Interview with Carl Wise, 1984 February 27 [audio]

Hagley ID:
  • Family details; residential and education history
    Keywords: German immigrants; grandparents; Hoffman House; Jefferson House; New Castle (Del.); News Journal Company; newspaper man; University of Delaware; Wilmington (Del.); World War (1914-1918)
    Transcript: Bond: So, just to start out I'll say that this is Jim Bond on February 27, 1984, at the home of Carl Wise to talk about his memories of his early days living along the Brandywine. And I'm going to need to get some basic information here - what is your age?

    Wise: I'm now 84.

    Bond: Where did you live - did you live in one of the villages along the Brandywine like Walkers Bank?

    Wise: No, I lived in Wilmington from 1906 with Briggs when I was employed out in Detroit and elsewhere - Washington, Pittsburgh, but most of my time's been in Wilmington, in Wilmington proper.

    Bond: You were born in Wilmington?

    Wise: I was born in New Castle.

    Bond: New Castle - and how long did you live in New Castle?

    Wise: Six months.

    Bond: Do you remember the street you lived on in Wilmington?

    Wise: In Wilmington, the streets? East 22nd Street, North Harrison Street, McCabe Avenue, West 26th Street and later in Union Park Gardens, we had to rent of course, but that's the Union Park Gardens, we moved from there to Franklin Place out by the school there - Du Pont School. From there we lived up in southeastern Pennsylvania into Chester County, West Chester County and when we retired, we lived down in Rehoboth for - let's see, it was about 18 years and five years ago we retired - we left Rehoboth and moved here. Now I was employed in Wilmington from 1930 until I retired in 1961, the News Journal Company. In other words I'm a retired newspaper man.

    Bond: Oh, good. What was your father's name?

    Wise: Thomas D. Wise.

    Bond: Where was he born and when?

    Wise: He was born in New Castle.

    Bond: And do you remember what year about?

    Wise: I would say in the 1870's sometime.

    Bond: And what was your mother's name?

    Wise: Mother's name was Hoffman.

    Bond: And where was she born?

    Wise: I believe in New Jersey.

    Bond: And do you know about the date?

    Wise: She would have been born in the 1870's, too, 1870's.

    Bond: Do you have brothers or sisters?

    Wise: I had a brother, now deceased, Arthur Wise.

    Bond: Did you have any sisters?

    Wise: No sisters.

    Bond: Do you know your grandfathers' names?

    Wise: Yes, James M. Wise, I believe it was M., and the other grandfather was Charles Hoffman, he owned the Hoffman House, or Jefferson House on the Strand at New Castle, it is now an apartment house.

    Bond: Where were they born and when - the two grandfathers?

    Wise: My paternal grandfather was born, as far as I know, in New Castle, but certainly in the general area. The maternal grandfather was a native of Germany.

    Bond: Would you know about when they were born?

    Wise: No, I'll say...

    Bond: If you know some of these things [speaking to Mrs. Wise]...

    Mrs. Wise: I'd be glad to.

    Wise: My paternal grandfather died in the - around 1918 as near as I can make a general spotting of it and he was, I believe, in his 80s, 86 around there. The other grandfather died relatively young, I think he was probably in his 60's, mid 60's.

    Bond: Do you know your grandmothers' names and where they were born? And about when?

    Wise: I never saw either of them, I believe my maternal grandmother was probably of German origin, at least my grandfather when he lost her and lost his second wife, both times sent back to Germany to have his brothers pick out wives and send them over here for him to marry.

    Bond: Was that a common occurrence in those days?

    Wise: I don't know.

    Bond: Never heard of that.

    Wise: He died just before World War I and the comment within the family was it was probably good he died then or he might have been interred with some of the other Germans.

    Bond: Do you know other people in the area that might be available for interviews like this that would - roughly your age groups - people who lived along the Brandywine or worked in the mills?

    Wise: No I don't. I've thought about this many times, at my age, there's very few of your young intimates around. The last one was - I guess George Bayliss is the last one - another one, not here, but Dr. Roger Murray practiced here for many years. He now, unfortunately, is living down in Austin, Texas, but he...

    Bond: He'd be difficult to get a hold of then.

    Wise: Well his brother is a doctor with the DuPont Company, or was, but he is a man of tremendous memory, if you could get a hold of Roger Murray, he can tell me now, we went to college together, he could tell me now some of the things we were taught in college that's long gone.

    Bond: Where did you go to school?

    Wise: Why in Wilmington and the University of Delaware.
  • Soldering tin boxes in the box factory at DuPont Co. for a summer as a teenager; other jobs and chores including delivering newspapers and milk
    Keywords: box factory; bull gang; chores; cutting grass; Harlan Shipyard; Howard High School; milk bottles; milk cans; milk delivery; newspaper delivery; Pennsylvania Railroad; Peoples' Line Railway; running errands; segregation; Squirrel Run; Street-railroads; streetcar; trolley cars; Wilmington High School
    Transcript: Bond: Talking about home, what were some of the chores you remember doing, such as cleaning, cooking, chopping wood?

    Wise: As a youngster you mean?

    Bond: As a youngster, yes.

    Wise: Cutting grass, running errands. Of course I always had a - from the time I was fourteen on, cutting grass, I always had a summer job of some sort - working in stores, worked out at the box factory, worked down in the shipyard, Harlan Shipyard.

    Bond: Box factory, was that on the DuPont property?

    Wise: As far as I know it must have been because there was a DuPont Box Factory where they made the boxes in which the powder was shipped. I believe they started, of course before the United States got in it and they were supplying the allies.

    Bond: This was for World War I?

    Wise: World War I, yes.

    Bond: How long did you work in this box factory?

    Wise: Just summer from school, I was probably fifteen as near as I can estimate and my job was in the bull gang, all 150 pounds of me.

    Bond: What was the bull gang?

    Wise: The hull gang is the fellows that say, "Hey, move this over here."

    Bond: Strong backs.

    Wise: Strength. What I did there, they had - they fabricated boxes for shipping the powder - powder seemed like so much macaroni, about so thick, cut in chunks.

    Bond: About the size of your finger?

    Wise: Yeah, about that. Matter of fact, some of these people found out you couldn't really risk whittling them into nice rings because it made nice rings, but also they'd fire, catch fire, but that happened as I recall it. I saw several of the whittlings, never saw anybody with the burn, but that was why they didn't.

    Bond: Good idea.

    Wise: The warnings were out. This was a - basically a metal, a tin box with a wooden sides and top and my first job - they had stacks of these tops, hole in the middle where the lid was, and this was a wooden thing and my job, along with several other young kids, go out and reach down in some of these holes and carry them over to where the workmen were starting them in the line of assembly.

    Bond: Oh, for assembling the boxes?

    Wise: Yeah. And then I got - I don't know whether I got promoted or what it was, but I got sent upstairs in this box factory to take the tin for the sides, they were bent in proper shape, but I picked the two edges together, run some acid on the edge and smear some solder down there and that was in the - what do you call it - the assembly line I guess. But I got, as I recall it, this acid got to me and my arms began to break out and about that time I was going back to high school anyway. So that is my experience with it. Now we traveled out there on the old Peoples' Line Railway out through Little Italy and I don't know now how close we came to the plant, but we certainly weren't very far from the plant when we left the streetcar.

    Bond: Was it the streetcar or the railroad?

    Wise: Streetcar.

    Bond: Well, there was a streetcar that ran down Rising Sun.

    Wise: This was the one I think.

    Bond: Then went on around up Squirrel Run, I think it was.

    Wise: I don't remember the names of the sections, but I do think - I think you raised one question in my mind, which side of the creek it was on. I was thinking that later, it must have been on the side where the railroad tracks were.

    Bond: They had what they had a Keg Mill, and in looking at an old map, it burned down in 1883, and it was on the far side of the river. And on the side with the railroad on it where the main museum building is now, right next to the main museum building in what's now the parking lot up there, there used to be two or three buildings that have been torn down long ago, and the main museum building, for many years was what they called the - they made steel drums there for shipping the powder, so it could have been in either what's now the main museum building or in one of those buildings that's since been torn down.

    Wise: I'm not sure whether it's a frame building or a stone building or what, now this is vague, but as I recall it, it wasn't anything very elaborate, it could have been a temporary building.

    Bond: You lived in Wilmington when you were working there?

    Wise: Yes. I lived in Wilmington from the time my father was with the railroad, Pennsylvania Railroad, at the age of three months he moved from this end of the State down to Clayton, Delaware, when the headquarters of the division was there, and then in 1906 when this present depot down here at French and Front Street was first opened, he moved up to Wilmington, and he worked up to Wilmington throughout his 1ife. Now I got on to something here about my father, I don't know what got me on it, but whatever I was getting to, should have some relation to the box plant. Maybe I'll pick up my tracks somewhere.

    Bond: It's just all interesting to hear. You mentioned about chores - you did cutting grass and running errands and things like that, did you do many chores around the house proper?

    Wise: I would say that I did about anything that mother told me to do. My brother's two years older and the thing that I heard all my life when there was some chore to be done, my brother would say, "Let the kid do it." And I did it.

    Bond: Has a familiar ring.

    Wise: But, oh as far as chores, I delivered papers, I worked with the milkman, used to deliver milk in Wilmington, that was very short because I had to get up at five o'clock in the morning and meet him down at Concord Pike and Boulevard; Ed Carroll was his name.

    Bond: Was the milk in milk bottles then?

    Wise: Oh yeah, he had them in milk bottles, he had also in cans. And he had his own - I guess, I never got out to his plant, but he'd come in with these big tin cans with a double team of horses, beautiful sight to see him come down over McKee's Hill there.

    Bond: Did he have many customers?

    Wise: Oh, he started in around the Ninth Ward there and I would would end up, on school days, about twenty minutes of nine he would hand me a bottle of milk, I don't know whether it was a pint or a quart now, but some dentist or doctor that lived just near the school wanted his milk earlier than Carl got there so he would let me take that because I was then going to school. I'd deliver one bottle of milk on my way to school.

    Bond: Which school did you go to?

    Wise: That was at Wilmington High School, now torn down of course.

    Bond: One down at Delaware...

    Wise: Right - Delaware Avenue and Adams about, right next to the church there. There was only one high school in Wilmington in those days - correct myself, there was Howard High School, yes, we were segregated of course.
  • Going to baseball games in Philadelphia with his father; working at Bethlehem Shipyards making life boats; job history including thirty years with the Wilmington Morning News; typical morning routine as a child
    Keywords: American Telephone and Telegraph Company; baseball games; Bethlehem Ship Plant; bread baking; Circulation Department; Cobb, Ty, 1886-1961; federalization; grocery store; haberdashery store; Harlan and Hollingsworth; Hornsby, Rogers, 1896-1963; Mack, Connie, 1862-1956; Mathewson, Christy, 1880-1925; McCabe Methodist Church; news room; office boy; Philadelphia Athletics (Baseball team); Philadelphia Phillies (Baseball team); pocket money; Pusey and Jones; Ruth, Babe, 1895-1948; sweeper; tennis courts; Wilmington Morning News
    Transcript: Bond: What sort of activities did your family do together?

    Wise: Dad would take me to a baseball game occasionally.

    Bond: Here in Wilmington?

    Wise: Well, no, go up on the train, go up to Philadelphia and see the Phillies play. He was a Phillies man, and he did take me to a couple of games with Connie Mack's old A's, but his heart wasn't in it, he was a Phillies man. I saw some of the greats though - Cobb, Babe Ruth, Mathewson, Hornsby - as a matter of fact, you know one thing I never could understand why the local sports department - I was in the news room - why they never reviewed what happened here in sports during World War I. We had a world championship baseball team here.

    Bond: We did?

    Wise: Bunch of these guys that played in the big leagues at that time, they got excused from Service if they would go and help the war effort by working in the shipyards. And all they did was play on the baseball team.

    Bond: Which shipyards were these?

    Wise: This was Harlan and Hollingsworth - or Bethlehem Ship Building I guess was what in that plan - and then there was Pusey and Jones, too.

    Bond: Was that where you worked, too?

    Wise: I worked at the Bethlehem Ship Plant. They made - I think they called them Liberty Ships didn't they?

    Bond: In World War II they made Liberty Ships.

    Wise: Was it, well anyway...

    Bond: I don't remember World War I.

    Wise: My work there was in the making of life boats and if you ever knew what a metal life boat was, they turned it upside down in fabricating it, and it was riveted. My job was to crawl inside, hold on while the guy outside used the rivet driver and now I got no hearing in either ear.

    Bond: I can understand why.

    Wise: Oh other jobs I did, I maintained a tennis court on the Boulevard there near, it'd be around 24th Street I guess, for some of the local people. I worked in grocery stores, I worked in a haberdashery store at one time.

    Bond: Excuse me, let me put this mike back up just a little further.

    Wise: Am I too rough for it?

    Bond: No, you're not too rough at all, but whoever worked with that thing last time let it slide down. Okay.

    Bond: And of course later I got working with the Sunday paper here in the Circulation Department, stuffed papers as we called it, putting the comics in, and then I was in charge of the circulation of the Sunday paper, that is stuffing it, packaging it and giving it to the delivery boys. Then I got to be an office boy for the old Star on Saturdays, and did a little reporting. And when I got out of college I decided I never wanted to be a newspaper man. And we went out to Detroit for my first chore out there and lasted about six months, came back home and I went to work for the A.T. & amp; T. They had me around a few cities, I quit that and finally went back to Detroit again. This has nothing to do with what our subject matter is, but I'm just tracing my career. In 1929, in April, everything was booming and my brother was starting a real estate business down in Ocean City, Maryland, he asked me to join him. And I thought, well it's a good time to come back East again, so we went down there and got started, and you know what happened in October, and the first of 1930 I didn't have a penny to my name or anything else.

    Bond: Well, you seemed to have survived.

    Wise: I had a wife and a youngster. So after looking around, I think it was about six weeks wasn't it? I said reluctantly, "I'm going to go see if I can get a job with the newspaper." And I went down to the Sunday - not Sunday Star - Morning News and got a job. I told my wife, "I won't be there a couple of weeks, not gonna work night work." Well I was there over thirty years, probably the best thing that ever happened to me because if I'd gotten some other job right away, I probably would have been laid off as a new man. There always bad news in those days and newspapers had to work.

    Bond: When you were a smaller boy at home, what was a typical morning like - who got up first, and who got you up?

    Wise: Typical morning in my home was my mother getting up. My father, much of his time worked what they called the graveyard, the afternoon and evening. During the federaling - what do you call it?

    Bond: Federalization?

    Wise: Federalization of the railroads, he became an assistant train master of the Delaware Division and I think he was in a day job then, but most of his career was spent on that afternoon and evening, so he didn't get up too early, although he didn't sleep late, wasn't in him. So my mother would get us off to school and that was it. She became, most of her life, very much interested in church work. She was one of the stalwarts of the founding group of McCabe Methodist Church there at 22nd and Boulevard.

    Bond: Where did you keep your clothes and what kind of clothes did you have?

    Wise: Where did I keep my clothes?

    Bond: In a closet - did you have a closet in the house or...

    Wise: My brother and I shared a room until he went off to college, but just a closet in the house.

    Bond: Did you have to do any chores before breakfast?

    Wise: I wouldn't say any routine. My mother was a whirlwind around the house, and she did most of her own housework. Dad helped her, he liked to help around the house. Any time I get a hold of a sweeper here to help the wife clean up anything, I always think of my father because that's one chore that he always did for Mother, run the sweeper.

    Bond: Well your mother, did she cook breakfast always?

    Wise: My mother was the cook. I did learn to make bread when she made it to sell for the church. I finally got able to do it so much for it that she just turned the job over to me and I'd make up a batch of bread for her whenever she needed it.

    Bond: Oh, you did? Did she make all the bread that you ate at home, or did she buy any from the store?

    Wise: I would say she made most of it. In those days I think most wives thought they were being lazy if they didn't make their own bread.

    Bond: That was before the days of sliced bread, too.

    Wise: Yes, of yes.

    Bond: What did you have for lunch? Did you take lunch to school with you, for instance? Or did you go home for lunch?

    Wise: Yes, whatever lunch I had I either took or bought. I would guess mostly in those days where I didn't carry lunch - in my days of course you went to - everybody in the city regardless of where, you went to Wilmington High School, and if you lived two miles out on the edge of the city, why you went there anyway, and how you got there was your problem. But I probably spent my spending money on - 'cause as a kid I made plenty of pocket money.

    Bond: You did - did you earn it all or did your folks give you an allowance?

    Wise: No, if I didn't have enough, I'd ask for help and Mother would always find some way to give it to me. I usually had more than I should have had because I wasn't very saving, little wasteful, big shot.

    Bond: Someone has to do that.
  • Playing football and running track; participating in the Boy Scouts; typical meals and weekday evenings; going to the movie theater in downtown Wilmington on weekends
    Keywords: Ace Theater; Aldine Theater; athletics; Avenue Theater; Bijou Theater; Boy Scouts; composition; football; Garrick Theater; Gem's Theater; Grand Opera House; homework; Lowes Theater; movie theaters; Queen Theater; Rialto Theater; salt mackerel; scrub team; Strand Theater; track; war parade
    Transcript: Bond: What were some of your after school activities?

    Wise: After school activities - athletics mostly.

    Bond: What kind of athletics?

    Wise: I was on the football squad at high school, I was a runner, captain of the team at one time.

    Bond: What running events were you in - dashes or...

    Wise: Dashes, anything up to a quarter of a mile. Not good, but I was in there.

    Bond: You were captain of your team, you must have been pretty good.

    Wise: By comparison. And football, I was in those days - eleven men were the varsity and that twelfth man, he was on the scrub team. Matter of fact, they only had about sixteen or seventeen fellows out for the team, in the whole city, that's all we turned up in my day.

    Bond: Who did you play, what other teams?

    Wise: Well, let's see - Camden, we played - I think it was called - it was one of the Philadelphia teams, that was always the first game of the season, and we always got pretty well walloped. And we played Penns Grove, played Lower Marion, Cheltenham, Chester - Chester was one of our favorite opponents.

    Bond: Why was that, because you could always beat them?

    Wise: No, it was just they were nearby, they were a pretty rugged bunch up there around the mills. That's a sample of them, I know at one time we had Millville, New Jersey, over here. I remember that because I nearly got drowned in it, played out at Front and Union, the old baseball field out there and that particular game it was raining, had rained for some time and there were all kind of pools of water on the field, and when we scrimmaged, I had to play because of one of those eleven men didn't show up, he was sick or whatnot, I played the whole game and we piled up and had to unpile very quick, somebody get drowned in some of these pools.

    Bond: Did you play baseball?

    Wise: No, I played at it just on lots, but I was never much good at that.

    Bond: Did you go fishing much?

    Wise: Not as a kid, I did that in retirement. I was in Boy Scouts a time or two.

    Bond: You must have been a pretty early Boy Scout, then, weren't you?

    Wise: How's that?

    Bond: You must have been a pretty early Boy Scout because they came to this country about 1912 wasn't it?

    Wise: This would have been, I would say, 1915 up to the time I got out of high school.

    Bond: That's interesting. Did you go on hikes as a Boy Scout?

    Wise: I went to camp once, but I don't recall a whole lot of hiking. We did, I know, paraded a couple of times in the war parade when the Boy Scouts would turn out, something like that.

    Bond: Typical weekday evening, what kind of food did you have for dinner?

    Wise: Well, just I think just what anybody else might have, wasn't anything - just good solid food, that's all.

    Bond: Did you have meat very often?

    Wise: Oh yes, always had some type of meat.

    Bond: Did you have fish at all?

    Wise: Yes, my Dad and my Mother grew up along the river there at New Castle and everybody was well tuned to fish and oysters. My Father was so greatly tuned to it, every once in a while he insisted on having a salt mackerel, that's a meal on Sunday morning. That's the meal I always missed [laughs].

    Bond: I guess you didn't like salt mackerel?

    Wise: I do not.

    Bond: Did you call this dinner or supper?

    Wise: Supper.

    Bond: I grew up in the Midwest and that was supper, we had dinner on Sunday noon after church. Did you eat supper the same place you ate breakfast?

    Wise: Yes, dining room.

    Bond: In the dining room? Did the children eat the same time as the adults?

    Wise: Oh yes.

    Bond: Did they say Grace before the meal?

    Wise: In our home, in my younger life, no. That is something my father let die because he was raised under a very religious father himself and he was the youngest of the family of about seven, so I guess he just had had enough of it as a kid.

    Bond: What did - was there much conversation at dinners that you remember?

    Wise: I wouldn't say that we had any definite pattern, some parents probably used their - that time for discussion of certain things, certain problems, certain family problems or whatnot, no, nothing like that, be a casual conversation.

    Bond: What did you do after dinner in the evenings?

    Wise: In the evening? Question of what point you want me to...

    Bond: Oh I just wondered, when you were in grade school and high school.

    Wise: In school I had to stay home pretty much, unless I had some little job I might be on at the time, I had to stay home and study.

    Bond: Did you have to do much homework in those days?

    Wise: Of course you look back, at that time you thought you did a lot, but I don't know as - you always had homework, always had homework. Study a little bit or prepare an arithmetic lesson or something like that, write a composition as we called them, but, no, if you wanted to go out, you had to - your parents usually, my parents - have your homework done. If it was done, okay.

    Bond: On the weekends could you do pretty much what you wanted to?

    Wise: Pretty much, they might have some special chore like cut the grass today or this or that, but as you got up in high school, why you ganged up with your boy friends, you went to the movies, maybe took a girl to the movies, parties or something.

    Bond: You mentioned going to the movies, were there many movies downtown you'd go to?

    Wise: There were more movies - theaters downtown than you could imagine today. One of them just burned down, that was the lowest one...

    Bond: The Rialto?

    Wise: Scratch, we called it. It was considered, you were pretty low down on the totem pole when you went down there.

    Bond: You said Scratch, why did they call it Scratch?

    Wise: Because people in there were supposedly not as clean as people up the street. Then at Fourth Street there was two facing, at one time or another, there was a Bijou and I think there was an Ace or maybe it was - those two facing each other. At the corner of Fifth and Market there was a Queen, northeast corner, and right above that, right next to the present City Hall, let's see, historic old Town Hall, was another theater at the time and across the street from that before you got to Sixth Street was the Strand, I think it was called, then at Seventh Street, just above Seventh where Fineburg's Furniture Store is now, first there was - there used to be a church there, St. Paul's Methodist Church was there and they sold out to Gem's and he put up a theater there. Then later, much later over below the Grand Opera House was Aldine, later changed to Lowes, one way or the other, they traded, and above - of course you have your Grand Opera House, and then there was the Garrick Theater just above that.

    Bond: There were a lot of theaters weren't there?

    Wise: On Delaware Avenue was the Avenue and another time out by Adams Street was the original Lowes and later I think that was called - is that the Ace or something, I don't know.

    Bond: How much did it cost to go to the movies in those days?

    Wise: Five cents at the beginning, and maybe got up to a quarter, but I don't recall much more than that.
  • Going to minstrel shows and the circus; Italian workers taking the trolley; participating in YMCA activities as a child
    Keywords: Blackface entertainers; Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show; Circus; End Man; Field's Minstrels; Grand Opera House; Interlocker; Italian Americans; Little Italy; Masons; Memorial Day; Minstrel shows; Mr. Bones; O'Brien Minstrels; parades; Playhouse Theater; Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Combined Shows; streetcar; trolleys; Victoria Theater; YMCA of the USA
    Transcript: Bond: Were there any activities that the whole family did together on a weekly basis, such as attending church or going to see relatives?

    Wise: No, my Mother was a church goer, my Father wasn't because, as I say, he worked a seven-day week in his day. Sunday might be a half day, but that was unusual. I don't know whether he had to or whether he did it by choice. I sometimes suspect it was by choice. No we did very little, as a group, my brother and I as youngsters, we weren't the most congenial. I found my playmates outside.

    Bond: Well, that's frequently the case.

    Wise: How's that?

    Bond: That's frequently the case. Were there any activities that your father, or men, engaged in on a weekly basis such as Masons, band practice, going to the tavern?

    Wise: Dad was a Mason, but he wasn't a practicing Mason, I mean he joined it and that was about it. The only thing that Dad was interested in was either baseball or the old minstrel shows. Whenever a minstrel show came to town, my Father got off from work and he was there, so I saw a lot of great minstrel shows in my day. Two of them were - one of them was the O'Brien Minstrels, what was it - Field's Minstrels - there were two of them, they were standard.

    Bond: Cristy's is the only one that comes to mind.

    Wise: What was that?

    Bond: Cristy's.

    Wise: No, I don't remember that one, but these were the real old type cork...

    Bond: Blackface?

    Wise: Blackface, no colored folks actually in them of course.

    Bond: Did they have End Man and Mr. Bones?

    Wise: Oh, Mr. Bones, Interlocker, oh yeah.

    Bond: How often did these minstrel shows come to town?

    Wise: They always made a yearly visit. When they did they paraded usually from - I always picture them parading from down around the old French Street station, up Market Street with their band and some of the characters. My Dad was so - he loved the parade so much that he would slip out of the office there next to the depot, and he told me sometimes he marched right up Market Street back of the crowd, just to be in step with the band.

    Bond: Where did the minstrels perform?

    Wise: Minstrels performed - there was always the Opera House for a while was available, there was - I forgot one theater that was Victoria which was just above the Garrick Theater on the same side of the street. There was the Playhouse - the early days of the Playhouse had the...

    Bond: The Playhouse in the DuPont Building?

    Wise: Yeah, yeah. Had some greats in there in their day.

    Bond: You mentioned about parades, were there many other parades during the year?

    Wise: Always one on Memorial Day and always one for circuses.

    Bond: Were there many circuses came to town?

    Wise: Oh yes, every year Barnum and Bailey's, Ringling Brothers. I saw Buffalo Bill in a circus here.

    Bond: You did?

    Wise: Oh yeah.

    Bond: Where was the circus grounds?

    Wise: Where was the circus grounds - the circus ground was one out there at Front and Union, out at 30th and Market, let's see, I think that covered them.

    Bond: Were there any activities that women engaged in on a weekly basis like sewing classes, clubs or...

    Wise: Sewing, the church groups would get together, sewing societies. My mother was not a sewer, so she never got into anything like that, but the women's activities, of course, usually of an afternoon affair, they didn't go out at nights. There were women's - like the New Century Club, there was one at 23rd and Boulevard, I can't recall what that was called there.

    [tape is switched]

    Bond: Okay, now.

    Wise: Many of the workers out there at the box factory, as I recall it, would board the streetcar in Little Italy.

    Bond: Now where is Little Italy?

    Wise: Little Italy is - you know where St. Anthony's Church is? That area, that's Little Italy. So I think a good many of them would be amongst the first Italian families of any, first Italian gathering, maybe first generations of American-born Italians. Because there's a lot of Italian spoken in the group, and as I say, seemed like, if my memory tells me, the car would fill up around there, the streetcar would fill up around there going to work. They were the ones that I said the bull gang - if the streetcar, box car loaded with material was laying on the siding there and somebody decided it should be moved four feet for positioning it, why these guys would get out and push.

    Bond: Push the railroad car?

    Wise: Push the railroad car, sure. Of course it was on level ground. They get enough of them, they'd move it. I think a couple times I put a hand to it, all my whole 150 pounds, but we were told to do it, you did it.

    Bond: Were there any activities that children, now when you were in grade school and high school, that you did on a weekly basis such as Sunday School or Clubs?

    Wise: Well there were some kids went to dancing classes, but I never did that - Boy Scouts, Y.M.C.A. - Y.M.C.A. was big in those days for kids, we had all kind of different grades, levels of athletic competition in the Y. I remember one - all winter long competition of various athletic events in the Y for high school grade, and of course there were young men's activities. Once I was taken along with the men's group because they needed an extra hand on the team and I competed with the men's group once, as a young man - they would be college age and upper.
  • Fourth of July and other celebrations; people "rushing the growler" at local saloons; children seeing policemen as enemies; fugitive Homer Wiggins and the "Battle of Baxter's Corner"
    Keywords: "false Armistice Day"; "Rushing the growler"; Battle of Baxter's Corner; Bill Frank [William P. Frank]; foot policemen; Fourth of July celebrations; Granogue; Homer Wiggins; Irenee du Pont's fireworks; saloons; V-E Day (1945); V-J Day (1945)
    Transcript: Bond: What were some of the seasonal events that your family celebrated together like Christmas, holiday or birthdays?

    Wise: Fourth of July was big in those days.

    Bond: Was it a community affair?

    Wise: No, usually group affair, might have been some organizations with pulled off a fireworks display, but I don't recall them. The first thing that I can recall of any big display was Irenee du Pont's annual fireworks display.

    Bond: Oh, now what was it? I've only lived in Wilmington about ten years, so I don't know a lot of history of it.

    Wise: He used to - you know where he lived, up out there at Granogue - it's up on top of a hill and he would hold this affair. All the fireworks experts came and they set that thing up on that hill and motorists from all around would come out and we'd park along the roads where we could view it and he put it off for his pleasure but also for the pleasure of the public. And this was a tremendous thing, of course no expense was spared. That was one of the big things, then I don't know what stopped that, whether it was his health or whether he died.

    Bond: How old were you when he did this type thing?

    Wise: I would say, this was back in the, started somewhere in the thirties, I don't think it started before that. You remember driving out there and seeing...

    Mrs. Wise: Oh yes, beautiful and people would come from distant...

    Wise: It was a traffic problem, the State Police used to have to take some helping hands in it to keep the traffic moving, otherwise people would have jammed the roads out there. And later, of course, one of the Wilmington clubs took over the fireworks display, Optimists, was it, or somebody. Either that or Young Men's Business Club or whatever it was.

    Bond: Was the Fourth of July the main community activity, or were there other holidays during the year like...

    Wise: I don't know whether there was a whole lot of community activities then, maybe I'm wrong, cause when I got older and was working, I was in the office, so I never got to see too much of that. We had parades like V-E Day and V-J Day, all those were big parades, spontaneous affairs. And I recall when they had that false Armistice Day in World War I the high school kids were released for a parade, we had the flag leading us and the guy carrying the flag was Yours Truly, why I don't know why I got it, and right ahead of me was the judge in the Municipal Court, drunk as a lord, leading everything, staggering all around - that's true, he was - Eddie - I can't think of it. He was a scandal, he got loaded up very quickly and led the parade unofficially.

    Bond: Did people go to saloons a lot in those days? When you were a boy?

    Wise: Rushing the growler. As a kid, they rushed the growler, we called it.

    Bond: What's that?

    Wise: You got a pitcher or a can, a tin affair with a handle on it much like a lunch box. I've seen them carry what I thought was probably, actually a lunch box. Now this was when I lived out in a very Irish section, out near St. Paul's Church, Catholic church, that was very strongly Irish. You would occasionally see the man of the house go down carrying a bucket, get beer for the evening. Occasionally the woman would go down and knock on the side door and hand in a pitcher and come walking up the street.

    Bond: Wouldn't the woman go inside?

    Wise: Women - there was ladies' entrances they called it, but any woman went in there was just...

    Bond: Not really a lady.

    Wise: Us smart kids, particularly if somebody that we didn't like or didn't fear, we'd yell "Quack, quack, quack, quack." Running the growler. Course here's a thing - I often wondered why I never mentioned it to Bill Frank, but in my day, kids out there at least, a cop was a, policeman, he was an enemy.

    Bond: Oh really?

    Wise: You hang around a corner and you saw a cop, they called them foot policemen in those days, turn the corner, you'd probably take off and run because if he - he bossed the section that his beat was on. He'd walk up to the kid, "What're you doin' here? You go on home." He'd take that billy that he had with a strap, swing it and hit you with the strap end of it, you know, sting you, so I ran from cops regularly and finally I had one great joy one night. We lived on the corner of Conrad and Harrison Street and I had a couple of friends up on the porch and the cop comes strolling down the street. "You kids get off that porch." I said, "I live here." I thought that was something. But what I started to mention, Bill Frank - I don't know whether you ever heard him, read him at all...

    Bond: Oh, I read him all the time.

    Wise: Talks about this Battle of Baxter's Corner?

    Bond: No.

    Wise: That was when Homer Wiggins was wanted for crime - I don't think he killed anybody, but he was a criminal, fugitive, lived in Wilmington, and he holed up at Baxter's Corner at Shipley and Fourth Street, what we would call the southeast corner there, and the cops got wind of his presence there and they had a gun battle. Finally he stopped shooting and they went in and found him dead, apparently committed suicide, but after that we kids, see a cop coming down the street, we had a rhyme we'd yell at him and run - "Brass buttons, blue coat, Homer Wiggins got your goat," then you'd run [laughs]. So Bill has told that story so many times about how the Chief of Police was so irate that they didn't call him and let him get in on the first part of the kill. He gets that out, drags that out about once every two or three years. Every time I see him and talk with him, go away - why the deuce didn't I ask him why he doesn't use that little rhyme we used to yell. Bill probably didn't know it in his day, he's younger.

    Bond: You mentioned that Irish went down to the local tavern to get the bucket of beer...

    Wise: I don't mean it was only Irish, but the people in the community.

    Bond: Oh yeah, people in the community did, but you said it was in an Irish area.

    Wise: It is an Irish area.

    Bond: Was there a lot - did people spend a lot of time in the taverns or whatever they called them?

    Wise: A man - what's he got to do in those days?

    Bond: Was it sort of a social club?

    Wise: Well, there were social clubs.

    Bond: No, I mean the saloon was a place to socialize?

    Wise: I think so, that's where the men got together for man's talk. Possibly coming home from work, stop in and have a beer, maybe a night go down there and discuss the sports picture of something like that.
  • Getting into fights with other boys over politics and religion; Carney's Point explosion; his parents being friends of one of the neighborhood policemen; hucksters in the neighborhood
    Keywords: barefoot; Carney's Point explosion; crime; DuPont Powder Mills; horse-drawn vehicle; hucksters; indoor plumbing; shads; social distinctions; Sunday suit
    Transcript: Bond: Were people very interested in politics in those days?

    Wise: Very radical, I mean very much drew sides.

    Bond: They did?

    Wise: I lived there, my Father's parents were Protestants, he was a Republican. Here was a largely Catholic neighborhood, and largely Democratic neighborhood, and I got in fights regularly for one of two reasons - either because my Father was Republican or because he wasn't Catholic, but some of my best friends are Catholics - playmates were all Catholic. If that came up why then we were...

    Bond: You fought. Was life sort of enjoyable back in those days?

    Wise: The best we knew about.

    Bond: Was there much social distinction in those days - the people that had money and didn't have money?

    Wise: I think the housing took care of that. In your community there weren't many that brought home much better paycheck than you did.

    Bond: Which is like it is today, isn't it?

    Wise: Yeah, yeah. I know when we moved from Harrison Street out to McCabe Avenue from whatever ward it was at Harrison Street out to the Ninth Ward, and people said, "You're stepping up in the world."

    Bond: Probably were.

    Wise: Matter of fact, that house we moved to, you know about three years ago that house was one of the houses up for bids in these give-away houses that the city was giving away, 409 McCabe Avenue. Yeah that was one of the houses that's been reclaimed by the city.

    Bond: When you were a boy did you have indoor plumbing or outdoor plumbing?

    Wise: All indoor.

    Bond: All indoor?

    Wise: Now when I was down in Clayton, no, that's different. That was outdoor, but when I got up here, oh they had this wonderful thing of indoor plumbing.

    Bond: Did you - when you had outdoor toilets, did you also have a well, or did you have running water in the house?

    Wise: It was, in Clayton, I'm sure it would have been a well. I say that because I know what the town was like in those days.

    Bond: Did you ever go out to the DuPont Powder Mills, or were you allowed in there at all? Well, you worked there in the box assembly.

    Wise: Course I remember mostly about that were all the explosions they had in World War I, that was terrific around here. They had lots of fatalities up around there, you probably know all about that. I know World War II, I recall that there was one blast over at Carney's Point. We were living there on Franklin Place at that time and in the middle of the night I think it was, there was this blast - my wife woke up and says, "What was that?" I said, "That's a powder." I had heard so many of them as a kid, and I think that's the only one that I recall in the 40's.

    Bond: Did you know any of the people who were killed or injured in the powder explosions when you were a boy?

    Wise: My cousin was over at Carney's Point in one of them. He escaped, fortunately, but my aunt called - his home was up here at Ogden, Pennsylvania, and he come down to Wilmington and worked over in the Carney's Point, and after this big - this was a flare - after the flare, his mother didn't hear from him so she called my mother, her sister, and asked her to have one of us go down and check up to see whether the boy was all right. She knew where he was boarding. And my brother went down, he'd come home and gone to bed and was asleep. So his explanation was, you've been associated with this more than I have, but when that flare went up, he started to run, and much like the picture you see of the Atom Bomb, the flare went up and then dipped down, and he was running between the source of the blaze and the dip, and by the time he got to the dip, it had lifted up. Now, is that possible?

    Bond: I suppose so, I don't honestly know about that. You mentioned something about policeman was not your friend when you were a boy, was there much crime in the neighborhoods then?

    Wise: I don't think so, no. Those cops knew when a stranger was coming to town. They knew everybody, the families were his friends, if the kids weren't. This is just purely - I say the kids regarded the cops as enemies, but they were out protecting us as well as everybody else. But certainly my Father and Mother knew - grew up with one of the cops that was on our beat out there, and he'd come in the back door and share a beer with my Dad once in a while. He later became Sheriff of New Castle County. No, I would - this thing of dope, I never heard of dope before.

    Bond: Did people lock their doors?

    Wise: Didn't worry too much about it. They usually locked up I guess, but - Lord, I got my place like a vault now.

    Bond: So do I.

    Wise: Got three locks on the front door.

    Bond: When you were a boy, did you go barefooted all the time?

    Wise: When I went up to the country I did. I used to spend many of my summers, as I spoke of my aunt up at Ogden, and I'd go up there and I had shorts and a - maybe a shirt on, but no shoes, no shoes.

    Bond: Did you wear shoes to school always?

    Wise: Oh yes, yes.

    Bond: Did you have different clothes that you wore to school than you had for play at home?

    Wise: I had a Sunday suit and I had clothes I wore - maybe a Sunday suit became a school suit, but if I were out playing with the other kids in the neighborhood, if I came home and had torn up any of those clothes, I got it.

    Bond: Did you have many peddlers or street salesmen in the neighborhood?

    Wise: Oh, lots of hucksters we called them. Fish, watermelon, strawberries - those were the cried you heard. And rags and bones and bottle collectors. Hear them sing out, "Rags, any bones, any bottles today, same old story, same old way." Things like that - "Shad-o", shad came - Delaware River used to have great runs of shad you know. And my Grandfather at his hotel there at New Castle, he always had a contract for the first shads come ashore at New Castle, that was a big feast at his hotel. But strawberries, Delaware strawberries, my heavens, that was something to hear these hucksters yell "Delaware strawberries." Watermelon, that was a treat, cantaloupes, these fellows would follow the seasons and as these things ripened, they'd come around, with usually a horse-drawn vehicle carrying them.

    Bond: Did you have a horse and buggy at home when you were a boy?

    Wise: No, we never owned a horse and buggy. My Father didn't...

    Bond: Well I guess you didn't need one really, did you?

    Wise: Pardon me?

    Bond: You didn't really need one.

    Wise: No, you didn't have to get places as fast as you do today. You went a bit earlier, went by streetcar, walked. I always walked to high school, the idea of riding to school from up the Ninth Ward, why that would have been preposterous. My parents, why just get enough clothes on and go.
  • Magazines and haircuts; boys getting ice off the ice wagon; grocery delivery; scandal involving the son of Chief of Police George Black; women forming "Larkin Clubs" when ordering from Larkin catalogs
    Keywords: "The American Boy"; barber shop; catalogs; Delivery of goods; delivery trucks; ghost stories; gift certificate; grocery delivery; haircuts; Hearn's Grocery Store; ice wagon; Larkin Clubs; magazines; Police Chief George Black; police reporter; scandals; Sears, Roebuck and Company; violin
    Transcript: Bond: Did you subscribe to newspapers or magazines when you were a boy?

    Wise: Did I use what?

    Bond: Did you subscribe to magazines or newspapers when you were in grade school and high school?

    Wise: I didn't subscribe, I might have - I think one time I got "The American Boy".

    Bond: Ah, you bring back memories to me, too. [laughs]

    Wise: I worked for a guy who was, for a while came down to the News Journal Company as Executive Editor, he'd been with the "American Boy."

    Bond: Where did you get haircuts?

    Wise: Neighborhood barber shop. It's the one place the fellow told me my hair was coming out so much - I was about ten - he said, "You're gonna be bald when you're twenty-one."

    Bond: I think he was a little wrong, Carl. Did a couple have to get their parent's permission before they got married?

    Wise: An...

    Bond: What did you have to get permission from her father and all that?

    Mrs. Wise: He's talking, not me.

    Wise: Yes, I went to my father-in-law to be and told him I'd like his approval of the fact that his daughter and I wanted to be married, he said "Fine, what else do you know?" [laughs] He seemed to be relieved.

    Bond: [Laughs] Don't say that, Carl, don't say that.

    Mrs. Wise: I am hearing more things, but you forgot the iceman, he had a cart and horse, and if you were a boy or a boy would throw you a hunk that you stole off the cart, you know. Why you didn't break your neck, I don't know.

    Wise: Oh yeah. Sure, the ice wagon came around every day and you had these ice boxes where you got a lump of ice to try to tide you over, anywhere from five cents on up, according to the size of your ice box. We used to jump on the back, usually had a back step, reach in to get his cake of ice and if he - cutting up a large chunk into the size he'd want at the time being, there'd be these hunks of ice chip off - they usually let you have them, but occasionally you'd jump up to grab one and run just to think you were hellen it up, I suppose you might say.

    Mrs. Wise: And I was there and he'd throw all the little - well he wouldn't throw - we'd all get little slices of bologna from him.

    Bond: Oh really?

    Mrs. Wise: Well he'd cut it in the back of the cart and put it on a platter, and take it in to my mother.

    Wise: This was true, and in those days much of the stuff that you got was brought to you, that was food. My mother, for a long time, called up the - the grocer would call her or she would call the grocer and say I want such and such a thing. This grocer would know your family's tastes in most cases, and pretty soon a delivery boy would come and bring it, and there'd be a slip on there, that would be stuck on a spike up in the kitchen and when payday come around you took your spikes over and checked with the grocer and paid the till. I don't know whether you were here in the days of the Hearns' Grocery Store?

    Bond: Yes, they still had the one down on Washington and then there was one up in the Fairfax Shopping Center that's close to us, we live in Sharpley - that was a great store.

    Wise: Well Clarence Hearn and I played in an orchestra together.

    Bond: What did you play?

    Wise: How's that?

    Bond: What instrument did you play?

    Mrs. Wise: [Louder] What instrument?

    Wise: Violin. Hearn took over a dilapidated grocery store at the corner of Concord Avenue and Washington, fellow named Gillespie had it, he could never make a go of it. And Hearn and his brother, Luther, I'm not right on Luther's name, but Hearn, the other boy, the one I was - I think it was Clarence Hearn, maybe it will come to me. Anyway, he developed that into a thing that had a great fleet of delivery trucks, boys on bicycles, and women all over the Ninth Ward could call up and he would call around as a matter of fact, and they would tell him what they wanted, the boys would - delivery boys would jump on their bicycle with them and deliver or they'd go in one of their automobiles. I came back to Wilmington in the 30's there sometime, and went in and was talking to Hearn and he says, "You know I'm giving up this delivery service. It's saving me one hundred thousand dollars a year because you come shop, come in and cash and carry, it saves me right there, I'm saving a hundred thousand dollars a year." So there's your difference in merchandising.

    Bond: Is there any relation between Hearn's Restaurant and the Hearn's Grocery Store?

    Wise: Hearn's Restaurant, as my understanding, that Hearn is a cousin.

    Bond: Okay. Way off the subject, but when you were a boy did they have ghost stories they used to tell?

    Wise: What?

    Bond: Ghost stories or anything to scare little kids?

    Wise: I don't think so, but of course the old thing as I was a kid was, if you don't behave yourself, the boogey man will get you, stuff like that, you know. And these ghost houses at fun houses at amusement parks, things like that.

    Bond: Can you remember any other stories such as the one you were telling me about the criminal who was holed up down there at 4th and Shipley and the way you used to taunt the police after that?

    Wise: Well no, I started out as a police reporter, so I became very affectionate as far as the police are concerned. But a lot of stories I could tell about the police here that have been well told. We had a great police scandal in the 30's here. Bill Frank touches that once in a while. A house of ill fame was right on Tatnall Street, 807, I think, was the address and a bouncer there, I think, touched this whole thing off when he bounced a man too hard and he died. Fellow who did it was Whitsel. Whitsel, his brother, was a great, was quite a builder of houses in and around Wilmington, but this one, he was a plumber and he got tied up with this madam and he became her bouncer. And the big furor about that, and the police - why was this thing allowed to take hold in Wilmington, and it turned out that the police were in cahoots, certain ones of them, including the son of the Chief of Police who was, a long time he'd been Chief here, Chief Black, for years and years. And his son was, through nepotism, had gotten way up in ranks. Apparently he'd go around to these various merchants, he was Captain I think, go round these various merchants and say, not in so many words, but this was the understanding - my car is parked up the street, I'm going to go around the block and when I come back there better be so much money on that seat. And this thing went so far that the Chief of Police finally was thrown out of office, the boy ended up as, I think he became a psychiatric case. But those things are common knowledge to people who were here - it involved many other than just the Blacks, I mean Chief Black and his son.

    Bond: When you were a boy did your family buy things from a Sears Roebuck catalog or Montgomery Wards?

    Wise: Larkin, you know about the Larkin Clubs?

    Bond: No.

    Wise: Larkin Club - women, I think it was twelve women, or maybe it was ten, ten or twelve, would get together and they would form a Larkin Club. And you would agree to buy, I think, it was ten dollars worth of Larkin supplies out of their catalog - a month. You could get anything from vanilla to a new pair of pants. And this week, as a number one in the series of ten or twelve, you got this gift certificate. You could get, maybe, a chest of drawers, something like that, see. Then next week number two, next month number two got it, but they would buy household supplies, soap, anything at all, and this one person who was at the head of it, I think she was usually the one who operated it and received the goods and saw that they were properly distributed. So many homes were greatly furnished or supplied by the Larkins Club.

    Bond: Was Larkins a catalog store?

    Wise: It was, I don't know whether they had a store any place or whether it was just one great big warehouse.

    Bond: It was an organization somewhat like Sears?

    Wise: It was run over a wide area apparently because it thrived for a long while. I don't know what did it in, whether it was Sears Roebuck. There was a story about Sears Roebuck - one of their fellows went around and got - Tony Higgins - went around and got old stories about some of the old things that - this old farmer down around Delaware City had bought a piece of equipment from Sears Roebuck, and it came right at the heart of the farming, harvesting area, and there was a piece broke. So he got on the phone, it was too important to go by mail, got on the phone and called Sears in Philadelphia; woman's voice answered and said, "Sears Roebuck," the farmer said "Listen little lady, this is men's talk, you better put your Dad on." [laughs]

    Mrs. Wise: Oh, not true.

    Bond: That's all right, that's all right.

    Wise: That's Tony Higgins - Tony Higgins grew up around here and that was a local story.

    Bond: Well, did he get to talk to a man?

    Wise: I guess he found some man somewhere, but he thought this was man's talk. Women didn't know anything about machinery.

    Bond: Well look, you've been very kind to talk to me and I don't want to take any more of your time today.

    Wise: Well I hope you found...

    Bond: Well, I'll tell you [tape is switched off]

Digitized material in this online archive may document imagery or language that reflects racist, ableist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise offensive and harmful beliefs and actions in history. Hagley Library is engaged in ongoing efforts to address and responsibly present evidence of oppression and injustice in our collections. If you are concerned about the archival material presented here, or want to learn more about our ongoing work, please contact us at