Interview with Ella Fitzharris, 1985 August 8 [audio](part 2)

Hagley ID:
  • Getting soft drinks in Wilmington; window boxes, grape arbors, and outdoor furniture; rain wear; her brother's and her first jobs
    Keywords: berets; Everfast Store; grape arbors; hand push mower; orange soda; porch swing; rocking chairs; soda fountains; umbrellas; window boxes
    Transcript: Fitzharris: ...think just in the cabinet in the kitchen and I remember people saying that sometimes - guess it would go bad - that they would pop, you know, the bottles would pop and spill all over the place. I don't think we had as much root beer as some people, ours was mostly lemonade. And we had to drink milk before we went to bed at night, you know, milk or cocoa, something like that.

    Lotter: Oh, you did? Do you remember ever having any other snacks in the evening?

    Fitzharris: Cookies and that's about all. I don't remember too many crackers. Peanut butter and jelly we used to have on crackers or something like that, but not too much.

    Lotter: Do you remember purchasing any soft drinks?

    Fitzharris: Well, yes I do, when we'd go into the city, we used to buy root beer or orange, they had orange drinks you know, like in the ten cent stores or soda fountains.

    Lotter: This was similar to our orange soda?

    Fitzharris: Yes, more or less.

    Lotter: Do you remember any plants in the house?

    Fitzharris: Yes, I don't know what they were, but we had a - our house was built against a wall and in the dining room they had like a double window you opened up, and you could go way back, oh almost the length of this room, and in the summertime I think they had flower pots in there because when you went outside on the second level there was just like a sun - just like windowpanes you know, and you could take these off and they also had shutters on it for wintertime. In wintertime they kept the meats and things in there to keep it cold, you know, but they also had potted flowers in there and when you walked in the yard, you could look through this glass and see the flowers. But, you know, it seems odd, but I remember they had those for to keep things cold.

    Lotter: Do you remember any plants actually inside the house, you know, like we have house plants today?

    Fitzharris: No, no - I remember like everybody had flower boxes outside, they had geraniums and things like that on the porches, but not in the wintertime, they didn't have any flowers.

    Lotter: No, no of course not. How about window boxes?

    Fitzharris: Some people did, but most people had porches and just had the boxes on the banisters of the porch. [Coughs]

    Lotter: Do you need some water?

    Fitzharris: No, that's what I stopped taking the medicine for. [laughs]

    Lotter: How about grape arbors, did you have one?

    Fitzharris: We didn't have one, but quite a few people did. They were beautiful and they kept the houses cool, you know, they were shaded, and they also performed a bar for we could do "Skin the Cat" and whatnot on, you know. Most of them were wood, but some of them were the iron pipes and we had a grand time on that. Put little swings on them, you know.

    Lotter: Oh yeah. Do you remember what kind of grapes they were?

    Fitzharris: Just dark purple, I guess they were a bit like a Concord Grape, very sweet.

    Lotter: I see, and your father made red wine then I assume?

    Fitzharris: Yes, u-huh.

    Lotter: How about lawn or porch furniture?

    Fitzharris: Rocking chairs, everybody had rockin, sort of a wicker rocker, and some houses also had a porch swing for the children, just a rope swing, you know, but everybody had rockin' chairs.

    Lotter: Were the rocking chairs painted?

    Fitzharris: Some of them were and some of them had like linen toweling in the back, you know, tied with tape, and just a pillow in the seat. I guess that was to protect the wicker too, I don't know.

    Lotter: Made it a little more comfortable probably.

    Fitzharris: Yeah, right, but everybody had a rocker.

    Lotter: And what color was your porch painted?

    Fitzharris: Floor was gray, the banisters were - I remember some of them were gray and some of them were green.

    Lotter: And how about lawn care - mowing and watering the lawn.

    Fitzharris: Dad always did that. Had a regular hand push mower, always kept it very sharp.

    Lotter: And do you ever remember him watering the lawn?

    Fitzharris: Not really, no. Because there was no way of - you had to just get it by buckets, you know, you just depended on nature to take care of it because you wouldn't be about to walk a city block to get a bucket of water just to try to water your lawn, you know.

    Lotter: How about watering the flowers?

    Fitzharris: Well, they used to have to do that with a bucket, but I don't think they ever watered the lawn.

    Lotter: That would be quite a job, wouldn't it?

    Fitzharris: Yeah.

    Lotter: How about rainwear, if it was raining outside, what would you do?

    Fitzharris: We had raincoats, they were sort of a - something like the slickers today, that type, you know. And they also had berets that you could reverse and they were sort of water repellent on the outside. They were a red flannel or green flannel on the outside, then water repellent inside.

    Lotter: Did you have an umbrella of any kind?

    Fitzharris: Oh, everybody had umbrellas - men especially had those umbrellas that you push a button, you know, we used to love to play with those.

    Lotter: What was your umbrella like?

    Fitzharris: Just a plain black with a little hooked handle. My sister and I always walked together.

    Lotter: Oh, did you? You shared an umbrella. Do you remember any funny stories or jokes that were told?

    Fitzharris: Not right off, I can't think of any.

    Lotter: Okay. How about any kind of weather lore, you know, like "A ring around the moon" -

    Fitzharris: No, they used to just talk about whether it was a full moon, or last quarter or full quarter, you know, moon like that.

    Lotter: You don't remember your grandmother talking about anything or telling you any stories about the weather?

    Fitzharris: No, I remember that one saying they used to say, "I see the moon, the moon sees me, God bless the moon and God bless me" when it was a full moon we always said that. I guess that was one of my grandmother's stories.

    Lotter: U-huh. Do you remember any myths or ghost stories or do you have any superstitions?

    Fitzharris: No, that's one thing I was never superstitious.

    Lotter: Is that right?

    Fitzharris: A lot of my friends used to be afraid to pass the cemetery or something, but that never bothered me.

    Lotter: Or walk under a ladder?

    Fitzharris: Oh no.

    Lotter: You said your father started to work at age 13, how about your brother, how old was he when he started to work?

    Fitzharris: Well, he was a senior, I think, at Alexis I. and they built that tunnel that goes by the Copeland Estate, are you familiar with that?

    Lotter: Yes, yes.

    Fitzharris: Well, he was water boy there and I think he was about 18 when he first - or seventeen I guess, because he - after Mother died, he enlisted in the Service, only 17 so, and then he made a career of it. I don't know what kind of work - just did whatever is in the Army, I know when he retired, he was a Chief Line Officer, from the Army. He had a good pension.

    Lotter: Did he have any other, maybe part-time jobs before that, say delivering newspapers?

    Fitzharris: I think he was a paperboy, but other than that, I don't know of anything. He was just a water boy and a paperboy.

    Lotter: How about you and your sister, how old were you when you started working?

    Fitzharris: I was, I guess, seventeen when I worked at the Everfast Store, she was about the same.

    Lotter: Well, when your brother delivered papers, did he keep the money that he earned, or was that brought home...

    Fitzharris: Well, I think, as I say, Mr. Lundy had the route and I think he delivered the papers, then he paid him so much for delivering, but I don't know what - evidently he gave it up, I don't know, give to parents, I don't really know. Course I don't think it was very much anyway.

    Lotter: Right.
  • Young people dating in groups; Mr. Louie hauling coal for DuPont Experimental Station; rain barrels, berries, and nuts; swimming to Holly Island
    Keywords: African Americans--Employment; blackberries; canoeing; Cappeau's; chestnuts; Cooper Shop; Dating (Social customs); Forty Acres (Wilmington, Del.); Holly Island; lice; mulberries; picnics; rain water; smokehouse; sun fish; swimming; toboggan; walnuts
    Transcript: Lotter: What do you remember about dating or courting in those days?

    Fitzharris: You mean like my aunts and people, or myself?

    Lotter: Well, like yourself, young people dating.

    Fitzharris: Well, what we did, we always traveled in crowds, there was like maybe eight or nine girls and we always dated the boys like down around this neighborhood, the Forty Acres, they would come up and we'd all go swimming and they would go home and we would go home and get dressed and we'd meet them later at Cappeau's and they'd treat us to sundaes and things like that. Or once in a while they'd take us to a movie. Nothing too exciting, but a lot of fun. We always traveled in crowds.

    Lotter: So, you didn't have to worry then about - I mean you parents didn't come along to chaperon you or anything at that age?

    Fitzharris: No, because we were older and we knew that we had to be home at a certain time.

    Lotter: How about when you first started dating?

    Fitzharris: Oh, I guess I - I don't think I even had a date until I was around 17, none of us did. And, as I say, we'd maybe go like to the Forty Acres or maybe we'd all go to a movie and then come back to the house - they'd take us back and we'd all congregate on the porch for a while, you know. We always traveled in crowds.

    Lotter: What do you remember about wagons and sleighs?

    Fitzharris: I don't remember any sleighs up at the Brandywine, but I do remember riding in wagons, you know, horse-drawn wagons.

    Lotter: Who had these wagons?

    Fitzharris: Like the milkman and the bread man and Mr. Rowe had a toboggan, we used to ride down Barley Mill Lane on a toboggan.

    Lotter: Oh really? Did he have a wagon of any kind?

    Fitzharris: No, not that I know of.

    Lotter: Do you remember any of the residents around there having wagons?

    Fitzharris: No really, no. I guess they did, but I don't - they must have had to get around, you know, but a lot of them went out in boats, everybody had a boat to go in the Brandywine. Like my Dad when he worked up at Hagley, we lived on the opposite side, well he had a row boat and he'd come across on the boat, you know, and tie it up 'til it was time to go back home. And then in wintertime he crossed on the ice, which that way, they hardly ever had to walk.

    Lotter: Yes, it was a lot quicker, it sure was. What about horses and mules?

    Fitzharris: Yeah, there were horses. I don't remember any mules other than the mules that used to bring the coal to the DuPont Experimental Station - the coal came in freight cars to Rising Sun and they had a dump wagon and this man just went back and forth all day long with this coal, you know, to take to the Experimental Station. And there was mules, and later I think he had horses. I don't know what his name was, but we used to always call him Mr. Louie, he was a black man. Oh, everybody up the creek, I don't know whether - he lived down the East side, I guess, but everybody liked Mr. Louie, I think he was the first black person ever worked at the Experimental Station.

    Lotter: Oh, is that right?

    Fitzharris: Yeah, very nice man.

    Lotter: And did he live in the area?

    Fitzharris: No, I think he lived in town somewhere, no he didn't live in the neighborhood. Was only two families that I - well, three families of black families - they lived - two of them lived up by the cooper shop, and down where we lived, you know, across the Brandywine, one family moved in and I think they were only there three days, and they moved out. But that's the only black people I remember. But those people up the Cooper Shop, they were really lovely people, they worked for Mr. Laird, his father and mother.

    Lotter: Do you remember collecting rainwater?

    Fitzharris: Oh yes, to wash with. Sometimes they'd do that. They had a big rain barrel at the rain spout, you know.

    Lotter: Where was the rain barrel, where was the spout?

    Fitzharris: Near the kitchen, the roof from the kitchen. I think everybody had one of those. And I think, too, I guess they used to water their geraniums on the porch with the rain water, you know. You know people still do that?

    Lotter: No, I didn't know that.

    Fitzharris: You know Mrs. Toomey?

    Lotter: Yes.

    Fitzharris: Well, her son puts a bucket out all the time and that's what he waters his flowers with.

    Lotter: Is that right - well. Do you ever remember washing your hair in rainwater?

    Fitzharris: No, I don't remember that. As a child, my aunt always - after Mother died, my aunt always took care of our hair, to make sure that it was clean - oh yeah, I guess I was up to till ten anyway, she used to always take care of - because then children used to have lice, you know, in their hair. And I remember that my aunt used a fine-toothed comb on our hair. And if you don't think that was something - my thick hair, with a fine-toothed...

    Lotter: I bet-that hurt.

    Fitzharris: She used to break them, too, trying to get through it, but she kept us clean anyway.

    Lotter: How often did she wash your hair?

    Fitzharris: I think about every week and it was really - your scalp was really sore when you got through - it was worth it, you know.

    Lotter: Oh, I'm sure it was. Were a lot of your toys homemade?

    Fitzharris: We didn't have a lot of toys really, I mean like Jacks and dolls and checkerboards and all - that's about all.

    Lotter: And they were all bought?

    Fitzharris: Yes, other than the sled I told you my brother made.

    Lotter: What do you remember that your family brought from the Old Country?

    Fitzharris: Nothing. I don't know whether Nanna Farren brought anything or not, but she had so many children, I don't know if Pop ever had any - and Grandmother Lowther was born in England and I don't remember anything she brought - she may have.

    Lotter: Do you remember any trunks that they had that they brought over?

    Fitzharris: Well, we didn't have any trunks in our own immediate family, but Grandmother Farren, I know, she had one in her bedroom, whether she brought it from Ireland - evidently she did, but I don't know.

    Lotter: Are any of her things still in the family?

    Fitzharris: Not that I know of.

    Lotter: How about your other grandmother?

    Fitzharris: No, we have nothing of that - of course maybe my uncle's family had 'em, but I don't know of any.

    Lotter: Do you remember eels?

    Fitzharris: In the creek - you mean fish in the creek?

    Lotter: Yes.

    Fitzharris: I remember seeing them, but I never caught any.

    Lotter: Oh you didn't?

    Fitzharris: No.

    Lotter: Do you remember anybody catching them?

    Fitzharris: The boys used to catch them once in a while, but I don't think they ever did anything with them, let them go back again. The height of mine was sun fish and they were so small you just catch and throw them back, you know.

    Lotter: Yes, yes. Did your father have a smokehouse?

    Fitzharris: No, not really.

    Lotter: Do you remember anyone that did?

    Fitzharris: There was a Polish family used to live in that house where Coley du Pont lives, and he used to have, like smoked hams and things like that, he used to do that, but that's the only one I ever remember.

    Lotter: I see. How about, you mentioned getting blackberries, did you get any other - pick any other kind of berries?

    Fitzharris: Mulberries.

    Lotter: Oh, did you?

    Fitzharris: Yeah - mulberries, there was a big bush in back of our house and we used to get those.

    Lotter: And what did you do with the mulberries?

    Fitzharris: Just eat them, but blackberries, we used to make mush and they made jelly out of them. But - have you ever eaten mulberries?

    Lotter: No, I haven't.

    Fitzharris: Well, they're something like potato chips, you start eating them, and you don't know when to stop, but they really make you sick. They're long.

    Lotter: 0h, is that right. How about nuts, did you ever...

    Fitzharris: Walnuts, we used to get walnuts and chestnuts.

    Lotter: Oh, did you?

    Fitzharris: Yeah. We used to get chestnuts up in the field in front of where I used to live, and walnuts. Quite a few people had walnut trees, in fact, there was one right across from Breck's Lane where I lived. We used to gather those and hull them and dry them, you know, and then pick them and make fudge - put the nuts in fudge.

    Lotter: Oh yes, oh yes. What about the chestnuts?

    Fitzharris: We used to just eat them, roast them and just eat them.

    Lotter: Oh, you did? How about herbs - did people have herb gardens or herbs in their gardens?

    Fitzharris: Not too many I don't think, some, but I just don't recall what they were.

    Lotter: What about picnics?

    Fitzharris: Well, some people went on picnics, but - Alfred I. du Pont used to have a picnic, he took all the employees over to Jersey or some place on a boat, you know, but we used to just pack a lunch ourselves the girls, you know, go up in the woods or something like that. Never had any great big picnics.

    Lotter: Do you remember any picnics with your whole family when you were young?

    Fitzharris: Other than St. Joseph's, that's about the only one.

    Lotter: What do you remember about Holly Island?

    Fitzharris: Feeling real proud of myself when I could, that I could swim out there and get on Holly Island. There was nothing there, but it was just the point that you could swim.

    Lotter: That was a big accomplishment.

    Fitzharris: We always wanted to know what Holly Island was like.

    Lotter: How old were you when you could swim over there?

    Fitzharris: Oh, I guess about twelve. That's one thing we had to learn, My Dad said we had to learn to swim, and we tried every place. We'd go in there by Walker's Mill and we'd go down below, all the way down by the dam, down by Rockford.

    Lotter: Yes.

    Fitzharris: We used to swim all around there. One of the boys had a canoe and he'd take a crowd of us, if we got tired of swimming, we'd get in the canoe and come back. It was always easier going downstream than it was coming back.

    Lotter: Oh yes, that's right.

    Fitzharris: I remember the thing about Holly Island, too, there was a spring in the ground there and it had the most delicious water. People used to go up there with their pitchers and get it.

    Lotter: Oh, did they?

    Fitzharris: Just like a - well it was a deep well, you know.

    Lotter: I hadn't heard about that.

    Fitzharris: We often wondered, we were up at Hagley the other - oh about six months ago, and we were wondering if that was still there. It was right near Holly Island.
  • Feather pillows; milk and ice delivery; drinking, gambling, and smoking habits; neighborhood families visiting with one another
    Keywords: Black Cat; blue ticking; cigars; Comet tobacco; feather pillows; ice delivery; ice tongs; milk delivery; refrigerator; saloons; smoking; tub butter; whiskey
    Transcript: Lotter: You mentioned the feather bedding, what were your pillows made out of?

    Fitzharris: Feathers.

    Lotter: Now, were they homemade or...

    Fitzharris: Yes, they were made of a blue ticking and then they also had like an unbleached muslin over the ticking before you put the pillow case on it, for cleanliness I guess, but sometimes the feathers used to come through and scratch you.

    Lotter: Oh yes. Now did you make these at home or did you buy these?

    Fitzharris: Mothers made them, but I remember seeing people stuff them, feathers all over the place, you know.

    Lotter: Oh, I bet. And where did they get the feathers from?

    Fitzharris: I don't know, I really don't know. Handed down I guess. I remember they used to put them out, the pillows out on the line on a windy day to fluff them up, you know.

    Lotter: Did you ever have a bed warmer?

    Fitzharris: No. 'Cause we had the stove. I guess people did have them.

    Lotter: I would imagine they would.

    Fitzharris: Yeah - and I think they used to heat bricks, some people used to heat bricks and wrap them.

    Lotter: I've heard of that, yes.

    Fitzharris: But we never had anything like that.

    Lotter: Well you were very fortunate, you had the stove, didn't you?

    Fitzharris: Yeah, we had a stove.

    Lotter: How about milk, where did you get your milk?

    Fitzharris: There was a man came around with a wagon. I don't know where he got the milk, there was a big farm called Jones' out near Alfred I. Estate. I don't know whether he got the milk there or not. But then in later years where Copeland has, up in front of Breck's Lane, you know that place?

    Lotter: Yes.

    Fitzharris: There was a man there by the name of Duncan, and there was a lot of cows. I think it was Miss Mary du Pont that had the cows, and we used to go up there and get milk once in a while.

    Lotter: And what kind of container did you get the milk in?

    Fitzharris: Quart milk bottle or like a galvanized kettle, you know with a lid on the top, with a long handle. But mostly we got out milk, I think, from this man come around with a wagon.

    Lotter: And how did you store the milk?

    Fitzharris: Just in bottles and in a refrigerator, old-time refrigerator.

    Lotter: You had an ice box?

    Fitzharris: Old-time one, yes. Put a piece of ice in the top...

    Lotter: Yes, and who emptied the water pan?

    Fitzharris: I did [laughs]. Sometimes I forgot, and you know what happened then when you forget.

    Lotter: Yes [laughs]. How about butter, where did you get your butter?

    Fitzharris: The same grocery store that delivered the other things. I think it used to be, like in a - used to be tub butter and then later on they started to put it in the squares, you know. The tub butter came like in a - something made like corn husk, you know would be like a pan - like an old-time ice cream thing, how they used to...

    Lotter: Sort of an oval shaped container?

    Fitzharris: Yeah, and the butter was put in that, but then later on they had it in the square pound packages or the - oh we were uptown when we got it in the quarters.

    Lotter: How was it wrapped when you got it, now in this oval...

    Fitzharris: Some kind of a heavy, I guess like an oiled paper, like a wax paper, but not sheer like wax paper.

    Lotter: And where did you keep your ice box in the kitchen?

    Fitzharris: In the kitchen in the corner, back by the wall, you know, like the ground part, you know, the house was built against the wall, against the ground, well that would be the coldest part.

    Lotter: Yes, it certainly would. What did it look like?

    Fitzharris: Well, it was square, and it had a - at the top of it, you'd lift the lid up and I guess about fifty pound of ice would fit in there, maybe seventy-five, but I think ours was about fifty, and in the bottom it had doors and lots of shelves. And then a little door that swings up, that's where you put the pan to get the water, you know.

    Lotter: Yes. And how often was your ice delivered?

    Fitzharris: I don't really know. I know we used to hop on the wagons to get the chippings, you know, the ice, and we'd make a cold drink or a cold glass of water with that, but I don't know how often.

    Lotter: Did he stop every time he came through the neighborhood?

    Fitzharris: You had a card and you'd put it in the window, whatever you wanted, like 25 - 50, you know. He had a bag, he used to just put it on his shoulder and carry the ice in with tongs and put it in.

    Lotter: And did you remember, well you must have had an ice pick, then and...

    Fitzharris: Oh, yeah.

    Lotter: Did you have tongs?

    Fitzharris: Ice tongs.

    Lotter: Where were they kept?

    Fitzharris: In the kitchen beside the cabinet, the wooden cabinets, on a nail.

    Lotter: Were they hung up?

    Fitzharris: On a nail.

    Lotter: On a nail. Do you remember your father having liquor at home?

    Fitzharris: Not too much, u-huh. I think everybody kept a little bit of whiskey, mostly for medicinal purposes, you know. Oh, I'm sure he had it, but there was so many saloons around, they didn't have to store it at home, they could go and buy it.

    Lotter: I see.

    Fitzharris: There was, I think, about four from Rising Sun to Hagley Museum.

    Lotter: Oh, that's quite a bit.

    Fitzharris: Yeah, well I don't think they had to worry about that.

    Lotter: So most of the men just went to the bars?

    Fitzharris: Or they'd get a kettle and bring it home, just a kettle of beer, see. There was an old lady used to live on Breck's Lane, and she was the only lady I ever knew that drank beer and she used to go up to Dougherty's where Coleman du Pont...and she used to have a shawl and she had her kettle of beer and she always had it under the shawl. Not that she ever got drunk or anything I don't think, but she always enjoyed her beer, but that's the only lady I ever remember. 'Course maybe a lot of the others had it, you know, but I don't know.

    Lotter: Yes. Well where did your father go to get his beer or liquor?

    Fitzharris: Pat Dougherty's which was his cousin's husband - and the Bonners - see the Bonners and the Farrens and the Kinbeiters are all related, so Pat Dougherty, he was the one that had the saloon.

    Lotter: I see. Did your father ever make any beer?

    Fitzharris: Not to my knowledge. I don't know of any.

    Lotter: What about visiting friends, did you do much visiting?

    Fitzharris: No, just the people on that side of the Brandywine, more or less just our relatives, you know, but we never went far away to - there was no means of transportation. That's why I think families were so closer than they are today, now people have cars.

    Lotter: That's right.

    Fitzharris: My niece has children and my daughter, round the same age, and they don't know one another. And they only lived in West Chester and Wilmington - it's sad, you know.

    Lotter: That's sad - it certainly is, it really is. Well, what about neighbors who lived close together, did neighbors drop in to see each other quite often?

    Fitzharris: They did, but mostly it was like in the summertime, they'd all congregate on the porches and talk, you know. Once in a while they'd come in at night, but there again, I think the husband and wives were content to be together, you know, when we were small. And with the children, they just didn't leave. Oh I remember two or three families coming to our place, but not too much.

    Lotter: Not on a regular basis?

    Fitzharris: No.

    Lotter: What about gambling?

    Fitzharris: Well, there were some places around the Brandywine, but I don't know if my Dad - now I'm not putting a rose on him, but I don't remember my Dad ever gambling. I don't think there was too much of it, but there was this place, as I say, Coley du Pont's, it was after the tavern got out of there, they had what they called the Black Cat I think they called it, and men used to go in there and play cards and gamble and all.

    Lotter: Oh, they did?

    Fitzharris: But I don't remember, maybe my Dad did, but I don't think he did. I don't think my uncles did either.

    Lotter: Did your dad use smoking or chewing tobacco?

    Fitzharris: Smoking tobacco. He always used a pipe around the house and when he went out he always smoked cigars, never took his pipe out with him. Used to smoke most of the time. 'Course in the winter he'd smoke in the house, but in the summertime he always smoked outside. But when he got dressed to go any place or on Sunday going to church, it was always cigars.

    Lotter: I see. Did he have any favorite brands of tobacco?

    Fitzharris: Comet - I remember that. And I think there was a Wild Rose tobacco. Comet I remember very plainly.

    Lotter: Do you remember cuspidors?

    Fitzharris: Yes, but you know I don't remember any in our house. They may have had them, but I don't know. I don't remember any in my uncle's house either, but I know people had them. No I think, I think my Mother and Dad thought they were just dirty, you know, I just don't think they had them. I remember my uncle used to chew tobacco and he used to go out and walk on the road like, you know, around the side, but I don't remember having cuspidors.
  • School lunches and book bags; clothing, shoes, and hats; changing route to school depending on mud; clocks and watches
    Keywords: Big Ben alarm clock; button hook; church bells; cuckoo clocks; derbys; gloves; high-top shoes; leg-o-mutton sleeves; lunch boxes; mantle clocks; men's hats; Methodist; Mt. Salem Cemetery; pocket watch; school book bags; Timekeeping; Vice Hide Kid shoes; whistles
    Transcript: Lotter: What was your school lunch box like?

    Fitzharris: Well, just a square metal tin thing, and it would hold like a sandwich, piece of fruit and maybe some cookies or something like that. Nothing very glamorous - no pretty pictures painted on it or anything like that, just a plain tin box. Mostly I...

    Lotter: Was it painted?

    Fitzharris: Yes, mostly I carried mine in a bag, I remember.

    Lotter: Oh, you did?

    Fitzharris: I remember putting a bag inside of a bag so it would hold, you know. But then - reason I liked that, because I didn't have to bring it home, I could throw it away.

    Lotter: Yes. What kind of sandwiches did you take for lunch?

    Fitzharris: Well, mostly like jelly or peanut butter, peanut butter and jelly, things like that. Nothing that would spoil, you know, you couldn't take meat. 'Course in the Wintertime we could take a piece of ham or something like that, but not in the summertime. And it was consisted of an orange or an apple maybe, sometimes cookies, sometimes just a piece of cake.

    Lotter: And what did you have to drink?

    Fitzharris: Well, half the time we just drank water. Sometimes they took - in the wintertime they took coffee in bottles, you know, put it up on the stove to heat, but we never had any cocoa or things like that.

    Lotter: And did you have a book bag?

    Fitzharris: Oh yeah, I wore many a book bag out - sledding - coming down, you know, in the fields. Be nice - sometimes there'd be a crust on it, you'd sit on that and slide down. My Dad could never understand how they wore out.

    Lotter: Did any of the children use a book strap?

    Fitzharris: The boys did once in a while, but most girls just carried a bag that fit over your shoulder, you know.

    Lotter: What about men's hats?

    Fitzharris: Derbys, and soft hats. My Dad always wore a derby when he was dressed up, and wore a cap to work, but he always had a derby. I can remember him going out the door, and he had a thing that fit on his hand I guess it was like a piece of felt, and that was the last thing he did before he went out, he rubbed it all over the derby to make sure there was no lint on it.

    Lotter: This was a black hat?

    Fitzharris: Black felt derby - stiff you know.

    Lotter: Yes. And what color was the cap he wore?

    Fitzharris: Sort of a tweed - I guess like an Irish tweed or something, you know. When he was dressed up he was a dude I must say, when he was dressed up [laughs]. Like the cigar and the derby hat, things like that. He really liked to dress.

    Lotter: I think all the men dressed very well didn't they?

    Fitzharris: Yeah, they liked derby hats, yeah. And the women dressed, too. They didn't go that much, but they always had the pretty shirtwaist and skirts, you know, high necks.

    Lotter: What colors, do you remember?

    Fitzharris: Mostly brown, blue or black, not figured, plain colors I remember. Mother used to wear printed house dresses, I remember that, but dressed up, they were plain colors. I wish those things would come back - those real long skirts and the high neck, I love those - leg-o-mutton sleeves.

    Lotter: Pretty, yes. Did your mother wear gloves?

    Fitzharris: Yes, dressy gloves and woolen gloves both. Everybody had to have - you know when they put a hat on, you had to have gloves, you know to dressy up. My Mother didn't go to church so much, she was Methodist and after she got married she didn't attend to a Methodist church, but she always said that when her family was raised, she would become a Catholic. But my brother was only two and she died, so she didn't die a Catholic, But she attended a lot of the affairs that St. Joseph gave and all, but when she died Dad had a Methodist funeral for her and all.

    Lotter: I see, where was she buried?

    Fitzharris: Mt. Salem Cemetery, that's where she went to Sunday School. All her family went there.

    Lotter: Do you remember children ever making paper hats to play with?

    Fitzharris: Out of newspaper, yeah, we made hats out of newspaper - pin them together so they would stay. Sometimes you'd fold them, they would stay, but we would put a couple pins in they would hold better.

    Lotter: Oh sure. How about men's shoes?

    Fitzharris: They were high-top, some of them were button and some of them were laced. Other than that, I don't know much about them.

    Lotter: Black or brown?

    Fitzharris: Black, black, Dad always wore black. I guess some of them were brown, but Dad always wore black.

    Lotter: And how about women's shoes?

    Fitzharris: They were high heels, some of them were high-tops, some of them were black, but others like a gray felt, something like the Spats, you know, but they were all made like that with button shoes. Everybody had...

    Lotter: They were all one piece?

    Fitzharris: Yes. Everybody had a button hook hanging in the kitchen, you know. Course I remember we were kids we had button shoes too, and everybody had to use the button hook. Some of them had pearl handles and some of them were just plain you know. If you had your own, you had a pearl handle, but if you went to a shoe store and they gave you one, it was just a crude, you know, but it did the same purpose.

    Lotter: U-huh, now what about for work, what did your father wear to work?

    Fitzharris: Just black button shoes.

    Lotter: Similar to his dress shoe?

    Fitzharris: They were little rougher - Sundays were sort of - I think they called them Vice Hide Kid, on Sunday, it was a real soft leather that you could polish nicely, but his working shoes were just black and I don't think he polished them a whole lot.

    Lotter: These were sturdier type shoes?

    Fitzharris: Oh yeah, just like they wear today, more or less, only black.

    Lotter: And what did your mother wear around the house?

    Fitzharris: I don't know, I think just plain black button shoes, high-top shoes, like a black leather, you know. Not fancy kid top, just a black leather.

    Lotter: Do you remember a lot of mud?

    Fitzharris: [Laughs] I sure do, especially on this side of the Brandywine. The side we lived on, the roads were rough and more stones, you know. Oh, but there by Coley du Pont's and down - oh that mud was horrible. You'd always get muddy shoes.

    Lotter: Keeping your shoes clean was quite a job?

    Fitzharris: Yeah because there was a run came down there, and it used to run over the road, you know the water, and that would really make it messy. Polishing shoes was a job I always liked, though. I like to polish shoes, to this day I still do, like whiten shoes and things.

    Lotter: Well now when it was wet and muddy, how did you go to school - did you go to school a different way than you might have gone if the weather weren't...

    Fitzharris: No, if it was just warm weather we couldn't go - 'course there wouldn't be any ice, we had to walk all the way up and over the old covered bridge, and down up to the entrance of where you go into the Hagley Museum and then up that hill. Or if it was awfully muddy, if it wasn't too muddy, we'd cut through the field where Copeland lives now, you know, that would be a shortcut. And you go through the woods, and hopefully, the cows wouldn't be out. You could go through that field, but if the cows were out, you had to just go in the woods and come out by the entrance to Hallock du Pont's Estate, you know, there was a path came through there. But if it was real muddy, you couldn't go to school with muddy shoes, you had to walk along the road.

    Lotter: What do you remember about clocks and watches?

    Fitzharris: Everybody had a Big Ben alarm clock, you know, and then in the dining room, or living room, whatever, there was just wooden mantle clocks. Sometimes some of them would strike and some of them wouldn't. Some of them were cuckoo clocks. Mrs. Toomey has a clock - did you notice when you were there it strikes?

    Lotter: No, I have not interviewed Mrs. Toomey. Someone else talked to her.

    Fitzharris: It would strike on the hour and just dong on the half hour. And it was about this wide and about that high. Oh I think it was handed down from the Toomey family, you know, but it was a nice clock.

    Lotter: Did your father have a watch?

    Fitzharris: Yes, a pocket watch, a big pocket watch with a leather strap.

    Lotter: Oh.

    Fitzharris: It used to come across his vest like you know, put it in the vest pocket.

    Lotter: How about your mother, did she have a watch of any kind?

    Fitzharris: I think she had one of those little tiny gold watches, pocket watch, you know, it had a case on it that was engraved and you could close it up, you know, and you had to open it to see the time. But they wore them up here, some of them were pinned on, you know.

    Lotter: They had like a breast pocket that they would put it in?

    Fitzharris: Yeah, and some of them had a fancy pin, they'd just let them hang on, but I think for security sake, I think they pinned it above the pocket so that if it ever came off it would fall in the pocket and they wouldn't lose it - they're real pretty.

    Lotter: Oh, that would be a good idea, and I bet they were pretty. What do you remember about whistles and bells?

    Fitzharris: Weren't too much - well, I remember the Experimental Station used to blow the whistle when the men were through work at quarter of five. And the church bells used to ring at six o'clock in the morning, twelve at noon and six at night, but that's about all. Train whistles go through.

    Lotter: Were there any whistles at the woolen mill - Hudson's?

    Fitzharris: No, no they just shut the power off and the lights went out, in daytime why they just do it at twelve o'clock and that was it.
  • Holiday traditions including Mrs. Laird's Christmas parties; Sunday routines while her mother was living; pets and snakes
    Keywords: Christmas decorations; dogs; Easter; Fourth of July; Laird, William W., Mrs., 1878-1938; mantelpieces; pets; snakes; Sunday dinners; Sunday School; Thanksgiving
    Transcript: Lotter: What about saving money - did your parents keep money at home?

    Fitzharris: Well, I don't know what they did about that, but I know like on Christmas we always got gold pieces for gifts, like two and a half dollar gold piece, you know. But we never had much money. Like if we went to the store, they would just buy us an ice cream cone or buy something, we never had a lot of money of our own.

    Lotter: But did - I just wondered if your parents kept any money hidden at home somewhere or did they use a bank?

    Fitzharris: I don't know, but I know, I've heard people say that they used to keep it like under the mattress or under the rug, but I can't say that I remember seeing my Mother do it, they probably did, but I don't remember it.

    Lotter: Do you remember them going to a bank at all?

    Fitzharris: No because when they went in to town, I guess they transacted all that kind of business, you know, went in once a week.

    Lotter: Do you remember anything special about Thanksgiving?

    Fitzharris: No, other than just had a big dinner, maybe it would be a turkey or maybe it would be a chicken, you know, regular dinner like that.

    Lotter: How about Christmas?

    Fitzharris: It was more or less the same. Years ago they never had turkey, only on Thanksgiving and Christmas, you know, they were the big...

    Lotter: What did you have?

    Fitzharris: We had both, we had chicken and we had turkey, but then like Easter, was always a ham, always had ham on Easter, for why, I don't know.

    Lotter: Do you remember any Christmas decorations? Anything special?

    Fitzharris: No, just a big tree. Some were balls, old-time balls and some had, I guess maybe some of the children made I think, I remember making a Santa Claus at kindergarten at Alexis I. and I think my brother made a few things, but they were mostly just balls and garland.

    Lotter: And did your Mother decorate the house?

    Fitzharris: I don't remember, I don't remember that.

    Lotter: How about a wreath, do you remember a wreath on the door?

    Fitzharris: No, I don't remember we ever had a wreath on the door. But I remember candles all, you know, on the shelves and things like that - mantelpieces they called them. But as far as outdoor things, I don't know of any.

    Lotter: Where was your tree?

    Fitzharris: In the sitting room by the window, furthest away from the stove, you know, in a big container with a lot of water in it, and sand too, I think they put sand. I remember the thing that they stood the tree in was like a round iron thing, made out of pipe, and the tree fit in the pipe.

    Lotter: Yes. What else do you remember about Christmas?

    Fitzharris: I remember going to Mrs. Laird's, she always had a Christmas party for the - her employees, nieces and nephews and we always went up there. And she had a tree in the middle of the room and we run around the tree and sing Christmas carols. Mrs. Laird was, she's fantastic. She used to lead the procession.

    Lotter: Oh really?

    Fitzharris: Yeah, and then she'd give us like a wash cloth and maybe a doll and soap and a bag of candy made out of net, you know, had hard candies in it and then she always gave us something to drink before we left, in the kitchen, like cookies. She was perfect, everybody loved to go to Mrs. Laird's because...

    Lotter: That must have been very nice, you know, special.

    Fitzharris: For all holidays, she'd have about six or seven people working for her. Well then they had nieces and nephews galore, you know. But everybody - it was about three days before Christmas. She was a perfect lady.

    Lotter: It must have been a real treat. What about presents?

    Fitzharris: You mean giving in the family?

    Lotter: Yes.

    Fitzharris: Yeah, I don't think we did so much of that. I think we got like one thing, maybe a doll or things like that, but as far as exchanging gifts, I don't remember until I was oh maybe ten or something, then we'd have a little bit of money, we'd buy Dad a gift. 'Course Mother was gone, but I don't remember a lot of exchanging gifts. We just didn't have the money and didn't do it, that's all.

    Lotter: Now was your tree - and who set the tree up, when was it put up?

    Fitzharris: My Dad the night - Christmas Eve - you never did anything 'til...

    Lotter: So it was a surprise then on...

    Fitzharris: And it was a surprise, yeah. And I, even with my children, I guess they were three or four years old, I used to wait until Christmas Eve and do it. And they'd come down Christmas morning it would be - my husband always decorated the tree and I always undecorated, he never liked to take the things off because he said they had to be dusted and put away, he didn't like that.

    Lotter: Right. Do you remember any other important holidays?

    Fitzharris: No - Fourth of July families would have their own sparklers and things like that, you know, and always had ice cream and cake or something, but nothing really elaborate.

    Lotter: What do you remember doing on Sunday?

    Fitzharris: Going to church and coming home and having our breakfast and then sit around and have our dinner, play - we didn't really rough it up on Sunday. And then we had to go to Sunday School at three o'clock, and we'd come home and have our dinner. Sunday was a quiet day.

    Lotter: Did you have a special dinner on Sunday?

    Fitzharris: Oh yes, Mother always had company in, when she was living, for dinner.

    Lotter: Oh, did she?

    Fitzharris: Yeah, always, but after she died, we didn't, just...

    Lotter: What would she make for Sunday dinner, do you remember?

    Fitzharris: Well, I can remember roast beef and like mashed potatoes and several vegetables, but always a delicious dessert, always dessert - homemade cake, and of course Pop with the ice cream, you know, and coffee. But I remember we always had company and we kids ate in the kitchen and the company ate in the living room, but we all ate at the same time.

    Lotter: Oh, you did?

    Fitzharris: Yeah, there was too many, you know, the company we'd have, they'd all sit in the dining - 'cause they could sit and talk after the dinner was over, and of course we could get up and go out after we had our - 'til it was time to do the dishes, then we all had to come back and help with the dishes. Mother would clear off, you know, I can remember her clearing off then, my sister and I drying - drying the dishes, she washed them. 'Course I was seven, I guess she wouldn't depend on somebody being seven years old being clean enough, you know.

    Lotter: Probably not. How about pets, did you ever have any pets?

    Fitzharris: We had one dog that I can remember - Prince.

    Lotter: What kind of a dog?

    Fitzharris: Sort of a Collie, combination, but more or less a Collie, that's about all. But everybody around there had cats and dogs. I can't stand cats, I'm afraid of them.

    Lotter: How about, do you remember any fish or rabbits or turtles as pets?

    Fitzharris: I think a couple families had - no, nobody had them as pets, but did see a lot of snakes when you'd go after blackberries or things like that, you know.

    Lotter: Do you remember any poisonous snakes in that area?

    Fitzharris: I think mostly just grass snakes - they wouldn't hurt you, they'd scare you, you know, if you were afraid of them, but they wouldn't hurt you.

    Lotter: Okay, well I thank you very much. I think maybe that's enough for us to stop today.

    Fitzharris: The whole thing? Okay.

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