Interview with Eugene Bruno, 1984 June 11 [audio](part 1)
- Birth in Squirrel Run and visiting Squirrel Run on the trolley; Explosion at Hagley; Watching Italian men play bocce at Squirrel RunSynopsis: Bruno talks about his early childhood. He describes moving from Squirrel Run into Wilmington and then using the trolley to go visit Squirrel Run in later years. He looks at some photos in "The Workers' World at Hagley" by Glenn Porter and comments on them. He recalls a powder yard explosion that happened when he was a young boy. He goes into greater detail describing his childhood visits to Squirrel Run and watching Italian men play bocce. He says that the winner won homemade wine.Keywords: "The Workers' World at Hagley" by Glenn Porter; Bocce; Explosions; Grapes; Hagley Yard; Hodgson Bros. woolen mill; Squirrel Run (Del.: Village); Street-railroads; Toonerville Trolley; WineTranscript: Johnson: This is Dorothy Johnson and I’ m interviewing Eugene Bruno at 315 Silverbrook Drive, today is June 11, 1984. And I'm going to start by giving you a copy of the "Workers' World". I think the last time you were interviewed, they were just getting this ready, getting an exhibit ready.
Bruno: I do know these...
Johnson: Do you know those people - we were hoping you would be able to identify some of the people.
Bruno: No, not these, I don't know. I do remember these things, every one of the homes, just about everyone of them had the...
Johnson: The grape arbor.
Bruno: The grape arbor. They were there for a reason too, not only for the shade, but mainly for the grapes. They made their own homemade wine. That's what they, course the Italian people thrived on wine, oh, God, they loved it.
Johnson: Have you seen the Gibbons House that the Museum...
Bruno: The which?
Johnson: The Gibbons House.
Bruno: I was in the Gibbons House.
Johnson: Yes, they're trying to train grape Vines on the arbor.
Bruno: It brought back memories. That Gibbons House was exactly like one that I was born in. I was born in No. 98 Squirrel Run in, I think they called it Henry Clay, or something at that time, I don't know for sure, but I do know it was No. 98 Squirrel Run. I didn't know for many years, until latter years when I got drafted in the Second World War, they said where were you born, and I said "The Brandywine," I didn't know, how early, I guess two, three years old when we left there. And I went to the place where they had birth certificates, and that's when they told me it was at No. 98 Squirrel Run. I said, "I'll be darned."
Johnson: I guess that house is torn down now, the house you were born in?
Bruno: Yes. Naw, I don't remember, I tried hard to remember. I tried hard to remember, I just cannot, I was so young then. I didn't remember if it was on the right hand side of the Brandywine or the Hagley Museum side, the homes that we lived in. I don't remember. It seemed to me that they were on the opposite side of the Brandywine because we had to across, tree logs were made into bridges.
Johnson: Yes, I have a map, well this is really the Henry Clay area and then this would be Squirrel Run here, which has been torn down. So they would both be on the same side of the Brandywine. Then they had another group of houses over here where Walkers Mill, which you said you worked in Hodgson's Woolen Mill?
Johnson: Well, that would be on the other side, then, from...
Bruno: That's on the other side, right?
Johnson: Yes. And that building is still standing.
Bruno: Yes, that's Hodgson, that was the first job I've ever had in my life, Hodgson.
Johnson: That's the man who took the pictures.
Bruno: 'Course when you're so young, I recall, I don't remember living there, I mean I was too young, but I do remember in latter years we went back there on visits with my parents and many times we'd go with my sister, who was much older than I, and we used to catch the trolley at 7th or 6th and Woodlawn Avenue. That's where we'd moved to, in a little old neighborhood where all the Italians migrated from Squirrel Run to this little neighborhood, and the trolley, I do remember vividly, they used to call it the Toonerville. I don't know if you remember how the Toonerville looked like, but it looked like an overgrown, over-sized caboose on the back of a railroad train, that's what the Toonerville Trolley looked like. It carried about twenty people I would say, and I remember it was two cents, or three cents to ride the trolley. Half the time they were riding along the tracks going through below Rockford Park, in through the wooded area along the Brandywine, it would jump the tracks and we'd have to get off and walk. It was really an experience.
Johnson: Did you ever put it back on the track?
Bruno: It was really something.
Johnson: When you say the Toonerville, was that the cartoon trolley you're thinking, that wasn't the real name of it?
Bruno: Right. No, we used to call it the Toonerville on account of the cartoon, but that's what we called it. It was exactly like it, 'cause I remember that thing – rickety-rack this way and that way – just bounce all over the place, we holding our breath, oh please don't jump the tracks, and it would. But they went so slow it wouldn't hurt anything, you know.
Johnson: Well, how did they get it back on the tracks, did you have to...
Bruno: They would get to work, we would walk to where we were going up to Squirrel Run or if we were on our way home, we would walk the remainder of the way, we didn't bother waiting, and we were used to walking anyway, and they would get it on tracks with their help, that they would get their workers from some place.
Johnson: And they had those big things that made contact with the wire, is that right?
Bruno: Right, right. Now who wrote this?
Johnson: Well, a lot of the text is derived from the oral interviews that they conducted.
Bruno: Let me see here, played around the yards...
Johnson: Well, they don't identify each of the...
Bruno: Now this is the Hodgson Woolen Mill, I think, isn't it? No, that's - that looks like Breck's Mill.
Johnson: I think that's Breck's and this is...
Bruno: And this is the old Hodgson Mill on this side.
Johnson: That's part of that mill, that's right.
Bruno: Well the one that I work with was at Hagley at this other side here, the one where the museum is now. I mean the, well in the entrance of the gateway there, whatever they call that.
Johnson: And this bridge used to be covered, now it's sort of iron bridge.
Bruno: That's, yeah that's the one, well over here it used to be DuPont, was the original du Pont Nemours where they first started on this side, yes. But I cannot remember for the life of me what year it was that the powder mill blew up. Do you know that?
Johnson: Well, I know they had a bad explosion in 1890, but that would have been before your time.
Bruno: No, this was in the 19's 'cause, it seemed to be around 1918 or '19 to me. Because I was born in1915 and we lived there.
Johnson: You were there when they had this big explosion?
Bruno: Yes, and there wasn't no explosion then, and after that when we moved, I don't know how many years, it couldn't have been too many because I don't recall, you know, just what was told to me, and that's when they had their explosion. I think it was 19 – through what I read - in 1921 when they got rid of their last employees in the powder works, so evidently between'15 and '21, somewhere in there is when they had the big blow, the explosion.
Johnson: Yes, I know they lost 31 boys in one explosion. I have the feeling that was about 1914, at the beginning of the first World War.
Bruno: I think they blamed that explosion on the young boys, they were fooling around with matches all the time and just taking chance, you know. Well when you're young, you're brave, have no sense of fear then.
Johnson: Well, yes, they don't realize...
Bruno: Right, right. God, this is a beautiful book – I wish I could - that's the houses. I do remember them talking about Chicken Alley, Chicken Charlie or something like that?
Johnson: Chicken Alley, yes.
Bruno: Yeah, I remember that. And I'll tell you when we went up there, we used to go up to the end of the trolley line. Now it seems to me that the end of the trolley line was at the entrance to the road that goes to Christ Church or the entrance into Bob Carpenter's estate, right there at that corner seemed like the end of the trolley line to me if I remember, if I'm not mistaken. And there was a little old Italian man had a little stand there of some kind, 'cause I remember we had these little match boxes about two inches long and about an inch wide, they'd carry the little matches in them, we had those empty boxes with our pennies in them. And we used to buy potato chip or whatever he had there for two cents, everything was real cheap. And we'd buy them and then we'd walk from there down to the mills, down through the woods and into the...
Johnson: Yes, do you remember the names of any of the boys you might have gone back to Squirrel Run with? Would they have been people from Squirrel Run?
Bruno: The people that I knew from Squirrel Run the most were the Marenco family, 'cause it was their home that I was born in, I don't know how it come about, but it was their home and...
Johnson: When you took the trolley ride, do you remember who you rode with, anything like that?
Bruno: Oh boy, well I rode with a lot of folks that didn't come from Squirrel Run, that were from our whole neighborhood, we just did it for the fun of going somewhere.
Johnson: Would you tell them about what the area was like from what you remembered?
Bruno: Oh yes. And I know we used to set for hours on end up there like on Sunday morning, just watching the men play what they call bocce, and today it's called lawn bowling, but it was a little different then, they used a big, round wooden ball then. And after the games were over, they would get to singing and dancing - I can see why, because they were playing for drink, for wine. And they'd set out there, and the women drank with the men, I mean it was just...
Johnson: Now I wanted to ask you that, could women play?
Bruno: They didn't.
Johnson: They didn't, okay.
Bruno: Well those days it was - it seemed like it was a man's world, I don't know why. The men were the domineering ones, especially the ones that came from Italy - oh Lord, they were domineering. Their wives didn't interfere, they just sat around, but drink, and lo and behold, we did too.
Johnson: Now were children allowed to play bocce?
Bruno: No, no, but we were able...
Johnson: You just enjoyed watching.
Bruno: It was a long while before I knew what water tasted like really. When my Dad, we had dinner on the table, main meal, and someone had to go down to the basement to the barrel and fill up a quart of wine or so and that was on the table, no water, that's what you drank. It go so that I looked forward to drinking the wine, but it never hurt us.
Johnson: No, in fact, I've heard that it's really, you don't get drunk than if you're used to it.
- Making wine with his father; Preserving food; Wine as a home remedy for colds and the fluSynopsis: Bruno describes making wine with his father. He talks about the wine making process and how when the wine was done his family threw a party for other Italian families in the area and vice-versa. He says that his family made wine out of fruits other than grapes like elderberries and blackberries. Bruno talks about how his mother preserved different types of food. He talks about how they bought some of that food on picnics. He talks about where his family purchased the grapes that they used for wine. He says that his family and many other Italian families drank hot wine as a home remedy for colds and the flu.Keywords: Blackberries; Celebrations; Colds; Elderberries; Flu; Food; Gardens; Grapes; Home remedies; Jellies; Muscatel grapes; Pickling; Preserving; Wine; Wine making; Zinfandel grapesTranscript: Johnson: Did you ever watch your father make wine?
Bruno: Yes, I helped make it.
Johnson: Could you tell me exactly how he did it?
Bruno: Well, this wasn't over there now, this was after we left there, that I helped him make the wine, if that's what you want to know.
Bruno: Alright, he would buy between fifteen and twenty boxes of grapes which were between thirty-five and forty pounds per box. And that would make 55 gallons.
Johnson: Oh, that's a lot of grapes.
Bruno: And he'd have a 55 gallon barrel with an open top.
Johnson: Would he have this down the cellar or outdoors?
Bruno: In the cellar, and it's standing upright, the barrel. And he would have a big wooden, large wooden tub and pour maybe two or three boxes of grapes in that tub and then have a pair of boots, reach up to the knee, then he would stomp the grapes with the boots, walking through the thing. And years earlier, the old time people, I guess before him even, used to use their bare feet to do that, but he didn't believe in that, he used to use boots. After it was all done, we would take that up and dump into that open-topped barrel.
Johnson: You didn't have to strain out the seeds or anything, you just...
Bruno: No, and then it would stay in there - well every day he'd go down there with a long pole with a flat piece of board under it like a rammer, some kind of to push down there to stir it up to keep it moving you know, and it would be fermenting in there or whatever it does. And after so many weeks, I don't know how many, he would pull the wooden plug out of the bottom and let it run into a metal tub until you fill the tub up, then he would dip it out with a pan and with a cheesecloth or Whatever was handy he would pour it into a regular barrel that was lying flat on stands, you see. And a little pot, only yeah big, used to take half of the night filling that thing up. And that's what he'd do until he filled it all the way to the top, then he would pull all the grapes out of the barrel, lean it side-ways and pull the grapes out. Ones that he couldn't reach all the way down deep inside, that was my job. I used to crawl up in there, and I'll tell you the truth, I was drunk when I come out of there. I didn't know where I was half the time.
Johnson: Was it just from smelling it, or...
Bruno: Yeah, and father, of course, he said, "Come on up Boy, let’ s go." And I'd pull that grape - oh Lord, And then every night when he'd go down, he call me, "Let's go." We'd go down and check it, you know, 'cause the wine actually, the bung would be left off the top of the barrel and you would see it burp, bubbling like, you know, just like it would be boiling, it's fermenting, you know.
Johnson: Did you have to put anything in there like sugar to start it, or did it...
Bruno: No, nothing. Nothing at all, just plain grapes. Nothing, pure - he used like fifteen boxes of Muscatel grapes, which is strong, white grape. Then he'd use maybe four or five boxes of blue grape for color, just for color. And that was called Zinfandel grape, the blue one, and that was just add the color. We'd go down every night, like I say, and then you'd see it boiling like this, or bubbling, it would bubble out. And you'd always have a couple gallons that you'd poured from the original barrel lying around so that you can refill that top - it's got to stay full. If you don't, you get air pockets in the barrel and it'll turn to vinegar. You have to be very, very careful.
Johnson: Oh, I see.
Bruno: And the biggest thing is, after so many months, this is about October I would think, somewhere in October I believe, then when it comes close to Christmas, Father would go down and drill a little hole in the top of the barrel, just big enough for maybe a head of a match to go in, that thickness, about an eighth of an inch thick or so, and let some of it come out and taste it. If it tasted good that weekend he would call all the friends, all the Italian friends and everybody, wives and children, everybody, that's when you have a big ball, feast, we're gonna tap the barrel tonight. The men go down there together and you know the bottom of the barrel there's a hole with a plug in it, and he'd pull that plug out, you've got to be ready to drive that spigot in there without losing too much. If you lose too much, oh Lord, catastrophe, they don't like to see that. And they'd get drunk, they'd eat and drink and sing all night long. They probably did that in Italy, I guess, so they just kept up the tradition for many years, oh clear up until my parents passed away they did these things. And I thoroughly enjoyed them, really did, I enjoyed it. And everybody had fun - drunk as they got, I've never in my life remember one of them say one cross word to one another, you know, just as nice as can be.
Johnson: Was your father the only one in the neighborhood who made the wine, or did a lot of the fellows make wine...
Bruno: No, no, they all did. And then...
Bruno: That's why I say, when they'd get together when they'd tap a barrel, they'd come to you and say, "Hey, John, I'm gonna tap one tonight.” "Okay." Then when John taps his, then we'd go to his place, you see, and bring the families” "Let's go." That's the way they did, and it was nice. 'Course I say "John" or whoever it might be, John, Joe, Harry, but never, never in my life was I permitted to call them by their first names, Uncle John. Like if a person - I was a young child and an older person come to the house, like you come to this house, and I would call you "Aunt", regardless of what your first name is, like Mary, whoever maybe, we're never say Mary or something like that. I'd be picking my teeth up - oh they believed in respect. A lot of people would say, even when I went to school, I went to what is later called Lore School, but it was No. 25 at the time, and I had many times the boys that come from American families would say, "How come you persons are having - your uncle - you got an awful lot of them?" I said, "I don't know, but they are." I couldn't answer them even, I didn't know why. I thought they were, they were like relatives and this is the way it went. Everything – discipline - it was discipline really, and I've never, never been sorry for it, it was the greatest thing that ever happened, teach you respect.
Johnson: Did you ever know anybody who made wine out of some-thing else beside grapes? Now I remember hearing somebody say that their father picked elderberries.
Bruno: My father made wine out of elderberries, wild cherry -- you name the berries, he made wine out of it. Blackberry - I went out and picked blackberries 'til I was blue in the face. Come home full of ticks and everything, just to make wine.
Johnson: Where would you pick the blackberries here?
Bruno: Wherever, wherever you could find - those days you'd find a lot of open fields and different things. You'd see a lot of places where you can get them. The elderberries we got along streams, creeks and streams, they seem to thrive around the water and we'd pick an awful lot of them, elderberry. But I will say, though, on the blackberry, you had to pick an awful, awful lot of them to get a barrel, you could never get a whole barrel of wine out of them 'cause it takes too much. When you figure twenty cases of -say forty pound grapes - and you try to multiply that with blackberry, that's a lot of picking. So Mother, in turn, would make jelly with it, you know. And there was another thing though, they had practically nothing in those days, I mean as far as money goes or anything. We didn't have no luxuries, a lot of people had. We had happiness, we had everything we wanted so money wasn't everything, 'cause we'd go out in the mornings, Mother and the whole bunch of us lots of times would go out in the early spring and pick dandelions and eat it. I had dandelion in the salad, I had dandelion with soup bone, I had dandelion chopped and fine with fried eggs and different things like that – scrambled rather, any which way. Then poke season would come, you know, wild asparagus tips or whatever you want to call them, then mustard greens, we ate all that kind of stuff. Man it was good. We made do with things that nature gave us.
Johnson: And it must have been fun finding those things.
Bruno: Right. In the fall of the year I do recall leaving, I never left my grounds, I spent most of my life about four or five blocks from here in the old neighborhood where we all migrated after Squirrel Run, and from there used to go up to Kennett Pike, up 52, all the way up to Mendenhall and on the left-hand side there was this big place - they had pear trees all along the roadway - wasn't - they weren't on the road, they were back off the road, they belonged to someone, and it was a hard-skinned pear, what do you call it - the Bosque or whatever, one of those, ones that you put up, preserve. And we used to go up there with our little wagons or burlap bag if you didn't have a wagon, and the man would tell us you can have all the pears you want that fall on the ground, and many of them do in the fall of the year, and we would pick them. And some of them women would carry that bag maybe four or five blocks up the highway and then the son would grab them, daughter would grab them. I was fortunate, I had a little old rickety wheel wagon, I pump highing in, and we would do this, and go home and help Mother peel them and clean then and cook them, and then they put them up in jars. You appreciated them in the dead of winter when you could open a jar of something like that, it was good. Put away our own pork sausage, was no refrigeration, we had no refrigeration, so I remember Mother having a big vat made out of this crockery stuff whatever you call that, full of lard, pure lard and it would immerse the sausage down in the lard, and the lard would keep them preserved. All without refrigeration. So when you went to get them out, you just wiped the lard off of them, and...
Johnson: Now by any chance, would you have your mother's recipe for the sausage or anything that she made?
Bruno: I know two - one I still use. One that's Italian, it's called Bagna cauda, that means hot dip, and it's a dip, but it's hot.
Johnson: Hot pepper?
Bruno: Not hot peppers, I mean warm, you use a little hot plate or whatever, but it's a dip. I do recall that one. Like I say, we didn't have much, but if you had to have like a Christmas dinner or something like that, there was always some kind of fruit or something on the table that we had picked during the summer, somewhere along the roads and things like that, put it out and it was good. I mean you had it, it was nice.
Johnson: Do you remember what kind of jars your mother put it up in, were they regular Mason jars like you buy?
Bruno: They were the jars with the wire tip, you had to buy rubber things for them, yes, that's what we used. We had many things - without - moneywise, no, but we had everything else, and we were happy, and nobody worry about anything, we had everything. And especially like on Sunday when they would say let's get ready, we're going to Squirrel Run. Oh Lord, that was the greatest thing.
Johnson: Did you pack a picnic lunch, then?
Bruno: Yes, sometimes, most times we didn't have to because we had the friends that were still there, living there, and we'd go to their house. And that is one thing, if you walk in the street, you had no fear of not getting enough to eat, because all of them were so friendly that - if you see me walking in the street, you'd pull me, "Come on in here, boy, give you something to eat, and tell your mother I fed your boy," or something like that. By the same token, if I was ornery, did something wrong, you'd pull me in and give me a good lickin' and then tell my mother you did it, or father.” Fine, but I was hoping that you wouldn't tell them because I would get another one off of them, you know. And this is the way it went, they appreciate you scolding their children. And so many things that people today would say was cruel, but it wasn't, it really wasn't, it was good, it taught you something, taught me a lesson.
Johnson: The parents were in league with the teachers, too, I think, more than they are now.
Bruno: And like I said, the fruits and things, we picked peaches, we done everything. And everyone had a garden, I don't care where it was, even to this day, not to long ago the last of the parents passed away, it was aunt and uncle and we're looking for a home, they was looking for a nice home and I'd promised to try to get one through the 6.1. loans, I could get it at four percent at that time, and he looked all over, my uncle, couldn't find what he wanted. Finally found one, it was beautiful, he loved it. I said, "Now what is wrong with this?" "Nah", he said, "don't have one thing." I said, "What is it?" He said, "Where gonna make a garden?"I said, "Oh my God, the garden." So we had to get one with a garden. I do the same, I have a garden out there. Not a large one, but it's a garden. I won't go without one. Like I say, everything like that we had. Today, like you say, get in the car and go to the store and buy a jar of something you need, you know, someone get it.
Johnson: And what about the grapes, though, when you bought that many grapes at once, did you have to go to a store in Wilmington for that?
Bruno: For what?
Johnson: When you bought that many grapes to make the wine, to get a certain kind of grapes.
Bruno: Oh they had - yes, yes. They had to, but those days it was cheaper, very reasonable the price, but today the grapes are ten dollars a box. That's why you don't see any, so called, Dago Red. That's what they called it - wine. One great thing, believe you me, when I tell you this is the truth, it still works today. We get sick, like in the winter, like they call it flu, we used to call it the grippe, you know, get the chills, fever, and everything. I remember my Mother used to get a large glass of wine it had a handle on it had mustard came in it, but Lord have mercy, had enough mustard, I guess, for six months in that big glass. Looked like a big, old stein, and fill it with wine and pour it into a pan and add a little sugar to it, and heat it on the stove. And you sip it as hot as you can take it. When you can take it, the hottest you drink it down, and go to bed, and during the night I remember my Mother coming in and changing my clothing and putting dry clothing on me because I would be soaking wet, sweat, and wake up the next morning ready to go to school. It would cure, and many, many people do it today, still do it, the old Italian people from Italian descent. And I will too, I'll do it, and it works, believe me, it works.
- Watching bocce games at Squirrel Run; Christmas and Epiphany celebrationsSynopsis: Bruno describes where the Italians of Squirrel Run played bocce. He describes an occasion when he nearly drowned in Squirrel Run. He talks about a time when another child cut his fingernails and injured his fingers. He says that the same child placed him on a hot stove. Bruno talks about celebrating Christmas and Epiphany. He recalls working at Winterthur and recalls pleasant memories of Henry Francis du Pont.Keywords: Bocce; Brandywine Creek; Christmas; Drowning; Du Pont, Henry Francis, 1880-1969; Epiphany; Keyes’ Hill; Lawless' tavern; Saint Joseph on the Brandywine Roman Catholic Church (Wilmington, Del.); Squirrel Run (Del.:Village); WinterthurTranscript: Johnson: Now did you ever go up to the Keyes' Hill picnic that they had at St. Joseph's sponsored on Keyes' Hill.
Bruno: No, I mentioned that last time, I said, "I'm gonna go to that." And I didn't go, I don't know why I didn't.
Johnson: I was hoping you'd been there and could tell us just where - do you know where the bocce courts were in relation to Keye's Hill?
Bruno: I'll tell you where I saw the bocce games. There was a store there, now who had that store I don't know. It was like a, what do you call the old mercantile store, the store that had everything, emporium or whatever you want to call it, anything you wanted, they had. And in front of that store is where I saw the bocce games. It was all dirt road, of course...
Johnson: It was all dirt, they didn't have sand or anything, just did it on the dirt?
Bruno: No, everything was dirt and rough and that's where they played. I remember that, seeing that because people would be sitting in front of the store lined up, or near the creek banks and watching, and we'd be watching that too. And on one occasion up there, I don't know if it was before we left there or after I visited there, there was a young boy missing, walked across that tree log, to get across from one side of the Brandywine to the other. 'Course Brandywine evidently wasn't as wide as it is today, you see, because it widens through years, and couldn't find him, and it was me. They were looking all over for me, couldn't find me. And they tell me, I don't ever recall, they tell me that I fell off of that tree walking across and went down into the Brandywine, and fell on one of those big boulders down there in the river. That's where I was laying, unconscious. Until someone had foresight to look under there and say, "Oh my Lord, he's down there. They said if the water was a little higher, I'd have gone downstream with it, I don't know. I was told this, but I don't remember it. And the one that can tell me an awful lot that happened to me was one of the Marenco boys, and he's still around, he lives they interviewed him too - John, or Fred rather, Fred Marenco. I'm sorry, John was the father. And Fred, he and his sister related a lot of things to me that had happened up there. Incidentally, his sister, I forget her name now, she's still living, she lives in Avondale. Now that girl knows, I think, a little more than her brother. I met her one time at a viewing and she told me so many things, you know. Like one time I told, I said, "Do you remember when my sister was trying to cut my fingernails when I was a baby and cut all the tips of my fingers off and I was screaming - blood all over.” She said, "That wasn't your sister, that was my brother did that." And she remembered all these things. And she said, "Do you remember when your mother had to go upstairs to get a diaper to change you when you was a - you wouldn't remember." I said, "No, I don't." She said, "Well, anyway, you started a crying and my brother thought that he could keep you quiet so he picked you up and sat you on the hot coal stove." Whew, I can imagine, oh Lord. She said, "That was my brother." I said, "Oh God, some boys are..."I would remember that - thank God I don't, And I had blamed and this girl, she I said, “ I don't want to remember that." that on other people, you see, brought back things...
Johnson: She - maybe they can get in touch with her.
Bruno: Yes, her brother would tell you where she is, she lives in Avondale, I know, but whereabouts, I don't know. Her name is Vic -Vera.Vera, Vera, Vera Marenco, M-A-R-E-N-C-O.
Johnson: Now could you tell me something about Christmas. Now some people say that they never celebrated Christmas, but they celebrated New Year's instead. Did you get presents on New Year's instead of Christmas?
Bruno: No. Well, I don't remember us celebrating Christmas so much as, a lot of them did on the...The Epiphany, January 6th. January 6th, yeah, that's what I didn't remember, January 6th is when they did.
Johnson: Now did you get presents then, did you give each other presents?
Bruno: I had a big, black sock hanging up, stocking rather, yeah long, coal in it. If you were bad you got all coal, if you were good you'd find an orange and some nuts and things like that in there, stuff that wouldn't spoil (child is yelling in background) it wasn’ t gifts, I don't remember getting any gifts because - there wasn't any money around to buy those things.
Johnson: And you're too young to have gotten the gifts Alfred I. du Pont used to give out gifts at Breck's Mill, but I think you were too young for that.
Bruno: No, I was too young, yes. I do remember people saying that du Pont was one of the greatest persons, nicest guy, you could even talk to him on the streets, just like he - he was like one of the men, they said no problem whatsoever with him. They said real nice.
Johnson: I think he said - said he learned a lot from the men, they told him a lot that he learned from them too.
Bruno: Well, du Ponts are that way, 'cause later on I worked for Winterthur for a while too, and I met Henry du Pont and he got to be very friendly with me, 'cause I talked of Winterthur with him and everything. And I says, "Mr. du Pont, I can remember when my father used to say, 'The best du Pont was old Colonel du Pont.'" He said, "Oh my Lord, you're talking about my Dad." Colonel, they used to call him. My father said, "Colonel good man." du Ponts, they treated these people...
Johnson: Did your father know Colonel du Pont?
Bruno: Yeah, yes, he worked for him.
Johnson: Your father, yes. Did he say anything about what he did for them or any stories that he would have told?
Bruno: No, whatever he did for them was in the labor line, I guess, because he had no experience in anything whatsoever.
Johnson: And you don't remember any stories...
Bruno: I do remember, no him, but other men later that were still around, saying that they would walk the streets, walk out in the country out that way, and the Colonel would be walking along the road and he'd say, "Aren't you working?" "No, I don't have a job." He says, "Come on with me." Take him in, telephone, put him to work, ten or twenty cents an hour. It wasn't much money, but with that he would give them food and all different things from the estate, like fruits and vegetables, anything like that from the estate, and he would give it to them in place of some of the money that he didn't pay them. And they'd have a job and the pride that went with it, that's what they did. In fact Henry du Pont did the same when I worked there. He'd give us Christmas turkeys and - anything in that place – like ham and things like that - fifty cents a pound regardless of how the price fluctuated. Eggs the same way, fifty cents a dozen, everything within reason. Yeah, we brought all of the stuff home.
Johnson: Do you remember anything about New Year's celebrations? Did they have anything in Squirrel Run like a parade or a party, something like the Mummers' Parade in Philadelphia?
Bruno: I do not remember, I'll tell you why, because New Year's was late in the winter and we didn't go up there when it was cold weather, we just went around the houses. They say the winters were worse then, they weren't, it was just the idea that there was more open spaces, those days and the winter, Wilmington snow had more chance of piling up. That's one of the reasons we never did. In the winter we more or less hibernated, so to speak, didn't get to go many places, school and back and that was just about it.
Johnson: What about church, would you go to church and have a party after church on Christmas night?
Bruno: No, no.
Johnson: Somebody remembers going to St. Joseph's and then going home for a party with the neighbors.
Bruno: I don't even remember a Christmas tree at our house, never. Like I said, we were short because they had nothing. No Christmas tree, but you enjoyed Christmas, in the house were goodies and things that you got little extra - like I said, the nuts and oranges and different things that you're not used to getting every day, you'd get it at Christmas. Those things, they made up the difference. Same way, latter years, as I got a little older, wanted to go to a movie or something, it was five cents to get in a movie, my Dad didn't approve of it, he said, "No, five cents, I could buy a loaf of bread." I said, "Okay, we'll buy the bread." I didn't go to the movie, that's it. I never growled and raised the devil about it, I accepted it, that all.
Johnson: Do you remember seeing any movies at all, and did any stand out in your mind?
Bruno: I saw movies, oh yes, I saw movies. My Mother, God bless her, she was one of the best. When my Dad would get a little too much wine sometimes with his friends in the neighborhood, he'd go to sleep. And Mother would give me a nickel, said, "Now you go on, and don't watch it twice, once and come home." And I would fly out, that's when I got to see a movie. They were strict, oh God, they were strict. But this place - I wish, I wish I were up there.
Johnson: Now this is the tavern, or a saloon that was right next to St. Joseph's, that was...
Bruno: You have more pictures in here? Maybe I can...
Johnson: This was the Lawless Saloon and this was one of the Lawless there.
Bruno: Oh, look at the barrels, I can see the barrels out there.
Johnson: This is where they had the polling place, do you remember anything about politics or elections at the time?
Bruno: No, no I don't, no I don't. I had an uncle worked up there, too, darn it. And I looked at pictures and everything and I looked for...
Johnson: This is the trolley going through Henry Clay Village right down...
Bruno: Well this is the - was the larger trolley than the one I rode in. Rising Sun Hill. I remember at the end of the line, though, I used to walk, down - looked like it was down past where Christ Church is - down the wooded area, down into Squirrel Run. Oh, it was fun, it was nice.
- Food and cookingSynopsis: Bruno talks about picking nuts and mushrooms for food. He describes some of the recipes that his mother made with them. He describes bagna cauda, a northern Italian hot dip. He talks about how his mother prepared polenta and a dish similar to pizza. He tries to recall some folk songs, but he cannot. He describes the family home in Squirrel Run. He talks some more about food and where and how his mother learned to cook.Keywords: Almonds; Bagna cauda; Celery; Folk songs; Hickory nuts; Italian cuisine; Mushrooms; Polenta; Salad; Squirrel Run (Del.: Village); WalnutsTranscript: Johnson: Do you remember picking mushrooms in there, in that area?
Bruno: I've picked many, many mushrooms in the woods.
Johnson: What about nuts, did they have nut trees in there?
Bruno: Yes, yes. I tell you, I picked so many walnuts that when we peeled them, you get that iodine color all over your hands and the teachers at school used to say, "What's wrong with you?" And it would take months and months before that stuff would wear off. But, hickory nuts, walnuts, you name them, any kind, that's what we picked. And we shelled them, put them up for the winter, put them up in jars and everything. And Mother would bake a cake and use the nuts sometimes, and things like this. And she had a way of putting nuts in the oven and putting a sugar coating on them some way, I don't know how that ever happened, and did that with almonds that you used to buy once in a while, coat the almonds with sugar. We've tried them, I've tried them every which way, I cannot figure out how they did it. When they come out, it was really good because the nut was roasted and with sugar on it, it was just perfect. How it was done, I can never tell you, but it worked out nice. But the one recipe that my Mother used to make, was a dip. It's made with anchovy. In fact I saw that dip advertised in one of your restaurants in town here, and this guy that goes around, the food connoisseur, I forget his name. He goes around checking food and everything, comments on the food, you know, and he said he didn't mind, the stuff was pretty good, he said it had very good taste and everything like that, he said, but the price was out of this world. I forget what it was he charged of it, I mentioned it, I said, "Lord, how many times I ate that, and it never costs that much." We made it at home, you know. And I think that recipe is around here somewhere, I can get it if you want to see it. I think it's there.
Johnson: I would really like to have it.
Bruno: I think it is. And another recipe was famous – see my Mother comes from way up in the northern part of Italy, she was, up in Turin, up in Milan, up in that area, and they were great for cooking. She cooked a lot of French and Italian style. She was near the French border. She talked a lot of French too, very intelligent lady. And she'd cook what they call polenta - did you ever hear of polenta?
Johnson: Well, that's made with cornmeal, right?
Bruno: Cornmeal, I remember her standing over that stove with a big paddle and turn that stuff and sweating, a lot of work. And we had a board that you kneaded dough on, but that board was almost as wide as this table, about three or four foot square. Laid that on the table, it was clean and everything, and when the mush was all done, pour it in the middle of the table, and with a spatula, level it out to make it, say yeah thick. And then she'd have tomato sauce all over it, and slices of cooked pork sausage that was cooked in the sauce. It would be poured all over that and mushrooms that was cooked in the sauce, that's all over it. It was just like a giant pizza in a way. And you sat at the table, all around the table with your fork and you out yourself little slices, what you wanted, and eat. And we had a game, like, we'd see who could reach the center first, and like we'd put an apple in the center, something like that. My Father and my Mother and we would eat and eat and see who - I could never get to the center, 'cause it's too much. But it was nourishing, real good, had everything in it, all the food in the world. And we always had salad after, you'd wonder where the room was for the salad, but we ate it. 'Course today it's a little different, I've gone to many, many restaurants and they give you salad first. I was never used to this, I always - we ate salad last, you know. I don't know what the reason was, but that's the way it was. So many things...
Johnson: Now do you remember any songs from your childhood?
Bruno: Any what?
Johnson: Songs that you sang?
Bruno: No, they were mostly all Italian songs that they sang, and, gosh, what they were, I don't know. I do know, though, that they had a great many of them, in those days, tried to imitate Caruso. I've seen them out there some night when they were half drunk with their wine, sing and sing and sing, and wake like on a Monday morning, and say, "Good morning, Pop." (Makes a straining sound) couldn't talk, voice lost. The great Carusos they were, and they couldn't talk. But happy, oh Lord. I remember vividly, all the oldest people there, the old men, you'd see them in the winter, even in the summer, some of their faces looked almost as red as that then, the wine, drinking so much wine. And I have never, never once heard of high blood pressure, heart attack, anything like that amongst those people, never, never, none of that. Makes you wonder if they weren't doing the right thing with that wine.
There was a story once about doctors went to this old Italian village in Rosetree, Pennsylvania, or someplace like that, there was a large family of Italians living in that little village and they couldn't figure out how come they were so heavy, weight and everything. He went up there and lived there for a week or two, found out they were eating pasta, drinking wine and all this stuff, and couldn't figure out how they stayed so healthy. And the doctors went on that diet with them. One doctor in particular liked it so well, he stayed there, he's still there. He said it kills the theory that people say this stuff here will give you heart, guarantee, he said they're dead wrong. He said these people are all healthy, living to eighty. That's what they went up for, 'cause most of them are eighty, ninety years old and still around, and he said, "Lord, if they can do that, I'm gonna stay around too.” That's what they did.
Johnson: Do you remember anything else, did your mother make her own bread, 'cause you mentioned taking sandwiches to school?
Bruno: My mother made her own bread, I do remember, 'cause I wasn't permitted in the kitchen, none of us were, 'cause those floors, they weren't the most solid floors in the world, and when they had the bread dough, especially the dough on the table before baking even, and in the oven, you walked, she said the bread would sink. I could never figure out why, and I'd get to the kitchen and stop, she said "Get back in there." And when the bread came out of the oven hot, you couldn't eat it, they wouldn't let you eat it, said it's harmful, which is right, too, 'cause you couldn't...
Johnson: Too fresh, yes.
Bruno: You couldn't digest it. And I remember loaves, big round loaves of break like that, and Mother used to stick them - I often wondered why she didn't cut her head off - big knife cutting it this way, everything towards you. Big, sharp knives, and out big slices off and then she'd cut it in half and hand it to you. And our treats were, for doing things good, for sugar, our treats was dip big slices of bread in water and soak it with sugar and eat it, and that's what we got, soaked bread with sugar, and that was our candy. We wasn’ t permitted to eat candy, none of that stuff, no candy, no sweets. Beverage was wine, you might get a, they had a drink like 7-Up today, but it was a different drink, it was called Kazzoza. It was a nice drink, it had a big green bottle about yeah high and it had the wire thing like the jars, and take that wire and you open it, and it had a top like champagne, just moved the top a little bit, and they'd open that out in the streets, the men, and that pop would really go as high as the second floor of some of them houses. And we'd chase after it and try to catch them. And the stuff would bubble out and it was like 7-Up, and it was really good, really refreshing, really good. That's what we used to drink.
Johnson: And you could buy that, you didn't have to make that.
Bruno: You could buy that then, I can remember going up to the store many times for my father to buy it. I forget how much it costs then, but they bought it, yeah. In Squirrel Run, 'course when I went up there later to visit, I was a little boy, and I'd run around with other little boys up there, and I didn't bother about what they did here or did there. What I saw, at a glance, alright, but we always played. I remember going out and playing in corn fields and places like that 'cause you dare not play in the street – they play that bocce game, you had to stay out of the way, oh, you don't get in the way.
Johnson: If you made the ball go wrong, they might lose the game.
Bruno: Right, right. And stayed away. And then one thing I remember, if I got in the wrong place and doing the wrong thing, my Dad would look at me, he didn't have to talk, I knew what he meant, had to go. All of them were that way, all of them.
Johnson: Do you remember what the kitchen looked like when you were little, when you lived in Squirrel Run, would you have any memories of say what the...
Bruno: Yes, I remember one, it had like a studio couch, but it wasn't, it was much smaller, on one side of the wall here, and one the, as you went in the door, you'd be facing in, and on the left there was a stove near the wall, this big stove. Next to the stove was a winding stairway went upstairs. And the thing I remember most of all of everything, was the Windowsills. Windowsills, my Lord, big one in fact the Gibbons House is just like it, just like the one I mean. Windowsills were wide and long, parents many times would put a small blanket or whatever they had, mattress or whatever, on that windowsill and we'd sleep on it. And it was that wide that you wouldn't fall off, it was so wide.
Woman: Eugene, excuse me, he wants to know what has to be done out there, I don't know, on the porch, will you go out and tell him?
Bruno: Well, that thing is running.
Johnson: Yes, I'm going to turn it over now.
(Some miscellaneous comments before interview continues.)
Bruno: Now that polenta, it's polenta they call it, that's distinguished in the northern part of Italy where my Mother had come from. And this here also, in the winter this is what you use on New Year's. This is the treat at New Year's if anything, most of them have this, the dip, wine and dip. And when you speak of anchovy, I was being shy, I say, "oh, oh," but when it's made and you taste it once, you'll eat it, it is good, it is good. Very, very delicious. And you dip celery, this is what was nice on New Year's and the latter part of winter when it's cold, or early part of winter, celery we would have in the garden, see, 'cause plant celery you put leaves, we start with the bushel bags and our wagon and pick up all the leaves we could find around the trees, and bring them home; father would put the leaves all around the celery, then mound dirt over the entire plants, and that preserves them for the winter. In the winter you go and dig and pull the dirt out and when you reach in there, you've got celery the most golden yellow color you ever saw, beautiful, tender. And you take that young celery, of course you wash it off good, and you have a hotplate with the main pot in the center, it's a deep, iron skillet about that deep with the ingredients in it, and you have little saucers you dip some of it out and put in the sauce. Today, of course, you have little hot plates you could take with them, we didn't. You had to eat fast to keep it – and you dipped celery, pickled cauliflower, pickled peppers, anything like this, anything that you like to taste, you dip in this thing. Oh, I would say that was so good.
Johnson: Did your Mother have a cookbook, or did she just know all these things by heart?
Bruno: Oh, no, no, she said she came to this country when she was thirteen year old, and she was cooking then, or learned at an early age.
Johnson: Oh, so she had learned already?
Bruno: Of course my Mother was very good at things, she was a good baker, she could bake and cook because this Sons of Columbus on Fourth Street, when they had their big banquets and everything, they used to get her to come up and take charge of all the ladies cooking for the banquets. She used to do that, plus a seamstress. Like during the Depression, it was the greatest thing that ever happened because we didn't have money to buy anything, she made all my shirts, sweaters, even socks, and gloves, everything.
- Mother's position in the community; Music; Baths and bathing; Games and sportsSynopsis: Bruno talks about his mother's knitting. He says that she read and wrote letters for other immigrants since she could read and write English and Italian and understood French. Bruno talks about music and recalls people playing the accordion and mandolin. He says that his father bought him a violin and made him take lessons, which he disliked. He says he would have rather played the accordion. He talks about baths and bathing. He talks about the sports and games he played as a child.Keywords: Accordions; Baseball; Baths; English language; Football; French language; Games; Italian language; Mandolins; Music; Sewing; Sports; Tag; ViolinsTranscript: Johnson: Where did she learn to sew, do you know that?
Bruno: She learned to sew over in the hill country, Italy.
Johnson: She knew all that, too, before she came?
Bruno: Oh, yeah.
Johnson: At thirteen?
Johnson: Did she ever say if she learned it in school?
Bruno: No, no, at home. Cause I remember even my own sisters when they - so high - when they get high enough to reach the top of that sink, that's high enough to learn to dry dishes already, you know, then you learn from there on your way up, and finally you start to wash 'em, then you start to cook.
Johnson: Now did your mother know Mattie Ferraro who was the seamstress, she lived on Walker's Bank, I believe?
Bruno: Probably did, I don't know, she probably did, she's no longer around, I wouldn't, couldn't tell, but she probably did. Because you take her, because she could read and write English and Italian, and she could understand French. She was good at all, naturally you were popular because nine out of ten of the old immigrants that lived up there didn't have an education. They would get mail from Italy, or wherever, and they'd come to my Mother, would you read this for me, please, and then answer the letters for them. And that's how she got to be known so well, you know. She would do all this for the people, and that's how she got a lot of her popularity. They all knew her and liked her for that. Yes, I can remember even the younger boys, they wouldn't call her "Aunt", they used to call her "Mom". Yeah, they’ d say, "Mom Bruno," "Yes." She used to treat them all, bake goods and things, treat all the kids with it.
Johnson: Did you remember any musical instruments in the area? Do you remember anybody who played the accordion?
Bruno: Oh yes, oh you talk Italian, you know there's accordion, accordion and mandolin.
Johnson: Do you know those names?
Bruno: The names, I didn't know. The mandolin was a great instrument, too, they played a lot of that.
Johnson: Did you play that?
Bruno: No, no. No I do recall, mmm I must have been five, six year old maybe, I have a picture of it down the basement there, that my Father bought me one of them little concertinas - the drinks makes you do crazy things - he went in town one night after one of these shindigs around there and he buys this thing from someone and he comes home, he says, "Here, play it." Right away, you know, you're a born musician. There was no way in the world I could - and I would squeeze, he said, "What's the matter, you don't know how to play?" I said, "What do you mean, don't know how to play?" Oh he used to buy me all that kind of stuff. Bought me a violin, whatever.
Johnson: Did you ever take lessons on any of these?
Bruno: I took lessons on the violin, that's my wish, I didn't want it. 'Course I dare not say no to him, so - he said, "I buy the violin, you're gonna take lessons." And I went to school for a year and I played, chords and things, that's all you had in the beginning. But I'll never forget, he put a deposit down, then he finally paid for it, $98.00. At that time $98.00 was a lot.
Johnson: That's a lot of money.
Bruno: Two weeks after he bought it, I quit. I said, "I'll take my lickin', but I'm not gonna...” I didn't like it, and he never touched me. I was shocked -never said a word, isn't that something. I guess - he realized this boy didn't like violin. That ended the violin, but what I did like, he wouldn't buy me. I wanted to play accordion. I guess they cost too much, too much money. That ended all of that, 'course he played nothing, he didn't, I do recall well it's nothing, and most people don't know – we had no telephone, no radio, television wasn't even known, never heard of even.
Johnson: And you had no running water, right?
Bruno: No running water, and if you did, you had running water later, it was all cold water, if you were lucky, there was no hot water, you had to heat it on the stove. The baths in the kitchen - big tub, big galvanized or wooden tub, or whichever. And there would be hot water in there. Now if I'm the oldest of the boys or the girls, I take the first bath. And when I'm through, I get all washed and dried and I get out and the next oldest one goes in, all they get is a little added hot water, the rings and things you don't get rid of that - none of that - you get in there. And the poor youngest, he's in trouble, he's in trouble, and that's the way it went. 'Course that was the only hot place there was, you had a coal stove, coal stove not only cooked, but it had to heat the whole house, we had nothin' else. When you woke up in the morning out of bed, and you - huh like that, steam come out of your mouth. I'm not kidding one bit, it did, and you dressed, you didn't mess around, you dressed fast and got out of there. Come downstairs with that old coal stove and hug it, that was the thing. Ah, we survived. In the summer, same way, no fans, nothing. And I can recall, I know why they do, they used to set out front, Mother and Father and all, course we were made to go to bed. When the sun set, just like I say, nine o'clock, whit, you're in bed. They would be setting out eleven, twelve o'clock at night, and I often wondered why, it was so hot, they waited until it cooled down a little bit, then they'd go to bed.
Johnson: They couldn't sleep anyway.
Bruno: Couldn't sleep. Well young kids didn't care, like myself. On a hot night they might cry a little, but they sleep, I guess I did the same, I don't know.
Johnson: And children get tired and they have accidents.
Bruno: Right, right. They had a lot of hard things, but a lot of it was...
Johnson: Now I'm supposed to ask you if you remember ever seeing an autoharp when you were young? This is something that they show at the school groups, but I don't remember hearing about it. Or a tin whistle.
Bruno: No. Tin whistle?
Johnson: Tin whistle, I'd like to know what it is.
Bruno: The only thing that I knew that was, I knew the whistles that you blew like the police whistles, I don't think of them as tin whistles. And then they had one that was, the longer you blew, it had a screeching sound to it. But those you used to get in the store for one or two pennies, I remember that. And a kazoo was the biggest thing that I remember, the one that you put wax paper in, we were great musicians with that, we thought we were, yeah.
Johnson: Now you mentioned playing sand lot football, and I wondered if you also played baseball as a youngster?
Bruno: Yeah, we played - well, it all depended, if you can get a baseball, had to put it that way, if you could find one.
Johnson: You weren't on a team, or they weren't organized the way they are today?
Bruno: No, no, no. No, there wasn't, I don't remember ever having teams then, it's just make-up games with your friends. Not that's where the girls played too, with the boys, it didn't make any difference because you had to have enough players and they had to rely on the girls to fill in the gaps.
Johnson: When you went on picnics, if you went on a picnic at Squirrel Run, do you remember any of the games you might have played with the other children there?
Bruno: Not so much, except games like tag and things of this type.
Bruno: Yeah, running games, tinny can and tag and all them games like this. The girls, they had a little more, they had more, they played jacks. A lot of people today don't even know what that is, but I remember they played that. They had an old golf ball or something that they might have found and they played the jack game. That's the only type of game.
Johnson: Did they have swings, do you remember, any place?
Bruno: Not that I know of.
Johnson: And I suppose only girls jumped rope, is that right?
Johnson: How about bicycles, did you have a bicycle?
Bruno: No, no.
Johnson: Or a scooter?
Bruno: No. No, the nearest thing I had to ride would be maybe if I'd find them old skates, the modern type any all that, and you put it on one foot and then you peddle with the other one and run. But then again, you didn't have much need for it because there was no sidewalks or paved roads or anything.
Johnson: Yes, certainly out at Squirrel Run, they had no sidewalks. Now somebody mentioned taking rides in the powder yard cars on Sundays when they weren't using them. Now would there have been cars in the powder yards, if you came up to Squirrel Run some-time after the yards closed down, would they have had anything like that you could play with there?
Bruno: I never did, I don't remember. I know that probably they were there then, like you said, but I don't remember ever playing (lots of noise in background).
Johnson: Remember ever playing in the powder yard or anything when you came back?
Bruno: No, no.
- Hygiene and personal care; Home remedies and medicines; School and learning; Storing food; Funerals and deathSynopsis: Bruno talks about shampoo and hair care. He talks about how his family used kerosene to fight head lice. He says that his mother made him and his siblings wear chains of garlic around their necks and under their clothes. He says that it helped keep them healthy. He says that in summer his parents shaved his head and made him go barefoot. His family did not read the newspaper but used old papers for insulation. He talks about school and skipping several grades. He describes how his mother stored the family's flour supply. He talks about funerals and death and a child's funeral that he can recall.Keywords: Death; Flour; Food; Funerals; Garlic; Haircuts; Home remedies; Kerosene; Newspapers; Personal care; School; Shampoo; Storage; SugarTranscript: Johnson: Did you ever hear of a Swamp Lily Room at Squirrel Run?
Johnson: This was surely before your time, but somebody remembers her father going to something called the Swamp Lily Room. Do you remember how your mother wore her hair?
Bruno: Oh boy, well I don't, if I remember, I think it was pushed up with a thing, a bun on top.
Johnson: What about taking care of your hair, did she believe in shampoos very often, do you remember being shampooed?
Bruno: Well, one thing they did, they was very conscious, a lot of people in those days had bugs in their hair, and if I were to go home, especially like when I first started school when I was six years old, and I'd come home and say, "So and so had bugs in their hair and the teacher sent them home," that's all you had to mention. Your mother she'd take you with a real fine, fine comb, about so long, had teeth on both sides, real fine, I mean and go through your hair and make you cry, because it was pulling and dragging. They wouldn't find anything, but cautionary measures - they would take kerosene, what they used to call coal oil, we used it to start to fuel the stoves and put that in your hair and rub it in. It was awful, oh God, and that was to prevent you from getting it. Same with...
Johnson: You didn't have to have them, they'd do that just to prevent it?
Bruno: Right, right. And diphtheria was a great thing those days, chicken pox, all this sickness went around, especially diphtheria, they was afraid of it. My Mother would take so many cloves of garlic, big bulbs of garlic and split them and peel them and sew the cloves together, thread, and put them around your neck underneath your clothes, button your clothes up and you wore that on your neck and you’ d go to school.
Johnson: Would that keep you from diphtheria?
Bruno: I never got it and no one in my family and nine out of ten of the Italian immigrants' children didn't get it, but they were called "Stinking garlic wops” and things like this, but you had to either ignore or fight, but it worked.
Johnson: If it worked...
Bruno: The same ones that called us all those names today are eating more garlic than I'll ever eat, you know. A lot of people today they realize value of eating it. And we used garlic for many, many things, for cures. And it's good, it works.
Johnson: Do you remember getting haircuts?
Bruno: Yes, especially when school closed in June. School closed, get out in the middle of the street where we at that time I lived what they call Rodman Street up here, it's still there, and they'd get out in the street, sit in a chair, not out in the street, in front of your house, which was in front of the dirt roads, and Father would get the clippers that you squeeze like so, if you didn't squeeze them fast enough, you know, they would pull, and they'd start back there - the whole works.
Johnson: That Indian-type haircut?
Bruno: Oh God, they'd cut it all off, so now you're alright for summer, it'd grow back by the time you go to school. Oh my head was awful, you cried, you didn't want that type of haircut, but you had to get it, and that was it. And the good shoes you wore to school, you don't see them any more until September, take 'em off.
Johnson: You went barefoot all summer?
Bruno: Barefooted - you know dirt road and cinders, mostly cinders on those roads, gosh, you had awful bruised and bloody feet until you got accustomed to it. After you get accustomed to it, nothing to it. Of course every night my Mother had to wash your feet for you, put it in the tub and scrub them.
Johnson: Did you ever hear of hair jewelry - that would be jewelry made out of hair or with a lock of somebody's hair in it?
Bruno: No, no.
Johnson: Do you remember what the walls were like when you were living at Squirrel Run, did they have any pictures on them?
Bruno: I don't recall any pictures, no I don't. I do remember what got me about Squirrel Run of course Father always bragged about it, see this house, that's a nice house, stone and all this stone that they used to build them. Of course the old-timers were great for stonework, they loved stonework and they'd always brag about it, and that's what stuck in my mind, the way they built the homes. And inside they may have had pictures, but I just...
Johnson: You were too young, really, to remember.
Bruno: Right, I was too young to even appreciate it, if it was there, I didn't know.
Johnson: Yes. Did you have an impression of a color in the wall, were they whitewashed do you think, or just...
Bruno: If anything, I think they were because there wasn't too much fancy stuff on those walls. The rooms were so small, there wasn't too much walls there, the rooms were real small. It didn't dawn on me until I went back for a visit later on, in fact even this last time that I went, they took me through the Gibbons House, and I didn't realize it was so small. When I was a child, I just pictured it as being larger, you know.
Johnson: Yes, I think that's always true, you go back and...
Bruno: Go back and it's so small, I looked, the first thing caught my eye was that windowsill though.
Johnson: You mentioned that your mother knit things, do you remember what her needles looked like? Would they have been bone needles or wood or...
Bruno: She had bone, I remember, the white needle.
Johnson: And do you remember newspapers at home, did your mother read a paper?
Bruno: No, didn't read newspapers, but we got 'em from the store and different places, old ones, just for the purpose of getting building bricks, put them in the oven, say about eight o'clock at night or so, and heat them real good, and wrap them up with newspaper and put them inside the bed at the foot of the bed, and you'd get in bed, sleep, and your feet down there, they wouldn't burn you or anything - keep you warm all night. That's how they heated the beds, with the brick and the newspaper. And it worked, and the same way in old shoes in the winter, stick newspapers in the shoes and wear 'em. Of course if you had a hole in the bottom, nine out of ten we did, worn out spots, you know, and if shoes were too bad, used to wrap burlap bags around them and go to school. Get to school, take the bags off, it worked, all of it worked. Yeah, you had to learn to improvise.
Johnson: What about books, did you have any books at home, anything that was precious? Would your mother brought a book along with her from Europe?
Bruno: No, no. Well, of course she was too young when she came over and that's why she didn't bring any.
Johnson: What about a Bible, would you have had a Bible that you wrote names in and everything?
Bruno: No, no. And the only books were books from school. Because I did bring them. My Mother was the greatest help of all, 'cause like I said, she'd read and write English.
Johnson: Do you remember any of the stories in the books you had from school, like stories from your readers?
Bruno: I remember, I don't know, it scares me sometimes how far back my memory goes, first time I went to school, first grade, they give us a book called "Little Red Hen" -found some wheat, she called- and I memorized every bit of that. I got so good at it that when I got in the second grade the teacher came home with me and told my parents, says, "You teach this boy anything?" They said, "No, why?" She says, "Oh, he's doing terrific. We're going to have to skip the third grade and put him in the fourth." They skipped me. Then when I got in the sixth grade -seventh grade in school - I never get the seventh, they skipped the seventh and put me in the eighth. I skipped twice while I was in school. I'll never forget, because I got my name in the newspaper, said "Honor Pupil" and my Dad, he cut the newspaper out and of course he was going all over the neighborhood showing off. And I wanted to go to college so bad, I loved school, I loved the challenge, you know, and I made out fine, but we didn't have the money, couldn't do it.
Johnson: Not so many people went in those days.
Bruno: I think about it like today, so many of them have that opportunity to go and won't go. I said I wish I had that chance, God these guys don't know what they're missing, they don't know what they're missing.
Johnson: Do you remember how your mother stored flour?
Bruno: Well, she bought the big bag, I don't know if it was fifty pound, the one in cloth, white bag, and she put it in the corner. There was no other way of putting it, didn't have anything else to put it in. And I do remember many a morning, I saw it with my own eyes, she'd come out there and she'd have her hand like that, I said, "What have you got?" And she was slamming it down hard in the sink, it would be a small mouse like that, all full of white flour. They would get in there, in the top, and she'd take and scrape a little bit off of the top, and throw it out and after use it. They didn't have the place to do it. And the same way, this is later after we left Squirrel Run, refrigeration in the winter we had someone build a little box for us, maybe three foot long and maybe a foot or so deep, put it outside the windowsill so that when you open the window in the kitchen, you'd be into the box and the cool air from the outside would be chilling that box and that's where you kept your foods to keep them cold. And that was our icebox until later years, then we got one, one that you had to put the pan under and empty the water, things like this. But for years we used that window box to chill food.
Johnson: Yes, that's very interesting. I guess you didn't keep a mousetrap or a cat or worry about that?
Johnson: For mice. How about sugar, did your mother store sugar?
Bruno: Yes, sugar, I remember came - she had sugar – it would be in - I think we have one here - those cans with goes down pretty tight, you know, has the knob in the center, when you pull them they actually-suction like in those things, yes, kept sugar in that.
Johnson: How about chickens - now you probably were too young to remember if they kept chickens in Squirrel Run house.
Bruno: No, I don't remember that, no. The only thing I remember there was Chicken Charlie was it - or Chicken Alley up there?
Johnson: Chicken Alley, yes. That name. Have you read that book called "Brandywine" - it's a new novel that's set in Chicken Alley - it's just come out? Do you remember ever going hunting or fishing as a child?
Bruno: No, no.
Johnson: How about your birthday, did they celebrate your birthday?
Bruno: I don't recall, really, if they did.
Johnson: Do you remember anything about window shades?
Bruno: I don't think I ever saw one, don't think I ever did.
Johnson: How about curtains, would you say most of the houses there had curtains?
Bruno: Well, if there were curtains, my Mother probably made them for our house, if I'm not mistaken, she probably did, I don't remember if they were there.
Johnson: It seems to me that a lot of people didn't have curtains and then, say around 1920's they started using curtains.
Bruno: Well then again, you take, like you say, shades and things like that, up there, there was no big street lights and nothing like that, they had the old oil lamp. You'd blow it out and it's dark, and no one gonna look in the house anyway, can't see anything, I guess that's what they didn't...
Johnson: What about outdoors at night, if you wanted to go for a walk at night, how would you see, would you carry a lantern?
Bruno: I don't remember going out, after dark we didn't travel too much.
Johnson: Do you remember anything about funerals and burials at the time, did they have any special traditions if someone died?
Bruno: Not there - I do remember as soon as we left there, within a year after we left there, we had a young boy drown in the Brandywine and they had the funeral here, where we moved to. They carried his casket up the street and had band music, and oh God, it was like a carnival. Of course I enjoyed it all the time, I didn't know any better, I thought, gosh, this is a lot of fun - and that's the first and only one I saw like that. They had band music and everything with it.
Johnson: Somebody told me if they saw an ice wagon going around they would follow it because it meant somebody died in the house and they wanted to be the first people - the children wanted to be the first to tell they'd make fun of the funeral.
Bruno: In those days they put crepes on the doors too, they wouldn't, like funeral parlor today.
Johnson: What about weddings, do you remember how a wedding was? Did you go to any?
Bruno: I don't recall any weddings up there really.
Johnson: Wouldn't know about honeymoons or pranks they might play on the newlyweds?
Bruno: I'm not certain, but I'd like to bet if there was a honeymoon, it would be right in that same house where they lived, who went anywhere. They didn't go anyplace.
- Memories of childhood home; Italian proverbs and sayings; Household choresSynopsis: Bruno talks about some assorted memories of household objects. Bruno describes some Italian folklore about predicting the weather and a person's ill fortunes. He tells a story about a time when his mother said that she just knew he was going to be an accident. He describes some household chores.Keywords: Chores; Floor coverings; Folklore; Grinders; Italian culture; Italian language; Plants; Proverbs; Stoves; WoodTranscript: Johnson: Do you remember if they had brick or stone floors there?
Bruno: I don't remember. I don't remember what the floors were.
Johnson: There's some doubt about the Gibbons House, they don’ t know if that was the completely brick floor when they lived there or not.
Bruno: I really don't know, I don't know.
Johnson: I think you've described the kitchen stove already. You wouldn't have had a parlor stove or a stove in the bedroom?
Bruno: No, no. I'll never forget that kitchen stove, no way. After he sat me on it.
Johnson: Do you remember where they stored the wood for it?
Bruno: I believe it was outside under the grape arbor if I'm not mistaken, I believe, now I could be wrong.
Johnson: And did they have wood delivered or did they just go out and pick it up from...
Bruno: No, no, you pick up your - they had wood available for the people, you had to pick your own, pick up your own wood.
Johnson: Did you have to cut your own too?
Bruno: Yeah, I can remember the old men with these saws -a man on each end, you know, hawed like that on them little horses cutting wood, yeah.
Johnson: And there were certain places where they told you you would be okay to do that? Do you remember if you had mittens and gloves when you were a child?
Bruno: I did, like I said, my Mother made them for us, they were woolen mittens. They were mittens 'cause the gloves were too hard to make with the fingers.
Johnson: Yes, and they're really warmer anyway, for children. How about window boxes, did you...
Bruno: I don't remember window boxes.
Johnson: And you mentioned the grape arbor, did you have any lawn furniture or furniture for the porch?
Johnson: Did you have a coffee grinder?
Bruno: No, but we had a little grinder, it wasn't for us, we didn't have chickens, or we may have had, I don't know. You put corn in it, big kernel corn and you grind, make a little fine corn or whatever to feed the chickens, things like that. If they do for other people there, I don't know. But I remember one of those.
Johnson: Yes. And did you store coffee and tea?
Johnson: Would that be in a canister like the sugar?
Bruno: Yeah, yeah.
Johnson: Would you buy your coffee already ground?
Bruno: Sometimes. Sometimes, yes, you're right because I remember my Mother used to say she'd buy the coffee and have them grind it for her while they were at the store or wherever it was. And tea was the leaves cooked in an open pot or pan, and then strained through one of those little strainers, or whatever it was, and that's the way you drank it. Of course we drank sassafras tea, you know what that is, it comes from sassafras roots that you get out of the woods.
Johnson: Now did you dig them up yourself?
Bruno: Yeah. And it's very easy, you don't have to dig, you can pull them, they come out very easy. 'Cause sassafras doesn't cling too hard. And we drank, we had a tea that we drank out of a plant that grows wild all along the fence, like a weed, and has leaves like a tealeaf. It's called Malva – M-A-L-V-A, and if you have sour stomach or pain in the stomach, anything like that, stomach disorders, you'd boil that into a tea and everything, it's awfully bitter, put a little sugar in it, but it still didn't help, and you'd drink it. And lo and behold, it would work, it worked.
Johnson: Do you remember any fights that you had with other people, other boys when you were younger, or did you get along pretty well?
Bruno: We got along, I guess we all had our little fights, but it didn't mean anything.
Johnson: It didn't have any real...
Bruno: No, no real meaning to.
Johnson: Did you have to wear special things for the rain, did you have a raincoat or take, do you remember wearing rubbers and things like that for the rain?
Johnson: Do you remember any funny stories - any dirty jokes that you told?
Bruno: No, I used to always tell stories in the winter, but, gosh, what they were I wouldn't remember.
Johnson: Would they have been about his life in Italy?
Bruno: Nine our of ten, yes.
Johnson: Do you remember any proverbs he might have said, or your mother for that matter - did they have any sayings?
Bruno: Well they used to, well, if you'd do something stupid, they would say in Italian "Fesa contenta", in other words, that means you're stupid and happy. You do something stupid and you're happy about it you know, and that's the phrases they would use. In fact they used that just recently in a story about Little Italy up there on St. Anthony's feast, just the Sunday paper had something like that in there. A lot of it rang a bell from what I had seen, I remember.
Johnson: Did you have any weather lore, like if you saw a cobweb, would that mean something? Or if you see a red sky at night, you say that means something?
Bruno: Well, yes, there were people who used to say that, they would, if they heard, like a dog howling or something, they'd go look to see where he was pointing. If he was pointing towards certain houses, they say somebody in that house was gonna die. And it would scare you, you know, or they would – like you say, the moon changes or something like that, and they'd say, "Beware", or if somebody there, some person has emotional problems, person that's been sick or something, say "Don't get around that person tonight, the moon changes, they're gonna be whacky, tonight, they'll be crazy". I often wondered what they meant by these things, but they went by a lot of these superstitions, they believed in them. Sometimes they turn out to be true. My Mother, lots of times she would twist her hands or something and say, "Oh, it's gonna rain tonight." "What do you mean it's gonna rain, how do you know?" She knew, certain ways, they knew. And I do recall one time when I was a little older, I went riding with a boy, about sixteen then, I remember riding that night, she begged me not to go, don't go, don't go. Around eleven o'clock that night we had a bad accident. Two of the fellows I was with got hurt pretty bad. And I did, busted up my face, my hands and everything. And I was the only one that didn't stay in the hospital and the next morning when I woke up she looks, she says, "Oh my God, I knew it. I had that on my mind all night something was gonna happen to you."
Johnson: Isn't that interesting.
Bruno: Somewhat scary. She said, "Now I'm glad you didn't get hurt bad, it’ s over with." I said, "How did you know?" She said, "I don't know, but I knew."
Johnson: And did you have any other stories about ghosts or superstitions or anything like that that occurs to you?
Johnson: You mentioned having chores to do, do you remember, exactly what you had to do as a child? Did you have to deliver papers, for example?
Bruno: No, no. No papers, chores were like, come home from school at night, you had to get wood together for the fire and things of this nature. Ashes were put out from the fires, sometimes you were lucky enough to coal, you’ d burn coal and the ashes you would put out in the side of the house, you would sift through it and find pieces of coal that may not have burned all the way through and you'd use it and separate everything like this and then reuse all this kind of stuff, and this is what we did. And the ash was used for garden, put in the garden, I guess this is, I don't know if it's potash or whatever that is. But it's supposed to be good. That's what they used, they utilized everything. Everything they had they used it. Garbage, like peels from lettuce, tomato, whatever, went in the garden and buried.
- Relationships, courting, and marriage; Collecting rainwater; Toys and games; Mother's immigration from Italy; Childhood mattress and bedSynopsis: Bruno talks about courting and marriage. He says that matchmaking was common and that he resisted it because he did not like to be told what to do. He tells another story about asking a girl on her date, and her whole family came to chaperone them. He talks about collecting rainwater and how they used the collected water. He talks about toys and games, paying particular attention to marble games. He talks about how his mother came to the United States and was poor despite coming from a well-off family in Italy. He recalls that it was common for husbands to beat their wives when he was young, and he says he is glad that is no longer widely accepted. He describes his childhood bed and mattress.Keywords: Beds; Courting; Dating; Games; Immigration; Italy; Marbles; Marriage; Mothers; Rainwater; Spousal abuse; ToysTranscript: Johnson: I think you said when you started work, so we already know that. What about dating and courting, did you, about what age would you say boys started dating or did it vary?
Bruno: Well, serious dating, I was about seventeen I guess, or eighteen. Because before that, the old people come from the other side, my Father for one time, he says, "Tonight I want you to go with me.” We're going over to John's house." John lived across the street and he had a daughter, Margaret, and I was, I liked the girl, she liked me, I could tell, you know. She sat on her porch, I sat on mine. It's just a question, Number 1, of asking for a date. And I went over there with them, and they had this old tradition, they matched people you know in Italy, I guess they figured on doing it here, and the father spoke up, he says, he looked at me and says, "Sonny, I like you, you good boy. I want you to marry my daughter." And he didn't mean right then and there, you go with then and later marry. He says, "You marry her, I got a house for you, I got a big garden." Always the garden, you know, it's free, he's gonna give it to me. And my Father says, "You hear, John, that's a good idea, you gonna marry Margaret." And as much as she liked me and I liked her, it turned us, because of the fact that they were trying to make a match. And we just got further and further apart and never did materialize it, because of the fact that I didn't like that idea of somebody telling me what to do, you know. And that's how they broke up, but they would do these things, yeah, they'd make the matches for you.
Johnson: Isn't that interesting, they will be really happy to hear...
Bruno: And that poor girl had nothing but bad luck all her life, 'til this day she lost her husband after about a year or two, he died of a heart attack. She never remarried.
Johnson: Isn’ t that too bad.
Bruno: Then took her mother in, then her mother died, now she's all alone again. It's pitiful, it's sad.
Johnson: When you did go out on dates, where did you go, where would you go, just...
Bruno: Oh boy, I'm gonna tell you something. I don't know if you saw that movie, "The Godfather"?
Johnson: Yes, several years ago.
Bruno: You did, alright, I should have played that part, I should have played the part because I know one day I got up enough nerve to ask a girl that lived three doors up from us, she was a pretty girl too, Julia was her name. I said, "Julia, do you want to go to the movies at the Park Theater, only costs five cents then. I had a fifty-cent piece in my pocket, I was a little older then, I was eighteen, I guess, seventeen, eighteen. And she says, "Go in and ask my Mother, go ahead. Always had to ask permission, and I'd go with her. And she said, "Mom, he wants to take me to Park Theater." She says, "Sure, that's alright. But wait.” So I said, "Alight." And I went outside and I waited. Julia come out, the girl I was supposed to go to the movies with, the Mother came out, two brothers came out and two other sisters come out. Said, “ We're ready, let's go." I said, oh Lord a-mercy. My fifty cents went fast, I took the whole family - we saw that in the Godfather, that's what they do. They don't trust you, you walk up ahead and they're right behind you. You don't get that close. No more , I didn't have any wrong intentions, nothing like this, but just wanted to get to know the girl. I never asked ... when I think about it, it makes me laugh. Even to this day, she's married and has her own family, has grandchildren and all. I see her, I say, "Julia, you want to go to the movies?” She says, "Yeah, let's go." Oh God.
Bruno: Okay. Now the next question is, collecting rainwater. Did you collect rain water?
Bruno: Yes, yes we collected rain water for a number of things, for the gardens and Mother used to rinse clothes in clear rain water. How we ever caught it, I can't tell you because I don't remember downspouts or gutters on the homes those days even, but it just the way it came off the roof and they would catch it in big barrels. And I remember washing our heads in that rain water, soft rain water.
Johnson: What about the other water, was it pretty good, the water that you'd get...
Bruno: The water from the, the house, this was from the house then when we moved over here, it had the galvanized pipe, full of rust and everything in it, you'd get rust, dirt, everything come out it, we drank it, I mean you had to drink it, we had nothin' else to do, unless you'd strain it. The rain water seemed to be the best of all of it, you could drink rain water then, it didn't have all this junk that it has in it now - acid water.
Johnson: What about wagons and sleighs or horses and mules?
Bruno: No - none. Little wagon maybe, like a little...
Johndon: Yes, but really you were too young to know about horses and wagons. Were most toys homemade? And what kind of toys do you remember having?
Bruno: Toys - I had one little tricycle and it was hand-me-down, I don't know who gave it to my Father, but he brought it home one time for me, and that was the only toy that I remember. But not anything bought.
Johnson: Yes. How about marbles, did you play marbles as a child?
Bruno: Yes, we played marbles. Lot of the marbles you could accumulate yourself by out in the street with playing with some of the other boys and they would give you some of theirs or you'd pick them up loose around the place.
Johnson: Were they those glass marbles?
Bruno: No, we had, once in a while you'd find glass, but most of them were made of that clay stuff, like, you know, or whatever you called it. It was real old stuff and it was far from being round, too, it was all funny shaped thing - wobbly you know.
Johnson: Do you remember how they played it?
Bruno: No exactly, I know there was a, we used to make a circle and you'd shoot at the things, but I don't remember exactly how I played it, I don't remember, no.
Johnson: And was it sort of seasonal, would that be a sign of spring if you'd get your marbles out?
Bruno: Yeah, marbles in the spring and in the summer months. And in the summer there was a lot of, well, the older ones played a lot of checkers. Course I never got interested in checkers, I didn't like it.
Johnson: Now you said your mother was too young to have brought much with her, but do you remember her ever talking about things she had left in Italy which she wished she'd brought with her?
Bruno: Not that I know of. The only thing that she left was she left, let's say, all the comforts and ease of the world in Italy and came here to poverty, her parents were well off, they owned grist mills, they owned acres and acres of ground where they'd grind their own feed and everything and sold it and she left all that to come here with, she had nothing over here. When she married my Father, he was a coal miner and didn't have very much.
Johnson: Did she ever mention this or say she was sorry that she had…
Bruno: No - no, no. I remember one time years later as I got older, much older, I asked her, I said, "Mom, why did you leave all that over there, come over here and marry him, he had nothing?" She said, "Don't you ever talk like that, that's your Father." Daren't say I made the mistake. Or, if the – you know everyone has their little arguments now and then, the married people - can't help it - he met her, Mother or something like that, get ready to move and in between she'd say, "You mind your own business." He could hit her if he wanted, which he didn't do. If he did - I had to keep my mouth shut. That part I didn't like, I didn't buy that too well, but it existed. I remember lots of times I'd be out in the street and you'd hear one of them women screaming and crying and somebody said, "Oh, John's beating his wife, or Harry's beating his wife." Something like that, they would do it, they would hit them and them women wouldn't say a word. I don't want that kind of life.
Johnson: No, things are different now.
Bruno: Things are different, I thank God.
Johnson: I'm going to run out, would you be willing to let me put another tape in and talk a little more, if you don't...
Bruno: It's up to you, if you want.
Johnson: I have this many more questions to ask.
Bruno: I can remember.
Johnson: Do you remember what your mattress was like?
Bruno: My which?
Johnson: Mattress was like? As a child?
Bruno: Yes, the one I remember very well, it had feathers in it. In other words, when you got in it and laid in the center of it, the sides would almost fold over on you it was so soft and everything. Pillows were the same way.
Johnson: Now did your mother make that mattress out of chicken feathers?
Bruno: Yeah, she made pillow cases out of material like from flour bags or whatever kind of bags she could get, sewed them together, and the same way with the mattresses and all that, yeah.