Interview with Blanche MacAdoo Yetter, 1985 February 19 [audio](part 2)

Share/Save:
  • Doing laundry; nursery rhymes and books; age
    Keywords: age; family bible; laundry; nursery rhymes; religion; wash boiler; Yetter's Liquors
    Transcript: Wagner: Wash tubs for your mother — they're big and heavy and full of water - she'd bale them out or she'd just carry...

    Yetter: Yes, she would bale them out and then they were for outdoors and then they would take them over to the side and dump the rest of it out and it would run down the side of the hill.

    Wagner: Didn't it get sloppy out back?

    Yetter: No, it would dry off in a little while.

    Wagner: And you only washed once a week?

    Yetter: Yes.

    Wagner: Did anybody make apple cider, do you recall anybody making...

    Yetter: We didn't have apples.

    Wagner: Did anybody make apple cider?

    Yetter: Well, out in the country people did.

    Wagner: But not in the neighborhood?

    Yetter: Not in our neighborhood, no. Fall of the year, maybe someone would come along with a wagon with a barrel of cider on the back and sell it — sell it by the quart to the people - and that would be in the fall of the year when they had plenty of apples.

    Wagner: When they made the cider - It says, did you have a closed boiler?

    Wagner: Now your mother just heated the water on the stove and took it out to the tub, she didn't boil clothes on the stove?

    Yetter: Oh yes, she did.

    Wagner: Oh, she did, pardon me.

    Yetter: Oh, they weren't clean if you didn't boil them.

    Wagner: Oh, alright.

    Yetter: Put them in soapy water and scrubbed them on the board and then she'd put them in water in the wash boiler and put them in on the stove and boiled them so long, and that would kill any germs she said.

    Wagner: But - I'm sure it would — but you couldn't do this to those woolen petticoats, or you would have a petticoat like...

    Yetter: This would be white clothes and things...

    Wagner: And bedclothes.

    Yetter: Yeah, and it seemed like my grandmother always had so many white clothes. Of course, she had six beds, you see, and she had a good many sheets. And then she always told us to make sure our underclothes were clean, never mind whether your dress was clean, but make sure your underclothes was always clean, so she always had the side of the hill full of clothes drying.

    Waagner: And she just spread them out on the side of the hill or she had clothesline?

    Yetter: She had clotheslines out there, but she'd have the side of the hill full of clothes. She done an awful lot of washing and I guess it would take her all morning long — she would start early and wash all morning long.

    Wagner: Now, these clothes wouldn't dry too well in the cold weather.

    Yetter: Well, in the cold weather, she would have to put them in - she would hang some in the back room or something, and hang some of them in back of the stove, she had to get them dry. Or sometimes they would stretch a line across the porch and let them drip out there, you know. That's the way, of course in winter you wore the dark clothes and you didn't get changed as often as you did in the summer. And that's when they didn't wash these woolen clothes.

    Wagner: And your mother always said - always clean underwear in case of accidents, you know.

    Yetter: Yes, you always have clean clothes in case you take sick or something happened - you always had clean underwear - that was hammered into our heads all of our lives.

    Wagner: She wouldn't identify you if you didn't have clean clothes - that right?

    Yetter: No, no.

    Wagner: It says, nursery rhymes - when you were little, you learned the standard nursery rhymes?

    Yetter: Standard nursery rhymes, the same as they are learning today, I think.

    Wagner: Family books - did you have any - did your family keep a record, like the family tree — the middle of the Bible - did you...

    Yetter: No, they had a big Bible with some pages — one would be for marriages and another for deaths and things like that in the big Bible. Now you've seen the big Bibles?

    Wagner: Oh, yes.

    Yetter: Oh, they must have been four or five inches thick. In fact, I think one of my grandsons has my grandmother's now - I think it's all falling apart — I hope he still has it — because he has joined church — the Baptist church down here, and he's gotten a little more religious than the rest of my grandchildren. Which, I'm glad he joined church - the Baptist church are very strict, I don't know whether you are a Baptist or not.

    Wagner: No.

    Yetter: I don't — I'm Presbyterian.

    Wagner: I'm a Methodist [laughter].

    Yetter: We just don't understand the others - so I hope he still has that Bible.

    Wagner: I hope he does — and it does have the family record in it — for the most part?

    Yetter: Well, I think some of it has been taken out and they accused my mother of tearing that one page out. She didn't want her age known and they accused my mother of tearing that page out, so that was a shame that she did that. But my mother, even when she got older, she stayed sixty-five until she was eighty. Bless her. I asked her age - sixty-five? and then she'd laugh. And when she was eighty, then she begin to get proud of her age. And she was eight-seven when she died.

    Wagner: Oh — she's a lady after my own heart - you can be whatever age you want to be.

    Yetter: I'll be 88 the second day of March.

    Yetter: You will?

    Yetter: That'll be Saturday a week, won't it?

    Wagner: Yes, it will. I think so. Is there going to be a celebration?

    Yetter: Well, no, I don't think so. My son and daughter— in-law usually have a dinner for me and have the whole family there, so that'll be the celebration.

    Wagner: You'll have a little glass of something on your birthday?

    Yetter: No, they serve highballs or things up there, but not too many of them drink. In fact, this boy that's just joined church, he won't drink now. Of course the other boy will, but I think he likes wines better.

    Wagner: They're good for you.

    Yetter: Course, he's very much interested in wines. He's been to some of the wineries in Europe and things like that and he went to Baltimore and took special courses and has diplomas for it.

    Wagner: Now, is he involved in the store?

    Yetter: Yes.

    Wagner:Then he has to know about those things.

    Yetter: Yes, but he's very interested in it and he reads a lot anyhow. Course he's a college graduate and he knows what he's doing. The business is my son's - I turned it over to him. I go down every day, but I'm not in the business now - I'm on the Board.

    Wagner: Very good.

    Yetter: I still have the Board. My son has the business, then his two sons are working there, you see, and so I don't know what's gonna turn up there because, I think with this one being in the Baptist Church now, they don't approve of drinks, and so I don't know whether the church will try to get him to get up out of there, but it's gonna be sad for him if he does. That's right. Because he knows the business now and he's a very good worker.

    Wagner: Well, he still works?

    Yetter: He still works there, yes.

    Wagner: Is he considering other...

    Yetter: Well, right now he...

    Wagner: You can't tell?

    Yetter: Yes, well, all summer he — he calls his business "Clean Sweep" — he cleans lawns, cuts grass and cleans lawns.

    Wagner: Oh.

    Yetter: And then in the fall in got into winter snow shoveling and now, this month he just started with trucks with fruit on them. Well, he had one down to the side of our place, down to the business there — two years ago, fresh vegetables and fruit. So now this year he started two more and he told me he'd done very good last Sunday up on Harvey Road, but he didn't do anything out on the Foulk Road — didn't do any business out on the Foulk Road. But he has a wife that's spends a lot of money. Right now I hear they're gonna move and she's picking out wallpaper $18.00 a roll. Do you have any of that in your house?

    Wagner: I do not. My walls are painted and I usually paint them.

    Yetter: They're married five years and she said, well there was wall— to-wall carpet on the floor when they moved there and she's had two sets of wall-to-wall carpet in five years. So, you see why he's trying to do other business, but I'm afraid the church will try to get him to give up working in the liquor store.

    Wagner: I hope that is resolved.

    Yetter: Well, I'm glad that he joined church, but I think if he had of joined another church, they wouldn't have been on him to give up that end because, after all, Billy, my son is 60 - 61, and his wife works and she'll get her pension, she has twenty years service in December, and then she'll go on pension - well, she don't have to take a pension, she can take a lump sum. I think, then, Billy will probably think about retiring and, you see, then the two boys could run the business. That's what he's been training them for, but then if one goes out and the other is there, I don't know what Billy will do then about it. Families really get involved in a lot of things, don't they?

    Wagner: Don't they, don't they - and the bigger it is, the more involved it becomes. Well, I asked you about family.
  • Socializing with people from Chicken Alley; ice in the winter; boats on the Brandywine Creek; watering the gardens
    Keywords: boats; Brandywine Creek; Chicken Alley; church; gardens; ice; social gatherings; tomato plants; water
    Transcript: Wagner: Boats- do you recall any boats on the Brandywine - there were always bridges to get back and forth across the Brandywine — were there any boats?

    Yetter: Well, when I started to think of that little - few houses up on the other side from Hagley, I think they called that the Keg Mill, I don't know why they called that the Keg Mill up there - there wasn't any mill up there that I know of.

    Wagner: Just the houses?

    Yetter: There was just four or five houses, just a few houses up there. And I think they must have done away with those in later years, cause I don't think a thing would be up there now. Of course, after the powder mills closed, you see, the people begin to move away because they didn't have work up there.

    Wagner: Did Chicken Alley people come back and forth - did you socialize with people from Chicken Alley?

    Yetter: Oh yes, we knew everybody that lived up there, we knew everybody to speak to all the way around - every place for miles, yes.

    Wagner: Because you'd see them in school and in church...

    Yetter: Yes, yes - and the grandmothers were probably friends when they were growing up and they got married and one lived at Chicken Alley and went to someplace else, you know, around. But they still kept in touch with one another.

    Wagner: They stayed in the neighborhood?

    Yetter: Yeah, and of course then they went - if they were Methodist they went to the Methodist Church, Episcopals went to Christ Church, Presbyterians to Green Hill - and the Catholics to St. Joseph's and you see you were mingling with them...

    Wagner: All the time.

    Yetter: All the time.

    Wagner: And everyone seemed to stay in the neighborhood?

    Yetter: Yes.

    Wagner: Did you have ice for drinks in the winter?

    Yetter: No.

    Wagner: Was there an ice house close by?

    Yetter: No — no ice. Ice man come around in the summertime, but he didn't come in winter. And if you wanted ice, you just put a pan of water outside and let it freeze. You didn't drink ice water — the water was cold enough without ice.

    Wagner: Did you say there were boats on the Brandywine?

    Yetter: Oh, just some flat...

    Wagner: Did people have row boats - did individuals own row boats?

    Yetter: Maybe three or four families had a flat— bottomed row boat — probably was built right in the carpenter shop there — was DuPont's lumber, I imagine at that time, because those that lived on the other side of the creek just had a short row across where McConnell's bridge is, they could come right across there. There was boats on the other side tied up all the time.

    Wagner: So then the people did use boats to go back and forth instead of going up to the...

    Yetter: Yes - otherwise they had to go all the way down to the Iron Bridge and across — which was a covered bridge when I was growing up - it's an iron bridge now — or concrete bridge - what is it?

    Wagner: Yeah — well it's - they still call it the Iron Bridge. How about fertilizer in the garden — what kind of fertilizer

    Yetter: People had chickens - just spread that out on the...

    Wagner: Chicken dirt.

    Yetter: But they didn't have - I don't think they fertilized it, maybe whatever garbage they'd throw on the patches and dig it under, you know.

    Wagner: How did you water the garden? This is what you used the rain barrel water for, huh?

    Yetter: Well, around your house you watered your flowers out of the rain barrel, but if you were up in the gardens, you see, it was away up, in the upper end of Squirrel Run, you couldn't carry the water that far, so they probably would just take a bucket up and a cup and give the tomato plants a little bit at the roots or something - and depend on the rain - course it did rain.

    Wagner: I was thinking of a dry summer - you'd have wilted lettuce.

    Yetter: There wasn't any water up there.
  • Starting and taking care of the gardens; making a swimming hole; DuPont outhouses
    Keywords: bridal wreath; Burpee Seeds; cabbage; cucumbers; dahlias; dandelions; fertilizer; flowers; gardens; geraniums; marigolds; market on King Street, Wilmington Delaware; Montchanin, Delaware; orange blossom; Paris Green; petunias; potatoes; squash; sweet pea; swimming; tomato worms; turnips; watercress
    Transcript: Wagner: When they started these gardens, did they have — did they start seeds - did they have cold frames, things like that to start your seeds early for your garden?

    Yetter: Well, some people must have had and then they either sold them or divided them up and gave them around or maybe some of the gardeners, some of the big houses, were able to bring some home to them, I don't know. Or maybe they bought them in market - no doubt they they bought them in on King Street.

    Wagner: Probably - yes, bought as transplants - that was probably the way it was done. Now, they didn't have trouble with chemicals when you were gardening — you didn't - everything was - insect diseases of the gardens — did they spray for insects in the garden?

    Yetters: Yes, they would spray with Paris Green— they called it Paris Green - I don't know whether they called it Screen or Green — Paris Green - it was Green - G— R-E-E-N in color, and they called it Paris Green, that's what they said. Take care of the tomato worms. It was a powder that killed the bugs on the tomatoes. And I think maybe they sprayed the potatoes with that too.

    Wagner: Did anybody ever put up scarecrows?

    Yetter: Oh yes - I don't think they were bothered too much with crows though - once in a while you'd see somebody put something up like that.

    Wagner: Were the same crops planted at successive intervals during the season — did you have early and late cabbage? Several crops of lettuce or beans, or did you just put in a garden?

    Yetter: They just put in the garden, course they planned on the cabbage for late because they could hold that over longer, and the cabbage was late and of course turnips were always fall, late, cause they could use those on into cold weather, you know.

    Wagner: Was there a manure pile or compost pile?

    Yetter: Well, they didn't have none in the manure because they didn't have horses, the people didn't have horses.

    Wagner: Did they ever go up to the du Pont barn or did du Pont use - keep its own...

    Yetter: Well, du Pont's would have used their own, but du Ponts did use fertilizer, because they had bags that they would use the fertilizer and they'd hang the bags on the fence, right up from where Mrs. Crowninshield's home is — used to be a road straight into Mrs. Crowninshield's home. You know when...

    Wagner: Down between the trees, yes.

    Yetter: Yes, that was a lane straight into her house, and there was fences there and the bags were hung on there. That's where the boys got bags to dam up Sandy Butt, Sandy Bottom for us to swim. The boys went up and swiped a few bags and filled them with sand and then came down and blocked the water off and then it got deep enough, about as deep as this table. I. Is that where they got the football bags — did they get...

    Wagner: No, the football bags they got at home in sugar bags, but to dam up to swim, they got DuPont's bags from up there.

    Wagner: And where did they get the sand?

    Yetter: Well, there was always sand along up there — I don't know where it washed - washed down with the storms I guess. There was always some beach or something full of sand that they could dig up. And then they put a piece of metal - they'd build the sand bags up on~each side, and then they'd have a big strip of metal - I don't know where that came from, from Hagley Yard someplace I guess, and they'd put that in, and then if there was a storm coming up, some of the boys in Squirrel Run would go up and pull that out and let the water out and then the sand bags wouldn't wash away, but if it would come up a storm in the night, it would wash away and the sand bags, they'd have to go down and drag them back.

    Wagner: Down at the bottom of the hill.

    Yetter: Of course it would have gone down — running down that stream a little bit.

    Wagner: I was surprised at the amount of water power Squirrel Run has. That's a lot of water coming down that hill there.

    Yetter: Well, sometimes it would be pretty high in storms. you know.

    Wagner: And when it drops down, it's noisy.

    Yetter: Yes, uh-huh.

    Wagner: I was really surprised when I saw that. In this garden, we talked about thyme. Did you have such things as cucumbers? Were cucumbers a big deal?

    Yetter: No — when we were small, we were taught they were bad for you. They'd give you pains in your stomach, things like that. So, we weren't taught to eat those when we were small. There was such a thing as cucumbers, but my grandmother wouldn't think they were good for you.

    Wagner: She didn't even pickle them?

    Yetter: No, she never used cucumbers. We just knew they were around, but she didn't think they were good for you.

    Wagner: How about squash?

    Yetter: I don't remember - I think some of the people might have had some squash, I don't know too much about that. They didn't have too many seeds in those days.

    Wagner: Where did they get the seeds?

    Yetter: Well, I guess they had to write away for them.

    Wagner: Burpee's?

    Yetter: Because somebody had some - well, that's the first one I would have known, was Burpee's, because I used to buy Sweet Pea seeds from there. My mother always had a lot of sweet peas, and that's the one I would have known. My mother always had a Burpee's book - when she was down on the farm she had - that's what she ordered all her things, all her seed. Course that was in later years, when she was down on the farm.

    Wagner: What about watermelons?

    Yetter: No, they didn't grow those.

    Wagner: Cantaloupe?

    Yetter: They all came from Jersey [laughter]

    Wagner: Cantaloupes - you recall cantaloupes?

    Yetter: No.

    Wagner: Parsnips?

    Yetter: Well, I don't remember any of them growing them and there was such as thing as parsnips, but they weren't very popular vegetables. I don't think they are today.

    Wagner: Asparagus?

    Yetter: No, no one had that.

    Wagner: Jersey?

    Yetter: From Jersey, nobody had that.

    Wagner: Now, you said your grandmother - it says, what vines, shrubs or flowers were planted around the outhouse? Did you try to disguise the outhouse?

    Yetter: No, we didn't have anything — it was up on the side of the hill - we didn't plant anything around that.

    Wagner: How often were the outhouses moved?

    Yetter: Well, in my day the DuPont's had dug big holes and concreted them and set the toilets on that — like a two-seater toilet. Then the back had a lid like, hinges, that they could raise up and they cleaned them out every so often, I don't know whether like spring and fall, and they had a wagon just for that that they pumped the thing in and took it away someplace out in the country.

    Wagner: You don't know where they took it?

    Yetter: No, I don't know.

    Wagner:You don't know that they had a big hole and dumped it, or took it to the river and dumped it or... No, I just thought they took it away up in Brandywine Hundred someplace [laughter]. We didn't know a thing about environment in those days.

    Wagner:: You said your mother had sweet peas - what other old fashioned flowers did she have close by the house.

    Yetter: Well, we always had some marigolds, and my grandmother always had petunias in a box on the — up on the fence - she had a box that she would put maybe, buy a couple geraniums and put in it and then petunias which would bloom all summer and stand the heat. And then she had bridal wreath bush and an orange blossom bush and she had her shrub, she had that in her back yard, and maybe she'd have a few dahlias at the side of the fence, cause they would grow very tall and she'd tie them up to the fence. They're colorful.

    Wagner: Did you ever — did you ever gather dandelion greens or watercress?

    Yetter: We used to go up Montchanin, there was a place — a run up there that had watercress and then we'd go up there sometimes and get that, but there wasn't any down around Squirrel Run or any place, but we would go up to J. B. Battons, or something, they called it, but that was Montchanin.

    Wagner: Do you remember gathering dandelion greens?

    Yetter: No, we didn't.

    Wagner: Didn't make dandelion wine or greens in the springtime?

    Yetter: No, when the Italians came up, I think they maybe gathered some dandelions, but we didn't use those.

    Wagner: Were you ever guests at the du Pont homes?

    Yetter: No. On Halloween we went around and went to the front door and they'd come out - the women would come to the door and they usually had an apple or something to give us. We would stand there on the front porch, a bunch of us would go around on Halloween. So they always, the lady of the house, maybe one of the maids or some-body would come to the door.

    Wagner: Hand out things.

    Yetter: Hand out an apple - try to guess who we were. And they didn't know who we were. [Laughs]. Just like the kids do on every door — it's sad.
  • Medicine and drugs; making breads; personal grooming; chamber pots and potty chairs
    Keywords: biscuits; bread; chamber pots; cologne; drugs; facial hair; Henry Clay (Del. : Village); medicines; mustard plaster; perfumes; powders; rolls; shaving; slop buckets; toast
    Transcript: Wagner: Now, was there a drugstore, a pharmacy — when you got sick...

    Yetter: In Henry Clay, yes. There was a drugstore there.

    Wagner: When the doctor prescribed things like cough syrup, you said mustard plasters and everything were made at home. When you had a doctor's prescription, most of the things were at the drugstore?

    Yetter: Yes.

    Wagner: You didn't mix up any home remedies or...

    Yetter: My grandmother used to mix some sort of a cough medicine that she would buy one thing in rock candy and glycerin or something, and that was a bottle that was kept in the house all the time in winter. If you had a cough, you got that. But if you had the doctor and he gave you a prescription, that went to the drugstore, and there was always a drugstore down Henry Clay.

    Wagner: And he had everything, you didn't have to go into Danforths or anything?

    Yetter: No. And you didn't get - well you got liquid medicine, but there wasn't many pills in those days, and we had powders. Do you know what powders were...

    Wagner: I remember powders...

    Yetter: There was a white paper that weighed...

    Wagner: I remember powders — they came in a little cardboard box.

    Yetter: Yes, folded, and you just put that up and opened it and put that on your tongue and a sip of water to wash it down. That was mostly what our medicine was - in powder form.

    Wagner: But your mother would use every home remedy, and you would really have to be sick before you called the doctor?

    Yeter: Yes, before you called the doctor. Course you didn't get him the day you called, you know, cause he couldn't get around every place — he came in horse and buggy too. So you just waited your turn? Yeah — I think that's where so many women learned to deliver babies because the woman was pregnant and the baby was due on the date and the doctor couldn't get there. So there were nurses always who could help to deliver babies. Some of the older women up there that just made their living at going out and doing that to help to deliver the babies.

    Wagner: What if the baby was born deformed or with many physical problems?

    Yetter: Well, I don't know, suppose they just died, I don't know if there was someone...

    Wagner: I was thinking, you know they do...

    Yetter: You didn't run to the hospitals then in those days.

    Wagner: I was thinking of the recent liver transplants on the children and all of that sort of stuff.

    Yetter: Never heard tell of anything like that in those days. That would be...

    Wagner: If you had a liver disease, you died with it.

    Yetter: Died with liver disease, right.

    Wagner: This is talking about bread making. Biscuits, rolls, buns and toast - did you have toast?

    Yetter: Yes, but that was toasted - we didn't have an electric toasters - we had a wire rack like — it was double and. you put the slice of bread in that and then you took the lid off the stove and the hot coals, the heat would come up and brown it, and then you turned it over and browned the other side and took it out then and put another slice in.

    Wagner: You ate a lot of black toast, huh?

    Yetter: Oh, it was burned more than once. (laughter)

    Wagner: Biscuits — what kind of biscuits?

    Yetter: Just baking powder biscuits - if they run low on bread, they made baking powder biscuits.

    Wagner: Now risen rolls - yeast rolls?

    Yetter: Well, my grandmother always made a little pan of rolls when she was making the bread. She would make it out of the same dough, I guess.

    Wagner: This says buns, buns and rolls to me are the same.

    Yetter: Same dough, she would use. She always made sweet rusk and I never knew how she made them. But then they had nutmeg in them and eggs and they were a little sweeter than bread, and she would make them in a — I think maybe in a cake pan, a round cake pan, and they would be about four inches high. She would put a good many in there and they would grow tall, see, and then we would eat them with butter on them.

    Wagner: Sounds good. What about honey, did anybody keep bees?

    Yetter: No, you could buy honey in jars, but nobody ever had bees up there.

    Wagner: Last time I was here we talked about premarital sex - that was forbidden, right?

    Yetter: That was forbidden, yes.

    Wagner: And nobody did that, or if you did, you didn't know about it.

    Yetter: No.

    Wagner: This is talking about perfume and men's cologne - did men wear smell good?

    Yetter: No, I don't remember them having anything - I remember them all shaving, but I never remember them putting any lotions on their face. Don't remember them ever using anything.

    Wagner: Were the men who worked in the factory in the mills, were they clean shaven or were they allowed beards?

    Yetter: Well, I think some of them were allowed beards. My grandfather had a mustache, but he never had a beard. He always had a mustache.

    Wagner: I. Now, the men shaved themselves, or did they go to the barber?

    Yetter: They all shaved themselves — there was a barber down Henry Clay and shavin' mug and when they came take their own whoever went there, they had their own shavin' brush and it was on a shelf and in to get a shave, then the barber would cup and brush down, he didn't use his, he used whoever's name was on that. But most of them shaved at home. Well, they didn't have time, wouldn't go, and I guess only got shaved on Saturday night anyhow. Or Sunday.

    Wagner: Right - and you don't recall men using powder and stuff like that.

    Yetter: No.

    Wagner: Now, women, I know have always used powder and perfume. Where did you buy those?

    Yetter: Yes. I guess at the drugstore.

    Wagner: Oh, the drugstore.

    Yetter: I think so. In our house, they had a - of course I wasn't using powder in those days, but my mother and my aunt would have a block, a white block of powder - it was a hard block and they would take that and rub it on their face and then spread it around. And that would be like talcum powder, you see, that you would shake out of a can, only it was hard, hard enough.

    Wagner: They wouldn't grind it up and...

    Yetter: No.

    Wagner: ...put it in shakers?

    Yetter: No, they would just rub it on their face and then take their fingers and spread it out around.

    Wagner: What about eye make-up and stuff like...

    Yetter: Oh they never...

    Wagner: They didn't do that.

    Yetter: Never used anything like that. They used rouge make-up, always had some rouge and they'd put it on the cheek and just a little place on the cheek, you know.

    Wagner: Potty chairs instead of chamber pots.

    Yetter: Well, for the grownups upstairs they had a — they called it a slop bucket and that's what they would use at night, you see.

    Wagner: Just a bucket?

    Yetter: Just a bucket.

    Wagner: Galvanized bucket?

    Yetter: It was tall, it was a tall bucket. Wouldn't be as high as a toilet seat, but you could squat on it, I guess, if you had to use it at night, but I guess everybody went to the bathroom before they went to bed, and then they didn't get up during the night, but in an emergency, they had to use that. And then in the mornings the mother would take a pitcher of water and another bucket up with her and empty it into the bucket and rinse it out and put the clean bucket back there and take that downstairs and take it up to the toilet and throw it in there.
  • Making saltpeter; travel to and from Ireland; grandparent's deaths; memories of Hagley worker's villages; epidemics and her younger sister's death
    Keywords: bronchitis; diphtheria; Free Park; funerals; homes; peeling willows; saltpeter; scarlet fever; sewing; Smithsburg, Maryland; Squirrel Run; Wagoner's Row; weddings; women's labor
    Transcript: Wagner: Okay. It says saltpeter bag making - do you remember where - you said the bags were hanging on the fence - did anybody sit around in the neighborhood and sew up the bags for the saltpeter?

    Yetter: No, I don't remember them ever bagging saltpeter, but the saltpeter factory was in the Upper Banks - you had know what Upper Banks was - well that's where the saltpeter was made, but I never knew that they bagged it — I don't know what they done with it.

    Wagner: You don't know that the women sat around and made bags or anything.

    Yetter: No, no — they must have bought those bags. Because they were brown bags like you'd see today — not paper bags, brown woven bags.

    Wagner: Like burlap or something.

    Yetter: Burlap, that's the word I was trying to think of, they were made of burlap. That's the bags that the - and they must have been finely woven because the fertilizer would be fine, and that's what they used the bags for.

    Wagner: Do you recall anything about peeling willows - do you recall...

    Yetter: Oh, yes, because Mrs. Beacom always peeled willows and that was up above Squirrel Run between Squirrel Run and Wagoner's Row. And they called it The Meadows and they would bring a load of, I don't know whether it was a cord, and dump them, and the women would go up and peel the willows — the peelings laid there, and then they would come back and gather up the wood part and take it up to make - would that make saltpeter? I don't know what - they ground it up anyhow, for black powder. And they paid them so much for a cord.

    Wagner: Oh, I see, not by the hour or the time.

    Yetter: No, the cord, and every night after supper, or not every night, but certain nights, she would go up and she would take we kids with her, and if we had a little pocket knife or something, we would peel two or three and then play around there. But she would sit on a little stool or box and she would peel willows there every night.

    Wagner: Did a lot of women do this, or...

    Yetter: No — there might have been two or three piles of them around, I don't know who the others were, but I knew Mrs. Beacom because she would take me up with her.

    Wagner: Where did this willows come from - where did DuPont get them?

    Yetter: They grew them along the streams up there all the time.

    Wagner: Oh, they'd cut them and bring them up?

    Yetter: I don't know whether they have the willow trees up there now, but they would cut them back that you would see almost a stump of a tree - well, it would be taller than you or I, but it wouldn't be too tall, and then in the spring, they would spring out all these branches, and the branches would grow all year, see, and then they would have a certain time to cut them again. But it was summertime when she'd be peeling the willows, so maybe they grew from one spring to the next or something.

    Wagner: Yes, I would think, yes. I didn't realize that there were that many willows.

    Yetter: You've probably seen pictures of these trees that were a good— sized trunk and nothing on top of them unless a few, little branches, small branches, and that would be the willow trees. But they had them planted along the Brandywine and all of the streams - they had planted them just all the way around so they would have these willows to cut for powder.

    Wagner: Now, you're Irish, right - do you recall any of your relatives going back to the Old Country or wanting to go back to the Old Country?

    Yetter: No.

    Wagner: Old trunk sitting in the corner of the room that kept Irish treasures in - no?

    Yetter: Mr. Beacom was the only one kept his trunk.

    Wagner: Did he ever go back to Ireland, do you know?

    Yetter: I don't think so, Bess's been to Ireland, but not her father I don't - never heard tell of him going back. Course, he'd brought his family over here - his sisters and brothers, whatever relatives he had — see one would get fare to come over — they’ d go to work and then send and bring one at a time. And Mrs. Beacom, I guess all her life, she always had somebody coming there, from Ireland, until they got a job. And then there was different houses would take boarders in those days, the men would pay board and get their meals and their washing done and sleep - place to sleep. And then next thing they'd be married and they'd get a house, you see.

    Wagner: And be sending back for somebody.

    Yetter: They would send back for somebody else and that's how the Irish got so many over here.

    Wagner: And when did you leave the Brandywine — before they tore it down, right?

    Wagner: Oh, yes. Well, my grandmother had died up there and my grandfather had bronchitis and the Episcopal minister got him to move, and my aunt that lived home with him, to go down to Smithsburg, that was in Maryland in the mountains. Now, it wasn't too far away, but he thought it would be good for him if he was in the mountains, he could breathe better. So they stayed down there a couple of years, but it didn't help him. Then he came back and then he lived in, when he came back they gave him a house, I don't know whether it's in this thing or not. I saw a picture one day. Well, anyhow, the first house from the bridge, there was a row of houses there, and they gave him the first house, there— moved back to Delaware, and he lived there a little while and then that wasn't - they thought it was too damp because it was right against the wall there, and then they gave him another house up closer to the woolen mill because it was up where it was high and dry - higher and dryer so that's where he stayed until he died, in that house. But you see, DuPont's would always see that the pensioners got a house, you know, or anybody that worked for them, they had a house that DuPont's owned....so that's where he was when he died.

    Wagner: Now, what did he die of?

    Yetter: Well, I don't know that any - unless it was this bronchitis or old age — you didn't live — I don't think he was too old, he was up in his seventies.

    Wagner: It wasn't tuberculosis or anything like that?

    Yetter: No, it wasn't that. And he coughed all the time, but he had trouble getting his breath, because he used to have something he would get the — smell the fumes of it. He wouldn't put anything up his nose or down his throat - I don't remember him taking much medicine. But he would just sort of smother, you know, for breath — and that's what they thought it would do him good to go to the mountains. But after two years when he wasn't any better, he wanted to come back.

    Wagner: Come home.

    Yetter: Come home, up the creek, because that was home to all of us. I guess that's the reason I've always loved Hagley, because it was home to me. In fact, when I was — first went to learn my trade, on Saturday, I think, we had to work 'til five o'clock Saturday afternoon instead of six, and so I talked her in for us, instead of having an hour lunch hour, to have a half hour, and five days a week would be two and a half hours, and then deduct that from Saturday afternoon that we could get off earlier so I could go up to my Granny's up to Squirrel Run.

    Wagner: Up the creek.

    Yetter: I run up there on a Saturday afternoon and stayed until Sunday night, then went back to my mother's to sleep and go to work Monday morning again. But I just thought I'd never get weaned away from Squirrel Run, so guess it just gets in your blood.

    Wagner: Right - I guess it does. When you were, when you came to the gathering at Breck's Mill, the bus took you up and showed you Blacksmith Hill.

    Yetter: Yes.

    Wagner: Did it look at all familiar?

    Yetter: Well, I never heard it called Blacksmith Hill.

    Wagner: What was it called?

    Yetter: I've never - it was just Free Park, Free Park.

    Wagner: Just Free Park across the top and that Gibbons House...

    Yetter: There wasn't any name for anything - they just called everything up there Free Park.

    Wagner: Oh, I see.

    Yetter: It was all Free Park up there.

    Wagner: And what they're calling the Gibbon's House - does that look familiar to you?

    Yetter: Well, that was there because I knew the family that lived there for a while...

    Wagner: The Stewart family?

    Yetter: And I had been up there. I used to go with his sister and we played around outside. Course I knew that that was one of the - the boss of the Yard or somebody always lived in that house years ago, but when the people I knew didn't - he wasn't the boss or anything - it was Arthur Jackson lived there when I was up there - but I guess he worked for DuPont's, I don't know.

    Wagner: Do you remember the other houses that were in that bank of houses?

    Yetter: Well, there were two or three houses — two houses, maybe, right next to the Gibbons House, and that's where the Cheney's lived when they were younger and they had two or three children, and then later they moved up next to Christ Church, later, years after the Hackendorns died — moved away — the Cheney's moved up there. But I don't know whether there was another family in next to Cheney's or not, down there. And then, of course, the next building, which is where Seitz lived, that was an office, that was one of the DuPont's office then, and that's where we went to pay the rent.

    Wagner: You just walked across the meadow area there, and came over to the...

    Yetter: Yes, just paths there where people had worn paths, you see, cross the fields and all, that's where we went. And then in Free Park there was maybe, oh maybe nine or ten houses along there, and Mrs. Frank du Pont's house was up there, I guess, some of the du Ponts probably live in that today, I don't know.

    Wagner: Did you wander up to Wagoner's Row?

    Yetter: Oh yes, that was just a walk in the afternoon, Wagoner's Row. And there was probably ten or twelve houses around there. And the Upper Banks — I mean we would be at the Upper Banks even - see, we took long walks because we didn't have any way of transportation and we didn't have any money to spend, so we walked every place. And that's why we knew so many people around, we knew everybody for miles around, you know. Somebody died, whether you knew them or not, you went to the viewing. Then they'd get married, why we'd go up to the church to see them, see them go in.

    Wagner: Did they, when they had funerals, barking back to the days of hanging the crepe or wreath on the door, was that done?

    Yetter: Oh yes, crepes were put on the door until, well I suppose in 1916 they were still on, yes.

    Wagner: And another thing, when children got sick during epidemics, were the houses placarded, did they have signs on...

    Yetter: Yes, quarantined, yes, there was a sign put on the door. I don't suppose before that, they were much before that, but I remember in 1916 there would have been scarlet fever or diphtheria or whatever it was, on the door. Because I had a little sister died of diphtheria two days before Christmas and she died in 1916, I guess it was, no, 1915 because I wasn't married, 1915, and there was a diphtheria sign on the door and I was working at the time cause I stayed home to do the cooking and the housework and my sister who lived next door, boarding with the people so she could come to DuPont's office and my stepfather worked on, for the trolley company and he could go to work, you see? But the week that my - well, she was my half sister - the week that she was sick he just stayed home from work to help take care of her. They thought she was over it when she died. She was almost four years old when she died.

    Wagner: I guess that's for today, Mrs. Yetter, I might come to see you another time.

    Yetter: Well now, if I don't talk to you about death all the time you're here.

    Wagner: No, I've learned so much.