Interview with Ella Fitzharris, 1980 May 5 [audio](part 2)

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  • Floor coverings and linoleum; her father making grass rakes and chopping firewood
    Keywords: carpets; flooring; kindling wood; lawnmowers; linoleum; rakes; stair steps; wood shed
    Transcript: Fitzharris: ...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.

    Martin: 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. Like a straw.

    Martin: Like a [?]?

    Fitzharris: Yeah. Like that, you know. Then in the living room...I mean in the family room we had like a regular rug. Some people had heavy carpet, but I don't remember we ever did. We had painted around the floors. We had like stained, you know? Like the...we had a rug. But in the kitchen we had what they called linoleum put over the whole floor. It wasn't in blocks or anything. The design...most everybody had either blue and white or black and white. We had blue and white in our kitchen. Why, I don't know. But I can remember one time we got new flooring in our kitchen. Linoleum. Dad put a thin varnish over it. Then when you wiped it up you never had to...well you didn't have wax then...but it was always shiny. I guess that preserved it too. The stair steps never had anything on it. We just had the plain wooden steps.

    Martin: Sounds like your father was very independent. He could fend for himself very well.

    Fitzharris: Yeah, he did. I can remember we didn't have grass rakes. He used to make rakes. He used to make them out of like branch...like bushes. He'd get the things that would have shoots off them and he'd wire it all together. Then he wore heavy gloves and he'd just rake. He could get in around any bushes. We didn't have to do it, but he would do it. We never had...I don't think he ever had much, but he always had what he needed. He knew how to make things like that, and he knew how to keep his grass cut just so. And his saws had to be sharpened every once in a while. His wood. Kindling wood. We had one place to put the start the fire. And our other wood. It wasn't just hodge-podge. He was very particular. No sawdust on it. Everything was cleaned off, so when you brought it into the house it was clean.

    Tremaine: He worked in one of the sheds out here. Like a workshop?

    Fitzharris: No he worked. I don't know what he did when he worked up...

    Tremaine: No, but I mean at home.

    Fitzharris: Oh. He had these two sheds he kept just for his wood. And that's where...he cut the wood out in the yard. A certain place right outside the shed. And all the sawdust would fall down. Well that would all be cleaned up. There was very little sawdust in the shed. He was very particular there. Then when he'd bring an armload of wood into the house and put it in this box beside the stove, there was no sawdust or anything on it.

    Tremaine: They're interested in what was kept in these sheds in the back yard.

    Fitzharris: Well, like the wood, the oil, the lawn mower--it was an old-fashioned lawnmower, you know. And these makeshift rakes. And things that he would, well like work with the garden. He never had a whole lot of things, but there again everything was in its place. I don't know what they'd do now if they had all the conveniences. They'd have a really wonderful place. But as far as money or things like that, when they'd come around to collect for the rent, well the money might be on that table. And the man would come in. If he - we had books - if he came in and collected the rent, he'd mark something down. You trusted everybody, you know. You'd leave money here for the groceries. But you never locked the door. I remember my father used to say, "They have never made a lock that will keep a thief out. Why lock your door." And we never locked them.
  • Final thoughts and planning to return for another interview
    Keywords: Garden Day; Madeline Ferraro; seamstress
    Transcript: Martin: You tired?

    Fitzharris: No. I bet you're tired listening to me.

    Martin: No.

    Tremaine: It's going on twelve o'clock.

    Fitzharris: Is it really!

    Martin: We don't want to tire you out. Maybe we can come back.

    Fitzharris: 0h! Any time! I'm just afraid I bored you.

    Tremaine: No. No. Because I think it would be interesting to go through each room and everything that was in a room. What was on the walls, what was on the floor?

    Fitzharris: Oh, well I remember in the family...in my dad's mother's room, everybody had their picture of the man and wife and the first born. Great big...frames like this.

    [Extraneous remarks about cars parked outside.]

    Martin: Well if you'll allow us to come back...

    Fitzharris: Sure. And maybe what other people tell you will be something I know. I have all free time. Just call me.

    Tremaine: Have you been back to Hagley?

    Fitzharris: To Hagley? Yes. I was up for the big St. Patrick's Day. But I'd like to go now when the azaleas are pretty. We went up to Winterthur the other day and had our lunch. Then we went up to Longwood. [Unplugging microphone.] Oh, it's beautiful up there.

    Fitzharris: I think that one time there was just two rooms here, and the kitchen followed later. I think that used to be the kitchen.

    Tremaine: This back room? Very interesting.

    Martin: Those are stairs going up off of what is now the dining room?

    Fitzharris: They're winding stairs.

    Tremaine: I went down Saturday downtown for Garden Day and went through some of the old homes.

    Fitzharris: Well we went on that tour...I have seen Trinity Place, so I didn't get off the bus. I was too tired. But we went out to Alfred I. Institute...

    Tremaine: I'm going back to take the whole tour. We just rode on the bus.

    Fitzharris: Oh, it's nice to go through that house. I think that the playroom downstairs, the game room. Oh it's beautiful. You have to make reservations...

    Tremaine: I was so interested the other day in the homes downtown.

    Fitzharris: This is really old fashioned, but I love it.

    Martin: Is it similar to the house you lived in as a child?

    Fitzharris: Not quite. The house I was born in had, like, the family room here and then the kitchen there, see. And there was a long porch.

    Tremaine: So it was across the front rather than back to back.

    Fitzharris: Yes. And the back opened onto a small yard. But then it was built right up to the...right into the bank, which is that road that goes up to 141 now. That's where we used to play over there. Where that road goes round the Experimental Station. That was a big field. That's where we played.

    Tremaine: I want to ask you to please sign.

    Fitzharris: I'll just sign any name [laughter]

    Tremaine: And I can put the date.

    Martin: There's one thing I was curious about. You said that the...Mrs. Ferraro, the seamstress? You said she sewed for everybody?

    Fitzharris: People around here that didn't know how to sew themselves. Course a lot people did know how to sew, but she made beautiful things.

    Martin: Well she would be the one to make a wedding dress for somebody who was going to get married?

    Fitzharris: Probably. She'd be it. Oh, she was really a lovely person. And when she died...when you went out there, she was the happiest person...She didn't have her television, and she had a radio. She called certain people. Like if somebody come in, she'd get them to dial the numbers for her so she could talk to her friends, you know.

    Martin: If you can think of anyone that we might not have names of, who might talk to us, call us.

    Tremaine: Every little bit helps.

    Fitzharris: Who would I call?

    Tremaine: Mr. McKelvey.

    Fitzharris: At the Museum.

    Martin: Hagley. Yes.

    Fitzharris: Well, I certainly enjoyed it. I hope your ears aren't burning.

    Martin: If you'll let us, I think we'll be back.

    Fitzharris: Certainly. Just give me a call a day ahead of time because I travel...If anybody calls, for instance, if somebody calls me to go for lunch, I just go. There's three ladies, we run around together. We go out at least a couple days a week for lunch, dinner.

    Tremaine: Wonderful. Thank you so much. Good bye. [Recording continues as interviewers leave the house.]