Interview with Ella Fitzharris, 1985 October 4 [audio](part 2)
- Her mother purchasing from Larkin's; common food preparation; floor coverings and carpet sweepersKeywords: apple cider; baked macaroni and cheese; beef stew; Bissell's hand sweeper; coleslaw; cookbooks; flaked cod fish; Foodways; ginger cookies; Halloween; hooked rug; Larkin Company; linoleum; matting; meatless Fridays; peaches; potato cakes; rag rugs; scrapple; shad roe; smoked meats; stewed chicken; stewed tomatoes; stuffed chickenTranscript: Fitzharris: ...used to say, Oh, hello, you know, to all the neighbors, but this was just her way. I think, too, because her daughter was a school teacher, she was a little, you know, more educated than we were, and I guess she felt it, I don't know. But everybody else was friendly, one big happy family around there.
Fitzharris: Yeah, it really was. You could always count on somebody doing something for you. If - you wouldn't have to ask them. If they knew you were having trouble, they would be right there, you know, that type. Somebody was sick, somebody would come in with some soup, or somebody would come in with something else, you know. Was no big issue, was just done in a family way.
Lotter: Do you have any idea in your family who made the final decisions on buying big items?
Fitzharris: No, I don't. You mean like furniture and things?
Lotter: Yeah, anything like that.
Fitzharris: No I don't, but I remember, I mean this company used to come along - Larkin's, and they had practically everything, and I remember my mother getting a lot of things from there - like maybe a lamp or things like that, so I don't know whether they talked it over before the woman would come through for the order, maybe she and Dad did, I don't know, but after Mother died, I can't remember, like when we got new things, whether my sister and my Dad did it or - I can't remember. In fact, we didn't get a whole lot after that, I mean, the house was furnished you know, I can't remember getting new things.
Lotter: How about recipe books, did your mother use recipe books?
Fitzharris: My Mother had a lot of cookbooks, but there again, I don't know what happened to them. And too, lots of those people, you know, when they made something and you liked it, you asked them, well they couldn't tell you - it was a dash of this, dash of that, a little bit of this, maybe a cup of tomato or just a pinch of salt, well you couldn't figure out what a pinch of salt was, but they had everything - like when they made chili sauce and things like that, everybody made it and it was all good, but I don't think any two people made it alike. They just had their own ways.
Lotter: Oh, u-huh. How elaborate were your daily meals?
Fitzharris: Well I just can't remember, I know a lot of beef and beef stew and steak - I don't like steak. Like when vegetables were in season, the trucker used to come through, you know, and green beans - and I remember fresh peaches, I still love them. We used to always have fresh peaches, I think, because it was either for Dad to make ice cream or we kids to eat you know. We had a big dish, I can remember always having either sliced peaches or the whole peaches in it, you know. And apple pies, things like that.
Lotter: What about salads, did you have anything like that?
Fitzharris: Not too much then, it was like coleslaw or things like that, but not the elaborate salads like they have today. We had cottage cheese, but nothing like they - children in those days didn't eat salads like they do today, all my grandchildren, they'd rather have salads than anything.
Lotter: How about potatoes, did you use a lot of potatoes?
Fitzharris: Oh - every day in the week, you had to have potatoes in some shape or form, either boiled, baked or mashed. Of course when your stove was going all the time, there was a lot of baked potatoes, you know. I still like them, I don't like any other kind of potato, but I like a baked potato. But my pet peeve now, they serve too big of a potato, do you ever notice that?
Lotter: Oh, yes, a lot of places do.
Fitzharris: It's too - they're much too big.
Lotter: Yes, they are. How was your meat prepared? You mentioned a lot of beef, how was it fixed?
Fitzharris: In stews and in the oven and fried steak, onions, and then they had like ham and cabbage, and fresh pork in the wintertime with a pocket in it and stuffed like they do with turkeys, you know, and once in a while hot dogs, but not too much hot dogs. And scrapple, they had scrapple.
Lotter: What about poultry?
Fitzharris: Well, chicken, yeah, everybody had chicken. I don't mean everybody had chickens, but they had chicken sometime or the other, and it was always stuffed. I don't remember we ever had fried chicken, until I got, you know, older. And they stewed chicken, if you weren't feeling good, you had stewed chicken, like with your celery and different things like that in it, you know. That's about all. My daughter can't get over the fact that I still like stewed chicken. I do it every once in a while, yeah.
Lotter: How about fish?
Fitzharris: Well, I remember they had cod fish a lot, and they also had the flaked cod fish that they make potato cakes, they used mashed potatoes and this flaked fish and they would make it and fry it, you know. I don't know - a lot of people had mackerel, I never tasted that. Of course they had sardines.
Lotter: Any fresh fish?
Fitzharris: Yeah, but I can't remember what. I remember shad roe, if they had that, everybody liked shad row. But that's about all I know of the fish. Course the kids used to catch fish in the creek, I don't know if anybody ever ate them. Little sunnies and things like that.
Lotter: Well if you had fresh fish, how was it prepared?
Fitzharris: I think broiled, I don't know how they did it, but I mean it wasn't always fried I know. I don't know how they did that.
Lotter: No, I wouldn't either. Wasn't baked?
Fitzharris: Maybe it was, 'cause they didn't have broilers then, it must have been baked. But I can't remember us having a lot of fish, maybe on Friday once in a while, but not a whole lot. And I love fish now, I prefer fish to meat.
Lotter: What did you eat on Friday, were you allowed to eat meat on Friday?
Lotter: What was your Friday meal?
Fitzharris: Well it could be like baked macaroni and cheese and stewed tomatoes, or maybe those cod fish cakes, you know, things like that. But I don't know what else. Macaroni and cheese, I think everybody had that. I still like that.
Lotter: Oh, I do too.
Fitzharris: In fact I had my whole family over the other night and I have one grandson that - he's crazy over macaroni - they hadn't had it for a long time and he came over and I had a buffet, and he went out in the kitchen and he said, "Oh you have everything don't you?" I said, "Well, I don't know." And he said, "I think I smell something." He opened the oven door and I made him a - I made, because he liked it, but it was two casseroles, so they took them home with them after what was finished. But I think if you have macaroni and cheese, cheese and macaroni and salad, I think it's always good.
Lotter: Oh, it is. How about apple cider?
Fitzharris: Oh yes, we didn't make it, but everybody had it. There was a man by the name of Woodward, used to come through...
Lotter: Oh yes.
Fitzharris: I think he still has an orchard, I'm not sure.
Lotter: Out Mendenhall?
Fitzharris: Some place out around there, and he used to come in and everybody bought it by the gallon, especially the week of Halloween, you know, you had that and apples, but everybody had cider. I don't know if anybody in the Brandywine made it, they may have, I don't remember. But everybody had it. 'Cause I remember, the houses on Halloween Night, they used to give you regular water tumbler full of it.
Lotter: Oh, did they?
Fitzharris: Yeah - that and ginger cookies, and peanuts.
Lotter: Oh yes. Did you dress up for Halloween?
Fitzharris: Oh everybody did - no costumes, it was just old clothes, you know. But nobody ever had a costume, just used your brother's clothes, or your Mother's clothes.
Lotter: Oh, I see. Do you remember any smokehouses?
Fitzharris: No, but there was a family on the Brandywine, they had one room, and they used to always smoke their - I don't know how they smoked them, but they used to have hams and things hanging up on racks. I don't know how they smoked them, but I know they just used that room for their smoked meat. But I guess they - maybe they did, but I think they just go up to the butcher shop and got their meat, most of them, smoked hams and things like that.
Lotter: I see, so you could buy smoked meats right from the butcher?
Lotter: What about floor coverings in your house, we talked about the rug in the living room, but what about the kitchen?
Fitzharris: The kitchen was always linoleum, ours was mostly blue and white, could be squares or checks, you know. And then my Dad used to put, when we would get new, he would put a real fine shellac, and that would be like a wax, you know.
Lotter: Oh yeah.
Fitzharris: And that would preserve it for a long time, you could wipe it up. But when he shellacked, you couldn't walk on it for a half a day. He used to do it in the evening, like, and then we'd get out of that room, but it was always shiny. It was thick, too.
Lotter: Now was this wall-to-wall?
Fitzharris: Wall-to-wall, u-huh, cut around the legs of the stove, if you didn't lift the stove, you know, things like that, it was all covered.
Lotter: What about in the hallway?
Fitzharris: They were generally just painted wood or with a throw rug, you know, like an old hook - like a hooked rug.
Lotter: Rag rug?
Fitzharris: Yeah, a lot of the people made those, you know, out of all the old rags - now they do it with stockings, but I remember we had it with old strips of cloth, because they used to take all the material, narrow strips and sew them together and make big balls, and then at your leisure they would sit down and crochet the - in fact I made one one time.
Lotter: Did you?
Fitzharris: Wasn't the best of things, but it lasted a long time.
Lotter: Is that what a lot of the women did in the evenings?
Fitzharris: Yeah, m-huh.
Lotter: What about the upstairs, the bedrooms?
Fitzharris: In the bedrooms they had that matting, you know. It was like a grass rug and it came a yard wide and like, depending on the width of your room, but I remember too, having those hooked rugs, round, oval rugs, beside the bed. And now that I think about it, it must have been, because that would be warmer for the wintertime.
Lotter: I would think so.
Fitzharris: They had the other stuff down - they were printed one one side and plain on the other of this matting, you know. The dust would go right through, you'd have to lift them up and clean underneath them you know, but now that I think about it, I guess that's why they had those hooked rugs on each side of the bed, for the warmth.
Lotter: Now do you remember using a carpet sweeper 'at all?
Fitzharris: A hand sweeper, Bissell's hand sweeper. In fact I still have one.
Lotter: Do you?
Fitzharris: Yeah, I guess it's only about ten years old. I don't know whether it's here or at my daughter's. But they had that to pick up crumbs after they served their dinner, too, you know. Of course they didn't have - in the early days they didn't have electricity, so they couldn't have vacuum cleaners...
Lotter: No, no, that's right.
Fitzharris: And they broomed them a lot, you know, swept.
Lotter: Oh, they did, they swept them?
Fitzharris: Yeah, u-huh. But I remember we had...
Lotter: So it was a short nap on the...
Fitzharris: On the rugs, yeah, but I remember the Bissell Sweeper everybody had one of those.
Lotter: Now how about at housecleaning time, what did you do with the rugs?
Fitzharris: I don't know.
Lotter: Do you ever remember putting them out on the line and beating them?
Fitzharris: Oh, well I remember my Dad putting them out on the line and beating them, but we never took part in that.
Lotter: He helped with that?
Fitzharris: I remember children used to - when anybody had a rug on the line, they used to run through it like a tent you know, dusty thing, but they would do it [laughs].
- Laundry equipment and supplies; trading books around the neighborhood; group of teenage girls going to Lenape during the summer; gardens and being tricked into eating a hot pepperKeywords: aluminum canoes; books; clothes props; clotheslines; coupons; Delivery of goods; flower boxes; gardens; Gem Grocery; general stores; hand wringer; Karo molasses; Kenney Tea Company; Lenape; rowboats; scarecrows; watering pailTranscript: Lotter: Let's see, we talked about clotheslines, did you you ever have any pulleys or support poles for your clothesline?
Fitzharris: Props, wooden props. In our yard, we had so many places, like from the shed and the porch and all, we had hooks and we had the ropes, you know, going from one - and then we had the props for them, but where there would be any danger, like, we always had one or two lines up sort of out of the way and left them up all the time, but when it was big wash day, my Dad would put the line up, like on a Sunday night, you know - the clothes would be all over the place. And you figure, lot of kids and all, those sheets.
Lotter: Oh yeah, that must have been a big undertaking. Did your mother have a wringer of any kind for the wash tub?
Fitzharris: I'm not sure, but I think they had a hand wringer, you know, it would hook onto a tub and you had to do it by hand.
Lotter: Oh, I'm sure that was a help, better than wringing them out by hand. Where did you empty the wash tub?
Fitzharris: Across the road and down the bank, went down towards the Brandywine.
Lotter: Oh, did it?
Fitzharris: Then in later years they put drains in, you know, the pipes and all.
Lotter: Now you mentioned the Octagon soap and the Fels Naphtha, did your mother ever make any soap at all?
Fitzharris: Not to my knowledge. 'Course the Octagon soap, they had coupons on it then, you know, and they would save the coupons and redeem them like they do coupons in stores today. They had - the whole thing, the Octagon was octagon shaped, they had Octagon on it, so they'd use those coupons.
Lotter: Do you remember what kind of prizes they got for them?
Fitzharris: Maybe like a sugar bowl, a glass sugar bowl, or something. And also there was a Kenney Tea Company in town and they, when you'd buy tea and all, they would give coupons and you could get prizes. Accumulate so many, you know, not a whole lot, but it was always worth getting.
Lotter: Oh sure.
Fitzharris: I remember getting these, like glass chimes, they would be hand painted, they'd put on their porches, you know, about so big.
Lotter: Do you remember any nursery rhymes?
Fitzharris: Just the ones they have today I remember, but I don't remember - at the time - singing them, you know what I mean?
Fitzharris: But I'm sure we did.
Lotter: Did you have a lot of books when you were growing up?
Fitzharris: Not too many, but what we did, we would pass them on. Like if you had a book, and you told me the story was good, you'd lend it to me, and what I had I would lend you, and they would go around like that. I don't think anybody ever had what you would call a library. And then when we got older, we would go to the library and get books, you know, and at school you would get them, but when we were real small: we just - people would generally get them for Christmas, you know, and then they would pass them around. If you had three or four girls in the family, well there'd be three or four books, you know, and you could pass them along to your other friends.
Lotter: Do you remember any books in particular that you owned?
Fitzharris: Not names - like I remember "Little Red Riding Hood" and things like that, but I can't remember a lot of them, but everybody had them.
Lotter: How about boats on the Brandywine, were there any other boats beside rowboats?
Fitzharris: Rowboats and canoes, that's about all.
Lotter: Can you describe the canoes?
Fitzharris: They were made out of aluminum, same shape like they have today.
Lotter: Oh, they were?
Fitzharris: Well, they were also made - years, when I was about seventeen, they were made out of wood, and they just had like a metal strip around the side and in that point, you know, in the front and the back. I think that was for when you bumped into the banks and things like that.
Fitzharris: Because my cousin had a cottage at Lenape and we used to go up there and he had two canoes. And my cousin and I really did a very good job of scraping the paddles along the side and practically ruined the canoe, you know, the top of it, we were so thin and everything, we couldn't really control it, if you get two or three people in there, the first thing you know, the thing would...
Lotter: Oh, yeah, oh.
Fitzharris: But it...
Lotter: Did you go up often to Lenape?
Fitzharris: We went up about once a week - I mean once a summer to stay for two or three days.
Lotter: Oh, you did?
Fitzharris: When we got older, that's when somebody would go and chaperon us, you know, just a bunch of girls, and we'd go up to the farm and one would have charge of getting the vegetables and one would have charge of getting something else, and we had to go down into Lenape to get the milk. But we'd go by canoe - oh that was really something, when I was about seventeen, to spend a week in Lenape. It's a wonder we weren't scared to death, about six or seven girls, you know, but we weren't afraid.
Lotter: Is that right - now who would go with you?
Fitzharris: Well, like one of the girls' mothers or aunts or somebody like that, you know, but when we were seventeen or eighteen, I remember one night, one time we were up there two nights by ourselves and some boys came up. We were petrified. Well then, you know, you were real naive, so one of the men came along that owned one of the cabins, and he told the boys to get out. Well they left, but we never had any problem with it or anything. But you know, it was risky when you figure...
Lotter: Yeah, yeah.
Fitzharris: But nothing ever happened.
Lotter: Do you remember using fertilizer in your garden?
Fitzharris: Seems to me they used lime and something else, but - as far as things they have today, no, I don't think so.
Lotter: And how about watering the garden?
Fitzharris: With an old bucket. And later on, in later years you got educated and you did get a watering pail, an aluminum watering pail, but mostly it was just a bucket and a cup and you just go like that and water the things, you know.
Lotter: And who had that job?
Fitzharris: Anybody, didn't make any difference, the flowers need water, you just go and do it. Because we never had a big garden ourselves, lot of people had gardens you know. But we had flower boxes on the porch and they had to be watered. Some days the poor flowers would be drenched and other days they would...[laughs], but they grew.
Lotter: Now people that did have vegetable gardens, did they start some things indoors in the springtime?
Fitzharris: I think some people did in those things I told you we had in the back of the dining room, you know where the sun...
Lotter: In the frames.
Fitzharris: Yeah, u-huh, I think that, but most people just waited, I think, until it was time to plant seeds and planted them.
Lotter: And use seeds, u-huh. Did most of the gardens have fences around them?
Fitzharris: Oh yes, most of them did, but right where we lived in the back was a family had them up on the hill top and there was no fence around. But nobody bothered it.
Lotter: Animals didn't get in?
Fitzharris: Oh I don't know about that, but I mean as far as people taking them, you know. Everybody was trustworthy.
Lotter: Oh no, no, I would think the fence would be more to keep the animals out than the people. Did anyone ever use a scarecrow?
Fitzharris: Oh yes. I remember this one family had it in the field, you know, with no fence around it, they had a scarecrow.
Lotter: What did it look like?
Fitzharris: Old straw - was like a cross and an old straw hat on it and a man's coat - the arms just stuck right out like that.
Lotter: Where did you get the seeds, did they have to be ordered or...
Fitzharris: I think, I'm not sure, but I think they came from Larkins, the store I was telling you about, people, you know, the man would come around with the order, I think that's where they came from, I'm not sure.
Lotter: Well now, Larkins, sounds like they carried a little bit of everything.
Fitzharris: Yeah, it was just like [pause] what do I want to say - well like Avon has perfume and all that kind of things you know, well Larkins was like that, but they also sold dishes, you know. That, and there was another company, a man came up - of course Gregg was the grocer in there, but there was a Gem grocer and they had a small shop over on Gilpin Avenue and they used to come up every - they didn't come as regular as Mr. Gregg did. I remember getting cakes and cookies from this Gem Grocery and also other things, so I think it was just like a general store. I don't know whether Mr. Dorman, when he had the general store up there in where Hagey's Tavern - I don't know whether he sold seeds or not, he could have, but I don't know.
Lotter: Do you remember - can you give me any idea of the size of some of these gardens?
Fitzharris: Well, I know one in particular, Mr. Baldo, he had one about as big as this room, but it was a pretty garden, everything was like a row of peppers and a row of tomatoes. I think I told you the time we got in there to the peppers.
Lotter: I don't think so.
Fitzharris: Well anyway, it was next to Mr. Ferraro's house, and Mr. Ferraro had the apple tree, and my cousin, Mrs. Hazzard, and I, we were daffy on going up trees and we used to go up and get the apples off the tree and then we'd come down and we'd go into Mr. Baldo's garden. She said to me one time, "Why don't we go in and walk around Mr. Baldo's garden?" So, there was a gate on it, it wasn't locked, so we went in and looked - it was really a beautiful garden, and on the way out she said to me, "Did you ever taste these?" And I said, "No, isn't that a pepper?" She said, "Yeah, but they have such a sweet taste." So she broke two off and she gave me one and she had one. And she said, "Take a real big bite of it." And it was a hot pepper - oh, you never saw anybody go home so fast - I drank water and she just stood there and laughed at me, for she knew what it was. So, the only thing that I could get to take that taste out of my mouth was Karo molasses, I took that...
Lotter: Oh my goodness.
Fitzharris: I took that and that sort of relieved - oh, but my mouth was sore for a long time. I never got over that. She often laughed, she often laughed about that and my Dad said "That's what you get for going into somebody else's garden." I would have never even taken the thing...
Lotter: He wasn't sympathetic?
Fitzharris: Oh no, because I was stealing, you know.
Lotter: That's right, that's right, I'm sure children were taught right and wrong and no in between.
- Neighbors that owned cows; her father setting rat traps; honey suckle and "privy" lilies; insect problems; snow removalKeywords: Alfred I. Institute; Bentwood rockers; carpenter bees; Chick Laird; Columbia Gas; cows; dandelion greens; day lilies; DuPont Experimental Station; fly swatters; gunning club; honey suckle; Laird family; Mary I. du Pont; mosquito repellent; privy lilies; rat traps; screens; snow removalTranscript: Lotter: Do you remember anybody having a manure pile or a compost pile?
Fitzharris: No. 'Course there was - there was goats and cows around there, I guess they just got from there, but as far as having their own compost, I don't remember.
Lotter: Now who had cows in the area?
Fitzharris: Man by the name of Jones, he had a big farm and it was, if you're familiar with 141 where you can go into the Experimental Station out by the Alfred I. Institute? Well, his farm house was to the left there, 141, and all his property came down to back of those houses where Walker's Bank, you know, and the cows would be all around there. Well then later years, they had a gunning club, DuPont had it there, first gunning club, and then Jones had to move back, still had his house out there, but he didn't have the cows going all over the place. The cows would wander all around there.
Lotter: Yeah, I didn't realize that there were cows that close to those homes.
Fitzharris: And then there was cows up in the front where Gary Copeland has his property now. Do you know Where Gary Copeland?
Fitzharris: Well, the people up there had cows too. Then there was, they called her Miss Mary, her name was Mary I. du Pont I think, I think that was it, but she had cows and those cows would go through woods over to 141, you know, in that big field up where Columbia Gas is - there were cows and bulls and horses all in those fields. 'Cause that's the way we used to take shortcuts to St. Joe's, up Breck's Lane up through that way.
Lotter: U-huh. Did people grow a lot of potatoes in their gardens do you recall?
Fitzharris: I think so.
Lotter: And how about rotate - or planting like early plantings of say cabbage and things like that and planting later things.
Fitzharris: I don't remember that, but I remember like, I can remember the plants - well this is about finished and the first thing you know, there'd be other plants coming up. But I was never too interested in gardening. We never had what you'd call a garden for our own, but I used to - and it cured me after I went into Mr. Baldo's and got that hot pepper.
Lotter: I'll bet it did. Do you remember every gathering dandelion greens or watercress?
Fitzharris: No, but a lot of people did, we never ate - in fact I never tasted dandelion green, have you?
Lotter: No, I haven't, no.
Fitzharris: But the ladies, the Italian ladies used to go out the first thing in the morning when the dandelions first came, you know, and get them when they were real fresh.
Lotter: And do you remember any watercress around there?
Fitzharris: No I don't, could have been, but I don't remember. Lot of corn fields around there, 'cause the farmer that had, Jones, you know, he had big corn fields and wheat fields. That's all where the DuPont golf courses are today.
Lotter: Yes, yes. Did you ever visit any of the du Pont homes?
Fitzharris: Well, like on Halloween we went to - we'd go around - they had like their basement, they'd always have refreshments for us and I was in Mrs. Laird's home because my aunts worked there. And we used to go up there, go in the kitchen, and Mrs. Laird come out, she'd talk to us, you know, and she always had a Christmas party for us. But they were about the only ones I went into, but the du Ponts were all excellent people, really. My son was just talking about that the other day when he was here - Chick Laird, W. W. Laird?
Fitzharris: How he used to go through the neighborhood and Jack said, "Oh I can remember when I was real small and he'd go through the neighborhood." And he had an old black Chevy, or green Chevy, and he used to say, "Hi Jack, how are you, Jack?" He said, "A man with all that money, I thought that was fantastic." Well that's the way he was, they were - that Laird family are really wonderful people.
Lotter: That's nice to know. Do you remember any problems with mice or rats?
Fitzharris: I remember we had rats.
Lotter: Did you?
Fitzharris: They had - Dad used to set traps for them. He'd set them at night when we'd go to bed. I don't how many he ever caught, but he would always take them out before we'd get up in the morning, but they did have rats in those houses. I think for the simple reason was the garbage around outside.
Lotter: Yes, that could be.
Fitzharris: But everybody had them.
Lotter: What kind of a trap did he...
Fitzharris: Like a wooden trap, almost like a mouse trap, but only much heavier and thicker, you know, and put cheese on it.
Lotter: Now he set these up in the kitchen?
Fitzharris: Yeah, by the closet in the kitchen behind the stove. I guess there was holes there, I don't know, or how they used to come out, but I know that we would never see a dead rat, but he would say he caught them, so he'd be up in the morning.
Lotter: Did you ever remember any vines or shrubs or flowers planted near your outhouse?
Fitzharris: Everybody had those day lilies, you know those orange lilies?
Fitzharris: And a lot of people had honey suckle vines.
Lotter: Oh they did?
Fitzharris: Yeah, honey suckle was really, you know, it was so pretty and it would cover a multitude. That's where you know [laughs] it isn't nice to say, but those yellow lilies at the bottom of Breck's Lane, you know Mrs. Toomey has all around?
Fitzharris: Well, years ago, well of course everybody calls them yellow day lilies now, but they were called privy lilies.
Lotter: Oh they were?
Fitzharris: That's where - that what that is, that's where they come from.
Lotter: I never heard them called that.
Fitzharris: People say oh the yellow lily, yeah you mean the privy lily. 'Cause everybody had them around there outside.
Lotter: [Laughs] Make a note of that. How about anything like flies and mosquitoes, bees, wasps?
Fitzharris: They had flies and mosquitoes and everybody had two or three fly swatters, they also used those strips to catch flies, it had a sweet gooey stuff on them you know?
Lotter: Yes - they had those hanging in the kitchen or did you have them other places?
Fitzharris: We had them mostly outside of the kitchen door on the porch because the flies, you open the door, the flies would go in - that way you didn't get many flies in your house.
Lotter: Did you have a screen door?
Fitzharris: Oh yeah, screen doors and screens, collapsible screens in the windows.
Lotter: How about bees or wasps?
Fitzharris: They had those carpenter bees what they call - used to bore holes in the roof of the - off of the porches. But a lot of people are afraid of those, but I don't remember anybody ever getting stung by one.
Lotter: Is that right?
Fitzharris: They used to - in fact up on Breck's Lane they had them, too, on the back porch and they would zoom down and up and down, but they never bothered anybody. 'Course they had a hornets nest in some of the trees.
Lotter: Oh, did they?
Fitzharris: Yeah, they were bad. 'Cause I was stung by several of those.
Lotter: What did you do, was there any...
Fitzharris: We used to put - get water and make mud and put it on it. Anybody was around, they'd get the stinger out, but we used to always put mud on it. Now they tell me tenderizer, meat tenderizer, is the best thing for that.
Lotter: That's what I've heard.
Fitzharris: Or ice cubes too they say.
Lotter: Yes, yes. What about mosquitoes? Were they a problem?
Fitzharris: Oh they were. We used to sit out on the porch and they would really devour you if you sit still. And then later on they got this repellent you used to put on, you know rub it on your legs, but that stuff smelt to high heaven, I'd rather have a mosquito bite than have the smell of that.
Lotter: Do you remember the name of it?
Fitzharris: No. Some was a liquid, you just rub it on you - but there again, when we were kids, active, we were running most of the time, you know, but then when you come in and sit on the porch, why that's when they'd bother you. Very few people had screened-in porches. The people that run Walker's Mill, when it was a woolen mill...
Fitzharris: They had a screened-in porch, but they're the only ones I know, around there, that had it. He was the boss of the...
Lotter: This was Mr. Hudson?
Fitzharris: Yeah, Mr. William Hudson, and he had a side porch and had it screened in. And - what do you call those rockers, they are quite popular now?
Lotter: The Bentwood?
Fitzharris: Bentwood - they had two of those on their porch, that's the first time I ever saw Bentwood, and that when I was about ten years old, some sixty, sixty-five years ago, they had those rockers.
Lotter: Oh, I had no idea they were that old. What about in the wintertime when it snowed, was there any kind of snow removal?
Fitzharris: Yes, the father of the house or the oldest boy with a shovel [laughs]. That was it, everybody shoveled out to the road and across the road and then when the wagons come down, why they would make paths, that's all, but there was no snow removal, just hard labor.
Lotter: I'm sure.
- Childhood friendships; dental care; winter underwear; items ordered from the Sears and Roebuck Catalog; her father's participation in the Fraternal Order of Eagles and church card partiesKeywords: baking soda; blue chambray shirts; card parties; church fund raising; Dapper Dan; Dentists; Fraternal Order of Eagles; Keough's shoe store; Long Johns; McGary's Furniture Store; men's ties; Men--Societies and clubs; Sears and Roebuck catalogs; Teeth--Care and hygiene; toothbrushes; toothpaste; winter underwearTranscript: Lotter: Did you have a best friend when you were growing up?
Fitzharris: Oh, I had several. My cousins, the twins, and Mary Bonner across here and another girl by the name of Grace Toy, we were inseparable. I only remember having one argument with my best friend, Mrs. Hazzard.
Lotter: Is that right?
Fitzharris: And that lasted, I think, about an hour. We had an argument and I left her and I was walking along this little road, a little wall, and she was on the road and I was walking along there and I was trying to avoid seeing her, and I slipped and I fell down. Well, she laughed at me and I laughed too, so that's how we made up, but that's the only argument. To this day, we're very good friends.
Lotter: That's wonderful.
Fitzharris: We never fought a whole lot, you know, if you didn't like some, you just walked away from it, that was all. But there was so many - wasn't like today, I mean you have one or two, we always a - enough for a baseball team anyway.
Lotter: U-huh, u-huh. Do you remember using a toothbrush and paste?
Fitzharris: Oh yeah. I don't know what kind of paste we had, but I remember that, 'cause I think I kept the dentist in town, Wilmington, I think I kept them in business. My Dad was always - my teeth were soft and I was always going to the dentist.
Lotter: Now was this like a cream-type paste that you used?
Fitzharris: Yeah. And I remember too, a lot of people used - what is it you put in the refrigerator for...
Lotter: Baking soda?
Fitzharris: Baking soda, yeah a lot of people used baking soda. And some people used salt, I never used that, but a lot of people used baking soda.
Lotter: But you had some kind of a toothpaste that was purchased at the store?
Fitzharris: Yeah, I don't know where or how or anything like that, but I know I used to spend many an hour in the dentist chair. Scared to death.
Lotter: What about women's underwear, where did they - I assume most women wore girdles and bras or some kind of a corset?
Fitzharris: Some kind of a foundation, but I don't know about their underwear. 'Course not having a mother around, I wasn't around to see that, I don't really know. I think - I'm sure they made a lot of their under pants, you know, but I don't really know.
Lotter: What about in the wintertime, what kind of underwear did you wear in the wintertime?
Fitzharris: Used to wear Long Johns.
Lotter: Did you?
Fitzharris: They were warm, but they were a mess. Try to get them so they'd be without any bumps you know, down around your ankles. 'Course I wore hightop shoes. People say the good old days - huh, God forbid.
Lotter: Then you had long stockings on top of all that?
Fitzharris: Long stockings, u-huh. Wintertime we had, our slips were flannel at the bottom and like a muslin at the top. The slips were gathered around here, you know.
Lotter: Did you wear any kind of a heavier top in the winter, too? -
Fitzharris: No, just a regular - that and dresses, you know, I mean and sweaters.
Lotter: They didn't have like a heavy vest or anything other than the top of your slip?
Fitzharris: Well, and then we had the Long Johns, they were all in one, but...
Lotter: Oh, they came all the way up, I see.
Fitzharris: But then when you got a little bit...
Lotter: Did they have a long sleeve?
Fitzharris: Some of them did and some of them didn't. Some of them had them just to here, you know. The older you got, the less you wanted, you know. Freeze to death so you wouldn't have to wear them, just for - you were so proud you know.
Lotter: Now what about the men, did they wear Long Johns in the winter also?
Fitzharris: Long Johns, m-huh. Theirs were very heavy, real real heavy. Sort of a tan color, you know, took forever and a day to have them dry. I remember my friend saying one time, her mother took them off the line and took them in the house and they were still frozen [laughs] they could stand up.
Lotter: I'll bet you could. How often were they washed?
Fitzharris: Oh I don't know, I don't really know about that. I don't know how many sets we had. I don't really know.
Lotter: Do you think maybe they were washed at least once a week?
Fitzharris: Oh I'm sure, more than that.
Lotter: More than that.
Fitzharris: I really don't know.
Lotter: A lot of these things, could they have been ordered from a catalog?
Fitzharris: I think so - Sears and Roebuck. I think everybody loved the Sears and Roebuck catalog, you know, and they ordered like that.
Lotter: What else would have been ordered from the Sears Catalog?
Fitzharris: Men's work shirts, shoes, stockings.
Lotter: Oh, really?
Fitzharris: And I think even curtains, you know, for the house. Most anything, I guess, for the house.
Lotter: So your shoes, instead of going to a shoe store might...
Fitzharris: Well, we were young, but I remember when I was about nine years old I used to go to a store on Market Street, Keough's, they had good shoes, they were expensive, but a friend of the family worked there and she used to really properly fit all our feet. We never had sore feet or anything like that, you know, expensive shoes.
Lotter: Do you remember your father ever wearing a tie to work?
Fitzharris: No, but I know when he went out he always had a tie on. They wore, in the wintertime, when he went to work, he wore those sort of blue chambray shirts, you know, but he always dressed when he went out, just out on an evening like, just as I say, to go over to sit on the wall or anything like that.
Lotter: Oh he did?
Fitzharris: Oh yeah, he always had a - he was a Dapper Dan from what I understand. Derby...
Lotter: He had a suit and a tie?
Fitzharris: Well, he may not have the suit on, but he'd have maybe like a shirt and a sweater and a tie, you know.
Lotter: Just a - not a bow tie, but a regular...
Fitzharris: Regular four-in-hand. He's the one taught me how to tie a four-in-hand.
Lotter: Oh is that right?
Fitzharris: Yeah, because when my brother was going to school, they used to have to wear ties, you know, and he taught me how to do it so I could tie Fran's tie for him.
Lotter: I see. Did your father belong to any men's groups, unions or...
Fitzharris: Fraternal Order of Eagles.
Lotter: Oh he did?
Fitzharris: U-huh, very active in that - what they did, I don't know, but I guess they maybe play cards and help - I think they did, like help with the poor, you know, take up collections and things like that. Used to be on Sixth Street between Washington or West - no West and Tatnall I guess. They had a big building in there. And then later on I think McGary's Furniture Store, or one of the furniture stores had the building. I remember - I think everybody...
Lotter: Then they didn't meet locally right there in the Village then, this was...
Fitzharris: No, they went into the club. He was a member of that 'til he died, fraternal.
Lotter: Did he belong to any other groups at all?
Fitzharris: No, that's about all.
Lotter: Was he active at the church?
Fitzharris: To a degree, I mean not - he wasn't a pillar, but he did his part, you know like helping out with the family suppers and card parties, things like that.
Lotter: Oh he did?
Fitzharris: They had Euchre parties, you know. He did that.
Lotter: Did they have any social groups at the church other than these parties?
Fitzharris: No, that's about all I think. Mostly just fund raising, you know.
Lotter: What about women's groups. I know you might not remember much about your mother, but what about the other women?
Fitzharris: No, I don't remember - I really don't remember them doing anything like that. Those days, the women just stayed put. You know, they didn't have much time by the time they raised their family.
Lotter: That's right, they didn't.
- Making fans out of newspapers; breakfast foods; attitudes toward illegitimate children; kitchen and shed tools; shaving soaps and potty chairs; leaving the Brandywine in 1984Keywords: attic; breakfast; chicken and dumplings; currant biscuits; Evening Journal; Every Evening; Fans; illegitimate; letter writing; newspapers; potty chairs; premarital sex; shaving soap; shed tools; shredded wheat; talcum powders; trunks; undertaker parlorsTranscript: Lotter: What about fans?
Fitzharris: You mean hand fans? Oh yes, everybody had a fan, especially going to church, and some of them were the collapsible ones and some of them were made like out of wicker, you know?
Lotter: Oh yes.
Fitzharris: And I think the undertaker parlors, I think they supplied a lot of them, because their names were on a lot of them - in the church you know.
Lotter: What did you use at home?
Fitzharris: We used to make our own fans out of newspaper.
Lotter: Oh did you?
Fitzharris: You know how you fold them back and forth, those collapsible ones?
Fitzharris: And of course somebody when they were warm, well I'll just grab a magazine, you know. Oh I remember making fans just for the fun of it.
Lotter: Did you get newspapers regularly?
Fitzharris: Yeah. What was the name of the paper? Evening Journal - Evening Journal and Every Evening - there was two papers.
Lotter: Oh yes. What else did you do to keep cool in the summer?
Fitzharris: That's about all - jumped in the Brandywine [laughs].
Lotter: That would be the coolest.
Fitzharris: Or go up like under the beech trees, you know, and sit there and maybe read or something like that. But I don't remember, as a child, ever being bothered too much with the heat. You know - maybe the hottest day in the week we'd be playing baseball. And my aunts used to say "Why do you do that?" And then the next minute we'd be so hot, we'd jump in the Brandywine. You know, just kid like, you know.
Lotter: You were lucky to have the Brandywine, you really were. Did your family have any kind of a trunk room or any special place to keep or store trunks?
Fitzharris: I don't remember us having a trunk, but I remember we had up in the attic, we had big wooden boxes, like pine boxes with lids on them - they put their clothes in there. But I don't remember - I know a lot of people had trunks, but now there again, maybe my Mother did have one, I don't know, but I don't remember.
Lotter: What about your grandparents, did they have...
Fitzharris: Grandmother Farren had trunks, yeah.
Lotter: Were these trunks from Ireland?
Fitzharris: I don't know where they got them from, but they always had them like - Grandmother Farren always had hers at the foot of the bed, I remember it was a real high one. But I don't know about Grandmother Lowther, whether she had one or not, most likely she did. She came from England, she probably did.
Lotter: What do you remember about biscuits, rolls, buns, toast?
Fitzharris: Oh, I remember having biscuits. That's another thing that I don't like today. Biscuits and currant biscuits we had, you know, with little raisins and things like that. I liked those, but just a regular biscuit - I never liked them and people can't understand, like the friends I go around with, you know. Another thing that I never tasted, chicken and dumplings, everybody in years ago they said they had those. Do you like them, did you ever have them?
Lotter: No, I've never had them either, no never had them in our family.
Fitzharris: I just don't like the looks of them, they have strip dumplings and drop dumplings, but - they think I'm crazy, but I never had them.
Lotter: When you had biscuits, were these for breakfast or dinner?
Fitzharris: Yeah, with jelly with coffee or milk, you know. 'Course we never had coffee when we were real small, we had milk or cocoa, or maybe tea, which would be three-quarters milk, you know, just to color it.
Lotter: And what else would you have with that for breakfast?
Fitzharris: Oatmeal in the wintertime, and the summertime shredded wheat.
Lotter: Oh did you?
Fitzharris: Yeah, shredded wheat then was big biscuits like that, you know, and corn flakes, that's about all.
Lotter: Did you ever have any eggs?
Fitzharris: Oh yeah, we had eggs. And then I remember on Sunday morning we had sausage and eggs, or bacon and eggs.
Lotter: How about during the week, did you have meat at all during the week?
Fitzharris: No, mostly it was like fruit, maybe we'd have sliced peaches or canned pears or something like that, you know, with the cereal. But mostly it was just the cereal and the milk and maybe toast or a biscuit.
Lotter: How about letter writing - did people do a lot of letter writing?
Fitzharris: Well, some people did, but my gang, we never did. Unless we were forced into it.
Lotter: Do you remember anybody making bags for saltpeter?
Fitzharris: No I don't.
Lotter: How about willow peeling?
Fitzharris: I think Mr. Buchanan did, but I don't know if anybody else did. That's the man, if he were living, he could tell you - whew!
Lotter: Oh, is that right?
Fitzharris: Oh my - well his son, Phil Buchanan, I guess if he were living, he'd be a hundred now, but he was a retiree from du Pont's - he knew a lot, too.
Lotter: Was there any outside work that people could do for the DuPont Company besides the bag making and the willow peeling?
Fitzharris: I don't really know of any, I don't know, really.
Lotter: What were the beliefs on premarital sex?
Fitzharris: I don't remember that ever being discussed at all, but when, you know like - I can remember somebody like having a child and somebody said it was illegitimate - well we didn't have any idea what illegitimate was, my girlfriend and I, you know, we found out later that this girl had a child - but there was only one that I ever heard of.
Lotter: Is that right?
Lotter: So it really wasn't much of a problem that you were aware of?
Fitzharris: Well, as I say, it could have been, but you would have certainly known if somebody didn't have a daddy, or something, but I don't know of anybody, only that one.
Lotter: Were there any special tools used in the kitchen?
Fitzharris: Everybody had a hammer, and a small saw and pliers, I remember that. My Dad had a little box and those three things were in it, but he had all the other tools were in the shed. Why they were in there...[tape is switched]
Lotter: ...kitchen tools, what about the shed tools, what did you have in there?
Fitzharris: Oh, they were big saws and different vices, you know, to hold the wood and a lot of shovels, brooms, rakes, all that kind of stuff, they were all kept in the big shed. But these three little things, I don't know why they were in the house. Maybe Mother used them.
Lotter: Well, that could be, it probably saved them a lot trips out to the shed. What about perfume and men's cologne or toilet water?
Fitzharris: You know, I don't remember, when I was a child, I don't remember. I remember talcum powders, but I don't remember the names of them. And then when they used some - they didn't have shaving cream when I was small, they had some kind of a soap and that had an odor to it, you know, shaving soap they put in a cup, but as far as, like a regular perfume or toilet water, I can't remember. Maybe my Mother did, I don't know.
Lotter: Do you remember any potty chairs instead of chamber pots?
Fitzharris: Oh, the children all had potty chairs.
Lotter: Did they?
Fitzharris: Yeah, small highchairs, more or less, you know, with just a little potty under it.
Lotter: And this was kept where?
Fitzharris: I think that was in the kitchen, I really do, because they could, when it wasn't being used as a potty chair, I think they had a little pillow, and when the children were small, they used it as a chair, you know, to sit on, just put the pillow over the hole, you know. Like children today have small chairs and rockers, you know, it served a double purpose.
Lotter: Yes, it would. And the last question is when did you leave the Brandywine?
Fitzharris: When did I leave the Brandywine - June - or July 3, 1984, and I came to the Brandywine June 12, 1911, so all those years I lived there.
Lotter: It's a lot of memories.
Fitzharris: But you know, I have no regrets. My family can't understand it. I think it was the fact that there were so many steps and I couldn't get out if the weather got bad, you know, now that I've gotten older, and I couldn't take care of flowers in the yard like I liked to. And it was just getting to me, you know, and I didn't have any - well I used to pay a boy to come in and cut the grass and my grandchildren used to come in, but when I couldn't do it myself, I lost interest. 'Course I'll go back to the Brandywine because I have a lot there, I'll be buried up at St. Joseph's [laughs].
Lotter: You certainly do have, you've a lot of memories, too. I want to thank you very much for all ...
Fitzharris: Well I hope I was some kind of help, but I...
Lotter: Well you certainly were.
Fitzharris: If I just had somebody else with me here, they could have helped me out maybe some of the things I wouldn't know.
Lotter: Well, maybe you'll think of some things too that we've talked about and if you do, I hope you'll give me a call and let me know.
Fitzharris: Some of the things I'll ask my cousin if she knows the answers, and I'll call you or drop you a line.
Lotter: All right, okay, fine, that would be wonderful, I appreciate it. Thank you.
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