Interview with Catherine Cheney, 1987 October 2 [audio]

Hagley ID:
  • Christmas decorations; Bedding; Children's games and toys; Sledding
    Keywords: Baby carriages; Bedding;Blacksmiths--United States;Blocks (Toys); Brothers and sisters; Candles and lights; Checkers; Childhood and youth of a person; Christmas;Christmas decorations;Christmas lights; Christmas tree ornaments; Christmas trees;Christmas trees--Fires and fire prevention; Christmas--Anecdotes;Christmas--United States; Cousins; Dolls; Dominoes; Ducks; Extended families--United States; Feather beds;Feathers;Flexible Flyer sled; Fourth of July celebrations; Free Park; Games; Hagley Yard; Pillows;Rag doll making; Rag dolls--United States; Reminiscing; Sledding;Soft toy making; Tinsel; Tissue paper
    Transcript: Johnson: Sally Wright and I - this is Dorothy Johnson are at Catherine Cheney's house, today is the second of October 1987.

    Wright: And we have come to tell Catherine that we are going to try to do a Christmas tree in the Gibbons House like the one she remembered when she was growing up. And we have brought a group of things that we have been making that she talked about in her other interviews to see if they are like what you remember, or what we can do to change them, or what makes her think of other things. Catherine, this is paper chains, obviously, and you mentioned that you colored them with crayons, so we took manila paper and colored them solidly and have started making paper chains.

    Cheney: Well, that was just to get the children interested in something to do. We used the red and green construction paper as well.

    Wright: Okay, so you had a mixture of both on the Christmas tree.

    Cheney: That's correct, yes, at night it would show up better. Now, the colors weren't like they are today, in that colored paper.

    Wright: Right. They were - were they brighter or darker?

    Cheney: They weren't good at all. I mean they would – light, I would say. It didn't show up like we thought it would [laughs] when we got the things ready.

    Wright: You mentioned your mother being handy with her hands, is this the type of thing she might have made?

    Cheney: Yes.

    Wright: The weaved paper and make little baskets. Miss Akinson has also joined us and she's sitting over there nodding her head up and down [laughter]. This is a little woven basket with a tinsel handle. Does that look - have we recreated well? Here is a fan that we . . .

    Cheney: Some of the things were very crude because we all had to put something on it . . .

    Wright: Yes, the children did.

    Cheney: . . . so we all had . . .

    Wright: Well, here is something that we just very simply took - drew a picture and then - it's a spool and then somebody colored on it. Does this look like . . .

    Cheney: Yes, that's nice.

    Wright: . . . that looks very good - oh, beautiful. One of the other things that you mentioned was that you had big and little stars on the tree wrapped with tinsel.

    Cheney: Yes. That shows up nicely.

    Wright: How does that look, does that look . . .

    Cheney: That's nice. I think better now than we used it.

    Wright: It's a silver star and then we have wrapped tinsel around it.

    Cheney: ‘ Course the electric lights are much better now than what we had [laughs].

    Wright: Well, we're not going to use electric lights, we will use a candle. We have a light that – we have little clip candles to put on the tree.

    Cheney: Oh!

    Wright: Did you use red or white candles on your tree, do you remember?

    Cheney: I don't know, because Mother was very cautious about the use of the candles, you know, she was afraid of fire.

    Wright: Right.

    Cheney: So she had to be in the room when we lit the candles and I don't remember, really, whether they . . .

    Wright: But we do have the little clip candles that we can put - and have permission to put on the tree. You mentioned having cardboard wrapped with tinsel and we found it very difficult to wrap the tinsel, so it was sewed on.

    Cheney: Oh.

    Wright: But does this look like what you remember?

    Cheney: Yes, it does. Very much. I don't think our stars were as perfect as that [laughs].

    Wright: We have very artistic people.

    Johnson: It's amazing when grownups do children's activities, how good they are at it.

    Wright: It sure does make a difference. Cornucopias, did you ever make cornucopias and have on the tree?

    Cheney: Yes, I forgot about that, but that was a big part.

    Wright: Yeah, you hadn't mentioned those, but we had heard about them. This one's got paper stuffed in, like you could put candy in and then draw a string at the top. Does that look - Miss Atkinson, again, is shaking her head yes over in the corner. We have had a ball, as you can see. Let me see what else we have.

    Cheney: I had no idea I was giving you all that work.

    Wright: Yes, well it was fun - we have been having fun, we have been laughing, silly. People come in to the - we use the front room of the Belin House, and when people come to lunch, here we are coloring, cutting, pasting - we said we're back to kindergarten. But the guests have enjoyed it, they come in to see what we're doing and give us, you know, ideas and makes them reminisce when they were little. This is the type of thing - this is a bunny rabbit, an animal that's been cut out, a little toy soldier, a boat. Is this the type of thing your mother . . .

    Cheney: Yes, that's ideal.

    Wright: Oh, good.

    Cheney: We didn't have so many pretty colored papers, either.

    Wright: That's a good - and here's Santa Claus. This is a goodie?

    Cheney: That one, yeah, I remember that.

    Wright: That you’ re saying that's very good, it's a little girl that's outlined with narrow pink velvet ribbon. They hang on the tree. Here's two little children.

    Cheney: You have some real artistic workers.

    Wright: We - they do. You mentioned beads - is this the type of wooden bead that you might have had hanging on the tree?

    Cheney: I don't think they were quite that large.

    Wright: Smaller beads?

    Cheney: Yes, but that would be nice. It would show up better really.

    Wright: These are about inch size wooden beads or smaller, and you're saying you thought your beads were a little bit smaller?

    Cheney: And you know the funny thing is, instead of draping them like you would expect beads, they'd let the strings hang, especially the red and the green.

    Wright: Right. Yes, this is what we have done, we've done it that way so this extra string so they would just loop onto the tree. Here's some smaller beads.

    Cheney: Oh, that's pretty.

    Wright: Now does that look like something that you might have done?

    Cheney: Yes.

    Wright: This is a mixture of green and yellow beads with a gold bow.

    Cheney: I won't have much backing because I don't think there's anybody around that's as old as I am [laughs].

    Wright: Well, who else, Dorothy, you've done some of the reading on the oral interviews - Miss Jackson is still living - Mrs. Jackson who remembers Christmas.

    Johnson: Yes.

    Wright: And who were some of the others?

    Johnson: Mrs. Ferguson.

    [A name was mentioned, but several voices talking at the same time and can't make out what it is.]

    Wright: Pardon?

    Cheney: Yeah, but she went to Christ Church.

    Akinson: Yeah, but she'd remember Christmas trees.

    Cheney: Oh, she'd remember the thing that you put on the trees, yeah.

    Akinson: Maude Webster.

    Wright: Yes.

    Cheney: She works at Hagley.

    Wright: Yes, she works on the Hill. We'll have to ask Maude. She's so busy up at the residence that we don't - she does more . . .

    Akinson: She's going away next week, too.

    Wright: Right, well we'll catch up with her again.

    Akinson: But she should remember.

    Wright: She should remember, right. Who else do you remember, Dorothy?

    Johnson: Well, Mrs. Ferguson, Grace Toy Ferguson, she remembered quite a bit about her tree.

    Akinson: I'll have to look up in the attic. I might have some pictures of the old Christmas trees. My uncle used to have them. I’ ll look some up for you.

    Wright: Oh, that would be great, that would really be nice.

    Johnson: Oh, yes.

    Akinson: All I have to do is get in the attic. Brrrr!!!!

    Wright: It's getting cooler. I've got to get up in my attic too. Would you like help, we'll come and help you [laughter].

    Akinson: Ask Catherine what happens. You get snowed in.

    Wright: Oh, I have got everything in my attic, it's incredible.

    Akinson: Listen, there's three generations up there. That's the stuff . . .

    Wright: We don't want to get my foot on this - yes, somebody donated this. If you have any [noise on tape as if it was turned off for a moment]. You just mentioned that you had rag dolls under the tree - what kind of rag dolls did you have?

    Cheney: Well, they were ones we got for Christmas and they were - by the next Christmas they were pretty well worn out. But four girls, you know, so we had a lot of dolls and Mother always liked them around.

    Wright: Did your mother make them? Did they have hair, like yarn hair, or were they just completely cloth?

    Cheney: Most of them were given to us.

    Wright: Most of them were given to you.

    Akinson: Well, they used to come, too, in . . . like the flour sacks or something or other.

    Wright: Yes, I can remember making those.

    Akinson: You cut them out . . .

    Wright: Aunt Jemima.

    Akinson: . . . sew 'em up and stuff them, that was the idea.

    Wright: Yeah. Right.

    Johnson: What did you stuff them with?

    Akinson: I don't know, anything . . .

    Wright: Cotton is what we used at home.

    Akinson: Probably just . . .

    Cheney: Well, you see, they made their own pillows in that time.

    Wright: Yeah, with feathers.

    Cheney: Oh, feathers, yes.

    Akinson: No, I think they had cotton batting.

    Wright: Yes.

    Cheney: I guess it was.

    Akinson: ‘ Cause I think my grandmother had that around, they stuffed a lot of things.

    Cheney: That's right, we had to pull the stuffing off the feathers all the time to make the beds.

    Wright: Yeah, for the beds, for the pillows.

    Akinson: Oh, don't mention feather beds [laughs].

    Cheney: [Laughs] Carrie might have one up there.

    Akinson: No. I did have three.

    Wright: You had three, you got rid of them.

    Akinson: I gave them away.

    Wright: Somebody wanted them.

    Akinson: And then we tore some up to make pillows.

    Wright: They make nice pillows. I can remember how . . .

    Akinson: Then try making my bed.

    Wright: You always have foofs. And they smell when you wash them, I remember my Mother washing the feather - do you remember washing the feather pillows and then hanging them out. Like a day like today, it would get windy and the feather pillows would get washed and go out and hang up on the clothesline, yes.

    Cheney: Well, I don't know how many times our feathers were washed before we put them in the pillow.

    Wright: Yes, they'd have to be. Just put them in a sack and wash them.

    Akinson: Then hang them up and let them - in the sun.

    Wright: In the sun, right, and windy. The other thing you mentioned was having a blue blanket or a plaid blanket under the tree and as far as I know, we are going to use a blue blanket under the tree. And then you said you had a mirror that you put . . .

    Cheney: That made, like the pond.

    Wright: Was it a round mirror, was it big, was it small?

    Cheney: You know the oval shape, they used to have them, I haven't seen one now for a long while, but we had . . .

    Wright: About . . .

    Cheney: Yes, I would say ten inches, it wasn't twelve inches.

    Wright: About ten inches around. And then how large were the ducks that you had, were they an inch, two inches, three inches tall, or were they real tiny miniature ones, do you remember? You mentioned having three ducks that you put on that pond.

    Cheney: I think they were small.

    Akinson: Probably like came in Cracker Jacks.

    Johnson: Real tiny like this?

    Cheney: No, not real tiny.

    Johnson: Oh, 'cause we have some that are very tiny, just about . . .

    Cheney: Oh, really, well that will be interesting. No, I would say ours were two inches.

    Wright: A fairly good size then.

    Cheney: Yes, not like a toy that a child would play with.

    Wright: Okay, more of a collector that we would buy and collect today.

    Cheney: The reason I remember that is Mother was so particular that they were clean when she put them away, because we always had so many cousins and children that they had to handle the things, and they were always soiled so easily.

    Wright: Some of the other people mentioned having ducks on ponds when they reminisce about their, you know . . .

    Akinson: Christmas yard.

    Wright: Yeah, the Christmas yard, right, which is kind of interesting.

    Johnson: And what about your chicken, was that the same size as the ducks - the red chicken?

    Akinson: Yeah, I can remember little chickens and things, you bought them in little sets, it’ d be the mother hen and the little biddies.

    Johnson: Were they about that big, or would they be . . . an inch or . . .

    Akinson: Like you'd get at the five and dime or something.

    Cheney: Well, it just depended, if the child, one that held in their hand and carried around.

    Akinson: I wonder what I have in a box downstairs.

    Cheney: Will I go look?

    Akinson: No!

    Wright: You can look another day for us, but that would be great if you'd look and see.

    Akinson: We had a box - it was called the block box and it fit under the settee out there and every kid from, well, when I always came, you got that box out there and put it on the floor well you know what happened, things got added to it. We had the weirdest collection of . . .

    Wright: Junk.

    Akinson: . . . mess.

    Johnson: Right.

    Akinson: But you know one of the boys came back Old New Castle Day and looked under the settee and it's not under there. And he said, "Where'd the block box go?"

    Johnson: Everybody should have . . .

    Akinson: I said, “ Do you want to play with it?" He’ s only twenty-five [laughter].

    Wright: Isn’ t that funny.

    Akinson: Every time they came, they went and got that in the middle of the floor.

    Wright: It kept them busy.

    Akinson: The A-B-C blocks.

    Wright: Do you have some of the old blocks, the real old ones?

    Akinson: Yeah, and if you people could use them, let me know.

    Wright: If we could use them, that would be great because we want to put some of those old blocks and you mentioned that they played checkers - you mentioned checkers and dominoes. We want to try to get some old checkers and dominoes to go under the tree.

    Cheney: I wish I had saved the dolls, I loved the dolls. When George came along, he got kind of disgusted with all the four girls and no other boy in the family [laughs].

    Wright: Right.

    Johnson: Another thing you mentioned that Sally was saying on the way over, what kind of carriage did you have for your doll?

    Cheney: Oh, we had a cute little one. One of those old-fashioned ones that you could put the hood back and they were . . . straw-like material.

    Johnson: Yes, like a wicker.

    Cheney: Like a wicker, that's right. The big coach for the baby was like that too, made out of wicker. Many a time I pushed it up - out there at Hagley [laughs] up the hill.

    Johnson: Pushed it all the way over the hill.

    Cheney: And then when George was a baby, it was old anyhow, and he would just love to have you get so far down the hill and then let go. "Take your hands off." I can hear him now [laughs]. And he’ d ride on down - now Sarah, my other sister’ s younger sister, never even suggested that. I don't think any of us went down the hill without having somebody pulling the string or holding onto the rope, but when George came along, he was all for taking a ride without any interruptions.

    Johnson: How was the rope put on - did it have a rope to hold or one of those handles?

    Cheney: Well, I guess it was fastened to the handle, 'cause it wasn't very long, I know. 'Cause if you dropped it, you were in the ditch, you were almost sure, but of ‘ course it wasn't dangerous on that old road because of the grass plots on both sides, and then - there was only one place where it was dangerous, up there by Hagley Office. We used to stop at the hill, start at the hill above Hagley Office and go all the way to the powder yard gate. Of ‘ course the gates were closed, so we couldn't get through the gate [laughter].

    Johnson: That's a great hill.

    Wright: Yes, that is a good hill. What kind of sleds did you have? Did you remember having sleds?

    Cheney: Well, the Flexible Flyer was the nicest one we had. Boy, we thought we were something when we got that one, because it had a picture painted on it. The others were mostly - I don't know whether a friend of Dad's made those first sleds that we used, but they were different. Well, there would be a board down the middle, maybe eight inches wide, and then smaller slats on either side, and then a rod to hold the runners. And the Blacksmith Shop - my Uncle Simon was a blacksmith, and he could put the runners on for our first sled. We were one of the first ones out there at Hagley that had the steel runners on the sled, but it was because my Father's brother had the blacksmith out there on the Kennett Pike, and he would fix it for us. Of ‘ course when somebody got hurt, there was no more of that.

    Wright: And you said you used to start sliding up by Christ Church then and ride down that whole hill, down to the gates?

    Cheney: No, we wouldn't start at Christ Church. You know, you were allowed to go up into the private home there then. You could go straight ahead when you got to the top of the hill, when you turn up to what we call Free Park.

    Akinson: Yes.

    Cheney: That was where there was a row of houses. Well, instead of turning there, you could go on and you could go over to Crowninshield's place, you know, on [indecipherable]?

    Wright: Oh, yes, oh, so you went way up there and then . . .

    Cheney: So we used to go way up there, then we'd ride all the way to the gate.

    Wright: Oh, that's a marvelous - that is a . . .

    Cheney: It was wonderful, it took you a long time to get back [laughs].

    Wright: Yes, that was a long walk back up. But that would be a . . .

    Cheney: And you always had a younger one to pull, you know, somebody couldn't keep up with walking, you'd put them on the sled - they got a free ride, but somebody had to pull them. I must say, when I was young I had a good time. We were never lost for anything to do. And my Mother's brother had two boys, and they would come out from Wilmington, and my Mother's sister had five in her family. Three girls and two boys - so it really made a crowd when just the family came. Fourth of July we had the biggest crowd all the time, but we had that day open every year. We had our own chickens, you know, so Mother would have chicken and duck, we had both ducks and chickens.
  • Christmas cooking; Family history; Christmas decorations; Childhood chores and games; Christmas gifts for parents
    Keywords: Alexis I. du Pont School (Wilmington, Del.); Bedrooms; Blocks (Toys);Brothers and sisters; Candles and lights;Checkers;Childhood and youth of a person; Children of immigrants; Children of parents with disabilities; Chores; Christmas;Christmas cooking; Christmas decorations; Christmas lights;Christmas tree ornaments; Christmas trees; Christmas--Anecdotes; Christmas--United States; Company towns; Cookies; Cousins; Crocheting; Dolls; Dominoes;Embroidery; Embroidery for children; Explosives industry;Explosives--Safety measures;Extended families--United States;Free Park;Games;Gifts;Hagley Yard;Handkerchiefs;Jigsaw puzzles;Knit goods; Neighborhoods; Puzzles;Rockford Park (Wilmington, Del.); Scarves; Sleds; Smoking; Smoking in the workplace; Wilmington (Del.)
    Transcript: Wright: What did you usually eat Christmas Day, you said - I forgot - and you mentioned, was it turkey? Or was it duck? For Christmas?

    Cheney: Well, I guess it - sometime it depended on the - whether the young ducks or turkey developed. It would depend on the size of them, because we always had company. Mother's sister had five children.

    Wright: So you needed a lot of whatever she cooked.

    Cheney: So we needed [laughs].

    Wright: Very definitely. Like, I cook a 25-pound turkey most of the time without - just so I have enough.

    Johnson: Did the Company give out turkey sometimes too for Christmas - would the Company give your father a turkey?

    Cheney: Yes. We didn't get in on that very much though, because Dad, you see, my Father only had one arm, He had one - parts of it had to be taken off at the shoulder, so he was at the gate house, he checked it as to whether or not they had matches and what kind of shoes they had on.

    Wright: Was he at the gate by the Blacksmith Shop, or at the one down at . . .

    Cheney: By the Machine Shop. He was at the gate at the bottom of Barley Mill Lane.

    Wright: Okay, so he was at the Barley Mill Lane one, the new Machine Shop.

    Cheney: That's right. He was beside that, that little office right . . .

    Wright: The little building that's still there.

    Cheney: It's still there?

    Wright: Yes, that's still there.

    Cheney: Well, that's where he was there, to check if the men had matches and if they had the right kind of shoes. Because they couldn't go in the powder yard with the nails, you know, in the shoes.

    Johnson: Yes. That's the one, Ethel Hayward remembers her Father being at that gate, 'cause he lived in the C.I.D. house and he came through one day; she asked him not to smoke any more because she didn't like the way he smelled, so then he came through without his usual cigars and your father said, "Where is your cigar, Mr. Jones?" And he said, "Well, I've given up smoking." [laughter] But she can remember it was your father.

    Akinson: The last of the alphabet.

    Wright: Oh, aren't they great, oh, how marvelous. That's exactly what we need, oh, they're neat aren't they? And look at the old . . .

    Akinson: Well, that was – see, I had a whole set of those, that was a puzzle.

    Wright: Puzzle that you would put together, yes.

    Akinson: Yeah, and they had the A-B-C's on the . . .

    Wright: Aren't these beautiful, what neat blocks. Look at these.

    Johnson: Yes, and those letters are so, so good for old ones.

    Akinson: Well, see, their blues - you had the blues and the reds.

    Wright: So you could go either direction.

    Akinson: Well, whichever one you had the most of, I just started with the reds and they came out that far, but where the others are I dinna know.

    Wright: Dinna know – well, that's nice.

    Akinson: I'll give you a bag for ‘ em, okay.

    Wright: Oh, thank you, we will certainly enjoy this.

    Cheney: Do you want me to wash them?

    Wright: No, we'll wash them, we'll take care of your dirt [laughter].

    Akinson: Believe me, that's the dirt of the ages, but we've had a lot of kids that have played with them.

    Akinson: Oh, I think that's . . .

    Akinson: I can still hear David "Where's the drawer?"

    Wright: Isn't that funny, he remembered.

    Akinson: Well, they all added a little something. We have toy soldiers . . .

    Wright: Well, sure, everybody - every youngster had something that when they came visiting that they brought. Well, what we would like to do with, we're gonna do your Christmas tree on Blacksmith Hill this year because you lived on the Hill.

    Akinson: While you're talking, I'll go see if I can find that picture of Uncle Joe's Christmas tree.

    Wright: That would be great. And we would also like to do some publicity, so we are wondering if before we leave today, if we could pick a couple dates when you and I will work with the photographer over at Hagley and we will all get together and have some pictures taken so that we, if you will agree to it, use your picture with some of the volunteers doing Christmas so we can use it for publicity in the newspaper.

    Cheney: Oh.

    Wright: Would you like that?

    Cheney: Yes, that sounds real interesting.

    Wright: Great - I thought you would. And then we'll . . .

    Cheney: I'm an old woman, but [laughs].

    Wright: That's alright, and what we're, we've kind of titled your tree, "A Worker's Christmas tree remembered" and then we're going on, we're just starting to work on, you know, a little flyer that we're gonna hand out to people who come and see the tree. I wanted to check some of these details to make sure they are correct. You were born in 1906?

    Cheney: Five.

    Wright: 1905 - and your mother and father both came from Ireland, right?

    Cheney: Well, Mother came over when she was a young girl. My Dad really didn't remember.

    Wright: Okay.

    Cheney: He was too young.

    Wright: He was too young.

    Cheney: He was the one lived near Rockford Park.

    Wright: Right, but do you think he came from Ireland, originally, was his family, parents . . .

    Cheney: Yes, he was born there, but as I remember, he was still a child, he wouldn't remember. Dad never remembered anything about his home.

    Wright: Right, and your grandfather, James Cheney, also worked as a night watchman in the Hagley Yards?

    Cheney: Yes, now I don't know whether he was a night watchman all the time, but in my growing up years, that's what he did.

    Wright: Okay, and they said he was . . .

    Cheney: He had to do something with the - whatever kind of light they had.

    Wright: Lighting the gas lamps as he made his rounds, okay.

    Cheney: Yes, that’ s right.

    Wright: Her father, George Cheney, who had lost his arm in a childhood accident, was employed at a yard at the Hagley Gates above the Millwright Machine Shop. But - that should be, he was at the gates by Barley Mill, so I'm gonna change that, he was at the gates, you know, at Barley Mill. And I said when you were about twelve years old, you moved from the house, the row house that you had, or the banked house that you were living in, and moved up the hill into Free Park?

    Cheney: Right - right next to Christ Church.

    Wright: Church - right. And in that way the youngest child, George, got his own bedroom at that time.

    Cheney: Did you know how it got Free Park, how it got the name?

    Wright: It is Free or Flea?

    Cheney: Well, they called it Free - Flea for devilment, but it was rather called Free Park because you didn't pay any rent.

    Wright: Right, no one paid rent in Free Park.

    Cheney: I don't know whether everybody was excused, but I know we never paid rent. As long as Dad worked for the Company, we didn't pay rent.

    Wright: And then you attended Alexis I. du Pont School from first to twelfth grade?

    Cheney: Yes.

    Wright: It was a two-mile walk, you remember, and very cold in the winter. And we have a hand-knit sweater, you talked about getting hand-knitted sweaters, and we have a hand-knitted sweater we're going to put underneath the tree.

    Cheney: Oh, nice.

    Wright: So that's gonna be fun.

    Cheney: You've had a time gathering up these.

    Wright: We've been busy little beavers. And then it talked about your dolls and their new wicker coaches and Peg Bennett and I both have old dolls about the early 1900s that we'll be using under - around the Christmas tree this year.

    Cheney: Oh, nice.

    Wright: We're both having them fixed, one was my Aunt Bunny's who lived up in Connecticut, and it needed some repair work, and Peg had gotten one from a friend of hers and she's having it spruced up, so we'll have two dolls at least under the tree this year, which will be fun. And we said the children - you strung popcorn, but not cranberries?

    Cheney: No, I never remember working - of ‘ course we had made the cranberry jelly and I think they’ d have been kind of stingy if we wanted to play with the cranberries [laughs].

    Wright: I don't blame them, I've heard that they were very expensive, so you weren't draping them around the tree. And your mother made cookies in shapes of stars, moons, animals - and let's see, we talked about - I think that's about it. And you say you can't remember whether it was white candles or red candles, or?

    Cheney: No, I can't recall. I imagine we had the colors though, but I’ m not sure. I can't remember that it was a red candle. We were so glad to get the extra light, because we were used to oil lamps, you know, all the time.

    Wright: Yes, it makes it nice. And we have the three china ducks and a red chicken on a mirrored pond.

    Cheney: Oh, that's nice.

    Wright: And we're gonna have that, and we got a blue blanket, kind of a medium shade of blue blanket that we're gonna use, because you mentioned having a blue blanket, and then we said all around were presents, toys, sleds, dolls, checkers, dominoes, and puzzles. Because you recalled that puzzles were part of Christmas entertainment.

    Cheney: Oh, yeah. I don't know how we'd have spent our long evenings if we didn't have puzzles [laughs]. Until we started school, anyhow.

    Wright: Right.

    Cheney: They even had those big ones, you know, that were real heavy pieces of cardboard, that you wouldn't have to keep it in a box, it could go right in the toy box - puzzles. But we kept them in their own box, if you'd get the pieces mixed up, then . . .

    Wright: Then you were in trouble.

    Cheney: . . . it was a job to straighten out.

    Wright: And you do remember having cornucopias on your tree?

    Cheney: Yes. Now, that was something easy to make, you just rolled the paper.

    Wright: Did you use plain paper, figured paper, just everything and anything you found, could you remember?

    Cheney: Well, it had to have a fairly stiff, you know, to hold up. So, I think sometimes Mother painted the boxes that the cereal came in, or something that was solid like that, just cut the sides and took the . . .

    Wright: She did use everything then?

    Cheney: Yes.

    Wright: Waste not, want not. You don't remember who said that first, though [laughs]. We have to be careful here. Can you think of any other things, as we have brought these things and showed them to you, can you remember anything else that you might have had on the tree that we haven't done, or you haven't thought - you know, didn't think of before?

    Cheney: Well, you know, we spent an awful lot of time, it's kinda silly when you talk about it, but we had to go quite a distance to a store and playing store, so a lot of times we just played with the empty cocoa box and the - whatever the tea came in - of ‘ course Mother and Dad didn't have too much to throw away on toys and we were just as happy. And then Mother's sister came from Ireland too, and she had the same number of children we did, but she lived in Wilmington on 13th Street, but they thought the country was the place for . . .

    Wright: Children.

    Cheney: . . . the children, so they hardly missed them, well they kind of, the cousins came every other Sunday so that we wouldn't have more than fourteen at the table, because that made it [laughs].

    Wright: That kept your mother busy getting ready for them each week, that was a lot of cooking.

    Cheney: Yes, but we all pitched in.

    Wright: Oh, and it's fun, I think it is, I think we miss that today.

    Cheney: Yes, the way children nowadays don't know a thing, they're afraid more and more it seems to me. But I could get a meal, I know, when I was ten years old. Mother thought it was fun for us each to take our turn, and we all tried to think of something different [laughs] Mother wouldn't have had then.

    Wright: I think, then, we have the biography pretty well set. Anything else you can think of, Dorothy?

    Johnson: Nothing I can think of.

    Wright: I think these blocks will be great to have under the tree.

    Cheney: They are Carrie's things, they're not ours. I don't know where our blocks . . .

    Johnson: They don't make letters like that anymore, those really look like the old-fashioned letter with . . .

    Wright: Yes, and the pretty designs on the blocks, you know it's got a little design around the letters, they're very – they’ re pretty. They're really nice. What kinds of things did your mother and father get for Christmas, what would you make for them for Christmas, can you remember?

    Cheney: Well, Mother got the sewing machine, you know, and we thought it was great if we made new handkerchiefs for Dad. She would get nice pieces of material. Sometime linen for the special church one.

    Wright: And what did he use for everyday?

    Cheney: I guess they were mostly just cotton.

    Wright: White cotton or colored, can you remember?

    Cheney: No, no the people that worked in the yard, 'cause I often said to Dad, "I don't know why you don't have a pretty hankie in your pocket like that man." That would come up, you know - they had to show what kind of shoes - nails they had in their shoes, and when they raised their - you'd see their pockets sometimes and I often wondered wondered why we didn't get the fancy colors, but Dad liked blue, and of ‘ course he liked the kind that would stretch easily because with the one arm, he had trouble getting it.

    Wright: So, did you knit new socks for him, then?

    Cheney: Oh, yes.

    Wright: And they would have been Christmas presents that you would have made and given to your father, then, for Christmas. What types of things would you give your mother, you mentioned handkerchiefs, would you give your mother a hankie, or?

    Cheney: Well, she liked handkerchiefs, and I was thinking after you left, she had a scarf to go - she made her own suits quite often, but she always had a scarf. We would buy the scarf, I can remember it would always be an occasion, because that would be one of the things you'd get – Christmas, the latest suit she'd made, we'd have the scarf ready as a Christmas present. But lots of times they were just a strip of cloth. But Aunt Kate would make them sometimes so that Mother wouldn't see them, so we'd buy the silk material and then she would . . .

    Wright: Did she fringe it or just hem - make a rolled hem on it?

    Cheney: Rolled hem.

    Wright: Rolled hem.

    Cheney: That I remember. Now sometimes there was a lace that came. It was more like an embroidery and we'd put that across the end of the scarf, but they were never very satisfactory, Mother said, because of ‘ course when you put it around your neck, it got into the button or . . .

    Wright: Hadn't thought of that.

    Johnson: Did you ever crochet those little edgings on handkerchiefs for your mother?

    Cheney: Yes. Yes, we all learned to do that as we got older, hold the needle and pull the thread through. I think all of us could - well my sister, Elsie, was never very well, and she didn't like to sit up, I mean the doctor told our Mother to get her to rest all she could, so she wasn't much for the sewing things or making things. But my oldest sister and Sarah and I made a lot of things - well, handkerchiefs, we always had pretty handkerchiefs, and we made the little embroidery stitches and then you'd sew it on and make a long reel of it, maybe five or six yards, and then sew it on the handkerchiefs.
  • Health and deaths of siblings; Left-handedness and learning to be ambidextrous; Rivers, parks, and landscapes; Planning future visits
    Keywords: Alexis I. du Pont School (Wilmington, Del.); Beaches; Blocks (Toys);Brothers and sisters; Cemeteries; Childhood and youth of a person;Children of immigrants; Christmas decorations; Christmas tree ornaments; Christmas trees; Collars; Community newspapers;Death;Delaware River (N.Y.-Del. and N.J.);Dutch elm disease; Elm; Fashion; Gallstones; Health; Horse-drawn vehicles; Influenza Epidemic (1918-1919); Lace craft; Left- and right-handedness; Marine pollution; New Castle (Del.); Parks--Delaware; Parks--Employees; Parks--Management;Parks--Public use; Parks--United States; Reminiscing;Sewing;Sewing--Left-handed techniques; Sibling attachment; Silverbrook Cemetery (Wilmington, Del.); Tidal flats; Tree stump removal; Water--Pollution--United States
    Transcript: Wright: You mentioned your sister Elsie and your sister Sarah, what was your other sister's name?

    Cheney: Elizabeth.

    Wright: Elizabeth. And what did they all do when they grew up?

    Cheney: Well, Elizabeth had very poor health. Mother wasn't well when she was born, they told me, they told us, and she had to take care of her health, so she never went - she had to get whatever knowledge she got at home, she didn't go to – to school. See, we had two miles to walk, and the doctor said it was . . .

    Wright: Too much.

    Cheney: . . . too much. So . . . but she loved housework and loved to cook - of course she died when she was only twenty-two.

    Wright: Where is she buried?

    Cheney: Silverbrook.

    Wright: Silverbrook - is that where a lot of people from Christ Church at that time, if you were going to Christ Church or that area, were buried?

    Cheney: Well, I don't know, my Dad was a tax collector you know, and he made very close friends and one of the friends that he made was the Whites at Silverbrook.

    Wright: Mm-hmm.

    Cheney: So, Mr. White came to see Mother and Dad, I guess, the first time - who was the first one to die? Anyhow, the first burial we had, um . . .

    Wright: Was – was that . . .

    Cheney: . . . we got the lot at Silverbrook.

    Wright: So that's where your parents are buried?

    Cheney: Yes.

    Wright: Now, where were your grandparents buried?

    Cheney: Well, Mother's were, of course, in Ireland, and Dad's are at Mt. Salem. He lived in the house right on the corner there, when you come out of the park onto the street that goes to the Kennett Pike?

    Wright: Yes, mm-hmm.

    Cheney: Well, right that corner . . .

    Wright: Oh, that corner, oh, sure.

    Cheney: Yes, that corner property is where my grandfather lived. He had a stable in the back there and had a horse and wagon. We used to think it was wonderful when he'd take us up to Granogue [laughs].

    Wright: That was a Sunday afternoon ride. So, what happened to Elsie and Sarah?

    Cheney: Well, Elsie had - Sarah had gall stones and I don't think Elsie ever got over the flu properly, either.

    Akinson: I don't know whether you can see much on these or not.

    Wright: Okay - oh, you found the old photograph album. Oh, isn't this great.

    Akinson: There's the Christmas yard.

    Wright: Oh, isn't that neat - look at - oh.

    Johnson: Oh, that's just what we need.

    Wright: We need, isn't that perfect?

    Akinson: I don’ t know. Can you see anything in it?

    Wright: Oh, yes, we can see a lot. We can take a magnifying glass, but it gives us an idea - the trees were always so sparse, weren't they, we use such full trees in – in this time.

    Cheney: Well, you'd go on out and cut them sometimes.

    Akinson: There's an old one.

    Wright: Oh, my heavens, yes, indeed. It still looks like that today, though, you know.

    Akinson: Yes it does, it hasn’ t changed too much.

    Wright: It's amazing, you know they took down the box-wood out front, with the – it’ s still so . . .

    Akinson: This is the way the green used to look - look at the trees.

    Wright: Look at the trees. It's too bad they don't plant – plant them back them back against that . . .

    Akinson: The state took over.

    Wright: Well, that explains it, and the state goes and cuts all the trees down, doesn't it?

    Akinson: Well, they all go bad.

    Wright: But, then they should replant.

    Akinson: They don't replant.

    Wright: But then on the highway, they – remember that just a year or so ago, people were driving into the trees and killing themselves, so they took the trees down so people couldn't drive . . .

    Akinson: So then they put in these block things that look terrible and they kill you just as much.

    Wright: Quicker, probably, than if you go in a tree.

    Akinson: Here's an old card, too.

    Johnson: Oh, isn’ t that . . .

    Wright: Oh, isn't that lovely, oh, thank you.

    Wright: Oh, this yard is just great. Oh, that is super.

    Akinson: [unintelligible] Have you got your name on the thing?

    Wright: Can we take these and have copies and bring them back?

    Akinson: Yeah, you can take them out - take out what you, uh . . .

    Wright: Okay, while we're eating I'll look through afterwards, but that will be great because it gives us an idea - and it's oblong, which is nice, instead of being square.

    Akinson: They just pull right out.

    Wright: Oh, that's great. That one doesn't want to come, really.

    Akinson: It's stuck up here, just tear those little critters out.

    Wright: Okay, we'll tear the corner away.

    Johnson: Isn't this beautiful?

    Wright: Yes, isn't that . . .

    Johnson: This is Echoes from Bethlehem, explains things.

    Wright: Isn't that a beautiful card.

    Johnson: That is just beautiful.

    Wright: Oh, yes - Echoes from Bethlehem, with some poems in it – isn’ t that beautiful! Maybe we can find some way of putting it out, but not so people will handle it.

    Akinson: Yes, see he has - you asked about the thing - doll on the tree?

    Wright: Yes, there, it looks like a doll hanging right there.

    Akinson: Yeah, it is.

    Wright: Look at the doll hanging off the tree here, Dorothy, see the little doll hanging off the tree? But that's a good-sized house that they have there, that's a busy little place. We'll have to . . .

    Akinson: See, he has the birds on the roof?

    Wright: Oh, I missed that.

    Akinson: Maybe there's some more - let me look. See, them pecking up on the roof?

    Wright: They sure are - isn't that something, that is really great.

    Cheney: Will the stuff come off if I'd wash those blocks?

    Wright: Don't worry about the blocks, we’ ll - I'll take them home and if it's real nice over the weekend I'll, you know, wash them off and put them out in the sun so they'll dry in the wind, so they'll dry fast. We were talking sisters - Sarah had gall stones - did she have the flu in, in -at all or was it just Elsie and Elizabeth?

    Cheney: We all had the flu, but I think – no, Sarah wasn't dead before we had the flu, she had the flu.

    Wright: When did Sarah die?

    Akinson: She died the year I went out to Alexis I. around 1930 or '31.

    Cheney: Yeah, '31.

    Wright: ‘ 19 - that was the year I was born, that's a good year.

    Akinson: That's the year I started to teach.

    Wright: That was the year you started to teach.

    Akinson: ‘ 30, I started in.

    Cheney: I started in '25.

    Wright: When was Sarah born? How old was she in '31?

    Akinson: She was three years younger than Catherine, wasn't she? Sarah?

    Cheney: I think so - three or four.

    Wright: So what does that make her - back in 1931?

    Akinson: Well, Catherine was born in 1905, and Sarah would have been one year she was born in 1909, I think, Catherine.

    Cheney: Yes, I think that's right.

    Wright: 1909. Now, how about Elsie?

    Akinson: Elsie's older than . . .

    Wright: Everybody, huh?

    Akinson: No.

    Cheney: No, Elizabeth was the oldest. She died when she was twenty-two with the flu.

    Wright: Twenty or twenty-two?

    Cheney: I think she was twenty-two when she died.

    Akinson: I never knew her.

    Wright: You never knew Elizabeth, but you knew Sarah and Elsie and George?

    Akinson: I didn't know – I didn’ t know them too well, 'cause see, I didn't go out to Alexis I. until '30.

    Wright: Mm-hmm.

    Akinson: And her sister died in '31 so I never really got to know her.

    Wright: Right, you wouldn't have gotten to know Sarah.

    Akinson: Unh-uh, and Catherine's mother, I hardly knew, 'cause she died too, about the same year.

    Wright: Flu – flu did them all in, then. And Elizabeth, when did Elizabeth die, then, before - in the twenties somewhere?

    Cheney: Yes.

    Wright: And how about Elsie?

    Akinson: She had . . .

    Cheney: Elsie had gall bladder.

    Wright: Yeah, but she died when?

    Cheney: She died in . . . '31, wasn’ t it?

    Akinson: Oh, no, no - I knew Elsie.

    Wright: That was Sarah you just said that died in 1931.

    Cheney: I can look it up, but I really can't . . .

    Akinson: Oh, I knew Elsie well, ‘ cause, so, um - and Elsie died after you came here to live, she must have died in the 50's.

    Wright: Did she marry and have a family, or?

    Akinson: No.

    Cheney: No.

    Akinson: None of them except George.

    Cheney: George married, the boy . . .

    Wright: George is the only one who married.

    Cheney: And he had three girls.

    Wright: Girls run in your family just like boys run in my family [laughter]. We specialize. Is he still living?

    Cheney: Oh, yes.

    Wright: And he’ s down where?

    Cheney: North Carolina.

    Wright: North Carolina - I remember you saying he . . . wasn’ t living in the area.

    Cheney: What's the name of the place where they live?

    Akinson: Laurenburg.

    Cheney: My head's awful anymore - yeah, Laurenburg.

    Wright: It’ s got nothing to do with age - my head, it seem to not be - I keep laughing ha, ha - and saying I'm getting Alzheimer's, when I get it's a wonder I remember my name some days.

    Cheney: Well, George was - I was old enough to take care of George, we've been very close.

    Wright: That's what they seemed to do, I understand in my, or correct me if I'm wrong, but the older children were given the new baby, kind of to take care of it was their – their responsibility. Is that the way it was in your house?

    Cheney: Well, George was so much fun - now when Sarah was little, she didn't care for the coach at all, but we got a wagon and he'd say, "Don't you touch the," you know to pull him, "let me have the steering thing” . And he'd start down those hills [laughs].

    Wright: He just wanted to go [more laughter]. He sounds very typically like a boy, live dangerously.

    Cheney: Even when he was all surrounded by all the women, he had his tricks, alright.

    Wright: Right - they sure do do that.

    Cheney: But we've been very close.

    Akinson: I think this was real smart to cut this out and haven't the foggiest idea what the date is.

    Wright: Well, at the time you knew, when you cut it out.

    Akinson: I know.

    Wright: It's just like pictures, you think you're going to remember everybody who's in them with no problem.

    Akinson: Oh, I don't remember half of them.

    Wright: And good heavens, you look at them - I can’ t even tell my children apart, I've got baby pictures that . . .

    Akinson: [laughing] That is bad, I think, don't you?

    [Lots of voices talking about that at once.]

    Wright: But you know you'd think that - maybe some of them at certain ages they look - there's a great similarity. And I wasn't clever enough I was too busy to write on the back. It was lucky they got pictures, let’ s not worry about writing on the back of them, what age they were [laughs]. Oh, dear.

    Akinson: I think some of the dresses that are coming back that I've seen in the stores make me think of my grandmother's clothes.

    Wright: Oh, haven't they though. And things in the ‘ 50s and the . . .

    Johnson: Those lace collars.

    Wright: And the lace collars, I love the lace collars. I saved some from my Mother when we went through her - when she died a few years ago, and I've got to dig them out. I've got them in the – in the – in one of the drawers, but she had some lovely lace collars.

    Johnson: And they're coming back.

    Wright: And I - they were so pretty, I couldn't bear to part with them.

    Cheney: They were hand done too, most of them.

    Wright: Now, now I'm going to be stylish, I’ ll wear my Mother's lace collars. Like your mother, my Mother was very clever with her hands and sewed well and did things. I picked some of it up by osmosis, but I'm not begin to be like she was with it.

    Cheney: My Mother really loved to sew.

    Wright: My Mother sewed all the time. But she liked to do it, and she - I was left-handed, and she got very frustrated with me because I did not do things the way she did them . . .

    Johnson: That would be a problem, wouldn't it?

    Wright: . . . and she found it easier to do it herself than to try to teach me to do it.

    Cheney: Well, you know, the doctor advised Mother not make my sister change, she was left-handed. But, before Sarah died, she could use both hands.

    Akinson: They don't like you to change much any more.

    Wright: No, I do things I'm very ambidextrous. In fact, I cut right-handed because they didn't have left-handed scissors, and I can't use left-handed scissors.

    Cheney: Mm-hmm.

    Wright: And I, you know do lots of things interchangeably, if it's convenient to use the right hand instead of the left hand, I find myself swapping hands without realizing it.

    Akinson: Oh, they make things now so you can use them left-handed.

    Wright: Yes.

    Cheney: When Sarah was trying to learn, she thought it was so silly and such a nuisance, but when she was a nurse, she said she was certainly thankful that she had learned to operate both hands [laughs].

    Wright: Yes, it has lots of advantages, it really – it really does.

    Cheney: But she didn't have long to be a nurse, and she died when she was thirty. Old gall bladder . . .

    Akinson: I used to think the Delaware River was the seashore.

    Wright: Apparently, it was back then, cleaner too.

    Akinson: It was. Oh, yeah, you went in, nobody thought a thing about it.

    Cheney: We thought New Castle had a wonderful beach when you’ d come over here.

    Akinson: It did, though.

    Wright: We came down and it took a couple extra minutes to go down, because the river is so rough.

    Akinson: Oh, it's bad today.

    Wright: So we drove down, just to look to see what it was doing, but it's amazing how low the tide is.

    Akinson: Well . . .

    Wright: It was down to one of those breakers you know the big stone that . . .

    Akinson: Yeah, mm-hmm.

    Wright: It's way down to there, so that - I don’ t know if the wind's blowing it out or if it always goes down that low.

    Akinson: No, we have tide here.

    Wright: I know you have tide, but I've never seen it that low when I've been here.

    Akinson: Oh, well, it's mud and muck way out when it’ s real low. You must have got just at the . . .

    Wright: It is really low today, and yucky looking.

    Akinson: It's a mess.

    Wright: Yes, it is a mess. All the debris in it.

    Akinson: But it was real high last night when we were down there, it was way up. Sometimes it plops up over the wharf, but they fixed the wharf up so nicely now.

    Wright: They've done a nice job. That's a nice park down there and . . .

    Akinson: Yes, it is, it's real nice.

    Wright: . . . and they keep it well and there's nice places to go for people to come and sit.

    Akinson: Well, that's the Trustees of the Commons take care of that.

    Wright: Well, they're doing a good job, you can pat them on the back.

    Akinson: Well, that’ s what they’ re trying to . . . the - Bob Appleby told me that – or his wife told me that they're trying to get Bob Connor to get the Governor to let the New Castle Commons take over the green. 'Cause when they had it, it was always nice. Now they come - well, see, they had a man that worked the green and all the other parks in New Castle. Now, the state took over, he's here one day and he has to put his machine on a cart and go to some of the other places, the next place, so he doesn't have, really, time to . . .

    Wright: Do a good job.

    Akinson: To do a good job. And they just cut down an enormous tree over there. My, you should - have you seen them take out the stumps? You know, we used to have the stumps around forever.

    Wright: Right.

    Akinson: Well, they have a machine that comes in and grinds it up in no time. It just puts it over that thing and you have . . .

    Johnson: The people across the street had that done. It's amazing.

    Akinson: It's an awful racket, but it certainly is something. You can't even hardly tell where the tree was over there. We used to fall over the stumps!

    Wright: All the time, sure. You had to wait until it rotted away.

    Akinson: Oh, yeah, there were two columns down that, um - the old elms - there was two solid columns when I went to school - I went to school down there and I brought friends home from college and talked about the green and they got here and wanted to know where the green was. There wasn't a blade of grass on it.

    Wright: That and the elm trees [laughter].

    Akinson: What the school kids played on, it was a playground.

    Wright: Sure, yes, [unintelligible].

    Akinson: Take all those feet tromping up and down, it doesn't take the grass long to disappear.

    Wright: It sure doesn't.

    Akinson: And then those beautiful old trees that they got to be - they got that elm disease.

    Wright: Yeah, where I grew up in North Hampton, we had elm trees all over the place and they were beautiful, and I can remember . . .

    Akinson: Yes, they were beautiful. They were nice because they went up and then branched out. Now some of these things they have over here, you'd have to be a midget to sit under them.

    Wright: Yes, they really should come through and cut the lower branches out so that you can walk under . . .

    Akinson: Yeah. They did that on the one that had dark leaves on it, I forget what its name is.

    Wright: Is that the beech tree?

    Akinson: Well, the beech tree, yeah. They did cut it up a little bit, but then they put the evergreen in over there and it's . . .

    Wright: That's no help.

    Akinson: Not for people to come and sit and enjoy it. Then they put all the benches in the sun [laughter].

    Wright: Which is fine today, but not in the middle of the summer. A man had to have done that, I'm sure.

    Akinson: Oh, I'm sure of it. [laughter].

    Wright: Oh, dear. Well, let me check my calendar and let's pick two dates well we can do that when we have our goodies in the kitchen . . .

    Akinson: Okay.

    Wright: When we can come, you know, if we pick two dates, then I'll get back to you and let you know which one works for when we get the photographer to take your picture so that we can do some, you know, pictures that we hopefully can put in the newspaper. Does New Castle have a little daily newspaper, or weekly, or monthly, or?

    Akinson: It has something called "The Eagle".

    Wright: "The Eagle".

    Akinson: It's weekly.

    Wright: Weekly.

    Akinson: We used to get it, but, uh - it didn't have much in it so Catherine - she keeps forgetting to go pay for it, so we don't get it any more.

    Wright: Okay. So - who should we contact on that?

    Akinson: Well, the office is - I'll find out for you, the office is right over there in the old Town Hall.

    Wright: Okay, when you come - when we come and get together again for the pictures, then you can let us know who we should . . .

    Akinson: Okay.

    Wright: Because it would be nice to have the information put in that too, I think.

    Akinson: Mm-hmm. Yeah, the old Town Hall is where they are.

    Wright: Okay, that'll be great. I can't think of anything else, can you, Dorothy? Can you two think of anything we should know? Or have you told us all you know? [laughter]

    Akinson: Told us all we know [more laughter].
  • Candy canes; Water pumps and outhouses; Childhood chores; Christmas decorations at Hagley; Dish sets; First car; Education and teaching
    Keywords: Alexis I. du Pont School (Wilmington, Del.); Automobile dealers; Automobile driving; Automobiles--Purchasing; Blue and white transfer ware; Blue and white ware; Blue and white ware--China;Brothers and sisters; Candy canes; Chamber pots;Chickens--Behavior; Childhood and youth of a person;Children with disabilities; Chores; Christ Church Christiana Hundred (Wilmington, Del.); Christmas decorations; Christmas tree ornaments; Christmas trees; Christmas--Anecdotes; Christmas--United States; Classroom environment--United States; Classroom management--United States; Dishes; Entertaining; Gardens; Heirlooms;Horse-drawn vehicles; New Castle (Del.); Nonesuch Creek (New Castle County, Del.); Outhouses; Reminiscing; School buildings--Heating and ventilation; School children;Sewage disposal;Substitute teaching; Tableware; Teachers--Training of;Teaching; University of Delaware; Vegetable gardening; Water-supply; Well water; Willowware; Wilmington (Del.); Wilmington High School (Wilmington, Del.); Winterthur (Del.)
    Transcript: Johnson: Tell us – tell us about the candy again, would you have had candy in those cornucopias, or - you said your mother always wanted to have it wrapped.

    Cheney: Candy canes was a big thing at Christmastime at our place.

    Akinson: But they were big things.

    Cheney: Yes.

    Johnson: Were they always red and white, or did they have different colors?

    Akinson: I never saw anything but red and white, I probably wouldn't have thought it was a cane if it weren't red and white. But it was a big thing, you could really, almost, walk with it.

    Wright: Oh, you got real large ones.

    Akinson: Yeah, real big!

    Wright: Not like the small sizes . . .

    Akinson: No, you got them over to [tape cuts out].

    Wright: . . . in case we lost it. You said the candy canes were large, maybe as long as your arm. How thick would they be, not like - an inch maybe, inch and a half?

    Akinson: About like that - don't you think, Catherine?

    Cheney: Maybe to the elbow, I don’ t know whether . . .

    Akinson: Oh, we had some big ones. Harry always bought me a big one.

    Wright: So that you used them as walking sticks?

    Akinson: Well, yeah, you know, when you were playing around.

    Wright: And you were walking around, that would be fun.

    Akinson: Then you licked the cane.

    Wright: It would last all year.

    Akinson: Then you lived a long time [laughter].

    Wright: Absolutely.

    Akinson: Just like I've often thought of, here in New Castle - we all had, um outhouses.

    Wright: Mm-hmm.

    Akinson: And we had pumps. Now this is the high part, and right down there on Fourth Street was the pump, where we all went to get our water, and all the outhouses were lined up back here, and I thought well I guess we all got our inoculations for free.

    Wright: ‘ Cause it would drain, it would drain that way.

    Akinson: It had to.

    Wright: Sure it had to, absolutely.

    Akinson: The other one was down at the end of this street, the pump, and we carried pump water because the – the water in Nonesuch Creek out here Basin Road got its name from - they used to have the water basin that they pumped the water from Nonesuch Creek into that, and then they - that's what we got through the spigot, and sometimes you didn't really know what was gonna come out.

    Cheney: Well, your toilet wouldn't interfere with any street, where you had the toilet.

    Akinson: Oh, it would drain down to Fourth Street, it's on a hill.

    Wright: Sure would.

    Cheney: Yes, I guess it would have.

    Akinson: Then afterward we got one that was down to - that they dug it down to sand.

    Cheney: They had an outhouse at Christ Church, you know, they insisted on wells under every . . .

    Akinson: Well, we had a well later on, but this is when what they said the honey - the kind we had at first you had to get the honey dipper come.

    Wright: Right.

    Akinson: And that's when you left town.

    Wright: It was interesting, that - my aunt's old house in Glastonberry Connecticut, still has the oushouse - the outhouse standing and at the bottom, in the back it has a little flap door that . . .

    Akinson: Lifts up and you could clean it out.

    Wright: . . . you could clean it out or they said sometimes there was a trough that went underneath, and you could hook - hitch the horses up and there would be a place to put it, you know, to attach it. And you could pull it out and then they'd empty it.

    Akinson: You couldn't do that down here in the alley, you had to haul it up the steps and down the alley and out the front.

    Wright: Well, this was out in . . .

    Akinson: In the barrels they did it.

    Wright: Odor rivers, that's a good word. Phew.

    Akinson: Man, that was something.

    Cheney: Well, after all, it was across the road from the house up there [laughs].

    Wright: Yes, yes, you had to go further, very careful of what you drank at night so you didn't have to go to the bathroom.

    Akinson: And the cold weather, whoo!

    Cheney: Oh, you had to have containers.

    Wright: Yes.

    Cheney: Those funny old . . .

    Wright: Thunder jugs.

    Cheney: Yes, that was the name I couldn't think of [laughs].

    Wright: Right. The problem is, you have to clean those the next day.

    Cheney: Yes, indeed.

    Wright: Did your mother do that, or did everyone who used one have to clean their own?

    Cheney: No, Mother took care of all the things. Well, I can remember when she wasn't well, we would do it, my oldest sister did a lot, my oldest sister. But, we all had our little chores. The thing I hated was keeping the chickens out of the garden [laughs].

    Wright: I'm with you, I don't like chickens either, so that would be no fun.

    Cheney: You'd think you had all the holes filled up, and lo and behold there would be the chickens in the tomato patch.

    Johnson: It's funny how chickens like tomatoes, isn't it?

    Wright: They do, oh, they make a beeline for them, terrible.

    Cheney: They ruin them too.

    Wright: Well, I think with all we have, we're gonna really have a really nifty Christmas tree. I'm excited because I think it will be a neat addition to the Hill. And to have you still able to come and see it will be really fun for you and it will be fun for us to, so we're all really, really excited about it.

    Cheney: I was gonna talk to some other older people and see if they had any more ideas.

    Wright: Well, please do, if - when you're at the Senior Center or something, when it gets near Christmas, if you do, and if you get some good ideas, maybe we could come with the tape recorder sometime and, uh – and tape them.

    Cheney: I wish Tilly Phillips was around, she lived at Winterthur, at the house on the right when you come to the railroad crossing, you know, you go through Montchanin, then you go on up the hill and there's a big hump?

    Wright: Yes.

    Cheney: Well, that house to the right is where Tilly lived. And she was sick one time and she asked Mother if I could come up and stay with her because her husband worked there at the du Pont estate, and he really couldn't be home enough to look after her. She had to have a nurse for a while, but then I was up there every day. I had a car at the time, so it was no problem to get up from our place. But, uh, she had an interesting collection of different things. Of ‘ course she had lived in Ireland and then came out here and got a job at H. F. du Pont, and she married one of the men that worked up there, yes, Archie Phillips.

    Wright: What do you think happened to the things she had, do you have any idea?

    Cheney: I guess her relations took it, everything - the [Gapins?] lived in New Jersey and they visit there regularly, and I know she talked about giving them a lot of the things. I'll tell you it's very particular about anything, now a lot of our friends would have offered to give some of the things that they brought from Ireland, knowing that Mother was there, but we had Mother up there several times and she said she was tempted to ask for - oh, it was some kind of a special dish that Tilly had and Mother said she had the same one since she was in her own home. I forget now the name of the pattern, but anyhow, Mother always liked it, had that, but I never had the nerve to ask Tilly. Because she was very fond of her things and had them nicely displayed, so . . .

    Wright: She would have missed it.

    Cheney: Yes, but she didn't have a family, so that way none of those things got broken.

    Wright: Right - that makes a difference, doesn't it?

    Cheney: It does.

    Wright: What kind of dishes do you remember your mother having, speaking of dishes? Did she have blue and white, brown and white, multi-colored?

    Cheney: Oh, what was the pattern everybody had? I remember when we were rich enough to get that set of dishes. I can’ t think of the name of it now.

    Wright: Blue Willow was one of the ones that they used.

    Cheney: I don't think it was the Willow.

    Wright: I remember my grandmother having the Blue Willow.

    Johnson: Mine did too. Do you know what color it was? Do you remember . . .

    Cheney: Blue, mostly blue, blue and white, and an all-over pattern, like. But I can't make the name of it now.

    Wright: Well, maybe it will come later, or some other time. I do that, I laugh and say I put things on the back burner and then all of a sudden the name comes to you later.

    Cheney: We thought it was something when we got the whole set of those - cups and saucers, breakfast plates and dinner plates.

    Wright: Oh, it was a big set of dishes then.

    Cheney: Yes, we had all the - we had twelve, of ‘ course we needed that many when we set the table.

    Wright: Yes, you really needed a set and a half - when you got fourteen, you had to use something that didn't match. That was a goodly number to have.

    Cheney: My Mother loved company, not a Sunday we didn't have ‘ em [laughs].

    Wright: You don't have any of the dishes that she had left in things that you kept when you moved in with Carrie?

    Cheney: No, I had to get rid of so much when we moved into Wilmington, see, when we left from out there at Christ Church, we just had the bedroom and the living room and the kitchen, and real small one at that, in somebody's house. We had their second floor, so it was just absolutely necessary to get rid of it.

    Akinson: What equipment do I need for the food?

    Wright: I think she made a pie, didn’ t she?

    Johnson: It's a pie [lots of laughter].

    Akinson: I didn't know, with what it was in, I thought, Heavenly Days, we're going on a picnic. [more laughter].

    Wright: It's easy to carry. Well, we certainly have been having fun with this project. It's made it, you know, a very, very interesting year for us at Hagley and we've had fun making, and looking, and researching, and trying to find the things, and recreating, and . . . It's opened up a whole new section for us, of you know, it will give us different things to interpret. I like Christmas, so it's been, you know, a fun project for me, particularly. But I know everybody else has enjoyed it too.

    Cheney: Well, I know we had a happy life out there along the Brandywine, and there was something to do all the time. The garden kept you busy in the summer-time and the snow in the . . .

    Wright: Yes, we had more snow, I can remember, you know, when I was growing up. We had much more snow than we do now.

    Cheney: And I think you were more conscious of it with the horse and wagon than you were when you had the car, too.

    Wright: Yes.

    Cheney: Because I know that I got the job to teach, my first job up at Center Grove and Dad and Mother were at Atlantic City the time that I got the job, the first part of August. So I called up, I couldn't wait, you know, to tell them that I had a job. So, Dad said “ How are you gonna get up there?” I said, "I guess I'll have to have a car, that's the only way I know." So, he said, "Well, don't wait until I go home - get home, go over to [Wallace’ s?] at St. Joseph's Church and tell him that you're George Cheney's daughter and you want a car." [laughs] So, I had the car before they got home.

    Wright: That was exciting. Did you go on to college before you taught school, or did you just do your twelve years at, you know, your one through twelve, and then teach?

    Cheney: At Alexis I. and then I went two years at the University. You could get the teacher training . . .

    Wright: In two years at the University of Delaware?

    Cheney: . . . course, and then I got my degree by going to summer school. And taking extension work in at Wilmington High.

    Wright: That's great. So, you took a two-year teaching course at Delaware?

    Cheney: Yes. Mother would have liked if I'd gone four years, but I just knew Sarah was coming along and she wanted to be a nurse and her training would have been expensive too.

    Wright: You were lucky, especially in that day and age to even get a little bit of college, because it was unusual for girls to go on and get educated.

    Cheney: Well, I enjoyed it. I went down there and lived for the two years.

    Akinson: Well, the two-year college was . . .

    Wright: Well-used?

    Akinson: Two years were - you could teach with two years.

    Wright: That's what she was saying. I think that's neat.

    Cheney: That's what I did [laughs], but then I went to summer school, and that was something to look forward to.

    Akinson: You went to summer school and night school, too.

    Cheney: Yes, Wilmington High gave courses.

    Wright: And after school - school. Did you go to the two year, or did you go all four years?

    Akinson: No, I went four years.

    Wright: You got yours done the easy way.

    Akinson: Yeah, but then I had to go back and get enough to teach in elementary school ‘ cause I got accredited for high school.

    Wright: Oh, for heaven's - I hadn't realized that. You decided you liked the younger kids better than the older ones.

    Cheney: Before she got the job?

    Akinson: I like fourth grade.

    Wright: Yes, you did specialize in fourth grade. She did a good job at it.

    Cheney: I started out in a one-room school. I had all six - but I only had sixteen hundred [laughs].

    Johnson: So you probably just got one group started and you'd have to tend to the others.

    Cheney: Well, to tell you the truth, the sixth graders taught the first and second [laughs] more than I did. Because he just loved to work with their sentences and things that I would help them write, and then he'd make them take the strips of paper and read them to him, you know. It was hard to keep one child in a class busy, but his mother and father, and even Dr. King, said it was remarkable what the boy knew. He went from the sixth grade right into the eighth grade when he went down to Alexis I. because he had – had completed or passed the test he took at seventh grade work because he had so much extra. I couldn't keep - we had one of those big bucket-a-day stoves, and I'd get busy teaching and the thing would die, oh, I had an awful time with it. So I went up to Mr. Kelley and I said, "Do you think that you could help Raymond a little bit to learn how to keep the fire going in the school?" He said, "Oh, he'd love it.” He was a crippled boy and he couldn't play with the others too well and he used to stay in the room with me and get out books and do things like that, so he took over the furnace, his father helped and it was really wonderful for me because it was a great big - what do they call it bell . . . bellied . . . bucket.

    Wright and Johnson: Pot-bellied stove.

    Cheney: Yeah, that's it, pot-bellied stove. And I had never kept a fire going, and I'd get busy teaching over there . . .

    Johnson: They go out in no time, you have to feed it all the time.

    Cheney: But Raymond took over, he was alright.

    Wright: What did Raymond go on to do, did you ever hear?

    Cheney: Well, I didn't know whether he'd finished high school or not because he was a slow learner, and, uh, but his father said that he really learned fourth, fifth and sixth grade . . .

    Wright: Very well.

    Cheney: You know, he liked it and he knew he was worth and needed there to keep the fire going and he said it just did wonders for his ego - you have no idea what a difference it made at home and everywhere. He said “ We were just amazed when he got up from the table one night and he said, ‘ There's no reason why I can't clean up, I can do the dishes.’ ” You know, he felt with the limping leg he couldn't go out and play with the others, and it just made him so happy, the things he could do.

    Wright: That's great, isn't it? Makes you feel good. At least he knew his reading, writing and arithmetic, which seems to be more than some of the kids know today.

    Cheney: That's the truth, and he wanted to learn. That makes an awful difference.

    Wright: Boy, doesn't it!

    Cheney: Give me five or six who can't learn so quickly, instead of one that's smart aleck and thinks he knows it and can't do it at all, but won't admit it.

    Wright: Oh, it's frustrating, isn't it? I don't think I could be a teacher today.

    Cheney: Well, I really enjoyed it. That was something I always wanted to do, and I really did enjoy it. I kinda hated to retire.

    Wright: I substituted, but it got to be - I laughed, I said I went home with an Excederin headache, and I decided that was kind of foolish to do something that was giving me a headache.

    Cheney: Yes, and that's a miserable feeling.

    Wright: But they got so disorganized, and they had so many different things there was always somebody coming and going out of the class and you had - of ‘ course it's difficult to substitute anyhow.

    Johnson: Being a substitute is hard, I think.

    Wright: It's hard to begin with, but there was still so many - I can't think what they call them, but they go out and this group would go out to get help with one thing, and this group would be going out, and then the ones that left early were coming back, so there was always confusion.

    Johnson: Yes, they organize it, but it confused me.

    Cheney: Mr. Yerger was there at Alexis I. and I had him all the way through school there, so he was like one of the family to me. I was really tickled when I got to go down there. [phone rings] Are you busy, Carrie?
  • China dolls; Trouble with a foot; Dining out; Planning a follow-up visit; Doll dishes
    Keywords: Childhood and youth of a person; China dolls; Dolls; Miniature objects; Miniature porcelain; Miniature tableware; Only child; Reminiscing; Restaurants
    Transcript: Wright: That's what I should say. You can stay home all day, and can be in my office all day, nobody calls, but then I may be out doing something else, and instantly I'm getting . . .

    Cheney: I hope your foot gets along alright.

    Wright: It's really coming well, I'm very pleased at how well it's doing. Did you ever have a little doll that looked like this? With the china faces? This is a copy of an old one.

    Cheney: Oh, yes. I don't know that I had one, but my cousins did, I've seen them.

    Wright: And the little china feet.

    Cheney: Oh, that’ s adorable. Dressed in the old-fashioned way like grandmom.

    Wright: Yeah, isn't she cute? I had a little . . .

    Akinson: And the big apron.

    Wright: I have a little tree that I do at home and she sits under it.

    Cheney: Oh, that's nice.

    Wright: Yeah, she’ s cute.

    Cheney: We had too many girls for the dolls to last. Carrie has most of her things, but she was an only child, and it makes a difference.

    Wright: Yes, being an only child makes a difference, it really does.

    Johnson: And some children play with dolls harder than others might. My cousin used to take them apart to see what they were like inside, just that kind of a child.

    Cheney: Yes, once the rubber gets loose, the legs get off and arms.

    Wright: I have a problem, I'm going to have to [laughs].

    Cheney: I'm glad your foot's better, you've had a time with that, I'll bet.

    Wright: Yes, I have had a time with it, I have. And I am so pleased I don't have to have the other foot done. Guess he wants to go out and eat something [referring to the phone conversation in background].

    Cheney: We do that a lot.

    Wright: I don't blame you. I think it’ s fun. I like to go out.

    Cheney: It’ s usually just the two of us.

    Johnson: You see other people then, that way.

    Wright: Well, shall we go have goodies, and we'll set a – we’ ll look at calendars and see whether we can try to get together for the, uh . . . [tape is turned off]. [Tape is turned back on again] . . . day for you?

    Akinson: Usually.

    Wright: Okay, how about either the Thursday or Friday of the 29th, 30th, or the . . .

    Akinson: Well, let me put that on, we have some trips that we're going on, and, uh . . .

    Wright: Okay, and if not, it will take me a little bit to, yes, I have to write a work request, you realize, and then double check to see if the . . .

    Akinson: Now which, the last . . .

    Wright: Let's try for the Thursday or Friday of this week or the Thursday and Friday . . .

    Akinson: Well, I put question marks.

    Wright: Right, yeah, and then the Thursday and Friday of the next week and then that will give them two weeks to - and then I'll get back to you and they’ ll probably want to do it in two weeks. You know how that goes. Usually, they say give them a month, but . . .

    Akinson: Well, I'll put it there and then if it comes up, why . . .

    Wright: We’ ll, yeah, we'll take it from there. Oops, I’ m stepping on somebody’ s . . .

    Akinson: No, this is a beautiful calendar, but it gives me . . .

    Wright: You just look at the picture and forget about the other part of it. Well, we thank you kindly, and we thank you for your [lots of voices talking at one time]. Now do you want your pictures back?

    Akinson: Whenever you use them, you can keep them as long as you need them.

    Wright: Okay, very good. Oh, look at your little miniature punch set - isn't that darling.

    Akinson: My what?

    Wright: Little miniature punch set in here.

    Akinson: Oh, yeah, that's my doll punch thing, I got a doll set of dishes too, I have a whole set.

    Wright: A whole set.

    Akinson: But these are the dessert dishes. They were the punch set, I have little dessert dishes too, the dessert dishes are like those.

    Wright: This, isn't that . . .

    Akinson: No, that one.

    Wright: Oh, this one. Okay, I have big dishes like this. I love dishes.

    Akinson: Uh-huh.

    Wright: I've got bowls and plates like this. But look at - isn't that darling.

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