Interview with Bertha Gregg, 1989 March 17 [audio]
- Working at DuPont powder yards briefly during World War I and quitting after experiencing an explosionKeywords: Drugstores; Explosions; gunpowder yards; Gunpowder--Safety measures; Protective clothing; Women in war; World War (1914-1918)Transcript: Johnson: Today is March 17, 1989 and I'm interviewing Mrs. Bertha Gregg at her home on Diamond Street in Kiamensi Gardens in Wilmington.
Gregg: What did you want me to do?
Johnson: You were going to tell me about your husband being named for the Dr. Greenleaf in this book. The last time I was here, Mrs. Gregg told me that she had worked for the DuPont Company during the first World War. Would you tell me again what your job was at the DuPont Company?
Gregg: Up at Hagley?
Gregg: I measured powder and we were in a little stone building, which I saw a picture in that book that reminded me of it. And there was no door, just an opening where we would go in in there. We had to wear coveralls and cover up our head so to keep the dust out of our hair. In there there was a shelf that they would bring this powder in a bucket or something, I forget the container, and we had a little thing with a handle on it, and it was just like a thimble turned upside down, and we had to measure one of those, and there was a tray with all these hollow places cut in it and we had to pour each thimbleful in each of those holes. And then when it was full, we had to take it across the street and put it in sort of a mailbox over there. And this little cart came up, and I think a donkey, it was just a little small animal, I'm pretty sure it was a donkey, and it was all straw where he walked up, and then there was a man walking beside him with the reins and this man would pick these trays out and put on that cart and then it was taken up to where they pressed it into pellets.
Johnson: I think you told me last time that it looked something like pieces of chalk.
Gregg: Yeah, to me I recall them as pieces of chalk after it was pressed.
Johnson: After they were pressed.
Gregg: And I don't know whether the powder was all yellow, the powder must have all been yellows. I don't know whether that's right or not, but that's what I recollect, you know.
Johnson: And you told me too about the coveralls that you wore, they were khaki colored?
Johnson: And they buttoned down the front?
Johnson: And what were the hats like?
Gregg: Oh the hat was just like a big circle gathered up you know. We had to put that over our head to keep the dust out of our hair. They advised us to wash our hair every night, but if we wore a cap, he said it wasn't necessary, but maybe once, twice a week just to make sure there was none of that dust left in there, 'cause he said if we went near a fire, why it could blow our heads off I guess, I don't know. He didn't say that exactly.
Johnson: Now did you have a supervisor who told you what to do?
Gregg: Yeah, but I don't remember anything all about that. We had instructions when we went in there. We always had to be very careful.
Johnson: And were you in there - was he in there in the room with you in the building?
Johnson: You were there all by yourself?
Johnson: And then...
Gregg: The bad explosion?
Johnson: Tell me about the day of the explosion.
Gregg: Well, I had been out there and watched the - I had took the trays over and came back and I was just watching this little animal walk up there and I felt, I can't explain it, I just felt something - I don't know whether it was in the air or what it was, but I was a little frightened and I just went right inside the door. And I just got in there when all this debris kept coming down, pieces of material and leaves, a lot of leaves and branches, and I looked up there and that building, that big stone building was completely gone, there was nothing there. And then I realized it had, was an explosion.
Johnson: Wasn't it lucky you were able to get back inside of your building?
Gregg: Yes, right. It didn't do much damage over there where we were, I mean none of those little buildings were harmed in any way. But across the creek, the creek was right in back of us, we had to go over this bridge, over there the cafeteria it blew windows out, and broke dishes and did a lot of damage. I don't know if anybody was killed over there or not, I don't remember. But in the building, one of the girls that came to relieve me once in a while, her father and her brother were in there, they were two of the workers and I'm pretty sure her name was Pollock.
Johnson: I wondered if you'd recognize her on any of these pictures?
Gregg: I don't know, I doubt it very much - that was an awfully long while ago. These are some of the garments that we wore.
Johnson: Those were the garments that you wore? Did they have a name for you because you wore those garments?
Gregg: Oh I don't remember that.
Johnson: You were there for a very short time, you said you were...
Gregg: Just a couple weeks.
Johnson: It was the explosion that made you leave.
Gregg: Yes, I didn't want to go back there, I was frightened.
Johnson: Do you remember what those people were doing? [looking at a photograph]
Gregg: No, I don't remember that at all.
Johnson: I guess they are repairing the road. Do you remember a reclining couch where people might have rested in-between?
Gregg: No, I don't know that.
Johnson: Here's a picture with two little carts on it, maybe that would look familiar?
Gregg: I don't recall these either, they're not ones I was in.
Johnson: Those aren't the same?
Gregg: Ones I were in were stone, I remember that, they were stone buildings.
Johnson: Yes. Here's a whole group picture, I don't know if you'd recognize any faces on there or not. I suppose Mrs. Pollock would be the only one.
Gregg: I probably wouldn't know her if I saw her now, I don't recall her features at all.
Johnson: Would she work the night shift then, if she had to relieve you, would you work days and she'd work nights, is that the way it worked?
Gregg: I don't remember ever working nights, we just worked in the daytime.
Johnson: Yes, well how long would you work then, when would she come in to relieve you? When she came in to relieve you, about what time would she come?
Gregg: Oh, I don't remember that.
Johnson: She didn't work nights though, it was just two shifts?
Gregg: No, I don't think anybody worked at night, I know they didn't because there was no signs of lights around, just day work.
Johnson: I'll show you these pictures. They were all laughing in this picture.
Gregg: I don't remember being in this picture at all.
Johnson: Well since you were there for such a short time, I guess it...
Gregg: This looks like my husband's mother - it couldn't be because she didn't work up there. She was too busy having children. I have a list of children - for fifteen years she had a child every year and a half and there was a couple on there that were born in the same year, like one in the first of the year and one in the end, so she was busy, fifteen.
Johnson: Yes, that's a lot of children.
Gregg: I don't remember anybody.
Johnson: Again, this is a wooden building.
Gregg: There wasn't any of this over where I was, it was just dirt, I remember that. I remember thinking about the donkey, why he was walking in that straw and hay, you know. That was to keep from making sparks, I guess, if he had shoes on, I don't know if he did or not, that was for safety anyhow.
Johnson: I'm going to stop this for a minute. You told me that when you stopped for lunch, you went across the river to the cafeteria across the bridge. Do you remember what the bridge was like?
Gregg: Yes. You know I was trying to think of that last night. I couldn't remember whether it was a metal or whether it was a covered - I don't think it was a covered bridge, might have been, it was so long ago.
Johnson: It was probably the iron bridge, I think that's where the women did their work.
Gregg: I think it was. I kind of feel that it was an iron, open, just open bridge.
Johnson: And then you'd have your lunches in the cafeteria, you wouldn't have to take lunch?
Johnson: And do you remember anything about what the cafeteria was like?
Gregg: No I don't remember that, I just don't remember anything.
Johnson: And last time you told me after the explosion you just left and didn't even pick up your pay, they told you to come back.
Gregg: Yeah, oh it was three or four weeks after the explosion they notified me to come back and get my pay.
Johnson: You didn't want anything to do with it. You don't remember...
Gregg: I wasn't going to bother with it, I didn't want anything to do with that place after that explosion. I don't remember how I happened to go up there anyhow. When I came home - I told you about my family moving here...
Gregg: ...and when I came back, I brought a girlfriend with me and she was just a little bit older than I was and she just had a chance to get away from home, she thought she'd get a job out there. She didn't stay too long at that time, but she did come back later and was married and stayed here for the rest of her life. And she moved down around Salisbury, and she died about three years ago.
Johnson: Do you remember what her name was?
Gregg: Her name - her name was Maxwell before she was married and she married a man by the name of Anthony. He lived up the creek, probably somebody would know. His name was Arthur Anthony, he was a druggist.
Johnson: Oh, they might look into that too and see if he has any descendants.
Gregg: He had a store at about 8th and Shipley along there somewhere, I think it was about 8th and Shipley or 7th and Shipley, I forget, had a drugstore.
- Early life in Mystic, Connecticut; eloping with her husband and moving out of her in-laws houseKeywords: Amusement parks; Courtship; Elopement; Families--Housing; Harbors; Harley-Davidson motorcycle; Masts and rigging; Motorcycles; Parents-in-law; Riverview Beach; ShipbuildingTranscript: Johnson: Now last time you told me you just had your 90th birthday and that you were born in Connecticut. Would you tell me a little about where you were born and raised?
Gregg: Well, where I was - well I don't remember much about that, but I was a baby when my family moved from White Rock, Rhode Island, is really where I was born, and they moved over to Mystic.
Johnson: And then your father was working down in Wilmington on a yacht?
Gregg: Not at that time, that was...
Johnson: Much later, yes.
Gregg: He didn't - let me see now, where did ... he went - I have to get things straightened out - I was trying to think in an earlier age, in the earlier times when we first lived in Mystic, I remember where we lived. It was right in back of one of those places where they made boat masts and I told you about - we weren't supposed to go down there, but I used to like to go down towards the end, just where I could stand and watch them pull those logs in. The tide came in and out and these logs were on that water, I don't remember how they got there, but that's where they were brought there, and then they'd pull them out and put them up on these horses, like wooden horses, and they were shaved down and sanded and varnished or some kind of paint, and then shipped over to the shipyard where they made the boats and all. At that time my father started making boats himself, just a hobby. And he had a little shop down right on the edge of the water, the tide would come up and go out right in front of it. It was just the other side of the railroad track, and that was just on the west side of the bridge that the trains go over. I remember those places distinctly.
Like I told you, that was the first and only time I ever heard my father and mother have any words of any kind. She was a little disturbed because I was supposed to have a new pair of shoes and he took the money and bought some mahogany. He was making a boat model and he had to buy this mahogany wood for the deck and it had a brass rail around it and they had words over that. Him spending the money that was supposed to put shoes on my feet. That's the only time.
But after he got through there, I think there was a man that lived on Delaware Avenue here, his name was Colonel Buckman, I told you, and he had a pleasure yacht. And evidently he pulled in there at Mystic, it's quite a sea port up there, and somehow or other my father got interested and friendly with him and he asked my father to be an engineer on this boat of his and went on a trip, and he did and then he hired him to stay on there all the time. And he did and then he said that as long as he was away from home so much, to move his family down from Connecticut down to Wilmington, and we moved down to Wilmington. First house was right over there by Mt. Salem Church, down towards the hill, there's a little row of houses on 19th Street, and that's where we lived first, then we moved over to 16th Street.
Johnson: How old were you when you moved there?
Gregg: Oh, I was - I didn't come with them at first. There was a doctor lived next - about a block, on the same block we were, but up at the other end, and they had a little girl that was - she was afraid of everybody, she cried, she was hanging onto her mother all the time, she was very shy, but I used to come home from school and I'd walk by and stop and talk to her. She used to come out and play with me and she got very fond of me. And her mother asked my mother when they moved, if I could stay there, she was expecting another baby and asked if I could stay with them until after the baby was born. So my Mother said yes. But I was about 17 years old, but different than the kids are nowadays, you know, in the country like that there was nothing going on. At bedtime, at dark, everybody went to bed, but I stayed with her until the baby was a year old, and then I decided I wanted to go home to my family, so I came down and that's when we moved over on 16th Street.
Johnson: And last time you told me how you met your husband.
Gregg: How I met him? Well, he had a grocery store on Brinkle Avenue between 18th and 19th and my two brothers used to go over there after supper, just a habit they got into, you know the boys gather somewhere, they used to gather over there in front of the store. And Warren had seen, Pete would come, he had seen us somewhere, I don't know where, and he told my brother he'd like to have a date with me. And so my brother came home and he said, "Pete over there, wants to make a date with one of your girls." I don't remember how it was decided, but I know I didn't go, my girlfriend was the one who got the date. But the next night he came back and took me out and from then on why we went steady - oh for about a year I guess it was before we got married.
Johnson: And you told me he took you on his motorcycle the first date - tell us about that.
Gregg: Yeah, he had a motorcycle and we used to go over to Riverview Beach. That was an amusement park and we used to go over there very nearly every time we got a chance. Of course he worked every day.
Johnson: And you said at first he did not have a sidecar on his motorcycle, you just sat on the back, but later...
Gregg: Yeah, he had a Harley Davidson motorcycle, then he got a side car put on it.
Johnson: And you said your father had trouble getting him to get you home by the time - what time were you supposed to be home?
Gregg: Well I was supposed to be home by eleven, eleven-thirty at the latest. But one night we were later than that, we got the last ferry home and Pete lost his wallet riding on the motorcycle, he usually buttoned it, but he didn't button it that night and he had a wallet, I don't know how much money, but quite a little. In those days it was quite a little, you know. So we got almost home and he discovered it and he wanted to go back, and I said well I'll ride back with you. And when I got home it was about twelve o'clock and my father was waiting for us. And he gave Pete a good talking to, it wasn't too bad though. And he told him what happened and he didn't say anything.
Johnson: And then you told me you were married - would you tell me more about where you were married?
Gregg: We were married in Marshallton. We went down to Elkton a couple times and it was after six o'clock and they wouldn't marry anybody after six o'clock. So there was a Reverend Otis that lived right down there at Marshallton, right across from Pete's brother and they went over to see him and he said, yes, he'd marry us, and he did.
Johnson: Did your family approve of your getting married?
Gregg: None of them object - he was a nice guy.
Johnson: And then you said you went to live with him...
Gregg: Yeah, when we married I had never met his mother, any of the family. We went down there one evening, got married and we stopped at my house and told my mother we were married, and I went home with him and they were in bed, their family was in bed and he put the marriage certificate on the dining room table and left it. And his mother got up and saw it. I don't think she was too pleased about it at the time.
Johnson: Now you said she had fifteen children.
Gregg: Yes, she had fifteen children.
Johnson: And how many were living at home when you...
Gregg: Well at that time there was only one or two - the youngest and one of the older boys, but I hadn't been there very long before one of the daughters came home with a little girl and one of the other boys came home with a child, and it was just too much of a family.
Johnson: It must have gotten crowded, yes.
Gregg: You know, it was just too big. I stayed there until my oldest daughter was born. One night - the store was right - the house was facing 18th Street and the store was on Brinkle between 18th this way. So one night I asked Evelyn, that was the youngest daughter, if she would clear off the dining room table while I put the baby to bed because she was teething and she was pretty fussy and crying, and she wouldn't do it. She said, "No, I don't have to do that." And I said, "Well, I don't have to either." And my brother-in-law came in, one of the young ones, he came in about that time. He said, "What's going on here, what's the discussion?" She told him, she said, "She wants me to clear the table and I'm not gonna do it." And he said, "Well, she doesn't have to do it." And I said, "Well, I don't have to do it either." And he said, "Well if you don't like the way things are done here, you can get the hell out." Well, that burnt me up because I wasn't used to that kind of talk. My family, I never heard any words like that.
So I went upstairs and got the baby's clothes and some things of mine and I went down in the store that I was going home. I told him just what happened and he said, "That's all right. When I close the store I'll be over." So he went over and he asked my mother if we could stay there for a couple of days until we found an apartment. And we got an apartment down at Delaware Avenue and Union, right across from the Lincoln Camera Shop there on the corner. So I stayed there and we were there for, oh I don't know, two or three years. And then my father, he came down to live with us. No first, he was living on 19th Street, my sister was living there and she got married and she wanted to move out and my father asked us to come down there and we went down there with him for a little while.
Then he said there was a place out at Milltown that - it was just a very small building and about four and a half acres of ground and he said a place for a nice big garden and he said we could fix the house up and so we moved out there. And there was nothing there, no water or anything. We had to have a well dug, and we put a bathroom in and outside shingles and new roof on it. I got up on the roof and helped them put the roof on, I remember that.
- Outhouses and chamber pots; getting the flu while pregnant with her first childKeywords: Chamber pots; Children--Health and hygiene; Influenza Epidemic (1918-1919); Orphanages; Outhouses; Pregnant women; Pregnant women--Medical care; Traffic accidentsTranscript: Johnson: Now you were telling me about the fact that there was no water in the house that you lived in, both in Wilmington and at the Gregg store. And you told about the outhouse - you'd have to go outside.
Gregg: Out at Milltown there we had an outhouse. But as for Pete's family, they had a bathroom.
Johnson: Oh, they had a bathroom?
Gregg: Yes, on 18th Street.
Johnson: But your house, now the one that you lived in there before, that did not have a bathroom, or indoors?
Gregg: No, down on 19th Street, no there was no bathroom in there. We got a bath once a week and sometimes once in two weeks [laughs]. I often think of that, you know, and every Saturday after we got our bath, the day we got a bath we all had clean underclothes, but other times we wore those clothes for two or three days.
Johnson: Yes, things have changed, now we think it's terrible to wear - not wear clean things every day.
Gregg: Things have changed now. And our hair, we didn't get our hair washed. I remember one time, this was when we were smaller, one of my father's brothers was married and his wife died in childbirth and he had this girl and boy and he couldn't handle them and he put, well the boy was the baby that was born, but he had two little girls and he put them in an orphanage up around Connecticut somewhere. So they used to come to Mystic and stay every summer, all summer with the family, maybe a couple of weeks with us, a couple of weeks with another. And I know one time, the older girl had long hair, Kitty - her name was Katherine, but they called her Kitty - and when she came in my aunt walked - she's the one that I told you about, the girl that fell in the toilet?
Johnson: Yes, tell us the story.
Gregg: That's the same woman and she went by her and she had an awful habit of saying, "Oh my God." Everything that happened I can remember her saying, "Oh my God." And she walked by her and she said to Kitty, "Oh my God, that hair smells. When did you have it washed last?" And she said, "I had it washed when I was here last summer with you." That's the truth, those days her hair didn't get washed all that time. Oh I can't imagine that nowadays.
Johnson: Poor child.
Gregg: But this thing I told you about...
Johnson: Yes, tell about your cousin...
Gregg: ...lived down near the shore where my Father had that boat shop and my cousin came to visit me. It was on a Sunday 'cause she was all dressed up in her Sunday clothes. She had a new coat and hat on, I remember that and...
Johnson: You said her mother made the hat?
Johnson: She was a milliner.
Gregg: And we were out in the yard and we walked down there, of course it was all closed up. We went over and walked in the shingles. They had an outhouse for the men that worked down there and there was no seats, just a bar went across there, it was closed in on the front, you know, just a bar. And my cousin, Roberta, she had to go to the toilet and I said, "Well come on, we'll go back to the house." She said, "I'm going over there where the men go." And I said, "No, you better not go over there." Because I was always conscious of that tide coming in and out, you know, it was always damp down there. I said,
"I'm not going over there." And she said, "Well I am." So she went over and the next thing I knew she hollered and I went over and she had fallen in, fallen over in there. So I didn't know what to do, but I did help her to get out and then we went up and Aunt Emma, she said, "Oh my God, Leah," that was my mother's name, "Oh my God, Leah, what am I gonna do?" Mother said, "Wait until I get a washtub." She had washtubs on the back porch. She got one of those laundry tubs and they filled it up with cold water. But she said the tea kettle - they had a great big tea kettle, I remember that, it was huge, and she said, "It's full of hot water, we'll put that in and take the chill off." But it was cold water and they put her in there and they stripped. I don't remember, I know they took some of our clothes and put on her. But I'll never forget it as long as I live.
Johnson: It must have been something.
Gregg: So she didn't go down there anymore when she came over, she didn't go anywhere near there, her mother told her - you'll get a good spanking and you won't forget it if you go down there. But she never went down again. I can think of a lot of things that happened.
Johnson: Now in Wilmington you had the outhouse too, but do you remember cleaning that out, or what you'd have to do?
Gregg: Down there? They cleaned it out. My father used to go over there and I remember he had a shovel and a wheelbarrow and he used to put dirt in there.
Johnson: This was on 19th Street in Wilmington?
Gregg: Oh no.
Johnson: No, this was up in Connecticut?
Gregg: We had one, but it was out in the back shed, there was a toilet out in the back shed. I don't remember about flushing it or anything. I just don't recall, but I know there was one out there on the back porch. We had pots in the house, they used pots in the bedrooms. I remember my mother, and that was the first job she ever did - get the pots clean and she used to scrub them every day.
Johnson: And she did that all herself, she didn't make you children do anything?
Gregg: No, she wouldn't let us do it.
Johnson: Yes, that was very nice.
Gregg: Three bedrooms, they had the three pots. Had a bucket with a lid on it and she'd take it out and dump it and scrub it out and hang it up on the wall. I remember hanging that bucket up there. That's all it was used for, and I remember that.
Johnson: It was the flu epidemic you told me about when you were first married you got the flu. And you lost your baby.
Gregg: Yes, oh yeah, I was on 18th Street then. And my Mother was working up at the Country Club, nursing, and I was pregnant at the time, it was about three months after I was married. They didn't expect me to pull through because so many women at that time that were pregnant didn't live through it. And I remember, my father had a garage at that time on Clayton - Pennsylvania Avenue and Clayton Street, and he had a big garage, you know, cars in there all the time. And this Dr. Kelley, he had an office on Pennsylvania Avenue, something was wrong with his car - he didn't drive it himself, he had a chauffeur because when he first went in practice, he hit a little boy and killed him and he swore he'd never drive a car again as long as he lived, and he didn't, never did.
So he had this chauffeur and they came in there to get his car fixed because he was awfully busy because there were so many sick at that time, and dying every day, just hundreds of people, and he said he would fix the car right away if he would go up and see his daughter, up on 18th Street, and that's the only way they got a doctor for me. But this one particular night he said he didn't think that I would live through, of course I didn't know anything about it, you know. But I did - he said if I lived through that night I would have passed the crisis and I would be all right. It was just about midnight when my mother walked in and I must have just about come to because I remember her coming through the door and I said, "What are you doing here?" And she said she had been up to the Country Club helping with patients, you know, taking care of them, she was on her way home and she walked all over that place, it was quite a long walk too, and she said, "I just stopped to see how you were." And I said, "I'm fine." So she went on, and from that day on I was all right.
Johnson: You said when you were delirious you had a picture in the room.
Gregg: Yeah, there was a picture on the wall, some cows along the creek and there was a great big tree there and one of the cows was standing in the water drinking, and I thought that cow was gonna fall over in that water and drown and I was very upset. I just kind of remember saying, "Somebody go get that cow before it falls over." I don't know if anybody was around at that time or not. I think there were because I think I heard my husband say something about it, that I was hollering about the cow in the creek.
Johnson: And you told me what the doctor told him to do to keep from catching the flu.
Gregg: Yeah he told him to keep taking shots of whiskey, so he went and got - well they gave that to me, I don't remember, but the doctor said, "You should never down whiskey," he says, "because you wouldn't be here today if it wasn't whiskey." It kept me alive, I guess, kept me going, I don't know. But my husband, he said, he always took a little shot of whiskey before he delivered groceries up the creek, up Squirrel Run, and I forget the name of the other place up there. And he'd take the groceries up and put them on the step or either hand them in the window to somebody and when he got home he said he washed his hands good and took another little slug. I wonder how many slugs he took a day [laughs]. I don't know, I don't think it hurt him any.
Johnson: No, it wasn't...
Gregg: I didn't know anything about it - he told me.
Johnson: And you told me that one of your - I think it was your sister-in-law, someone had the flu and she put up a sheet with disinfectant on it.
Gregg: Yeah, my husband's sister lived down at 2400, we lived at 2600, she lived at 2400 and her husband got it and they had a sheet hanging over the doorway and it had some kind of disinfectant on it, I don't know...
Johnson: You don't know what it was?
Gregg: I don't know what it was, something. And we weren't supposed to go through that room. I started to feeling sick, and I was afraid I was gonna throw up and I started coughing and I coughed, I remember I just coughed so bad, I thought I was gonna strangle and my sister-in-law told Pete, "You better get her home, she's probably getting the flu." But I hadn't been anywhere and he didn't believe it at first, but he said he carried me halfway up that block home, I just collapsed and couldn't even walk. I don't remember that at all.
Johnson: It certainly came on suddenly didn't it?
Gregg: M-huh, sure enough, I had the flu and I had it good. And he had one brother that caught it after that, but he and I were the only two that had it in the whole family, and there was quite a few of us around there, so I don't know where I picked it up. But you know, it was funny thing, I couldn't stand noise. They had to stop cars from going down certain streets. When a car went by that road, and normally you wouldn't even notice it, but it did something to my head. I'd hold my head every time a car would go by, it just hurt. I don't know if it was vibrations or what, but I do remember that. It was an awful disease, I remember that.
Johnson: Yes, probably affected your ears and everything.
Gregg: Affected me. And the children, some of the children would go by after school and when Pete was out in the store, he told them to keep quiet, not do any hollering, because it bothered me. You wouldn't think it would in the house that way, but it did. The least little noise just - I don't know, it was just immense. I'd hold my ears, I'd hold my head, it just seemed like my head was gonna burst. It just went with the disease I guess, don't know.
Johnson: I'm so glad you recovered.
Gregg: It was awful.
- Her husband delivering groceries from his store; her father serving on a submarine chaser; laundry, gardens, cooking, and other housekeeping detailsKeywords: Delivery of goods; Heating; Housekeeping; Ironing boards; Irons (Pressing); Laundry; Pies; Stoves; Submarine chasers; Tractors; Vegetable gardening; World War (1914-1918)Transcript: Johnson: Tell me more about delivering the groceries - did he have a horse and wagon to do that?
Gregg: Yeah, he did at first. His grandfather had a horse and wagon and then he got a truck. He had an old Vinn truck, and he had a man come in and work for him. His name was Harry Phillips, he lived on Riverview Avenue, I remember him. He was an old bachelor I think, he never married, and he worked for Pete for years.
Johnson: And they would take orders then, and then deliver the groceries?
Gregg: Yes, he had a phone, they'd take orders over the phone, and Harry and Pete would put up the orders and Harry would stay in the store and Pete would deliver them. One time Pete asked Harry if he wouldn't try to deliver them and he said he never drove a car and Pete took him out and showed him how to drive the truck. And this day he loaded up the truck and Harry went over to 17th Street and he turned the corner and the truck kept jerking, jerking, and a lot of the groceries fell out of the back in the street - I remember a broom fell out.
Johnson: I can just picture...
Gregg: And we had to go up there and run up 19th Street and pick up the groceries and things out of the street and get in the back of the truck. And he wouldn't drive any more, he never finished. He stayed in the store from then on, he was funny.
Johnson: Did many people have cars?
Gregg: No, not too many. We didn't have a car at that time. But he had a brother that lived in New York and he came down in a car. And he had an Overland, did you ever hear of an Overland car?
Johnson: Yes, yes.
Gregg: An old Overland sedan, and I said to Pete, I said, "Do you think you'll ever have a car?" And he said, "Yeah some day." I said, "I'd like to have a car and I hope I have a little boy and I'll sit in the back with the little boy and you can sit up front with the little girl." I can remember that, isn't that strange?
Johnson: Yes, did you have a little boy?
Gregg: No, I never had a boy, just the two girls. But I wanted a boy so bad. I was gonna name him Richard, I don't know why I wanted to name him Richard. But Pete had a sister that was the same age as I was, we were born the same day, same age, and she had a little boy and she named him Richard, and I used to be kinda - she had a boy, why couldn't I get one...but I never got one.
Johnson: That's the way it turns out sometimes. At one time you showed me a picture of your father in a naval uniform and said he was called the Chief?
Gregg: He was the Chief Engineer on that yacht and when the war come up, the government, I guess it was, took over all the yachts and made submarine chasers out of them and he still stayed on and they kept the crew on. But they never went in foreign waters, they just
Johnson: Well, it was to keep them from coming...
Gregg: They had to cruise around, see a submarine they'd go after them. I don't know whether they used to shoot them or not, I don't remember that.
Johnson: You don't remember ever hearing about a submarine? Tell me how you got water - how did you get water for washing?
Gregg: A pump, a outside pump.
Johnson: It was an outside pump?
Gregg: Until we moved over on 18th Street when there was a spigot in the house, running water.
Johnson: And how did you do the washing?
Gregg: Carry a bucket. They had mostly those big round wash tubs, you know. You see them once in awhile around here, big ones.
Johnson: Yes, made of wood, right?
Gregg: And when we lived on - when we were smaller we lived there on Westminster Avenue, why every Saturday they would get the big tub out and the two girls would get a bath first, then the two boys had to get a bath after - she'd take some of the water out and put a big kettle full of hot water with it, just to warm it up a little. They used to get mad, the boys, and say "I don't see why we have to take a bath after they've been the water." [laughs]
Johnson: And how did you iron your clothes - what were your irons like?
Gregg: We had irons made with - they were iron, they were made of iron I guess, the handle and everything was all one piece. And they were on the cook stove, we'd have to put them on there to heat and then had to use a holder all the time. And you'd iron with one until it started to not iron very good, put it back and get a fresh one and iron the clothes that way.
Johnson: It was hard work I'm sure because they were so heavy. What about the ironing board?
Gregg: Well, the ironing board was just a board, shaped at one end, curved. And I remember my Mother had it across two chairs, I remember she had it across two chairs. That was a long time ago.
Johnson: Yes, and she would pad that then, you said, with an old blanket?
Gregg: Well it was padded with an old blanket and then an old sheet over that, I remember her putting fresh - if it got burned once in awhile, where you'd put the iron down, well that place got burnt and soon as it got burnt and started to break, why she'd tear it off and put fresh.
Johnson: How did she fasten the sheet on?
Gregg: Tacks on the underside.
Johnson: Tell me about your garden, you told me about that once.
Gregg: Well, we had a pretty big garden and we had most everything. I remember corn and peas and string beans and kidney beans and turnips - name anything - they had Swiss chard. I don't know whether they have that now, they had Swiss chard, it was just big, leafy.
Johnson: I remember that as a child.
Gregg: And spinach - well as I say, carrots and corn, turnips, most everything you could think of.
Johnson: Now was this garden in Connecticut, or was this down in Wilmington, when you lived in Wilmington?
Gregg: Yeah, we had a garden.
Johnson: Both places?
Gregg: When we lived out at Milltown, we had a big garden. Pete had a big strawberry patch out there, and he used to pick crates of berries. That's when he worked for the A & amp; P and he took and sold them to them.
Johnson: Oh, and he'd take his own fruit to the A & amp; P?
Gregg: We had peaches and apples and pears and then all that garden stuff. I drove a tractor in that garden, I remember that. 'Cause the man that lived up the street, his name was Lynam, Clifford Lynam, he come by one day and he was talking, and he said, "I see you got a new hired man driving the tractor." I said, "That wasn't a hired man, that was me." He couldn't believe it.
But in those time, my sister-in-law, we used to do all the papering in our houses always, all the papering and painting. I enjoyed it. My daughter likes to do it now. She does a lot of papering in her house, and I don't know how she does it. She's got a big open stairway, she got up on there and did that whole hallway and it's gorgeous. I wouldn't dare attempt it. I couldn't do it, I couldn't do it.
Johnson: When you were younger, I'll bet you would have.
Gregg: It wasn't anything to climb up on the roof when my Father was putting a roof on, I went up there and helped him. Didn't think anything of it.
Johnson: And you told about a succotash that your mother made?
Gregg: I was quite small then - succotash. When I came to Wilmington, I was seventeen or so, I heard them say something about succotash and I said, "Oh, let's have some, I love it." And then they came out with lima beans and corn and I said, "That's not succotash." Succotash then was made - I remember chopped up bacon or salt pork, they used salt pork a lot then, chopped up in little tiny pieces with onions and it had red beans in it and corn. I don't remember what else was in it, but it was like a soup and my mother would make a big kettle of it and we had that every Saturday. And hot biscuits and usually apple pie or chocolate cake, that was Saturday night supper.
Johnson: Oh that sounds good.
Gregg: It's funny how - families then I think had different things certain days that they had every day. I know Pete's mother did, she used to have soup on Saturdays too, but she used to make bean soup and tomato soup and all kinds - pea soup.
Johnson: And that would be the whole meal, the soup?
Gregg: Yes, the whole meal, with bread and butter, or rolls and butter. Then dessert in those times was either cake and pie. I remember my mother always had cake and pie in the house. If it wasn't pie, it was cake, no matter - any time there was always cake and pie in the house. Anybody came in, you know.
Johnson: What was her stove like?
Gregg: Her stove? Oh it was just a huge big cast iron, I guess it was. The wood part was up at the left hand side. The first stove I remember had a well on the back of it that they kept water in it all the time so we always had hot water. Then there was this big oven on the side that you opened the door this way and that's where she put the tub on the floor right in front of that oven when we got our bath because that was the only heat in the house. At that house the kitchen and dining room was just like a big "L" and the front room, the parlor we called it then, but the doors were always closed, that was shut off in the winter because it was too cold in there, and we had no heat upstairs. But there was an open place in the ceiling that you could open or shut - took the chill off the bedrooms. Just about the chill off, I remember those beds were mighty cold when we used to get in. We used to get undressed in the kitchen and then she'd say, "Everybody get ready." We'd open the door and we'd all fly out and jump in those beds. My sister and I had a feather bed and if I got in bed first, she used to get mad because I'd get the feathers, you know, and they'd all pile up on the other side. You always liked to be the first one in so you would get the first jump on the feathers - poor old feather bed.
Johnson: Did you have anything that you'd take in to warm your feet - would you have a warm brick, anything like that?
Gregg: No - we'd keep our stockings on once in awhile and my mother used to make us take them off. We'd take them off after we'd get in bed, she didn't know that.
Johnson: How did she know when the stove was ready to cook? Did you have a temperature indicator on the stove?
Gregg: No, there was no...
Johnson: How would she know when it was hot enough to bake?
Gregg: Oh, I guess she just baked enough she knew about - she'd test it, you know, she could tell by touching cake - if it popped up and pulled away from the pan. But I don't ever remember making anything that wasn't cooked perfectly - never burned, never undercooked.
Johnson: She probably had to watch it too.
Gregg: Yeah, had to watch it pretty good.
Johnson: Did she use wood or coal most of the time in the stove?
Gregg: Both, I remember at times we had wood, then there was times when we bought coal. We had a coal bin in the cellar. They put it through the window into that big cellar, I remember that.
Johnson: Now did they do the same thing in the Wilmington house, when you got here, was that stove the same? You may not have been...
Gregg: I don't remember how the house was heated, to tell the truth, there on 16th Street, I don't remember. The house was always warm, but I don't even remember - yes, I do remember the basement now, I just remembered it, but there was a heater down there.
Johnson: So that house didn't just rely on the one stove?
Gregg: And we used coal over there too. I don't know when we started using oil, I don't remember.
Johnson: It's pretty late, I think.
- Christmas traditions; the log cabin her mother rented acquired by the Smithsonian; Clifford Lynam's wild bull; her sister and husband converting her chicken house into a house; the Wimodausis ClubKeywords: Bulls; Chickens--Housing; Christmas stockings; Christmas traditions; Dwellings--Remodeling; Elsmere; Handicraft; Log cabins; Log cabins--Conservation and restoration; Milltown Road; Postal service horses; pot-bellied stoves; Sarah Pennington; Thomas Springer log cabin; Wimodausis Club; Women--Societies and clubsTranscript: Johnson: Last time you told me about Christmas too.
Gregg: Christmas? Oh Christmas was great, but we didn't get all the things that they get nowadays. Children just have entirely too much. I think they do, I really do. Some of my grandchildren, they have stuff - so much those kids they'll open it and throw it aside and then never touch it again. I used to tell one of them, "Why don't you take some of that stuff and put it away and then when he gets tired of playing that, lay it aside and bring out something." Oh no, no - even now when those two little kids come here, the both of them come with bags - they come into the living room, first thing they do is dump it all over the floor. Maybe they'll sit down there five minutes and that's it. Then when they get ready to go home, why their mother makes them gather all that stuff up. But at Christmas time we usually got one toy, I just don't remember. Each one got one toy, but we did hang our stockings and we used to get - it was a big treat to get an orange, an apple or banana and they had Christmas candy that was - you see it once in awhile now. You know what I mean it's just...
Johnson: The ribbon candy?
Gregg: Ribbon candy, it used to be quite popular at that time, and we'd get some of that in our stocking and nuts, and most always a little gift of some kind. It might have been a ring or a bracelet to the girls and the boys usually got something for school, pencil holder full of pencils or something like that. Then gifts under the tree. We always had to wait until everybody had breakfast, then we'd go and sit down and my father would take them up and call out the names and we'd get them. Most of the time they was clothes, stockings and underwear and things like that.
Johnson: Did your...[end of tape]...the stockings that you hung up, you said they were the same ones that your wore every day?
Gregg: Yeah, oh yeah, right. We'd have to hunt through the draw to find a stocking that didn't have any hole in it, 'cause a lot of them had holes in them, I remember.
Johnson: [Laughs] You wouldn't want the orange to come through. What were the stockings made of?
Gregg: Cotton, just cotton.
Johnson: And what color were they?
Gregg: Mostly white - black in the wintertime, we wore black stockings most of the time.
Johnson: And where did you hang it?
Gregg: Well, if we had a fireplace, which most of the places, some of the places had mantles, but without a fireplace, we'd just hang it on the mantle. My mother lived in a house, when we lived out Milltown, she lived up - just up the, well not very far, maybe a block, she lived up there. And that house was an old log, one of the first log cabins and that house is down in Washington - is it the Smithsonian?
Gregg: That house is down there.
Johnson: Is that right?
Gregg: And I got the biggest thrill when I walked in to see that. Down there they just have the main building. When she lived up there they had put a kitchen on the back and a bedroom over it. Well that didn't go, but the log building down there. When she lived in it there was a fireplace in that main room, but it was closed over when my mother lived there and the stairway went up right alongside the fireplace and then upstairs. But the floors up there were - but that house was all built by hand, you know, I guess they didn't have rulers or something, I don't know, but inside the floors were all crooked. One time you'd walk down the hall and you'd feel like you were walking sideways. I remember that. And in the dining room, there were two rooms down and two up in that main building, and then when they put the kitchen on there was a bedroom over that. My mother didn't do it. Clifford Lynam owned the house and he built that on for her. And it had a pump right on the back porch, just off the back porch - that's where they got all their water, had to carry it in. But I remember my mother saying there's a fireplace there. It was just covered over I guess with some kind of boards.
Johnson: And did she have a wood stove in front of the fireplace?
Gregg: No, she didn't have any - she had a pot bellied stove. It was a pot bellied stove, it was a round - I remember that when they had a stove in the kitchen. But that room that was there, at that time I guess it was used as a bedroom. My mother used it for a dining room, and they had a kitchen, dining room and a living room. In the back living room was almost - the window on that side of the house, the ground was graded, and the ground was just, oh maybe eight or ten inches from that window and Clifford Lynam had a bull that used to roam all over those places, and that bull used to come once and awhile down there and I was scared to death. I was afraid he was gonna come through. And he was bad, he was a bad one. Clifford had to get rid of him because he used to get into wagons and things he had out in the barn. He butted those things all to pieces. And I saw him one day, Clifford had a big two-wheeled thing, it raked up fodder and all that kind of stuff on a farm, and that bull got that thing and he rolled it and smashed it all the way down to the street.
And one day there was a man up the street, lived up there and his name was Scur, and he used to come down and get his son off the bus and this day I knew that that bull was up there, so I went out and told him. I said, "You better see," I forget the boy's name now, it'll come to me in a minute, I said, "That bull is out there, you be careful." He said, "Okay" So he went back to the house and got a pitchfork and he came down. And while he was down right in front of our house, the bull came out in the road. He got the boy and put him in the car, then he took the car and he went up. And he got out of the car, I watched him and he pitchforked that bull right in the nose. And he was wild, but he chased him way up in the field. I think it was a short time after that that Clifford said that he had to get rid of the bull because he just knocked the side of the barn out and get out, he was wicked, a huge big thing. I was afraid to go out of the house at night when we lived out there, afraid that bull...
Johnson: This was in Milltown you say - where was this again, Milltown?
Gregg: Milltown Road.
Johnson: Milltown Road - right in Delaware here?
Gregg: M-huh. You know where the Kirkwood Highway is?
Gregg: And you go off Milltown Road, not too far, between there and the other Kirkwood Highway. No, our house is still sitting out there. My sister and her husband got married, and he lost a job and he went to live with his mother for awhile, but she had a very small house there in Elsmere, she had three children, or she had two at that time, and he said he had to find some place to live. And Pete told - we had a chicken house that was built - there was a walk and then this chicken house and it went down into the yard and we had this long chicken house and we had stopped raising chickens at that time and Pete told him if he wanted to rebuild that and fix it up a little, they could make living quarters down there. And he said I'll buy all the material if you'll do - Harold said, "Yeah, if you buy the material I'll build it, and we'll pay you rent after we get it finished."
So they had a real cute place, but it was all like the first room was, we called a grainery, we kept grain in there for the chickens, you went through a door and there was another room. There was windows in the front and windows in the back, across the back. And they had two big bedrooms and then there was another room, but they divided it and put a bathroom in there, and this end, the boy, the little boy, they had a bed there and he slept in that entryway. Then she had a kitchen and a dining room and a living room, and they lived there until, oh I don't know, I guess the kids were all in school, pretty good size before they got a place of their own.
Johnson: Wasn't that nice to be able to do that?
Gregg: And then we sold it to a woman - she didn't stay there very long, I've forgotten her name now. And since then Taylors have bought it and they have made that place - they have improved it, they moved the wall out. I'd love to live down there. It's just all open on the side of the creek, and the rooms are nice and big and it's really nice. We go out there for picnics once in awhile, not right recently, but in the last years. Since I stopped, I belonged to that Wimodausis Club, and the Wimodausis Club used to go out there because Mabel Taylor was a member and I belonged to that Wimodausis for thirty-some years and I just gave it up last year because I couldn't get over there as often as I liked to - going down here to see my husband, you know, and I just said to take my name off. I said, "Maybe some day I'll go back and visit you once in awhile."
Johnson: Where do they meet?
Gregg: In different homes, take turns having it. I had them here lots of times. It was a lot of fun. But that club, everybody got so old, you know. When we first started, we were in our thirties and they had so many things they - freezings, they started freezing food you used to have things on that. And then we learned to refinish furniture and learned to fix electric things and all. And make things - crocheting and knitting and all those things. One time we made bedspreads, put the thread - looked like hobnail, but now most of the younger know how to do those things theirselves and there's not many people left.
Johnson: And a lot of young people work now, lot of young women work who used to be able to do lots of things.
Gregg: You ought to go out and visit - can't even think of the name, she lives out there. Her father, Pennington, name's Pennington, the house she lives in, there used to be a mail carrier by horse, you know. I forget, run so far then another horse would come, and they used to stop there and she's got a section in her house that has the counter where they had the mail, there's a wooden drawer where they kept stuff. It's very interesting. You ought to go out and talk to her sometime, you'd really like it.
Johnson: Yes, that would be...
Gregg: Oh Pennington, they owned all that land out there. Now they've taken a lot of it, they had one house on this side of the street that they just tore down recently. I said she must feel terrible, she's lived in that house all her life and to tear that house down, you know.
Johnson: And they're building so many new buildings and office buildings and developments.
Gregg: She wouldn't let them take her house, I don't know, on that side. They'll probably keep it there.
Johnson: I want to get back to Christmas...
Gregg: Sarah, her name was Sarah Pennington.
Johnson: Thank you.
Gregg: Sarah P. Evans, She always liked to have them say
Sarah P. Evans. Her name was Pennington, but she married Evans.
Johnson: They'll have to look her up - we'll have to look her up, she sounds nice.
- Christmas decorations; her mother baking bread and canning; walking down King Street on Saturday eveningsKeywords: Baking--Equipment and supplies; Canning and preserving; Christmas decorations; City and town life; Commercial catalogs; Cooking (Bread); dough mixer; Groceries; King Street (Wilmington, Del.); Mason jars; street harassment; Toilet paperTranscript: Johnson: I wanted to go back to Christmas because I remember that you told me that you kept the Christmas tree in the parlor and how it stood on a stand and how your father made the stand.
Gregg: He just had two boards crossed over, spread out and then turned the tree over and that was nailed onto the bottom of the tree.
Johnson: He turned the tree over.
Gregg: Turned the tree back up.
Johnson: I was wondering how he put the tree onto the two boards.
Johnson: Yes, and how did you decorate the tree?
Gregg: Well, we used to string popcorn and we used to make chains out of colored paper, any kind of colored paper we could find and make these rings and then hook one in the other and glue it and then hook another one in and glue it and drape that all over and then they used to have a lot of old Christmas trimmings that were cards, but they were all decorated with tinsel and different colored things. I used to have a lot of those, but they're all gone. Gave them to the different family and they eventually rotted away, you know, paper gets all brown and crinkley. We had a few balls that were solid, solid crystal balls, but they - somehow or other they just all disappeared in the years.
Johnson: Were they quite small then if they were crystal?
Gregg: Oh they were big as oranges, good size oranges.
Johnson: They must have been pretty.
Gregg: They were.
Johnson: What did you have on the top of the tree?
Gregg: Well at one time we had a big star that some of us made, I don't know just which one, we had a star that we used to stick up, it was glued onto a little piece of wood or something, we put it up there and put tinsel around it or wire or something to hold it on top. Then later on we got an angel, a big angel, I don't remember where it came from, but I remember it was a white angel with tinsel on the wings. It was about eight or ten inches tall, we had that there. Didn't have lights.
Johnson: No, I guess it was safer not to have...
Gregg: I don't remember having candles on a tree at that time. I guess they did, but we were never allowed to have anything like that.
Johnson: Most people seemed not to use the candles, they might have seen them, but they didn't use them.
Gregg: Afraid they'd catch fire because that stuff burns. I remember my nephew one time was taking the tree down, he lived over there by Conrad School, and he had a lot of trimmings and stuff, green stuff and he took it all off and he thought he'd put it in the fireplace and burn it. He didn't any more get it in there before it went "boom" and the blaze went clear to the ceiling, it was bad. He caught it in time, but it did do a lot of damage.
Johnson: They tell you not to do that now.
Gregg: That green stuff burns like...
Johnson: And it must have some oil in it or something, goes right up.
Gregg: Goes fast, so we never tried that.
Johnson: You told me how your mother made the popcorn.
Gregg: Oh, we had a popper, a corn popper and it was similar to the size of that and it had a lid on it, but it was tin I guess, no wire, wire criss-crossed, it was a regular corn popper and it had a handle on it and we just put that in there and right on the top of the lid, stand there and keep it moving all the time, after a while it would start popping and get filled and we'd dump it in a big bowl and then she'd put some more in. Nobody liked to do it while it was not popping, but as soon as it popped, they wanted to take a hold of it you know.
Johnson: Yes, that's when it's fun.
Gregg: Then we'd all have needles and thread and we'd just string that stuff, yards and yards.
Johnson: It takes a lot of patience to do that. You told me last time too that she colored it sometimes.
Gregg: Yeah, yeah. I remember the first time she did it she put the popcorn in this bowl with some coloring in it and it got all soft. Then after that I think she just sprinkled it on or something, I kinda forget, but it just made them a little color.
Johnson: It must have been pretty. How about cranberries, did you ever get cranberries?
Gregg: Yes, string cranberries too, but not too much because they cost money, you know.
Johnson: Did they get soft if you had them on for...
Gregg: I don't know remember whether you could keep them or not.
Johnson: Of course if you had the tree in the parlor where it was cold, it may have kept them better.
Gregg: And cotton, we put little bunches of cotton, just little bunches of cotton, I remember that too.
Johnson: Oh, that's a good idea. And if you didn't have colored paper, you'd crayon the paper, made colors. Did you do that in school too, or just at home?
Gregg: At home. And I remember those outhouses never had toilet paper, I don't think they had toilet paper in those days. They'd use old magazines. Sears and Roebuck, they used [laughs], old catalogs.
Johnson: One of the questions we are supposed to ask is if you bought things from catalogs?
Gregg: Sometimes, not very often.
Johnson: Would it have been a Sears catalog?
Gregg: My father used to send once in a while for tools or something, I remember that, but I don't ever remember my mother sending for anything. They always saved the catalog.
Johnson: For the outhouse?
Gregg: Yeah, the outhouse. We didn't know any different, you know, never knew what toilet paper was.
Johnson: Tell me more about your mother's cooking - did she bake bread?
Gregg: Oh yes, she made most of our bread, until later years there used to be a baker with a wagon, horse and wagon. He used to come out with baked stuff all the time. But my mother made all cakes and pies and rolls and biscuits, hot biscuits, I remember the hot biscuits, Johnny cake. She made Johnny cakes out of cornmeal. I remember she used to pour boiling water on it and it had to be boiling, I don't know...
Johnson: To get it soft I guess.
Gregg: Yeah, and then she'd just make little cakes out of it and fry it. I used to love them with syrup on it like pancakes, you know, Johnny cakes. And scones, I remember she used to make scones when she made bread. She'd break off some of the dough and just make it in any kind of pieces you want and it was put in the frying pan and fried, I remember that, we used to eat it hot - scones, it was good.
Johnson: And did you put syrup on that?
Gregg: Sometimes, it was very good. Never hear of that now I don't think.
Johnson: No, you don't.
Gregg: But you had to use the bread that has yeast in it, you know.
Johnson: Yes, you said your father bought a device to knead the bread dough.
Gregg: Yeah, he bought her a dough mixer and it was a round - it had a - I can see it, it just had like a screw, like a screw, it was round and it had a handle on the side, you turned it and that thing went around and it turned the dough over and over and over, just kept flipping it over and over. That was a big help, oh she was tickled to death when she got that because it was such a relief, because otherwise she had a great big wooden spoon and it was hard to turn that great big...
Johnson: Yes, that was cumbersome, stiff.
Gregg: Get that flour all mixed in and that bread mixer was great. She couldn't get ready to make bread quick enough so she could use her new bread - and then took the thing out and had to scrape it all off of those little things, and it was covered - I think, if I remember right, she greased the top of it with butter and then covered it over and it would rise way up, it was a big yellow bowl about that big around, it was yellow, crock, like a crock.
Johnson: And about how many of those would she make at a time? About how many loaves would she make at a time?
Gregg: Oh, I don't remember, four or five at least. She used to have a big tin box, was a bread box, keep it in there.
Johnson: To store it in, yes. Where did she set it to rise, would she have a special place on the stove?
Gregg: Fairly warm place. Sometimes if the fire wasn't going too big, you know those coals in there keep quite a long while, she'd set it on the back of the stove, just where it was barely warm.
Johnson: How did she regulate the temperature on the stove?
Gregg: Was no regulator on it.
Johnson: No regulator - how about the dampers, could she open the dampers?
Gregg: Oh yes, it had up in the chimney there was a damper up there and then on this end there was a place there that you could open.
Johnson: And that would give her a little control, yes.
Gregg: If you closed it, why the fire wouldn't burn as fast, but if you wanted - open that and it would make - I guess the air or something like blowing it, the fire would get red.
Johnson: How about canning, did your mother do a lot of canning?
Gregg: Oh yes, canned everything she got out of the garden, everything she could get her hands on she canned. Down in our basement my father put up a shelf, I remember we had tomatoes down there in glass Mason jars mostly, I remember that. Well, corn and peas and tomatoes. She used to make catsup and she used to make chili sauce and apple butter, she used to make apple butter and lemon butter once in a while, but that was a treat, used to make lemon butter. I've got her recipe, she used three lemons and I think it's three lemons and three oranges and a half a pound of butter or something like that. And you put it in a double boiler and just let it cook and cook and cook for about a half hour, or sometimes longer. You could tell when it gets thick, and let it cool, and then you use it just like butter, and boy it's good.
Johnson: It sounds good.
Gregg: It's delicious on hot biscuits.
Johnson: Did you do a lot of canning as well?
Gregg: Not too much, no.
Johnson: How about the Greggs, did they do canning of their own?
Gregg: Yes, yeah, but they didn't - she used to can things out of the store because they didn't have any yard over there for a garden.
Johnson: But I guess they would sell produce in the store and if they had any left over...
Gregg: Yes - or things that she liked to make, just certain things that she liked to make - she used to make preserves sometimes, strawberry preserves and she would take, he would get strawberries from market. When they lived over there, he had to buy everything in market, but when we lived out Milltown, we grew our own, most of our own groceries.
Johnson: Would he go down to Wilmington to get the things for the market, for the store?
Johnson: How often did he...
Gregg: On King Street. I remember when they used to go on - King Street used to - every week, you know, I think it was the end of the week, King Street was just full of wagons backed up.
Johnson: I remember that, yes, not very long ago it was like that.
Gregg: I remember even when I was first married, why everybody went to town on Saturday night, even if you didn't buy anything, everybody went to town. They just walked down one side and come up the other. I remember one time [laughs], I remember one time we were walking down King Street and Pete had a cousin and he was just ornery, he was always doing something to make you mad, and he was walking ahead of his brother and there was a woman ahead of him, and when he went by he touched her on the butt and she turned around and hit George, the brother. Pete and I were in back of it and my husband nearly died laughing, I thought he was gonna fall in the gutter from laughing, he was laughing so hard. Because poor George didn't know what happened, the woman just turned around and whacked him one. But Pete saw him do it and he knew what it was all about, I never forgot that [laughs]. This woman was insulted, she thought George did it, she just turned around and she let him have it.
- Birthdays and other holidays; goods sold in her husband's grocery store; her mother-in-law's typical clothing and hairstylesKeywords: Aging parents; Calico; Centerville Road; Fels-Naptha Soap; Fireworks; Granogue (Del. : Estate); Granogue (Delaware : Estate)--Fireworks; groceries; Grocery trade; Household soap; Ivory Soap; Mosquitoes; Octagon Soap; Older people--Housing; Perfumes; petticoats; Rockford Park (Wilmington, Del.); Street-railroads; Sweetheart Soap; talcum powder; Underwear; Women's clothingTranscript: Johnson: What did you do for birthdays, did your mother make cakes?
Gregg: Not too much like they do now. Pete's mother never bothered with birthdays. When I was first married, we had birthdays and I'd say something about it's somebody's birthday and my husband would say, "What's a birthday?" They didn't pay any attention to it. Well she raised thirteen, she had fifteen children. Two died as babies, but she raised thirteen and you know a baby every year and a half, there was quite a group of them and they couldn't - they'd be having birthdays every other day almost, but they never bothered much with birthdays.
Johnson: What about other holidays, did they celebrate Easter?
Gregg: Most always go out on a picnic in Rockford Park. We used to pack a lunch and go have picnics up there a lot.
Johnson: Would they have the picnic for any old time, or would it have to be a holiday?
Gregg: Yeah, but not very often, it was usually like in the summertime - what holidays, what are the holidays?
Johnson: Well, Fourth of July.
Gregg: Fourth of July and things like that, they'd go up there with a lot of firecrackers. They used to have a lot more fireworks then than they do now, I think.
Johnson: Now did they take some of the fireworks, did they get it from the DuPont Powder Yard?
Gregg: I don't know where they got them from.
Johnson: Because we did hear about some people would, you know, they'd be working there and they'd take a little powder home and make their own fireworks.
Gregg: I don't remember that. They used to buy them in town.
Johnson: Do you remember picnics on Kee's Hill? Usually St. Joseph's would have a big picnic on the Fourth of July and have entertainment and dancing.
Gregg: I remember we used to go, one of those du Ponts used to have fireworks and when my children were smaller we used to take a ride up there along the road, you know, and watch them up on the hill, they used to a big display.
Johnson: Was that Granogue maybe?
Gregg: Probably, I think that is the name.
Johnson: Yes, somebody told of going there, yes.
Gregg: I think that is the name, yeah I think that's the name. Only trouble with that, I didn't like to go up there because the mosquitoes were so bad. And I'm allergic to mosquitoes and the mosquito bite would come up like a walnut and it would last for two weeks, every time I'd get bitten. Even now, if I get bit with a mosquito, it'll last for two weeks and just set me crazy. You'd think it was a boil or something.
Johnson: I have a little granddaughter has the same problem. They've taken her to the doctor and he said the only thing to do is keep her away from the mosquitoes.
Gregg: That's right. Now my husband, they can bite him and one of my daughters, they might feel it for a few minutes and then there'd be just a little tiny spot there and the next day it would be gone. But it always lasted with me about two weeks, that thing would itch like it would have just happened and it would drive me crazy.
Johnson: Now did they have trouble with mosquitoes down in the city, in Wilmington, did you have much...
Gregg: I don't remember them there. I guess they were there, but I don't know.
Johnson: But they weren't the way they were when you went out in the country?
Gregg: Not as many as there were out where there's grass and shrubbery - more mosquitoes.
Johnson: Did they have screens on the windows?
Gregg: Yes, but they were most all little sliding screens, until later years they got the big screens.
Johnson: That's what we have up at the museum, we have the sliding screens in the windows.
Gregg: That was the first fan I had was a sliding screen, it was a fan, I don't know when that...
Johnson: I asked you where you hung your smocks when you were working in the powder yards.
Gregg: Just over there in that building where the cafeteria was, they had hooks over there, we'd just hang our clothes up...
Johnson: Oh, you hung them in the cafeteria?
Gregg: Well, it was in the same building, but it was not right in the cafeteria, but same building.
Johnson: So you'd take them over there then before you went home?
Johnson: Do you remember how you went home - did you walk home?
Gregg: No, I can't remember that. I just can't remember how I got there, but I must have gone on a bus or something because we didn't have cars at that time and I know the trolleys didn't go up there that I know of.
Johnson: We interviewed one woman who remembered a special bus that took the women workers there during the war.
Gregg: I don't know whether it was a plant - I imagine it was from the place, I don't know. 'Cause I know the trolley line ended right up there at 19th Street, it used to come up 17th and go around and down 9th Street, that was the end of the trolley line. We were on Brinkle, we could go over there and get it going around or we could go over here and get it coming back.
Johnson: Not all these questions are really relevant, they ask about the daily routine, what time you got up in the morning, but this was mostly for the powder workers who had to go up to the yards.
Gregg: Yeah, I don't remember.
Johnson: Oh, I know, I was going to ask you if they closed the store on holidays, say on the Fourth of July, the store would be closed then?
Gregg: Oh yes, yes they were all closed.
Johnson: What were their hours usually, would they be open so people could go after work?
Gregg: From nine 'til five or six. That was the store that my husband had.
Johnson: And did he sell everything - well this would be the old family store that the powder workers used.
Gregg: I don't know what they had up there.
Johnson: You don't remember what that...
Gregg: But the store that his father had there on Brinkle, they had - they didn't have clothing of any kind, just vegetables and meats - candy.
Johnson: How did they keep the meat cold?
Gregg: They had a big building, had a big door that you walked in - big walk-in refrigerator.
Johnson: Now did it have ice in it or was it an electric refrigerator?
Gregg: I don't remember that.
Johnson: It seems like it must have had ice in the early times.
Gregg: It must have been ice, because we had an icebox in the house.
Johnson: Did they sell butter and cheese and things like that from their refrigerator?
Gregg: Yes. And I know my husband had a store on Centerville Road and he had one of those big boxes too, but his was electric.
Johnson: Yes. Did they have canned goods in the Gregg Store?
Gregg: Yes, all kinds of canned good. And boxes of dried peas and things like that, cereals and most everything you'd find in a grocery store. Shoe polish, I remember he had shoe polish, and...
Johnson: Did he have soap?
Gregg: Soaps and soap powder, and toilet paper when they started doing that, had toilet paper, paper towels, but they weren't quite as plentiful seems to me as they are now, I mean there probably were enough for people that wanted them.
Johnson: But people didn't use them as readily as they do now.
Gregg: Fels-Naptha Soap, I remember he used to sell that. My mother-in-law used to buy that and take it and chip it up and put it in a jar and put some water and let it just get like liquid and she used to use that for dishes.
Johnson: How did she chip it, did she just chip it with a knife or did she have a little grinder?
Gregg: With a knife, she'd just put it down and chop it up. Fels-Naptha and the other one was Octagon, Octagon Soap, I remember those two soaps. Then she had Ivory Soap and then there was another bar of toilet soap, it was called Sweetheart Soap, I remember that Sweetheart. I just remember those.
Johnson: Did you use that for your face, for washing your face?
Johnson: Was it perfumed?
Gregg: Yeah, it was slightly perfumed.
Johnson: Do you remember your mother using perfume?
Gregg: Yes, in later years, I was pretty much older. Coty - she used to have Coty's.
Johnson: How about Mrs. Gregg, would you know if she used that or didn't you know her that well?
Gregg: I don't think she did, I don't think she used - she used to use a powder, a talcum powder every time she took a bath, I remember that, but as far as using perfume, I don't think she ever used it. But she had long skirts, two or three petticoats - dragging around, I thought, oh I don't how they ever lived with those things. They'd drag in the dirt half the time. And she used to make her own pants out of unbleached muslin and they were just two legs, there was nothing in the middle, they were just two legs fastened on a band. They called them splits, split drawers. I think most all of the women used them at that time. And I thought they were the funniest things. They never had to pull them down, just pull them out sideways when they'd sit down.
Johnson: Oh, you mean they weren't sewed all the way down here?
Gregg: They were two legs, and they were sewed in here, but they weren't sewed together, they were like pants would be, and they were put on a band. But they were open in the crotch, they weren't sewed in the crotch.
Johnson: That must have been awfully uncomfortable.
Gregg: They were funny. I imagine so, I don't know, but I remember she used to wear these petticoats and when she washed it seemed like by the time she got a couple pair of pants and a couple of those big petticoats, the tub was full. She was a big woman, my mother-in-law was a big woman.
Johnson: Was she tall, or just stout?
Gregg: Well, she wasn't real short, she was medium.
Johnson: Taller than you, 'cause you're quite small.
Gregg: Five foot four, something like that. She was taller than I was, I was only five foot two when I was married.
Johnson: What color were her skirts usually?
Gregg: Petticoats, most always white. A lot of them had lace insertions sewed in them, tucks, only on the dress petticoats when they dressed up.
Johnson: What did she wear every day, what was her everyday skirt like?
Gregg: Well it was usually calico dress, just buttoned down, just shirtwaist style, you know.
Johnson: The top and the bottom was the same material?
Gregg: Altogether, yes.
Johnson: Did she wear an apron over that?
Gregg: Most of the time.
Johnson: Did she ever help in the store?
Gregg: Oh, once in a while. She used to go out in the store in the morning. Pete would go out there early and get the store opened and get the things out on the counters and things, and then he'd go to market. About three times a week he went to market, but he was home by seven o'clock with fresh vegetables - celery, tomatoes and all that kind of stuff, he used to buy fresh and other things that at that time that he didn't keep overnight and she used to go out there for a while in the morning.
Johnson: Did he ever get fish as well?
Gregg: Yes, he used to get fish on Fridays, just on Fridays, oysters, just a few, you know would be canned because there wasn't too many people who bought.
Johnson: And he probably knew the customers - who would want them.
Gregg: Yeah, he usually knew just about what they'd want.
Johnson: How about milk, did he sell milk?
Gregg: He had milk in the store, but I just don't remember where he got it. I think there was a milkman with a wagon used to come around.
Johnson: Drop it off. How did your mother-in-law wear her hair - did she have long hair?
Gregg: Up on a bun, it was all up with just a big bun up there.
Johnson: And what color was it?
Gregg: Well it was gray as long as I can remember. When I was first married I had long, long hair and I used to make a great big figure eight in the back, I remember that. And one day I just decided I was gonna cut my hair. I had washed it it and I put it all like that and pulled it around here and whacked it off, I've still got it there in the drawer. Isn't that silly, I still kept it.
Johnson: Well that's nice that you have it.
Gregg: I don't know what to do with it. I'm getting ready, gradually cleaning the house out because when anything happens to my husband, my daughter insists I ought to come up there to live with her. I don't really want to go, I just - she's got a lovely home, but it's a big house and it's got a big stairway and a basement that's all finished off on rooms, and they go down there lots of times and even have a pool table down there, and they have a bar down there and their neighbors come in and they go down and I feel like I would be out of place, but all her neighbors are very nice to me, you know, say they'd be glad when I come up and visit there - they'd come to visit me when I get up to Vera's, but it's an awful feeling to have to give up your house and all the things that you've had so many years, you know. You don't realize you've got so much until you go to get rid of it.
Johnson: And little things that are precious to you which wouldn't mean anything to anyone else.
Gregg: That's right, and Vera said, "Mother, you can bring anything you want, we've got the one bedroom that you can have to yourself." But I've got so many things that I'd like to take and they would be more than things to go in the bedroom and I know I would have to get rid of things. Right now I'm trying to get rid of things I've had for years.
Johnson: I wonder if you could have a doll's wig made from the hair you saved? I've heard of someone who did that.
Gregg: I don't know, I've often thought of that.
- 1840 doll given to her by her grandmother; making dolls and selling them at her husband's nursing homeKeywords: Aunt Jemima; Black dolls; Doll clothes; Dollmakers; Dollmaking; Dolls; Dolls--Collectors and collecting; Hobbies; Nursing homes; Older people--HousingTranscript: Johnson: Last time you told me about a doll you had - you showed me a little doll that your grandmother had given you the head of a doll, and this head is only about an inch in diameter, but...
Gregg: Didn't you see it?
Johnson: I saw it, I want you to tell it for the tape recorder now. And you said you took it to be fixed and have a body put on, and what did the woman tell you about...
Gregg: She told me that that doll was made in 1840 and she has catalogs and all; she knows all about this. I was up there with a friend of mine that made dolls, I made one, she got me to make - I didn't want to do it because I know it's very expensive, but I went up there and she came over one day and she said, "I've bought a body and I want you to go up with me to this woman, and you can make the doll." It comes in - looks like plaster of Paris, just white and you have to sand it all down and then she puts some kind of a coating on it and you have to sand it again and then paint it and then sand it again and painted again and she puts it in her kiln, and it's quite a job. And I said as long as she bought the body, but I'll pay for the rest of it, I don't want you to do that. So I paid for the rest of it, the arms and the legs and the head and I had to buy a wig, and you have to buy the eyes. So I finished it and I made some clothes for it. But after I got it home - she strung it for me because I couldn't do that - it's on rubber, you know, oh not quite that thick. But after I got home, when you picked the doll up, the legs would shoot to one side like that, and I thought maybe she got the rubber twisted over the part that went in the arms you know. She said she'd fix it and I sent it up there, she sent it back and she said that she made it a little bit looser and she thought it would be all right, but it wasn't any different. So my friend lives down here, she said she would take it down home and maybe I can fix it, she said she would look at it. So she brought it back and she said she couldn't fix it. I said, "Well, just forget it." So Vera and I are going - there's a doll hospital up above her and I'm going up there someday and see if she can put it together for me.
But meanwhile, while I was working on there this woman came in and she had one of these little heads and they were talking about it and I said, "Oh, I have one of those." And she said, "You have?" And I said "Yes, it's just exactly like it, it's china." And she said, "Would you bring it up and let me see it?" And I said, "Sure." So she had a pattern and I cut out a pattern of the body and stuffed it and made it and then I bought arms and legs from her and it was worn, the hair was painted black and it was worn across the top and the eyelashes, the eyebrows were kinda worn off, so she had the little brushes and the paint and just told me to repaint it.
Johnson: This doll's hair looks just like the women wore it in the 1870s, it has a center part and then this curls over the ears.
Gregg: It just looked like a row of curls around the back. So I made the clothes for it, I made this little shawl and she said it was quite valuable, to hold onto it now. I don't know what I want to hold onto it for what good it is.
Johnson: Well she also said she could tell it was old, the way it had been fired...
Gregg: She said they didn't have kilns at that time, they were baked over an open fire somehow, and she could tell, the little shoulder part, it's across the chest and over the shoulders and there's four holes, two in the front and two in the back that you sew onto a stuffed body, and in that part you could see these like pepper, just little tiny dots. She said that was made the way they used to make them.
Johnson: So you know - and it was your grandmother that gave you that doll?
Gregg: No, it was her doll when she was small and I was ten years old and I was up there and she was cleaning out this drawer and she brought out this doll. The body was - it wasn't dressed, but the body was yellow and the body was just all ready to fall apart it was so old. And she pulled it off and was gonna throw it away and she said, "You want this little head?" And I said, "Yeah, I want it." I just took it. I brought it home and I put it in a little box on my bureau and somehow or other it just stayed there. We moved and I got married and took the thing with me and that little head was still in there. I don't know how it ever happened that way, but I remembered that I had it and I took it up and showed it to her and she said - she looked in the book and she said that was made in about 1840, so it's pretty old.
Johnson: Yes, valuable. Now the other doll you fixed up, was that the same doll you liked when you were a child? You said your mother had given you a doll.
Gregg: Yeah, it was practically - I'll show it to you. Of course it's not put together. This is the doll.
Johnson: This is the doll you had as a child?
Gregg: Yeah, this is the one I made, refinished it. I painted the eyebrows and the eyelashes and the lips and the nose, and then I had to buy that wig. Had to pay twelve dollars for that wig.
Johnson: It's very pretty.
Gregg: But you see how the legs go, they shouldn't go like that, they should stay. They should stay like that, but it's moving around and the first thing you look and they're all over like that. And then another thing, the head should be more like that, but it's elastic, you could see it's a big elastic - see?
Johnson: Looks like it's just a little too tight.
Gregg: Yes, so I'm gonna take it up there and have somebody put it together that knows how.
Johnson: It's a pretty little doll.
Gregg: I put my name on it, my name and the date, but I didn't make it deep enough, I just put Gregg and the date, across there, you can barely see it. If I made another one, I would make it deeper. But painting it and sanding and all, it just - but you can see Gregg, 1987. I got a net over that hair trying to keep it because it's long and curly.
Johnson: It's really - it's so pretty.
Gregg: My daughter was out - her husband was transferred out at - is it Ohio, anyhow out there, he was transferred from, they were out there for two and a half years and when she was out there she picked up this pattern and made a doll and she brought it home. And I said, "Oh she's cute." She didn't know what to do with it and I said, "Oh don't throw it away, give it to me and I'll dress it for you." So I dressed it for her and then she made another one and she brought them over here half finished, I put the legs on, I stuff them and put the legs on and this hair, I put on a strand at a time...
Johnson: Oh, that's a lot of work.
Gregg: So then I made the clothes and they've all got snaps and buttons and they can undress it. So I made a couple of them and when I was down at the nursing home where my husbands is, there's a girl down that collects dolls and she said, "I hear you make them." And I said, "Yeah." She said, "Bring a couple down and show them to me." So I did and there were so many people down there said, "Oh, will you make one for me for Christmas?" I've made twelve of them. I got forty dollars a piece for them.
So this is the last one that I have - the girl that wanted it, she said she's buying a ring for her husband for Christmas and she can't afford it now, but she says, "Don't sell it, just keep it, I'll save it." I said, "Well you can take it if you want it." She said, "No, I won't take it 'til I get the money for it." I made these sweaters and they were all so...
Johnson: You put a lot of work into it.
Gregg: My daughter said one day, "You ought to make a little colored girl." And this girl we were talking about, she said, "Do you ever make Aunt Jemima, do you ever see an Aunt Jemima doll? I'm looking for an Aunt Jemima doll." And I said, "No, but I guess I could dress one." So my daughter, she made that one complete and I made a little full skirt and a great big white apron - that's not her - and I put a red bandanna around her hair and I put some, took some beads and made long earrings and she's the cutest thing. This woman bought it, but Vera said, "I got enough material, let's make another one." So she put it partly together, and I brought it home and finished it.
Johnson: And those sweaters you make are so pretty.
Gregg: We haven't put the nose on this one, but I dressed this one in pink - now I got it, I don't know what to do with it. I thought maybe someday I'd take it down there, they have a lot of help down there and one of them might want it. I told Vera, I said, "If I had known this earlier in the year, I would have made twenty-five or thirty of them and I could have made myself some money 'cause they were just begging me to make them."
Johnson: They are so cute.
Gregg: I didn't have enough time to make all those dolls before Christmas. Because it's a slow job.
Johnson: It's a lot of work, you hand knitted this...
Gregg: You have to put these on. Most of them I put a button and put - I used embroidery cotton because I thought it was tough and I put one piece through there and tie it and then put another one through this way, so there's four strands through there so it should last a long time. Everybody that sees them think they're so cute.
Johnson: And the hair is so perfect.
Gregg: I'd like to make a Little Red Riding Hood someday. And there's blond, I've got a blond in there that's just got the yellow hair, she don't have any clothes on at all.
Johnson: The features are so - that's a lot of work.
Gregg: Yes it is.
Johnson: And the little ears.
Gregg: But I...
Johnson: And they're pretty, so many dolls now aren't pretty.
Gregg: No. Dolls I remember were like this, this china. They'd break, they'd break if you dropped them. I've got clothes for this one all made. I took them off and put them in the drawer until I get her fixed. She's just not right, see how...
Johnson: Her legs aren't quite right.
Gregg: They usually go like that if you hold it.
Johnson: She told me about discovering a doll that your mother was dressing you for Christmas one time. The doll was your favorite toy.
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