Interview with Margaret Headley, 1984 February 22 [audio](part 2)

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  • Memories of the du Pont family; leaving work at DuPont; aunt's old age and health problems; furniture from the home at Wagoner''s Row; telephones and radios; household chores; selling her aunt and uncle's home on Woodlawn Avenue, Wilmington, Delaware
    Keywords: Amos and Andy; Atwater Kent radio; Brandywine Springs Nursing Home; canning; cooking; Delaware State Hospital; du Pont family; explosions at Hagley Yard; furniture; indoor plumbing; real estate; sewing; telephones; Wagoner's Row; Woodlawn Avenue, Wilmington, Delaware
    Transcript: Headley: ...they certainly did. I will never forget being told over and over again how kind Mrs. du Pont was. She came to the house when my half sister's daddy was blown to pieces, Mrs. du Pont came and personally supervised the funeral arrangements and made sure that there was ample clothing, mourning clothing was provided and a layette for the baby that was on the way. And I've been told many, many stories of all the different explosions that happened, how kind the du Ponts were, how considerate they were and the many personal visits, baskets of food, and I can guarantee that they were kind and considerate of their employees.

    Wagner: Did they extend financial benefits to the widows?

    Headley: I don't know, I don't absolutely, I cannot tell you, I was only a child. I don't remember, I'm sure they must have, but they were kind. Unky never talked much about that, he was always satisfied with his working conditions, worked hard. I cannot honestly say.

    Wagner: There were never any unions organized?

    Headley: Never any trouble in all the years I worked up there. And you heard my husband say he had 38 years there. I had 23 when I quit.

    Wagner: You took early retirement?

    Headley: I didn't get any retirement. I decided I had had enough, we had moved to this house, it was getting too much working and keeping house too, and my husband said, "When are you going to quit work?" And I walked in the front office and quit, and three months later I would have gotten a pension. All the new rules and regulations went into effect in May, I left the first of February and not one person ever told me, all of the bosses, supervisors, everybody just let me leave knowing that in three months time I would have gotten a pension. I had 23 years and I worked hard up there, so times have changed It was just one of those things, I was happy to be able to stay home and keep house, I took care of my aunt When Unky died in '52, and Aunty kept her own home out on Woodlawn Avenue, and we looked after her and took care of the house and the grass and everything until she had a stroke here at my kitchen table and I know you're not interested in all this - she attacked me with a butcher knife and went completely out of her mind and she was in the State Hospital for a while and I sold her house, furniture, everything. Then, with medicine, I was able to get her in Brandywine Springs Nursing Home, fourteen years and I hardly ever missed a day going, that's when I learned to drive, I had never driven a car in my life. When she went in the State Hospital, I went out and got a man to teach me to drive the car.

    Wagner: I think that's courageous, I really do.

    Headley: The first place I went straight to the Delaware State Hospital, parked my car out in front. Aunty said, "How did you get here today?" I said, "I drove myself, I have my license." And she was enough alert that day to realize what I was trying to tell her.

    Wagner: Did you bring any family artifacts out of the old house, you have the powder keg and you have the chairs...

    Headley: And one little table upstairs and these two rocking chairs, this is the rocking, and the other Windsor chair is out in the hallway, it's a straight chair, I saved them. These were Aunty's when she went to housekeeping was in 1910 when she got married and furnished her first house, only house.

    Wagner: Beautiful.

    Headley: I kept them. Tell me about Miss Morton again - Miss Morton drove the... ...was our neighbor on Woodlawn Avenue and she became one of the first librarians around Wilmington and drove the first bookmobile in Wilmington. And I knew some of the nurses in those pictures they Showed. So we can use you as a reference for identification. ...by the bath oh, that's a funny one, talking about canning, I'll never forget the day that Grandpop Godfrey had me paring peaches, whole basket of peaches, and Aunty wasn't there to do them, so they all turned brown, Aunty was pretty mad at Grandpop and Margaret when she came home. I can remember that day so well (laughs). Grandpop thought he was being a big help.

    Wagner: It doesn't take long for peaches to turn brown.

    Headley: Oh, talking about cooking, I remember the day that I was going to make a cake, just a little kid, beat up everything, got everything all made, put the butter in the pans, and then couldn't turn on the oven. I wasn't allowed to light matches, and I had no idea how to light the gas stove, so there sat the batter in the pans. You can imagine what a fiasco that was.

    Wagner: I was going to ask you about telephones you had telephones?

    Headley: No, we didn't my next door neighbor had a phone and when I was applying for jobs, ready to graduate from high school, Mrs. Chandler was very kind in letting me give her phone number to all these companies where I was applying for a job. So I received my phone call for my first job on her telephone. As soon as I went to work at DuPont's, I put a telephone in. And I bought the first radio we had, little Atwater Kent shaped, you know, like a church window.

    Wagner: Like a cathedral.

    Headley: And Unky was so thrilled, he loved - oh, some of the old shows...

    Wagner: Amos and Andy.

    Headley: Amos and Andy.

    Wagner: H. B. Kaltenborn.

    Headley: Yes, oh he was so thrilled when I bought it.

    Wagner: Let's see, clothespins - you hung clothes out, right, you still hung clothes out, didn't you.

    Headley: Yes.

    Wagner: Push on or clip?

    Headley:No, push, and lots of them hand made. Uncle would whittle them out of scraps of lumber.

    Wagner: Washboards?

    Headley: Uh-huh, lot of clothes washed on the old fashioned washboard, and a big, round tub on a bench. Specially made, so high, wooden bench.

    Wagner: Out back? Now you said you took lunch out on the trolley, you had a bucket, right. You didn't take it in a brown paper...

    Headley: Basket oh yeah, with linen napkins. No wax paper...

    Wagner: No plastic things?

    Headley: No, no thermos bottles.

    Wagner: And when you sewed clothes, what kind of a sewing machine?

    Headley: Old foot treadle oh, Grandpop was with me the day I sewed my finger. Oh, this is silly. I was making gloves for my Teddy Bear.

    Wagner: Gloves?

    Headley: Grandpop was sitting there in the chair watching me and he says, "Margaret, Lucy doesn't allow you near that sewing machine." "Oh, but I have to make gloves for my Teddy Bear." Aunty was in the kitchen cooking supper, so Margaret found out the hard way how to make gloves for her Teddy Bear, sewed right through my finger, and there's the crack still in the fingernail. See that crack right through the middle of the nail?

    Wagner: You can feel that, right.

    Headley: It's never grown out, they had to back the sewing machine out of my hand. It was the old foot pedal.

    Wagner: That you pump. No television, you had a stereoptican?

    Headley: No, no, no automobile, Aunty and Uncle never owned a car. Neighbors used to come and take us to Longwood Gardens and places in their cars, but Unky never owned a car.

    Wagner: And you didn't learn to drive til late?

    Headley: Until I was fifty, and I'm 68 now.

    Wagner: You're not saying it right, you're only 68.

    Headley: Only 68 - my husband is 72.

    Wagner: You did have inside plumbing, you didn't have to...

    Headley: Yes, no we had inside plumbing not up at Wagoner's Row.

    Wagner: You had an outhouse?

    Headley: They had an Outhouse at Grandpop's. But Aunty Uncle - they built the house when they got married on Woodlawn Avenue, bought a double lot and built a double house and sold the one on the end, and they took the second one. And that's where we were married in their living room. And you know what, just to mention something, when I sold the house, it went for $11,000, that was about 1955. Two weeks ago that house went for $74,000. I saw that in the property transfer and I darn near flipped. I said how is it possible, a little two-story brick house, just a little yard? I can't understand it.

    Wagner: That's the fashionable end of town.

    Headley: I found that out, because there were about three more houses sold about the same time and the prices over at 18th and Woodlawn, one on Pennsylvania Avenue and Delaware Avenue, fabulous prices. I said, "Golly, that end of town must be really stylish again. Golly day. And it was just a dirt road when Aunty and Uncle went there, street hadn't been paved.