Interview with Ella Fitzharris, March 4 [audio]

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  • Family history and neighbors in Walker's Banks; morning chores; learning to swim in the Brandywine and other pastimes; her grandmother Farren, the midwife
    Keywords: baseball; Hackendorn family; Henry Clay (Del. : Village); ice skating; kindling wood; midwife; pets; playground; swimming; swings; tollgate; Walker's Bank; water pump
    Transcript: [0:00:00 - 0:01:10 barely audible]

    Frazier: Do you remember your grandmother's name?

    Fitzharris: Grandmother Farren's was Katie and her husband's was Jim. And, my mother's people weren't from around here. Their name was Loder. Sarah and I'm not too sure, but I think Bill.

    Frazier: Were they born in this country?

    Fitzharris: No, they were born in England.

    Frazier: And your other grandparents were born in Ireland.

    Fitzharris: In Ireland. But, they both came over here in early childhood. My father's family, from what I understand, they came over here and met and then got married. They knew one another in Ireland, but they came over here and married in this country.

    Frazier: ...I think that was the case with the Gibbons.

    Fitzharris: Yes. I didn't know the Gibbons too well, but I knew of them.

    Frazier: That seemed to work out O.K. I think I have to raise my voice a little bit.

    Fitzharris: Are you going to do the same thing?

    Frazier: No. We'll just continue from there. What was the name of the village you lived in? Or the area?

    Fitzharris: Henry Clay and I lived across the Brandywine, was Walker's Bank. It's still Walker's Bank.

    Frazier: Did your house have a number or anything?

    Fitzharris: It was 242. But I could never understand now when Mickey Leach was up here, I think their number is 1. The first block -- it's number 1, but I don't know how they ever got the numbers. Then later on, they changed the numbers. I don't know whether the du Ponts turned it over to Mrs. Copeland, but our number was 19. So, I think that's where the original number from 1 must have started up there when Ferraro's lived there -- before Mickey Leach moved in. But, our number was 19 after Mrs. Copeland took over the houses.

    Frazier: I noticed some of the numbers coming down are halves.

    Fitzharris: Yes. Well, years ago there was a playground up there. Alfred I. du Pont lived on the left side going up and there was a barn there. And when they tore that barn down, before they tore the barn down, they converted it into two homes. And people by the name of Hackendorn and -- I can't remember who lived in the other house. But, further up the lane there was a big lot and that's where we had a playground. So, that's when they built those houses and some numbers are halves. I was just looking at - I don't have any - but I was just looking at some pictures of my friends taken up at the playground. Only last week. I don't know whether you're familiar with any of the houses up the lane, but when you first come down on the left there's an entrance into the Raskob estate. But on the right, that's where the playground was. And the little house that sits back there -- I don't know who lives in it -- but that at one time was a tollgate and it was at the top of the hill. And they moved it down there. And then when they had the playground there, they moved the house back. It used to sit sideways, facing down this way. But, then they moved it back and turned it and put an addition on it. Quite a nice home there.

    Frazier: Do you know any other people that we could contact for interviews? Do you have any relatives that we haven't talked to?

    Fitzharris: Well, that Mrs. Hackendorn -- I mean Mrs. Kindbeiter that I was telling you about. I think she would know. And there's another family. I'm sure. She's just a little older than I am. Her name is Mary Newell. She lives over on du Pont Road. Right near the cemetery. And she lived in one of the houses I was showing you a picture of. So, I'm sure she would know quite a lot.

    Frazier: That picture you have is very interesting. I think the Museum would like to see it. Maybe they could make a copy of it.

    Fitzharris: Well, if you want to take it up and bring it back to me.

    Frazier: I'll be happy to.

    Fitzharris: But, I'm sure Mrs. Newell -- she was a Hackendorn -- and there were two or three families of Hackendorns around here and it was a large family, so I'm sure she must know things that I wouldn't know.

    Frazier: I remember reading Joseph Hackendorn.

    Fitzharris: Well, he lived right up the lane here. He was the maintenance man for Mr. W. W. Laird at one time. Of course, he's dead.

    Frazier: Now, going back to when you were a child at home, what kind of chores did the children have during the week? I know your mother died when you were very young. So, you and your sister and your brother probably had to do most of the work in the house.

    Frazier: Well, naturally, we got up in the morning. We had to take care of ourselves. Dad had to go out to work early. And he would leave like oatmeal or something like that - cooked - you know. And we'd come down and eat our breakfast and get dressed. And we went to school - we had to go past my grandmother's house, so she and my aunt would always look to make sure we were properly dressed and our hair was combed right. But, we had to make our beds and sweep up and sometimes we had to bring in kindling wood for the fire because we didn't have a heater. My dad had two sheds and the light wood we'd bring in and the heavy wood, he'd bring in.

    Frazier: Did you have water in your house?

    Fitzharris: No, not when we lived over there.

    Frazier: From where?

    Fitzharris: From a pump two houses down. It was very good water from what I understand.

    Frazier: Well water?

    Fitzharris: Yes. Well, we enjoyed going down because in the summertime there was an apple tree right there. And we always managed to get a couple apples on the way up with the water.

    Frazier: Did you have any pets or any livestock?

    Fitzharris: We had one dog and I was always afraid of cats so we didn't have cats. I'm still afraid of cats.

    Frazier: I don't like them very well. They scratch.

    Fitzharris: Oh, I'm afraid of them. I just don't like to be near them. But, that's about all the pets we had. And we'd spend most of our time after - oh, I guess we learned to swim when we were about 10 or 11 in the Brandywine because dad always insisted that living so close to the Brandywine, we should know how to swim. And we used to go in three times a day until we learned to swim. Sometimes we'd go in ,after we learned to swim, we'd go in right above the falls here. See, I lived right across the Brandywine and we'd go in be water there and climb over the falls and swim down. Oh, we thought we were wonderful when we could do that.

    Frazier: Who taught you to swim? Your father?

    Fitzharris: No. No, we all just went in the water.

    Frazier: You went in and learned by yourself.

    Fitzharris: Yes. Dad used to supervise once in awhile. He was a very good swimmer. But, we went in the daytime while he was working. And everybody looked after everybody in those days, you know. There was a Mrs. Devenney. She was really a wonderful person. And she'd sit on the porch while we were down there swimming and we didn't realize it at the time, but I think she was checking on us to make sure everything was all right. But, there's none of those that you could interview, either. Oh, there's a George Devenney lives out in Richardson Park. He might be able to tell you some things. His mother used to bake bread and when we came out of swimming - well, there was a girl - just about our age, you know, and when we came out of swimming, she'd always have a piece of bread and jelly for us. That was wonderful, home baked bread and jelly. Mrs. Devenney was just a marvelous person. Her husband died I think when her family was small, too. Of course, I know from hearsay and what my cousin told me, Nanna Farren delivered quite a few of her children because her husband didn't make much money and then he died quite young. Couldn't pay a doctor.

    Frazier: Your grandmother was a midwife. But you just don't know much about it because you were too young?

    Fitzharris: I was too young. But, my cousin was telling me that she had to do it because she had to make a living. I said, "Did they ever have a doctor there, too?" She said sometimes, but sometimes they didn't. There was a Dr. Dougherty. I think there's quite a bit in the cookbook about Daugherty. Dr. Dougherty, and Dr. Buckmaster, and Dr. Samuels. They were the three doctors that I remember them talking about. So, I guess Nanna helped them sometimes or delivered without them.

    Frazier: Do you remember your house? Did it have a swing or did your children have anything in the yard that you played on?

    Fitzharris: No, we didn't have a swing in the yard, but there was one right up on the hill. This big hill in that picture, there's a tree - like right up in back where Hagley park their buses. It's in the Experimental Station really now. And there was a huge tree there and it had a swing. I don't know whoever put it up there. But everybody used it. And then we went up to the playground. And then we went over to Hagley mill. When it was a community house after school. We learned to do a little cooking and stuff.

    Frazier: You had lots of places to play.

    Fitzharris: We did. We really had a wonderful time. And we made our own fun. Nowadays children have to have so many expensive toys.

    Fitzharris: We learned to ice skate on the Brandywine. Swim in the Brandywine. What more could you ask?

    Frazier: Play ball up in the big fields.

    Fitzharris: Play ball. Girls loved to play baseball. I think the girls played more baseball than the boys, really. But, it was fun. Everything was all confined. Like we didn't go down to the Forty Acres or places like that until we got older -- down around the B& amp; O. or Scott Street. But we just had to much fun around here. And then St. Joseph's used to have a picnic every Fourth of July. We looked all year for that. You might have about 25 cents to spend. But that was a fortune.
  • School lunches and walking to school; riding the trolley to Buck Road; afternoon chores, homework, and bedtime; Saturday and Sunday routines; visiting her uncle, who worked at Bellevue Estate
    Keywords: Bellevue Hall (Bellevue, Del. : Estate); canoes; Du Pont, William, 1855-1928; feather beds; homework; lunch; mass; nightgown; oil lamps; oil stove; sledding; St. Joseph on the Brandywine School; Street-railroads; tollgate; trolley car; Working class--Religious life
    Transcript: Frazier: Did you come home for lunch when you went to school?

    Fitzharris: No. We had to pack our lunch. My sister and I had to pack our lunch because Dad worked and there was no point in coming home. There would be nobody there.

    Frazier: What would you take for a typical lunch?

    Fitzharris: A sandwich and some kind of fruit. And some kind of cake. That's about all. Sometimes we would take milk, but mostly it was coffee. We used to heat it on the stove. We had it in bottles; we didn't have thermos bottles. Everybody used to bring it, but most of the time we didn't bother with that, we just ate our cold lunches. Played in the field in back of St. Joseph's on recess and lunchtime.

    Frazier: What were the hours of school -- were they long?

    Fitzharris: Yes. I think we had to be there at nine. And I remember we used to leave home at 8:15 over here across the Brandywine and walk around and then we'd come up and go up through the fields and come out on 141 and then go up. But if there was ice on the Brandywine, we could leave later because we would walk across the Brandywine. We got on the ice right down here and go up to the entrance to Hagley and climb up over the wall which was a big savings on a cold day, instead of walking all around the Brandywine. And sometimes we took our sleds to school - sled down. We all had sleds and we all had skates. It was fun. I guess a lot of people thought it would be tough but it was really fun. This hill here was exceptionally good. Many a time I came down and hit that wall down there. There was no parking lot; it was just a wall. You had to go right or left.

    Frazier: You had to be careful you didn't go in the river.

    Fitzharris: And so many people would come down and form like a line and watch for the horse and wagons. There wasn't many cars but the trolley car came along. We had to watch for that. The trolley car came up through the woods at the bottom of Rising Sun on down here, up through what is now the Hallock du Pont estate, up back of Hagley and all the way up to Buck Road. There was a little store there. We used to turn it around - pull the pulley and come down - and they had a switch right here that was Hagey's Tavern -- the trolleys used to pass there - had a little light - they'd go in and turn the light. I don't know what the idea was. I think there was another switch down in the woods. And if the trolley got there a little ahead of time and couldn't make it up to the other switch, they'd turn this light indicating they were on their way. Oh, it was fun. In the summertime they had the summer cars.

    Frazier: What was the trolley fare?

    Fitzharris: To what I can remember, it was five cents. And then I think afterward, the last time I remember at St. Joseph's, it went up to seven.

    Frazier: For children and adults, too?

    Fitzharris: Yes. We used to get on and if we had a little bit of money - get on at Rising Sun which was stupid - and ride all the way up to Buck Road and then get off and walk down Buck Road. Just for the thrill of riding the trolley.

    Frazier: What did you do when you got home from school? Did you change your clothes?

    Fitzharris: Change our clothes. Fill the oil lamps. Make sure the globes were clean. And my sister used to pare potatoes or get the vegetables ready and then when pop came home, he would supervise the rest.

    Fitzharris: He didn't like us fooling around the fires too much. We had an oil stove that we cooked on besides the cook stove. Everybody had a big heavy cook stove. And, of course, when we got the fire started with wood, he'd always put coal on it so that would sort of stay in all day to keep us warm when we came home from school. But, we had to stay home until he came home. We couldn't run around. We could play out front, but we couldn't go like a block or two away. We had to be home when he got home. He was stern but he was good. He was really good. He spoke once. And you knew you had to do it. Not like the mothers today.

    Frazier: They talk too much, I think, to their children.

    Fitzharris: I think so, too. And the children get away with too much.

    Frazier: After dinner you did your homework?

    Fitzharris: At the kitchen table. We studied and then my dad would hear our spelling and what I couldn't get -- of course, he only went to the fifth grade. And my sister used to help me with my homework. We sat around for awhile. Didn't have a radio or anything. Might play jacks or something. And then get ready to go to bed.

    Frazier: Did everybody go to bed at the same time?

    Fitzharris: No. The children went before dad.

    Frazier: The younger children went first?

    Fitzharris: My sister and I went the same time. But, see, my brother - I had a younger brother - but my aunt took him so he wasn't home. There was just three years difference between my sister and I. We shared the same bed so we went to bed at the same time. Put our clothes out for the morning.

    Frazier: What did you wear, a nightgown?

    Fitzharris: Heavy flannel nightgown. We had feather beds on the bed in the wintertime. In the summertime they were put underneath and the mattress was put up on top.

    Frazier: I remember you said that you hated to make the bed.

    Fitzharris: Oh, you couldn't make them smooth. You could, I guess, if we were big enough. But that had to be made. That spread had to be put on regardless of the bumps or anything. Before we went to school.

    Frazier: Before you went to bed, did you brush your teeth or wash?

    Fitzharris: We used to get washed and always have a cup of cocoa or something like that before we went to bed.

    Frazier: Bedtime stories?

    Fitzharris: No. Don't remember anybody telling me a bedtime story.

    Frazier: Did you set an alarm clock?

    Fitzharris: No. Because dad always got up first.

    Frazier: How about the stove, was that left more or less warm?

    Fitzharris: It was banked for the night and when we came down in the morning it was always warm. We all ate in the kitchen. We studied in the kitchen. The kitchen was really the family room in those days. Big table and a couple of comfortable chairs. A lot of people had settees. But we didn't have a settee. In the other room we had a couch.

    Frazier: How many rooms were there in the house?

    Fitzharris: Six. It was built so funny. There was two and then one - no there was five. There was two rooms and then one room -- a huge room that was mother's and dad's room. And then two bedrooms and then an attic room. It seems odd to build a house like that.

    Frazier: Who used the attic room? Was that a bedroom?

    Fitzharris: No, that was just for storage. Potatoes and things like that were kept up there.

    Frazier: Now on the weekend you didn't have to go to school. So, what did you do on Saturdays?

    Fitzharris: I can't remember what we did on Saturdays other than play. But I know Saturday night we had to make sure our shoes were shined and everything for mass on Sunday. And then on Sundays we'd go to mass and come home and have breakfast and play around and then we had to go back to Sunday school at two o'clock. And then when we got older - we were in the seventh or eighth grade - we were permitted to take walks after Sunday school. And we used to walk through Rockland and come back down which was a long walk but we enjoyed it because a lot of our friends who went to St. Josephs but lived in Rockland. And we'd walk home with them and talk on the way and stay there for awhile and then come back home. That was a long walk. But, we didn't think anything of it. What else to do? After we got older, we could go in the canoes -- several friends had canoes and we used to go for canoe rides on Sunday.

    Frazier: Did you have a big meal on Sunday?

    Fitzharris: Oh, yes. Pop used to have it about four o'clock. But, they tell me when my mother was living, she always had company and they ate around five o'clock. And after about seven o'clock she was still serving. Different friends would come in. The children ate in the kitchen and the grown-ups ate in...

    Frazier: That was on Sunday?

    Fitzharris: Sunday. Of course, that was a big meal, homemade cake and ice cream and all that. She made everything. They said she was one of the best cooks. I'm not bragging, but they tell me she was one of the best bakers on the Brandywine. She didn't go out much and that's what she enjoyed doing, cooking and sewing.

    Frazier: Did your family visit your relatives? Do you remember visiting relatives on weekends?

    Fitzharris: This family that lived -- Nanna Farren -- they lived right up the road -- and then after mother died, I had an aunt that lived in Centerville. She ran the tollgate in Centerville. And she used to come down with a pony and cart and take us to visit. I guess it was my mother's brother. And she'd take us so far and then we got on a trolley. I don't know where we got on the trolley, but we went to Bellevue. You know where the Bellevue Restaurant is now? Well, my uncle worked for -- I think it was Willie du Pont -- and he lived across the highway and we went up there about three days in the summertime. Every summer for about three days we'd visit them for vacation.

    Frazier: It must have been fun.

    Fitzharris: Oh, it was. They had a big place and they had a goat that they'd hook up to a pony cart and we'd ride around on that.

    Frazier: I'll bet you looked forward to that every year?

    Fitzharris: Oh, we did. They had a lot of fruit trees. But, we never went many places, but what we did we really thoroughly enjoyed. Because mostly relatives were right around here and everybody just visited. No cars to take you anyplace.
  • Going into Wilmington on the trolley; her father attending card parties; her mother sewing and cooking; children's activities including baseball; Fourth of July picnic, Halloween, and Breck's Mill Christmas party; memories of powder yard explosions
    Keywords: baseball; Breck's Mill; card parties; Christmas party; Copeland, Louisa d'A. du Pont (Louisa d'Andelot du Pont), 1868-1926; Euchre; explosions; Fourth of July celebrations; Fraternal Order of Eagles; Hagley community house; Halloween; Keg Mill; lemon meringue pies; Mount Vernon basketball team; Number 10 trolley; Number 7 trolley; parades; Saint Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church picnic; sewing machine; Toonerville trolley; Tower Hill; trolley cars
    Transcript: Frazier: Did you ever go into Wilmington?

    Fitzharris: Well, not until I got older. Dad used to take us on the trolley car once in a while. I remember one time I got my first sled. I'll never forget that. I thought that was a thrill riding all the way into Wilmington because we had to transfer. We got the Number 7 trolley that came through here. It came through Rockford to Delaware Avenue and then we got on the Number 10 trolley. And went into town. Well, that was class because this one we called the Toonerville and the other was nicer. But, we went in town and bought a sled one time, I can remember. Brought the sled out on the trolley. They didn't deliver things then. I don't know how - the groceries and things. I know my mother used to go shopping, I can remember that. But I don't know how they could ever bring enough home from the stores. Of course, we had this man by name of Gregg. He did come through the village and deliver groceries. The man would come up like on a Tuesday and get an order and then maybe the next day or something they'd bring it up on a truck. When trucks were available. But, I just don't know how people ever had enough food. We never had a garden.

    Frazier: They must have had the heavy stuff delivered.

    Fitzharris: Things you just don't remember. But, I often wish some of my aunts were living so I could ask them. A lot of things come up.

    Frazier: Did your father have any activities? A lodge meeting?

    Fitzharris: He belonged to the Fraternal Order of Eagles. And he also liked to play Euchre. They used to have card parties. And then during the week sometimes he and my aunts and uncles would play, you know, in somebody's kitchen. But, not too much. They mostly went out to the parties. I think they had them like once a month. But the main thing was Euchre.

    Frazier: They played that in the home?

    Fitzharris: Yes. And they went to card parties. St. Joseph's would have them. Or maybe the Eagles would have card parties and they went there.

    Frazier: How about the women? Do you remember that they had any activities like sewing groups?

    Fitzharris: No. Not that I know of. But like I know my mother used to do a lot of sewing for us, the children, but I think the women more or less stayed home and enjoyed their own homes. They might congregate at my house today and my mother would have something baked. Or they'd go to Mrs. Bonner's and she'd have something. But, I don't think they were much for going out to parties.

    Frazier: Did your mother have a sewing machine?

    Fitzharris: Oh, yes. She sewed all the time.

    Frazier: You were all taught to sew?

    Fitzharris: Believe it or not, I wasn't because I was only seven. I was too young. But, my sister learned to sew and she learned to cook. I can cook but I was never real fond of it. But, my sister just copied after my mother. She could bake anything and beautiful. Not just ordinary. My sister had a trait - they always said she made the most beautiful lemon meringue pies, and she did. Never had a failure. Real high and good. But, I didn't like to bake cakes. I liked to bake pies but not cakes.

    Frazier: How about the children's activities? Clubs or anything like that?

    Fitzharris: The only thing would be the community house over here. Everybody went to that. Other than that I can't remember.

    Frazier: You didn't have to keep the children busy? They knew enough to entertain themselves.

    Fitzharris: That's right. One day you'd be with your dolls. The next day would be a baseball bat or the next day it would be climbing to see who could go the highest in a tree. When we got older, we played baseball. Of course, baseball was everything. I can't understand. I have five grandsons and one granddaughter. And do you know, none of the grandsons took up baseball, but my granddaughter does. She's a left-handed batter. Really crazy about it. But, I think it's so funny that all the boys never liked it.

    Frazier: It's too organized. To get together on a field and play is a lot more fun.

    Fitzharris: True. But I just couldn't get over it when I knew she was interested in baseball. Jack said, "Mother, she must take after you." [laughs]

    Frazier: How about things like 4th of July? Did you celebrate and have big events?

    Fitzharris: Fourth of July they had the St. Josephs' picnic up where Hallock du Pont lives now - right on the spot about where his home is. They had a big platform and they danced. I didn't dance. We were kids then. Oh, everybody looked forward to that. I think everybody must have baked things and took them there from what I can remember. But, I remember the older people dancing. A fiddle and I don't know what else they had for the music.

    Frazier: How about Halloween? Any celebrations?

    Fitzharris: We just enjoyed going around to everybody's house. Dressed up and went to everybody's house along the Brandywine. Especially Mrs. Copeland. Her help used to have us come in and they used to treat us royal. Cider and cookies and different things. But, we'd start out - maybe half-past-five it was dark. And we'd come home about 8:30 with a bag of goodies. Everybody just fell in together.

    Frazier: How about the costumes?

    Fitzharris: Oh, whatever you had around the house. They weren't costumes. Anybody's dress or anybody's trousers or anything like that. But, we did have masks. Mr. Dorman used to have a store up here and we used to buy masks in there.

    Frazier: Any parades?

    Fitzharris: You know, there was a parade came through here, but I can't remember whether it was a political parade or what. But I remember - I said this to somebody and they said I was crazy. But, they did have a parade through here and I think it must have been a political parade. Used to come down the Brandywine. I remember going into Dorman's store and getting ice cream and candy after the parade was over. But what it was all about I don't know, and there's nobody I can ask.

    Frazier: You remember a lot of the houses that you were talking about before that were built and torn down. How about social events at Breck's Mill?

    Fitzharris: Well, we always had a Christmas party. I don't know who did that - whether it was Mrs. Copeland or who, but there were two teachers there. One was the physical ed teacher. Her name was Baldwin and she taught at Tower Hill for years and years. Very sharp featured. Lovely lady. But she taught gym and Miss Buck taught sewing. But, I don't know who paid them - whether it was the community association from town or what. But, they had a basketball team. And the fellows had to play basketball. It was called the Mount Vernon team. Well, now, there's something I never thought of. I'll have to try to find that out.

    Frazier: You remember when the powder mills closed?

    Fitzharris: Yes. I can't remember the actual date. But, I remember when the powder mills went off. I remember hearing them and being scared to death. Windows in the house would be broken.

    Frazier: You mean an explosion?

    Fitzharris: Yes. Everybody used to - I think - I don't know whether this is from hearsay or whether I remember it. But it seems when the explosion went off, they would close the gates up there.

    Frazier: Blacksmith Hill?

    Fitzharris: No, the entrance here. And the priest from St. Joseph's would come down and everybody would come to the main gate to see if it was a member of their family, you know, that was blown up. I remember somebody telling me that they blocked the gates so people wouldn't go in there. I can still hear those sounds. Horrible. And we always felt so sorry for the people who lived at a place called Keg Mill. Have you ever heard of that?

    Frazier: Yes.

    Fitzharris: Well, a friend of ours lived up there and some of those people were thrown out of their beds it was so close to the powder mills. But, I don't know who I was talking to or what I heard, but I understand that there was 27 houses built on the other side of the Brandywine. And I was trying to count them. Of course, there's only three over there now. Only two tenants that live in them. But from there all the way up to the Keg Mill and somebody said there was 27. I don't know whether I read that in that Wilmington book, but I can count about 24. That was a long walk, too, for those people that lived at Keg Mill. To come down and...of course, they didn't go to St. Joseph's. They went to Alexis I. School. But, still it was practically as far. And when the crick would flood, - they call it the river now. We called it the crick. When it would overflow, it went over the road and that man that lived up there then - he had to walk in that dark woods going home from work at night and there was always cows or something up around there. It must have been eerie. They lived there quite a while and then somebody moved out of one of the houses along the Brandywine farther down and they moved down there which would be right across from C.I.D. now.
  • Her father's career; memories of the Brandywine Manufacturers' Sunday School and the "Seitz girls"; outhouse and toilet paper; her older brother joining the military in 1918
    Keywords: Brandywine Manufacturers' Sunday School; chemist's assistant; DuPont Experimental Station; Industrial accidents; outhouses; Philadelphia Navy Yard; Seitz, Florence; Seitz, Pauline; World War (1939-1945); Yellow House
    Transcript: Frazier: Your father worked in the powder mill? And then when they closed, he went to the Experimental Station?

    Fitzharris: That's right.

    Frazier: Was there just one building then?

    Fitzharris: Oh no, there were several. I don't know how many, but it was called the Lower Yard. Because all those buildings way up on the hill weren't there. I can remember two or three of them along the Brandywine. Something like those that they restored up here by the waterwheel. The buildings looked like that.

    Frazier: And what did he do at the Experimental Station?

    Fitzharris: Assistant to a chemist. I don't know how he ever did it.

    Frazier: Laboratory technician?

    Fitzharris: Yes. I mean it's wonderful when you think of the little schooling they had.

    Frazier: Experience was a wonderful teacher.

    Fitzharris: It really was. He lost two or three fingers. One time he got them caught in the wheels up there. I don't know what building, but he had his fingers cut off.

    Frazier: At the Experimental Station?

    Fitzharris: No, up at Hagley.

    Frazier: Many of the men did.

    Fitzharris: Oh, yes. He was fortunate.

    Frazier: Do you remember the Brandywine Manufacturers' Sunday School?

    Fitzharris: Vaguely. I wouldn't know too much about it. I don't think - I think most of it is what was told to me. You get that mixed up sometimes - what you remember and what was told to you. But, I do remember my dad talking about it - I think he went to that school up there on 141 and Barley Mill Lane. Called the Yellow School. He went there for a while, I think, and then he went to St. Joseph's. I don't know as he ever went to that one- there was another one over here on Rising Sun Lane right by the steps that go up to the Rockford Tower. Have you ever been back in there? If you're going up Rising Sun Lane and to the left is Mt. Vernon Avenue. Well, that first big yellow house there - from what I understand that was a school, too. In my day people by the name of Friels lived there. And then, of course, the one where Seitz lived up in Hagley. That was the Sunday School, wasn't it?

    Frazier: Yes. Well, that was the school.

    Fitzharris: At one time.

    Frazier: And the two Seitz women lived there. Have you met Margaret Seitz?

    Fitzharris: No. That's the niece, isn't it?

    Frazier: Yes. She's the great-granddaughter of John Gibbons. And her grandmother married Jacques Seitz.

    Fitzharris: Wasn't the Seitz French descent?

    Frazier: Alsace-Lorraine, yes.

    Fitzharris: They were lovely women - those two Seitz ladies.

    Frazier: Do you remember them?

    Fitzharris: Oh, very well. Well, the last one that died. She hasn't been dead too long. She was the most stylish lady - she was about like that.

    Frazier: Slender?

    Fitzharris: And the most gorgeous hats. She dressed to perfection. The other one was a little heavy, but she dressed nicely, too. Florence and Pauline. But they were both lovely people.

    Frazier: Margaret said one of them drove a car until she was in her 80's,

    Fitzharris: Yes, that's Pauline. Mr. Laird - Chick Laird was a very good friend of theirs. He used to visit them quite a lot from what I understand.

    Frazier: I would have loved to have seen that house that is now the Sunday School.

    Fitzharris: I would have, too.

    Frazier: There were six rooms, I understand. But, Margaret remembers it very well.

    Fitzharris: They were really lovely people. People around here referred to them even when they were quite old - the Seitz girls. They were just different, that's all. And they walked down before - I guess before she had a car. But, I remember them walking down here and going up Rising Sun to work. The stouter one, especially, Florence.

    Frazier: They both worked for DuPont.

    Fitzharris: I don't know whether one worked for DuPont and one for Hercules. I wasn't sure. I don't really know. But, I remember them walking down there. They were prim and proper. In fact, I guess two or three years before the last one died, I remember commenting - hats always fascinated me - but hers were just out of this world. She was a person that could wear them. Taller than I am. But she was thin and even as old as she was, she had such a spry walk. Real perky. She did have style.

    Frazier: Did your family rent your house?

    Fitzharris: Yes. From DuPont's and then Mrs. Copeland took it over.

    Frazier: Do you know how much rent they paid?

    Fitzharris: I'm not sure, but I think it was six dollars a month.

    Frazier: Where was the toilet located?

    Fitzharris: Up in the yard a ways - back in the yard.

    Frazier: Did you have to walk?

    Fitzharris: Yes, we had a boardwalk.

    Frazier: I mean at night?

    Fitzharris: We had to have a lantern. Of course, it wasn't that far away. We come out the front door and up the steps to the side and then over a boardwalk. It wasn't a great distance, but we always used to have a lantern.

    Frazier: Do you remember what brand of toilet paper you used in those days?

    Fitzharris: I don't think it was any brand of toilet paper. It was the Sears-Roebuck [catalog] for years, I think. After we got older, I don't remember what brands we had.

    Frazier: You told me about streetcars. Did your brother have an extra job when he was growing up like paper delivery or anything for extra income?

    Fitzharris: I don't know. You mean my older brother?

    Frazier: Yes.

    Fitzharris: I'm not sure. But what he did - he was a water boy when they built the tunnel over here - the Copelands, you know, between Rising Sun. You know where the tunnel is, don't you?

    Frazier: No.

    Fitzharris: Well, you know where Hagey's Tavern was? Well, if you look up over those rocks where all the ice forms, there's a tunnel there. And he was water boy for that. But other than that - and then he went in the Service when he was a junior in high. He didn't graduate. That was when mother died. She died in June and he joined the Service in October and made a career of it. That was in 1918.

    Frazier: Was he in the Second World War?

    Fitzharris: Yes. I don't know whether - I remember talking to him when we went out to visit him in California. And I don't know whether he said he worked three months, but I don't know what he got paid for it. Very little, I guess. But then, he just made a career of it and when he retired, he retired as a chief warrant officer.

    Frazier: He didn't settle around here?

    Fitzharris: No, in California.

    Frazier: Your older sister lived around here?

    Fitzharris: Yes. She lived up on Rising Sun Lane. She also lived on Broom Street and then before she died, they lived at McDaniel Heights.

    Frazier: And your younger brother, did he live in this area?

    Fitzharris: He lived with my aunt down at 16th and Lincoln. But then he came back home when he got older. And stayed home with us. When he went to work, he settled in Philadelphia. Worked at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Retired from there.

    Frazier: When you were a child, do you remember any...oh, I love that...

    Fitzharris: Dr. [Coulomb?] that worked with me at the Experimental Station - his wife was just learning to paint and she painted that. She painted that one over there, too.
  • Neighborhood sounds and smells; growing flowers and cutting grass; groceries and delivery goods; Dr. Buckmaster coming when she had a sledding accident; men drinking on the covered bridge; no need to lock doors
    Keywords: Cardinals (Birds); Comet tobacco; dogs; Dr. Buckmaster; DuPont Experimental Station; General Grocer; Gregg grocer; Hodgson Brothers woolen mill; ice wagon; insurance man; Joseph Bancroft and Sons Co.; Larkin's Company; lawnmowers; pipes; rambler roses; Sensation tobacco; sled accident; Walker's Mill
    Transcript: Frazier: Do you remember any sounds in the neighborhood besides children?

    Fitzharris: You mean like owls at night?

    Frazier: You probably did have a lot of birds?

    Fitzharris: Oh, we had a lot of owls at night.

    Frazier: Bells.

    Fitzharris: Church bells.

    Frazier: Trains?

    Fitzharris: Yes, the train went back here and the whistle on the train.

    Frazier: Machinery?

    Fitzharris: Just when the woolen mill was across the Brandywine which is Walker's Mill now. In my day it was Hodgson Brothers. And the machinery in that. In the summertime when the windows were open, you could hear that. Of course, they run by water power - water from the Brandywine. You could hear that. We went in there once in a while to see all the things. And also in the picture it showed how they carried the yarn out to dry it when they wove the yarn. It came in big bales. And they wove it into yarn. Most of it was heather. I remember they made a lot of sweaters for the soldiers. Everybody around here knit sweaters for the boys in the Service.

    Frazier: How about odors or smells?

    Fitzharris: Oh, that - That mill. It had a terrific odor. They had large tanks that collected the refuse - the smell. I don't know how they cleaned them. But once in a while they would overflow. I don't know what they did. Now that's another thing. Anybody you interview you should ask them that. They had three big tanks in the back of the mill and they would fill up.

    Frazier: Did you have a garden?

    Fitzharris: No.

    Frazier: Flowers?

    Fitzharris: We had flowers. Roses.

    Frazier: What kind of flowers?

    Fitzharris: Things I can remember are roses and larkspur and we had pansies. But I always did like roses.

    Frazier: Did you go out and weed?

    Fitzharris: Sure, we had to weed and dad could run the lawn mower.

    Frazier: Oh, you ran the lawnmower? Hand mower?

    Fitzharris: Oh, we had beautiful grass. And we had a hedge around the front yard. Pop would cut that. I think Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day, and then if it grew a little wild after Labor Day, he'd cut it once more. But he said to trim properly, that's all you had to do. So, I have a little hedge back there and I've tried to do the same thing. It doesn't look like his. He planted off in little bits.

    Frazier: Plant seeds in the spring for the flowers?

    Fitzharris: No, we just got rose bushes already planted. And, of course, everybody had rambler roses and those yellow lilies like you see in this picture. They grew wild. I don't remember planting any seeds.

    Frazier: Did you cut the flowers and bring them in the house?

    Fitzharris: Oh, yes. Sometimes we'd have - even the dandelions we'd bring them in. We always had some kind of flower. We didn't have the best arrangements, but we learned to love flowers and birds. The lady next door to me was very fond of birds and she used to tell me the different kinds. And I remember one time she called me to come over in the yard and I went over and she had this beautiful white linen handkerchief and she opened it up and it was a cardinal. And it had died, and she was going to bury it. She said we have to take care of the birds after they die. And she dug the hole and I remember her putting that bird with the white linen handkerchief. I never forgot that. And that's nice for children to remember things like that. She was a school teacher.

    Frazier: Did some of the people keep birds in their homes in cages? Like canaries?

    Fitzharris: I don't remember canaries or parrots or anything like that. Everybody seemed to have a dog. More dogs around here. But nobody ever seemed to get bitten by one. Nowadays you see a dog, you're kind of leery of it. Of course, they didn't feed it food like they do today, either. It was scraps. [Tape is switched]

    Frazier: Do you remember what store your mother shopped at, or you and your sisters?

    Fitzharris: Well, Dorman's had that store up there. But, they didn't get their main things there. I think mother went in town and then, as I said, this truck came through by the name of Gregg. And everybody shopped from that. And then there was another truck came through. I don't know who it was - it was called the General Grocer. And then there was a Larkin's. They used to buy their things like pots and pans and things like that. I think they paid so much a week and ordered these things. Like - say you would have the concession - you would go around and ask everybody what they wanted. And you would order for them. It was called Larkin's. But I don't remember how they got their furniture.

    Frazier: How about the Sears catalog, did you use it?

    Fitzharris: I don't remember that. Maybe they did. But, I remember them talking about Larkin. Everybody dealt with Larkin's.

    Frazier: Did your father smoke?

    Fitzharris: Yes, a pipe.

    Frazier: What brand?

    Fitzharris: Comet. And I think after that - I think they stopped making that and I think it was Sensation.

    Frazier: How about dress material for sewing? Where did you buy your yard goods?

    Fitzharris: Well, I don't know where my mother bought it, but when my sister used to make things, she went down to Bancroft's the Everfast store. I was in high school.

    Frazier: Was it a lot like it is now?

    Fitzharris: We both worked down there, too, my sister and I. Sold material. It wasn't as large as it is now.

    Frazier: And your ice came from a wagon?

    Fitzharris: A wagon. Horse and wagon. Two horses.

    Frazier: Who emptied the pan?

    Fitzharris: Oh, that was our duty. And you know sometimes it would overflow but I won't tell you what happened when it overflowed.

    Frazier: Then you'd get out the mop. How about calling a doctor?

    Fitzharris: Well, the doctor that I can remember would be Buckmaster because I don't know whether he helped deliver us or not, but I know I had a serious sled accident. And I had to have seven stitches in my leg. And I know Dr. Buckmaster was the one that did that. That was the year - the winter before my mother died. I still have a beautiful scar. They'd come right to the house. I think if you'd call a doctor any hour of the night, they'd come.

    Frazier: I'm sure all the neighbors all rallied around if someone was sick and needed help.

    Fitzharris: I think this doctor that we had was from the east side of Wilmington. I don't know how he got here.

    Frazier: Horse and buggy.

    Fitzharris: Probably.

    Frazier: Do you remember any stories about neighborhood characters like neighborhood bully or anything like that?

    Fitzharris: Not especially a bully. But I know quite a few of the men used to drink, but they were harmless. They used to drink and they'd sit on the wall by the bridge and it seems that if strangers came in - like say you had a boyfriend come from down town - well, they would try to inquire who he was and send him away. But, if we come along the road to go over the bridge - the covered bridge - the men, drunk or sober, they'd always watch over us. We were never afraid of them. I can't remember any bullies.

    Frazier: You can't remember any crime or anything like that?

    Frazier: Nobody locked their doors?

    Fitzharris: Oh, no. Up until the time I was married we never locked doors around here. You'd leave the money for the insurance man on this window; you'd leave the money for the grocery man or whoever would come. I know the men used to send their shirts to the laundry and the laundryman would come and the money would be there for him. The doors all open. And each man would come in and pick up his own money and go. Can't do that today. We had an insurance man come around once a week and collect our insurance.

    Frazier: Did anyone ever go back and visit Ireland or England that you remember?

    Fitzharris: Not that I remember. I don't think they had the money.

    Frazier: Do you think your father liked his work?

    Fitzharris: Yes, very much. When he went to the Experimental, I don't know about Hagley, but I know when he went to the Experimental, he liked working with all the chemists. Very helpful with him. He enjoyed it.
  • Storing food in a space off the side of their house; men's and women's accessories; moving to Rising Sun Lane after getting married; neighborhood salespeople; barbershops and curling irons
    Keywords: aprons; barbershops; Birdseye diapers; bridal showers; curling irons; derby hats; hair receivers; Hob Tearoom; honeymoon; hothouse; pocketbooks; Rising Sun Lane; scissors grinder; Shields Lumber and Coal Co.; umbrella mender; watches; wedding rings; wild rose and glycerin hand cream
    Transcript: Frazier: Where did you store your food besides the ice box. Did you have cupboards?

    Fitzharris: Well, they had cupboards, but they had in what we'd call in the dining room. The dining room - well, off the main road - that was like the kitchen and dining room, but it was built against the earth. And the first bedroom you could go off that - out of that bedroom in the back and be right on the lawn. But, below the bedroom window and what would be the window downstairs it was a window that was dug out. It was all plastered. Like a storage space. And in the summertime they had glass windows on it - like a hothouse would have. But in the wintertime, they'd put the heavy shutters over it. And that was very cold and in the wintertime that's where they stored a lot of things when they didn't have ice. And the milk when it was delivered would always be frozen. The top - in glass bottles. And it was mostly in the summertime they had the ice. And in the wintertime they used to hang turkeys and things outside the window - if they bought them before Christmas, you know. But, you know, now the way they have things it's really different, isn't it? Who would ever think of putting food out the window? And we never got sick from it or anything.

    Frazier: When you look at all those old pictures, you see everyone wearing a hat all the time. Did the men and the women mostly wear hats?

    Fitzharris: Oh, my dad always wore a derby and my mother wore big hats, too.

    Frazier: They wouldn't go out without a hat?

    Fitzharris: No. If they went to a picnic or anything, they mostly always had a hat. I remember my aunt saying when their morale was down they'd go in and buy a new hat. I love hats, but my head's too big.

    Frazier: And did the women use cosmetics? Powder and rouge?

    Fitzharris: I remember they used for their hands, like a hand cream. What was it called: wild rose and glycerin. I remember everybody used to use that to keep their hands smooth. And, you know, the hard work they did most all those ladies had nice hands. They'd put the cream on them. Rosewater and glycerin. That's what it was.

    Frazier: And how about jewelry - watches?

    Fitzharris: Most of them had these little pin-on watches and their wedding bands, but as far as other jewelry, I don't remember noticing any.

    Frazier: And did women buy special clothes for work around the house or did they just wear something old?

    Fitzharris: I think they had regular house dresses, but when they went out, they had the better blouses and heavy skirts. They all wore aprons - checked gingham apron. We were talking about that the other day. My grandmother was short and stout and she had a checked gingham apron and her apron strings were about a yard long and she'd tie a bow in the back. And my cousin which was my aunt - which was my cousin's mother - she was so thin that she just had two little tabs on her aprons and she always put a safety pin in instead of tying it. And you'd see grandmother's apron blowing on the line with these huge strings and Aunt Rose's was just little tabs. It's funny how these things all come back. My cousin and I were just talking about it.

    Frazier: How about pocketbooks? Did women carry them?

    Fitzharris: Big black ones, I can remember. One compartment. With a strap over it.

    Frazier: And what would they carry in their pocketbooks?

    Fitzharris: I don't know.

    Frazier: Not credit cards? [laughs]

    Fitzharris: No, no credit cards. Probably a handkerchief and a comb and a little squeeze purse - for money. I don't think they even had wallets back in those days.

    Frazier: Did your family have any means of transportation? A horse?

    Fitzharris: No.

    Frazier: Now, when you got married, where did you live?

    Fitzharris: Rising Sun Lane.

    Frazier: And did you buy furniture or was it given to you?

    Fitzharris: No, we bought it. We went into a three-room apartment. We bought everything, my husband and I. My father gave us money, you know, to help out, but we practically bought everything ourselves. Bought my own wedding dress. The bridesmaid bought hers. I just had one attendant. We were married at St. Joseph's. We went to Atlantic City on our honeymoon and then we came back and we had an apartment there where the Delaware Hospital parking lot is now. There was huge houses there. We had a second-floor apartment.

    Frazier: You were working at Bancroft's at the time?

    Fitzharris: Yes.

    Frazier: Where did your husband work?

    Fitzharris: DuPont Experimental. He was a lab technician. He was dead 24 years yesterday - Monday. He's been dead longer than we were married. We were married 23 and one-half years, and he's been dead 24. He was from St. Ann's Parish.

    Frazier: Did women have bridal showers?

    Fitzharris: Yes. I did. In fact, I had two. Had one at the Hob Tearoom which is no more. On Market Street. And my friends had me over for dinner one night and it was a surprise shower. We didn't get the big gifts that they get today, though. Mostly linens and things like that. And a lot of lovely wedding presents from mostly family.

    Frazier: How many children did you have?

    Fitzharris: Two - a boy and a girl. Three years apart, and the girl is the oldest. Kathleen and Jack.

    Frazier: Did you make your own diapers or buy them?

    Fitzharris: Bought them. They were Birdseye. We did our own laundry, too.

    Frazier: Those diapers were wonderful. I used them for dust cloths for years and loved them.

    Fitzharris: My daughter, after her last baby was born, she had a lot of diapers left and she gave me some for dust cloths. They were always so soft and nice.

    Frazier: What other kinds of salespeople do you remember? You said your father used coal in the stove.

    Fitzharris: That was bought from Shields Lumber and Coal Co.

    Frazier: How about a scissors grinder?

    Fitzharris: There was a man come around, they called him the umbrella mender. And he would mend umbrellas and sharpen scissors. I don't know where he came from. Just had a big pack he carried. But he used to come around every once in a while.

    Frazier: And how about fish? Anyone come by peddling fish?

    Fitzharris: I know we had fish but I don't know where we got it.

    Frazier: Fruit?

    Fitzharris: There was a fruit man came around. That was later. But mostly when we were real small after my mother died, we got it from Gregg's. You'd order like a dozen bananas or what, you know, from him. But then later on after I was married, there was a man came around - an Italian man - Andy was his name - and he used to come all through here. He had lovely fruit. Everybody bought from him. And then there was Mrs. Toomey. Did you interview Mrs. Toomey, by any chance, next door?

    Frazier: I didn't.

    Fitzharris: Well, her brother worked for somebody with a bakery truck and they used to come around and they had sugar cookies and things like that. And then there was a meat man come around with a horse and wagon and brought meat.

    Frazier: You really hardly had to go shopping?

    Fitzharris: No. But, there again, when you figure the man coming around with a meat wagon, I wonder how long per day he had that meat on the wagon?

    Frazier: That's right.

    Fitzharris: Now, you go to the store and you don't want to keep your meat out 20 minutes even. Man by the name of Gilson used to come around with the meat.

    Frazier: He must have iced it down somehow in the summer.

    Fitzharris: I don't know how they did it.

    Frazier: How about a barbershop?

    Fitzharris: Oh, we had numerous barbershops. Before my time I know my dad must have told me about four or five, but in my time there was right up there this side of Hageys where those three houses are - or two houses, I guess. In the basement of that. Mr. Connelly had it. And then there was a man by the name of Mr. Lloyd he had a barbershop in Dorman's store at one time.

    Frazier: Both men and women went to have their hair cut?

    Fitzharris: Well, women very rarely got their hair cut. The men would go and of course, the girls would go. We kids went in there. But the women always had long hair.

    Frazier: Up in the Gibbons House there's a curling iron. Did women use curling irons?

    Fitzharris: I remember those. They used to put them on the stove. They have one of them up there, do they? How about that.

    Frazier: Course, now they have electric ones.

    Fitzharris: Well, they were like - some of them were flat and some of them were round. I remember they used to take the lid partly off the stove and get them hot that way. I never had curly hair. My hair was so thick and straight.

    Frazier: What did women do with their hair? Did they twist it up and put it on top of their heads?

    Fitzharris: Some of them did. Some of them had a knot in the back. Some of them had it on top. And at night when they went to sleep, they'd have large pigtails down the back.

    Frazier: Did they wear nightcaps?

    Fitzharris: I don't remember my mother ever wearing one, but I suppose they did. But I know they used to have on their bureau what they called hair receivers.

    Frazier: In fact, I have one. Had a little hole. It was my grandmother's, I think.

    Fitzharris: I don't what ever happened to my mother's. She had a beautiful set.
  • Primary objects in kitchen and parlor; childhood superstitions; most prized possessions; her mother taking pride in her linens and china
    Keywords: cemeteries; china closet; dishpan; dolls; linen dishtowels; magazines; Mt. Vernon Band; oil cloth; pianos; wooden rocker
    Transcript: Frazier: Now, what do you remember as the main object in your kitchen? Would that be the stove?

    Fitzharris: The stove and a wooden rocker with like a padding on it. And a kitchen table that had a tablecloth - washable - felt back - what was that? It was called - oil cloth. That's what they were called then. Then on special occasions we'd put a tablecloth over that. But everyday meals we ate off that. You could wipe it off. Of course, we had to do the dishes in a dishpan and then drain them in another pan. We always had plenty of dishtowels, though. Linen dishtowels.

    Frazier: Homemade, I guess. The best kind.

    Fitzharris: Yes. You know, it's hard to get it now. I have about two, I think, that's about all. But I think linen dishtowels are wonderful. Of course, people don't use them now because they have dishwashers. But I don't have a dishwasher. In fact, I never would have one. Dishes don't bother me. I always liked to wash dishes.

    Frazier: Did you have a parlor?

    Fitzharris: Well, it was sort of a dining room-parlor combined. Had comfortable chairs and this couch. And a china closet. There must have ha an awful lot of dishes. I remember the china closet was full of all kinds. And shapes and cups. We had a closet we used to keep the extra ones in. But, I can remember my mother's china closet and it was really pretty. I often thought I'd like to have one like it now. My son has one very similar to it. It had wooden shelves, but he took the wooden shelves out and put glass shelves in it and took it down to the natural wood and his wife has all whatnots in it. It's beautiful. He antiqued it and they have it in their reception hall as you go into their place. Beautiful.

    Frazier: Did you have a piano or organ?

    Fitzharris: No.

    Frazier: They have an organ up to the Gibbons House - an old-fashioned pump organ.

    Fitzharris: One of our neighbors down there, she had one, too. She used to play every once in a while. We would go around and sing. And a lady by the name of Mrs. Rowe lived on Rising Sun and they had a piano. And we used to go up there. And then the boys later on which one of them would be my brother-in-law - and they formed a band and called it the Mt. Vernon Band. I don't remember too many people having organs.

    Frazier: They probably were an expensive item.

    Fitzharris: Yes, handed down. I remember the man who used to come over to Breck's Mill to tune the piano. He was a blind man. He's dead now, this one I mean.

    Frazier: How about ghost stories. Any scary stories?

    Fitzharris: Not to my knowledge. I always had a horror of passing cemeteries at night if it was dark. Somebody would always pretending that they were somebody else yelling and they'd get in back. But, I don't say we were ever afraid of it.

    Frazier: Did they ever talk about ghosts in the powder yard or anything like that?

    Fitzharris: I don't remember.

    Frazier: After it closed? As a child what would you say was your most cherished possession?

    Fitzharris: A doll. It was a china face and hands and feet but it was all leather - the rest of the body. And then when I got a little older, I remember I got a pocketbook for Christmas. You only got one thing at Christmastime. But that's about all.

    Frazier: Did you keep the doll?

    Fitzharris: Oh, I had it for a long time but I don't know what happened to it later. After we got older, it just seemed like different people coming in our house and helping to do things, and things just seemed to disappear. You know, like when my sister and I - well, linen tablecloths and things like that. I know my mother had a lot but we never knew just what happened to them. I have no idea. And I have a cousin did the same thing. She said she don't know what ever happened to their things. I guess somebody liked them. And maybe Dad could have said go ahead and take it. But, I don't know what happened to them. But the dining room was the main thing for my mother. She liked to cook and she liked to serve and I know she had plenty of nice things.

    Frazier: She probably enjoyed setting her table with nice linens and china.

    Fitzharris: Baking the best of pies. I can remember having at least two kinds of pie and cake and homemade ice cream every Sunday. Dad used to make the ice cream, especially when peaches were in season. I can't remember going any place to visit other people for dinner because we were always home.

    Frazier: Did you make any toys at home?

    Fitzharris: No, other than like we'd get a colorful magazine and take the papers out and make beads and roll them and string them. Or, we'd get leaves and pin them together with pins, things like that. Make head dresses. Nothing fancy.

    Frazier: I can remember making hollyhock dolls. Did you ever do that?

    Fitzharris: Oh, really? No.

    Frazier: You take the bud, and the flower and make a doll.

    Fitzharris: Oh, I know one thing we used to do. Remember those stickers? Had like a purple flower on the top. Purple design. They were all green and in the center would be purple. We used to make baskets out of those. Stick our fingers on them while we were doing it.

    Frazier: Your mother loved her linens and her china. Did she consider those her most prized possessions?

    Fitzharris: That would be her main - her dining room would be - yes.

    Frazier: You had a large table in your dining room?

    Fitzharris: Yes, one that expanded. It was a round table with the claw legs.

    Frazier: And she entertained a lot.

    Fitzharris: As I say, we ate in the kitchen.

    Frazier: When you had company, the children ate in the kitchen.

    Fitzharris: Yes. Because then we could eat all at one time. Lots of places they'd make the children wait. There was only three of us.
  • Various household objects; learning discipline and prayers from her parents; relationship with her grandmothers
    Keywords: Catholic children; cherry pitter; coffee; discipline; First Communion; floor coverings; grass rugs; matting; mouse traps; oil lamps; parochial schools; Sunday School; telephone; Working class--Religious life
    Transcript: Frazier: I have a list of things here that you might remember. How was the coffee made? Did you have a coffee pot?

    Fitzharris: It was just boiled; it wasn't perked. I think it was just water put in and the coffee put in and boiled that way. And when they went to the stores, they ground their own in the store. They'd grind their own coffee from the coffee beans. I can remember that odor yet. Oh, I love the smell of coffee.

    Frazier: When did you get a telephone?

    Fitzharris: Oh, I guess I was 17 maybe before we had one.

    Frazier: Was it a wall telephone?

    Fitzharris: No. One of the old-fashioned ones - set on a table. With the receiver and the hook?

    Frazier: How about mouse traps?

    Fitzharris: Everybody had mouse and rat traps. I think everybody had a rat trap. Across the Brandywine there must have been a lot of rats. But there again, it didn't bother us. I guess you just take things in your stride.

    Frazier: You said you had to clean the lamps. You and your sister.

    Fitzharris: Oh, those smoked things they were terrible. Every time I was that one there, I think - of course, it's never smoked - but it brings back memories. Every day they would be dirty.

    Frazier: That's beautiful.

    Fitzharris: My brother gave me that quite a few years ago.

    Frazier: Egg beater, cherry pitter, things like that?

    Fitzharris: We may have had a cherry pitter. I don't think so. We had a cherry tree in our yard, and I think the cherries were washed and pitted by hand.

    Frazier: You sent your clothes out to be washed?

    Fitzharris: Some lady did them for us. Because we couldn't wash and iron. I remember my sister maybe would wash sheets, but shirts and things like that that had to be ironed, we didn't do it.

    Frazier: Rugs?

    Fitzharris: Yes, we had rugs in the dining room, but they were mostly those grass rugs like matting in the bedrooms.

    Frazier: Some people used to have winter and summer rugs. And curtains. If the climate is very warm.

    Fitzharris: Probably a lot of people over our way did, too, but we didn't. We just had white lace curtains at the windows and shades. We never had a whole lot, but we were happy. Let's put it that way.

    Frazier: What's the most important thing you think your parents taught you?

    Fitzharris: Discipline. Their word was law. And I remember my mother wasn't Catholic. My father was. But my mother taught us our prayers. I remember her doing that every night.

    Frazier: You prayed every night?

    Fitzharris: Yes. Every night before we went to bed. And every morning. And she saw to it that we went to Sunday School every Sunday. And we went to Catholic schools all the time. We went to Mass on Sunday. And we went to Sunday School on Sunday afternoons. That was a must. And the families that didn't go to parochial schools they would go for instruction right before they made their First Communion. After their school. And I remember one time saying I can't see why they're so smart they can just come two or three weeks before they make their First Communion and we go from the first grade to the eighth grade. Of course, we didn't complain, but I just couldn't understand why. My mother died a non-Catholic. She said when her family was raised, she would like to become a Catholic, but she didn't think she could do justice, so she never became a Catholic. When she died, dad just had her buried with her minister which was right. That's what she believed in.

    Frazier: Did you know either of your grandparents?

    Fitzharris: Yes. I knew Nanna. Nanna Farren. I didn't know my grandfather because he died when pop was 12. And my mother's people I just vaguely remember them. I think my grandmother died after my mother. My grandmother Lowther. But not long after. They lived down on Pennsylvania Avenue.

    Frazier: You don't remember any stories they told you?

    Fitzharris: No, but I remember she had a beautiful flower garden. She had every flower imaginable in her backyard.

    Frazier: Your grandmother Lowther?

    Fitzharris: Yes. I remember going down there and she always sent us home with flowers. Really nice.

    Frazier: That must have been where your mother got to love flowers.

    Fitzharris: I think so.

    Frazier: She grew up with them. Sometimes there are stories that come down through the family. I just wondered if you remembered any from your grandparents.

    Fitzharris: Not really. I was always closer to grandmother Farren because she was right here in the village. She used to come down to visit us and she always sat at her window - like when Pop would be coming home from work. Like one time he left DuPont's because they were going to lay them off and he had to go to Bancroft to work - he only worked there a short while. And she used to sit at her window and wait until he went past the house. And knew that everything was all right. She looked over him just like a little boy. She was a real lady, always good to us. Everybody called her Nanna, Nanna Farren. We never called her grandmother. I think where she really got the name was from my older brother. I think he couldn't say grandmother. And then everybody called her Nanna. Real short stout, white wavy-haired lady.

    Frazier: Do you have pictures?

    Fitzharris: No. I have a picture of my mother and father. But I don't have anybody else. There again, people said we had a lot of pictures and after mother died, the pictures all disappeared. I don't have any of my grandparents on my mother's side.

    Frazier: Did your father tell you anything that happened in the powder yards when he worked there? Or were you too young to remember?

    Fitzharris: I don't remember. Did you interview anybody by the name of Buchanan? Seems like the Buchanan's knew a lot about. Of course, there's not many left now. I know several of them worked. Old Mr. Buchanan - Bill Buchanan - Albert Buchanan - they worked in the powder mills. So many people are gone. Would probably know so much.

    Frazier: Well, we hope to learn a lot more with this second round of interviews.

    Fitzharris: If I can get up anything, how can I contact you?

    Frazier: I'll give you my phone number.

    Fitzharris: Sometimes you get talking with people and think that might be of interest. My daughter is very interested. She said, "Mother, I wish you had kept a book when you were a little girl." She - if she takes pictures around here, she always puts dates on them and who is in them and everything. It's going to be nice. I have pictures taken right after we were married, and I can't remember half the people in them.