Interview with Eugene Bruno, 1981 March 12 [audio](part 2)

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  • Story about helping someone learn how to talk; Giving to charitable causes; Selling arts and crafts
    Synopsis: Bruno finishes his story about helping a person under his management get speech therapy. He talks about giving money to charitable causes. Bruno talks about making and selling arts and crafts at local shops.
    Keywords: Arts and crafts; Charitable Causes; New Castle County (Del.); Speech Therapy; Thalidomide; Work
    Transcript: Bruno: It's rather expensive. More so than you thought. You've been working quite a while without pay. I said, "Well, I don't care." The county had thought it over, and being it was such a good thing with such great results, the county gonna foot the whole bill. They said it was real nice of you. I said, "Any time." So, in turn, I got elected to the executive board of the Union. Which travelled all around to these different places. They did this for their own purpose, too. We'd go to the Youth Opportunity Center and watched the crippled children. Then they took us to A.I. du Pont up here...behind the stone walls. And up there they had the summer camp for...what is it, Muscular Dystrophy? I saw these children out there at the summer camp. The president of the union who is still with the county, he knelt down and he talked to one of these children. It was a little fellow about four year old. What you call it...I guess you call it the thalidomide children. The ones without any hands.

    Tremaine: Yes. Their mothers took thalidomide.

    Bruno: He knelt down and he said, "How you doing sonny?” And the kid reached over hug him. This kid had no arms and all. It made this man feel so bad that he turned his head this way and looked at me, and tears were rolling out of his eyes, poor fellow. That got me. That's all he had to do. It got me. The lady in charge said, "You haven't seen a thing. Wait ‘ til recess and they come down here in the woods. They bring their little lunch bags with them.” They eat their lunch! She said, "You'll see something that will really tear your heart out." And our mission was to see what was going on...when we donate to the fund we can tell the people back in the county just what’ s happening. They come down this long path...we were at the woods waiting with this lady in charge. And here they come. This little girl, she was so crippled. Her legs was wobbly and all. She was carrying a little one, about three or four years old, on her shoulders...on her back. One of the men started toward her, and the lady said, "Don't touch her. She can handle it." She staggered down that path with that child all the way to the table. And both of them with the biggest smiles on their faces.

    Tremaine: Well, she was helping someone.

    Bruno: Children that are afflicted with something like that are always smiling. Always like they're happy. We're the ones that should be, well we don't. But that year, I went back and the personnel manager asked me what I thought. I said, "Well Mr. Thorpe, I think you should get our county buses that we have available to us and each day take a certain group of men out to this place. And when it comes the time for United Fund, you'll see the difference” He said, "Well, we'll see.” In fact he did do it. Not too many, cause the county has a lot of employees. But he took all the wheels from the Departments. The big wheels. Took them out there. And when they came back, they came to us and said, "Oh Lord. We never thought a thing like this existed." You don't see these things. But that year the county went over the top. Greatest amount of money in the history of the county. Everybody donated when they saw the film, the movies they sent us. There wasn't no tricks to it. They saw these children.

    Tremaine: That's a wonderful place.

    Bruno: That's what I...All my life I've been sort of "chicken" toward that kind of stuff, but I can't help it. That's the way I am. Could be a bum come through that door, but if he's sick, I'll do something for him to try to help him. But by the same token, I'll try to straighten him out before he gets out of here. Put him in the bathtub in there. But this is the way it is. It's always been in the family. Right up here is this poor old fellow that in the wintertime he has nothing. Especially at Christmas. Shaking like this- He's half drunk all the time. I don't crucify a man because he's a drunk. Maybe for some reason or other he's sick. Maybe he's trying to drown his sorrows.

    Tremaine: Yes.

    Bruno: I'd like to get a hold of that poor old fellow and give him a good Christmas dinner sometime. But you can't get involved too much with these guys on the street. You don't know who they are. But uh, it's been in the family.

    Tremaine: It's a wonderful thing. So many families today don't have that.

    Bruno: Right, right. I'm ready to help people, but by the same token I don't like to be crossed.

    Voice: This is off the subject, but did you by any chance see that movie The Acorn Children?

    Tremaine: No, I was out.

    (Voice describes a child with no arms or legs who rolls himself up a hill in the movie.)

    Tremaine: I'm taking CPR, and that was supposed to be our test night. As it turned out, we had an extra day so it wasn't our test night. But I missed it.

    Voice: I've seen a lot of children like that.

    Tremaine: If someone is disabled in any way, if they really want to, I think they can do. If they get the encouragement.

    (Voice describes The Acorn Children movie a little more.)

    Bruno: These are things we watch on television. I don't like this nonofficial stuff. I mean this junk that's not true. I like true stories. That's really happened to this one or that one.

    Tremaine: Please put your name here. Since your voice shows up, I have to account for another voice. I'm wondering...You're retired. If you have spare time and don't know what to do, Hagley is always looking for volunteers. They have gardens. They use volunteers in the gardens. They use them in the Library. They use them in the Museum. They're going to put a store in the Gibbons House.

    Bruno: A store in the Gibbons House!

    Tremaine: I think that’ s where they're putting the store for the schoolchildren.

    Bruno: It's awful small. I think there's one above the Gibbons House that's larger.

    Tremaine: Now, of course the school...they use that. I think they have three different programs for schoolchildren. You know where they actually sit at the desk and have the same lessons and go out and play the same games. But if you...

    Bruno: I do keep busy, I'll tell you. Across the way here, a man has a workshop in the back of his home. And he used to own the Brandywine Dinette Shop on Market Street. It had been there for many, many years. He reached the age 62 and he retired. That was a year ago he retired. He's doing a little work in there--upholstery. And I go over there once in a while. He says "You come over and help me. Of course I can't pay you what the unions...but I'll give you a couple dollars to keep you in gas money and things like that.”  All you do is strip the furniture or pull the staples out of the upholstery. Which is nothing. I sit down with a little...

    Tremaine: Is he the one who has the shop out on the road there?

    Bruno: If you're talking about the one up the road, No. He’ s the one that’ s one's across the street about the one up the road, I know him. Yes. This man’ s only doing a little bit on the side, 'cause see he can only earn so much. He's on social security. So I go over and help him. In the meantime, I have a hobby. Show her the...mushroom thing. (to voice.)

    Tremaine: Oh.

    Bruno: I make a bunch of napkin holders out of plastic wood.

    Tremaine: Isn't that lovely.

    Bruno: I molded the mushroom and painted it on there. But mostly owls I painted. But the owls...Truthfully, last Christmas I sold a lot of them.

    Tremaine: Through the Golden Eagle?

    Bruno: No. Just to people. People knew I had them. Women especially. The owls. The mushrooms wouldn't move, for some reason. So I kept one and gave one to my niece and to the family...close family. This is what I’ ve done to kill time. And I started working over there with him.

    Tremaine: The Golden Eagle Shop...there's one on the Mall and there's one by Brandywine Village...take things on consignment. I think it's 25% they keep. I have taken things in there. And, uh, it is a good place.

    Bruno: I have these down in the Elkton Mall. It's called The Blue Goose. Her, whatchacallit... her gift shop. Once in a while I'll get a check for $20 or $30. But she takes 25%.

    Tremaine: Yes. Well I'm not sure how much...

    Bruno: I've made hurricane lamps. Anything I get into, I make. I made a donkey. There's the hurricane lamp.

    Tremaine: You made all that?

    Voice: Can you tell what that's made of.

    Tremaine: Well, it must be a plate.

    Bruno: That's a plastic plate.

    Voice: This is a jar. Instant coffee or a mayonnaise jar. And this is one of those little plastic containers for margarine or whipped cream.

    Tremaine: Yes.

    Voice: This is a saucer. Upside down. This is the top of a Pringles can.

    Bruno: Pringles potato chips.

    Tremaine: This is just a bottle cap.

    Bruno: And this is, you know the spray cans?

    TremaineThis is the top of the spray can.

    Bruno: And of course it has that little thing in the center to hold the candle.

    Tremaine: Isn’ t that wonderful. Recycling.

    Bruno: So the only thing I had to pay for was the...thing...Was the chimney and the flowers.

    Voice: Flowers. A lot of flowers you find sometime in a garage sale. Bunches of those selling for 10¢ .

    Tremaine: And the recycling. You can also get plates at garages ales and flea markets.

    Bruno: I find it hard finding plastic plates, or the melmar...what do you call it?

    Tremaine: Melmac ?

    Bruno: Yes. I don't like the glass type, cause it's so heavy for one thing. I do use a hot glue gun and it doesn't adhere to plastic well.

    Tremaine: Then you spray paint them?

    Bruno: Yes. So if you do any of that volunteer work, you just go anytime?

    Tremaine: You can go one day a month, as long as they know. I stopped this year, but I was up on the third floor of the Museum when they had the patent model exhibit up there. Every other Wednesday in the afternoon. Just as long as they knew I was going to be there every other Wednesday. Now some people came just once a month.

    Bruno: I had a friend who worked up there, but he left and he moved downstate. He was a retired policeman. William Moore. I don't know if you know...

    Tremaine: I don't know. It is probable that these will not be transcribed. But the people who are putting that exhibit together...the game in particular...I will write down the number of the game. Then they'll go right to that number, hear about the game, see if they can find one that matches or make the balls..
  • Looking at a map of the communities along the Brandywine; Memories of other children in Squirrel Run; Halloween and Mischief Night; Stealing chickens and produce; Memories of working at Hodgson Bros. woolen mill
    Synopsis: Bruno talks about Squirrel Run. Tremaine shows him an 1850s era map of the area. Bruno compares locations on that map compared to his memories. He recalls some of his neighbors and tells a story about how another child attempted to cut his nails and placed him on top of a hot stove. He talks about the pranks he and his friends carried out on mischief night and Halloween. He talks about people stealing animals and vegetables. He recalls oiling and cleaning some of the water-powered machinery at Hodgson Bros. woolen mill.
    Keywords: Hagley Museum and Library; Halloween; Hodgson Bros. woolen mill; Mischief Night; Neighbors; pranks; Squirrel Run (Del.: Village); Stealing
    Transcript: Bruno: My brother, my younger brother, is retired from the DuPont Wilmington shops. He was a tool and die maker. He's great with tools and things of this nature, cause he worked with the company a good part of 35 years. He went off on disability. But he was talking one day and he said, "You know down at that Hagley Museum, I could go down there and work for them making molds for them people." What molds would he be referring to? Now he was in that building where the woolen mills were. He saw some things in there. Don't you people make wooden molds of different...how the factory ran and all that?

    Tremaine: Oh models.

    Bruno: Models maybe-he means.

    Tremaine: Yes they have. They have model making there in the Museum. Model making is a big business today.

    Bruno: Oh he does wonderful work that boy.

    Tremaine: Yes. All industry uses models even today, to have models... They're always looking for good model makers. Course you had

    Bruno: I think that's what he said.

    Tremaine: But there are so many things going on at the Hagley, I can't possibly know...each one that is going on. Now there's the Museum and that section, and the Library.

    Bruno: You know one big thing that confused me for a long while, and still I can't tell you exactly. Now I had a friend who worked with me at Winterthur when we were there years ago. He passed on a couple years now. Much older than I. He knew much more about the places. He says, “ You were born 98 Squirrel Run? I says, "Yeah, that's the address." In fact that's the address I had on my birth certificate I used for the Service, too. He said, "That was up where the...the people had the taproom up there." Up on Breck's Mill. Up toward Rising Sun Lane in that area. There's still some homes there.

    Tremaine: Yes.

    Bruno: You know where the bridge is that goes up over the Brandywine. This side of it. There's some homes, he said, "That's where...across from there...that's where Squirrel Run was." I said, "Oh no it wasn't. It was up in the woods."

    Tremaine: Here's Hagee's Tavern. Here's There's the Henry This one is a 1850 map, the Mills, up here. There's Lower Hagley. Sunday School. The yellow house...Wagner's Row. Clay Factory. It's all Henry Clay. Yes, and the Village. Here's Squirrel Run.....the stream.

    Bruno: See I can't...

    Tremaine: Yes. Course this is an 1850 map...a copy. So it must have been up in here someplace.

    Bruno: Yeah. That's Squirrel Run.

    Tremaine: See here's Christ Church. St. Joseph's.

    Bruno: Now the entrance up on Route 100 that goes to Christ Church right here...

    Tremaine: Yes. It doesn't show on this map. This is 100 out here.

    Bruno: Yeah. Right on the corner of Route 100 where the stone wall is. Carpenter's place goes back in there too...Well that's where that little thing like a stand was where we bought the things and then we used to walk down into Squirrel Run somewhere, where it was exactly.

    Tremaine: This is Pancake Run.

    Bruno: Boy they had some names, huh? Where's Chicken Alley?

    Tremaine: Chicken Alley is way up somewhere.

    Bruno: Mmm-Hmm. I've often heard about that....

    Tremaine: Well all different little developments had names. There it is.

    Bruno: Chicken Alley.

    Tremaine: That's over where du Pont lived. His father. Their homes.

    Bruno: Doesn't Laird live in one of the old du Pont homes. Mmm-Hmmm

    Tremaine: Chick Laird.

    Bruno: I think he does. He owns some of those homes.

    Tremaine: After the Company left, he owned them and rented them out.

    Bruno: I'm not certain myself. See I wish I knew for sure. I don't know if I lived on this side where the little store was, but this here friend and I wrote the name...he will know.

    Tremaine: don't know---this way, whichever way...

    Bruno: Oh yes.

    Voice: Do you want him just to sign the name?

    Bruno: Just write it in?

    Tremaine: Yes. And the signing part is dated.

    Bruno: Today's the 12th isn't it?

    Tremaine: Yes. Tomorrow's Friday the 13th. My husband's birthday.

    Bruno: Your name rings a bell.

    Tremaine: There was another Tremaine in town. He retired and moved to Maryland. Breckenridge Tremaine.

    Bruno: I heard that name before.

    Tremaine: And there's a singer, Les Tremaine. And I don't know...Johny Tremaine. The children read the book in school.

    Bruno: Or maybe it's a name like someone was in radio.

    Tremaine: Yes, there was a name like that. Then the other...there was another. The first name was Tremaine, on television. I heard and wondered if it really was their name. It's an unusual name to have as a first name. Now this is still going, even though I've unplugged it. Now as I said before, the last thing he wants to hear is the car door.

    Bruno: I do wish you could get in touch with Fred Marenco I believe he's the oldest, only living son now.

    Tremaine: Is that the name that you gave me.

    Bruno: Yes.

    Tremaine: Oh wonderful.

    Bruno: And he will know. If you mention to him that he's the one set me on a hot stove, he'll know who you're talking about. He'll know that. I haven't seen that man in...oh gosh, I'll venture to say 20 years.

    Tremaine: And he was born up there too?

    Bruno: And he lived up there for a while after we left. And he has a couple sisters. One in particular who would know. She's older than him, and she would know she's still around.

    Tremaine: I'll have to check. His name may be on the other list.

    Bruno: His sister may know more- Because I remember one time I met her at a funeral parlor. I says, "How's your brother Fred?" “ Oh pretty good." I says, "I remember him.”  She says, "You ought to remember him." I says, "I remember one time my sister cut the tips of my fingers off." She says, "Oh, that was my brother Fred did that. You may not know it but Fred is the one set you on the hot stove, too." I always thought it was my sister did that. Come to think of it, my sister couldn't have. She was only three years. Too small to pick me up off the floor. Them stoves are up...So it had to be him.

    Voice: And you still want to see Fred? Or will you stay away from him?

    Bruno: I might sue him. You would 't miss Fred's place up there.

    Tremaine: I'm sure I pass it on my way up...Lancaster Pike.

    Bruno: If you want to go that way, you go through Hockessin. You hit the State line after you go through Hockessin. On the right would be the Spinning Wheel and on the left starting right there is his property. A bunch of yellow homes there.

    Tremaine: Oh yes.

    Bruno: And there are deer on the front lawn. Two deers and a fisherman on the front lawn. A wonderful person.

    Tremaine: That's right.

    Bruno: That's Fred's place.

    Tremaine: Well, I’ ll check the names they gave me first. I have to check when I get back. I have to check I found a man the other day that was born down there that's ninety years old. I thought I should go call on him next week.

    Bruno: Ninety year old. You better hurry up.

    Tremaine: But he said he wants me to go over this list. See they got your name in '78. And they've had these names for awhile. I think it's wonderful. You were able to describe things so well. And this is what some people can't do. But you were able to describe the games, the balls or anything you talked about. And this is what they need.

    Bruno: The orneriest thing we did on Halloween was pull the wooden steps away from peoples' houses. Then we rapped on the door and they stepped out.

    Tremaine: Oh, they didn't have a front porch to step out on?

    Bruno: No. They do more destructive things today. They sort of expected it in those days, cause they knew that was one of the things we did. When we'd rap on the door, they'd come out slow. You know what people today would do? They'd turn them steps over, upside down and set them against the wall. So when we... the Halloweeners come they wouldn’ t bother them. Then the next morning they'd get up early before going to work and turn them back over.

    Tremaine: That’ s why I used to put soap on my own window. Cause I didn't want children to break the window. I'd go out and put soap on...lightly. So it was done and they didn't bother it. Then I could get the soap off after.

    Bruno: We'd do these things in the front of the house, but we'd dare not go to the rear of those homes to try anything. Every house, just about~-1ike I said they were old Italian people from the other side on the street--they either had nanny goats or a billy goat. If you ever got near a billy goat, oh Lord, he's worse than a skunk, that thing. And he'll butt you. A female goat, if you bend over, they'll butt you, too. They had guinea hens- I don't know if you know what a guinea hen is.

    Tremaine: Yes.

    Bruno: Best watchdog in the world. You come anywhere near that yard and they'd make a noise you could hear a mile away. They really raise a racket. Made people know someone was back there.

    Tremaine: Were there many people who had guinea hens?

    Bruno: Yeah. They didn't keep them for just to eat. They kept them like a watchdog. They all had chickens and goats and everything. Especially...some of the blacks would sneak back there and steal your chickens once in a while. But they couldn't get back there with the guinea hen. Yeah. Raise a ruckus. Wake up the whole neighborhood. Everybody would know someone was back there.

    They caught them many a night, but they'd let them go. They knew who they were. They'd have a burlap bag where they stuffed the chicken in there. They'd wind up giving them a chicken. They'd say, "You don't have to steal." Gardens. Yeah. Raid the gardens. As a matter of fact, I'd do that myself. Big gardens. We'd sneak out at night and get a tomato and eat it. We didn't do anything destructive. Just pulled a couple up and eat them. We wouldn't throw it at them. … stealing part, if you call it that. Mischief. No outright stealing. No way.

    Tremaine: Mischief.

    Bruno: Today it's something else.

    Tremaine: Well, today they don't have their parents disciplining. So many parents both work, and they're not home to discipline the children. And I think that makes the difference too.

    Bruno: I'm going to take a trip up to Hagley again.

    Tremaine: Right now the exhibit on the steam power is in the Museum. Which is very interesting.

    Bruno: The Museum is in where the woolen mill was?

    Tremaine: Yes.

    Bruno: Last time I went there I took a walk around to the side of it. The opposite side to the road where the buses go up. Where the water race comes. The race water used to run into the side of that building, and there was a giant wheel that generated the power to run the machinery. I recall the boss telling me to walk up that gangplank and oil the… for that big wheel. That wheel was as high as this house. And I was scared to death of that thing. They used to send me up there to oil that.

    Tremaine: Where did you have to go? Up high?

    Bruno: They had a catwalk up to the wheel. The wheel that generated the power.

    Tremaine: Like a catwalk to the top of it?

    Bruno: Now they blocked it off with brick. They sealed it all off. Then I used to have to rake with a large rake around the grates of that race where it come down. I remember many a time I'd pull the rake up there and I'll see a giant...oh...snapper. Oh they were good. I would probably a taken him home, my father would have ate him too. Snapper's good. But, you catch all kind of things there. Snappers. Eels. Used to have to clean that out once in a while. I'm surprised they still don't use that to generate electricity.

    Tremaine: Well...well of course they have that big power plant. Which has been knocked down. Remember the lightning storm a year ago.

    Bruno: Oh yeah.

    Tremaine: They knocked it out. But until then, I guess they have excess power they sell to DPGL. And they usually don't have to buy much. They sell what they don't use.

    Bruno: But uh...Boy that big wheel generated all the power for that big mill: You ran that machinery. Well the race isn't going now. Until they get the other...They're using the water from the upper race.

    (Tremaine gets up to leave. Talk about visiting Hagley. Disassembling the tape recorder.)

    Bruno: Can I carry that for you?

    Tremaine: Oh no.