Interview with Anthony W. Grieco, 1988 October 7 [audio]
- First job at DuPont Co. soldering zinc cans and getting paid by the piece; having to help gathering the dead after an explosionKeywords: E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company; Gunpowder industry--Employees; Gunpowder industry--Explosions; Industrial accidents; Piecework; Solder and soldering; WagesTranscript: Scott: Good evening, this is Dick Scott from the Hagley Museum, Oral History Program, and this is the 7th of October in 1988, and tonight we're going to talk to Mr. Anthony W. Grieco, of 12 E. 41st Street, in Wilmington, Delaware. Mr. Grieco used to work at the DuPont Company and we are visiting with his son, Michael J. Grieco, at 217 Sandra Drive in Fairfax. All right - Mr. Grieco, would you tell us, in your words, what you remember about going to work when you started, so forth and so on, at DuPont?
Grieco: All right. That was my first job and I'll never forget, it was three to eleven shift and I was sorting out tops for zinc cans and I fell asleep. I fell asleep around when it got dark and the boss come. I'll never forget his name - Koch.
Scott: Do you remember how you spell that?
Grieco: K-O-C-H. He had a - tall guy with a mustache. He put his hand on my shoulder and he says - I said, "I didn't get no sleep today." And I was only sixteen. He said, "Try and keep awake." God damn it, I stood awake all that night after he was so good - he was so good - all night. So after that, I stood down there for a while and then I went up on the top floor. They had a ramp up there - do you remember that wooden ramp that goes from the top floor to the bank?
Scott: No, now which building were you in, do you remember that?
Grieco: The one, the stone building. You can see it from the bridge.
Scott: Okay, you were in the old mill building?
Scott: Okay, what did you call that building in those days?
Grieco: I don't know what - Box Shop the way I figure it.
Scott: The Box Shop.
Grieco: Yeah, where they soldered zinc cans.
Scott: M-huh, and that was B-O-X Shop?
Grieco: Yeah, well - tops and you soldered the tops and the bottoms and the tops. I forgot where I left off. Anyhow, I went from there, from sorting out those tops for zinc cans, I went upstairs, up on the top floor. That's the top floor that goes, the ramp goes even with the bank where they had a ramp, and I went soldering, soldering the bottoms and the top. First we had gas stoves for starting our irons, then later on we had electric and we put them off - and it was piece work. We'd get $28.00 about every two weeks - I think that's what it was, about $28.00.
Scott: Every two weeks?
Grieco: Every two weeks, I think it was eight cents a can, soldering the bottom and the top.
Scott: And they paid you eight cents a can to solder the bottom and the top?
Grieco: And the top. Then, after we soldered them, they would take them down to a big tub - oh great big tub full of water, and the wooden tops, air tight, and the guys over there would put air pressure on them and see if they would leak, and if that leaked, it went on back to - on the tables where we were soldering, it had our numbers on them, and we had to re-solder it and re-solder that leak. And that went on like that for, well I think about a year anyhow. But what got me, it was that last explosion down there.
Scott: And when was that, do you remember?
Grieco: I don't remember what year that was. it was just a year before I left. All the lights - all the lights went out, the elevator stopped, we went out on that wooden ramp on the top floor, even with the bank, it was a wooden ramp, went up there and all we seen was white smoke going up through the woods. And God! Wasn't much of a noise, and right away we went - the guards started coming up, "Everybody out, Everybody come out." We went out and they handed us wooden buckets to pick up fingers, ankles, whatever - me, I had a good stomach, I could eat on top of a dead horse. But what got me, my brother, Jack, and all them other guys, they seen what was - they beat it. What really got me was up in the crotch of a tree - I'll never forget this one - it was a half of a young fellow - a man - all that was gone, this part here, this part was normal, this part was black.
Scott: So the bottom...
Grieco: On the crotch of a tree.
Scott: On the crotch of a tree, the bottom part was gone entirely?
Grieco: Yeah, this part was gone.
Scott: The legs were gone?
Grieco: But from here down was normal, like we are, but from here up was black.
Scott: So he was burnt from the waist on up?
Grieco: Yeah, yeah.
Scott: Were the legs there, then or not. Were the legs gone, or the legs there?
Grieco: Oh no, no, that's all gone.
Scott: Legs were gone, but the stomach was normal...
Grieco: Just from here up was up in the crotch of the tree. I said, "That's it. " And I through the damn bucket down and I beat it.
Scott: Do you remember how many were killed?
Scott: Twenty-one, all right now let's go back a little bit. The building that you say...
Grieco: [Some noise from his hearing aid] Damn this thing! Go ahead.
Scott: The building you say you worked in, you can see from the bridge, right?
Grieco: It was that big...
Scott: Big stone
Grieco: Box shop. You can see it from that bridge, you know. That's the first building you see, that's the one I worked in.
Scott: Okay, now that's just inside the gate, and all you see is the roof?
Scott: Well, okay...
Grieco: See the roof.
Scott: The roof, the roof of the building, or do you actually see...
Grieco: From the bridge?
Grieco: You can see the whole building.
Scott: The whole building.
Grieco: The whole - from the bridge side, you can see the three sides of the building.
Scott: Okay, all right, so that would...
Grieco: It's that big stone building.
Scott: Yeah, well they're all stone that are there today. They are all stone buildings, but there's one just inside the gate that was the machine shop, do you remember that?
Grieco: Yeah I remember that machine shop.
Scott: Okay, it was not in that building then?
Grieco: No, it was in that big building...
Scott: So it was in the mill...
Grieco: It was in that big building that you can see from the bridge.
Scott: Okay, we call that the Henry Clay Mill today.
Grieco: Is that right?
Scott: Yeah, yeah. They used to make barrels in there at one time.
Scott: Metal barrels.
Grieco: What year?
Scott: I don't know what year it was, in the 1800's somewhere.
Grieco: Oh, it was the building that made zinc cans for the French government where I worked - French government.
Scott: Okay, okay, fine.
Grieco: And many a time we got them zinc cans back from France and it would have powder in them, looked like little elbow spaghetti, and it would be in the corners of the can, would have to repair them again.
Scott: Oh, you had to repair them with the powder in them?
Grieco: Well, it was - I guess they didn't dump it all out. It was only that long and like elbow, shaped like an elbow and it was brown, and it was laying like in the corner of the can.
Scott: So did the can have bottoms and tops on them when you got them back?
Grieco: Oh yeah, when they come back, you had to repair them.
Scott: Okay, so you just repaired them?
Grieco: French government.
Scott: You just repaired them. Then did they - when they came back, did they do the air pressure to see if they leaked?
Grieco: I guess they did.
Scott: And then told you to repair it?
Grieco: Well, I don't know who repaired them. We didn't make - the ones we repaired was the ones we made new, bottoms and tops, and if we had a leak, we had to repair them. Now who repaired them coming back from France, I don't know.
Scott: Okay, so you had new ones, and you had ones coming back?
Grieco: Well, I don't know about that, I don't remember about that.
Scott: Well you said some came back from France?
Grieco: Well any come back from France, I don't know whether they leaked or not. Maybe they just came back for refills.
Scott: Yeah, probably so, probably so.
Grieco: Refills, up the powder shop.
- Fetching water for box shop workers before starting the soldering job; working at Chester Shipyard as a riveter during World War I; taking the trolley to DuPont Co.; getting sucker punched by a fellow DuPont Co. employeeKeywords: E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company; Factories--Employees; Hand-to-hand fighting; Shipyards; Street-railroadsTranscript: Grieco: But before I went soldering, I had to go up with a galvanized bucket that big, that long, that big around, two or three blocks up through the woods, where the powder shop was, and get spring water for the guys to drink, and I didn't know about the powder shops up there, I didn't know about that, but I had to go up there at night and bring that - it was that high.
Scott: The bucket was about 18 inches high then?
Grieco: Yeah, about that - I would say about three gallons, three gallons of water, that's all they had for drinking water.
Scott: Is that right?
Grieco: That's all they had for drinking water, they didn't have no spigot.
Scott: Was there a spring?
Grieco: There was a big spring up there, but I didn't - I'd seen the shops, but I didn't know how dangerous it was.
Grieco: That was the third or fourth night I went there, and I kept doing that for about two weeks - two weeks, carrying spring water.
Scott: And then somebody else...
Grieco: And then I went soldering.
Scott: Oh, I see, so you did that for two or three weeks before you soldered?
Grieco: Yeah, before I went soldering.
Scott: And how big around was the bucket?
Grieco: Oh, it was about that big around...
Scott: About twelve inches around?
Grieco: Wasn't too high, about that big around, about that high, and they always had it on the ramp out there. And it was me that had to go up, up through the woods, they had a couple lights, bulbs there, I knew where - I could see.
Scott: Was it along the river that you went? Did you walk along the river?
Grieco: No, no, I didn't know whether there was a river or not, I don't remember, river's on to the right, but this was up against the bank, the spring, the spring was up against the bank. If I'd had known...
Scott: If you'd known they were making powder there, you wouldn't have been there, huh. Okay, do you remember when you first started working for the Company?
Grieco: 1916 is all I can tell you, I was 16 years old. I told my Father, I said, "Well, nine boys and two girls in the family, Pop, I'm going to work," "Tony, you gonna be working a long time." That's the truth.
Grieco: That was my first job. I stood there I think about a year, maybe a little better than a year, then I - just before the first World War started, then I went to the Chester Shipyard. You don't remember that.
Scott: No, I remember, I've heard about it, Sun Ship, yes.
Grieco: You've heard about it. No Chester Shipyard, not Sun. That's where they made the grand oil tankers, inside of the boat. I was a riveter, I broke in as a riveter. I was getting around 18 years old then. And I wanted to join the Army, I thought it was a picnic. Do you know what they told me? They said I'd only be another soldier. They said, "Where do you work?" I said, "Chester Shipyard." He said, "You're more valuable there, than you are here in the Army. You'd only make another soldier, You go back to the shipyard. " He wouldn't sign me up.
Scott: So you were sixteen when you started at DuPont. When is your birthday?
Grieco: Twenty-sixth of February.
Scott: Twenty-sixth of February - how...
Grieco: Nineteen hundred.
Scott: Nineteen hundred, okay, now when did you start for DuPont's? You just can't remember, were you just sixteen, or were you a little...
Grieco: You mean what month or something?
Grieco: I don't - I know it was warm weather.
Scott: Warm weather, so it was in the summer?
Grieco: Yeah, it was warm weather. Because we went by trolley car, one of them open seats, from 7th Street where Jack and I was boarding, and you come down with them open seats, no sides, so it must have been warm weather.
Scott: So you were living in Wilmington?
Grieco: Oh yeah.
Scott: At the time you started working for DuPont's.
Grieco: Yeah, west 7th.
Scott: West 7th, and you rode the open trolley car out - how far did you ride that out, how far did that go. Did that go all the way to Hagley?
Grieco: Oh yeah, Rising Sun Lane, all the way down.
Scott: Rising Sun Lane, okay.
Grieco: Took us right to the dam, right to the gate, We only had to walk about a half a block.
Scott: To the building where you worked in?
Grieco: Yeah, I had to go in the gate. There was a boarded fence. Wasn't no wire fence, shutting it off with boards.
Scott: Board fence, yeah. Did the trolley let you off by that long row of houses there?
Grieco: Rising Sun Lane.
Scott: U-huh, okay, okay.
Grieco: Yeah, they were happy - I wished I could live them over again.
Scott: What, those days?
Grieco: Yeah, I wish I could.
Scott: Did they check you when you went in the gate to see if you had any matches or anything?
Grieco: No, no. We were in the box shop. I guess they checked the guys going in the powder shop.
Scott: Powder shop, yeah.
Grieco: I don't know whether they had a gate up the hill further or not, but ours was the main gate and we went through into the box shop.
Scott: Okay, and as you came through the gate, was there a big building on the left called the machine shop? Remember that?
Grieco: I think I remember, yeah - something like that - I know there was two or three buildings around there. But the main building was the one where I worked, that's all I had an interest in, where I worked.
Scott: Were there railroad lines, were the railroad lines next to the building you worked in?
Grieco: No, no. There wasn't no railroad that I seen. But there was - at the bottom of the box shop, there was like a hard road that led up to where the powder shops was.
Scott: Right, right, okay.
Grieco: I think that's along the creek, the river.
Scott: Yeah, it is along - right.
Grieco: And that was like a hard top and I remember that because I went up there with the wooden buckets.
Scott: Oh, they were wooden buckets, huh? Now do you remember passing the power house? Where they generated electricity?
Grieco: I didn't know where the power house was. I didn't know where the power house was.
Scott: Didn't know that, okay, all right. I'm trying to figure out where the spring is, because I don't know...
Grieco: I could take you right to the spring today.
Scott: All right, we'll go out there someday, you're gonna take me to the spring.
Grieco: Damn, I'll take you right up there.
Scott: We'll take you out there and we'll go through it.
Grieco: If I can go out on that ramp, and get on that path, I'll take you right up to the spring. It's on the left-hand side of the path. It was a nice spring too, boy it was good cold water, oh man it was nice.
Scott: But it was heavy carrying the buckets, huh? Three gallons of water is pretty heavy.
Grieco: Oh, well, I was a young boy, I didn't know whether it was heavy or not. What got me, is one time it was empty and one of them guys kicked the bucket off the ramp and the boss said, "Who did that?" I told him who did it like a damn fool, I went squealing on him. I come out the gate, come out the gate - "I'm gonna get that guy who told, I'm gonna get him." I come out the gate, it was a sucker punch, soon as I come out the gate he hit me. My brother, Jack, got him and hit him, and his cousin, who was starting to come in there, I got him. We come out all right. My brother, Jack, was always hairy, wasn't he? Hairy like an ape. He said, the one that he beat up, hit me with a sucker punch, I didn't know it - I come out the gate and he hit me. So he said, you got him, he's way older than me. My brother, Jack, was only 18 years old, only two years older than me, and he said, "Look at me." And that guy was twenty, and he kept hitting that guy.
Scott: What was the guy's name?
Grieco: Kept hitting him in the back, and that damn guy had a lump on his head that big.
Scott: The guy that hit you?
Grieco: Oh no - yeah the guy hit with the sucker punch.
Scott: Was that after Jack got through with him?
Grieco: I got his cousin.
Scott: Do you remember what the fellow's name was?
Grieco: DeNess, Tony DeNess.
Scott: Tony DeNess, huh,
Grieco: No, Johnny DeNess, Tony was his brother. He had a long name, the guy that hit me, Bartelomeus.
Scott: Was the guy that hit you?
Grieco: Marv Bartelomeus. He hit me, I didn't know he was gonna fight me. I come out that gate, board fence, and soon as I come out the gate you know, bang.
Scott: Was there a gate man on duty?
Grieco: Oh yeah, there was a guard there, but we was outside the gate when he hit me.
Scott: Outside the gate, yeah.
Grieco: And that's where it started, but that was a sucker punch.
Scott: Yeah, he got you, huh?
Grieco: If he was living today, I'd knock his head off. Boy them two hands are deadly weapons, I could to kill them.
Scott: Good for you.
- Box shop building details, working environment, and division of tasks; getting hired at the same time as his brother, JackKeywords: Communists--Suspicion; Crayons; Electric lighting; Elevators; Factories--Employees; Teenage boys--Employment; Work environment; WorkflowTranscript: Scott: So you worked at DuPont until you were 17, 18 years old then?
Grieco: Sixteen years old.
Scott: Yeah, but you started when you were sixteen, and you worked until you were - what?
Grieco: Seventeen and a half.
Scott: Seventeen and a half, so you were...
Grieco: Or eighteen years old, and I was up to Chester Shipyards.
Scott: So you worked about a year and a half there then.
Grieco: About a year and a half.
Scott: Okay, did you always work in that same building?
Grieco: Oh yeah, in the same - top floor.
Scott: Top floor of the same building.
Grieco: Well, except when I first started.
Scott: When you first started carrying the water, yeah.
Grieco: And I went down on the - I don't know whether it was one or two floors, I call it the top floor because it was even with the bank.
Scott: Even with the bank, okay, yeah.
Grieco: But the first couple of nights, it was downstairs, then I went upstairs and started soldering. No I started carrying cans first from the soldering men to the top. Then I went soldering after that.
Scott: So if you were born in 1900, and you started when you were sixteen years old, it must have been 1916 when you started?
Scott: Okay, and when was the explosion, do you remember?
Grieco: About - it was right after - right before I quit.
Scott: Before you quit?
Grieco: Yeah, so I think I was past seventeen years old.
Scott: So it would have been in 1917 sometime?
Grieco: Something like that.
Scott: You don't remember whether it was cold or hot, you don't remember whether the weather was cold or hot or anything else, do you?
Grieco: Weather like now, autumn.
Scott: In the autumn of the year, then?
Grieco: Yeah, it was something like this, but it wasn't cold, wasn't cold because we went right out of the shop with buckets and everything, it wasn't cold, we didn't have no sweaters or anything.
Scott: And there were 21 killed you say?
Scott: And it was in the powder yards itself, in the powder buildings?
Grieco: Well, it was way up, you mean the explosion?
Grieco: That was - where the box shop was, it was about two blocks up through the woods, maybe three blocks, and that's where the explosion occurred. And after that they stopped doing that, they started making little shacks with two guys in each shack so there wouldn't - if it killed two, it wouldn't be much of them.
Scott: You don't remember the word "Pack House" do you?
Grieco: The packing house is what they called it.
Scott: Is that what happened, the pack house blew up?
Grieco: Yeah, yeah that's the one. Now I remember it, packing house.
Scott: Okay, that was down the river and just around the corner a little bit, wasn't it?
Grieco: I don't know, I've never seen it.
Scott: I think - yeah, it's about two or three blocks and it blew up in 1915 I think. Now would that be right?
Grieco: Could be.
Scott: 'Cause that's the last time it was, Now you wouldn't have been there then, you said, if you started when you were sixteen.
Grieco: Sixteen - no I was there when the explosion occurred.
Scott: Okay, that was in November of 1915 was when the pack house blew up.
Grieco: Oh no, no, I don't remember that one. I wasn't there then. I was there when that one went up and killed 21 fellows. When that elevator stopped and the lights went out, just before we heard the noise, we went out on that ramp and there was a big white smoke going up through the woods.
Scott: Yeah, yeah.
Grieco: Just shooting up there just like a funnel. I was there then.
Scott: Now this was electric lights, right?
Grieco: I don't know - yeah that was 1916 or '17, in around there, that's when 21 of them got killed. Because I remember ammunition up at Eddystone went up right after that. I was still working at DuPont when that went up and killed 261 girls.
Grieco: Two hundred and sixty-one girls up at Eddystone - ammunition.
Scott: Oh for heaven's sake, now, was it in storage, was it in storage, do you know, were they working on it, or what?
Grieco: You mean up there?
Scott: Yeah, at Eddystone.
Grieco: I don't know what - ammunition - was filling shells or something like that. And they caught a guy with a beard, they thought he was a Bolshevik, and right away they tore him apart. I found out - because then we moved to Chester and then found out about that. They tore that guy apart, and he could have been innocent for all we know. Because he had a beard and everything, they thought he was a Bolshevik.
Scott: Now the lights in the building that went out, they were electric lights, weren't they, The lights that went out, were electric lights?
Grieco: Oh yeah.
Scott: Yeah, and where was the elevator in the building, do you remember?
Grieco: The elevator was like sitting in that corner over there. And then it came from the first floor up to carry the cans and tops and everything. We had lights, but no shades, just bulbs.
Scott: Now when you say it was over in that corner, is the front of the building then, would this be the front you'd say?
Grieco: I don't know what would be the front or back.
Scott: Oh, okay.
Grieco: I forgot how I went in there.
Scott: Yeah, okay. But it was in the corner of the building?
Grieco: Oh yeah.
Scott: It was in the corner of the building?
Grieco: Well it looked like in the corner, it was like right on that corner over there. And the elevator - up and down, up and down. It's been a long time, but I think it...
Scott: Think it was in that corner?
Grieco: If it's still there, I can point it out.
Scott: Well, if this is the front of the building right here, we have one in that corner that you're talking about right there, there is one today. It's a hydraulic...
Grieco: Are they remodeling things, or...
Scott: Yeah, I don't think this is the one that was in there because this is a hydraulic elevator, your's probably was...
Grieco: This was, I don't know - electric I think.
Scott: Probably electric, yeah, yeah, okay.
Grieco: It was good one.
Scott: How many men worked with you, do you remember?
Grieco: Oh, we had a whole - the top floor was about - at least fifty men.
Scott: Fifty men.
Grieco: Oh easy.
Scott: And was this foreman, Koch...
Grieco: Koch - I don't know whether he was foreman all over the place, he was down there when he caught me asleep.
Scott: Oh, okay, okay.
Grieco: I think that's how he spelled it - K-O-C-H.
Scott: K-O-C-H, right, okay. And he's the one that caught you the first night when you were tired, huh?
Grieco: Yeah, well I didn't have no sleep that day. He said, "Try and keep awake." Oh boy, I did.
Scott: (Laughs) Okay, but you don't remember who your foreman was up on the third floor, then? Or up on the top floor?
Grieco: No, I don't know whether we had a foreman up there or not, maybe he was the head one, I don't know.
Scott: The head one of everything, yeah.
Grieco: I think he was.
Scott: What did they do on the other floors, did they...
Grieco: Well it was - where I first started was like places where they had these wooden tops that clamped and then the zinc attached to it. That was the top of your can, and that's what we had to solder back on. Well there's where I was for two or three days, two or three nights down there.
Scott: And what did they do down there on the first floor, then, they had the wooden...
Grieco: That's the first floor like, I don't know whether they had a second floor or not, I don't remember that, but I do know, all I knew was I went from the first floor to the top floor, that's all I remember.
Scott: To the top floor, yeah. And you did the soldering on the top floor?
Grieco: Top floor.
Scott: Did they do the testing on the first floor, then. Did they do the testing with the...
Grieco: No, no, on the top floor.
Scott: They did that on the top floor?
Grieco: That's where they did the testing.
Scott: What did they do on the first floor with the wooden tops?
Grieco: That was sorting them out. They put them on the elevator, ship them up on the third floor.
Scott: Oh, so they would sort them out and ship the work up to you guys on the third floor, then?
Grieco: For the soldering man up there.
Scott: On the top floor?
Grieco: They'd solder it top and bottom.
Scott: And there were fifty of you up there, that's a...
Grieco: Oh easy.
Scott: That's a lot of people, isn't it?
Grieco: Yeah, well counting the young boys there and me and my brother, Jack, and the guys on the tubs, yeah I'd say about fifty, forty-five fifty.
Scott: And when you say the guys on the tubs, you mean the guys testing them with the air?
Grieco: Two guys testing with a great big wooden tub full of water. They put the air hose on on the top, on that wooden top what I was telling you about. I was sorting that down below. Turn it on there and then put the air pressure on it. And that damn zinc can would come out almost like a balloon. Lot of pressure. And then they put it in the tub and see if there is any bubbles.
Scott: Yeah, yeah.
Grieco: If there's any bubbles coming out of there, then they mark it with yellow crayon, or I mean blue crayon, and take it back. With the number on that can, and then he had to repair it.
Scott: Now what did you put the number on there with, a crayon?
Scott: What color did you use?
Grieco: Blue or black, or whatever you could get a hold of.
Scott: Whatever they gave you, yeah, yeah.
Grieco: Whatever you got a hold of.
Scott: And they paid you eight cents...
Grieco: I think it was blue.
Scott: And they paid you eight cents a can, eight cents a can? (laughs)
Grieco: I think that's what it was, I'm not sure, I'm not sure, but I know it was around $28.00 every two weeks, something like that.
Scott: Now did Jack work there too in that same place?
Grieco: My brother, Jack?
Grieco: Two years older than me, we went there the same time. I don't know whether he quit the same time I did or not, I think he did. I think he went on the railroad, he went to Pennsylvania Railroad and I went to Chester Shipyard.
Scott: Now why did you go to DuPont. do you remember why?
Grieco: That was the only job open for me, sixteen years old.
Scott: Okay, so they would hire you at sixteen?
Grieco: Oh yeah.
Scott: And they needed people?
Grieco: You had to be sixteen to get in there.
Scott: And you couldn't get a job anywhere else at sixteen?
Grieco: I never tried. Somebody told me how to - what to do to go over and ask for it, and they hired me right away.
Scott: Where did you go to get hired, do you remember?
Grieco: I think right there - damn if I can remember that either, I think I went right to the main office. Right to the gate.
Scott: Right to the gate at Hagley?
Grieco: I think so. I don't remember going to no damn office or anything. I never remember going to no office in Wilmington - I think it was right at the gate and they brought me in then. My brother, Jack, and I both got hired the same time.
Scott: Same time, huh?
Grieco: Same time, both of us.
- Coming to Wilmington from Maryland with his brother, Jack, to work at DuPont; family details; his youngest brother's death in Pan American Flight 214 crash at Elkton in 1963Keywords: Aircraft accidents; Children of immigrants; Genealogy; Immigrants; Italian American families; Italian immigrants; Pan American Flight 214 Crash (1963); Teenagers--EmploymentTranscript: Scott: Okay, all right. Now you were living in Wilmington, where were you born?
Grieco: Where? Northeast, Maryland.
Scott: Northeast, the City of Northeast you mean?
Grieco: Northeast, Maryland.
Scott: And what brought you up to Wilmington?
Grieco: Work, to get a job.
Scott: So you and Jack left home in Northeast...
Grieco: No, we didn't leave home - we come up to get a job. We had a place on West 7th street, I think it was, 207 West 7th. And the trolley car took us right from there right to Rising Sun Lane, right to DuPont, took us up.
Scott: But your family, your Mother and Father still lived in Northeast?
Grieco: Oh yeah, they lived down in Northeast clear up until 1913 - wait a minute - now wait a minute - no - about 1920 they moved to Chester.
Scott: Moved to Chester, huh?
Grieco: They moved to Chester and we still lived there, then we was gone from Chester, we quit DuPont, that's why I went in the Chester Shipyard. Any my brother, Jack, I think he went to the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Scott: What was your father's name?
Grieco: Michael Grieco.
Scott: Same as your son, and your grandson? What was your mother's name?
Grieco: Mary - you mean her maiden name?
Grieco: Mary Pronto.
Scott: Mary Pronto - now where were they born?
Scott: Both of them?
Grieco: Both of them. They come over here and lived in Shanty, had an old rolling mill down Northeast, an old rolling mill, I don't know what kind, I don't remember that, but I remember the mill, it was all crumbling. But my Pop and Mom lived in a damn shanty and my oldest brother that was born - my brother, Lou, he was born down Northeast, then all of us was born down there, everyone of us.
Scott: Were your parents married here or married in Italy?
Grieco: Oh they were married - I think Pop come over and married Mom over here. She was only sixteen years old.
Scott: When they were married?
Grieco: But she could talk English better than you and I. But my Father couldn't. My Father could teach you how to talk English, teach me how to talk English, how she picked it up so fast, oh boy, what a woman - gee.
Scott: Okay, and how many brothers and sisters did you have?
Grieco: Nine brothers, two sisters.
Scott: Nine brothers. Could you give me the names of your nine brothers?
Grieco: You want them?
Grieco: All right - you want to put them down, or what?
Scott: No, they'll be on the tape.
Grieco: Oh oh, I'm sorry. Are you ready?
Scott: Yeah, go ahead.
Grieco: All right - oldest brother was Lou, my oldest sister was May, then my brother Joe, then my brother Jack, then me - Anthony - then Ralph, two years younger than me, then Elizabeth, that's another sister, that's the only two sisters, Frankie, George, Lorenzo and Ernie.
Grieco: Ernie got killed in an airplane that blew up down at Elkton, he was our youngest brother.
Scott: Oh yeah, when was that?
Michael J. Grieco: December 8, 1963.
Scott: December the 8th, 1963.
Michael J. Grieco: On his birthday.
Grieco: The one that blew up at Elkton.
Scott: Was that the one that was coming back from Bermuda?
Michael J. Grieco: No, from Puerto Rico.
Scott: And it was in the air and it got struck by lightning?
Grieco: Yeah, that's what they thought, it was lightning.
Michael J. Grieco: It was.
Scott: I lost two friends on that one.
Grieco: That was in December.
Michael J. Grieco: He lost two friends on there, too.
Grieco: Wasn't that in December?
Michael J. Grieco: December the 8th, Dad.
Scott: December 8, 1963.
Grieco: Lightning in December? That's a lot of bull.
Michael J. Grieco: No, Dad, it was. Don't you remember, we had a birthday party for Michael, and they took Mom home and we were just - I was just ready to come back and Mom says, "wait a minute, there's a phone call, maybe it's Rose wants me - you know, bring something back." And it was Paul Vernon said that Ernie was on that plane when it blew up. And it was a freak thunder storm, lightning that night.
Grieco: How do you think I felt? I was a fireman on the railroad down at what-you-call-it - Thurlow. The engineer said, "Wait a minute, Tony." He had a radio, "There's an accident." I said, "How many? What is it?" He said, "No, wait a minute, wait a minute - airplane blew up at Elkton." I came home, I found my wife crying like a baby, crying. I said, "What's the matter, Ruth?" She said, "Ernie was on that plane." They were supposed to get the plane, him and his - the boy used to catch me playing ball, he was older than my brother. He said, "You were supposed to get that plane." He said, "Oh, the hell with it, we'll get the next one." That's the one that blew up.
Scott: Oh, that's a shame.
Michael J. Grieco: They were stacked up because it was a bad day.
Scott: The voice you hear is Anthony's son, Michael, telling us about the accident on December 8th.
- Soldering and shaping process for the zinc powder cans; his reaction to the 1917 explosionKeywords: Acid solder; Explosions; Gunpowder cans; Industrial accidents; Manufacturing processes; Solder and solderingTranscript: Scott: Do you want to say something? This is Michael - let's see, you're Michael A., right. Michael A. - we've got two Michaels here, this is Michael A. talking to his Grandfather Anthony.
Michael A. Grieco: Grandpop, remember you told me that the cans came in, and they had France on them and some of them had England written across the cans? The powder cans that you were repairing - sometimes they had stamped "France" on them and then sometimes they had "England" stamped on them? Do you remember the lettering on the cans, and sometimes you'd solder them and they would blow up - you'd hit a part of the gunpowder and it would blow up?
Grieco: I don't remember that. It was a little can?
Michael A. Grieco: No, the cans that you soldered.
Grieco: Oh, the big cans?
Michael A. Grieco: Yeah.
Grieco: Oh, yeah, well they had powder in them.
Michael A. Grieco: Yeah, and some of them had "France" written on them, right?
Grieco: Oh, yeah, they had some damn kind of printing on there.
Michael A. Grieco: Some of it had "England", "Great Britain".
Michael A. Grieco: Only France?
Grieco: France, I think it was France - I don't know whether they went through Britain to France or what, but France is the one that ordered them, the way I understand it, I think they're the one that ordered the cans, the powder cans. Oh every now and then we'd put the solder on the cans that came back, you'd see, you know, a little smoke. Only maybe ten or fifteen pieces of powder that big. I don't know whether it was smokeless powder or what it was, but it didn't amount to nothin'. It didn't harm you. I guess that's what they didn't clean them out so damn good.
Scott: Yeah, yeah. And you worked on the three to eleven shift, right?
Grieco: Well, for a while, but we changed shifts.
Scott: Okay, so it was a rotating shift?
Grieco: Oh yeah, yeah.
Scott: Was it around the clock then?
Grieco: Oh yeah.
Scott: Twenty-four hours a day you worked?
Grieco: Well - seven to three, three to eleven and eleven to seven.
Scott: U-huh - and there were fifty of you at each shift?
Grieco: I think it was about fifty, cause there was a long - that top floor was - the benches were long and guys on both sides of the benches. They had like gas for your what-you-call-them, then later they went electric, electric was your soldering iron.
Scott: Okay, so when you had gas, you had a flame then and you put your soldering iron in the flame?
Grieco: There was a little pot, little pot like that and the gas come up there, you put your soldering iron in there and let it heat up.
Scott: Let it heat up.
Grieco: Yeah, and then you had a bowl like that with nitric acid and you put zinc in there, pieces of zinc to kill that acid a little bit so you can put - take your brush and put it on the bottom of your can, acid, so the lead would stick.
Scott: Yeah, acid solder.
Grieco: It would kill that acid a little bit, but when you put that zinc in, zinc in that bowl, it would bubble up, just like boiling water.
Scott: And then they switched to electric soldering irons?
Grieco: Oh yeah, we went to electric soldering irons. Oh boy, I really had that down good - put that big piece of lead like that, z-z-z-z- made a perfect stream.
Scott: Now when you put - did you put the lead around first and then run around it with a soldering iron or did you hold the lead and the soldering iron together?
Grieco: Oh, we had a frame, an iron frame. We had an iron frame that folds up. You put it in your zinc can like that, then you open it up and that - you put your bottom on, that's the first thing you do, put your bottom on first and you open it up, open that frame up, and then you have a little hammer, on the corners of each part of the can, you tap the corners down, tap that down and then all four corners, and then you go ahead and put your acid on there with that brush and then take your lead and make a stream on there. And then turn your soldering iron around so you get the corners. Oh, it was nice, I really loved it.
Scott: They were square cans then - square cans?
Grieco: Where did I get it?
Scott: Square cans or round cans?
Grieco: No. A mask?
Scott: No, no, cans. The cans that you were soldering.
Grieco: What about it?
Scott: Were they round or square?
Grieco: Oh, they were - well look, they were about that high...
Scott: All right, that's about two and a half feet high...
Grieco: About that wide...
Scott: About a foot and a half wide.
Grieco: Yeah, about like that, and then tops and bottoms.
Michael J. Grieco: What shape was it Dad, was it square?
Grieco: Oh square, well square would be...
Michael J. Grieco: Oblong like this.
Grieco: There's the size. That part there.
Scott: Okay, right from here down.
Grieco: From there over, that's it, that's it.
Scott: That's about twelve inches by about eighteen or twenty inches.
Grieco: I still remember that. Yeah, tops and bottoms, that's all we'd get. The guy that had it on the roll, had the big sheet of zinc, it came in sheets. I don't know where they did it, but they rolled it and they would make them two ends come together and they would solder that and that's how we'd get it. Then we'd had to put the tops and bottoms.
Scott: So the iron frame made it...
Grieco: You'd fold it up, put it in the can, and open it up like that and it makes it tight.
Scott: Makes it good and tight, yeah.
Grieco: Makes it good and tight down at the bottom and you tap each corner and get them edges sticking up, get them down so you can solder it. And same way - when that's done, then you unfold the frame and bring it up to the front where the wooden top was and the zinc and put that up there and do the same thing with the top.
Scott: So what he is describing is that the zinc came in sheets and somebody brought the sheets up and soldered it along the seam, it was then endless or round and he got it and put a metal frame inside, slid the metal frame in and then expanded the frame which gave it the square shape. Then you put the top in, tap down the four corners, put your acid on, put your solder on and heat it and solder it. Okay?
Grieco: That's it.
Scott: All right, that's it. And they were pretty good sized cans then too, weren't they?
Grieco: Oh, they were a good - look, once you got them soldered, they were solid.
Scott: Do you remember how much powder they were supposed to hold?
Grieco: Oh I don't know.
Scott: Yeah, cause that looks like... they're pretty good sized cans - what you indicated might hold...
Grieco: They was as big as that, every bit of it.
Scott: It might hold fifty pounds of powder then.
Grieco: It would hold it ease because of the way it was built. The top and the bottom, it was solid. You know. soldered good so it would hold easy - you say fifty pounds? Oh easy. Well, that powder was, like I say, was like little elbow macaroni, and it was real thin. And if that got in there, it wouldn't take a whole lot to make fifty pounds. It wouldn't take an awful lot to make fifty pounds.
Scott: Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's interesting, okay.
Grieco: But boy I won't forget that explosion. I was there when it happened. The packing house went up - before I went there I guess, I don't know, but that one - I was there...
Scott: And the guards came in...?
Grieco: They didn't come in - one of them hollered "Everybody out, everybody come out." And everybody got off of the shop and went up - and when they seen what was going on, they all went that way.
Scott: All but you, huh?
Grieco: Well no, there was about four or five of us, we stuck it out. I didn't know any better. So when they start giving me wooden buckets, I thought it was part of my job. But when I seen that - boy I'll never live that down.
Scott: That's right, that's right.
Grieco: That got me. I could eat over a dead man - I've done it. A guy got killed on the rail at one time and they had him on a board like this with his head down, blood running down - down the pike - he got killed on the rails, the train hit him. I come home from school, when I was a kid - my brother, Ralph, my brother Jack, they couldn't eat, they couldn't eat. At that time my Mom had fried potatoes, I ate mine and theirs - it didn't bother me. I really got a good stomach today.
Scott: Yeah, that's good, that's good.
Grieco: I could eat horse shit and just put a little pepper on it.
Scott: (Laughs) Okay.
Michael J. Grieco: You can delete that.
Grieco: Is that on there?
Michael J. Grieco: Yeah, that's on there, Dad.
Grieco: Oh my God (everyone laughs).
Michael J. Grieco: You're gonna have to pass the profanity laws now.
Grieco: Gee whiz, I'm gonna have to go to Sing Sing Prison.
Michael J. Grieco: That's not a bad idea either.
Grieco: Oh boy - I'm sorry.
Scott: That's all right, that's all right, we've got you on there.
Grieco: Well that all goes in the history.
Michael J. Grieco: That can be bleeped.
Scott: Yeah that can be bleeped, that can be bleeped.
Grieco: I didn't know that.
Scott: Okay, I don't know how long this tape - this tape doesn't automatically turn off on this one. I guess I've got a little bit more to go, so we'll keep talking.
- Taking the trolley to work and stuffing clothes with newspaper during the winter; lack of safety regulations; living at Mrs. Jackson's boarding house with his brother, Jack, who would steal part of his wagesKeywords: Boardinghouses; Brothers; Clothing and dress; Electric railroads; Industrial safety; Street-railroads; Working class--Social conditionsTranscript: Scott: What time did you have to catch the trolley then, how long did it take you to get out there?
Grieco: What, from where I...
Scott: Where you lived, yeah.
Grieco: Maybe twenty minutes.
Scott: Twenty minutes.
Grieco: Open trolley car.
Scott: Was it horse driven, or electric?
Grieco: No - electric - open, you know, open seat, you've seen them.
Scott: Yeah, yeah.
Grieco: No closed-in trolley cars. Well, that was summertime. Wintertime it was closed in.
Scott: What did you wear to work?
Grieco: That's something. Glad you brought that up. My brothers, Jack and I, never wore a top - overcoat.
Scott: Is that right?
Grieco: Never! As cold as it was up there, and that was cold up in them hills. All we had was newspapers. My Pop showed us that, put a newspaper in the front and one in the back - air don't go through newspaper. He said never mind your legs, that take care of yourself. We never owned a topcoat, never had one, not until years afterward.
Scott: Did you wear the clothes you worked in, or did you change when you got there?
Grieco: No, I wore the same clothes, worked right in them.
Scott: Worked right in them all day and then came home?
Grieco: Same way.
Grieco: Well, that acid wouldn't spill on us, acid would eat your clothes, but we would take the brush and make a stream on there on the seam and then go like that, see, and put the brush back in the bowl. Acid would eat your clothes.
Scott: Were there any safety regulations that your remember?
Grieco: Hell no, (laughs) we didn't have no safety - you could go ahead and kill somebody up there and they wouldn't know the difference. (Everyone laughs). They had fights up there - I seen one time a man hit another one on the top of the head with that iron frame. It folded up - the iron frame was about like this see, it folded up and it would be that long. He hit him on top of the head - he was on this side of the bench and the other one was on that side and they were fighting about something. He took that frame and hit him right on top of the head.
Scott: Did it kill him?
Grieco: I don't know. I don't know whether it killed him - he was still fighting back.
Scott: Was there much fighting that went on?
Grieco: Oh, every now and then. One guy from the South, there was a Jewish fellow in there, and started getting some stuff like that, he hit that guy and he looked like he had a hemorrhage, blood squirted everywhere.
Michael J. Grieco: The good old times then.
Scott: Yeah. Now what did you eat?
Grieco: What did I eat?
Michael J. Grieco: Anything.
Grieco: Like I told you.
Michael J. Grieco: Never mind, never mind.
Scott: So - but I mean you brought your lunch, then?
Grieco: No, we had a lunch. That woman - I'll never forget her name, Mrs. Jackson.
Scott: She's the one at the boarding house?
Grieco: That's where we roomed - we were on the third floor there too. And she made our lunch and charged us...
[End of Tape 1, Side A. Begin Tape 1, Side B]
Grieco: I should have helped that poor woman out. She had about eight or nine boarders there. I should have helped her out washing dishes and everything like that because she treated us good. Only her, took care of all that - three stories.
Scott: Now did she feed your breakfast too?
Grieco: I think we did; I think we had breakfast there. But I know we had a nice dinner.
Scott: A good dinner - so she did feed you dinner and she made your lunch for you?
Grieco: Yeah, she made our lunches.
Scott: Do you remember what you paid?
Grieco: I think it was eight or nine dollars a week - seven dollars a week, something like that.
Scott: Seven, eight or nine dollars a week then. Now did that include the lunches?
Grieco: Yeah, every thing.
Scott: Everything included - room and board?
Grieco: Yeah, I think everything, I'm gonna have to check that with old brother Jack. Cause I'll tell you what, I used to take five dollars from my pay and hide it back of the - what are you laughing about - hide it back of a picture and he would see it and he would know where I put it, and he would take it.
Scott: Oh he would, would he?
Grieco: He would take it and go to the movies. Go to the movies - I never went to the movies.
Scott: So your brother, Jack, would steal your money?
Grieco: He said, "I'll pay you back." But I never got it back.
Michael J. Grieco: A long-term loan. He's still waiting for the interest on it.
Grieco: He knew exactly where I was putting it.
Scott: You should have found a different hiding place.
Grieco: I put it under rugs, under everything, and he would find it, he would look for it.
Scott: Did you and Jack sleep in the same room?
Grieco: Oh yeah, yeah.
Scott: Was anybody else in that room, or just you?
Grieco: No, no, just us two.
Scott: Just us two, okay.
Grieco: Yeah, we got along pretty good. We used to wrestle like hell. He could never get the best of me. I was stronger than him. We'd get tired of wrestling and we'd go to sleep.
- Education at Northeast High; working briefly in Delaware City making smokeless gunpowder; playing baseball, including with Judy JohnsonKeywords: African American baseball players; Baseball players; Gunpowder, Smokeless; Johnson, Judy, 1900-1989; Ruth, Babe, 1895-1948; Work environment; Working class--Education; Working class--Social life and customsTranscript: Scott: Did you go to high school?
Grieco: Seventh grade.
Scott: Seventh grade is...
Grieco: Seventh - Northeast High, that's all farther I went. That's when I told my Pop, I said I'm gonna go to work.
Scott: Okay, so you were in the seventh grade when you went to work, at the end of the seventh grade?
Grieco: Yeah, seventh grade. I'm gonna tell you something. The seventh grade down there was equal to high school up there in Chester. Cause my kid brother, Frankie, went to - he went to Northeast High School - he got up to Chester and they put him in the same place, in the seventh grade or something like that, and he said, "I had that four or five years ago." He only went one year in Chester High and he was done.
Scott: Is that right?
Grieco: Yeah, they were strict down there, not like these damn schools. You either learned or else, just like in Russia, you either do it right or you don't go. I can name you every damn state in the union, I can name you almost every - you can put a map up there of the world, and I close my eyes and I can put my hand right on them, that's how good I was on geography and history. I wasn't much for arithmetic. I could add two and two, but I'm telling you, when it come to history and geography. Like them foreigners, they can tell you more about this country than we can.
Scott: Yeah, that's right, that's right.
Grieco: You ask somebody, where's Laos? When we were fighting Vietnam. They didn't know where it was.
Scott: That's right, we don't know...
Grieco: They didn't know where Laos was, didn't know where Cambodia was, don't know nothing.
Scott: Most of us don't know much about geography anymore, it's a shame.
Grieco: That's important. Supposing you were an airborne trooper and drop you, and say let's go to Michigan, how the hell you gonna get to Michigan if you don't know where you're going?
Scott: That's right, that's right. Did Jack go any higher than the seventh grade?
Grieco: Oh Jack went, oh he went higher. I think he was in the first year in high school.
Scott: And you two came up to Wilmington?
Grieco: I was the dummy.
Scott: You two came to Wilmington and got a job at DuPont at the same time?
Grieco: Same day.
Scott: And you're not sure whether Jack left at the same time you did or not?
Grieco: Oh, he left - he left about the same time I did, but he was ahead of me. He was two years older than me.
Scott: Any other brothers work for the Company?
Grieco: No. Now you mean?
Scott: No, in those days.
Grieco: No, no, no. Just him and I. I don't know whether it was - down at Delaware City he was making powder down there, I don't know whether it was DuPont or not. Made it out of two kinds of acid - nitric and sulfuric. That was for France too. I think my brother, Lou, and I was down there then, my oldest brother.
Scott: Oh, you worked at Delaware City also?
Grieco: Delaware City, I was down there too. They made powder out of nitric and sulfuric in a glass jar. And with a glass fork. Whole water around a glass jar and it had to run for four hours to make powder, it was mushy, it was mushy and then you put it in a great big tub. Oh man it was powerful stuff. Put a little bit on there, burn the hell out of you. You put it in a big tub and boil it and then they would dry it out and then they'd take it down to the river front, open up a newspaper and put a little bit on there and it was smokeless powder; it was for France.
Scott: Smokeless powder, then?
Grieco: Smokeless powder.
Scott: You don't remember who made that, though?
Grieco: Delaware Steel.
Scott: Delaware Steel - when did you work down there?
Grieco: I know there was a trolley car left Wilmington and went all the way down to Delaware City, over a ramp and everything. I don't know what year, I know there was a bunch of girls there, shell loading. They come out like Chinamen, yellow. Their faces were all yellow from that powder.
Scott: Was that before your worked at Chester Ship then? Or after?
Grieco: I think it was, I think it was. I think I left DuPont, went down there. I get things all mixed up here. I think it was after I left DuPont - I didn't stay down there long. My brother and I both didn't stay there long. Then I think we went - then I went to the Chester Shipyard. I wasn't there long because I seen what was going on. If you didn't turn that water on that - around that power, that acid, it would blow up, it would steam, and you'd have to wear a mask.
Scott: Yeah, that was dangerous work.
Grieco: Oh sulfuric and nitric, that was rich - no good. So I didn't stay there long, I only stayed there maybe a couple of weeks or something like that, we got out of there.
Scott: When you were working for DuPont, what did you do at lunchtime. Did you just sit and eat your lunch or did you play games?
Grieco: Oh no, just ate our lunch and went back to work.
Scott: Went back to work. How long did you get for lunch, do you remember?
Grieco: I think it was a half hour, I think it was.
Scott: And when did you work, Monday through Friday or did you work...
Grieco: Monday clear to Friday.
Scott: Monday through Friday?
Grieco: No Saturday.
Scott: No Saturday work? What did you do on Saturday and Sunday then? Be careful now.
Grieco: No, I wasn't like my brother Jack. (Everyone laughs).
Scott: Now we know why Jack needed the five dollars.
Grieco: I was young - no I stood probably in the house and maybe go up and walk in town, up in Wilmington. But he would go to the movies or something like that. Oh he was on the stage a couple of times, dancing like Rudolph Valentino - he had it.
Scott: Did you play baseball on Saturday?
Grieco: Oh yeah - was 49 years old pitched my last game.
Scott: Is that right, 49?
Grieco: Well he's - what - he's older than me, but he didn't pitch hard ball.
Michael J. Grieco: Oh yes I did.
Scott: He's talking to his son, Michael.
Grieco: I pitched against Babe Ruth, Josh Gibson, Judy Johnson - see how is he, how's Judy?
Michael J. Grieco: He's not doing too well.
Grieco: Colored man.
Scott: Yeah, I know who he is.
Grieco: You know him?
Grieco: He used to come up our house, you know, he would bring his car up there and we'd leave Judy's car up my house, and then go to the banquet. We'd get in the car and said, "Do you still remember me?" "Yeah I remember you, you knocked the bat out of my hand." I said, "Well, you wouldn't back up from the plate, I had to back you up."
Scott: (Laughs) You had to dust him off, huh?
Grieco: Well not dust him, if I wanted to hit him, I could hit him, but I said, "I had to back you up." He said, "You knocked the bat out of my hand," I said "Do you still remember me?" "Yeah, I remember you." What gets me is the way they play ball on a field like this and we played on - that's why he got hit - pebbles, damn ball taking bad hops and everything like that and great big basket gloves. You ought to see the glove I got. When I started playing ball when I was a kid, the outfielders didn't have no gloves.
Scott: Didn't have gloves, u-huh.
Grieco: No gloves! The infielders had gloves about as big as a canvas glove. That's all they had, just wouldn't hurt - tear their fingernails off. That's when I started playing.
Scott: When did you start playing?
Grieco: When I was about thirteen years old.
Scott: About thirteen - so that was down in Northeast then?
Grieco: Yeah, man I would get - we used to take cobblestones from the Pennsylvania Railroad, and there was a rich man's house across the lake and I mean that was a long lake. We used to take them cobblestones and take and throw them and break them windows. They didn't know who did it.
Michael J. Grieco: Now he does.
Grieco: Five or six of us, you know. We wouldn't pick out a flat one, any kind of stone. That's where I got my pitching from I guess.
- Seeing a copperhead snake while picking berries; his father carrying railroad cross ties to burn for heat; spending free time in Wilmington; witnessing race riots in Chester, PennsylvaniaKeywords: Chester Race Riot (Pennsylvania : 1917); Race discrimination; Race riots; Snakes; Working class--Social conditionsTranscript: Michael J. Grieco: How about when somebody would yell, "Snake", then what would you do. When you were out picking berries, how about when somebody would yell "Snake", then what would you do?
Michael J. Grieco: Snake, yeah, you were out picking berries and somebody yelled "Snake."
Grieco: Oh man, stones would be that high on top of them. I'll never forget coming down the bank one time, my brother, Joe, had a bucket on his belt, picking dewberries along the railroad, them big, black - and all we seen, he was coming down the railroad bank, his hands and feet went up in the air and the snake right on top of him, all up in the air. But when he hit the bottom of that ditch, he got up right quick. Man they would pile the stone on top of that - copperhead. Oh man we got him. Oh, I could write a book. We had a snake one time on our laurel bushes, would sting you with it, had a stinger in his tail.
Scott: For heaven's sake.
Grieco: Yeah, and it looked like the green part of a laurel, laurel bush. Long, about that long.
Scott: About twelve inches.
Grieco: And boy they were poison, I don't know what kind of snake you call them.
Scott: Yeah, I never heard of them.
Grieco: Oh - there's a lot of things - you go out in the woods picking berries like we were to help my Pop and Mom. My Pop used to work on the railroad 99¢ a day. How he did it I'll never know. How he raised eleven kids.
Michael J. Grieco: How about when he used to carry the tie on his back, the railroad tie?
Grieco: He would walk from here, we'll say to Penny Hill, to go to work, to get up on the railroad where they were working. The railroad was right two blocks from our house, but he had to go way up, way up. So come home - that poor old - he was only as big as me, he would carry a cross tie on his shoulder and his lunch box in his hand like this. Carry it, I don't know where he picked it up. "What are you doing that for, Pop?" We had a bunch of ties. He would bring them home and we'd saw them up, you know that's all we had for heat.
Scott: For firewood?
Grieco: Cross ties.
Michael J. Grieco: Remember at the time, cross ties weren't as square as they are today. They were the rough-hewn kind, real crooked and splintery and split and everything.
Grieco: I don't know how he did it. He was the first death in the family too.
Scott: Your father?
Grieco: Sixty-five years old. He was the first one. Oh I had a sister was 91 died not too long ago. Now I got a brother, he's 90, Jack, two years older than me, and I got another brother two years younger than me - I think we're doing alright.
Michael J. Grieco: There's another one about 77, George is about 77, that's all, four out of nine, that's all that's left. Four out of eleven, that's all that's left, 'cause everybody else is gone.
Scott: What did you do during the day before you went to work, anything special? You said you worked on the three to eleven - well that was when you started out, you worked three to eleven. You mean before I got the job?
Scott: No, no. When you were home, before you went to work, did you do anything special - what did you do in your spare time?
Grieco: While I was working at DuPont?
Grieco: Well I would probably walk in town. I wouldn't go to the movies, I didn't like them. I didn't know anybody, I just walked up and down, looked in the store and everything like that, and then come in time to get ready to go to work.
Scott: Time to get ready to go to work.
Grieco: And I stand on one corner one time and a woman come up to me well dressed. She started to jabber. She said, "Are you Greek?" I said, "No, my name's Grieco, I'm not Greek." She said, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." Really dressed nice. I remember that part. I remember when that guy shot that cop at Millers. The bullet hole is still in the building.
Scott: Is that right?
Grieco: Yeah, Clark his name was, he went down Market Street shooting at everybody, shooting at everybody. They finally caught him in a barn or some place down there and they got him.
Scott: You don't remember what year that was, do you?
Grieco: About 1916, 1917, 1918, something like that.
Scott: Somewhere along in there.
Grieco: Something around there. But I didn't stay in Wilmington long, my people moved to Chester, I went up with them.
Michael J. Grieco: Did you tell him about the race riots in Chester?
Grieco: Oh yeah. There was a very good black man, he went past the Chester Shipyard, that's where I was working then, and he went past there and he was a good black. Well they say the only good one is a dead one, but he was good. And they told him up by the wharf, don't go down past that shipyard; it's dinner hour, don't go past there. He said, "Oh them boys know me down there, I never harm nobody." He went down there, and goddamn boys, they jumped him and they put bullet holes in him. These Austrians were on Kerlin Street, they had boarding houses you know, they were in the house shooting at him. And you know what it reminded me of, like a kid on a sled with his legs up. And detectives came down with a little black jack [makes motion]. But them guys were in the building. I could put my hands on the ones that did it, one of them, it was an Austrian.
Scott: M-huh. And he shot the black man?
Grieco: He shot right through the window shot that guy, and he was already down, he was already down. And that poor guy, he was sitting, laying there on his belly just like on a sled. Oh they used to - the guy used to come down with the cart with hot dogs and everything. They'd take your hat and throw it on the cart, you know, one guy, and upset the damn cart and take all the hot dogs, you know, crazy, crazy. Do all that stuff for nothin'.
Scott: That was in Chester?
Grieco: Chester Shipyard.
Scott: Did anything like that happen down here?
Grieco: That was before the Sun Shipyard went to work.
Scott: Did anything like that happen down here - was there any race riots or anything in Wilmington that you remember?
Grieco: Oh, race riot up there was - that's when it started. We had all the black people out at Chester - all of them. They were all getting out of Chester gradually. Soon as they put martial law in, they started dribbling back again. I went out of the house one night, and went down to Third and Kerlin - Third and Lily and here was a bunch of white fellows chasing a colored man. He bumped into me and I bumped into him, they killed him right there. Then I went down the street further, there's a hotel and it was a foggy night and there was a cop had a colored woman in back you know, they got her out and she was just about ready to stab him in the chest like that, and he hit her. She said, "I wasn't gonna do nothin." He knocked her cold, skinny woman.
Scott: Was there any trouble in Wilmington that?
Michael J. Grieco: Was there any trouble in Wilmington, that's what he's asking?
Grieco: No, I never...
- Italian workers at DuPont; playing football; near accident at Sun ShipyardKeywords: Children of immigrants; Football; Immigrants; Outdoor recreation for children; Shipbuilding industry--Employees; Shipyards; Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock CompanyTranscript: Scott: Were there any black people working at DuPont?
Grieco: No - no, no, no.
Scott: Were most of them Italian? Were most of them Italian working out there?
Grieco: Well, I would say yeah, yeah.
Scott: Yeah, because we did have a lot of them.
Grieco: Yeah they were mostly Italian fellows.
Scott: Did you speak Italian out there, or did you speak English?
Scott: At DuPont.
Grieco: Oh, some of them did. No, there wasn't no black people there, none at all.
Michael J. Grieco: Grandmom Grieco would not let them talk Italian unless she taught them, because she could neither read nor write Italian nor English. She came here when she was fifteen, had Uncle Lou when she was sixteen. She said, "We're in America now, we will speak English." I don't even know where they learned how to talk Italian, and he doesn't talk good Italian - none of us - nobody in the family really talks that good. Dad's family, my mother's family, only my grandparents and one aunt on my mother's side were born in Italy.
Scott: I'll be darned.
Michael J. Grieco: There was very - there's a dearth of Italian language. It's a shame that we don't know it.
Scott: Yeah, it is interesting.
Michael J. Grieco: She wouldn't do it.
Grieco: Most of them were southerners, Italian, maybe a couple of Irish - most of them were Italians.
Scott: Most of them were Italians, yeah.
Grieco: They were right nearby - made good workers.
Scott: Yeah, yeah.
Grieco: When they start fighting against you - they fight over nothin'.
Scott: Yeah, yeah - quick temper.
Grieco: They fight with their hands.
Scott: Do you remember any holidays - do you have any special holidays?
Grieco: Not that I know of. On a holiday we just - if there wasn't no work, we didn't work. I don't remember that stuff.
Scott: You don't remember holidays, huh?
Grieco: No, I was too young for that stuff. I just worked, did what I had to do and that's it.
Scott: Did you have any picnics, Company picnics?
Grieco: Hell no, are you kidding?
Scott: No Company picnics?
Grieco: Picnics? I wasn't in modern times, that was hard times. (Everyone laughs)
Scott: That was before your time then?
Grieco: Yeah. If we had a picnic, why we wouldn't go back to work. I'm telling you the truth.
Scott: Was there any horseplay? Anybody fool around, any horseplay?
Grieco: Oh, sometimes, sometimes. Like that guy kicked that bucket off the edge. He was a big mouth, loud mouth. There was not much water in it and he kicked the thing off and they asked me who did it and I told them and then he hit me soon as I come out of the gate. My brother Jack took care of that, he got him.
Scott: Yeah, yeah, okay.
Grieco: That's one thing about brothers. My brother Jack was older than me, whenever we was kids down in Northeast going to school, they used to jump him, and they'd see me coming there, man they'd all run - they'd all run, and he was better with his hands than I was. But I was tough. You could pick - my brother used to pick me up and throw me - didn't hurt me.
Scott: Always fighting, huh?
Grieco: I used to play football, with them little helmets with a nose guard, you had to bite with your teeth, we had shin guards and - in high school I'm talking about - I went through the line and this here rich guy's son, he said, "I hope that Dago gets it again, I hope he gets it again." I heard him, I heard him say it. I'll never - Clifford Sippers, I'll never forget his name. I said, "Gimme that ball." He said, "What are you gonna do?" I said, "I'm goin' right through there." He said, "Boy that's Sippers, that's Sippers." I said, "I'm goin' right through there." I hit him in the chest and I heard something crack and I know I broke a couple of ribs. I hit him with my head, and I said from then on no more football for me. I wouldn't play - then I started playing baseball. I wouldn't do it no more.
Michael J. Grieco: Dad has two philosophies about working - three - when business interferes with pleasure, you give up business, that's one. Number two, he always wanted a job where he could go in at noon, take an hour for lunch, and quit at one, that's two. And the third one was, and a friend of his taught him a good lesson, and he used to say, "Tony, I'm gonna take my hat off. I'm gonna throw it in the air. If it stays up, we'll work, and if it comes down we'll go home."
Grieco: That's what happens in the Chester Shipyard. He used to say that, "If the hat stays up, we'll work, if it comes down, we'll go home." Came down. We only used to work a couple days, you know, before the war started, when the war started we had to work steady. Oh we worked like beavers there.
Scott: Did you work for the Chester Shipyard all during the war?
Grieco: Yeah. Yeah, and up the Sun Shipyard during the second world war.
Scott: Oh, did you?
Grieco: The Sun Shipyard wasn't started yet when I was working at Chester yard. I started to work in Sun yard when the first keel was ever laid.
Scott: Is that right?
Grieco: Yeah, it was laid right on the ways. It was - I'll never forget it - a cargo boat, inter-coastal they called them. It was laid - now they build the damn boat sitting in the shop and fit them on the ways. They build almost half the boat in the shop, weld them together - set them. I'll never forget Mickey one time they - up the Sun yard, they had a great big plate, the whole section of a tanker, and the crane picked it up, and they had one of them great big things, oh as big as this room with solid steel, and the crane picked it up and it was supposed to lay it on this plate to make it squeeze in to fit. And I was standing on it. It only went that far and that thing pushed that thing down in place, I like to broke my neck. I was standing on that plate. I cussed that damn crane operator, oh man, if I'da had a washer or something, I'd have throwed it up at him. But that - do you ever get that feeling, standing on something like that and it just jerked me like that - it almost broke my neck.
Scott: For heaven's sakes.
Grieco: Oh boy, I'd never had something happen like that in my life. Man!
Michael J. Grieco: That shipyard was an experience. I went in as a passer boy in the riveting gang, went over to machinist apprentice. It's a romantic things to do though, to watch a ship being built. I'm sorry, go ahead.
- Safety of his work at Hagley; memories of Rising Sun Lane; final thoughtsKeywords: Bars (Drinking establishments); Brandy; Lotteries; Rising Sun Lane; Work environmentTranscript: Scott: Did you have any accidents out at DuPont?
Scott: No, okay.
Grieco: Only that guy hit me when I come out the gate.
Scott: Pretty safe place to work, then? Fairly safe place to work.
Grieco: Oh yeah. Well, if you want to eliminate those explosions.
Scott: Yeah, that's true, that's true. That was dangerous for those guys, but not for you.
Grieco: I don't know how many went up before I went there, but I understand the packing house went up several times.
Scott: Yes it did.
Grieco: I don't know - I wasn't there then, I don't - all I remember is that one - there was a couple little ones, wasn't nothin' to mention about, but that big one was the one that got me.
Scott: Yeah, yeah. Did you ever go up in that area, up in the powder yards?
Scott: Never went up there?
Grieco: Wasn't allowed up there, I don't think. I don't know whether we was allowed or not, but I had no business up there.
Scott: That's right, that's right, and you didn't have much time off to wander up there either, did you?
Grieco: No, I could scoot around when I went and got water, but I still didn't - I didn't even know they were there, I didn't know they were there. But I'm glad I didn't.
Scott: Yeah, cause that was dangerous.
Grieco: Boy, I'd probably been - get the heebies or something. If I'd have found out what was going on.
Scott: Okay, can you think of anything else you want to tell me tonight?
Grieco: Well, yeah, you got a shot of brandy on you?
Scott: [Laughs] No.
Grieco: That's what I take in the morning.
Scott: Good for you.
Grieco: I take, they laugh at me, I take that much brandy and the rest coffee. Every morning. I get up you know, and feel a little achy, I take that and I'm ready to go jogging. And I haven't had a cold in fifteen years [sounds like he is knocking on wood].
Scott: Is that right?
Grieco: No sir, my nose runs once - well, just a little, but I haven't had a cold - I don't know when I had a cold last.
Scott: That's good, that's good. It's the brandy that does it, then?
Grieco: Oh man - ginger brandy I drink. My wife used to say, "How much you putting in there?" "I only put a little bit." Like that, I put about that much brandy and the rest coffee, in a regular cup.
Scott: Regular cup.
Michael J. Grieco: I think he likes the coffee with his brandy is what he's saying.
Scott: Yeah, yeah, yeah. About an inch of brandy and the rest of it's coffee, huh?
Grieco: Oh boy, it really helps.
Scott: Wait a minute here [tape is turned off and then back on again].
Grieco: Out front there, I'm gonna pick it up on my way home.
Michael J. Grieco: You're gonna jog home anyhow.
Michael J. Grieco: You're gonna jog home anyhow.
Grieco: Well, I can do that too.
Scott: Okay, outside of DuPont, outside in the little town that was right outside the gate, do you remember any of the taverns there?
Grieco: Rockland wasn't it, no?
Scott: No, it was called Hen- I don't know what it was called in those days. Remember Toy's Tavern?
Grieco: Rising Sun...
Scott: Rising Sun Lane, yeah.
Grieco: No, Rising Sun Lane, but Rising Sun was the name of the little...
Scott: Was the name of the...
Grieco: ...bunch of houses there right along the river.
Scott: Were there any taverns there?
Grieco: Not at that time.
Scott: Not at that time - any stores?
Grieco: Any what?
Grieco: Oh I think there was one store.
Scott: One store - Frizzell's?
Grieco: Like a confectionery store, had everything. I think that's where we went in and got, maybe an apple or something like that. I don't remember whether it was a big store or not. It was just a hole in the wall.
Scott: You don't remember the name of the guy that owned it?
Grieco: I don't know.
Scott: Sam Frizzell? Does that ring a bell. Frizzell? I don't remember his name. I never asked their name.
Michael J. Grieco: That tavern goes back a number of years, doesn't it?
Scott: What's that, Hagey's?
Michael J. Grieco: Yeah.
Scott: Yeah, I think there were, I think there had been taverns there most of the time.
Grieco: I know one of the boys that used to live there, right there in that - he was an Italian fellow, his name was Sammy Serrano - he lived right where them houses are on Rising Sun Lane, and he moved to Chicago. And he worked at DuPont's too.
Scott: Didn't you room...
Grieco: Sammy Serrano.
Scott: Didn't you live at that house for a while, or something? Did you live at that house for a while, Serrano's?
Grieco: Oh yeah, oh he lived there for...
Michael J. Grieco: No, did you live there?
Grieco: No, I never lived there. He lived with his brother there, his brother lived there. He lived there all the time he worked at DuPont's. Oh, me and him, we were good friends.
Grieco: Yeah, but he moved to Chicago after he left there and then I had a gas station up there on 202, and he came all the way from Chicago to visit me.
Scott: Is that right, I thought you lived with...
Grieco: He died, he died and he was 82 years old.
Scott: I thought you lived with him for about three weeks.
Grieco: No, oh no, not with Sammy Serrano.
Scott: Okay, okay.
Grieco: No, I didn't live with him, no.
Scott: Okay, we got some wrong information somewhere then.
Michael J. Grieco: Where did that come from?
Grieco: He used to come down Northeast to visit us.
Scott: Oh, did he?
Grieco: Yeah, him and I, used to go down and visit my Mom and Pop, he'd come down with us. Sammy Serrano.
Michael J. Grieco: You must have wrote that in there, Dad.
Michael J. Grieco: You must have written that in there.
Scott: I thought I saw that somewhere, that he lived with Sammy.
Grieco: Samuel Serrano, S-A-N-R-O - [Serrano?].
Scott: You said in this note, "I lived on Rising Sun Lane for three weeks with Sammy Serrano, then moved to 7th Street in Wilmington."
Grieco: Oh no, I never lived there.
Michael J. Grieco: But you wrote it there.
Scott: Is that your writing? Right here.
Grieco: Sammy Serrano and - moved to West 7th Street - moved to West 7th Street...
Michael J. Grieco: Yeah, you said you lived with him, Sammy, and then you moved to West 7th, you forgot about that.
Grieco: Damned if I remember putting that on there.
Michael J. Grieco: You did, I can guarantee you that.
Grieco: Where's it say I - "...lived on Rising Sun Lane for three week with Sammy Serrano." God damn, maybe you're right, I think I did - yep, I couldn't find a place to live, that's what it was.
Scott: Okay, so you did - so you did live with Sammy for...
Grieco: Wait a minute, I took the trolley from there to - I'll be doggoned, whatever I put here, it came right from...yeah, now I remember, I don't know whether it was off and on and, I think that's what it was, I didn't live there steady, just off and on - I think he wanted me to visit - his brother was as good as gold, I think maybe that's why I put that there.
Scott: Well, it's hard to remember some of these things, isn't it?
Grieco: Yeah, gee - I wish I had enough hair so I can remember what went on.
Scott: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay, do you have anything else you want to say tonight?
Grieco: Yes, I would like to have a - I'd like to hit that lottery for a million bucks, can you help me on that?
Scott: (Laughs) I wish I could.
Grieco: Well, then you're no good to me then.
Scott: Well let's see, let's see if we could play it. You started in 1916, so there's a number, you've got 16, all right, you're 89 years old, right?
Grieco: You know, Mickey, do you know what I was thinking of the other night - you're 66, and I'm 89, damn, we should have played that number - 6688.
Scott: Well, how about him?
Grieco: Oh, he's out.
Scott: He's out, he's out in left field, huh?
Grieco: He's a millionaire.
Scott: Oh, is he?
Grieco: He's a millionaire if he can collect, but he can't collect. He's been - how long, seven years and you were trying to collect, you can't get it yet.
Michael J. Grieco: Oh, about your leg, Michael.
Grieco: How long has it been, Michael?
Scott: Note: Anthony's last name is Grieco. Present at the taping were his son, Michael J. Grieco of Fairfax, who is the third voice that you sometimes hear on this tape. I asked him to be quiet, but he did chime in quite often. And also his grandson, Michael A. Grieco of Clearview Avenue in Holly Oak Terrace.