Interview with Willard Graham Crichton, Jr. and Theodore Pyle Crichton, 1990 October 27 [audio]
- The area around Free Park; Family's garden and flowersKeywords: Belin House (Greenville, Del.); Cheney family; Flowers; Free Park (Del.: Village); Gardens; Gibbons House; Moffett familyTranscript: We're in the back yard of the Belin House and discussing the changes and what they remembered when they lived here.
Bennett: You're speaking of the area beyond the fence and that was what?
Crichton: That was an orchard all the way up to the property line up there where those, uh...
Bennett: Where the tent is today? Was that Free Park up there then?
Crichton: That was Free Park but there was only one building on it. Two buildings left. The stone one, which I don't see anymore, was maybe behind that, it should be right there. And then there was one occupied by the Sexton of Christ Church, Mr. Cheney. The Cheneys also had this spot down here, which, of course is just the foundations.
Bennett: Do you remember that there were gardens there from Free Park?
Crichton: There was a long area, I'm going to guess it's just, let me come up here and look, there was an orchard inhere all the way up where you see the outline now. Oh, there's the house; the house is there and the grapevines are still there, there were grapes and then there were apple trees and peach trees, and some pears. The apple trees were all up over in this part. This house here was occupied by - their name was Moffett. They were, I think it was the equivalent of what they have at Hampton Court, grace-and-favor lodgings. Mrs. Moffett kept a whole bunch of damned chickens who roamed and ranged in this area almost up to the road.
Bennett: Now we're talking about the area of Free Park?
Crichton: The area of Free Park, yes. She supplied chickens for Mrs. Copeland and her successors in that monstrous stone castle. And, she and her children, who are quite a number - I think there were four of them - Robert was the eldest, I remember that; he always came down here and they had Scottish ancestry, because he had a terrible Scottish accent, and he always came down to my father and says, “ Mr. Crichton, can I borrow your diggin' fork?” There was, I think, two more rows of grapes, weren't there, Ted? There's just one there now.
Oh, yeah (Ted) there were more than that, yes. And then the trees over here.
Bennett: Can you picture any outhouses that were part of Free Park?
Crichton: Nope, none. This was always an orchard in the years that I lived here. No, I think this house by that time had indoor plumbing.
Bennett: O.K. That's quite a possibility by then. Now this little structure that they're now using for the lawn mowers, can you tell me about that?
Crichton: Well, yes, it was used primarily as a garage by us and this lean-to was added when my family bought an automobile that by that time had grown larger than the garage. 1939. That was a '39 Olds.
Bennett: And you're speaking of the lean-to a little bit on the right hand side of the building?
Bennett: O.K. It's the building we call the chicken house.
Crichton: We called it the garage. Because that's what we used it for. And, it also was useful - a Model A Ford wasn't very wide, and so it left a little bit of room inside, and we utilized that - sometimes we used the doors to get out of (?).
Bennett: So you actually put your car in from what I would call the front?
Crichton: Yes. Right under the pigeon holes. My brother was explaining, my father built this mound here with ashes that he took from the furnace, so that you could have a turnaround to get into this garage. That's why that exists as it does. He gradually built it up with ashes.
Bennett: How long did it take, do you have any idea?
Crichton: All the years that I lived here - thirty years anyway. Each time he had ashes, he'd come out here and dump them. It gradually got bigger and bigger. You know something, I never showed Frank the movies that we took around here.
Bennett: You have movies?
Crichton: Oh, yes, are you interested?
Bennett: Oh, yes.
Crichton: Then you can see what it was.
Bennett: We're talking about the mound there that's in front of the chicken shed.
Crichton: You see this root here, I believe that might have been a root of a very large catawba tree that stood back here. I think, Ted, it was beyond here, wasn’ t it? I can’ t recall now, Bill. This was tree was smaller, very small. I see that maple went. The maples have gone. We had maples in here, a row of them. There was one there.
Bennett: Were the maples going all the way across?
Crichton: Yeah, they were never in line. They put these trees in because of blasts, explosions, and they had the two rows, they had the pine trees and maple trees.
Bennett: The maples are gone and we still have the pines. Bill, didn't your father have a vegetable garden in here?
Bennett: Where was the vegetable garden? We're walking along in the back of the Belin House now and sort of down in here where our pathway is.
Crichton: I think right about here another maple had come down and there was a stump left, and it was decked over and used as a table.
Bennett: That would be in back of the Belin House and over here: we're walking toward the pines; this is where the garden was?
Crichton: No, down further.
Bennett: Actually, where we have a parking lot at the moment.
Crichton: I think you're parked on it right now, don't you Ted? No, I think it was down on the corner.
Bennett: They're getting away from me, but the consensus of opinion is that the family garden was to the right of right before our parking lot for the pines, at the moment.
Crichton: This was...remember, her flower garden was right there. That's right. This is the line right in here where Pop had a - well, he always had a garden - and then when World War II came and they all said, hey, we expanded this.
Bennett: And now you also mentioned flowers, was that your mother's
Crichton: My grandmother who lived with us - an immigrant from England. And she was very fond of flowers. There's one bush left.
Bennett: The hydrangea bushes, you believe?
Crichton: She went all the way up, almost up to the road, there was-she had two beds, and three walkways. It was terrace.
Bennett: Oh, OK, her flower gardens. Now, we're walking
Crichton: She had three walkways and they went from here almost to the road.
Bennett: We're walking along and looking at the Gibbons House and right beside what we have as the outhouse would have been the grandmother's garden and it was three terraces, is that correct?
Crichton: Terraced, yes, it was terraced, to give us a slope.
Bennett: Do you remember what kind of flowers?
Crichton: No. I remember one thing that she had was lots of peonies. She had marigolds, zinnias, I think.
Crichton: No, the hollyhocks she had were up along the fence.
Bennett: Bill, didn't she bring her peonies with her down from New York when she came to live with you all?
Crichton: Yes, she did. Rye, New York.
Bennett: Didn't her employer give her the peonies?
Crichton: I've forgotten, Gould's I think.
Bennett: Do we have any peonies here at all that were here?
Crichton: We took them away. I took them and we saved them a long time and I planted some of them in Rockland when we were married and I guess they're still there.
Bennett: And now to the vegetable garden, back to that, what vegetables did you grow?
Crichton: Corn, for one thing. We had carrots, beets, lima beans, string beans, peas, and rhubarb.
Bennett: Was the rhubarb in the garden, or was it somewhere else?
Crichton: Yes. Alongside of the garden. They had tomatoes.
Bennett: Did they ever grow peas?
Crichton: Peas, yes, because when I'd walk home from school I'd pick the pea pods off and open them up and eat them fresh. Beyond here was jungle, I mean,. . .
Bennett: We're looking again at the road to the parking lot.
Crichton: Right where the slope goes down; this is as far to the end of the property we maintained, right about in here, isn't it Bill? (Bill) I think so.
Bennett: Which would be really where our garden starts now. Where this flat area is, down below the line of nine trees, what is that, do you remember anything being there?
Bennett: But see how it's raised up; I mean it's a regular little platform and then slopes down.
Crichton: There was a pathway we used to go down to the railroad track. And Motsy Copeland had a shooting range over here, just on the other side here.
Bennett: To the right of the parking lot? We're facing the Brandywine.
Crichton: His overseer lived in that house there, this side of it.
Bennett: What we now call the Blacksmith Shop, down there?
Crichton: This one right here. The overseer lived in it, it was a duplex, is it still a duplex?
Crichton: He lived on this side and his assistant lived on the other.
Bennett: Do you remember their names?
Crichton: Williamson, and then Ed Sharpley. When Williamson left Ed Sharpley moved in and Bill Watson and his wife and daughter were on the other side. Ed Sharpley lived there the whole time I was growing up. You couldn't even see that place from up here for the trees and underbrush.
Bennett: Now, looking over there at what we call the Gibbons House, it was a foreman's house in its time, does that look very much different?
Crichton: Oh yes. That was a wreck. It was open.
Bennett: O.K. All of that time?
Crichton: All the time that I lived here. We played in it as children and walked through it and it was just open - no doors, no windows.
Bennett: Can you describe how the rest of that bank looked? The houses and so forth?
Crichton: That's the only one.
Bennett: Was that house exactly like that, or did it have another addition on it?
Crichton: No, it did not. It didn't have the wooden addition. Yes, it did. Was the wooden addition there?
Bennett: The shed on the right hand side? Crichton – Yes, just where it is right now. OK. That terrace part, that was just overgrown up there. All I remember was just the wall.
Bennett: Now the Cheneys lived in the first; see that is the foundations, and then after the Cheneys, do you remember who?
Crichton: No, because that wasn't there when we moved in. That was gone. That was the only one left and it was ready to go.
- Color of the Belin HouseKeywords: Belin House (Greenville, Del.); WisteriaTranscript: Bennett: I know what you mean; the interior was real bad. Now, let's look at the color of the house where you lived, which is the Belin House. Is that the color yellow it was?
Crichton: Don’ t ask me to remember color after... It was white for thirty years. I'm going to say it was a lighter color yellow when we moved in and the trim was painted white and there were shutters and they were green. There were shutters on every window.
Bennett: And you turned it to the white house, is that correct?
Crichton: I remember when it was still yellow, Bill. You do? Yeah, I remember Ed Sharpley painted it with Pop and they made it the first time white. All right. It was a very light yellow, it wasn't like this. This is more like bad egg yolk yellow.
Bennett: O.K. Ha Ha. That’ s a good description.
Bennett: Bill, at the end it was white?
Crichton: Yes, it was. This, of course is the cesspool. Everybody knows about a cesspool. It used to overflow; it overflowed regularly. The sewer line went in from here, up, skirted a tree and aimed itself at the kitchen and it was terracotta and got inundated by roots almost regularly, and we had to dig it up and replace it. I'm sorry about this; there were several beautiful, beautiful maples here. I don't think they were that rotten Norway maple, either. I think they were a better grade. Ted, there was a large maple where the chipped beef tree is now.
Bennett: Chipped beef tree, you called that?
Crichton: Well, the leaves look like chipped beef to me.
Bennett: O.K. I think it's a plum tree. An ornamental plum.
Crichton: There was a big tree right here. It was right about here.
Bennett: That's just a little bit to the right of our path going to the house.
Crichton: We had this porch screened in. It was the same size. Remember the Wisteria? Oh, I remember the Wisteria. Where this is now, there stood a pine tree.
Bennett: Where the plum tree is?
Crichton: Where the plum tree is stood a pine, and over to the left just beyond this bush was a large maple. And, my father, to amuse his mother, my grandmother, strung a heavy wire between the pine tree and the corner of here on which he allowed my grandmother to grow a wisteria. Hee Hee Hee, this is funny. I remember that; I remember one time I went up in the attic and there was a little wisp of a plant of the wisteria, and I went up about two weeks later and it filled the attic.
Bennett: Just a minute. We're standing at the porch looking towards the Sunday School and we're discussing a structure...oh, excuse me.
Crichton: The Wisteria grew from here up along here, across the wire and it made a very beautiful thing, you know. And then it kept growing and it grew up, and it grew up here and it grew out and up on the roof and it went and interleaved itself under the shingles, and nobody paid much attention to it until, as my brother said, he went up there one time and found some tendrils. And, it not only did that, it reached around and grabbed hold of and grew around the handle of the door in the attic that led to the attic room here and you couldn't get it open.
Bennett: Oh, my gosh. And that is really right beside the porch. He took it from there out towards the road, is that correct?
Crichton: Just a bit to where the pine tree was approximately and the plum.
Bennett: That must have been a pretty sight, though.
Crichton: We had a huge pine tree here in front of the porch. And that was a happy playground for children.
Bennett: O.K. Shall we go and sit down there.
- Formal introduction; Living in the Belin HouseKeywords: Belin House (Greenville, Del.); England; Immigration; Pyle, Howard, 1853-1911; Skunk Hall; World War (1914-1918)Transcript: Bennett: After that very unusual introduction, I'm now going to get the nitty gritty on the tape. First of all, this is the Crichton brothers and Mr. Ted Crichton is visiting from California, and they've come today to reminisce and remember how the Belin House looked when they lived here. Mr. Crichton, would you please give me your name.
Crichton: My name is Willard Bryan Crichton, Jr.
Bennett: And your address?
Crichton: 56 The Strand, New Castle, DE
Bennett: Your phone number.
Crichton: 328 9263.
Bennett: And would you tell me where you lived when you lived here at the yards?
Crichton: Where did I live?
Crichton: Right here in the Belin House. My family lived here in what you refer to as the Belin House, which we referred to by the more prosaic identity of Skunk Hall. The reason for that was that when we moved out here there were a number of wood pussies in the area and you could smell it, it was pretty frightening at times and that's where the name came from.
Bennett: Very good.
Crichton: If you're interested in how we came to be in this house, I will go back to World War I, or maybe even before that. At the time my father worked for the DuPont Company and he was in some form of general services work, and helping the Company close down its powder operations after the conclusion of World War I. As a kind of roving inspector or what-have-you; I don't know exactly what, he came across this house, which was in these almost totally idle black powder works along the Brandywine. The house was in absolutely dreadful condition, as a matter of fact, totally unliveable, and so its owner was Mrs. Charles Copeland. Mrs. Charles Copeland was a very very great friend of my grandmother, who was Anne Poole Pyle. And, I suppose by ingratiating himself into Mrs. Copeland's favor in one way or another, my father said, "How about you fix this house up and I'll rent it from you.” And she said, “ Go get a contractor and give me an estimate.” He went and got a contractor and came back and I think it was a preventive estimate, she took a look at it and said, ” No way am I going to spend that much money on this thing.” My father said, “ If I can get it done for five thousand dollars, will you buy that?” And she said, "Yes, I will.” And he did.
Bennett: What year was that?
Crichton: Probably 1922, 23.
Bennett: Do you have any idea how much rent he paid?
Crichton: No. I know what he ended paying at the end.
Bennett: That’ s interesting, o.k.
Bennett: Another one of those lucky people.
Crichton: He had to maintain it, though. The deal was he maintained it and Motsey Copeland said, you maintain it, you can live in it. I have a story about that, too.
Bennett: Would you give me please, the names of your brothers and sisters, and did we get your age?
Crichton: In short, they fixed it up and they cut a lot of corners fixing it up. It did have plumbing, and it did have electricity, and it had a heating system which would probably have in its present day, delighted the Smithsonian. It was a fire-tube boiler - steam boiler and we had radiators propped all over the place which did virtually no good, except in about three rooms.
Bennett: I think that was typical in a lot of places.
Crichton: These windows, as you will recall, these ones in what I'm going to call the front of the house because that's where we used to come in.
Bennett: All right. You came in, we are in what would be the living room, I believe.
Crichton: What we called the big living room. In front of the house were two pair of narrow windows. When we moved in they still had shatter-proof glass, which was glass into which was embedded chicken wire, which holds together, that was before safety glass. This window here which I am pointing to, was a French door, we had two doors.
Bennett: That's to the left. There was a French door then as you entered into the parlor, and a French door on the side by the table.
Crichton: There were just two entrances to the parlor because that was a center hall there.
Bennett: O.K. I see. So this was an entrance but.....
Crichton: Just to this room. Now, directly across the hall, which is now gone, was the entrance to a smaller living room or sitting room, which has been demolished. Its boundary formed the entrance hall which ran from the street side, street end of the building all the back to the back end of the house.
Bennett: In other words, the porch was the front hall.
Crichton: That little porch out there, that was the front door and the front hall. This was almost never used.
Bennett: Right. I think that makes it so you can picture it.
Crichton: When you viewed it from the street it was symmetrical with the two stories with the window at the top and the same one on the other side, another room and a front door and a center hall.
Bennett: That part has been torn down; I don't know if that’ s on the tape or not. Now, are you going to tell me how old you are?
Crichton: Seventy-two. Wait a minute, if you'll ask me that question Sunday, I'll be seventy-two.
Bennett: Please, would you tell me, your place of birth?
Crichton: My place of birth is a non existent place now, Haskell, New Jersey, which was a Company town for the DuPont Company's smokeless powder works, which is located now about near Pompton Lakes.
Bennett: O.K. And the date of your birth.
Crichton: July 29, 1918. How about your brothers?
Bennett: Well, I'll mention the absent one. James Warby (?) Crichton, who was born here, as a matter of fact, in this room up here.
Bennett: My office, right above the living room, all right.
Crichton: Mother delivered him herself, because the attendant or midwife couldn't get here on time. The kid was already arrived when she (got here). That was July 21, 1924.I get the 24 mixed up because it was the summer we moved in. You were six years old, Jim was born here.
Bennett: What year was he born?
Bennett: And then, I think, this gentleman is the baby? And your full name please.
Crichton: Theodore Pyle Crichton
Bennett: When were you born?
Crichton: January 17, 1927.
Bennett: Were you born here?
Crichton: I was born in the Delaware Hospital.
Bennett: were there any other brothers or sisters?
Crichton: That's all.
Bennett: Would you give me your father's name please?
Crichton: Willard Graham Crichton.
Bennett: Do you know his place of birth?
Crichton: Yes, New York City, August 6, 1888.
Bennett: And how about your mother?
Crichton: My mother's name was Eleanor Pyle, daughter of Howard Pyle, who was born on February 10, 1894.
Bennett: How about your grandmother that you mentioned who had the beautiful flower garden?
Crichton: Well, my grandmother was imported from England as was her husband. I never knew him; he died when my father was a small fellow, and my grandmother had various economic experiences which degenerated down to the point where she served as a companion to some people in the area of Rye, New York. She eventually lost that, or left it, and came to live with us here. I don't know when she was born; I have a record somewhere.
Bennett: Well, that will be O.K. How about your grandfather?
Crichton: I never saw him; he died in 1911. Well, which one? Our father's father we never knew. His father died in 1911, in Florence, Italy. He was the artist; he was over there studying Renaissance art. And he died over there.
Bennett: You mentioned a while back that you had some movies of the area, if the Museum would like to see them, would you be interested?
Bennett: How about pictures, do you have any pictures?
Crichton: I don't have any that the Museum is not already in possession of. There probably are some others - snapshots that were taken much earlier - but I don't know where they are.
Bennett: You have given them some pictures then?
Crichton: I had a few slides of the area which I gave to Frank McKelvie, who copied them I presume, and sent them back to me. So you have them around somewhere.
- Description of kitchen; Family diningKeywords: Belin House (Greenville, Del.; Coal; Hot water heaters; Ice boxes; Kitchens; Laundry; Meals; Refrigerators; Spring houses; Storage; StovesTranscript: Bennett: Yes. O.K. Because this is a second interview. You did speak with Mr. McKelvie?
Crichton: He had a picture of you (Bill, Ted?) standing there in 1956, and we were down in 1954, see we were married in '55 in England and she'd never been here before and we brought her over in '56.
Bennett: They're primarily interested in things that are earlier than that time. We have pictures of your mother hanging the clothes.
Crichton: That's on the movies. A picture of her hanging up laundry. She charged at me like an angry bull.
Bennett: Where did she hang the laundry?
Crichton: Just on that side of the kitchen: that whole grass area over there were poles and trees, and we strung rope.
Bennett: Winter and summer?
Crichton: No such thing as a dryer then, you know.
Bennett: That’ s true, but I didn't know whether she would maybe hang them in the basement.
Crichton: No, you couldn't hang anything in this basement, it would be dirtier when you took it back up than it was when it went down, let me tell you that. Rough basement in this house, that's rough living, just about like my house in New Castle now.
Bennett: Things have really changed, that’ s for sure. Can you describe how the kitchen looked?
Crichton: Oh, yeah. Why don’ t you come into the kitchen and we can talk about it.
Bennett: All right, let's go there, and then I want both of you to get involved in this, but we've been doing that all along, I think.
Crichton: You know, these floors haven't changed except that they've taken that horrible paint off that Pop put on there.
Bennett: What color was the paint?
Crichton: A dismal dark brown; it was like porch paint. No, that was a disgusting brown color. That was the dining room, and we ate all meals in there. We have some very memorable, memorable experiences there.
Bennett: Let's get out of the kitchen, then we’ ll get into the dining room. We're in the kitchen and as we enter you're looking straight ahead.
Crichton: Yes, on the wall between the two closets we had a brick hearth and a coal range, the old black coal range, and that was our primary stove most of the time we lived here. To the left of that was a small pot-bellied stove that heated our water and we had a very large steel tank un-insulated, just steel, probably a sixty- or eighty-gallon tank. We always checked the hot water by putting our hand on the tank, yeah, we got hot water. Enough to have a bath.
Bennett: Were the closets there?
Crichton: The closets were there; they were like a pantry closet. We put the canned goods and things of that nature.
Bennett: Was the stove coal burning or wood burning?
Crichton: Coal burning. We did most of our cooking on it, and all our Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys were cooked in there. It was a wonderful stove; it wasn't until much later over here where the stove is now, we put a kerosene range, when those kerosene stoves with the wicks came. That was about the same time we got a refrigerator, which was one of the early ones with a coil. Before that we had an icebox.
Bennett: Where was the icebox?
Crichton: We had a porch out here.
Bennett: Now, was the door in the same place at that time?
Bennett: All right, so there was a porch there.
Crichton: There was a porch there and we had the icebox there.
Bennett: Winter and summer?
Crichton: Winter and summer. I'll tell you what else we used. Across the street over here there was a spring. We used that to put milk and butter and things of that nature because it was cool enough before the days of refrigerators we used to keep our milk and butter over there in that spring house.
Bennett: Where did you keep the coal for the stove?
Crichton: In a coal bin in the cellar underneath the now non-existent wing. It was loaded from a chute that we had on the outside of the dining room window.
Bennett: Where the dining room is now?
Crichton: Yeah. Put it in bags and carried the whole thing all the way to the cellar bumping their heads all over the place. But sometimes they made it in from the outside.
Bennett: Did you have the table and chairs out here?
Crichton: The table right here by this window. It looked in a courtyard because we looked at that small living room there.
Bennett: Where we now have the grass plot.
Crichton: There was a little U-shaped courtyard right in there, brick. And this was where the sink was.
Bennett: Then the position of the sink hasn't changed?
Crichton: Hasn't changed. The conditions have - the condition is much better. To the left of the sink there were stone laundry tubs. Right in the corner there were two stone laundry tubs where a washing machine of some questionable utility. . .
Bennett: It was called the rumper room.
Crichton: The rumper room, right. It was one of those round ones on wheels and it would dance all over the floor.
Bennett: Is there anything else that you might remember?
Crichton: This eventually had a kerosene stove where the electric is now. A kerosene stove because it got rather intolerable to cook on the coal stove in the very hot weather. And later on, much later on toward the end of their stay, I had an electric stove put in.
Crichton: Right here on this wall where the chalk board is was a set of cabinets with a base and top which stored most of the dishes.
Bennett: A cupboard, I think they were called. Now, how about here, this is the entrance to the basement and . . .
Crichton: No, the entrance to basement is over here, that's a closet. You see where this refrigerator is here, that's where our first refrigerator went.
Bennett: Now where the restrooms are?
Crichton: That was open all the way back; there was a sink in there.
Bennett: A sink? Was there a toilet?
Crichton: No, just a sink. But you could use it as one if you wanted.
Bennett: It's on the tape. Now you can tell me any story you want to, if you can say that.
Crichton: Pop did it and he's not here anymore.
Bennett: Let's go into the dining room.
Crichton: We always dressed for dinner and we always sat down to dinner and that's one of the things I remember about growing up here. Very good conversations we had at dinner.
Bennett: O.K. Will you come in and explain please.
Crichton: It was absolutely marvelous. We had a dining room table, of course, and quite a number of chairs. This closet, which is exactly as it was, my father put this hardware on here.
Bennett: The hardware on the closet? Next to the fireplace.
Crichton: He put the hardware on it. And we had things stored - plates and such. We also, where these tables are, which is just to the right of the doors you enter, we had a very very large, I would guess Empire was it, sideboard. And my father had, unfortunately, caught a sailfish, and it was mounted and pointed out into the room. I'm glad it was lost.
Bennett: Over the fireplace?
Crichton: Over the fireplace.
Bennett: I'd like you, Ted, to describe your remembrances of family dining, and then holiday dining as well.
Crichton: Well, my mother did attach a lot of importance to being dressed and being clean at dinner time, and so that was a requirement in our household. We got dressed for dinner and we sat down formally for dinner as a family and that was the time when we had a lot of conversation. That's one of the things I remember.
Bennett: That's wonderful.
Crichton: The development that I had I can recall very vividly. The things that I learned and ideas and attitudes and everything were discussed at this table in here. Because it was kind of a formal occasion every day for us.
Bennett: You dressed for dinner in winter and summer?
Crichton: All the time. We dressed for dinner.
Bennett: How much dressing?
Crichton: Well, I would not have been let in the room with this. We had to clean up and dress up.
Bennett: In other words, you had to clean up, and maybe a clean shirt?
Crichton: Clean shirt, it wasn’ t a jacket. Sometimes we had a necktie and a jacket. It depends on who was here.
- Food in typical family dinners; Celebrating Christmas; Stoves, chimneys, and fireplaces; The basement and furnace; The bedroomsKeywords: Basements; Bedrooms; Belin House (Greenville, Del); Breakfast; Chimneys; Christmas; Cooks; Dinner; Fireplaces; Food; Furnaces; Lunch; StovesTranscript: Bennett: Let's go in and sit down again and I'm going to ask you to describe what you would have for a typical dinner.
Crichton: Sigh. Most of the time we had a gentleman and his wife who lived here in the house on the third floor of the non-existent wing. How they stood it, I don't know. They lived here and we had quite an attachment to them. They raised us.
Bennett: What were their names?
Crichton: Dennis and Emma Stokes. He was a real gentleman. At one point: you know, they were here with us when our mother and father said, “ We can't afford you." And they said, we'll stay, if you'll let us stay in the place. So, that was one of the reasons we could have sort of formal dinner because we had a cook.
Bennett: Would you say that you were a little bit upscale of the average worker, as a lot of the people who lived on Breck's Lane?
Crichton: I guess we were nowhere near them. We marched to an entirely different drummer. And that guy, Dennis, I remember my mother saying that she had had guests that would come in, and "Oh, Dennis, there will be three more for dinner.” No argument, “ Yes, Mrs. Crichton.” He might not have anything out there, but he'd figure something out. He wouldn't say, "look, there isn't enough food for them.” He had several jackets which he hung in the area back there, in the laundry room. He and also my father's mother, did a lot of the cooking. Dennis and my granny could work very well together in the kitchen.
Bennett: So, then you ate well.
Crichton: We ate well.
Bennett: Let's say, breakfast and lunch, did you eat that in the kitchen?
Crichton: We usually ate breakfast and lunch in the kitchen. Kind of a haphazard thing.
Bennett: Were holidays more festive than a regular meal?
Crichton: Not a heck of a lot more, but except they were festive occasions.
Bennett: Did you have a big Christmas tree?
Crichton: Yes, right over here in this corner. One that went from the floor to the ceiling.
Bennett: We're in the living room and it would be in the right hand corner of the living room.
Crichton: It was affixed in the following manner. First of all, the tree was acquired and usually a little piece lopped off the top because we got a tree that reached all the way to the ceiling. OK, there was nothing to stand it on so what we did was to get two large nails and drive the trunk through the ceiling right into the floor. Then, there were two pieces of wood with a notch on one end and a flint on the other. One would be put against the molding of this window, and the other would be against the molding of the other window. Of course, it was farther out to the right because it was two windows. And then, a piece of wire was wrapped around that and, I think there was a huge nail in the wall, we would wrap it around that and that steadied the tree. You could darned near climb that tree, I'll tell you that. That was the Christmas tree.
Bennett: What was on the top of it?
Crichton: Always had a star.
Bennett: The little other sitting room was heated with a Franklin stove, wasn't it?
Crichton: Yes, it was. None of the fireplaces worked because the chimneys were unlined and in their original condition of course, when these chimneys were built nobody had invented Portland cement, you know, so it was all lime mortar and it deteriorated over the ages. There was a fireplace in every room. When they moved in, they walled up the bedroom one. The only chimneys that worked were: I told you he cut a lot of costs.
Crichton: He lined the one that served the furnace, which was under the non-existent wing, and the other one served the kitchen stove. That was it. They built a fire in one fireplace and the second floor filled with smoke, so they decided it wasn't a very good thing to do.
Bennett: I wonder how they put pipe up to the .... until unfortunately,
Crichton: No. that just covers up those pipes.
Bennett: Well, we'll go upstairs.
Crichton: You offered to show me the basement.
Bennett: We're going down to see the basement.
Crichton: Instead of going up upstairs, I guess we're going to the basement.
Bennett: Watch your head.
Crichton: This is the thing that gets me. What I should do is walk right through here to the furnace.
Bennett: So, when you go down the stairs, the furnace was directly ahead?
Crichton: No, the furnace room which was the basement underneath the demolished wing.
Crichton: This was where we stored the wine bottles.
Bennett: Under the stairway?
Crichton: Under the stairway.
Bennett: Nice cool room for wine bottles.
Crichton: Oh, it was excellent for wine bottles. I discovered the original condition of this house when I put in some electrical outlets in the center hall. When I cut into the wall to put the outlet in that's when I discovered the outside siding.
Bennett: We just put a new heating system in.
Crichton: Oh, you did? We had those steps going up to that real cellar, they’ re still there?
Bennett: They're still there.
Crichton: Here's a picture of Catherine Cheney and the houses that looked...see there on the wall.
Bennett: Oh listen, hold on. Yeah, this was a fuel bin here. There were two of them, and there were two water filters, huge, monstrous water filters, just on this side of the coal bin. I thought this room was awfully wide and then I realized why. There was a coal bin in here and those water filters.
Bennett: Looks like they've been making wine. What's this, Ted?
Crichton: This was here, but I don't remember that.
Bennett: The brick arch, was that here?
Crichton: Hey, Bill. What Ted? The furnace was over in here. To the left. That's been walled up. You stepped down into it. We had a work bench in here. We didn’ t have a nice sealed beam either, look at that. This brings back memories, I can remember hitting my head. Right there where we came down I used to hit my head.
Bennett: How tall are you?
Bennett: I think it's interesting, if he told you how the house was heated. He told me something else.
Crichton: OK, let me tell you about it. The heating system was called a two-pipe steam plant, which meant that the steam went up a little narrow pipe, expanded in the radiators, condensed, no, it came up the big pipe, condensed in the radiators and the condensate ran down return lines which were smaller, which came down all over the cellar and were finally collected next to the furnace where it replenished the water in the boiler which was making steam. It was coal fired and when you shook the grate, and you had to take the ashes out, they were hot, some of them had glowing embers in them and it stank almighty of sulphur. Because it was coal. And Pop used to carry it out and dump it on the side to a level of about two-and-a-half to three feet and it stank almighty so he would water it with a hose. Well, the combination of water and the hot ashes and the sulphur created a sulphurous acid which came down and trickled down and finally ate hell out of the return lines. So, you didn't dare put more than three pounds of steam pressure on the system or you'd blow the return line; you'd have to then shut the whole thing down, pull the fire out, cool it off, dig the thing up and replace the pipe. That's why we never had a very effective heating system; it kind of oozed and trickled into the various rooms. It was a cold house.
Bennett: Now, shall we go up to the bedrooms?
Crichton: Look at this floor, Ted, isn't that something?
Bennett: What was it when you were here?
Crichton: Dirt. Dirt and brick. Where the furnace is where Godfrey and Pop made many, many, many gallons of wine one fall.
Bennett: Mr. Godfrey?
Crichton: No, my uncle Godfrey Pyle. This is pretty much the same; this doorway was here.
Bennett: There was a doorway straight ahead right beside the stair steps. And, did you enter right here?
Crichton: No, no no. We entered right where the end of the bricks are. That was a hall; it was a hall then that went all the way back to the back end of the house. The hallway was probably about this wide, don't you think, Ted? Oh, yeah, it's the same there (Ted). Then it was this width. It was a nice center hallway. Oh, boy, it seems funny to look at that window and realize that’ s where mother's bedroom was.
Bennett: Could we go that way? Walk in and walk out.
Crichton: This is my mother's bedroom.
Bennett: They're referring to the room that we now use for visitors; it's up the stairs and to the left.
Crichton: That was my bedroom.
Bennett: Directly across, ok. Was this the bath?
Crichton: Yes, this was the bath but there was a door there.
Bennett: From the master bedroom there was a door into the bathroom?
Crichton: The tub was right in the same place except it wasn't as pleasant as this; it had more of a Chippendale look to it.
Bennett: Is this one closed, Bill? Do you want to look in there?
Crichton: This was my bedroom. Oh, yeah. Well, there was a fireplace there. Yes, but it was walled up.
Bennett: A fireplace in between the two closets in the second bedroom? It was walled up then?
Crichton: Yes, it was walled up all the time I lived here. We had two beds in here.
Bennett: Did you have your own bedroom?
Crichton: My brother and I, the other brother, Jim and I shared this bedroom, yeah. This was the same trim. I can remember as a kid learning how to jump this distance.
Bennett: Jump from one step to the other (going down the stairs?)
Crichton: What's behind here?
Bennett: A bathroom now. For that other room.
Crichton: This was Pop's room. Now, where this window is, approximately, led into another bathroom which was occupied a space between this bedroom and the companion bedroom in the demolished wing. There was also a wall, partition built across here with a door in it somewhere that made this into two bedrooms. The small one, for a very large part when I was young, this was mine.
Bennett: Visiting children slept... And maybe this wall wasn't there.
Crichton: No, it wasn't.
Bennett: I have a feeling that where they put the bathroom, the wall would have gone across.
Crichton: It did. It ended up a wall there and then there was a doorway that went up to a little bit of level, one step up into that other bedroom. Bennett: And when you go from the master bedroom there's a hallway and then you turn and go into a bathroom that comes this way and there's closet space; on this wall and that sidewall is closets, marvelous closet space.
Crichton: This is where Jimmy was born, right here. Jimmy was born in this room.
Bennett: That's Sally's office.
Crichton: It’ s a nice office; it’ s very very nice. It’ s nice because you can have heat in the winter now. And you’ ve got air conditioning in the summer.
- Memories of the Seitz sisters; Wasp infestation on the roof; Dennis the cook; Service in the military; Going to the Spring House; Picking local fruits and nutsKeywords: Brandywine Manufacturers' Sunday School; Christ Church Christiana Hundred (Wilmington, Del.); Fruits; Nuts; Orchards; Photography; Roofs; Seitz sisters; Spring House; United States Air Force; Wasps; West Point; World War (1939-1945)Transcript: Chrichton: The Seitz girls who lived in the School, that’ s where they kept their car. They were wonderful people. Did you know them?
Bennett: Yes. And Margaret, their granddaughter, works here on the Hill as a volunteer. It makes it kind of special, they've donated a lot of things that are in the Gibbons House at the moment.
Crichton: They were awfully nice to us. Our grandmother lived in that room. Well, the ceiling wasn't like this, it was higher then, they've added on when they put it back. When they restored it, it looks like they added to it. Right here where the stairs went up, they kept straight on.(Clomp, clomp, going downstairs?)
Crichton: You know, it feels a lot sturdier than what I remember. The stairways and the floors, of course they have a big piece of steel underneath it. But, you know the sills in this house were remarkable. There was so much oak around here. I remember, before we moved out, and we had to have this wing here, the kitchen wing, we had to have a new roof on it. Well, there was a nice young fellow who was just starting out as a contractor, and Pop said I need to shingle this roof. So, he was very careful and he pasted everything up and he got on the side and he measured the angle, he calculated the number of squares and all that and quoted a price. Pop said, ok take it. First thing he found when he started taking the old shingles off was that every mud dauber wasp in New Castle County had made its home under the shingles. This caused workmen to scurry down a ladder much faster than they could scurry up it. Then they found if they tried to take the nails out of the shingle lath and found it was one-by-three native oak. That contractor lost his shirt on that job.
Bennett: OK. Are we ready to go? Is there anything else you'd like to see?
Crichton: I keep looking around here and expecting to see Dennis walk through the door.
Bennett: What ever happened to them?
Crichton: Emma left; she got a job finally, a good one. She was Preston Townsend's help in Rehoboth. Dennis stayed with us - a most remarkable person - he had his jackets. If mother said, “ Dennis, would you go to the store for me?" “ Yes.” He would lay his pipe down, walk into the back room, take off what he had on, put on a chauffer's jacket and get in a Model A Ford and drive it into to town and get whatever it was. When he waited on the table, he had a white jacket on; if he was sitting in his white jacket in the kitchen and somebody knocked on the door, he'd go take that jacket off and put a more appropriate one on and answer the door.
Bennett: Like we with our hats today.
Crichton: He was a master of understatement. He came in one time after having been sent to do an errand and came to mother and said, "I believe the front tire needs a little air.” She went out to look at it; it was flat as a pancake.
Bennett: Well, this has been a pleasure speaking with you and we have enjoyed it all. I thank you very much for coming.
Crichton: Thank you very much for bringing it back to us. I'm afraid I got more out of it than you did.
Bennett: I think it would be wonderful to have the opportunity to return.
Crichton: Do you know what was awfully nice in this hallway? Those two lamps. They really worked very nice.
Bennett: You asked him what he did. He's a retired Air Force General (Ted).
Crichton: I left this house in early 1945 to go into the U.S. Army during World War II and I served out the rest of the time and in 1946 was accepted in the military academy at West Point. I went to West Point, graduated in 1950 and spent 30 more years in the U.S. Air Force and retired in 1980. I flew airplanes for 30 years. He was a Brigadier General in the Air Force before he retired. I'm President of an electronics company now. A second career.
Bennett: That's wonderful. One of the Seitz boys went to West Point. I saw pictures -- maybe 1918, 1920?
Crichton: I'm not familiar with that one.
Crichton: Sally, do you remember which one of the Seitz boys went to West Point?
Bennett: I don't know. (Sally) Do you remember seeing the picture? Standing right out there. Yes, I do, but I don't remember.
Crichton: The absent brother, James, is also retired from the Air Force. Twenty-six years. He got nominated for his Reserve Service by Harry Truman during the unpleasantness in Korea. He then joined the regular Army and advanced, being a full Colonel before he retired, also in California. He came back and went to law school with all the young fellows and became a practicing lawyer.
Bennett: That's wonderful. What did you do? We have to get you on here. (Bill)
Crichton: I went to work right after the war for the E. du Pont de Manures & Company. Ha ha. As an engineer, industrial engineer, a profession which I very seldom practiced, and followed a path in marketing and information until I got wind of the computer and I was into that just about almost a year after the first commercial computer was installed in the United States. And, I've been with them ever since. Not DuPont, computers. I became disenchanted with things before I was forced to retire, but I retired anyway and went to the University of Delaware as a faculty member and taught Business Information Systems to students - undergraduates - there for eight years. So, I retired again.
Bennett: You did spend a bit of time in the military too?
Crichton: He went to Cornell University and through the ROTC Program. Just about the time he graduated was when the war started. (Bill) Nope, the war started before. I was a mid-term graduate, hadn’ t finished my last term. I hadn't even finished my exams when I heard the clarion call of the bugle and I got summoned to join the fun. So, they said what the hell, he would have graduated anyway, so they gave me a diploma.
Bennett: I think you would make a wonderful teacher. The way you describe.
Crichton: I've done a lot of teaching, industrial teaching and I had to do a great deal of university teaching because I had all these students.
Bennett: I bet they enjoyed your class.
Crichton: What is the Spring House now?
Bennett: Would you like to go see it?
Crichton: Yes. We would go over there on hot summer days and get cool. Do you remember, Ted, the front door was right there.
Bennett: OK. We're going to go look at the Spring House. Well, your whole family seemed to enjoy the military, I would say.
Crichton: Well, the war came along and we all got in it. There was no background of military in our family at all.
Bennett: She didn't seem to think it (Spring House) was open.
Crichton: No, it’ s been closed. I guess it’ s still leaking water.
Bennett: Well, you know, there was a beautiful holly tree right here. And that must have been a well, I believe.
Crichton: .....and said that we were looking for the location of a pump. So, I immediately got on the telephone and called and I said not only do I know the location of the pump I remember pumping water out of that well.
Bennett: And there was a holly tree growing.
Crichton: Yes, there was a beautiful holly tree.
Bennett: We had to uproot the holly tree to get to the pump. But there was nothing in it; we were so disappointed. They did an archaeological dig on the Hill and we got all the way down to the bottom and there wasn't a bloomin' thing. Stones, but nothing else; we were really disappointed, we were hoping for crockery.
Crichton: I can't understand why, unless they disposed of things somewhere else than in the well.
Bennett: We found a lot of things in front of the foundations, you know where the two house foundations are. They found a lot of goodies in there.
Crichton: What ever happened to Judge Bradford's house?
Bennett: That's lived in by ..... I’ ll drive you out that way. Much mumbled conversation: nothing clear.
Crichton: A lot of the trees, though, have gone from around the house. It was much shadier.
Bennett: And the orchards?
Crichton: The orchards, yes, a lot of big orchard here. And grapevines, there were several rows, I don’ t remember exactly how many. And then peach, and pear trees and apple trees.
Bennett: Walnuts?Crichton: I don't remember walnuts.
Bennett: There was a lot of discussion of walnuts.
Crichton: I don’ t remember walnuts. Sickle pears, we had those. I remember eating those as a kid. I think I recall reading in one of the interviews about a cache of peach brandy that is maybe is buried somewhere.
Bennett: It's in the tower of the school church. The Irish built it. The story is that the men when they were doing - there's the steeple up there - see straight ahead: the steeple of Christ Church - when they were building it, it was the Irish, they had a bottle and Mr. du Pont stood there and was watching and they couldn’ t get the bottle down, so they just left it in there. And a lot of them talk about the bottle. That's what he's referring to.
Chatter about photography.
- Neighbors in Free Park; New housing in the area around HagleyKeywords: Cheney family; Christ Church Christiana Hundred (Wilmington, Del.); Free Park (Del.: Village); Moffett family; Squirrel Run (Del.: Village); Street-railroadsTranscript: Bennett: Well, it was very kind of you all, we very much appreciate your taking the time and effort to do this.
Crichton: I told Ted, I got more out of it than you.
Bennett: Now, the first part of that house, a little bit I understand, is part of the original Free Park housing, just the first wing. Of that stone house.
Crichton: Bill, you oughta bring the movies out. I'm going to. Yeah, this was all part of Mrs. Moffett's chicken house, and there used to be a road here. This is the road I told you about. Right there was a road.
Bennett: That was the road that went up by the other house. And is that where the chickens were?
Crichton: No, no, they were here on your left. Right near the marquee. That stone wall went all the way out to the end of this road.
Bennett: This is part of the house?
Crichton: This is the Moffett house.
Bennett: And did the wall continue over on this side?
Crichton: No. Who lives in there now?
Bennett: The Sillimans. And this is where the Sexton lived?
Crichton: Yes, that is where the Cheneys lived. Was it stuccoed like this? I don't think so, Ted
Bennett: I don't remember it as being stucco. They covered a lot of the stone with stucco. It made it look a lot more modern than it used to be, I think that's the idea.
Bennett: They're remodeling the church, that's why I'm not taking you into the church, because they're putting in a new organ. They have sold this property; I'm just bringing you down here because I wanted you to see...We're now on the parking lot of Christ Church.
Crichton: When we moved out the Rector's house was out on Buck Road.
Bennett: And this was one of the houses down here, and the barn. The church bought this property, they have a goodly amount of it.
Crichton: A whole big parking lot they have for this church.
Bennett: Well, it's a big church; it's a snobby (?) church.
Crichton: It's THE church to go to. I have seen more people that worked for the DuPont Company bust their behinds to be a member of this church. I was an acolyte in this church.
Bennett: That's where the Pilot School was when it first started out. The little stone building over there was where the Pilot School was first founded, and that was back when - in the 1950s: 1956-57, something like that. I think we had six children in the school at the time. Mrs. Carpenter's son Keith, my son Philip; I can't remember who else; I think the Rices had a child.
Crichton: Oh yeah, I was thinking about them yesterday. You know what Ted and I used to do. We were married in'55 in England, we'd come back here for the summers (Mrs.Ted ?) and just about every time he and I would make a little visit over to Mrs. E. Paul du Pont's. She's the one that conned me into being the acolyte.(?)Twisted my arm. Mrs. E. Paul du Pont and Bill's mother, and my mother (?) all went to Misses Hebbs together. So they were all schoolmates.Look on the left, Ted, that used to be his airstrip.(E. Paul du Pont’ s) And now they're million-dollar houses-
Crichton: They're million-dollar houses, is that what they are?
Bennett: They just started them two years ago. The minimum is $750,000.
Crichton: What sizes are they?
Bennett: And you have to have a three-car garage.
Crichton: This was an airstrip. We used to ride motorcycles in there too.
Bennett: That would be the straight road from...
Crichton: It used to go down and come out down there. Well, so what, they sold the property?
Bennett: Everything. The heirs sold the property.
Crichton: What's the house being used for?
Bennett: Somebody lives in it. I think the neat story on this is that next to the dining room she had her husband put this machine shop so . . .
Crichton: Oh, I know, we've been in that machine shop many times. See, I grew up with one of the kids; we were buddies, very very close. Lex and I were very good friends growing up.
Bennett: You should try to catch up with him; I know he'd like to see you. This is now Centennial Drive. This is the old Gate House.
Crichton: That's where Freddie Dapp (?) lived.
Bennett: You see where all the little glass windows are in that little hut? That was the original house, and the people built on all around it. They did a nice job on that. I’ d like to see in that. Hadfields, you know the Hadfields Fish Market? That's who lives there. Well, I'm not surprised considering the price of backfin.
Crichton: So, what are these, are they all custom built?
Bennett: Yes, you buy the lot, and then you put a house on it.
Crichton: And they have an architectural review, do they?
Bennett: I'm sure of it.
Crichton: I'll tell you one thing about it, an architect has a frightening habit with roofs, lines.
Bennett: This one down here I like. The draperies alone would be a fortune.
Crichton: Down in the hole here? Oh, yeah, oh that's beautiful. Shades of Winterthur.
Bennett: This one of these with the raised ceiling - where the ceiling goes all the way to the top - so that if you look in through you can see where the staircase is. An awful lot of wasted room.
Crichton: As long as you got that much money you can afford to waste it. That's what they do in California, waste room. Hey, dig the pillars.
Bennett: Would you say they're marble?
Crichton: It looks Georgian or.... So, you buy a lot and put your house on it? Subject to review.
Bennett: And Pella has made a fortune. I never saw so many Pella windows.
Crichton: Are there more lots for sale?
Crichton: How much does a lot cost in here?
Bennett: I've heard, and it's so staggering I forgot. We're going down the road past...
Crichton: If they hadn't built that frightening bridge then. My brother Bill worked in a summer job in here at the Hall of Records for the DuPont Company. He was a night watchman.
Bennett: This was the quote, unquote, the new Machine Shop over here. This is the Barley Mill House. Hagley owns this. And this house...often loaned out by scholars who come to stay for long-term. This is where S. Hallock du Pont kept his kennels. This is a marvelous house inside.
Crichton: This is where the trolley line ran up. We used to take that. Oh, I see they're separated over there by –
Bennett: There used to be a bridge; I think eventually again there will be.
Crichton: Well, it went over a thing called Diamond Bridge and that's where we...
Bennett: Wait till you see what they did to Diamond Bridge, the idiot who covered it with tar this year.
Bennett: There was a whole community in here called Squirrel Run. Look what just went up over here. You want to get out for a sec.
Static: as if radio were left on in car: legal problem re van: small claims court: etc. Nothing related to Hagley. Ad for children's books featuring a Bible story.
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