Interview with Fred Marenco, 1984 March 5 [audio]

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  • Halloween pranks; Keeping boarders at home; Speaking English and Italian; Owning a car; Babysitting Eugene Bruno; Making and storing wine
    Synopsis: Marenco talks about pulling pranks on Halloween night. He talks about guns and hunting. He tells a story about a tree that fell on his family's home. He talks about boarders that lived with his family. Marenco discusses speaking English and Italian, noting situations where he spoke Italian instead of English. He says that his family spoke mostly English at home. He talks about his father's car. He talks about having babysat a fellow oral history interviewee, Eugene Bruno. He describes how his father made wine and how his family stored wine and other foods.
    Keywords: Automobiles; Boarding; Bruno, Eugene; English language; Guns; Halloween; Hunting; Italian language; Joseph Bancroft and Sons Co.; Pranks
    Transcript: Bond: We are at the home of Fred Marenco on March 5, 1984 to continue our discussion of February, 1984, about Fred's early day memories of life along Squirrel Run. And as I said, I'm probably going to repeat some things here, but right at the end, when we were talking before, you started to tell about a Halloween story where you pushed over an outhouse.

    Marenco: Yeah.

    Bond: And I didn't get all that on the tape because the tape ran out. How about going through the story again.

    Marenco: Well, on Halloween night we just run and upset them, that's it, then take off, go upset another one.

    Bond: Oh, you did?

    Marenco: Yeah, we upset a lot of them.

    Bond: How many?

    Marenco: I guess about a dozen anyway.

    Bond: Was this just along Squirrel Run?

    Marenco: Yeah.

    Bond: Was this something that all the boys in the neighborhood got together on?

    Marenco: Yeah, we all got together, all us kids.

    Bond: What had to put the toilets back up?

    Marenco: They did, whoever owned them.

    Bond: You were mean. You mentioned last time too, that your father went hunting. What all did he hunt?

    Marenco: My Father didn't do much hunting.

    Bond: Oh, he didn't?

    Marenco: No.

    Bond: Well, were you the one that did it?

    Marenco: No, no - a lot of them in Squirrel Run did go, but they went for rabbits, squirrels, stuff like that.

    Bond: What kind of guns did they use?

    Marenco: Just shot...

    Bond: Shotguns?

    Marenco: Shotguns, yeah.

    Bond: Where did they keep guns in a house?

    Marenco: Well, mostly in the bedroom.

    Bond: In the bedroom. You mentioned another story you started to tell about, a tree falling through the roof of your house - how about going over that again.

    Marenco: Yeah. Well, there was a big poplar tree and it was half rotted round the middle, you know, and a storm come up one day and I was out on the porch, I just kept watching as it came on; Just back and forth, I got a kick out of that, then the first thing I know – BOOM- come down on the house. And we had a boarder at that time and he was up in the attic changing his clothes, getting ready to go to town, we thought sure as heck he got hurt- he come down crawling through the limbs and everything was alright.

    Bond: Who had to fix the roof?

    Marenco: DuPonts.

    Bond: They did - okay. You mentioned this boarder, did you have boarders all the time when you were growing up?

    Marenco: Mostly, yes.

    Bond: Where did these boarders work?

    Marenco: Let's see, one of them worked down here in Bancroft, cloth factory, and another worked at a chocolate factory in Hershey. I forgot how he got back and forth though.

    Bond: The boarders, they had a room there, but did they eat meals with you?

    Marenco: Yeah.

    Bond: And what did these boarders do when they weren't working, did they spend their time in your house?

    Marenco: Well, yes, you know they go out and play bocce and stuff like that.

    Bond: But were they considered part of the family?

    Marenco: Well, more or less.

    Bond: The boarders you had, did any of them stay very long?

    Marenco: Yes, they were there several years. I'd say two or three years at a time anyway before they left.

    Bond: Why did they leave, was it because they got married?

    Marenco: Well, they went back to Italy some of them, some of them in different parts.

    Bond: In those days, did many people that came over from Italy go back to Italy?

    Marenco: Yeah, most of them.

    Bond: Most of them.

    Marenco: Yeah, back. They'd come out here, make a little money and go

    Bond: You say they made a little money and went back. Did they come over to the United States with the idea of immigrating to the U. S. or just to make money?

    Marenco: I would say make money and go back, yeah, they liked it over there.

    Bond: Well these people that did that, did they bring their families with them or...

    Marenco: No, no.

    Bond: Did any of the men come over and then after a year or two send for their families?

    Marenco: Not that I know of.

    Bond: In your home, did you speak English or Italian?

    Marenco: Mostly in English.

    Bond: Did you know Italian?

    Marenco: Oh yes.

    Bond: Did children in different families speak Italian to each other or English.

    Marenco: Mostly English.

    Bond: When did you speak Italian?

    Woman: When you didn't want anybody to know what you were saying. Like I do now, and I'm not Italian.

    Bond: That’ s about it, I guess.

    Marenco: It was what now?

    Bond: Why was it you spoke Italian?

    Marenco: I don't know, it was just always spoke in English. We should have spoke Italian though.

    Bond: Well, another thing you mentioned was that your Father had a car, but you didn't want to ride in it, and I wasn't sure why you didn't want to ride in it.

    Marenco: I don't know, maybe it was a pride, I guess.

    Bond: Why?

    Marenco: I don't know. It was a shame to ride in it I guess,it was a piece of junk.

    Bond: Did many people have cars then?

    Marenco: No, very few.

    Woman: I would think you would be proud to ride in it. Even today he shines his car every week.

    Marenco: Well, that's real good.

    Bond: Did you ever go to parades in Wilmington?

    Marenco: Yeah we used to go.

    Bond: What kind of parades did they have?

    Marenco: Well, Halloween and...

    Woman: Fourth of July?

    MArenco: Fourth of July, something like that, mostly Halloween.

    Bond: Did they ever have circus parades?

    Marenco: No, I don't remember that.

    Bond: Did they ever have Thanksgiving parades?

    Marenco: We did have them floats, I forget whether it was Thanksgiving or what the heck it was. I remember seeing floats going down Market Street, yeah.

    Bond: Oh, really? Do you remember what time of year it was?

    Marenco: Nope.

    Bond: I was reading over the interview of Eugene Bruno and he says as a boy you were one of the ornery ones. What did he mean?

    Marenco: Well, I imagine - course I was a kid too and he was a little younger yet, and nobody was home but me and him I think, and I was carrying him around the house, you know, and he was crying and crying and I tried to make him stop crying, but he wouldn't stop, so I got tired holding him and walking around. And I was close to the stove and didn't even think it was hot, I just set him on top of the stove. I got tired of holding him, and he cried all the more, then I started to whistle, I said, "Listen to this bird." That didn't stop him from crying.

    Bond: So what did you do?

    Marenco: I took him along and walked him around again until the folks come home.

    Bond: Did it burn him?

    Marenco: I imagine it did.

    Bond: Another thing you mentioned before was about your Father made wine every year. How did he make the wine?

    Marenco: How? Well, we have open barrel and you have these grape grinders and then you let it ferment for about a week, ten days.

    Bond: Just in the open barrel?

    Marenco: Yeah, and when it's done fermenting, why you draw it out, need a tub, and then you fill the other barrel up, the one with the hole in the middle, fill it up and let it ferment for about four or five weeks, then you tap it and let it stay for about a year, then you can drink it.

    Bond: Did you leave the wine in the barrel, I guess what I really mean is, did you ever put it in bottles?

    Marenco: Yeah, oh yeah. -After it stays at least a year.

    Bond: Okay, stays just about a year in the barrel, and then you put it in bottles.

    Marenco: Then you can put it in the bottle.

    Bond: Then how long will it last?

    Marenco: In bottles it will last oh, indefinitely.

    Bond: Until you drink it all?

    Marenco: From year to year.

    Bond: Did your Father make wine every year?

    Marenco: Every year.

    Bond: Did a lot of your neighbors make wine?

    Marenco: Most all of them, yeah, most all of them made wine.

    Bond: You mentioned about a storage room in your house, and I wasn't real clear, was it - could you get into the storage room only from inside the house?

    Marenco: Yeah, inside.

    Bond: And was it just a separate room on the house, or was it sort of a cave?

    Marenco: A separate room like.

    Bond: A separate room? Was it all above the ground?

    Marenco: No, it was level with the ground.

    Bond: It was level with the ground? But did it go into the hillside behind your house?

    Marenco: Yeah, right.

    Bond: Okay, so if you went through the back wall of it, would you have gone into the hill?

    Marenco: Right.

    Bond: And what all did you store in this room?

    Marenco: Well, stuff my Mother would put in jars, you know, stuff like that.

    Bond: Was it mainly as a food storage?

    Marenco: Yeah, food and wine.

    Bond: Food and wine? Did you store anything else in this room?

    Marenco: No, that's about it, food and wine.
  • Working for DuPont; Honey hunts; Taking care of the elderly; Explosions at Hagley; Heating the family home; Drinking wine; The Irish and Italian community; Saloons
    Synopsis: Marenco talks about his father's work for DuPont. He describes honey hunts and remembers it as a prank played on newcomers to the area around Hagley Yard and the Brandywine. Marenco talks about how families took care of the elderly. He talks about having heard and felt explosions at the powder mills. Marenco describes how his family kept their house warm. He talks about drinking wine and says everyone did, including children. He describes Italian ethnic pride and the rivalries between the Irish and Italian communities, saying that although they did not like each other, they did not fight each other. Marenco discusses some of the saloons on the Brandywine and describes spittoon troughs with running water.
    Keywords: Coal; Drinking; E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company; Explosions; Funerals; Hagley Yard; Honey hunts; Irish people; Italian people; Old age; Pranks; Retirement; Saloons; Spittoons; Stoves; Wine; Wood; Working
    Transcript: Bond: Let's see, your Father worked for DuPont for a while didn't he?

    Marenco: Yeah.

    Bond: Okay. Was there any labor trouble at DuPont in those days?

    Marenco: No. No, that's one thing DuPont, they hired anybody come on.

    Bond: He did what?

    Marenco: He would hire anybody come along and everything went well.

    Bond: Did anyone ever try to organize unions?

    Marenco: No.

    Bond: Why was that, or why didn't they organize unions. I'm curious.

    Marenco: I don't think the unions was around in them days.

    Woman: They were thankful to get a job when they come over here.

    Bond: Makes sense. Would you say that a lot of the people who came from Italy came and worked a year or two or three and then went back - were there always people coming over?

    Marenco: Yeah, quite a few.

    Bond: Did your parents ever go back to Italy for a trip?

    Marenco: No. Yeah, my Father did, yeah he went back once anyway.

    Bond: You told me some stories about dynamite - you got an other stories like that - going out and stealing watermelons...

    Marenco: Honey hunting, we done honey hunting too, yeah. That was the same story more or less, only you had to go at nighttime, see, you'd climb a tree. The bees - climb trees. After you'd climb a tree, couldn't see no honey hunting until a fellow said, "I'm tired, it should be it." You'd light a match to look for the honey and that was the signal for the other fellow - boom, boom- shoot. Let that honey alone, you know.

    Bond: Then what happened?

    Marenco: Well, they jumped off - jumped off the tree. And one fellow let on he got hurt - oh, he let on he was hurt, he just stayed on the ground. And one fellow carried him on his back.

    Bond: Was this a stunt you pulled on all the new boys or something?

    Marenco: Yeah, that's what...

    Bond: How old were you when you'd do this type thing?

    Marenco: Oh, I guess about ten, twelve years old.

    Bond: Sounds like fun.

    Marenco: Yeah.

    Bond: Let me see here - What did they do about old people back in those days - what happened to old people, did they stay with their parents - or children?

    Marenco: Yeah, mostly, yeah, just stayed home.

    Bond: Were there many old people in your neighborhood when you were growing up?

    Marenco: Yeah, quite a few.

    Bons: How long did the man work, from an age standpoint, just as long as they could or...

    Marenco: Yeah.

    Bond: Was there any such thing as a retirement age?

    Marenco: I don't think so, I don't think so.

    Bond: What about funerals?

    Marenco: Funerals then days was horse and wagons.

    Bond: Horse and wagons. Did they have wakes, like the Irish wakes?

    Marenco: Well, wakes at home, at home.

    Bond: Did the Italian people have wakes as well as the Irish? You always hear about Irish wakes.

    Marenco: Yeah, about the same thing, yeah, people would come in.

    Bond: Then was the funeral in a church?

    Marenco: Yeah.

    Bond: Do you remember about any explosions or disasters in the powder mills?

    Marenco: I remember them going off, yeah.

    Bond: Did you hear any of them?

    Marenco: Oh, gosh yeah, rattled the house.

    Woman: Didn't it break the windows in Vera's?

    Marenco: Yeah, some windows would break.

    Bond: Did these accidents happen very often?

    Marenco: No, not too often. I'd say maybe sometimes twice a year, sometimes every other year.

    Bond: What was the weather like then, any different from today?

    Marenco: Oh, a big difference. Them days there you'd get snow in October and it would stay there until next April.

    Bond: Stay on the ground all that time? Did the powder yards keep working all winter?

    Marenco: Yeah, yeah.

    Bond: If you had snow all that time, how did you heat the house?

    Marenco: Coal - coal and wood.

    Bond: Coal and wood? How many stoves did you have in the house?

    Marenco: Just the kitchen stove, big kitchen stove. Upstairs was cold.

    Bond: It was?

    Marenco: Yeah, cold upstairs.

    Bond: You said you had three floors, didn't you?

    Marenco: Yeah.

    Bond: Did you have any heat on the top floor?

    Marenco: No, no - no heat.

    Bond: The stove that was in the kitchen sort of a combination cook stove and heating stove?

    Marenco: Yeah, right. It would heat up and cook everything.

    Bond: Did the family spend most of its time in the kitchen?

    Marenco: In the kitchen, right. That was the main room.

    Bond: Did you have any way to heat the beds before you went to bed?

    Marenco: Well, sometimes we would put some bricks in the oven get them hot and wrap them up and keep your feet cold -I mean the bricks in bed, bottom of the bed, your feet, and that would keep your feet warm.

    Bond: Who kept the fire going in the stove?

    Marenco: Mostly the old folks.

    Bond: Mostly the old folks?

    Marenco: Yeah.

    Woman: They all had wine - some of them didn't eat too much.

    Bond: They didn't? I'm glad you said that. Did people drink wine every day?

    Marenco: Every day - drink it like water.

    Woman: Had a glass of wine with their meal.

    Bond: With your meal? Did people drink wine in the evening, after dinner?

    Marenco: Oh, yes.

    Bond: Every night?

    Marenco: Every night.

    Bond: Did the children drink wine, too?

    Marenco: Yes - at the meal.

    Bond: At the meals. Did you drink water with the meals?

    Marenco: No water.

    Bond: Did you drink milk?

    Marenco: We were all winos

    Bond: No milk - wine. Let's see, I think you told me you had a refrigerator, didn't you - or an ice box?

    Marenco: Ice box they called it, yeah.

    Bond: And the ice man came with a horse-drawn trailer?

    Marenco: Right.

    Bond: Who took the water pan out?

    Marenco: Well, any - the kids, I'd say, yeah.

    Bond: The kids, okay. Did you keep meat in the refrigerator for very long?

    Marenco: Yeah.

    Bond: Was there much feeling of ethnic pride in those days?

    Marenco: I don't know.

    Woman: They thought the Italians were the best people in the world, huh?

    Marenco: Huh?

    Woman: You thought the Italians were the best people in the world.

    Marenco: Oh, yeah, that's one way they stuck together.

    Bond: Was there any rivalry between, say, Italians and Irish?

    Marenco: Well, the Irish was on one side of the Brandywine, and the Italians on the other, but they didn't fight one another - I don't think they liked one another.

    Bond: Did they do any socializing?

    Marenco: Not much.

    Bond: But there was no fighting, just each kept to its own?

    Woman: I was wondering what you were going to say about the Irish.

    Bond: Now why do you say that?

    Woman: I'm Irish.

    Bond: Oh, now I know why. Were there many saloons in those days?

    Marenco: Not too many, not too many, a few around.

    Bond: Did women ever go in saloons?

    Marenco: No, I don't think so, not them days. I never saw any.

    Bond: Were the saloons where people drank hard liquor or beer or what?

    Marenco: Mostly liquor, hard liquor.

    Bond: Would a man spend the evening in a saloon?

    Marenco: Well, some of them would I imagine, yeah. But there wasn't tables, you just go up against the bar and put your foot on the railing and stay there.

    Woman: How about spittoons?

    Marenco: No, they had running water, running water all the time.

    Bond: What - how do you mean, running water?

    Marenco: Kind of a trough like below the counter and that water kept going around all the time.

    Bond: That was the spittoon?

    Marenco: Yeah.

    Bond: Never heard of it. Did they have that type of moving spittoon a lot of places?

    Marenco: The saloons, yes.

    Bond: I'm learning a lot, Fred, from these talks, believe me. Did the streetcar run up Squirrel Run when you were little?

    Marenco: Yeah.

    Bond: Did you go downtown very often, to Wilmington?

    Marenco: About once a week, Saturdays.

    Bond: Why did you go down?

    Marenco: See the movies.

    Bond: Oh. I talked to another man the other day and he told me all the movie theaters in downtown.

    Marenco: There was a lot of them in them days, yeah.

    Bond: There were a lot of them, I had no idea there were that many.

    Marenco: Yeah, there was a lot of them.

    Bond: Did you go to any place except Wilmington, ever?

    Marenco: Yes, Wilmington, the main place.

    Bond: Okay - did you ever get to Philadelphia?

    Marenco: Very little, very little.
  • Social life and Saint Joseph on the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church; Bathing and hygiene; Tobacco use
    Synopsis: Marenco talks about St Joseph on the Brandywine and its role in his daily life. He says that the church was a center for social life and that he went to St. Joseph's school. He talks about bathing and hygiene and where his family got the water they used for cooking, cleaning, and bathing. He talks about outhouses. Marenco recalls that the most popular tobacco product of his day was Red Man chewing tobacco.
    Keywords: Bathing; Chewing Tobacco; Cooking; Red Man chewing tobacco; Saint Joseph on the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church (Wilmington, Del.); School; Smoking; Water
    Transcript: Bond: I think you told me that you were sort of stubborn with your father one day, he wanted you to do some-thing and you didn't want to do it?

    Marenco: Yeah, go to the store, get him some tobacco. I guess I was bashful, I just didn't want to go. So he got his belt and started to whip me. I said, "Go ahead, kill me, I'm not gonna go."

    Bond: Did that happen often, Fred?

    Marenco: No.

    Woman: Who went for the tobacco?

    Marenco: I don't know, I know I didn't.

    Bond: Did you have community picnics in the summertime?

    Marenco: No, no the only picnics we had, when St. Joseph's would give them once a year.

    Bond: Was this for everyone in the parish?

    Marenco: Yeah.

    Bond: How many priests did they have at St. Joseph's, roughly?

    Bond: Oh, they had two of them, that is, you know, they change around, but two of them at a time.

    Marenco: At one time. Did –

    Bond: St. Joseph's had a school, didn't it?

    MArenco: Yes.

    Bond: Did the nuns teach at the school?

    Marenco: Right.

    Bond: How many nuns were there?

    Marenco: I guess there was about a half dozen when I went.

    Bond: Did you have school plays or school activities?

    Marenco: Yeah.

    Bond: What kind of activities?

    Marenco: Entertainments, they would call them. Just different plays, I guess. Everybody had their part to learn.

    Bond: Oh, it was plays that the children put on?

    Marenco: Yes, yeah.

    Bond: Did the church play an active part in people's lives then?

    Marenco: Well, I don't know what to say.

    Woman: I don't think they did like they do today. Although if you had somebody sick in the house, the priest came.

    Marenco: And that we were taught a lot of religion when we went to school, about all I can say.

    Bond: Well, I'm interested, you said that the Irish lived on one side of the Brandywine and the Italians on the other and you just tell me your wife is Irish, now explain that. How did you happen to meet her?

    Woman: We were neighbors.

    Marenco: I forgot.

    Woman: You forgot - we were neighbors, he lived up Newark Road and I lived down the other road.

    Bond: This was after you moved to Pennsylvania?

    Woman: After he moved up there. I was born up there, where I lived.

    Bond: Okay. I think you told me that in the house down at Squirrel Run, you washed and cleaned up out on the porch.

    Marenco: Right.

    Bond: Was this even in the wintertime?

    Marenco: Even in the wintertime.

    Bond: Was the porch enclosed?

    Marenco: No - open.

    Woman: That's what Vera said, too.

    Bond: Well, wasn't it awfully cold?

    Marenco: It was pretty cold. And we had the basin and bucket of water and little ice on top of the water, break the ice and get the water, wash our face.

    Bond: How often did people take baths in the wintertime?

    Marenco: Usually once a week.

    Bond: And where did you take the bath?

    Marenco: In the tub, ordinary tub.

    Bond: In the kitchen?

    Marenco: In the kitchen.

    Bond: Yeah, I hope so.

    Woman: We did one too.

    Bond: You did? And where did you get your water? Did you have a well?

    Marenco: No, we didn't have no well, was pumps, different pumps, different places, you know, and water came from one place. We called it a springhouse. And we'd go to these pumps and everybody had their certain pump to go to.

    Bond: Oh, but the pumps were out along the street someplace?

    Marenco: Yeah, right.

    Bond: But the water there came from the Springhouse farther up Squirrel Run?

    Marenco: Springhouse - right, right.

    Bond: And this was all the water you used - drinking water and washing?

    Marenco: Right.

    Bond: How far away from your house was this pump?

    Marenco: Well that pump was pretty close, I'd say from here to the mushroom house.

    Bond: Okay, not too far.

    Woman: Didn't they have a at Squirrel Run?

    Marenco: I'd say fifty, sixty anyway.

    Woman: Oh, yeah?

    Bond: I don't have a map of Squirrel Run, I think today, that tells that. This doesn't show individual houses. There were quite a few houses, four houses together.

    Marenco: Yeah.

    Bond: Was there any anti-Catholic feeling in the community?

    Marenco: No.

    Bond: What were most people in the area Roman Catholic?

    Marenco: Most of us, yeah.

    Bond: Did you lock your houses in those days?

    Marenco: No, never.

    Bond: Was there any robbery at all?

    Marenco: No.

    Woman: Well, we didn't have any robbery here, used to be out in the garden, we never locked the door. Now you don't go upstairs, I don't lock the door.

    Bond: Were there any police that walked the beat around Squirrel Run?

    Marenco: No.

    Bond: The reason I ask, I know in downtown Wilmington they did have in those days. Did strangers ever wander through Squirrel Run?

    Marenco: Nah.

    Bond: Just wonder, could you think of any more stories?

    Marenco: No, nope.

    Bond: Where was your outhouse - behind the house?

    Marenco: It was in front of it, just down a little bit.

    Bond: Was there an outhouse for every house?

    Marenco: Yeah. There was.

    Bond: One hole or two holes?

    Marenco: Two.

    Bond: Two?

    Marenco: Maybe three, for the children, a little one.

    Woman: Sears and Roebuck book.

    Bond: Yeah, did you have toilet paper on rolls then?

    Marenco: Just like she says - Sears.

    Bond: Were there any bridges across Squirrel Run?

    Marenco: Oh, yeah.

    Bond: What kind of bridges were they, Fred?

    Marenco: The main one was what they called the Diamond Bridge, yeah, the Diamond Bridge.

    Bond: Was it just a foot bridge or for cars or trucks.

    Marenco: Cars, cars and trucks, yeah.

    Bond: Was there a road up both sides of Squirrel Run?

    Marenco: Yep.

    Bond: Was there such a things as a neighborhood bully?

    Marenco: I don't know.

    Woman: I couldn't even think of one.

    Bond: What kind of tobacco did people use?

    Marenco: It was mostly Redman.

    Bond: Redman - that's chewing tobacco.

    Marenco: That's chewing tobacco, yeah.

    Bond: Did many people smoke?

    Marenco: Yeah, a lot of them smoked these Italian stogies.

    Bond: Oh, those real black ones?

    Marenco: Yeah.

    Woman: Your father never chewed.

    Marenco: A lot of people did.

    Bond: Did people chew because of the powder mill and they could chew in the powder mill, but they couldn't smoke?

    Marenco: Well, that's probably it, yes.

    Bond: Well, since there were snuff mills around, did people use snuff?

    Marenco: Yeah, a lot of people used snuff too.

    Bond: Did women use snuff?

    Marenco: No, not that I know of.

    Bond: Did women smoke in those days?

    Marenco: No, I didn't see any smoking.

    Woman: Gone a long way, Baby. Some have and some haven't.

    Bond: What did you consider a luxury when you were growing up?

    Marenco: I don't know what to say.

    Woman: Something good to eat I bet.

    Marenco: Yeah, a big meal.

    Bond: Big meal.

    Marenco: Like Christmastime have a banquet.

    Bond: Was the Christmas meal always at home?

    Marenco: Mostly at home, yes.

    Bond: Were there enough relatives in the area that all the relatives would get together for a meal?

    Marenco: No, I don't think so, the rooms wasn't that big.

    Bond: Were there many people, say in Squirrel Run, that were related to each other, or were they individual families?

    MArenco: Well, they had related, yeah, yeah, there was a lot of relations.

    Bond: Did men wear hats a lot?

    Marenco: Yup, yeah they wore hats.

    Bond: That's different than today.

    Woman: I know today, you know, oh my sinus is killing me, then they go out and, their hair is all going up in the air.
  • Marriage; Wall decorations at home; Canning and preserving vegetables; Eating meat; Keeping boarders in the family home; Working for the du Ponts
    Synopsis: Marenco talks about marriage and what a young couple did after getting married. He talks about weddings and receptions. He describes painting and decorating at his house. He talks about how his mother canned and preserved vegetables grown in the family garden. He talks about how often the family ate meat and recalls keeping rabbits for meat and chickens for meat and eggs. Marenco talk about his first summer job as a teenager working on a weeding gang at one of the du Pont family's estates. He says that his first job paid a dime an hour. He says that he later joined what he called the "big gang" and the "mason gang" where he drove a horse and cart and earned thirty five cents an hour. He provides more detail on his work.
    Keywords: Boarders; Canning; Celebrations; Decorations; du Pont family; Gardens; Kerosene; Marriage; Meat; Montchanin (Del.: Village); Oil lamps; Paintings; Rabbits; Vegetables; Weeding; Work
    Transcript: Bond: When a young couple got married, what did they think they had to have immediately - furniture or...

    Marenco: Well, you didn't ask that, I don't believe, just get married and that's it.

    Bond: Well, where did they live?

    Marenco: With the parents.

    Bond: Oh, with the parents?

    Marenco: Start off there.

    Bond: How long did they stay with the parents before they got a place of their own?

    Marenco: Well, I'd say three or four years anyway, maybe longer.

    Bond: Did they have big weddings in those days?

    Marenco: Well, yeah, pretty good size.

    Bond: Were the weddings always in the church?

    Marenco: Yes, mostly in the church.

    Bond: Were there a lot of parties at the time of the wedding?

    Marenco: Yeah, they had pretty good parties.

    Woman: Where'd they have the room to have a big party?

    Marenco: In the house.

    Woman: Didn't think that many would fit.

    Bond: Did anyone in the neighborhood have nicknames?

    Marenco: Pretty near everybody had a nickname. Nickname everybody.

    Woman: What was yours?

    Marenco: My name - they called me Boob.

    Bond: Boob?

    Marenco: Boob McMudd.

    Bond: I won't ask you why, Fred.

    Woman: Well, I didn't know, that's something new. Ask him a few more questions.

    Bond: Was there any crime at all in the community?

    Marenco: Nah.

    Woman: It's a little bit from the Puerto Ricans, they worked, these they go down to McGoverns and other places and spend their money on their drink and you see them walking up the road like ducks when they first came, now they have cars, and the food, you're supposed to pick on - and they make good money.

    Bond: Do they. What did you have on the walls at your house in the way of pictures?

    Marenco: You mean besides calendars and pictures like that?

    Bond: Yeah.

    Marenco: Pictures of calendars is all, painted rooms, mostly painted, no paper.

    Bond: No paper, okay, painted walls, but you did have pictures of some kind on the walls?

    Marenco: Yeah, yeah.

    Bond: Did you have a piano?

    Marenco: No.

    Bond: Did anyone in the family know how to play a piano?

    Marenco: Yup - sometimes they had pianos.

    Bond: Did they?

    Woman: Somebody knew how to play a mouth organ.

    Marenco: Somebody used to know how to play a mouth organ.

    Bond: Did you play a mouth organ?

    Marenco: A little bit.

    Bond: What kind of lights did you have in the house?

    Marenco: Kerosene lamps.

    Bond: Kerosene lamps - all the time you lived in Squirrel Run?

    Marenco: Yep.

    Bond: Did you have a kerosene stove at all for heating, for cooking?

    Marenco: Yeah, we had a kerosene stove too, for summertime.

    Bond: Oh, for summertime.

    Woman: Is that what you did the canning on, kerosene stove?

    Marenco: In the summertime - canned tomatoes. Probably, yeah.

    Bond: Did your mother can all of the vegetables?

    Marenco: Most of them.

    Bond: And where did you get the vegetables you canned?

    Marenco: Garden.

    Bond: Was it your garden?

    Marenco: Yeah, everybody had their own garden.

    Bond: Were you able to put up enough vegetables that you didn't have to buy any from a store?

    Marenco: No, I don't think we had that many, we had to buy some.

    Bond: Did you grow your own potatoes?

    Marenco: Yeah, yeah, grow your own potatoes, tomatoes, beans and stuff like that, had plenty of that.

    Bond: How often did you have meat?

    Marenco: Meat? Not too often, had a lot of rabbits. We used to keep tame rabbits and ate a lot of those rabbits.

    Woman: Didn't have no chickens?

    Marenco: Yeah, we had chickens.

    Bond: Did you grow chickens to eat or just for eggs?

    Marenco: Both.

    Bond: Both? Did your mother ever make quilts?

    Marenco: No.

    Bond: Did any of the women in the neighborhood make quilts?

    Marenco: I don't remember none.

    Bond: Did any of the women in the neighborhood work?

    Marenco: There were a few of them that worked, yes.

    Bond: Did your mother work?

    Marenco: No.

    Woman: His mother died - step-mother. Your step-mother, yeah.

    Marenco: She didn't speak English.

    Bond: Oh, she didn't? Your step-mother didn’ t speak English?

    Marenco: No.

    Bond: I guess the reason you kept boarders was just to make money, wasn't it?

    Marenco: Yes.

    Bond: Did many people in the neighborhood keep boarders?

    Marenco: No, not too many. Was a few, but not too many.

    Bond: Did your mother fix lunches for the boarders to take to work?

    Marenco: Yes - washed their clothes and everything.

    Bond: Oh, really? How often did they wash clothes?

    Marenco: Every week.

    Bond: Every week - even in the winter? What a job! Was there a grocery store or a general store close to Squirrel Run?

    Marenco: Yeah, general store.

    Bond: Was it in Squirrel Run? Oh, you said something about by the Diamond Bridge last time, didn't you?

    Marenco: Yeah, right - right across the Diamond Bridge.

    Bond: Did all the homes along Squirrel Run belong to the DuPont Company?

    Marenco: Yeah.

    Bond: Do you remember this Tancopanican Band that Alfred I.du Pont had?

    Marenco: No.

    Bond: Do you remember the Brandywine Manufacturer's Sunday School on Blacksmith Hill? Did you buy much of any-thing from catalogs?

    Marenco: Very little, sent for some, but not much.

    Bond: The social status in the community, was it largely dependent on someone's status in the DuPont Company?

    Marenco: What was this?

    Bond: Was there any such thing as social status in your community? That some people thought they were better than others?

    Marenco: No, not really.

    Bond: Did you ever work for du Pont?

    Marenco: Me - yes.

    Bond: How long?

    Marenco: Oh, I started out in the weeding gang.

    Bond: In the weeding gang?

    Marenco: Weeding gang.

    Bond: How old were you?

    Marenco: Well, I wasn't out of school, I just worked up there in the summertime. I'd about twelve, thirteen maybe, fourteen. I remember one time I was out there, a bunch of us kids - pick on our shoulders - four apart and go out in the fields and look for docks, daisies, thistles, all these wild plants, you know, and dig them up. And the boss would be in back of us with a whip. You'd miss one - whit - you ain't gonna miss the next one. This was up in Montchanin right in one of those fields in Montchanin, so we come down and some fellow stopped with the automobile and says, "Hey, you boys from the reform school?" "No" I says, "This is our job."

    Bond: What else did you do for DuPont?

    Marenco: Well, from the weeding gang, then I got a little older and went back and I got a job on the - let's see, what was the first job - it was on the big gang, they called it a big gang.

    Bond: Big gang?

    Marenco: Yeah, big gang, you got more money and worked a little harder. From there I went to the mason gang, that was the good job. I drove a horse and cart and I was delivering cement and sand, stones and like that - masons.

    Bond: Were you a mason?

    Marenco: No, I just was driving the horse.

    Woman: Tell him about the mouth organ.

    Marenco: One time I was working up there near the big house where Mr. du Pont lived and the boss says "I want youse all keep quiet, especially in the mornings, keep quiet, don't wake them people up." I used to be one of the first ones there with a horse and cement, so I come along down the road with the horse and cart and playing the mouth organ. He tells the gang, "Here comes the man now, here comes the band."

    Bond: Did he do anything to you because you weren't quiet?

    Marenco: Just gave me a little hell and that's it.

    Bond: Do you have any remembrance of how much you were paid for these different jobs?

    Marenco: Well, in the mason gang we was getting about thirty-five cents an hour, was big money in them days. Started out with a dime - weeding gang.

    Bond: Were these just summer jobs, Fred?

    Marenco: The weeding gang was, but the other one was steady.
  • Work on the "big gang"; Working on the "mason gang"; Electricity; Eating fish; Work ; Music and singing; Swimming in the Brandywine
    Synopsis: Marenco describes work on the "big gang" and describes driving a wagon on the "mason gang." He talks about who had electricity when he was young. He discusses what sort of fish his family ate. Marenco answers questions about work and the working day. He says that some of his neighbors got an Italian language newspaper. Marenco talks about music and singing and recalls some of the songs he used to play on a Hohner mouth organ. Marenco talks about swimming in the Brandywine
    Keywords: Brandywine Creek; Catfish; Construction; electricity; Fish; Hohner; Horses; Italy; Masonry; Masons; Mouth Organs; Music; Newspapers; Roads; Singing; Squirrel Run (Del.: Village); Sunfish; Swimming; Wagons; Wilmington, Del.; Work
    Transcript: Bond: Oh, you were on the weeding gang and then you got on this big gang and then you went for the - what's the big gang do?

    Marenco: Well, they pick and shovel, rode wagons with dirt and stuff like that, build different little roads.

    Bond: Well, was this just always on Du Pont property?

    Marenco: Yeah.

    Bond: How many people were on this big gang?

    Marenco: Oh, there was about twenty - twenty-five of us.

    Bond: Then you started working with the masons, how long did you do this?

    Marenco: I guess I worked there about three or four years anyway.

    Bond: Did you serve an apprenticeship sort of to get to be a mason at all?

    Marenco: No, no, just horse driver, whatever you call it.

    Bond: Where did most of the masons come from?

    Marenco: Most of them was from Wilmington, I believe, most of them.

    Bond: Where did they come from originally in Europe?

    Marenco: Italy.

    Bond: Italy? Were there always a lot of masons working for DuPont?

    Marenco: Yeah, he kept quite a few.

    Bond: Have any idea how many?

    Marenco: I'd say about fifteen anyway, stayed pretty steady.

    Bond: Where all did they work?

    Bond: Well you take all those cement walls along on 52, all done by those masons. And they worked a lot around the houses.

    Bond: Did they work in the powder mills much?

    Marenco: No.

    Bond: Okay, so the masons worked mainly outside the powder mills?

    Marenco: Outside, yeah.

    Bond: Did they ever get electricity in Squirrel Run when you lived there?

    Marenco: No.

    Bond: Where did they have electricity in town?

    Marenco: Wilmington.

    Bond: In Wilmington? Did the du Ponts, in their big house, have electricity?

    Marenco: They must have had, I don't know, to tell you the truth. I never got in that place 'til lately. I don't believe they had electric them days, I doubt it.

    Bond: Different subject - you mentioned you had fish, baccala, did you have fresh fish much?

    Marenco: Not too often.

    Bond: Was it mainly the salted fish you bought?

    Marenco: Yeah.

    Bond: Did you always have fish on Friday?

    Marenco: Not really, no. Used to go out fishing and catch some catfish once in a while, sunnies and stuff like that, we'd eat them.

    Woman: Did you eat them.

    Bond: Where did you fish?

    Marenco: In the Brandywine.

    Bond: In the Brandywine?

    Marenco: Do you know where Thompson's Bridge is?

    Bond: Yup.

    Marenco: We done a lot of fishing up there.

    Bond: Was the Brandywine always pretty full of water, or did you ever have low, real low periods?

    Marenco: Well sometimes it would go low, yes, and sometimes it would come up pretty good.

    Bond: Were there many floods?

    Marenco: No, no, not too many floods.

    Bond: Did you have a basement or cellar in the house?

    Marenco: No.

    Bond: Were there many windows in the house?

    Marenco: Well, there would be about one - two, to each room.

    Bond: Did you have screens on doors?

    Marenco: I don't think so.

    Woman: How about summertime, did you have a screen door?

    Marenco: I don't think so.

    Bond: Did you ever have a vacation where the family went some place?

    Marenco: Nah.

    Bond: How long did the man work in a day - what were the hours, roughly?

    Marenco: About ten hours.

    Bond: Ten hours? How many days a week did they work?

    Marenco: Six.

    Bond: Six?

    Woman: Did you work Saturday too? Look at the money they made.

    Bond: Did people read much in those days?

    Marenco: No.

    Bond: Did you get a newspaper every day?

    Marenco: No.

    Bond: Did anyone get a newspaper?

    Marenco: Yes, some of the people would have this Italian paper delivered to them.

    Bond: You say they'd have an Italian paper delivered? Where was the Italian paper printed?

    Marenco: I don't know if it was Philadelphia.

    Bond: Philadelphia probably.

    Marenco: I imagine.

    Bond: Did you have a radio?

    Marenco: No radios.

    Bond: Thought you might have had a battery one. For the women who worked, who took care of their children during the day?

    Marenco: The only woman that was working that I can remember when I was a kid was Mrs. Robino, and I don't know who was taking care of the kids.

    Woman: Do you remember - named the one that lived down there near Suffolk?

    Marenco: Freddie's wife, yeah. Kids took care of themselves, I would say.

    Bond: Okay, well I was thinking of real little children.

    Marenco: Yeah, they wasn't that small.

    Bond: Okay, so I guess the women didn't work until the children could take care of themselves.

    Marenco: No, right, right.

    Bond: This Mrs. Robino, was that the Frank Robino family that has the restaurant?

    Marenco: No, no, that was another Robino.

    Woman: She's in a home now.

    Bond: Were there any family stories that were told about the old country, say?

    Marenco: Yeah, you'd hear them talking about that.

    Bond: What kind of stories would they tell, Fred?

    Marenco: Who knows, ornery stories, I guess. Lots of those guys used to get together and start drinking wine and they'd go from house to house, tell stories and sing.

    Bond: Do you remember any of the stories?

    Marenco: Nah. They would talk about Italy and I didn't know anything about Italy. I wasn't even listening.

    Bond: You say they sang, they'd go to different houses and tell stories and sing, did they ever play any musical instruments?

    Marenco: Accordion, somebody had an accordion and they'd play the accordion.

    Woman: You should have played the mouth organ, you'd have got some money.

    Marenco: Yeah.

    Bond: Did you ever play your mouth organ for them? Do you remember any of the tunes you used to play?

    Marenco: Oh, yeah, sure.

    Bond: What were some of them?

    Marenco: "You Are my Sunshine", and, I don't know - what else did I used to play?

    Woman: How would I know, I wasn't there.

    Marenco: You were the one that mentioned it.

    Woman: Well, you told me about it.

    Bond: Play "Oh, Susanna" or any of the Stephen Foster ones?

    Marenco: I probably did, played practically all those old songs.

    Bond: Did anyone else in the family play a mouth organ?

    Marenco: No.

    Bond: Where did you get your mouth organ?

    Marenco: Sears, Roebuck, sent for it.

    Bond: Oh. How long a mouth organ was it?

    Marenco: Oh, just one of those small - about ten inches.

    Bond: Ten inches, that's a pretty big one.

    Marenco: That pretty big - I said ten inch, I probably meant ten keys.

    Bond: Oh, ten keys, okay, just so long, five inches, something like that. Do you remember what make of mouthorgan?

    Marenco: Hohner.

    Bond: Hohner, I knew you were going to say that, Fred. That's the kind I had.

    Woman: You had one too?

    Bond: Oh, yeah.

    Woman: Must have been brought up the same way you were.

    Bond: I was. Did any of the people in your neighborhood have trouble with language?

    Marenco: No.

    Bond: Okay.

    Marenco: I'll tell you a story about Brandywine, about swimming, we used to do a lot of swimming at the Brandywine. One fellow by the name of Henry Carey, a Frenchman, and he was a good swimmer. Oh, I really admired the way he dove off of a wall and just swam like a duck. So he'd go up this wall, man I admired him the way he went up there and dove way down - zoom - he says, "Come on up, come on up." God Damn I made up my nerve and I went up there with him. He says, “ Come on over here closer, come on over here closer." So I walked over, he gave me a shove. He gave me a shove, he come right back, followed me real fast. Man I hit that water, I said, "Where in the hell am I gonna land now? I hit the bottom, I gave myself a heck of a shove, I had to get out of this mess. But he was right there following me all the time - good swimmer.

    Bond: How high was this wall you jumped off of?

    Marenco: Well, you know where No. l gate is down there on Long Row?

    Bond: Yes.

    Marenco: That wall right there.

    Bond: Did you jump off there anymore?

    Marenco: No, that was it.

    Bond: Once is enough! When people went swimming, did you wear a swimming suit?

    Marenco: No, not them days.

    Bond: You didn't?

    Marenco: No. Although down there we probably did, down there, yes, but around Squirrel Run we didn't.

    Bond: Was Squirrel Run big enough you could swim in?

    Marenco: No, no you had to go up further. Go up towards the farmers, like up above Montchanin.

    Bond: How back does Squirrel Run go anyway - the creek?

    Marenco: Well, Squirrel Run went as far as where the trolley car ended. That would be about a mile on this side of Montchanin.

    Bond: Okay.

    Marenco: You know where the Montchanin Station is now?

    Bond: Yeah. Okay, it was on was it close to that that it ended?

    Marenco: Right, well down about a mile.

    Bond: A mile on down, say Route 100, sort of?

    Marenco: Okay, along Squirrel Run.
  • Changes to Montchanin, Del.; Driving a horse wagon; interacting with members of the du Pont family.; Working for H.A. du Pont and contact with members of the du Pont family; Running a mushroom farm
    Synopsis: Marenco talks about how much Montchanin, Del. has changed since his youth. He says that it used to be a village similar to Squirrel Run. Marenco talks about driving a horse cart and taking care of the horse. He says that he worked for H.A. du Pont and gives his opinion on the du Pont family. He goes back to describing his job on the "mason gang." He says that he left Delaware in 1925 and moved to New Garden, Pa. to start a mushroom farm.
    Keywords: du Pont family; Du Pont, H. A. (Henry Algernon), 1838-1926; Horses; Horseshoes; Montchanin (Del.: Village; Mushrooms; New Garden (Pa.); Squirrel Run (Del.: Village); Wagoner's Row (Del.: Village); Wagons
    Transcript: Woman: Montchanin's changed, hasn't it?

    Bond: Oh yeah, there's not much there anymore. Was Montchanin any kind of a community when you were growing up?

    Marenco: Well, it was something like Squirrel Run.

    Bond: Was it?

    Marenco: Yeah. There was another four or five houses or something along there. It had a blacksmith right there.

    Bond: A blacksmith?

    Marenco: Yeah. That's where I used to take the horse to get shoes put on it.

    Bond: Oh, and was this the horse that you drove for the masons?

    Marenco: Yes.

    Bond: Was that the only blacksmith around?

    Marenco: Yeah.

    Bond: Did the Du Pont Company have any blacksmiths?

    Marenco: That was him right there.

    Bond: Oh, that was it, okay, alright. There was what they call Wagoner's Row up along Route 100 and Buck Road sort of, and I thought that was where a lot of the people who drove the wagons lived. But you say the blacksmith was really on up Montchanin?

    Marenco: Yeah, right on Montchanin - right on this side of the station.

    Bond: Okay - same building as the station?

    Marenco: No, it was right above it.

    Bond: Right above it, okay.

    Woman: People lived in Montchanin, they didn't work for du Ponts?

    Marenco: Most of them did, yeah.

    Woman: That's what I thought.

    Bond: Oh, did they? How often did you have to get the horse shoed?

    Marenco: Well, I'd say about every two months.

    Bond: Really - what happened, did the old shoes wear out?

    Marenco: Yeah, wear out.

    Bond: Or get loose. Did you work all over that immediate area with the mason then?

    Marenco: Yeah. Wherever there was work to be done by the masons, why I was there.

    Bond: Did the masons have sort of an office or a place they went at the start of the day and the end of the day?

    Marenco: No. Wherever we was working, we would just from there.

    Bond: What did you do with the horse?

    Marenco: The horse was in the barn, you know, sleep in the barn and then I would go after him.

    Bond: Okay, well where was the barn?

    Marenco: The barn was close to the du Pont house.

    Bond: Oh, the big, old barn that's still there?

    Marenco: Yeah, yeah.

    Bond: Okay, and that's where you got the horse. That's quite a walk.

    Marenco: Yeah, and how!

    Bond: Were there - did anyone else work with the masons the way you did - was there another boy that drove the team?

    Marenco: Yeah, there was about four or five of us.

    Bond: Where did you get the sand and gravel and cement?

    Marenco: Well, I imagine there was some trucks delivering it here and there and then we'd pick it up from there and take it to where we were working.

    Bond: Would they deliver it out to the barn?

    Marenco: Yeah, yeah. Like the cement, it was all in one building.

    Bond: I don't want to keep you at this too long, Fred, so any time you're ready...

    Marenco: That's alright.

    Bond: It's all interesting and you keep thinking of new things to tell me, which I appreciate. Did you see much -when you thought about du Ponts, which du Pont did you sort of know more or see more of - was it Alfred I.?

    Marenco: The Colonel.

    Bond: The Colonel?

    Marenco: Yeah, the Colonel.

    Bond: And how long did you know him?

    Marenco: Well, I'd say four or five years. And after he died, why the boy took over, Henry.

    Woman: Which one was that?

    Marenco: Henry.

    Bond: Did you work for Henry long?

    Marenco: Yeah, yeah, I worked for him another four or five.

    Bond: Did you do the same thing, working with the masons?

    Marenco: Yeah.

    Bond: From what you saw, the du Ponts, were they nice people, were they good to the workers?

    Marenco: Oh, they were nice, they'd treat you good.

    Bond: Were they fair?

    Marenco: Yeah, treat you good.

    Bond: Did they - course I worked for du Pont, but it's a completely different company from 150 years ago or fifty years ago. Did they sort of take care of people, did they have pensions for them and that type of thing?

    Marenco: I don't know if they had pensions in them days or not, I don't know.

    Woman: My father-in-law used to say that no matter who went for a job, they got it. They hired everybody.

    Bond: Oh, just anyone that wanted to work. That's interesting. You say there was really no crime or anything around your area did you ever see a policeman out in Squirrel Run?

    Marenco: I never did.

    Bond: Oh, did they have such a thing as a fireman out there?

    Marenco: No fireman either.

    Bond: Did you ever have fires?

    Marenco: I don't remember any, no fires.

    Bond: Were your houses stone or wood?

    Marenco: Stone, mostly stone.

    Bond: Who repaired the houses if they needed to be repaired?

    Marenco: DuPont people.

    Bond: DuPont people?

    Marenco: Take Montchanin, they're all cement houses, practically all of them.

    Bond: Oh, are they? Are they cement blocks?

    Marenco: No, I guess they were forms, just pour concrete in the forms.

    Bond: Forms and poured concrete. Did you work on those?

    Marenco: Oh yeah.

    Bond: Did you mix the concrete?

    Marenco: Yeah - I didn't do it, but they had two men that done it, yeah, mix it by hand.

    Bond: That was before the days of ready-mix concrete was it?

    Marenco: And one of them shoveled it in the buckets and carried the buckets.

    Woman: Well, I think people were happier in them days than what they are today, everybody's yellin’ for everybody today.

    Bond: Well, I think they worked so hard they didn't have anytime to worry about anyone else. As your wife suggested, did people seem to be pretty happy in those days?

    Marenco: Yeah, yeah, everybody was broke and happy.

    Bond: Yeah, we said that many a time, everybody was equal, everybody was broke. But everybody was happy at least. Completely different subject - you moved up to Pennsylvania here and started the mushroom business, did your father move up with you or had he passed on?

    Marenco: No, he come up, he's the one took us up there.

    Bond: How long were you in the mushroom business?

    Marenco: Since 1925.

    Bond: That’ s a long time. Did you start out in this location?

    Marenco: New Garden, that's - you don't know where New Garden is?

    Bond: Yes.

    Marenco: Well, right there, New Garden. I stayed up there from 1925 til 1938 is when I come down here.