Interview with Eugene Bruno, 1984 June 11 [audio](part 2)

Hagley ID:
  • Cleaning beds and betting; Getting milk from the family's goats; Celebrating Easter; Skipping grades in school
    Synopsis: Bruno describes cleaning his bedding. He says that they did not get milk delivered; instead his family kept three goats for milking. Bruno talks about how his mother made ice cream. He says that adults played a card game called "tre sette" or three seven. He talks about his father's pocket watch. He talks about how his family celebrated Easter. Bruno talks about skipping grades in school. He says that his father, while drunk, gave him five dollars to celebrate while a boarder living with his family gave him a dollar. He says that the next morning his father asked for the money back and said that he was just showing off.
    Keywords: Bedding; Card games; Christenings; Cleaning; Easter; Kerosene; School; Tre sette (Card game)
    Transcript: Bruno: Yes, I remember - and I remember one other thing about, as far as mattresses and things go – every Saturday it seemed to be, or once a week anyway, they would strip mattresses and everything off of the bed, and they had the springs in the bed, old type of coil springs, hard things, and check all around for little bedbugs, there were quite a few of them around those days, and spray, or wipe around with kerosene and everything like that, and then they got the idea to put little lids, jars and things under each leg of the bed and pour kerosene in it. You see the insects would have to come up and climb up the side of the thing, but they'd never get to - and that's how they kept them away.

    Johnson: That's good. Now did that smell at all?

    Bruno: Oh God, yes.

    Johnson: I should think so.

    Bruno: I was used to it - after they put it in your head, gosh used to--think something was wrong. And on top of it, my Father smoked those all dried stogie cigars – oh Lord, wonder it didn't kill you, the smells.

    Johnson: How about ice cream, do you remember...

    Bruno: My Mother made ice cream - God knows how she ever did it, I don't know. She made it with snow, when it snowed, pure, white snow, but it didn't freeze hard enough, it would be soft, but it was good. She's was very talented when it come to things like that, very good.

    Johnson: How about milk, did you have milk delivered?

    Bruno: No, we owned three goats. My Mother milked those things every day, and that's what we drank.

    Johnson: Now this was when you lived in the city, on Rodman Street?

    Bruno: Yeah, yeah.

    Johnson: You had the goats there?

    Bruno: Goats - we drank goat milk. Gosh I hated that.

    Johnson: You didn't like it?

    Bruno: It was thick, almost as molasses. I didn't like it.

    Johnson: But I guess she thought it was good for you.

    Bruno: Had to drink it or else.

    Johnson: How about butter, did your mother make butter?

    Bruno: No, no, we didn't have much of butter, it was something else you had to go out and buy. Nope, no butter. Far as cooking, I do remember she used to cook with, we call fat back, lard on the thing, piece about so big, put it in a deep pan, kettle or whatever, and let it melt slowly and then you would cook in that. It didn't smell good, that stuff when it was melting, but it was good.

    Johnson: Do you know anything about gambling?

    Bruno: Gambling?

    Johnson: Yes, anybody gamble or...

    Bruno: No, the only - I do remember they played an awful lot of cards in the winter, like husband and wife or friends would come around, numerous friends because you had nowhere to go, you had to depend on visiting, and they would play cards and things, but I never saw money transfer or anything. I saw drinks, they would play to see who would lose and who would pay for the drinks, but they never paid for them, it was just...

    Johnson: Do you know what any of the games were that they played?

    Bruno: I knew the names of them, but how they played them, I don't know what they meant by them. They had one game they used to call "Three Seven" in Italian they call it "Tre sette" Three Seven, and how they ever win, I don't know. They played that an awful lot.

    Johnson: You told me about your father smoking - you already told about lunch at school. Did you have book straps or bags to take to school?

    Bruno: Didn't have straps and I just carried the books loose. Course we didn't have that many books, maybe two at the most.

    Johnson: And you mentioned your shoes, do you remember what your mother's shoes were like by any chance?

    Bruno: They were, she had this - they were button shoes, cause she had this hook that you slide through them and pull the buttons, and they were - went way up high, like the old days, like in the old cowboy days, I guess, the old button shoes. And I can remember my sister had them too, and I hate to say it, I can remember when I had to wear them. They were handed down to me and I wore them.

    Johnson: They were the girls' shoes?

    Bruno: Yeah, they might not have been the right size either, and I wore them, I wore them. They were warm, I guess.Yeah.

    Johnson: How about clocks and watches?

    Bruno: Clocks and watches - I guess we had them. My Father always had a pocket watch, what kind it was, I don't know. But I don't remember any I don't recall any clocks on the walls or anything like this.

    Johnson: Saving money, did you save money at home, did you have a bank or did you have a savings account in a savings bank?

    Bruno: No. I had one little one in school, like a penny or two a week, whatever, that was a little thing like that, that was all.

    Johnson: What about Thanksgiving, did you celebrate that?

    Bruno: No. It was - it would probably be a little different, like we would have chicken where normally you wouldn't or something like this for Thanksgiving.

    Johnson: Would you go visiting other people for Thanksgiving?

    Bruno: Oh yes, visiting was one of the main things with us. It was our means of entertainment, sitting along with them and seeing people. Like I said, we had no T.V., we had nothing.

    Johnson: What about Easter, how did you celebrate that – would you...

    Bruno: My Mother used to sit down with us, and we used to help her in dyeing eggs, we had plenty of eggs. Cause people that had chickens, they'd give you all the eggs you wanted, you didn't even have to buy them, they'd bring them to you. And we would dye the eggs and she'd make Easter baskets, how she ever did it, I don't know.

    Johnson: How did you dye the eggs, did you - nowadays we just buy those little papers and...dip them in hot water.

    Bruno: She would dip them, dip 'em in a solution, how she made it, I don't know, the different colors, and that's how it would be dyed. Was no candy or anything like that, just the eggs and nuts.

    Johnson: Would you eat all those eggs that she dyed?

    Bruno: Sometimes, yes, oh yeah.

    Johnson: Did you have an Easter egg hunt Easter morning, anything like that?

    Bruno: No, no, no hunts, no. I do remember getting a little piece of paper, whatever kind, maybe so long like this, pour salt in it and roll it and fold it, and then when you unroll it, unroll it like so, you would take a bite of the egg and then pour salt on it and keep eating it, and that's how you, we used to do that with everything. Get raw peppers out of the garden or tomatoes out of the garden, do the same thing, just walk along the street putting salt on it and eating it.

    Johnson: Well eggs need salt. Was there any other thing for Easter you did to celebrate, do you remember how it was to go to church or anything?

    Bruno: No, no.

    Johnson: Do you remember any christenings at church, would people give out candy, someone remembers getting...

    Bruno: Now christenings, yes, there was quite a few of those. They had a big time for christenings, especially if someone would come to my house and ask my Mother or Father to be godparents for them. That would be one of the greatest things – the godparents would give - in other words, if they had, say $1.50 saved, they would think nothing of taking a dollar and giving it to the child for a christening. They just wanted to be grateful and give as much as they can for the christening so that they can be remembered as being good godparents. That's what they did.

    Johnson: Now did they keep a list of all the presents that the child got? Would the parents keep a list?

    Bruno: I don't know if they did, they probably did, I don't know.

    Johnson: So they could remember who remembered the child. Now do you remember if they ever gave out Jordan almonds to the children when a child was born? One of the people said she remembers going to church and getting the almonds after a christening.

    Bruno: Almonds? I remember they would throw the almonds, but it would be coated with white -- oh I don't know what you call it, sugar-- like coating, but it's hard, you know like hard stuff, they'd throw these up in the air, all over. We used to grab them, handsful of them, putting them in our pockets wherever you could put them. They were hard, they wouldn't even break when they hit the ground and that's what they would do. And lots of times if the people had the money, they would put maybe a dollar or two dollars worth of pennies in with all these things and when they throw them up in the air, pennies, almonds, everything come down, and we would scramble for the pennies – course when you got home, my Father would say, "Where's the pennies?" And I'll tell you one little story, I was very, very young, that's when I was in the first grade, I was about six years old, I guess. My Father had one roomer in our house, room and board, was from the coal mines, and I got promoted. My Dad couldn't read or write English, but he was the darndest man for reading the report from school, how he learned, I don't know. So with that, I dare not fail, I was scared to death to fail, I didn't fail. And I brought home the report card and must have been a lot of A's on it, no it was E for excellent those days, and my Mother looks at it, says, "M-m-m, good, good." My Father says, "Let me see." And he looks, and he says, "Oh, pretty good, huh." And the roomer, I remember him saying, "What happened?" He says, "Look at that, boy got all good marks, God that's good." And he looked at it and he says – my Father called him Dominic, he says, "Dominic do you mind if I give the boy gift cause he got promoted?" The man had a little bit of money cause he was a single man, and I guess his room and board cost him two dollars a week, maybe at the most, so he hands me a dollar. And I looked at my Daddy, and he says, "That's alright, Son, you take it." Without permission, you dare not stick your hand out. So my Father had three-quarters wine in him, always had, slaphappy with wine, he says, "Hah, you good-a boy, I tell you what I do." Pulled a five dollar bill out and he handed it to me, he says, "You do good job, I pay you here." And he handed me five dollars. That was on a Saturday - Sunday morning wake up and he called me. He says, "Hey, I want to talk to you." I said, "Yes, Pop." He says, "Last-a night, what I'm a give you?" I said, "Five dollar, Pop." He said, "Ah, that's good, I just-a want to see you tellin' me truth." I said, "Yeah, five dollars." He says, "What-a you do with it?" I said, "I got it." He said, "You give-a back to me because last-a night I be drunk and I make-a show-off, and I mean it." And I gave it back to him, but the dollar, he said, "What did you do with the dollar?" I said, "I gave it to Mom." He don't get that, I gave it to her. But how the devil, he says "I was showin' off."

    Johnson: Isn't that something!

    Bruno: He says, "I was showin' off." And he used to speak in that broken English and I dare not make fun of his English, oh that would make him mad, that would make him angry, oh Lord.
  • Pets; Brewing beer; Household furniture; Mother's sewing
    Synopsis: Bruno talks about childhood pets. He says that they mostly had cats to catch mice. He says that they also had several dogs over the years. He recalls when his dog got hit by a trolley in Wilmington. He talks about snakes, and says that he caught a few to stay in the basement and eat the mice. He talks about his mother brewing beer in addition to his father's wine making. He describes the household furniture. He talks about his mother's Singer sewing machine.
    Keywords: Brewing; Cats; Dogs; Furniture; Pets; Sewing; Singer sewing machines; Snakes; Street-railroads; Wilmington (Del.)
    Transcript: Johnson: Did you have any dogs or cats, did you keep any pets, dogs, cats, fish?

    Bruno: Yes, we had both - cats mainly because of the mice.

    Johnson: Well, in spite of having the cats, sometimes a mouse would get in your flour?

    Bruno: In spite of it, yes, there were so doggone many mice in those days and didn't have...

    Johnson: Most of the time cats go out at night and...

    Bruno: Yeah, in those days we didn't have the different things that they have for trying to control some of these things.

    Johnson: Yes, what about your dog, what kind of dog was it?

    Bruno: Well, I had all different kinds. We had a little Boston terrier, we had mostly bulldogs or shepherds or Collie-type dogs, my Father went great for those Collie-type dogs, they were nice. And we had - course we had one, one time a black man sold to my Father for a couple dollars, I don't know where he got it. When my Father brought it home, I don't know who was leading who, he was staggering down the road with the dog, come in the backyard, he says, "I gotta feed the dog." He bought a pound of steak and the dog went one swipe, I think, and he ate 'em. Next day he feed him again, feed again, that fellow was that high, gosh. My Father say, "Gotta take that dog away." I say, "Why?" He said, "He ate too much. Oh that thing was - whew - that's the only one I recall getting rid of. But we all had dogs, we had dogs. 'Cause I remember where I lived on Rodman Street, up the street there was a trolley, No. 6 trolley used to go by there, and I come from school one day and I says, "Where's Teddy?" That was the little bulldog, little tiny Boston bull, and my Mother half crying, she said, "He was killed today." I said, "What - how did it happen?" She said, "The trolley car run over him out front there, Hon." It did. And I went out front and I had a whole pile of stones about that big piled up next to me. She said "What are you gonna do?" 'I said "When that motorman come around with that trolley car, I'm gonna get him." I was gonna kill him, he killed my dog, you know. But if it wasn't the same motorman, they have different ones - I couldn't buy that. I was heartbroken over that dog. For some reason I don't have a pet today. I'd love to have a dog - I get too attached.

    Johnson: Do you know how old you were when that dog was killed?

    Bruno: Oh, I was about eight, I'd say, or nine – between eight and ten, somewhere in there.

    Johnson: Just the age where, I think, you feel it the most.

    Bruno: Yeah my Father loved that dog, cause it waited for me every night, come running up the street for me. When he didn't come, I said, "Oh my God, what happened to him?

    Johnson: Did you keep fish or turtles or snakes or anything like that?

    Bruno: Snakes I did, I used to go out hunting them. We’ d go in the woods near the creek and get these little grass snakes – they’ re harmless, and I’ d put them in my pockets. And I used to come home and tease my poor Mother - say "Look what I got." And she'd run and get out of the house. And I said, "Somebody said you put them in the basement, they kill mice." And I did, I put three or four down there. Mother wouldn't go in that basement for nothing. I'd have to go down after coal, wood, whatever. She'd say, "Go down the snake house and get something." I'd go down there, it wouldn't - I think it did control the mice, didn't have no trouble with them after that. But where those snakes got to, I don't know.

    Johnson: What about poisonous snakes?

    Bruno: No, ordinarily little grass snake, about that long, little skinny things, they wouldn't hurt anything.

    Johnson: Somebody said that when the powder yards closed, that area was full of poisonous snakes, not only little snakes...

    Bruno: Copperheads.

    Johnson: Did you hear about that too?

    Bruno: I've heard that. Copperheads, you can tell, he smells like a watermelon rind or cucumber, when he's there. You can smell it, very strong scent. In fact, up the Nemours building now, top of the hill, all them new buildings and everything up there, where the old golf course used to be, it was loaded with them up there, yeah.

    Johnson: How about popcorn, did you have popcorn?

    Bruno: No.

    Johnson: I don't think you'd know about making sachet to make your house smell good, or potpourri?

    Bruno: Well, my Mother cooked some things like, I don’ t know, say cabbage, puts off an odor, and she would either put sugar on the lid of the coal stove, and it would flare up a little bit and then it would smoke like, and put off ascent, kill the odor then. Lots of times she would take an orange peel, on all the lids of the stoves, and it would put out the scent and it would kill the odor, yeah.

    Johnson: Yes, that's nice. How about beer, did you know anybody who made beer or did you buy...

    Bruno: We did it. My Mother made it.

    Johnson: You made beer?

    Bruno: Later on - not from...

    Johnson: Was it regular beer or root beer?

    Bruno: Yeah, it was Pabst Blue Ribbon. Not from Squirrel Run, when we moved, over in here she made it. We used to go to - I'll never forget, there was a drugstore on Fourth Street somewhere, used to buy the 'malt, can of malt and maybe a quart or so of malt, and she would make the beer for the family with that.

    Johnson: How did she do that, did she...

    Bruno: How it was made, I don't know, but I do remember that little thing where you put the cap on the bottom and you pull down the handle to cap the bottles. I used to do that for her, that's what I remember.

    Johnson: Any other alcoholic beverages, did they make brandy or anything like that?

    Bruno: No, there was wine and beer once in a while, that was all.

    Johnson: Then family cooperation, do you know anything about quilting bees or getting together to can things or...

    Bruno: No.

    Johnson: How about willow peeling, I think they peeled willows in the powder yards, but really at an earlier time I think.

    Bruno: Willow?

    Johnson: Willow peeling - they had Willow peeling parties. They said ‘ cause they needed the charcoal for the black powder so the women would do this together and the children would peel them and then the company would pay them for that and make it into charcoal.

    Bruno: No, I didn't know that.

    Johnson: Do you know anything about crime at the time – did you ever hear about crime?

    Bruno: Never heard a thing about it. I doubt if there was any. If there was, nobody ever heard of it.

    Johnson: How about tuberculosis, or did they call it consumption at that time?

    Bruno: I've heard that mentioned many times, but I never saw a case of it of anyone having it, but I've heard it mentioned. Like you say, they called it consumption. Well I remember the Italian people, like someone had a cold and would be coughing real loud and hacking and they would go "What's the matter, you got a consermachick?" That's what they said, I used to laugh at that. I often wondered what they meant and they were talking about consumption. Used to call it consermachick.

    Johnson: Furnishings, do you remember anything about your home furnishings in the parlor or...

    Bruno: Well, I don't remember even the - well later the parlor, but up in Squirrel Run there wasn't any, just the kitchen I remember there.

    Johnson: Just the kitchen.

    Bruno: In the old parlor, we had very little furniture in the parlor. Maybe a sofa or something like that, because we had big dining rooms. That's where the furniture was, the table and the chairs and everything, I guess they used the same chairs when they had to set in the parlor, just moved them in there or something. I don't remember any of this type of seating in the parlor.

    Johnson: What were the dining room chairs like - did they have soft seats - would you put cushions on them?

    Bruno: No, they were the weaved stuff - something like this one here, that material on the bottom and on the backs of them. And the table itself, my Lord, you could sit a lot of people around that table - you open 'em up, put a leaf in it - think you must have put fifteen, twenty people around that thing.

    Johnson: Did you have big tablecloths?

    Bruno: Yeah, my Mother used to make those things. She had one that she put over top of the regular table – the crocheted thing, or whatever you call 'em – knitted or whatever, you know, that stuff like that. Beautiful stuff, yeah.

    Johnson: And she crocheted that herself?

    Bruno: All of that, yes. Never wore glasses in her life, she'd be talking to you, and be going like this. And when she had wool from the woolen mills, I remember she'd put it over my hand, went over here like that, she'd roll it into a ball, it was loose, and I'd have to go like this, did it all the time. Yeah, if you want a new sweater, you'd better help. She would make me a sweater, hat and gloves, oh gosh.

    Johnson: And she did all this without patterns, she could just look at you and it would turn out?

    Bruno: Right. Yes, she was great at that stuff.

    Johnson: Do you remember anything about the furnishings for a boarder’ s room - would they have anything beside a bed in there?

    Bruno: Nothing fancy, just probably just a bed and that was it.

    Johnson: Chest of drawers maybe?

    Bruno: Yeah.

    Johnson: And you mentioned you had one boarder, that's the only one you remember?

    Bruno: Yeah.

    Johnson: And you talked about sewing - did your mother have a sewing machine?

    Bruno: Later on she did, right away I don't remember any, she may have had one earlier, I don't know, but she had one of the - in fact it's still around, my sister has it, and it's all broken, can't be used any more, but the thing you peddled yourself, you know.

    Johnson: Was it a Singer do you know?

    Bruno: Yes, it was a Singer.

    Johnson: How about darning socks, did your mother do all that?

    Bruno: Uh-huh.
  • Dancing and celebrations; Using Octagon soap; Making money as a child; Trips to the beach; Spending summer at a du Pont family estate
    Synopsis: Bruno talks about dancing and celebrations. He talks about Octagon soap, which his mother used for household cleaning, laundry, bathing, and shampoo. He talks about his first car ride. He says that he earned money as a child by picking up scrap and crash and selling it to junk men and rag pickers. He talks about taking trips to the beach and learning how to swim. He says that his family also visited friends in Kennett Square, Pa. He says that one summer vacation his father made him live with a family that worked on a du Pont Estate so that he would stay out of trouble in Wilmington.
    Keywords: Celebrations; Dancing; Kennett Square (Pa.); Keyes' Hill; Octagon Soap; Tarantella; White Crystal Beach; Wilmington (Del.)
    Transcript: Johnson: And do you remember any square dancing?

    Bruno: No, I do remember an awful lot of Italian dancing.

    Johnson: Where would they dance, where would you see them dance?

    Bruno: Well most of it was at christenings and weddings and things of this type, this was here now, not up and if they were fortunate, they would get a hall, I don't know, Columbus Hall or one of them places, they would probably just give it to them for nothing or a few pennies or whatever, and they would have their parties, that's what they would do. And they would dance - mainly what they call the Tarantella, Italian dance, you know, where you clap your hands underneath and all that.

    Johnson: Somebody remembers seeing that on Keye's Hill, that's why I asked about that.

    Bruno: Yeah, they do all of that - they were good at that, yes.

    Johnson: Do you remember the steps or anything?

    Bruno: No, no.

    Johnson: Where did they get the music from, who would play at something like that?

    Bruno: They got the - some men, like one would play an accordion, and one would play, like I say, a mandolin, or one would blow a horn, they would get them together, slap some music together, they'd dance by it. And a lot of time, if you were lucky, you'd get somebody with one of those old cranking victrolas, and put a record on there and dance with it, yeah. But the dance slowed down when the victrola got a little low.

    Johnson: Who'd have the job of cranking that - would that a young boy would be...

    Bruno: Whoever was the nearest to it, I guess, would go and grab it and crank it. Somebody would holler "Crank it up."

    Bruno: How about cleaning the floor, do you remember how they cleaned their floors?

    Bruno: With a scrub brush, my Mother did, and they was old wooden, splintery floor, oh.

    Johnson: Would she put anything on after, like and oil...

    Bruno: The soap that she used was called Octagon, brown -that same soap you used to wash your face, shampooed with it, you done everything with it. Lord that stuff was burning - oh God, it was terrible - whoo. I don't know how anybody could have any germs on their head or their body after you used that thing. Later on in years my Mother made soap, made soap out of lard, and that same kind, that brown soap, stinking brown soap.

    Johnson: She didn't know how to make it white?

    Bruno: Oh God, no. I'm glad I forgot that.

    Johnson: We mentioned tablecloths, but how abut oilcloth, did your mother ever use oilcloth?

    Bruno: Yes, we had a lot of oilcloth. That was the thing, oilcloth.

    Johnson: Do you remember anything about the house repairs, the Company was supposed to repair those houses in Squirrel Run, but probably you wouldn't know much about that.

    Bruno: No, I don't know too much about that.

    Johnson: Your first car ride, do you remember your first car ride?

    Bruno: You mean like auto ride?

    Johnson: Automobile, I think, yes.

    Bruno: I believe, to tell you the truth, was at that funeral, the first funeral I mentioned I went to. I think a fellow had got a car, and that was the first one.

    Johnson: Do you remember the first car you owned?

    Bruno: Uh-huh. The first car I owned was 1947, when I got discharged from the second World War, I just had enough money to buy an old secondhand, and I started from there on up until today.

    Johnson: As a kid, how could you make money? Now, you mentioned that you had a lot of chores and that you also got money for your report card.

    Bruno: Right. As a kid, if we had a little express wagon or bag, you always walk around with your burlap bag or whatever, and if you'd see a piece of metal on the ground or anything, you'd pick it up. Rags even, and bones, of all things, bones - the junk people - rag man used to come around. They called him rag man, he come around with a horse and wagon, they would buy all this from you. You have a handful of rags or something, they'd give you a penny, two pennies for it, metal - give you a little more and they'd weigh it - they had these scales that you hold up in your hand and weigh it. And things like that - we used to sell all this kind of stuff to 'em.

    Johnson: Yes - and that you can fix up too, wouldn't you?

    Bruno: We used that express wagon for everything. If a home was being built, go up there and ask the carpenter if he wanted a piece of wood, say this big or a foot long or six inches, he'd say, "No, you can have it." Put it in a bag and put it on the wagon, bring it home for the home, for the fires. Yeah, that held everything.

    Johnson: I think - you didn't go on vacations as a child?

    Bruno: No, no.

    Johnson: Do you remember any outings that you went - Lenape or Brandywine Springs or someplace like that?

    Bruno: Well, the furthest back I can remember, the first outing - after that we did go quite frequent, was to Riverview Beach over to Jersey. The Wilson Line used to leave at Fourth and Church Streets in Wilmington and go to Riverview Beach. And we rode the trolley down to the Wilson Line and got on and bring picnic lunch and things like that - Mother, Father and the family, and we'd go there and swim most of the day and then come home from there. That's where we went. 'Course years later as I got older, I went to Lenape and those places on my own, but when I was a young boy, that was a main - that and White Crystal Beach.

    Johnson: Where was White Crystal Beach?

    Bruno: It's down Warwick, Maryland. A lot of people still go down there, it was the closest one. And we have...

    Johnson: How did you get there, could you go by trolley?

    Bruno: We had what they call straw ride. One man had a very large stake body truck with the wooden sides and could fit maybe twenty, twenty-five people in it. He charged a quarter a head. We'd sell tickets to people, have tickets printed and sell 'em. And Sunday morning real early, get on the truck and go down. He would drive down and we'd stay there all day long, swim, eat and have fun and come home. That's what we used to do. It was a lot of fun. This was all the younger people, the older ones, they didn't - Mother and Father, they didn't go.

    Johnson: About how old were you when you learned to swim?

    Bruno: Oh I learned at a very early age. My Father was great for that, he was a great swimmer. I can remember him holding me, I was a little thing, holding me up in the water, teaching me, and I must have been seven, eight, years old, I guess. And I found out that I loved it after a while. I used to love to swim. Only wish I could swim today. I got emphysema from all the years I used to smoke, I just don't have the wind to do it anymore and I loved to swim - gosh.

    Johnson: That was a shame. Do you remember visiting relatives when you were little?

    Bruno: Yes, yes I had relatives in Kennett Square area, mushrooms, up in that area. They worked in the different mushroom houses. Had an uncle up there, couple uncles. 'Course their relatives, we used to go visit them too. There was so many aunts and uncles - called aunts and uncles - I don't know who half of them were really. Friends - if you didn't have friends, or places to visit, like I say, you had no other source of entertainment, you had to go visit your friends.

    Johnson: Would you stay overnight when you went up to Kennett Square?

    Bruno: No.

    Johnson: No, that was just a day trip?

    Bruno: Just a day trip, yeah.

    Johnson: Do you like that countryside?

    Bruno: Oh I love it, I love it. Many times like during - retired now - during the daytime with nothing to do, beautiful day, I'll say, "Oh, let's take a ride down the country. And I do, I ride and ride just go all over, I just love it. I love it.

    Johnson: Yes, it's pretty country.

    Bruno: Yes, they can have their cities, I don't want it, country. In fact I lived in the country when I was eight year old, my Father, like I say, was very, very strict. And school vacation, started in June and he made arrangements with a friend of his that lived in - up on Eugene du Pont's estate up near Greenville - and he worked for du Pont and they furnished a home for him up on a hill in a wooded area, like a little farm. My Father sent me there, he said, "You go there, stay with him all summer. He said “ I don't want you around here with the boys in the city, you'll get into nothing but trouble."

    Johnson: Isn’ t that nice.

    Bruno: Little did he know, I loved it. It wasn't a punishment keeping me away from the boys, I loved it. I'd go there and I'd help him doing the corn and doing everything. That's where I done a lot of blackberry and elderberry picking for that family up there, they made everything - jellies and wine, you name it, they made it.

    Johnson: And were you there with other boys, were there other boys there with you?

    Bruno: Yes, there was one there about a year or two older than I, then they had two or three young kids - daughters, they were little girls, they were there. They were real nice people, treated me swell, really nice, yeah. My Father said, "I feel sorry had to send you to..." "Don't feel sorry, I love it." I said, "Can I go next year?" Yeah, I loved it. My job in the morning was to check the chickens, made sure they were all fed and got out and make sure they were all in at night, I'd count them.

    Johnson: About how many did they have, do you remember?

    Bruno: I thought it was in the twenties - twenty or so chickens that they had. And in the daytime, if you'd see a buzzard or something swooping down close to the chicken house, I'd run in the house and call the Mrs. of the house and tell her, "Bird out there gonna get the chickens." She'd go out there and slap two large paddles together and make noise and they'd take off. I didn't know what she meant by it, but I learned later that they were out to steal eggs and things - little chicks on the ground, they'll kill 'em, yeah they'll kill 'em.

  • Outhouses; Man who built a church with matchsticks; Childbirth and midwives; Fires; Whittling and wood carving
    Synopsis: Bruno describes outhouses and toilet paper. He tells a story about a neighbor who built a matchstick model of his former church in Italy. He talks about babies being born and midwives. Bruno recalls a local fire at a leather factory. He says this his favorite toy was a dancing doll called a "Jigger." He talks about whittling and wood carving and says that he had an uncle who was a very talented wood carver, but who died young.
    Keywords: Babies; Birth; Fire departments; firefighting; Fires; Matchsticks; Midwives; Models; Outhouses; Toilet paper
    Transcript: Johnson: How about laundry - I think you've pretty well told about laundry. Outhouses?

    Bruno: Yeah they were out. They were rough in the winter. Get out of a warm bed and into a cold room and you had to go outdoors in the cold, Oh Lord. Well, like I say, you don't tarry, you just rush, in everything you did.

    Johnson: Yes, and everybody did it. I guess you didn't really think about it.

    Bruno: Right, everybody had to, but the orders came out, the night before you go to bed, your mother come along, "Go to the bathroom before you go to bed." You better too.

    Johnson: Did they have toilet paper out there in those days?

    Bruno: No, no - regular - any kind like - especially, Father would catch hucksters around the city selling fruits and everything. I don't know if you remember, remember the paper they had wrapped around pears?

    Johnson: Yes.

    Bruno: That soft-type paper, bring a whole pile of that stuff home. Anything that's usable, they would use.

    Johnson: Oh. Somebody said they used a Sears Roebuck catalog.

    Bruno: Yes, yes they did, yes they did. I saw them. I remember the first time I saw one, I wondered what they were for, all them big, thick catalogs, you know. Funny thinking about those, they had the holes cut in them you know, one here and one here and then step down like that, and two down below. That's for the kids like myself, were too short to reach the others - they made them for us. And it was really neat, yeah. Yes indeed.

    Johnson: Did you ever go on sleigh rides?

    Bruno: No, no.

    Johnson: How about overnight camping?

    Bruno: No.

    Johnson: You told about - were there amusement parks that you would have gone to - just Riverview probably would be covered by that?

    Bruno: Yes, that was the only one - that was latter years, though, of course.

    Johnson: Do you remember a circus as a child?

    Bruno: No I don't.

    Johnson: Any particularly talented individuals in the community?

    Bruno: Talented? I don't know, so many people could do a lot of good things, I don't know of any one that was outstanding - no, offhand I wouldn't, no. I'm wrong, I did. There was one man, he would be in his living room, lock the door, and just had a front window, and you couldn't see anything cause the house was high, and he'd be in there all day and at night he'd put the - instead of putting the light on, he'd leave the room and lock it up. He did that for quite a few months, and one day he called everybody, and I went down too, Mother went down with me. We went in there and he had built a church out of matches, long matches, and that thing stood about that high. Beautiful church about so big, and inside he had the altar, had everything made out of matchstick. How that man ever did all that. Glued them all together real nice.

    Johnson: This would have been in downtown Wilmington?

    Bruno: Yeah - God that was a perfect job. I don't know what ever happened to it after that. Today that thing would have been worth a lot of money.

    Johnson: Yes. Was it like a particular church that he modeled it after, or his own design?

    Bruno: No, just a - evidently one that he remembered in Italy where he was and it was a beautiful thing, beautiful piece of work. He was the only one that I knew that had a real talent.

    Johnson: Yes. Somebody remembers someone who played the accordion in Squirrel Run very well, but again, this was really quite later, this was in the 1920's, so you probably had left by then.

    Bruno: And like you said, washing clothes and things like that, I do remember one thing my Mother used to - she had a copper boiler, put on the stove, one of them octagon-shaped jobs, put clothes in there and put strong solutions or whatever, soaps or lye or whatever, pushed them down and boiled them with a big pole or stick, so that they would clean good and then take them out of there and then wash them by hand into a regular tub and get the dirt out of them. Yeah, she used to do that I remember. I used to sit there and watch her sweat and work -God awful. Oh that was hard work.

    Johnson: That must have been terribly hard work.

    Bruno: Oh that was hard work. Yeah, they worked hard.

    Johnson: Beside being dangerous 'cause that water was so hot then. Did your mother have a regular household routine, that is, would she wash every Monday or would she vary this according to...

    Johnson: I don't know what her schedule was. I do know she did a lot of washing, did a lot of washing.

    Johnson: How about ironing, would she usually iron another day?

    Bruno: Yes, just have a - two irons that I recall – one would be on the stove, she would use the one and then put it on the stove, take the one off the stove and use it - heat it on the lid of the stove, had them all the time.

    Johnson: How about floods - do you remember hearing about floods on the Brandywine?

    Bruno: No, no.

    Johnson: Do you remember anything about births, babies being born and did they have midwives?

    Bruno: Yes, midwives, I remember that. The only thing that I could never understand, this woman would come around, she had the drugstore at Sixth and Union Streets, and she was a midwife, and she would come with a little satchel about that long, come carrying it, and my Father used to say, "She's bringing you a little baby brother or sister and all, and when she brings them in that little bag for you." And I said, "Oh, that's nice." We'd sit around, after the baby was born and everything, you hear a noise, Father come out, "She brought you a little brother brought you a little sister." Until later on we 'started getting a little wiser, kept saying, look at the baby and look at the thing, and say, "How do they fit in there?" That's when you get your face slapped if you don't shut up. They didn't want to hear that, didn't want you to know those things, you know. 'Course today they tell them everything. I couldn't figure how the devil it fit in there.

    Johnson: Did you discuss that with the other children?

    Bruno: We probably did, yes.

    Johnson: How about house fires, did they have a fire company if you had a fire in the house?

    Bruno: Yes, there was a fire company. In fact I remember one of them, they had horse-drawn things, would feed coal or something into the steam thing, to produce steam so they could pump the water, I saw that. In fact there was a great fire they had down there at Fourth and Greenhill Avenue, big morocco shop, leather factory burned down years ago, that was in 1923 when I was eight years old, I remember that, it was in March, windy day, burnt one-two three-square blocks, burnt it all.

    Johnson: Oh, that must have been something.

    Bruno: And the fathers, my Father included, were all on their house roofs sweeping flames off the roofs to keep their homes from burning - many blocks away from it. That's when I saw those old fire things.

    Johnson: Did you have a fireplace in any of the houses you lived in?

    Bruno: No.

    Johnson: What was your favorite homemade toy that you had? Do you remember?

    Bruno: No I don't.

    Johnson: Or your favorite store-bought toy?

    Bruno: Well I had one that was store-bought and it was a -it was called a Jigger, I think. You used to crank it up, there was a little man set on a metal box and when you were done crankin', it would jump up and down and swing around like it was dancing. It was a little black man really, they called it a little Jigger, I don't know why they called it that, but that's what it was. Didn't last long, all those little things, you crank it once too much and you’ d hear the springs flying all over the place - it was done, yeah.

    Johnson: Do you remember where you got it?

    Bruno: Yes, at Fifth and Lincoln, used to be Evans' Variety Store there, it's no longer there, but that's where most of it come from. Everything we needed for home, we'd go there, same with our doctors. Go to school and have a dental check-up, say you need dental work, go to our family doctor. He lived down the street.

    Johnson: And your doctor did your dental work?

    Bruno: No, he didn't do dental, he'd look and say, “ Oh, you're alright." And he'd sign you school papers you were okay, but you weren't.

    Johnson: Did you ever have trouble with your teeth as a child?

    Bruno: Oh yes, because - especially first teeth, when they got a little loose - Father or Mother come along and put string around it and hold, pulled – God that hurt - Lord that was the worse thing to do too, because...

    Johnson: Usually they'll fall out...

    Bruno: Yeah, they know that now, but - and the seconds ones you have problems with, they won't come in right, you know, after you pulled them, but they did that. And there was no Fairy Godmother either.

    Johnson: No Tooth Fairy.

    Bruno: No, you just lost your tooth, that's it.

    Johnson: What would you do if you got a toothache, would they take you to Wilmington?

    Bruno: Yes, then you would, yes. First they would use -we had all kind of strong smelling toothache drops and things like that, but it never helped. Once you get a toothache...

    Johnson: Do you remember if you did any whittling?

    Bruno: I tried it, wasn't ever much good at it, but a lot of people did, that's one thing they did a lot of. The younger boys, like myself, we used to try to make these pinwheels, maybe so long out of wood, you know, then drive a nail, then on a piece of stick, then you run around the streets and it would whirl around.

    Johnson: Yes.

    Bruno: Well I could never get the knack of curving the thing one way and the other the other way, I just...

    Johnson: I never knew they made them out of wood.

    Bruno: Yeah, cut them out of wood, I just couldn't do it, I was just...

    Johnson: Men that you knew whittled, elderly men?

    Bruno: Yes.

    Johnson: Do any wood carving?

    Bruno: Oh yes, they were good at it too.

    Johnson: Do you remember anything they made?

    Bruno: Well, most of them made like figures like say, fishermen, you know, like - I had one one time, a picture of a fisherman with all his fishing gear on, slicker, rain suits, rain hat like and it's hanging behind him like that, with a pipe in his mouth looking up the shore of the water, all carved out of wood, beautiful work. Down to the nails and the eyes, it looked so real, and did it all with a pocket knife, whittling. And I had that for the longest time. In fact, even when I came out of the Service I still had it, and a man offered me thirty-five dollars for it in 194,46 - I wouldn't sell it - then it disappeared. Somebody got it, I don't know who got it. Yeah, it was a beautiful thing, beautiful piece of work. It's gone.

    Johnson: Did they do their own picture frames?

    Bruno: I don't recall, I don't know.

    Johnson: I ask that because my husband has a lot his grand-father made. How about fretwork, do you remember fretwork or coping - that they do with a coping saw and then put up shelves and things?

    Bruno: Oh yes, I had an uncle did that, he was very good at that, very, very good. In fact he used to make what they call - in Italian they called it a guitar. It's about that long, about - say thirty inches long two and a half feet long and ten or twelve inch wide by two-and a half feet. And in between it has like piano wire, real sharp piano wire, maybe twenty-five or thirty of them, of course lengthwise, and drawn so tight that you could actually make music with is, you know. What they did, parents would roll the dough with a roller, then put piece that wide on that thing and then put the roller on it, and cut spaghetti out of it, macaroni. And it would come out the bottom, and that's how they made 'em. And he would make these things for all the women. And wine presses for making grapes, he made them all. He was good at, my uncle. And he passed away a young man, he was about thirty-seven, thirty-eight years old when he died, everything went with him.
  • Trash and composting; Floor coverings; Starting plants for the garden; Gardening; Types of vegetables grown in gardens
    Synopsis: Bruno talks about trash disposal and fertilizer. He describes how food waste eventually became fertilizer. He talks about the linoleum floor in his mother's kitchen. Bruno talks about his family's garden. He lists the vegetables that his family started from seed and lists all of the vegetables his family grew.
    Keywords: Compost; Fertilizing; Gardens; Grapes; Linoleum; Plants; Trash
    Transcript: Johnson: Now you said that you pressed the grapes with your feet before - what would the wine press be for then?

    Bruno: Well, I slipped on one thing, after you pulled the grapes out of the barrel, when it's laying down, you put that into the press, see and it had like a jack over the top, you'd crank it, and it would squeeze...

    Johnson: Oh, you may have told me that, but I didn't understand.

    Bruno: And it would squeeze the remainder of whatever juice was in the - and when that grape comes out, that mash comes out, it's as dry as all get out, nothing left in it, we'd throw it in the garden, as fertilizer. Yeah, that's how they got the extra.

    Johnson: I guess that takes care of garbage dumps, you just put it in the garden. How about privy cleaning, do you remember, did they clean those outhouses, the company?

    Bruno: No, they cleaned their own. My Dad, I don't know how they got rid of things, but they used an awful lot of lime that they used to use on gardens, that was one of the fertilizers - things that disinfectant they used. There was a lot of them - they used to go in the wooded areas and pick some berries and different things. But there was one man in particular there that used to use what they cleaned out of the outhouse in his garden. I'd say one thing, he produced the most beautiful vegetables you ever saw in your life, but when we was kids, we were ornery, go out at night raiding gardens, that was one garden that never got touched. We wouldn't go within fifty feet of it, and everybody wondered, how come these kids never touch old - January was his name – never go in January's garden - not me. Japanese did that up until not too long ago, and then they forbid it they said on account of the disease part of it, no good.

    Johnson: Yes, you'd worry about them eating...

    Bruno: Yeah, yeah. I've heard of utilizing everything, but that was going a little too far, I think.

    Johnson: Yes, you want it to be clean.

    Bruno: Nah – didn’ t want it...

    Johnson: When you rented a house in du Pont, do you know if it was furnished - I guess you'd have to know this from somebody telling you this?

    Bruno: I think it was. People when they went there, they had nothing.

    Johnson: Yes, if they were blue collar, I think...

    Bruno: Nothing was - so evidently DuPont did take care of the furnishings.

    Johnson: Do you know - did you ever make apple cider?

    Bruno: No, but we did make apple sauce, things of this nature.

    Johnson: I think you told me about coal storage and wood storage, just behind the shed. Floor coverings and care, did you have linoleum in your kitchen?

    Bruno: Yes, linoleum.

    Johnson: Did you have rugs as well?

    Bruno: No, I don't remember any rugs, but I do remember linoleum.

    Johnson: And would you have to scrub that too?

    Bruno: Oh yeah, yeah. And didn't last too long, especially if you put it over brick or wood or whatever type floor, you had this, it would come through, you know, wear.

    Johnson: Yes, they've really improved linoleum a lot.

    Bruno: Yes, oh yes, since then, yeah.

    Johnson: Do you remember peddlers coming around?

    Bruno: No.

    Johnson: Clotheslines, did you have a - Mother have a clothesline, would you remember that?

    Bruno: Not over there, I remember in the city, when we come here, that's the only way.

    Johnson: How about Clothespins, did you remember Clothespins.

    Bruno: Most all of them had them, I think, just go and slide on like these clip type.

    Johnson: Somebody else said that, just wire clips. Did you have a wringer for your wash tub?

    Bruno: No, no - I got on the end of the garments many times with my Mother on the other end and twist, try to get the water out of them.

    Johnson: How were the tubs emptied? Just dumped them, more than one person...

    Bruno: I guess out in the - two people, yes, out in the street, I guess, all dirt streets. That was even down in the city, they just had dirt streets there too.

    Johnson: Now do you remember the BrecksMill Community House?

    Bruno: No, no.

    Johnson: The people that lived there remember they had showers there for the first time, before they had running water in the houses, they could pay five cents and get a towel and take a shower in there. Nursery rhymes, do you remember nursery rhymes?

    Bruno: Not too well, no.

    Johnson: Boats on the Brandywine? Did you have ice for drinks in summer?

    Bruno: Ice for drinks? No, the only ice - once in a while you'd get a ten cent cake of ice, you would use it for the ice box and that was it, there was no ice for drinking, no.

    Johnson: Did you have to carry water to the garden when you had it in the summer?

    Bruno: Unless you were fortunate to have an extra wine barrel you weren't using, you leave it there and it would fill up with rain water and just use it.

    Johnson: If you had a long or a cool season crop like tomato, pepper, cabbage, did you start that early indoors in a cold frame and then put it outside later?

    Bruno: Yeah.

    Johnson: Where would you do that, would it be in the cellar or in the kitchen?

    Bruno: Well, wherever there was - they followed the sun with it. In other words like here if I had – would be there with the sun rises in the morning, and in afternoon would be shade, wherever you can get early morning sun, that's where they would do it.

    Johnson: Were you able to buy the tomatoes as little plants now, or did you have to start from seed?

    Bruno: No, we started seed, yeah. They would take, like when they got their first crop of tomatoes, I remember them saying, "Get the first tomato that's nearest the bottom of the plant, nearest to the root of the plant." That's the one you want for seed, and that's what they would do.

    Johnson: Is that right?

    Bruno: Yeah.

    Johnson: Did they ever say why that was?

    Bruno: I’ ve heard some saying that that was nearest to the mother or something, the root nearest to the mother, and they said that's the one that produces. I've done it myself, and it works, I got seeds from it.

    Johnson: What about Squash, did you ever do a squash from seed?

    Bruno: No.

    Johnson: Did you do potatoes?

    Bruno: We had potatoes, yes. How they planted them I don’ t know, I never watched I know that they had to cut out the eyes to eyes and plant them.

    Johnson: They had to cut them up I think.

    Bruno: I'll tell you one thing I remember that struck me funny. They had long zucchini, or whatever it is, or squash about yeah long, yellow, some of them get so big around and they would cut maybe six inches off of the top all the way around, and work slowly down in that thing and get all the meat out of it until they get all that they can out of it. And let that thing dry out in the sun, and after a month or whatever it gets hard like bamboo, and they'd use that thing for a container, like for wine or anything, like a bottle, fill it up and put that top on it, carry around with them just like a thermos. It's the funniest thing, yeah, see a lot of the old time men have it with a rope on it around their shoulder, see them once in awhile pick it up and drink. Wonder what they were doing - was drinking wine out of it.

    Johnson: What solutions to animal, insect or disease problems were employed in the vegetable garden - that is, would you have to have a fence, would you have chemical dusts, would you rotate the crops?

    Bruno: Well, they rotated crops, yes, but the only -we had fence, the old wooden fence if you could find the wood, which is hard to find too, and the only thing that I know that they ever did in the garden to prevent anything for insects and things like this, was lime, especially on cabbage, they had a lot of cabbage, they'd sprinkle lime all over, and all over everything really, to keep the insects off. And I don't remember any - not as much as we have today even, no insects, none of that stuff bothered them, they'd pick 'em Off. Of course you had rabbits, you had to contend with, but as long as you had a good fence, they wouldn't get in.

    Johnson: Yes, they'd still eat the cabbage. Did you use a scarecrow?

    Bruno: Some people did, we didn't cause our garden wasn't that large. One with a large garden did.

    Johnson: And did you ever buy seeds in the store?

    Bruno: No, no. Kept seeds from year to year from the plants.

    Johnson: And how about, did you have early and late cabbage, and several crops of beans and lettuce, would you do that?

    Bruno: Yes. We had cabbage early, especially cabbage, and after July 4th, plant Savoy cabbage, that's the one that they eat in the fall of the year. When the first frost hits it, that's when they pick it, that's when they say it's real good, and we eat that.

    Johnson: Do you remember what the dimensions of your garden were in feet?

    Bruno: I would say our garden was about fifty foot long and maybe twenty foot wide. It was for a family of five and it was plenty for us. Some people had large families, they had more. Then if you ran out of anything, your neighbor has a whole lot of things, they would gladly give you all you want, cause everything was share.

    Johnson: Now did you plant some of these things - thyme?

    Bruno: Thyme?

    Johnson: Thyme – T-H-Y-M-E, it's really a spice.

    Bruno: Oh thyme - I know what you mean, no, we didn't have that.

    Johnson: Cucumbers?

    Bruno: Yes, cucumbers.

    Johnson: Squash, you mentioned squash. Cantaloupes - parsnips?

    Bruno: Don't know of parsnip, no.

    Johnson: Kale?

    Bruno: Kale.

    Johnson: Pumpkins?

    Bruno: Uh-hum

    Johnson: Was there a manure pile or a compost pile?

    Bruno: There was manure, yeah, cause the old car barns was near us and they has horses and they used to get their manure from them.

    Johnson: Now would you keep that in a pile or just put it around the plants as you needed it?

    Bruno: Around the plants. Sometimes we would put it in a 50 gallon barrel, so deep, and let the rest of the barrel fill up with rain water and put a cap on the barrel, wood, and let it set in there for a while. Then you draw out the bottom, you got manure juice coming out, and you'd put that around plants. Oh that would make stuff grow.

    Johnson: And that was easier to use, I guess.

    Bruno: Yeah, I use it now. I ran my neighbor in one night, she was out there barbecuing, but I couldn't help it. She said, "What are you doing out there?" But I had the most beautiful vegetables you ever saw

    Johnson: Did you grow asparagus?

    Bruno: Yes.

    Johnson: And where did you grow that, now that would come up all the time?

    Bruno: Yes I know - we had, on the outside of our fence, my father had a little oh gosh, I don't know – maybe four or five foot wide space the whole length of the garden, and it was all good soil and everything, that's where he used to put the asparagus. And nothing seemed to bother it out there, except the kids once in a while would grab some, that's where he grew it, yeah.

    Johnson: And it's pretty too. How about rhubarb?

    Bruno: No.

    Johnson: How much of your garden was devoted to potatoes?

    Bruno: Gosh I don't know now. I guess quite a bit of it, cause we used a lot of potatoes, potatoes and tomatoes and peppers, three main things we'd grow, our family.

    Johnson: Were vines, shrubs or flowers planted around the outhouse?

    Bruno: No.

    Johnson: And you mentioned gathering dandelion greens and watercress and things like that.

    Bruno: Wild mushroom.

  • Visiting du Pont homes; Tooth brushing; Getting a suit from his father
    Synopsis: Bruno talks about visiting du Pont family homes. He talks about living in a worker home at Eugene du Pont's estate but notes he never went into the house. Bruno answers some questions about daily life. He says that he brushed his teeth with Octagon soap. He says that his father liked to dress well and talks about a time when his father took him into Wilmington for a suit of his own. He recalls his mother being socially active and participating in some plays.
    Keywords: Clothing; Du Pont family; Du Pont, Eugene E. (Eugene Eleuthere), 1882-1966; Octagon soap; Suits; Tooth brushing
    Transcript: Johnson: Did your Mother do Berlin work?

    Bruno: Berlin work?

    Johnson: Berlin work - this is something they're doing at the Gibbons House now. It's like - they invented this machine that punched paper, and if you put that punched paper over a famous painting, you could copy it in wool with fancy stitches and then after that they just did other kinds of fancy stitches because they had the holes - they're doing that in the Gibbons House.

    Bruno: I think they're doing that over at Fraim’ s Senior Center where I belong, too.

    Johnson: Now it said, did you ever visit du Pont homes - when and why and describe - now you did mention going to the du Pont home when you were only eight or nine?

    Bruno: Well, yeah I went - mostly after du Pont had left the home, that's when I went most of the time, the one that's way up on the hill, the one that Mr. du Pont lived in. Last time I was there was, oh about three years ago I went through it. And the thing that got me, I remember my Father talking lots of times, he said, "You can't fool around, whatever you do, Mr. du Pont can see everything up there."And I couldn't figure, how can he see everything up there. And I went up there and walked out on that porch that they have up there, and it does overlook the whole valley down through there, you know. It was really something, you got quite a View from up there. And I said, "I can see what he means, yeah."Beautiful place up there, really nice.

    Johnson: As a child, you visited the Eugene du Pont home, you said when you were tending the chickens and things.?

    Bruno: No that was - we lived in a house that they provided for one of the workers, I didn't visit his home, one of the homes that he provided, yeah, that's the home I lived in with these people. No, Eugene, I didn't see his home at all.

    Johnson: How about flies and mosquitoes, bees and wasps – did you have trouble with them?

    Bruno: Oh gosh - flies, whew!

    Johnson: Did you have screens on the windows ever?

    Bruno: Screen doors, screen windows, but still those flies - it was so hard to control those. My Mother used to run around with a towel or whatever, swinging like so until she got to the door, open it and swish like to get most of them out. You had no disinfectant, none of that stuff, we didn't know of any anyway to get rid of them. They were a mess, oh they were.

    Johnson: How about snow removal?

    Bruno: Good old shovel.

    Johnson: Who was your best friend?

    Bruno: Well, had so many friends. I guess they were all good friends, really. I'll put it this way, I don't remember every having an enemy then.

    Johnson: I think you told me about medications for colds and flu and...

    Bruno: Yes, and it still works.

    Johnson: Did you have a toothbrush and toothpaste?

    Bruno: No, we had toothbrush, wet it and rub it over the top of that G.I. soap - Octagon soap - and you – oh whew...

    Johnson: Oh, you didn't use salt for - some people used salt?

    Bruno: No. The older Italian people, I used to see them get a slice of hard Italian bread and chew it and take some of that and rub it up and down on their teeth and everything. It was so hard and rough like, and that's how they cleaned their teeth. But that would taste better than soap. Oh, I had to use the soap, was like a mad dog frothing at the mouth, and trying to get rid of that stuff, Lord! Yeah, had to brush, but didn't have the toothpaste to go with it.

    Johnson: Do you remember if you ordered anything from catalogs like Sears Catalog?

    Bruno: I remember looking at them all, but never ordering.

    Johnson: How about underwear, do you remember what kind of underwear you wore, as a child?

    Bruno: I do remember the Long Johns, that's all - the other, I don't know what they were.

    Johnson: Do you remember your father wearing ties when he dressed up?

    Bruno: Yes, he was a – that’ s one thing he was, he was a slick dresser, he believed in that, he wore collars with the button in front here, and the ties – he had the works - gold chain, pocket watch, rings ooh, he went for that stuff.

    Johnson: What about a hat, would he wear a hat when he went out?

    Bruno: Yeah, he wore a hat.

    Johnson: What kind - what did it look like?

    Bruno: Well in the summer, he would wear them stiff straws, and in the Winter he'd wear the regular Stetson hat. He used to go to Mullins and get his clothes, and at that time Mullins was the No. 1 store, and that's where he would go. In fact, if I can, I'll tell you a little story about him and Mullins. He had one little glass of wine too many one time, on a Saturday morning it was, and he looked at me, he says, "That's the best clothes you gotta, Boy?" I said, "I don't know, Pop." And Mother spoke up and says, “ Yeah, what do you want, he don't need a lot of clothes." "Come with me, I'll fix you up." He took me in town to Mullins and I'll never forget, he went in that store, man says, "May I help you?" He says, "Take care of that boy over there, you fix 'em up, start up here and go all the way down." The man said, “ What do you mean?" He said, "You understand me, give him a new hat, shirt, everything, suit, got it all, I'll tell you, and the next day was Sunday, put it on and wear it. My Dad got up Sunday, he looked he said, "Huh, big-a shock, huh?" I said, "Well, I don't know." 'He said, "You fool-a me." I said, "I don't fool you, Pop." He said, "Oh yeah you fool-a me, you know I be drunk, huh, you take advantage of me, you make-a me go in town and buy you clothes, I be sober I don't do that." Too late, he did it.

    Johnson: How old were you, do you remember?

    Bruno: Oh gosh, I was between eight and ten, that's when most of my things happened. Oh Lord, I was come - thing with a cap, new suit, boy I was something, I was a Jim Dandy. But he enjoyed it. Funny thing about him, he went for clothes.

    Johnson: What about workers' groups, do you remember unions, did he belong to any kind of union or fraternal groups, ethnic groups?

    Bruno: No, no he belonged, only thing I knew he belonged to was an old Italian Lodge, I don't know what the name of it was “ Sons of Italy” or something like that.

    Johnson: And did your mother belong to any groups - like a church group or a...

    Bruno: She belonged to something, it was the Old West End Neighborhood House up here, was some kind of an organization, society there or something - in fact she acted in some plays they had there too, whatever it was, I don't know. It was a big play they had annually there, and she was in that.

    Johnson: And did you go to see her?

    Bruno: Yes, oh I was proud of her.

    Johnson: I bet you were.

    Bruno: She was some lady, gosh, wish I had half of her talent.
  • Objects in the family home; Mother's letter writing; Knowledge of the Italian language; Shaving; Re-purposing old Christmas trees for tomato stakes; A "Honey Hunt" that sent an immigrant back to Italy
    Synopsis: Bruno talks about some of the objects in his family home. He talks about how his mother helped illiterate members of the community write letters to their families in Italy. He talks about how his mother taught him to read, write, and speak Italian. He talks about how his mother sharpened knives and shaved his father's face. Bruno recalls a "Honey Hunt," a local prank used to make new comers to the Brandywine think they had broken the law, which went wrong. He says that one victim, a recent immigrant from Italy, did not understand that he was the victim of a prank and went back to Italy.
    Keywords: Emigration; Honey Hunts; Immigration; Italian language; Italy; Jokes; Letter writing; Paper; Pranks; Shaving; Stoves; Trunks; World War (1939-1945)
    Transcript: Johnson: Did you have a special place to cook in the summertime, some people cooked out in the shed or something?

    Bruno: No, everything right in that hot stove.

    Johnson: How about fans, did you have a hand fan to cool yourself, one of those palm-leaf fans?

    Bruno: Yes, we all had those.

    Johnson: Did they have pictures on, do you remember any?

    Bruno: Some did yes. If I'm not mistaken, I think they came from the undertaker, the one with pictures on it. They used to give them away. 'Course we made some out of papers that we fold them and try to make something out of them, yeah.

    Johnson: Did you have a trunk room?

    Bruno: We had trunks, but there wasn't a special room for those.

    Johnson: Did they bring those trunks from Italy, or were these trunks you bought here?

    Bruno: I believe they did, I believe that's where all their belongings came with that, yeah they had...

    Johnson: Do you remember what they looked like?

    Bruno: They were big things with the round tops to them and had a tray in the top and the bottom was full of whatever, I don't know, they had all of that.

    Johnson: Do you remember seeing anything in it?

    Bruno: No, no.

    Johnson: I guess you told about biscuits and rolls and stuff like that. Letter writing - did they have writing paper?

    Bruno: Yes there was, I can recall the paper, it was – I don't know how to explain it - it was sort of that noisy type paper when you touch it like that, almost like paper that you would wrap fruit and vegetables in, you know that soft type stuff? That was the paper and I remember Mother holding it real stiff and trying to write on it, it wasn't like this here stuff here.

    Johnson: Did she write to people she had known in Italy ever?

    Bruno: She wrote, like I said, for all the people that got letters from Italy, also to her own people over there, you know, she wrote, yeah. I think a lot of it – she was so good, she was the one that taught me how to read at the time, I could read it and I could write it a little, but I could read it better than I could write it, 'cause I don't know where the apostrophe goes or anything like that go. See, just like this word, she wrote "bagna", that should be "bania". See the way you look at it, you would think that's bagna, right? That's bania - b-a-n-i-a, so it's the same thing. In other words, that means this is hot, bania is bath, hot bath, looks like it's backwards, but that's the way they do it. It's really hot dip. That's the things I couldn't get the knack of it when I was writing. But I was reading them.

    Johnson: You never took formal Italian lessons?

    Bruno: I did for about four or five months I guess, this lodge where my Mother belonged, then it sort of broke up, I don't know why. I was learning pretty good there.

    Johnson: Did you ever go to Italy and try it out yourself?

    Bruno: No, no, when I was in the Service, they were looking for five volunteers to go in the constabulary forces in Italy and I volunteered. And they checked me out, they found out I could read and write and understand and everything - I said, "Oh boy, here I go." And I had people - they're still over there as far as I know - and they found it all out and I don't know how my Father left the country over there without being stowed away or something. If he had done anything wrong over there, I don't know, but through him, and stowing away and everything, it crimped my getting there, they wouldn't send me and said can't let you go over there. And I wanted to go so bad, I would up over in the Pacific, yeah he crimped my style from getting over there.

    Johnson: Do you know anything about saltpeter bag making? Now I think this is something women did for the black powder business in the late 1800's.

    Bruno: No, I don't.

    Johnson: And any other outside work for the Du Pont Company?

    Bruno: No.

    Johnson: And I think you covered kitchen tools pretty well I was wondering, did your mother sharpen the knives, do you remember seeing your mother sharpen knives?

    Bruno: Yes, I saw her sharpen - and certain - she'd go outdoors and find a certain type of stone, it might be even piece of block that might have been used for a curb or a street or something, just certain make, like a granite type, and she'd put a little water on it and run the knife back and forth on it and sharpen it, Father would do the same thing, and it would sharpen.

    Johnson: Would he do the same thing for his razors when he shaved?

    Bruno: Yeah, well he had a strap for the razor, yeah. And he had a straight razor, my Mother used to shave him. Oh, he had a lot of nerve, he couldn't afford to get mad at her - she shaved him.

    Johnson: Would she do it in the kitchen, could you watch?

    Bruno: Outdoors, most time in the summer, but in the kitchen, the pantry, whatever. I watched her, she was good. That's what I mean, that woman was so talented, I couldn't believe it, she done every-thing, everything. I remember people would come to her like - people, most of them had chickens, and they'd come to her with these little young peeps, little chicks, and you know, lots of times they get something stuck in their throat how they'd go with their mouth open, can't breath, can't swallow, they'd bring them to her. And she'd look down in there, poor chick would swallow a worm that would be too big, you know, and they couldn't get it out â € ” Mother would go to somebody that had a horse, scissors, and cut a piece of horse's tail, the hair, maybe that long, and she'd loop it once, you know, and pull it down in the throat and twist it like that, twist it and hook the worm on one end of it when she'd twist it like that it would close the loop by twisting, pull it like that and the old worm would be on the end of the loop, take it out and cut the chick loose, the old chick would run, be just as happy. She used to do that for all the people. Yeah, she was something. I often wondered if there was anything she couldn't do. Gosh she was something.

    Johnson: Did your father have a mirror in the kitchen he could look in?

    Bruno: I believe they did, I think there was one over the kitchen sink, to tell you the truth.

    Johnson: That's what they have in the Gibbons House.

    Bruno: Cause you had to do everything there, you wash your face there, comb your hair and everything, wasn't no bathrooms.

    Johnson: You remember any tools that they had around besides...

    Bruno: I can remember a little hatchet, that's about the only thing, 'cause they used that around the gardens and all for - especially after Christmas, used to go out and collect all the trees that were discarded, and Father would get a little hatched and we'd chop the branches off and put a point on the end of the Christmas tree, especially one maybe so big around. Then when they were dried out, they used them in the spring or summer for stakes for tomatoes, and they would last, oh they'd last indefinitely those pine things, use them two or three years like that until you get new ones.

    Johnson: Would you use the needles for compost?

    Bruno: No, no, never used the needles, just the thing itself.

    Johnson: I guess you wouldn't have had to have a lawn mower, 'cause you had the garden you didn't...

    Bruno: No, no.

    Johnson: Would he have had a hoe for the garden?

    Bruno: They had a sickle, little sickles â € ” hand sickle.

    Johnson: How about practical jokes - do you remember any practical jokes?

    Bruno: Yeah, I've heard so many, I don't know. I do remember one - this happened to older people than myself, though. It was on a corner of this Rodman Street where I lived, there again, I would say I was about eight, nine, ten years old, I don't remember that, and this one man had come from Italy, oh just a few months prior, and they like to play jokes on the older people, older fellows, ornery fellows. They asked him one night, "Would you like to go honey hunting?" The man explained to him in Italian what honey hunting was, he said, "What's honey hunting?" They said, "Well, you go up to these trees, and there’ s bees up in these threes, but at night time they don't see you, and you get up there in their hive and you dip the honey out. And we know a place that people have money, lots of money, and they'll buy it, they'll pay big money for it - twenty, thirty, forty dollars." In those days that's like a million dollars today, you know. The guy says, "Oh my gosh." "Don't fear, nothing to worry about, if the farmer comes, we'll know, one of us will sit near the farmer's house and one of will sit near the tree in case somebody comes, we'll let you know, you just climb the tree and get it." So they took this poor devil up to the old country club up here, and there was a tree there, there was no hives or nothing up in that tree. And this one fellow down about a quarter of a block from the tree, he had a shotgun, and they didn't know it, he had it hidden. So when the boy got all the way up to the top of the tree, this guy fires the gun up in the air, and he yells, "Oh my God he got me.”  He poured ketchup all over him and he laid there, and that guy jumped out of the tree and the fellow grabbed him, said, "Let's go, we'll go down and get so-and-so and we'll leave."Went down and there and looked and he was laying on the ground with ketchup all over him - poor fellow saw him, he broke loose and ran. They didn't see him for the longest while until one time one of the fellows met his uncle, said, "Where's so and so?" He said, “ You know something, I don't know what happened, never said nothing to nobody, got his clothes got everything he ever owned, he went to New York. The last we heard, he was on the boat going to Italy, going back home." Poor devil ran all the way back home, he thought the man was murdered and he didn't want to be a part of it, so he was afraid he was gonna go to jail. And they couldn't convince - I don't know if they ever convinced him or not. I'd hate to be the one to try to convince him, I'd be afraid. They played a dirty trick on that poor fellow, he really left. Talk was the last I heard he was on a boat going to Italy. Really elaborate. Oh gosh, that was awful.

    Johnson: That's pretty much the questions I had to ask.They asked about perfume...

    Bruno: Perfume? What was that? Don't know anything about perfume? Didn't need it, had no place to go.
  • Looking at photos in "The Workers' World at Hagley" by Glenn Porter
    Synopsis: Bruno looks at photos in "The Workers' World at Hagley" by Glenn Porter. Johnson explains the book and how it relates to a former Hagley exhibit. He says that he had an uncle who worked in the powder yard and earned $1.75 per day. Bruno suggest some people that Hagley should contact for interviews.
    Keywords: "The Workers' World at Hagley" by Glenn Porter; Free Park (Del.: Village); Hagley Museum and Library; Hagley Yard; Hodgson Bros. woolen mill
    Transcript: Johnson: Potty chairs instead of chamber pots, would they have had that for children?

    Bruno: No, no.

    Johnson: That's the questions. If you can think of anything else you think we would like to know...

    Bruno: Not offhand. I'm only sorry I wasn't older when that place was there that I could remember more about it, you know.

    Johnson: You remember so much.

    Bruno: Well, what I did remember from going back there, even at that young age, it was - I just loved, like I said, country, I loved country, gosh I did. And that up there, I just looked forward to it every week. Catch that old trolley - that was fun, that old trolley. We was hoping it wouldn't jump the tracks.

    Johnson: Now, I'm supposed to give you our release forms.

    Bruno: This is a terrific thing here - what do you do, sell these up there?

    Johnson: Well, when they had the exhibit, they had a pile of them there, they were selling them for five dollars, but now they're giving them to the people who are contributing to the interviews. Right back here they have the list of the names of the people who contributed to the oral interviews and they just took sentences out of these various interviews, and then if they were appropriate to the picture...

    Bruno: Chicken Alley, there it is.

    Johnson: And each house, each picture is identified in the back.

    Bruno: Yeah, I'm going to take a fast look through it.

    Johnson: It would be nice if you would, because then if you see anything...

    Bruno: I might see...oh my God the...

    Johnson: You could tell us any people that you recognize on the specific...

    Bruno: Now this is the old Brecks Mill, I know that. That's old Hodgsons upper mill. See how they wore their hair up, that's the way I remember my Mother. That was a lucky fellow has a bicycle. I don't remember these.

    Johnson: No, these would be near Christ Church, this was Free Park or Flea Park.

    Bruno: The old wooden houses.

    Johnson: And this was taken at Squirrel Run, this is the Fleming family.

    Bruno: Which family is this?

    Johnson: Fleming. They had to hold still, you can tell the dog didn't hold still because it's hard to see his head.

    Bruno: Oh yeah.

    Johnson: And that's the Gibbons House there.

    Bruno: Yes, I see that - the old wagon.

    Johnson: By that time, this was the Stewart family living there, but you can see they kept chickens and I think there's a goat next to that wiring.

    Bruno: Oh boy. Funny there some - like that, that sickly looking person.

    Johnson: That's the same picture as is on the cover, that's the Gaino family- G-A-I-N-O.

    Bruno: Gaino? I knew a Ghione family, they lived up there G-H-I-O-N-E.

    Johnson: You can tell these are grapes here.

    Bruno: Yeah, see it - they all had grapes.

    Johnson: This is on Walker's Bank, this would be what became the woolen mill, that bank of he uses is still there.

    Bruno: Oh yeah. Hah - chickens.

    Johnson: And this house is still there, that's behind the Belin House which was the bookkeeper's house that's right beyond the Gibbons House as you go up the hill, it's to the left.

    Bruno: And this is the way I think I faintly remember the house that I was born in was something like one of these. I don't know if it was or not, I just say - it might not have been, I don't know.

    Johnson: But they were in a line like that so that they would have been one right next to the other one?

    Bruno: Mm-hmm. I can remember I had a thing that said on there what one uncle who worked there was making $1.75 a day, a day! Whew. And here is the picture that looks exactly like him, I've seen that picture so many times - that one right there.

    Johnson: Oh, did he work in the millwright shop?

    Bruno: He worked in there in that...

    Johnson: And what was his name, do you know?

    Bruno: Bernard - Bernard Ciffatelli - but he didn't work there too long, in worked in that thing 1918 and 1921 was when he got laid off. He worked, I don't say in here, I didn't know where he worked, he worked for DuPont, but that's - the picture looks just like him. But it's not close enough to get a...

    Johnson: No, you really can't tell from here.

    Bruno: Can't tell. Can't remember those faces. God - is this what the damage...

    Johnson: This is 1890 I think, that's when they lost all the houses and after that they didn't live in the DuPont house anymore, because it was damaged too...

    Bruno: Do they have the names of these people?

    Johnson: I don't think so.

    Bruno: That's what I'd love to see. See, people look so different.

    Johnson: And they all wore caps which is also

    Bruno: Yeah.

    Johnson: Although I guess if you even knew that it was some-body you knew, you could tell.

    Bruno: If any dressed, that would probably - that's the way my Father would be, he's different. Now this part is still there, right?

    Johnson: Yes.

    Bruno: Is this part of the old Hodgson wool mill?

    Johnson: No, I think that's where...I really don't know where that is, I thought it was the Blacksmith Shop.

    Bruno: See what gets me with this, I thought Hodgson had on the top too. I don't know, it might not be.

    Johnson: There's a stone house on the property that I think looks like that. It probably says right here which... that would be page 61, the top is Green & amp; Wilson's Cake Shop on Charles Banks.

    Bruno: Oh yeah. James Bright, tinsmith, Hagley Yard. Labor gang, Hagley Yard, 55 top. Where would that be, 55 top? Oh, there they are - that's what he was in, but he's not there, yup. That's really nice.

    Johnson: That's for you to keep.

    Bruno: It is?

    Johnson: Oh yes.

    Bruno: Oh golly, good.

    Johnson: We're giving it to all the people who are giving us all the information - grateful to them.

    Bruno: Good - I'll go slower to look through that thing next time.

    Johnson: Would you be willing to sign this - this is a release form that the Museum can use what you've told us for - if they want to publish any more books like this one.

    Bruno: Right here?

    Johnson: Yes, please. Thank you.

    Bruno: If you can get a hold of that Marenco girl, the one I mentioned...

    Johnson: You said her name is Vera?

    Bruno: Vera, yeah, she's the oldest one of all of 'em and she's still - she's old, rather old, but she still is very, very - hasn't lost any of her senility whatsoever and she does remember everything. She told me things that shook me - things that I had forgotten, I said - oh my Lord.

    Johnson: That would really be great.

    Bruno: And through her brother - you can call her brother, he would probably be glad to tell you where she lives - they're nice people, real nice.

    Johnson: And thank you very much for this recipe.

    Bruno: Glad I could help. One of these days this summer I'm gonna take a ride out there and go through again.

    Johnson: I hope you'll come in September, we're going to have a party for all the people who've given us oral interviews.

    Bruno: Yeah? In September?

    Johnson: In September.

    Bruno: It would probably be advertised, won't it?

    Johnson: Yes, and they're going to send you an invitation and right now we think it will be September the 10th and it would be really nice, 'cause sometimes if you meet someone else you know there...

    Bruno: Sure, you never know who you run into up there. Nice of you to come, I'm glad I met you.

    Johnson: Thank you very much - you've given me a lot of time.

    Bruno: Got a little breeze going out here.

    Johnson: Yes.

    Bruno: Warm though.

    Johnson: Yes, it didn't seem hot in your house at all, it was, thanks very much.

    Bruno: Good talking with you.

    Johnson: Right.