Interview with Vance Mitchell with Joseph Dougherty, 1968 July 12 [audio]
- Introduction; father's work and milk/trucking business; death and burial of an African-American employeeKeywords: common farm land; farming; funerals; milk; New Castle Delaware; workingTranscript: John Scafidi - Mr. Mitchell, could you tell us something of what you know about your family background. How you came into this area.
Mr. Mitchell - My father came here from Newark, Maryland when he was quite a young man, and my mother came from Downington, Pennsylvania. She was born and raised there. She was a direct descendant of Byberry Waltons who landed in New Castle in 1675. When they landed they didn't stay very long because they went to Byberry, Swarthmore and settled there. There was three brothers - my mother was descended from William. My father and mother were married in 1892, and they started in the trucking business. First they were in the milk business, and they worked, delivering milk in the morning, and then they hauled freight in the afternoon.
John Scafidi - Using horse power?
Mr. Mitchell— That's all they had to use. They hauled flour from the flour mills down to the wharf where they loaded it on boats and shipped it to Philadelphia to be shipped to England at that time.
Ted Penn - How come he decided to go into the trucking business? Did he have a number of alternatives? What did his dad do?
Mr. Mitchell - They were farmers from Maryland. There was quite a large family. I think there were seventeen brothers and sisters.
Ted Penn - He came to New Castle and then he married your mother?
Mr. Mitchell - He came to New Castle and then he married my mother and of course they started in the milk business. He came up and started working on a farm, one of the trustees of the common farms, tended by a fellow by the name of John Biggs.
John Scafidi - What were these common farms?
Mr. Mitchell - Common farms are over a thousand acres of ground that was left to the city of New Castle by William Penn and at that time it was used for farming. Today it is mostly — well, where the Air Base is now.
Ted Penn - Who got the profit from these common farms? Was it divided up among the people who worked them?
Mr. Mitchell - No. The profits were supposed to go to the needy and for the benefit of the city of New Castle.
Ted Penn - Your dad came from Maryland and came up here to work on the common farm?
Mr. Mitchell - That's right. For a chap by the name of John Biggs. He worked there for, oh I don't know how many years. After he married my mother he wanted to go into business for himself. In those days wages were pretty poor working on the common farm. So he started up the milk business and when he wasn't serving milk he would use the team of horses to haul anything that came up.
John Scafidi - When your father left the farm and went in the milk business did he buy the milk from a farmer?
Mr. Mitchell - Yes, he bought the milk from a farmer.
(Here Mr. Joseph Dougherty came into the room)
Ted Penn - Did your father marry your mother while he was working on the common farm?
Mr. Mitchell — Yes, they got married in 1892 and then moved to New Castle.
John Scafidi - Did he do anything to the milk before he delivered it?
Mr. Mitchell - I don't know whether he watered it or not. He never told me. If he did that was the only thing he did wrong. He didn't drink, chew, smoke, nor swear. I never knew him to tell a lie in my life. I don't really remember this, but one of the things he started to do was haul flour from Lea's Mill, out here where the American Manganese is now, down to the Delaware Street wharf, and put it on the Major Reybold steamboat to be shipped over to Europe. Then, he'd do anything in the hauling business — furniture, house wood, etc. Then he even got into moving houses. The first house he moved was on 5th Street right where the post office is now and he moved up 5th Street to Tremont and he turned right — but, he didn't do that himself. He used his team, but it was kind of a family affair, or I should say a city affair. Everybody went together to help move the house. Hauling wasn't so much profitable as it was more steady.
Faith Pizor - When were you born?
Mr. Mitchell - I was born in 1898, June 3rd.
Faith Pizor - When did you start helping your father?
Mr. Mitchell - It's been so far back I just don't remember. I just grew up in the business.
John Scafidi - When you were still in school?
Mr. Mitchell - Oh yes. We got up at 4:00 in the morning and went down and rounded up the horses and drove them back to the stable so they'd be ready for 6:00 that morning so they could be harnessed. In those days they worked 10 hours a day and were out on the job at 7:00 in the morning and worked 6 days a week. All the men worked from 7 to 5:30.
John Scafidi — Did he usually take his dinner with him or did he come home for meals?
Mr. Mitchell - We didn‘t go very far in those days with the team, but generally everybody took meals with them. We worked around plants and we had dump wagons and dump carts; of course, there were other haulers too, who did the same thing. I remember for a two-horse wagon in those days, you got $5.00 a day for 10 hours, which was 50¢ an hour. That $5.00 a day included two horses and the wagon and the driver. Drivers got $9.00 a week and that was for 6 days with the exception of Saturday you got off at 4:30 - that was a big treat for them. If a man couldn't help load or unload his wagon he got $7.50 a week. At that time, we had these steel plants...after a man worked in there any length of time, he'd get this dust in his lungs and the doctor would tell him he had to get out of the plant because he couldn't stand that dust the only thing they could do in those days was drive a team. So, if a fellow had this dust in his lungs he couldn't very well help load up his wagon so he'd only get $7.50 a week. If a fellow could help load his wagon he'd get $9.00.
John Scafidi - These people with the dust in their lungs, did they gradually get better as they worked out—of—doors or did they stay about the same?
Mr. Mitchell - If they were out on a wagon and got caught in a storm and rain they'd catch cold and die right quick - pneumonia. I knew of one case — we did general hauling and freight delivery and in those days caskets were shipped down by express. Well, this one day I was with these two colored fellows, brothers, by the name of Green and we were hauling these caskets in. This fellow, Mr. Clewell, said, "Boys, look what I've got in the back room." So they went back and I heard one of them say, "Glory be, it's Perce." Well, he'd been off for a few days and I didn't know anything about it because if they didn't come on it didn't make much difference - there were quite a few drivers in those days. Anyhow, he was to be buried in Potter's Field that afternoon. So I went back to my father and said, "Dad, they've got Perce over there and he's going to take him out to Potter's Field. After he worked for us, I think we should give him some decent burial." Dad said, "Well, Vance, do you know how much it's going to cost, then we'll talk about it." So I went over to see Mr. Clewell to find out just what it would cost and he figured it up that it would be around $17 or $18, so I went back and Dad said I guess we can stand that. So, we took him around to Baird Funeral. The county furnished the coffin and they put this suit which cost $2.50 on him. In those days there wasn't any back in it at all. It was laid just on top of him. And, Harry Clewell, Charlie Clewell's brother, took the lilies from another funeral and put them in his hands, and so the day of the funeral one fellow drove the one horse wagon and took the wife and two children.
- Buying his first truck; early hauling and trucking business in Delaware; transition from horses to automobilesKeywords: automobiles; blacksmiths; fire fighting; hauling business; mechanics; truckingTranscript: John Scafidi - How did you get involved in buying your first truck?
Mr. Mitchell - Well, Bill Kees bought one and...
John Scafidi - This was a competitor of yours?
Mr. Mitchell - He started in competition with us and it meant we either had to get a truck to compete with him or else go out of business, and we got a truck about a year afterwards.
John Scafidi - Was he using a team before he bought his truck or did he just jump in?
Mr. Mitchell - No, he was a molder at one of the plants and in them days molding was one of the best occupations, trades, there were. Molders in them days got $5.00 a day and that was big money and everybody, all the school boys, you'd ask them, they all wanted to be molders. So, he started in and we had to buy a truck in order to compete.
John Scafidi — How many other people were hauling in town? Just you two in competition?
Mr. Mitchell — We were the only two that I can remember, but Joe says that Mr. Montgomery was hauling at that time.
Mr. Dougherty - Yeah, they moved a house on Claymont Street. Vance's father moved a house from there, around there and he and another fellow bought a truck. I can't think of the name of it, but a real old truck. So, the truck went on the blink and this Mr. Montgomery, the man I worked for, he bought an Autocar and he ran one to and from Wilmington hauling freight to the grocery stores and then business built up so he bought seven. And, then when he give that up he went to hauling passengers and he bought this bus and he used to haul peOple from here to Delaware City and back and forth, when the old trains stopped running. And then they put the old storage battery line in and the marshes used to flood down there and the trolleys couldn't get through, so they'd haul them down as far as Dobbinsville and we'd pick them up at Dobbinsville and we'd take them to Delaware City in the truck.
John Scafidi - Suppose you introduce yourself to the microphone so we'll know who the second voice is.
Mr. Dougherty - This is Joseph Dougherty, 522 Harmony Street, New Castle. So, and Vance's father, during his spare time he'd set around waiting for the fire engine bell to ring, and first one got their horses to the fire house they got $5.00 for towing the engine to the fire. So that's what made him rich, he was holding back on that.
Mr. Mitchell - In them days there wasn't much money in the fire company and very seldom we ever even bothered billing them. So, it seemed like whenever my father needed a few dollars he'd send them a bill, but other times that was all gratis.
Faith Pizor - Can you tell us the make of your truck, the first truck you ever had.
Mr. Mitchell - A Garford.
(John Scafidi asked for the correct spelling of the above and Mr. Mitchell said, "Garford.")
Ted Penn - When a truck came to you, did you have to do a lot of work to get it ready?
Mr. Mitchell - It just came to us in skeleton form. There was little oil lights on each side, no windshield, no cab, no bumper, no starter, no body on it whatsoever. We had the body built at the Lank's Garage over here, not his garage but his blacksmith shop. He built it over here for us.
Ted Penn - Do you remember the name of the man who built it?
Mr. Mitchell - Mr. Bert Lank.
Ted Penn - Did he do a lot of that kind of work?
Mr. Mitchell - There wasn't much of it. You see, there weren't hardly any trucks them days. He mostly did carriage work and blacksmith work; he shod horses and stuff like that. He had a fellow working for him named Bill Downy, He did the shoeing and Mr. Lank used to shape the shoes.
Mr. Dougherty - They made wagon wheels and repaired all the farmers' wagons and stuff of that sort. I worked there myself making things. Repaired the ice wagon.
John Scafidi - This blacksmith shop - did it become a garage after that?
Mr. Mitchell - Am I right on this, Joe. He would work on cars only on Saturdays and Sundays. Horses came first. If you broke down, we had a few people in New Castle who had automobiles, but most of them that had automobiles always kept a drivin' horse because they'd have the automobiles fixed up Saturdays and Sundays and start out Monday, and by Wednesday it would be broke down so he wouldn't work on it 'til next Saturday or Sunday so they'd have to drive a horse from Wednesday up 'til Saturday.
John Scafidi - Do you happen to know...did the local doctors have automobiles early or did they stay with horses?
Mr. Mitchell - They had both.
Mr. Doughterty - I think Dr. Booker was the first one had a car. He had a little Maxwell.
Mr. Mitchell - Dr. Booker took over from Werkenbaker. Werkenbaker had the first car.
Mr. Dougherty - Maybe he did; anyway Werkenbaker got one and he had a Franklin. He had to crank it. He named it Wigley-Wag. And it was an odd—looking car and had sort of a round front to it, air-cooled, and later he bought a Maxwell. He used to come around and get me and we'd have trips in the country, you know in case he got stuck, to help shove him out.
Faith Pizor - Do you know how much your first truck cost?
Mr. Mitchell - Thirty eight hundred dollars.
Faith Pizor - That's expensive then.
Mr. Mitchell - Well, we traded two team of horses in on it and, and I think they allowed us, allowed my father, a thousand dollars on the two team of horses and wagons. And then when they started to working out here my father bought the two wagons and the harness back, they — I'm a little ahead of my story - when these strangers came here in New Castle, they started up this office building, after it was turned out to be an office building. And then they hired teams wherever they could get them. They hired two teams from us and four teams from a man by the name of Banks in Newport; he started in grading around there and then my father went to Wilmington to McDaniels and bought two teams of western horses. Then he went back to Waite Brothers and bought the two wagons and the harness back that he'd swapped in on the truck. Bank's horses, they looked more like these brewery horses; beautiful horses. And he drove them from Newport over here every night and morning and worked ten hours a day and then back to Newport every night.
- Trucking and hauling business; industry and World War I; employmentKeywords: building; dynamite; grading and hauling; labor; steel mills and industry; war workTranscript: John Scafidi - You mentioned that you basically got a trade-in of $1,000 on a truck. Was there a bank around that specialized in lending on things like this?
Mr. Mitchell - Well, there was a bank here but we never knew what it was to borrow money in them days.
Mr. Dougherty - Auto financing, I don't think, was in the picture at all.
John Scafidi - Did you owe a note to the dealer or to the bank?
Mr. Mitchell - To the dealer. That was White Brothers in Wilmington, and in them days I don't even know if a note was given, it was just merely a man answering word of mouth. People didn't ask you for a note if you owed them money or anything like that. Everybody tried to be honest in them days. You didn't have to have a lawyer for to draw up the papers. In fact, my father had very little schooling.
Ted Penn - You had the truck and your father went and bought two teams of western horses. Were those horses from the West or was that a special company?
Mr. Mitchell - No, this Daniels, he used to buy horses from the West, by carload lots and have them shipped here in Wilmington, and then he'd have a sale every Saturday afternoon.
Ted Penn - Your dad got two teams of these horses and then he went back to White Brothers and bought his two wagons that he'd traded on the truck?
Mr. Mitchell — That's right.
Ten Penn - He brought them home here, and was he renting these to the strangers who had come in?
Mr. Mitchell - That's right.
John Scafidi - For grading?
Mr. Mitchell — Yes, for grading and hauling dirt out of there. Everything was done by hand in those days. Pick and shovel and then scoops and these horses would pull the scoops. Then when they got the grading all done they started in to put the foundations for this building.
John Scafidi - This was before the war? World War I?
Mr. Mitchell - This was before the war. By the time they got the building pretty well started, war broke out. They finished building the building, putting in railroad tracks and then this machinery came in, the presses and everything, and they set it up.
Ted Penn - What was the machinery for?
Mr. Mitchell - We didn't know at the time, but it was found out afterwards that it was presses mostly to press shells. Joe knows more about that than I do.
Ted Penn - What did you think the factory was going to be?
Mr. Mitchell - We thought it was just going to be a can factory.
John Scafidi - Which company was this?
Mr. Mitchell - American Can Company and everybody was under that impression.
Ted Penn — The strangers who had built their office building here in town - were they advertising the fact that they were a branch of the American Can Company or were they quiet about it?
Mr. Mitchell - No, everything was quiet; nobody talked about anything. The only thing they - most talk them days was they paid men two dollars a day for ten hours, that's 20¢ an hour and most contention was there was men leaving the steel plants where they was getting $1.50 a day and going to this plant where they was getting $2.00 a day, twelve dollars a week, I should say, and it was kinda more or less contention there about them coming here and raising the wages.
Ted Penn - Where were the steel plants?
Mr. Mitchell - The steel plants was right around them. There was one on each side of 'em. One was called Brylgon and the other was called Baldt Steel, at that time.
John Scafidi - Were times pretty good in those days, that they had to hire people away from the steel mill?
Mr. Dougherty - Wages weren't high, but you could most always get a job at something. I was a carpenter and I got 25¢ an hour and that was a big wage.
John Scafidi - There was a labor shortage when they started building?
Mr. Dougherty - They didn't come too much from out of town. It was mostly local people that worked here.
Mr. Mitchell - The only strangers we knew were the people that came in heading the plant and then there was some Russian fellows that came here and a...
Ted Penn - How did you know they were Russian?
Mr. Mitchell - Well, they couldn't speak English and someone told us they were Russian. Some of them could speak English, but then it was a broken English. And they stayed here and a...how long did they stay, Joe?
Mr. Dougherty - I don't just remember how long; But, they had a man up there in charge of the mill; his name was Atterbury. He did all the dynamiting in the Panama Canal. So he told me, he said, "No one should fool around anything they don't know the danger of." So he said to me, "How about helping me to carry these boxes of detonators." They were rejected detonators. We were to set them off. So I said, "O.K." So he gets a whole box of them and we goes out on this runway like, you know, that pipe way over the marsh, and he explained to me why this pipe, you know, run down to the ground. And he put the three inch shell over top the pipe and I said, "You hold this shell and I'll set them off." So I knelt down there on my left knee and I thought that's on my heart side in case something happens, so I'll get around the other way. So, when he set the first one off - he had a little set, you hit with a hammer and had a kid glove on it, and taking that part of the lead right out of his hand and if he'd shot me in the face a saw wouldn't have been any worse, I don‘t believe. So, I came up from there then and he wore whiskers down to about here. So, the next trip with him this fellow Snyder worked out there, he said, "You'd better stay away from him or he'll kill you." I said, "No, he won't kill me next time. I'm going to get far away." So he gets this white powder, smokeless powder, a carton of that and he had a wet fuse that he kept breaking off and getting closer to it. I was getting further away from it at that time, and all at once she went out and it burnt his whiskers off. So, the next trip down with him was black powder, and I thought this baby is really good. I goes down and sets this box of black powder down and I gets away from him and the same thing with a fuse. I don't know where he was getting his old fuses from but they were wet and he kept breaking it off and getting closer to it and he goes to run and gets his feet hooked up in one of these barrel hoops and he fell and sprained his ankle. So, he said, "You know anybody around here got cows?" I said, "Yeah, Mr. Kee has them out there." “Take me out," he said, "I want to get a nice fresh cow pie." And he said, "I'll wrap that up good with a rag and I'll be in to work the next day." And he was.
- Hauling black powder during World War I from DuPont Company Powder Yards; witnessing an explosionKeywords: DuPont employees; explosion; guards; Hagley powder yards; mule teams; New Castle, Delaware; shell factoryTranscript: John Scafidi - Did any of these people say why they built a factory close to the water here? For shipping by sea?
Mr. Mitchell - I think that was the intentions at first. There was a wharf built out there, and the plant at that time received the sand in barges. They used quite a number of, about two or three hundred-ton barges of sand would come in and we'd unload them for them. I think that was one of the reasons it was in order to ship it. They didn't use it very long. This plant only run about nine months out here, I think. We started and we was hauling there for, oh, about six or seven months, and the Hagley Yards went up, and after they blew up, in about ten days time, they came back and asked me to start hauling again and that's when I...
Ted Penn - Why don't you tell us how you got involved in hauling powder for the people in the shell factory.
Mr. Mitchell - After the machinery and presses were all set in there, they came to me one day and asked me about hauling powder from Hagley Yard here. And they set their own price, twenty-five dollars a ton and I would haul three tons a load and that would give me seventy-five dollars and it takes less than four hours to make a load. So, I went on over there and we never went around to the Hagley Yard itself; we always went to the magazines which was up in the hills. You'd go through this gate and you'd have a guard there and he'd check us in and check us out. We'd go to this magazine and they'd send two men there and a checker to load me and I'd go there and back up to this platform, and they'd bring the cans of powder out and put them in the truck for me.
John Scafidi - Did they carry the kegs, or did they roll them?
Mr. Mitchell - No, they brought them out in a little four-wheeled truck, with rubber tire wheels at that time. Then they would carry them from their truck into our truck and we'd cover them all over with canvas we had canvas all around and spaces in—between so there would be no danger of rubbing against each other.
Ted Penn - Did you meet other truckers up there?
Mr. Mitchell - No. There was no more truckers around. That's why they hauled everything in them days by mule teams.
John Scafidi - Did you notice if there was a train track running in there so they could put it on cars and send it out some place else?
Mr. Mitchell - No. There was no train track at all at that time. When they was loading these magazines, they was a pretty good with teams of mules and loading them and then we went to the magazines and we received the powder from there. The day of the explosion over there, I'd gone over there as usual and they'd loaded me up and the checker says to me, he says, "We've got about a thousand pounds left here. Don't you want to take it so we can clean out the magazine?" "Yes," I says, "that's twelve and a half dollars more." So they loaded these cans, a thousand 50 lb. cans up on there and I got down and cranked up the machine. I walked around the side to step up on the step and just as I stepped up on the step that's when the Hagley Yards explosion happened. I thought at first it was my truck. I was thinking more of the truck than anything else. So, it wasn't and I don't know what become of the two loaders but the checker, he started to run down towards the Hagley Yards plant and I started running after him because I wanted to see where the explosion happened too. By that time this guard, he was an old Irishman and had a uniform like the American soldiers had - he called out, "Halt there! Where do you think you are going?" This was with an Irish brogue. We told him we was going down to see the explosion and he told us we weren‘t permitted down there and to stay back where we belonged. So, while we was arguing with him the second explosion happened and when the second explosion happened we was standing under these trees and I looked around and this fellow who was checking me, I happened to see some blood on his shoulder, and I says to him, "You're hit!" He says, "No." He kinda put his hand over. I says, "You have blood on your shoulder. Aren't you out somewhere?" He says, "No", and he put his hand on there and at that time some blood from the trees fell down on his hand when he put his hand up there. And we looked up and there was a piece of carcass; now whether it was a piece of a mule or horse or human being, I don't know, but I do know this that while we were standing there that I had no desire to go down to see the explosion then. And I really stood there kind of dumbfounded and it wasn't long before they had men coming around there with baskets and sticks with nails drove into the end of them, sharp nails to pick up any pieces of flesh they could find and put them in this basket. That seemed to be the main idea and the first thing they done was to hunt up all this flesh that had been shot around there.
Mr. Dougherty- The Du Ponts never published much stuff on that kind of...
John Scafidi — Did you know when there was an explosion when you were sitting here in New Castle?
Mr. Dougherty - Yeah, we could hear it all right.
John Scafidi - Could you feel it at all?
Mr. Dougherty - It shook things. You could hear the windows chatter.
John Scafidi - What did it feel like when you were standing there on the running board of your truck? Was it more noise or was it more feeling?
Mr. Mitchell — No, I...it was so sudden you hardly realized it. All I know, it was a big jar and a big boom and then when we went down there the second time, I mean when we started running down there to get closer to it, the second one went up, but the second one was what killed so many people. At that time I heard there was seventeen killed and afterwards I heard there was nineteen killed. How many, I don't know, but I do know there was two fellows that lived right close to New Castle that went up in that explosion. One was named Jeffery and the other one named Smith. But, right after the United States got into the war the guards over there had to change their uniforms from that military, oh what do you call that brown...?
Faith Pizor — Khaki.
Mr. Mitchell - Khaki, to a blue uniform.
John Scafidi - So that they didn't look like troops?
Mr. Mitchell - That's right. I think the government required that.
John Scafidi - Then they were more like police really than troops.
Mr. Mitchell - Yes. They never were really troops. Just guarding the Hagley Yards.
Faith Pizor — After the explosion did you hear about a lot of guys going to quit.
Mr. Mitchell - You didn't hear much of anything. You didn't seem to hear anything in them days. Very little in the paper. I've been in several explosions. I was down here at Bethlehem Steel when it went up, and when you read it in the paper, it was as a death notice that somebody was killed at a local factory; it didn‘t even say where it was at or anything about it.
Ted Penn - Why do you think they did this? You said that Du Pont in particular did it. Can you tell us a little bit about why they didn't do it; in talking to people, did you hear stories?
Mr. Dougherty - The only stories you'd hear about it was like when we had a fire over here at Carney's Point one time; they had all the trucks from Wilmington and all the ambulances, undertakers and everything out there. They embalmed them when they brought them over on the boat. They had a boat over there that brought them over to take them to the hospital. I never heard of any account of just how many. They said they had an explosion and that was it. We knew it because we could feel it here.
- Perceptions of the DuPont Company by locals; more about explosions during World War IKeywords: American Can Company; Bethlehem Steel; employment; explosions; New Castle, Delaware; shell factory; World War I industryTranscript: John Scafidi - Have you heard any stories about the Du Pont Company from people who worked for them; like here in New Castle?
Mr. Mitchell - No, I can't say I have.
Ted Penn - Do you think generally the Company was looked at by, I mean, how did the people look at the DuPont Company? How did they feel about them?
Mr. Mitchell - I think they had a very good public relation. Of course, there's a certain class of people that - if any person succeeds they want to down them, but we had them then just the same as now, but I think, in the general rule, people had quite a good feeling for DuPont.
Mr. Dougherty - I think they paid a little more money, and that's where the attraction was to go to work for Du Ponts. And they had more or less fringe benefits I believe at that time.
Mrs. Pizor - So, you'd consider it a pretty good job if you got a job with Du Pont?
Mr. Mitchell - Yes.
John Scafidi - What happened after the explosion? You left your truck running and you were just standing there...?
Mr. Mitchell - Well, I went back and got into the truck. I kind of thought to myself, well, if I see...if I see any smoke back there I'm going to leave it. So, I came on over and when I got to Folly's Woods, that's a settlement now but in that day it was called Folly's Woods, and I was kind of looking back - in that day we didn't have no mirrors to look back in - just had to turn clear around and look and see if everything was all right, and first thing I knew I'd run into a ditch. I put her in reverse and backed out and then I started on. When I got close to Newport and Joe here driving this Locomobile that Mr. Clark, he was president of the Company, and Atterbury, superintendent, and Stewart, he was General Manager; am I right on that, Joe? And who else was in that car with you that day?
Mr. Dougherty — I don't remember.
Ted Penn - What were their full names? Can you remember the first names?
Mr. Dougherty - Tom Atterbury, and I just forget Mr. Clark's first name. He was from, I think he was from upper New York. Mr. Atterbury committed suicide, they claimed later.
John Scafidi - And these men were from DuPont or American Can?
Mr. Dougherty - American Can.
Mr. Mitchell - American Can.
Mr. Dougherty — They also had a plant up about eighteen miles this side of Jersey City. American Can, Kenilworth, New Jersey. I went to work up there for a little while, but you don't get afraid, after you've worked with this stuff you get so's you don't mind it., When I worked down at Bethlehem here, they had 16-inch shells that blew up and I was driving a truck at the time...
John Scafidi - Was this the explosion that Mr. Mitchell was talking about?
Mr. Dougherty - Down here? Yeah. And they loaded as high as 16-inch shells down there, and I was sitting in the garage and I heard this "bang" and we looked out and couldn't see a thing but tarpaper and boards in the air. When that blew up it killed, I think, two men at that time, and of course our orders then was to grab anything you could grab; truck, car, anything and go and pick up the doctors from in town. That was about the greatest explosion they had down there, I guess. When those 3-inch shells went off, high explosives and shrapnel — and when they struck these lamp posts, that were metal and about this size in diameter (about six to eight inches round) and struck them sideways it just broke them. Take the top off the guard's head; struck him and took the top right off his head.
John Scafidi — This was during the first World War?
Mr. Dougherty - Yeah.
Mr. Mitchell - Joe, I saw him when he got killed. John Berry and him were running towards the fence, the railroad fence, down that hill and I saw something pop up in the air and John Berry stopped, you remember John Berry, a little heavy-set fellow. And he stopped and kinda looked back and then he jumped that seven foot fence; John Berry wasn't over about 5'7", was he? And he just jumped over that seven-foot fence just the same as if it was no fence at all. And I was standing up on the county fence at that time looking over, and he yelled to me, "Mitchell", he said, "Run, don't stand there." He says, "The chief of guards head has been blown off." Anyhow, I saw him laying up there and I couldn't very well go and let him lay up there, so I went over and I got over the fence and I went up there and where his head, his body was about fifty feet in back of it. When he was coming down this grade he must have been running just sliding or something for forty or fifty feet, after his head was blowed off.
John Scafidi - This was the Can Company?
Mr. Mitchell - No, this was Bethlehem Steel.
John Scafidi - I noticed you said they were filling these shells in very, very flimsy buildings, so they'd blow apart?
Mr. Dougherty - They had a protective wall of concrete. I imagine the top of it was about four feet in width, and they'd be tapered on down to six feet, so when anything happened it went up in the air instead of down.
John Scafidi - How was this Can Company built? Was it...
Mr. Mitchell - It was all one building, looked to be about 70 or 80 feet wide and was about 200 feet long.
Mr. Dougherty - It wasn't built too much for explosives. They loaded small stuff up there, 3-inch; they didn't go in for that big stuff like the Bethlehem Loading Company.
- Ice business in New Castle County, DelawareKeywords: fishing; Folly's Woods; ghosts; hauling ice; horses; ice business; King's Ice HouseTranscript: John Scafidi - Where was Folly's Woods?
Mr. Mitchell - Folly's Woods was right between Newport and Richardson Park. Quite a place. There has been some write-ups about the ghosts and stuff being in there and things of that nature. And some of those old stories I've heard about it.
John Scafidi - Did you think there were ghosts in there?
Mr. Mitchell - I never paid much attention to it. I never believed in ghosts.
John Scafidi - Were there supposed to be a lot of ghosts in New Castle County? Did the powdermen feel...?
Mr. Mitchell - I heard lots of stories about some of the old houses in New Castle, about the old owners coming back and things of that nature, but I think most of it was birds or something like that making noises.
Mr. Dougherty - Van, my wife always said if I got another woman that she'd come back and pull the covers off me, ha, ha...
Mr. Dougherty - But I've never had the covers pulled off me. Well, they used to bring boats in here from Maine, loaded with ice and I don't know whether Vance's father ever had teams down there or not. They'd haul ice, the farmers did in those big wagons, for two weeks unloading that boat.
John Scafidi - Where were they taking it to?
Mr. Dougherty - Down on Harmony Street; to King's Ice House. There was a big ice house there. And they'd put a layer of ice in, then a layer of sawdust, then a layer of ice, then a layer of sawdust.
John Scafidi - Was this in the spring, summer or fall?
Mr. Dougherty - That came in in the fall, didn't it Vance? Maybe in the winter because there'd be ice out there.
Mr. Mitchell — It is winter because of the wooden boats. It was right in cold weather.
John Scafidi - Didn't people around here cut ice for sale or...?
Mr. Mitchell - Yes, but we couldn't get enough of it. We had an ice pond right on the other side of New Castle. Mr. Dougherty - They didn't cut that for sale though. The ones who cut it here; old Mr. Tobin, the butcher over here, they cut if off the little pond out here for their own use. Like refrigeration, but not drinking.
Mr. Mitchell - But, Joe, there was an ice pond out here on the other side of...
Mr. Dougherty - There was one right out here and one where they are tearing down the school now.
Mr. Mitchell - There was? This one out here, it was just an old frame big building out there and it had quite a deep cellar there that they lowered it into. I remember my father taking a horse out there and they had an ice plow and you walked this horse down on the ice and scarred this ice in such a way and then they'd go in there with picks and break it loose and then the horse would pull it up until it got on this conveyor and then they'd pull up with block and fall and run it in and lower it down into this big cellar and then in the summertime you'd go back out there and haul this ice back to...most of the ice cream places in them days and butcher shops.
Mr. Dougherty - I've seen them bring shad fish skiffs in there and they'd have almost three hundred shad on them in one haul and they'd catch these big sturgeon, they'd get a big sturgeon with a hundred pound roe in him and they was running into money then. That's what...
John Scafidi - When did they stop cutting ice and start using mechanical refrigeration? On a big scale out here, do you remember that?
Mr. Dougherty - Quite a little ways back there. I don't know who was the first one out here. I don't know whether it was Wilmington Ice or not.
Mr. Mitchell - Diamond Ice was first, wasn't it?
Mr. Dougherty - Was it, I don't know. Wilmington Ice came in afterwards where the Delaware Ice...
Ted Penn - Diamond was the first refrigerated ice. To make ice by refrigeration.
Mr. Dougherty - Yeah, Diamond was first. Yes, they started making it in...Joe, that must have been, that wasn't very long after the war when they started making it; I mean it was during the war when they started, wasn't it? When we were making ice in here?
Mr. Mitchell - Yeah, around the first World War.
Ted Penn - Diamond is still in operation today.
Mr. Mitchell - No, well they are still in operation but that ain't the same company.
Faith Pizor - It is run by Gulf.
Mr. Mitchell - Gulf Oil Company has taken over the gas and oil business, and oh, I uh, it's another company that has taken over the ice business.
- Hauling black powder; shell production during World War I; end of the WarKeywords: American Can Company; explosions; hauling business; junk dealer; Russia; Russian government; Russian laborers; salvage; wages; war productionTranscript: John Scafidi - Mr. Mitchell, what happened to you after you got out of the ditch in Folly's Woods?
Mr. Mitchell - I remember going down with the load and that's when Joe and all the officials of the company came over to find what had become of me and when they saw me they turned around and came right back. They didn't even follow to see if I got home safe; they just turned around and come to New Castle and then when we got to New Castle here we unloaded, and then we didn't have powder to haul for about 10 or 12 days. After 10 or 12 days they came back at me and said, "Are you ready to haul powder again?" I said, "Well, my father told me not to," I says. We was out of debt and we didn't owe anybody and didn't need the money. So, they offered me fifty dollars a ton, they doubled it. I still said no, and Atterbury spoke up and he says, "Well, Mr. Clark, why squabble over it. We've got to have the powder. The Russian government is paying for it and we're getting a cut on the commission," he says. "Pay him a hundred dollars a ton, if he has to..." When he said that I didn't go back to my father at all to find out. "Yes," I says, "I'll haul it."
John Scafidi - How old were you at that time?
Mr. Mitchell - I was about sixteen, I think. But I didn't haul very long at that. I think I hauled about two months, and for some reason they weren't receiving any money and they got in trouble Out here and there was no money coming from Russia, and so we kind of, if I remember right, Joe was telling me this morning that the Russian inspectors over there was having trouble with the company and...
Mr. Dougherty - They didn't want to go back to Russia. They had it too nice here. The Chief Inspector, Rommel, he was rejecting the work in the shells, so they had other inspectors to come in on it and they passed it and they said, "You reject." And he said, "Yes, I reject." They asked him that three or four times with a witness there and then they closed the plant. Put a lock on the gate and closed the plant.
John Scafidi - Any special reason why these shells were being rejected or...
Mr. Dougherty - I don't know. They claim they were filling them with matting tacks, carpenter tacks, anything they could get to put in them. That is the shrapnel, they built, they made two. They loaded shrapnel and they loaded high explosives. They were all three inch.
Faith Pizor - Did the plant ever open again?
Mr. Mitchell - We found out afterwards that these shells wouldn't fit neither the Russian guns nor the American guns. They laid out here and then they came afterwards and asked for a price to haul them to Pigeon Point and store them out there because there was another company came there and was gonna use this building as a warehouse. So, I wanted to bid on the job and my father, he said, "No, I don't want you to. You're not going to haul them." So a trucking company by the name of James S. Lowe - he bid on it, and he got the job to move all the shells that had been made up here up to Pigeon Point. So my father had to go to the hospital for a hernia operation and I went over there to see him this day - this was in Wilmington - and I heard this awful mournful noise and I went in and asked my father what it was and he said, "Vance, that was one of the men that got blowed up out here at Pigeon Point." When they went out there they started salvaging; some junk dealer had bought these shells to salvage them. They had these men working there to salvage them and they blowed up and blowed this man out into the river. They went out in a rowboat and picked him out of the river and he had neither arms, legs, ears, nose and just the trunk of him and he was burnt in such a way that he couldn't bleed to death and they carried him to the hospital and he laid up there for about 48 hours before he died. I was talking to Dr....oh, I can't think of his name right now, he operated on my father. Anyhow, he told me he couldn't give him an injection with a needle to give him some ease because he was burned so bad and he just laid there with this mournful noise until he eventually died. But they couldn't put him out of his misery; they couldn't even give him an injection of dope. It seems funny that way but the other fellow out there was killed outright and this one would have been better off if he'd been killed outright.
Faith Pizor - What happened to the shells after that? Did anybody else go out and try and reclaim them?
Mr. Mitchell - I think it was all sold for junk. They had a brass band around them and that was the most valuable part about it and of course in them days brass was worth a little money and I don't know what they did with the powder. Maybe Joe knows.
Faith Pizor - Do you know who junked it?
Mr. Mitchell- No, I don't. It was a company in Wilmington. I don't know how many truck loads of them shells was hauled out there; not a one of them shells that was built in that plant, that I know of, was ever used in the war.
John Scafidi - They were just profiteering on it then? Making the money and salting it away for some reason?
Mr. Mitchell - We never knew much about it.
John Scafidi - No rumors.
Mr. Mitchell — No. In them days we never received any checks. Everything was paid in cash. Every week they'd come and pay me for whatever work we did that whole week. They'd come back there and pay you right off in cash; no checks or anything like that.
Faith Pizor - Do you know what happened to Atterbury or Clark?
Mr. Mitchell - Atterbury went to Panama and afterwards, I heard, he committed suicide down there.
Mr. Dougherty - And Clark went back up to American Can up in Kenilworth, New Jersey.
Faith Pizor — What happened to the Russians. They went home?
Mr. Mitchell - No, one of them is still living here now. Noie Freeman, he married, ah, he married a widow here in New Castle and they are living around Wilmington somewheres.
Faith Pizor - What's the name?
Mr. Mitchell - Noie Freeman. And whatever become of the rest of them, I don't know. We knew 'em at the time, but they just disappeared. And a...
Mr. Dougherty - The chief Russian, he was chasing another man's wife and
I said, "You're going to get shot." He said, "No, I borrow." He says, "In Russia, you can go borrow the other man's wife." And he told me that was a fact. Did you ever hear that?
John Scafidi - I think he was putting you on.
Mr. Dougherty - I don't know, but the other guy would be there when he was in.
Ted Penn - This was here in town?
Mr. Dougherty - In Wilmington.
John Scafidi - Were people in town ever...at first when you heard that this was going to be loading shells, were people in town scared about it?
Mr. Mitchell - No, nobody seemed to be...it just seemed part of...anymore than any other plant. In fact, they never had an explosion there that I knowed of. Except one they put off themselves intentionally.
Mr. Dougherty - I've heard fellows say when they was working down there they made these detonators out of T.N.T., that's high explosive. They used to bore a hole for the fuse to go into and those sockers would take a piece of broken to stick in there to scare these new guys and set it off; set the explosion off. It wouldn't do no damage, but just a big bang, and he says a lot of them would be ready to take off. He said there was a fellow dOWn country was gonna buy a tug boat with the money he made there so they used to kid him.
John Scafidi - After the war and after the plant closed down, were people pretty well off who worked there; were wages pretty high?
Mr. Mitchell - The wages were high, but people never saved anything hardly.
Mr. Dougherty - They weren't high.
Mr. Mitchell — It was high for that time.
Mr. Dougherty - About 55¢ an hour I think was about the limit.
- Cost of living; work after World War I; ethnic and racial minorities in New Castle, DelawareKeywords: African Americans; Bethlehem Steel; cost of food; New Castle, Delaware; scrap dealersTranscript: John Scafidi - Did the cost of living seem to go up at the same time?
Mr. Dougherty - Well, we were paying a dollar a dozen for eggs, believe it or not.
Mr. Mitchell - A dollar a pound for turkey.
Ted Penn - Much worse than today.
John Scafidi - If you were working during the war and working today, is there a great deal of difference in what you could put on the table or the quality of it?
Mr. Daugherty - Well, at that time anyone that ate frankfurters or spare ribs, that was about the cheapest kind of meat you could buy. Now, today that's as high as turkey, that's the difference.
John Scafidi - Did you have meat very often during the week?
Mr. Dougherty - Yes, we had meat.
Mr. Mitchell - Beef was much cheaper in them days than anything else. Chickens were a little high.
Mr. Dougherty - Good homemade scrapple was about three pounds for 25¢. At the same time you paid a dollar a dozen for eggs. Just think how hard that poor chicken had to scratch for his food.
Faith Pizor - After the powder mills closed in the early 20's, were you ever asked to go down there and haul out anything?
Mr. Mitchell - Yes, we was asked to haul these, to give them a price on moving shells, as I told you before, out to Pigeon Point - that's where they had the explosion up there - and then they cleaned it out and started it as a warehouse there. We called it the New Castle Warehouse Co. and it was more of a storage house than anything else.
John Scafidi - How about Hagley Yard during the 20's when they were cleaning out the scrap iron. Did you ever put a bid in on this?
Mr. Mitchell - No, we never did.
John Scafidi - Did you hear about it at all?
Mr. Mitchell - Nope. We never heard much about it. After we quit hauling there...you see, after New Castle Construction closed down and even while they was working there they started building Bethlehem Steel Company's plant, and by the time this closed down Bethlehem Steel started up and started shipping. Now, Bethlehem Steel used white powder instead of black powder and they had to ship this by freight. They shipped a lot of it out by freight.
John Scafidi - Did boats come in or did they ship it all by rail?
Mr. Mitchell - No, they had a boat there. They had a wharf and they had a boat...
Mr. Dougherty - They had a boat there called "The Marian"; she was a flat-bottomed boat with a high cabin on it and you could load the cars, and the captain would sit up there - they could haul four box cars and it ran between Bethlehem Loading and Carney's Point hauling white powder.
Ted Penn - What exactly is white powder.
Mr. Dougherty - It's smokeless
Mr. Mitchell - It's smokeless. It wasn't supposed to be as dangerous as black powder.
John Scafidi - Did you ever hear anything that black powder made black smoke and smokeless made white smoke?
Mr. Dougherty - Yeah.
John Scafidi - Did you ever hear of people getting T.N.T. headaches? Like your head was going to burst for a while until you got used to it?
Mr. Dougherty - Well, I've brought them up from down there in the ambulance and taken them to the doctor. Doctor Booker's. The doctor would question them, you know, "Where are you sick?" "I'm sick in the head and sick all over." Polish people, a lot of Polish people. And they slept across the bed, they didn't sleep up and down the bed, they slept across and lived in those houses down there, remember Vance?
Mr. Mitchell - Yeah.
Mr. Dougherty - Some boarding house out there.
John Scafidi - Were there a lot of new people coming in to work in these factories?
Mr. Dougherty - Yeah.
John Scafidi - Poles? What sort of people?
Mr. Dougherty - They ran a train from Harrington up with...loaded with men every day.
John Scafidi - How about immigrants? Poles, Czechoslovakians?
Mr. Dougherty - Yeah, there were quite a few Poles. They lived out in the suburbs.
John Scafidi — Did they have their own houses or board?
Mr. Dougherty - They rented and they boarded.
Mr. Mitchell - Some of them...some of these...they have a six-room house and they'd have about 18 or 20 boarders, and as Joe just said, they couldn't sleep lengthways in the bed; they'd sleep across the bed. And four or five to a bed. And then one would go in the daytime and then the other at night-time and the bed was kept busy 24 hours a day.
John Scafidi — How did the people in New Castle feel about these new people? Were they resentful of people who couldn‘t Speak English so well?
Mr. Mitchell - No, no we never hardly had any trouble like that at all.
Mr. Dougherty - This has always been a little peaceful town. They never created any disturbance. Even amongst the colored. We never had no trouble from the colored right here in New Castle.
Mr. Mitchell - The relationship between the colored and the white here has been exceptional good all along. The only trouble we'd have is when some outsider comes in here and tries to kick up trouble. We have had cases where they start in and the colored people take care of it themselves. They just told them to get out. Didn't want them in here.
Ted Penn - Recently?
Mr. Mitchell - Yes. It has been.
John Scafidi - After the war, was there any kind of depression here in '20 or '21?
Mr. Dougherty - Man, was there! I spent every nickle...that's in Hoover's time you're speaking of?
Mr. Mitchell - No, he's talking...
John Scafidi - No, in the very very early twenties. After the big steel strike in 1919 in Pittsburgh there was supposed to be nation-wide recession.
Mr. Daugherty - Well, I don't know...just as I say, the steel mill was up here and times never gets so bad that you couldn't go up there and get some kind of a job, even labor. You could get a job if you wanted to work.
Mr. Mitchell - I can't remember anybody really huntin' for a job very bad. You could always, most always pick up a man whenever you want one. As far as any family they knew was in sickness or something like that, everybody seemed to help them out. No matter whether it was colored or white they seemed to help everybody out. New Castle has kinda looked after their own.
Faith Pizor - Do you remember the names of any of the big wreckers in this area? Or scrap dealers? Do you know the name Brenner?
Mr. Mitchell - No.
Mr. Dougherty - Yeah, I've heard that name before. I think he was...Stradley.
Mr. Mitchell - Stirlith?
Mr. Dougherty - Yeah, Stirlith. It was Stirlith. They were out on Lancaster Avenue and Tatnall.
Faith Pizor - Were there any others that you know of?
Mr. Dougherty - Lutz, Bill Lutz. He was on West Street. There was a Joe Nauman on Second Street in Wilmington. He's dead now.
John Scafidi - Did any kind of people specialize in doing anything here. Were Italians bakers here or were some special group shoemakers or barbers?
Mr. Dougherty — There was an old shoemaker here. He was crippled. His name was George Davis. A little man and he mended shoes for years. A woman would come in and she'd tell him how she wanted the shoes fixed and he'd pull his glasses down and look over his glasses and say, "Well, Mam, are you going to fix these shoes or do you want me to fix them?" He was a funny old guy. So, he said, if he ever died before his wife he wanted a lily in his hand. So that Dennis Mahoney, a retired navy man, he said, "Let's go down and see if poor old George Davis got his lily. If he didn't, let's get him one." I said, "0.K." So, we went down there and there was poor old George with his lily.
- New Castle, Delaware in the 1920s; homes in New Castle; construction businessKeywords: building contractors; carpenters; carpentry; construction; hauling; home and houses; home remodeling; house prices; Phil Laird; the Read HouseTranscript: John Scafidi - How were things in New Castle...I take it you've lived in New Castle since the first World War.
Mr. Dougherty - I've only lived here since 1906. I came from Wilmington.
John Scafidi - How good were times until 1929-1930?
Mr. Dougherty - All I can say, they didn't pay too big money, but you could always get a good job; you could get a good job somewheres.
John Scafidi - Nobody out on the streets?
Mr. Dougherty - Nah.
John Scafidi - What were you doing during the twenties?
Mr. Dougherty - A carpenter.
John Scafidi - And you were steadily employed most of the year?
Mr. Dougherty - Yep. Most of the year.
Ted Penn - Did you ever get involved with building contractors?
Mr. Dougherty - There was a man, this fellow and he just passed away not long ago, and he and I were partners together; on remodeling some of these homes over in New Castle. And Rick always...the time he and I were together we'd clear fifteen dollars and that was big money besides our other wages. We done a lot of work around here and kept busy. In fact, my daughter lives next door and we're repairing that place there. You'd be surprised the amount of people that come by and want to see what...except during depression, before that why they'd knock our door down.
John Scafidi - Was this mostly new construction during the twenties or did new construction tend to slow down?
Mr. Dougherty - There wasn't too much new construction around here then. if think it was in '27 that I left and I went to work out in Manor and built a house out there and that all built up in suburbs. So, there wasn't too much new work around here. I don't imagine they built over a dozen new houses in New Castle. Have they, Vance?
Mr. Mitchell - New Castle's practically the same as it was 100 years ago?
Mr. Dougherty - There was a house sold just now down on Harmony Street..Used to be an old tavern. This Mahoney I was speaking about - his cousins owned it. And you walked up the side alley and they had a little window so big and that's where they served the colored, out of that window. How much do you think that house sold for?
Mr Scafidi - About forty or fifty thousand?
Mr. Dougherty - It's only a little two-story brick - $37,500. I don't believe the Mahoneys got over $2,000 for it when they sold it.
Mr. Mitchell - I don't think they got over $600 or $700 for it.
Mr. Dougherty - The little house next door I could have bought for $500. That's next to this house we are talking about.
John Scafidi - When did New Castle start becoming popular as an old place, and prices started to go up?
Mr. Mitchell - Not 'til Phil Laird moved to New Castle. Phil Laird moved to New Castle and he'd taken over the Read House and...
Ted Penn - When was this?
Mr. Mitchell - Ahhhh
Mr. Dougherty - How long has it been since Mr. Deakyne has been in the business? When he was in the business he said that I could buy that house on Palmer Street for $1,100; five rooms. Of course, it had no bath and an outhouse.
John Scafidi - Before the second World War?
Mr. Mitchell - Yes, it was before the second World War. Quite a ways before that.
Mr. Daugherty - Well, it was after the second World War when things started jumping because Bruce Carpenter, I'd take him out to the Manor and he picked out a lot and they built him a home out there for $5,350 and that included your taxes too. Thirty—three dollars a month was the payments on it and five hundred dollars down when they started building your home. And during the war he was offered $12,000 for it. He'd paid $5,350 for it; six rooms and bathroom and garage.
John Scafidi - Mr. Mitchell, what were you doing during the twenties?
Mr. Mitchell - In them days we moved a few houses, but very few. If we moved two or three a year we thought that was big business at that time. Mostly it was machinery. In them days we hauled freight to the different plants. Most of it would come by freight and we hauled it from the freight house up to the plants. In New Castle we just had whatever came up and we did general contracting. We built the old water works out here, things like that, whatever came through. Just had to do whatever there was.
- Managing his business; perceptions of Coleman du Pont's road; road conditions; hauling detonators during World War IKeywords: Aberdeen Proving Grounds; Bethlehem steel; Coleman du Pont; DuPont Highway; Great Depression; guards; road construction; sabatoge; stock market; wealthTranscript: John Scafidi - Was there ever a period during the twenties when things started to get slow? Like before '29?
Mr. Mitchell - No, we never noticed it here in New Castle like the other places. Now, we heard about people jumping out of windows and things of that nature on account of losing all their money, but in New Castle nobody had a whole lot, very few people had a lot of stock, and it didn't mean much to them. Here if a man could own his home he thought he was doing pretty good let alone owning stocks and bonds. Of course, some did own them. There wasn't many young fellows who was supposed to have stock in some companies like they do now.
-43-ted to take a flier in the stock market?
Mr. Mitchell - No, I didn't know enough about it. I had no...every dollar we got we put back in the business.
John Scafidi - Just took enough to live...?
Mr. Mitchell - Yes. In New Castle we don't have no rich people. And most of the people in New Castle are not interested in making a fortune. Every body is interested in making a nice living but when it comes down to accumulating a lot of money most people more or less want to accumulate real estate or nice homes.
John Scafidi - You say you were putting a lot, or almost all of the money you got back into the business. What kind of equipment did you get during this time? Can you remember?
Mr. Mitchell - Mostly trucks. In them days when you bought a truck by the time you got it paid for it was ready to be traded in on another one.
John Scafidi - How long did one last?
Mr. Mitchell - Our trucks had to last us a little longer than most people. Ours would run mostly twelve to fourteen years.
John Scafidi - Did you give them much of a beating during that time?
Mr. Mitchell - No. Our haulings was just a short distance and we had bad places to go around the mills sometimes, but we always tried to keep them up.
John Scafidi - There were a lot of things going on before the war and after the war, like Coleman du Pont's highway. What were people around here thinking about du Pont? You know, buying a highway and then giving it to the State.
Mr. Mitchell - Everybody thought he had something up his sleeve. Some said he was taking on running a rail..I mean a streetcar track down the middle of it. He was going to run pipelines down there. Everybody thought he was doing it for himself and using the State; not everybody, now, but quite a few and they couldn‘t realize that anybody was giving something away for nothing.
Faith Pizor - Generally speaking, did people trust the du Ponts? Did they think they had something up their sleeves when they did something?
Mr. Mitchell - At that time, yes.
Mr. Doughterty - It still stands good. Anybody that invests money for something, they'd think there was semething in back of it. He did build colored schools here in Delaware and he didn't get anything from that.
Faith Pizor - Coleman did?
Mr. Dougherty - du Pont did, yeah.
Faith Pizor - Pierre did. P. S. school.
John Scafidi - Did you find the hard road to your advantage or did you have enough hard roads between here and Wilmington?
Mr. Dougherty - Yeah, they were pretty hard. Many a time I went out there and pulled a guy out with my truck; he'd be down to the hubs, in the mud, bringing produce into New Castle.
Mr. Mitchell - The roads were pretty bad in them days. I remember when I was hauling detonators from Bethlehem Steel down to Aberdeen Proving Ground, we'd start Monday morning and take a load down, then Monday night we'd take another load down, Tuesday another load, and Tuesday night, then Wednesday and Wednesday night, and after that we was through for the rest of the week. And it would take us about nine to ten hours to make a trip and while they was loading or unloading I'd have a chance to get an hour or two hours' sleep. I do remember this one time we went down there, and this fellow he worked at a carnival from New Castle and he took a job as guard down at Bethlehem Steel and they always sent a guard with me. So going down there he pulled out a pack of cigarettes and I remember I asked him, I says, "You aren't going to try to smoke one of them, are you?" He says, "I gotta have a smoke." I says, "If you're gonna smoke you've got to smoke some place besides on this truck." And he had one of those big guns that he held on his side strapped on there, and I always had a little gun on my side under my shoulder. Why we had that was because there was a couple of trucks that exploded and they never could tell what really did happen.
John Scafidi - Were they worried about sabotage?
Mr. Mitchell - Yeah, that's what they were afraid of. But, anyhow, he got so nervous there so I told him to get out and wait until I came on back. I got the papers from him and he got out and I went on down to Aberdeen Proving Ground and delivered my load and I got the Colonel down there to sign for him, then came on back and I picked him up, and when we got back here I went to Tom Walls, he was chief of the guards, and I says to him, I says, "Mr. Walls, why not let Les go down with me," I says, "instead of this other fellow." He says to me, "Vance, I don't want to see him ride that thing, I swear." I says, "I know, but look what he can make," I says, "three days and three nights and he can get double time for riding it, and then all over sixteen hours he gets double time again." And I says, "He gets paid right on straight through, twenty-four hours a day. About four times his normal wages." So he says, "Well, Vance, it is kind of tempting, but I still would rather not see him take that job." "But," he says, "I'm gonna leave it up to him." So we called him in and when I told him the amount of money he was getting for three days and three nights he decided to go with me. So he finished out with me clear up until the contract was completed. We was going down to Aberdeen with a load of these detonators on and it was at nighttime and got raining so hard we couldn't hardly see the road, let alone travel it, so there was an open shed where a farmer had, down there on the other side of Northeast. We pulled in there out of the weather and both of us went to sleep. So the next morning here comes the farmer out with his lantern and he was very nice about it. He says, "Well boys, I see where you come in out of the weather." I says, "Yes, but if you'll just take that lantern away from here I'd feel a little better because this is a load of high explosives." The old farmer started to run back with his lantern hollering, "Get the hell out of here! Get the hell out of here!"
John Scafidi - This was during World War I?
Mr. Mitchell - Yeah, but he was so nice about it at first. Telling us he was glad to see us come in out of the weather until we told him what we had on there. Another time when we was going over the Susquehanna Bridge at Aberdeen, they stopped the traffic while we went over and we went on over all by ourselves on this bridge and when we got to the other end we had several automobiles tied up waiting there and this Les, he died here last week, he had this blue uniform on and his gun on his side, and I was riding along, and then seen him sitting alongside of me and this one fellow asked me, he says, "Hey, what did you get locked up for?" He thought I was locked up because I had a policeman alongside of me.
- Influenza epidemic; purchasing horsesKeywords: Canary Cottage; funerals; liquor; New Castle Club; prohibition; undertaker; Western horses; women workersTranscript: John Scafidi - Did you ever have an influenza epidemic right around war time here?
Mr. Mitchell - Yes, I had it twice.
John Scafidi - How did it hit the town?
Mr. Mitchell - Whole town was in bad shape. What used to be the New Castle Club, they had it filled up with people and they was taking the live ones in and bringing the dead ones out, and the undertaker down here was full. His morgue there was quite...he had quite a large room where he had a piece of ice setting around in there trying to keep it cool, and he'd have eighteen and twenty in there at a time. The whole family would be sick with the flu and nobody could even go to the funeral or anything else. So, Orville Glending, one of his helpers, Joe was speaking about these girls that worked in the factory, at Bethlehem Steel; lot of them were college girls, came down there because they thought it was their patriotic duty to help out and they'd come down there and after working with that powder they'd become yellow and they called them "canaries", and Orville Glending and this other fellow, I don't remember his name now, I did know it at the time, were taking two of these girls out. Of course there was prohibition in those days, but you could get liquor anywheres you wanted it. So, they had the undertaker's business car, a Studebaker, and they was out and they came back to what they called Canary Cottage where these girls stayed at and the matron down there would close the doors down there at 11:00 and if they didn't get in at 11:00 they just had to stay out all night. So, these two fellows had these tWO women and it was after 11:00 and they were all pretty well liquored up and both being married men they didn't know what to do with the two women, so they didn't do a thing but went down to Clewells there and carried them in the morgue and laid them out on these boards along with the rest of the dead ones. So, the next morning this Slim Harris, the colored fellow who worked for Clewell, they went down to get one ready for burial and when Slim went in there he saw these two there sitting up rubbing their eyes, he came back yelling, "Mr. Clewell, two of them's come alive." Anyway, I never heard whether they ever caught the flu or not, but since the lady wouldn't let them in that night, it was the only thing they could do.
John Scafidi - Do you have any idea of how many peeple died in town of the epidemic?
Mr. Mitchell — I have heard, but I don't remember. There was very few houses in New Castle in which somebody didn't die.
John Scafidi - Any special age group?
Mr. Mitchell - Yes, the young and the middle age. The older people didn't ketch it...they caught it, but they didn‘t die with it. Mostly the young and the 20-35 age group. But there were very few houses in New Castle that somebody didn't die.
Faith Pizor - You said before that in your early days that you got Western horses. Were they broken when they came here?
Mr. Mitchell - Partly broken. They had the two front shoes on them and the back shoes they would leave them unshod. And then they would hook them up with one of the older horses. We'd buy them as pairs, but we wouldn't work them as a pair. Just one of them to a double team with another horse, 'til he quieted him down and then after he got him quieted down and broken right then you'd put the pair in a team back together.
Faith Pizor - Did these horses come directly from the West?
Mr. Mitchell - No, they came from the West to Wilmington and my father would buy them and then they'd get what you called shipping fever.
[interview cuts off]
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