Interview with Mary Braden Jackson, 1989 January 19 [audio]
- Detailed description of helping her mother on laundry day in Squirrel Run including supplies and processKeywords: bedroom furniture; bluing clothes; boiling clothes; coal bin; cotton blankets; Gold Dust Twins; Household soap; Laundry--Equipment and supplies; sheds; Squirrel Run (Del. : Village); tin boiler; wash day; washboard; water pump; water spigotTranscript: Julian: On the hill in the Gibbons House, which I think they showed you on that tour, we are trying to expand our interpretation. [There is an interruption as a Sister enters and introductions made.]
We're eager to use her knowledge to make us able to do a better program out at Hagley. We try to make everything we do authentic, and the only way we can make it authentic is to use our fountains of knowledge that we have here.
Sister Joseph: Sure, that's good, there's not too many left, I don't think either.
Julian: That's right, so we're - especially ones who are really able to recall. You're Sister Joseph, I didn't get your name, yes I talked to her on the phone.
Jackson: ...and she's head of it, and she works with me so she ought to know me pretty good.
Julian: That's fantastic. We've been just sitting here complimenting your wonderful place.
Sister Joseph: Oh, thank you.
Julian: It is a delightful place.
Jackson: It's a home away from home.
Julian: That's great, and that is — it takes real art to be able to pull that off and you seem to have done a nice job of it.
Sister Joseph: Thank you. Well, I'll lock the door from the outside. You can get out, but they can't get in so they won't bother you.
Julian: Thank you very much.
Jackson: You ask the questions and I'll — if I don't understand them, I'll ask you again. I'm glad, and there's no hurry, no rush whatever, as long as you...
Julian: And you're feeling all right today?
Jackson: Yeah I did, but I've been very sick. I was very sick over the weekend. I had that virus.
Julian: That's no fun. Okay, do you want to go on?
Hanrahan: Okay, we want to research more on the domestic life, because we have a lot on the workers and stuff, but we want more of the domestic life.
Jackson: And how we lived.
Jackson: Make your words plain. I never went to college.
Hanrahan: All right. So what we're concentrating mostly on is laundry. I know that's an exciting topic, but do you remember...
Julian: You've done a lot of it though, haven't you?
Hanrahan: Do you remember exactly how it was done?
Jackson: Yes. Well we lived out in the country in the DuPont homes and there was no water in the homes, no gas, no electric, no light of any kind. Of course we had a pump down the road, of course it wasn't paved, it was roads, rough roads. I knew every stone in the roads. And there was a pump at the lower end of the road, red pump that you pump water, then halfway down there, there was a spigot. That was something new that you had a spigot that you turned on to get water. But up at the end of the road, up that way, was a spring. And oh we loved that spring. And that water was colder than any ice water, we loved that spring.
And we had to carry the water. Well, we had eight children, Mother, Father and eight children. Of course my Mother died, my Father married again. He had six and my stepmother had three, but the oldest one wasn't home much, so we always considered it eight children, so that was ten. Well, we had tubs, but they weren't these galvanized tubs, thin. They were tubs that, do you want to take this down?
Julian: Yes, we're taking it all down.
Jackson: These tubs were half barrels that came from the black powder yard. Now what come out of those barrels, I don't know, or whether — something come in them anyway, but they were large, large wooden tubs, and then the men, my Father carved the handles on them, and they were heavy as lead. But us kids could handle them, and we had a shed across the street, big shed. In fact we had a couple of sheds I think, and a coal bin back there. In the shed, Mother used to wash and us kiddies carried all the water, from the spigot or from the pump, in buckets. Sometimes two of us carried one bucket, but we had to carry enough to fill the two tubs.
Well, she had a cook stove, an old cook stove in there that was heated, and of course the day she washed, she always put the boiler, a boiler, we had a great big tin boiler. Sometimes they had copper bottoms to them, sometimes they didn't — the cheaper ones didn't, but the better ones had copper bottoms to them. And she put the boiler on, we'd get the boiler going good. Now this I never understood — she boiled the clothes, I didn't know whether it was to kill germs or whether it was to whiten the clothes, that question I never got settled. So it might have been for both.
Well we filled the tubs and Mother used a washboard. Now not a washboard with glass on it like we have late, it was heavy galvanized ridges and they were real thick and they were far apart. And Mother rubbed all the clothes — all the clothes was rubbed on this board. Then she put it in to rinse, she rinsed them a little bit and then she would put the only detergent we had was the Gold Dust Twins, and it was like lye.
Julian: Oh my goodness.
Jackson: Gold Dust Twins, that was the only one I ever knew of. And of course Orline soap, I don't think Octagon soap was out then, but it might had, but there was Orline soap and naphtha. But naphtha soap was dangerous because they said naphtha brought a lot of rheumatism on people - that I'm not sure of.
But anyway, then she took the clothes out, put them in the basket, took them over to the stove, put them all into the boiler, boiled them in the boiler and we had a great big wooden stick, half of a broom stick, and she'd punch them down every once in a while. Every once in a while us children, at eight or nine, or around that, would go over and keep punching the clothes down for her, so they would get a good boiling and be turned upside down, turned around.
And then she went on - you know, each part, each bundle of clothes took their part, and then when she thought they were boiled enough, of course it was a shed, wooden floor in it, she'd maybe carry the boiler over — my Father sometimes helped her carry the boiler in, and she'd take all these clothes out of the tin boiler and put them in a big tub of cold water, or lukewarm water, and she'd rinse them a couple of times. There was no wringer to it, she'd have to wring them herself and sometimes she wrang half of the sheet, then the child would hold that half while Mother wrang the other half of the sheet. Because they were full-size beds, and the full— sized beds were really full-sized.
Then when that basket got full, she'd leave the washing, and then we had a lawn, we called it a lawn, but it was like a field, up at the other side of the road like. Well it would be about a square and a half to walk with the clothes, maybe two. So Mother would carry them up there and some of the children would help hang up the small things like pillowcases, napkins or something like that, but Mother always took care of the sheets. And the sheets were spread out full length, the hem down hung full length. The rope was high, it was tied to the trees and to the post, whatever was there to hang it to, and they were left up there. Then Mother would come down and do some more washing and that went on until the washing was done.
She started to wash at seven o'clock in the morning and she washed until four or half past in the after— noon. And anything you didn't get washed that day had to wait until the next week to be washed. And she let them hang out and the sun shone on them. The woods was right back of us, Kee's Hill they called it where Hallock du Pont built his estate, we lived right down below that. Of course he bought all that property later.
And then she used to take the sheets off and put them on the beds just from the clothes line.
Julian: And they smelled good?
Jackson: And you'd lie in bed at night and we felt that we were out in a field of clover. It was so sweet. The air was so sweet and we would go off to sleep, and that was wash day.
Julian: Well now did she wash both sheets, or would she wash the top sheet — or put the top sheet on the bottom and just wash the bottom sheet. Do you remember?
Jackson: Well truthfully at times we didn't have two sheets. We had the bottom sheet, then she had a thin cotton blanket, a gray, thin cotton blanket that went over you because it was cold. We had no heat in them houses, but she had plenty of quilts and we didn't have many blankets, but Mother was always making quilts and those quilts weighed a ton, but we were glad those quilts were on us because we were as snug as a bug in a rug.
Julian: How many would sleep in a bed, do you remember?
Jackson: Well there was times that three slept in a bed, then later when we went to Squirrel Run, we had more bedrooms and there was two beds in the front attic, they called them the third floor, and two slept in one bed and two — there was four in the room. Then in the back room there was one bed and there was three little ones slept in the back room. And Mother and Father slept downstairs. It was two rooms down, two rooms up and then two third floor.
Julian: Two rooms on the third floor.
Jackson: But when we lived down in the Long Row, that was across from the creek, we only had, well my Father wasn't married then, but we only had the two bedrooms and four slept in a bed.
Jackson: Well, we were little.
Julian: Yeah, right. Would you sleep sideways, this way?
Julian: You slept long ways.
Jackson: The beds were longer than this table, were big beds! Oak, old oak beds, real strong and wide, real wide. And we were little, five, six.
Julian: Sure you were little, right.
Jackson: My older sisters slept on the ends like, and they took care of the little ones.
Hanrahan: Also in laundering, did she ever blue clothes?
Jackson: Yes, she blued clothes.
Hanrahan: She had a type of bluing?
Jackson: Yes, she blued clothes. There was bluing at that time, yes, she blued the clothes. But there was no Clorox, nothing like that, nothing but the Gold Dust Twins, and that was a yellow, fine powder. Boy it did eat the hands up, it was like lye, but it cleaned the clothes. And Mother washed Dad's overalls and over jackets. Mother washed quilts and Dad used to help her wring them out and help take them to the line to hang them up, but they were dried and they were clean. And the blankets were washed, they were clean.
Julian: They were clean. Now you didn't wash those every week, those were just occasion, once a year or something?
Jackson: Oh yeah, something like that - like spring.
Julian: Sure, spring cleaning.
Jackson: When the cleaning was good, yeah.
Hanrahan: How about — what day, was there a special day that she did wash?
Jackson: She always liked to wash the first of the week, either Monday or Tuesday, but if there was anything special come up or the children were sick or anything, she might have to put it off until the middle of the week, but it was mostly the beginning of the week.
- Starching and ironing; baking bread twice a week; the children cleaning the house and polishing on Saturdays; medicines and home treatmentsKeywords: Baking; Caster Oil; Epsom salts, peppermint; Hops; horses; ironing boards; Irons (Pressing); mustard plaster; Outhouses; polishing; pudding pan; roller towels; sad irons; soot for polishing; sugar and kerosene; Traditional medicineTranscript: Hanrahan: How about starching and ironing?
Jackson: Yes, she made her own starch. It was that big lump starch.
Hanrahan: Out of what, cornstarch?
Jackson: Argo, and she put the kettle on the stove and get it hot and then she had a big dishpan, she put the starch in, poured the boiling water over it and kept stirring it, and stirring it and stirring it until it emulsified and then the starch was - when it got cool, Mother starched the clothes. And she even starched the — in them days you starched everything. She starched the ends of the pillowcases where the hems are and they all had to be sprinklered and they were ironed. Starched most everything they could starch. And we wore petticoats with two flounces on them, embroidery flounces on them, and she would - not the top part so much, but those flounces, she would see that they were well starched and then they — oh they stood out.
Hanrahan: And in ironing, did you have a free-standing ironing board, or did you have something you put on the table to iron?
Jackson: Mother had a wide ironing board with one narrow end to it and Father made two horses. But if she didn't have the - if the horses weren't there or she didn't have them or whatever, sometimes she'd put the board on the end of the table and put it on the end of the sewing machine and ironed that way.
Hanrahan: So she ironed in the kitchen?
Jackson: Yes, she ironed in our kitchen, our kitchen was in the front.
Julian: Did she hang any of the clothes in the kitchen ever?
Jackson: No, we hung them in the shed.
Julian: In the shed - if it rained or something then you would hang...
Jackson: If it rained or if it was freezing, Father would put rope up all around in and out the shed, and everything hung in the shed across the road.
Julian: And did you hang your underwear out on the line or did you hang it in the shed?
Jackson: Do you mean when it was cold?
Julian: No, on a sunshiny day, just went ahead and hung it up?
Jackson: All the underwear went out on the line and the trolley car went past them. I know them conductors got a good view of them. They wore then the split underwear.
Julian: Oh, right. [laughs]
Jackson: One leg here, one leg there, you know, and that was well spread out so the air would get to it and the sunshine. Everything was exposed, nothing hid.
Julian: Nothing hidden, oh good, great.
Hanrahan: So, you in your way of helping, the children helped by bringing the water up and hanging the clothes. You never did any of the scrubbing or anything like that in the washing?
Jackson: Yes, we scrubbed.
Hanrahan: You did scrubbing, too?
Jackson: Oh yes, sometime we would rinse the clothes, the small things, like the smaller things — underwear or napkins or towels. Yes, we'd wring that out for Mother, help her that way, helped all we could. But after Mother was done washing, then we had to put the wash water all in buckets and carry the water down and throw it down over the bank where we had a run back there, there was a run of water and we used to throw it down over the bank - where it went to we don't know, we didn't care.
Julian: [Laughs] It was gone.
Jackson: It was gone, but we carried it to the tubs and away from the tubs.
Julian: Okay. Did you have any special kinds of irons, that you used for special jobs, or did you just have one iron that you used for everything?
Jackson: Oh no, no, we had about six irons.
Julian: Well I know that, but they were all shaped the same way?
Jackson: Yes, sad irons.
Julian: Right, sad irons.
Jackson: Iron sad irons.
Julian: But there weren't any long skinny ones or something that you used for special things?
Jackson: Yes, there was an iron come, I think you could use it for sleeves, but I don't think Mother ever had one, I don't believe, no.
Julian: That's what we wanted to know.
Jackson: But the ironing got done. I think there was one iron they used to say was a sleeve iron, but I never saw it, I mean it was never in our home that I know of.
Julian: No one else — we've asked some other people, and no one else has either. It's one of those things you read in the book.
Jackson: But those irons were heated on the cook stove and no matter how hot the day was, that stove had to be red hot so it must have been uncomfortable ironing with the heat and no fans, no nothing, nothing like that.
Julian: And all those starched petticoats.
Jackson: We lived through it. We used to iron, sometimes Mother ironed until supper time and then after supper some of the older girls then would iron until eight and nine o'clock. With eight children, and everybody had two petticoats and change of underwear and ironing the pillowcases and the towels — almost everything was ironed. Of course now there wasn't so many Turkish towels, what we used then was what they called roller towels and that was like - it wasn't linen, but it was something like linen, and it went all around. You just kept using that until the last bit of it was soiled and then that was changed and another one put up, but every bit of that towel had to be pulled down and used - roller towel.
Now of course upstairs, I don't know whether you were going to ask these questions or not, upstairs we had the pitcher and basin and the slop bowl. Now the pitcher and basin, Mother always kept the pitcher full of water and we had the basin, and in the morning we could wash upstairs in the basin, and then later on Mother would go up, empty the soiled water into the slop jar and then she'd empty all the slop jars and carry it down to the outhouse. We had an outhouse. Boy how did they live through it? But they did.
Julian: It's a lot of work. This is the reason we feel we have a real challenge. We have to figure out a way to do some of this work and make it so the volunteers will want to do it.
Jackson: No electric of any kind, just swept with a broom.
Hanrahan: On a weekly basis, did you have, say you said you did your wash on Monday or Tuesday.
Jackson: Monday or Tuesday, the early part.
Hanrahan: And then maybe Wednesday you would do ironing. Did you have a baking day or a day for cleaning the house?
Jackson: Yes, yes Mother baked on Wednesday or Thursday, mostly Wednesday. She baked twice a week, on Wednesday and Saturday, or sometimes Friday — if she baked earlier, she baked on Tuesday — two times a week she baked and that would be about thirty-five loaves.
Julian: Oh my goodness.
Jackson: Fifteen loaves - twelve or thirteen loaves each.
Julian: That's a lot of people ate. Did she make any cakes or pies, too?
Jackson: Like for the weekend, sometimes, not often, Mother made a cake and she made it just in a pudding pan, no icing to it, nothing like that, but it was good, just a plain cake. But that was rare, that wasn't too often.
Hanrahan: That was for like Sunday dinner or something?
Jackson: It would be like Sunday or if we were expecting company. But they didn't bother with birthday cakes, nothing like that.
Julian: It's a lot of work, if you have to fix that much bread, you don't have much energy left over to bake cake do you?
Jackson: With eight children you weren't looking for parties.
Julian: Did you have a special day that you did cleaning?
Jackson: Saturday, and she mostly - mostly the children did the cleaning. Well, we were a good size. So many would take upstairs to do, and the rest took downstairs to do. And then on Saturday — of course we didn't have any silver, but it was that - oh ten-cent store stuff with the wooden handles. And then we had to polish all that silver pretty near every Saturday or every other Saturday. We used either - it wasn't any Dutch Cleaner, it was either soot out of the stove or fine ash dust, and we would dip them - she'd grind the forks and spoons and washed them good in soap and water and rinsed them off and dried them, put them away. Not every Saturday, but most time. To keep them clean, the silver was kept clean.
Julian: Okay, that's a new one, so that's great. One of the things I'm really curious about is medicines — did you all any kind of tonics or cod liver oil?
Jackson: Mother was the doctor, she didn't have much faith in doctors, they only charged fifty cents, but Mother was the doctor. Mother had a closet in the kitchen and she kept in the closet she kept Caster Oil, she kept Epsom salts, she kept peppermint in there, she kept mustard in there, she kept what is this you make yeast with — flocks that grows - yeast. You know what it was? It starts with an F, it grows on a grapevine. Hops, she kept hops, a big sugar bag of hops and that was - everything could be used for medicine and anything that took place - and then for colds or croup or anything, Mother gave us a teaspoon or a half teaspoon full of sugar and poured kerosene on it and you took that for croup, and it did the trick. And Mother took care of the sick and she knew what to do, and she put a mustard plaster to you and if you had cramps or pains she'd put hot hops to you and things like that. They didn't bother much with ice them days, I don't think they knew that you could use it - we didn't have any ice anyway.
Julian: What is mustard, what is a mustard plaster?
Jackson: A mustard plaster - you make them up — the mustard up, real hot water and heat, and then you take a piece of linen or white cloth and just spread that all over good, then you take another piece of cloth, put over that and then take it up and put it on the chest, or put it on the back or wherever the pains are - mustard plaster.
Julian: Okay, was this mustard - is this the yellow stuff, the dry mustard?
Jackson: Dry mustard, of course now they have them by can, but it was the dry mustard. And then if you were short of mustard and didn't have mustard, she used to slice some onions up and sort of heat them in a pan and she would put that over, and the onion plaster would do the trick.
Julian: Oh, isn't that interesting. I've heard about mustard plasters, but I never knew exactly what they were.
Jackson: You put hot water to it and mulsify, stir it real good and then spread it on, put another on top of that and then when they put that on they put a heavy towel or something heavy on top of that so none of the air would get out.
Julian: Okay, now I'm smarter, thank you.
- Her mother making the chilren's clothes and quilts; purchasing shoes on King Street; buy paperback novels from traveling salesmen and various meats from the butcher; weather prediction; vegetable garden and making sauerkrautKeywords: batting; beef kidneys; Bob Blakeley's store; butchers; Children's shoes; Christ Church Christiana Hundred (Wilmington, Del.); corned beef; darning; Dionne quintuplets; ham; Jack Carney; King Street (Wilmington, Del.); Mary Jane shoes; paperback novels; petticoats; Quilting; quilting parties; sauerkraut; sauerkraut kegs; scrapple; Sewing machines; taffeta; vegetable gardens; Wagoner's Row; Weather forecasting; Working class women--Social life and customsTranscript: Hanrahan: How about sewing, did you Mom make all your clothes when you were little?
Jackson: Mother made all our clothes. She wasn't a dress maker, but she made all our clothes. Of course the clothes were simple to make. We did have a sewing machine, my own Mother had a sewing machine, but my step-mother didn't know too much about the sewing machine, she mostly made everything by hand. She made my Father's shirts by hand, she made our panties, and our panties them days were made out of - if she'd bought a big sack of flour, she washed that sack and bleached it and she'd make two or three pair of panties for the children, put the buttonholes on and the buttons. We had a panty body with buttons on it, and she made that. She made our little slips, or petticoats and she made our dresses. And the dresses were all made alike, but they didn't buy just enough for one dress, there were six or eight of us, well the elder ones maybe didn't, but the young ones, she'd buy a bolt and if you bought a bolt of material, say like lawn with a little flower in it or something, you would get that and it would cost only about four cents a yard. And then Mother - you talk about the quintuplets, well there were four or five of us went out like the quintuplets. We'd all have the same kind of a dress on and we wore Mary Jane shoes and stockings and the same kind of a hat - so the quintuplets had nothing on us. We went to Christ Church every Sunday, Sunday School, but Mother made the clothes.
Hanrahan: Did she make her own dresses, too, or did she have a dressmaker for herself?
Jackson: She didn't have too many, but no, Mother would buy her skirts, mostly a black skirt. She was only about forty - black skirts and then sometimes she'd buy taffeta. In them days, it was taffeta. She'd buy enough taffeta, black taffeta or dark blue and there was a dressmaker up in Wagoner's Row and she made the dresses. And they're coming out now, the big sleeves up here and then tight down here. But she didn't get that often - that was special.
Julian: What about quilts - you say she made her own quilts?
Jackson: Mother made quilts all the time.
Julian: What did she do about batting, did she make her own batting or did she buy it from the mill?
Jackson: No, she used to take old blankets that were practically worn out and put them in between, but Mother was making quilts constantly. That was her, well for rest and relaxing, she was always making them. She always kept the boards that you make it on up in the third floor. There's plenty of room up on them floors - she'd keep that up all the time. Well then at times people in the neighborhood, women in the neighborhood would come in and they'd all do quilting. And then Mother would make a cup of tea and some hot biscuits or she'd make toast, anything, I don't know what it was, but that's what it amounted to, and then they would go to another house on another night and quilt there. So it didn't take long, and then Mother, in her spare time, that was her relaxation was to work on a quilt. But she made some beautiful ones, but they put the blankets in between them, they were good and heavy.
Julian: So they used old blankets in there.
Jackson: And she didn't only make it — the quilts with fancy clothes — if there were old coats or old pants or anything that was beyond recognition, she could cut parts out of it and a lot of the quilts were made with good, heavy wool material - out of old skirts or old things like that.
Julian: What about darning - did she do the darning or did you all, the girls do that?
Jackson: No, Mother used to darn Dad's stockings, but she couldn't keep up with the kiddies because when their stockings went, the whole heel and the whole foot went out, so she would've had to put a whole new foot in and it was cheaper then - I think you could get two pair of cotton stockings for children, I think you could get two pair for ten cents.
Julian: Okay, so she would just...
Jackson: When Bob Blakeley, he was in the store, and he sold everything from a needle up to a stack of hay.
Jackson: Blakeley. He was in Squirrel Run, very end of it, had it for years. If the children needed shoes and Mother couldn't get to town, she would tell Bob Blakeley to get the shoes and he'd get the shoes in town and bring them out. No charge, you'd just pay what the shoes cost - forty-nine cents or ninety— eight cents.
Julian: For a pair of shoes.
Jackson: There was no corrective shoes.
Julian: Do you know what children's shoes cost now - they were talking...
Jackson: Twenty dollars, I guess, or more.
Julian: Or thirty, I couldn't believe it when they were telling me that.
Hanrahan: Little baby shoes this big.
Jackson: Well you know on King Street, I just slightly remember, I guess there were a lot of Jews down there, but they would have a string hanging out on King Street down from the store or something and the shoes was all on there and you could go down and look them all over and pick out what kind, what pair of shoes you wanted for children — forty— nine cents, I don't think any were over ninety— eight cents. Many a shoe I wore forty-nine cents, button shoes.
But I was like a boy and a lot of times they bought me boy shoes so they'd last me. You know they come up and then there was the laces you put across at the top, and I wore them many a time. Until I got bigger, and then on Sunday we'd have a decent pair of shoes.
Hanrahan: Did you get any publications, any magazines, like did your Mother get - "Ladies Home Journal" or "Good Housekeeping" or any magazines like that?
Julian: Or an almanac.
Jackson: No such a thing. There was a man used to - or different men used to come around selling paperback novels, real thin, oh about this big. And the neighbors all had a trick, I think it was three for twenty cents or three for fifteen cents, something like that. And the story went on and on and on, never ended I don't think. One neighbor would buy three, the first three books, then she would give them to another neighbor, and then that neighbor would maybe buy the next three books and that way it didn't cost them too much because they were giving the books among each other. They weren't very thick, little thin books and it was a story that — there was no ending to it, just went on and on and on. I think it was fifteen cents for three books or something, in around that price. But one neighbor bought these three, then the next week another neighbor bought them and she handed them back to this one and then further down they would buy the fourth, so they worked it very nicely. They didn't have much education, but they were very cunning.
Julian: What about almanacs, did you ever use any almanacs in your house - do you remember having any in your house?
Jackson: No. In them days they told things with the stars and the moon. And if they wanted to know whether it was going to rain or clear or what, they used to wet their fingers and go up on the hill and hold their fingers up north or south or west, I don't know which, and whatever those fingers come out, they'd come down and say "No, there's no rain in the air yet, I don't think we'll have it for maybe a week yet. Or snow or hail, it's getting very cold and I think the next rain we get it'll finish up in hail." By holding their hands up.
Julian: That is interesting. They were pretty smart, they knew nature didn't they?
Jackson: Yes, they did. And they could tell what moon would be coming next, whether it would be a full moon or quarter moon — they knew all about the moons, they didn't have education, but they had theory.
Julian: That's neat. What are those questions we have forgotten? Have you thought of anything else that — did we bring up anything in your mind that you thought of that was kind of interesting that might be — can you give us any ideas of something we could go out there that people would like to see? What about sauerkraut, did you all ever make sauerkraut?
Jackson: Yes. Our Father had a piece of ground, most all of the men had a piece of ground out there — they were DuPont fields, but there were these fields like. Well, they would be divided up and all the men, any of them that wanted a piece of ground could have a piece of ground. My Father planted tomatoes, he planted potatoes, string beans, cabbage, cucumbers, I think a few string beans, and my Mother put up fifty and sixty quarts of tomatoes every summer and she put up about thirty or forty quarts of string beans, then my Father cut up plenty of cabbage, we had our own cabbage, and he filled — we called it a keg, it was like a beer keg, about this high, and filled that with cabbage. Then Mother and he used to go in town and buy pieces of meat - beef, and they'd put it in brine and we had corned beef and sauerkraut or we'd have ham and cabbage, like that. The butcher come around, his name was Jack Carney. Well you could get a half a ham, pretty near a whole ham for about forty or fifty cents and beef steak, round steak was two pound for a quarter, pork chops were two pound for a quarter. And beef kidneys, which makes beef kidney stew, it's very popular in hotels today, they were ten cents a piece or if you bought three, you got three for a quarter, beef kidneys. And scrapple, then it was about four cents a pound, not more than five at the most. The only thing that would cost much, if Mother got a roast of beef, it would be the most expensive, maybe sixty— five cents for the roast of beef. But the sausage and scrapple was three and four cents. Milk was four cents a quart.
- Tub butter and making lard; family dinner and breakfast; picking apples in Jim Ball's orchard; sauerkraut keg stored in a closet off the porchKeywords: Alexis I. du Pont School; apple dumplings; baking powder biscuits; cherry dumplings; cherry wine; cucumber fritters; Dwellings--Heating and ventilation; family dinners; fried potatoes; Jim Ball; lard; mincemeat; molasses; orchards; plum pudding; sauerkraut; scrapple; springhouse; suet; tub butter; Wagoner's RowTranscript: Julian: And you'd buy your butter from the traveling person, too, or did she go to the store and buy your butter? The butcher you said came and traveled around.
Jackson: Yeah, the butchers.
Julian: Butchers, but what about the butter?
Jackson: Mother mostly went to town and on King Street there was a place that you bought the tub — they called it the tub butter. I think it was two pound for a quarter or three pound for a quarter. But that tub butter was better then than the yellow butter is today. It was good, it was creamy and that was cheap butter, and that was about two pound for a quarter, maybe more than that sometimes. But tub butter, that's all most of them bought, but that was good. We fried in tub butter and used it just as freely as anything else.
And lard, we didn't buy it, real lard, very seldom. The butchers, they used to buy suet off the butcher and Mother used to render that and put that up, that was our lard, she made lard.
Julian: Okay — made it all from the suet. That is interesting.
Jackson: And Mother made her own mincemeat for plum puddings, we didn't bother much with fruitcake, but they were all great for plum pudding and Mother ground her own meat and made her own mincemeat and everything for plum pudding or mince pie, that was homemade.
Julian: Sounds good.
Jackson: And she used brandy in it.
Julian: And then she let it stay up for about a month until it got ripe?
Jackson: Yes, or longer, and then she made a sauce for the plum pudding, a light custard with cherry wine in it or some like that that flavored it. And sometimes instead of putting it in the custard, she cut the plum pudding off to serve, she would put like a little spoonful of the cherry wine on the cake, then she would put the custard on, because she says if she put it into the custard and there was any to put away, it would separate the custard, so they weren't too dumb.
Julian: That's right, they weren't dumb. Where did you store it — did you have a cellar or basement or something that you could store food in?
Jackson: When we lived in Squirrel - or down along the creek, there was called a springhouse. And you know where the parking ground is now for Hagley Museum?
Julian: Yeah, right.
Jackson: Well that was - there was a big shed, oh a large flat building like a big chicken coop, and there was a pool of water in it and then there were shelves in this place. Then all the different neighbors had a shelf or whatever and they could take - if you had butter or lard or soup left over or stew, you could take it down and put it in the cool house and that kept for a week or as long as you wanted to keep. There wasn't really too much left at any time to take into the springhouse.
Julian: Because you ate it.
Jackson: And milk and things like that. Yeah Mother used to say, "I don't have enough crumbs to even give the birds." Because as soon as the meal was ready, we'd hop to the table like locusts and we didn't say "Have you this, that or the other thing." It was there, if you were hungry you'd eat, if you didn't you could leave the table. They didn't spoil the kids like they do today.
Hanrahan: Did your Mom eat with you, too, or did she serve you and then she ate later?
Jackson: Father sat up at the head of the table and Mother sat on this side. Mother had three children next to her and then the older girls were on the other side and I sat up on the end toward my Father. My Father tried to serve this side, Mother would serve this side. And they didn't eat and take anything until the children's plates were all taken care of, then Mother and Father eat. And Mother used to say to Father, "Henry, you go ahead and start and eat, you're hungry." "No, we'll see that the children get started first." And so there was love, and it was attention for children. And I think the children appreciated that more than they do today.
Julian: You knew you were important to them.
Jackson: You do, we knew that they were taking care of us, we knew that they loved us. But the children today, I've seen it, even through relatives, I've seen children come in and a roast chicken dinner ready to put on the table, they say, "Mom, we don't want that, we want pizzas." Mom would give them money for pizzas - they wouldn't have gotten pizzas from me, or our Mother either.
Julian: Now this was your step-mother actually?
Jackson: Well, my Mother died when I was two years old, I was born in 1895 and Mother died in '97 with her tenth child.
Julian: Oh, died in childbirth.
Jackson: And then a year later my Father married a woman from Ireland and she had three children, but she was a very good step— mother and took good care of us, she was a good cook and she never had a cookbook, she never had a measuring spoon, but she could make biscuits that were like baseballs and they melted in your mouth - paper biscuits. And many times she got up at four o'clock in the morning and made hot biscuits for our breakfast or baking powder biscuits for our breakfast. And she had a long skillet on the stove, long like this that fit over the stove, and she made hot cakes and she stood there making hot cakes and it took a lot of hot cakes.
Julian: Eight - that's right, for eight kids.
Jackson: And black molasses on the table in the can that we could help ourselves with. And Molasses, I think was six cents a can or seven cents a can. We had breakfasts years ago what they do for dinner today at night. Mother always had a big pan of fried potatoes, a skillet, big iron skillet for fried potatoes. And if she had bacon, she had bacon and eggs and we had mush to start with, either that or yellow mush. And we'd have yellow mush for breakfast one morning, and when the yellow mush jelled, then Mother would put it in a pan and she'd slide that down, then we had fried mush a couple of mornings for breakfast.
Julian: That's good.
Jackson: And she had sausage and we had scrapple, but we had a whole meal to go out with.
Hanrahan: Did you have potatoes every day?
Jackson: Yes, potatoes was the main thing. We had potatoes fried for breakfast, and if there was anything left to heat over for lunch - we come home for lunch, we come home from Alexis I. du Pont School, we'd come home for lunch and Mother would have mashed potatoes and maybe some dried beef for our lunch, we really had a good lunch. And then at night she'd have — sometimes she'd have fried scrapple, fried potatoes or mashed potatoes, she had stewed onions or sometimes she'd have string beans. And we always had cucumbers, she'd cut cucumbers down and she used to cut cucumbers down with sliced tomatoes, and that was a good salad. I don't think they have it today, but that was good, we liked that, liked that - cucumbers. And then sometimes if we had large cucumbers she used to slice them and put them in a batter and life them and fry them - fritters, cucumber fritters.
And then she used to take — us kiddies used to go out through the country, all up through Greenville, Talleyville and them places, they were all farms them years, orchards. Jim Ball was head man, he was right up there, up the field from Wagoner's Row, and we could go in there and pick all the apples that were on the ground, we could have them, the children. And we'd go up and we'd get a whole pillowcase full and bring home to Mother and she'd make applesauce. And lots of times she'd fix the apples and rolled them in dough and then put them in boiling water, and then you could put milk on and that was a meal.
Julian: M— m-m-m, sounds good.
Jackson: That was a meal. Or cherries, she did the same thing to cherries - dumplings. Apple dumplings, cherry dumplings — that was a meal. You made a meal out of anything that was good to eat, regardless. And it was just that one thing, but it was good.
Julian: Well that is fun. You’ ve given us a whole lot of new ideas. Now let me go back to the sauerkraut — did you keep the barrel of sauerkraut in there, would you make a whole barrel full of it and then...
Jackson: Oh a keg, called it a keg.
Julian: Keg — and then...
Jackson: It wasn't a barrel, it's a keg.
Julian: Keg - okay, and you'd keep it there and you'd eat it up gradually then through the winter?
Jackson: Oh yes, it was in brine, it kept. He kept it covered. And we had a big closet out on the porch. The porch was out front, then the big kitchen. The kitchen was as big as two rooms, and then back of the kitchen was a smaller room, we called that the parlor. But this big closet, well not quite as wide as that, was on the porch, but it was always cool. Those houses were built so that they were cool in the summertime and they were hot in the wintertime.
We had nothing but one stove down in the kitchen, but we had heat up to the third floor because our chimneys extended out like that closet, and us kiddies got around that chimney and changed our stockings and put our nightgowns on and it was warm. And in the mornings when we dressed, we got around that chimney and we dressed and we were comfortable. We were never — I never said it was freezing cold in them houses and there was always a breeze.
- DuPont widows and peeling willows; her path to Alexis I. du Pont School along the railroad tracks; her father and step-mother's relationship history; her step-mother comforting her as a child and telling her about her motherKeywords: Alexis I. du Pont School; baby angels; charcoal production; Cooper Shop; Diamond Bridge; Du Pont, Alfred I. (Alfred Iré né e), 1864-1935; Families; Industrial accidents; Marriage; Outhouses; peeling willows; Sam Buchanan; Squirrel Run (Del. : Village); Stepmothers--Attitudes; Stepmothers--Family relationships; sunshine and tears; Survivors' benefits; Swamp Hall (Henry Clay, Del. : Dwelling); widowsTranscript: Julian: Did the girls - did you and the boys and the girls have separate bedrooms?
Jackson: We had no boys.
Julian: You had no boys, okay, so...
Jackson: The ones that did had separate. Next door was the Buchanans and she had two boys, well they slept in a room, the two boys slept in a room by themselves. And Sam Buchanan was killed in the explosion in February 3, 1906. Sam Buchanan — he was a fine man, but she married again, but she had six children.
And you know all the du Ponts gave them that lost their husbands? They gave them $500 and a free house to live in, but as soon as they married again, they had to get out — $500 with six children, and just happened that Mrs. Buchanan had two girls that worked in Hudson's Mill that helped her. But there's a lot of reports come out the du Ponts were so good, they give this, that and the other, but I'm here to tell you they didn't, because we lived next door to this woman. And then Mrs. Walker was another one, and they gave her $500. Now there was such a thing, years and years ago, that the widows would make powder bags and that was out of real heavy, heavy canvas. But I think they got a dollar for so many or something like that - powder bags. Because Mrs. Moore was a woman that lost her husband and she made powder bags, but very little. Then other widows, they used willow, you know they used willow in powder...
Julian: Right - charcoal.
Jackson: They used willow, saltpeter, sugar and something else to make powder. And a widow would get a big load of willow branches off a willow tree and then she would get all the children in the neighborhood to go up and help - you had to peel the willow before it could be made into the powder and us kiddies used to go up there. Well, she would have a big bucket of lemonade and gingersnaps and of course that was a party for us to go peel. So many, many times I helped peel - it was a ton, a great big truckload of willow. God, you thought you'd never get to the end of it. And I don't think they got more than a dollar or two dollars, would be five at the most.
Julian: To do that whole truckload.
Jackson: And they'd only get that once in a month.
Julian: Oh my goodness. It was a hard life.
Jackson: It was a hard life, a tough life. But the du Ponts got a lot of credit for a lot of things that - well the du Ponts didn't have it. You know when Jefferson was in, du Ponts went totally broke in the black powder, that's in history. And they had to write to President Jefferson and the government gave the du Ponts a loan to get started over with - that's in du Pont history.
Julian: They really weren't — they were not wealthy.
Jackson: No, they didn't have - they really didn't have too much to be - they were as liberal as they could be, but they looked out for du Pont's too, they had to. Alfred I. du Pont, when he started in the Company, Alfred I. du Pont got eighty dollars a month and that was big money for Alfred I. du Pont. And he kept the — the home up there was called the Swamp Home, up on Breck's Lane. I was in his house many times and played on his ground. I played with his children — Madeline, Bessie, Victoria and Alfred, Alfred was the youngest. Young Alfred was born on March 17th, on St. Patrick's Day. And he opened his - my Father was there - and he opened his grounds, and they had all the beer and crackers and whatever they needed and that was a big St. Patrick's Day because Alfred I. du Pont had his first son.
Julian: The first son - oh that's a nice story, that's a nice story, I like that one.
Jackson: I know all of that. But it was happy days. And we used to go up to Alexis I. School there, and instead of going all the way up Breck's Lane to the Pike and going up, we used to cut through a lane, and they called it the Cooper Shop, and they made barrels up there. And us kiddies used to cut through there and go up there and get on the railroad, then we could cut part of the way off and get into the school the back way. But there was a train, the Reading train, run up there and we had to watch and be careful. But the men knew when the children were coming there and they run very, very slow up there, it was the back way.
I remember every stone and brick, and at night it was pitch, pitch dark, but we never faltered, we knew. And there was a bridge run over the race there in Squirrel Run and it was called Diamond Bridge and it had no sides to it or anything, but there was no one ever hurt on it because we all knew that bridge and every step of it, every nail that was in it. And coming home, late, pitch dark at night, we knew every gutter, and it certainly wasn't a level road by a long ways, or downhill and up dale, but you knew every stone, you knew every gutter you come to and you knew every house, so on and so forth. No lights or nothing.
Julian: It is dark when there are no lights.
Jackson: No lights!
Julian: I mean no lights.
Jackson: Nothing. The only thing you were sure to find good, and I gave this in history before, was the outhouse. And they said how did you always manage to find...[pause while tape is switched]...before you'd go to bed. And then they were so sleepy, there's not many wakes up before that and then when they get up they can go down there. But once in a while, of course, it did happen — oh somebody had to use a potty. But Mother had all that to take care of.
Julian: And so it was better to go outside than to have to be cleaned up the next day.
Jackson: Lots of times she had it to do, but she never complained, she did it all.
Julian: Did she come over - did she know your Dad before she came over, or did she just come over to work and then met him?
Jackson: No, my Father and her — she was my Father's first cousin.
Julian: Oh - okay.
Jackson: And he and she were great friends in Ireland and went to school together, what little schooling they got. And they were — I think they would have married, from what I understood, but another man come that was studying to be a lawyer from Massachusetts and he fell madly in love with my step-mother, she was a very attractive woman, so he wouldn't leave until she went with him. And then there was a break— up between her and my Father, but my Father really loved her, so then my Father left and went to Scotland to live and in Scotland he met my Mother, and my Mother was from Edinburgh and she was a school teacher. And she had had a break-up with her boyfriend, so it was one after the other like and so they got married, but then years later, my step-mother had these children, she lived in Baltimore and her husband was in business, I think he was an undertaker in business, but anyway her children died about a year before my Mother, or in around the same time, and she went back to Ireland because in Ireland they say that they get the dole, and that's for every child, they had to give you two dollars I think, so she took the three children back to Ireland. And then when my Mother died and my Father wrote and she come out - what a big heart she had to have three children and come out and take care of his s1x.
Julian: That's another nice story.
Jackson: I never knew she was a — I didn't know she was a step— mother.
Julian: No, not if you were two when she came.
Jackson: No — well, she took care of me when I was going to school. The children in school sometimes can be very cruel to you, and we had a fuss one time — some of the children, oh I'd say six or seven, eight, in around that, and they told me I didn't have any Mother. And I said, "I certainly have, she kisses me goodbye every morning, gets my meals and kisses me goodnight." I swore and declared I had a Mother, but they taunted me and told me no I did not have a Mother. So I thought I would settle it, I was always smart for a young kid. I went home, and this was a very nice story, I never forgot it — I put this on tape for a nephew of mine so he'd have it - so I went to her and she kissed me and I said, "Mother, the children told me something today and I want you to tell me." She said, "Well I'll gladly tell you." I said, "They tell me you are not my Mother." So she said, "Well, supposing we go over in the rocking chair and we sit there, and I'll tell you a story." So we went over into the rocking chair and sat there, and I said, "But I want to know so I can tell them tomorrow." So she said, "Well, Darlin', no, I'm not your Mother. You know God wanted a Mother to take care of some angels in Heaven and you had such a wonderful Mother and so kind that he asked her to come take of the baby angels. Then God sent word over to Ireland for me to come out and take care of your Father's little children. I come out and took care of you. Your Mother's in Heaven."
Julian: That is beautiful.
Jackson: And I never forgot.
Julian: That is beautiful.
Jackson: So we have our sunshine, we have our tears. Everybody — a coin has two sides, always remember, two sides - people are the same. I'm hilarious, I like fun, I like friends, I can have a good time. But there's times that I can sit and shed buckets of tears.
Jackson: I had a very happy life, very wonderful husband, we were fifty years married before he passed away.
Julian: Oh, how nice.
Jackson: People say - don't look back, Mary. I don't want anybody to take my memories from me.
Julian: Oh, Heaven's no.
Jackson: They're too sweet, they're too pleasant. But we have our rain with the sunshine.
Julian: That's right. Makes us appreciate the sunshine more, doesn't it?
Jackson: I think so, too. We have to have the rain, I think, to appreciate the sunshine, but I had a very happy life. Until twenty years ago I lost my husband, and three months later I fell down the cellar steps. Of course there's no use in going into that. And I had three operations, unsuccessful, now I could have one other operation, but I only have one chance in a hundred and I'm 93. So they said even would have a chance of low mentality, so my niece says, "Well, we want our aunt to know we love her and she loves us." So I'm willing to stay. I have become accepting this condition, but I live one day at a time and this place, I have found, there's lots of activities, and there's lots to do and I don't get too much time to think. And at 93 I wouldn't be running for a trolley car.
Julian: [Laughs] I love that, that's great.
Jackson: Now I'll be glad at any...
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