Interview with Blanche MacAdoo Yetter, 1984 May 30 [audio](part 1)
- The "Sand Hole"; phosphate and violets; getting to school; sewing dresses; working as a dressmakerKeywords: Chicken Alley; dressmaking; peddlers; People's Line; phosphate; Rising Sun trolley; sand; Sand Hole cemetery; sewing; Squirrel Run; Street-railroads; violetsTranscript: Wagner: Your name again so when they run the tape.
Yetter: My full name?
Wagner: Just say, "This is Blanche Yetter." Right. And I wanted to ask you about the sand hole. We were talking about the sand hole when I left. It wasn't just a dump, was it? What did they use it for?
Yetter: No. They dumped the sand out of it. They used the sand. That's why they called it the sand hole. And then the du Pont cemetery was there. You know *where that is?
Wagner: Right — back of the wall. You said it was in front of the wall.
Yetter: Well, there was a road went right down to Mrs. Crowninshield's home -- straight down. I think she done away with that and made a circle or something.
Wagner: That's right.
Yetter: But the sand hole was where they -- they must have dug the sand out, when they needed sand. And that's why they called it the sand hole. And then the cemetery was right next to that.
Wagner: And you said the violets were so pretty there.
Yetter: Well, there were violets grew there, but then, I tell you they used to hang their phosphate bags on the fence -- would tear them, I suppose after they had done their planting in the spring and I think that blew over and probably made them cultivated because they were very sweet like we would buy in the florist's.
Wagner: Were they long stemmed?
Yetter: Well, not as long as you'd get in the florist's. But we could make a bunch out of them and we'd go up there and gather them. And in later years my grandfather lived over in Chicken Alley and I went up in the spring of the year to see him -- went up on the Rising Sun car -- and walked; I didn't have a car then. And I stopped up there to pick some violets. I went purposely at that time of the year and I picked a few but they had no smell to them. They had left and I think it was the phosphate that cultivated them. That blew off those bags.
Wagner: That might well be.
Yetter: I just figured that in my own head; nobody told me. [Laughter].
Wagner: We'll go back up a little bit. I'm going to ask you what route did you take to school -- when you walked to school. How did you go?
Yetter: Down Squirrel Run and along the railroad. And then up Breck's Lane and through by the Cooper Shop. Do you know where the Cooper Shop is?
Yetter: And up the railroad and in the back gate to duPont School. Kinda zig— zag, you know. Right -- over hill and dale. Uh-huh -- yeah. What about in rainy weather? Did you skip school in rainy weather?
Yetter: No. We went and we didn't have raincoats or boots in those days, either. We probably had a pair of rubbers but we didn't have boots. And we didn't have rain- coats. We wore -- hot weather or cold -- we put on a heavy coat to keep us dry. And we went to school in the rain. I don't think we ever even had umbrellas, to tell you the truth. Some of the people did, but we didn't. Every child didn't have an umbrella, I'm sure, in those days.
Wagner: You would just hang your things in the coat room and let them drip-dry?
Yetter: Yes. Hang your coat in the cloak room. When you went in to duPont School, there was cloak rooms on both sides -- some for the boys and some for the girls. And you hung your hat and coat in there.
Wagner: O.K. When you went in the school, the coat room was right there?
Yetter: Right and left, yes, there was a hallway and there was cloak rooms along side and then the high school was on one side and the lower grades on the other and then upstairs. I'd have to show you the picture of the school [Great laughter].
Wagner: We'll have to take the car and take a ride out there and you can point as you go along. What about in snow time. You didn't have boots, you say. And you still went to school?
Yetter: Yeah, we still went to school. We were happy if we could go through drifts of snow because we had to make our own fun and that was some of our fun when we were growing up -- to go through drifts of snow. So, we didn't mind it; we enjoyed it.
Wagner: Who shoveled the snow around the house? You didn't worry about shoveling?
Yetter: No. I guess our grandfather or whoever got up first in the morning shoveled a path out the front way to the road in front of us and that's all the shoveling they would do. They didn't have any pavements to clean off. That's one less thing to worry about.
Wagner: Now, I was going to ask you about -- what about peddlers? Did any peddlers come to the village?
Yetter: Yes. There was Annie Joseph, an Italian woman, I think she was. She came and she had two big baskets. How the woman ever carried them I don't know.
Wagner: She walked?
Yetter: She walked. And she would come out on the ride from Wilmington on the Rising Sun car which stopped at the head of Rising Sun and before the People's Line run. The Rising Sun car through. And she would get off there and she would start down Rising Sun Lane and stop in different houses. I suppose she had regular customers. But she stopped. She knew who would buy off her and who wouldn't. And she would go down there and come up along the crick and go to all the different houses wherever she had somebody --
Wagner: What did she sell?
Yetter: Well, she'd have lengths of dress material.
Wagner: Oh, she carried this?
Yetter: Yes. And I don't know whether she had stockings with her, but she had dress material. And -- because I had dresses -- I remember that. And safety pins and pins and needles and cotton and notions. I think it was mostly notions she carried. Do you know what notions are?
Wagner: Yes -- scissors, thread, needles, buttons.
Yetter: Uh-huh. She would have dress lengths of material. I suppose those days it took four or five yards to make a dress. I don't remember the amount, but she would have them all folded neat and it would be so much for a package.
Wagner: Where did you get your patterns? To sew with? I don't think we had patterns. You went by an old dress you had, I guess, and laid it out on it. We mostly were gathered skirts.
Wagner: So, you'd just need a waistband?
Yetter: Yes. I don't remember seeing patterns when I was a little girl.
Wagner: You just cut it out freehand?
Wagner: Well, when you went in training to do your sewing, did you learn how to make patterns?
Yetter: Well, we had patterns. There were patterns at that time -- when I went into training. And , but we cut a lot of ours without patterns. You learned to cut without patterns when I learned my trade. You learned the hard way. And, well, I mostly cut on the floor. I spread the material out on the floor, you know, and maybe I would take a piece of newspaper and cut what I thought would fit and then hold it up to them and then I would get down on the floor and always took some silver knives to lay down to keep the material out and I would just wack around.
Wagner: Well, how did you put darts and things?
Yetter: Well, you would take a little pleat or something if you wanted a dart in the front, put some pins in it right there, and then took that space up and then when you cut your armhole-
Wagner: But if you get somebody full busted, you're going to-
Yetter: Well, you would have to cut it larger, you see.
Wagner: Really larger!
Yetter: Yes. You would.
Wagner: Did you have to leave an allowance to shrink up for shrinkage?
Yetter: Well, they mostly shrunk the material before. Most everyone shrunk the material. And then when you would fit them, you would fit them the way they should be fit, you know. And when I learned my trade, one of the things she impressed on us was that you could always take off but you couldn't add on. So, that you didn't cut too close to where you thought was the armhole or the neck. You never cut your neck too large because if you did, it would go way down, you know and you would cut it smaller and then took it out when you fit them. You always had your scissors with you and whacked a little bit, you know and could take it off. When you took it off the customer.
Wagner: It would be like the table legs, though, wouldn't it?
Yetter: You'd end up with -- Well, you'd just nick it a little bit so that you would know, or if you had a piece of chalk, you would put a piece of chalk around it and mark it with chalk. You didn't mark it with pencil because that would have shown. A piece of chalk -- it would show enough to stay on there until you took the dress off and cut off what you wanted.
Wagner: Did you ever have any disasters?
Yetter: One time -- well, this was after I was married. I went out by the day to some of these wealthy people and I made a good many debutante's clothes. And at home one of the neighbors kept insisting on me making a dress for her daughter. So, she brought a piece of lavender. One day I said, "Well, I don't sew at home, but I'll make a dress for her.” And it was lavender and I had the dress almost finished and Bill had brought a kitten home. And that kitten wet on the dress, and I had to wash the material out because I thought it would stain it. I didn't know what to do and I had to wash the whole thing. I didn't have it all together and I washed it and pressed it and put it back together and she never knew it. [Laughter]. I would have never lived that down.
- Getting married; going to church; church based social life; boys and relationships; mother's job as a nurse; delivering babiesKeywords: abortions; boys; bridal showers; church; clothes; Elsie Kersey Chase; giving birth; Highlands; King Street, Wilmington, Delaware; marriage; midwife; nurse; pie and milk social; relationships; Rising Sun Trolley Car; sex education; Street-railroads; Sunday School; weddingsTranscript: Wagner: Oh, that's good. We've -- I remember you and your husband ran off when you got married. Right? Did they have big things then like all these bridal showers for the bride before she got married?
Yetter: No, but, of course, they didn't know I was getting married. But some gave me a shower at my house a couple weeks after I was married. Because my sister -- oh, a week after I guess it must have been -- because the day I got married -- it was March -- and I wanted a new hat so I stopped in the milliners on King Street -- Elsie Kersey Chase was there -- and I said, "I want a hat and I want to make a train.” So, she brings some hats out for me so I wore my new hat. And I had a light gray -- very light gray suit -- had a little fleck of lavender in it -- and someone had given me a fox -- a piece of fox neck piece. The suit cost two dollars. The first dollar day came out in Wilmington and it was a dollar for the skirt and a dollar for the blouse — - jacket. And it was lapels. So, I turned the lapels up and I made a high collar and I put this white fox collar on it and big wide fox cuffs on it. And of course, it made a beautiful suit because the suit itself was real light, a real light gray, and with this white fox on it, it was really a beautiful thing. And I think the hat was black and it was faced in rose and had a few flowers or -- I forget what it had. Well, then I left my hat so the following week my sister -— I went to housekeeping in the block with my mother.
Wagner: You said it was what -- two door down from your mother?
Yetter: Yeah -- 1810 and 1824. [Laughter]. And my sister said, "Well, I'll take you in and get your hat.” I said, "All right.” So we went in to get my hat and when I came home and when I opened the front door, I said, "Oh, my husband must have had some women in here -- some girls in here -- I smell perfume." And I walks on in and turns the light on and there they were. We had four rooms on the first floor and they were in the back. Well, there was a front parlor and a back parlor in those days. Here all the crowd was in the back parlor when I turned the lights on. I was surprised. So, I did have a shower. But, I don't think they gave baby showers before that. That's in later years, I think they started to do those things.
Wagner: That was nice -- very nice. Were weddings -- not your wedding -- but were weddings usually big affairs like we have now?
Yetter: No. Only wealthy people had big weddings. They didn't have big weddings like that. They would have ice cream and cake. That would be -- at their home or something like that, but they wouldn't have big weddings. They would go to church and they would be dressed as a bride, or they didn't always dress as brides. Sometimes they were married in coat suits and plain dresses, you know.
Wagner: Just your good clothes.
Yetter: Or something they'd wear. You might get new for that but it was your good dress after that, you know. They didn't wear trains and all that fuss unless they were people that had a lot of money to put away.
Wagner: Then you didn't have bridesmaids and groomsmen and --
Yetter: They'd have a bridesmaid and a best man, but they didn't have a whole group in the affair. I think it's terrible the way they do now because my grandson -- one of my grandsons -- has been in I don't know how many wedding parties. And I think they tell me it's $50 to hire a dress suit now. It was $35 one time he told me. And I said, "Well, I'd turn them down.” He said, "Well, they're friends and they asked me to be in the wedding party." But, that's a lot of expense.
Wagner: It is.
Yetter: For the young people.
Wagner: Well, they seem more committed to the party afterwards.
Yetter: Maybe so.
Wagner: What about -- did men have stag parties before the wedding -- you know, like they take the groom out the night before?
Yetter: No, I don't think they did. I don't remember anything like that. I think all this came on after the first World War. There was a lot of things came to life after that because people got around more and then people began to have automobiles and people got around a little more than they did years ago -- when you had to walk. You know it was different. A different story. But we walked to Sunday School and church every Sunday of our life and we never complained about it because it was the thing to do.
Wagner: Well, for anybody then, church always was a big affair?
Yetter: Oh, yes. You looked forward to it. Now the children will say, "I don't want to go to Sunday School.” But you didn't say that when I was little. You just got up and got dressed and went to Sunday School. And, of course, as your book will tell you, the church is what gave us our social life. Because they would have like strawberry festivals in the spring and peach festivals in the fall and maybe have a pie and milk social. Now that was a big thing when I was growing up. That's where we caught a lot of boys -- beaus -- you know, going to a pie and milk social. You paid a quarter, I think, and you got a good big piece of pie and a glass of milk. And that was a treat. And all the young people would be there. Well, then some of the boys would take some of the girls home. And I guess maybe made more than one match out of it.
Wagner: Because that's where you met them. Did -- how do I say this gracefully -- Did any of the young girls get pregnant before marriage? Did that happen?
Yetter: No -- no. That was just a very rare thing. No, no. I can remember when I was in school, I was probably -- oh, I was probably 13 or 14 -- when I heard of a girl down in the Forty Acres going to have a baby and that was the talk of all the schools through Wilmington, I suppose. This one girl. And later when I moved into Wilmington Forty Acres, I knew who the girl was. And -- but -- that just spread like lightning through the school. Everyone knew it. And I don't know that I ever heard tell of anyone having a baby before that. I don't think we were sexy when I was growing up. These children now they're sexy from when they're little-- little things -- I don't know whether it's because they are being taught sex or whether they see too much on the television. I think the programs are disgraceful on television. They are disgraceful. And' of course, the parents are not supposed to let the children see these things but how are you going to keep them from seeing them? And I think they're disgusting most of them.
Wagner: We seem to emphasize the wrong things anymore.
Yetter: I don't think there was much sex to it because I know when we were growing up on a Sunday and we would go for a walk and there would be two or three girls and there would be four or five boys. Well, those boys didn't do a thing to us, you know. Well, maybe we'd go for a walk during the week, it wouldn't be Sunday, and the boy had an air rifle, he'd shoot at you and make you jump. So, things like that and one boy used to -— if you were sitting down -- he'd come along and hit your knee and your foot would fly out. And we'd get mad at them. But they didn't do anything that we would think was sexy. We just didn't know; we didn't know about sex, I guess.
Wagner: Well, I guess your sex education came after you were married.
Yetter: Yes, it was after I was married.
Wagner: Then I wanted to ask you -- you said you did not know of a midwife in the neighborhood.
Yetter: No, we had nurses who took care of people who had babies. But they were -- they were just called maternity nurses because that's what my mother did. Living at home after my father died, she went out nursing. And I used to -- if I asked her for a nickel, and she didn't have it, I'd say, "I wish somebody would get sick." I didn't know they had to have a baby to be sick. I thought if they got sick, they would call her and she'd get paid for it. And I'd wish more than one woman would get sick.
Wagner: And did they wait until it was time to deliver before they would call the maternity nurse or would she go in?
Yetter: She would go to their home, but usually the husband would come up after her. Some of the neighbors would stay with the woman because she usually had enough warning ahead that she knew it was the baby when she started to have pains. And the men would come up and get my mother. My mother always had a suitcase packed. With her uniform in. She wore striped dresses -- striped shirtwaist and skirts and long white aprons. And she always kept her bag packed so when the man come, or maybe there was one family in Squirrel Run -- Dougherty's -- that had a telephone. And they always took messages for my mother. The man would call and ask them would they send word over to Mrs. MacAdoo. That Mr. So— and-so would be picking her up and she would get ready and when he came, she would go with him. And sometimes he came in a horse and wagon, and then, of course, while I was growing up, you see, the Rising Sun trolley car run up through Squirrel Run so he would come up in the trolley car and take my mother down wherever they were going -- down the Highlands --
Wagner: Well, then she did not just stay right in the neighborhood -— she went --
Yetter: Oh, no, she went out -- she went out farther away. And the man would come after her.
Wagner: What about abortions? Did you ever hear anything about them?
Yetter: I never heard tell of that. I suppose I was married before I heard tell of anything like that. No, I never heard tell of anything like that when I was growing up. I suppose women maybe lost babies because later years I heard them say they had lost a baby, you know, they had so many children and had lost a baby but they never went into delivery or anything about it. And until I was married my mother wouldn't even tell me the next door neighbor was going to have a baby. She never talked about anything like that. We would see that she was getting big and we were old enough to know that she was going to have a baby but my mother never told us that the neighbor was going to have a baby. And the women, of course, before I was born I guess, my grandmother used to take care of the next door neighbor and the next door neighbor would take care of her when she had a baby. And I guess the doctor didn't even get there in time most of the time because he came in horse and wagon and he didn't always get there before the baby came. And my grandmother helped to deliver a lot of babies. And then they would also go in -- if they didn't have a nurse -- they would go in and cook the supper for the family and then go back and get their own supper ready running in and out from one house to the other and everyone helped the other one. And I heard my grandmother say that the Hardwick family had — — oh, I don't know -- eight or nine children or something and I think she was with Mrs. Hardwick when everyone was born because she had no money to pay anybody. So my grandmother helped to deliver all her babies. Some of those turned out to be millionaires and they were born up in the garden where there was just a little stone house. I think it's still there. Alex du Pont made a gun room or something out of it himself. And there was two rooms on the first floor and two rooms on the second. And I think at one time two families lived in there. I think when du Ponts first built the houses, they had a room down and a room up.
- Housing and heating; home cures; storing junk; storing growing and buying potatoes; growing tomatoes in the gardens; keeping chickensKeywords: chickens; clothes; coal; cooking outside; Fourth of July; heating; junk; measles; potatoes; sicknessTranscript: Wagner: And that was it?
Yetter: Yeah. And then I guess as the families got larger, they did give them four rooms. So they'd have two bedrooms. And then finally they got into three-story houses where you would have four bedrooms, you see, and the girls and women would mostly sleep on the second floor and the boys all on the third floor. No heat in any of it.
Wagner: Oh, didn't have any heat?
Yetter: You didn't have any heat. If anyone was sick, you had a little stove about so high that they would burn coal in to heat the bedroom if someone was sick.
Wagner: Would they bring the sick person downstairs by the stove?
Yetter: No. They wouldn't. Well, if the children had measles or something, they had a settee - a wooden settee - and they had cushions on it, you know, and if you had the measles or something, you were put on that and that's where you stayed all day and then they took you to bed at night and then the mother could take care of you instead of running up and down the stairs. The upstairs would be too cool to stay up there.
Wagner: Did you ever have an attic?
Yetter: Well, that would be the third floor which you would call the attic, you know. Very often the roof was sloped a little but it was - one of the rooms would be large enough for two double beds and then the back room would be smaller because the stairs would come up on one side of that.
Wagner: Where did you store junk? You know families accumulate a lot of junk and stuff.
Yetter: In those days you didn't have any junk. You had two dresses - or maybe three - and you didn't have anything to store away. We had two pair of shoes - a good pair and an old pair. So, you didn't need any space for your junk. The bureau drawer held your underwear.
Wagner: Your entire wardrobe? Was right there?
Yetter: Yes. And a closet in each bedroom. And I don't think they ever stored any junk. Well, they had a shed outside that they had a cook stove that you could cook out there in summer.
Wagner: Everybody cooked out?
Yetter: Well, most of them had a shed outside along - well sometimes there was a road and the shed on the other side of the road. But my grandmother's was on the side but she had to go out the front door, across the porch and up three steps into the shed where she had a big stove in there that she cooked on in the summer and that's where she done all the canning. And things like that. And then she had two rooms like and then there was a little thing - a little narrow space - just about big enough for a person to walk in and move their arms in which she stored her potatoes and things.
Wagner: This was down in the ground like?
Yetter: Well, it was, you see, on the side of the hill. So it was always cold in there. More of a dampness. It was cold but it was more damp. And it was concrete.
Wagner: It was concrete?
Yetter: It was concrete or whatever they made it out of in those days. I think it was concrete.
Wagner: Not stone?
Yetter: It might have been stone, but it was smooth walls. They must have plastered it. Because I can remember my grandmother would send me back to get quart jar of tomatoes or something out, you know, or get some potatoes - give you a pan to go back and get some potatoes for her - things like that. And in the book...
Wagner: You've been reading the book Did you enjoy it?
Yetter: I certainly did. It's lovely. Do they call it a book or a booklet?
Wagner: It's a book.
Yetter: And then they grew their potatoes in their little gardens. DuPonts grew acres and acres of them. And they took an order in the summer and delivered them to you in the fall. And I don't know whether it would be like 25 cents a bushel for little potatoes. And then there was second and third. Third would be baking potatoes like we buy today. And I don't know what they were, but maybe it was 25 and 35 and maybe 50 cents for the big potatoes for a bushel. And you would order. My grandmother would maybe buy five bushels of potatoes. And then they would have this little room in the back - or some of the people had sort of a cellar under the house, but they had to go down out front and in the cellar door. They didn't go in that other house; it was outside. You had to go out and go down go in that door from the front and that's where they kept the potatoes. It was cold enough that they kept.
Wagner: Did they ever go bad on you?
Yetter: Well, it was cool enough and when the duPonts - they had dried them in the fields before they brought them to you. And they were in good condition, and, of course, they had fertilized everything well, but there wasn't too much bugs in them and there wasn't as many grubbies and things in the ground in those days, I guess. And they were in good shape when they brought them in to you. So, I don't remember them having to throw them out. In the spring they would get sprouts and they'd have to sprout them and then they always saved a few that they would put a little row in the garden.
Wagner: But, that's all. The family did not grow a whole year's supply?
Yetter: No. We always wanted them for Fourth of July. And that was a big day, you see, Fourth of July, and they would like to have potatoes out of their own garden for fourth of July. So, they would have just a short row because I don't know how big the gardens were - maybe - Oh, I don't know whether they would be 50 or 60 yards long or something. Just a square.
Wagner: That was a good-sized garden.
Yetter: Well, I don't know just how much they were. They were longer than they were wide. And there was just room to walk between them and each house had a plot if they wanted to plant a garden and most of them planted.
Wagner: In back of the house or across the road?
Yetter: No, it would be up in the field they would divide the field off and have this grass plot between and that's where you walked - on the grass plot. And the men went up every night after work and dug it by hand. They didn't have it plowed; they dug it by hand. And planted - mostly tomatoes, I think. Well, I suppose some planted lettuce, radishes, a few little things. But they didn't have enough ground right in their own house to do it. But I know my grandmother cleared a little space next to our chicken house one time and bought some chicken wire and put it around it and I think she nearly killed herself out there helping to move stones and things. And we had tomatoes one year but I don't remember too much about anything else but tomatoes in there.
Wagner: Did everyone keep chickens?
Yetter: No, not everyone. But some of the people did, but they didn't have a lot of them.
Wagner: Were they for eggs or were they for eating?
Yetter: Well, they would be for eggs and in the winter they would have chicken for Sunday dinner. When they grew older, they would use them for our Sunday dinner.
Wagner: Who killed - who dressed the chickens?
Yetter: Well, usually the man - the father cut the head off the chicken and let it hang out on the clothes line until the blood would drip out. And then he would bring it in and the mother had to pick it.
Wagner: I can remember scalding and picking it. I didn't do it. I watched.
Yetter: Well, I imagine I used to get the job of picking the pinfeathers out - you know, after my grandmother would get the chicken pretty well picked, I would go and pick it. I could see them better than she could, I guess, and I would pick the pinfeathers out.
- Nurses, sickness, and the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic; swimming and bathing suits; doing the laundryKeywords: bluing; Centerville, Delaware; Delaware Hospital; Dr. Chandler; Dr. Samuels; Homeopathic Hospital; Influenza Epidemic (1918-1919); Larkin's; laundry; Montchanin, Delaware; Physician's Hospital; Ruly Carpenter; sears; sickness; swim wear; swimmingTranscript: Wagner: What else was I going to ask you? Back to your maternity nurse again. Did the same nurse nurse for other illnesses? I was thinking of the flu epidemic. Who did the nursing?
Yetter: Well, just members of the family. And, of course, the flu epidemic, you see, that was 1917, I think. Because I was married in 1916. Oh, no, it was later than 1917. It must have been 1918 or 19. Well, my daughter was born in 1918 and I was married in 1916. She was born in 1918 and it was that fall when we had that flu epidemic that killed so many of some families - were wiped out. And they couldn't bury them fast enough. And it was just you and the family would take care of you. They couldn't get nurses or doctors or anything for them. Couldn't get medicine for them .
Wagner: What about bad illnesses? What hospital?
Yetter: Well, there was always the Delaware Hospital and the Memorial - the Homeopathic Hospital they called that then. And the Delaware Hospital. Now, I don't know whether there was - I think there was one they called the Physician's Hospital when I was little. But we didn't know much about hospitals because they didn't run to hospitals like they do today, you know. You had to be seriously ill to ever be taken there. So, I don't remember any of the family going there.
Wagner: Now, who was the doctor? You say he had to come by horse and buggy. Was there a doctor close by?
Yetter: Dr. Chandler lived in Centerville. Oh, he came down from Centerville. So, he had to come from Centerville, down and around up the crick. And then there was a younger Dr. Samuels that came later. He was - let me see where he lived. He lived up toward Montchanin, I think where Ruly Carpenter lived later. There was a house there where he lived. So he was the younger doctor that took over when Dr. Chandler couldn't come. So that was the two doctors when I was little. But Dr. Chandler was our doctor. And when we were sick, he always came and I'm sure my mother never paid him. He never asked for any money and I don't imagine she ever paid him. He never charged any widow woman. Any bill; he never gave her a bill. I don't suppose he gave anybody bills. If they wanted to pay him, he'd take it, I guess. I'm sure my mother couldn't afford to pay him because when she went out working, in the first place she only got five dollars a week, I think.
Wagner: For twenty-four hour duty?
Yetter: Yeah. And she cooked for the whole family. And there were children that had to get off to school in the morning. She had to get them off to school. And the neighbors usually came in and done washing for you - some of the neighbors - they always helped one another. That's the way they lived up at Squirrel Run and I suppose all up around the crick was the same way. But she had all the housework to do and take care of the woman and the baby. And the women stayed in bed. They always stayed in bed on the ninth day because that was supposedly when your insides went back to place, they told me. [Laughter]. Now, that doesn't happen nowadays. How their insides go back to place, that's what they
Yetter: And so, then the tenth day they would sit up. And the woman stayed two weeks. And then the woman had to be back to do her own housework after that - washing and everything.
Wagner: I guess it was all right. Everybody made it. I was going to - you told me about your swimming. This was an item in the paper: "Memories of Yesteryear." Now, you were talking about not being sexy. It says that, "The usual costume for the girls was a sailor blouse, bloomers and a skirt." You told me you wore an old dress.
Yetter: Well, the bloomers and sailor blouses came in when I was 14 or 15 years old. I was a big girl.
Wagner: Then you remember all of this.
Yetter: Yes, I remember them because I wore them and I think I was still wearing them when I got married. So, I'm sure I was 15 or 16 before I had a sailor blouse and bloomers.
Wagner: That was the fashionable bathing suit?
Yetter: Well, we didn't run around the streets in the bloomers. If we had bloomers, we had a dress over it. A skirt over it. We didn't run around in bloomers. You just took the skirt off. And we wore middy blouses and I think I wore them until I was married. Because that was the costume of the day.
Wagner: Where did you get these bathing suits? Did you order them from Sears catalog or?
Yetter: We didn't have any bathing suits. We just wore an old dress that we had. Just an old dress. And then you brought it home and hung it on the line when you came from bathing and if it was dry the next day, you put it on, and if it was wet you put it on and went back to swim.
Wagner: Did you ever order anything from Sears catalog? Did you hear of Sears catalog?
Yetter: No, I didn't hear of Sears then. There was a Larkin's. That my grandmother used to buy some things from, but I think it would be - well, household things - soaps and something - and household appliances, I guess, and they gave you coupons or something and saved up because my grandmother finally got a washing machine that you turned by hand. And we thought it was a big thrill. We all wanted to help with the washing - turn that wheel.
Wagner: Was it wooden or?
Yetter: Yes, it was wood.
Wagner: And how did it work?
Yetter: Well, she would have to heat the water in the kitchen and if she had it on the porch or outside where she did her wash in summer, otherwise she had to wash in the kitchen, you see, and then she would have to fill it with the hot water. And then she'd have two tubs - one for first rinse and the second rinse. And she always put bluing in the last rinse water so her clothes would be good and white.
Wagner: Now you wrung these out by hand?
Yetter: Well, my grandmother had a wringer, but not many people did. And one tub would set on one side and one tub an be other of the rinse waters, you see, and she would take it from the washing machine to the first tub and the wringer would be - it was standing up in front - I'm talking with my hands - [Laughter] and into the second tub and then you put your clothes basket after the second rinse there and dropped your clothes in there and then they hung them all over the side of the hill. Clotheslines - my grandmother had yards and yards of clotheslines out and she really had big washes.
Wagner: But she didn't wash everything after each wearing?
Yetter: No - no - you only washed once a week - Once a week you washed.
- Clothes; taking in boarders; the cobbler, barbershop, and drugstore; saving rainwaterKeywords: barber; boarders; coats; dresses; drugstore; good clothes; Henry Clay Village; Henry du Pont; Hodgson Bros. woolen mill; Irish; Italian; knitting; shoe repair; Squirrel Run; sweaters; widowsTranscript: Wagner: What about your good clothes - did you throw those in the wash?
Yetter: No, when you come home from Sunday School, you took your good dress off and hung it up in the closet. And you wore - if you had a woolen dress, you wore it all winter. And the women wore shirtwaists and skirts and I don't know whether they ever had those cleaned or not. Two or three petticoats - the older women used to wear two or three petticoats.
Wagner: Did anybody get kinda smelly?
Yetter: Well, I guess everyone smelled the same in those days. They didn't have any antiperspirant at that time. So, I suppose you never noticed those things.
Wagner: You all smelled alike?
Yetter: Or else it was so cold you didn't perspire — in the wintertime when you wore those heavy clothes. [Laughter].
Wagner: And what about - you had one coat?
Wagner: One dress up coat and -
Yetter: You mostly had one coat and you wore hat until it got so hot you had to take it off. But we didn't get a spring coat. We didn't have winter and spring coats - just one winter coat that you wore until it got too hot to wear it. And then you went without a coat. But you would put a sweater on or something -
Wagner: Sweaters - everyone had sweaters?
Yetter: No - everyone didn't have sweaters. Some of us had sweaters and others didn't. No, everyone didn't have a sweater. It was usually a coat sweater - you didn't have pullovers. Just a coat sweater and you probably went into - then after you took off your winter coat, you could use that until the hot weather.
Wagner: Did anybody knit? Anybody in the neighborhood knit?
Yetter: Well, not too much, but you see, the Hodgson's woolen mills were up there. I'm surprised that there wasn't more knitting done. But I don't remember knitting until the First World War and then they began to knit things and send overseas, you know, to the soldiers. And that's the first I remember people knitting. I don't remember my mother or grandmother knitting. Not at all.
Wagner: Did your mother or grandmother do any handwork - decorative handwork like needlepoint? Or embroidery?
Yetter: No. Hers was baking bread and cooking for a family. Cooking for a family and whoever wanted to come home came home and whoever came in would sit down to the table, you know, that it didn't make any difference whether it was four, five or six. That's the way they all lived. So, she was busy cooking. So, she was, you see, And one of those stories there, one boy said his mother baked 52 loaves of bread a week. Twice a week she baked and there was 52 loaves a week, so she must have had a big family. But, maybe she had boarders.
Wagner: Did many of the women:take in boarders?
Yetter: Well, quite a few people did, yes. And some of the widows took in boarders for their living.
Wagner: And they - The widows were allowed to stay there?
Yetter: Yes, they allowed the widows to stay there. And the widows - DuPont's gave them a free house. In the story here it tells you that they didn't have to pay rent until after 1900 or something. But I think they always paid rent, but the widows were given a free house. And I think the story is telling you - whoever wrote this said eight dollars a month, but my grandmother always said they got five dollars a month and a free house.
Wagner: Did the widows have to take in roomers and boarders from the duPont Company or they could take in anyone?
Yetter: No, they could take in anyone, I think. And a lot of the boarders that they took - I think they - they said about old Henry du Pont brought foreigners over. I think he would pay their way over or something, maybe. I don't know whether he paid their way or loaned them the money to come over. And they then would board with these people until they got work. And maybe by then they would be getting a wife and be getting a home of their own. And then they took a lot of the Irish people in when they came over because they wouldn't have money to pay for it when they got here. So, somebody would take them and keep them until - and duPonts if they brought them over, they had a job for them. Either on the farm or in the yards or someplace.
Wagner: They would find a spot?
Yetter: Yeah - um-hmmm — mn-hmmm Now when did the Italians - do you remember the Italians coming?
Yetter: Well, they began to come in - well when I was a little girl, they began to come in - but just a few families and then just two or three families. And then I think they brought the brothers over or something and that's how they would come and get over here.
Wagner: Now what about shoe repair? Were there things like a barbershop, a shoe repair shop in the village close by?
Yetter: Yes. At the foot of Breck's Lane there was a little stone building - DuPont's - I don't know what had originally been there - right next to Breck's Mill - and the shoemaker was in there. So, you took your shoes down and, if you had only one pair of shoes, you went in there and you took your shoes off and he mended them and you'd sit there for hours while he mended them. And put them on and come home again. Now, this is half-soled and heels and whatever he - Well, I think it was mostly half-soles. I don't think we wore our heels off as much in those days as you do today. These concrete pavements wear your heels off. Maybe the country - walking on dirt didn't wear your heels off because I don't remember getting heels; I just remember getting half-soles. And there was a barbershop. And there was a drugstore and a post office - in Henry Clay.
Wagner: Oh, so you just walked from Squirrel Run down to Henry Clay and get everything taken care of.
Yetter: Uh-huh - uh-huh.
Wagner: Now, I was going to ask you - what about. We know you got your water from the spigot outside. Did you save rainwater?
Yetter: Yes, everybody had a rain barrel.
Yetter: Yes. And it would come down one corner of your porch and the rain barrel would be there. And they had a cover that kept the dirt from getting in it - from leaves and things blowing - and that was the water that you - you either had to carry water from the spigot or use rainwater to wash.
Wagner: You didn't ever drink the rainwater?
Yetter: Oh, no. No, that wasn't even clean enough to drink, but it would settle, you see, and be clean enough to wash with because the barrels were high — - great big barrels they were. And it was soft, you see. The rainwater was soft to wash with.
Wagner: And you could use it to water your garden?
- Toys, games, and recreation; sitting on the front porch; more recreation and games; Diamond Bridge and Squirrel Run bridges; buying things with cashKeywords: bicycles; bridges; coal; cooper shop; Diamond Bridge; Elizabeth "Bess" Beacom; hoops; ice; Jacks (Game); meat; piano; run sheepy run; singing; Squirrel Run; tagTranscript: Wagner: We know you played jacks. What about rolling hoops?
Yetter: Yes, we rolled hoops.
Wagner: Who made the hoops?
Yetter: Well, I guess we got the hoops from down in the cooper shop or someplace, I don't know. I suppose they gave us the hoops from there.
Wagner: Wherever you could get one.
Yetter: Yeah - wherever you could get one.
Wagners: Checkers? Checkerboard?
Yetter: Well, you usually had a checkerboard in your house. For indoors - for winter that you played checkers.
Wagner: I know what I wanted to ask you. You said you used to go up to Bess Beacom's house for fun.
Yetter: Yes, they sorta had open house. Everyone was so welcome at their house. And we would go up there. And they had a piano.
Wagner: That was the big drawing card?
Yetter: That was the drawing. We would all stand around the piano and sing, you know.
Wagner: What did you wear on a Saturday when you wanted to impress a fellow. What clothes? Did you get dressed up?
Yetter: Well, of course I was 15 when I left there and I hadn't taken on to the boys so I didn't get dressed to go out to parties.
Wagner: But you noticed - you noticed, didn't you?
Yetter: Well, maybe I did. I just think we weren't sexy in those days. So, I don't remember dressing for any parties or anything special. And, of course, when you went to church affairs, you did put on your good dress if you went up to church affairs, you know. Then took it off soon as you got home.
Wagner: Checkers and chess and swings. How about swings out in the yard?
Yetter: Oh, yes, we always had a swing out under the trees someplace. A big swing someplace.
Wagner: How about out on the porch - did you ever have those bench swings on the porch? What kind of porch furniture did you have?
Yetter: Oh, they had old-fashioned rocking chairs something like the one I have on my porch now.
Wagner: That reminds me. I have down in the cellar like that.
Yetter: My daughter brought me that when I first moved here. They were just old-fashioned rocking chairs they had out there. But people used their porches those days - in summer, you know. Everyone sat out front in the evenings.
Wagner: Everyone sat out?
Yetter: That's where you got caught up on the news.
Wagner: Yes, I guess so.
Yetter: The children would sit on the steps if there wasn't enough rocking chairs there.
Wagner: Did the kids play tag or run sheepy run?
Yetter: Yes. Yes. Run, sheepy, run was - you run farther from home for that - through the fields and woods for that. I forget what we hollered. They would holler, "Run, sheepy, run,” and make a whooping sound. And then they would come towards you and you would keeping moving away - get through a wheat field - tramp the wheat down [Laughter].
Wagner: No one ever fell down in the spring or in anybody's - when you're playing out - you know how that dust gets hard to see.
Yetter: We used to jump the rocks in the run. You see, the water wasn't very deep.
Wagner: Again, about the tree at the top of Squirrel Run and then Diamond Bridge, because they may not know.
Yetter: Well, there were three bridges across the run in Squirrel Run and the upper bridge was a huge tree that was stretched across and they had flattened the top a little where you could walk and they put little sides on that, for people - like a foot bridge. And then the lower end they built a bridge for you to walk across to go up the steps to Christ Church. They built that smaller bridge down there to walk across and that was maybe three foot wide or something. And then in the center of the run they had Diamond Bridge. It didn't go north to south; it was on an angle and that's why they called it Diamond Bridge and it was very well constructed but it didn't have any side rails. But that's where the horses and wagons went across when - when you moved, the furniture man had to go across there and when they delivered coal, they had to go across that bridge so they had a good sturdy bridge. And I never heard tell of anybody falling off it, so we must have been safe and good walkers.
Wagner: I know what I wanted to ask you. Where did you keep the coal? Did you have a coal shed?
Yetter: Oh, they had coal bins and that would be to the side of your house - coal bins. Did you have cellars in your house. With all that stone it would be hard to have a cellar. No - no cellars underground. That's where some of the houses were built a little higher and you had to go up steps. To go and to have a cellar - what they called a cellar, but it wasn't dug underground. And the houses were built above ground. And they usually had high steps to go up to those houses. That would have been on the south side where they had steps mostly on the south side of Squirrel Run. The north side they usually had a little back place. There was a hole built in the side of the hill where they keep their potatoes and things in winter.
Wagner: When you ordered coal?
Yetter: Well, the coal man would come over.
Wagner: Across Diamond Bridge?
Yetter: Yes, across Diamond Bridge and come to your house.
Wagner: You would order it by the bag and by the pound?
Yetter: No, by the bushel - no, by the ton, I mean. You bought a ton of coal. In the fall if you had money, you bought more. But usually my grandmother never had enough money, so she bought one ton and when that run out, we would call up and they would send us another ton.
Wagner: You sound like everything was cash on the barrel head. Is that right when you had something delivered, you paid. Is that right?
Yetter: Well, she would have the money saved up to pay for one ton. She never had enough to pay. Some of the people if they had enough, they'd put in three ton for the winter. But she didn't have enough money for that and she would save up and when it was gone, she would have enough to pay for a ton when it came. So, she paid for it at that time.
Wagner: Now what about other door-to-door peddlers? You said the meat man used to come down.
Yetter: The butcher came twice a week - I think Wednesday and Saturday.
Wagner: And you couldn't charge; you had to pay him?
Yetter: Yes, you paid him. I don't think they would charge. I never heard tell of anybody charging then. You had to give him money. And you went out with your dishpan. He didn't wrap your meat. You just took your dishpan out and he cut you steak or whatever you were getting - or a roast - and put in your - he weighed it and gave you your price and put it in your dishpan for you. And you took it back in the house. [Laughter].
Wagner: Did you cook it? You had an ice box. So you could keep it a little while.
Yetter: Keep it a little while. And we would get ice when the ice man came onSaturday and that would keep the - if you bought 25 or 50 pounds, it would keep it for a few days. And otherwise, they stewed - boiled their meat more than they did bake it in the summertime. Years ago. But, the meat wouldn't keep and then they cooked it and then at the end of the week, before the butcher came, they just had meals without meat, I suppose; I don't know. I don't know how my grandmother ever - she never had too much money and she always had a lot of people to feed.
Wagner: Whatever she had, you were welcome to?
Yetter: Yes. Yes.
Wagner: Did you have bicycles?
Yetter: No - no bicycles. Very few people had bicycles.
- DuPont Co. fireworks displays; burning wood and coal for cooking and warmth; making whistles from willow trees; peeling willow treesKeywords: coal; fireworks; Fourth of July; Granogue; Green Hill Presbyterian Church (Wilmington, Del.); heat; Kennett Pike; peeling; tools; willow trees; woodTranscript: Wagner: You know, the Museum is getting ready its annual Fireworks show again.
Yetter: Oh, is it?
Wagner: Did you go to fireworks? Did they have fireworks?
Yetter: Oh, yes. The du Ponts used to put on a big display up on the Kennett Pike up near Greenhill Church. The du Ponts put a big show on the Fourth of July. I don't know whether it was Fourth of July night or Saturday night - I don't remember what day it was - maybe it was Fourth of July. We all went up there along the Pike and watched it. There was a fence and you couldn't go back of the fence.
Wagner: How did you - what path did you take up to the Pike?
Yetter: Well, we had to go up past du Pont School to go to that because it was where the golf course is and they had it on the golf course. Where the same golf course is today. Was where they had the fireworks.
Wagner: And everyone went?
Yetter: And everyone went - the whole family. Yes - that was fun. [Laughter].
Wagner: Did you take anything to eat and drink? Or you just went up to watch?
Wagner: No, no. It was after dinner because they started when it began to get dusk and put them off after dark, you see. Later years I think Irenee du Pont put some off at his place at - let's see - Granogue?
Yetter: Later years he did that. But when I was growing up, the DuPont Company, I think, put it on up on the golf course. My voice sounds pretty husky today.
Wagner: It does. Am I tiring you - is this tiring you out?
Yetter: No, I think it's the change in the weather. I get husky. It isn't sore. It's just -
Wagner: If you get tired, say so, because you are a wealth of information. They had all this information from the duPont side of things but they don't have it from the workers' side of the story, so I keep asking things that may sound sort of -
Yetter: I'm afraid I'll bore you.
Wagner: Oh, no indeed - not at all. I wanted to ask you - everyone had a coal shed? You burned coal? What about wood? Did anybody burn wood?
Yetter: Yes, the men were allowed to take any fallen trees and cut them up and take the firewood home. They didn't buy wood; they went out to the woods and -
Wagner: Where did you stack this wood? Around in back of the coal shed?
Yetter: Around in back of the coal box or someplace - or in the shed or whatever they had. They always had a shed of some kind that went with each house. And that's where you could store some of your things, you see, in that shed.
Wagner: Back to the shed. Did everyone cook in the shed in the summer? I know it made the house terribly hot.
Yetter: No. It made the house - the kitchen so hot that if they had a shed with an old stove out there, that's where they burnt their wood and cooked out there in the summer.
Wagner: Wood in the summer and coal in the winter?
Yetter: Yes. Uh-huh. And coal in the winter. And that's all the heat you had in the house was your coal - your kitchen fire. And the stairs - at the foot of the stairs there was a door - you kept that closed in the evening and then towards bedtime they'd open the door and let some of the heat go upstairs. But, you know it wouldn't be a lot of heat go up there. [Laughter].
Wagner: Have to run fast. Tools - tool shed. Did your family keep any kind of - well, you'd have to have a shovel around.
Yetter: Well, they would have an ax and a saw for the wood, you see, and -
Wagner: What about a scythe - to cut down the weeds?
Yetter: They didn't have any grass or lawns or anything to cut you know. And they didn't cut any weeds down. There was enough trees around and we didn't have too much weeds.
Wagner: No weeds. You didn't have to go out and weed the garden - the vegetable garden?
Yetter: No - well, the men did that.
Wagner: That was their social get-togethers. Yes, that was their end of it. Any musical instruments around the house? No, we didn't have any. No harmonica or violin? Well, the boys might have had a harmonica. Tin whistles?
Yetter: Well, we used to make whistles out of the willow trees.
Wagner: Oh, you did?
Wagner: Did you make them or did the boys make them?
Yetter: Well, the boys would make them. They had penknives and they would cut a piece about four inches long and - I don't know how they would do it. But they would whistle through it. They always did that usually when the women were up peeling willows. They would snitch some and make - They would take the smaller branches, see, and I think the peelings must come loose when hey made the whistles some way. I don't know, but you could blow through them anyhow.
Wagner: Now did only the women peel the willows?
Yetter: Yes, I suppose that's when the men went to the gardens and worked — - went up to the gardens. The women mostly did the peeling of the willows. They had little benches - little stools or something and they'd go up and sit on them and they had small knives that they would peel the willows.
Wagner: The never brought it home to do?
Yetter: Oh, no - no. The duPonts - they ordered so many - I guess cords they would go by. And if you ordered three or four cords, they would dump it all in one place and they knew - Mrs. Beacom always peeled willows. That's how I knew because she would take me with her. We might help her a little bit, but we played around while she peeled the willows and the peelings just laid there and you threw the woody part over in a pile. I think maybe that's where she took me. I would carry the woody parts away. They weren't heavy, you know, and put them in a pile and then when she was all through, duPonts would send their trucks -— their wagons up and take them away. That's the way the done that.
Wagner: How would they know how to pay the people?
Yetter: They paid them by the cord.
Wagner: Oh, I see. And then they would keep track of how many -
Yetter: How many cords they gave each person, you see.
- Baking and sewing; house floor plan; newspapers and punishment; politics and father's death; books and reading; schoolKeywords: Alexis I. du Pont School; baking; books; education; Elizabeth "Bess" Beacom; Evening Journal; Every Evening; floor plan; flour; kitchen; McKee's Hill; politics; reading; school; sewing machine; tuberculosis; William McKinleyTranscript: Wagner: Baking. We figured twice a week baking - Wednesday and Saturday? Um-hmm. Smells good, huh, when you bake [Laughter].
Yetter: When we came home from school, it smelled mighty good.
Wagner: How would your grandmother or mother get the flour? Would they order large lots of flour?
Yetter: In the winter she bought a barrel - a barrel of flour.
Wagner: What about the little creepy-crawleys they get in flour? How did - Well, she bought this in the winter - early winter, you see, when there wasn't any danger of that. And then she had flour all winter. And then after that I suppose she bought 50 pounds at a time or something — — when the barrel got low towards spring she would buy smaller quantities then to last through the summer. We thought it was a treat to get bought bread - five cents a loaf. [Laughter] It was delicious. [Laughter]
Wagner: We come full circle don't we? And we figured there was no knitting, right? You didn't hear about the knitting. Now, did everyone have a sewing machine?
Yetter: Most people did. Um-hmm.
Wagner: Where did you keep it?
Yetter: In the kitchen.
Wagner: In the kitchen?
Yetter: They were large kitchens.
Wagner: Was your parlor upstairs or downstairs?
Yetter: Well, there was usually two rooms...and the first front room would have been your parlor and then the kitchen in back of that. In other words, sometimes the bedroom would be a parlor, too. You would have a bed in one corner and parlor furniture in the other part of the room. Everyone didn't have a parlor. It was according to how many bedrooms you needed whether you had a parlor on the second floor. But you mostly lived in the kitchen. That was kitchen, dining room and all combined.
Wagner: You lived in the kitchen?
Yetter: Yes. Uh-huh.
Wagner: Newspapers? Did they have newspapers - daily newspapers?
Yetter: They had daily newspapers and usually some of the widow women took that on and their children served the papers.
Wagner: The Wilmington Morning News - the News Journal?
Yetter: We had the Every Evening and the Evening Journal at that time. So I don't remember how they served those - whether one person or two people. I don't think they had a Morning News - I don't remember. But there was an Every Evening and an Evening Journal.
Wagner: Sunday paper?
Yetter: Yes, there was I think, a Sunday paper.
Wagner: Comics? Did it have comics?
Yetter: I think so. Because the only whipping I ever got my father whipped me with the Sunday paper — - the Sunday funny paper.
Wagner: What did you do that was so terrible?
Yetter: They had company and they were on the porch waiting to come to dinner and my mother had steak. And she went out to tell them the dinner was ready and to come in and I got over the stove on a chair with a bowl of eggs and cracked eggs on top of her steak. I don't know how she made out to serve the meal. But my father whipped me with a newspaper - the only whipping he ever gave me - over my legs. I don't think I liked the newspaper - funny paper after that.
Wagner: And you remember that.
Yetter: I remember that very well.
Wagner: Now this is on an election year. Do you remember any politicians going around Squirrel Run?
Yetter: No, I don't. And one of the pictures here shows the things and my mother said that's where my father caught a cold electioneering for McKinley. And it developed into TB and he died when I was six years old.
Wagner: All because of politics.
Yetter: Yes. And the man that was the head of the thing and had the money never paid any of the men off. And he built a big house up on McKee's Hill - a big stone home. After the thing was over. And none of the other men ever got any money for doing electioneering. [Laughter]
Wagner: That was that. No more politics after that. You don't remember any like torch light parades?
Wagner: Did you have a library at home? Did you have my books? What books besides the Bible did you have?
Yetter: The Bible was about the only book. Well, the school - Alexis I. duPont had a library and we had to take a book home every week. And that's where we got our books.
Wagner: You were required to do a lot of reading.
Yetter: Yes. Because too many weeks in succession I took Peter Rabbit.
Wagner: And What did the teacher say?
Yetter: The teacher didn't know it. But, Bess Beacom was one of the ones that worked in the library and I knew all he girls that were doing it. They were older - they were in high school. And I would take Peter Rabbit back and get credit for it and then take Peter Rabbit out because I didn't want to take time to sitting and reading because I was an outdoor person. You had too many things to do.
Wagner: But you must have gotten a reasonably good education.
Yetter: Well, we had to study and you got kept in if you didn't have your lessons done - Alexis I.duPont School - you were kept in. And then at the end of the year we had to take tests. If you didn't have an average - I think - are you on this subject of school that I'm talking about?
Wagner: No, it just came up. I said books at home, but I thought that would be a good way to get to your school work.
Yetter: Well, where were we on that? Maybe you had to have an average, I think, of 85 or then you took final examinations. And then you had to have a passing number then to be promoted. So, I took books home that week and studied hard and took my examinations and I managed to pass. [Laughter]
Wagner: Where did you do homework?
Yetter: Around the kitchen table.
Wagner: And who heard your lessons? Did your mother hear your lessons or?
Yetter: No. I don't think they did. Maybe my sister would sometimes help me out. Because I had been home sick with diphtheria one time and when I went back they had long division, and I wasn't there when it was explained. And I was just dumb on it, I guess. And she said, "Well, get your sister to help you with it.” So, she began to give me columns and after that I could fly through it and I was always good in math after that. We didn't call it math. It was arithmetic. And I was always good in arithmetic after that. I finally got it into my head.
Wagner: What about discipline problems in school? Did the teacher have to cope with many bad boys or bad girls?
Yetter: I don't think we had too many. I was sent to the Principal's office twice for talking too much.
Wagner: That was the extent of the badness?
Yetter: And Mr. Yerger was the principal at the time and he was always very nice. When it was after school that you had to go down and wait til he talked to you, and he would come up and you would stand up and he would be buttoning my coat while he was lecturing to me. [Laughter] So, I don't think he ever lectured very much to me.
Wagner: Did anyone play hooky from school?
Yetter: Oh, yes. There was always something like that going on. I think we played hooky one time and got caught. But my sister happened to be with me so I don't think I had to take the blunt end of that. Because she should have known better.
Wagner: Oh, she should have known better?
- Wall coverings; buying sugar; keeping animals; lighting the family home; birthday celebrations window dressingsKeywords: ants; Arthur Jackson; birthdays; canning; Cheney family; chickens; dried vegetables; Gibbons House; goats; Hagley Museum and Library; kerosene lamps; lace curtains; matting; paint; pigeons; pigs; rabbits; rag carpets; string beans; sugar; tomatoes; wallpaper; window dressingsTranscript: Wagner: Sugar - back to food again. Before that, I wanted to ask you - Did you have wallpaper on the walls or were the walls of your house painted - do you remember?
Yetter: Well, we had wallpaper in the bedrooms. I don't remember down.
Wagner:What about the kitchen?
Yetter: I believe it was painted because I kinda' remember my grandmother scrubbing the walls at housecleaning time, you know. I think they were painted downstairs. But the upstairs bedrooms were papered. And the women done the wallpapering. DuPonts didn't do it. You bought your own wallpaper and you done your own wallpapering.
Wagner: That was a pain. Now sugar. Where did you buy sugar - in large amounts — - like you bought the flour?
Yetter: No - no. You bought it in five-pound bags mostly. Five or ten-pound bags, I think. Came in cloth bags.
Wagner: What did you do for things like ants? Did ants ever get into -
Yetter: Well, I suppose they used Black Flag and things in those days like they use today.
Wagner: Did they have Black Flag then?
Yetter: Yes. I can remember my grandmother scattering Black Flag around in corners and closets. And she just - if food dropped on the floor, she picked it up because she would say ants would gt on it, you know.
Wagner: That's right.
Yetter: So, I don't think we had too much trouble. Because they just kept after be things, you know.
Wagner: You had a wooden floor in the kitchen - no linoleum? No. They had rag carpet down. You used to sew rags. When we were children, we sewed rags and made balls and then - I guess they took it away someplace and had it woven.
Wagner: I was thinking about scrubbing the kitchen floor. But you could just pick up the rugs and wash those or shake those out.
Yetter: Well, they were full length and they covered the whole floor. And housecleaning time they had to lift them and scrub them and hang them on the clothesline to dry. And in the bedrooms, I think they called it matting - m-a-t-t-i-n-g - matting. It was straw, and that's what they had in the bedrooms so you could sweep that very easily. That was easy to clean. And that's what we had on our bedroom floors- matting. It was real light.
Wagner: What about in the parlor? You'd have an Axminster rug or — -
Yetter: Well, in later years they got those. But they didn't have them when I was little. No.
Wagner: Just the bare floor?
Yetter: Well, they - that's where they'd put the new carpet down in the parlor, I guess and then when it began to get older they put it in the kitchen and got the new stuff upstairs again - or in the parlor.
Wagner: What about canning? When you canned, did you put up a lot of pickles. You said the main thing you grew up in the garden was tomatoes.
Yetter: Tomatoes. And then there would be farmers come around with loads of tomatoes - baskets - and you would buy so many baskets off them to can. And my grandmother always canned a lot of tomatoes. And if they had anything like string beans or something, they would always can those. Otherwise, in the winter you used dried lima beans and dried things. And canned - corn and peas and things. We didn't have the variety of vegetables in those days like they have today. It was mostly peas and corn and tomatoes.
Wagner: You'd buy that off the farmer who came around with the wagon?
Yetter: Yes. Uh-huh.
Wagner: You said not everybody kept chickens. Most people. What about things like rabbits or pigeons. Did anybody - ?
Yetter: No - well maybe one here and there would have them. But pigeons were always dirty things and I don't think they encouraged them. To have those. I don't remember anybody having pigeon farms or any great amount of those. Maybe duPonts didn't allow them. They were fusty what you had.
Wagner:Oh, they were?
Yetter: Yes - yes.
Wagner: They told you what you could have and could not?
Yetter: Yes. Uh-huh. Because one time they told me they had pigs. And then they done away with all those because they were too smelly. But they didn't have pigs in my day.
Yetter: Everyone had a dog outside. Not inside. And they had a dog box.
Yetter: Most everyone had a dog.
Wagner: Did they ever have things like rabies? Would any dogs - did you ever hear of any dogs?
Yetter: No. We heard tell of dogs going mad and we were warned if they were ever racing around in circles or frothing at the mouth, they would be mad and get inside and stay out of the way, and if one ever did, then some of the men would go out with guns and shoot it. I can remember that when I was growing up.
Wagner: But you never knew a neighbor who had that.
Yetter: No. We didn't hear tell of rabies or anything at that time. They just said a mad dog.
Wagner: They want to know about lights. What kind of lighting did you have?
Yetter: Kerosene lamps.
Wagner: Upstairs and downstairs?
Yetter: Upstairs and downstairs. Yeah - upstairs and downstairs.
Wagner: Ever set anything on fire?
Yetter: No, you had to be very careful with them, you know. Had to be very careful. Of course, we were warned so much about fires, you know, when we were children because on account of the powder yards that we were extra careful, I think. We were just raised that way. Because we were all afraid. I forget just what big place it was that if it ever went off they said it would almost level Wilmington. I forget which mill that was now.
Wagner: I'm sure Wilmington felt some rumbles from some of the explosions.
Yetter: Yes. Yes. I'm sure they did.
Wagner: Birthdays. Were they big affairs? Did you have birthday cakes and big parties?
Yetter: At Beacom's they always had a cake and lemonade - at Beacom's house. But we didn't in my home. We didn't have. I don't know whether - maybe my mother made a cake but there wasn't any fuss. We didn't have any parties. The parties were always held at Beacom's house and they had parties for their family. Mrs. Beacom always made sponge cakes. She could mix one up in 10 minutes and have it in the oven. [Laughter]. And everyone got a piece of it.
Wagner:That sounds good. How were the windows dressed? Did you have window shades - did you have curtains - what was - ?
Yetter: We had window shades.
Wagner: Pull down - roll up?
Yetter: Yes, uh-huh. But we never had draperies. Maybe in the bedroom we might have had lace curtains. Maybe in the parlor they had lace curtains. But we didn't have any particular curtains in the kitchen or anything other than the window shades. No, I don't think we had any - no pretty curtains [Laughter].
Wagner: What about the floors? Well, we did that. We decided wood floors and you had the rug down. The Gibbons House at the Museum has a brick floor in the downstairs. You've not been up to see that yet?
Yetter: No, but I was in that years ago when someone lived there that I knew and I would go over with his sister to his house so I run in and out of the house at that time when they were over there. We'd go over in the evening or something. Arthur Jackson lived there when I was a little girl and that's how I knew more about the Gibbons House than some of them - because I was in and out of it. And that's when Cheney's lived a couple doors up.
Wagner: The end house?
Yetter: Right. Uh-huh. Uh-huh.
- Staying warm in the winter; flowers and houseplants; drinking and making wine and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks; ethnic and religious tensions tensions; folkloreKeywords: Catholics; coffee; folklore; houseplants; Irish; Italians; lemonade; mittens; Protestants; root beer; silver maple; superstitions; taverns; weather lore; wine; wine makingTranscript: Wagner: Kitchen stove. Now, you had a stove in the parlor, right? You didn't - no stoves in the bedroom?
Wagner: Oh - mittens. You wore mittens or gloves in the wintertime?
Yetter: Well, we mostly had mittens.
Wagner: Where did you get them? You said nobody did much knitting.
Yetter: No. I suppose you could get a pair for 10 cents in the five and ten-cent store in those days. And your four fingers were in one place and your thumb in another. And your hands were warm in those, so I think we wore more mittens than we did gloves.
Wagner: Did you keep flowers inside? Did you have window boxes or bring plants like this?
Yetter: No. Not too much. Because the houses were cold, you know. And to have them in the kitchen you didn't have room for them. Maybe somebody would bring one geranium in or something and try to raise it - keep it on the window sill or something. But not many flowers.
Wagner: How about homemade wine? Did anybody grow grapes and make wine?
Yetter: Yes. The Italian people always made wine. I don't think the Irish did. But the Italians when they came, they made wine. And I think maybe the French might have made wine. But the Irish didn't make wine.
Wagner: What about local taverns? Where did the Irish men go to get a drink?
Yetter: Well, they had many taverns for the amount of people up there. They had four altogether. And there was one of the things I was looking at in that book that said on Sunday the Presbyterians came down to one of these things in the afternoon or something and the Catholics came in the morning. But they never were open on Sunday - never. [Laughter], and so somebody had that one wrong. [Laughter]. Because DuPont's wouldn't allow that, I [don't think. That's where DuPont's would come in with orders and you just followed those orders.
Wagner: You did not - nobody snuck around and came in the back door or -
Yetter: No, I don't think so. I mean they were very careful on those kinds of things because there were a lot of loss of license and I think they wouldn't have taken a chance in those days like they do today. You know, this generation will take a chance on anything. But years ago most people wouldn't. And they were glad to have a day of rest. Is that door cold on you - feel it?
Wagner: Oh, no. If it is, I'll close it. How are you doing, all right? I'm all right. Coffee grinder? You ground - you roasted your own coffee?
Yetter: No, we didn't roast it but we ground our own coffee. Mostly. You could buy it ground but mostly we ground our own.
Wagner: Now you said lemonade. You didn't have artificial - You had to go get the lemons first, right? You had to squeeze your own lemons. Were lemons economical or -?
Yetter: Oh, yes. Lemons probably would have been a penny apiece in those days. They wouldn't have been very much. Because I can - maybe I would go over to Beacom's and help them squeeze the lemons. We would roll them and make them soft. And she would have maybe two dozen if she was having a party. So, I don't think they would have been expensive.
Wagner: What kind of squeezer - that twist around or did you have anything that hinged?
Yetter: I think so. No I think you had something that twisted around and that's why we rolled them and got them sort of soft, you know, and she cut them in half and squeeze them like that. Just scrape the pulp out and fling it in the pitcher. Well, I guess some of it went in the lemonade, you know. I think some of the pulp would go in.
Wagner: I was asking about the sugar. You know homemade lemonade seems to take a lot more sugar than -
Yetter: Well, Mrs. Beacom always seemed to be able to supply that. Oh. OK What about other homemade sodas?
Yetter: Well, they would maybe make root beer in the summer And they would gather up the beer bottles. Beer bottles used to have a top that would turn back and a little rubber washer on the top.
Wagner: A screw cap?
Yetter: No. No. It had a spring on it and you could turn it back and it had a little rubber washer like on it. And then when you put the lid back and pulled down on this little metal thing, it tightened it. And they used to make root beer and they would take it out and lay it in the sun in the yard for a couple of days and it would take it several days before it was ripe and ready to drink. And then they would bring it in to get cold after that.
Wagner: Lose any tops on the - I've seen root beer take tops right off a bottle.
Yetter: Of course, when you opened it, if it was warm, you had to pour it in a glass right quick or it would foam over on you. Because it had yeast in it. You see, there's yeast in it.
Wagner: Now. Did you ever have any gang wars? Did the Irish and the Italians fight with each other? Did you ever have any neighborhood feuds?
Yetter: No. I think the Catholics and Protestants they separated pretty well from one another and that they really didn't fight, I don't think. I don't remember them ever having fights. And you were friendly with your neighbors. But the Catholics were one way and the Protestants were another. But they were separated as far as religion went, but I don't think they fought.
Wagner: What about dirty jokes and stories? Was that just for husbands - off-color stories?
Yetter: No, they didn't do too much of that.
Wagner: Now, they want to know about weather lore - like red sky at night, sailors - did you ever hear, "The weather's going to change when the leaves are hanging down."?
Yetter: Yes, they always said that if silver maples turned their leaves up, we were going to have a storm. When the wind would blow - you know what a silver maple is. They would turn the leaves up.
Wagner: Do you remember like this weather we've been having recently? The heavy rains or hurricanes?
Yetter: No, I don't remember anything about hurricanes. But we used to have an awful lot of storms right around five o'clock in the afternoon if it was a hot day. Real thunderstorm - pour rain - and a couple hours later the sun would come out again. And it would be all over. But it would be very often when the people were coming home from work. We used to say they always got caught in the rain coming home.
Wagner: What about children's things like - Step on a crack, break your mother's back.
Wagner: Walking under ladders?
Yetter: Well, I think they were superstitious about some things like walking under a ladder.
Wagner: Broken mirrors?
Yetter: Oh, yes - seven years' back luck if you broke a mirror. So, I guess we've all broken mirrors in our life.
Wagner: Haven't we [Laughter].
- Managing money; courting; toys; smoking; school lunchesKeywords: cigarettes; Claymont, Delaware; courting; Dating (Social customs); dolls; Forty Acres, Wilmington, Delaware; money; school lunches; smoking pipes; Squirrel Run toys; Street-railroads; trolleyTranscript: Wagner: Now, who took charge of the money? Well, in your house your mother took care of it.
Yetter: Well, of course, it was my grandmother. My grandfather just brought his check home to granny.
Wagner: And granny took care of it.
Yetter: Yes, granny took care of it.
Wagner: Now this is - when you were courting - where did you go - what did you do when you were courting?
Yetter: Well, of course, that was later years. I wasn't up the crick then. [Laughter]. You did what other people did. You walked in town and - My mother had gotten married then - again - and then after I went to learn my trade at dressmaking I thought I could never live anyplace but with my grandmother. But the dressmaker that I learned with was only down the street from my mother so I had to go in and live then with my mother; my sister went in and lived with her right away but I didn't. And on Saturday afternoon I run up to Squirrel Run as fast as I could get up there and wouldn't come back until Sunday night.
Wagner: And you came back by trolley - right?
Yetter: Trolley or maybe walk. I lived in around the Forty Acres.
Wagner: And you weren't afraid to walk after dark?
Yetter: No. Well, usually some of the crowd of girls and boys would bring me most of the way home. They would all came for a walk to bring you part of the way home, anyhow. That was part of their fun. Bring me home and there would be a bunch of them bring me home, you know, there wouldn't be one boy to bring me home. There would be half-a-dozen boys and three or four girls and there always seemed to be more boys than girls.
Wagner: That's nice. I wanted to ask about sleigh rides.
Yetter: No, that was before my day.
Wagner: OK. Toys. You said you lost your dolls. So did you have any other homemade toys or boughten toys?
Yetter: Oh, I loved dolls and I think I got maybe a small doll every Christmas and I just got the one big doll after my father died. My uncle gave my sister and I both a big doll. And that's what I had until I grew up and until after I got married. And until I come to Claymont I had it.
Wagner: Isn't that a shame. Ice cream. Homemade ice cream.
Yetter: Well, the Beacom's had an ice cream freezer. So we would all go there and make ice cream.
Wagner: Often? Well, no, not often, but two or three times during the summer, maybe. And we would try to make it in the winter but we just didn't have the ice. And salt and things to do it right in the winter, you know. And it was more mess then; we didn't enjoy it after you sat around all evening - you'd have to get out on the porch to make it and it was so cold you were freezing. They didn't allow you to do it in the kitchen.
Wagner: Too much mess. OK. What about smoking? Did girls smoke?
Yetter: They didn't smoke in my day. No.
Wagner: Did the men smoke?
Yetter: The men smoked. Well, I don't know too much about cigarettes. My mother's youngest brother smoked cigarettes and he bought a little cloth bag and rolled his own cigarettes. And it was Duke's mixture. Of course, he was ten years older than me, but I don't know whether he was allowed to buy it in the stores even then because he used to take me down to the store and give me the money to go in and get it for him. I guess they would sell it to me, you know, thinking I was taking it home to my grandfather or somebody. But I think maybe they turned the boys down because they didn't want them to smoke.
Wagner: What about cigars? Did the older men -
Yetter: The older men mostly smoked pipes. I think maybe they would smoke cigars on occasion but they couldn't afford to buy cigars so they smoked a pipe.
Wagner: Do you remember spittoons - cuspidors?
Yetter: Yes. I sure do.
Wagner: Did you have any in the house? I sure did. Yes they had them. I won't tell you the story about them.
Wagner: Oh, please do I know you'll put it down. Oh, you don't want me to put it down. It's not a nice story?
Wagner: O.K. I think they're dirty, but that's -
Yetter: Well, they were dirty and they had to clean them. No, I don't want to tell you the story. [Laughter]
Wagner: What about when you went to school - you carried your lunch. Did you have a metal lunch box or paper bag?
Yetter: I think we mostly used paper bags. I think some of the children had lunch boxes. But we mostly put it in a paper bag.
Wagner: And what was in the paper bag - what did you take? Well, usually a sandwich and an apple and maybe some cookies. We didn't have a big lunch.
Wagner: You ate sandwiches?
Yetter: Yes, that's the only time we had sandwiches because I said I was married before I knew you didn't put your meat and your bread on the plate and cut it up. I think I was married before I knew people sat down for lunch and made a sandwich and at it at the table. I thought it was just to pack in a lunch and send away, when you ate a sandwich.
- Banks; father's tuberculosis; dealing with body odor; makeup; community events; her father's funeralKeywords: banks; Black Gates; body odor; Breck's Lane; Ella Jane Montgomery; funerals; funerary customs; quilting bee; rouge; sweat; talcum powder; tuberculosisTranscript: Wagner: What about banks?
Yetter: No, we didn't know anything about banks. They were in town and we didn't know anything about banks. Not many people had any money to take there.
Wagner: No check books?
Yetter: No check books, no.
Wagner: Did the Company ever hold any out to put away in savings plans or pension plans?
Yetter: I never heard tell of them until I read it in the Hagley book. I never heard tell of any.
Wagner: You said your father got tuberculosis. Was that pretty common?
Yetter: Well, of course, they didn't have sanitariums in those days, so people took it and they died with it. And it wasn't quick because I was six when he died and my mother told me he took it during the election - he got wet and got a cold - and he never recovered from that and I was six when he died. So he must have had it about three years. Because we lived at Black Gates. And the house is torn down and that's where the Country Club is now. My father worked the farm there because he had worked with Mr. Alfred I. at Breck's Mill. They were experimenting on something, Mr. Alfred I was. And my father worked with him down there. And when he got sick, he had to give up the work. That's when he went up there to work on the farm to be out of doors. And he got so bad we had to give up our home and go down and live with my father's father. We went to live with him.
Wagner: Well, how on earth was he able to - he must have felt so bad. How could he function?
Yetter: Well, he couldn't work inside with anybody else. I think the outdoors was the place to be - out in the fresh air. And I think that's probably why he done it.
Wagner: Now what about making - we spoke about perspiration odor. Did the women have powder or potpourri or...
Yetter: Oh, yes. They always had talcum powder. They called it talcum powder.
Wagner: Did it smell?
Wagner: It was perfumed?
Yetter: Yes. And the face powder that I can remember my mother and aunts using was a square block - oh, maybe about an inch and a-half square - and it was hard. And they would rub their hands - their fingers on that and then rub it on their face.
Wagner: Did they have puffs - powder puffs?
Yetter: No, they didn't have powder puffs. They would rub their fingers on it and then just take some up on their fingers and put - I guess just to take the shine off their nose. I don't think they powdered very much. But I think all the - that I can remember they used rouge.
Wagner: I was going to ask about rouge or lipstick;
Yetter: No, they didn't use lipstick, but they used rouge.
Wagner: How about eye makeup?
Yetter: No. Just rouge on their cheeks and a little powder on their nose. That's all they needed.
Wagner: They weren't referred to as painted women?
Yetter: No. Well, there may have been some - street walkers or something in those_days even.
Wagner: What about quilting bees? Did the women in the neighborhood get together and have a community sew-in or community canning or-
Yetter: No, I think that would have been before the 1900's maybe. When they had those because I heard all about them but I don't remember any in my day. After I was married, I had a quilting bee at my house one time. I had some of the older people from up the crick and had it in my home. I made patches and Ella Jane Montgomery who lived up on Breck's Lane - [Barnegal?] Lane I guess she lived in the first place - and she made a lot of patches. She wanted to make a large quilt for my husband because my husband was 6 ft. 3-1/2". ’ He was a tall man in those days. Now that isn't tall today. But he was very tall then. And she wanted him to have a long quilt that would cover his feet. So; she made a lot of these patches and then I had these women come to my house for lunch and Stay all day and we had quilting frames put up and they quilted all day long.
Wagner: Did you finish it?
Yetter: Well, I don't think we finished it. I probably finished it myself after they left. But I had about four or five women there, sitting around in my house. And at that time I lived in the old Riddle Mansion and my bedroom had five windows in it. It was a big bright room so we just pushed the bed over to one side and put the quilting frame in the middle of the floor and we quilted all day long.
Wagner: That must have been a good time. Your father died when you were six. What do you remember about the funeral?
Yetter: Well, I don't remember too much. I know the men used to go on the back porch and smoke.
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