Interview with Helen Edwards, 1984 March 8 [audio]

Hagley ID:
  • Biographical details; memories of downtown Wilmington and summertime activities; education and first job at Docksteader's Theater
    Keywords: Beacom College; Business schools; Central business districts; Docksteader's theater; DuPont Building; Govatos; Kleitz Building; Street-railroads; Wilmington (Del.)
    Transcript: Edwards: Helen E. Edwards - that's wrong ...

    Wagner: All right, correct it.

    Edwards: Helen E. Edwards, maiden name is McCleary, address, you want the address now?

    Wagner: Yes.

    Edwards: 905 Shallcross Avenue, my age is 83 and 1/2, telephone number is 475-7443. I call that Happy Valley where I lived, about 1907.

    Wagner: Can you give me any landmarks, what do we call it now?

    Edwards: I-95 took most of that. I guess it's just Shallcross Avenue. Oh, I don't know how to go about this. My home was on Shallcross Avenue, they called it Happy Valley. My father's name was William McCleary, place of birth Philadelphia, date of birth, January 16 - I don't know the year. Mother's name was Mary Elizabeth McCleary, place of birth, Philadelphia, date of birth, no. Have one brother, William, one sister, Pauline. Do you want their last names?

    Wagner: No, that's not...

    Edwards: My brother was born May 11, and my sister was born the second of April, all in Middletown, Delaware, okay? My Grandfather's name is Thomas McCleary, he was also born in Philadelphia, I don't remember his birth date. Grandmother's name is Wilhelmina, she was born in Germany, do not know the date. [Audio cuts out] I was born in Middletown, Delaware, and I moved to Dover. My Father was a barber there, but we couldn't stay too long because the mosquitoes gave him malaria. From there we moved to Wilmington, and he had a barber shop at Sixth and Market Street for at least 45 years - it was in the Kleitz Building.

    Wagner: Did you ever visit him at the shop - did you go down and see Market Street?

    Edwards: I shopped down there, but I never went near the barber shop.

    Wagner: But you knew Market Street?

    Edwards: Oh yeah.

    Wagner: And they had trolleys?

    Edwards: Yes, yes.

    Wagner: With horses?

    Edwards: There was still horses running around. You want that on there?

    Wagner: Yeah.

    Edwards: Well, I do remember some horses, but not many, but there was cars and we always did a lot of walking. But they had those open trolleys.

    Wagner: All year long, or just in the summer?

    Edwards: No, not a whole year long. They used to pull something down on them to close them in for the wintertime. And I remember a big fire down along the waterfront, hardware company, and my girl friend and I went down there and we didn't get home until late and my Father raised Cain (laughs).

    Wagner: And you walked?

    Edwards: We walked, and I can't remember the name of that hardware company, but I do remember most of the stores along Wilmington that was there.

    Wagner: Give me some names.

    Edwards: Braunsteins, Crosby and Hill, Kennards, Woolworth 5 & 10.

    Wagner: Was the DuPont ...

    Edwards: The DuPont Building - had twelve stories when we first went to Wilmington, and they gradually started going up. Let me see what else - I did a lot of ice skating while I was there.

    Wagner: Where?

    Edwards: On the Brandywine, right on the creek. I only lived two blocks from the creek and I'd rather skate than eat. We sledded on the hill.

    Wagner: What did you do in the summertime?

    Edwards: Well, in the summertime my girl friend and I used to roller skate. But I tried tennis, but I didn't like it, but I liked roller skating very much. Other than that, I didn't go in much for the summer sports, outside of bathing or down at the shore.

    Wagner: Never went dipping in the Brandywine? Wading in the Brandywine?

    Edwards: Yes, we used to wade in the Brandywine and walk across the creek on the rocks, sometimes fall in.

    Wagner: Where did you go to school?

    Edwards: I started school at Tenth and Washington, it was called No. 2 School. That was when they graduated twice a year, and from there I - that had ten grades there, and from there I went to No. 28 School, grammar and then to the high school which was on Delaware Avenue then.

    Wagner: And you graduated Wilmington High?

    Edwards: No, I didn't graduate from there, I quit school and went to business college - Beacom's then it was.

    Wagner: Where was that located?

    Edwards: Where was it?

    Wagner: Where was Beacom's then?

    Edwards: It was down where the municipal building is now, across from DuPont's on King, yeah. And after I took the course, I didn't like working in an office, so by that time the war had started and my girl friend said, "Oh, they're paying big money out to the powder plant, quit your job and we'll go out there." But before that, well I was going to college, the business school, I worked at Docksteader's, ushering after school.

    Wagner: Now where was Docksteader's?

    Edwards: That was between 8th and 9th on Market.

    Wagner: What is there now?

    Edwards: I haven't the slightest idea - Govatos, they still here?

    Wagner: Right, Govatos.

    Edwards: They were across the street, the candy store.
  • 1917 black powder explosions; making black powder pellets and ballistite powder rings; coworker's attempt to slide down the ballistite chute
    Keywords: Explosions; Explosives--Safety measures; Gunpowder; Gunpowder industry--Employees; Gunpowder industry--Women employees; Gunpowder, Smokeless; Gunpowder--Safety measures; Propellants; Women in war; Women--Employment
    Transcript: Edwards: And, well we went out there and of course they took us on because they needed girls to work there.

    Wagner: This was DuPont?

    Edwards: Yeah, and they give us free transportation out to the powder mills.

    Wagner: Where did they pick you up?

    Edwards: DuPont Building.

    Wagner: You had to come in to the DuPont Building yourself?

    Edwards: Yeah, we walked in or took the trolley in if the weather was bad, to 11th and Market and they took us out there and brought us back. And there was three shifts, but I always worked the day shift. I was out there during an explosion - black powder side.

    Wagner: Alright, describe the explosion, that sounds pretty exciting.

    Edwards: The black powder - there was four men killed at that time.

    Wagner: What year was this?

    Edwards: That was before the Armistice in 1918.

    Wagner: So it would be 1917?

    Edwards: I went out there before 1918, right after the war was declared. And this black powder plant there, packing house it was, blew up. We thought it was TNT and they told us never to run towards the water, run into the woods, not towards the water. Just so we didn't go towards the water because they said that was dangerous. And when this black powder packing house went up, we run towards that and we soon changed our tune, went around the other way. I remember that a big piece of two by four was coming towards me as I was running and I put my arm up and it hit me on the arm, but it didn't break my arm, but it did smash my watch. And then I happened to look up, I saw fire coming down the telephone wires or electrical wires, I suppose they were, and there was a hose that was out by these little houses that we were in working, we made black powder pellets, and my girl friend and I grabbed the hose and turned it on the wires. And the men were going around picking up pieces of flesh in buckets, and men's clothing was up in the tree. And we stayed and helped as much as we could and then we went over - we had to cross the creek onto a bridge to the ballistite side, and then we begin to shake.

    Wagner: How did you get across the creek?

    Edwards: The bridge, there's a little bridge across the creek there that went to the other side of the powder plant.

    Wagner: How did you make these pellets, did you handle machines?

    Edwards: Yes, there was - across the road there was just a little box, and there was only allowed a gill of powder in each little house at a time. It was put into a chute in the machine, and the machine compressed it and made a hole through the center for a little fuse to go through, and then when we finished that, we'd walk across the road again, put that in there and get another gill of powder. And that's all we did all day long. And all the roofs of these houses were on hinges so that if they exploded, they'd blow off.

    Wagner: How much is a gill? Little bit ...

    Edwards: Little bitty thing.

    Wagner: Now this, you had a machine doing the making the pellet?

    Edwards: Yeah, the ...

    Wagner: What part did you do?

    Edwards: I got the powder and put it in, in the machine, and then after they were finished, I had a little thing that I put it in and took them across the road again, and then got another gill of powder. That's all I did all day long.

    Wagner: How much did you get paid?

    Edwards: We made good money, but, honest, I can't tell you, I was trying to think of that ever since you called me, I can't remember - isn't that strange. I know we made awfully good money.

    Wagner: What kind of Company benefits did you get?

    Edwards: I don't think they had any Company benefits.

    Wagner: If you got hurt on the job, where did they take you?

    Edwards: Well, they had a dispensary across the creek. That's where they took us.

    Wagner: I thought maybe they would take you in town to the hospital.

    Edwards: I don't suppose; maybe you were hurt seriously they would.

    Wagner: Were there Company doctors?

    Edwards: I think there was, I never had occasion to use him, but there was a government inspector that liked us - after we was over on the ballistite side - there was only six girls allowed in each little house, twelve by twelve they were. And there we was making powder rings, they were about so big and and there was these two women sewing them up together. And this ballistite did not explode, it just flared, and they sewed these rings together and then we had a long - two girls had a long stick that they - the place where it was measured, had to run them down on this stick, and if they were the right size, then they laid them aside. And so many of them was packed in a can, a small can, and then after there was twenty-four of them, I think it was at twenty-four, in this box that was put through a chute and run down into the dipping house where they dipped - in tar I believe - it was taped together and then dipped in tar. And I remember one day one girl friend that worked there with me, her name was Elsie Honor, she decided - she had been up - the work was slack and she had come up to our house and talked to us, and she decided she would go down through the chute - it had rollers on it and she - we got her in and she got stuck in the chute and we had an awful time getting her out again (laughs). I can remember poor Elsie, she said they will have to come and take the chute apart to get me out. We used to do some funny things then.

    Wagner: She didn't get in any trouble, did she, with the boss?

    Edwards: He didn't know it.

    Wagner: No, he never knew.

    Edwards: But anyway, this government inspector liked our house, and every rainy day he'd come down and sing "The End of a Perfect Day" for us. He was Jewish, and was a cantor, and he was marrying a Catholic girl, but he was an awfully nice man. And every time he'd be near our house, he'd holler, "Anybody having a birthday?" Because somebody always baked a cake when there was a birthday for one of us - he always knew he was gonna get some cake.

    Wagner: He probably had a lovely voice too if he was a cantor.

    Edwards: Oh he did, he did. And I was one of the last that was left at the plant after the Armistice was signed, they kept us on until January - why I don't know, I didn't never stood in with any of the bosses or any of them, maybe my work was better than some of them and I was there until January that year - the next year it was, after the Armistice.

    Wagner: That would be 1919?

    Edwards: Yeah.
  • Flu epidemic at DuPont Co.; working at Candyland in Wilmington; childhood summers on her aunt's farm in Mt. Cuba
    Keywords: Amusement parks; Brandywine Springs (Del.); Candy makers; Candy shops; Children--Play; Govatos; Holiday traditions; Influenza Epidemic (1918-1919); Mt. Cuba; Work clothes
    Transcript: Wagner: Do you remember anything about the flu epidemic?

    Edwards: Oh yes, girls were going down right and left. You see, we was making aerial bombs - there was a ring, so big of cellophane or - I don't know what that was like - a celluloid, and it had pieces of yellow powder, and it looked like spaghetti, we called it spaghetti anyway, and it had a lot of ether in it, and we couldn't work inside and they had a pavilion like you'd find in a fair you know, four sides to it, but it was all open, bitter cold weather we was working outside, that cold, cold winter. We could only work there so long because the ether, it would get us, and then we worked so many hours there, and maybe somewhere else and that's when the flu epidemic was there. Girls were going down all around me and I never did get it, but my Father said, "Helen, you drink a glass of wine before you go to work and you will never get the flu." I said, "I'm not goin' in there drunk." He said, "Drink a half a glass." But I did drink about that much in a glass, I never got it. My girl friend that was working with me, she got it.

    Wagner: That might have something to do with it.

    Edwards: Might have had something to it, but see, I never did get it.

    Wagner: Did any of the du Pont's ever come down to the packing house where you worked - wasn't Mr. Alfred - did he ever come down?

    Edwards: If they did, they never introduced themselves. There was men used to come and look around, but they never told us who they were. I don't remember that, but we wore special treated clothes like that, a knicker and a top, a blouse, and we had wooden pegs in our shoes.

    Wagner: And did you leave the clothing there, or did you take it home?

    Edwards: Yeah, we had to go across the creek and change into our outside clothes.

    Wagner: Did you shower?

    Edwards: Not before we left.

    Wagner: And your shoes - all your clothes stayed right there, you put them back on the next morning?

    Edwards: Yes, we had the privilege of taking them or leaving them there.

    Wagner: And you don't remember the pay scale - how much money you made?

    Edwards: No, I don't remember that, how much I made, I can't remember that for the life of me. I was asking my sister if she ever heard me say - and if Mother was here, she could remember maybe, but my Mother has passed away.

    Wagner: Wasn't it unusual for women to be working out in the yards?

    Edwards: Oh no, no they were all girls, women that worked on that side, in the whole plant, most of it, an awful lot of them. I guess they couldn't get the men after they were drafted for the war.

    Wagner: That's true. What did you do, say Saturday night, when you went out to play, where did you go?

    Edwards: Well, my girl friend and I probably went to the movies.

    Wagner: Back to Docksteader's, huh?

    Edwards: Yeah, probably went to the show there.

    Wagner: Anything - how about church on Sunday?

    Edwards: Yes, I went to church on Sunday.

    Wagner: What church?

    Edwards: Sacred Heart on Madison Street.

    Wagner: And what were the big occasions - Easter, Christmas?

    Edwards: Yes. I can remember Christmas night, there was one girl friend and my sister and I was trying to remember her name, every Christmas Eve at twelve o'clock, we'd play "Silent Night" for her on the piano. And neither one of us can remember her name now.

    Wagner: Oh for Heaven's sake.

    Edwards: I'm not good at remembering names, never, never been good at remembering names.

    Wagner: You say you don't keep in touch with any old school friends because you moved away - now you moved away after you worked in the powder yard?

    Edwards: No, not until after I was married.

    Wagner: Where did you meet your husband?

    Edwards: Well, after the powder plant closed down, I went to work at Candyland, that was next door to Docksteader's. I was - the people's name was Williams that owned the candy store there and they made all their own candy and the girl that got stuck in the chute there at the powder plant was a chocolate dipper and we used to pack candy in the boxes, they made their own candy. And then I'd go out and work in the ice cream parlor too.

    Wagner: Govatos was there at the same time Williams were there?

    Edwards: Yes, and these people were Greek, and they used to always celebrate all the girls that worked for them's birthday and they would cook it downstairs in the basement where they made their candy and they'd borrow from Govatos - tablecloths and silverware and china for our dinner - they'd always give us a dinner. They were very nice people to work with. They closed up, they're not there anymore either. Now what happened to them, whether they went back to Greece or not. I can remember one of the men that worked there, candy maker, his name was Alec, but I cannot pronounce his last name. He had a case on me and wanted to marry me and take me back to Greece and I said "No way."

    Wagner: (Laughs) Now you met your husband while you were working there?

    Edwards: No, no I didn't meet my husband when I was working there. Then, I don't know what happened, whether Mr. Williams closed his ice cream parlor down or what happened - anyway I was out of work and I went out to live with my aunt, she had a farm in Mt. Cuba, and that's where I used to spend my summers, most of my childhood was spent in Mt. Cuba.

    Wagner: And who was your aunt?

    Edwards: What was that?

    Wagner: Who was your aunt, what was her name?

    Edwards: She's still living, believe it or not, she is 93 and her name was Sophie Bloom at that time, but her marriage name is Beck.

    Wagner: Is she still in Mt. Cuba?

    Edwards: No, she's in Wallingford now. No, John wasn't, he was her second husband, her first husband's name was Lambert.

    Wagner: How did you get from Wilmington to Mt. Cuba, you didn't walk that far?

    Edwards: No, Uncle George used to come after me with his horse and carriage. On market days on King Street, he had a little store, he was a butcher, and he used to take me out then and bring me back in the gerbin, he called it, and in the summertime when we was out there on the farm, lots of times if he wasn't too tired, he'd say, "Don't you girls," he always called my aunt and I girls, "Don't you girls do the dishes, just rinse them and stack them, we're going to Brandywine Springs." And we used to go to Brandywine Springs in the evenings, and we'd pick up another aunt and uncle over in Hockessin and we'd all go to Brandywine Springs.

    Wagner: What was at Brandywine Springs?

    Edwards: Well, it was an amusement park. Didn't you know?

    Wagner: Yes, I've heard about it, and I wanted you to tell me, what were your favorite amusements there?

    Edwards: Well, I liked the merry-go-round and the ferris wheel and I used to shoot the guns (laughs).

    Wagner: Wasn't there a big hotel at one time at Brandywine Springs, or just the amusement park?

    Edwards: That's all I ever remember, it wasn't built up there like it is now at Brandywine Springs, that was country. And the horse used to - he had an old horse, she was 28 years old, and he'd say "Home, we're goin' home," and she went home, clippety clop.

    Wagner: That was a long ride.

    Edwards: Yeah, from Mt. Cuba, yes it was, but it'd be twelve or one o'clock when we got home. We always enjoyed it on a summer evening, but my uncle was a man that loved fun. He just loved fun.

    Wagner: You didn't object either, huh?

    Edwards: No, I had a lot of fun. When we was there on the farm we used to set outside and sing, we did a lot of singing. And he had one of those swings on the porch, you know, two sides.

    Wagner: And look up at the ceiling.

    Edwards: And look up at the stars. I'm a sky gazer, or a star gazer whatever you want to call me. We used to have a great old time there. Used to go up - my cousin used to come and he would help Uncle George in the summer and they'd go up to the people at the end of the road, [O'Neil's?], and we had some fun up there sometimes - dance. And when the weather was cool after the nuts had fallen, we'd set in front of the fireplace and crack nuts, but we had to walk back and forth. We walked, oh maybe a couple of miles to O'Neil's and back again.

    Wagner: Thought nothing of it.

    Edwards: No, didn't think a thing of it. But then - I had a happy childhood out there, I really did.

    Wagner: Were you by yourself at Mt. Cuba, did you have other children, other young people?

    Edwards: No, just myself, my sister was six years younger than me, and my brother didn't - he wasn't too happy about it - he won the tournament in Wilmington, he was a good tennis player. One time down to the - today I don't know where he played.

    Wagner: There used to be courts down there by the Brandywine, down back of the, not too far from ...

    Edwards: It wasn't there, it was a tournament somewhere, he played on the courts, can't remember. After all, that's a long way to remember back.
  • Childhood house in Wilmington and her parents; clothing and fashion
    Keywords: Colloquial language; Diphtheria; Electrification; Fashion; Hosiery, Nylon; Outhouses; Parent and child; Pets; Stoves, Coal; Underwear; Women's clothing
    Transcript: Wagner: Everything runs together. Do you have any stories of your Mother you recall, things like she said, all mothers say, "Must always wear clean underwear in case anything would happen."

    Edwards: Yes, I can remember Mother saying, "Once you make a promise, you keep it whether you want to or not." And that has been drilled into me and I still, to this day, if I make a promise, I will keep it, and she'd say, "Do unto others as you would have the others do unto you." I can remember all these little ditties she used to tell me.

    Wagner: Did your mother work outside of the home?

    Edwards: She sewed.

    Wagner: She took in sewing?

    Edwards: Yeah.

    Wagner: Did she have an electric machine or ...

    Edwards: No, a treadle machine, I don't think there were electric machines on the market in those days.

    Wagner: You had electric in your home, right, there was electric in all of your homes?

    Edwards: U-huh.

    Wagner: No gas lamps, but electric?

    Edwards: Oh, when we first went to Wilmington, we had just oil lamps and then they finally installed gas, and then finally electric.

    Wagner: And you say there were many automobiles, many people had cars?

    Edwards: No, not at the time. When we first went to Wilmington there wasn't many cars. And when we first went to Wilmington on Shallcross Avenue, I knew it was quite a while before my Father found a house, the street wasn't even paved, but there was a sewage in, there was one of those little [fertiline?] privies out back you know.

    Wagner: Oh yeah - what did you do when that filled up?

    Edwards: I really don't know...

    Wagner: You don't remember?

    Edwards: I don't remember that, but I do remember when we moved in that house, there was a great pile of ashes in the backyard, and my Father was gradually removing them, what he was doing with them, but I was just a child then, that wasn't any concern of mine, but I can remember my little sister, playing once, she got diphtheria, they thought maybe it came out of those ashes.

    Wagner: They used to say, children - the family pets always gave you diphtheria, they blamed the diseases on most anything. We had a family cat, for instance, we had a cat they would blame the diphtheria - the cat carried the diphtheria.

    Edwards: Well, we had a cat that lived 17 years, and his name was Ben, then we had a little dog, I don't know what breed she was, she was white, but she was a very nice little dog and she lived to a great old age.

    Wagner: Just let them run loose?

    Edwards: Yes.

    Wagner: You didn't have to worry about the cars, not so much traffic?

    Edwards: Not only that, she was kept in the backyard, we didn't let her run loose. She saved us from a fire one time because my father smoked a pipe and every time that she was around him, he had this match he lit his pipe, he'd push it at her like that, and she'd bark and bark and bark, and this night we had a coal fire then you know, they didn't have heaters and they had stoves in each room, and we had this coal cook stove in the kitchen, and my Mother banked the fire up and somebody had thrown paper in the coal scuttle, just in front of the door, and one of those live coals must have come out and ignited it, and she was barking, barking, barking. My father said, "Wonder what's wrong with her." I cannot remember her name either, I think we called her Tootsie, and he went down and here she was standing in front of this coal scuttle and the flames were going up on the paper.

    Wagner: That was exciting. Did you do any of the cooking? Did you help with any of the cooking?

    Edwards: No I didn't, between going to school and doing my lessons, I didn't start to cook until - well when I was 16 my Mother got ovarian trouble and she was no longer allowed to sew, that's when I started to sew. She said, "I'll tell you what to do, if you want the clothes, you've got to do it yourself." So I said "Okay," well I learned to cook also because she wasn't, she was all crippled over.

    Wagner: How long - how old was your mother when she died?

    Edwards: Eighty-six.

    Wagner: Bless her heart.

    Edwards: My Father was almost 87, so I'm coming from a long...

    Wagner: You've got some good years yet.

    Edwards: Yes. I don't know of anything else that happened there. I know I always was a cut up, my Father told me I was crazy, and he told me I was - you know what I used to tell him, I would say - when we was out driving after we got a car, I used to tell him, "Somebody's going on the moon someday." He'd say, "Aw, you're crazy." And I still say that someday, somebody's gonna grab something out of the air to run these automobiles on (laughs). He'd say, "Oh, it's not possible, it's not possible, you always got to put something into it to make it run." But they could be, I don't know, a lot of these comic strips coming - like the laser beams and things like that have come true haven't they?

    Wagner: Right.

    Edwards: And a man has gone on the moon, hasn't he?

    Wagner: Buck Rogers, we used to think was pretty far fetched, but it makes good sense.

    Edwards: Yes, yes.

    Wagner: Do you remember what kind of clothes you wore, long skirts, short skirts - I know you didn't have nylon stockings.

    Edwards: Well, it was quite - it was before I was married I got them, yeah, before 1926 because we had a friend that worked - he was a chemist at DuPont's, and he told me that I would someday soon be buying stockings that I could take off and wash and hang up and in half an hour they'd be dry, and they were.

    Wagner: Terribly expensive?

    Edwards: Yes they were expensive, but we wore clothes - the fashion changed so quickly, very narrow hobble skirts, you could hardly walk. Anybody say anything about that?

    Wagner: Yeah, but you said you did a lot of walking. Were these before you did a lot of walking?

    Edwards: Well, I didn't wear them when I was doing walking. Knickers came out in the meantime, and when the first knickers came out, my girl friend and I, one of my girl friends, made a cretonne set, they were made of cretonne, they were knickers. And had a long, like a Russian blouse over it, and my Father said, "Don't you dare walk down Market Street with that." Well we didn't pay any attention to him, my girl friend and I walk down - you ought to have seen the people stare at it. It wasn't long before a lot of girls were wearing them.

    Wagner: With these knickers, did you wear stockings or knee socks?

    Edwards: Yes, we wore stockings. And then in the 1920's those short skirts came out with the long waistline, I see they're coming back, you seen them on T.V.?

    Wagner: M-huh.

    Edwards: And then there was - what do you call these big sleeves now - they're coming back again?

    Wagner: Well, they've got the raglan sleeves, leg of mutton sleeve - caftan-type sleeve.

    Edwards: It was - from the waistline is I see they're coming back again. We had them, raglan they called them, didn't they?

    Wagner: Now they didn't have wash and wear, did you take care of your own clothes?

    Edwards: No, they didn't have wash and wear.

    Wagner: What kind of underwear?

    Edwards: Well, when I was a child I wore cotton underwear and we used to wear those long drawers down in your stockings, you have to fold them over so they didn't have any bumps, to keep my legs warm in the wintertime (laughter). Then finally the silk underwear came out, another one of DuPont's products and I had them.
  • Love of baking bread; childhood mischief, holidays, and town details; meeting her husband while working at Visco's
    Keywords: Automatic bread machines; Baking; City and town life; Holidays; Housewives; Ice delivery; Mastectomy; Milk delivery; Racism
    Transcript: Wagner: What other goodies - how about - you said you didn't learn to cook until you had to.

    Edwards: After I got married, I learned to cook, and I do love to cook, especially to bake bread.

    Wagner: Oh, you do?

    Edwards: I do. My grandchildren put together and bought me this processor, they thought it would save me from kneading, because of my arms. You see I've had a mastectomy and this arm, see how much larger it is than the other one - it swells at times, see? There's fluid that accumulates in it and it's hard for me to knead the bread, but I can't use that, it's too small. I like to bake a big batch of bread because I like to give - I'm a giver, I like to give stuff away, and I always bake enough so I can give my daughter a loaf of bread.

    Wagner: How many children have you?

    Edwards: Three, and three grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

    Wagner: Oh, I see, you've got a big family.

    Edwards: Oh, it's not too big.

    Wagner: Do they all live close by?

    Edwards: Yes.

    Wagner: That's nice, check up on you, huh, make sure you behave?

    Edwards: I have one niece in Lansville, Pennsylvania, but she'd only a niece by marriage, but we're very close.

    Wagner: Are you still active in your church?

    Edwards: No, I can't get there anymore.

    Wagner: How long ago did you have your mastectomy?

    Edwards: Three years ago.

    Wagner: You're doing well.

    Edwards: Yeah, every time I check out okay, every year I have to have an x-ray and a blood test, a CEA blood test, so I check out.

    Wagner: And kneading that bread will be good for you.

    Edwards: Yeah, but I get so tired.

    Wagner: I'm sure you do. Do you remember any mischief you used to get into when you played, Halloween, did you do Halloween mischief?

    Edwards: Like everybody else I guess, but I can remember my cousin and I, I was out to Woodale on the farm, if we'd find rotten eggs, in a nest, you know, where a chicken would lay them in the field, we'd always bring them up to the house and throw them around (laughs). We'd get the mischief for that because they smelt so bad. They do. Did you get dressed up on Halloween?

    Edwards: Oh yes, yes, always did.

    Wagner: And was Thanksgiving a big occasion?

    Edwards: Yes.

    Wagner: Everybody came home - big dinner?

    Edwards: Oh I don't know if everybody came home. We used to have to divide our time between his people and my people. One holiday we'd be at his, next holiday we'd be at mine.

    Wagner: The same - well I guess you'd trade off at Christmas and Thanksgiving. How about Fourth of July?

    Edwards: No, we didn't bother with that. I remember I had fire crackers when I was growing up. My father used to give us so much money and we'd all go buy fire crackers.

    Wagner: Just set those off right in front of the house?

    Edwards: Yes.

    Wagner: Did you go up on the river?

    Edwards: No, right in front of the house. DuPont used to have a big display out there to the mill - where is it now, a little pond or creek or something there, the old mill?

    Wagner: Breck's Mill?

    Edwards: I don't know, don't remember.

    Wagner: Did you ever walk out to see the fireworks?

    Edwards: No, we were taken out there. I have walked from Wilmington to Mt. Cuba.

    Wagner: That's a long walk.

    Edwards: Yes, twelve miles.

    Wagner: But not very often?

    Edwards: No, I didn't go out there too often, but then I didn't walk back, Uncle George brought me home, my girl friend and I.

    Wagner: Do you remember any - you spoke of - what was the fire down by the - hardware store that caught fire, do you remember any other neighborhood disasters - outside of the - well, we know about the flu epidemic, the one explosion at the powder yards, remember any other big things in town? Downtown Market Street burning or ...

    Edwards: No. I can remember - my Father did not like - maybe I shouldn't have that on there - didn't like colored people. He was so prejudiced. And he used to often have a brick thrown through his plate glass window.

    Wagner: You say he was Sixth and Market?

    Edwards: Right around the corner on Sixth Street. It was at that time the Kleitz Building, I don't know if they're still there or not.

    Wagner: I'm trying to think what's there now.

    Edwards: It was a jewelry store down underneath.

    Wagner: Mullin's building was at Sixth and Market.

    Edwards: That was across the street - on the other side of the street, and the electric company was on that ...

    Wagner: Delaware Power and Light was there, right.

    Edwards: The Kleitz building - my father was just...[noise on tape]

    Wagner: Okay, I'm trying to get - that was a little candy store for a while and then - I can't think what it is now.

    Edwards: I haven't the slightest idea.

    Wagner: I don't go in town that often.

    Edwards: No, we stay away from in town, we shop more in the malls.

    Wagner: Well, you're so close here. Let me about the ice man, do you remember the ice men?

    Edwards: Oh yes, yes indeed, I do remember the ice men, used to clop, clop down the street with their horses and the ice. Also the milkman used to come down the street early in the morning and wake you up with the bottles rattling.

    Wagner: How about the garbage, you had garbage pickup, had a garbageman?

    Edwards: Yes, I think they came on horse and carriage too.

    Wagner: I'm trying to remember - gardens, you did your shopping in town - did you work after you and your husband went to Philadelphia?

    Edwards: We went to Upland, Chester, it's near Chester. Yes, I worked at Visco's, that's where I met my husband in Visco's, he was my boss. And I worked at Visco's, I went to work there in 1921, I worked there until I was married, well I worked nine months after I was married and I decided I didn't want to work any more, so we had bought a house and I wanted to be a housekeeper. And my daughter wasn't born until I was married ten years, and I only have one.

    Wagner: You didn't mind staying home and just doing housework after being busy all that time?

    Edwards: I liked to keep house, and I liked to cook and I did all my sewing.

    Wagner: And your cooking, you just didn't buy frozen dinners?

    Edwards: They weren't on the market them days (laughs). That was a thing that was to come. I still don't buy frozen dinners much.

    Wagner: I don't either.

    Edwards: No, I am a health food crank.

    Wagner: Crank? (laughs) Natural food.

    Edwards: Yes, natural foods.
  • Her haunted farm house; moving to her current house; her mother canning and her father's attempt at making wine
    Keywords: Canning and preserving; Farmhouses; Gardening; Ghosts; Haunted houses; Paradise (Lancaster County, Pa.); Vegetable gardening; Wine and wine making
    Transcript: Wagner: Do you remember any things like ghost stories when you were growing up, did you sit around and tell, scare each other with scary stories? Mt. Cuba on a summer's evening, did you sit around and tell ghost stories, funny stories or ...

    Edwards: No, no I didn't really. Uncle George was usually so tired, he went to bed early, Aunt Sophie and I went later. Now I can remember, she had a dough mixer, because she used to bake all her own bread too, and after we'd get the bread made, oh we'd usually go to bed, we was up early in the morning. But ghost stories, well, we had a ghost - we lived in - after I was married and both my husbands died, we bought a place in - no, not both of my husbands, my first husband died, we had a place on Larkin Road and it was a farm house, and it was a very old farm house, it was the Larkin farm there, and we had a ghost there, we called him - what did we call him - we gave him a name, I forget what it was. My daughter said before I moved there, it had an apartment upstairs, and before I moved there they had some work to do on it, you know, and she said there was a hallway come in, there was a built-in addition of four bedrooms, and the hall had a door, and the hallway come in, this part went into the front of the farm house and then this went out to the backyard, and would come over where it would go upstairs to my apartment. And she said when they first come in they'd hear somebody come in that door, even though that door was locked, somebody would come in that door, walk down the hall, walk out and go out like where my door would be. You could hear them walking, like two people. And after I moved there they didn't do it any more, but when my daughter used - she had to work lots of times in the evening and one night I would leave my door open downstairs so I could hear the children, you know, after I went to bed, and she always shut the door when she came home, but this morning I got up and the door was still open, and after she got up I said, "Did you forget to shut my door last night?" And she said, "No, I was scared." I said, "Now what happened?" She said, "Well, two o'clock in the morning [audio cuts out momentarily as tape ends] something tapped up on this trap door up there, and she said she could hear them swinging together just as though a big window blowed. She said, "I got up and looked out in the hall, they were just a swinging like that." She said nothing was open, it was in the winter time. She said "I opened the door, I was scared." (laughs) I said, "That I could help you." We never - the next morning when she told me that, I got a broom and we lifted that trapdoor, tried to make those swing, and they would not do it.

    And then I was there one time after I had moved up - when I was married the second time I lived in Paradise, PA, and my husband was a printer and I had come down and I was spending the weekend there with her, and she had gone out, she and her husband, and they had a little black poodle dog and I was asleep and Buppy, we called him Buppy, went down the hall and she was a-barking, and I got up and I didn't hear anything or see anything, the doors were all locked, and I walked to like the end of the hall where the kitchen door was, and the dog was leaning against me just a-shaking, and I could hear somebody walking back and forth and back and forth in the kitchen. There was a light lit, but I couldn't see anything, but that house was really haunted. I don't believe in haunts, but I really think it was.

    Wagner: You lived in Paradise, that's Pennsylvania Dutch Country?

    Edwards: Yep.

    Wagner: How long were you in Paradise?

    Edwards: I was in Paradise three years. My husband - we went together five years before we decided to marry, because he had a heart condition and he didn't want, you know, to tie me down. Well the doctor said his heart was better than it ever was, so we took a chance on it and we lived on the side of Roundtop Mountain, on Belmont Road, and we lived there three years when he died. But I was there another year until the place was sold.

    Wagner: But then you came back here to be closer to your daughter?

    Edwards: Yeah. Now we lived on Larkin Road, then we moved up - she and her husband were divorced, and we moved up on Larkin Road and I lived there with her for a while. And when I finally - the children were getting big and I couldn't stand all the boyfriends, the girlfriends going in and out, I left and went to live with my sister, on West 28th Street.

    Wagner: And you stayed there ...

    Edwards: And then I stayed there with her for a while and then I came here. I thought before I die, I want to live alone and keep house again.

    Wagner: How did you find this place, like I say, I've never been back here.

    Edwards: I like it here.

    Wagner: Yes, it's nice.

    Edwards: It's quiet. The only thing, I'd like to have more ground because I still plant tomatoes and peppers and string beans. I just have a postage stamp garden.

    Wagner: But goodness, two tomato plants will carry you through the summer, won't they?

    Edwards: In fact I had four tomato plants last year and didn't get hardly any tomatoes off of it. Last year was a bad year for gardens, but the year before I had three tomato plants and I even canned fourteen pints. I canned 32 pints of tomatoes, and I canned 26 pints last year.

    Wagner: Do you remember your mother putting up a lot of things when you were little?

    Edwards: Yes, yes she made jellies and jams and - Uncle George used to bring us grapes in, we made grape juice and grape jelly.

    Wagner: Any wine?

    Edwards: Yes, my Father did. And one time he made it and he bought himself a great big galvanized tub, and he was gonna have this nice wine. Uncle George brought these big Concord grapes in. He couldn't use it because that metallic taste from that...

    Wagner: From the tub.

    Edwards: Yes, he never gave that a thought.

    Wagner: They didn't have plastic containers.

    Edwards: No, no.

    Wagner: And you couldn't find any, didn't think to find any glass bottles to do with?

    Edwards: Well, it had to be crushed and ferment, and that's what ...

    Wagner: And it was easier in the tub?

    Edwards: Yes - stainless steel, like, today, you know.

    Wagner: Nice wooden kegs. Now you were talking about ghosts, you say somebody woke you up when your trailer burned down, is that E.S.P. or do you think somebody was talking - you think that's ghosts?

    Edwards: I don't think it was a ghost. I think that each person has their own guardian angel, and I think it must have been my guardian angel. I did not recognize the voice, but they would just say, "Helen."

    Wagner: Enough to rouse you?

    Edwards: Yeah.

    Wagner: Now you say you don't have any old pictures, old family - you lost everything?

    Edwards: I lost everything, everything.

    Wagner: No old outfits, old clothes, everything?
  • Wedding, honeymoon, and birth of her daughter; her brother's work and pastimes; curfew and discipline; haircuts
    Keywords: Curfews; Discipline of children; Hairstyles; Honeymoons; Weddings; Young men--Conduct of life; Young women--Conduct of life
    Transcript: Wagner: Okay, when you got married, did you have a big wedding?

    Edwards: No, I did not have a big wedding. My husband wasn't Catholic, so we were just married in the parsonage. But my mother had a little reception.

    Wagner: Did you have a new dress, a new outfit - did you go on a long honeymoon, or did you go right to your house?

    Edwards: No, we went upstate, we toured upstate for two weeks. I've been almost all over this side of the eastern part of Pennsylvania, and all over New York state. I never got out as far as Pittsburgh. Altoona was as far out as I got in Pennsylvania.

    Wagner: Did you visit friends or did you just go?

    Edwards: He had lots of relatives up there, which are gone now with the exception of this one niece up there.

    Wagner: And of course you got your marriage license in downtown Wilmington?

    Edwards: Yeah, and it burned, and my birth certificate burned.

    Wagner: But you had, got your Social Security, you had some sort of record?

    Edwards: Well I had that in my purse that I grabbed that day, I also had three hundred dollars in my cedar chest, and my cedar chest did not burn. You know that was so tight that I had an afghan laying on the top and it just - it was wool - and you know how wool burns, and it ruined the whole cedar chest. It was black, but nothing in there got - just a little bit scorched, and I've had it refinished just like new. That's the only thing that was saved from the fire. And you see that little green thing it is - that was in my cedar chest, and that belonged to my grandmother, so that's the only thing that I got of the antiques that was left (laughs).

    Wagner: Only thing, yes. What else am I going to ask you? Where did you deliver your baby, did you go to the ...

    Edwards: At home.

    Wagner: At home.

    Edwards: At 1156 Keaston Road, Buckman Village.

    Wagner: Did you have a midwife? Who helped you with your delivery?

    Edwards: I had a nurse come in from the insurance company, nurse came.

    Wagner: And that was when you stayed in bed two weeks after you delivered?

    Edwards: Oh yes, that's how long, fourteen days I was in bed.

    Wagner: And she took care of the baby while you were in bed?

    Edwards: My Mother.

    Wagner: And you had real diapers - you bought real diapers?

    Edwards: Oh yes.

    Wagner: Do you remember any of the neighborhood hangouts - you spoke of the ice cream parlor, and you spoke of Docksteader's, do you remember any other places the young men would hang out in the neighborhood?

    Edwards: No, I don't. My brother, he played pool a lot, or tennis, and he went to Drexel, he worked for Hoodray.

    Wagner: And what did Hoodray make?

    Edwards: That catalytic, the Sun, it's a branch of the Sun Oil. He was a draftsman.

    Wagner: He didn't hang out with the boys on the corner on Saturday night, or you don't remember?

    Edwards: That I don't know - he had his boy friends right there in the neighborhood, but what they did when they went out, I don't know.

    Wagner: No telling, huh?

    Edwards: No, didn't ask him, but he didn't have much time to do any hanging out because he had to travel back and forth to Drexel all the time from Wilmington.

    Wagner: He went on - when he wasn't working.

    Edwards: Was going to school, yes.

    Wagner: What about locking your door? How was the crime rate back then; did you lock your door?

    Edwards: It wasn't too much, but we always locked our doors. And we had those shutters on it and every night my Father used to close those shutters and throw the bolt on them. And the windows.

    Wagner: Did you ever get locked out, or did you come home on curfew?

    Edwards: I had to be home on curfew - as I got older, I was allowed out until eleven o'clock, and that was it. Unless I had to work. I was working at the Docksteader's sometimes we didn't get done right away because lots of times we had to turn all the seats up before we left. And when we was in the candy store, we couldn't, we had to wait until all the customers were gone, before we could leave. But if I was just out, going out, like to a movie or someplace like that, I had to be home at eleven o'clock.

    Wagner: And yet you say you walked every place, you weren't afraid to walk?

    Edwards: No, no, we used to walk along the Brandywine, there on Wawaset Avenue, you know, all up to where the bridge, the Augustine Cutoff, was. Nothing ever happened; nobody ever bothered you.

    Wagner: You say you remember when the Augustine Bridge was built?

    Edwards: But I don't know what year that was, the first one.

    Wagner: How did they get across the Brandywine before the Augustine Bridge? I guess they went all the way up to Breck's Mill and went across.

    Edwards: Probably. I know there's an alum pond used to be up there, now I don't know much about that any more, but I know my brother went swimming in it, and he got ulcerated eyes.

    Wagner: I guess so from the alum, huh?

    Edwards: He was forbidden to go up there, and he went and that's what he got.

    Wagner: What did your mother say?

    Edwards: She never said much. My father did all the saying.

    Wagner: Did you ever get a whipping?

    Edwards: Oh yeah, yeah.

    Wagner: Mom or father do the whipping?

    Edwards: My father (laughs).

    Wagner: Did your mother ever say, "Just wait until your father comes home?"

    Edwards: No she didn't say that, she'd just tell him. Oh, it's snowing.

    Wagner: Oh my, it really is, I just hope it doesn't get too deep. What about beauty parlors and things like that, did you go to hair - who cut the hair?

    Edwards: My Father, he was a barber.

    Wagner: Oh, that's right, did he cut women's hair?

    Edwards: He cut my hair - yes when they started getting bobs. He didn't want to cut my hair, but he cut it.

    Wagner: You had long hair?

    Edwards: Yes.

    Wagner: And how about curling your hair?

    Edwards: It was curly.

    Wagner: Oh, you had curly hair?

    Edwards: Yeah, but it finally straightened out, got perms. But it used to hang about down to there, long curls.

    Wagner: Did you put your hair up on rollers or papers?

    Edwards: No, no I just went like that (laughs).

    Wagner: Oh, you were one of the lucky ones.

    Edwards: But after I got it cut, there wasn't so much curl in it.
  • Lunch with fellow women workers at DuPont Co.; other childhood details on food, education, and material culture
    Keywords: Automobiles; Children; Employees--Conduct of life; Halley's comet; Handicraft;Hobbies; Ice cream, ices, etc.; Material culture; Oysters; Plumbing; Telephone
    Transcript: Wagner: Okay - I was going to think back to the time when you worked for DuPont, you took your lunch with you, right?

    Edwards: Yes, there was a lunchroom there, but we weren't too crazy about the food, most of us, but we took our lunch with us because we had - as I said there were six girls in each house, and we used to all just have something to drink. We'd bring coffee or something, and we'd divide. If you didn't like the sandwich you had, maybe she liked it and you liked what she had and we'd swap around.

    Wagner: Trade back and forth.

    Edwards: I do remember another thing when I was working there at the powder plant, there was plenty of walnut trees there and if we got over our lunch in time, we used to go out and gather these walnuts up and we'd put them in a box outside the back door. One of us or all of us was gonna take a portion of the walnuts and crack them and bring them back in and one of us was gonna bake a walnut cake. So we had quite a pile of walnuts and they began to disappear and we blamed it on the girls in the next house, swiping them for a joke. And here one day someone was standing at the door and little squirrels - were taking back their nuts. (laughs)

    Wagner: That must have been a cold winter if they were taking your walnuts.

    Edwards: It must have been. I don't know what they did with them, but we never got the nuts. We did have a few - we started bringing them inside then. Had enough for a cake anyway.

    Wagner: Who cracked them? That's a miserable job.

    Edwards: I don't know who cracked them that time, but we all volunteered to crack some of the ones that we had before. But we didn't have as many, I don't know who cracked them.

    Wagner: Do you remember some of the things like wall - tell me some of the old things you remember - wall telephones.

    Edwards: Yes, they used to hang on the wall and they had dials, but they were straight up, you know, and had a mouth piece. Some of them have got them now just for the novelty.

    Wagner: How about telephone operators? Do you remember telephone operators?

    Edwards: Yes, there was operators.

    Wagner: You say you helped your mother put up a lot of stuff like jellies and vegetables. How about sauerkraut, do you remember...

    Edwards: She didn't do that - I didn't help her; she did it. I was working then, and I suppose I was going to school.

    Wagner: How about your brother and sister, did they - you all were pretty well educated for the time. You all seemed to go to additional schooling.

    Edwards: Well, I went to 28th School, my sister went to 24th. Know where it is, over across from the hospital?

    Wagner: M-huh.

    Edwards: On Washington Street - it is office buildings now.

    Wagner: Right. Do you remember any favorite clothing, favorite coat? Did you have a fur muff or fur collar, fancy clothing - everybody has one favorite that they remember.

    Edwards: Well, as I was growing up, or?

    Wagner: M-huh.

    Edwards: No, I don't remember.

    Wagner: That wasn't important?

    Edwards: Not at that time, it wasn't important. I didn't get clothes conscious until after I got older.

    Wagner: That's good. Do you remember things like flat irons?

    Edwards: Oh yes, my Mother used to have to heat them in the cook stove to iron.

    Wagner: Did you ever try your hand at those?

    Edwards: Yes.

    Wagner: Burn anything?

    Edwards: No, I never let them get that hot, I was afraid of them.

    Wagner: How about curling irons, you didn't have to use one?

    Edwards: No, I have used them, but until my hair got st...

    Wagner: The kind you heat on the stove?

    Edwards: Yes, stick them down in the coal.

    Wagner: Have to be careful, right? You tell me any old things you remember - can you remember way back when - tell my any other little incidents that we haven't touched on.

    Edwards: Well, it comes to mind that when I was growing up, this aunt that is still living in Wallingford, she used to have me - I was nine years old then. She was nine years old when I was born and she used to have me a lot, and I can remember this time they took me a walk - out in Middletown they had a place they called Brady's Farm, and it was kinda outside of Middletown and we were walking along - and this was when cars first came out - and this little old Ford, it looked like one of those little two-seated Fords was coming up the road and they were scared to death of it. And they turned around and each one had a hold of my hand and they were running - my feet were going, but weren't touching the ground (laughs). I often tell that to my Aunt, and she can't remember that.

    Wagner: Rumble seat, do you remember rumble seats?

    Edwards: Yes, in fact we had one with a rumble seat. And then there was another time we was out there to Brady's when Haley's Comet - remember Haley's Comet, did you see it?

    Wagner: No, I didn't see it.

    Edwards: No, you didn't see it - and my Father came from Wilmington, he was still living in Middletown then, he hadn't found a house, and he said, "Oh, the tail of Halley's Comet is three box cars long." I expected to see it spread across the sky, and when we saw - it was about this long, really was, it was long, but it wasn't - might have been up there. When I saw that comet, it was a star about that big, and it had this tail sweeping from it, and I believe I was between nine and ten then. Now if I live to be 86, I will see it again. I believe it was in the west, if I remember right, because we were living in my Grandmother's house and I was looking at it out the bedroom window. My Father had come home - see barbers used to be open until twelve o'clock at night in those days.

    Wagner: Twelve o'clock?

    Edwards: Yes, as long as there was business, then he would get home around twelve, or twelve-thirty, come on the train.

    Wagner: And what time did he open in the morning?

    Edwards: I don't know. He was usually gone before I got up to go to school.

    Wagner: But he made a pretty good living?

    Edwards: Yes.

    Wagner: Cause he put in long hours.

    Edwards: We always had enough clothes, we always had enough. We had substantial food, and that's one thing he insisted upon. We didn't have many desserts or anything like that, but in the summertime every Sunday we had a six-quart container of ice cream, homemade ice cream. And all summer long he and my - or all winter long he and my brother used to take the little red wagon and go down to the wharf and get a bushel of oysters. So I'm really a seafood eater. I love seafood, and we ate oysters all winter long, every which way.

    Wagner: Can you open them?

    Edwards: Yes.

    Wagner: I can't open them.

    Edwards: I can open them.

    Wagner: Last time I tried that I cut myself badly. I'll just let somebody else do it.

    Edwards: Well, I can open them, I'd just like to know where to buy some in the shells.

    Wagner: Did you ever do any hand crafts, were you into...

    Edwards: Plenty of it, I got a hooked rug there, just inside the door, the pillows is crewel work on the davenport. I've done Italian cut work, all kinds of embroidery, all kinds of crochet. Now I've got doilies left over, I didn't know what to do with, and suddenly I got the notion, saw it also in a book afterwards, take these crocheted doilies, put them on a dark background and make pillows out of them.

    Wagner: Yes, you could open your own little craft shop.

    Edwards: I love craft work. And my first husband and I was very craft minded. He had a pretty good workshop in the basement, and we used to make boxes and cases and we built like a buffet for the kitchen.

    Wagner: Of course you said you did a lot of sewing always.

    Edwards: I made my own clothes, I made this, make most of my clothes.

    Wagner: It's funny you should mention about crocheting because those pillows are very much the in thing right now, you see those everywhere.

    Edwards: With the crocheted doilies and things on them, yes. Now my daughter, we're a craft-minded family really, my daughter right now is down there upholstering a love seat.

    Wagner: Really - upholstering - she can do upholstering?

    Edwards: We do - we try anything once (laughs). I love to refinish furniture too.

    Wagner: I do too if I can get all of the old finish off, that's not easy to do. Okay - let's see, you did have animals, you mentioned your cat and your dog. Of course you had inside plumbing, you didn't have to - except for the outhouse, when you were little.

    Edwards: They didn't have inside plumbing when I was little when we first moved on Shallcross Avenue, we didn't have any - we had the outside privy.

    Wagner: You don't remember when inside plumbing came along?

    Edwards: No, I don't remember. I remember after they did put the sewage in there, they paved the street.

    Wagner: But the trolley still ran out that way?

    Edwards: They ran on Delaware Avenue - right up Adams Street, there was Smith and Strevick's Drugstore, I don't know if they're still there. There was the Ritz Theater.

    Wagner: That's right, there was a Ritz Theater.

    Edwards: I don't know what's on Delaware Avenue anymore. That graveyard is at - I-95 took so much of it.

    Wagner: Yes, Adams and Jackson is all I-95 now.
  • More childhood details including skating on the Brandywine; teaching her granddaughter to hang clothes; seeing the Northern Lights in Delaware
    Keywords: Auroras; Fire departments; Grandparent and child; Horsehair; Horsehair furniture; Material culture; Musical instruments; Razors; Religious articles; Winter
    Transcript: Wagner: Okay. Do you recall having a family Bible - did your Mom keep a family Bible?

    Edwards: My Grandmother had it, now I don't know if Aunt Soph has that or not.

    Wagner: Do you remember any crucifix or beads or anything you kept from the church?

    Edwards: I lost all - I lost all that.

    Wagner: In the fire. Now did you ever play any musical instruments?

    Edwards: I started playing the piano, but I had to quit. See that little finger?

    Wagner: Yes, I see that - what happened?

    Edwards: Well, when I was little - I was taking it before I was twelve years old - I couldn't reach the notes between an octave because my hand wasn't big enough to stretch, so I had to give it up. Now my aim was to go from piano to organ, I wanted to play the organ.

    Wagner: And you didn't make it.

    Edwards: I didn't make it.

    Wagner: What about fire trucks - do you remember a fire company they had for an organized fire department, right?

    Edwards: When we first went there, I think it was drawn by horses. When I first came to Wilmington, it wasn't very big, 1906, 1907.

    Wagner: It probably was drawn by horses.

    Edwards: I never remember any fire being in our immediate neighborhood. Now Shallcross Avenue used to be a nice neighborhood, but I don't know what it is today. I-95 took a lot of it.

    Wagner: All of downtown Wilmington, I think still downtown, it's beginning to look better than it did for a while, so I think there's hope.

    Edwards: Oh, when I first come back here and saw all those houses boarded up I was sick, because Wilmington used to be so pretty.

    Wagner: Nice homes, nice homes. Remember what kind of furniture your mother had? Was it fancy furniture or...

    Edwards: Well now I'll tell you about that - it was horsehair and that slippery stuff you couldn't set on (laughs). And she had that for a good many years until we all got to working, and then she got rid of that and bought some of that nice soft upholstered furniture. I'm telling you, that was the worst thing, Mother used to take us visiting and she'd sit us on these chairs or a davenport or something, settee they were then. And she'd say, "Now stay there and don't you get off." Well you try and stay on one of those things when you are little (laughs).

    Wagner: And the horsehair coming through.

    Edwards: Not really coming through, but they were terrible slippery.

    Wagner: I guess your mother always had good china and not so good china?

    Edwards: Every day and Sunday best.

    Wagner: Company linens - did your father have an electric razor - your husband was a barber, right?

    Edwards: My father was a barber.

    Wagner: Father was a barber, he used the straight razor?

    Edwards: Yes.

    Wagner: He must have been skilled.

    Edwards: My father was very particular. He never went out of the house without taking over his skin and going all over himself like that. He was a very particular man.

    Wagner: And shaving mug and soap, I guess all of those things - did you ever keep any of those things?

    Edwards: What?

    Wagner: Shaving mugs.

    Edwards: No, I never got any of those. I think my sister got one. Now he gave us each a tonic bottle. Mine, somehow, got broke in moving down from upstate. We didn't have those nice glues that you could mend them with.

    Wagner: Put them back together. Well, I guess that's about it.

    Can you think of any other little stories I should know?

    Edwards: No, I can't.

    Wagner: The winters must have been colder if you all skated on the Brandywine?

    Edwards: I think so because I used to skate most of the time, and I would go down in the morning when I got up and I'd skate until I got hungry. I'd come up and get something to eat, and I'd go back down, and I'd wait until I got hungry, and I'd come up and get something to eat, and I'd go back down again, and I spent most of my time down on the Brandywine.

    Wagner: It really must have been a good bit colder, because that's running water.

    Edwards: The one time that the Delaware froze, I heard my Father say the horse and carriages were going across. Now I can't tell you what year that was either.

    Wagner: It had to be cold, right?

    Edwards: Well, how many years ago was it that the Bay froze down at Cape May. I was down there to see the Chesapeake Bay and it was frozen out quite far, and that's unusual for salt water to freeze.

    Wagner: That was late 60's, wasn't it? I can't remember either.

    Edwards: I don't know, it might have been late 60's, or early 70's.

    Wagner: I was trying to think of the blizzard - everyone has heard of the blizzard of '88, but that was before your time.

    Edwards: Sure was. I remember several earthquakes. Up in Chester we had a bad one, I heard a couple down in here.

    Wagner: There was one just last year.

    Edwards: We had one not too long ago through here, about three months ago?

    Wagner: Yes, you got it at this end of town. We did not get it on the other side of town.

    Edwards: See we're almost as far north as you can get here, we're just about, maybe a mile from Naaman's Creek Road which is Pennsylvania.

    Wagner: Okay, well I guess that about does it - think of any other things I should know?

    Edwards: I can't remember any.

    Wagner: Do you ever hear yourself saying the same things your mother said to you - you made a mention of, "if you make a promise keep it?"

    Edwards: Yes, I think I have, I think I say the same ...

    Wagner: Do you ever hear yourself, do you hear your mother talking through yourself?

    Edwards: Yeah, I think I said the same thing to my daughter. Now when I was living down there in the farm house with my daughter and her children, her youngest daughter, Denise, she used to always come out with me. I'd hang the clothes up, Carol would wash them and I would hang them up. I love to hang clothes too, just, you know, everything, and I used to tell Denise all the time, "Now hang all the socks together, all the towels together and all the sheets together." Everything that matches had to be together on the clothesline and I didn't know that child was paying any attention to me. And Carol was down there one day and she was out while Denise was hanging clothes, she said, "I can still hear Grandmom tell me - put all the socks together, and all the towels together." And she does that, I didn't think that girl was paying any attention to me.

    Wagner: Isn't that nice, and she'll tell her children the same thing.

    Edwards: She has three boys.

    Wagner: Oh, that'll take care of it.

    Edwards: One girl - two boys and one girl. I was surprised, and she used to love to bake when she was little, well not too little, and she'd make such a mess of the kitchen and make her mother so mad. And she'd come up and say, "Here's a piece of the cake I baked Grandmom." She said, "Mom's awful mad at me because I messed the kitchen up." But she'd never clean it up after herself, you know. And I said, "Denise, the next time you get ready to bake a cake, I'll come down and show you how to - so you won't have to mess it up. Get everything out on the table you need, and then as you use it, put it back where it belongs." I didn't think she was paying any attention, she does that today.

    Wagner: And no more mess.

    Edwards: Now Michelle, I don't know about her, but she's pretty neat anyway.

    Wagner: Now these are your grandchildren?

    Edwards: My grandchildren.

    Wagner: And you said you have a great-grandchild? Two of them?

    Edwards: Three.

    Wagner: Three of them, oh.

    Edwards: Three great-grandchildren. Now my Aunt Soph has great-great-great grandchildren.

    Wagner: Are you able to bridge the generation gap?

    Edwards: Yeah.

    Wagner: Do they tease you?

    Edwards: No.

    Wagner: Sometimes great-grandchildren tease.

    Edwards: No, no. They say, "When Grandmom tells you to do anything, you better do it."

    Wagner: That's right. Well, Mrs. Edwards, I guess that's it if you can't think back any more, any little things I should know.

    Edwards: I don't know of any little things that would be - I can remember my Mother very seldom ever let my Father buy his clothes or anything. I can remember him, he took me and my brother one time to buy shoes and that was when those high-top shoes with the buckles on them were coming in, and he bought us each a pair of them, and he paid an awful lot for them and he said, "Don't you tell your Mother how much I paid for these." (Laughs).

    Wagner: And did you ever? I'm sure she found out.

    Edwards: No, I never told her. She knew he didn't pay no small price for them because they were a lot of leather in those shoes in those days.

    Wagner: You didn't have shoe buttons, that was before your time, right?

    Edwards: No, I had shoe buttons. In fact I even lost a shoe buttoner in the fire.

    Wagner: What a pity about that fire.

    Edwards: Isn't it though? There's so many things I think - oh, if only I had that now. They're devastating, I can tell you that. You never get over it. Once you have a fire of your own, you'll never get over it.

    Wagner: I'm sure. [Audio cuts out] Tell me about the Northern Lights.

    Edwards: My aunt was out there in the country and of course she saw a wide expanse of the sky, and she had these Northern Lights that she saw that were red and they fanned across the sky in columns, you know. She thought the world was coming to an end. 'Course our family is Catholic, she goes and she lights candles, she's going around the house praying (laughs), holding candles, she was scared to death of them. Then I saw them again two years later in Wilmington. And I saw them one time, my girl friend and I was coming home from the movies and I said, "Anne, there must be a fire someplace." Up overhead, like it had red in the sky, and I got out in the middle of Delaware Avenue, and I said, "Oh no, it's Northern Lights." You know where that flat iron building is?

    Wagner: M-huh.

    Edwards: Everybody starts to hang out the windows, and that was red going up that time too. Then I saw them - I think it was about three years later I saw them again, but they weren't red that time. They weren't near as nice. And when I was living there in Boothwyn, I saw a gorgeous display of them and I couldn't get my husband or my daughter up to look at them. They sort of died down - I thought they were over so I'll go to bed, but I raised my Venetian blind clear to the top so I could look out the window. It makes it light, you know, out, and I woke up at four o'clock, here it was just like a neon sign, the shape of a rainbow, just the color on the ends, and then the flames were coming out of it. I had a picture of that too that I lost in the fire.

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