Interview with Aloysius Rowe, 1968 August 12 [audio]

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  • Early life; family's emigration from Ireland; memories of uncle's death; mother's immigration to the United States; how Rowe's parent met.
    Keywords: Alsace-Lorraine; Bally-Shannon, Ireland; Bancroft's Mill; Breck's Mill; Dugan's Saloon; immigration; Joseph Bancroft and Sons Co.; Pickleville, Wilmington, Delaware
    Transcript: Aloysius F. Rowe was born in a Company-owned house at the foot of Rising Sun Lane in the village of Henry Clay, Delaware on December 15, 1905 and moved with his family to the top of Rising Sun Lane in 1914 when their home was torn down. His father was a painter for the DuPont Company and later was employed by Alfred I. du Pont. Mr. Rowe tells of his boyhood on the Brandywine (his family, summer activities, food, doctors and medicine, religion, politics, recreation, school, etc.), his employment as a teenager at Hodgson's Woolen Mill and his subsequent employment with the Reading Railroad, beginning at the New Bridge Station. He has been employed by the DuPont Company for several years. Richard Rowe, his younger brother was interviewed by us

    This interview was granted by Mr. Aloysius Rowe on August 12, 1968. Present at the interview were Mrs. Faith Pizor, Mr. Stuart Campbell and Mr. John Scafidi. The interview was granted at his home, 204 Delaware Avenue, McDaniel Heights, Wilmington, Delaware.

    Scafidi: Mr. Rowe, if we can go back again and start where we started last time. Can you tell us something...

    Rowe: I forget.

    Scafidi: So do I. Could you tell us something about how your family came to be in this area?

    Rowe: Well, according to the records of the DuPont Company the Rowe family came over from Ireland in 1836. And apparently in the group was my grandfather William Rowe. He had quite a record with the DuPont Company; he had over fifty years service with them when he retired.

    Scafidi: Did he come in on any kind of contract?

    Rowe: Well, they had some kind of agreement, back in those days, where somebody would sponsor you to come over from the 'old country'. And the way I get it, according to the petit ledgers at the Museum the du Ponts would finance it, for instance Alfred du Pont or someone. And then they would pay their money back again to the financier through the Company I guess, or deduct so much out of their wages until it was paid back. Incidentally, I went far enough in the records to know that the Rowes paid their bills; paid in full.

    Pizor: Were there any other people from your father's area came over, so that they might have brought quite a few people over?

    Rowe: No, I don't know anything about that. I was trying to trace back and see where my family came from and of course that's when I got in touch with you people up there and I made a study on my grandfather. It didn't say where he came from, he came from Ireland, we knew that, and later on I did find out that he came from Bally-Shannon in Ireland. I found that out because his brother was a councilman over in the Brandywine Village, you know, and he was killed accidentally. The story goes on, it was put in the Sunday Star (I think that was one of the last printings they had made) and it said that this Colonel, he came from Bally-Shannon, Ireland and of course being my grandfather's brother that answered the question there.

    Scafidi: You mentioned before the name of the area, what they called it where your uncle was killed.

    Rowe: Yeah. It was over in Brandywine Village - he was defeated for councilman over there in that area, that's the Ninth Ward, you know, across Market Street Bridge and he lost the election as a Democrat by one vote to a Republican.

    Scafidi: Was there a local name for that place?

    Rowe: The place where he was killed was called Pickleville.

    Scafidi: Pickleville?

    Rowe: Pickleville. There was a stove manufacturer there by the name of Pickle and they called that little town after him.

    Pizor: Can you tell us the story of your great-uncle who was killed?

    Rowe: Oh, yeah. It was a Sunday and he and this other gentleman were talking and they decided to go down to Dugan's Saloon. Now the saloon wasn't open on Sunday, but Dugan was a friend of my uncle's, I call him my uncle, but he was my great-uncle. So they were in there talking and finally this here man who was intoxicated on the outside wanted to come in, see. So my uncle suggested to Dugan that he let him in to keep peace in the family instead of raising Cain outside. So they brought him in this place and this fellow continued to raise Cain, you know what I mean. So Dugan picked this gun up and whether or not he just threatened this man with it or not I don't know, but he picked the gun up and my uncle came between Dugan and this fellow and the gun went off and killed my uncle. They had quite a trial over that; they tried to prosecute Dugan but he shot his best friend and he didn't mean to do it so they had a heck of a time trying to reach a decision in the case. I think he got some time, but they didn't hang him, of course. But the story was told to us by my mother and I just always took the story with a grain of salt, because you can imagine a guy in a saloon on a Sunday and getting shot. But she told me that he was trying to make peace - my great-uncle. But we didn't believe that, but the story came out in the Star so it was actually the truth.

    Pizor: Do you remember what your grandfather did when he came here? What jobs...

    Rowe: No. Not exactly when he first came over, but he was a cooper, I know in later years. I just remember what my mother told me and my father, because he died before I was born. But he did make barrels for the powder. Did my brother show you the powder keg that he has up there?

    Pizor : What did your father do? In the Du Pont Company?

    Rowe: He was a painter and glazier.

    Pizor: How did he get started in this line of business?

    Rowe: I can remember them telling me that he learned his trade at a carriage shop in Wilmington. Back in those days you had to learn how to mix paint and he was actually a carriage painter. He done the fine striping, you know, and all that kind of business. I remember the brushes he had; some of them had bristles on them several inches long for fine striping. He also did glazing and did quite a bit of paper-hanging for the Brandywine residents. But he was laid off up there, I don't know what year it was, and he went to work for Alfred I. du Pont and stayed there until he died. But that's what he was - a painter.

    Scafidi: Do you know how old he was when he married your mother?

    Rowe: Yeah, he was 33 or 34. He was considerably older than my mother.

    Scafidi: Was that considered old for a man on the Creek to get married?

    Rowe: I wouldn't know that. I would say today it was a heck of a big spread.

    Scafidi: How old was your mother at the time, do you know?

    Rowe: He was 34 and she was...oh gosh...he was 14 years older than her and so I'd say 20.

    Pizor: Was she from this area?

    Rowe: No, she came from Alsace-Lorraine. She was born, I think it was the year after the Germans had taken that territory from the French. It went back and forth - it's French territory today. Consequently she spoke both languages, French and German...high German.

    Scafidi: You told me the story of how she came to the Brandywine.

    Rowe: Oh, yes. You see, there were two girls; her older sister and my mother and their mother was a widow; her father was killed when her mother was only six months pregnant with her...

    At this point Miss Rowe, his youngest daughter, entered the room and Mr. Rowe introduced the interviewing group to her.

    ...so she had an aunt in this country; her mother's sister, and she invited one of the girls to come over here because there was more money in the United States. Her older sister was supposed to come but she got 'cold feet' in the end, so Mom had more 'guts', excuse the language, so Mom came in her place.

    Pizor: Did she speak English?

    Rowe: She didn't speak English. She was 16 years old when she arrived here and some of the stories she told were really funny. I can't remember them all, but I do recall one where the porter picked up her bag and started to carry it off and she ran after him screaming. She thought he was stealing her bag.

    Scafidi: Was she employed when she first arrived?

    Rowe: Oh, yeah. She got a job at Bancroft's. I think they wove cloth in those days. Joseph Bancroft and Sons. Now all they do is finish cloth. She was a...I'm sure she said she was a weaver.

    Scafidi: Did she know any other people from her area? I talked to a Mrs. Hudson who used to be a Miss Hackendorn, who lived up in the Upper Banks.

    Rowe: Oh, yeah.

    Scafidi: She said her father was from Alsace-Lorraine.

    Rowe: Oh, yes. She knew them because I recall...there was one of that family, I can't remember just who it was, used to get mail from over there and my mother used to translate it.

    Scafidi: How did your mother and father meet? Get together? What was the courtship like?

    Rowe: I guess it was probably through the dances. I remember they used to talk about the dances. My mother was a good dancer, I understand. Pop wasn't bad. And I think they met down there, you know at the Mill they used to have dances.

    Pizor: What is now Breck's Mill?

    Rowe: Yeah, I think that's the Spot. This is all what I've just heard. And my father's brother, Richard Rowe, he worked for DuPont for quite a number of years, and he had a barber shop down on the Brandywine. I remember hearing them tell the story, my father had one of these big mustaches, and he was going to the dance this night to meet my mother, and Pop went in to get his mustache trimmed and Uncle Dick cut off one side and he said, 'That's a little too short,' and he kept on going until he had the whole mustache off. He did it for orneriness. And Mom said when Pop came down there it looked like his upper lip was all swollen.
  • Recreational activities at Breck's Mill; his father's siblings; childhood home; siblings; political rallies on the Brandywine
    Keywords: Ancient Order of Hibernians; Breck's Mill; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Irenee), 1864-1935; DuPont Experimental Station; extended families; family life; Philadelphia Record; politics; Rising Sun Lane, Wilmington, Delaware; siblings
    Transcript: Pizor: Were there a lot of recreational activities at the Breck's Mill?

    Rowe: I don't know back in those days, but in my time there was. Mrs. W. W. Laird owned the building and she fixed it up wonderful for the people on the Brandywine. They had a nominal charge, you know; they just did that to make it nice. In other words the kids paid 10¢ a month dues, the intermediates...that was up to about l6...paid 15¢ a month and the adults paid 25¢ a month. You had everything there, everything you wanted. They had gym teachers, male and female supervisors, sewing teachers, etc. They had classes downstairs. For people who couldn't speak English they had English classes for them. There were Italian people who lived right in back of the present Museum. The community was known then as Squirrel Run.

    Pizor: How many brothers and sisters did your father have?

    Rowe: I'd have to get the book out to find out. I think there was, I forget how many my Dad had. Gee, there was quite a few of them. I got the Bible there and I could find out if you want me to.

    Pizor: Did most of them live around here? Or did they go...?

    Rowe: Oh, they all went different ways. Some of them died in infancy. There was one brother I remember, Johnny they called him, and he was on the stage; he was a tap dancer, so he went around the country. The rest of them, I don't think they got away from the Brandywine.

    Pizor: Did they work for DuPont?

    Rowe: I couldn't say that.

    Scafidi: Did you know many of your uncles and aunts? Were they regular family visitors?

    Rowe: The only ones that I knew was my Uncle Bill; he was killed up at the powder yards. That was after they closed down, he was electrocuted after a storm one night and he was punching a time clock or something and a live wire came down and crossed the wires to the clock and caused his death...they were the only two uncles I knew along with Uncle Dick. I guess all the rest of them had died before I was born.

    Pizor: Your mother's sister never came over?

    Rowe: No, she didn't. But they used to correspond regularly.

    Pizor: Can you remember very much of when you were a child? Where was your house?

    Rowe: Right there on the corner at the foot of Rising Sun Lane. On the left Side directly across the street from Gregg's store.

    Pizor: Then you lived right across the bridge from where the Experimental Station is now?

    Rowe: That's right. Getting to the Experimental from the opposite of the Brandywine.

    Pizor: What was it like, or do you remember very much?

    Rowe: Oh, yes. I do remember. Of course, we moved from there in 1912, farther up the hill, but still in the area. But gee, it was a great place. That was really a paradise. In the summertime, I mean a lot of people today go out and spend two or three hundred dollars to stay in a place like that. And we had it free. We had canoes, you know, and boats, fishing, swimming, and the farms around there...we'd go out and swipe apples.

    Pizor: How many bedrooms did you have in that house?

    Rowe: Oh gee. I gotta figure the layout of that place; let me see, there was one...I think there was about six. Yeah.

    Pizor: Three stories?

    Rowe: Three stories and an attic. The first floor was used as a cellar. On the second floor, there was our living quarters and we had a great big kitchen there and we used to eat in the kitchen and then we had another room in the front that was a dining room used on occasions and then in the back there was two parlors...

    Scafidi: Was one of those for company?

    Rowe: Well, there was an inner parlor and an outer parlor and we kids went into the first parlor and the second one was mostly for the grownups.

    Pizor: How many brothers and sisters did you have?

    Rowe: I had four brothers and three sisters.

    Pizor: Where were you in line?

    Rowe: I was number 6. And we are spaced almost three years apart. Pop was pretty well along in years when I came along.

    Pizor: Did most of your brothers and sisters stay in this area?

    Rowe: No, they didn't. One of my brothers now is in San Francisco, or Oakland, California; he moved from San Francisco. My brother, Johnnie, he went into the service and he moved all over the world, and he died while he was in the service. My sisters, Anna, Louise and Catherine are still in this area and my brothers Dennis and Dick.

    Pizor: Did your father have many friends call on him at night, or what did he do when he came home from work?

    Rowe: He just ate his supper, sat down and smoked his pipe, read the paper and went to bed. He belonged to the Ancient Order of Hibernians and I remember once a month they would have a meeting and he would always go out to that with the boys.

    Pizor: Do you remember where that was?

    Rowe: Yeah, it was up at St. Joseph's on the Brandywine. They had the hall up there.

    Pizor: Was he still friendly with his powdermen friends when he worked for Alfred I.?

    Rowe: Oh, yes. We all lived there together on the Brandywine.

    Pizor: How did your father get to work?

    Rowe: He walked to work. Always he walked out by where the Foundation is now.

    Pizor: Did he take his lunch with him?

    Rowe: Yes he did. Yeah, I think I told you that about the lunch. We had plenty to eat in our place, you know. My mother was a good baker and we had plenty of food. So, when Pop would go to work, Mom would always put an extra piece of cake or something in his lunch so Pop would bring it home to, you know, the smaller one. So, whoever happened to be the baby at that time would run and get his lunch box and get that piece of cake. I remember the flavor of turpentine so well.

    Pizor: What did the lunch pail look like? Do you remember?

    Rowe: Lots of times they carried just a tobacco can. A square oblong tobacco can, you know; I don't know how many pounds of tobacco came in it. They were very good lunch boxes. I remember Pop had one that looked like it was a fiber job and it had a double handle that came together.

    Pizor: Did you go to church very often?

    Rowe: Well, on Holy Days and Sundays, you know. Many times during the week I served on the altar. Father William Scott was pastor. He was a friend of Alfred I. du Pont's.

    Pizor: Was it a family type thing? Did the whole family go?

    Rowe: Yeah. There were different masses. Either Mom or Pop had to stay home with the little ones while each attended a different Mass. We generally split up. I remember I went to Mass with Pop a lot on Sunday. I got to be his pal...he'd take me everywhere he went. There was my brother Johnny and Joe, they were three years apart, and then came my three sisters Anna, Louise and Catherine, see, and by the time I came along the other guys were pretty well grown up and so he took me everywhere. I remember him taking me to see ball games and I didn't even know how to keep the score.

    Pizor: How did you get into the ball games? Did you go into town very often?

    Rowe: Yeah, we went to the games quite often. I couldn't tell you how we got there. I didn't even know where the games were. He took me over. I can't imagine where those ball games were. An empty field, I guess. I don't remember walking too far, but we started off in the trolley - the Peoples by Rising Sun Lane.

    Pizor: Can you tell us anything about the political rallies?

    Rowe: Oh, yeah. They were quite a thing. I don't recall exactly how he was caught or anything like that, but I remember my father telling me the story one time where, well of course the place is gone now; the Black Cat they called it. The first house to your left after you get past the tavern, going down Rising Sun over Main Street. We had a high porch up there, most of the houses did have them overlooking those banks there - they had a second porch. And he told me that one time they had a political rally and this fellow who was doing the talking, whatever he was talking about, he did it for affect. All the crowd was down below listening to the speech and he kept directing his speech at my father as if he was the only one down there. Just for affect. But they used to have their torch light parades come right up through Main Street there and they had a fife and drum corps, you know, and we had a bunch of flags at our house and we'd hang them out on the porch on the fourth of July; a whole raft of them. They'd borrow our flags and give them to the kids to march in the parade. Democrat or Republican it didn't matter. It was a parade. And my father was kind of a cartoonist; he used to paint pictures on canvas, you know, and they'd make this oblong box and all four sides would have something painted on it. Some kind of a political thing, like a donkey kicking a mule, or a donkey kicking an elephant-something like that. They used to put lights inside of those things and carry them up and down the streets and turn them around and around to show all four sides and people would get a charge out of them.

    Campbell: Do you remember if the 'Bull Moose Campaign' in 1912 caused any unusual disturbance?

    Rowe: I don't remember. I don't remember that. I was only six years old then.

    Scafidi: Do you remember if your Dad was a Republican or a Democrat?

    Rowe: Oh, by heaven, he was a Democrat. When she (Mary Ann) was a little bit of a kid around here, my oldest daughter Betty, she's married now, was for Eisenhower and she had this little tyke run around the house saying, 'I like Ike.' I said, 'If your grandfather came back today he'd disown the bunch of you.' Yeah, he was a Democrat.

    Scafidi: Did your father get a newspaper?

    Rowe: Oh, yeah, definitely. The daily paper was the Every-Evening and the Sunday paper was the Philadelphia Record. If it wasn't in the Record it wasn't the truth.

    Pizor: How was your house heated?

    Rowe: Just by stoves in each room.

    Pizor: No fireplaces?

    Rowe: No, no fireplaces.

    Pizor: What kind of floors did you have, do you remember?

    Rowe: I think they were the regular pine floors. There was nothing unusual about them.

    Scafidi: Wide pine floors?

    Rowe: No, they were not. Not in our house. They were narrow.

    Pizor: Somewhat like the type you see today.

    Rowe: That's right.
  • Food and cooking; neighbors and neighborhood; Hagee's tavern; the temperance movement; policing along the Brandywine Creek
    Keywords: Brandywine Creek; cooking; food; Hagee's tavern; policing; recipes; temperance movement
    Transcript: Campbell: Your mother being quite a cook, I'm wondering if she got her food from nearby stores or farmers?

    Rowe: Well, she dealt all around. The store was right across from us and she'd send over there for things that she run out of, you know, but she generally bought on a large scale. Like she'd bake her own bread, and this sounds like exaggeration but it's the truth, and she'd bake 52 loaves of bread a week. Of course, they weren't these big long loaves you get today. They were about like that [Rowe measured with his hands.] When Mom sliced the bread for sandwiches it wasn't thin. You can imagine, you know there were eight of us children and going to work and school, quite a lot was required for lunches. She also baked pies. I remember Wednesday night was soup and pie night. We'd have soup and that was a meal in itself and she'd have pie. She'd bake a raft of pies and we carried part of them to school in our lunch. She was a good cook. She made potato fritters also which were very tasty. She called them Backsties.

    Scafidi: Do you think you ate better then than you do now?

    Rowe: I ate more then than I do now. I'm trying to get rid of this thing, (my bay window). I joined the Spa and I've been working out there and you have to diet along with it, but not as bad as when you are trying to lose weight without any exercise.

    Pizor: Did everyone on your block eat as well as you did? Or were you a little unusual?

    Rowe: I always like to say that we had plenty of food and more varieties than the rest of them. I remember the kids used to come around to your house and they'd turn over backwards to get a slice of homemade bread and preserves or jelly. Of course, Mom would fix one for them and it was just great.

    Pizor: Who owned your house before your family? Was it an old house?

    Rowe: We didn't own the house at all. It belonged to DuPont.

    Pizor: You just rented it?

    Rowe: Yes.

    Pizor: Do you remember for how much?

    Rowe: Yes, I do. At one time my mother told me that they had a chance to buy their own house, the people that lived up there. DuPont would have sold the house to them, but we only paid $6.50 a month for that house and she said why buy it. Of course, when Mrs. Copeland bought it then we had to move out.

    Pizor: When was that?

    Rowe: 1912.

    Pizor: What did she do with it?

    Rowe: Tore it down.

    Pizor: Any special reason why she tore it down?

    Rowe: To beautify the neighborhood I believe. There is a wall there now where the house stood. Did you notice it right at the bottom of Rising Sun Lane to your left.

    Pizor: What happened to you? Where did you go?

    Rowe: Well, we moved down into the Highlands. 2528 West 18th Street and we lived there about from November 1912 until August 1914 and then we moved back up to 1922 Rising Sun Lane. That house was owned by a man named Foster and I think Mrs. Copeland tried to get a hold of it then but he didn't sell it to her. He just kept it in the family and when he died Mrs. W. K. du Pont got it. Mrs. Copeland had died before Mr. Foster and Mrs. W. K. du Pont got it when he died. She said she was going to leave the house there as long as my mother lived and she did. After my mother died then she tore the house down.

    Campbell: When was that?

    Rowe: 1933. I guess it was about '34 when the house came down.

    Scafidi: Well, whose house does your brother have?

    Rowe: He moved that house from the bottom of Breck's Lane. That house was lived in by Charles Godfrey on one side (he was an old powderman) and Dorman's lived in the other side. It was a double house.

    Scafidi: Speaking of names, could you tell us who your neighbors were?

    Rowe: Right at the bottom of the hill? Yeah. The people who lived right next to us on one side was Baird. The railroad bridge supports cut through on the other side.

    Scafidi: Was that Jamsie Baird?

    Rowe: Yeah, Jamsie. Jamsie was killed in the big Packing House explosion. And next to them was Flanigan, and Mrs. Carpenter lived in the next house, and then I forget...Bill Krauss lived up in that area, that was in the back. Then down along the Brandywine here, on the left side was the Lundys, they were remodelers. Then you cross the street and on the right side was Pete Boissiou; have you ever heard of that name? Then there was Thompson, John Thompson, he was an old DuPont man, and then Frank Clark, and Thomas Clark, they were DuPont men, and that is about as far as I can go down there.

    Pizor: Who belonged to, was it Hagee's Tavern?

    Rowe: Alfred I., I believe, owned that building. I think it still belongs to his estate.

    Pizor: Was it always a tavern?

    Rowe: No, it was a store. It was a lodge at one time. I think they used to meet there years back. And then Simon Dorman took it over and he made a regular store and then he had the post office there and he had that for a long time. Simon was drowned down the Creek there one cold winter night, and I can't think...whether he gave the store up before or after he died. After that they opened up Hagee's Tavern. Bill Hagee has been dead quite a few years now. His wife Agnes still runs it. She's a niece of Simon Dorman. His name was John H. Dorman but everyone called him Simon.

    Scafidi: While we are talking about bars. Do you remember or have you ever heard anything said about a temperance movement? Was there much said about people taking the pledge not to drink any more?

    Rowe: Oh, there was. I can remember back in those days hearing about this one taking the pledge and that one taking the pledge.

    Scafidi: Was it mostly among the Irish and the Catholics or was it everybody around the Creek?

    Rowe: I think it was mostly the Catholics. They had to go before a priest you know.

    Pizor: Was there much drinking?

    Rowe: I don't know. I remember there were a few drunks around on occasion, but generally the same type - harmless. They weren't the guys who went out and worked for a living. I suppose drinking was no more prevalent in those days than it is now. Although the parents I could see my Pop come in once in a while with what we called a 'skinfull.' He was always happy on these occasions. Generally Mom would send him off to bed.

    Pizor: Getting back to your father, how many vacation days did he get?

    Rowe: I don't believe he ever got a vacation in his life, that I can recall. He never had one, no.

    Pizor: He got off for Christmas, probably?

    Rowe: Oh, yes. The holidays he had off.

    Pizor: Christmas and what else?

    Rowe: Fourth of July and New Year's Day as far as I can remember. Oh, all the holidays that were counted back then.

    Pizor: But no regular vacation?

    Rowe: No. You know I worked for the railroad for about 18 years and I only got two weeks vacation. Would you believe that, in this day and age? I worked with the Reading Railroad and in 18 years I only got two weeks vacation. I took one on my own and they docked me for every day I was off.

    Pizor: Did your father work Saturdays?

    Rowe: Yes, he did, yes, he did. A half-a-day Saturdays. That was common, half-a-day on Saturdays. You can ask anybody.

    Pizor: Did you ever have much trouble with the Brandywine?

    Rowe: No, I don't recall anything at all like that. Everybody out there just seemed to get along fine. You'd hear an argument once in a while, but, my Lord, there was never any reason to bring a policeman out. There'd be a black-eye involved maybe but there was never much like that. People just seemed to get along better back in those days. Everybody knew each other from here clean on up to the other end of the Village. Anybody moved in they'd pitch in and help them set up their place.
  • Medicine; the 1918 flu pandemic; buying drugs; visiting the dentist
    Keywords: Cappeau's; Carbolic Salve; dentistry; dentists; diphtheria; Dr. Meredith Samuels; Influenza Epidemic (1918-1919); medicine; shots; vaccines
    Transcript: Pizor: When you were born, I gather you were born in your own house?

    Rowe: Yeah, yeah.

    Pizor: Did your parents call a doctor? Or was there a midwife?

    Rowe: Oh, yes a doctor. No. Oh, she had a woman with her but she called the doctor. Dr. Meredith I. Samuels delivered me. I remember one day when my son had just come back from being discharged from the service and he was working with DuPont; he got a job with DuPont, but he never did like it. I don't know why, because Jack could have made out well. He had a good education. So, we went to the Central Restaurant one noontime and there wasn't a table for us both to sit at, so the lady came over and said, 'There's a table over here if you want to sit with Dr. Samuels.' I said, 'Yes', and we went over and sat down and I said, 'Dr. Samuels, you delivered me when I was a baby, remember?' He said, 'In my day I delivered thousands of them.' So I told him I lived at the bottom of Rising Sun Lane and I had had diphtheria. I said, 'You gave me a needle, an anti-toxin, which was supposed to be rare in those days.' He said, 'I remember.'

    Pizor: Where did he live?

    Rowe: I don't know. I don't know where the doctor lived. I used to be afraid of him when I was a kid. But he was the nicest guy.

    Scafidi: Did many people get things like shots, small-pox vaccine, or was that...?

    Rowe: Well, yeah, after we moved up the hill and I was a kid, I guess I was around 10 or 11, something like that, a man who lived on the top of the hill - his name was Conway - he had small-pox and the Board of Health came out and they vaccinated everybody on the hill. And to show you how sloppy they were in those days - we were coming up the hill, my brother Dick and I and these fellows were on the porch of one of the houses farther down Rising Sun from where we lived and they said, 'You boys live up on the hill here?' We said, 'Yeah.' 'Where do you live?' 'Right up there.' 'Come here.' So he took and got us on that porch and they took this here, it looked like a celluloid needle out, like a little sword and scabbard, you know. And he took ether or alcohol and started washing the arm and said, 'Don't that make your arm nice and clean?' And there it is right there (my scar). So they vaccinated us and you know they took and threw those things on the ground and the kids would pick them up. It was vaccine. If they did that today, they'd put you in jail. So we went up to the house and one of the neighbors was there - he was a guy in his twenties and he said, 'Oh, those crack-pots don't know what they're doing. Come 'ere.' 'Let me wipe that off.' So he took his handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped and put the handkerchief back in his pocket. Now, can you imagine what would happen if he ever used that handkerchief and had a sore on his nose.

    Scafidi: Do you remember the flu epidemic in 1918?

    Rowe: Oh, I do remember that. Yes, it was bad. They closed the schools and churches. Two of my classmates died from it.

    Campbell: Did the Company take any special precautions or make any special efforts?

    Rowe: I don't think that they did; I don't think they knew how to take care of it. The stories I heard afterwards, the people that escaped the flu and I've known some of them, were the ones that were drinking heavy. You know, that drank whiskey. I know of a teamster in town who never had it. He said, 'I just kept a bottle on my wagon the whole day long and take a nip every once in a while.' I knew another fellow, his name was Casey. He was a carpenter and they turned the Wilmington Country Club into a hospital and he was building beds there and he was in amongst some of those people who were turning black and he was half-loaded all the time he was there and he never got it. Our whole family went down and my father was the only one who didn't get it, and Pop could take a drink once in a while. I do remember it. We were lucky to get out of it without losing anyone.

    Pizor: Who took care of you when the whole family was sick?

    Rowe: Well, it just so happened that one or the other was up. Mom stood up until the very end. When she went down the others were recovering. Dr. Palmer was the doctor we had and I was laying on the bed and he started filling out a prescription for me and I could hear my sisters in the other room moaning. It was a horrible thing. They dug the graves with trench diggers they used in the war, over at the Cathedral Cemetery. I remember a little girl down the road died with it. I can see the hearse going up the hill with a plain old wooden box inside.

    Scafidi: Did they have time for funerals or did they just do everything very quickly?

    Rowe: Yeah, that's it. They didn't have time for that. In fact, they closed the churches down. They didn't have Mass at all.

    Scafidi: To keep people from congregating?

    Rowe: Yeah, to keep people from congregating. It was an awful nasty time .

    Scafidi: Do you know who the local undertaker was in those days?

    Rowe: Oh, there were several in town. There weren't any out the Creek. Most people had Kilroy, Mealy or Chandler. I don't remember any others.

    Scafidi: Nobody specializing? Did any of the women on the Creek specialize in laying out bodies?

    Rowe: No, not to my knowledge.

    Pizor: Where did you get your drugs? You said you had a prescription filled.

    Rowe: Then, that was up on the hill and we probably would have gotten it at Cappeau's. Cappeau was at Delaware Avenue and Du Pont Street. At one time when the Brandywine was in full bloom there was a drugstore right next to where Hagee's is now. He did fine. His name was McClure. I remember he put up a salve in a tin box about that size (about the size of a tin of shoe polish,) and it was called Carbolic Salve and it was wonderful. I remember my brother had a sore nose one time and it really cleared up when he used some of this salve. It was his own preparation. I can remember his name being on that box. And they put it on Dick's nose and it healed up just fine. I had a lot of faith in that stuff -that carbolic.

    Scafidi: Do you use it today?

    Rowe: I use camphophenic. It is a liquid patent ointment apparently consisting of carbolic acid and camphor.

    Scafidi: How about a dentist. Did you ever go to a dentist when you were a kid?

    Rowe: The only time I ever went to a dentist was to have a tooth pulled and believe it or not. I have most of my teeth today.

    Scafidi: How about the rest of the kids?

    Rowe: No, only when they got a tooth pulled. Only when they had a toothache.
  • Going to school; religious life; race and ethnicity along the Brandywine; women's employment
    Keywords: Alexis I. du Pont Elementary School; Catholics; du Pont families; laundry; Protestants; race relations; Saint Joseph on the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church (Wilmington, Del.); school; St. Anne's Business School; St. Joseph's School
    Transcript: Pizor: How old were you when you first went to school?

    Rowe: I was six.

    Pizor: You went to St. Joe's?

    Rowe: St. Joseph's. Yes.

    Pizor: Did most of the kids in the area go to St. Joseph's?

    Rowe: St. Joseph's or Alexis I.

    Pizor: Alexis I. had an elementary school too?

    Rowe: Oh, yes.

    Scafidi: How long did you go to St. Joe's?

    Rowe: 8 years; graduated from the 8th grade.

    Scafidi: And then what did you do after that?

    Rowe: I went to St. Ann's Business School and graduated from there.

    Scafidi: Did you have a choice? Did you pick business school over everything else?

    Rowe: Yeah, I did and the reason I picked it, and as I look back now I can see how stupid I was...Father Tucker, I knew Father Tucker very well. I used to go to Mass at St. Joseph's and he used to come out there as an extra priest. He was talking one day and he asked me where I was going to school when I graduated. I said, 'I'm going down to St. Ann's because it's only two years.' You see that's what I was looking at; I wanted to get out of school. He said, 'Why go to that old sissy school, come on in with me.' I said, 'Ah, I can't do it.' He says, 'Look, if it's money that is bothering you,' he says, 'forget it. I'll take care of you. We'll put you through Sallies for nothing.' But I didn't have sense enough to take him up on it. of course, it might have been a good thing in a way that I did go through business school because I did get a job due to my commercial education. Back in those days a business education was something. So, I got a job on the railroad. My father died when I was seventeen, and I had to go to work.

    Pizor: Did many kids go beyond the 8th grade? Or did most kids quit?

    Rowe: I think most of them quit. Of course, the ones that lived up in Squirrel Run, I don't think they were as well off as the other kids. And they tried to get jobs.

    Pizor: Did you ever have an urge to go to work for DuPont in those days?

    Rowe: Oh yes. It didn't matter to me where I worked. I just wanted to get a job. Of course, that railroad job was different. I love railroads you know. I started working at Newbridge Station on the then Philadelphia & Reading Railroad. This was within a few steps of my home on Rising Sun Lane.

    Scafidi: What did you study when you went to business school?

    Rowe: Well, shorthand and typewriting and bookkeeping, business law -it was kind of a light course in law. And of course we did have religion. When you go to a Catholic school you have to keep up on your religion.

    Scafidi: That's interesting. Who taught you; was it nuns?

    Rowe: It was a nun taught me. She was a bright woman.

    Scafidi: How about up at St. Joe's? Did you get taught by all nuns?

    Rowe: Yeah, all nuns. And the one that taught me the last four grades - one nun taught four grades, can you believe that? Of course, they only had a handful of kids up there. My, she was a bright one. Everybody said she should have been a high school teacher. She was a just person, believe me.

    Scafidi: How did you get punished in school?

    Rowe: Several ways. Writing tasks, crack on the palm of your hand with a ruler, kept in after school. Here's one way I was punished for something I was innocent of. Father Scott was upset because some of the kids were playing in the cemetery.

    Scafidi: Did you play in the cemetery?

    Rowe: No, I always had respect for the dead even as a boy. Well Father gave us a lecture about this so when he left the room the Sister (Speratus was her name) supplemented his talk with one of her own. I was interested in her talk but as I cupped my chin in my hands, elbows on desk, she thought I was grinning at her and all of a sudden she said, 'Rowe, you ignorant thing, you go on out there in the hall and when Father comes out of the middle room, you tell him what you are out there for.' So, I walked out and didn't argue; so, when Father came out of the middle room I waited until the door opened and he saw me and I started walking toward him, letting on I was going outside, you know; they had outside bathrooms. He said, 'Were you in there when I gave a talk about the cemetery?' I said, 'Yes, Father.' And down the steps he went. But most times he would give you a crack with a ruler on the hand - the boys. The girls had to stand in a corner or something like that. He could give you a good wack.

    Scafidi: Did you ever get spanked?

    Rowe: No, I never did. She just hit me on the back of the head one time. I remember Joe Haley, the chauffeur for H. Belin du Pont - he died here just a little over a year ago. Well, he and I were in the same grade and Joe was kind of annoying at times, talking, you know what I mean. Well, we were up over there bantering back and forth and finally Sister comes down and she said, 'Haley, how many problems have you finished?' He said, 'Twelve.' 'How many have you finished Rowe?' 'Three.' And after a while she walloped me on the back of the head. I deserved that crack.

    Pizor: How many kids went to St. Joe's?

    Rowe: There weren't too many. Let's see, I'd say there was about 10, 20, I guess there was about 35 in the four grades. That might be a bum guess, but it seems to me that was the way it was. Then down in the lower grades there were a few more. They had a teacher for 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th, and then there was the 3rd and 4th in the middle room; I guess there was about 25 there. Then the baby room, of course, that was 2nd grade and I guess there was close to 50 down there.

    Pizor: Was the Yellow Schoolhouse at the opposite corner from St. Joe's being used as a schoolhouse?

    Rowe: No.

    Pizor: In other words, when you finished at St. Joe's you went to Alexis I.?

    Rowe: Yes, that's right.

    Pizor: What about if you weren't Catholic. What church would you go to? Living in your area.

    Rowe: Well, most of them went to the Greenhill Church. Greenhill's on the Pike, isn't it? And Christ Church. They went up there. Mt. Salem was more for the people in town area; I don't think many of them went up there. There might have been a few. Mt. Lebanon was more for the people in Rockland. A friend of mine died Saturday who was born the same month and year as me; he was a friend of mine all my life and I think he went up to Christ Church. I've brought his name up, and I feel bad because he was a guy I played around with when I was a kid in the Brandywine area. You might have heard of him. His name was Robert Devenney.

    Scafidi: The name has come up.

    Rowe: He worked at the Experimental Station.

    Scafidi: Did you ever hear what the du Ponts did for the churches? Were they good to the churches?

    Rowe: Oh, I think the du Ponts started them. My grandfather was one of the pioneers up there. And then, I think that the du Ponts lent them help, I don't know, I can't prove that.

    Pizor: Were there many Negroes in the area?

    Rowe: I only knew of one. The only one I knew of worked for W. W. Laird; he lived in the place where we called the Cooper Shop. That place between the Reading Railroad and Breck's Lane, a place in back there. There was a colored family lived in there. They were pretty decent people.

    Scafidi: Were they looked upon as being different, except for the fact that they were colored?

    Rowe: No, back in those days, I mean to say, I don't know how they felt about a colored person, but they respected these people because they worked for a living and always kept a nice place.

    Pizor: But as far as you knew, none of them worked in the powder mills or yard?

    Rowe: I don't know, but I think I heard a story, but of course that might be hearsay too, but I think they were afraid of the powder. You know.

    Scafidi: Were there any other...like Irish, Italian, or any other group that was looked down upon? Did the Irish look down on the Italians and did the Italians look down on the Irish? Nobody had status?

    Rowe: No, that's right. We went to school with the Italian boys. In fact, we were friendly with them. You know what I mean. There wasn't any animosity at all.

    Scafidi: How about Protestant and Catholic?

    Rowe: Just fine. As I said they had the church supper at St. Joseph's; they'd have a cold supper, like coleslaw, ham, and that sort of thing and my friends and I would all go to that supper and then Christ Church would have one - they'd have a hot supper - and the gang would go over there.

    Pizor: Did any of the wives or the young girls get jobs with the du Pont women?

    Rowe: I don't remember the women working up there. I don't think they had many openings for women in the Powder Yard. They...like I said, when my mother came here she worked for Bancroft's. Quite a few women worked down there. They could do that kind of work.

    Pizor: Did any of them work for the du Pont families. I mean up in the houses.

    Rowe: Oh, yes. Some did, yeah.

    Pizor: But the majority of the women didn't really work? They looked after their families...?

    Rowe: Yeah, that's right. All the mothers.

    Pizor: Did you have a garden?

    Rowe: Not there, we didn't. We did up the hill. We didn't have enough room there, we were built right into the bank. There wasn't room enough for a garden. I think Mom had a little parsley bed there. I remember when Mom used to hang up her clothes...we went over sort of a narrow built-up thing and went into this here yard and it arched around like this and came into the stone pier of a railroad. Her washing took up a whole yard, you know. She washed every Monday.
  • Keeping chickens; punishment; gas, electricity, and telephone line; mother's literacy; leisure time on the Brandywine Creek
    Keywords: basketball; chickens; electricity; fishing; gas; ice skating; literacy; punishments; swimming; switching; telephone's; women's literacy
    Transcript: Scafidi: How about the livestock? Did you have any chickens or cows?

    Rowe: Chickens, we had, yeah, but nothing else.

    Scafidi: Were the chickens for eating or for eggs?

    Rowe: Both.

    Scafidi: Any special kind of chicken or were they just chickens?

    Rowe: No, let's see...she had leghorns and Rhode Island Reds.

    Pizor: Your mother was in charge of them?

    Rowe: Oh, yeah. Pop had it easy, really, because Mom thought of everything. She was boss. Pop never had to chastise us. Mom always did that. I got my share of it. I remember being thick as a mule. I used to tempt her to give me a licking and she would and I used to lay there and cry.

    Scafidi: If your Mom did the whipping, who did the forgiving?

    Rowe: She just let us cry it out then, after you got done whimpering everything was forgiven and forgotten.

    Pizor: Did she ever put you down in the coal-bin or anything like that?

    Rowe: Oh, no. No. She had a switch and boy did it sting. She could really lay it on.

    Scafidi: Did your father ever take you over his knee if your mother's whipping didn't work?

    Rowe: Mom's whipping always worked.

    Pizor: When your father got home at night, was he normally pretty tired?

    Rowe: Yeah. That was quite a hike down there and back, you know. And you see, Pop wasn't a young man. I remember he used to get pains in his stomach and I wasn't old enough to go to work yet. I used to feel sorry for him. He'd have his head in his hands, you know. I'd say, 'Gee whiz, Pop, wonder if I couldn't get a job.' 'Ah,' he'd say, 'forget it.' He had terrible pains. He died suddenly when I was only seventeen.

    Pizor: Did you have a telephone in the house?

    Rowe: We got the telephone after my father died. He died in 1922 and I went to work and we got a telephone about 1923 or 1924. 7918W was the number.

    Scafidi: Did you always have electricity?

    Rowe: No. Dick put that in.

    Scafidi: Which house?

    Rowe: The one on the middle of the hill, up from this one. 1922 Rising Sun Lane.

    Scafidi: So you didn't have electricity in the house at the foot of Rising Sun Lane?

    Rowe: No, we had gas in that house. The gas line ran right down Rising Sun Lane and across the bridge to the Experimental Station. And our house was served from this line. Gregg's Store may have had it too, I can't remember, but we tied right into that line and we had gaslights downstairs on the first floor. Upstairs we had oil lamps. We were talking about that tonight coming home on the bus, about having a night light on, you know. I think it's a good idea; I think you should have a light on - too many people take a spill down the steps. At our house we always had a light upstairs. An oil lamp - you know, one of these glass chimney jobs. My mother always insisted on having a light there so that if anyone had to get up during the night they could see where they were going.

    Campbell: Do you remember when, or hearing tell of when the gas was installed?

    Rowe: No that was before my time.

    Pizor: Getting back to where you were before...you rented the house from the DuPont Co. Was it a very old house?

    Rowe: I guess they put that house up a long time ago.

    Pizor: When you were born, in other words, your parents had lived in it for a while?

    Rowe: Yeah, that's right. You see I was number 6 along the line. All eight of us were born there.

    Campbell: Well, when something serious was wrong with the house, did you go to somebody - a company foreman...?

    Rowe: The Company would do repairs, but I don't recall anything being wrong. Actually as far as the painting was concerned, my father would just do that. And he was a paperhanger too; he did that on the side. He was a moonlighter. As far as the gas was concerned, a cousin of mine, Pete Kindbeiter was a plumber and he would take care of things like that. We never had any problems.

    Pizor: Did somebody come around every month to collect the $6.50?

    Rowe: I don't remember that; I don't recall.

    Pizor: Do you remember how you paid it when you were up on the hill; Mr. Foster came around?

    Rowe: No, Mom mailed the rent. Yeah. I can see the envelope now - A. L. Foster. You see, when Mom came over she educated herself. Some of her spelling and the formation of the letters was a little odd. For instance, she'd start to write Philadelphia with an 'f', you know and then she's say, 'That's not right - how do you spell it.'

    Scafidi: Was she proud of the fact that she could write and read? Could other women not write and read?

    Rowe: Mom was never an egotist. I guess she just accepted things as they came. If you could read and write, that was it. You didn't boast about it, or anything. I do not remember any women who could not read or write.

    Scafidi: What did you do in your house? You said in your house it was a musical house. Was it different from other houses along the creek or did everybody play an instrument?

    Rowe: No, I don't think there were too many on the Brandywine that played instruments because they mostly always gathered at our house on Sunday night. Gee, it was like Shellpot Park. My brother who died, played the piano and played the trumpet too. Johnny Carney played the piano in the band, our Johnnie played the trumpet, my brother Joe played a violin, and there was a guy played the trombone, another guy played a clarinet. I don't remember all the players, but they just had a regular time.

    Scafidi: What did you play?

    Rowe: Well, I was younger than those guys. Johnnie was 12 years older than me. When I came up they didn't give me anything to play, so I decided when I was 15 to learn to play the trumpet. So, I played trumpet and I got a band together and we were doing fairly good. But it got so that this one had a date tonight and the next one had a date tomorrow night and so on, and finally it just went to pieces.

    Pizor: How did you take your lessons?

    Rowe: Well, I went to a teacher, yeah, a fellow by the name of Taylor taught me. And I remember him saying one time that he played in McKinley's inauguration parade and he said it was so cold that March 4th, I think it was in those days when they had the inaugural, and he said that the valve in his trumpet froze.

    Pizor: Did your parents buy you all these instruments?

    Rowe: Yeah, I don't know how they did it. I was 17 when I got my trumpet. I was working so I can say I paid for it.

    Pizor: Your father was actually not too bad off?

    Rowe: He made an average wage. Of course, Pop was a painter you know.

    Scafidi: Was it looked upon as being good for you to know how to play an instrument?

    Rowe: No, people did it mostly because they enjoyed playing.

    Pizor - What did you and your friends do in the summer?

    Rowe: Oh, well, man...we used to play ball over in the field, over by that bank over there; you'd never get a home run. We had to bat uphill. We played baseball and we swam, we did a lot of swimming. Everybody on the Brandywine could swim.

    Scafidi: Where was your favorite spot?

    Rowe: We used to go in on the other side of the Creek. There was a place they called 'girlie' and the girls would be there; then there was another spot where we'd generally get in and swim across to 'minnie' where they had the diving board. 'Minnie' was about 8 feet deep.

    Scafidi: When did you get your first bathing suit?

    Rowe: You should see the first thing I ever got as a bathing suit. I think it cost 10¢ in the 5 & 10¢ store. They were just about like what a cotton undershirt would be like today. They were blue with a white stripe around the bottom. They looked pretty until they got wet. They had a drawstring come around the center. I remember that's the first one I owned.

    Scafidi: Everybody just went in natural?

    Rowe: Oh, I mean they wouldn't go in right in front of the girls. We'd generally pick a spot farther down the creek.

    Pizor: Did you do much fishing?

    Rowe: I did a little bit, yeah.

    Pizor: Did you ever eat what you caught?

    Rowe: Oh, yeah.

    Scafidi: Did your mother cook what you caught or did you...?

    Rowe: No, I'd cook it. Mom never cared much for fish. I don't know, for being a fish-eater, as they call the Catholics, she never went much for fresh fish. Mostly on Fridays she'd have something like macaroni and cheese, you know, or some kind of canned salmon. But as far as fresh fish was concerned - she got a bad fish one time.

    Pizor: Did you ever go ice-skating in the winter?

    Rowe: I did, but I was never too good at it. Mainly because by the time I got a pair of skates I could wear the ice had melted and I was never a good skater. When my two kids, Jack and Betty, were coming along I told them what a great skater I was (just kidding), I could tell Jack lies purposely just for fun, you know what I mean, like it made you look good and Jack would go along. So, I was telling them about all the fancy deals I had at one time, like Sonia [Heinie?] was up the creek and she had a preliminary act and I was the main attraction. So, I remember one night I went skating with the kids and I couldn't even stand up. Jack said, 'Are you hurt, Dad?' I just laughed. But I never was much of a skater. There were some people up the Brandywine, especially back in the older days, that were excellent skaters.

    Campbell: Were there ever any activities organized, like a hockey game or team or anything like that?

    Rowe: No, the only thing they had up the Brandywine was that basketball team.

    Scafidi: Hagley?

    Rowe: Yeah, Hagley. But when they were going strong they were called Mt. Vernon. They grew up a little. They were practically boys in that picture, 1921. I used to play on the Mt. Vernon team, but never the big team; I was just played in preliminary games.
  • Visiting the Hagley Yard after the mills closed
    Keywords: Brandywine Creek; canoeing; Hagley Yard; Holly Island; rolling mills
    Transcript: Scafidi: Did you go swimming up through the powder yards and get kicked out or did you always stay away?

    Rowe: We never went in the powder yards when the mills were running. We just respected them, that's all. When we were up on the other side I saw the mills running many and many a time.

    Scafidi: Did you ever go to Holly Island?

    Rowe: Oh, Holly Island, yes. I remember going over to Holly Island, one day. Ned Thompson and myself, he was the same age as me, and we landed on Holly Island, see, and Ned let me get out of the canoe and When I got out of the canoe he started backing off and left me standing there. So, I ran after him to try and get into the canoe and I went into mud up to my knees. Ned came back and I got in the canoe. Ned was laughing and laughing at my muddy legs, so like a fool he paddled me over to the opposite shoe, canoe first. Well, you know what can happen to a canoe when one man gets out and the back goes down. I got out and grabbed a small tree on the side there and I let that canoe go up with my foot on it and then I gave one big push and Ned turned a loop-de-loop into the drink.

    Pizor: After Holly Island was closed did you ever try to go over there?

    Rowe: Oh, we went through there a lot, yeah.

    Pizor: After the powder mills closed, do you remember them dismantling any of those things?

    Rowe: It must have been a long time afterwards because I remember those great big rolling wheels being there. After I was married, there was nothing dangerous then.

    Pizor: You couldn't do anything or...in other words, you couldn't get wedged in something...?

    Rowe: Oh, my gosh no. Well, of course, then I didn't go in there after I was married, you know, not much. I would take as a young married man my wife up there for a ride in a canoe and just walk through there. It was nice. It seems to me there was a great big stone up there. Did you ever see that? It weighed about 16 tons. I don't see how anybody could ever move it.

    Scafidi: Was that looked upon as being one of the prettiest spots around after it closed?

    Rowe: Yeah, I think so. Of course we did a lot of planning up there. There's not many people, I guess, that had a chance to look at it like we did. On the Brandywine we just took a canoe and paddled up there. It was never crowded or anything.

    Pizor: Was there ever a guard who threw you out?

    Rowe: I don't remember any. There might have been at one time when it first closed, but later on I didn't see anybody. I used to go up there through Crowninshield's and all those ruins and all that and that hasn't been too long ago.

    Pizor: Were the gates closed?

    Rowe: I guess they were. We went in from our canoe in the Brandywine.

    Pizor: Was it eerie going through there?

    Rowe: No. You'd sort of stop and go back in your memory and figure on the people who used to live there and work there and your ancestors and all that kind of stuff, it kind of gives you a funny feeling like that.

    Pizor: Well, say you were paddling downstream and you looked at the powder mills, were they in pretty good shape?

    Rowe: Yes, they were. The rolling mills were, now I don't know about the others. They may have dismantled the others because I don't recall any of them standing. It's the rolling mills I'm talking about.

    Pizor: Do you remember the Saltpeter Refinery?

    Rowe: I guess that was down. Dick was more familiar with that part of the picture in later years because he worked in that area. I guess he told you that story of Billy Hodgson and I worked in this mill here.
  • World War I childhood memories; early automobiles on the Brandywine; getting a railroad job
    Keywords: airplanes; American Steel Works; anti-German sentiment during World War I; cars; Chester, Pennsylvania; France; Hilles and Jones; Hodgson Bros. woolen mill; Liberty Bonds; military drafts; Philadelphia and Reading Railroad; Reading Company; World War (1914-1918)
    Transcript: Pizor: In World War I, you were still a youngster, but did a lot of the fellows go off to war?

    Rowe: Oh, yes, my two brothers went. I was just short of thirteen years when the war ended.

    Scafidi: Did they ever get to France?

    Rowe: No, my brother Joe was ready to go to France and the flu held the ship up. He was all set to go, but my brother Johnnie was in the Navy. He was out to sea on a destroyer. In fact, he stayed in the service. He re-enlisted. He was in the service when he died in 1926.

    Pizor: Do the fellows who worked in the powder yards and some of the neighbors, did they ever have to worry about going off to war?

    Rowe: I don't know that, I don't recall that part of it. It might have been something like that because in the packing house, I understand they were all young fellows working there...it might have been, I don't know.

    Pizor: Were they drafting the people in your area, or were they all enlisting?

    Rowe: My brother, Joe, was drafted; he tried to enlist and they wouldn't take him for the simple reason that he was doing government work. He was a mechanical draftsman; he was working in Chester at the American Steel Works and was doing work for the Government. It seems odd, but that was the regulation, so he quit his job. He was going to enlist but in the meantime his number came up and they drafted him. Then, he never got over anyhow. He felt kind of funny because most of the guys had enlisted, see, and he felt like he was a slacker.

    Pizor: Were there a lot of parades in this area or something like that to try to build the spirit up?

    Rowe: I don't recall anything like that; not of any consequence.

    Scafidi: Do you remember any Liberty Bonds?

    Rowe: Oh, yes. I remember them.

    Scafidi: Did your parents ever buy any?

    Rowe: Oh, yes.

    Campbell: Did you hear much of anti-German?

    Rowe: Yes, it was here. See, my mother came from Alsace-Lorraine and I can remember my cousin, H. Kindlbeiter, now of all the Dutch names there is that's one, and he used to say, 'You, German, you' and I felt about that big. And here I had two brothers in the service. And yet I took that to heart. They were like that.

    Scafidi: How about the local people like the Krausses, did they ever find themselves where people were giving them a 'hard time?'

    Rowe: I don't think the adults did that; this was kids. I don't think the adults had that idea at all. I am sure that my mother was very much respected on the Brandywine.

    Campbell: You don't know of anything in this area, like we had heard of stores being burned and so on? Like with people who had strong German sounding names?

    Rowe: Oh, no, no. Nothing like that.

    Scafidi: Did you have any heroes, like Eddie Rickenbacker? Sergeant York? Did names like that ever come out and the kids pretend that they were a flyer or...?

    Rowe: Oh, yeah, sure thing.

    Scafidi: Were airplanes big with the kids those days?

    Rowe: Oh, yes. They sure were. I remember one time we were at school and a plane came down right over St. Joseph's School and it went over where the Experimental is now and kept lowering and I says to Joe Haley, 'That's in trouble, that plane is in trouble.' You could tell a miss in the engine, back in those days. And that thing came down and down and we left the school and ran all the way down across the bridge and clean up on the golf course. And that's where he did land. He tried to put it down in the field there - it was a pasture land in those days. There weren't any cattle there and he put it down and he tried to make this wall; you know, a stone wall. And his wheels caught on it and dumped it over on its nose. He wasn't hurt and his plane wasn't completely wrecked. They had to send a truck up from Bolling Field, I think, in Washington and dismantle it and take it back, you know. But we left school and we came back to school late just on account of to see that airplane. And we didn't know exactly where it landed. I knew it was coming down, so there were two or three of us that took off at that time.

    Scafidi: What did they do to you when you came back?

    Rowe: Oh, I think we got a task of some kind. I'm not too sure. Write 100 times 'Obey the hours' or something like that.

    Campbell: What about automobiles? Were people beginning to have...did your family have one?

    Rowe: No. We didn't have a car. We didn't have a horse and wagon even. Up on the hill we had a garage, well it would be like a garage or a stable. We had a place there for a carriage and a place for two horses and a hayloft.

    Campbell: Well, Was it a big thing when somebody came to your town?

    Rowe: Oh yeah, it was pretty big. When a guy would have a car. I can remember there used to be a man who would pick us up and take us down to school. He had a great big open touring car, you know. I don't know what make it was. And he was the nicest guy. He used to like kids, you know. And he let us sit in the back seat and he'd go down over bumps, back in those days Barley Mill Road had breaks in it, you know, it had breaks for the horses when they come up with a heavy load, and you had to rest the horses. Well, I can remember going down over these bumps and there was always a few kids in the back seat, you know. You can imagine how high you'd go when you went over them. We'd just laugh and get a big kick out of that.

    Scafidi: Do you remember who had the first car down there?

    Rowe: No, I don't. As I said, nobody had a car down there. When we moved away from the bottom of the hill and then came back to Rising Sun Lane in 1914, yeah there was a man lived across from us. His name was McCarns, and I think he's still living. He is a Senior Citizen. George McCarns. He worked for Mrs. Copeland. And he had a Ford. Do you remember those first Fords had a brass radiator? And he kept that thing shining. When he traded a car in it would look as good as the day he bought it. George McCarns, yeah. I guess he was the first one I remember having one. You should probably get in touch with him. He might be able to give you some information. The Senior Citizens would probably tell you where he lives. He used to be down at that Josephine Gardens affair and he was one of the oldest ones there.

    Scafidi: Do you remember Alfred I. coming through in his car?

    Rowe: Oh yeah. In fact, my father painted a car for Alfred I.

    Campbell: They had one from the beginning of the century?

    Rowe: Yes, they went way back. They didn't have to worry about time payments.

    Pizor: When you got out of St. Ann's what did you do? Did you decide you wanted a job?

    Rowe: Yeah. I wanted a job. Believe it or not I went to work in Hodgson's Woolen Mill. Can you imagine that? I worked there from June until August.

    Scafidi: Do you know why you went to work there?

    Rowe: Because they offered me a job. I didn't have anybody pushing me in those days, so I went from there down to Bancroft's. I worked in the folding room. This cloth would come down soaking wet, you know, and we had to just keep it distributed so that when they pulled it out again it wouldn't knot when it went over to the Bleach House or the Print House. It was an ungodly job. That was in 1922. It was an awful thing. I guess my complexion started to get sallow. My father got worried and he decided, he asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I would like to be a machinist. I went to business school not because I cared about business but just because I wanted to get through school. So, he made arrangements for me to go down to Hilles & Jones. That was a machine shop in Wilmington, but they've gone out of business a long time ago. And he made arrangements for me to meet this man the next day; so the next day Pop was going to take off work and take me down to Hilles and Jones and he died suddenly the night before. So then, I quit Hodgson's. The fellow that was the station agent down there and the girl that worked for him knew that we were in a kind of predicament with no income. My mother and sisters were working, but they weren't doing too good. So, a job opened up down there and he spoke for me and of course Doc (Doc Daugherty, the agent) gave me the job.

    Pizor: Where was this?

    Rowe: Newbridge...Philadelphia and Reading Railroad it was then. Then they changed it to the Reading Company in 1924.

    Scafidi: When you went to work, you say your sisters were working too? How many of the children were working then? And living at home?

    Rowe: Well, see my two brothers had left. Johnnie was in the Navy, he was the oldest one and Joe had gone to Detroit and worked for the General Motors people.

    Scafidi: So there were three of you living at home and working?

    Rowe: That's right.

    Scafidi: What did you do with your wages?

    Rowe: I gave all my cash to my mother clean up to the day I got married.

    Scafidi: How about your sisters?

    Rowe: They did too, yeah.

    Scafidi: And what did your mother do? Budget the money? And give you a little?

    Rowe: She gave me a little spending money.

    Pizor: You did have one younger brother? Richard?

    Rowe: Two, Dick and Dennis. They were still in school. I saw Dick through his trade. They both had trades. And then Dick started making more money than me. Well, he went in business for himself. Incidentally, he is not feeling too good. I saw him yesterday. These people asked me to be a pallbearer for Bobby and wanted to know if Dick would be. I said, 'Well, I can't speak for Dick.' So I called him and he told me he had these kidney stones and they were trying to dissolve them.

    Scafidi: I had one back home and I'm telling you I never felt pain like that.

    Rowe: Yes, they tell me it's one of the worst. Thank God I never had that experience.
  • Work at Hodgson's Mill; accidents at the woolen mill
    Keywords: Billy Hodgson; Brandywine Creek; Hodgson Bros. woolen mill; Industrial accidents; smoking tobacco; work; work accidents
    Transcript: Pizor: Going back to Hodgson's mill. What did you do over there?

    Rowe: I ran the gill box. The first thing, they bring the wool in in bales, just as it came off the sheep. I think they treated them with grease or something like that. And then they take it and put it in what you call a 'picker' which spreads these hides apart. That's what they looked like hides. From there they would take it upstairs and put it in these big long tubs in a strong soap and wash it; wash it good and clean until it was nice and white. From there they would drop it downstairs and put it through what we called a carding machine. That made it into what we called an 'end' you know, go through all these different wheels with little tiny spikes on them. One wheel would turn faster than the other and it would pull the wool out. Eventually it came out into a string of wool about two or three inches thick, but it was loose. From there they put it on the gill boxes. Well, the gill boxes were three machines and they would take it and reduce it to a smaller thread, you know, I mean heavier with more fibers in it. Eventually when it would come off my machine it would go into bigger hanks again, you know, where it was heavy and from there they would put it in a combing machine.

    Scafidi: So, when it came out of the card it looked like an un-braided rope?

    Rowe: Yeah, that's right.

    Scafidi: Well, did your machine add more fibers and compress it?

    Rowe: Yeah, what it did see, the first machine it went through, it was treated with glycerin and soda and that would hold it together, see. Then it would be reduced by another machine. And eventually it would get down until it was just about an inch thick. Then we'd take it and put it through another machine and it would make it wider again. It would put more fibers into it and put it in more of a position to comb it. So, from there it would be put on the combs and the combing machine would pull out what they call the [noils?]. That was the short pieces and I don't know what else was in there, just junk. So when it came off the combs it was ready to be spun and then they sent it upstairs and they would eventually make it into yarn, the way you see it when you knit a sweater.

    Scafidi: What was the final finished product?

    Rowe: It was yarn for knitting. And they sent it off to the knitting mills.

    Pizor: Do you remember where they got their wool from?

    Rowe: Indeed I do. I should remember that because after I went from Hodgson's I worked for the railroad and we used to get wool by the carload in for them. I used to go over to the mill to collect freight bills.

    Scafidi: Do you know how many cars came to them, say for a week or for a month?

    Rowe: Oh, I guess they'd average about, I guess about a couple of carloads a week, I'd say.

    Scafidi: Would that be for Billy's mill and his brother's or just the one?

    Rowe: Well, that would be for both of them. Yeah. I don't know whether it increased or not when they started the second mill. I can't go back and look at the records now.

    Pizor: Were there many men working there, or boys working there at this time? Were there many women?

    Rowe: Most of the women were upstairs and the men were downstairs. They weren't boys, they were about sixteen.

    Scafidi: Was there any kind of law, either on the books or unspoken, that you knew of that kept, let's say, like ten-year old kids out of the mill?

    Rowe: No. Back in those days, I remember when school was out - we were lucky, we didn't have to work - but a lot of the kids did. And they had to get papers and get them signed by the teachers. They had to have working papers.

    Campbell: Did you ever see a factory inspector or state official?

    Rowe: No.

    Scafidi: Were there any safety shields on any of the belts? Or chains?

    Rowe: No, there was not. I know a boy who had his arm taken off over at that woolen mill. His name was Joe Schofield.

    Campbell: This was during the twenties?

    Rowe: Yeah, that's right.

    Scafidi: Was that looked upon as being something that just happened when you were around the mill?

    Rowe: Yeah, that was just one of those things.

    Scafidi: The law of averages?

    Rowe: Yeah, that's right. In this mill there was a big pulley and a belt and there was another pulley and a belt in back of it, see. Well, this belt came off and he was reaching around this wheel that was spinning to put this other belt on and he got too close to the thing and it grabbed his shirt and took him around, and I don't know whether it took his arm completely off or if he had to have it removed. I wasn't there at the time.

    Campbell: Did people like him ever sue, do you know? Were they ever sued?

    Rowe: I don't think they did. I couldn't say. I don't know their private business, but I don't think there was ever anything like that. I never saw anything in the papers about it.

    Scafidi: Did you ever see a person get hurt because he was too tired or because of one thing or another; like he wasn't eating enough or he'd had a long week or a bad night the night before? Like he shouldn't have been working in the first place.

    Rowe: I don't know of any cases like that. No.

    Scafidi: It was just more or less people who got careless?

    Rowe: Yeah. I heard stories that there was carelessness up in the packing house. Of course you can't believe all you hear, like Dick was telling me that he said there was three fellows that escaped that explosion. Well, I don't know, but I heard there was one, you know, the same story as Dick told you, that one escaped. But they did tell me at that time that there were young men working there and they got a little careless, you know, with all that black powder around.

    Scafidi: When you were working at Hodgson did you get a break any time during the day?

    Rowe: No.

    Scafidi: No dinner break?

    Rowe: Yes, for lunch.

    Scafidi: Did anybody smoke on the job?

    Rowe: I believe they did. Oh yeah, sure they did. There wasn't much danger there.

    Pizor: How much were you paid?

    Rowe: I think I got ten dollars a week over there.

    Pizor: And how long did you work hourly? How many hours a day?

    Rowe: From 7 to 5:30, 5 1/2 days a week. We worked until noontime on Saturday.

    Pizor: How did you like Billy Hodgson?

    Rowe: Well, I didn't have anything against the man.

    Rowe: Hello, how are you? This is Betsy Hazzard, my cousin. This is Mr. Scafidi, Mr. Campbell, and Mrs. Pizor, Betsy Hazzard.

    Scafidi: Was your ten dollars pretty good money? Or pretty bad money?

    Rowe: No, it wasn't too good. You asked me if I like Billy. I didn't have anything against the old gent. He always treated me O.K. Understand he was a little on the tight side.

    Pizor: What happened to the mills after you left? Were they there for several years?

    Rowe: Yes, they were. I don't know just when they gave up there, but they moved into town on the east side somewhere. Of course I was long gone then. I remember going over to see Billy and Dan, Dan was Billy's son. And I went over to collect a bill when I was in the railroad and I remember the old gent - we sat there having a congenial conversation - and the old gent said, 'How much are you making over there?' Aloysius he always called me. So, I said, 'I'm making $101 a month at Reading.' 'Gee whiz,' he said, 'these poor fellows in here, look at what they are working for.'

    Scafidi: Did he have a pipe in his month all the time?

    Rowe: Mostly he did. Yeah, he had a pipe.

    Scafidi: Was he a smelly man? Your brother said he didn't know if he ever took a bath.

    Rowe: Oh, I don't know. Dick can tell a story, he's all right. Why, I never found him like that. The man always looked clean to me. He had sort of a pink complexion and he did smell of tobacco. But that was natural, with a pipe in his mouth. I could tell you that when he'd go to talk to you, he'd grab you by the seat of your pants, just easy like, you know, on the side and he'd put his chin on the back of your neck and he'd tell you what he wanted to because otherwise you wouldn't be able to hear him above the whir of the machinery. So, that's what he would do. Like he'd say, 'Don't put your fingers in there.' He'd say, 'It'll bite.' You know, the cog wheel.

    Pizor: Was he British? Or was it my imagination?

    Rowe: No, he was an Englishman.

    Pizor: Whatever happened to his son? Did he stay here after Billy died?

    Rowe: I don't know. You see they moved down on the east side and I lost track of them. The mill was down there and I don't know what happened to Dan. I don't know whether he's still living or not.
  • Pipe smoking; shopping for clothes; making clothes; going to the theater
    Keywords: Aldine Theatre; Backtrack; Bloomer's Shoe Store; courtship; dating; Garrick Theatre; Hiltex Company; Loew's Theatre; smoking tobacco; Tailor Made cigarettes; Titus; tobacco use; Wilmington Dry Good
    Transcript: Scafidi: You said your father smoked a pipe and so did Billy Hodgson. Do you know whether these were home-made pipes or 'store boughten?'

    Rowe: Pop always smoked a store bought pipe, in fact they all were store bought. A lot of people smoked corncob pipes and I think Billy did. You could buy a corn cob pipe for a couple of pennies. It was corncob and had like a kind of bamboo stem. There used to be clay pipes too. In fact, we used to buy them to blow bubbles with.

    Campbell: Did many men chew tobacco?

    Rowe: Quite a few, yes. My father chewed tobacco.

    Scafidi: How about cigarettes? First of all, did anybody you knew or saw smoke cigarettes?

    Rowe: There weren't too many of them around in the old days, that I can remember. Of course, in later years they came in. But I never saw anyone when I was a kid down at the creek.

    Scafidi: Well, when you started noticing people smoking cigarettes, were more people rolling their own or buying them tailor-made?

    Rowe: Tailor-made. That was something I could never do - roll a cigarette. I tried.

    Scafidi: Was it the mark of a man that you could roll your own?

    Rowe: Well, it didn't seem to be the mark of a man, but just a challenge to try and make one. Cowboys were supposed to roll their own, you know. But, I bought them.

    Pizor: Did you buy your clothes when you were a youngster or did your mother make them?

    Rowe: Well, Mom made quite a bit of our clothes. Like our underclothes and shirts, she made them. I remember when she made a shirt it was, well, there was only one other guy on the Brandywine that wore shirts like us and that was Paulie Pesce, the guy that went over the dam in the boat; remember me telling you that. It had a button here, at the neck, and had a collar about that high, (one inch) and a button here, at the neck, and a button here at the shoulder and a button down the side and she made them herself.

    Scafidi: Why the button?

    Rowe: It would fall off your back if you didn't button your shirt. No, I mean instead of buttons down the front there would be buttons down the side.

    Scafidi: Oh, like some barbers or dentists have.

    Rowe: I guess so. Yes, that would be it. There was a button here at the neck and a button here at the shoulder and then all the way down the sides.

    Scafidi: How about a suit? Where would you buy a suit?

    Rowe: Well, those clothes were bought in town. She bought the clothes from a fellow by the name of Sam Wolter who had a place at Second and Market, right across from the Wilmington Trust Company. They used to have a bank there. And that store eventually became the Hiltex Company and they moved up to between Third and Fourth on Market Street and a fellow who worked for Wolter got that store and he's out of business now. In fact, I got three suits from him right before he went out of business about eight months ago.

    Scafidi: How about shoes?

    Rowe: I'll tell you where we got our shoes. It used to be Bloomer's they called the store, Bloomer's Shoe Store. And then after that it was Backrack. And then when Backrack went out of business Titus took it. Do you know any of those people?

    Pizor: No.

    Scafidi: Did your Dad repair your shoes?

    Rowe: You know who repaired the shoes when there was any repairing to be done? Three guesses...Mom.

    Scafidi: Did she have a...not a cobbler's bench, but a repair kit?

    Rowe - She had that big iron thing with a big foot here and a little foot here, you know, and you turn it over this way and like that. Of course, for a real good job we had it done at a shoemaker's.

    Scafidi: Mrs. Hudson, who was Miss Hackendorn, told me that her father got old belts from the mill and used them for half soles.

    Rowe: Yes, that's right. That's correct.

    Scafidi: Did they find them in a pile of old belts or did you buy them for a penny or...?

    Rowe: I think somebody used to get them for Mom. I don't know who she got them from. No charge. They were scrap belting.

    Pizor: Did you ever go into Wilmington Dry Goods when you were a youngster?

    Rowe: I don't believe there was a Wilmington Dry Goods then; I believe it was Topkis.

    Pizor: Topkis was down there, but Dry Goods was when, about World War I?

    Rowe: I think it was after World War I when the Dry Goods came. I go down there now.

    Pizor: What was Topkis like?

    Rowe: I don't remember. I think it impressed me as being like Wilmington Dry Goods. I can remember Mom taking me to town. I used to like to go with Pop because he would always take me in some ice cream store, where Mom she would drag me through all the stores. It used to drive me nuts.

    Campbell: When you'd go to town would you ever go to the movies?

    Rowe: Yeah, I remember Pop taking me to the movies before I knew what it was all about and then when we were older we went ourselves. You could get in to some of those movies for a nickel.

    Pizor: Do you remember the Grand?

    Rowe: Yes, many times I went there.

    Pizor: Was it a movie theater or an Opera Hall? It used to be an Opera Hall.

    Rowe: Yeah. It was a movie.

    Scafidi: Did vaudeville shows ever come through touring?

    Rowe: Oh yes. Yeah. The Loew's Theater now used to be called the Aldine and they had a regular circuit stop and they were good. They were very good. Keith Circuit.

    Campbell: For a young couple courting would that be a normal thing to do? Go to a show?

    Rowe: Well, when I was courting my wife we went to the Garrick. There was a stock company there and they used to have good shows at the Garrick.

    Pizor: Where was the Garrick?

    Rowe: It was up there in that area where Loew's is. I'm just trying to think now what store might be where the Garrick was. One of those.
  • Eating ice cream; beer and soda; special meals; radio
    Keywords: Bavarian Brewery; beer; celebrations; Christmas; Easter; Govatos'; H and F; ice cream; KDKA (Radio station : Pittsburgh, Pa.); Kyle's; Moxie; radio stations; root beer; sarsaparilla; soda; Stoeckle's; WBZ (Radio station : Boston, Mass.); wine; WIP (Radio station : Philadelphia, Pa.)
    Transcript: Pizor: Did you often go to Govatos?

    Rowe: Quite a good bit, yeah. But we went to a place, when my father took me in before Govatos, it was Kyle's.

    Pizor: Was that homemade ice cream?

    Rowe: It was good ice cream. I guess they made it themselves. I know it was very creamy.

    Campbell: Was that supposed to be the best ice cream in town?

    Rowe: Oh, everybody said that was the best.

    Scafidi: How did you eat ice cream in those days? You went into an ice cream parlor, what did you ask for? Ice cream cones or...?

    Rowe: No, no. You got it on a plate. They used to have a thing they dipped it out with, shaped like a funnel and that's the way it would come out on the plate. That was Kyle's.

    Pizor: Where was Kyle's located?

    Rowe: It was on the west side; I think it was on 7th or 8th Street, between Orange and Tatnall. Something like that. I couldn't say exactly now.

    Pizor: It was like an old ice cream parlor?

    Rowe: That's all it was. Just served ice cream. There were tables and chairs and I remember before I got through I used to shiver. It would freeze the ears off me.

    Pizor: Did they have any flavors, do you remember, or just...?

    Rowe: I don't recall them having too many flavors. Of course, for me chocolate or vanilla were always the flavors I liked.

    Pizor: Did you ever take some home?

    Rowe: No. It would melt on the way home?

    Pizor: Were they open just in the summer or...?

    Rowe: No, they were open all year round as far as I know. Yeah, sure. A lot of people would eat ice cream in the winter time. Quite a treat for them. It was a lot like Lynthwaite's ice cream. I know that the roof of your mouth would be coated with cream when you finished.

    Campbell: Were there any beer gardens that were popular?

    Rowe: Well, back in my childhood days there were saloons.

    Campbell: I was thinking of a place that had a reputation and that women would go to. Nothing like that?

    Rowe: No, if a woman wanted a drink she had to go in the back.

    Pizor: In other words, women didn't drink in those days?

    Rowe: Well, they would go down and get a kettle of beer at the back door. They wouldn't go in. No. They were the dens of iniquity then.

    Scafidi: Do you know what the people drank? Whiskey or beer?

    Rowe: They drank both. I remember Pop bringing a kettle home. They used to have these little kettles, you know. And they would take and get it filled up. And gee it looked nice and creamy (frothy). I remember him giving me a taste and I never liked it. Even to this day I can't say I am crazy about beer.

    Scafidi: What was the brand? Did your father have a...?

    Rowe: H & F was one of them. I can't say exactly where they were sold, now. There also was Stoeckle's and the Bavarian Brewery. I remember they used to come around and they would deliver beer to your door. They would have these bottles with the china top on, you know, have you ever seen them? I think you are too young. It's a shame that you young people didn't have the chance to see them. In fact, I'd love to have one today to have for a keepsake. They had like a wire thing on them and they had this china stopper with a red washer on it and you'd take this little wire thing and if you pulled it down that would pull this cap down tight.

    Scafidi: I think I've seen some soft drink bottles with metal caps like that. You flick it up and it unseals and you flick it down and...

    Rowe: Yeah.

    Scafidi: Could you reseal those bottles with the china top?

    Rowe: Oh yeah. They'd seal themselves. It was just like locking the top on. I don't know why they don't make things like that today.

    Pizor: What kind of sodas did you have? Did you have Coke or what?

    Rowe: No, the only sodas I drank was sarsaparilla. We used to call it sarsaparilla. And we used to have root beer that we made ourselves. Mom always used to make root beer. In fact I did for my kids after I got married.

    Scafidi: Is sarsaparilla and sarsaparilla two different things?

    Rowe: Well, we always called it sarsaparilla.

    Scafidi: We used to drink sarsaparilla.

    Rowe: Sarsaparilla. That's what we always called it. After I looked into the name a little closer it was sarsaparilla. Sarsaparilla is what we called it.

    Scafidi: I thought maybe one was for adults and the other for children.

    Rowe: No, I don't think so.

    Scafidi: Did you ever drink Moxie?

    Rowe: No, I never drank Moxie. But I do remember that being advertised.

    Pizor - Did your father ever drink Moxie or sarsaparilla?

    Rowe: Pop was ashamed to drink that.

    Scafidi: Was wine a popular beverage at home?

    Rowe: Mom used to make wine - the only time I remember wine around my house was at Christmastime and Pop would buy it and we had a big sideboard - boy I wish I had that thing today. It came from one of the du Ponts and it was a nice piece of furniture and he had this thing loaded with all kinds of wine.

    Scafidi: What was a special meal during the year? Aside from Christmas. I know my family which was Italian, broke Lent, at the end of Lent with smelts. Was there any such thing in your family - a couple of special meals that weren't really holidays.

    Rowe: I don't remember anything like that.

    Scafidi: Or the opening of the season where you just eat your fill of something that had just come in, like strawberries.

    Rowe: I remember this. On Easter Sunday you could have all the eggs you wanted. Most times you would have an egg or two but on Easter you could have all you wanted. Boiled, fried, or any way. We always had plenty to eat but most times we were limited to two eggs. We could fill up on bread and butter and potatoes, etc. I couldn't eat too many. Boiled egg, fried egg, eggs period.

    Scafidi: How about oranges. Did you get them very often? Once or twice a year.

    Rowe: I never cared too much for oranges. We had them around the house because I remember in our stocking at Christmas we would always have an orange.

    Scafidi: We were wondering about radios - when people began to own them or when it became part of your culture here in Wilmington.

    Rowe: I had my first radio in 1924 I guess it was. I had a homemade set that a fellow sold me for $15 that he made himself. It was a 3 tube job - tubes about the size of a 100 watt bulb. They were something. And it was an intricate thing. About half a dozen valves like the panel of a B 29.

    Scafidi: Were there Wilmington channels? Or stations?

    Rowe: No. When I first got mine I got Philadelphia. KDKA, Pittsburgh. WBZ, I think was Springfield, Mass.

    Scafidi: It's Springfield-Boston now.

    Rowe: WBZ, is it still?

    Scafidi: Yes.

    Rowe: WIP, Philadelphia. Uncle WIP used to tell stories to the kids. Well, that set of mine had all kinds of dials on it so another fellow was interested in radio and I had a heck of a time with this so he said, 'Bring it down, I'll see what I can do with it.' So he took that radio and he cut it about in half, put some new parts in it and it ran on about one third of the material that was in it originally and it was so much easier to take care of. Your channels on one knob, then inside that knob was another that you could make it louder or more quiet. That's what I had. You had to have earphones then.

    Scafidi: Did you have an antenna?

    Rowe: Oh yes. My antenna ran from the house out to the barn I was telling you about. That's where I ran my telegraph wires I was telling you about. I learned telegraphy so I bought two sets and tried to get one of my buddies to learn to send and receive but they didn't stick with it so of course I dropped it too.

    Pizor: The radio - when you turned it on, did everyone gather round to listen?

    Rowe: Well, no one could gather round because I had earphones. But they said if you put it in a dish you could hear more but that ruined it. I used to listen to a good show, and my brother-in-law was courting my sister then, 'Whatcha got, whatcha got?' and I had to give one ear piece to him you know. 'You go court my sister and leave me alone.'
  • 1924 and 1928 presidential elections; surviving the Great Depression
    Keywords: 'block aid' programs; Baltimore and Ohio Railroad; Coolidge, Calvin, 1872-1933; Harding, Warren G. (Warren Gamaliel), 1865-1923; Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964; lotteries; money; Prohibition; Reading Railroad; Smith, Alfred Emanuel, 1873-1944; Society of St. Vincent de Paul; Teapot Dome Scandal (1921-1924)
    Transcript: Scafidi: Do you remember if in 1924 radio covered the convention?

    Rowe: I don't remember that. In fact I do too - sure I do. I'll tell you who was running. That was MacAdoo. That was '28 wasn't it? Was it '24? MacAdoo, he withdrew and threw his to Davis, that's right, because Smith was trying to get it in '24 and he got it in '28. Yes,MacAdoo.

    Scafidi: And did they cover it from the floor, much like television?

    Rowe: Yes, that's right. In fact I think it's better than to sit there watching it.

    Pizor: Was there a lot of sentiment in '24 for Harding?

    Rowe: No, he was dead then. Well, I remember Al Smith giving a speech and he mentioned Coolidge. Well, of course, you know back in those days in a political speech, well as soon as the opposition was mentioned it was like mentioning the devil so he mentioned Coolidge, so they started to boo him. He said, 'Wait a minute.' He wouldn't let them. He had a lot of respect for Coolidge and from the remarks he made there I had respect for the man too even though we're dyed-in-the-wool democrats.

    Scafidi: When Al Smith began to rise to prominence in Democratic circles, did you hear any of the religious antipathy...?

    Rowe: Oh, it was terrible. You would be surprised how adults back in those days were so narrowminded. They absolutely were. In fact the chief clerk where I worked, he was a lifelong Democrat and he would tell the most outlandish jokes about the Pope coming over here and going to run the country if Smith got in. And he changed his politics just for that, for that year.

    Scafidi: Was that actually a joke or did some people actually believe that?

    Rowe: They actually believed that. Now I don't know what it was like in the south. They say down there it was horrible, but this man was right from Wilmington, he was chief clerk of the Wilmington office of the Reading where I worked and that was the attitude that he had.

    Pizor: He knew you were Catholic? It didn't bother him in the least that you were Catholic?

    Rowe: No, it didn't bother him. It was just cut and dried that that was what was going to happen, that the Pope would come over here and run things.

    Scafidi: Were people resentful of Smith because he was a Catholic and New Yorker and spoke funny?

    Rowe: The only thing I ever heard about him was my boss, the big boss, of course he wouldn't stoop so low as to criticize the religion but he didn't like him because he was a wet man - he didn't believe in drink - and he really believed in it. I admired the man, he was good but he believed in his convictions that drink was no good for you. And he was so right in a lot of cases, because down there where we were at the Reading, at the foot of Madison Street, the blue flamers hung out right under the arches of the Pennsylvania Railroad - Penn-Central today. Why I remember walking down there with him one time to catch the passenger train - we had a passenger train in and out of Wilmington. I was ticket agent down there at that time and we walked past a guy and he was laying down, just sprawled out on the sidewalk and I said, 'You'd think those guys would have a little more respect for themselves.' You know, goody, goody me, and he said, 'Al, we shouldn't condemn anybody, we don't know what is going through their minds, what they have to put up with or anything.' And I thought, 'Gosh, that was nice of him to say that.' He was just a generally good guy.

    Pizor: Do you remember when the Teapot Dome scandals were hitting one another, '21, '22? Did you feel that the people had been taken with so much corruption in government?

    Rowe: When you're bigoted in religion or politics - I don't think religion or politics are as bigoted as they used to be in those days, I told you so, what did you expect from a Republican, you know.

    Scafidi: Do you remember '22? How old were you in '22?

    Rowe: I was born in 1905. I would be 17.

    Scafidi: Pretty impressionable - you'd have an opinion. Do you remember anything back in 1919 - the steel strike in Pittsburgh, the anarchist walking around and the I.W.W. - the Wobblies.

    Rowe: I recall the I.W.W. but I don't recall anything like that. I remember at the time but I couldn't elaborate on it.

    Scafidi: Do you remember any union agitation at all in Wilmington? Any time up until 1925?

    Rowe: I don't think the unions were too strong. I didn't get in the union in the railroad myself until the 30's I guess

    Pizor: When a depression hit I gather Wilmington wasn't hit very hard. People still had their jobs and things weren't quite as bad. Did you feel the Depression very hard?

    Rowe: Personally, not too hard. I did feel it. I managed to hold my job but they cut my wages down 10% and they cut me down to where I was losing two days a month I had to take off. They docked me for it. And then I lost my job in Wilmington. I bid on my old job at New Bridge, the job I started with, and I had a wife and two kids. I remember one of my pays I got - I got paid twice a month - and one pay was $42 for half a month's work.

    Pizor: Why did you lose your job? They didn't need you?

    Rowe: They cut down on account of the depression. In the railroad you went according to seniority. They abolished the job.

    Scafidi: Were they taking care of you because you were an old hand and they thought you did a good job out here?

    Rowe: Oh no. I bid that job in and I had to bid my best friend off of it to get it. I thought, I hate to do this, but he said, 'You're married, I'm not. Go ahead.' It was the last job on the roster. If they had to cut down one more I would have been out.

    Scafidi: How many years did you have on the railroad at that time?

    Rowe: Well, let's see. I didn't have too much. I started in 1923 and that was in '28, '29 - not many years. I'll tell you what did happen. I was secretary to Jack Stewart the man I was telling you that was religiously good and just a regular good guy and he got word - he got a telegram for Stewart, 'Effective Monday you must dispose of another man.' So I took the telegram up to him personally rather than send it up. 'Mr. Stewart,' I said, 'here's a telegram. I know that's me.' He said, 'No, it's not you. When they take my secretary away from me. they can take my job along with it. You come in Monday.' And what he did. There was a married woman there. She and her husband were working and he let her go and he figured she wasn't as much value - the work she was doing was just pencil work, where I was doing all the letter writing and everything else. I could do any job in the office there. I could sit down and type, I could handle freight, I could work the foreman's job, I could work any job in the office because they hired me as a utility man. I stayed with the railroad at the Wilmington office until they closed it up. They took the Reading and the B & O and they put them together and moved them out and took Jack Stewart, my boss, and made him general agent, which had no jurisdiction over we fellows. The B & O agent was our boss so they cut me off. That's when I went out and bumped Johnny off. It wasn't too long after that that I got back in Wilmington again, working as joint rate clerk for both B & O and Reading.

    Scafidi :How did they take care of relief around here?

    Rowe: When I was living on Gilpin Avenue at the time, we had what they called the 'block aid'. All the people working would pitch in to help the families that weren't working. Also there was the St. Vincent de Paul Society, we had that, which we donated to and the 'block aid' which I donated to, with the little that I had. I didn't have much coming in, but nevertheless I was making enough to feed my family and pay my rent.

    Pizor: The 'block aid' - who organized it?

    Rowe: The people in the community.

    Pizor: And every block had their own?

    Rowe: I believe so.

    Pizor: Who held the money? The church?

    Rowe: The church held it for the St. Vincent de Paul Society. And one of the neighbors held it for the other.

    Scafidi: Did you come to be worried about putting your money in the bank?

    Rowe: I never had any to put in. Banks didn't worry me. You see my wife got sick. She was sick all her life. Back at that time the stock market crash came and it wasn't long after that that she got sick and I had to break up my home and my mother took one kid and my father-in-law took the other and I was home trying to take care of my wife. We had her bed downstairs and I'd go to work and every once in a while one of the neighbors would stop in so eventually her father came down. He said, 'You can't put up with this or you'll be in bed.' So we moved up with him and in about three or four months after this they took my wife out to Brandywine Sanatorium so then I lived with my mother and Jack slept with me and Betty stayed with my sister-in-law. We were only like a few doors apart. During the day Betty would come down and my mother would take care of them both. Then in the meantime my mother died and my sister had to come in to take care of them. It's been kind of rough. Then everything went along fine. I won $1500 - I took a chance; some guy was selling chances on a lottery you know, and I was always up against it. I spent all my money, you know, I had to. Sickness in a family can knock the 'devil' out of you; with no supplementary income. So, I took this chance and won $1,500 bucks. So, right away I says, 'I'm going to build myself a house out in McDaniel Heights and this is it.' So, we moved in here in 1949 and Maryann came along with us about nine months later, you know what I mean, and it was just like a gift from heaven, you know. My wife was crazy about that kid. You see, Betty, my youngest was almost twenty. And all in between there were none. So, everything was going fine until 1954 and my wife got a heart attack. So, Maryann and I've been battling it out ever since and she's no worry to me anymore.

    Scafidi: Do you remember anything about the Bonus Army coming through Wilmington?

    Rowe: No, I didn't know they hit Wilmington.

    Scafidi: I understood they had come through and got treated pretty rough.
  • Toy's Tavern; recreation; medicine; funerals and death customs
    Keywords: Bars (Drinking establishments); burial practices; funerals; Hagee's Tavern; Irish wakes; Jeff Blakeley's Saloon; Jeff Blakely; medicine; Pat Dougherty; Tommy Lawless; Toy's Tavern; wakes
    Transcript: Pizor: Going back a little bit. Where was the Toy's Tavern in relationship to you when you lived on the Brandywine?

    Rowe: I lived at the bottom of the hill there and Toy's Tavern is still standing today. It's the first house you come to after you pass Hagee's.

    Scafidi: That big white house?

    Rowe: On the left. Down below on the left, down below was the saloon. Do you want me to show you that picture again?

    Pizor: I think I know what you are referring to.

    Scafidi: I think I know. It just doesn't look like a tavern now.

    Rowe: Oh no.

    Scafidi: Were you in any saloons at the time...could you tell us what a saloon was like? What was on the floor? Whether they had sawdust and spittoons?

    Pizor: Like what you see in a Western now? One big long counter?

    Rowe: Yeah, it was. A big long bar. I'm trying to think if there were tables back there. I don't know whether they had tables or not. I don't remember that. They must have, but I can't swear to that. But they did have the long bar. We used to sell whiskey bottles. We'd see a guy laying there drunk and we'd see his empty whiskey bottle there beside him and we'd pick it up and wash it. You had to wash them. They wouldn't take them - they were particular those guys. And we sold the round flasks to Pat Daugherty; that's where the Toy's Tavern is or was and we'd sell the square bottles to Jeff Blakeley. He had a saloon up on Rising Sun Lane - that building is still standing. In fact, my brother Dick owns that place. Where Blakeley's Saloon was.

    Pizor: Where is that?

    Rowe: It is right as you are going up Rising Sun Lane, you know, you go up the hill and the station is up on the top there. The house is standing. It's the very next one. 2020 is the number.

    Pizor: The station was just ripped down, wasn't it?

    Rowe: Yeah, that's right.

    Pizor: So, it's the next one from that?

    Rowe: Yeah, it's the next one from that. Did they tear that house down? The Station house?

    Pizor: I think they tore everything down.

    Rowe: Did they? There used to be a statue out in the yard. A statue of the Madonna.

    Pizor: I didn't see that.

    Rowe: Well, that's where it is. In fact, it would be the first building coming down the bill after you pass that frame building. You go down past the big stone wall With the iron bars in it. Well, it would be the first house to your left after you pass that. That was the saloon.

    Scafidi: Was Tommy Lawless's place still going at that time?

    Rowe: Oh, yeah.

    Scafidi: Did it have anything special about it? I understand it had a cast iron bar.

    Rowe: I don't know about that.

    Scafidi: Some people have told me about that.

    Rowe: We went by that place every day going to and from school. I don't remember the bar. I don't think I was ever in Tommy Lawless's. A lot of people were.

    Pizor: Did a lot of kids go there to pick up their fathers sometimes?

    Rowe: I don't remember any. I remember one time meeting my father and he had one too many; maybe two too many. I don't know. It was down the Creek - but Pop was one of these good-natured guys, you know, if he got 'half-lit' he'd give you the world. So, he wanted to buy us something and I said, 'No, Pop, you'd better come on home.' 'Oh, come on. I'll buy you some ice cream.' I said, 'No, let's go home.' Mom could always handle him. I remember the night they had their 25th wedding anniversary. My two brothers were pretty well grown-up then, you know what I mean, about 21 or 22 or 23. And of course they had a surprise party and all the women were there, you know, friends of my mother's and my father. My brothers got him out in the yard and they had a bottle and they got him looped. I remember Pop went to bed on his 25th wedding anniversary about 9:00 p.m. I can see his suspenders hanging down now, going up those steps. We had those curving steps, you know, in those old houses. Mom just saw that he got up the stairs OK. Pop said, 'Goodnight everybody. I had a royal time. A royal time.'

    Scafidi: Did you ever hear anything about wakes?

    Rowe: Wakes. Oh man, that was a national pastime here on the Brandywine.

    Scafidi: Everybody go? Not just Irish, but anybody.

    Rowe: Anybody. Oh sure. We used to hit them all...we kids never missed a wake. I mean it was like going to a sideshow or something. You'd go in and look at a person stretched out there and look at the flowers, you know, and there was a certain smell about a wake. But the people would all go and they used to, they tell me, Mom told me this, that they used to have professional criers, mourners that would go to the graves and she said they'd carry on something terrible. And I think in the Irish wakes, in certain parts of Ireland, they would do this. I remember one time Mom saw one of these demonstrations and said, 'Those poor people, isn't it terrible'. 'Oh, don't pay any attention to them,' her aunt or somebody replied, 'They are paid to do that.' They had a name for them. Keeners, or some darn name. They'd wail their ears off. Just like the old time songs. They'd gather around the piano and start playing a song and the sadder it was the better they liked it. They'd be crying and oh my.

    Scafidi: Did they refer to burying somebody as 'ditching' him?

    Rowe: No! 'Planting' him. I remember up to St. Joseph's one time I was watching a fellow dig a grave and the fellow was an African. He was digging a grave up there and I remember the name was McCloskey. And he was digging and of course they buried them in wood boxes in those days and they disintegrated; the only thing that would be left would be the nameplate and the nails. I remember the nameplate came up first and McCloskey was the name and I read it out loud and I read the things off as he threw them out of the grave and he finally came to a bone and I said, 'That's part of the man's leg,' as he threw it out. This is the God's fact. Finally he dug down until he got the skull and I said, 'That's the man's head.' And that guy...I'm not kidding you. He dropped that shovel and got out of that grave and he wouldn't get back in it again. He went over to Father Scott and he said, 'I'm not going to dig another inch.' The sexton had to come over and finish that grave. There was another time down in the newer cemetery there was a guy digging a grave and he hit rock. He wanted to blast it, you know. That darn fool; he put the dynamite in the rock and lit the fuse and he couldn't get out of the hole. Well, for a minute I could see that guy claw the earth, then he slid back. Finally he got himself out, I don't know how. But when he got out- BOOM - and I could see him wiping his knees off. Oh my!

    Campbell: He should have had a longer fuse.

    Rowe: Yeah. Or a ladder or something. Lighting a thing like that.

    Scafidi: In general, when elderly people were obviously ill, did they tend to go to Wilmington General or did they just stay at home?

    Rowe: I think most people just stayed at home. In fact, I remember that hospitals were a place where people went to die, actually thought, it seems like that was the last resort. I guess when you sent a person to the hospital that was the end of them. I might be using my own imagination there.

    Pizor: I remember my grandfather was scared to death of hospitals. Was this the general idea?

    Rowe: Yes, absolutely. The older folks they just didn't tolerate them.

    Scafidi: My grandparents were too. Even when they had their last illnesses they wouldn't go to the hospital.

    Rowe: No.

    Scafidi: Because that would be admitting they were going to die.

    Rowe: Yeah. I think if we had taken my mother to the hospital she would have lived. She had pneumonia and I'll never forget that; even at that time I thought this is suicide. They had the windows open and it was in November and it was bitter cold and that room was bitter cold. I mean if you didn't have pneumonia you'd get it laying in a room like that, you know. And that's what my mother died with, right in that bedroom and it was brutal. Why the doctor ever allowed that I'll never tell you.

    Scafidi: Was fresh air good for pneumonia even at that time of year?

    Rowe: Fresh air was good for it, but I'm sure that as cold as that room was she must of had double-double pneumonia. Everyone thought they were doing the right thing.

    Rowe: Yeah, she was a big heavy woman and I guess when you get a lung disease like that, a respiratory disease, it is pretty hard on a stout person.

    Scafidi: I was going to ask, how much contact did you have down there along the creek with the people in the Upper Banks? Were you different gangs or did your parents know each other?

    Rowe: They knew each other, yeah, they did socially, but we didn't run around with the kids up there, naturally it was too far away. We had our own gang down the creek. The people out there always got together at the affairs. Like in the summertime, on the fourth of July, they had a big picnic up there in back of where Hallock du Pont lives now and that was a big affair. The fourth of July. Man, you went up there and they had everything, you know, candy, ice cream, they built a dancing platform, Green and Flynn (now Shields Lumber Co.) furnished the lumber, the carpenters would build the dancing platform and we had a higher one for the band to sit up in, you know, and they'd dance. It seemed funny to see your parents out there dancing, you know, because they were always so sedate otherwise, you know what I mean, and then when you see them out there hopping around...it was a sight.
  • Fourth of July fireworks displays; celebrating Christmas; trolleys and buses on the Brandywine
    Keywords: balsam fir trees; buses; celebrations; Christmas; Christmas trees; fireworks; Fourth of July; Peoples Railway Company (Wilmington, Del.); Santa Claus; Street-railroads; trackless trolleys; trolleys
    Transcript: Pizor: How was the 4th of July celebration as far as fireworks?

    Rowe: Oh, well, we had 'em. We had all kinds. I don't know why the devil they took fireworks away from kids and gave adults automobiles. I don't remember anybody ever getting killed with a firecracker.

    Pizor: Did Alfred I. have big fireworks?

    Rowe: I need he did. He had a display. And I'll tell you now, maybe when you're young...like when you see a moving picture and you think it is so great and then you see it ten years later and it doesn't look as good. But, I'll swear that I think he had the prettiest fireworks I ever saw in my life. In fact, compared to what they have now on the ground he didn't have them like the display the Lions Club have, you know, they are really pretty things. But actually, I like the ones that go way up, but he had all kinds. I think his could top today's aerial display.

    Pizor: Where did you stand to watch these?

    Rowe: Well, we would go out New Bridge Road to alongside his estate. In fact there was a fence along there, it's not there now, it was along where the golf course is now, a big stone fence and we used to sit there and watch them go up.

    Campbell: Did people come from all over?

    Rowe: From all over the Brandywine. I guess they came as long as they could walk. There weren't many cars. But that was a night affair, after the picnic, you know.

    Scafidi: What was the picnic like? When did it start? What went on during the day? And where was it?

    Rowe: It was up in the woods where you go into Hallock du Pont's place, half way up Barley Mill Lane. Well, right in there they called it Kee's Hill.

    Pizor: Kee's?

    Scafidi: Daddy Kee's?

    Rowe: Kee's Hill, yeah, that's what it was. And it was right in there just a short distance. You went in and past the shavings pile. They used to take the shavings from the box shop, you know, down at the plant and dump them up there in that woods and right beyond that shavings pile and up a little hill, there was sort of an open place there and that's where they had the picnic. They had everything there. Everything you would want to buy to eat. People wouldn't pack their own lunch, I don't think. Pop used to say, 'Mom, save up for that picnic.' The Fourth of July picnic. You take a tribe of kids of there and it wouldn't take long to go through a couple of dollars. And then they had, like you throw a baseball and try and hit a guy on the head. They had chances; you'd take chances on this and chances on that. And they had novelty tables.

    Pizor: About how many people went to this, do you know?

    Rowe: Oh, there was a mob. Everybody on the Brandywine went.

    Pizor: Two hundred?

    Rowe: A couple of hundred at least. Yeah.

    Scafidi: Did any of the du Ponts go? Or did they stay away?

    Rowe: I don't remember ever seeing any of them there. They might have been there. Of course, you'd go and stay a certain time. You know, you'd go and then somebody else would come, but I don't think the du Ponts ever came. It was more or less of a community affair. It was actually run by St. Joseph's.

    Scafidi: When did the dancing start? Before it got dark or...?

    Rowe: Oh yeah, it was during the day. When it got dark the thing broke up. We had to go watch the fireworks.

    Scafidi: Who was the band?

    Rowe: I don't remember that. I guess probably a local organization, you know. There was a lot of bands around in those days. I had a band.

    Pizor : What did you do at Christmas?

    Rowe: Oh, Christmas was...I'm telling you, my father was old Chris all over again. Yeah, we always had a nice big Christmas. I think Pop would have hocked his suspenders to make Christmas nice for us.

    Scafidi: Were most of the presents bought or were they made?

    Rowe: No, they were bought. I used to get a nice present from my godfather. He always got something novel. And I remember...gee, I wish I had that thing today...it would probably bring a fortune. It was an airplane and it actually flew. And I was only a little kid. I was too small and I couldn't wind it up. It had a spring wind and it had propellers on it and I kind of forget what the plane looked like; it was white or cream color. And there was like, I guess you'd call it a tripod in the center and there was a long cross piece and the plane was on one end of this and there was a big lead ball on the other as a counter balance and you'd just wind that plane up and put the center of the cross piece on the tripod. And that's the way the thing would fly around.

    Pizor: Did you chop down your own Christmas tree? Or did you buy it?

    Rowe: No, we bought it.

    Campbell: Were the ornaments on it homemade?

    Rowe: No.

    Scafidi: What kind of a tree was it? Hemlock or pine or...?

    Rowe: No. It was a balsam fir. In fact, I still get them today. I've had a Christmas tree since 1928.

    Scafidi: When did the tree go up?

    Rowe: Christmas Eve. We saw the tree go up, but no trimmings. Old Chris did that; that's what we called Santa Claus. I don't know how in the world they ever did it. They got us kids in bed, you know, and then after we got in bed they would start trimming the tree and bring the presents in and all that. We all knew the next morning what belonged to each of us. I remember one time I got up and said, 'Oh, look, there's mine.' And I remember Mom Saying to Pop, 'How do they know which ones are theirs, I wonder?' And I thought to myself, I wonder how they know. That was doubt creeping into your mind. At Christmas time, I think I was almost old enough to get married before I quit believing in Santa Claus. We had one of those miracles happen at the house. Dick and I were fooling around upstairs and we saw this suit box under the bed. It looked like it was hidden kind of. And we pulled this box out and it was full of nuts. Chock full of nuts. You know, walnuts, Brazil nuts, and all and I said, 'Gosh, look at this. I wonder where this thing came from.' ZOOM, downstairs. 'Mbm, you ought to see what's under the bed.' She said, 'What?' And Anna was standing there, she was my older sister. Of course, I didn't notice her disappearing. So, Mom was stalling and she said, 'What are you talking about?' 'Gee whiz, there's a box of nuts up under your bed.' So, she said, 'There is not. You're kidding.' You know, and all that and finally when she figured Anna had had time to get up there, we went up and she said, 'Now, where's the box.' We pulled this box out and it was empty and there was a note in it which said, 'If you don't quit snooping, I won't come to see you at Christmas time.' They really put it on good.

    Campbell: To change the subject completely. You mentioned trolleys some time earlier. I wonder when buses started here in Wilmington or started coming out to the Brandywine.

    Rowe: The buses started pretty late.

    Campbell: Like in about the 30's?

    Rowe: No! There's a book out now, in fact I saw it down at Bobby Devenney's before he died. Somebody sent him a book and it showed the Delaware Avenue trolley cars that they had just bought, the Number 10 cars, and that was in the 30's I'm sure. Yeah. It had to be in the 30's. Because I can remember when they put them on. And then after that the trackless trolleys...I'm talking about the Delaware Avenue line; I forget when the Peoples line went out. That's the line that ran up into the Powder Yards, through Squirrel Run next to the Powder Yards. That was the Peoples Railway. But it was pretty late that they had the trackless trolleys on. Oh, I guess it must have been in the 40's before they put buses on.

    Pizor: I can remember when I was a kid they had trackless trolleys.

    Scafidi: Trackless trolleys were brand new when I remember them in about '46 or '47.

    Campbell: It seems like I was born yesterday.

    Scafidi: Yeah, what's the matter with you. You never even had a bottle of Moxie.

    Rowe: Yeah. But those old trolley cars, I remember them. That was quite a thing. That used to be my ambition - to be a motorman. When I was just a little kid I used to play trolley car on the back porch. I played I had the controls there. I'd hang newspapers up on the side of the porch because they had summer cars and they'd pull these curtains down when it rained. Boy, they were a thrill those summer cars. That was the Peoples Railway. And I can remember one fellow there that had two accidents. He killed two men on the Peoples Railway. The fellows had been drinking - they weren't from around the Brandywine - but they got down there down in the woods and laid on the tracks after dark. Springer was his name and he ran over two of them.

    Scafidi: Did the kids play any tricks on the motormen?

    Rowe: Well, yeah. Back in those days there was a, it was quite a thing to sneak back in the weeds and pull the guy's trolley pole off. That would stop him and then you'd run.

    Scafidi: Did you ever try to put a penny on the rails?

    Rowe: Oh yeah, I did that. Most times they were pins because a penny might get flattened out and then wouldn't be worth anything. We used to get plain pins like dressmakers use and cross them and then the trolley would run over them and flatten them out like a pair of scissors. I remember that as a kid. Then we used to listen for the trolley to see how far away it was by putting your ear to the telegraph pole. You could hear them for a long way off. The vibration of it.
  • Using public transportation to get to Philadelphia and other day trips; sibling rivalry with younger brother, Richard
    Keywords: Amusement parks; Bicycles; Brandywine Springs Park; Philadelphia Zoo; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Richard F. Rowe; Squirrel Run
    Transcript: Pizor - Did you ever go to Philadelphia, either with your father or by yourself when you were a young man?

    Rowe: Well, not 'til I got working. My father took me to Philadelphia, yeah. We went up to the Zoo. We went up on the Wilson Line boats. You used to make a round trip for a quarter back in those days. It was very reasonable and I've gone up with him.

    Pizor: Was that a big trip for you?

    Rowe: Oh, definitely. Yeah. He used to take us over to Brandywine Springs Park. That was quite a thing. That was a nice park. Brandywine Springs.

    Pizor: Did your mother go?

    Rowe: She did sometimes. Yeah. Well, she did most times, but the trip was for the kids, you know what I mean. We went over there and we got popcorn and rides on the scenic railway, we called it, and they had a locomotive over there. A tiny locomotive that pulled cars around; we used to ride on that. Gee, that was something. And they had an artificial lake and we'd take a ride in a boat. There was a guy with an awning-covered boat and he had a bicycle thing on the back to pedal that back wheel which was made into a paddle wheel.

    Scafidi: Well, do you people have anything else to ask? Can you remember anything else, Mr. Rowe?

    Pizor: I think we've about covered it.

    Rowe: I can't remember what I said last time.

    Pizor: I think we've covered just about everything.

    Rowe: Oh, that's good. The old Brandywine there it is. I'm telling you that was the place. of course, I guess every place is nice when you look back on it as a kid. I think we had a little more there than most kids have. Even though we weren't millionaires, we sure had a dandy time. In fact, I found my wife there.

    Pizor: You know there was something I forgot to ask you about the rooms. You said you had about six bedrooms. Did you have your own bedroom? Or did you share it with one of your brothers?

    Rowe: I shared it with one of my brothers. Dick slept there.

    Scafidi: Same bed?

    Rowe: No. We had separate beds. I slept on a cot, I remember, and I don't know what Dick had.

    Scafidi: Just one other thing. Did you ever have a craving for privacy when you were young? A box or a chest that you kept your special things in or did you never worry about your brothers finding out...?

    Rowe: I never had anything like that because I knew doggone well that anything Dick wanted he'd get. Even when he was older he was that way. He went to Richmond one time and I had a brand new hat and he took that hat with him. Son-of-a-gun. Then he got tight down there and he fell in some kind of a fountain and got the hat all wet. My cousin tried to make it look like a new hat again and she took a flat iron and went around the brim. Boy, that fixed it good. In fact, when we were young and growing up, I guess I was about 17, 16 maybe, Dick would be 13; well, Dick had a bicycle, he was younger than me but he had a bicycle before me. He wouldn't let me touch that doggone thing, so there was a fellow up in Squirrel Run, Happy was his name. I'll tell you a story about Happy after this. Bo-Peep was Happy's friend and Bo-Peep had this bicycle and he had it for sale right cheap. I bought Bo-Peep's bicycle. So what happened when I got the bike home; my bike was better than Dick's even though he paid more money for his. I think mine was nineteen dollars. So, Dick takes my bicycle and rides it and leaves his back and I remember one day he come down the hill and he was on my bicycle, coming down Rising Sun Lane and he says, 'Hello, Aloysius,' kid-like, you know. And I ran and grabbed the handlebars and he went sprawling. Boy, it's a wonder it didn't kill him.

    Pizor: Where did you get the nineteen dollars to buy the bicycle?

    Rowe: From my mother. Ha, Mom. Mom was the banker and everything else in the family. But, to tell about Bo-Peep and Happy. Johnny Conley, he's dead now, he was the same age as me, and we went to school together. In fact, we worked together on the railroad. We were going to early Mass one Easter morning and Happy and Bo-Peep, they were two Italian fellows and they were cards - up the creek you didn't get your own name. Well, they were coming down Breck's Lane racing and you know what the bottom of Breck's Lane is like; it has that stone wall at the bottom. Well, Bo-Peep had the bicycle that I bought, he had a coaster brake on it. But Happy didn't. He had one of those things that didn't have any brakes. Well, they got down to about where the railroad bridge was and Bo-Peep put on his brakes and made a nice curve around the corner and Happy went smack into the wall. When he hit that wall he must have went about eight feet up in the air and down in the race. The race was dry, you know and I thought he must have killed himself. In about two minutes Happy comes up laughing and picking stickers off. Well, we laughed at that. I'm telling you, we went to church but I didn't hear Mass that day. All I could think about was Happy's coattails waving going over the wall.

    Pizor: You say everybody had a nickname. Your nickname was 'Dunk'?

    Rowe: 'Dunk'', yeah.

    Pizor: How did you get the nickname 'Dunk'?

    Rowe: Well, when we were kids in school we used to play horse. You'd put a rope around your neck and your arms, you know, and a guy would drive you and that's all we'd do, just run around, you were a horse, you know. And then we'd go down to the 'barn' as we called it. They had a shed there where the people hitched their horses when they came to Mass on Sundays A shed to protect the horses. Well, we called that the barn. We used to have a lot of fun in that barn at noontime and when school was out. Well, we'd go down there and there were blacksmiths (kids) down there and you'd stand with your hand up against the side and put your foot up and the horseshoe man, he was the blacksmith and he'd turn around and you'd have two sticks and your foot would be up like that and he would be hammering your foot putting new shoes on you. Well, of course the 'horse' would kick. Well, I had a pretty good kick and I could generally knock the blacksmith down. So, he says, 'That guy kicks like a donkey.' So that's how I got my name 'Donkey'‚ . The older boys used to like to race with a whip. You'd have a whip and if you catch them you'd give them a whack across the butt with it and they'd call me, 'Donkey'.
  • Home remedies; superstitions; wedding traditions; fire companies
    Keywords: fire companies; Forty Acres, Wilmington, Delaware; home remedies; honeymoons; Polar Star; Rising Sun Lane, Wilmington, Delaware; sickness; superstitions; wedding traditions; weddings
    Transcript: Scafidi: Tell me, did anybody have any favorite cures for colds, fever, chills, or anything like that? Down on the creek was there any accepted thing for maladies or would you just call the doctor?

    Rowe: Well, I guess anything serious they would call the doctor, but I remember when we had colds Mom used to give us a cough medicine called 'Polar Star'. I remember that was a good tasting medicine. It came in a blue box and it had a red star on the black background.

    Scafidi: Did anybody walk around with something hung around their necks?

    Rowe: A bag of onions or something like that? No, I've heard of those things, but no, I never saw any.

    Pizor: Were people very superstitious?

    Rowe: To a good extent they were. Now, my mother was a person who wasn't afraid of the devil himself. Believe me she wasn't. She knew an answer for everything. But there was one superstition, what the devil was it she had - I am trying to connect it with the wart. You get a wart on your hand and you take a piece of an old dish cloth, rub it on the wart and toss it over your left shoulder and then when the dish cloth rotted your wart was gone.

    Scafidi: Were there any witches on the creek?

    Rowe: No.

    Scafidi: No little old women who knew everything?

    Rowe: No. There were some odd people, you know what I mean.

    Scafidi: Among the Protestants were there any revivals?

    Rowe: Yeah, they'd have ones that come in they called the 'Holy Rollers'. I don't know. I think they held outside meetings, like prayer meetings. But I was never around one.

    Campbell: How about the Baptists and the Methodists. Did they ever have any?

    Rowe: No, I don't recall any. They just went to church on Sunday.

    Scafidi: You don't remember any waves of people getting excited and overcome?

    Rowe: No, I think that was always attributed to the colored people. The 'Holy Rollers' were more that way. You know, getting excited.

    Scafidi: Did they come around every year? Or were they here all the time?

    Rowe: No, they made periodic appearances, I think.

    Pizor: When somebody got married, say you got married or some of your friends, would a lot of people come to the church?

    Rowe: Yeah, they used to come. Yeah, our church was full the day we got married. Protestants and all.

    Pizor: Did you feed them all?

    Rowe: Well, yeah, we had a reception. I only sent out one invitation to our wedding and that was to my cousin in Richmond, Virginia. All the rest were, 'Come on over' and we had a big feed.

    Pizor: Did people go on honeymoons?

    Rowe: Oh yeah. Well, I did. I was working for the railroad and I got a free pass to Niagara Falls.

    Pizor: What about most of the guys on the creek. Did they just go in town or did they go to Philadelphia?

    Rowe: No, they'd go away as far as I know. of course we were more modern, you know, it was in the 1920's.

    Scafidi: Do you know whether your parents went on a honeymoon?

    Rowe: I don't think they did. I think they got married and went back to work. I remember them saying when they got married, my father and mother, they moved right into their house. They had a house on Rising Sun Lane. Then they moved from there down to this place. And then started having the pitter-patter of tiny feet around the house. Oh gosh, poor Mom. You know, though, it was a happy family and all sitting around the table.

    Pizor: Was there a fire company around here?

    Rowe: I never heard of a fire company. I don't know how they worked that. I remember when Gregg's store burned down. I can just barely. remember that. There was a fire engine there but where it came from I don't know. It must have been down around the Forty Acres, because I don't think Talleyville had one then.

    Scafidi: Well, I guess we've really exhausted everything. We really thank you very much for going through this all over again.

    Rowe: You're certainly welcome.

    [To be appended to interview of Aloysius Rowe]: [Notation that accompanied the presentation of a watch from William Rowe (Eng 1897), a DuPont Company powderman for fifty years, to his son William Rowe: This watch was made in- Ireland It became the property of my Father, Dennis Rowe, a Commissioned Sergeant of the Revenue Police, in Ireland, over 60 years ago (about 1835):. After 40 years it fell to me, his elder son William, who now in my 72nd year, transmits it to my son William, to be preserved as a curio or relic, in the Rowe family Brandywine, Delaware William Rowe, May 19, 1896]