Interview with Catherine Cheney, 1984 March 26 [audio]
- Identifying and talking about friends and neighbors; The spring in the cellar of the family home; Playing marbles; Toilet paper; Getting groceries delivered and grocery shoppingKeywords: Alexis I. du Pont School (Wilmington, Del.); Basements; Breck's Lane; Brothers and sisters; Childhood and youth of a person; Children of the rich; Class consciousness; Dampness in basements; Drinking water--Health aspects; Dwellings; E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company; Eleutherian Mills (Greenville, Del. : Estate); Ethnic neighborhoods; Ethnic neighborhoods--United States; Explosions; Explosives industry; Explosives industry--Accidents; Floods; Flower gardening; Food--Cooling; Free Park; Games; Games for girls; Gift wrapping; Grocery shopping; Historic buildings; Historic buildings--Conservation and restoration; Industrial accidents; Marbles (Game objects); Marbles (Game); Neighborhoods; Neighbors; Newspapers; Pneumonia; Porches; Reminiscing; Rockland (Del.); Room layout (Dwellings); Squirrel Run; Tissue paper; Toilet paper; Typhoid fever; Vegetable gardening; Water-supplyTranscript: Perkins: Today is Monday, March the 26, 1984, and my name is Karen Perkins. I'm a Longwood Fellow at the University of Delaware and I'm doing my thesis work on workers' gardens at the Hagley Museum in Wilmington, Delaware. I'm about to do an oral interview with a Miss Catherine Cheney. She lives at 20 E. 3rd Street in New Castle, Delaware, and this is the third interview that I have done with her so far this year and I shall be asking her questions about gardens - workers' gardens in the Hagley area - as she remembers them as a child.
Perkins: You were telling me some names - there are a couple of names that I want to ask you about. Do you remember a Mr. John Murphy - does that name sound familiar?
Cheney: I know the name from reading the books since you were here, but I don't remember having any - knowing the Murphy's.
Perkins: Okay, because I think they found some old rent records, and supposedly he lived in the Gibbons House in 1904.
Cheney: Oh. See, I was born in 1905 - I was too little.
Perkins: I don't know when he moved.
Cheney: Oh, they had a lot of different people in that house during the years, so I didn't know that family at all.
Perkins: Ok. What about Joseph Jones?
Cheney: I know the Joneses, yes. They lived in a big house that's still standing along the Brandywine. I could point that out to you, it's one of the nicest homes.
Cheney: And she taught music lessons, I mean she was very well known and very nice family. And Ethel, their oldest daughter, was quite a musician.
Cheney: 'Course they all went to Alexis I. [Alexis I. du Pont School], but they were older. Now there again, she was my sister's friend more so than I am because she was about her age - older than I am, and then I have a sister, Sarah, four years younger, and the boy didn't come along until last [mumbles something indecipherable that might be about photographs].
Perkins: One thing I was interested in finding out about, did you - you mentioned that you had a potato bin in the basement and we were trying to discover if there was ever a hole in the cellar that was cool that you used to store things in.
Cheney: Yes, there was like a springhouse.
Perkins: A springhouse?
Cheney: Water came up in the floor.
Perkins: Was that in the cellar of the house?
Cheney: That was in the basement, yes, in the front part. The two houses were put together, you know, it wasn't in the place that I was born, but it was in the next, the new section, the other section of . . .
Perkins: What did that look like?
Cheney: Well, it was like a spring, and they put boards around it, so you could stoop down. But of course they were afraid of typhoid all the time, so you never - even boiling the water, we never touched the water from that spring. Because - one thing, it would go dry and they all said that if we caused it to dry up, the flood waters would probably give trouble in other places since it was down under the house, so it would just as well to let the spring - 'cause that way it would seep down into the ground and come up into the spring rather than come - and I never remember the floor wet from the – now, some of the homes, you know, would get flooded. Would come up where my Aunt lived, and she lived at Breck's Lane at the last house, right across from that big building that the Du Pont Company turned now into a place for all kind of entertainment.
Perkins: Yeah, Mm-hmm.
Cheney: Well, Aunt Maggie lived right across from that, Her name was Crow, she married my mother's brother, and then, he didn't die because of the powder explosion, but he was a carpenter and he had to carry his tools so far and they just - he walked with a case on his shoulder and he got pneumonia and died soon after he came to the Du Pont Company.
Perkins: But did you keep – did you keep your food in that spring, in that area of the basement?
Perkins: So you didn't use the spring for anything . . .
Cheney: No, we had what you called an ice box.
Cheney: No, the water was just there. Now if you had plants, it was wonderful, if they - we had a dry spell because the water would stay in that spring when it would be all dried up in the streams and different places nearby, so we sometimes used it for watering the plants, but that's the only use I can ever remember of it. And really, I don't think it was much bigger than the top of this table.
Perkins: Mm-hmm. What, about three feet by three feet?
Cheney: Or two and a half by three really.
Perkins: Did you - so you didn't ever keep foods down in the basement, then, to keep them cool?
Cheney: No, you see, as I said before, when the two houses were put together, we never used - that was our living quarters, you know, we kept it as the living room and you went down the steps and you kept extra chairs down there. When we had company, we’ d bring them up, and - more or less of a storage place because it was dry, with the exception of where that pool was, but I guess the spring took the water and then there wasn't nearly as much dampness in the stone walls as there was in the other old cellar. I don't think you could have kept anything that you didn't want to get mildewed or - in the other section, because it was dark, no outside light in it. Now this room had a window with glass in it - it was under the porch, there was a porch on that side too, as well as – well, with two houses, each one had to have a porch, so we were in luck when we put the two together, we had a front porch and a big back porch.
Perkins: So the window was underneath the porch, the window looked out . . .
Cheney: It was part of the porch, I mean the porch was closed in on three sides, and there was a window that you could look out and it was open with railings toward the road. But the one side was the house, and then the other two sides were boarded up. We had a right nice place to sit because it didn't get so cold as the other porch that was open, you know, all the way.
Perkins: Okay, this - this is a crazy question. Frank McKelvey wanted me to ask you this. He wants to know if you ever played marbles when you were a kid?
Cheney: Yes, we didn't have any boys in our family, but we played [laughs].
Perkins: What, is that a boy's - is that supposed to be a boy's sport?
Cheney: Oh, marbles were mostly played by . . .
Perkins: Is it? Do you remember any specifics about the game, like how many marbles you used?
Perkins: Ten, and what sized ring would you use?
Cheney: Oh, I'd say eighteen inch . . .
Cheney: Good size.
Perkins: Did you carry your marbles around in a bag?
Perkins: What was it made of?
Cheney: The boys always had a bag, big long string on it.
Perkins: Do you know what it was made of?
Cheney: I don't think that - oh, whatever Mother had to - old piece of cloth to stitch it up. 'Course when George came along, he was the youngest one in the family, my brother, and there weren't any other boys. I never remember him playing marbles. But several boys, had two boys lived across from us and they were a well-to-do family - well, the father was the head of the Du Pont Company then, and, uh - but he was only there for a short time, I don't remember his name, [indecipherable] explosions [laughs].
Perkins: Do you remember any rules for your marble games? I've never played marbles before, so don’ t - I'm not really familiar with . . .
Cheney: Well, as you say, a boy's game. In those days, you know, the girls never played with the boys, they were always gonna be too rough, and we were all girls. See, George didn't come along until so much later. If George had been one of us, I think that we would have had a different attitude about going ahead and playing with the boys. No, I never . . .
Perkins: You never played with . . .
Cheney: Played marbles.
Perkins: Okay - another question that Frank McKelvey wants me to ask you is, what did you use for toilet paper, and he doesn't want you to tell him that it was a Sears and Roebuck catalog because that's what everybody says [laughs].
Cheney: Well, our newspaper . . .
Cheney: And lots of times, you know, at Christmastime you got - the first time tissue came out - you got a lot of things wrapped in tissue and I can remember folding that to put it down in the outhouse, as we called it [laughs].
Perkins: Huh. Yeah.
Cheney: The privy was another funny name that I wanted to say to you, I guess it's been given to you before.
Perkins: Yup. That's pretty interesting that you used your Christmas wrap for that – toilet paper.
Cheney: Well, you see, you couldn't get much paper, you know, and it was expensive and you didn't get bags handed out like you do in this day and age. So you had to have - and the grocer came and put all the things on the table so we had no reason to go to the store. We had a grocer deliver, come and take the order and during the week he'd bring the order so that - he lived in Rockland, Ewing, [it was?]
Perkins: What did he deliver? Did he use a cart with horses, is that what he delivered with?
Cheney: Well, before he quit, he had a truck, but that was when I was a good size, I mean before we moved up next to the church. But I was only twelve when we moved up there, so that . . .
Perkins: Can you think of any other types of paper that you would use beside newspaper and Christmas wrap - tissue paper?
Cheney: Well, I guess if we had all the pieces of - I don't think they put tissue paper in a box with a gift very much then. But any paper like that that was soft, you would use it because a lot of those things were a lot better than newspaper, and that was really what was . . .
Perkins: Was that the most common?
Cheney: Yes, that was the most common thing to leave in the toilet.
Perkins: So did you Dad get a newspaper then? Did he . . .
Cheney: Oh, yes.
Perkins: Well, do you remember the name?
Cheney: I can't remember when we didn't have a - Morning News was the first paper we had, I think. But we didn't have it delivered, now, you had to go and get it.
Perkins: Where would you go?
Cheney: To the store down in Squirrel Run.
Perkins: Is that Ewing's Store?
Cheney: Oh no, you couldn't walk from our place to Ewing's Store, it was in Rockland and I guess that's a good - you'd have to go down, and across that bridge, and up the hill, and then go part of the distance after you got into Rockland to get to the grocery store. But, you see, when we had that big explosion that tore our house apart so badly, we had to move. And then we went to the store and got our things and you could get the regular toilet paper and anything you wanted because five minutes would take you from where we lived, while our house was being repaired.
Perkins: Do you remember what the name of the store was in Squirrel Run - where you would get the paper from?
Cheney: It was always Italian names. For, you see, the Italians were the first came. I can’ t [long pause] my brother's coming next week, and I bet he would know one name from the people at Squirrel Run. Because, you see, he was nine years younger than I was and he would remember more of this than I do. So if I get - if he can remember any more, I'll ask him about some of the things.
Perkins: Okay, ‘ cause probably the next time I'll talk with you is when you come out to Hagley - they want you to come out to Hagley and show them around so they can draw the maps of the area.
- Local Roads; Making use of old powder kegs; Deliveries of industrial materials to the Hagley Yard; Acquiring wood and feed for horses and chickens; Workers' gardens; Growing and buying vegetables; Relations with wealthy neighbors and their household staff; Carpet in the cellar; Children's bedroomsKeywords: Animal feeding; Barley Mill Road; Barrels; Basements; Bedrooms; Breck's Lane; Brothers and sisters; Carpet laying; Carpets; Chickens; Childhood and youth of a person; Chores; Christ Church Christiana Hundred (Wilmington, Del.); Class consciousness; Company towns; Crowninshield, Louise du Pont, 1877-1958; Delivery of goods; DuPont Experimental Station; E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company; Explosives industry; Feeds; Food--Storage; Free Park; Gardening; Gardens; Girls' bedrooms; Grocery shopping; Horse-drawn vehicles; Horses; Household employees; Marshallton (Del).; Mount Cuba (Del. : Village); Neighborhoods; Neighbors; Onions; Pets; Powder mills; Radishes; Reminiscing; Rich people; Rising Sun Lane; Root crops; Tomatoes; Turnips; Vegetable gardening; Wagons; Wilmington (Del.); Wood; Working animalsTranscript: Cheney: Yes, I could show you that big house – big along that street there, too. Well, it was the biggest house in that group of houses between the - Breck's Lane and Barley Mill was other - other name? Rising Sun is the one that's over near Rockford Tower, so Barley Mill Road is the one, I think, that's near the Experimental Station.
Cheney: Did I tell you that they made the, the kegs and that - the powder came in - they had some kind of kegs that they would give them - they'd give that wood to the men, and some of the furniture that the people used was made from that wood that the Company got and would throw away. They wouldn't use it, so you could go and get the wood. And instead of burning it, a lot of people made chairs, you could [put together?] a fence, things like that - a bench.
Perkins: What was that - was that extra wood left over from what they were making the kegs out of, or was it the actual keg wood?
Cheney: No, it was the way the kegs came. No, the things that came to the Powder Yard, you know, in those days you didn't have much of a way to haul them, you didn't have trucks, so you had to have it fixed in some kind of a container so you could put it in a – well, your own - I didn’ t know really what they – it had a big, open back and was pulled by two horses, is what they used, really. 'Cause I can remember seeing it downtown one time and I was so surprised, I knew where it belonged, but I was so surprised to see it on King Street in Wilmington, but I guess the driver wanted something, he just came through that way with the Du Pont wagon, but I was surprised to see it down there. It went past our home all the time, the wagons. And where - I don't know who lives in the house now - but anyhow, Crowninshield's home, well, that used to be the farm, all around there you could see those - that farm building. And I think I told you, we had to go up there to get the feed for the chickens and the feed for the horse, we'd always go up there and . . .
Perkins: They would sell you the feed?
Cheney: Yes, they would sell you a bag of corn, taken off the ear, and you'd get the corn shucked - that's horse corn. Sometimes we'd get the ears just depending on - some horses liked it still on the ears. Our horse, Billy, loved the corn on the cob much better than the kind that you can pick off the cobs - we spoiled him, he was like a pet to us [begins talking too quietly to understand].
Perkins: Did you ever get any work out of him, or did you just have him as a pet?
Cheney: Oh yes, he - well, I don't know whether you call it work or not, because it was so rough and hilly that we couldn't take the horse to plow the garden and all, we just had the dig the garden, it was too hilly. But he was used to - well, we'd go up to Crowninshield's to get our wood, you'd buy the wood by the, the wood up there - I forget - what's the measurement for - it's a bale of hay . . .
Perkins: Cord - cord of wood?
Cheney: Cord of wood, right. You'd get a cord of wood from up there, and you’ d have to buy that and then take it back in the wagon. We had one of those with the big back, you know, it was flat and you'd just lift it over the side and put the things in and bring them back. Because we had to carry all the chicken feed, we didn't have anybody to deliver. A man came from Marshallton when I was a good size, but before that, when we were little, when we had the chickens and the horse, we had to go out to the barn to get it.
Perkins: How many people would you say - would you say a majority of the workers had gardens - the majority of the workers that lived in Company houses?
Cheney: Well, they were limited to space down along the Brandywine, as you can well see, and there were a lot of homes along the Brandywine. But all the people on Breck's Lane, that I knew, had their own gardens in back of the house, and very nice gardens. Well, you couldn't get fresh vegetables in any other way, yearly, except - and I know lettuce and tomatoes and that type of thing, everybody found some place. You'd rather have a vegetable garden than a grass lawn. I mean, it was much more important to have someplace where you could get the fresh food in the summertime, more so than having a beautiful plot of grass like you do now.
Perkins: They - so did they sell vegetables in the stores, or was it just too much trouble to get?
Cheney: Well, you see, we had the grocer that delivered, [Amockman?], and his price was a lot more than if you could get to a store nearby, so in a lot of cases we went out to the country. If you went out to Mt. Cuba or places around there - we have friends in Mt. Cuba that supplied our vegetables, or, well, it seemed there were more men there and they'd get them started. My Dad, with only the one arm, and not any boys in the family, he didn't have as much help to have a big garden. And, of course, when you see the place that we had to garden, you'll understand why we couldn't do too much with it. Because it was too hilly and so much of it would wash down or wash away. But, just the same, we got a lot of our food from the garden in the summertime.
Perkins: What sorts of vegetables would you get from your friends in Mt. Cuba?
Cheney: Well, turnips was one thing we never had much luck with because it took a long growing period, so friends of mine, the [O'Neils?], always supplied with us with turnips, but we paid for them. And then the Fredericks had a good sized place up there in Mt. Cuba. And I think [indecipherable] Frederick had land another place that he would sell the vegetables. We depended on our neighbors, though, for a lot of things, and the people that lived in that yellow house we always called it, were always needing help and Mother would go over there – like, they had help in the house, but if they were having ten or twelve to dinner, Mother would go and help serve the meal or help fix some of the vegetables to help - 'cause the maids, when they weren't busy, spent a lot of time with us, so Mother would say, "Well, if you want me to come over, I'll be glad to do it and cook such and such." So they worked together like that and they were good neighbors, I mean they were much more neighborly than the rich people, needless to say [laughs].
Perkins: Do you remember what your turnips looked like - did they have purple - did they have purple skins?
Cheney: They were more the yellow turnips. That’ s what I remember.
Perkins: So they had yellow flesh?
Perkins: But did they have purple on the outside or just . . .
Cheney: No, no purple at all, just a kind of a yellow.
Perkins: Just a yellow skin.
Cheney: Yellow turnip.
Perkins: Okay. Was it round or flat?
Cheney: It was round.
Perkins: Round one?
Cheney: Yes, it was much the shape of the ones you see today. I don't remember the purple and white on it, now maybe it didn't mean anything to me, but I remember the yellow turnip more than the . . .
Perkins: Did you ever grow any winter radishes - have you heard of winter radishes? They take a - they're not the small, little, red ones like you see in the stores today.
Cheney: No, we never had the - well, we just couldn't manage anything that you had to pick in the wintertime, to tell you the truth, because Mother had all she could do with five of us, and it was just too much. Any anyhow, we didn't have enough garden space when we were smaller, and then when we got up to the church, you were limited as to what you could have because – well, some of the things, they closed it off so we couldn't see what was happening in the churchyard. If a car’ d come in, we'd want to leave that always clear, so we would get over there [voice trails off].
Perkins: I wanted to ask you about your tomatoes. I think you mentioned you had - one time you grew pink tomatoes, that you couldn't tell whether they were ripe or not?
Cheney: I think that was a pear tomato, about the shape of a pear?
Perkins: No, no - did you grow those?
Cheney: We had those, too, they were bright yellow. Yellow tomatoes shaped like a pear.
Perkins: Uh-huh. Did you ever grow cherry tomatoes?
Cheney: Yes, yes, small.
Perkins: The round ones? What color were they?
Cheney: They were - well I might have called that pink, because it wasn't as red as our regular tomatoes, it was a lighter, much lighter red. That must have been what I was thinking about when I said pink, because when you were at a distance, they did look as if they were pink more than they were red but, of course, the fact was that they weren't quite ripe.
Perkins: Mm-hmm. And then you grew round, red tomatoes, the normal round, red types?
Cheney: Yes. Well, we had what you call the pear tomatoes, shaped like a pear. I never liked them.
Perkins: Why not?
Cheney: I don't know, it just didn't have the same taste of the tomato you eat.
Perkins: What did you use those for?
Cheney: Well, Mother sliced them, just like she put the other on the table. Some of us liked it, but I – see, there were five of us, so [laughs] there for a long time, even before George was born - with Mother and Dad, of course.
Perkins: Um, when your Dad would pull the onions up at the end of the season, do you remember where he would dry them?
Cheney: Right there with . . .
Perkins: In the garden?
Cheney: He would just take a fork and throw it over and let them dry, then we'd go and gather them up - it wasn't any big deal to us [laughs].
Perkins: How would you store them?
Cheney: In mesh bags - I don't know why, they had so few other things, but some of the corn on the cob that we got up at the barn, was in a mesh-like bag and that was wonderful for keeping onions. I can remember, even when that cellar was a little bit damp in parts of it, but they would keep much better than after we got a place where you had a wooden floor. We thought it would have been much - but that earthen floor, when it was dry, and as I say, the spring drained it, so that it was dry, and it made a very good - and then Mother always put her old carpets. She made it even better, see, we used on the floor strips of carpet. I guess you've seen those at different - I thought I could show you a piece, but we gave it to somebody [laughs] but it never stayed up - and watched them braid it - asked to see about it because they needed that size right on the porch, so Mother was living at the time and she said, "Well, if you can use it, go ahead and take it." So that's how we got rid of our strip carpet.
Perkins: So, she would put the carpet down on the earthen floor in the cellar - is that . . .
Cheney: Well, we used the carpet, but that's what we used on the floor in the living room for a long time. It would be about the size of the top of this table. The rolls of . . .
Perkins: Like a runner - about three feet wide?
Cheney: That's right - then you'd put the runners next to each other to cover the floor. I don't remember in that house ever putting down - having somebody come and put the carpet down on the floor like we did after we got up next to the church.
Perkins: What color was your carpet in those rooms?
Cheney: Well, I don't - it was kind of a mixture usually.
Perkins: Did it have, like a print on it, or was it just . . .
Cheney: Just a mixture of colors and the weaving. Now, one of the rooms, the bedroom, my oldest sister was crazy about blue, and I don't know where Mother got it, but their room was in - Elizabeth and Elsie's room was in blue for a long time when we lived down there at the Powder Mill. Now, Sarah and I had a real light green, pretty green [indecipherable]. See. we kind of went in pairs, there were Elizabeth and Elsie, and then Catherine and Sarah, but my brother didn't come until 1915.
- Children's chores and punishments; Saving and sharing herbs and seeds; Flower and vegetable gardeningKeywords: Brothers and sisters; Chickens--Housing; Childhood and youth of a person; Children of immigrants; Children of parents with disabilities; Chores; Corporal punishment of children; Discipline of children; Dogs--Barking; Fences; Flower gardening; Food--Cooling; Food--Storage; Fragrant gardens; Gardening; Gardens; Hedges; Herb gardening; Ornamental hedges; Outhouses; Reminiscing; Shade trees; Vegetable gardening; Wilmington (Del.); Wire fencingTranscript: Perkins: I'm sure he felt left out - the only boy in the family.
Cheney: [laughs] I don't think George ever felt it - he says he never did. But you know, we were old enough to realize that we didn't want him to be sissy [laughs] and he - we had a lot of cousins and their family. Now, like Aunt Kate, Mother's sister, was only a year younger than she was and they came to the country about the same time. I guess Mother came out first from Ireland and then Aunt Kate came later. But, they were just a year difference in their ages and they did a lot of the same things and I was named for her, so she was always very close to me. What did I do when she slapped my hand . . . ? My Mother never touched me, and oh, it just broke my heart. She was awfully sorry she did it, because she said she'd [batted?] her kids [laughs]. But I’ d picked up a fistful of utensils, like the knives and forks and spoons - well, in our house, Mother sorted them most of the time. She was lucky if we got them dried and into the drawer, but she didn't care what way we put them in the drawer. But Aunt Kate had a place for each thing, so she really gave me a - slapped my fingers – “ If you didn't know that - the way they belonged, if you didn't look in there and see that they were in a single place - why didn't you ask somebody?” I said, "I didn't ask, I just put it away the way we do at home." [laughs]
Perkins: That's when you were over at her house?
Cheney: Yes [laughs].
Perkins: What about your Dad - would your Dad? Would your Dad hit you if you misbehaved?
Cheney: My Father never struck me. I can't remember him ever hitting me.
Perkins: Is that pretty unusual for parents . . . ?
Cheney: Well, I don't think so, because he wasn't much - he only had the one arm and Mother said "I’ ll do the spanking." Well, of course, she never did. I can't remember [laughs].
Perkins: You were lucky, then.
Cheney: [unintelligible]. Well, we all had things to do. When you have the garden and the big, old roomy house – a roomy house like that - there was always - I couldn't get over people saying “ I just hate to come home and nothing for me to do.” Because we all had jobs - we had – well, we had the chickens away up on the hill at one place, but they were - it was nice, they were so far from the house because you never had any of that chicken yard near the home. Because one . . .
Perkins: Never had a mess?
Cheney: No, one was there on the hill and the other was away over near the barn, so in that way, you didn't come in contact with it.
Perkins: Do you remember how you would store your - did you ever save any herbs, like your parsley and your mint? Did you ever save that for use in the winter?
Cheney: Well, when we had an ice box, you know you had ice, truck came and you bought a piece of ice and we kept that on the porch and we made a hole in the porch floor so the water could run out, you didn't have to worry about emptying the pan. But that was after we moved up next to the church. I think we just had an ice box before that.
Perkins: Did you ever dry them to keep them - dry the parsley?
Cheney: Oh, oh yes. Yes, some of the things we would hang on the line and let . . .
Perkins: What, the clothesline?
Perkins: And then what would you do with them after they were dry?
Cheney: Well, then they would keep - you wouldn't keep them - you wouldn't expect them to keep all winter, but they'd keep for a while.
Perkins: Did you keep them in a jar or something? How did you store them after you would dry them?
Cheney: No, they had to be spread out. With that big family, you know, we weren't - it wasn't long before it was all gone. We'd always share them with others.
Unidentified Speaker: Hi.
Perkins and Cheney: Hi.
Cheney: . . . with her sister, so all of the family - her brothers.
Perkins: Did your Mom ever save any seeds from her flowers in the yard?
Perkins: To replant? Do you remember which ones she would save - the seeds from which flowers?
Cheney: Well, the zinnias were always kept and asters.
Perkins: How about marigolds, you mentioned marigolds before?
Cheney: Yes, marigolds.
Perkins: Nasturtiums - did she save seeds . . . ?
Cheney: We never had much luck in keeping over the nasturtiums. Of course, I'll tell you, Mother and the family would share, so lots of things that we would get, maybe they would get a lot of zinnias, well then we would share those and they would give us something that they had in their yard. And when you lived in Wilmington, you couldn't have anything that got very tall, so nasturtiums and things like that, we got the seeds from Aunt Kate or Aunt Sally, usually.
Perkins: Where did she get her seeds from?
Cheney: Well, she could raise them in her yard, she wanted something along the fence in their small yards in Wilmington. And so, they would save the seeds from theirs and we’ d exchange.
Perkins: Is that where you would get a lot of your flowering plants - just from with exchanging with other - other people, your relatives and . . .
Cheney: I don't know why, we'd keep the seeds and exchange them, but I don't know remember going down to Aunt Kate’ s for any plants. It's funny we didn't, but I guess you wanted to get everything planted at the same time. I don't know why, but we never waited to get - it would be the problem of how you could get in there, too, to get them and get them planted before they - you know, to keep them fresh, that was another problem.
Perkins: You mentioned you had a fence around your vegetable garden - did you ever grow any vines on that fence that went around the outside of the garden, do you remember?
Cheney: No, now we had . . . um, beautiful morning glories, but they usually came up. I don't remember ever planting them.
Perkins: So they were wild?
Perkins: What color were they?
Cheney: Blue - blue and white.
Perkins: What about mock orange, do you know what that is?
Cheney: We call it orange blossom, is that the same thing? Orange blossom?
Perkins: It's a shrub,
Perkins: White flowers, it smells?
Cheney: We had more lilacs than that.
Perkins: Do you remember either having a mock orange or knowing other people who had them?
Cheney: I knew other people that had them, but we never had one at either house, but we had shrubs. Had brown, little flowerlike thing that smelled so nice. You put it in the drawer in the wintertime - you ever see those? [Laughs]
Perkins: Hmm. I don't know. Is it brown because you dried it, is that what it was?
Cheney: No, it was brown on the bush, the shrub, and you picked it and . . .
Perkins: Huh. Was it the seed pod, was that what it was, do you think?
Cheney: Well, the thing that we dried was the seed, I mean it just was that type of a . . .
Perkins: And it smelled nice, so you put it in the drawer?
Perkins: What about smoke bush, have you ever heard of that?
Cheney: I have seen those up at Winterthur, but we never had any.
Perkins: Never had it? What about spirea?
Cheney: Yes, we had a spirea at one time, but it didn’ t do very well. See, it was so rocky down there too. So much rock - stones in the soil that a lot of the trees - you couldn't have a lot of trees because they needed so much water. And then it was hilly, too, and the rain would run right down.
Perkins: What about rose of Sharon?
Cheney: Yes, we had plenty of rose of Sharon. In fact, it made a hedge for a while.
Perkins: Where was that?
Cheney: That was between the outside section of the garden and the place that we used for lawn and then we could go up on the hill Sunday afternoon and we would take our lunch up there. We never took care of the grass, we never had a mower to cut it, but the grass would be nice on the hill and I guess our feet more than anything else kept it down because we would use it a lot as a place to go and play ball or a place to eat our lunch Sunday afternoon.
Perkins: So was there a purpose for the hedge, was it keeping anything out or blocking any views?
Cheney: Well, um, it took care of that side of the garden, so that the cats and dogs and chickens didn't get in.
Perkins: So it was planted along one of the sides of the garden, then?
Perkins: Oh, okay. But would you still have to have a fence on that side to keep . . . ?
Cheney: Well, I'll tell you, that opened up into the place where the bushes and trees grew and there was a lot of that English Ivy on the ground underneath the trees, so that you never had any problem. I don't know why the English Ivy didn't go through. I guess Dad would pull it up if it would go through into the garden, but we never seemed to have any problem with it, but it always made a nice covering for that and there wasn't any care to it, I mean it would take care of itself. We had to get things that you didn't have to - like you have to cut grass. And when we lived down there near the Yard, we never had a lawn. I can't remember ever having a mower or having to cut any grass. Because the back yard went right into the Gibbons house and we walked so much through that that it was patted down and wherever the children were, they always had the boys out there and we had a piece of canvas to cover them, you know, so that you wouldn’ t have to take them in and out every day.
Perkins: There was – there was a big drop there. In between the two houses, you know, on the one side.
Cheney: Oh, yes.
Perkins: What was – how was . . . ?
Cheney: They had a fence.
Perkins: What kind of a fence was there?
Cheney: Seems to me it was wire mesh, and close.
Perkins: Mm-hmm. To keep people from falling off the edge?
Cheney: [both laugh]. But you never went near the edge, I mean, after you went - as I told you, you went across the road to the toilet - well, coming back from the toilet you made up your mind you weren't going to play up there very much. And we had plenty of area out in front of the house, near the stables where we could play, so there really wasn't any point in going up on the hill. And anyhow, you were too near Judge Bradford's, and he always had vicious dogs. Now, I don't think the dog would ever bite us, but it would bark and carry on so that you wouldn't dare go near the fence.
Perkins: So it would scare you.
Perkins: Um. Did you ever have any sun flowers?
Perkins: Where would they be - planted in the garden?
Cheney: Well, as a border, more or less. There was one place that was rather shady and believe it or not, if you could get the seeds far enough over in the garden, it would answer for shade all along that side, so it didn't make the place where we would go on Sunday nearly as warm, because as well as having a tree, this would shade the place where we sat.
Perkins: So you would have, like, a row of sun flowers in your garden, then?
Perkins: What did you use the seeds for?
Cheney: I don't think - just the birds ate them.
Perkins: What about hollyhocks, do you remember having them?
Cheney: Oh, yes.
Perkins: What - do you remember what colors they were?
Cheney: Red, white and pink.
- Layout of the family's yard and neighbors' homes; Horse-drawn transportation; Manure storage; Gardening; Cheney gets a phone callKeywords: Aunts; Barns--United States; Basements; Chickens; Childhood and youth of a person; Children of immigrants; Children of parents with disabilities; Fences; Flower gardening; Games; Garden tools; Gardening; Horse-drawn vehicles; Indoor gardening; Manure handling; Pets; Wilmington (Del.); Wooden fences; Working animalsTranscript: Perkins: Where would they be?
Cheney: Well, there were some along that same fence toward Judge Bradford's, on the top. And then the, uh - along the top of the . . . and then, I think we had a group of hollyhocks out near the front. I told you that the family that lived there, one place we just had to use as a shed after we got the whole house, but that was their kitchen, and it had palings and that - they always looked nice along that thing - paling fence, you know, the kind that you push the big logs in?
Perkins: Mm-hmm, yeah. Was that - is the shed that you're talking about, was that in between the two houses - the Gibbons' House and then . . . ?
Cheney: No, it was to the front.
Cheney: You know, the barn's still there.
Perkins: Mm-hmm. It was on that side.
Cheney: Yes, just the other side of the barn, toward the house, was a lovely place where we kept chickens. And then the other side of that was big enough to hold a wagon. 'Cause we had a wagon with two seats, you know, and a horse, because there were so many of us when we went out on a Sunday or Monday [unintelligible]. Dad had what he called a runabout – ‘ cause he was a tax collector and he had to have something that he could use. People are surprised that with the one arm he could handle a horse, but he never had a bit of trouble. We had three different horses that I remember, and we never . . . of course, they were pets.
Perkins: But you had your manure pile by the stable?
Cheney: Yes, it was really over against the stable.
Perkins: So was the stable formed one sort of a wall for the manure pile?
Cheney: Yes, and you wouldn't see the manure pile if you went down the road, because you see . . .
Perkins: It was in the back.
Cheney: It was in the back toward the highway. You went up to the family that lived in back of us, up that path that I talked about, and Dad sure kept that path nice, he used - they regularly used a lot of coal and he would dump the ashes and he kept that path really nice. We never had to do anything about it, but it was always a good path. He was a good person to us. Some of the places were so rocky, you know, the roads, you'd break your neck [laughs].
Perkins: Did you ever – did you have any other walls on the manure pile, or did you just sort of throw the manure up against the back of the stable?
Cheney: The manure bin was really made with boards. I would say ten to twelve inches wide. And, as I remember, it was three boards, and I know that board at the top was two to two and a half inches, because one of the things we would dare each other to do was to walk around the edge - that was one of the games that we played [laughs].
Perkins: Was there four walls around the manure pile, or was it just the back of it was the stable and there were two sides?
Cheney: The back of it was the stable and there were three sides.
Perkins: Okay, so it was completely enclosed?
Perkins: How tall was it? Do you remember, from the ground?
Cheney: Oh - way up above my head when I was little. It must have been six feet of boards, at least.
Perkins: So you'd have to - how would you get the manure in there?
Cheney: Well, it was on different levels. If you went around to the side, you could put it in without a bit of trouble, near the barn, because the soil went up there. There was a stream along there at one time, but it had dried up so that you didn't get into the stream, but it had made a bank, and the bank wasn't the same all the way. I mean, in the manure pile when we put the boards, I remember the first section to the outside was three whole twelve-inch, or maybe fourteen-inch wide boards, but then when you got back to the back, it only took two of them to fill up the space because it went up the hill, like.
Perkins: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I understand what you mean.
Cheney: The manure wasn't near the barn, really. Really, near the barn wall, because of this - you didn't have to push it right up to the wall because of these big boards. And whoever built the place put them on all sides so it was - I don't remember when the place for the manure was first - it was always that way as far as I remember. But it was nice because it wasn't out to the public, you could go down the road and you wouldn't see the manure pile. Back of the barn, and you had to go up that path, and then the path was a good distance from the manure pile. Never any odor about it.
Perkins: You know the – the wooden steps that you talked about that you would get up - get to the garden from your house?
Perkins: You always refer to them as a pair of wooden steps. Were there really two steps there?
Cheney: As I remember, there was two steps and then a level, and then I don't know whether you went up three or four. Because if - well, you'll see when - I don't know how much it's changed, now it may not be hilly like that at all, but it was quite steep and a lot of people said to us, "I don't know how you have the garden there, it's a wonder it's not all washed out." But you see, the way it was placed, kind of . . . across, that the rain would run down, but it wouldn't wash the soil away because the things were planted across the . . .
Perkins: The rows were planted lengthwise across the hill?
Perkins: Did you ever use trowels?
Perkins: To plant with?
Cheney: It wasn't perfectly shaped like the one now with a sharp point, it was more flat on the edge, more like a shovel, but we called it a trowel.
Perkins: Was it about the same size as what a trowel is today?
Cheney: Yes. We could handle it when we put out, or transplanted, the flowers. We planted the seed in a box, you know, because we started early, and then when you took them out to plant them, we could use that trowel to put them out and plant them.
Perkins: What kind of a box would you start them in?
Cheney: Wooden box.
Perkins: Would you start them in the house?
Cheney: Yes, in that basement.
Perkins: So you must have had a window there - for light?
Cheney: Well, um, yes, I guess in the one - I can't remember that walk too well down along the side of the house, but it must have had a window into the cellar, in the side of the house. Because there were windows up above that you opened up.
Perkins: Did you ever start any of your vegetables like that too, or just the flowers? Before you put them in the garden?
Cheney: I think the reason that we did the flowers that way, like Aunt Kate would say, "I have more zinnias come up than I have a place to put them." So, we would go into her place and get it and just take a pan in and get the plants. And, um, Aunt Sarah did the same thing, I mean, they all liked to have a little place, but they didn't have enough yard really to raise anything. So, the kids loved to plant the seed, and, see, Aunt Kate had five children and there were five of us, so it was a lot of kids to do things. And I think Aunt Kate wanted them to have something to do in the city. [telephone begins ringing during this sentence, Cheney says something unintelligible]. Excuse me.
Perkins: Ok. [sound of the tape recorder turning off].
- Trash disposal; Feeding chickens with kitchen waste; Composting and gardeningKeywords: Alexis I. du Pont School (Wilmington, Del.); Animal feeding; Brothers and sisters; Chickens; Childhood and youth of a person; Children of immigrants; Children of parents with disabilities; Christ Church Christiana Hundred (Wilmington, Del.); Company towns; Compost; Eleutherian Mills (Greenville, Del. : Estate); Flower gardening; Indoor gardening; Neighborhoods; Potting soils; Refuse and refuse disposal; Root crops; Vegetable gardening; Winter gardeningTranscript: Perkins: What did you do, you said that you burned trash in your garden, like the old vines from the plants and, I guess, papers from the house, would you burn them up there? In the garden?
Cheney: We had a trash delivery, I think that's another good thing that they did for us. And I don't know why we saved the papers, but we always piled up the newspapers and somebody collected them. I guess the - the rag man would take newspapers and papers like that. ‘ Cause I can't remember throwing away - 'course as you say, we used the newspapers in the toilet and a lot of other things - when you didn't have aluminum foil and things, you could wrap anything that had dirt in it in newspaper. So, I guess we used - had use for a lot of the newspapers.
Perkins: What about your wet garbage, like coffee grounds or potato peelings?
Cheney: Well, you see as long as you had chickens, you didn't have any problem. In fact, in the cold weather, Mother put corn meal with the leftover peelings and scraps and we had a special pot just for – just for the chickens and that was supposed to be good for them in the wintertime to get the hot. So we very seldom threw out anything like that as garbage. You could use it all that the chickens would eat, 'course some things they wouldn't touch. I don't think they'd eat the extra turnips or [clock chiming drowns out the next word]. I don't think we ever tried to give them that, but I know they liked any kind of potatoes left over. And Mother baked twice a week, she'd make eight loaves of bread on Wednesday and eight loaves on Saturday - and we had to carry our lunch to Alexis I., so she always made a cake, and tons of pies.
Perkins: Mm-hmm. I'm jumping around . . .
[sound of tape being stopped, flipped over, long silence]
Perkins: . . . to keep insects off the plants, ever heard of that? Do you remember doing that?
Cheney: I didn't know we were keeping insects off the plants at that - it was used for that purpose, but it would - Dad always said it freshened the soil, whatever that meant.
Perkins: Did you ever eat beet greens?
Perkins: The tops off the beets?
Cheney: No. See, when you had chickens, you didn't have to worry about anything like that going to waste, because they would just love any of that green tops or . . .
Perkins: Mm-hmm. In one of your earlier interviews you mentioned that there was a climbing rose.
Perkins: Did you have a climbing rose around the wall? Do you remember what the flowers looked like? Were they single or . . .
Cheney: They were small, solid, and in clusters.
Perkins: What color?
Cheney: I remember red and pink. And we had a white one, but it never did very well, never had many blooms. Now the foliage was nice on it and we had it placed kind of between the red and the pink and it, uh, made a nice, uh - and also that wall, you wouldn't think that the vines would do well at the top of the wall, but we kept putting soil that had been enriched with the leftover vegetables, you know. Dad made a pile, a compost pile is what we called it, and that was always richer than the soil that you could dig up because of all the many rocks, pebbles and - but this way, when you built up the soil like that, it was very good for the - and it made the top of the wall look so pretty when it came down. You said something about creeping things - I wonder what the vine was called? But as well as having the flowers, we had a vine along that wall, well that was just a short part to cover, but they would creep over a longer section. We just had maybe two-foot space that we put the vines, but then they would spread out.
Perkins: Mm-hmm, yeah. Do you remember what color the flower was?
Cheney: I don't know what it could have been, but it seems to me it was yellow. We had crocuses, I know that, 'course they are white, pink, and red.
Perkins: Did you have any other kinds of bulbs - spring bulbs?
Cheney: Oh, we had a lot of lily of the valley, it was always pretty and it would come up and no trouble at all to take care of.
Perkins: Now, you're talking about lily of the valley and the roses - that was when you lived up by the Episcopal Church.
Perkins: No? This is down by the powder yards?
Cheney: Well, well we had a big lily of the valley about - yes, up by the church. But it didn't - nobody ever saw it really, I mean it didn't form a part of our decoration around the house like the lily of the valley did down at the - near the gates.
Perkins: Where – where would you have the lily of the valley? Down by the gates?
Cheney: Well, I mean it was in our yard, but it was in a bed down there. Where we had those trees, between where the trees were, we had to keep taking out the young weaklings that came up, so we kept that pretty well dug. So, all along that fence to the inside, to the tree side, not in the garden, but on the other side is where they were so pretty.
Perkins: So that was up on the hill, in back of your house, then?
Cheney: Yes - to the side of the house, really, all along.
Perkins: Where would your Dad have his compost pile?
Cheney: All over, I mean, it just depended where it got started. Sometimes it would be where the poorest soil was when they dug, or where it was rocky or rough, or sometimes when we were the devils - raked all the stones up to a certain spot, well then that's where he'd start to put the, uh [laughs] because he'd have to move all the stones if he didn't, and it was easier for us than trying to carry the pebbles or stones that we'd dig up from the garden, down those steps.
Perkins: So, he'd always have compost pile near the garden then.
Perkins: Is that where you put the . . . . ?
Cheney: Now, we didn't call it compost pile then - we just thought it was a place we would put the dead vegetables and the things that you raked up or dug up out of the garden after the season is over.
Perkins: Mm-hmm. Did he ever use the soil from that compost pile when he would start, when you would start your flower seeds in the, uh, in the wooden flats, or did you get your soil from . . . ?
Cheney: Well, we always had to have the wooden flats inside, so we were always afraid you'd get something that would have an odor, if you did anything like that. So we always, from the place that he fixed for the soil, to use in the garden, we always took whatever and put in the boxes from that. Because it would already have the necessary food in it, so they'd get started. Because we'd be awful disappointed if we just put them in the regular soil, because all down in through there, any place I ever remember digging, there were an awful lot of pebbles and small stones. So, to get away from that, you just had to take it - soil that had been more or less experimented with, or piled up that could be used.
Perkins: So you would use the garden soil when you planted?
Cheney: That's right.
Perkins: When your Dad would store turnips and things in the garden over the winter in pits, did he ever put any straw on top of those pits to keep them from freezing?
Cheney: We never had access to straw, so you had to go and buy it like you bought the hay, you know. So I don't know why the Catholic - we never had to - we never bothered with anything like that. 'Course with a big family, they wouldn't last so long either. I know after they went away, my oldest sister died. That was . . . just one thing after another, it seemed like. We didn't - there wasn't any need for having such a big garden because we couldn't use the things that we growed.
Perkins: Have you ever heard of inter planting potatoes with cabbage - in the same spot?
Cheney: We were glad to get it in somewhere in a straight line [laughs].
- Tobacco and smoking; Mosquitoes; Childhood fears of storms; Parenting; Teaching; Shade gardening; Growing potatoes; Father gets help from the neighborsKeywords: Alexis I. du Pont School (Wilmington, Del.); Brothers and sisters; Children of parents with disabilities; Classroom management--United States; Classrooms; Discipline of children; Explosives industry--Accidents; Fear in children; Gardening; Gardens; Mosquitoes--Control; Neighbors; Parenting--United States; Pipe smoking; Porches; Reminiscing; Root crops; Smoking--United States; Students with disabilities--United States; Teaching; Thunderstorms; Tobacco; Tobacco pipes; Vegetable gardeningTranscript: Perkins: Do you ever remember anybody growing tobacco?
Perkins: Where did they get their tobacco for their pipes that they'd smoke - in a store?
Cheney: Yes, that store down in Squirrel Run could supply you with - all Dad had was a pipe and he only smoked it in the night on the porch. I thought you couldn't live without a pipe to keep the mosquitoes away [laughs].
Perkins: Is that why they used it - to keep the mosquitoes away?
Cheney: Yes, if you felt that you were gonna sit on the porch, you would always wait for Dad to light his pipe [both laugh]. The mosquitoes wouldn't bother you - I don't know whether it was in your mind, or whether they really didn't bother, but it was things like that that I think made family life so much closer and so much more to it than it is today.
Cheney: Because people would think you were crazy now if you hung around the porch when Dad started smoking his pipe [laughs]. But that was the thing that we did, I mean the mosquitoes would drive you crazy. 'Course now after we got up next to the church, the porch was screened in, so we didn't have any problem with that, but down there at Hagley, was that great, big porch, both porches were big when they were in one of them. But my Father loved the porch and I was afraid of thunder and lightning. 'Course I think it was the explosions, really, that made you so frightened. And I would always go to the middle room, it just had two windows in it, and then the shed where they kept the preserves and all, and the other side of that, so no light would get in from the outside, you couldn't see the light. So, I was sitting in there one day and he didn't know I was in there. I kind of started and then I spoke and he said, "The storm's beautiful, come here.” So, I went over, I said, "I'm not going up on no porch.” He said, "Yes you are, we're going out there." And from then on, I wasn't afraid of lightning at all.
Cheney: But you know, he didn't have to boss and yell at all, I think it's so different the way that parents deal with children nowadays. Even with Mrs. [unintelligible], she observed me in my teachings. She said, "I'm just amazed how - whatever you say to the child, just that they pay attention, as if there was some unwritten law or something." And she said, "So many of the rooms, you can't hear yourself think for the teacher, yelling with the – the children, and she really doesn't accomplish like you do.” And she said, “ Some of the things you say - did you take a course in how to handle them?” I said, "No, I just had brothers and sisters up there." [laughs].
Perkins: I think you have to gain their respect, that's what you have to do, and then they'll listen to you.
Perkins: And that’ s all [unintelligible].
Cheney: Oh, I loved teaching. [unintelligible] For years, I was [unintelligible].
Perkins: Hmm. It gets me tired just thinking about it [both laugh].
Cheney: Well, I started out with a one-room school, from the first to the sixth, but only eighteen children. It was a wonderful experience, because that way you got information about all the classes. And the boy that was in the sixth grade, he said to me “ When the first grade gets finished with those pictures, can I go up and talk to him?” I said, "Yes, if you don't talk too loud so that we can't go on with what I'm doing in the big room." So, he was wonderful, Walter just got out the blocks that I didn't know were in the building, and he let them put them down on the floor, and the platform was so big that they could play on the platform, didn't bother the rest of us at all. So, it was wonderful. I thought when I had one six-year-old - in the sixth grade, not six years old - but he was in the sixth grade, Raymond Kelley, and he was crippled, had trouble walking and he couldn't always go out to play, so I said, "Well, I tell you I need somebody to tell me if they start to play, or if they are not having a good time, so you go out there and then if it's time to come in, and you know it gave him a feeling of importance and he wasn't a bossy kid anyhow. His father was on the school board so he had a monitor.
Perkins: When you – when you speak of your garden . . .
Cheney: [sound in the background, Cheney calls to someone else] Did I lock the door? [laughs] Excuse me. [sound of a door opening] Oh, no, I didn’ t. I thought maybe I put the deadlatch on [unintelligible conversation with another person at the door].
Perkins: You talk about part of your garden was sunny and part of it was shady on the hill there?
Cheney: Not all day, but a good part. You had - you'd judge where you put things, depending on how much light they needed. 'Cause there was part, maybe about two hours of sunlight and then it would be shady. There were so many trees all over.
Perkins: Where did you get your seed potatoes from, you know, your potatoes that you would cut up and plant, do you remember?
Cheney: I really don't know, I think we just used ordinary potatoes, because I remember them getting shoots on them when they'd be . . .
Perkins: The ones that you'd grown from the year before?
Cheney: Well, I don't know whether we had to buy - as a rule we had to buy potatoes before the winter was out.
Perkins: ‘ Cause you used so many of them.
Cheney: But you'd get potatoes with seeds, and then somebody had to even cut them for Dad. We had nice neighbors, the people that lived over at Crowninshield’ s - the buddies always had, somebody would come and help Dad with cutting the potatoes, things that women weren't - so that they could do it right. Mother was too busy with other things.
- Identifying vegetables in the family garden; Vegetables for the holidays; Italian families in the neighborhood; Food preferencesKeywords: Brothers and sisters; Childhood and youth of a person; Children of immigrants; Christ Church Christiana Hundred (Wilmington, Del.); Christmas cooking; Ethnic neighborhoods--United States; Gardening; Gardens; Halloween; Halloween cooking; Jack-o-lanterns; Neighbors; Onions; Parenting--United States; Radishes; Root crops; Thanksgiving cooking; Vegetable gardeningTranscript: Perkins: I have a – a list of vegetables that I don't think you've mentioned as having in your garden. I just - I want to go - first I'll go through the list that you told me that you had, and correct me if I'm thinking wrong. Okay?
Cheney: [unintelligible] about the garden flowers. I thought, maybe if I look at a list of these in this . . .
Perkins: Well, let me go over the vegetable plants first, and then we'll go over the garden flowers.
Cheney: Oh, okay.
Perkins: I have another list of garden flowers here. Okay, these are the vegetables that you said that you had in your garden, so if I’ m, if I’ m not – if this isn't correct, then tell me. You said you had radishes.
Perkins: And those were the - were those the round, red type of radish?
Cheney: We had both kinds, those long, white ones, too, with the dark top.
Perkins: Okay, and then the round, red ones?
Perkins: Okay, and then peas?
Perkins: Now the peas that you grew, could you eat the pods on them?
Cheney: Oh no, we had to shell them.
Perkins: Okay, and they were - were they climbing plants, or bush plants?
Cheney: We always put strings across. It was easy to put in a stake and then just use store string for them to climb.
Perkins: Okay, and carrots?
Cheney: I don't know whether we had ever as many, enough carrots to bury them in the ground, or, uh, just take in. They would keep pretty well in the basement, I think.
Perkins: Do you remember how long they were? That's a pretty hard question to ask.
Cheney: I really don't know.
Perkins: You don’ t remember?
Cheney: I know later we had smaller carrots that didn't get the big, long root, but as I remember, pulling them up, and I helped to do that many times, getting the dirt off, they were long, it seemed - roots.
Perkins: Ok. Alright - that helps out a lot, because I’ m, right now I'm trying to pick out variety, types of the different vegetables, and this is helping me. Because like, for the radish, you said you had the long, white ones with the red tops, and they're probably Early French Breakfast, they're longer, so this is how we pick out which kinds of vegetables to put in the garden. And turnips, you said that you had the yellow-fleshed ones.
Cheney: Yes, we tried the ones with purple tops, but they never did well. We had the yellow turnips.
Perkins: And you also said you grew celery?
Perkins: Did you have to pull the soil up to blanch the stems?
Cheney: Yes, we didn't have celery beds as long as some of the other things, but we liked it so much, that Mother always tried to have some for Thanksgiving.
Perkins: And beets?
Perkins: Tomatoes - you told me you had red cherry tomatoes, and then yellow pear?
Cheney: Yes, and you know those cherry tomatoes, I was thinking afterwards, you didn't have to plant them, we just kept a space where they grew and they would come up the next year. There were so many seeds, you know, when you think about how many seeds are in one, with the cherry tomato. They would surprise you, I mean they would come up, you didn't have to worry about them.
Perkins: Did you ever have vegetables coming up out of your Dad's compost pile?
Cheney: No, I don't think - I think we started working on it too soon for the seeds to get a start [laughs].
Perkins: Alright - then you said you had leaf lettuce - green leaf lettuce, and spinach?
Perkins: And potatoes.
Perkins: And parsley. Do you remember what your parsley looked like, was it really, really curled leaves or was it sort of flat, not really finely divided?
Cheney: It was a curly leaf, but never got very tall, and you had to pick the parsley because if you let that get old, it wasn't good, it would get . . . We never had too large a parsley bed because of that. In fact, we would pull it out for something else, because if you didn't keep it used, it just wouldn't be any good.
Perkins: And onions?
Cheney: Oh, don’ t even mention onions. Yes, we always had onions. I never, well, I don't like onions [laughs].
Perkins: Do you remember what kind they were - were they red or yellow or white?
Cheney: They had that brown kind of – that peels so easily. I don't see many onions like that anymore, but I would say it was a light brown skin, like, that came off the onions, and they were a good size, not the little ones . . .
Cheney: Ones - well, when you pick them small enough, you have a scallion, pull them up before they grow [laughs].
Perkins: Did your Mom ever pick them as scallions and use them?
Cheney: Yes. My Dad liked that. I told you before, I think, maybe I shouldn't. Probably best not to say it, but you know we had so many workers that came to the Du Pont Company, the Irish included, that's what our folks were. But there were Italian, well, I guess there were more Italian than anything else that I heard talk and speak, and they, of course, grew so many onions and garlic, and then you'd have to sit near them in school and Dad said, "You like onions, what's the matter with that?” I said, "I can't help it, I sit in back of Becky and it's all I can do some days.” [laughs]
Perkins: Well, I'll have to admit, I'm one of the guilty parties, because those of two of my favorite things - onions and garlic.
Cheney: Oh, we had a lot of garlic [laughs]. Well, good for you, you go right ahead. I still can eat an onion if it's soaked in water first and then boiled, but I'd never say I liked onions. But I don't think it was another thing, but sitting so close to that odor and so many of them, you just couldn't get away from it. But, no, my Mother was even - if she cooked some things and everybody else liked onions in it, she'd do a little fry pan for me without them.
Perkins: Well, that was nice of her.
Cheney: Yes, well she did spoil us, I guess, but things like that, I just couldn't make myself eat it, because I’ d just feel that odor coming up from the plate and that would be it, I'd have to leave.
Perkins: Okay - peppers, you said you had peppers, and you said you had the green Bell peppers?
Perkins: And then you mentioned, um, the Italian, the hot Italian peppers, but you said other people grew them and not you.
Cheney: No, we never had the - oh my, I didn’ t have any better sense than to take them, it looked so pretty - put it in my mouth from their yard. “ Yes, pick a pepper, look how pretty the pepper, pick one!” and she took it in her hand, you know, and took a big bite of it and I did the same. Oh my, my mouth was on fire, I thought I'd go crazy [laughs]. I'd never put a hot one in my mouth before, no more hot peppers for me.
Perkins: And beans, you said you had lima beans?
Cheney: And string beans.
Perkins: And string beans. And both of those were the climbing types?
Cheney: Well, the string beans, the vines didn't get very big.
Perkins: Okay, they were the bush type.
Perkins: And the lima beans were the climbers?
Cheney: Yes, you had to put in a pole for them.
Perkins: And then you said you had some cucumbers, not very many, but just a few.
Cheney: The cucumbers didn't do very well down there in Hagley, in our yard, didn't have too many. I mean you couldn't find a place by the time you got to cucumbers.
Perkins: Did you eat those fresh or did your Mom ever pickle them?
Cheney: No, she never pickled the cucumbers, she didn't get a chance, the rest of the family really loved them. We never had space for that many cucumbers.
Perkins: And then you said rhubarb, you used to have rhubarb. That was up near the Episcopal Church, I think you said.
Cheney: Yes, it would come up every year by itself, you didn't have to worry about it.
Perkins: Okay, those are the only vegetables that I have - that's a lot of vegetables, but those are the ones that you told me that you had in your garden.
Cheney: Well, we had our own potatoes - that I forgot to tell.
Perkins: Oh. Oh, no, I think I asked you that. Okay, so, I’ m going to ask you . . .
Cheney: White and sweet, we had both kinds.
Perkins: White and sweet - did you grow many sweet potatoes?
Cheney: Well, not in comparison to the white, but we would have them up - we would try to save some for Christmas dinner - always had one dish of sweet potatoes, but the other potatoes would last all through winter.
Perkins: What about, did you ever grow broccoli?
Perkins: What about cantaloupes?
Cheney: We never had any luck with the cantaloupe, the plant would come up, but it would never mature. I don't think we had enough space for the vines, too close together.
Perkins: What about kohlrabi?
Perkins: Brussels sprouts?
Cheney: Yes, brussels sprouts we tried two or three years, but we never did it down next to the – in Hagley, we didn't really have enough space down there to put too much.
Perkins: What about kale?
Cheney: We didn't like kale. Mother bought it several times, but I don't think we ever tried to raise kale.
Perkins: What about horseradish?
Cheney: No, Mother had leeks in Ireland.
Perkins: Did she?
Perkins: That's why I thought she might have grown them here.
Cheney: No, we never had them in our yard.
Perkins: What about pumpkins?
Cheney: Oh, yes, yes, you had to have them for Halloween, but we only had about three pumpkin vines, we didn't do . . .
Perkins: Yeah, they take up a lot of space. Okay, so would you make them into Jack-O-Lanterns or would you make pies out of them?
Cheney: We'd make pies, Mother wouldn't give them up for . . . well, you could have used the shell and still used the inside, but - no we never made much fuss over Halloween. We got dressed up and went to the neighbor's house, but we never bothered putting the Jack-O-Lanterns around. I think if you have a boy, they love to cut them out to see how – but the baby was the boy, so George didn't get much of a chance.
- Identifying flowers in the family garden; Picking flowers; Indoor flower gardening during the winterKeywords: Alexis I. du Pont School (Wilmington, Del.); Beds (Gardens); Bulbs (Plants); Childhood and youth of a person; Children of immigrants; Christ Church Christiana Hundred (Wilmington, Del.); Cooking (Flowers); Dwellings; Eleutherian Mills (Greenville, Del. : Estate); Flower gardening; Flowerpots; Garden borders; Gardening; Gardens; Indoor gardening; Neighborhoods; Reminiscing; Wild flowers; Winter garden plants; Winter gardeningTranscript: Perkins: Here's my list of flowering plants that I wanted to ask you if you had - chrysanthemums - did you ever plant them?
Cheney: Yes. We didn't plant them, but we bought the plants and then they would live, they would come up every year.
Perkins: Mm-hmm. And where would you – where you have those planted? Is that when you lived down by the Powder Yards?
Cheney: Yes, and they were, um - it seems to me that just before you went into the – its funny how the names come to your head - Hackendorns lived there for a while, into Gibbons’ place - there was a solid cluster right there at the entrance. They did well, right there, right near where . . .
Perkins: Is that near their front porch there, that little step?
Cheney: Unh-uh. It would be up - see, we would go in from our place into their second floor.
Perkins: Okay, so this is in between the two houses you're talking about?
Cheney: That's right, but almost to their house is where that clump of - I haven’ t thought of that in years.
Perkins: Do you remember what color they were?
Cheney: What color do they come, isn't it red?
Perkins: They come in white, yellow, bronze.
Cheney: I think they were yellow.
Perkins: And sometimes maroon.
Cheney: No, I think it was a - from a yellow to an orange.
Perkins: Um. What about, you said asters, what about violets, did you ever grow them around?
Cheney: We went out in the field and picked the violets.
Perkins: What would you do, just use them for a flower arrangement or would you do anything else with them?
Perkins: Sometimes they make candied violets, or sometimes people make jelly out of them.
Cheney: Oh no, we made violet stew when we came home from the trip to Jerusalem. We went to Chick Laird's, because Mrs. Laird went with us on the trip, and she put violets on her plate - I tasted them, but I thought, “ Well this is something, all the violets I picked in my life, but I never thought of tasting the violets.” [laughs]
Perkins: So what would you do, just pick them for your Mom?
Cheney: We just picked bouquets and took them to school, the teachers always loved a bunch of violets.
Perkins: What about daffodils or tulips?
Cheney: We had both daffodils and tulips, both places we lived.
Perkins: Do you remember where they were planted?
Cheney: Well, along the church fence, we had a row of daffodils, and we had so many of them that Mother put them in the church yard and they came up, but I looked this year they didn't make it this year, but for years now they've come up every year.
Perkins: What about the tulips, what colors were they?
Cheney: We never had luck with tulips. We bought the plants you know, at Easter time, and then we'd put them out, but I don't know whether the squirrels ate the bulbs or what happened, but we never had much luck.
Perkins: Tulips just sort of peter out after a few years.
Cheney: Yes, anyhow so . . .
Perkins: What about hyacinths?
Cheney: Oh, we always bought a hyacinth, but there again, we never tried to . . .
Perkins: What about poppies?
Cheney: No, we were always disappointed. We had poppies once, but they fell as soon as you tried to pick them, they weren't satisfactory as flowers for the house and that's what we always - we were limited to space, so we always tried something like Shasta Daisies, or something that you could enjoy in the house and would last a while. And we had zinnias and asters.
Perkins: So would your - did your Mom like to have flowers on the table in the house?
Cheney: Oh, yes.
Perkins: What about phlox? Did you have any of them?
Cheney: Yes, we had phlox.
Perkins: Were they grown in your yard or were they the wild, did you pick wild phlox?
Cheney: No, just the cultivated kind.
Perkins: Do you remember what color?
Cheney: We had pink and white.
Perkins: Pink and white, you said marigolds - Sweet Williams, do you remember them?
Cheney: No, we never had luck with Sweet Williams, we tried, but they would always die.
Cheney: Oh yes, we had petunias in the flower beds.
Perkins: Do you remember the colors of them?
Cheney: White and pink.
Perkins: Geraniums, did you ever grow geraniums?
Cheney: Oh my, we had geraniums - we couldn't have a winter without geraniums. Some of the places had fairly wide windowsills and they were at least seven inches and you could sit the flowerpot on it. We never had a winter without – oh, I guess we had a half dozen geraniums - red and pink and white.
Perkins: So you'd bring them in during the wintertime?
Cheney: Yeah, they'd live all winter, you could put the same plants out again. We had good luck with geraniums. When we lived up next to the church, you know, the stairway passed two windows on the way up the first floor, and then the second floor, so they got all that sunlight. And Mother had great luck with flowers, I mean she had them blooming nearly all winter. And the funny thing was, you know, they were – I said one night “ I think it's the funniest thing that the flowers that are near the windows look so well and the others are kinda . . .” She said “ I keep moving them so the pretty ones, people can see them when they go by.” [laughs].
Perkins: She tricked you. What about periwinkle?
Cheney: We never had much luck with periwinkle, it's been beautiful in other yards, but we never had much luck.
- Herbs and flowers in the family garden; Wild herbs and flowers; Visits from aunts and cousinsKeywords: Aunts; Childhood and youth of a person; Children of immigrants; Children of parents with disabilities; Christ Church Christiana Hundred (Wilmington, Del.); Company towns; Cousins; Eleutherian Mills (Greenville, Del. : Estate); Extended families; Flower gardening; Garden borders; Herb gardening; Ornamental hedges; Reminiscing; Wilmington (Del.)Transcript: Perkins: And some other herbs that I wanted to ask you about, did you ever grow sage?
Cheney: Yes. Not very successfully, though.
Perkins: What about basil?
Perkins: Sweet Marjoram?
Perkins: You said you used to collect pennyroyal, that it grew wild?
Perkins: Okay, that's about all on the list that I have. If you wanted to - I don’ t know if you have found any flowers in your book here.
Cheney: We always had pretty begonias.
Perkins: Were they the pink kind?
Cheney: Pink and we had white too. And, of course, we picked the buttercup wild. We had columbine, we loved that.
Perkins: Did you? What color was that?
Cheney: It was pink. And the crocus bed. Down at the first house, we had a lot of daffodils, at least three rows of them.
Perkins: Were they yellow, or were they white with the orange cups?
Cheney: White - yeah, dark cups, both white and yellow. I think we tried nearly every kind of hollyhocks, we had a lot of hollyhocks. They were another thing that grew along the fence, 'cause you see, there were four sections of the fence, nearly all the way around the place. And, oh, one of our regulars were iris.
Perkins: The bearded iris, the big blooms?
Cheney: Well, they were good-sized blooms, I don't know just what you mean by bearded. [Looking at pictures] That's the kind.
Perkins: This type - that's bearded iris.
Cheney: We had pink and we had the yellow, now we didn’ t have the single iris, we never bothered with them.
Perkins: Where were they planted?
Cheney: At both houses, we had beautiful iris beds. Well, it was - it would be a short thing inside some of those other rows along the border. Because we always, such a width and it was so much work for Dad that we never planted the whole width of the garden, so we always had a flower space, or a small bush space along the side.
Perkins: Mm-hmm. Before you hit the fence?
Cheney: Yes, before - but not up close to the fence because we wanted the sunlight to get through to the flowers that were longest, because they looked better when the person's walking down that walk. But then the bigger bushes would make, like a hedge, between the garden part and the flower part.
Perkins: How far was it from the fence that you actually started planting your vegetables - the distance?
Cheney: I believe, two and a half feet. That was a wide garden; it was wider than it was long so that you took up the sides. They looked pretty whether anything did well in between or not. That is, the person passing wouldn't notice whether the vegetables were doing the way they should or not because the flowers along the border were on all four sides [laughs].
[Pages are turned in a book or catalog.]
Cheney: Do you recognize that - that looks like a dahlia?
Perkins: Yeah, or a zinnia. Is this the same index we were looking through in the beginning? It seems like a different one.
Cheney: No, I think it's different, one's a different color. [unintelligible] I spent two months there.
Perkins: I lived in Great Britain for a year, but I never did get to Ireland, nobody would go with me. I wanted to go.
Cheney: Well, my father's cousin lived in a woman's house when she came from Ireland and she started out as a cook and then she ended up a companion to the woman that owned the place, so she gave her a long vacation. She'd have at least a month, so she would come to our place every year in the summer. And, of course, there were so many of us that Mother was busy keeping them - she did the sewing, made our own things, so she was busy with all that type of thing. So, it was Cousin Sarah Cheney that really helped me to knit and to embroider and all that type of thing. And, oh, we looked forward to her visit. The first day she came, that I'd ever seen her, she said, "I remember the field." And I said, "You mean Bradford's field?" And she said, "Yes." Well, I said, "They have cows now and we're afraid to go through the fence anymore." And she said, "Well I'm not afraid of the cows." [laughs] So, she went over the fence like a good fellow. This woman, you know, my mother would no more think of climbing the fence, but that wasn't Aunt Sarah, over the fence she went, up and over in a minute. And "Oh", she said, "just to run in this grass, this is wonderful." Right up to the haystack, you know, and way up on top of the haystack - I guess she was thirty-five years old then, but we never saw any grown person carry on [laughs]. Anybody we didn't know, you know. But, "Oh", she said, "I just can’ t wait until next summer." And she would come and stay at least a month with us, we looked forward to it every year.
Perkins: Did your parents take in boarders, ever take in boarders in your house?
Cheney: No, there were enough of us, but we had a lot of company. See my Mother's sister was just a year younger than she was, and she came and went to work in the Company and went to work in Wilmington and she got a house on 13th Street in Wilmington. But, then they loved to come to the country, so we, really every Sunday, sometimes, sometimes she would bring the food, but a good many of the times Mother had plenty. But they would come out on Sunday to the country. And so, although we were cousins, we were awfully close and it was the same way with my mother's brothers - Uncle Tom. He died when his son, when his first died, he was just about two years old and she was left, so she came with us for a while, but I don't remember that, I was too small to remember. But Aunt Maggie was with us, and then she would come out - she lived on Ruth Street in Wilmington. But, they would come at least - they usually made it every second week if they didn't come every week. But we spent more like a family than just cousins because we spent so much time, because they would come to the country. And they would bring a lot of food with them and then Mother had . . . [long pause, unintelligible speech, sound of pages turning] This book is divided up into sections. [unintelligible] Oh, asters, yes.
Perkins: Mm-hmm. How tall would the asters get?
Cheney: About three feet. We liked those big ones, not the tiny kind. [unintelligible] We never had water lilies, we had a couple of ponds, though. We always had pansies, though, they were fun to pick to take in the house, but they weren't much for decoration in the yard, too low to the ground. That's about it.
Perkins: Okay. Well, I think the next time I talk with you it will probably be up at Hagley.
Cheney: Well, if we were walking past the things, I think I would remember and I could give you a better idea.
Perkins: It looks a lot different, so it might not be too easy for you.
Cheney: Oh, I know, I know, it's not easy, because I've been out there. Since they put up some of those walls, though, it brings back a lot of memories. And I think you can still go into the little office where the black gates are, where the 1802 is, well that's where my Dad was all the time.
Perkins: I'm going to stop this [tape ends].
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