Interview with John Schaefer, 1988 April 16 [audio]

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  • Early life and family background; Family's work as du Pont family domestic staff; Family's work for the DuPont company; Schaefer's work for DuPont
    Keywords: Butler's Maids; Carpentry; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irenee), 1864-1935; Explosions; Hagley Yard; Henry Clay (Del.: Village); Irons (pressing); Joseph Bancroft and Sons Co.; Peeling willows; Rayon
    Transcript: Johnson: Today is April 16, 1988, my name is Dorothy Johnson and I'm interviewing John Schaefer at his home in downtown Wilmington. Mr. Schaefer, we're interested in learning what life was like in the small villages which were located near the DuPont Powder Mills on the Brandywine. Our primary interest concerns the late 19th century. In order to do this we are asking people who have lived in these areas to help us complete this questionnaire. Now could you tell me your name?

    Schaefer: John Edgar Schaefer.

    Johnson: And your address.

    Schaefer: 2302 West 14th, Wilmington.

    Johnson: And your age.

    Schaefer: Seventy.

    Johnson: And your telephone number.

    Schaefer: 654-3463.

    Johnson: Now did you actually live in the powder yards?

    Schaefer: No, I didn't.

    Johnson: In which villages did your parents or grandparents live?

    Schaefer: In Henry Clay.

    Johnson: And do you know what the dates were?

    Schaefer: Well, only vaguely. My Great-grandfather, Peter Flannigan, was killed in a powder mill explosion on April 12, 1872, and he left a wife and seven children; the oldest of which was my Grandmother, Ellen Flannigan Stewart. When he passed away, the Company provided a home, in which they were living, and I think it was $15.00 a month. The location of this was right above the rock cliffs that you face when you come across the Brandywine from the Experimental Station. It was right on top of those rocks. It was, I understand, taken down when the cover over the railroad was put in place. In order to sustain the family, in addition to what the Company provided, my Great-grandmother and my Grandmother spent the evenings sewing powder bags - silk, you know, for the powder charges that go into ..

    Johnson: They were silk: I never knew that.

    Schaefer: They - to go into naval cannon. The children were mostly - were all pretty young. I think my Grandmother was about nine or ten when her father was killed. As the children grew up, the men would bring a load of willow wood and dump it there and then the kids could strip the bark off the willow wood so that the wood could be used to make charcoal. So between these things, they got along their early childhood, then as they grew up, my Grandmother went to work at Bancroft Mill, which she hated. And her brother, John, went to work in the du Pont home. He became something like a butler, he was an extra man around the house.

    Johnson: Would this have been the home that Henry du Pont lived in, that he was the head of the Company at that time?

    Schaefer: This was the home that Alfred and Irene and – I forget the other lady's...

    Johnson: It was a girl's name anyway. Would they call that Swamp Hall?

    Schaefer: We didn't know it as that - they called it Miss Mary's.

    Johnson: Oh, Miss Mary's.

    Schaefer: And my Great-grandmother, they say was a beautiful ironer and she used to iron the dresses and under-clothes for the du Pont house. I had an aunt there, and old-maid aunt who was Bridget McCreary, and she was nanny to the du Pont children.

    Johnson: Oh - do you know which children those were?

    Schaefer: Those same three.

    Johnson: The same three - Alfred and his brothers.

    Schaefer: Yeah, yeah. And when Alfred and his wife broke up, Uncle John decided that there wasn't any man around the house, so he should stay with the woman.

    Johnson: Isn’ t that nice.

    Schaefer: Of course she couldn't maintain the place, after a few years I think she remarried and Alfred remarried and John had to go back to Alfred and ask for a job, since she had - Bradford, I think her name was. Alfred made him his chauffeur, so he was chauffeur to Alfred.

    Johnson: Now did you ever see the car as a child or know what kind of car he drove?

    Schaefer: He drove a DuPont.

    Johnson: Oh, a DuPont car.

    Schaefer: Yeah. I remember it had like wicker around the sides of it.

    Johnson: Oh - did you ever get a ride in it?

    Schaefer: No, I never got a ride in it. He came here because Uncle John had told him that my Father had a new 1916 Chevrolet, a 490, which was also the price of the car, $490, which after he had ordered the car, they wrote to him and said that he could have this with an electric starter and electric headlights for an additional $25.00, so he accepted the offer and when the car came to town, it was the first car in Wilmington with electrical starter and electric lights. So John told Alfred about it and the two of them came here to see the car.

    Johnson: And you were living in this house at that...

    Schaefer: No, I think I was living in 1500 block of Clinton Street which is just in back of the Devon, just two short blocks up the street here.

    Johnson: Now did your father work for the Company?

    Schaefer: Yes, Dad joined the Company in - probably I can give you a record of this, I have one here. And he worked at the Brandywine Shops and at Poole's and Bett's Shops which is the Wilmington Shops now on Maryland Avenue.

    Johnson: Would that be carpentry?

    Schaefer: He was - my Father was a pattern maker, and when DuPont, as I understand it, France was the only place that was making rayon and no one knew the secret that they had for making rayon and a plant in France burned, was burned up, was destroyed with fire and my Father and a friend of his, another pattern maker, Harry Boyd, reconstructed the wooden machinery from the charred wooden remains. And the DuPont Company borrowed him from Pusey and Jones for this purpose and after he had completed the work, he asked to remain and they kept him so he put in 42 years.

    Johnson: This is your father that put in the 42 years?

    Schaefer: Yeah, yeah. And his - my sister's - oh this is all mine, this one (looking at records). I don't know where this thing is I have for Dad.

    Johnson: We're looking at a picture book now of photographs.

    Schaefer: I'll have to get it from the other room for you. My Uncle Bill, who was my Mother's brother, he also worked for the du Pont Company as a pattern maker, all of his life. My Grandfather, John Stewart, worked for the Company, oh several times. He was a car builder and worked at Palace Cars and Pullmans and Jackson and Sharp. He and Mr. Toy would take a contract to build a railroad car. And what he did was all of the inlaid work in the woodwork inside, so he was very accomplished at that work and putting in hardwood floors, so he never had any problem getting a job. But he didn't want to stay in one place too long. His last job was with the DuPont Company.

    Johnson: And what did he do for them?

    Schaefer: As a carpenter.

    Johnson: And do you know what he would have made, would he have worked on the DuPont cars, or buildings that they had on the property?

    Schaefer: No, these cars were the railroad cars that he worked in.

    Johnson: Yes, but they wouldn't have had any railroad cars that belonged to DuPont?

    Schaefer: No, no - this was for Pullman Palace car.

    Johnson: Would he have worked in one of the residences, the du Pont residences, do you know?

    Schaefer: No, no. He worked up in Brandywine Shops.

    Johnson: What did they make there, do you know what he did?

    Schaefer: Well that was - they made, I think, it was wooden crates to put around the - ship the powder, cans of powder in.

    Johnson: Oh, to ship the powder. But that was sort of a comedown after making those...

    Schaefer: Well, that's the reason he wouldn’ t stay. See he could go back to the other, because the other was top of the run position.

    Johnson: Skilled, yes.

    Schaefer: So I started to work for DuPont in 1936. I worked there in summers while I was going to college, and I worked for DuPont for 42 plus years, I think it was 42 years and 2 months, so I passed my Father by two or three months.

    Johnson: You have a good record. What department did you work?

    Schaefer: It started out with Engineering at the Wilmington Shops and after I came back from World War II, I was transferred to the Alcohol, which was Fine Chemicals at the time at Chambers Works. And then when Alcohol was: I worked at Alcohol and closed the plant down as the Chief Clerk, and then I was transferred to Freon, and from Freon to Elastomer Chemicals, and that's...

    Johnson: I interviewed Edgar Peoples about two weeks ago and he was in Freon, he said he retired in Freon in 1959. He is quite a good bit older than you are.

    Schaefer: Yeah, I think I left Freon in '56 and went to Elastomer Chemicals which was the Hileen (sp) Plant - it was just getting started. I stayed with them until retirement, although I actually belonged to Organic Chemicals. I was on loan to Elastomers as their Chief Clerk.

    Johnson: They made a lot over the years, haven't they?

    Schaefer: Yeah. I guess that's...
  • Family's homes along the Brandywine Creek; Family's immigration to the United States; Grandparent's and parent's careers
    Keywords: American Civil War (1861-1865); Brandywine Creek; Chores; DuPont; French Americans; German Americans; Gibbons House; Hagley Yard; Henry Clay (Del.: Village); Immigration; Irish Americans; Irons (pressing); Pullman Palace Cars; Siblings
    Transcript: Johnson: I guess we had better get back to the older times. Now did you visit any of your relatives? I guess we pretty well covered both your Father, your Grandfather and your Great-grandfather, all worked for the DuPont Company. Did you ever visit any of the powder yard villages, or had they all moved to downtown Wilmington by that time?

    Schaefer: Most of them had moved to downtown Wilmington, although Uncle Gene Flannigan still lived in a home which would be under the bridge at Brandywine...

    Johnson: Where the Tyler McConnell Bridge...

    Schaefer: Yeah, under the Tyler McConnell Bridge: course that's been torn down when the built the bridge. Then he moved up the hill up by St. Joseph's Church.

    Johnson: Did you visit his home as a child?

    Schaefer: Oh yes, yes.

    Johnson: Do you remember what it was like?

    Schaefer: It was a big old - it was a double home, he was in one side of it. It was painted yellow, frame and I remember they had a nest of wrens as you came out the back door, you had to be very careful to not disturb the wrens.

    Johnson: Oh: who told you to be careful - would that have been your grandmother?

    Schaefer: No, it would be an aunt.

    Johnson: Liked the birds I guess. They still have birds nesting on the property over there now.

    Schaefer: My Grandmother's brother, William, started a grocery store on the corner opposite Breck's Mill.

    Johnson: What was his name?

    Schaefer: William, William Flannigan. He was a bachelor and he died young. He was very successful with the store up until the time of his death.

    Johnson: And then who did he give the store to, who took over the store?

    Schaefer: I don't know what happened to that.

    Johnson: Could you tell me your father's name?

    Schaefer: My Father’ s name was John Edgar Schaefer, Sr. and his family were brewers in Wilmington, they had a brewery at 17th and Union.

    Johnson: Was he born in Wilmington?

    Schaefer: Yes, all of my great-grandparents were born in America.

    Johnson: Do you know the first ancestor who came here, your great-grandparents of...

    Schaefer: Well that would be Peter and his wife: they came from Ireland, but...

    Johnson: But you don't know when or what date that would be?

    Schaefer: No, no. And my Father's people came from Germany, from Bavaria. On my Grandmother's side, they came from Canada, from Three Rivers, Canada. Her name was Ranno, it wasn't Ranno, but it was changed to Ranno to Americanize it.

    Johnson: It was a French name then?

    Schaefer: Yeah, no one could pronounce it and they used to use the Ranno, so that's what stuck.

    Johnson: This was your Mother's name?

    Schaefer: No that's my Father's mother.

    Johnson: And what was your Mother's maiden name?

    Schaefer: Mary Stewart.

    Johnson: Yes, you told me your grandmother: and she was born in Wilmington, too, then?

    Schaefer: Yes, she was born up on Rising Sun Lane and my Uncle Bill Stewart...

    Johnson: Tell me a little bit about Rising Sun Lane.

    Schaefer: Well they lived in the last house, the white one that's right next to the new ones that have been put up. It was the top one at Rising Sun Lane. This was, of course, above my Great-grandmother's and they used to be back and forth, apparently all the time 'cause my Mother was a tomboy and she’ d get her clothes all messed up and Grandmom would take her in and get her cleaned up so that she was - safe for her to go home. That's about all I remember.

    Johnson: Did you ever visit the house on Rising Sun Lane?

    Schaefer: No, no.

    Johnson: That would have been gone by the time - I guess, I don't know that they really want to know your brothers and sisters because they are so young, but...

    Schaefer: I have one sister who lives at West Gate Farms out almost to Hockessin and she also worked for the Company in the Legal Department and Treasury. Her husband was Hilton James Burns who worked for the Company in Auditing and in Textile Fibers. His brother, Francis Burns, was in Explosives and he was Controller for Atomic Energy and at one time he was President of DuPont Country Club.

    Johnson: Would he have - when he was with Atomic Energy, would that have taken him down to Georgia and to Savannah River?

    Schaefer: Yes, yes.

    Johnson: You really are a DuPont Company person.

    Schaefer: Yeah.

    Johnson: I think I got both of your grandfathers' names and grandmothers' names, I'm sure we got that. I said do you know other people that might be available for interviews?

    Schaefer: Well, I think they're all like me, they're about one or two generations removed and the family is getting pretty scarce now, I'm sort of the last of the Mohicans, my sister and I.

    Johnson: You just had the one sister, no brothers?

    Schaefer: Yeah. The other - all of my cousins, most of them are gone and their grandparents also, so that I don't know what stories they heard, but...

    Johnson: I think maybe instead we think of the more important chores you remember such as cleaning, cooking, shopping, and I think instead of asking you what your chores were, I'll ask if you remember any stories about what chores they had, such as how did they do the cleaning and washing, did they have to go out and get the water?

    Schaefer: I'm sure they had to go out and get the water and then it was all by hand in tubs and the irons that they had were heated on the stove, they were just cast iron.

    Johnson: And you said your grandmother was good at ironing. Do you remember what kind of irons she might have used?

    Schaefer: They were cast iron.

    Johnson: Cast Iron. What was her ironing board like, did she have...

    Schaefer: I haven't any idea. I'm sure it was a wooden one.

    Johnson: Sometimes people just put a board between two chairs or on tables.

    Schaefer: Well, with all the carpenters in the family, they'd surely make her some kind of a board.

    Johnson: A nice one, ironing board. Did any of these things survive?

    Schaefer: No, no.

    Johnson: No antiques. Did they have animals, did they raise chickens?

    Schaefer: Yes, I'm sure they did. I remember vaguely about some of the chickens. My Aunt Kate, who was the youngest of Peter Flannigan's children, I don't know she was born or whether she was born after he was killed. It was pretty close. She lived in Rockland and she had chickens, always had chickens up there. Her husband worked in Rockland Mill in the paper mill.

    Johnson: How many children did Peter Flannigan have?

    Schaefer: He had seven.

    Johnson: Do you remember their names?

    Schaefer: Yes I do, but I (noise on tape).

    Johnson: I can unplug this and change it. This built-in microphone picks it up pretty well.

    Schaefer: I wrote this down because I figured you might want to ask me this.

    Johnson: Are you going to tell me the names of your grandfather's children?

    Schaefer: Ellen, which was my Grandmother, she was the oldest; John.

    Johnson: Do you have their dates as well?

    Schaefer: No, I don't. William, Catherine, who was the youngest, and Mary who married Ben Haley who was in the County government in the assessment and worked for Diamond Ice and Coal. And Felix who was, he was sort of a foreman of a group that made most of those walls out through the Brandywine. When they didn't have work, they'd send the men out to build those stone walls. And Gene, who was...

    Johnson: Would he have been a stone mason?

    Schaefer: No, no - they worked in the powder yard.

    Johnson: I see, what was his regular job, then?

    Schaefer: I haven't the slightest idea, but he worked in the powder yard, and Gene, he worked there also.

    Johnson: Did he work on the walls as well, Gene?

    Schaefer: No, I can't say that he did.

    Johnson: Don't know what he did?

    Schaefer: No, I couldn't say what he did.

    Johnson: And then Kate, she was the youngest?

    Schaefer: Yeah, that's Katherine. So I think we covered all seven of the Flannigans.

    Johnson: And then how about the Stewarts, did they work for the Company too?

    Schaefer: Well Stewart was my Grandfather, he worked for the Company, he also worked for Palace Cars which became Pullman Palace Car, and Jackson and Sharp. Their business was either making ships or railroad cars, Pullman cars and so forth.

    Johnson: That was really an important industry in Wilmington at one time.

    Schaefer: Here's the article on my Father, you can have that, I have another copy, which I couldn't find.

    Johnson: Oh, thank you very much, that's really nice, this is a newspaper article that starts, "Two months load to DuPont in 1911 ends up to 40 years’ service for Schaefer of Wilmington Shops." You were going to - I guess you told me how many children your grandfather had is what we are - your Grandfather Stewart.

    Schaefer: My Grandfather, my Mother, Mary Schaefer - Stewart and her brother, William F. Stewart - my Grandfather was - his father brought him from Ireland during the Civil War and he volunteered - his Mother had died and he brought him here as an infant. He lived with McPherson's and he volunteered for the Union Army in the Civil War and never came back. He didn't get killed, however, his son, my Grandfather spent a lot of time tracing him down and finally found him up at Fort Washington north of Philadelphia.

    Johnson: Why did he do that, just didn't want to come back?

    Schaefer: I don't know. He had left him with the people where he was boarding, and they adopted him.

    Johnson: Oh, tell me more about the McPhersons, because we think they lived right next door to the Gibbons House which has been restored on the property.

    Schaefer: They all knew each other, the McPhersons. The daughter, Mae McPherson, lived on Riverview Avenue and then down on Delaware Avenue about – between Union and Grant and she owned quite a lot of property around, she was a school teacher, in the Wilmington school.

    Johnson: Now the McPhersons that he would have lived with, do you know anything about them before that?

    Schaefer: No, they lived on Riverview Avenue and their backyard touched the backyard of the home where I was born on Clinton Street.

    Johnson: And had they been powder people before that, do you know anything about their background?

    Schaefer: I don't know about that, no.

    Johnson: That's interesting that he left. By any chance do you know how they heard about the DuPont Company in Ireland? Did they have a recruiter there that would have...

    Schaefer: Probably so, they could have come over as indentured people, I don't know whether they did or not. No one ever mentioned that.

    Johnson: Did you ever hear them talk about John Gibbons, he was the powder foreman?

    Schaefer: Yeah, and George Seitz.

    Johnson: He worked for the Company.

    Schaefer: Yeah, and my Father worked for him.

    Johnson: Your father worked for George Seitz?

    Schaefer: Yes, yeah. And George was Plant Superintendent down at Wilmington Shops, and of course his son became...

    Johnson: And his daughter, Margaret, is a volunteer guide, so she works at the Museum now on Saturdays and Sundays as a volunteer guide and tells people about her family. 'Cause we've restored the Gibbons House.

    Schaefer: Yeah I know, my Father took me to Visit him several times. The last time was up on top of Penny Hill.

    Johnson: That's out near the Delaware River then.

    Schaefer: Yeah.
  • Peeling willows; Powder bags for cannon charges; Music and daily life
    Keywords: Brandywine Creek; Chores; DuPont Experimental Station; Explosions; Gramohpones; Homes; Lower Yards; Music; Peeling willows; Rain; Weather
    Transcript: Johnson: Have you been back to the Museum to see the Gibbons House and the things they've restored?

    Schaefer: No, no. My Father's Mother was Annie M. Schaefer and she was a Podiatrist and she had an office in the DuPont Building on Market Street in Wilmington.

    Johnson: Now you told me about the willow peeling that they did.

    Schaefer: Yeah, the kids used to strip the willow bark off of the wood and then it would be gathered up and taken back to wherever they turned it into charcoal.

    Johnson: Do you know what they did with the bark, would it just lie on the ground?

    Schaefer: Well, I guess it would lay on the ground until it got hauled away, but they didn't want the bark, they wanted it removed from...

    Johnson: The sticks would be taken away, but the bark would just be discarded?

    Schaefer: Yeah. That was why they were there, to get the bark stripped off. And I don't know what remuneration they got for this, but they got something.

    Johnson: And would they be supervised by a grown-up?

    Schaefer: Yes, my Grandmother did that, or my Great-grandmother, or some of the older boys.

    Johnson: Did they say what kind of bags they put that in?

    Schaefer: No.

    Johnson: How about the silk bags that they used to...

    Schaefer: The silk bags were to hold powder charges to go into naval cannon.

    Johnson: Now would that have been during the first World War?

    Schaefer: Oh, it would have been before that, it would have been before the Civil War, or before the Spanish-American war.

    Johnson: And what color were they, do you know that?

    Schaefer: No, I haven't the slightest idea.

    Johnson: You never saw one of those, you just...

    Schaefer: I've seen them since then, in the Service myself, they were just gray.

    Johnson: Are they still using the same kind of things?

    Schaefer: They are probably Nylon now or something, but they need something that they can get out of the breech so they can put another charge in in a hurry.

    Johnson: That must be strong.

    Schaefer: Well it's just to hold the powder while they put the charge in - you put the shell in and then you put, one, two or three bags, depending on how far you want it to go.

    Johnson: Did they ever discuss the powder with you, how they thought it was made or whether they thought it was good powder? Anything like that?

    Schaefer: No, no.

    Johnson: What about the man who was killed in the explosion, did they ever give any details of where he was working at the time?

    Schaefer: He was working in the Lower Yards, which is below the Experimental because his body was found across the Brandywine on the west bank.

    Johnson: Did they say anything about how he was recovered?

    Schaefer: No, no.

    Johnson: Do you know if the Priest would come in and take care of the people when...

    Schaefer: Oh yes, yes.

    Johnson: Did you hear of any stories about the powder yards, were people afraid to go in there at nights, say, because people had been killed?

    Schaefer: No, no I didn't.

    Johnson: Do you think the people ever left the powder yards because of the danger?

    Schaefer: Well I suppose everyone would eventually decide to.

    Johnson: Did they ever discuss eating - what their daily routine was like - whether they ate breakfast in the morning?

    Schaefer: No, no, no.

    Johnson: Who would get up first, wake them up?

    Schaefer: I remember one story they'd have, if it rained on the holiday, they would say it was a poor man's holiday, because they worked six days a week, usually eighteen hours a day and old Colonel du Pont, they used to accuse him of praying for rain on a Sunday because that was the only day they had off and of course they acted up and they weren't fit to go to work on a Monday. So he always prayed for rain on holidays - they called it - a rainy holiday was a poor man's holiday.

    Johnson: Could they not work, sometimes not work because of rain on a weekday - would they be out of a job?

    Schaefer: No, that hadn't anything to do with the...

    Johnson: Do you remember hearing anything about their lunches, did they take lunch to the men who worked in the mills? Did they come home for lunch?

    Schaefer: No, I don't think they did, I don't know. Although if he worked at the Lower Yards and their home was right above the bridge that comes across to Rising Sun Lane, he could have probably come home for lunch, but I don't know anything about that.

    Johnson: Did they ever say what they did after dinner, would they sit out on the porch, would they read the paper?

    Schaefer: No.

    Johnson: Did they ever talk about newspapers?

    Schaefer: Well see, all I could say would be from my Father, or my Grandfather and Grandmother Stewart, they would - I know that Grandfather used to go down and do things for his mother-in-law, any little repairs and things that she needed, some chores. And Uncle Bill did also. Someplace they acquired an early Graphophone which had one of those big, lily-type horns on it, and they were taking it down to my Great-grandmother's to play some records for her and of course my Father was carrying the horn, which he used as a megaphone and almost got into a fight because he called something to someone, I don't know, they said that the guy was gonna lick him because he didn't like what he said. He thought he had said it quietly, but with the megaphone, it traveled a sufficient distance.

    Johnson: Oh, it was an accident, then?

    Schaefer: Yeah.

    Johnson: Do you remember any of the songs of the records that they played on those Gramophones?

    Schaefer: Not really, no names for them.

    Johnson: By any chance did your grandmother have a parlor organ?

    Schaefer: No.

    Johnson: Did they play any musical instruments?

    Schaefer: I don't think so. I knew my Mother took piano lessons, but they - and of course they tried all of us, unsuccessfully.

    Johnson: Do you know anything about Alfred I. du Pont's band?

    Schaefer: I know about it from having read about it, but not...

    Johnson: None of your relatives played in the band?

    Schaefer: No, no.

    Johnson: Do you know anything about the way they slept in their house - did they have a third floor for the children to sleep in?

    Schaefer: I don't think there was any third floor, I think there was only one or two rooms down and one or two up.

    Johnson: How about the kitchen and cooking, would they have a large stove to cook on?

    Schaefer: I haven't the slightest idea. I know my Aunt Kate in Rockland had a great big old wood-burning cast iron stove.

    Johnson: Did she bake bread in it?

    Schaefer: Yeah.

    Johnson: Do you remember visiting her when she made some?

    Schaefer: Oh yes.

    Johnson: How often would she bake bread, about once a week?

    Schaefer: I couldn't say that. I know that about September she would come here and my Grandmother and Mother and she would - they would have a day in which they made fruit cakes for Christmas. And they'd probably make a dozen or eighteen or something like that, of these enormous fruit cakes, and put them away.

    Johnson: Would they buy everything, or would they get some of the fruit...

    Schaefer: It was all made from scratch.

    Johnson: They had a lot of black walnut trees on the property. Do you know if they used black walnuts?

    Schaefer: See they were here, at this location, about that time, that I knew anything about.

    Johnson: I see, so they didn't - did you ever hear of anyone using those black walnuts? They were all over that property.

    Schaefer: No, I'm sure...

  • Celebrating Christmas; Celebrating birthdays; Fourth of July celebrations; Excursions sponsored by Alfred I. du Pont; Celebrating Halloween
    Keywords: Birthdays; Christmas; Christmas trees; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irenee), 1864-1935; Fireworks; Fourth of July; Keye's Hill; Stockings; Toy trains
    Transcript: Johnson: A lot of people cured them on the roof. Tell me something about Christmas, what do you remember about that? I know it's gonna probably cover your family and them, but do you know if they cut down a Christmas tree on the property or if they had Christmas trees at that time?

    Schaefer: They'd all moved into the City by the time I came along, which was in '17, 1917.

    Johnson: What was your Christmas tree like - would you have a real Christmas tree?

    Schaefer: Yeah. I imagine they bought it. I never remember them doing other than that.

    Johnson: And would they usually set it up the night before Christmas so that you would be surprised on Christmas Day.

    Schaefer: I would be completely surprised. And here the same way. I often wondered from putting up the electric trains and everything else, how they ever did it.

    Johnson: I think they enjoyed it because...

    Schaefer: Oh they did. Of course the family was bigger then and I guess they all joined in, but I know when I had to do it all myself, I...

    Johnson: Do you still have your trains?

    Schaefer: Yeah.

    Johnson: Do you still put them up?

    Schaefer: No, no.

    Johnson: Do you remember anything about how they decorated the tree - would they have had glass ornaments?

    Schaefer: Yes, they had glass ornaments and I still have some of them: those big, heavy glass ones.

    Johnson: What about the top ornament, would it be a star or an angel?

    Schaefer: A point.

    Johnson: What about tinsel?

    Schaefer: We didn't like tinsel because it fell on the tracks and shorted the train, so we didn't use tinsel.

    Johnson: Did you have that tinsel rope that would wrap around it?

    Schaefer: No, just the balls and the lights.

    Johnson: Did you have lights on it?

    Schaefer: Yeah.

    Johnson: Electric lights?

    Schaefer: Yeah.

    Johnson: How about the tree stand?

    Schaefer: The tree stand was one my Father made.

    Johnson: Did he make it out of wood?

    Schaefer: No, it was made out of a piece of pipe flange, metal, mounted on a wooden platform.

    Johnson: And then would it hold water? To keep the tree?

    Schaefer: Yes. Up at the other house - I moved here when I was five: up on Clinton Street, they had two parlors and they didn't use the front parlor in wintertime because it was too hard to heat, and I remember hearing them say that one year the Christmas tree froze and the pond that it was in froze over and that year they had the Christmas tree up until Easter. So you know it was too cold to go in there to look at it even.

    Johnson: When you say the pond, do you mean they had a little pond underneath it?

    Schaefer: They had a pond underneath it, yeah.

    Johnson: How did they...

    Schaefer: I don't know, there was little celluloid ducks that belongs to me that were floating around in it which were destroyed by the ice.

    Johnson: Were they celluloid ducks?

    Schaefer: Yeah, they were celluloid ducks.

    Johnson: That must have been some year. How about stockings, did you hang up stockings?

    Schaefer: Yeah we hung up stockings all the time.

    Johnson: What were they like, were they long?

    Schaefer: Yeah, white lisle and they'd fill them full of oranges and apples and nuts and candy canes and candy toys and things like that.

    Johnson: Were they your stockings, or would you take the biggest one in the house?

    Schaefer: They were the biggest ones we could get, yeah. I think they were...

    Johnson: Were they your father's maybe?

    Schaefer: No, no I think these were - I don't know, they were retained from year to year and that's the only thing they were ever used for.

    Johnson: I see, then they'd get all stretched and it didn't matter. Where did you hang them?

    Schaefer: Right here.

    Johnson: On the fireplace.

    Schaefer: Yeah, there used to be nails for - I guess I finally got them out of there, but the nails were there for years and years.

    Johnson: Did they have a tradition about coal - would that have any significance? Would get coal in the bottom of your stocking?

    Schaefer: I had heard about it, but I never got any of it. Sometimes people say if you were bad you'd get coal, a lot of people would just put one in the bottom of their stockings.

    Johnson: Did you ever hear of putting shoes in the window?

    Schaefer: No, no.

    Johnson: How about birthdays, do you know how they would have celebrated birthdays in the powder yards, and maybe how they compared with your birthdays?

    Schaefer: Well, I don't think they were too big. You always had a cake with a candle or two on it until it got to be a conflagration and then they cut down the numbers or something (laughs).

    Johnson: Did your Grandmother make cakes like that?

    Schaefer: Yeah, my Mother was better at the cake business. My Grandmother excelled with bread and especially raisin bread.

    Johnson: Did she make that at certain times, like Christmas?

    Schaefer: No, she'd make bread all through the year at different times. I don't know, when the spirit moved them.

    Johnson: Did she bring you the bread too, or did you have it when she...

    Schaefer: No, she lived with us.

    Johnson: That was nice, then wasn't it, she could make one and your mother could make another. Did they ever talk about their neighbors and what their neighbors made?

    Schaefer: Not about what they made, but they always talked about their neighbors and all their friends and everyone, I guess, knew everyone else up there. I'm sure they did - the Frizzells and the Haley's and most of them were all intermarried too, and after a couple generations it...

    Johnson: I guess I'll get back to holidays now, how about the Fourth of July, do you remember what they did on the Fourth of July, did you hear anything about that?

    Schaefer: They apparently had quite a time, I know they used to put a lot of fireworks off around here. Ones that I wasn't allowed - they were bought for me, but I didn't get to touch them or put them off. And my Grandfather and Uncle Bill and my Father would put them off. And they'd have these great big things, and they had a wooden barrel and they'd put them in the barrel and light them and it made a terrific racket all day long. But there were very few of these houses around here at that time, there were a few on Woodlawn, there weren't any of them all the way up to the - on this side of the street, this was the last one, just these two and it was vacant all the way to Riverview Avenue.

    Johnson: Now they talk about a picnic on the Fourth of July up on someplace called Keye's Hill, which was really put on by St. Joseph's, it was sponsored by St. Joseph's and the Company would help. They put up the platform for dancing, did you ever hear they tell about going to that?

    Schaefer: Yeah, they always went to that and most of the time they used to look forward to the annual excursion that Alfred Johnson: used to have for all the old employees, to go out on the Wilson Line. I never got to go on it because there was an age...

    Schaefer: Every year, I don't know when it started, I think about the last of them was probably around '25 or'26, and then when Dad was down in the Shop, the men all got together and everything - I know he ran an excursion to Atlantic City three or four times. I went on that and they had a special train from Wilmington up to Philadelphia and down to Atlantic City. I remember waiting in the station to come back and the announcer said the "Schaefer Special for Wilmington." That makes you prick your ears up you know. I remember that little bit, but that's all - I remember all of the - they had cartons of, boxes of sandwiches for everybody on the train and they had so many of them, they had a lot of them left over, they were good, I remember that.

    Johnson: Who made those?

    Schaefer: I don't know where they got them made, I think they were made at Steinel's Bakery and there were several different kinds and some of them complained about the crusts being cut off and others seemed to think that was an advantage.

    Johnson: Isn't that funny. How about Halloween, do you remember hearing any stories about Halloween?

    Schaefer: No.

    Johnson: Did you go around the way they do - Trick or Treating today?

    Schaefer: Oh, I did, yes, yeah.

    Johnson: Do you hear anything about outhouses, while we're talking about Halloween?

    Schaefer: No.

    Johnson: Did your parents have one?

    Schaefer: Well yeah, they all had them, cause there wasn't any -it was rural and there wasn't any sewage up in Brandywine or Henry Clay then.

    Johnson: Did you ever hear any stories about...

    Schaefer: No, no.

    Johnson: Some people tell about turning the outhouses over on Halloween, that's why I was thinking that.

    Schaefer: Yeah, I've: yeah, yeah.

    Johnson: You're much too young to remember the Du Pont Company's anniversary in 1902.

    Schaefer: Yeah.

    Johnson: Do you remember any parades?

    Schaefer: No.

    Johnson: Do you remember anything about Breck's Mill?

    Schaefer: The only thing I remember about it was that they said that Bill Flannigan had a grocery store on that corner opposite Breck's Mill.

    Johnson: They sometimes called that the Hagley Community House around the turn of the century and they would have classes there, but you didn't hear anything about the classes or the basketball team?

    Schaefer: No.
  • Providing for family members of explosion victims; Going to church and school; Tobacco use; Doctors and medicine; Gardens; Laundry and making soap
    Keywords: Cigarettes; Doctors; Explosions; Feks Naptha; Gardens; Joseph Bancroft and Sons Co.; Laundry; Medicine; Peoples Railway Company (Wilmington, Del.); Rinso; Saint Joseph on the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church (Wilmington, Del.); School; Smoking; Soap; Street-railroads; Tobacco; Work
    Transcript: Johnson: Do you know whether the people: you mentioned your grandfather, your great-grandfather being killed in an explosion, and did his children get jobs with the Company because he was killed in the explosion – did they give them special jobs?

    Schaefer: Well, of course they were all children, they were kids and they couldn't, but eventually...

    Johnson: But when they got older...

    Schaefer: Eventually John worked for them, Felix and Gene - most of the time he worked for Bancroft, he worked at Bancroft Mills. Mary, of course, didn't work for them, she was a noted singer around Wilmington, she was in demand to sing at all the different churches. That's the one that married Ben Haley.

    Johnson: Talking about church, did they go to church regularly?

    Schaefer: Oh yes, yes, they all went to St. Joseph's.

    Johnson: St. Joseph's, and did they go to the St. Joseph's school then?

    Schaefer: Yes, yeah.

    Johnson: Did they tell you anything about that?

    Schaefer: When my Uncle Bill started to school, my Mother was supposed to, who was older, was supposed to take him and he wouldn't oblige, and she told stories about: evidently they went from Henry Clay along the railroad tracks and across the trestle, which is, crosses Breck's Lane and up through Miss Mary's - it's a big white house, and my Mother couldn't get him to go and my Grandmother, she had to go along physically with him for three or four days anyway. Somehow or other - they said he would lay down on the tracks and he was gonna wait until the engine ran over him.

    Johnson: He really...

    Schaefer: But yet when he got started, he was a very good student and smart.

    Johnson: He probably liked it, just didn't want to start.

    Schaefer: Yeah. He always believed in Santa Claus and he used to say - my Grandmother had to shake him when he was twenty-one to get him to stop believing in Santa Claus (laughs).

    Johnson: Did he get presents that made him believe in it?

    Schaefer: Well yeah, he knew better, which a lot of us did, but as long as you keep quiet, the presents remain larger, or more of them.

    Johnson: I guess he had a good sense of humor.

    Schaefer: Yeah, yes he did.

    Johnson: How about, did they ever have accidents with children lying down - crossing the railroad tracks like that?

    Schaefer: No, I never heard of any, just the kids...

    Johnson: And the trains didn't run that often.

    Schaefer: No, no, I think they only had maybe one or two a day. They used to run the excursions from up there on the railroad that went to Atlantic City - right from Henry Clay.

    Johnson: How about other places, did they go to Brandywine Springs or places like that?

    Schaefer: Oh yeah, they did. When he came into the City, he went out on the People's Car Line or something.

    Schaefer: Yeah.

    Johnson: Did you ever do that, or was that before your time?

    Schaefer: Yes, I don't remember much about that. I remember going on the one up through Rockford Park and through Henry Clay and on up to what they called the end of the line, which is in Montchanin and Kirk Road. And then we'd get off there and walk the rest of the way to Rockland where my aunt lived, Catherine.

    Johnson: And would the trolley cars be open in those days or closed?

    Schaefer: This was a little - what do you call them – four-wheel Barney's.

    Johnson: Oh they had different sized cars?

    Schaefer: Yeah, that's what ran along here, that's the only thing I remember and it used to jump the track every Saturday afternoon. And we used to wait, right around the corner here there's a switch where one passed the other, and when they would go into this switch, there must have been something wrong with the track because it would always jump the track and it was always Saturday afternoon.

    Johnson: How did they get it back on again?

    Schaefer: They used iron prys and so forth.

    Johnson: You'd think they would have fixed it. Do you remember them talking about any objects that they had in their house that they would have called luxuries?

    Schaefer: No.

    Johnson: Anything that had been brought from Ireland which was treasured as being old.

    Schaefer: No.

    Johnson: An old trunk that was passed down through the family?

    Schaefer: These two vases here are my Grandmother's wedding presents.

    Johnson: Oh, they're very pretty. But they're from this country?

    Schaefer: I don't know where they're from.

    Johnson: The flowers look so pretty on there. Do you have any antiques or things - paintings or anything that's been handed down?

    Schaefer: No, no.

    Johnson: How about tobacco, did they ever mention smoking?

    Schaefer: Oh yeah, they used to - all of them, I guess, smoked.

    Johnson: But of course they couldn't smoke in the powder yards.

    Schaefer: Oh no, no.

    Johnson: I remember them telling about that.

    Schaefer: I know my Father and Uncle Bill always smoked around here.

    Johnson: And they smoked pipes?

    Schaefer: No, they smoked cigarettes mostly.

    Johnson: Oh: do you know what kind of cigarettes they were, this was later wasn’ t it?

    Schaefer: Bill liked Camels and my Father liked Chesterfields.

    Johnson: Do you know anything about calling the doctor in the olden days - did they have a doctor that they spoke of?

    Schaefer: No.

    Johnson: Did neighbors help when they were sick, or how about...

    Schaefer: Probably: I think they were all pretty healthy.

    Johnson: Well how about babies - when a woman had a baby, would she be likely to have a doctor or would they have a midwife?

    Schaefer: No, they would have a midwife I'm sure.

    Johnson: Do you remember any stories about who they were?

    Schaefer: Well, I had an aunt that was - she was a nurse in Philadelphia and she did that, she would be midwife and stay with you until you were up and about, take care of the kids. And that's what she did, I guess all her life, mostly in Philadelphia. But she came down here when she was asked to.

    Johnson: I guess they had some women in the powder yards years ago too that did that too.

    Schaefer: Yeah, I imagine.

    Johnson: I remember people - there was one called Grandma Farrin that helped with that. Do you remember anybody who took trips back to Ireland or the Old Country, whatever country they had come from?

    Schaefer: No. I don't think they had enough money to go back to Ireland.

    Johnson: Did they say anything about storing food, did they have a springhouse do you know, did they store it in the cellar? Or under the house?

    Schaefer: I haven't the slightest idea.

    Johnson: How about what they grew in their gardens – would you know if they grew vegetables?

    Schaefer: Well, they grew vegetables in it.

    Johnson: Tomatoes?

    Schaefer: Yeah, I'm sure tomatoes and...

    Johnson: Did they have any favorite ways of putting up the tomatoes - did they can?

    Schaefer: I'm sure they must have because my Grandmother and my Mother used to can and when all this was an open lot here, we had a young farm out in the back herewith anything you can think of.

    Johnson: Did you have to help with that?

    Schaefer: Oh yeah, yeah.

    Johnson: Did they buy their seed downtown?

    Schaefer: Yeah - in Phillip's - Phillip's and Thompson.

    Johnson: How about fertilizer, did they use that do you know?

    Schaefer: Yeah.

    Johnson: Did they spray for bugs?

    Schaefer: Very seldom.

    Johnson: When they washed, do you know if they used bleach for the clothes?

    Schaefer: Yes.

    Johnson: Do you remember any kind of soap?

    Schaefer: They used to like Fels Naptha and Rinso in those days.

    Johnson: Your mother never made soap or your Grandmother?

    Schaefer: My Grandmother Schaefer made soap.

    Johnson: She did - do you remember how she did it?

    Schaefer: And she would save all the fat and everything and I know we'd save it here and give it to her and then when she made it, she always sent a few bars here.

    Johnson: Now why did she make it: it was so easy to buy soap by that time?

    Schaefer: I haven't the slightest idea.

    Johnson: She just thought it was: was it better soap that she made?

    Schaefer: I couldn't say, it was pretty good soap I think, because I know after it ceased they used to lament it, that some of the commercials weren't as good.

    Johnson: Would you wash your face and hands with the same soap as you would the clothes?

    Schaefer: No, no - it was laundry soap.

    Johnson: What she made, you never washed yourself with it?

    Schaefer: No, no.

  • Cosmetics; Flower gardens; Clothes and jewelry; Social activities
    Keywords: Card games; Clothes; Cosmetics; Euchre; Flowers; Gardens; Jewelry; Make up; Perfume; Saint Joseph on the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church (Wilmington, Del.); Shoes; Social activites
    Transcript: Johnson: What about cosmetics, do you know if your grandmother used any, to make her cheeks red?

    Schaefer: I don't think she did.

    Johnson: How about face powder?

    Schaefer: Well, she probably used face powder.

    Johnson: Did they use perfumes or things to smell good?

    Schaefer: I guess they would, if they could get their hands on them, but most of them were not that well off.

    Johnson: It wouldn't have been a special Christmas present?

    Schaefer: I don't know.

    Johnson: Or a homemade thing they could have made. Did they grow flowers?

    Schaefer: Yeah, yeah.

    Johnson: What kinds?

    Schaefer: Roses and Dahlias and peonies, orange blossoms, all the spring flowers.

    Johnson: Where would they get those seeds, would they buy them downtown and bring them home, the rose bushes, or did they get grafts or little shoots from neighbors?

    Schaefer: They'd get little shoots - I know in roses, they used to have the canning jars, maybe five or six of them every year, different places where they were starting twigs. Most of them didn't work, but once in a while one of them would grow.

    Johnson: It's very hard to get roses to get roots on them.

    Schaefer: But see, by this time we now lived next to Rodney Sharp up on Clinton Street. And the people across the street were his gardeners and of course, neighbors and everything, and they would give you plants where they would grow in the greenhouses and they would have excess.

    Johnson: Yes, they'd have more than they needed.

    Schaefer: Yeah, so we got a lot of them that way. Joe Gelensky, he was rose man for Sharp, he was brought from Poland to grow roses, and he gave my Mother roses several times.

    Johnson: That was really nice. Did you ever hear that there was an ideal family size among the families?

    Schaefer: No.

    Johnson: Do you remember what your grandmother would wear around the house - would she have a special house dress and then wear something different when she went out?

    Schaefer: Yeah.

    Johnson: What was the house dress like?

    Schaefer: Well, probably gingham or something like that.

    Johnson: Would she have an apron to wear with it?

    Schaefer: Yes.

    Johnson: Would that be a half apron, or would she have something that would go over her neck and the top of her dress?

    Schaefer: I think it was mostly a half apron.

    Johnson: And do you know what color it was?

    Schaefer: It was gray or blue or something, wasn't very bright. They didn't believe in too many bright colors, I don't think.

    Johnson: Maybe it didn't show the dirt quite as much as the one that would show every spot if you were cooking. How about shoes, what were your grandmother's shoes like?

    Schaefer: Well, we used to go downtown to get shoes at a place on Fourth Street, I think it was called Foreman's, I know I was taken down there, and Smith Sollenger, and Lippencott and then Ben's Shoe Store, he was still - I guess it's still running, I don't know how well, but it's still in existence because I've heard it on the radio.

    Johnson: Did they have high button shoes?

    Schaefer: I never remember any of that, no.

    Johnson: I think they went out after the first World War, they didn't use them.

    Schaefer: Yeah, they probably...

    Johnson: Did people have jewelry?

    Schaefer: Yeah, they had a little bit of jewelry.

    Johnson: Do you know what that was like?

    Schaefer: Like gold bracelets and a few things.

    Johnson: A wedding band?

    Schaefer: Yeah.

    Johnson: Would the men wear wedding bands, or just the women?

    Schaefer: Just women.

    Johnson: How about earrings, did they wear earrings?

    Schaefer: No, none of them had pierced ears.

    Johnson: They didn't pierce their ears?

    Schaefer: No.

    Johnson: How about necklaces or watches?

    Schaefer: Well they, you know, I think lockets were a big deal then, and cameos.

    Johnson: And did the lockets open up to have a picture inside?

    Schaefer: Yeah, yeah.

    Johnson: And how about the cameos, did they pass those on, would a grandmother have one and give it to her granddaughter?

    Schaefer: I suppose so, I found one around here about a year or two ago and gave it to my sister. I don't think she wanted because I've never seen it since, and I had read where they were back in demand and very stylish, but I never saw it after I gave it to her.

    Johnson: They seem to be making them again, and the people who have them are wearing them.

    Schaefer: Yeah, of course the ones now, see are these plastic things and it's just a piece of plastic.

    Johnson: I didn't know that, they're easier to make I guess.

    Schaefer: Yeah, but these old cameos they had were some sort of a ceramic.

    Johnson: And you told me quite a bit about the cars that you remembered. Did your grandmother carry a handbag do you know?

    Schaefer: Yes.

    Johnson: What was that like?

    Schaefer: Just a black handbag. I never paid that much attention to it.

    Johnson: It wouldn't be one of these cotton things that you carry in the spring, it was a regular leather handbag?

    Schaefer: No, I never saw those.

    Johnson: Oh, how about pets, did they have a dog or a cat?

    Schaefer: They must have, the only ones I remember was Fritz, a little white poodle that I had and a black cat when we moved down here.

    Johnson: Did they ever talk about having a cat up in the powder yard area to catch mice?

    Schaefer: No.

    Johnson: Did they talk about different parts of the powder yard area as being better than other parts?

    Schaefer: I really never heard them talk very much about work at all. It was mostly family, how John is or how Bill is and their families and so forth, and that was the general conversations, about their cousins and their aunts I guess.

    Johnson: Did they get together a lot, did they belong to different groups? Sometimes the men would have social clubs that they would belong to and they would go to meetings.

    Schaefer: I don't think they did, I don't think my - no, I don't think they did.

    Johnson: How about church socials, would they go them.

    Schaefer: Oh yeah, they went to all of those, yeah.

    Johnson: Do you remember anything special that they would have taken you to some dinner?

    Schaefer: Yeah, I remember going to dinners up at St. Joe's, but they were about - you know church dinners have been falling by the wayside for a long while.

    Johnson: How about playing games - some of the people at St. Joe's got together and played Euchre, do you know?

    Schaefer: I know they used to have these card parties after the dinners, but by that time I was getting kinda tired and they were ready to take me home I guess.

    Johnson: Did your grandparents talk about playing that?

    Schaefer: No, no.
  • Religious life; Family's jobs after the powder yards closed; Shopping; Swimming in the Brandywine Creek
    Keywords: Babptism; Brandywine Creek; Christening; Congoleum; First Communion; Groceries; Hodgson Bros. woolen mill; Marcus Hook, Pa.; Marriage; Saint Joseph on the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church (Wilmington, Del.); Shopping; Swimming; Weddings; Work
    Transcript: Johnson: Do you know anything about their getting married, did they have any customs for getting married, would they live with their in-laws, were there bridal showers, were there some things that they thought they had to have before they got married to start their home?

    Schaefer: I don't know of anything about that. I know they were all - most all of them were married and christened and everything else up at St. Joe's, St. Joseph's on the Brandywine.

    Johnson: Do you remember anything about the christening, would they have special parties before or after?

    Schaefer: They would have, you know, all the family around after.

    Johnson: Would they go to somebody's house, then, for dinner?

    Schaefer: It would be, like if it was - well when my sister was christened, I remember that, and everybody came back to the house, after the christening.

    Johnson: Would it be on a regular Sunday?

    Schaefer: Yeah, it was always on a Sunday.

    Johnson: Did they have - I guess they, of course, staggered that according to when the baby was born.

    Schaefer: I think it was mostly they were done on a Sunday because everybody had off.

    Johnson: Yes, and the congregation could see the baby too. Do you remember what the baby would wear, would they have a special christening dress?

    Schaefer: I understand that mine was the special christening dress that I don't know how many different ones were christened in it - my sister was, I was.

    Johnson: Did your mother make it?

    Schaefer: I know it was supposed to - and it was loaned and borrowed and everything else for, I guess, for several years.

    Johnson: It must have been good quality then.

    Schaefer: I remember, it was one of these eyelet - it was long, it was twice as long as the baby and it had all this eyelet around the bottom of it and everything, and everybody was crazy about it, all the women were, 'course men don't pay much attention to that.

    Johnson: Did it have a petticoat underneath it too?

    Schaefer: Yeah, yeah.

    Johnson: To make it really full. How about a bonnet?

    Schaefer: Yeah, there was a bonnet, there were several of those, one of them was an angora, you know, the fuzzy.

    Johnson: Would they be different for the boys and the girls or would they use about the same?

    Schaefer: I think they all used the same.

    Johnson: When they were little you can't tell.

    Schaefer: I know they used to change the bonnet - the ribbon on the angora. They would either use pink or blue, but then all you had to change was the ribbon.

    Johnson: How about your first communion, how old were you when you did that?

    Schaefer: About eight I guess, that was here in St. Anne’ s then.

    Johnson: It seems as if children were older when some of the people who were born around the turn of the century were really quite a bit older. I talked to someone named Jenny Toomey who had her first communion when she was twelve, and later on it was earlier. What was that like, did you have a party and do you know if it was traditional in your family to have a party after this?

    Schaefer: I think Uncle Felix came down from Marcus Hook, his family had all moved up there then, after World War I I guess the powder yards were shut down and they were scattered all around. They all came into Wilmington to work for this one or that one and he worked up at the Visco that was a rayon plant up in Marcus Hook. And that whole gang worked up there at that time.

    Johnson: Was that connected with DuPont's rayon?

    Schaefer: No, no. It was a competitor. They worked at Congoleum, I guess that plant's still there in Marcus Hook. Some of them worked there and commuted every day, and lived here in Wilmington. And Phil, he was an electrician and he worked for Garrett Miller and learned his trade at Garrett Miller when they were on Fourth and Orange Street.

    Johnson: I didn't realize they were electric, I thought it was just a store where you bought things.

    Schaefer: Well at that time I guess they were the only electrical outfit in town.

    Johnson: How about weddings, do you remember what a wedding - would most women wear wedding dress? How about your grandmother, do you have a picture where you know how her dress was like?

    Schaefer: No, no, no.

    Johnson: Do you remember anything about how she would have raised her baby, what her diapers would have been like?

    Schaefer: No.

    Johnson: Would she feed it....

    Schaefer: I haven't the slightest idea.

    Johnson: Use a bottle or anything? How about peddlers or salesmen, would they have talked about peddlers and salesmen coming around to the door in the powder yards.

    Schaefer: No no.

    Johnson: So apparently they had a lot of men to go up there because, you know, they would take orders for meat or groceries and then deliver if it was too far to walk.

    Schaefer: I remember some of them, they used to go to town. See, you could get on the trolley car and go down-town.

    Johnson: Was carrying things back a problem?

    Schaefer: Well, everybody had baskets. There's still a couple of them down the cellar.

    Johnson: What were they like?

    Schaefer: Just wicker baskets.

    Johnson: Do you remember the names of any of the developments in the powder yards - like Chicken Alley...

    Schaefer: Yeah.

    Johnson: What would you remember about them?

    Schaefer: Wagoner's Row and Walker's Banks and Squirrel Run. You know where the - this big of a family, there's at least one in each one of these places, and they used to go back and forth. And there was Free Park which some of them used to refer to as Flea Park because it was a derogatory name and they had a lot of fights over that.

    Johnson: Did they really have fleas up there?

    Schaefer: I doubt it, you know, it just...

    Johnson: Just a name, a play on words.

    Schaefer: Yeah. It lent itself very easily to call it Flea Park instead of Free Park. Actually, the name was Free.

    Johnson: Why did they call it Free, because they lived there for free?

    Schaefer: I don't know.

    Johnson: How about the river, did you ever swim in the Brandywine?

    Schaefer: Oh yes, yes.

    Johnson: Tell me about that.

    Schaefer: Well, I believe it was called Walker's Mill at that time. I knew it principally as Hodgson's Mill. When I grew up the kid up the street, his father ran the mill and at that time it was a woolen mill.

    Johnson: Was his name Hudson?

    Schaefer: Yeah - Dan Hudson, and Billy was Dan's son and we would go up there and right there at where the race exited from the mill, there is a sandy bank there which they called Girlie, really it's a nice beach and it is sandy.

    Johnson: Why did they call it Girlie?

    Schaefer: They called it Girlie because the girls went swimming there, where the macho boys would jump off the rocks.

    Johnson: It was gentle, then.

    Schaefer: Yeah.

    Johnson: How often did you swim there?

    Schaefer: Every day. Well from here, and during the summertime gangs of us would go up there. Sometimes Eddie's father would take us in the car if he - 'cause he came home every day for lunch, and we would get a ride back with him. We always walked back home because he was gonna be up there until five-thirty or six o'clock, or something like that.

    Johnson: How did you learn to swim, did you know before you went, did they teach you when you were there?

    Schaefer: Well, I took lessons from the Red Cross at old Brandywine pool down across from the zoo. That started when I was going to school, the Red Cross gave lessons in swimming, so that's where I learned to swim.

    Johnson: Were they pretty gentle when you played with the boys, or did they tend to be...

    Schaefer: Oh yeah, we never had any trouble. We were principally involved with baseball and then when we got a little bit older, we went up to the golf course and tried to get a job as carrying the bags around - caddy.

    Johnson: Caddies - did you make quite a bit of money that way?

    Schaefer: I didn't - some of them did.

    Johnson: It depended on how long you did it I guess, how much free time.

    Schaefer: Yeah. Well and there was sort of a little clique to it.

    Johnson: Well sure, if they would make enough money, I guess they wanted to keep it. What did you wear when you went swimming?

    Schaefer: Trunks.

    Johnson: Did you ever go skating on the Brandywine?

    Schaefer: No.

    Johnson: How about a boat, did they have boats tied up there - in the early days they had to go from one side to the other by boat I guess, or they often did.

    Schaefer: I don't know, all my memory there was always a bridge at Henry Clay. When they tore down the covered bridge, they put up this steel one. I guess there were people went back and forth. Some of them used to walk across the tops of the dam.

    Johnson: Was that dangerous at all?

    Schaefer: Only if you slipped on the moss and got wet. Usually it was only a couple inches of water going across there. You'd get your feet wet.

    Johnson: You didn't fall so that you'd hit your head on a rock or anything?

    Schaefer: No.
  • Stories from the powder yards; Grandfather's job building railroads cars; Oil lamp safety; Objects in the family home
    Keywords: Blakeley's tavern; Carpentry; Checkers; Clocks; Coffee pots; Furniture; Hats; Oil lamps; Powder yards; Tea pots; Toy's tavern; Washing machines
    Transcript: Johnson: Do you remember any stories that were told when you were younger - about the powder yards?

    Schaefer: No.

    Johnson: Stories about strange people who worked there, funny people?

    Schaefer: I remember them telling stories and everything, but I can't remember any one to the extent that I could repeat it. It would be like you hear a joke and years later you can't repeat it because you don't remember all the parts of it, or the individuals.

    Johnson: Do you know, did some people make their own wine in the powder yards?

    Schaefer: I suppose - I'm sure they must have.

    Johnson: Or didn't you know about that personally?

    Schaefer: No. No mine would try to keep them away from anything like that. That was one of the main jobs, keeping the men (laughs). But there were a lot of - Dorman's had a...

    Johnson: A tavern.

    Schaefer: A tavern, then there was a tavern right - the last house, I guess, when you go down the hill, used to a tavern, Blakeley's I think it was called. And there were plenty of places to get beer and stuff.

    Johnson: You mentioned your father working with someone named Toy.

    Schaefer: That was my Grandfather.

    Johnson: Your grandfather - was he connected with Toy's tavern, ‘ cause there was a Toy's tavern?

    Schaefer: Yeah, yeah, he was one of the...

    Johnson: But he was he was a carpenter you said?

    Schaefer: No, they were - before they had steel cars on the railroad, they were all made out of wood, except for the platform that they were - that was cement. And they would take a contract, a team - and this one team was my Grandfather and Toy and they would build the car from the platform on up.

    Johnson: That must have been an enjoyable job.

    Schaefer: When they got the car finished, they generally got an extra bonus for how long it took them, or how much was spent on it, I suppose. I don't know how they arrived at it, but generally it was a lucrative time of the year and they may not go back to get another contract for three or four weeks until they had used up the bonus.

    Johnson: Must have been a nice way to work. Did they get commended if it was beautiful?

    Schaefer: Oh yeah.

    Johnson: Did an especially nice job. Do you remember hearing any stories about oil lamps that they used?

    Schaefer: The only thing I remember about oil lamps, and I still use it myself, is that they used to insist that they would be metal, that the glass ones, if they got knocked over, would break and spread coal oil and fire all over the place. And I know that all in the family always insisted that you didn't have any lamps unless they were brass or pewter or tin.

    Johnson: But now how about - wouldn't you have to have glass if you were going to use it to see by?

    Schaefer: No, you just saw by the flame.

    Johnson: Just an open flame?

    Schaefer: Well, you'd have a chimney around it, probably.

    Johnson: A glass chimney.

    Schaefer: Yeah: well that's alright.

    Johnson: But the lamp itself would be metal.

    Schaefer: And you know you'll see them today, an awful lot of them they’ re glass, the jar that you have the coal in is...

    Johnson: Yes, it's glass so you can see it.

    Schaefer: Yeah, and if that got knocked over and broke (whistle), you probably wouldn't have a house.

    Johnson: Did you ever hear about fires that happened in homes?

    Schaefer: No, no. That must have happened sometime because I know that was one of the big safety factors that they absolutely insisted that no lamps unless they were - that is, no coal lamps unless they were made out of metal.

    Johnson: Now who insisted on that, just your family, not a Company rule?

    Schaefer: Just the family - oh no, no.

    Johnson: They have a whole list of objects here and they want to ask if you remember this. Now it would probably have to be whether you remember your grandmother having these things. Would she have a cabbage slicer? (no answer) Do you remember her lifting things, if you knew someone with a coal stove, they must have had those lid lifters, you remember that?

    Schaefer: Oh yeah, yeah.

    Johnson: And you said the iron - did your mother, your grandmother have those wooden handles for the iron that she could take off, or was it a solid piece with the handle right attached?

    Schaefer: It was a solid piece.

    Johnson: Did she have a match keeper?

    Schaefer: Yeah, they had a little tin box that had the matches in it.

    Johnson: Where would they have kept that?

    Schaefer: That was kept above the stove when you: to light the gas stove.

    Johnson: And how about clothespins?

    Schaefer: Just the regular wooden clothespins.

    Johnson: They had no metal on at all, it was just solid wood?

    Schaefer: No, they were just straight wood.

    Johnson: Did she have a spice box?

    Schaefer: Probably, but I don't recall it.

    Johnson: A wash board?

    Schaefer: Yeah, there are several of those.

    Johnson: Did she have a wringer that would help her?

    Schaefer: Yeah.

    Johnson: How about a dry sink?

    Schaefer: She had a - as a matter of fact, she had a washing machine, and it was water powered. Hers came from the pipe to the washer and it had these four wooden fingers that moved back and forth from the power of the - the water water power.

    Johnson: Just the way the water flowing in it would move the wood.

    Schaefer: Well, the pressure in the...

    Johnson: When you say it was attached to the pipe, was the faucet on the sink?

    Schaefer: Yeah. It was down the cellar, as a matter of fact. And the inside - the tub was all wood and it had the same serrations on it that a washing board would have.

    Johnson: Wouldn't wood get rotted after a while in the water?

    Schaefer: No - well maybe over years and years, you drained the tub when you were finished.

    Johnson: And then they had the wooden tubs for washing before that, so I guess...

    Schaefer: They had a bench there that my Grandfather had made and three metal tubs. They would transfer it from one to the other. Like one was for soaking and the last one had the blue in it. I remember it had the blueing in it.

    Johnson: I remember blueing too. Did your grandmother heat the water on the stove?

    Schaefer: No, they had a coal stove, or gas, later it was gas. What they called a Bucket-A-Day and it had a coil in there that made hot water, so you had hot water in the...

    Johnson: Was it in a well, or was it - and then you'd have a pipe that would pipe it out to the wash?

    Schaefer: It was in the cellar, the stove itself...

    Johnson: Oh, the stove too.

    Schaefer: It was hooked up to the chimney here and there was a big galvanized boiler and as long as that stove, as long as you kept the fire going, you had hot water and you could get it in the kitchen or in the bathroom. There was hot and cold water spigots on this wall downstairs and that's where it was hooked up to the...

    Johnson: I never knew they had systems like that, you know, I thought to have the water heated.

    Schaefer: Well, let's see, we came here in about '23, so they had that much then. Before that, I don't know what they did.

    Johnson: Probably heated it on the stove. And then a dry sink, would she - before they had water in the house, did they have a dry sink?

    Schaefer: Probably, but I don't remember never having water in the house.

    Johnson: How about bowler hats, did your father have a bowler hat or your grandfather?

    Schaefer: My Grandfather did, yes.

    Johnson: Did he wear a hat to work, do you know?

    Schaefer: Yeah, he always wore the derby.

    Johnson: Well, would he wear the derby to work, or would it only be for Sunday?

    Schaefer: No, well maybe it was the second one, but anyway, I know I've - when they were building the houses on Woodlawn Avenue, he put in the hardwood floors and I went down there and he was banging the hardwood floors in the place and he still had the hat on.

    Johnson: It's funny how - I guess they just got used to the hats, and now everybody takes their hats off. Do you have the list of things that I should be asking you, or that you thought of that...

    Schaefer: No, no. No I figured that you would want it of...

    Johnson: The people.

    Schaefer: Yeah, of Peter Flannigan's family.

    Johnson: Did they have a shelf clock in your grandmother's house?

    Schaefer: I couldn't tell you. I was never in my - I was in my Grandmother's house, yeah, because we all lived together. See from Rising Sun Lane they moved to 18th and Mt. Salem, and then from Mt. Salem they moved a little bit further down to Clinton, and from Clinton down here. So we haven't gone more than walking distance from Henry Clay to here.

    Johnson: You wouldn't have left the area then. Do you remember any of her dishes, any cooking utensils, what she would have brought to your house when she came to live with you?

    Schaefer: No, I guess they were all used up or thrown out after my sister...

    Johnson: Would she have a teapot by any chance?

    Schaefer: Yeah, they used to have teapots.

    Johnson: What was it like - was it a china teapot?

    Schaefer: Yeah, it was china.

    Johnson: Was it large?

    Schaefer: No very large.

    Johnson: Would you know what color it was?

    Schaefer: I remember one that was white with - it had pink flowers, I don't know what the flowers - I don’ t remember the flowers, probably roses or something.

    Johnson: We have one in the Gibbons House with Violets on it. How about a coffee pot?

    Schaefer: Yeah. The first one I remember was agate that you put on the stove.

    Johnson: And you just boiled the coffee in there?

    Schaefer: Well, it was - I wasn't very interested in coffee then, so I don't know what they did with it.

    Johnson: You weren't allowed to drink coffee as a child?

    Schaefer: No, no.

    Johnson: Put it in your milk or anything?

    Schaefer: No.

    Johnson: Did she have a rocking chair?

    Schaefer: Oh yeah, they had rocking chairs around: on the porch.

    Johnson: Would they have been those wicker kind, the woven kind?

    Schaefer: Yes, the seat and the back.

    Johnson: Did they paint them?

    Schaefer: Yeah, usually green.

    Johnson: How about a checkerboard?

    Schaefer: Well I had a checkerboard, but there wasn't any...

    Johnson: It wasn't something your Grandfather made or passed down?

    Schaefer: No, no.

    Johnson: A rolling pin?

    Schaefer: Yeah, those were made by him or my Father.