Interview with C. Natalie Rogerro Meriggi, 1984 June 20 [audio]
- Evening routine during winter; lace and lace making; beds; Mother's hope chestKeywords: Beds; Evening routines; Hope chests; Italian folk life; Italian language; Lace; Lace making; Linens; Little Red Riding Hood; Newspapers (Progresso); Squirrel Run (Del. :Village); WinterTranscript: Bennett: And on the first tape, I think we were discussing dinner and sort of the end of the day, and now I'd like to know what you did in the evening in the wintertime. I know in the summer you said you would play outside; your dad would tend the garden. But what did you do when it was too cold outside? Did you play games in the evening?
Meriggi: We'd play for a while and then we were put to bed early – around nine o'clock. By time we got our dinner and mom would get her dishes done and everything, then all we did would be -- pop would sometimes tell us stories. And then we would be put to bed.
Bennett: Did your father -- what did he do in the evening after he had told you a story? Did he read the paper?
Meriggi: Well, he would help, I remember he would get the stove banked up for the night; he would get the coal and wood all set because he had to get up. He'd get up and get the fire banked so they could use it to get their meals ready.
Bennett: And did he read the newspaper then in the evening?
Meriggi: At times, yes, he read the newspaper.
Bennett: Did you have the newspaper delivered?
Bennett: Where did you get the paper?
Meriggi: I think dad used to get the newspaper that different people would bring it from in town. You know, I don't know if they sold it in Squirrel Run or not, but I know a lot of them have the paper but they would go pick it up from town.
Bennett: It was an English paper or an Italian paper?
Meriggi: No, an Italian paper called the Progresso.
Bennett: Then when it was time for you to go to bed, did you have a routine? Did you brush your teeth and comb your hair?
Meriggi: Yeah. Mom would wash us up and put our nighties on and then we'd go to bed.
Bennett: What kind of a nightie did you wear?
Meriggi: Well in the wintertime she had these heavy flannel nighties. But then in the summertime they were cloth but she made some of them for us. They would have like a little lace yoke and just plain cotton material.
Bennett: She made her lace in the evenings?
Meriggi: Oh, yes. She --
Bennett: Would you describe her lacemaking.
Meriggi: Well, her way of making, she had this Italian lace and their lace was always wide -- oh, I don't know how many inches wide it would be. Everything she'd make would be big lace on it. Her pillowcase, sheets, she'd make nightgowns with yokes, collars for her dresses.
Bennett: For your dresses, too?
Meriggi: And petticoats. She even made us petticoats out of eyelet material.
Bennett: And put lace on those?
Meriggi: And she'd put lace on them, too.
Bennett: She would do this mostly, the Italian lacemaking, mostly in the evening?
Meriggi: Yes. In the evening or anytime that she had spare time. Maybe in the summertime she would sit out on the porch. She embroidered. She made lace. She made sweaters.
Bennett: She was a busy lady, wasn't she?
Meriggi: Well, that's how they used it in Italy. They never sat around not doing anything. She said they thought that it was a waste of time not doing anything.
Bennett: When you were getting ready for bed, did you kiss your parents goodnight?
Meriggi: Yeah, we kissed our parents goodnight until we were -- oh, I guess maybe until we were about 12 or 13 years old.
Bennett: That's nice. Do you remember if you had an alarm clock?
Meriggi: Yes, we had alarm clock and we had the regular clock.
Bennett: Who set the alarm clock?
Bennett: When did you have like a goodnight story, or anything like that?
Meriggi: Well, they used to tell us the Little Red Riding Hood story in Italian. And there was a couple of them, but I forget them now.
Bennett: Would you describe your bed and your mattress for me andyour pillow.
Meriggi: Well, our pillows were stuffed with feathers; they were feather pillows. The mattress had a -- it was not a thick cotton mattress, but then on the cotton mattress she had a feather mattress. And that was as big as the mattress was but the only thing it was like a big pillow. It was like a big pillow. And then when you made the bed, you had to make sure that you got all no holes or anything in this mattress. You had to know how to work it with your hands to make it come out all smooth.
Bennett: How about a blanket? What kind of blankets did you have?
Meriggi: Oh, she had wool blankets. And quilts.
Bennett: Did you have a bedspread?
Meriggi: Oh, yes. Yes, she had bedspreads.
Bennett: Do you remember what it was made of?
Meriggi: Well, she had some -- it was like -- what would you call it --
Bennett: Would it have been linen?
Meriggi: No, it's like cotton -- real thick cotton. I had one It looked like it had --
Meriggi: No, no chenille. They were cotton, but then they had like a streak of silk in them. I don't know what you would call them. I've got one; want me to go down to get it?
Bennett: No, that's fine. No. No. I just wondered because she did so much.
Meriggi: Yeah. They had heavy ones and they had light ones. In the summertime they'd have the light ones. And then them days they had these bedspreads but then over their pillows they had a bolster. You know, you would put a fancy -- cover on top. I guess you call it a bolster. They didn't leave the pillows open. you had to put this over them.
Bennett: You showed me a very beautiful piece of handmade linen. Would you describe where your mother kept that? That's beautiful.
Meriggi: Well, this is still new. It has never been used and it's from my grandmother -- my father's mother had sent it over and this is a towel that they used. It has a fringe on it and they used it over a chair in the bedroom to decorate their chair. It's like a guest towel I guess over their chair. But then, they also used them for their use; you know, but they wouldn't have this fancy fringe on them; they would be plain. Rut this is material that my grandmother used to weave.
Bennett: It's beautiful; it really is.
Meriggi: I know mom, she had -- you know when they made them, she was single and she would have her single initial on them.
Bennett: For a hope chest?
Bennett: This would be used -- included in a hope chest?
Meriggi: Oh, yeah. They -- When they make a hope chest, they include everything in it -- towels, blankets, sheets, tablecloths -- anything in linen that would be used in a house. Aprons, anything -- like towels for dishes -- anything.
Bennett: And did your mother bring her hope chest with her?
Meriggi: No, she didn't.
Bennett: Why not?
Meriggi: Well, she was told that here in America you don't use them.
Bennett: Did she always use these then after she moved from Squirrel Run did she still use these beautiful linens.
Meriggi: Oh, yes. In her bedroom she used --
Bennett: Her whole lifetime?
Meriggi: Yeah. She always liked to see them around. liked -- She always--
Bennett: Like the doilies, I suppose?
- Family Christmas traditions; toys and games; buying ice for the family icebox; making wineKeywords: Christmas celebrations; Diamond Ice and Coal Company; Dolls; Epiphany celebrations; Grapes; Iceboxes; Italian folk life; Red wine; Santa Claus; The "Remage"; Toys and games; vinegar; White wine; Wine; Wine makingTranscript: Bennett: Let's talk about holidays. Would you tell me about Christmas?
Meriggi: Well, Christmas is the day -- it's the day for the church and then we have a big meal and well, my grandmother, in fact, it was such a day for Christmas in Italy that she wouldn't even wash dishes on Christmas. They had the big meal and all, but she wouldn't even wash dishes. But then they had this tradition -- We wouldn't exchange any presents. My mother would always make sure that we got new shoes or if we needed a new coat and make sure we got a new dress. Always got us new clothes for the holiday. And then at the 6th of January -- its the Epiphany and that's the time they used to tell us to go to bed early and if we're good, we would get fruit and nuts and things in our baskets. But if we were bad, we were going to get coal. So we had to be good.
Bennett: Where would the basket be placed?
Meriggi: Well, they either place it on the doorstep.
Bennett: Inside or outside?
Meriggi: Outside. Or otherwise sometimes they would put it on the roof of the porch upstairs.
Bennett: Well, it's almost like the Easter bunny -the same idea. And that wouldn't be Santa Claus, would it?
Meriggi: No. We called them the Remage.
Bennett: The who?
Meriggi: The Remage. They'll have to know how to spell it.
Voice: Starts with an R, huh?
Meriggi: Remage, yeah.
Bennett: The Christmas dinner, you said it was a big occasion. Did you have more courses or was it more of the fruits or desserts or --
Meriggi: Well, Christmas Eve is a fast day and then we would have all kinds of fish. It would be an all-fish dinner. That's a big meal. But Christmas day then we'd have another big meal and we'd have antipasto, we'd have soup, we'd have -- well, some people used macaroni, some people used different things, but we used it as ragout. Now that's rice with meat and sausage. And then we'd have like a roast – roast chicken, roast beef. And we'd have different meat that we made gravy like meat balls and pork chops. And then we'd have all different kinds of vegetables. We'd have tradition that we used a cabbage, it's called Italian sauerkraut. We'd have that and it has sausage in it. And we'd have celery. We'd have carrots -- all different kinds of vegetables. She'd have so much that then we'd eat the next day, too. And then we'd have fruits -- all different kinds of fruits -- figs, dates. And she would make maybe a custard. And, of course, we'd have the wine to drink. She'd have her raisin bread. She'd have all that stuff.
Bennett: Did you have company or was this just a family affair?
Meriggi: Just the family.
Bennett: Was there the custom of visiting in the neighborhood during the holidays?
Meriggi: Well, that I remember they did not use postal cards unless they had -- they would send mail out to their families and things like if they were in Europe. But the close friends, the men would go visit them on Christmas morning to wish the family a Merry Christmas. But then the ladies would visit during the week.
Bennett: Now when your father had a man come to visit your house, was he served wine?
Meriggi: Well, usually they used to come before lunch and they would be served maybe a shot or if they liked the anisette, or whatever they liked. It was more in liquor than wine. Now if they came after lunch, then they would get wine.
Bennett: What happened with the ladies? What were they served?
Meriggi: They were served -- mom had cake and she would serve them coffee.
Bennett: Now, at Epiphany -- and you got the gift, was there also special foods?
Meriggi: No. That was just the day -- you'd go to church, but it was just among us children, like that.
Bennett: Did you have Christmas presents?
Meriggi: No, we didn't start this tradition of Christmas presents until we were older -- until we left Squirrel Run when we got in town.
Bennett: You never got any toys?
Meriggi: Well, I did get a doll.
Bennett: Would you tell me the circumstances of how you came to get the doll?
Meriggi: Well, I got the doll because my sister had gotten one.
Bennett: When did she get hers?
Meriggi: I don't remember. I think it was on her birthday.
Bennett: When was her birthday?
Meriggi: November 10th. And so then I didn't have a doll so pop and mom figured I should have one, too. And they got me this doll and it was about 25 to 26 inches tall. It had dark curly hair, blue eyes -- I can picture it today -- and it was dressed really beautiful.
Bennett: What was it made of?
Meriggi: It was -- I think today it would be called a china doll.
Bennett: And where was it made, do you know?
Meriggi: In Germany.
Bennett: Beautiful dolls.
Meriggi: Yes, they made beautiful dolls.
Bennett: Did your mother make clothes for the doll?
Meriggi: Well, she did, but then she gave me the material and I used to chop them up and make the dresses.
Bennett: So, is that how you learned to sew?
Meriggi: I learned a little.
Bennett: She was teaching you and you were -Did the eyes of the doll open and close?
Bennett: How about the arms and the hands?
Meriggi: Yeah. They were like rubber, I guess. You could pull them. And the legs were the same way. You could sit the doll and you could stand it.
Bennett: How was the hair? Was it in curls?
Meriggi: Big curls.
Bennett: Did it have a hair bow?
Meriggi: Not that I can remember. It had a hat.
Bennett: It must have had a coat, then, too, I guess.
Meriggi: It must have been a bonnet. But I can't remember real good. I know the dress, I think it was like a flowered -- real dainty. Had a slip, panties.
Bennett: Did you have any other toys? Did your father ever make you anything?
Meriggi: Oh, yeah. Pop made me a wagon and a stool that I can remember. The wagon was all wood – wooden wheels -- all Wood -- heavy, too, and he used to ride my sister and I around in it. Then after we moved to Wilmington, then I used to ride my sister in it -- my youngest sister in it -- and I used to go buy ice in it - down at Diamond Ice. Diamond Ice and Coal Company there at Pennsylvania Avenue and Union.
Bennett: What else did your father make you?
Meriggi: Well, he made me a stool and that's the stool that I used to sit on and all and I used to watch him when he would be making the wine. And when he mashed wine, I would sit on the stool there and there was pop and mom. Mom and I used to help her pick the leaves out of the grapes if they had any. Because if the grape was mashed with the leaves the leaves did not let the wine come out good.
Bennett: Changes the flavor?
Meriggi: Either it changes the flavor, but it doesn't last long or something. But, I know it would do damage to the wine.
Bennett: Did your mother help in any other part of the wine making?
Meriggi: Well, yes. When pop mashed the grapes, he never got out. But he had -- I guess you would call it a ladle -- a great big one -- to me it looked like a pan with a long handle. And that's how he would pick up the grapes after it was mashed and he had a big funnel on the barrel and he picked itup out of the tub and handed it to mom and mom would pour it in the barrel.
Bennett: This was emptying the whole barrel and he was still standing in the barrel?
Meriggi: In the tub. See, he'd mash so much. When he got to a certain -- then he had so much of it mashed, then he'd start emptying it so he could put some more in to mash it.
Bennett: Now, Would that be the blending of the grapes?
Meriggi: That would be when they put it in the barrel to make it ferment.
Bennett: But when you said he put more grapes in, was that when you called it blending?
Meriggi: No. See, the tub only held so much. But he wouldn't let the tub get too high because he had to remove it after it was mashed to put some more in to mash. He only kept it down so low -- I forget now how many -- like he would mash several boxes. In fact, it used to come in baskets, not in boxes first. I remember now. It used to come in baskets and the baskets had the lids on it. They used to go by pounds but I forget how many pounds. I know the boxes I think they came about 30 pounds to a box. But I forget the baskets. The basket was about this long. Probably about so high in the barrel -- that was probably the more important thing would be the depth of the grapes in the barrel.
Bennett: What else did he make? You mentioned that he would blend the grapes for different kinds.
Meriggi: Well, sometimes he would mix, but if he made like the white wine, he would just use the muscatel -- that's the white grape, it's real sweet. And sometime he used to put that in with the Concord grapes. But not much.Usually he always made his wine more on the Concord grapes. He liked that better.
Bennett: What -- he made your mother vinegar, you said.
Meriggi: Oh, yeah, he made his own vinegar. He had a great big jug and he put wine in it. Then he'd let that wine set in there and it would get sour. Then that's how he started his vinegar. So then, when he got the jug filled and mom always used the home vinegar, and when he used to go down to a certain depth, then dad used to add more wine. And that's how he kept on having vinegar.
Bennett: This would be any kind of wine that he would add to it?
Meriggi: Oh, yeah. Any kind.
Bennett: And this would make vinegar.
- Clubs and organizations; hunting; growing herbs; gardening; memories of the Influenza Epidemic (1918-1919)Keywords: Chamomile; Cooking; Fishing; Gardening; Garlic; Home remedies; Hunting; Influenza Epidemic (1918-1919); Onions; Peppers; Piedmont Lodge; TomatoesTranscript: Bennett: Very interesting. Did your father belong to any clubs or organizations?
Meriggi: Well, the only one I knew that he belonged to – He belonged to the Piedmont Lodge.
Bennett: Where was that?
Meriggi: Well, I don't know -- when that was up at Squirrel Run. I know pop used to go in town. The Lodge was in town. But I don't know just exactly where. After they built the hall there on Fourth Street. But that was later-way later they built that. I think I remember him going to the Neighborhood House. They used to call it there on Lincoln Street. It was on Lincoln Street- you know, Miss Weaver's. They used to call it Miss Weaver's. I think that's where they used to go.
Bennett: How often were these Lodge meetings?
Meriggi: I think they had them certain Sundays of the month.
Bennett: In the evening or the afternoon?
Meriggi: No, used to be in the morning because I remember we used to have to wait for him to come home for dinner.
Bennett: Probably after church.
Meriggi: Something like that. I just can't remember.
Voice: Did he go by trolley car?
Meriggi: Yeah, trolley car.
Bennett: Did he go fishing?
Bennett: Did he ever go hunting?
Meriggi: Yeah, he loved to go hunting. He used to go hunting in Italy, too. He loved to hunt rabbits, birds.
Bennett: Where did he go?
Meriggi: Well, he told me one place he used to go would be in Ashland. I guess it's up in --
Bennett: Now did you eat the game that he --
Meriggi: Oh, yeah. The rabbit.
Bennett: How did you cook it?
Meriggi: How did we cook it? Well, pop used to clean it and then he would soak it in wine -- they washed it in wine -- never in water. And that's how they cooked it. Mom used to cook it and she used to have -- I forget what kind of herb she used to put in it -- and she didn't cook it in a lot of tomato but it had a little tomato in it. She didn't fry it or anything but it was more like a stew. And she also put a little wine when she cooked it. It was delicious.
Bennett: When you mentioned herbs, did you grow your own herbs?
Meriggi: Yeah, pop had several herbs that he raised. He had sage, parsley and basil. And then he had another herb was called aredda.
Bennett: What did you call it?
Bennett: Let's try to spell it. Let's take a guess. R-e-d-d-a -- Redda.
Meriggi: It's a green leaf, but it's real bitter. That was more like a medical herb that they raised. Because if we didn't feel good or something,pop would put that in whiskey and give us just a tiny little drop and we would get better.
Bennett: This would be a home remedy, then?
Meriggi: Yeah. Something that they'd use -- if you had a stomach ache or something, it would clear your stomach out.
Bennett: You mean it would make you throw --
Bennett: Then you'd get better. Did he have any other medicines that he might have used?
Meriggi: Well, mom used to use a lot of chamomile. That she used to use an awful lot. And she also raised it, too, after her dad passed away and he didn't send any more. He used to send it to her from Italy.
Bennett: Where would he get most of his seeds, do you know?
Meriggi: That I know of he used to go down to what do you call it- Thompson's there on Fourth and French. I remember going with him, riding the trolley, and we'd go in that store. Otherwise -- well-- he had a habit -- like tomatoes. If he had good tomatoes, he would dry the seeds out. He would take the peppers, too. He would take the seeds and he would dry them for the following year. He used to raise all his plants -- just like his zucchinis -- different food that he could have got the seeds from, he would save them. And I remember he used to dry them out and then he used to put them all in a little basket like and he used to hang it up, but he had it all wrapped up and he would know which one was which when he started the following year.
Bennett: How did he save the herbs? Did he dry those?
Meriggi: Oh, yeah. He would dry them and then he would tie them and then he would hang them up like in a bunch.
Bennett: Would he share his seeds and his herbs with someone else and they in turn--
Meriggi: That I remember, yes, they used to -- like his friends -- even like he had tomatoes -- he would grow them himself. And they would switch. If they needed maybe say pepper plants, and you needed tomato plants, they would switch with one another.
Bennett: Did you raise garlic?
Meriggi: Yes, we raised garlic, onions.
Bennett: Did you use the garlic for any kind of medicinal purpose?
Meriggi: Well, them days we used to get worms. We used to get a fever. They used to get the garlic and they used to make like a little bag and they used to tie it on us. And say that it would keep the worms away.
Bennett: How long did you wear this?
Meriggi: Well, when we were real sick, we wore it. I even remember, too, when the flu was around, my mother made a little sack -- you know -- we used to pin it on to keep the germs away.
Bennett: The onions -- did you use those for any medicinal purpose?
Meriggi: Well, I'll tell you, my mother used them as – made plasters. It helped my son to get rid of his bronchitis.
Bennett: How did she do that?
Meriggi: The doctor gave him medicine and all, but after making these onion plasters -- She used to fry the onion and then she'd get this cotton cloth and she'd put these onions in it and then would put the plaster.
Bennett: You're saying really that the doctor was not called on very often. When would you call the doctor?
Meriggi: Well, the doctor was called if we had a high fever. As long as we didn't have a high fever, why she'd take care of us all the time.
Bennett: You mentioned the flu. You mean the flu of 1918, I suppose. Do you remember much about that or anything about that?
Meriggi: Well, I'll tell you. During that time dad stayed home from work and he wouldn't let my mother or my sister of I out. He was the only one that went out, you know, and got the water and got any -- well, he would go out and get the chickens to kill them - you know, if mom made the soup, but the only tragic thing I could remember was seeing the hearse coming around all the time.
Bennett: Did anybody die that you knew?
Meriggi: Well there was quite a few that lived around us, my neighbors-
Bennett: They died?
Meriggi: Yeah -- husband and wife died and they left three children. One was a baby. And the boy and the other girl were a little bit older. But, the little girl was put in St. Peter's Orphanage.
Bennett: And what happened to the boys?
Meriggi: The boy went -- I think someone took him. And the girl went with another family -- one of their relations or friends.
- Parents education; languages and different Italian dialects; traveling peddlers; parades and celebrations; Fourth of July celebrations and trips to the beach; Halloween celebrationsKeywords: All Saints' Day; All Souls' Day; American citizenship; Columbus Day; English language; Fourth of July Celebrations; French language; Halloween celebrations; hot dogs; Italian dialects; Italian language; parades; School; Traveling peddlers; Yorklyn's StoreTranscript: Bennett: Did your mother -- did your father, excuse me, go to school?
Meriggi: He went to school to get his American citizenship papers.
Bennett: Would you tell me where he went, please.
Meriggi: Well, again, I think -- I'm sure he went to a neighborhood house where they called it Miss Weaver's in them days on Lincoln Street.
Bennett: This was instruction?
Bennett: How long did it take, do you know?
Meriggi: Gee, I just can't tell you how long it took him.
Bennett: Do you remember the day that he got his citizenship papers?
Meriggi: I just barely remember.
Bennett: Was it a good day?
Meriggi: Yeah, because he was all tickled -- he passed, you know, and he got them.
Bennett: Did your mother get hers at the same time?
Meriggi: No, mom got hers afterwards, but I can't remember how long afterward, but she had someone come in. She had, I forget who the woman was -- a teacher -- that came in and helped her out.
Bennett: Do you remember the day that she got hers?
Meriggi: No, I can't really remember.
Bennett: Did you help your father with his citizenship at all?
Meriggi: Oh, yeah. He used to come home and I used to have to go over with him and ask him the questions. They had to study the Declaration of Independence and it was all history about-
Bennett: George Washington, maybe?
Meriggi: George Washington, Caesar Rodney -- and all that stuff --that's how he got his citizenship papers.
Bennett: Could he speak English by then?
Meriggi: Oh, yeah. Pop learned when he was working there at the shop. And then we had quite a few neighbors around us that were English and people that were French. I remember mom talking French.
Bennett: She spoke French to the French? Did she learn English, too?
Meriggi: Yes, she learned because she went to wash with different Irish people.
Bennett: So, really, she spoke three languages, your mother.
Bennett: And your father actually learned then with working with the Irish people at the shops. That's the way he learned to speak English? Did they go to school at all to learn English, do you know?
Bennett: He just picked it up?
Meriggi: I know mom and pop could understand better the English than some of the Italian people when they talked. Because a lot of Italian people don't talk real Italian. They all talk their dialect, and they had different dialects. And I know mom -- we had a neighbor and mom didn't understand her at all and it was funny that I understood what she would say. Yeah, there's a lot of them -- you can't understand them.
Voice: People from the south talk differently.
Bennett: Well, really, you think of the United States. Up in Boston they sound very different than southern. And out in California, that's sort of a hodge podge. Chicago, they have their own. Well, even New York because I remember people coming from New York. They have their own, and they used to talk funny.
Voice: My father had a different dialect completely.
Meriggi: Oh, yeah.
Voice: A different language -- a completely different language.
Meriggi: Yeah, but daddy knew how to talk Italian. He'd talk his dialect. That's why him and grandpop understood.
Voice: There's a national language called Italian -- everybody in the country, I think, can understand.
Meriggi: Oh, yeah, but he really talked just volladaisy, you can't understand some of the words they say.
Bennett: Do you remember any peddlers?
Meriggi: Yeah, I remember -- you mean in delivering?
Bennett: Yeah, vendors that would come.
Meriggi: Vendors. The fish man, meat. Then we used to had the bread man. They used to be -- what do you call them -- Yorklyn's store -- they used to come around and they used to sell anything from A to Z you might as well say --for homes: food-
Bennett: They would bring this to your door? Did they take orders?
Meriggi: Yeah, they come in and take orders.
Bennett: Oh, and then deliver it to you.
Meriggi: Yeah. You could buy pots, pans, linens, furniture.
Bennett: Did they have a store that you could go to?
Meriggi: I never seen my mother go to the store, but they used to come and you used to buy so much and they used to give you stamps. Mom used to accumulate stamps and then she used to get furniture; she used to get blankets, spreads, anything she needed.
Bennett: That's the chair that you said you had.
Meriggi: Yes, that's on the other tape as I remember.
Bennett: Do you remember the ice man?
Meriggi: That I can't remember. Oh, we used to have the beer man deliver beer. I remember them coming around. They used to have a horse to deliver.
Bennett: You remember the ice man, but did you have cold drinks? Did you ever have iced tea?
Meriggi: No, no iced tea, but we had lemonade, orangeade.
Bennett: So you must have had ice, which you described the chest.
Meriggi: We had ice to keep our -- I remember mom used to have tokeep cheese, and the meat cold.
Bennett: Do you remember any other vendors?
Meriggi: The umbrella man.
Bennett: The what?
Meriggi: Umbrella. He used to come around and he used to have a couple of old umbrellas with him. I don't know, he had some kind of a bag or something, and if anybody needed an umbrella fixed, he'd sit down and fix it for you. Idon't know how much he charged.
Bennett: How about a scissor grinder, do you remember him?
Meriggi: No, I don't.
Bennett: He would sharpen the knives and the scissors.
Meriggi: I think he did. Yeah, my father used to sharpen his own knives. I think he had a stone or something or a strap and he used to sharpen his knives.
Bennett: Did any other interesting people come through the neighborhood that you sort of enjoyed seeing?
Meriggi: Well, we had one guy that used to come out -- I think it was only once a year, I think it was. He had a bear. And he'd come out and make the bear dance and we'd all get out and watch him. After the bear got done dancing, he'd come around and collect. He had a tambourine and he used to play, you know. And then he used to go around and collect.
Bennett: And you'd pay your money to see this, the bear dance. That's the only one that you remember?
Meriggi: Yeah, that's the only one I could remember.
Bennett: Do you remember any parades?
Meriggi: Yeah, I remember on Fourth of July they used to have picnic. But then the parade that I could remember was the one they used to have on Columbus Day. In town. It was my father's lodge. They used to have a parade. Then they used to have a dance. And, of course, the older people – the mothers and fathers -- they used to dance and have the good time and they used to take their children and we had to sit on a bench there and watch them.
Bennett: What did they have in the parade- was it floats?
Meriggi: Oh, yeah. They had floats. They would have - them days they would have different kinds of floats. They were really pretty.
Bennett: More than one band, do you remember?
Meriggi: Well, I know they had bands, but I just couldn't tell you. It's so far back. I still remember they used to go to the dance. I remember this black guy playing the piano and I couldn't get over how good he used to play. And that's all they had was the piano. I don't know where he was from, I don’ t know.
Bennett: How about the picnic that you mentioned on the Fourth of July? What do you remember about that?
Meriggi: Well, that was also a picnic that they used to have. There they used to play -- the older people used to play games. They used to play what you call different kind of games like bocce and things like that. They'd give a prize and food to eat.
Bennett: Do you remember what the food was?
Meriggi: I remember they had hot dogs.
Bennett: Oh, really?
Meriggi: Yeah, they had hot dogs. My mother would never let us have hot dogs. I don't know why. But, we used to beg her to buy us hot dogs and she'd say they weren't good. We really had to beg her.
Bennett: How old were you when you finally got a hot dog?
Meriggi: Oh, I guess I was going to school then. Because after we lived in town, then it got more common and she saw more people using them. When she let us have them.
Bennett: I think your parents were very protective of the family.
Meriggi: Too much.
Bennett: Well, there was love there.
Meriggi: Yeah, a lot, Because we couldn't go sledding because we'd get hurt. We couldn't go swimming. She was afraid we would drown. We couldn't go anyplace.
Bennett: It's understandable.
Meriggi: Well, I guess Oh, it took I don't know how long after I was married for my husband to get me in a bathing suit. You know, we'd go to the beach -- of course my husband would take us --and my mother, my sister and I here we'd go and stand in the sand all dressed with our clothes on.
Bennett: Did she ever get in a bathing suit, your mother?
Bennett: But you did?
Meriggi: Oh, yeah. Finally I did.
Bennett: Do you remember Halloween? Was there anything special?
Meriggi: I don't know what it was but mom and dad wouldn't let us go Halloweening, either, and they would never let anybody come in.
Bennett: You mean at Halloween?
Bennett: Of course, you were younger when you lived there.
Meriggi: Oh, yeah, but still there was people that --
Bennett: Do you remember that some of the people would dress up in a costume or a mask?
Meriggi: Oh, yeah.
Bennett: But, you just weren't permitted.
Voice: Did they have that custom in Italy?
Meriggi: Yeah, but that was different in Italy. Oh, yeah, in Italy they called it more like a Mardi Gras. And see, in Italy I think they must have had some kind of bad example because it's the day before All Souls' Day, ain't it?
Meriggi: And in Italy the day before All Saints' Day is a fast day, it was a fast day, and see, in Italy they would have a big party. They would have a dance -- real young people – and they'd have big meals. I remember grandmom always making a big meal before All Saints Day. And see, the day after is All Souls' Day. And in other words, they would celebrate that day and then All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day was kinda quiet for them -- it was sad. And that's why we never were allowed.
- Gardening; making jellies and tomato paste; drying tomatoes; cleaning the outhouses; using an icebox; explosions at HagleyKeywords: Brandywine Creek; Bugs; Cabbages; cooking; Explosions; Flies; Gardening; Hagley Yard; Iceboxes; jellies; Mosquitoes; outhouses; sulfur spray; Tomato paste; TomatoesTranscript: Bennett: I think they do that pretty much in Europe -- a European custom. Did you have any flower garden? I know you had a big vegetable garden. Did you have any flower gardens?
Meriggi: No, because we didn't have much of a place for flowers. Like the road was all rocks and dirt. And then when you got off of our porch there was very little space between the fence and the porch and that wasn't much.
Bennett: You had a fence - what kind of fence?
Meriggi: It was a picket fence.
Bennett: High or low?
Bennett: How high would you say that would be?
Meriggi: Two and a half feet, something like that, with a gate.
Bennett: In your garden, I would like to know what your father did for fertilizer.
Meriggi: That I could remember I know he used manure, but I don't know where he got it. I can't remember that.
Bennett: And did he keep that in a certain area -- the fertilizer -- and turn it into the garden? Do you have any idea how he did that?
Meriggi: The thing I remember he used to spread it all over the dirt and then he used to work the ground.
Bennett: What did he do for like bugs? Do you know what he used?
Meriggi: The only think I know he used was he used to watch for -- he showed me how to watch for the bugs on the tomatoes and his cabbage were the main things, I think that he used to look for bugs. And he used to spray sulfur on the plants. He used to get, it was like a little shaker or something and he would, you know, pour it real light. That's all I know that he ever did. And, of course, them days we didn't have all the bugs we have now. You could sit out all night and we didn't have mosquitoes. We didn't have flies like they have now. You know, my mother used to make tomato paste. They used to make it in Italy. You mash your tomatoes in a tub, raw. You don't cook them. Raw tomato. And then, I forget how many days they let them stay. They turn them. Then you get those tomatoes and you drain all the water out of them. She used to have a -- well, you know she used to buy the flour in a bag. About a 100 pound bag, I guess it was. Well, they used to save those bags and that's what she used to drain for jelly. You know, put her cooked stuff in them bags and drain the water out. She did that with tomatoes. And then she would sift -- they had a big Sifter that would go over a pan -- a round sifter. And you would sift all that tomato. And then after it's all sifted and all, she would put some salt on it and mix it. And then you'd put it out every day in the sun and there was not bugs. Never covered. You'd put it out when the sun was real bright and warm and you'd keep turning it. I remember she had a big, big platter and she had a wooden spoon and you would go over there once in a while and mix it. No flies. We didn't start getting these big old flies and things until we went in town. Then we started getting these mosquitoes. All the water there was along the Brandywine.
Voice: No marshes? No smell?
Meriggi: No, we didn't have no smell. It was nice. The only time it smelled was when they used to come and clean the outhouses and the wagon used to go past. The covered wagon.
Bennett: What did the wagon look like? A regular wagon?
Meriggi: Did you ever see -- I don't know what you would call them. It was on two wheels. Had two wheels, and real wide at the top and it comes down narrow. And they'd tilt over. And then they'd put a cover over it.
Voice: You've seen them on the train tracks.
Meriggi: Yeah, them old-time movies.
Bennett: And that's what they used? That you can remember?
Meriggi: And that's the worst smell.
Bennett: That's the only thing.
Voice: Even the horses didn't smell that bad.
Meriggi: No. When they used to go buy and we kids used to go --
Bennett: What was the best smell that you remember?
Meriggi: Really and truly when you passed them homes and they were cooking.
Bennett: That's true -- smell of food.
Voice: In summertime they used to cook out in the shed, was it open?
Meriggi: Oh, yeah. Not everybody cooked out in the shed. See some people had two rooms in their place and some people had -- now like for instance grandmom. She -- my mother and father they had the ice box. And I remember – see the ice box was out on the porch because you didn't have room in the house. A lot of people had it in their house because they had two rooms -- they had room.
Voice: Was it out on the porch summer and winter?
Meriggi: The ice box? Oh, yeah.
Voice: Weren't they afraid of people stealing their food?
Meriggi: No. People didn't steal the food.
Bennett: Did you lock your doors and windows?
Meriggi: Yeah, we locked the doors and windows when we went to bed, but not in the daytime. The door was open, the windows, and everything.
Voice: Did you lock the ice box?
Meriggi: No. I remember even living in the city -- when we were in the city, my father made a -- it was something like a storage -- like a little ice box right out of the kitchen door. And that's where we used to keep all our cold stuff until, I don't know, one of the neighbors or somebody tried to steal. Then -- Otherwise we'd just get ice in the summertime. But in the wintertime we never bought ice.
Voice: But that ice box was always outside?
Meriggi: Always outside. It was a big thing. It was a little wider this way, but it was about this size, maybe a tiny little bit longer than this.
Bennett: That's about what -- 40 inches, something like that. That's a good size.
Meriggi: It had a big top, up. I remember, because I couldn’ t lift it.
Bennett: The lid… Do you remember any explosions?
Meriggi: Yeah, I remember explosions. It must have been in 1917. I don't know if it was in 1917. I remember several small ones, but this big one was, I think maybe 1916 or 1917. When the powder mill exploded, I think there was about 20 some people that got killed. And then the fire was so bad and I don't remember how they put it out or what they did, but I know they got the men from the machine shop and they had to --
Bennett: Would you tell me about the explosion that you remember that your dad was involved in.
Meriggi: Well, I know it was in the daytime. But exactly the time, I don't know because dad was working at the time at the machine shop. And so I know dad came home and he told mother that he had to go -- I forget what time it was, but I know it was night time because the way I could understand they had different men going and checking because on account of the fire they were afraid it wasn't out altogether or what. And the pop knew something about the pump and the hose or something. So, I know it was late in the night when pop went. And as he went there, he says he pulled the hose and went in the building – I don't know what it was, but it was part burned. And as he was searching for fire and he was coming and walking backwards and was pulling the hose to see if he had discovered any sparks or what, checking, and he says he came on this thing and it was soft and he tripped over it and he got so scared and thought that it was somebody that was in there and here it was a horse. That was in the place and didn't have a chance to get out and he was dead. It was swollen, I guess.
Bennett: It must have been an awful feeling.
Meriggi: I think dad really did have because --
Bennett: Did he talk about that often?
Meriggi: Well, as I remember, when it really happened and he came home, I remember mother saying, "Are you all right?", and he said, "Yeah, I'm all right." Because it must have been an awful feeling for him, but I didn't understand. But I know after, he started telling the grandchildren about it, he felt different, you know, in his older age. He thought it was kind of funny for him to get so upset.
Voice: Every man had a job during an explosion?
Meriggi: Oh, yeah, the way that I could understand it the men in the machine shop, if anything happened or anything to the powder mills, and they used to have another mill. They used to call it the keg mill, but I don't know what they did or anything. I remember my father saying that they had to go out and help them and they had a job to do.
Bennett: It was planned ahead of time, just in case.
Meriggi: To tell you the truth, I never remember seeing the fire engine coming out there. I don't remember a fire engine coming out there.
Voice: They were all assigned a job.
- Childhood clothes and style; money and banks; feeding pigs and other animals; parents' feelings on leaving ItalyKeywords: Artisans (bank); bread; Central National (bank); Clothing; Fashion; Hair bows; Italy; Jewelry; Money; Pigs; Pocketbooks; potatoes; Purses; Sending money; Wilmington Savings (bank)Transcript: Bennett: I'm looking at your pictures there and I see you have your pocketbook.
Meriggi: Oh, yeah. We always had to carry a pocketbook because we could never go out without a handkerchief. And then they'd give us maybe a few pennies to put in our pocketbook, but we always carried a pocketbook for our handkerchief. Until we started getting dresses, you know, with pockets.
Bennett: How old were you when you had your first pocketbook?
Meriggi: I must have been, I don't know, maybe I must have been four or five years old when I got my pocketbook.
Bennett: I think that's cute. And, now what was the pocketbook made of?
Meriggi: I just can't remember. I know it was kind of a cloth but --
Bennett: Did your mother make it?
Meriggi: No, she bought it for us. I can't remember.
Bennett: Did you have jewelry?
Meriggi: I had a locket.
Bennett: And always the big bows. Did your mother tie those bows?
Bennett: Did you wear the bows only on special occasions?
Meriggi: No, we wore those all the time.
Bennett: Did she tie them and keep them tied or were they retied each time you were dressed?
Meriggi: No. A lot of times she had some kind of -- I guess you would call it a barrette or something, and then she would clip this barrette- She would tie it--
Bennett: On your hair.
Meriggi: Yeah. I remember it was round and then it would go inside of the -- that's to cover the knot of the bow. That's what they used that for.
Bennett: They matched your dresses, probably. The bows.
Meriggi: Yeah. They were pink and they were blue and --
Bennett: Did most of the girls wear them?
Meriggi: Yeah. It was the style.
Bennett: The style to wear the bows. Your parents seemed to be very saving. Do you remember -- did they keep money at home or did they take it to the bank?
Meriggi: I remember, I think, they took it to the bank. I know pop dealt with three banks -- Wilmington Savings, Artisans, and Central National.
Bennett: Did they send any of the money back to the old country?
Meriggi: Well, mother always. Mother always sent money to her half sisters for her father. She sent money to her father but who used to manage it was her half-sister.
Bennett: How did she send it?
Meriggi: Well, she very seldom sent it through post office. She did send some through the post office, but mostly she liked to send it -- she thought it was more convenient to send it with people who would go to Europe. She'd send it with them.
Bennett: About how often did she do this? Did she do it at holidays and birthdays?
Meriggi: Oh, yes. She did send money home to her father especially at holidays and things. But then, too, just like I said, she sent it home with her friends that they would go to visit and things like that.
Bennett: Was there much communication other than that with the family in Italy?
Meriggi: My mother, she always wrote to her father and half-sisters. They wrote to her and she wrote to them. Until after she died, then it died out.
Bennett: And there never was that much communications with --
Meriggi: No, my father wasn't a writer. He didn't write.
Bennett: Are there any things that you can remember that they used to tell you about the old country?
Meriggi: Yeah, I know one thing my mother told me and my dad --They would never feed a pig bread. And, in fact, my mother was so strict with the bread --
Voice: Did they feed it to any of the animals?
Meriggi: No, they won't feed the bread to animals, but especially a pig; they won't feed it bread at all. Because she was surprised when she came here and that she seen the farmers feed the animals with bread. Because she saidthey used to feed the pigs with potatoes. They ate potatoes, but mostly they fed the pigs with them.
Bennett: You mean they raised the potatoes to feed the pigs?
Meriggi: Uh-huh. Yeah, because they fed the pigs good because that's how they made all their sausage and stuff like that and see, and it was good. I guess that's why they didn't have a lot of fat. Like you get some of this ham and stuff like that has so much fat. I remember my husband's father sending salami over and it was delicious. I never had salami like that here and it wasn't greasy.
Voice: It had the best flavor.
Bennett: What would you say that your parents' feeling was about coming to the United States?
Meriggi: I mean they really -- they felt content; They were glad they came. They were happy, they were satisfied.
Bennett: Never any regrets?
Bennett: Did they -- I realize that your father left a wealthy home, and so forth, but was he satisfied with his life style and did he feel like he made a good living?
Meriggi: Oh, yes. He was really happy.
Bennett: He was a good provider.
Meriggi: Oh, yes he was. Yes. He worked hard.
Bennett: But he didn't mind.
Meriggi: No. He enjoyed it.
- Community at Squirrel Run; marriage customs; funeral customsKeywords: Crosby & Hill (store); Funeral customs; Influenza epidemic (1918-1919); Marriage customs; Saint Joseph on the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church (Wilmington, Del.); Squirrel Run (Del.: Village); Wilmington, Del.Transcript: Bennett: Did they have a lot of friends around Squirrel Run or was everybody so busy they just took care of their own family?
Meriggi: No, when we were up at Squirrel Run, everybody -- I mean everybody was friends. It wasn't -- everybody spoke to everybody. It seemed like people -- they didn't travel like in one another's home or anything like that a lot.But if they had a gathering -- say for instance someone got married, everybody was invited. Nobody was slighted. No matter who it was. It was just a whole bunch of friendly people.
Bennett: Where would the wedding be held?
Meriggi: In their homes.
Bennett: What did they do?
Meriggi: Well, the way I could that I remember, they went to church and to tell you the truth, I forget how they got to church. That's what I wonder a lot of times – how I was carried to get christened. I never asked. But then they'd come home and they would have maybe a dinner for the closest family, and they would invite everybody to have -- they would have music, dance, and drink and cake, cookies, sandwich.
Bennett: What would the bride wear, do you remember what kind of dress?
Meriggi: Well, I remember brides wearing suits with hats. I remember them having a veil -- you know a white dress. But way, way back they used to wear a lot of this satin-- satin dress. In fact some of the veils were shaped like it was a curtain on your head.
Bennett: Did they have flowers -- big bouquets of flowers?
Meriggi: No. Not that I remember. They didn't have very big bouquets.
Bennett: Did they have -- they must have had a best man and a bridesmaid?
Meriggi: Oh, yeah. They had bridesmaids.
Bennett: Lots of them or just usually one? Do you remember that?
Meriggi: At Squirrel Run I just remember it. Bit of course when we went in town it was different. That's when I remember they used to have a string of them.
Bennett: What kind of presents would they give to the bride and groom? Do you have any idea?
Meriggi: Oh, they would give them all things like they could use in their home. They would give them anything -- anything that was useful. Or money. Anything that they could use. Dishes. Silver. Linens. In fact, the way I could remember, they didn't get like a whole lot of one thing. And it was something strange, but it seemed like everybody would give a different gift.
Bennett: Maybe they planned it that way.
Meriggi: Maybe it was. I don't know. Maybe they would let themselves know or anything. Just like sometime you go places --like for instance you get a dozen vases or you get so many of one kind of thing. They didn't. And it seemed like everybody really appreciated.
Bennett: Do you know whether these things might have been bought at that store where you could order from or was it mostly done from down in Wilmington -- shopping in Wilmington?
Meriggi: Oh, I couldn't tell you that, I don't know.
Bennett: Were the gifts wrapped up like we wrap them today – like in a white paper with a bow?
Meriggi: Yeah. Mostly were. They might not have bows but they would have paper on them.
Bennett: Did they have ribbon in those days for packages?
Meriggi: I don't remember. Because I remember mother, but this was in town that she went and got the gift and I remember it had -- this was in Crosby & Hill -- and the box, but I don't remember ribbon.
Bennett: That would have been a luxury if it was even thought about, probably. Do you remember funerals?
Meriggi: Oh, yeah. I remember a lot of them.
Bennett: Can you describe a funeral?
Meriggi: Yeah. I remember it was a horse -- the hearse had the horse and carriage. Then it had these -- what do you call them -- you see them in the movies -- the coach with the --
Voice: Did it have glass?
Meriggi: Yeah -- closed coach. Then they had the driver on top with the horse. That was the funeral. And it would be like, you know, the family and friends.
Bennett: Did they walk to the cemetery or was this different wagons or?
Meriggi: No, they didn't walk to the cemetery. It was quite a distance. They had to go in the carriage.
Bennett: They went in carriages. I was really thinking of St. Joseph's, I suppose.
Meriggi: That's where the funeral was.
Bennett: Was it different if it was a child that was buried as opposed to an adult?
Meriggi: Well, when my brother died, we -- he was baptized just before he died at St. Joseph's -- and I remember plain as day mom and pop had the casket in the carriage that we rode in. On their lap.
Bennett: That must have been sad. Was there a white hearse usually if it was children?
Meriggi: No, it was a black one. I don't remember any white. I remember -- let me see -- I remember putting the crepe near the door. If it was real young like a child, they would put white. If it was middle age person, they would put a grey crepe near the door, and if it was a real old person, it would be black. And that's how you would know where the person that was dead -- where he would be. The house.
Bennett: Did you ever go to the house to where the deceased was?
Meriggi: No. Not there. When I was that small, mom wouldn't take me. But afterwards she started taking me to all the --
Bennett: Did your mother and father go together?
Meriggi: Oh, yeah -- pop even -- they had a custom that when somebody died, they didn't take them to the funeral parlor then. They kept them home. Well, dad would volunteer and stay like all night with the corpse.
Bennett: A group of people did this?
Meriggi: Yes. It would be a group of men. Mostly it was all men that would stay.
Bennett: What did they do, do you know, while they sat there?
Meriggi: I don't know. I guess they talked. I don’ t exactly know what they did.
Bennett: Was there a lot of flowers?
Meriggi: No, them days they didn't have much flowers. They didn’ t have money.
Bennett: Did your mother take food?
Bennett: Like what would she take?
Meriggi: Oh, she would cook maybe a meal. Like for instance, maybe she would take soup, meat, vegetables.
Bennett: Somebody else would take another kind?
Meriggi: Well, a lot of people would bring different things like cakes. They would even bring something to drink. They would bring anything.
Bennett: And this was for the family?
Meriggi: Oh, yeah, For the family.
Bennett: And they probably ate it all night long, the men that sat there?
Meriggi: Oh, yeah. They would serve -- I think they would have coffee and stuff like that, you know, while they were staying with people.
Bennett: And if you didn't cook, or something, would you ever give them money?
Meriggi: Well, the way I could see, when they started having cars, whoever had a car or something they would volunteer to take so many people. And then the people would go with the person that had the car they would get the money and give it to the family. They would give the money to the family. Instead of spending the money for the car for their transportation, well, then they would give the money. See because people didn't have cars. And they'd have to rent it. And instead of like -- say for instance here we're three people and we each one rent the car. Well, one person would rent the car and the other person would get that money and give it to the family.
Bennett: To help with the expenses of the funeral.
Meriggi: Well, they'd do whatever they want with it.
Bennett: That's a nice idea.
Voice: Did you give money when you were at Hagley to People who died?
Meriggi: Well, grandmom and grandpop did. I don't remember. But another thing was nice too, because like for instance if somebody was real poor, they would make a collection for them if somebody died.
Voice: Did they do this during the flu time?
Meriggi: Well, I guess they did. But people didn't have – you know when they died, they took them out of their home right away. A lot of people couldn't even have funerals. That's how bad it was. Oh, it was sad then.
Voice: That's when they started the cemetery in the new section, wasn't it?
Meriggi: I don't know, Catherine.
Voice: I remember grandpop saying this.
Bennett: This is going to run out in just a minute, Mrs. Meriggi, and I want to thank you very much for talking with me.
Meriggi: I've enjoyed it very much.
Bennett: So have I.
Meriggi: I'm glad.
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