certainly shouldn't have got married like that." They got married down at St. Ann's. Course he lived at St. Joseph's parish, but my mother lived down that way.

    Martin: Well, there was a difference in religion there at that time, wasn't there?

    Fitzharris: Yeah. And at that time you didn't get married in the church. At that time if there was a difference in religions you didn't get married in the Catholic church, you got married in the priest's house. But then later on, they would permit them to get married in church, but, oh for a long time. I think...someone's married about 33 years...that's the first time they started to get married in the church. I don't know why. It's just one of those things. But I mean, some people are very narrow, I guess. But I think what you're born, that's what you should be. If you're Catholic, you're Catholic. If you're non-Catholic, cause everybody has their own belief. They're here for one purpose.

    Martin: Did you lock your door?

    Fitzharris: No. Never.

    Martin: How about when babies were born? When a child was born, was it born at home?

    Fitzharris: My brother was. He was five years younger than me. He was born at home. We were all born at home.

    Martin: Did the doctor come?

    Fitzharris: I think grandmother Farren...I think they had a doctor. She used to go to a doctor, but I think Grandmother Farren delivered most of us.

    Martin: Do you remember when your brother was born?

    Fitzharris: Yes. I was just five. I remember vaguely. I just remember, we were playing, and my grandmother says, "You can go up to your mother's room." I went up and this little baby was squawkin. I can remember that. He was really squawkin! But I don't remember her coming down and saying, like, my mother's going to have a baby. I don't remember anything like that. In fact, I was naive until I was quite old...quite old about those things. [Laughs]

    Martin: Do you remember anything about the first few months of a baby's life...the feeding or caring for it?

    Fitzharris: Not really. There was just a new baby in the house.

    Tremaine: Where did he sleep?

    Fitzharris: With my mother. In my parents room. They had a crib.

    Martin: Your mother didn't have any diaper service.

    Fitzharris: Made their own diapers out of cotton flannel. I remember they were square. And they used to make sacks. Made them out of cotton flannel too, instead of a nighty. I remember him wearing that. What did you say about washing?

    Martin: I guess they had to boil the diapers?

    Fitzharris: Oh yeah. I myself used to boil my babies' diapers. That...there again, that wasn't any chore to me. You'd get the soil off right away, and then...I never used bleach on my diapers. But they were always white.
  • Her and her brother getting the flu during the 1918 Flu Epidemic; taking iron treatments for anemia; working at the DuPont Experimental Station in the cafeteria and later in medical; water supply in the workers' villages; Mr. Anderson storing milk from his dairy in the spring near Rockford Tower; newspapers and magazines
    Keywords: Anemia; buttermilk; cafeteria; comic strips; DuPont Experimental Station; Everfast Store; Every Evening; Father John's cough syrup; funnies; hydrants; Influenza Epidemic (1918-1919); iron treatments; Joseph Bancroft and Sons Co.; magazines; newspapers; patent medicine; pension; Philadelphia Bulletin; Physicians and Surgeons Hospital; Rockford Tower; Saturday Evening Post; Sign Magazine; undertaker; water pumps
    Transcript: Tremaine: Did you ever have to take care of your brother?

    Fitzharris: No. Cause he was just two when mother died, and my aunt took him. He was just like a visitor when he come. My aunt kept him until he was like in the 7th grade and then he came back home. But we were very close. It wasn't that we didn't see one another.

    Tremaine: Yes. It's just that there was no one to take care of him in the daytime.

    Fitzharris: Yes. I remember mother died in 1918. June of 1918. And the flu epidemic was that fall. And my brother and I both got it. And we had to go to a hospital. It was someplace...they made a hospital down on the east side of Wilmington. But then, after we started to recuperate, they brought us to 8th and Adams. Physicians and Surgeons Hospital. And I didn't have it too bad, but he had to learn to walk and talk again. And he was over two. They really didn't think he was going to pull through, but he did.

    Tremaine: Were there a lot of people here in the area that got the flu?

    Fitzharris: Quite a few. I don't think there was too many that died, though. But quite a few got it. I remember...I don't remember this...I remember them talking about it that there was quite a few people at St. Joe's died that had to be buried in the cemetery. Some of the families had to bury their own dead, because there was too many for the undertaker to take care of. The undertaker embalmed them or whatever, and they would take them to the cemetery. But some families, they say, buried them.

    Tremaine: Do you remember medicines? How the medicines used to come?

    Fitzharris: I don't remember taking many medicines. Like cough medicines, it was a patent medicine. Father John's cough syrup, I think. That was one of them. Peppermint or something when we had pains in our tummy. But I don't remember many...

    Tremaine: You don't remember any of the powders?

    Fitzharris: I never took any. They may have had them, but I don't remember taking any.

    Tremaine: You were very healthy.

    Fitzharris: Yeah. Up until I was thirteen. Then when I got thin, everything went kapooie. I was anemic and everything else, but I got over it.

    Tremaine: What did they give you for that?

    Fitzharris: I used to take iron treatments. I took medicine by mouth and shots in the arm. I used to take two needles a week and then I used to take medicine. I think that's what sort of ruined my teeth. I had to get dentures after that. But I...oh...I had to go to bed even when I was seventeen or eighteen years old I had to go to bed at 9 o'clock. Couldn't run with the rest of them.

    Tremaine: You had to go in town to the doctor?

    Fitzharris: Yeah. On West Street. I remember that.

    Martin: What did you do when you graduated from school?

    Fitzharris: Went to Everfast Store. Retail Store down Bancroft's and worked. Worked there til I got married, and, well, I left when I was pregnant. And I had my family...had a girl and a boy. And when my son was nine years old, I went to work part-time in the DuPont cafeteria. Experimental Station. And I went to work at 10 o'clock in the morning and got home at three. I could work while the children were at school, and I was always home when they got home. So then after my husband...I only worked those short hours...then after my husband died - he died quite suddenly, I was working in the cafeteria. I worked four hours at the cafeteria and four hours in the lab. Then after that, there was an opening in medical, so they gave me that job. And I worked at medical for 25 years for DuPont. I retired in '76.

    I examined ears and eyes. That's what I was doing when I left. But they were very, very good for me. My husband didn't want me to go to work. The cafeteria opened in 1950, and so friends of my husband were in charge. They said "Why don't you come over." He said, "I'd rather she didn't work." The children were small. So then the next year they asked me again, so I went and filled out an application. It was only supposed to be part-time. Maybe two days a week or what-have-you. But it so happened that after I got my basic training--maybe three weeks---some girl left. I filled in, so I've worked 25 years. It made it nice. I got my pension. But they were very good to me. And then, too, when I went to work and the children were in school, the lower gate used to be open. And I could just walk there. Course now they close that gate after 8 o'clock, and you'd have to walk around the road.

    Martin: You said you lived in several houses in this area. Did any of these houses have a spring in the cellar.

    Fitzharris: I think maybe at one time, this one did. Because underneath our porch--there's like two...a full cellar under the porch, and a cellar here and a cellar there--the one underneath the porch has a square thing. Built up so high. And it was all red brick. And they said they used to keep their meats down there, I think. But I don't remember any house we lived in having a spring. But some of these houses up here did.

    Martin: Was that for drinking water?

    Fitzharris: Well, I think...like now, for instance, where Mrs. Riley lives up here, they had a spring and it come out, and they built a spring house, and they drank the water from that outside. I don't know if it's still there or not, since they remodeled.

    Tremaine: If people didn't have a spring, where did they get their water?

    Fitzharris: They had pumps. Wells, you know.

    Tremaine: Everyone had?

    Fitzharris: No. Not everyone. Like, when I lived across the Brandywine, I would say maybe a pump for every four or five houses. And everyone went there to get it. Then later on, when they I think before they put the sewers, before everybody got indoor plumbing, they ran water down and they had hydrants. It seems to me that they put the hydrants near where the pumps used to be. It was city water, you know. But there used to be a spring over here, too, where...this house next door to Mr. Knowles...going along the Brandywine there. And I remember people used to go there. Even when they had the city water here, people used to go there just to get the cold water to drink. That's only been condemned about four or five...oh, maybe ten years. But everybody used to go up there with their pitcher. Get cold water. It was very good water. And people used to go up to the spring there at Rockford Tower. Course you don't know about that one either. When you go around underneath the railroad bridge on Rising Sun Lane, back in there there's a lot of steps goes up to Rockford Tower. I don't know if you've ever seen those or not.

    Martin: I know they're there.

    Fitzharris: Well, there's a spring there. A man by the name of Anderson used to have a dairy. And he used to keep his milk there. In the cold water, you know. But I remember going over there and getting buttermilk. Oh that was excellent. It was a well, and it had this pipe come out where people used to drink, and then it had a tap underneath, somehow that come down to this outer building, and that's where Mr. Anderson had his milk. It was there for years. But those steps, I guess they're still there. I don't know. Cause we used to go up the Tower and play, now that I remember it. Seems like I've been talking at you people....

    Martin: No, this is fascinating. Did you know anything about your family's finances? Were you able to make ends meet? Were they able to save money at all?

    Fitzharris: I don't know whether they saved a lot, but that's one thing I never...I don't remember my father ever saying, "No we can't do this because..." Maybe he did. Maybe he did have problems, but I can never remember. If we asked for money to buy like a candy bar or ice cream cone...course we never got much...but I can't remember him saying no, we couldn't do that.

    Martin: How about a newspaper?

    Fitzharris: Oh we always got a newspaper. And there again, he read the paper before anyone else got it.

    Martin: No one was allowed to touch it.

    Fitzharris: Well, you could touch it, but I mean, it was just respect. He got through dinner, he read the paper and we did our lessons.

    Martin: Do you remember any magazines?

    Tremaine: How was the newspaper delivered?

    Fitzharris: Paper boy. Just in the neighborhood. We had magazines, but I can't remember. Maybe we got a couple, but not a whole lot. The Saturday Evening Post. I remember that years and years ago and the Sign Magazine was a [Talley?] magazine. We got that. I don't know where. I guess when they went grocery shopping. Different places. And there again, people exchanged, you know. I remember we would get, I think it was called the Evening Journal then. Or Every Evening. And another family down the Lane, they used to get the Philadelphia Bulletin. And we used to interchange, cause we liked the funnies. But there again, see, everybody shared.
  • Going to the Hagley Community House at Breck's Mill; remarking on differences in variety available now versus when she was a child; ordering from the Larkin catalog; Henry Clay Post Office
    Keywords: Breck's Mill; catalogs; gyms; Hagley Community House; Henry Clay Post Office; ice cream cones; Italian ice; Larkin chest; Larkin Soap Company; player piano; sewing
    Transcript: Martin: Does the term French House mean something? [Pause] Did the children belong to Girl Scouts? Did they have any organization like that?

    Fitzharris: Over here at Breck's Mill, we had a Hagley Community House. And we went there. They had Juniors and Intermediates. I can remember like two days a week we'd go there. One day we'd have gym. They had a lovely gym over there. And another day we'd have either sewing or cooking. We used to make...Miss [Bubb?]...she used to be in charge over there. She was a great old lady. And she used to teach us how to sew different things. We used to make necklaces. You know these round tags you get with metal around them, price tags or something? Well she had some kind of a coating she used to teach us to put over that, and then we'd paint flowers on them. We made necklaces out of them. And then we had gym. But the older girls like my sister...When you became an intermediate you could go over there at night. Well I couldn't...only during the daytime after school. But they learned to make lovely things like dresses. Cooking, cakes. Things like that. And they had a player piano. They got a pool table. Course I never played pool. That wasn't one of my things. But they used to let us play the player piano. We had a great time over there.

    Martin: And in the summertime when you were off you didn't...

    Fitzharris: It was swimming and baseball. Picking violets. Oh violets!

    Martin: Could you get up later in the morning?

    Fitzharris: I don't think we ever had any uh...we always got up early. To this day I do, I get up at 5 o'clock every morning. It's just what you get used to.

    Tremaine: I get up at 6:15 every morning.

    Fitzharris: I get up. I'll have my breakfast. I go walk around the yard. I go to church at 7 o'clock. Come home and have my second cup of coffee. Then I start my work. Which, as you see, I should do dusting. But this is my off day. I'm not doing anything today. [laughs]

    Martin: What's the biggest difference you can see in the way you live here now and the life you lived here as a child? Is there one particular thing that stands out in your mind?

    Fitzharris: Well...we didn't have the variety. We didn't have like...in the food line. We always had maybe apples and oranges. We always had fruit in the house, but we never had the variety. Course in the summertime we had cantaloupe and watermelon, but in between we didn't have fruits like grapes. We had grapes in August, because practically everybody, or every other family would have a grapevine. But you just...you were limited. Like I say, we had meat and potatoes and one vegetable. We didn't have a lot of salads or things like that.

    Tremaine: Desserts?

    Fitzharris: No. We didn't have a lot of desserts. We had cake a lot. Of course we'd go out and buy ice cream cones. Where the tavern is up there, Mr. Dorman had a grocery and ice-cream store. But then there was a man come around with just cakes and pies. I think he was a Frizzell. You said something about a Frizzell? I think he delivered cakes and pies around, you know, but I can't remember his store or where he got them. And then there was an Italian man used to come around too with this...it wasn't water ice, but it wasn't what you call ice cream either. But he had a horse and wagon. We used to buy ice...whatever it was...from him. But I say we had a...now you have a variety. Back then you didn't. It was more or less the same thing over and over.

    Tremaine: They speak of a Larkin chest?

    Fitzharris: Oh yes. Everybody ordered by...I'm not too familiar with what it was, but somebody used to come around and take an order for Larkins. They had premiums for what they sold, I think. I remember like my mother would buy towels, or pots and pans. And she would get so many. Well if you were the one that had the order, you got a premium, I think, for how many you sold. Then they delivered. They brought the things. I don't remember whether they came by mail or whether the lady would go...must have come by mail. But everybody belonged to Larkins.

    Tremaine: And that was a company?

    Fitzharris: Yeah. Uh huh. You could get anything. I think that must have been from out-of-state, because you could get anything for, like, furniture polish or different kinds of candies. Anything. Pots and pans...

    Tremaine: Furniture?

    Fitzharris: Yes. But I remember the lady next door to us...Miss [Rumer?]...she used to get orders from my mother. But everybody knew about Larkin. That's funny, I'd forgotten all about that.

    Tremaine: Where did you get your mail? Was it delivered to the house?

    Fitzharris: No. We had a post office up here...and there again, where the tavern is...Mr. Dorman had a post office. It was called Henry Clay Post Office. And you went in there to get your mail. They had little tiny cubbyholes with initials.

    Tremaine: Once a day?

    Fitzharris: Once a day. He'd go through. You go in and ask if you had any mail, he'd take all...everybody's name with an F and go through it, you know. I don't remember when they started mail delivery. That was another big thing, when they had the truck come around.

    Martin: Did you have any physicians or dentists that lived right in the neighborhood?

    Fitzharris: Not when I was a child. But I remember that my dad said the dentist and doctors were around here.

    Tremaine: I think we have to stop and turn...[tape is switched]
  • Various objects from her childhood, including Sears Catalog, dolls, doll carriages, baby carriages, window treatments, rain barrels, and floor coverings
    Keywords: baby carriages; Bissell sweeper; doll coach; painted floor matting; paper dolls; rain barrel; Sears Catalog; sulkies; wagons; window shades; wooden shutters
    Transcript: Tremaine: We have many, many things listed. They'd like to know where they were and how did you use them. Do they have the same names today as they had then? I almost think it's too much to go through. We could come back, perhaps.

    Fitzharris: Well most of the...uh...years ago, the names around here. Oh there were so many Doughertys. Everybody. Every other family was a Dougherty. There weren't too many Farrens, that was my maiden name. Not too many of those, but like the Doughertys and the Thompsons, Conners, Dormans.

    Martin: Elizabeth Beacom. Do you remember that name?

    Fitzharris: Oh, Bessie Beacom. I remember her.

    Martin: I read her transcripts. A Gem Pan.

    Fitzharris: A what?

    Martin: Gem pan? [pause]

    Tremaine: Did you get a Sears Catalog?

    Fitzharris: Oh yes, everybody got a Sears Catalog.

    Tremaine: Did you use them, as they say they were used? [Laughs]

    Fitzharris: No. I don't think so. There again, there was something that was a print. I remember years ago we had. But, speaking of Sears catalogs, I saw the smallest one. It's about this big. My granddaughter has a doll house, and they have a Sears Roebuck catalog for it. It is the cutest thing.

    Tremaine: Did you have a doll house?

    Fitzharris: No. We had dolls. We were great believers in dolls and paper dolls. I can remember one doll I had was all leather. All but the face and the hands. And it was so nice, you could bend it any way. And it was brown leather. And it had a real pretty china face...china hands. I had that for years, but I don't know what happened to it. And everybody had a doll coach. Boys had wagons.

    Tremaine: Was the doll coach made of wicker?

    Fitzharris: Yeah. But everybody had to have a doll coach and little blankets, you know. Children don't play with those much any more.

    Tremaine: Babies. Did they have coaches for babies?

    Fitzharris: Oh yes. Everybody had those wicker...all those gingerbread, you know. Real thick wicker around.

    Tremaine: Did they have anything like a stroller?

    Fitzharris: They had sulkies. We have a picture of my sister when she was around four. And she's sitting in...it's made out of metal and has a leather seat. And a long handle on it. You pulled it. Just had two wheels. And little supports you know for balance.

    Martin: If you ever come across these pictures, would you let Mr. McKelvey over there take a look at them?

    Fitzharris: Yeah. I could.

    Martin: They specifically ask that if anyone has any pictures, they would love to see them.

    Fitzharris: Well this picture that I refer to...either I have it or my brother-in-law has it...it was taken at the house I was born in across the Brandywine. You can see the first two stories. It was a three-story house. And my sister is in the front lawn in the sulky, and my brother's standing beside her. Then they have another one of my mother and dad in the front yard.

    Martin: They'll take these pictures and they'll go over them, the background especially...

    Tremaine: ...to see what was at the windows. You know, did you have shades? Did you have curtains?

    Fitzharris: We had shades, but I remember some of the rooms had white curtains. They seemed like they were all fancy. Like all lace. But everybody had window...they were green window shades. And everybody had shutters on their houses. They closed the shutters at night to keep the cold out. Of course in the summertime they didn't, but in...they had regular wooden shutters and they closed them.

    Tremaine: Were they louvered or solid?

    Fitzharris: Louvered. We had louvered. Some of them were solid. And some of the houses had both. Louvered upstairs and solid ones down. They had a long bolt that slid across when you closed them. You put the window up and slid this bolt across. Protection from the cold and everything. I like them myself.

    Tremaine: And did they have heavy drapes on the inside?

    Fitzharris: Just the white curtains, I can remember we had. Some houses may have had...I do think some houses had those very heavy brocaded ones, but there again, I think they were people that had money. No I don't think our type people did.

    Tremaine: Did you have screens on the windows?

    Fitzharris: Oh yes.

    Tremaine: Full screens?

    Fitzharris: No. Sliding. You know, your windows just went up so far, and you slid.

    Tremaine: The windows only went up so far?

    Fitzharris: Like that window is now. That's as far as you'd put it up, and you'd have screens you would put in, and you could stretch them out.

    Tremaine: Sideways.

    Fitzharris: Yeah. Uh huh. No storm windows. But there again, the shutters took care of that.

    Martin: Do you know what the Green's Almanac was?

    Fitzharris: Maybe. Are you going to interview Mrs. Toomey, did you say?

    Tremaine: I don't know whether we will or somebody else will.

    Fitzharris: Well, she probably might would know that. Cause she's eighty some.

    Tremaine: There are a lot of things...rain barrel.

    Fitzharris: Oh, everybody had a rain barrel. But I don't know whether they washed with that water. I think they did.

    Tremaine: It would be soft.

    Fitzharris: I think they did. But they were quite high, I remember that.

    Martin: What kind of covering did you have on the floors? Braided rugs or...

    Fitzharris: In the bedrooms...in our house...we had like a mat. A matting. It was...they'd come in strips about this wide, and they'd cover the whole floor. About a yard wide. On one side it was tan, just plain. On the other side they had flowers painted. I can remember, when we had to clean, they were tacked down in each corner. And you had to lift that up when you'd do your housecleaning. Lift that up, then you had to scrub your floor. Most of the dirt, the dust and all, would go through, because you didn't have vacuum cleaners then. You had hand sweepers, like a Bissell sweeper. So the top would look clean, but every once in a while you had to take that up. And when you took it up you always turned it over. Like this time would be flowers on top; the next time would be plain.

    Tremaine: What material was it?

    Fitzharris: You know the material they have for porch mats? Some people have them still. You know the things you take sun baths on? Those mats.