Interview with William Ball "Billy" Montgomery, 1988 April 20 [audio]

Hagley ID:
  • Early childhood and moving around; Explosions at Hagley; Childhood toys and games
    Keywords: Breck's Lane (Del.: Village); explosions; Games; Green Hill Presbyterian Church (Wilmington, Del.); Hagley Yard; Squirrel Run (Del.: Village); Toys; Wilmington, Del.
    Transcript: Bennett: Well, it's nice to be with you, I'm gonna say first that today is April 20, 1988, and I'm in the home of Billy Montgomery at 181 Breck's Lane, and I'd like to have a little background - Would you give me your name please, your full name.

    Montgomery: William Ball Montgomery.

    Bennett: But you don't William Ball, you like Billy, right?

    Montgomery: Preferably.

    Bennett: Okay. Did you have any brothers or sisters?

    Montgomery: One older brother, John.

    Bennett: Okay. Would you tell me the name of your father please?

    Montgomery: John.

    Bennett: Did he have a middle name?

    Montgomery: No.

    Bennett: And your mother, what was her name?

    Montgomery: Alice Beatty.

    Bennett: Alice Betty.

    Montgomery: Maiden name.

    Bennett: Maiden name. Were they both born in Wilmington?

    Montgomery: Yes.

    Bennett: Did your father work in the yards?

    Montgomery: No.

    Bennett: How about your brothers or sisters, did any of them work in the yards?

    Montgomery: I didn't have any sisters.

    Bennett: Brothers, your brother, yeah.

    Montgomery: My brother was going to college when he lost his life.

    Bennett: Did you ever work for the DuPont Company?

    Montgomery: No.

    Bennett: Would you give me your grandfathers' names and your grandmothers' names please?

    Montgomery: Thomas Montgomery.

    Bennett: Was he born he, excuse me.

    Montgomery: Emigrated from Ireland. My Grandmother was Ellen Jane McCanalis, emigrated from Scotland, and they were married over here.

    Bennett: Do you know when they were born?

    Montgomery: No, but they both lived well up to their high eighties. They were married over sixty years.

    Bennett: Now this was Montgomery, how about your mother's parents, the Bettys?

    Montgomery: Harry Betty was my Mother's father. Her mother died young, as did mine, and I don't remember her first name.

    Bennett: But do you know if they were born in Europe or if they were born here in the United States?

    Montgomery: The senior Bettys were born in America.

    Bennett: In the United States, okay. Would you please tell me where you were born?

    Montgomery: Twenty-two hundred block West 17th Street.

    Bennett: And then how long did you live there?

    Montgomery: I was 22 months old when my Mother died, so my Father sold the house and we went back to my Grandparents in Squirrel Run.

    Bennett: Squirrel Run. Do you remember the house in Squirrel Run?

    Montgomery: Faintly, I don't believe the houses would last -- shouldn't say that.

    Bennett: Oh sure you can, say anything you want.

    Montgomery: I don't believe the houses were even numbered.

    Bennett: Okay, uh-huh.

    Montgomery: Do you want about the neighbors?

    Bennett: Yeah, how about your neighbors, do you remember any of the neighbors?

    Montgomery: Some of the neighbors was the MacAdoos, Haleys, Doughertys, and the Krauses.

    Bennett: Krause - I know that name.

    Montgomery: Which my uncle married one of the Krause's daughters and they had four girls.

    Bennett: Can you describe the house to me, what you remember about the house that you lived in? How many rooms on the first floor?

    Montgomery: They were very small, modest. Dirt floor basement.

    Bennett: You had a basement?

    Montgomery: Dirt floor, yeah.

    Bennett: Dirt floor. How did you get to the basement?

    Montgomery: Through the kitchen doorway.

    Bennett: About how deep was the basement, do you remember that at all?

    Montgomery: Well there was standing room.

    Bennett: You could stand in it, uh-huh. And the first floor that had the kitchen, was there more than the one big room, was there two rooms there? Or was it one room?

    Montgomery: ...more than one room - kitchen with a wooden cook stove in it. Many a loaf of bread was baked on it. We'd come down there in the morning, cold mornings, and dress near it instead of in the cold bedroom. And when the mill would go up, my Grandmother would run my brother and I down the basement because they knocked windows out in the bedroom and we couldn't get out of the bed in the morning until she cleaned the glass up on the floor. It also broke glass as far away as Greenhill Presbyterian Church, the stained glass.

    Bennett: That would be, I forgot to ask your age, you were born in 1912, is that correct?

    Montgomery: That's right.

    Bennett: So this must have been an explosion around 1914, or was it later than that, because you had already moved to Squirrel Run - I guess it was later. Do you remember when that explosion...

    Montgomery: No, it would be later.

    Bennett: Would be later, yes.

    Montgomery: Probably '15.

    Bennett: Was anybody in your family hurt from that explosion?

    Montgomery: No.

    Bennett: In the first floor of the kitchen, did you eat in there, was the other room as a dining room or was it a living room, can you remember anything about how the rooms were situated, and what was in them?

    Montgomery: No, I.

    Bennett: Not, how about on the next floor - Where was the stairway to the second floor? Was it in the kitchen or did you have a hall?

    Montgomery: No, I don't think any of those homes had a hall.

    Bennett: Okay, and the second floor, how many bedrooms were up there?

    Montgomery: I don't recall, but my Grandmother and Grandfather had three daughters and three sons, so there must have been at least three.

    Bennett: And you slept in the attic you said?

    Montgomery: No.

    Bennett: Oh, okay. You slept on the second floor?

    Montgomery: Yep - all the other – Grandfather’ s and Grandmother's children had left then and it was just my Father and my brother and I went back.

    Bennett: When you went back, I see, right. Do you remember the attic?

    Montgomery: No.

    Bennett: Do you know if it was used for storage?

    Montgomery: Probably, that's what most of them were used for.

    Bennett: Well you know, some of them took boarders and boarders used the attic, other people kept foodstuffs up there, of course clothing, all those kind of - well, whatever you would use an attic for. Do you remember outbuildings at Squirrel Run -- any sheds and the outhouse?

    Montgomery: The outhouse, had to.

    Bennett: You had to get that. Can you picture where it was as opposed to the house, was it in the back or...

    Montgomery: They were all in the back.

    Bennett: In the back.

    Montgomery: When we came here to Breck's Lane they were all in the back. This side was the only one had plumbing.

    Bennett: Was it a one-seater or a two-seater?

    Montgomery: One I presume.

    Bennett: Oh you know some of them had three, they had a little one for the children. How about sheds, do you remember sheds for storage?

    Montgomery: Storage for the tools, garden tools, and wood for the wood stove.

    Bennett: Was the shed in the front of the house or in the back?

    Montgomery: In the back.

    Bennett: But very close to the house - closer to the house than the outhouse would be?

    Montgomery: Yeah.

    Bennett: Can you remember what was in the shed?

    Montgomery: Other than wood and garden tools, was the major.

    Bennett: Garden tools, uh-huh. Did you have a big garden there?

    Montgomery: No, the yard was limited, all the homes up there.

    Bennett: But your family...

    Montgomery: They didn't have but a very small garden.

    Bennett: But your grandparents did have a garden?

    Montgomery: Yeah.

    Bennett: Do you remember what they grew?

    Montgomery: Potatoes, tomato, beans, and they preserved enough to last us through the winter.

    Bennett: How about flowers, did you have a flower garden as well?

    Montgomery: A few.

    Bennett: Were they in with the vegetables or were they, perhaps, around the front?

    Montgomery: Around the front or the side of the house.

    Bennett: Was there a porch?

    Montgomery: Yes.

    Bennett: What did you do on the porch, do you remember what took place on the porch?

    Montgomery: We were made to sit and behave.

    Bennett: Did you have a swing or chairs or...

    Montgomery: No, our play toys were limited to marbles.

    Bennett: You played marbles on the porch?

    Montgomery: I even played them here and the back kitchen floor which was then rag rugs.

    Bennett: What kind of a game did you play with the marbles, there's different kinds of marble games, what was your favorite game?

    Montogmery: I don't recall.

    Bennett: You don’ t remember. What did you keep your marbles in, did you have a cloth bag or leather bag or...

    Montgomery: Cloth bag that salt would usually come in.

    Bennett: That salt came in? Okay.

    Montgomery: And we - tops - swinging tops was great back in those days.

    Bennett: Where would you get tops?

    Montgomery: I don't know today, but they are made of wood and you run the string around them, and pull the string like you would a power mower and they would spin for quite a while. And we rolled hoops.

    Bennett: Where did you get the hoops?

    Montgomery: Wherever we could, from an old barrel, the metal around a barrel.

    Bennett: From the DuPont Company?

    Montgomery: Yeah.

    Bennett: Where did you roll the hoops, where were you when you rolled them?

    Montgomery: In front of the house.

    Bennett: In front of the house at Squirrel Run?

    Montgomery: In Squirrel Run.

    Bennett: Did you roll them when you were here on Breck's Lane?

    Montgomery: Oh, we'd go for miles.

    Bennett: With the hoops?

    Montgomery: Yes.

    Bennett: Can you remember any other games that you might have played?

    Montgomery: No, maybe some ball.

    Bennett: How about in the wintertime, did you sled?

    Montgomery: Sled, yeah.

    Bennett: At Squirrel Run?

    Montgomery: Oh yeah.

    Bennett: I know, I'm sure you did, did you ever sled down Breck's Lane, by the way?

    Montgomery: Sure.
  • Local Trolleys; Canning vegetables; Aunt's death as a child; Grandfather's work as a stonemason; Daily routine as a child; Cutting grass; Summer activities
    Keywords: Alexis I. du Pont School (Wilmington, Del.); Breck's Lane (Del.: Village); Chores; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irenee), 1864-1935; Du Pont, S. Hallock (Samuel Hallock), 1901-1974; Green Hill Presbyterian Church (Wilmington, Del.); Hagley Yard; Meals; Montchanin (Del.); Squirrel Run (Del.:Village); Street-railroads; Yellow School (Wilmington, Del.)
    Transcript: Bennett: I only have to wonder what happened with the trolley, if that would come along, did you have somebody there as a lookout?

    Montgomery: No, they didn't run too often. And in the summer they had summer cars which were all open. And I remember my Father when he was courting my Mother up in Montchanin going up through the woods above Squirrel Run. My hat blew off and it was night time, the conductor stopped, went back and looked and looked and they finally found it.

    Bennett: Now that was real nice, you wouldn't get that service today, that's for sure. You said that the vegetables in your garden, your grandmother canned, did you help with the canning at all?

    Montgomery: Not in Squirrel Run, over here I did, we would buy a crate of cherries and a crate of strawberries, and preserve them, enough for the whole winter.

    Bennett: And you would help?

    Montgomery: Yeah.

    Bennett: Did you have any particular chores at Squirrel Run? Like bringing in the wood or...

    Montgomery: Possibly bringing in the wood, but I was quite small that they didn't push me to do too much. Til I got here and I found plenty of work --too much.

    Bennett: I guess you did. What did you tell me about coming here, how did you manage -- do you remember anything else, first of all, about Squirrel Run? I know you were quite young when you moved here.

    Montgomery: No, I don't believe I do.

    Bennett: You didn't go to school from Squirrel Run?

    Montgomery: No, my family went to the Yellow School which was in the Montchanin area, Route 141 and 100.

    Bennett: Did they ever talk about going to the Yellow School?

    Montgomery: Oh yes, one of my aunts was killed in the school yard by somebody throwing a stone.

    Bennett: Tell me about it.

    Montgomery: Well he was on the side of the school yard and they were out in the school yard playing, and I don't know, he was mad about something and hit her in the forehead. Back then you only had several doctors that made any house calls. And he thought he got it all out of her skull, but evidently didn't and she finally died from it. And that school was only for four years and then they all had to go to Alexis I. And my wife and I went, attended Alexis I., then our three sons also went to Alexis I., so there was three generations went there.

    Bennett: What else did they tell you about the Yellow School House that you might remember?

    Montgomery: I really don't remember anything.

    Bennett: Nothing? Do you have any idea how they walked – what direction they took?

    Montgomery: Oh, they probably took a shortcut up through -

    Bennett: The shortcuts.

    Montgomery: Hallock du Pont's estate wasn't there then.

    Bennett: They would come across there?

    Montgomery: Uh-huh.

    Bennett: Even if it was there, would they have permitted them to go through the property, do you think?

    Montgomery: I imagine.

    Bennett: I would sort of imagine so. You then moved here on Breck's Lane. Would you tell me the story as to how you got here, your grandfather, he worked for Mr. du Pont, is that correct?

    Montgomery: He worked in the powder mill as a diamond cutter which...

    Bennett: What is a diamond cutter?

    Montgomery: Which is a stone mason you would call it today. Everything had to be cut with a hammer and chisel back in those days and you had to know the grain in the rock, where to hit it to get it to fit.

    Bennett: Was the word "diamond cutter" was that kind of a joke to call it that, or was that actually what they were called in those days, like you would for fine gems?

    Montgomery: I believe they were called diamond cutters because... I didn't know whether it was maybe like a nickname. ...too much mortar wasn't used then and the stone had to be fit in wells to stay there without any mortar they would fall down.

    Bennett: Do you know of any particular area that your grandfather might have built?

    Montgomery: Well, I understand he built the gate where you go into Hagley.

    Bennett: The gates right at the entrance?

    Montgomery: Yeah, those walls there. And of course when the mills closed up, he went to Alfred I.'s estate and was a stone mason up there and put the glass in the wall. They claim that was put in there, Alfred I. done it, not to beautify it, but to keep his relatives out. You've probably heard that.

    Bennett: I've heard that before, it probably was true. Then how did you come to Breck's Lane?

    Montgomery: Well I can faintly remember carrying things through the woods here, small items. I don't know how the larger ones got over.

    Bennett: But Mr. du Pont built this house, you said, for your grandfather?

    Montgomery: Yeah, we moved in it brand new in 1916.

    Bennett: And how close was it to Swamp Hall from here – how many feet let's say?

    Montgomery: Maybe five hundred feet. There was three acres in this property.

    Bennett: Three acres here?

    Montgomery: And it was laying idle for ten years.

    Bennett: Mrs. Montgomery just showed me the obituary for the cousin that was hit with a stone...

    Montgomery: The aunt, the aunt.

    Bennett: Of the aunt, excuse me. It says "Montgomery, on the" I can't see what instant - "second instant, Ella Montgomery, in her eighth year, relatives and friends of the family are respectfully invited to attend the funeral, the residence of her parents, Thomas and Ellen Montgomery, Squirrel Run, Christiana Hundred, on Sunday, April 1, 1924, at 3:00 p.m., Internment at Greenhill. It's pretty young, isn't it -- tragic. Mr. du Pont built this house for your grandfather and grandmother?

    Montgomery: The property laid idle - his home was four to five hundred feet down further and it was a ten bedroom house and they tore it down and built a 77 room house for the Nemours. And it probably laid idle for ten years, and he got the idea to build this house for my grandparents.

    Bennett: So this was built in what year?

    Montgomery: 1916 when I moved here.

    Bennett: 1916 you moved here. Can you tell me how many rooms it has, Mr. Montgomery?

    Montgomery: This?

    Bennett: This house, please.

    Montgomery: Six and a bath.

    Bennett: Six and a bath. The bath -- was that built later?

    Montgomery: Oh no.

    Bennett: The bath was built in it?

    Montgomery: Yeah, although they didn't have sewage on this side, but cesspool system.

    Bennett: This is really a neat place, I think, to live - it's beautiful in the area, really is. I'd like to talk about a normal day. Who got up first in the morning, your grandmother, your grandfather, or did the children get up, do you remember?

    Montgomery: I imagine we were made to stay in bed, they were probably early risers. Back then the men worked six, seven days a week, long hours, and she would have to get up and get his breakfast.

    Bennett: So they were gone before you got up as young children?

    Montgomery: Oh yeah.

    Bennett: Would you come downstairs and dress, or would you dress upstairs where you...

    Montgomery: No, it was too cold upstairs, come down here, wood stove.

    Bennett: Did you wash up in the kitchen?

    Montgomery: Yeah.

    Bennett: In the morning?

    Montgomery: Oh yeah. The water was heated on the wood stove, numerous Springs all along the Brandywine and water had to be carried from them.

    Bennett: Who would get the water - would that be your job or as you got older, or was it your father's or grandfather's?

    Montgomery: Probably my Grandfather. My Father worked on the other side of town, and he had to leave early too. My Grandfather was smart enough to find employment for his three sons in the mill, knowing it was dangerous work, and they all went out learning trades - pattern maker, draftsman and machinist.

    Bennett: Did you have chores to do in the morning when you were little?

    Montgomery: Maybe empty the night pot.

    Bennett: Was it every day you had to do that, or just when you were told, or when you were caught?

    Montgomery: It was daily I guess.

    Bennett: Okay. Did you have to bring in wood?

    Montgomery: Yeah.

    Bennett: Did you have to chop wood?

    Montgomery: No, they wouldn't let me do that, ax or a hatchet or anything like that.

    Bennett: How about in the summertime, did you cut grass?

    Montgomery: We had very little to cut and of course there was no mechanical equipment or push mower. In fact when we come over here, my Grandfather was still using one of them. I gave them away.

    Bennett: This was a lot of property here to cut. You needed a goat or two for here.

    Montgomery: Well the four years I put in the service, when I come back you ought to have seen the front yard, it was that - I had to get a sickle before I could ever get a mower through it.

    Bennett: I'm sure. Did you ever use a sickle to cut grass?

    Montgomery: Yeah, I have one.

    Bennett: No, but I mean in those days, what did you use before you had a push mower?

    Montgomery: Sickle.

    Bennett: Was it a sickle, probably?

    Montogmery: And we had a big scythe here, it takes a good man to handle one of them. A former neighbor moved up in Pennsylvania, so he wanted to borrow it for some weeds, and I told him to just keep it.

    Bennett: Did you have to weed the garden?

    Montgomery: Oh yeah.

    Bennett: That was one of your chores. Where were your clothes kept, do you recall?

    Montgomery: We had small closets.

    Bennett: Were they kept on pegs?

    Montgomery: I don't really recall.

    Bennett: You don’ t. Did you have anything to do - any chores to do before breakfast, or were your chores done after breakfast?

    Montgomery: No, it was usually done afterwards.

    Bennett: What did you eat for breakfast?

    Montgomery: Oatmeal - they didn't have all the latest cereals they have today.

    Bennett: Did your brother eat at the same time that you did, at breakfast time?

    Montgomery: Yes.

    Bennett: If your father and grandfather had gone to work. Would your grandmother eat with you or would she be doing her chores while you boys were eating?

    Montgomery: Well she prepared it and I don't remember if she sit down an ate with us or if she ate with her husband.

    Bennett: Did you have to take a lunch pail to the yards for your grandfather at any time?

    Montgomery: No, I was too small, they wouldn't let me near, too close to the mill. A lot of them did.

    Bennett: Now when you lived here, did you ever take a lunch pail down?

    Montgomery: No.

    Bennett: By then you were in school I guess, it was school time. How about lunch, what would you have for lunch?

    Montgomery: Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches perhaps.

    Bennett: Milk?

    Montgomery: Yes, we were never allowed any sodas.

    Bennett: Well they weren't really popular then were they?

    Montgomery: No.

    Bennett: Did you have lemonade in the summer?

    Montgomery: Oh yes.

    Bennett: Root beer?

    Montgomery: Yes, we made our own root beer one time, even here, and bottled it and capped it. In a big galvanized tub. And homemade ice cream we made a lot of.
  • Grandmother's daily routine; Evening routine; Bathing; Clothes; Going to church and Sunday school
    Keywords: Baking; Chores; Church; Clothes; Du Pont, Ernest, 1880-1944; Family; Hagee's tavern; Laundry; Meals; Quilting; Stirling's store; Sunday school
    Transcript: Bennett: In the summer? If you had peanut butter and jelly for lunch, at that time what was your grandmother doing? Do you recall?

    Montgomery: Maybe cleaning, washing clothes.

    Woman: Well she did a lot of quilting. Her mother, his grandmother and aunt that lived here, they lived with her.

    Montgomery: That's here now, I don't know -- that's when Blanche MacAdoo Yetter used to -- she was in the quilting bee too. They'd gather here.

    Bennett: A social club, the ladies, yeah. That comes in my questions, that's a good one. Do you know if your grandmother had a certain day that she did the wash?

    Woman: Oh yeah, Monday.

    Bennett: Monday was wash day?

    Woman: Tuesday ironing.

    Montgomery: Saturday, bath night.

    Bennett: Now when she ironed on Tuesday, did she also bake her bread at the same time?

    Woman: Saturdays usually they baked the bread. Now whether, they made it during the week or not, I don't know.

    Bennett: Some of the ladies, because they had to stand by the stove with the irons, also baked bread at the same - not everybody.

    Woman: Well maybe they did. But I'm talking after the grandmother died, and grandfather, or the aunt was here. And I know she wouldn't miss a Monday without washing, and Tuesday was ironing day, and Wednesday she went to market, and Thursday, I think, was cleaning day, and Friday was another day to go to market, or was it Saturday, Bill?

    Montgomery: Saturday.

    Woman: Saturday, well I don't know what they did on Friday.

    Bennett: Well, there was never a day of rest, was there? Those ladies worked hard, so did the men, everybody.

    Woman: Much harder than what we today do.

    Montgomery: Oh yeah.

    Woman: We couldn't stand it.

    Bennett: That's true, I don't think -- you're right. Do you have any idea what would happen to the wet clothes if it was a rainy day, where would she hang them?

    Montgomery: In the kitchen near the wood stove.

    Bennett: Near the stove. If --I've heard some people would hang them up at night, they had lines that they would hook so that it would be ready for Tuesday's ironing.

    Montgomery: We still hang some in the basement. I wanted to buy her a dryer and she wouldn't hear tell of it. If it's a good day, we hang them out in the yard, if it's a rainy day, she hangs them in the basement.

    Woman: I don't like a dryer. I think it shrinks the cotton.

    Bennett: It does shrink cotton, uh-huh.

    Woman: And it wrinkles the sheets. I like my clothes outside.

    Bennett: I love the smell of the fresh-dried sheets, the outside. I used to say, "Oh, clean sheets." My Mother would say, "They’ re always clean. It was the odor that I liked, the fresh.

    Woman: But the towels are so much nicer in the dryer. But we still don't have a dryer. I don’ t need one, we don't have that many clothes.

    Bennett: Things like polyester and cotton, they really do very well in a dryer. In the afternoon, can you picture that your grandmother might have done needle work or did she knit?

    Montgomery: There was always something to do.

    Bennett: Mending?

    Montgomery: Pardon?

    Bennett: Mending?

    Montgomery: Oh yeah.

    Bennett: And she did, you said she did quilting?

    Montgomery: Quilting.

    Bennett: In the afternoon would you, let's say, play with the neighbor boys and girls?

    Montgomery: Probably made me take a nap too.

    Bennett: Yes, I'm not surprised. Alright, let's say, dinner time, you would all eat together, the entire family?

    Montgomery: Yes.

    Bennett: Did you have a prayer before dinner -- grace?

    Montgomery: I believe so. I told you we used to -- every Sunday night read a chapter of the Bible and each one would read a verse, and the next one read a verse until the chapter was complete.

    Bennett: Can you remember what a typical weekday meal might have been at supper time?

    Montgomery: Well, I don't think there was many living up there could afford a roast or things like that.

    Bennett: Mmm-hmm, I don't think so either. What went on after dinner?

    Montgomery: What happened after, well you only had kerosene lamps to read by, and there wasn't much reading done.

    Bennett: Did you have newspapers and magazines?

    Montgomery: No. And when it got dark, we went to bed. Just what my wife wants to do now. She thinks if it gets dark, she could...

    Woman: No, I start yawning about seven o'clock. But see I get up early and television, there's nothing good on television, so I'm ready to go to bed. But we don't go at seven, I mean we go up around ten. I'm sitting there yawning and I yawn my night through, you know, and then I'm waking up and it's time to go to bed.

    Bennett: Would you, maybe, play games with your brother in the evening, would that have been what you might have done?

    Montgomery: Yes.

    Bennett: Then later on you would have done homework, I'm sure.

    Montgomery: Yes.

    Bennett: Now, when it was time for bed, did you wash up downstairs in the kitchen, your face and hands?

    Montgomery: Oh, yeah.

    Bennett: And did you brush your teeth?

    Montgomery: Oh yeah.

    Bennett: Okay, tell me about teeth brushing, if you can. What did you use for a brush? Did you have a toothbrush?

    Montgomery: I think so, but I don't think we had all the toothpaste we have today. Sometimes you just used soap.

    Bennett: Soap? It's interesting. People used soap, some used salt, some used baking soda, all sorts of different things.

    Montgomery: I've heard some used cigar ashes.

    Bennett: Ugh. That doesn't sound very good. In the -- did you have a heavy winter pajama that you wore to bed?

    Montgomery: Yeah, still do. When you get old, your blood gets thin.

    Bennett: How about in the summer, did you have a summer pajama or did you sleep in your underwear?

    Montgomery: Lighter.

    Bennett: Lighter, but you didn't have pajamas. Mr. Montgomery, what was different about a Saturday than a weekday?

    Montgomery: Not much, because my Father and Grandfather both worked on Saturday.

    Bennett: Did your grandmother go shopping, maybe, for vegetables and meat, or did you have the vendors that came to the house?

    Montgomery: No, I don't think there was any vendors ever came up there. There was general stores up there, but what you bought in them was minimum. Sterlings had the largest store. They made quite profitable sum off it, they sold not only food, but even if it was just threads and needles and rope and things that the DuPont Company would use. They had three - I don't know how many sons they had, they had three daughters and they all taught me in Sunday School. And one of them was private secretary for Lammot du Pont -- no -- yes, Lammot du Pont. They went out to, probably, a business school and they all had good jobs. They lived, they were one of the few that had more means than some of the others, they had a big car, had a big home on Pennsylvania Avenue right near the church. When they died, they gave an awful lot - they kept the church financially. When they died, Ernest du Pont bought the home, then he turned around and gave the house to the church, so the church owns all them four homes out on Pennsylvania Avenue. They're trying to sell one now, and trying to tear one down and make a better driveway entrance.

    Bennett: On Saturday, did your Grandmother go to that store mostly for her supplies, or would she go in to Wilmington?

    Bennett: Well they could catch the trolley only a few feet from the front door. Same way as down Hagee’ s, if you stepped out of Hagee's, which was the general store and post office before it was a tavern, you'd have to look either way, the trolley would be coming along.

    Bennett: Did you go with your grandmother downtown to Wilmington?

    Montgomery: When I was young, yes. The farmers come in on King Street and they had an enclosed market house where all the butchers came between Market and King, ran parallel with Second Street, which is now just a parking lot I think.

    Bennett: M-huh, yeah, I think so. How about Saturday night, was that different than other nights of the week?

    Montgomery: Not much.

    Bennett: I bet it was.

    Montgomery: Oh, bath night.

    Bennett: Have a bath.

    Montgomery: You'd get to bed early to get to church.

    Bennett: Who would bring the water for bathing?

    Montgomery: Pardon?

    Bennett: What brought the water in for bathing, your grandfather?

    Montgomery: Probably, yeah.

    Bennett: Who went first in the tub?

    Montgomery: I wouldn't know -- three little fishes.

    Bennett: Then came Sunday and you went to church.

    Montgomery: Then come home and sit.

    Bennett: But did you all go to church together?

    Montgomery: Yes.

    Bennett: In your best clothes?

    Montgomery: Oh yes.

    Bennett: Can you remember what your clothes looked like?

    Montgomery: When I was young, dresses, and my brother too. I showed you a picture of my brother. I was kidding, I tore mine up, it's around somewhere.

    Bennett: Okay, and then, did you have a special hat that you wore with your clothes?

    Montgomery: Oh yeah. Yeah they looked more like an Easter bonnet. The high up, sort of a thing. They weren't the cap type.

    Bennett: More of a -- I know what you mean -- more like a fedora. Even the young boys wore those?

    Montgomery: Yes .

    Bennett: Did you have, you wear knickers and the socks that came to the knee?

    Montgomery: Yes, and my brother wore them until he was in his late teens. Some of the neighborhood boys would mock him about it.

    Bennett: But he liked them?

    Montgomery: Yes.

    Bennett: Well, if you like it.

    Montgomery: Sometimes it would end up in a little fight.

    Bennett: Cause he would be teased, yeah. Did you have Sunday shoes?

    Montgomery: Oh yes.

    Bennett: When you came home from church and Sunday School...

    Montgomery: They were removed.
  • Sunday dinner and family gatherings; May Day celebrations; Playing baseball; Pets; Sunday activities
    Keywords: Baseball; Basketball; Breck's Lane (Del.: Village); Cats; Dogs; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irenee), 1864-1935; DuPont Experimental Station; Hagley Community House (Breck's Mill); Henry Clay (Del.: Village); May Day; Softball; Squirrel Run (Del.: Village)
    Transcript: Bennett: You had to take them off. And what could you do, okay, how about dinner, was dinner early in the afternoon, Sunday dinner, or was it later in the day, do you recall?

    Montgomery: I don't recall.

    Woman: I think it was early, Bill, cause you say the girls used to come down.

    Montgomery: That's here now. Peggy's talking about Squirrel Run and you're talking about Breck's Lane.

    Woman: I'm talking about Breck's Lane.

    Bennett: Well, we can, if something comes up that's important about here, we'll just put it in, how about if we do it that way. Because later on you probably did have dinner at like one o'clock, let's say, after church probably.

    Montgomery: Yes. Yeah, my cousins used to fight what would come down here. Evidently my Grandmother and Grandfather fed better than their mother and father did. Course they had to walk, they lived down in the Highlands too, and they would fight which Sunday, whose turn it was to come down here. Course we'd have extra, a big dinner, a roast, that is on Breck's Lane here, and corn on the cob when it was in season, watermelon for dessert.

    Woman: His aunt that lived here with his Grandfather and Grandmother never married, so she did a lot of the shopping on Saturday.

    Bennett: And, now she went to church with the family as well?

    Montgomery: Oh yeah, oh yeah, they would go together. She taught Sunday School...

    Woman: Fifty some years.

    Montgomery: Sixty-some.

    Woman: Fifty some anyway.

    Montgomery: No, I think it was sixty-some.

    Woman: But she would never leave her father and mother to marry, she had a boyfriend, John Oliver, from along the creek, but she wouldn't leave her father and mother. And then when they died, it was too late in life for her to marry.

    Bennett: Too bad, isn't it, that happens.

    Woman: But it happened a lot on the Brandywine.

    Bennett: Somebody stayed home with the...

    Montgomery: There were very few girls from the creek that married men from the city. The creek boys would run them away. Course my wife lived on the creek, there was five, she had four sisters and they lived in the gate house right at the DuPont Experimental and he was yard foreman, and that's how - of course we went to school together, guess that's how we really met.

    Bennett: Now the gate house, you mean...

    Montgomery: It's tore down, the lower gate right on the other side of the bridge. The lower end.

    Woman: There's a picture of it in this book. The lower entrance, original entrance.

    Bennett: Yes, alright, now I think I know where you mean, and it's gone?

    Montgomery: Oh yes, they tore that down. It was, and of course there’ s some other houses.

    Bennett: That was quite a community over there.

    Montgomery: Well the whole neighborhood was, there was numerous stores, general stores and saloons, naturally, and quite a population.

    Bennett: And that was all Henry Clay, is that correct?

    Montgomery: Yeah.

    Woman: That’ s the house where I lived.

    Bennett: Oh, okay. I did some, I saw some pictures of the McDade family.

    Woman: Oh yeah, they were up here further.

    Bennett: Sixteen or fourteen something, that’ s a nice house, isn't it? And it's gone as well?

    Woman: Oh yes, they tore that down, I think, '45.

    Montgomery: And the DuPont Experimental used coal and the ashes were used to built what is now DuPont Road. They hauled them from the Station.

    Bennett: They took the coal ashes, you mean?

    Montgomery: Yeah, they hauled them by horse and wagon and spread them out to the beginning of building DuPont Road. Then in order to pay for Fifty-Two, they had a toll gate at the top of Breck's Lane, which was a minor fee, two or three cents. Some would go clean around a mile around the block to avoid paying that, horse and wagon. And then Breck's Mill was used in the wintertime as a community house for gymnastics, basketball, and halfway up Breck's Lane on the opposite side of Swamp Hall, was the playground which they used in gate house... the summertime. They moved the toll

    Bennett: It's running again, yes, it is.

    Woman: Yeah I can hear it a little bit.

    Bennett: Well, we thought we heard that yesterday, at least for a few seconds.

    Montgomery: They removed the toll gate after we came and it was such a, it was a frame house, two story frame and it took so long to move it inch by inch, they had to leave it in the middle of Breck's Lane overnight. And they put it at the community playground for the caretaker, which was Dutch Baird. His picture is in that - I made him in that picture up at Nemours, he's real tall in the background. And they had numerous affairs there, band concerts, orchestra, they built a temporary dance floor, they had boxing, wrestling, and of course the other things that goes into a playground, swings and baskets to shoot basketballs at.

    Bennett: Did they have baseball?

    Montgomery: Wasn't room for the hard ball, but they had a girls' softball team, and they all had their bloomers. May Day they would parade up the lane to the playground, have a small parade.

    Bennett: From -- starting where?

    Montgomery: From down at the bottom of the hill they'd probably meet...

    Bennett: Right at the bottom of the hill?

    Montgomery: They would meet there and parade up.

    Bennett: Of the hill, okay.

    Montgomery: They'd have to walk across, some of them from the other side of the creek, and all meet there and parade up to the...

    Bennett: This was on May Day?

    Montgomery: May Day.

    Bennett: And this, that was, school children that did this, or was it a community affair?

    Montgomery: This was, I believe, Alfred I. sponsored all that. Parade out of the Breck's Mill...

    Bennett: Yeah.

    Woman: These were all adults on the girl’ s softball team.

    Montgomery: I think I've heard about them before, a little. I thought there was some sort of a baseball team, but it was softball, was there a men's softball team too?

    Montgomery: The space was limited, there was a stream runs down back there. Basketball team was one of the better teams around town, called Mt. Vernon, which used Breck's Mill.

    Bennett: That's what I'm thinking, I've got my sports confused.

    Montgomery: Then my generation, we had hard ball teams, uniforms and all, and basketball team, and we went under the name of Hagley. Then when we disband, Sarah Toomey started the second Hagley team, which played in town in the semi-pro league. He mostly had Alexis I. graduates playing on it, but when we had it, it was mostly local.

    Woman: The locals, that was before the war, wasn't it Bill?

    Montgomery: No, after the war because I with him, he might have started it - how could he do it when all the players were...

    Woman: No, I meant your ball team, when you played.

    Montgomery: No, before.

    Woman: Before the war, yeah, that's what I'm saying.

    Montgomery: Oh, we started after the war because they were all in the service. There was forty, we used to meet once a month after we all got out, down Breck's Mill, which was then used by the Brandywiners. They practiced there. They put the shows on at Longwood and had to practice, they'd all end up at Hagee's and they would sing their hearts out up there.

    Bennett: Some good times. When you were little, and getting ready for bed and you washed up, did you have goodnight kisses and that type of thing, or a bedtime story like they do today, or did you just...

    Montgomery: Oh yeah.

    Bennett: Did you have any of those little hot bricks to warm up the bed?

    Montgomery: No.

    Bennett: Nothing like that? Now we were - actually got off from the subject, but Sunday you said that you came home and sat after church. You were not permitted to play?

    Montogmery: No really.

    Woman: Very, very strict they were, the grandparents.Montgomery: When I, in my early, late teens and early twenties, they didn't want me playing ball on Sundays, I'd have to sneak my uniform out Saturday night and leave it at someone's home, put it on if we had a game on Sunday.

    Bennett: Times have sure changed! How about, we did discuss dinner, but we didn't come up with anything particular. Would it be maybe chicken one time and then a roast the next week, do you recall what was served?

    Montgomery: In Squirrel Run we probably had fowl, but I don't think any roast.

    Bennett: Did you have any chickens - did your grandmother raise chickens in Squirrel Run?

    Montgomery: Not there, here yes.

    Bennett: But not there. Did you have a cat or a dog?

    Montgomery: I don't remember in Squirrel Run, but here I had numerous cats and dogs. I had three dogs before I went in the service, when I came back they had all died. The latest one, we had her for fourteen years and she died, what, a year and a half ago?

    Woman: Yeah, July.

    Montgomery: And I cried my heart out.

    Bennett: Oh it's family, they're family.

    Woman: But we have raccoons now, and I swear I'm thinking about getting a dog.

    Montgomery: She would, she killed everything that walked around here.

    Woman: She did.

    Montgomery: Kept me busy burying them, raccoons, groundhogs. She would kill dogs, I'd have to get back of her collar and pull her off or she'd chew them up.

    Bennett: What kind of dog is it?

    Montgomery: My three sons went down to the S.P.C.A. and got her when she was a puppy.

    Woman: For an anniversary present.

    Montgomery: We had her fourteen years.

    Woman: And when I seen them coming home with that dog, if I'd had a gun there would have been three dead boys and a dog out there, cause I did not want a puppy. That puppy chewed everything.

    Montgomery: Prior to that I had another dog and I'd just gotten out of the V.A. Hospital, and I was up and bed, she got all crippled up so I finally decided to call the S.P.C.A. and I heard the truck out there picking her up. She come upstairs, I was bawling, she said, "Stop your bawling, I'll get you another dog, I'll get you another woman. She got another dog, but she never got the other woman. So I'm still looking.

    Bennett: Let's talk a little bit about the activities of the family. You went to church on Sundays, did they participate in any other functions at the church that you know of, did they belong to some of the guilds or different...

    Montgomery: My Grandfather was on boards, and two uncles, my Father wasn't much. He was a Mason, but my Father had remarried and they lived in town.

    Bennett: But you stayed here, did you stay here?

    Montgomery: Yeah, my Grandmother and Grandfather and Aunt got so attached to my brother and I that...

    Woman: They wouldn't let them go.

    Montgomery: Probably just as well, because she had two children and there would have been a little conflict.

    Bennett: This way it was a lot kinder, probably, all the way around, a lot easier, yeah. Did you, as a family, go visit relatives or friends on Sunday. You did mention that the cousins came here, but did you go visiting?

    Montgomery: Oh yeah, course it was all by foot.

    Bennett: Would you go for dinner, would you spend part of the afternoon?

    Montgomery: Occasionally.
  • Clubs and organizations; Grandmother's quilting bee membership; Brother's death by drowning; Swimming and nearly drowning on the Brandywine; Christmas traditions and celebrations
    Keywords: Brandywine Creek; Christmas; Decorations; Freemasons; Gifts; Hagee's tavern; Odd Fellows; Quilting; Quilting bees; Rehoboth (Del.); Walker's Banks (Del.: Village)
    Transcript: Bennett: How about, you said that your Grandfather was on the board, did they belong to any of the clubs, like the Odd Fellows or the Masons?

    Montgomery: My Father belonged to the Masons, I believe he was the only one of the family ever fooled with them.

    Bennett: That did. Did anybody play a musical instrument?

    Montgomery: No.

    Bennett: Did they meet at the taverns like some of the people did, let's say every Tuesday night they might go down to the tavern, did they have a routine like that, your father or grandfather?

    Montgomery: No, they were very, very strict.

    Bennett: No.

    Woman: He would go to the taverns, but his grandfather wouldn't.

    Montgomery: I'd go for them.

    Woman: He was in Hagee's when they opened, now this is right after Prohibition, and he was there on closing night.

    Montgomery: The beginning...

    Woman: And the end.

    Bennett: Alpha and Omega. Did you ever go hunting?

    Montgomery: No, my Father had a gun and his two brothers had their own shot guns. Evidently they did a little, and they all ended up here in the attic and we gave the other two uncles' children theirs. And my Father's was still there, but one of my son's latched on to it, and he had an old Confederate sword, and another son latched on to it, little by little they're sneaking things away from me.

    Bennett: But as always, they enjoy them, I think that's okay.

    Montgomery: Well they'll get them in the end.

    Bennett: Oh yeah.

    Montgomery: Yeah, that's right, and they're enjoying them.

    Bennett: But some of the men went hunting, you know, for game, and I just wondered if anybody did that. How about fishing, did anybody go fishing in your family?

    Montgomery: No.

    Bennett: The ladies, you said that your grandmother quilted and she quilted with her friends. Did they do that a certain day of the week, do you have any idea whether it was a set time, or did they just do it when they had the time to do it?

    Montgomery: It was here when they done it. One of my uncles built a regular frame with a crank to keep it firm.

    Bennett: Where was it kept, the frame, did they --

    Montgomery: No, it belonged here because..

    Bennett: And everybody always visited here, then, to do it?

    Montgomery: Yeah.

    Bennett: I see. How about the children - did you have any clubs that you belonged to, or organizations as a child, or maybe something at the Sunday School?

    Montgomery: No, other than sports.

    Bennett: Any functions down at Breck's Mill, you did those?

    Montgomery: Well, we weren't allowed down there too much and we weren't allowed near the Brandywine. Of course my brother didn't know how to swim until he went to college and he learned, you were required you learn so many yards each year and he was a senior when he was drowned down at Rehoboth, but like you say, three couples of them, they went beyond the lifeguards for privacy and there was extra undertow and they all got washed out and they got them all but him. And I wasn't much of a swimmer. During the Army, they started a program that -- making you learn to swim. And I was coming along pretty good, but then we moved from another island over in the Pacific, so the program got washed out.

    Bennett: So then you never swam in the Brandywine like a lot of the kids did?

    Montgomery: No, Flo did, and she almost a sister in the Brandywine. One of the Rowe boys, the younger Rowe that wrote the book, Brandywine, that lived over, he saved her.

    Bennett: Saved your sister?

    Woman: Saved my sister, yeah. See our mother died when we were young. We weren't supposed to be swimming, and we decided we'd go.

    Montgomery: They were bad girls.

    Woman: ...and my Father was at work and we decided we'd go down the Brandywine and of course got in the water and well, she almost drowned. Since that day, I've just lost, I don't know how to swim today, it just scared the dickens out of me. But we never allowed our own three boys down the Brandywine.

    Montgomery: And yet the oldest one was quite an accomplished swimmer, he was lifeguard down Ocean City, Maryland, during the summer.

    Woman: We wouldn't let them go down, well it was bad at one time.

    Bennett: Some did swim, it's interesting, you know, in speaking with the different ones. Do you remember where you were when you swam, when your sister...

    Woman: It was below this dam at Breck's Mill.

    Montgomery: In front of Hagee's, in front of Hagee's.

    Bennett: Where it is called Girlie, are you familiar - yeah, okay, a sandy little area they called Girlie.

    Woman: That's the shallow side of Walker's Bank, what did you call the one in front of Hagee?

    Bennett: Minnie, Minnie, Girlie was on the side of Walker's where that sandy area is, and Miss Catherine Hackendorn Shelldrick, she said that that area was was called Girlie, and then when you learned to swim, on the other side, sort of in front of Hagee's, that's where you would learn to dive, and her dad would put, every year she said he had to put a new diving board there, and that's where the deep water was.

    Woman: Well, you know the Brandywine isn't too deep, I mean you can almost see the rocks from Hagee's.

    Bennett: You can sometimes, yes.

    Woman: But that diving, now later on that diving board was up above that dam, and that's where a lot of kids swam there, on the way, you know, just above the dam. But no, we were never allowed down there, but we did go.

    Montogmery: But the ones that did were very good swimmers. One of them, you met the brothers Devenney, one of their brothers, he could swim under water and back on the Brandywine. He's deceased, there's only one in the family left now I think.

    Woman: Yeah, Ralph.

    Montgomery: Herbert.

    Woman: Herbert.

    Montgomery: He's about my age.

    Bennett: There was four of them?

    Montgomery: Five boys and one girl.

    Woman: Two girls, Bill - three girls!

    Montgomery: I don't remember them.

    Woman: There was Edie, Mary.

    Montgomery: Edie was the only one I knew.

    Bennett: Can you remember any other things that the ladies might do as a group, say, or maybe that your grandmother might have belonged to some organization, anything else that they might of, in their spare time?

    Montgomery: There was no transportation.

    Bennett: Let's talk about holidays, let's talk about Christmas. Do you remember Christmas at Squirrel Run?

    Montgomery: Yes, we'd go out and cut a tree down.

    Bennett: Cut a tree. Where would it be put?

    Montgomery: In the living room.

    Bennett: In the living room. Do you know what kind of a holder they'd put it in?

    Montgomery: No, I don't. Some...

    Bennett: A bucket?

    Montgomery: Sometimes in a bucket with stones around it to hold it upright.

    Bennett: How about here?

    Montgomery: Well, we've done that here, then we bought regular tree holders.

    Bennett: Can you remember what was on the Christmas tree?

    Montgomery: Mostly beads, not popcorn.

    Bennett: Nobody around here had popcorn. Do you know what was on the top of the tree, was it traditional to have...

    Woman: The star.

    Montgomery: Had a star on the top.

    Woman: Would you like to see that great big ball they had?

    Bennett: I'd love it, uh-huh.

    Woman: It's so heavy, I don't know where they ever put it. It belonged to his Mother.

    Bennett: It's amazing isn't it. Did they have a yard, did you have a yard, and by that I mean the scene that went underneath? Did you have like houses and sheeps, and cows, decoration under the tree?

    Montgomery: Oh yeah. Yes we had all that.

    Bennett: Can you describe it?

    Montgomery: Well, a mirror, square mirror representing the lake with artificial plastic ducks or swans to sit on it, and a fence, little white fence around it.

    Bennett: Any houses?

    Montgomery: I don't remember.

    Bennett: No other animals other than the ducks or swans on the lake?

    Woman: Oh yeah.

    Bennett: Any people, any like dolls that they might use?

    Woman: Would have Biblical ornaments.

    Bennett: Uh-huh, like, let's say, Noah's ark or a creche, something in that...oh look at that, it's beautiful.

    Montgomery: It's starting to wear out.

    Woman: Well I'm amazed, it's very heavy.

    Bennett: Where would you put that?

    Montgomery: Lower branch.

    Woman: I think you'd have to put it where, if you wanted something to come down a little bit, if it was up too high. It's beautiful, isn't it? It's gold, it's heavy. How big would you say that is it's about four or five inches.

    Montogmery: Probably six inches in diameter.

    Bennett: Six inches, okay, and it's gold and it has a -- is that brass?

    Montgomery: Brass.

    Bennett: Brass top.

    Woman: Here's an old fashioned iron.

    Bennett: Is this a child's iron?

    Montgomery: Yes. My Mother's. You open it this way, pull it back. It would lock it, and then...

    Bennett: Oh, look at that.

    Montgomery: You could open it.

    Bennett: I'll let you open it, I don’ t want to...

    Woman: There it is.

    Bennett: What does it say in there.

    Woman: It’ s all corroded inside.

    Montgomery: Asbestos...

    Bennett: Maybe that's asbestos in there.

    Montgomery: This is asbestos.

    Woman: Sad, I think it says "Sad - Asbestos Sad Iron".

    Montgomery: Yeah, here's the asbestos.

    Bennett: Oh look, okay.

    Woman: Did you ever see a groundhog - there's one out there in the yard- big furry thing.

    Bennett: Where is he?

    Woman: On the side, up here.

    Bennett: Oh yes, I do see it now - how about that.

    Montgomery: Know what the bird cage out there is for? We're getting squirrels in the attic, so I've caught five in it, and I take them over to the Tower and release them. They're vicious, you have to wear gloves, pick that up and put it in the trunk of the car, you open it up and they go right out. But they've gotten five, see I haven't caught any more. I got walnuts in there as bait. I'm gonna have to put some peanut butter or something, spread it on the walnuts.

    Bennett: Somebody told me you have to take them at least five miles away or they'll find their way back.

    Montgomery: Cats, I've heard of that - further than that. The lady next door, she catches the squirrels, and she brings them over to Rockford Park, where I live is towards Claymont.

    Woman: Did you see last night's paper - the cat had a mother down State, she's surrogated mother to the squirrel?

    Bennett: At Christmas would Santa Claus come and bring gifts? By that I mean did he leave you presents, some children didn't get anything, others did.

    Montgomery: Oh yeah. I don't know how - the family would fill the stockings and trim the tree and put the gifts under the tree and my brother and I would never hear a whimper.

    Bennett: Were the gifts wrapped?

    Montgomery: I don't believe so, I don't think they'd buy any fancy paper or anything in those days. If it would have, it would have to be, probably, a newspaper.

    Bennett: A few people used tissue when it became available, and paper bags, a few. What would be a typical gift?

    Montgomery: Marbles, tops, there was no line of toys then. Our first set of trains here was a wind-up train before we got electrical Lionel. Then when our sons came along, we got bigger ones, different gauge and all.

    Bennett: Would you exchange gifts with friends, or just with family?

    Montgomery: Just the family.

    Bennett: Do you remember buying any gifts for anybody in particular?

    Montgomery: No.
  • Birthday celebrations; Service in the Army; Fourth of July celebrations; Parades in Wilmington, Del.; Halloween and Mischief Night; Honey Hunts and other Brandywine pranks; Singing groups on the Brandywine; Villages and dwellings on the Brandywine
    Keywords: Birthdays; Breck's Lane (Del.: Village); Cakes; Chadd's Ford, Pa.; Chicken Alley(Del.: Village); Circuses; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irenee), 1864-1935; Du Pont, S. Hallock (Samuel Hallock), 1901-1974; Duck Street (Del., Village); Fireworks; Fourth of July; Hagee's tavern; Hagley Community House (Breck's Mill); Hagley Museum and Library; Halloween; Honey Hunts; Laird, W. W. (William Winder), 1910-1989; Mischief Night; Nemours (Greenville, Del.: Dwelling); New Castle, Del.; Parades; Philadelphia, Pa.; Picnics; Pranks; Singing; Swamp Hall (Henry Clay, Del.: Dwelling); United States Army
    Transcript: Bennett: How about birthdays, how was a birthday celebrated?

    Montgomery: I don't recall, only here. My Grandparent's birthdays was quite a big affair big dinner and some came from Philly down here.

    Bennett: When they were older do you mean?

    Montgomery: Yeah.

    Bennett: Would they have had a birthday cake then?

    Montgomery: Oh yeah.

    Bennett: This would have been, did you, you didn't have a birthday cake then, for yourself I mean, you never had a birthday cake?

    Montgomery: Oh I presume so.

    Bennett: Was there anything done at graduation, when you graduated, was that special?

    Montgomery: Not really.

    Bennett: How about the first time that you went to work, was that a special time? Was everybody happy because somebody was going to work?

    Montgomery: No, I even went in the Army, we had the Army in New Castle, the one in New Castle County, and lots of them had their friends and families down there.

    Woman: One boy from Yorklyn, they brought him down on the Yorklyn fire truck with all the firemen.

    Bennett: He must have been one of the volunteers?

    Woman: Probably.

    Montgomery: And I went and when we pulled into Wilmington, several others from here, their mothers were down there of course. They liked to pull me out of the train window, kiss me, but none of my family showed up.

    Woman: Well I didn't drive at that time, you had to go down New Castle.

    Montgomery: Well we weren't married.

    Woman: No, we weren't married at that time.

    Montgomery: Got married right after I went in the Service.

    Woman: And when you don't have transportation...

    Montgomery: And I was only a young boy.

    Woman: Yes, that was a long way.

    Montgomery: For a weekend pass and we got married.

    Woman: Yeah, that was quite a time, wasn't it, boy oh boy. And then when he came out of the Service, we tried to buy a car. We were everywhere, we couldn't buy no car.

    Bennett: We got the fourth one, no, the sixth one out of Delaware.

    Woman: We couldn't buy underwear.

    Bennett: I know, remember nylon hose?

    Woman: Yeah.

    Bennett: Took a long time to get nylons back then.

    Woman: Yes, uh-huh.

    Bennett: How about Fourth of July, what did you do on the Fourth of July?

    Montgomery: Oh we always had fireworks.

    Bennett: Where?

    Montgomery: Well, the General Store of the Post Office -- Hagee's. He sold fireworks regularly all year around.

    Bennett: Oh, okay. Did they pop off all year around, did you hear them all the time?

    Montgomery: Oh yeah. You couldn't really sleep in this neighborhood on the Fourth of July. They used carbon to put in a can, just a pinch of it, and make a hole in the lid, and wet it, stick a match to that and it would blow that can apart. And we had dogs that would go crazy. We put them in the basement, and the outside shed still some of the wood's all chewed out where they tried to get out, they were...

    Bennett: They were scared.

    Montgomery: They were scared.

    Woman: They never did like that sound. I know thunder is the same thing. Even this dog here, before she died, when Hagley has them up here. We ride up to the Columbia Gas parking lot and sit in the car and watch them. And when we come back she's a-shaking.

    Montgomery: Shivering. In fact that dog didn't like horseshoes, that bothered her ears. No, the clank of the horseshoe, one against the other, she would take off until we finished the game, and come back.

    Bennett: Did you play horseshoes at the Fourth of July?

    Montogmery: Yeah, always. When the kids were home we had quite a few games in the backyard, I’ ve still got them.

    Bennett: Your played horseshoes, really, all summer long, is that it?

    Montgomery: Yeah.

    Bennett: What else did you do at the Fourth of July? Did you have a picnic?

    Montgomery: Yes. And my Aunt's boyfriend, he would go up through the lawns and catch the trolley and go down to, oh Coopers and those various places that made homemade ice cream. They didn't make regular packed ice cream, it was a little soft by the time he got back, but always sold ice cream packed for you in Hagee’ s the general store. We walked down the railroad tracks to buy it.

    Bennett: And sometimes you would make your own?

    Montgomery: Yeah.

    Bennett: What flavors would you make, do you recall?

    Montgomery: Mostly strawberries would be in season.

    Bennett: Was it only made on special occasions, or, like Halloween, it wasn't made, let's say, for Sunday dessert?

    Woman: Maybe for a birthday or something, or a special day.

    Bennett: If it was a special, what kind of parades do you remember? You talked about Alfred I., the Hagley one, but do you remember any other parades?

    Montgomery: Parades?

    Bennett: Parades, uh-huh.

    Woman: Parades.

    Montgomery: I know.

    Bennett: He's thinking. I'm seeing those wheels turn.

    Montgomery: Well, when the circus came to Wilmington, they'd have a parade. It was a means of getting the animals and all from the trains to the parade grounds, and it was a means of advertising too. And they moved the parade grounds -- the circus grounds-- out on the other side of the Brandywine, and they had to put a stop to that, didn't think that Market Street bridge was strong enough to hold the elephants and the circus wagons. So then they would start parking down at the foot of 30th Street behind the railroad shop, and walking everything up that way. I was working there then, I'd see the tallest man, the midgets and all the ones that performed.

    Bennett: How about Halloween, what did you do on Halloween?

    Montgomery: We always dressed and went out, with bags, get bags of goodies. 'Course you read what Alfred I. did down here. He'd have them all up - 'course they weren't born then (his three sons). He had a bagful of nickels and dimes he'd throw up and got a kick out of them scrambling for them.

    Bennett: Now, did you go out on mischief night?

    Montgomery: Oh yeah.

    Bennett: Can you tell me what you did?

    Montgomery: Finding outhouses to push over. Everybody did that.

    Bennett: Oh yeah.

    Montgomery: Between Hagee's and down on Breck's Lane, they were great for pulling the poles, which disconnected the electricity. And Dr. Hagee had to come out in the dark and try to find that wire, put it back on. And they even got a backhouse and hooked it on the back of the trolley car and it went bumping up the hill.

    Bennett: Oh my gosh.

    Woman: They were bad boys in that day.

    Bennett: Well, it was one thing they really all agreed on, that's for sure, was turning over the outhouses.

    Montgomery: Well Hagee’ s General Store was quite a place. Agnes' uncle ran it and he was a -- he liked to joke. At times there used to be some black ministers looking for -- making a tour, looking for donations for their charges, so they got a box for him to stand on to give his prayer or sermon. Somebody snuck a pack of fireworks in his pocket, and the last they seen him, he was running up Rising Sun Lane. Then when, before all the golf course was built up, we had 18 hole right at the top of the hill. First it was a gun club, and a baseball field, they had a grandstand there, even before they started the golf courses, and any immigrant come over, they got to hang around that store down there, they would ask them if they would want to go honey hunting. So they'd give them a container to put the honey in, some of them would go along with him, but an advance party went ahead and would hide up in the tree with shotguns. And by the time they got there with the one they were pulling the joke on, in fact I heard they pulled it on Hallock du Pont, Chick Laird told me that, he fell for it, and he wasn't no green horn. And then they said, "Well, you're under arrest." They'd take him back down to Simon Dorman, he was supposed to be a false magistrate, and they'd lock him up for a while in the back part of the where the men's and ladies' lavatories were.

    Bennett: Who was in on that with you, do you remember?

    Montgomery: Who?

    Bennett: Were you involved in that?

    Montgomery: No, I would say that maybe Mrs. Sheldrick's brothers were, and one was a little older than I. My sons in grammar school had to write something similar like that, and I told them all about it, and they got a big kick out of writing about them things.

    Bennett: Somebody that was Italian, went back to Italy. It got pulled on him, and he was so scared, he was afraid he was going to be put in jail or something. And I guess he wasn't a citizen - he went back to Italy. Now this is what I heard, in one of these interviews. Maybe he already didn't like it, I don't know. Any other little jokes and stories you can think of?

    Montgomery: Some of them wired their backhouses down so they couldn't be shoved over, but we found a way to beat that, we'd take clippers and cut the wires.

    Bennett: I think somebody was in one once when they turned it over.

    Montgomery: Well I was too. Before I went to work, I worked for my uncle was a florist. He was the largest florist around, I mean he had a store on 407 Delaware Avenue, had one in the Hotel du Pont, had one in Newark besides all the greenhouses out where the airport is now on the Fine car place. And I worked there and of course I ate dinner with the family, but I had to go and I was in there and they knew I was in there, they snuck up and locked the door, hauled the truck up there and pulled it over and I'm in it.

    Bennett: I bet that's a funny feeling.

    Montgomery: Now the fellow we're waiting, had the heart bypass surgery, by the way we were talking to Joe today, he says the reason, he's not really allowed out yet, so I'm holding these pictures for him to see, and he has movies. He had them, he really wasn't from the creek, he's from down on Street, but when the creekers started thinning out, some of them moved down to Forty Acres and they got friendly and during the depression years why they bought some of them and they would walk all of that and we hung at where they started to buy the land, and that's how we got friendly. Now he was an electrician, but he was out of work and he had a small phone. He would climb them poles and call local girls free, in the neighborhood.

    Bennett: All kinds of tricks if you know them. Oh my gosh.

    Montgomery: Creek gang, the older ones were great, and good singers. We were late getting married in life, and I was still running around, my group my age got married and all, and they were allowed out, and I found out I was running around with one maybe five or ten years younger. So they kept me out pretty late one night, come home and Flo says don't you feel funny running around with that younger gang? I said, "Well, if you call Mr. Flannigan (he was in his sixties then) young, why all well and good. Somebody said "Go", he'd go.

    Bennett: You probably heard of the Buchanan family, I think they lost somebody up in the -- they lived down the road here. They lost, and his name is in one of the books, given some of the pictures, I think they lost someone up in the mill.

    Montgomery: But the ones older than us, Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Flannigan, two of the Lords, they all had good voices. Evidently back in their day they didn't have too much to do, so they did a lot of singing, harmonizing, and I enjoyed it. I can never get all the words or who wrote it, "On the Banks of the Brandywine." I know how the first line goes "Amongst the hills, the powder mills, on the banks of the old Brandywine," and it goes on and on. I've never been able to latch on to it. They knew it, they sung some tearjerkers. "The Vacant Chair", "Two Little Boys in Blue.”

    Bennett: Where did they do this mostly?

    Montgomery: Well, maybe after the taverns closed up, we'd sit down on the wall and do it.

    Bennett: They didn't do it for money?

    Woman: Oh no.

    Bennett: They just harmonized well together. I'll see if I can’ t find the words to that song.

    Montgomery: Down Hagee's one night there was a girl from the Forty Acres and she was originally from Chadd's Ford, and she had sung in nightclubs. But she was singing a different version than any of us had ever heard.

    Bennett: Do you remember when any of the houses were torn down?

    Montgomery: Oh yes, little by little.

    Bennett: Okay, would you like to talk about them?

    Montgomery: Tore them down real fast. Outside of Joe Toomey and I, and of course Chick Laird is up in Chicken Alley, why there isn't any former...

    Bennett: Did you see those get torn down at Chicken Alley?

    Woman: No. In fact, I think some of them are still there, although they got bigger homes built back there.

    Bennett: There's one -- I don't -- on a map I've seen, it was Duck Street. I don't think there's anything on Duck Street. Might be, I think that's right. Oh, do you remember when Swamp Hall was torn down?

    Montgomery: No. It was ten years before...

    Woman: Before they moved here.

    Bennett: Oh, it happened before you moved here?

    Montgomery: It had been torn down in 19...

    Woman: 1906.

    Montgomery: 1908, ten years.

    Woman: I thought it was torn down after...

    Montgomery: It laid idle for ten years. Now Agnes claims she remembers it, when she was living. She was a little older than I was. And the drive over, you noticed as you went down yesterday?

    Bennett: Uh-huh, yes, I did.

    Montgomery: That was the main entrance into Alfred I.'s home. And when we came there, that big iron gate that was there was just laying on the ground. I imagine he had to take it down to get - because all they had was carriages and horses back in those days, I imagine they had to tear it down to get trucks and equipment in there and they just left the iron gate there, but I don't know what ever become of it. It was a good sized gate and high.

    Bennett: Would it have gone over to Nemours do you think?

    Montgomery: No, it was rusted out, sitting laying there for ten years. And right opposite that was the barn where he kept his horses. Course in the back part, the smaller one, is the stalls of the horses, and it had a loft, the pulley was still there when Tommy Dunlop did live there. See he must have moved there after his mother and father and two brothers and sisters lived in this house, he must have been out on his own and married and had three children when he moved there.

    Woman: I think his wife is pretty sick.

    Montgomery: Well, I know that, I knew that one or the other was. It's the wife, because his sister died, at least a year in February, and he was at the service, and he said that his wife was very poorly and he said he didn't think she was gonna live much longer, but she must be still living.

    Bennett: We had a function at Christmastime down at Breck's Mill, those people that we had spoken to, and someone called them about going, and he said they couldn't, but I didn't know which one was sick – there was sickness.

    Woman: No, it's his wife.

    Montgomery: Who else was there - am I personal?

    Bennett: No, if we had talked to you before, you could have come, I'm sorry you couldn't get to it. Let me think, Mary Perrone was too sick, she didn't come, but Rocco Perrone, did you know Rocco Perrone?

    Montgomery: No.

    Bennett: How about Ethel Jones Hayward?

    Montgomery: Yes.

    Woman: You know they lived in the C.I.D. house next to the Dougherty's.

    Montgomery: Woman Her husband's a minister.

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