Interview with Evelyn Lyons, 1984 August 28 [audio]

Hagley ID:
  • Biographical details of herself and her parents; childhood pastimes at Chicken Alley
    Keywords: Brandywine Creek; Chicken Alley; Children--Conduct of life; Horsemanship; Laird, W. W. (William Winder), 1910-1989; Lower Louviers (Rockland, Del. : Dwelling); Rockland School; Sledding
    Transcript: Wagner: Let's go again, start again — full name, first...

    Lyons: Evelyn Williams Lyons.

    Wagner: Address?

    Lyons: 107 Curtis Drive, West, Pennsville, New Jersey.

    Wagner: Age?

    Lyons: Sixty-two.

    Wagner: Telephone Number?

    Lyons: 609—678—4541.

    Wagner: And you do release this information to Hagley Museum?

    Lyons: Yes I do.

    Wagner: Mother's name?

    Lyons: Anna Mary Willis Williams.

    Wagner: And born?

    Lyons: In Delaware City, Delaware, 1898.

    Wagner: And she grew up where?

    Lyons: Henry Clay.

    Wagner: With what relatives did she live?

    Lyons: She lived with her grandmother who was Mary Givison on Rising Sun Lane.

    Wagner: And your father?

    Lyons: My Father's name was Lee Mack Williams and he was born in North Carolina in 1896, and he came to Henry Clay in 1915.

    Wagner: Alright, that was about the time of the First World War, so he came to work in a wartime factory or he was just looking for work?

    Lyons: I think that he was looking for work; I don't recall.

    Wagner: How did he meet your mother?

    Lyons: I believe he met her in a boarding house in Henry Clay, run by a Mrs. Andrews, but I'm not positive.

    Wagner: Did your mother have other relatives in Henry Clay?

    Lyons: Yes, she had uncles, aunts, a brother and a sister, and I guess hordes of cousins.

    Wagner: And where did you grow up?

    Lyons: I was born in Walker's Banks, Henry Clay, and lived there until I was thirteen months old, and we moved to Chicken Alley and I lived there until I was eleven and then moved to Silverside Road and lived there until I was eighteen and moved to New Jersey.

    Wagner: I know how your name probably got to us — one of the questions is — do you know other people who might be available for interviews, so somebody knew somebody.

    Lyons: Well I know a lot of people from around the Brandywine and I still see a lot of them.

    Wagner: Alright, what can you tell me — do you have any reminiscences of — tell me about Walker's Banks - well you were too young to remember.

    Lyons: I was too young to remember it, but when I went to work, I worked for 37 years in Jackson Laboratory, for DuPont, and there was a fellow that worked there that grew up — he was born and grew up in the same building where I was born, in that row house in Walker's Banks. So they're spread all over, people from Henry Clay, and everybody knows everyone else and seems to keep in touch quite well, I think.

    Wagner: What do you recall of Chicken Alley?

    Lyons: Oh, I recall it very well, it was always so beautiful, it was a wonderful place to grow up. Close to the Brandywine and right in the middle of the woods. And at that time the mansion that Chick Laird lives in now was unoccupied, so we used to play around there all the time when we were kids, and that was just a gorgeous place to play.

    Wagner: What did you play — what kind of games did you play?

    Lyons: Well, when I lived there there were very few kids around. Some of the girls from Rockland would walk up and play sometimes. And once in awhile some of the ones from Henry Clay. And girls at that time played with dolls, but the thing I can remember most because I was never a real doll person, I can remember playing in the streams around there and picking the flowers and making my own golf course out on all those hills (laughs). My brother and I, we would sink tin cups, you know, in the ground and play golf. And sledding in the winter, sled for almost a mile.

    Wagner: What kind of sled?

    Lyons: Flexible Flyer.

    Wagner: Was it colder in the winter, did you have more snow than we...?

    Lyons: It seems to me that we had snow for longer periods of time. Because I went to Rockland School, it was at that time a two—room school.

    Wagner: Now where was Rockland School located?

    Lyons: You know where Rockland is?

    Wagner: Yes.

    Lyons: OK, that school is still there. It would be at the end of the golf course, going toward Rockland Hill and there's one house at the end of the golf course, and the next house used to be the schoolhouse - someone lives there now. So I walked from Chicken Alley to school. I can remember walking through a lot of snow. I believe we had more snow then, but then again a lot of times what you remember when you were a kid, seems better - food seemed better that your Grandmother cooked — snow seemed deeper. Everything seems different when you're a kid.

    Wagner: The water cleaner.

    Lyons: Yes, and it was, I guess.

    Wagner: Now you went swimming in the Brandywine?

    Lyons: I did very little swimming because my Mother was always afraid I'd drown. I guess from living along there all her life, instead of being like a lot of people were, she was more afraid of the water than most. My cousins used to be able to go swimming, no adult had to be along or anything, and my Mother was scared to death for me to go down, so I was never in the Brandywine. I rode horseback a lot.

    Wagner: You kept horses?

    Lyons: My Dad kept - always had a riding horse, was there when I was little and then as soon as I was big enough he bought me a pony and then later on when we moved to Silverside Road, he had a riding school. So I always rode horseback.

    Wagner: Where did you keep horses in Chicken Alley?

    Lyons: There was a barn there, a small barn down at the end of the hill which — we lived in the far end going toward the Brandywine and it sort of went down, going down the grade to go down the hill to the Brandywine, and it was part way down there.

    Wagner: Wood barn or stone barn?

    Lyons: Wood.

    Wagner: And small?

    Lyons: M—huh, two—horse barn. In fact it could have been, my Dad could have built it, I don't know. I was so young when I moved there, but it was there from when I can remember, but it was a small one, then he had two horses there and then when he got a pony for me he built another small place for the pony.

    Wagner: Do you have brothers and sisters?

    Lyons: I have — I had one brother who was killed in World War II. He, of course, lived with us down there and on Silverside Road and moved to New Jersey with us and went in the Service.
  • Father's nervous breakdown after working in Hagley Yard; playing in her father's laboratory at Carney's Point; other relatives who worked for DuPont Company; taking the trolley into Wilmington from Wagoner's Row
    Keywords: E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company. Burnside Laboratory; E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company. Carney's Point Works; Explosions; Ferries; Industrial accidents; Post-traumatic stress; Street-railroads; Trolley cars
    Transcript: Wagner: How old were you when you left Chicken Alley?

    Lyons: Eleven.

    Wagner: Why did you all move from Chicken Alley? Just because?

    Lyons: Really not sure, but it seems to me, but it seems to me Mrs. Laird decided to do something else with those houses or perhaps they decided to — for someone to move into the mansion, and they needed the houses for help. I don't know, I know all three families moved at one time, there were three houses there, and we all three moved at the same time, so it must have been something like that. My Dad worked at Brandywine Lab, the Experimental Station at that time, when we moved to Silverside Road.

    Wagner: Do you have any old pictures or anything that you brought from Chicken Alley that you remember?

    Lyons: No. I have a lot of pictures that I've taken down there recently. My Dad, when he worked in Hagley Yard apparently had some pretty bad experiences; I guess most people did. I remember him talking about him having a nervous breakdown.

    Wagner: Oh really?

    Lyons: M—huh. And he worked in three different buildings where they moved him, and the next day they blew up and everyone was killed. And the third time, he was working in this building and apparently they moved him to another building, and they had an explosion in the first one in the afternoon and they didn't even know he was moved, so when my Mother went to the gate, he was reported killed at that time. That got to him I guess, because I remember him saying he had a nervous breakdown.

    I remember him telling that he would go out in the shed to get wood, and he could always see this one friend of his standing out in that wood shed, and that's when he was beginning to have his breakdown. Apparently the concussion used to kill a lot of people from the shock of the explosions. And he said this one fellow was standing against a tree eating a sandwich and it killed him standing up. And that sort of remained in his mind, and I guess all the other explosions, one right after the other — you know it's too bad I can't remember the men's names. There were three of them reported killed the day my Dad was, and I can't remember. I remember one was Hodges I think it was. I often heard Mother and Dad talk about it.

    Wagner: Then your father stayed with DuPont until he retired?

    Lyons: Oh yes. When Brandywine Lab eventually moved to Carney's Point and it became Burnside Lab before it moved I believe. And Dad came back and forth across the river to work. Then we moved over, I guess he got tired going back and forth. It used to be they could go to the Marine Terminal and go back and forth, and then that boat stopped running and they had to go to New Castle, from Silverside Road, and we were having a lot of snow and it would take him so long to get to work and he'd be so late getting home.

    Wagner: And he drove?

    Lyons: I think that they used to drive down — originally they used to drive down, and leave their cars, and then there was a bus came and picked them up at the ferry — from Carney's — the Carney's Point Lab ran — picked up employees.

    Wagner: Oh, picked up employees, but he drove from Silverside Road down to New Castle?

    Lyons: Oh yes. First at the Marine Terminal. They drove there for a long time because DuPont's had their own boat, used to come over to the Chambers Works. That was still operating when I went to work for DuPont. So my Dad - I grew up in DuPont. Whenever anybody asked me how long I worked, I say, "All my life." When I was four or five years old Dad used to take me to work with him, and he'd let me play in the lab and give me a typewriter and a stack of paper and I'd type for a while, you know. The draftsmen would give me paper and let me draw.

    Wagner: That sounds like a good time.

    Lyons: So I grew up in the lab, the DuPont Laboratories.

    Wagner: Do you remember any stories or family stories about your grandparents — your mother's aunts and uncles, do you remember any...

    Lyons: All of my relatives, Mother's relatives, worked for DuPont's, but [?] — now I have some relatives — my Mother's Uncle Johnny, his name was Andrews, he worked at DuPont, at the Experimental Station. He had 55 years of service, and he was a tinsmith, and then his son worked there — Herb Andrews. And Herb's two children, Eleanor and Roy Andrews both worked there. And Roy now is dead, and Eleanor lives in Florida. She retired about two ago. So the whole family worked there. My Dad's brother worked at the Brandywine Lab, and then over here at Burnside until he retired. He came up from North Carolina. His son works at the Experimental Station, still works there.

    [Dawn, Ms. Lyon's granddaughter]: It's a family affair.

    Lyons: My brother worked for the — in the powder before he was drafted in World War II.

    Wagner: Do you remember any other things that you did as a kid at Chicken Alley — you rode horses and you made your own golf course...

    Lyons: I would say sledding was one of the big things that I remember there because there were always so many hills. I can remember walking to the end of the car line too.

    Wagner: Now that's what I was going to ask you — do you remember the trolley at all?

    Lyons: I can remember walking to the end of the car line at Wagoner's Row. From the time I was very small, I guess before I was old enough to walk, my Mother used to push me there and leave my coach if she wanted to go in town, go in on the streetcar.

    Wagner: That's where it turned around? At Wagoner's — end of the route?

    Lyons: Yes, we walked down to the Brandywine and up the hill, are you familiar with where Dean's live?

    Wagner: Yes.

    Lyons: Through Dean's place and on to the end of the car line, we always cut through there. And if we were going down Henry Clay to visit anybody, we always went right down through the Hagley Yard, went across the old iron bridge that's still there, and down through Hagley. We walked a lot in those days.

    Wagner: Some of us do now.

    Lyons: I do, I walk about five or six miles a day now. [Tape is turned off briefly.]
  • Her neighbors in Chicken Alley; relatives who worked for DuPont Co. or du Pont family; description of her house and outbuildings in Chicken Alley; her father's enthusiasm for the outdoors; and her mother's routine for laundry
    Keywords: Brandywine Creek; Chicken Alley; Children--Conduct of life; Du Pont, Irénée, 1876-1963; Hobbies--Social aspects; Housekeeping; Hunting; Laird, W. W. (William Winder), 1910-1989; Laundry--Equipment and supplies; Lower Louviers (Rockland, Del. : Dwelling); Men--Social life and customs; Outbuildings
    Transcript: Wagner: It doesn't matter if it's haphazard, just tell us about what you know about the Buchanans, do you remember? What do you remember?

    Lyons: I remember the Buchanans from the time I can remember anything because Frank Buchanan was my Dad's best friend. And they had a son the same age as me, Bill Buchanan. Mr. Buchanan, Frank's father, worked for Mrs. Laird and Mr. Hughes also worked for Mrs. Laird, and they used to come up and do all the yard work around the mansion, where Chick Laird lives now. So, of course I was around there a lot. I played over there and they used to let me go inside when they were airing out the place, and I was familiar with all the Buchanans. And a lot of them still live around Wilmington. Bill's dead, Jim's still lives around Wilmington and is a football coach. Vada Buchanan is still living, but some of them I haven't stayed in contact with so I don't know.

    Wagner: Now you said the Laird house was empty when you were a child?

    Lyons: Yes.

    Wagner: And then Laird purchased it?

    Lyons: No, they owned it then.

    Wagner: Oh, they owned it all then, but they let it stand empty?

    Lyons: They let it stand empty. It was empty for all the years that I lived there, but they always maintained the yards and kept everything up. I don't believe that anyone lived there until Chick Laird was grown and married. And I don't know, but that may have been why we moved. I remember he was in college when I was just a little kid, but I don't remember whether he had gotten married and perhaps was going to move there. It may have been.

    The other people that lived in Chicken Alley when we did, one family was named Hearld, H—E—A-R—L—D, I believe. Then her daughter lived next door, and their name was Snyder. Before she was married there was a family named Pike that lived there, but I don't remember them very well.

    Wagner: Now we made mention of Mr. Keinbieter, and you said he was a friend of your father's?

    Lyons: Well I think that his people lived in Walker's Banks. So my Mother had always known him from the time she was a little kid too. And his wife, Catherine, was a real good friend of my Mother. In fact they always came over to see us a lot. I was going to tell you about some of the relatives and who they worked for.

    Wagner: Right.

    Lyons: And I said my Uncle Johnny, who's my great uncle, Johnny Andrews, his son worked at the Experimental Station and so did he and the son's wife was cook for Irenee du Pont for probably thirty—five, forty years, until she retired. And Eleanor Andrews Casey, granddaughter, worked at the Experimental Station for almost forty years, as did their son, Roy. He was about two years younger, so I don't know how much service he had when he died.

    My Dad's brother worked at Brandywine Lab, which then became Burnside, for close to forty years. And his son now works at the Experimental Station.

    Wagner: What about his son? How old is he?

    Lyons: Oh, his sons do not work — no, one's an attorney.

    Wagner: Okay (laughs). Let's see now — did you have, when you lived at Chicken Alley, do you recall having chores to do or was it - tell me what you do remember about Chicken Alley. What did the house look like?

    Lyons: Oh, I still love the houses there. Wish they would take all the white off them and take them right down to the stone that I know is about three feet deep, all those homes. But I always loved living there. I was small. I didn't know that there were a lot of inconveniences, such as my Mother having to pump water. But I guess in those days that wasn't inconvenient to a lot of people. It probably was to her 'cause her grandmother had steam heat and bathrooms and running water, so it probably was to her when she got married.

    Wagner: Where was the pump?

    Lyons: Outside in a well house, they called it a well house.

    Wagner: Did each house have a pump?

    Lyons: No, they all came to our end where the...

    Wagner: You were in the end house?

    Lyons: We were in the end house and everybody came to that end, got the water. There's a path in front of the three houses. Each one had a — each house had a little porch with steps going down from the front and then the end house also had one going out from the back with a back porch. When you looked out the windows, the windows were the real deep ones, when you have thick walls you have deep windowsills, and when you looked out back, you were actually looking at a hill and straight up, practically looking at the ground as you look down and into a woods. Everything was wooded and still is there. It's very much the same as it always was.

    Wagner: How many rooms on the first floor?

    Lyons: One, two, three rooms on the first floor, plus a very small room that my Dad used as a den. My Dad was a real wildlife fan, and he always had a den with a lot of stuffed animals and snakes in alcohol and everybody for miles around came to look at all the stuff he had. He always had a lot of guns, did a lot of hunting. He always had coon dogs, did a lot of raccoon hunting. He was versatile.

    Wagner: Where did you keep your dogs, outside?

    Lyons: Outside — Daddy had built dog houses and he had them fenced in, and at one time I remember he had seventeen.

    Wagner: Oh my goodness.

    Lyons: And there were always crowds of people coming and going hunting with him and he liked - my Dad knew everybody and he was the same way after we moved to New Jersey. It was no time until he knew everyone. There would be ten or twelve people riding horseback with him, and he would invite them all in for dinner. I still don't understand how my Mother did it.

    Wagner: That's the truth, we think...

    Lyons: And she didn't know it most of the time. On Sunday you always had a big roast or ham or something like that. But when I was a kid, that's one thing I always remembered. Anybody that was around, my Dad brought them in for dinner. He liked to fox hunt and he liked to ride ordinary horses, he liked to [?] and everything. He didn't like to fish. I always loved to fish, I used to go fishing with my uncle a lot, and my Dad never did.

    Wagner: Oops, this is a busy place. (Tape recorder turned off and then back on.) Do you remember anything about the upstairs of the house? How many rooms upstairs?

    Lyons: Two.

    Wagner: Just two?

    Lyons: M—huh, and I remember it was one of those old time stairs that the first steps, three steps are turned and then you go straight up a pair of stairs. And as I remember, they were fairly good—sized rooms, but there were only two. There was not an indoor bathroom, outdoor bathroom (laughs).

    Wagner: That was my next question. What about bathing — showers, bathtub?

    Lyons: No, there weren't any showers because I remember Mother always put me in a tub when I was a kid.

    Wagner: Okay. Did you have a shed attached to the house? I was thinking summer kitchen or storage.

    Lyons: Yes, we did have a summer kitchen. I guess our regular kitchen was like a kitchen and a dining room because I can remember a round oak table. There was a fireplace in the living room, but there was a cook stove in this kitchen—dining room. And out in the other summer kitchen, there was, I believe, a kerosene stove. And then there was a back porch that ran along the back of the house. On that end I think they've now built a fairly large addition, two—story addition.

    Wagner: What about — how did your mom do the laundry? You couldn't just...

    Lyons: She did her washing on — it seems to me that she washed things on a scrub board into the tubs, and had to carry all the water. And I remember a big copper boiler that sells, they sell for a fortune now, that everybody boiled their clothes in. But she must have used that summer kitchen all winter because she always put that copper boiler out there to heat the water on the kerosene stove.

    Wagner: Where did she hang her clothes?

    Lyons: In the back yard, which you had acres so (laughs) [crosstalk]

    Wagner: She did have clotheslines strung...

    Lyons: Oh yes, she had clotheslines...

    Wagner: Didn't put them over the fence or...

    Lyons: Clotheslines and clothes props.

    Wagner: Okay. And you hung them out in all kinds of weather?

    Lyons: She hung them out. And winter, summer, anytime, she hung them out, all types of weather, and she washed on Monday and ironed on Tuesday.

    Wagner: Did you have electricity?

    Lyons: Yes.

    Wagner: Then she could just plug in the iron and iron on Tuesday.

    Lyons: Now maybe she didn't when I was a little girl, I don't remember that. And you asked me about chores and I never had any, I was very spoiled. I'm serious; I can even remember when after we moved to Silverside Road, I'd be sitting on the steps waiting — the other kids' houses waiting for them to come out because they had chores after school, I never had anything to do. I really believe my Mother was the type that didn't want a kid messing in her stuff (laughs).

    Wagner: She'd rather do it herself.

    Lyons: She'd do it herself.
  • The family automobiles; the Lairds maintaining Chicken Alley; her parents canning, gardening, playing cards, and homebrewing; household furniture; description of her mother
    Keywords: Automobiles; Brewing; Canning and preserving; Families--Social life and customs; Family vacations; Furniture; Married people--Social life and customs; Mohair; Playing cards; Rental housing--Maintenance and repair
    Transcript: Wagner: Your dad didn't — did he drive to work every — well we determined that he had to go to the Marine Terminal...

    Lyons: My Dad, apparently, walked to work when he worked in Hagley because we lived in Walker's Banks.

    Wagner: Right.

    Lyons: And I think he still walked when we moved to Chicken Alley and he was working in the lab, which was probably - it would probably be about a good three mile walk I would say, because he probably went down and went through Hagley Yard. But then he got a car when I was quite small, I was only about five.

    Wagner: Do you remember it?

    Lyons: Yeah, I sure do, it was Mrs. Laird's Cadillac (laughs). Seven passenger.

    Wagner: Seven - that's nice.

    Lyons: Yeah, I can remember that. It had been Mrs. Laird's and he bought it when she was — from her when she got ready to sell it. And then the next one we had, I think, was a Buick that was Mrs. Laird's. He must have had some kind of an agreement with Mrs. Laird that when — she owned the house you know — and my Dad talked to everybody. It didn't make any difference if it was a beggar on the street or Mr. du Pont, he treated everybody like - that's my friend. My Mother was not that social, but my Dad was. So Dad, the second car, I think, was a Buick. And I remember that and I remember an Oakland. And they were always — anyone that we ever had, we never had a car that you roll up the windows. They were always the ones that the tops went down, touring cars.

    Wagner: Oh, yeah.

    Lyons: That's the only kind he ever wanted. We used to take trips to North Carolina...

    Wagner: You'd have to hustle when it rains.

    Lyons: We used to take trips to North Carolina when I was a kid and we always went in November because that was hunting season, that's why he went. And you'd get part way down and it would start to rain, had to put all the curtains — go a little bit further, and get further south and it would get hot, take the curtains off, it was too hot. (laughs) Oh, that was a pain.

    Wagner: Whereabouts in Carolina?

    Lyons: He lived in Gold Hill, North Carolina. I still have many relatives down there.

    Wagner: Great — do you go down?

    Lyons: No, I'm ashamed of myself. I don't really go down, and I should.

    Wagner: Next question is, well you said you don't have any chores — caring for livestock - your folks didn't keep chickens or - just the dogs?

    Lyons: Yeah, the hunting dogs.

    Wagner: And you said a couple horses?

    Lyons: No, we didn't have any livestock.

    Wagner: Do you remember any — now Chicken Alley, those houses belonged to the DuPont Company, right?

    Lyons: They belonged to Mrs. Laird when I lived there.

    Wagner: Alright, okay. And they maintained the house, if anything went wrong, you'd call them to — say the shingles fell off, the Lairds would take care of repairs?

    Lyons: I would imagine, yes, because they always had people - they even kept the woods all in that area cleaned out, all the underbrush and everything was always very well kept. Lammot du Pont lived down at the other end of the woods, and I can remember he always cut wood for exercise. That's what he did every Sunday, you could hear him all day. And then he stacked it all through the woods in piles, and he would go on to the next place and cut some more wood for exercise.

    Wagner: You said the house had a fireplace, you all burned wood in the fireplace?

    Lyons: M—huh.

    Wagner: And you cooked with wood?

    Lyons: Mr. du Pont...

    Wagner: ...that Mr. du Pont had chopped, right? And you used wood in the cook stove, or did you use coal, do you remember?

    Lyons: I don't remember.

    Wagner: Do you remember canning or did your mom put up things?

    Lyons: Oh I remember my mother canned all the time, yes. She used to can fruits, make all kinds of jelly.

    Wagner: Did you have a garden?

    Lyons: My dad had a garden. I think all the people that lived there in those three houses had a garden. There's a wall, the street runs in front of the houses and then a wall and the garden was down below that. Yes, she used to can a lot.

    Wagner: Then you didn't have to go weed the garden?

    Lyons: No, I never weeded the garden. I used to help pick stuff sometimes. I remember picking blackberries, but that was fun, you know. Mother used to make blackberry jelly and elderberry jelly.

    Wagner: Do you remember things like fairs or carnivals or...

    Lyons: I don't remember them ever having any when I was young — the first ones I remember was when Talleyville Fire Company started having...

    Wagner: That's up Silverside Road, that's our...

    Lyons: Yes. I don't remember them having any fairs and things like that. People entertained themselves at home, and with their neighbors — playing cards. I know my Mother and Dad played cards. That's why I don't like to play cards today, they made me learn how to play when I was real little. And I had to fill in if there weren't enough people.

    But every Friday, I know they used to go to someone's house or someone would come to their house and there would be, maybe four couples, they would play cards when I was real little. They used to make home brew too.

    Wagner: Do you remember how they went about that, or no?

    Lyons: I can remember they used to set it in a crock, I don't know whether they call it mash or not, but they make the beer from, and I can remember they had to let it set a certain length of time in bottling it. I can remember them having a home bottler, putting the caps on it. And Mother used to make homemade root beer. I think everybody used to make home brew and wine. When I was a little kid, everybody that I knew did. You couldn't buy any (laughs).

    Wagner: No, that's right. Maybe that's what they did out in the back shed, huh, or was that in the cellar? Did you have a cellar in the house — in the Chicken Alley house?

    Lyons: We must have because I can remember cellar doors. The kind that lift up.

    Wagner: Do you remember the furniture that you had in the Chicken Alley house? 'Course you took it with you when you went to Silverside Road, do you remember any...

    Lyons: I remember a round oak table like everybody is crazy about today and chairs, and we had — when I was real little, it seems to me that we had wicker furniture in the living room with, like cretonne covers. And then I remember we got mohair. It's funny how you remember these things. I remember that first mohair furniture we had, two pieces were a real dark red and other piece was a dark blue.

    Wagner: And it sticks on the backs of your legs when you were sitting. It was sticky.

    Lyons: It wasn't like the velvet stuff. And it also, I remember Mother had a rug that looked sort of like an Oriental rug and it had Japanese lanterns in it. And they used to calcimine the walls — did you know that?

    Wagner: Well, whitewash — isn't that the same as calcimine?

    Lyons: No. Calcimine was colored, went on something like whitewash, only it was about ten shades deeper when it was wet, then it dried light. Mother had the living room done all rose. And she used to do a lot herself too.

    Wagner: Oh she did?

    Lyons: Yes she did.

    Wagner: She must have been energetic.

    Lyons: Well she used to work from early in the morning until late at night, and loved housework, I hate it (crosstalk). Dawn remembers my Mother very well.

    Wagner: Oh she does?

    Lyons: My Mother was lucky — let me see, my mother's been dead for five years, so you were fifteen and...

    Wagner: Oh then you do remember her.

    Lyons: And Dirk was seventeen, my grandson, when my Mother died, so she was lucky, she saw her great—grandchildren grow up.

    Wagner: How nice, and she was a ball of fire?

    Lyons: Oh, she was spirited (laughter).

    Wagner: Oh, spirited, huh.

    Lyons: She was also vain, boy she used to hate it when she had to start wearing lower heels. And one time, she was getting so she was unsure of herself sometimes walking, [and she wasn't even?] sick by then and my son wanted her to get a cane out for her. Boy she was mad, she wasn't even about to take hold of that cane, and she didn't either (laughs). She wouldn't do it.

    And she loved to shop until the day she died just about - wanted to go shopping. Always dressed very modern, always had her hair done every week.

    Wagner: Bless her, I think that's nifty.
  • Closets and cabinets in house on Chicken Alley; her elementary education; home delivery of groceries; her mother's cooking
    Keywords: Alfred I. du Pont School; Baking; Cabinetwork; Clothes closets; Cooking; delivery men; Delivery of goods; Dumplings; DuPont Duco paint; one-room schools; Pies; Rice puddings; Rockland School; Rural schools; Silverside Road; Talleyville
    Transcript: Wagner: In the Chicken Alley house, do you remember whether you had closets, did they have closets, or did you just hang things over the...

    Lyons: No, there were closets because I remember they had those kind of hooks that you lift up, they have like a piece that goes across and drops into a — in real old houses, when you lift it up — there's a thing comes out like this, and a piece goes across like that, and as you raise this up, it lifts that latch up, drops down.

    [Dawn, Ms. Lyon's granddaughter]: Yeah, Mama's got those in her house.

    Lyons: Has she — and that's what — there was a closet in each bedroom upstairs like that. And downstairs, I wish I could remember what they used to call them, 'cause I've been trying to think for two years. Everybody had built-in cabinets, in those days, that were built in with cabinets up top and cabinets down bottom and what'd they call the counter that went across? It's just like you have today except they were all wood and they were built in all the houses, and I can't remember what they called those counters, I've been trying and trying to think of it.

    Wagner: Got me (laughs).

    Lyons: They've actually have gone back, except they have more cabinets today, to having the same kind of cabinets that people had, I guess that house must have been a hundred years old, and you always had cabinets down here with shelves in them, and then you had like a countertop, except that's not what they called them, and you had cabinets up top. Sometimes they were all wooden doors and sometimes they had glass in them, but they were built and connected right to your wall. I have to ask that question of someone that used to live in houses like that and see if they can remember, I can't remember. I was trying to tell someone about it before, and they were talking about how they were going to have their kitchen remodeled, and I said that's exactly what we had when I was a kid, and then everybody got very modern and they tore all that stuff out, you know, and had everything that you brought in and sat in the house.

    My Mother used to paint — I was just talking about her last week, she used to paint our kitchen set. Every spring and fall, I think, she would have it a different color, and she would do it in that DuPont Duco that really had a nice finish on it, you know, and she would paint that and trim it, she used to do that kind of stuff (laughs).

    Wagner: You were talking about going to school — you walked to school, right?

    Lyons: I walked to school. Let me see, I started the first grade at Rockland School, so actually I only went two years there, there were six grades, three grades in each room, but I skipped — then they put you — they put three grades in one room, and you didn't have anything to do, so you might as well learn what the other kids are learning, so I just skipped the third one. (crosstalk) When I went to Alfred I., they built Alfred I. du Pont School up in Talleyville, so I went from the second grade to fourth, and started in the fourth.

    Wagner: Now when you moved out Silverside Road, that was out in the country, right? What kind of transportation — well, your Dad had the car by then?

    Oh, long time before, because he had a car before I started school. But do you know where the gate houses are, going down Chicken Alley? Well when I started Alfred I. school, I used to walk to the gate houses and the bus came there and picked us up, and took us to Talleyville.

    So I went there until I was in the sixth grade and we lived in Chicken Alley until then. And when we moved to Silverside Road, there was a one—room school that was down about 200 feet below our house on Silverside Road that was still going strong. So I was in that district and they made me quit Alfred I. school and go to that one-room school for the rest of that year. And that was like the last three months of my sixth grade. Then in September I went back to Alfred I. again, bus came up there.

    Wagner: I was thinking, that'd be really out in the sticks at that time.

    Lyons: Oh, it was.

    Wagner: You know what Silverside Road looks...

    Lyons: I certainly wish I had bought it, all that ground where we lived.

    Wagner: That's the truth.

    Lyons: I think it was $4,000 they wanted to sell that house to my Dad where we lived — several acres of ground and he decided to move to New Jersey. But it was only $4,000—$4,500; it was a lot of money in those days too.

    Wagner: Well, yeah, it's a matter of comparison.

    Lyons: A lot of times the Bond Baker used to pick me up to catch the school bus.

    Wagner: Oh really?

    Lyons: He used to come very early in the morning, and if it was cold or something, he'd say to my Mother, "Hurry up and send that one out and I'll take her up and she can stay at the gate houses until the bus comes." And if my hair wasn't curled, then the lady that lived in the gate house would curl my hair when I got there (laughter). But the Bond Baker used to do that a lot, pick me up.

    Wagner: Well the younger generation doesn't remember the bread man or the milkman or the people that came door.

    Lyons: That was a wonderful thing, I'll tell you, when you had a huckster, and the bread man. Everybody came to the door and he came in with a great big basket, and he had all this good stuff and you could choose.

    Wagner: Get what you wanted, and the milkman delivered.

    Lyons: You called your store order in and they brought to you.

    Wagner: They brought it to the house. Even would come in and leave it on the kitchen table; you weren't afraid to leave the door unlocked.

    Lyons: And when we moved to Silverside Road, there was a butcher that came there, his name was Raymond Wilson, and I just saw this summer in the paper where he died. And he had this great big blue refrigerated truck, and he came every Wednesday and Saturday, I think it was, and he had a meat slicer on there and sliced lunch meat. And my Mother always bought all — he raised most of his own meat. My Mother always bought her meat from him. He would come there and she'd go out and he'd cut her a roast or whatever she'd want. Pulled right in her driveway, just as clean as could be.

    Wagner: That's right. Was your Mom a good cook?

    Lyons: Wonderful.

    Wagner: What were some of the family favorites?

    Dawn: Rice pudding.

    Wagner: Rice pudding.

    Lyons: That's right, I still have my Mother's recipe for rice pudding and I think it was my grandmother's before that, or her grandmother's. One thing my Mother always made a lot of when I was a kid was lemon meringue pies, every Sunday morning she used to make lemon meringue pies and a big two—layer cake, iced half in chocolate and half in white. My Dad liked vanilla and we liked chocolate.

    My Mother was a very good cook, she cooked all the time. She made probably the best chicken and dumplings in the world. And I'd say that I can make them just like her (laughs). That's the one thing I can really make too.

    Wagner: Did she make slippery dumplings or the puff dumplings?

    Lyons: She made slippery dumplings, but she made them a completely different way than any I've ever had that anybody else makes. And Mrs. Hearld, who lived in the other house, taught me Mother how to make them. She always used the chicken broth to mix the flour, never used any shortening, just the chicken broth the stewing chicken had been cooked in, and that provided enough shortening with all the yellow grease come out of there, and it also puts the flavor right through the dumpling. And she'd roll them out real thin, cut them in squares.

    [Some noise on the tape]

    Wagner: That's just the paper or something.

    Lyons: I think it must be the Sampler because I don't give any - or else the woman upstairs bringing her groceries in.
  • Family religious background; childhood clothing; the family's pet fox terrier; Christmas and Halloween
    Keywords: Children's clothing; Christmas; Christmas cooking; Dr. Denton pajamas; Families--Religious life; Families--Social life and customs; Fox terriers; Halloween; Pets
    Transcript: Wagner: I'm just checking on my little machine to make sure it's still going. Let's see - did you say Grace before meals — what was your church affiliation?

    Lyons: You're getting into a complicated situation.

    Wagner: Okay.

    Lyons: My mother was from an old strict Catholic family; my dad was Protestant and my Mother married my Dad and so therefore my great—grandmother always said they were never married 'cause they weren't married in the church. So we didn't say Grace at the table.

    Wagner: Did your Mom stick with her church?

    Lyons: Yes, she still went to the Catholic church up until the time she died.

    Wagner: And you children weren't raised Catholic?

    Lyons: No, we weren't raised really either one. I'm an Episcopalian.

    Wagner: Good compromise, huh?

    Lyons: Yes, I went to the Episcopal church and joined myself — I'm the only one in the family (laughs) that's an Episcopalian.

    Wagner: Do you remember any of the clothes you wore when you were a child?

    Lyons: Yes. I always had very pretty clothing. My mother used to have lot of dresses made for me, and they were always smocked, I remember they were always smocked across the top. And I always wore pinafores over my dresses, probably because I got dirty. From the time I was very, very young, the words I remember most was, "Why can't you stay clean like your brother?" (laughter)

    Wagner: What about stockings, did you wear stockings or — you didn't wear Bobby sox I know.

    Lyons: No, not until I got in like the fourth or fifth grade. I wore stockings when I was little, but I did not wear long underwear. Lot of kids did, because I can remember the lumps (laughs) their legs trying to get the stockings up over the long underwear. My Brother wore knickers, boys always wore caps, you know, with the peak, like are becoming very popular again.

    Wagner: Right. What kind of shoes did you wear?

    Lyons: Buster Brown oxfords, and Mary Janes for good.

    Wagner: Okay, what color were your Buster Browns?

    Lyons: Brown.

    Wagner: What kind of nightshirts did you wear?

    Lyons: I wore pajamas.

    Wagner: What kind of bathing suits...

    Lyons: I wore Dr. Dentons.

    Wagner: Did you — with the feet and everything?

    Lyons: With the feet. Even when I lived in Chicken Alley, I remember that, wearing Dr. Dentons.

    Wagner: What kind of bathing suits did you wear - do you remember?

    Lyons: Wool. But the first bathing suit I even remember having had navy blue short trunks and a red top and a white belt, first bathing suit I can remember having.

    Wagner: And the wool - as the summer went on, it got snugger and snugger, the water would...

    Lyons: Dried very quickly though.

    Wagner: You didn't have any pets, but your Dad had the dogs?

    Lyons: Oh no, we always had a pet dog too.

    Wagner: You had a pet?

    Lyons: I had a fox terrier when I was a kid. He was given to us by fellows who used to be tree surgeons and worked over at Dean's. The du Ponts were forever having the trees fixed because they had extensive lawns and everything. And they kept a crew working there, seemed to me when I was a kid they were there practically all the time. I believe it was Bartlett Tree trimmers, aren't there still Bartlett...

    Wagner: Oh, there are still Bartlett.

    Lyons: They're still in business, I believe. Well they had this fox terrier, and my Dad became very friendly with one of the fellows who was a tree surgeon and he used to go hunting with Dad. So he brought this fox terrier and gave him to us. And every day he used to go to work with him. That was a big joke in our family, because you'd get up in the morning and he had a cup without a handle that Mother would give him a cup of coffee, and he would have a cup, and the fox terrier would drink that coffee, and he'd go out the back door and he'd go right across the Brandywine - go down a hill, across the bridge at Brandywine, right up to Dean's where they were working, and at lunch time they took him with them to have lunch, and he didn't come back until 4:30 when they went home. He went to work every day.

    Mother would sit that — he liked his coffee with cream and sugar - Mother would sit that cup down and tease him, just black and he's walk over and he'd look at that and smell it and walk away and be really mad about it. As soon as she put the cream and sugar in it, he'd drink it and go right out the back door. He always looked like the one on the RCA.

    Wagner: Did your Dad, or your Mother, were they joiners, did they belong to clubs?

    Lyons: No, neither one.

    Wagner: No sewing circle for your mom?

    Lyons: No — she used to play in a card club, when we lived in Chicken Alley, with some ladies. But she didn't belong to any sewing clubs, she wouldn't have any way to get to one I don't imagine. She didn't drive.

    Wagner: And you said...

    Lyons: My Dad always had a host of people coming in and out all the time, but I never remember him belonging to any clubs. I don't remember there being many clubs other than like the Masonic Lodge or something, when I was a kid.

    Wagner: What about congregating in local taverns or tap rooms, they congregated at your house, huh?

    Lyons: There weren't any that I can remember, because there was Prohibition.

    [End of Tape 1, Side A]

    Wagner: ...remember Christmas when you were young?

    Lyons: Yes, much the same as it is now other than you didn't have the money to buy things. Most things were made in those days, but we always had a Christmas tree and I always had toys. I remember there was a man who, I believe he worked for Alfred I. du Pont, but he used to board with Mrs. Hearld and he used to always give me a great big doll every Christmas and he always gave my brother a sled or a wagon. His name was Webster. But my mother always baked a lot of cookies.

    Wagner: Well if you had a houseful of people...

    Lyons: Filled dates and made all kinds of cakes and things for Christmas. And we always had a lot of company for Christmas.

    Wagner: What about picnics, do you recall picnics? Were you much for picnicking?

    Lyons: No we weren't.

    Wagner: Halloween, did you get dressed up on Halloween?

    Lyons: M-hum, used to go down Rockland, was the only place I had to go, you had to walk a long way in those days to go anyplace. Now I went to school with kids in Rockland.

    Wagner: So you did trick and treat?

    Lyons: Oh yes.
  • Renting from Mrs. Laird; taking the trolley and going shopping; deliverymen and doctors; her parents' ethnic background; writing down her mother's recipes
    Keywords: Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company; clothes shopping; Crosby & Hill; Department stores; Ethnicity; ice delivery; Kennards; Medicine, Rural; Physicians; Recipes; Street-railroads
    Transcript: Wagner: Do you remember any house being built or torn out — well you said the Lairds - you think maybe the Lairds renovated the Chicken Alley houses — you think, you're not quite sure?

    Lyons: Well, I'm quite sure that they did because I know they owned them. That's who we paid our rent to, was Mrs. Laird. And then when we moved from there, and Chick got married and moved into the big house, and I'm sure that people who worked for him moved into those houses.

    Wagner: Okay — was Breck's Mill — Breck's Mill was in existence. Do you recall anything about Breck's Mill?

    Lyons: I don't remember any activities there.

    Wagner: You said your Dad had — you heard, you recall him having almost a nervous breakdown from mill work?

    Lyons: And he did have a nervous breakdown. I think he didn't — he wasn't able to work for about six months.

    Wagner: Now he was retained by the Company, or he was given a leave of absence, right?

    Lyons: I don't know because I was too little to remember. That was before I was born, and I just heard them talk about it in front of me.

    Wagner: Streetcars — you said the streetcars, do you remember...

    Lyons: I remember streetcars ran along the Brandywine.

    Wagner: That's what I wanted you to say - and they went up the hill where — where did they turn up the Hill?

    Lyons: I think they went up Barley Mill, and then went on out to the end of the car line at Wagoner's Row.

    Wagner: Alright, backtracking, where did you get the car, do you remember where the car started in town before it came out?

    Lyons: Oh no, because we always got it on Market Street.

    Wagner: And you rode the whole way down, so you wouldn't remember?

    Lyons: I guess the streetcars used to even run to Brandywine Springs.

    Lyons: Yeah, they did at one time, yeah. Were there any trains operating, was there a train?

    Lyons: Yes, the train went right there below my Grandmother's house, across Rising Sun Lane, across Breck's Lane. I think the tracks are still there.

    Wagner: Yes, this wasn't just the Company train, this was a...

    Lyons: Oh no, no. That train ran — I can remember when that train ran when I was a kid. I played up at the B. & O.

    Wagner: I have to go back and look at the old maps, but I don't - I can't remember.

    Lyons: I believe that was the B. & 0., but I am not positive, but that train ran when I was fairly good size.

    Wagner: And you said your mom was a great shopper. She had to go into Wilmington to shop, or did she buy from the Sears catalog?

    Lyons: No, I don't ever remember her buying from catalogs, she had to go in town to shop.

    Wagner: Do you remember any store names?

    Lyons: Crosby & Hill, I remember her going to Crosby & Hill a lot, and Kennards of course, was always there. And there used to be a store that she used to buy me clothes, it was on King Street, and it was a children's shop, but you know I can't remember the name of it. I remember it was a nice store and it was probably up around 8th Street. You know it's right on the tip of my tongue. I can't remember, but I know that's where she used to buy my clothes and I know she used to shop in Crosby and Hill a lot and always bought my shoes at Buster Brown which I believe was around 4th and Market.

    Wagner: Where did she grocery shop?

    Lyons: Pete Gregg used to deliver the groceries when I was a little kid. He came and took the order and then came back and brought the groceries, because we didn't have a phone. And then later on when my dad had a car and used to take her shopping, she always went downtown, King Street.

    Wagner: And what kind of peddlers came door to door — you talked about the butcher who used to come.

    Lyons: Not down Chicken Alley.

    Wagner: That was up Silverside.

    Lyons: The only peddlers that came there, you would have a huckster came once a week. And there were two bakers — the Bond Baker and then the other was an Italian baker and I don't remember the name of the company. They used to have a lot of fancy Italian pastries; they came down there when I was small. I don't know of any other peddlers.

    Wagner: How about an ice box, did you have an ice box?

    Lyons: Oh, the ice man came. Yes, we had an ice box, and the milkman.

    Wagner: And the sign you put in the window for the ice man — 5 — 10 — 25 — 30 pound sign?

    Lyons: Yeah, you turned it around. And when we used - at school, when I went to Rockland School and the ice man used to come along there, we all used to hop on the back and give us all a piece of ice, and we'd wrap that up and suck the ice (laughs).

    Wagner: What about — suppose you got sick, which hospital, what hospital did you go to?

    Lyons: You didn't go to the hospital unless they thought you were gonna die.

    Wagner: What doctor was close by?

    Lyons: Dr. Butler was our doctor when I was a kid and he came in a car. Dr. Voss was the doctor that delivered me when I was born and I was born during a big snowstorm because my brother and Fred Hearld went up — the doctor couldn't get down there was so much snow, with his car, and they went up and brought him down the hill on a sled.

    Wagner: So you were delivered at home?

    Lyons: Yeah - Walker's Banks.

    Wagner: That was the custom, most people delivered at home?

    Lyons: Oh yes. And the doctors always came to the house because you'd have to be dreadfully ill for anybody to go to the hospital. Or went to the hospital for an operation I guess.

    Wagner: When the end was in sight.

    Lyons: I remember my mother having to have her tonsils out when I was about four years old, and my brother had, his out at the same time. But other than that, I don't remember anybody ever being in the hospital. And when you got a cut or a scrape or anything on your hands, somebody put Mercurochrome and a patch on it and that was it. I have a big scar here on my arm. I was just telling my granddaughter about this recently. And my dad had the canoe turned upside down, he had painted it on wood horses, and I was climbing up on top of the canoe and I fell off and a rusty nail went in my arm. All they did was pour a little Mercurochrome or something on that and put a patch on it. Now you'd have to go get a tetanus shot.

    Wagner: That's the truth. What was your father's ethnic background, and your mother's ethnic background?

    Lyons: My mother was Irish and my dad was — his father's people were from England and his mother's people, as far back as I can trace, were born in America, for three or four or five generations.

    Wagner: So what was your parents' attitude towards work, well, your Dad liked his work?

    Lyons: M-huh, all his life.

    Wagner: And you say your Mom loved her work, housework?

    Lyons: Mother loved housework, that's right. Yes, I was thinking that I should have sent a recipe of my mother's in when...

    Wagner: The cookbook.

    Lyons: For the cookbook.

    Wagner: You should have - rice pudding would have...

    Lyons: Yeah, that was a good one. It's a type that not many people make. You make it on the top of the stove, and it's actually rice custard.

    Wagner: I'll bet it's that nice cream...

    Lyons: It is, real creamy. I make it a lot. She didn't have any recipes for anything. And I don't know how I had the foresight to do this, but about five years before she died, she was making something one day and I said, "Mother, tell me how to make that." And she'd always say, and she did this to me when I was a kid, she'd say, "I don't have any recipe, you'll just have to watch." So that day for some reason I was determined I was going to learn how to make whatever she was making. And I said, "Well you just put what you're going to put in that bowl and then I'm going to measure it." And every thing she put in there, I measured, and I did the same thing with rice custard. And that's how I learned to make her rice custard and her chicken and dumplings (laughs).

    Wagner: You must have written them down?

    Lyons: Yes, I have them written down now. Everybody has my mother's recipe for rice pudding anymore because everybody loved it so much, so I've just written it down for everybody.

    Wagner: Makes you wish you'd written more stuff down.

    Lyons: Mother loved to cook and she loved to make things pretty. Whenever she made puddings or anything, she always had a nice thick meringue on it and browned it, you know. Everything she made always looked so pretty, that makes it taste better too.

    Wagner: That's creative I think, dress it up.

    Lyons: And her cakes, she didn't have cake decorators or anything, but she always took the knife and made swirls in the icing, you know, always so pretty everything she did.

    Wagner: You don't have any old clothes you saved from — wished you did.

    Lyons: If I did, my granddaughter would have them, believe me, because she just loves the old clothes.
  • Her father as a Jack–of–all–trades; anecdotes of her neighbors along the Brandywine; other material details from her childhood; learning respect for others and property from her parents
    Keywords: Furniture; Haircutting; Neighbors; Newspapers; Practical jokes; Raincoats; Respect; Respect for persons; Toys; Trapshooting
    Transcript: Wagner: Now what position did your Dad rise to in the Company, was he...

    Lyons: My dad was just, he was a maintenance man when he left DuPont. He was really a jack...

    Wagner: Well they must have thought a lot of him because they did move him over here when they opened up.

    Lyons: He was a Jack of all trades. I can remember when I was a kid, Dad would be fixing things all around the lab. People worked differently in those days. If there was carpenter work to do, he'd do some of that, then he used to drive the truck for them a lot and then he was such a good shot that when they had somebody coming to show the powder, they had traps and clay pigeons, they got my dad to put on a performance on them. Because he could get like 21 out of 21. And they still did that when he worked in the mill. In fact he used to have his own trap, he used to shoot clay pigeons at home (laughs).

    Wagner: Do you remember any characters in the neighborhood. Do you know what I'm trying to say?

    Lyons: Yes, I know what you mean, but I don't know any...

    Wagner: You don't recall...

    Lyons: I don't remember any characters from - boy, it's a shame this didn't start when my mother was still alive, because she knew everybody around the Brandywine. And my Cousin Margaret does too, she knows a lot of characters.

    Wagner: Do you think she would talk to me, your cousin, if I would call her?

    Lyons: I'm sure she would. Because she still keeps track of everybody. Now like this Jack Rowe in this book, I said to her before I had seen the book, "Do you think that's one of the Rowe's from down the creek?" Because we knew Denny Rowe and Rose and a lot of the different ones down there. And she said, "I don't know, but..." I said, "It says he grew up along the Brandywine in the paper." And she said, "On the next street over," she lives in the Millcreek Trailer Park now, she says, "The next street over one of the Rowe's are living." So she said, "I'll just call him and ask him." So that's how we found out that this was Aloysius's son before we saw the book. So she's kept track of all these people and still sees them and talks to them. I know she knows every character that ever lived around there.

    Wagner: Yeah, okay.

    Lyons: Mother worked at Hudson Mill, apparently, before she and Dad were married.

    Wagner: Now what was that — textile?

    Lyons: That's a woolen — and things — I don't know what building that was. That must have been where that Walker's Mill is maybe. I don't know, but it was right there along the Brandywine near Walker's Banks. But Mother worked there, I don't know for how long, but I used to remember her talking about old Dan Hudson. Nobody seemed to like him, he was the one that ran the mill (laughs). And I always used to hear about, Bess Dock, and I always got the impression that she must have been a bootlegger (laughs). Never sure, because I was little you know, but I used to hear them talking about her. There used to be some man that lived down along there. I can't remember his name and I know Margaret would. Now I remember the Ferraro's and some of them. I think one of them just died, still lived in Walker's Banks, they were old, very old, just died a couple years ago. And I can remember them a little bit from Mother taking me down there after I had gotten older. And the Baldo's also lived — they lived on the end and we lived in the next house, and that was — did you know Anne Baldo?

    Wagner: No.

    Lyons: Charlie Baldo...

    Wagner: I just know of the name, I don't know any of them.

    Lyons: Charlie Baldo, in fact, worked over — I used to see him after I came to work over Chambers Works, and Mother was still friendly with his sister. She was about Mother's age, couple years younger, and she used to come over her to see Mother, stay for two or three days. But they lived next door to us and Mr. and Mrs. Baldo were from Italy, spoke very broken English, and Mother used to tell a lot of tales about him, different tricks. Bridge was covered in those days and the different tricks they used to pull on him to just make him mad.

    The fellows one time made this big dummy and they knew he went over to Jeff Blakeley's, I think was the name of the tap room, and the man that had the saloon, and this would have been before Prohibition. How can I remember that, I heard Mother talk about it so much, because I wasn't born. And he used to go over there apparently, and the young fellows knew he used to go over there and drink, and they made this dummy and they got up on top of the covered bridge and when they saw him coming about twelve o'clock, they dropped it down and he thought somebody dropped down out of there to rob him and he stabbed it. And Mother said the fellows were up there laughing like the devil and he was just stabbing and speaking Italian all the time (laughs).

    Wagner: I think that's funny.

    Lyons: Oh, my mother could tell hilarious things, different things that people did.

    Wagner: I'm going back to medical care. Home deliveries were the usual things, right? Did your Mother ever help other people with...

    Lyons: No, my mother would have fainted if somebody mentioned it to her.

    Wagner: Do you remember — that wasn't her — oh, that wasn't her thing?

    Lyons: That wasn't her thing.

    Wagner: Did you keep your doors locked or people just came in, you didn't have to worry, if someone took something, you'd know it was in the neighborhood?

    Lyons: I don't think anybody ever took anything, never heard anything about anybody taking anything.

    Wagner: Newspapers, did you get a newspaper?

    Lyons: Yes we did. We got the "Evening Journal", "Every Evening" or "Evening Journal" - there were two papers. Seems to me it was the "Every Evening" that we got, I'm not sure. I know that we always got an evening paper, and I believe that Dad brought it home, he bought it — probably a paperboy came around work. When I was real little he used to bring it home, and then my brother was a paper boy when he got a little older.

    Wagner: And you had a radio?

    Lyons: Yes, had a Victrola too, wind up, big square one.

    Wagner: What about hair cutting, curling? Your Mother took care of your hair?

    Lyons: My hair was curly.

    Wagner: Oh, you had...

    Lyons: Yeah, mine is still curly.

    Wagner: Yes, you're fortunate. What about your Dad going to the barber shop, where was the local barber shop?

    Lyons: I don't know, but my dad cut everybody else's hair. He was very good, he was never trained as a barber, but he was a very good barber and all the men that lived in the row, he always out their hair and people used to come, company used to come, you know, and they'd say, "Mack, how about cutting my hair while I'm here." And Dad always had the barber scissors and a regular comb and everything that he could cut hair. He apparently knew how to cut hair when he come up here from down south.

    And when I was little, of course, the women were wearing shingled, bobbed hair, and he used to do a lot of theirs. He used to do Mother's.

    Wagner: Did the ladies dye their hair, or was that just for ladies of the street?

    Lyons: I really don't know. Of course my Mother and everybody was young, they were young in those days, you know, and didn't have to dye their hair.

    Wagner: Did you have homemade toys or store bought toys? You said the one man used to give you a doll at Christmas.

    Lyons: I would say you had both toys from the store and - I was a great outdoors person. I was outside most of the time, but I don't remember having too many homemade toys.

    Wagner: Do you remember any ghost stories, were there any ghosts in Chicken Alley?

    Lyons: No.

    Wagner: Main object in your parlor, you had a separate parlor or living room, did you have a company living room?

    Lyons: No, we used to have a parlor, I guess it was maybe called a parlor in those days. I don't know, but we just had the one room like this.

    Wagner: Of course you said the big round table in the kitchen.

    Lyons: That was like kitchen—dining room. And then there was a back kitchen. And in the kitchen—dining room, everybody had a daybed, like a studio couch, only in those days they called it daybed. Everybody had one of those. And when you'd come home from school in the wintertime, you'd always put your feet in the oven of the cook stove (laughs). I remember that.

    Wagner: What about rainy days, you still walked to catch the bus or walked to school.

    Lyons: Oh yes.

    Wagner: Did they have raincoats like we do?

    Lyons: I had a slicker. You know the slickers they wear now?

    Wagner: Yeah, but...

    Lyons: The women wear?

    Wagner: Yeah.

    Lyons: Well that's what I had when I was a kid and it was a red, sort of a red slicker and it had a separate hat that was made like a southeast — southwester or whatever they call those — that's what I had. My brother had a helmet.

    Wagner: What was it made of?

    Lyons: I guess it was rubber because when they first started wearing these slickers that the girls are wearing now, I remember saying that I had one like this when I went to school (laughs).

    Wagner: The question is — what object in your house was considered the most beautiful — did you have any special object that your mother said, "I'll kill you if you break?"

    Lyons: I did know after we moved up there. I broke an antique grape dish. No, I don't ever remember her saying that.

    Wagner: What was the most important lesson your parents taught you?

    Lyons: It's hard to say the one that was most important. I think having respect for older people was a very important one that I am still impressed with because you see so few people show it anymore. And I remember the only lesson that I ever — kids weren't as bad — they were bad in a different way maybe — kids weren't as bad when I was a kid because parents didn't tolerate it. I mean you were only told one time, and my mother and father - my dad never slapped me in my life. Mother used to slap me once in awhile because I was spoiled but she'd slap me once in a while for things. But it never got to the point of where — you weren't allowed to have a complex. That would be ridiculous, I mean you had to have been a millionaire to have a complex in those days because this "terrible twos" and this that and the other, you just raised your kids right from the day. I think they just taught their kids respect and how to behave, and table manners. I was always very happy that my parents always taught me good table manners from the time I was real little. And I can remember them buying me a book when I was little, "Noisey Nora" about table manners and how you were always supposed to keep your mouth closed, use your napkin.

    And I learned one lesson one time about taking things that don't belong to you. And I don't know how old I was, but I even remember the coat I had on. I had a blue chinchilla coat and a tam on and I couldn't have been more than six years old, five, and we ran on King Street - Mother always went to Haldas...

    Wagner: Oh yeah, yeah.

    Lyons: Haldas and Blanding both, and on one side there was all this fruit, the fruit man used to be in the same store. It was always arranged real pretty. So while I was waiting for Mother to get the groceries, I just took a tangerine and put it in my pocket. And so we were walking down the street, after Mother got the groceries, and I was peeling it in my pocket and my dad said, "What are you doing?" I said, "Peeling this tangerine." He said, "Where did you get it?" I said, "I took it in that store back there." Well, by this time we were almost to the car, he walked me all the way back about four blocks and he goes in the store and he said, "Now tell that man what you did." I said, "I took this tangerine." He said, "That's all right, she can have it." Dad said, "No, she can't, she has to give this one back to you." So I gave it back to the man, told him I was sorry I had taken it. And he said, "Well, your wife buys groceries here all the time." And Dad said, "Yeah, but she's not supposed to take things." So after I learned my lesson, then he bought me a half a dozen and we went back to the car again (laughs). But I never took another thing in my whole life.

    Wagner: Right.
  • Final details including the water pump and her father's razor; her mother house cleaning; her great-grandmother's dirt pile in place of a root cellar; money and finances; her father deputized
    Keywords: Families--Finance; family meals; Food--Storage; Housekeeping; Laird, William W., Mrs., 1878-1938; Law enforcement; Razors; Sauerkraut; water pumps
    Transcript: Wagner: Well, that's about the end of my questions. Know of any events right off?

    Lyons: No, I don't know of anything I could add.

    Wagner: Back for a minute to the pump, you said the pump was up by the end house, then you were in the end house?

    Lyons: Yes.

    Wagner: Did it ever freeze over on a cold winter - did you ever have to, anybody have to unthaw the pump with hot water or prime the pump to get it started? Do you remember any — don't remember.

    Lyons: You know when you say "prime" it seems to me I remember my dad pouring hot water out of the tea kettle in that pump, but I couldn't swear to that, I just don't remember. I know it was a fairly big pump shed, well house my mother always called it, and she had benches in there that she could set her rinse tubs on, but I don't remember.

    I do remember my dad saying one time when they moved there, it had a sign on it - "Condemned" and he just took the tag, or sign and threw it away, and we drank it all the years we lived there, and so did everybody else (laughs).

    Wagner: What about garbage collection, what did you do with the garbage, was there a garbage pit or...

    Lyons: I have no idea.

    Wagner: Have no idea.

    Lyons: I don't ever remember seeing any garbage. They must have had a pit in the woods someplace, something and they'd bury it. Because I never remember - isn't that funny? I don't remember garbage cans or anything when I was little so I don't where they took it. And we didn't have any animals to eat it.

    Wagner: Of course you didn't have all the paper stuff that we have.

    Lyons: That's true, didn't have paper towels and napkins.

    Wagner: Or cardboard boxes. Rain barrel - didn't have a rain barrel. Iron beds, what kind of bedsteads did you - were they painted?

    Lyons: Yes. Nothing stood still that my mother didn't paint. If they'd been brass, they were probably brass and she painted them.

    Wagner: Did your dad have a straight razor?

    Lyons: Yes, shaved with it until the day he died.

    Wagner: And a cup and a brush?

    Wagner: And a razor strap. Piano?

    Lyons: No, no piano. Dad had a razor strop that he used to sharpen his razor on, and it was fastened — I thought it was on a nail. I learned in later life that it was, he had it fastened on the wall so you couldn't get it down, but all my mother had to do was go over and say, "Well, do you want me to get the razor strop?" And I did whatever she told me and I didn't realize that she couldn't get it off the wall (laughs).

    Wagner: That's a good thing. What about carpet beaters?

    Lyons: Yeah I remember my Mother beating carpets.

    Wagner: She'd take it outside?

    Lyons: Took it outside and hung it over the clothesline. They did the same thing with the mattresses 'cause there weren't inner springs.

    Wagner: Oh they did and just used the carpet beater on them?

    Lyons: My mother was a demon when it came to housecleaning, she used to tear that house apart from top to bottom — spring and fall.

    Wagner: It's not my favorite thing to do.

    Lyons: My house right now is dirty because my hand has been hurting all summer long, so I have a girl coming Friday, I got her a couple of times.

    Wagner: We talked about — your mother put up things. Did she ever make stuff like sauerkraut?

    Lyons: No, my Uncle Gene used to make sauerkraut. In fact Mother said that before he was married and still lived home with Grandmother - this would have been my Mother's uncle — and she said that her Grandfather and Uncle Gene used to make a barrel of sauerkraut. This fascinated me, I often talked to somebody around the corner about this — she said that they had this great big pile of dirt piled up out in the backyard. And this was when they lived right there in Henry Clay, her Grandmother, and the cabbage and everything was buried in that, and the turnips, and they would leave the root of the cabbage sticking out, and it apparently kept it from freezing, instead of having a root cellar and if Grandmom wanted a head of cabbage, she would just go out there and get the root and pull it out of that big pile. Now I don't know whether they put any straw or something else in there or not to keep it. But she said they would have turnips in there.

    Wagner: I guess the earth would keep it from freezing. You had electricity?

    Lyons: Yes.

    Wagner: I was thinking kerosene lamps — you don't remember kerosene lamps?

    Lyons: I don't remember them, but I'm sure that we had them because I remember Mother having two or three pretty ones. Probably they got electric, you know. I don't think there was electric when we moved there, but I was too young to know that.

    Wagner: Now your mother didn't make your clothes?

    Lyons: No.

    Wagner: And she was a good cook, and she baked bread, good cakes and good pies.

    Lyons: She used to bake grand bread all the time. She used to make biscuits too, because my dad liked biscuits...

    Wagner: An ice pick, you always had an ice pick?

    Lyons: Still have it. My son has it, the ice pick that we had when I was a kid.

    Wagner: Really? I think that's nice. That's about it on this list of questions.

    Lyons: Okay.

    Wagner: Oh, who handled the purse strings?

    Lyons: My dad, and gave my mother an allowance.

    Wagner: And then he did all the book work, he paid all the bills, or did your mother take the money in town to the...

    Lyons: We didn't have any bills.

    Wagner: Cash on the barrel head, right?

    Lyons: Yeah, the only bill we had would be the rent and Dad would pay Mrs. Laird herself, the rent. And our electric, now I don't know how they paid that. I don't remember, but you didn't owe any bills. Course you paid for your groceries when you got them — paid for everything we got. Didn't have charge plates.

    Wagner: Okay, I think that's — let me see - crime, you don't recall any policemen in the area, you didn't have to worry, you could go off and leave your door unlocked, you didn't have to worry?

    Lyons: Well my dad and this man that I said used to always buy my brother and I toys at Christmas time, they were special deputies. And I think Mrs. Laird had had them deputized. I had Dad's badge for a long time, and I wish I still had that. And I have the envelope, he used to be a great keeper of things, I have the envelope his first paycheck.

    Wagner: Oh, really?

    Lyons: I think the date is — the first pay check when he went to work at Brandywine Lab, and I think it's dated the month before I was born. Now he kept that all that time.

    Wagner: All that time — of course. I think I would too. The first one was most important. You don't recall any vigilante committees or posse...

    Lyons: Oh no, nothing there.

    Wagner: Did your dad keep the money in the bank or did you keep it in the sugar bowl on the shelf or...

    Lyons: I don't know where he kept it, but I know he didn't keep it in the bank, he kept it home.

    Wagner: Did he make any good investments?

    Lyons: No, but we were never hurting, I mean we were never wealthy, but we were never hurting and he never even lost his job during the Depression, he always had a job.

    Wagner: This question — how elaborate were the daily meals? You had a big dinner on Sunday?

    Lyons: Probably the most elaborate of anything that we had were our meals, because my mother could always put a nice meal out, and we always every night had some kind of meat or chicken and we always had potatoes and we always had some kind of vegetable, and we usually always had dessert. My dad was a big dessert eater, so we always had good meals from the time I remember.

    Now maybe if she could tell you back when she was a kid, maybe they didn't have as much as I did. I think they did, though, because her people always worked for the du Pont family, so I think they always had a good job. The du Pont family was very good to the whole State of Delaware as far as I'm concerned. They were very fair to me the whole time I was with the DuPont Company.

    Wagner: And you were with them 37 years?

    Lyons: Thirty-seven years. And would probably have been there a couple years longer but my husband got sick, he got cancer and died within five months and he wanted to retire, so I couldn't very well say I'm gonna take a leave of absence. That's what they wanted me to do at work, or he would have known that I knew he was gonna die, so I just retired too.

    Wagner: I think we've covered a lot of ground.

Digitized material in this online archive may document imagery or language that reflects racist, ableist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise offensive and harmful beliefs and actions in history. Hagley Library is engaged in ongoing efforts to address and responsibly present evidence of oppression and injustice in our collections. If you are concerned about the archival material presented here, or want to learn more about our ongoing work, please contact us at