DH:This is an interview with Peter B. Ratledge of 307 Ratledge Road, Townsend, Delaware, and it takes place on Tuesday, November 27th at 9:30 in the morning and the interviewer is Deborah Haskell.
PR:This is my cousin's eh.....
DH:He had one in this thing too, but I found it was easy for me to sort of make it as I read. Here's one here.
PR:See this is bringing his family out.
DH:Okay, in other words.....
PR:Here's my father.
DH:Your father is Edward and his father is Robert?
PR:No. His father is Nathaniel. See my cousin and I are full blooded cousins even though he is a whole lot older.
DH:You look here. You're from Edward.
PR:Here's Nathaniel. Married Louise Barlow and Nathaniel.
DH:Okay and he is....
PR:From Bob, Robert right here.
DH:Okay that's right. Now as I read it Robert left the farm and went to eh.... Was employed by a company called Pullman.
PR:No that was John.
DH:That was John?
PR:Maybe Robert did too, but see John....
DH:But in other words..... Now William, how old is William? William is the one who wrote the two page thing. How old is William?
PR:72. I think he's 72.
DH:I think we ought to try and get William's story too.
PR:He only lives about a mile from here. Yeah, if he's home you could probably get it today.
DH:Oh no, I need a little extra time here. So you're full cousins? That's understandable.
PR:See his father passed away at a very young age from pneumonia at 30 years old. So he never had a father.
DH:Oh that's right. Robert died of pneumonia at age....
PR:At 30 something and William was six years old.
DH:Six years old. Okay.
PR:That's my recollection. It might be a couple of years...
DH:No that's all right. That's what we want is your recollection. See what I found strange about this was I found that all of these little indentations, you know, was peculiar. I had a little extra time so I drove through Townsend and I noticed there was a Lattomus Road.
DH:Probably from a particular family.
PR:We're also cousins.
DH:I'd like to know about the extent of the farm as it originally was in terms of your idea. For instance; I went down to the edge of the road and the end of Ratledge is the family farm, the old homestead. And the barn which is really wonderful. I looked at the woodwork on that barn. It's pretty isn't it?
PR:Yeah it's a shame that it's just going right straight down.
DH:And that's the silo and various little buildings seem to be right here. Now my sense of......
PR:That way goes to Townsend.
DH:Okay, this goes to Townsend. Now you live about here. Now the original acreage took in how much area? It included the railroad tracks, the railroad tracks are right here, right?
PR:Yes, and it still is. I mean it's not....
DH:It's a working farm?
PR:It's a working farm yeah, but it's being rented. The original home place is 77 acres right now on one deed.
DH:And that just this area around in here?
PR:It comes right straight back from Boyers ???? I'm on the end of it.
DH:You're on the end of it, okay.
PR:77 acres or something like that.
DH:77 acres. I noticed that Arthur Anderson died just a couple of years ago.
PR:No, he's not dead.
DH:Oh, I see.
PR:He's at Lancaster in a rest home.
DH:But in other words he left the home.
PR:A couple of years ago.
DH:He was unable to stay there anymore. So he hasn't died. It didn't say that. It was just that I thought since he left there. And then the home was rented?
DH:And this 77 acres is on this side of the road generally speaking and it borders your...
PR:Yes, it goes across the railroad track and borders me.
DH:That's very interesting.
PR:It was up to 600 acres when I was a child.
DH:Another thing that it said in here is that 25 acres had been given by one of..... Was it Susan Bright of Woodland. Now where would that Woodland have been?
PR:Right straight in back of me.
DH:So you're right here.
PR:I'm right on it, right here and it was given to me.
DH:So you have the 25 acres of Woodland. I just trying to.... You know future people will look into these tapes and look at the messages and try to figure out also. I was confused about how everything was.
PR:It's a shame we can't. I remember as a child listening to my aunt, Aunt Sue. That's the one she passed away here a little while ago. Susan, right here, a teacher in California. She and Uncle Arthur used to live at the farm at the last. They were the last two people and she passed away and then Uncle Arthur stayed there another year. They were brother-in-law and sister-in-law.
DH:Yes, I realize that. Were they about the same age, same generation.
PR:Yeah. Anyway she told me as a child she cut the seal out of a grant from the Duke or King of England or something and the farm originally was Barlow and it went all the way from where it is now to the Delaware River. And Carlton Blendt...
DH:Now Delaware River would be in what direction?
DH:So it would be over here?
PR:Way over. Now that's just what she told me. I can't prove it.
DH:Oh no that's okay.
PR:Carlton Blendt, he used to be a Representative, approached me and he saw the name on one of his deeds way back.
DH:So it was Susan who told you about this?
PR:Yes. She said..... See the farmhouse was burned twice. And as a boy I remember the certificate with the seal cut out of it. But it burned at the fire in '58 or '57 I think.
DH:Now this was a field from whom, the King?
PR:A Duke or a King. I don't know. I can't remember.
DH:You know I wonder if there would be a copy of it anywhere else.
PR:I don't know. William can verify that I think.
DH:Okay. Because I have been down to the Archives in Dover and it seems some of the paperwork where the Duke and William Penn was looking for. The Duke supposedly gave Delaware to William Penn to get Federal out of his hair. So the Charter is the Duke also. So maybe that same time. I mean it's really.... I wonder if the Duke...
PR:It was the Barlow farm originally.
PR:But it's been in the Ratledge long enough to be in the Century Program.
PR:And William is taking a genealogy course now and he has found another Barlow brother, a Nicholas.
DH:Now which generation?
PR:See John, that puts him back in the Barlow's farm and Nicholas is one of his brothers. I think he's got it back to 1710 or something like that.
DH:That's wonderful. Where did he find it?
PR:Down to Dover.
DH:Just in Dover?
PR:I think. I'm not sure.
DH:Okay, we'll put in Nicholas there. Well he'll be able to talk about that.
PR:He's been interested in that. He's done all this. I'm very interested in it. I just don't have the time yet.
DH:Besides you come to dead ends and it's discouraging. Well are there any stories that you remember about, that family has passed on about any of the Barlows?
PR:See my Great Grandfather had three wives.
DH:Now this was your Great Grandfather, so that would have been Gideon.
PR:No it's the one before him. It didn't go back that far. I can't even remember--Robert Denney, I think.
DH:So on another side?
DH:Your Great Grandfather had three wives?
PR:Yeah. And there's three separate families of cousins. And Nathaniel is the son that my father, our bunch, came from.
DH:Was that wife number one, two or three?
PR:I think number one. I think, I'm not sure. If I had the whole tree..... Wait a minute, I've got it right here.
DH:Maybe I can take that and make a copy of it later.
PR:Okay we are number one. Robert Denney Ratledge. He was born 1825. And that's as far, by the way, that we can get back on the Ratledge side.
DH:Denney Ratledge born 1825.
PR:Yeah, November 3, 1825 and he passed away September ll, 1900. All right he had.... He married Mary A. Lattomus in 1853. He married Annie M. Webster in 1870 and he married Lizzie Bratton and there's no wedding date there.
DH:Bratton. Now did the wives die or did he...?
PR:No, they died.
DH:That's what happened in those days.
PR:No there was no divorces in those days. Just everybody died. One died with childbirth.
DH:It might have been Webster. Webster and Bratton. It's hard to tell, yeah. Looks like Bratton continued on though and lived if she didn't marry again.
PR:It's funny out of the first wife he had three children and only one lived.
DH:I think I read that.
PR:That's the story I can tell you. This Susanna Ratledge she died right as soon as she was born almost. Well two months later. She's buried at Old Untion Church.
DH:Now this would have been a child of Robert and Mary Lattomus.
PR:No, Nathaniel. No, wait a minute. Robert Denney and Mary Lattomus, that's the mother and father. That's back further in the family. Nataniel is my grandfather.
DH:That's right. And he was the only one who lived of their three children.
DH:Okay. And the other two children were named... Do you have their names?
PR:Yes, Martha A. Ratledge. She lived to get married to a John W. West in Omaha, Nebraska. And she was killed in a wagon accident and I have the original writing of that somewhere that was mentioned in the paper. The wagon upset and killed her.
DH:That would be very interesting if you had those papers.
PR:William's got the correspondence right now. I gave it to him.
DH:Wonderful, wonderful, since he took the genealogy course.
PR:He's taking it right now, yeah. And the other child of Nathaniel was my Grandmother, that's Aunt Sue's Mother.
DH:That would have been named..... In other words there was Nathaniel and Martha and one more child.
PR:Susanna. She died an infant. I guess she was a year or something old and she's buried at Old Union. It's right on l3 right by the store out there, the Willeys Market, right there.
DH:Okay and that is a church. I'm not familiar with that church.
PR:They have meetings there once a year.
DH:Where are most of the other Ratledge, Barlows buried?
PR:I think there's a couple of Barlows down at the farm.
DH:Are there stones there?
PR:Just field stones.
DH:Uh huh, field stones.
PR:There's a couple of Civil War monuments and we're not sure whose under them. Somebody said some relatives. Somebody said a couple of black guys, but we don't know. But they keep coming every year and put flags on them.
PR:The Civil War people. Not the past couple of years.
DH:They're doing reenactments now so they probably are busy. Now somebody was saying that in those days a lot of people didn't know how to read and write. That was another reason people could be buried but it was word of mouth, so and so was buried there. And if they're
PR:I think they passed away from malaria. That's what I've heard, you know from disease of malaria or something. They weren't shot. I have a feeling that Gideon and his wife are there. I'm not sure. William would know better than me.
DH:So you think it ends there, your great-grandfather. Your Aunt Katherine,
Katy and Katherine. What I found interesting was that Katherine kind
of rescued..... There was a six month hiatius or something where the
farm was lost and then Katherine rescued it again. She was able to get
it back. I thought that sounded like... That was pretty brave I thought,
PR:We just came across that reading through the paper. I'm not sure whether it was Katherine or it wasn't Nathaniel's wife. I guess Nathaniel's wife is too young isn't she?
DH:Well, Nathaniel's wife......
PR:1888 is when the farm went out.
DH:Okay. Well Katherine died according to my little scratchings in 1905. So it's probably that generation your great-grandfather was of. And then Gideon....
PR:It would have to be because it was during the Barlow reign because it was ???? in Orphans Court or something and it had to be settled through the courts. And somebody bought it and the way I look at it nobody made a payment and so it came back and we assumed title.
DH:Tthat's right. I was talking to somebody else who did another history and it was prestigious family and they said they had to get the deed from Orphans Court. I thought it sounded weird, but that was just the name of the court. It sounds like orphans, but that was just the court that handled deeds for property. Well that's interesting. So you don't know.... There are no stories that circulate about your great-great-grandfather, John?
PR:None that I know of. Aunt Sue told me that they started a church down, Salem Church. There's nothing left now but trees and tombstones down below Blackbird. And she said she can remember as a child walking from here to there to go to church.
DH:That's a little hike isn't it?
PR:It's a long hike. But in front of the barn on an angle right by my daughter's house, that new house, see the cedar trees?
PR:There used to be a road there and it would go straight across to Blackbird. And that's the way she used walk but it's since been closed up and I don't even think it's a state road. But it used to be a road. I can walk through it now. I know it well enough I can walk through it.
DH:About how far is it to Blackbird ????????
PR:A couple of miles. This was maybe three or four miles down. It was at least five or six miles from here. What denomination was Salem church?
DH:Methodist. There looked like there was Methodist church in Townsend. It looked like that is a heavy Methodist area.
PR:Are you familiar with Salem church?
DH:No I'm not. Tell me about it.
DH:It's still standing.
PR:No the only thing's there are trees and gravestones.
DH:Oh no. Tell me about it. Is this one of the original Methodist churches in the area?
PR:There's a picture of it my cousin's got. I've got a book of Appoquinimink Hundred and I lent it to him. He's studying it and there is a picture of it and you can take that photograph and you can go down there and you can see right where it was and the trees that are still there that were in front of it and the gravestones and everything.
DH:So the gravestones are still there.
DH:And the foundation of the church?
PR:I think the foundation is still there. It was a frame church not a stone church. But one of these Barlow fellows started it. I can't remember which one. That's about all I know on Barlows.
DH:Okay. Now if they started that church that probably means that other families in the area would have belonged to it. Are there any tombstones....?
DH:No Barlows in that church cemetary.
PR:No Barlows. There's a lot of Thomas. A lot of Thomases.
DH:Thomas. That doesn't seem to be related to your family. Oh that's interesting.
PR:But I can't prove it. Aunt Sue told me that. The thing that's confusing to me, as long as the Barlow family and Ratledge family have been here, that house is not a period house.
DH:Do you mean the farmhouse?
PR:The farmhouse. The barn is not that old. It's only in the 30s.
DH:So the various fires that occurred, or you don't know what they lived in then?
PR:William said that he helped with the electricity in the 1930s, late 30s, early 40s. And the dining room, he said there's log timbers in there, he feels. So he feels there is an original log cabin.
PR:And everything's built around. But there's no evidence of a large chimney. There's large chimneys on it now but they were built in the '40s.
DH:What do you think then that they did for cooking and so forth. How do you figure that?
PR:I think there had to be a chimney there if there is a log cabin and it's built on top of it. It was knocked down and....
DH:You think that if you were to raise the house and look underneath you'd find evidence of the original structure?
PR:Yeah. You walk in the dining room and it's got an awful low ceiling, very low. I'm five foot eleven and a half and it's not much higher than me. So that sort of backs up that. And you can see where the rest of the house has been built on around. I don't know if you know anything about architecture or not, but it's not antique. It's just an old farmhouse. And the last fire was '58.
DH:So who do you think built that house then? Which generation?
PR:I think that house as it stands now was built in the late 1800s. And it's still just a farmhouse. It's not a weathly man's house or anything. And they were not substantial wealthy people. They were just poor dirt farmers.
DH:That's right because they hadn't even gone into dairy yet. So it was corn, soybeans, tomatoes....
PR:Yeah. The dairy started in the '30s. ????? just sort of, he was a huckster. He raised stuff, that's Nathaniel, raised things and would just take them in town and try to sell them. All the Ratledge girls were teachers. Every single one of them except one.
DH:You're talking about your aunts?
PR:She's very popular in the area.
DH:That's what it was referrring to her as Miss Katy then?
PR:Yeah and she was schoolmarm of a, you know, one room schoolhouse. And she had to walk five miles to get to the school. And as the population grew she grew and she ended up being principal.
DH:Uh huh. I mean it looks as if more of your family were teachers.
PR:Every single one.
DH:And no ministers?
DH:Even though they started the church?
PR:I don't think he was a minister. I think he had his hands in starting the church.
DH:What do you know about Arthur Anderson? He was your uncle.
PR:He lived in New York all his life. He's from Sweden.
DH:Did he have an accent? Does he still have an accent?
PR:No, he's got a New York accent. He has a Brooklyn accent now.
DH:I know, I know.
PR:But his entire family..... He was born here, but maybe he was born in Sweden, but his family lived in New York. His father was a tailor. I've got his scissors out in my shop.
DH:Do you? Then you probably kept them in good repair.
PR:Well they were in pretty bad shape when I got them, but I restored them a little bit. I don't use them for my regular upholstery, but I do have them in my shop. I use them for cutting steel wool.
DH:What are they made of?
PR:Steel. I guess they're a hundred years old.
DH:But was Arthur an upholsterer do you think?
PR:No, he was a salesman. He was a salesman for A. B. Dick and he worked for them for 34 years. You know they make adding machines and things like that. His territory was around New York City and Albany and all the Northeast. He was a traveling salesman.
DH:How'd he go? By car?
PR:Train. He's a big man.
DH:You mean large size then?
PR:Not fat, but big.
DH:He's probably shrunk a little bit by now though.
PR:Yeah he's skinny now, but he was a big man. Now he married Aunt Leola and she was a secretary, I guess an exective's secretary, in New York City. I'm trying to think. There used to be a firm Redhouse or Red something or other and that's what she worked for for years. It's a hotel chain.
DH:Do you know how she met Arthur?
DH:But there are no stories about whether they met in a park or anything like that?
PR:I don't think so.
DH:But if he were a salesman, you know, he could have come into where she was working or they might have some kind of thing like that. That's interesting. What do you know about Miss Katy?
PR:She was a principal.
DH:Just that she was a principal. What school? Not the Townsend school.
PR:She was the first one there at the one's that built right now. When it was built. See they've added on to that school. Then the original farmhouse in Townsend it's named Ratledge Center now because young people, I think preschoolers and all that are watched there now. Or they were for awhile. I'm not sure. But anyway it's the Ratledge Center. And that was the first school in Townsend and she was principal there.
DH:About where is that in town?
PR:You go out and in town and go up to South Street. And you'll go across the Main Street and it's the big building on the left. It's only the second building in. It may have a sign on it Ratledge Center.
DH:They say people really loved her.
DH:What do you think?
PR:She was strict, but fair. Well she was a teacher for so long and she lived to be.... I don't know quite how old but it was 10-57 when she passed away.
DH:No that's when the deed or the whatever, so it may not be exactly when she passed away, but that's what the date was in that lineup. So '57. How old was she?
PR:Yeah 10-18-57 she passed away and she was born 7-30-1882. I think the fire, see the fire was in '57, and I think the fire got her, a heart attack. Because she did have a heart attack.
DH:Now was that the fire at the little house? Do you think she was living in the house then?
DH:And she was a single woman wasn't she? She never married.
PR:None of them married excecpt Leola.
DH:That's interesting isn't it?
PR:Now they're all old maids.
DH:What do you think about that?
PR:I don't know. My father is the only one that married. Well Robert did.
DH:Robert but they had already left the area.
PR:John. He worked on the railroad downstate and nobody ever knew what happened to him. He had a wife and child. I knew them very well, but did not know John.
DH:Do you still keep in touch with the wife and child?
PR:They're dead. They're gone. She lived to be 90 some years old.
DH:And where did they live?
PR:Wilmington. The child's husband worked at Pullman.
DH:But we don't know if John ever worked.....
PR:Well he worked on the railroad, not at Pullman. Nobody knows what happened.
DH: No note, no postcards, nothing?
DH:Were they scared that he died or do you think maybe he ran away?
PR:Everything has been talked about and Aunt Louise spent a lot of time searching. Nothing was ever found. Not a thing.
DH: I guess people working on the railroad they could go great
PR:I don't even know what kind of man he was. I don't know if he was a drinker or partyer or maybe met with foulplay or a womanizer. I don't know nothing. Daddy never talked about him except that he was missing.
DH:Okay it needs to go about 30 seconds before it starts to record
on the new side. I was looking at my notes and I forgot what you were
talking about. You were talking about
DH:Louise had been trying to find Uncle John. But tell me about Louise's personality. If she taught in Pennsylvania did that mean that she lived over there?
PR:She taught everywhere.
DH:No. Did she live here?
PR:Well she taught in Smyrna. She taught in Townsend. She and a personal friend of hers ran a private school up in Lynwood, Pennsylvania, called Montgomery Country Day School. It's still in existence.
DH:I've heard of it.
PR:That's a good school. And she would stay up there during the week and come down here during the weekends. And she would bring students down sometimes for the weekends. And she'd take calves and stuff up to the school. They had a little barn there for the city people to watch and it was interesting. But she was quite a lady. By that I mean she was very controlling, very opinionated, quite hard to get along with. And even in my family me and my sisters she had the capacity to love one person at once and I happened to be the favorite and the rest of them, yeah. And even with my kids, I have three daughters, she picked the oldest one and the others, you know. But she's still a nice person but eh...
DH:Did you say she's......? She's still living, isn't she?
PR:No she died. They're all gone.
PR:She died in '74.
DH:Okay. Of your three daughters the one she liked was the older one?
DH: I was first thinking maybe she liked you because you were the male. You know what I mean?
PR:Well she did like men. That was another thing.
DH:Yeah but maybe because you were the only male among the girl sisters. But then you only had girls and she picked one to favor. You weren't the oldest of your sisters were you?
PR:Yes, I'm the oldest of my family.
DH:Well maybe it has to do with an older...
PR:The first one and when she gives attention she can't spread it out. She puts it all in one. And even when my mother and father got married their marriage was a little stormy because of her. And all these girls tried to control him because the was the only boy that was left.
DH:In other words you're talking about Edward?
PR:Yeah, my father. My mother had a time of it. I have some letters that are very, very viscous.
DH:Did you take these things over to William because he's studying geneology?
PR:Those I sort of, I don't even know where they are. I didn't even show them to him at all.
DH:Oh I don't blame you.
PR:I was going through her papers. See I was going through each person's papers because I've been sort of been the executive.
DH:Well you're going to make sure that they stay together and get given to maybe the farm century program or your kids or something to make sure that they're around for history's purposes. Now when you say that they were viscous do you mean that she was trying to turn Edward against his wife or was it just that she was telling Edward what to do all of the time?
PR:She just had to be the kingpin. My father committed suicide.
DH:Okay, Edward. How old was he?
PR:Now let's see. He was born in '93 and died in '58 so he was '60 something.
DH:Why do you think he did that?
PR:Oh three or four reasons. They lived in the house right across the track.
DH:Across the track?
DH:Okay. Alright right across from you.
PR:Right across this track with a cross.
DH:Catty-cornered from you.
PR:When you went down it was the first house on the right.
DH:I didn't take a good look at it.
PR:My first year we lived in the farmhouse.
DH:Your first year of birth?
PR:Yeah, and then we moved to the farm. See the farm was owned by all the girls and when my father passed away my mother got nothing. I mean absolutely nothing. Ten thousand dollars or something like that after seventeen years of marriage. They screwed her out of it. ??
DH:The sisters of Edward?
PR:And the house and fifteen acres was all..... I should have..... I had it offered to me and I should have taken it, but I didn't. I couldn't afford it. I had no money. So we started in a trailer. They had a very stormy marriage just because of the sisters trying to control the husband. He'd get up and milk. See the barn was down at their house and he'd eat breakfast down there. And his wife would be with three or four kids. You know that sort of thing. And we had to work all the time. It was interesting. The town boys would be going to the movies and I'd be working, hauling hay or milking. I had to get every morning and milk.
DH:What time did you get up?
PR:Five or five thirty. Then I'd makeout I had the earache and my sisters would have to get up and milk and you know all this kind of stuff.
DH:Of course, of course. What I mean is it's hard to do it year after year. What was there to do after the sun went down though?
PR:There was schoolwork.
DH:Well you'd have to go to bed because if you have to get up at five
o'clock you can't go out carousing with the people in the town you know,
with the other kids.
DH:Some people have very keen memories, you know. My son is like that. He can remember almost like when he was really a toddler. Can you also?
PR:No not that far back. I think around four years, four years old.
DH:Do you think you were that young when you started riding the tractor with you dad?
PR:I may have been on it. I remember my first day of school vividly and that's only two years later. I know I didn't like that, the first day. I didn't like that at all.
DH:Did you go up to Townsend?
DH:Now were you in school when Katy was principal?
DH:Oh that was tough.
PR:It was. They got a paddle and experimented on me. They got one of these electric paddles, second grade I think, or first grade, first or second. But she was only there two years, then she retired.
DH:When did they outlaw that?
PR:I don't know.
DH:Because that's just downright awful.
PR:It doesn't hurt that bad, but it was....
DH:That was a little prod, electric prod. Did they only
only use it on your rear?
PR:Yes. But she experimented - showed the rest of the class or the school on me. I never will forget it. But it didn't bother.
DH:Great, great. Oh that's great. Tell me about your dad. Did you have the feeling he was always under stress because of the situation between.......
DH:Did he talk about it?
PR:My father and mother.... He got married when he was 44 or something like that. My mother was 20 something. So there was quite an age difference. She's a city girl and he was country. She didn't know how to boil water when she came to the farm, but she had ?????? And they met through horseback riding.
DH:Okay. Where was she from? When you say from city was she from Pennsylvania?
DH:Oh she was from New York City.
PR:Yeah. And she came down with a girlfriend of hers to the farm to ride horses one weekend. And one thing led to another.
DH:Did she come down because of eh..... I mean did she know Arthur and Leola?
DH:So it wasn't that connection from New York City at all. Totally..... Was there a horse farm here. How come she chose this area to go horseback riding?
PR:Well all the girls had horses. Everybody had horses at that time. They'd ride around. That was their hobby, horseback riding. Robert Denney, not the older one, even the younger one, had a prize horse a couple of farms over. So horseback riding, horsemanship has always been in the family.
DH:Okay so your mom..... Isn't it funny I always think it's only our generation that doesn't know how to boil water, you know. But even then it must have been really tough for her. Back to you dad. Did he ever talk to you about how he felt about his sisters or immediate....?
PR:No. That's what I was getting ready to say. They got married when he was 40, 44 years old, something like that. I can't remember the exact date. Anyway back in the 20s when he was a young man he got gored very badly by a bull, the horns, and they didn't expect him to live. So this problem with his stomach plagued him all the rest of his life and he had...
DH:So he was gored in the stomach?
PR:In the stomach. I think three-quarters of his stomach was missing. So it just bothered him. He had ulcers and I think he had cancer. I really do but it wasn't talked about.
DH:Well often people never talked about it.
PR:He smoked like a fish.
DH:Smoked like a fish.
PR:And he wouldn't stop. He wouldn't even go to the doctor. The doctor had to come to him in the barn. I never will forget it. He'd get up at five o'clock and work. Sleep in the middle of the day. This was when it was later. When he was sick.
DH:When he was what age?
PR:Right before he killed himself.
DH:And he died in.......
PR:'50 eh. Wait a minute. He died in '58.
DH:He died in '58.
PR:May 5, 1958.
DH:About how old was he then?
PR:He was born in 1893. 60 something.
DH:So he really lived quite a long time considering.
PR:Oh yeah. Hard working. He was a little man, jolly man. He could sing, play the harmonica, very happy. I can play music by ear but I can't sing at all.
DH:Do you have his harmonica?
PR:No. I only heard him when I was little. But as I got older it seemed like he got sick or somethingand he stayed quited within himself.
DH:Well it would hard to get a lot of breath if you didn't have much stomach, you know, and air.
DH:Did he still sing even when he wasn't playing the harmonica when he was older or only when he was younger?
PR:When he was younger. I can remember him singing when I was little. The whole family sang. They used to have a piano down at the farm and they'd sing around the piano. As a young child.
DH:Did the girls keep that up? Did Miss Katie do that down at the school? Did she see that they - or was it, I mean was it....?
PR:They all sang. They were all a happy family. They all sang.
DH:Do you remember some of the songs?
PR:All the old songs during that time.
DH:Can you remember any of them?
PR:Little Brown Jug, Old Susanna. Yeah, most of the old time songs.
DH:I've Been Working on the Railroad and that kind of stuff?
PR:Yeah, the old regulars.
DH:There weren't any old family songs or anything that.....?
DH:Just sort of American folk stuff?
DH:He probably taught himself to play the harmonica don't you think? And you remember them singing around the piano? Who played the piano?
PR:Aunt Louise. And I think, I've never heard her, but I think she played the mandolin. No William's father played the mandolin. I've got it.
DH:You've got William's? You've got Roberts?
PR:Yeah, it's not much good, but I have it. I asked him if he wanted it. He said no. It's an eight horn back. You know one of those big back ones. The regular mandolins are a single back. And somebody played the guitar because I had it for awhile. It wasn't much good so I traded it. I don't know who it was.
DH:When they used to sing did they sing every week? Was it just on holidays?
PR:Just holidays or maybe Saturday nights or something like that or maybe when they got together for dinner.
DH:Well there would have been radio but there wouldn't have been any TV. Because people did entertain eachother better.
PR:I don't remember radio at all. There was never a radio on.
DH:Except in your own father's house over across the way?
PR:Well, we didn't have that except for night. Nobody had the radio on all day, not like now.
DH:Oh no, no, no.
PR:The radio was sort of like the TV is now. You turned it on to listen to a program. And in later years Aunt Louise and Aunt Sue and Uncle Arthur and Aunt Leola, six o'clock news was a ritual. I can remember that for years and years and years.
DH:Do you remember learning anything from the six o'clock news? Do you remember hearing anything of the times, declaration of war by Franklin Roosevelt? No that was before your time.
PR:I remember the Korean War stopping when they came on, was it Truman, announcing the end of it. I listen to the news, I mean I still do.
PR:I mean I'm up on the events.
DH:That's good. That's good. Boy, you're talking about so many things here. Did your mom and dad continue to ride horses or did they fall on hard times and....? When did the horseback riding stop as a method of having fun or whatever?
PR:I'd say the late '40s.
DH:That was after the...?
PR:After the War.
DH:And were times tough?
PR:They were tough. See the barn was built right before the War. That's before my time, but I'm just going by what I've heard. And at that time daddy really got into working real hard. You know, instead of one or two cows he started milking, you know, 20 or 30 and by the time he passed away we were milking 50 or 60 cows every day and plus hauling hay and putting the crops in to feed these animals. We didn't sell any crops at all. The crops we raised were all ground for silage and feed and hay, soybeans. I can remember a few years we sold tomatoes to the cannery in town. We used to have a tomato field right back this road here. It's sold now. I can remember doing that, picking tomatoes.
DH:So all through highschool you didn't have any fun so to speak. I mean you were never allowed to.... You worked all though highschool on the milking?
PR:Yeah, you know, on the farm. In the summertime I was lucky. My mother saw to it that I went to a boy's camp. So I did get out during the summer.
DH:Where did you go?
PR:Up New Hampshire ?????
DH:That was great. Did you like that?
PR:Oh I loved it. I was a country boy and I could really do everything those city guys couldn't do.
DH:I know, I know, isn't that good.
PR:Cut wood and all that kind of stuff.
DH:You probably had to teach them.
PR:I did like that and I was very, very lucky. I don't think the family thought much of it, but my mother saw to it that I went. And i went there every summer since the 5th grade really.
DH:What did you really like best about it? The fact that you could do everything? I mean were there activities up there that you didn't do here that you liked?
PR:I got into hiking and mountain climbing. I still do that now.
PR:Yeah. I go to New Hampshire three or four times a year.
DH:That's great. Do you do it alone?
PR:I take friends with me, my wife. My wife doesn't like it too much but she goes a couple of times a year.
DH:And you go up to where you went to camp?
PR:Up to same area.
DH:You remember the trail from there.
PR:I've gone all over New Hampshire. I've climbed just about every mountain up there at one time or another.
PR:And the funny thing is William's son does the same thing, same area, and I never knew it.
PR:Yeah, we were talking one day and it just came out.
DH:Well did William.... He didn't go to camp in New Hampshire, but would William's son have gone to New Hampshire, to camp in New Hampshire. Why pick New Hampshire except that it is a beautiful state?
PR:William's got a different childhood. He'll probably tell you. He was raised in Florida and Wilmnington. But see he didn't have a father. Then he went to college in Vermont. It'll be up to him to tell you that
DH:Or whoever does that one. Okay so you liked hiking. Did they do a lot of hiking when you were in camp?
DH:I didn't know if that was necessarily an activity. Nowadays they do fancy activities. You know what I mean? Was there any water there?
PR:Oh yeah. It was right on a lake.
DH:Did you do any boating?
PR:Yeah. Se I'd never done that here.
DH:Did you learn to sail?
PR:Yeah. I've never done that here. Had sailing, canoeing, boating, swimming. I swan here.
DH:You learned to swim here. Where did you learn to swim exactly?
PR:Long Island Sound.
DH:Here is a pretty big area, right?
PR:Well I did swim here. It was funny how I learned how to swim.
DH:Did you swim at the beach or did you swim in a pool?
PR:It was at the beach. My mother doesn't like this story. I had taken lessons. I think they were probably from around here.
DH:Maybe at school or from the Y.
PR:It was Silver Lake, Middletown. They used to swim there before Middletown polluted it with sewer. Anyway my mother is from..... I shouldn't say a substantial family but she had an aunt up there that was pretty well off and had a yacht.
DH:In New York?
PR:In New York.
DH:In the Long Island Sound?
PR:Right. It was New Rochelle exactly. And we were up there one weekend. Daddy didn't like to go up there too much. That's where they were married. But my mother would go back occasionally and take her kids. And we'd go up for a week here and there too on vacations on something like that. Anyway all her friends were on this boat, yacht, it looked pretty big to me and they threw me off the side. Or she threw me off the side to show them that I knew how to swim.
DH:Your mother did?
PR:Yeah and I did. I knew how to swim.
DH:Did she know that you knew how to swim?
PR:She said that she regretted it. Yeah, she was showing off to her friends. You know how young parents are. I was five years old, I guess four years old. She's told me four or five times that she's regretted she's done that. Obviously it didn't bother me but she said she felt bad. It must have been jsut a regular speed boat, but she called it a yacht. Anyway there's no crisis in my past because of it. I don't even halfway remember doing it, but she said I came back up and swam. That was funny, but she has apologized two or three times for that.
DH:Now did you say your mom is still living?
PR:Yeah, she's in Chappaqua, New York.
DH:Did I write that? I must have written it down.
PR:Her names not even on here.
DH:Gosh why isn't it on here.
PR:It's Ella Mae.
DH:Now why is she there? Is that a home? How old is your mother?
PR:Eh 70, she's the same age as William. I think 72 or 74, something like that.
DH:Was it because she didn't feel good about this area because of all of the fights within?
PR:Well that and I was in a crucial time. She wanted me to get out of here. I was getting a little rambuncious.
DH:Now old were you?
PR:I was 16 or 17 and her aunt, the one that was wealthy up there, bought her a house in Chappaqua and gave it to her and we moved up. And I stayed six months and I came back.
DH:Now your dad was dead by then.
PR:Yeah. This was right after he passed away. He passed away in May and we moved in August I think. I did not want to go.
DH:How about your sisters?
PR:One was in private school in Principia, that's Illinois. One was 12 years old and one was maybe 13 years old.
DH:But they didn't go to private school until you moved back up to New York?
PR:No they were, one daughter, my sister was already in.
PR:Yeah, she went from the ninth grade on.
DH:Who was responsible for that?
DH:Your aunt Louise?
PR:No, my mother's aunt.
DH:The aunt from New Rochelle.
PR:She got sort of serious with a boy down here and they didn't want that to mess her life up so they shipped her out.
DH: I know about those things.
PR:They tried to get me to go to school but I wouldn't go.
DH:You mean to private school?
PR:Yeah, they were on me bad. I never have been much for school and I wiped my hands.
DH:Where are your sisters now?
PR:One's in Marthas Vineyard.
DH:Okay. That's beautiful.
DH:Do you go up there and visit?
PR:Oh yeah. One's in Madison, Conn. That's Alice. She's a school teacher. And Mary's with my mother. She's not retarded, but she's not quite all the way.
DH:Not too retarded.
PR:I shouldn't use the work retarded. She just didn't form like she should. Somebody said the cord was around her neck when she was born. But she can just about take care of herself.
DH:Now who are you talking about?
PR:Mary. Mary Louise.
DH:Okay. Was she the second child after you?
PR:No, they got this wrong. Alice is the second.
DH:Okay, we'll just put it that.
PR:Kathy has been a little mixed up in her mind. She is a product of the hippie generation. She was full-fledged hippie
DH:So she did a lot of drugs and stuff?
PR:No she didn't do drugs. I don't think so.
DH:But she was part of the peace movement?
PR:Yeah she lived in Putney, Vermont, which is the center of it and they live in a commune. And she had a son and the never got married and all this kind of stuff. She's still not married and the son's in college.
DH:There you go. Isn't it funny? Is the son in college up there in Massachusetts?
PR:In Boston. I just saw him the other day.
DH:Do you see him from time to time?
PR:We're all pretty good folks. Kathy's got her own house.
DH:Now which one went to private school?
DH:Now which one did you say is slow, Mary Louise?
PR:Yeah. She works at.......
DN:Alice is a teacher and Kathy is..... What does she do on the.....?
PR:She's waitress and works as a gardener in an estate.
PR:And she is actually troubled about this farm. See nobody told her that daddy commited suicide. And we were just talking...
DH:Was she the baby?
DH:So Kathy was the baby.
PR:She was 12 years old at the time.
DH:And Alice was the older.
DH:So Alice was number....
DH:Two and then there's Mary three and Kathy four.
DH:That's what you said.
PR:Nobody told her that and we were just talking, you know, maybe ten years ago. We were sitting around reminiscing and I mentioned it and that was the first she heard of it. My mother didn't tell her. See my mother's Christian Science and they don't..... They look at the good side of things and all that.
DN:Hold on I have to get another tape. Just a second. How old were you when your sad committed suicide?
PR:I was in highschool. I think I was around 17.
DH:You were 17, about 17 when your dad died.
PR:Well, I can tell you exactly. I was 17 because I was born in 1940.
DH:Okay. Can you talk about that? Can you talk about how did he do it?
DH:How did he do it? Where did he do It?
PR:We were talking about my youngest sister. Okay, she is psychologically damaged because of this fact. She says she dreamed it.
DH:Before anybody told her?
PR:Before it happened.
DH:She would have been 12.
PR:Yeah, that's what she told us and she kept that in her for I know at least 10 or 12 years because we didn't... I brought it up. We were right here. We were sitting around the table talking, all the sister's and me. And we were just talking. Anyway that day that that happened I was dating a girl on Doylestown, Chalfonte, which is close to Doylestown, Pennsylvania. I helped milk and I got to within five miles of her house and I turned around and went to the barn and I saw him. I'm the only one in the family that saw him. And Aunt Louise was the person who found him.
DH:This was after you had come back from Doylestown?
PR:I didn't make my destination.
DH:You sensed something?
PR:I sensed something. I turned around five miles before her house and came and went back to the farm which I don't do. I went right straight to the barn.
DH:What time of day?
PR:I got back around four o'clock, four-thirty and I saw him hanging there.
DH:He hung himself?
PR:Yeah, and my aunt had found him and the doctor had just come, Dr. Cruchley from Middletown. And it wasn't his family doctor. Dr. Lee was his family doctor.
DH:How long had he been dead?
PR:That I don't know. I don't remember any of that. Everything sort of went blank after that. But it was just funny that I went to the.... Right to the barn. And I'm the only one in the family that saw him and it was a closed casket.
DH:Other than your.... Other than mom.
PR:I don't think she saw him.
DH:So you were the one.... Your mom wasn't in the barn?
PR:No, I don't think so.
DH:So you told her and she called the doctor?
PR:No Aunt Louise found him.
DH:Okay Aunt Louise found him.
PR:I'm pretty sure my mother did not see him. I won't swear to it. It was a closed casket ceremony.
DH:I can understand that.
PR:And with her being Christian Scientist she wanted to ??????
DH:I don't blame her.
PR:Well right before that happened she had started working, trying to work. She worked with the Kelly Girls as a secretary because she was a secretary before. And I heard rumors of her maybe moving to New York to help try to make more money for the family. Maybe work up there during the work and, you know, come back. That was just rumors. I approached her about that and she said it wasn't true.
DH:You approached her afterwards.
PR:Yeah and she said it wasn't true.
DH:Did you think maybe that was one of the feelings?
PR:Well that was one of the things.....
DH:You were talking about..... When I asked you why did your dad do it you said there were a number of things.
PR:Yeah, I think that was one of them.
DH:You think that was one of them.
PR:He was really sick. I think he had cancer.
DH:Yeah. Do you think he knew he had cancer?
PR:I don't think at that time nobody knew about cancer.
DH:Do you think he was in pain?
PR:Yeah he was in pain.
DH:He was in pain for many years?
PR:Many years, many years and he was no bigger than a rail. I mean he was losing weight.
DH:He was losing weight fast and that's a real indication.
PR:See this was back in the '50s and cancer wasn't like it is now.
PR:You didn't..... See he wouldn't go to the doctor.
DH:Do you think it would have been from smoking? Or it could have been just from the scar tissue of the operation from the goring and stuff you know.
PR:(Telephone ringing) Excuse me.
DH:Sure, I'll just turn it off.
PR:As good as it was yesterday I can't see me.....
DH:No, no, no I would put it off. You can certainly just delay it a day.
PR:That's what I'm going to do.
DH:Sounds good. Okay we were talking about your dad probably having cancer. Was there any evidence that his sisters were getting him down more and more all the time?
PR:I think that it was a problem. He wasn't able to tell them to leave him alone. I do know that. He was a very soft-hearted person and they would even take him milk out at the field in the middle of the day. Instead of his wife taking it, they'd take it. You know this kind of stuff and it was interesting. And I could see this. But he didn't beat us or anything. He was very within himself.
DH:Sounds as if he was the one man around and they really just depended on him did't they?
PR:That's right. He was a hard working and honest man and he wasn't mechanically inclined either. That's another thing. He couldn't drive a nail. And I'm.....
DH:So much better at that stuff.
PR:Yeah, I can overhaul engines and everything. Rebuild transmissions and never a lesson. I don't understand where I got that. I've never been to school for anything.
DH:Did you graduate from highschool?
PR:I graduated. You know just an average student. I was bored from the eighth grade on.
DH:Well you know it could possibly be that it was from.... Well you think it was because they didn't have enough or that they didn't have vocational courses or do you think that it was just repetitious? What do you think?
PR:I don't know.
DH:You don't know. That doesn't matter. You are what you are you know.
PR:Oh I had my eye put out in the 5th grade ??????
DH:You left eye because I noticed you eh.....
PR:I wiped it yeah.
DH:You wiped it. Tell me about that.
PR:It happened at a boy's camp.
DH:The one up in New Hampshire?
PR:No this was in Pennsylvania. It was the first time I went to boys camp.
DH:How did it happen?
PR:A stone. Somebody was throwing a stone at somebody else and I stepped in and said somebody's going to get hurt and I caught one. It wasn't thrown at me. It was just an accident. But it doesn't affect me. I'm used to it.
DH:And your right eye's good?
DH:Tell me about how that happened. Did they try to save your eye? Were you immediately blinded? What....?
PR:It's a fallacy of Christian Science. I wasn't taken to the doctor and I got hit in the white and it got infected and they had to take the eye out. The eye was not hurt. But I don't begrudge anybody because of it.
DH:So your mother is a Christian Sciencest?
PR:I think my wife just came back. I sent them out to ?????
DH:Have you followed in your own family....? No obviously not because you're waiting for a call from the doctor.
PR:I never believed in it when I was young.
DH:Are you religious?
DH:You were talking about the eye incident at the boys camp. But at the camp they wouldn't have been Christian Science.
PR:It was a Christian Science camp.
DH:Oh it was a Christian Science camp. Okay. Now when you went up to New Hampshire were those Christian Science camps also?
PR:It was not full, but it had an area for Christian Science.
PR:On some of these the other guys would have their Catholic services and we'd have Christian Science services. Well I've never been very religious.
DH:Well about your own family? Have you been....? Have you brought your children going to church or anything?
PR:Not really. The oldest daughter went into town here a little bit. I sort of regret that because I hear them talking and they don't have any right to talk because they don't know what they're talking about. I mean I do have a right because I was exposed to it.
DH:You mean they talk about religion, about how they don't believe or...?
PR:Well they don't..... All I'm saying is ????????
DH:Are they in turn...... One of your daughters has kids. So are they eh....
PR:They don't go to church.
DH:They don't go to church either.
PR:I don't know what it's going to be down the road. Nobody does really, except my mother. She still goes.
DH:Does she worry about the fact that you don't?
DH:Well that's very nice of her anyway isn't it?
PR:Well she doesn't push it.
DH:That's good because usually people do.
PR:You can sit down here and listen to us.
DH:I have to say on the tape that Mary just came in and sat down. Just move the junk. He was telling me about his dad committing suicide and stuff like that. I had made this picture of the family tree and a lot of it was very complicated. You know I noticed too, you know because I was so confused with the write-up. You know I was wondering how you came to still be here and why. I mean you really.... The property came to you by way of Susanne.
DH:And Arthur right.
PR:See Aunt Leola passed away so it left Louise, Susan and Arthur as thirds owners. Louise passed away, left her third to me and my sisters. Susan passed away and left her third to me, my sisters and my wife. And Uncle Arthur passed away and left the..... No he didn't pass away, he gave the remainder to me and my sisters and my wife.
DH:It looks like he did that when he left before he lost his faculties didn't he?
DH:Well he was smart to take care of some of those family things I think. A lot of people don't do that.
PR:Well he was advised. For his estate you know. That would just mess up his estate.
DH:You said he was a successful salesman.
PR:Well he was an average salesman. He wasn't well-to-do or anything. I think he got most of his income from his wife's investments. She was very thrifty. She was a very thrifty person and she was the youngest one and passed away first.
MR:No Gaga passed away.
PR:Yeah that's right. She was the first one. She was the second one.
DH:Oh yeah, yeah, yeah Gaga. That's Miss Kathy. Now we haven't talked at all about how you came to be an upholsterer. Have you done that all your life?
PR:We left here in '58, no '57, August of '57 and we moved to Chappaqua, New York. I had graduated from highschool. I got a job in a local garage as a mechanic. I did not like the area up there at all and I moved back..... I was took off and I moved back here in February of '58.
DH:Which household did you come to?
PR:I came to Aunt Louise.
DH:Bet she was happy to see you?
PR:Oh yeah. I got a job down here at a gas station. I couldn't find a job for a long time.
DH:How long were you out of work do you think?
PR:Oh, eh four months. She gave me little jobs around the farm. That's how I earned money. I was supposed to pay her board. I never did pay her any board. And then I got a job at the Acme Supermarket in Middletown.
DH:And that was before you got a job in the gas station. These were in the four months that you were looking?
PR:No this was after the gas station.
DH:Okay. What happened at the gas station? You didn't like it?
PR:I liked it but there was no future in it. So this job at the store came up and it had benefits and you know good pay and vacations and all that. So I stayed there for 20 years.
DH:Is it still existing?
DH:And it's on 896 isn't it? Isn't it the one that's sort of .....?
PR:It's right in Middletown. What is it Green Street?
DH:See I'm not familiar with....
PR:And I met my wife the first year there and we went together for a year. She was working at a hardware store. And we got married and moved into a trailer. We turned the house down, the farmhouse. We had the first offer on that.
DH:Now why did you turn that down?
DH:Do you have any?
PR:Got two. In order to get money to restore them we started doing furniture. And we couldn't afford to buy furniture ourself either. So we just took stuff apart and put it back together. And we got the same, the first sofa ever started on.
DH:Did you pick up stuff at auctions or anything?
PR: We couldn't even afford that. We picked up stuff at dumps and stuff people didn't want.
DH:Wonderful. People gave you stuff that they just didn't want.
PR:So we'd fix it and one thing led to another and we learned more and we're still learning.
DH:Do you do that together?
PR:She doesn't work.
DH:I mean did you learn the upholstering. Do you do the.....?
PR:I do the sewing and upholstering. She takes it apart and delivers and helps the customer pick the material. And she does the chair caning and stuff.
DH:And you taught yourself to do that. From books?
MR:We've had a few classes but not really many.
DH:But your first love was cars it sounded like. You started at a garage and....
PR:Still like them.
DH:So you worked no longer at the Acme than you needed to. Right? Because you really.... I mean was 20 years all you could stand?
PR:Well we had been doing the upholstering on the side for 5 or 10 years. And it was getting so we were earning more money on the side than it was at the store and the store was getting a little nerve wracking. They were putting more pressure on you. It was during that time, you know after the oil crunch, and the unions were changing. We worked at the store during the golden times of the unions. Now, you know how it is now. Somebody had to pass away to get a job at the Acme when I started. And now you can't keep a person there because they only pay them $3.00 or $4.00 an hour. $5.00 at the most. So we decided to quit and we went into business.
DH:How long have you been in business?
PR:Thirteen years. Starting thirteen years full time and it's ????? You sort of have to pinch yourself to see how lucky you are. It's a lot of hard work, but we're supporting ourselves.
DH:And so any extra money you have you go buy old Model Ts and work on them?
PR:No, I'm not into it for a business.
DH:Do you drive them in any of the parades?
PR:Oh yeah. We're very active.
DH:Were you at Return Day?
PR:I usually go but I didn't go this year.
DH:I went down for the first time this year.
PR:Yeah it's quite a big thing. Actually we haven't gone but two three times. I just don't have time to. When we worked at the store I did yes. I'd take my day off and go down there.
DH:So now how do you get business, word of mouth?
PR:Word of mouth mainly. And we have advertisement in the local paper. Or not local paper ??????
DH:Mary Kopco told me you had come and done some demostrations down at Farm Museum. Is that correct?
PR:No, at Odessa. I was approached for going down there but I didn't.
DH:That's very good. What do you like to do best in the upholstery business?
PR:I like it all. There's nothing that I dislike.
DH:Do you ever have to fashion new pieces? I mean out of new wood to make revolves, chairs or.....
PR:Oh yeah, but I try not to get into redesigning things. I just recover what's there. I'm a restorer. I'm not a inventer.
DH:Do you have to do any.....? Usually the stuff you get to do is not that old or do you work on some real, real old stuff?
PR:Oh I've had some old pieces.
DH:Do you have to worry about the kinds of glue? Do you have to do research when you get a piece?
PR:Oh sometimes. Not very often though.
DH:You can just sense what to do with it?
PR:Well we've studied so much. Sometimes we have to research. I shouldn't say that. What's the oldest piece, 1600 and something?
MR:We marked the date in that other one.
DH:Yeah. That sounds wonderful.
PR:We refinished a grandfathers clock, Duncan Beard,
DH:Wow. I know that name.
PR:We got one of those down.
DH:Is that going back into one of those Winterthur houses?
PR:No it went to New York. It was bought at an estate sale and the lady was one of my customers and I restored it for her. Just refinished it. It wasn't that bad.
DH:Mostly what have you done? Chests?
DH:Anything that's wood?
PR:Or cloth. We've done diamond-tufted sofas. All kind of things. Whatever way it was or is supposed to be we can do it. I don't do slipcovers. That's the only thing. We don't do drapes.
DH:You don't do slipcovers you cover the......
MR:I take the fabric. I take it all the way down
PR:We tie the springs, we reglue the frames and take it right up, straight up.
DH:Where do you usually have to go for fabrics?
PR:I've got ten companies that I represent.
DR:Really as far afield as eh.....
PR:Well we've gotten them from California. It comes here UPS.
DH:It seems so complicated to me you know.
PR:I assure you it's not.
DH:Has anybody..... Your girls have not been interested in carrying on any of that though?
PR:We've got one daughter that canes chairs. The oldest one can do it. She did a couple.
MR:They're heart problems though.
PR:And she didn't want to do it.
MR:Our middle daughter, I think that she was closer to us. I think if father was there to help her drum up business I believe she could go ahead. But she's in Connecticut and it's kind of hard getting her setting down. She's had a few jobs, but it's not there. She can't seem to get into the right area.
DH:Well she's still fairly young. Sometimes you change too.
MR:It takes a while.
DH:You change too. Sometimes when you get older you want to do some of things that you learned to do when you were younger. You kind of have to become your ownself for a while and then you learn to do some of that old stuff. Well my great-grandfather was a piano manufacturer in New York City. So he maufactured Peak pianos and I've never had the money to buy them. And now that I have a little money I can't find one. But some of that is a real pround tradition you know. I've seen some of these but I just didn't have the money to buy them because they needed to be redone, you know. I saw one in a shop but it wasn't ready to play. Have you ever done any pianos?
PR:No. I've been approached, but I don't want to get into it. It's too much.
DH:Well they're too heavy.
PR:Well that but there's too much mechanical stuff inside. Too easy to mess up. Excuse me a minute. I want to call the doctor. He's never returned the call.
DH:So you don't love upholstering?
PR:Oh yeah, I love it. But you know it's a job and I work long......
DH:You say you've been doing it for about 13 years now?
DH:Is there ever difficulty getting work?
DH:Do you have a whole backlog of things to do?
PR:Quite a bit.
DH:How long is your turnaround time for a piece?
PR:It depends on how soon the customer wants it. I mean if you've got your living room sofa you want done I can get it back in two weeks. But if you bring it out of your cellar you might get it in six months. That's why I always have something.
DH:Yeah, that sounds good. How long have you had somebody helping you, working with you?
PR:I've had two or three fellows. This fellow retired from the Acme and he's been with me three years.
DH:So you knew him when you worked?
PR:Oh yeah, knew him for years.
DH:Oh wow. That's great.
PR:I don't want to get real big. The bigger you get, you know you have more problems.
DH:So you're making a decent living and you're happy with that.
PR:Yeah that's it. Never be a millionaire.
DH:Do you have any unresolved problems with regard to the farm? I'm confused because..... Arthur did not live in the farmhouse then until 19...., two years ago?
DH:Okay, because you had said the girls had rented it.
PR:He and Leola moved down eh, oh back in the late '60s. He retired. They both retired. So he lived in a good 20 years or 25 years. He and his wife.
PR:In the farmhouse.
DH:In the farmhouse, okay. Then when they retired they lived there after retirement?
PR:The lived there after they retired from New York. See they lived in New York.
DH:Okay, okay, I understand.
PR:They came down from New York. Aunt Susan came back from California to retire. Aunt Louise retired from her school and came back to the farm and retired.
PR:So it was quite a zoo down there for awhile.
DH:And Arthur and Leola were there while all of these people kept coming back in the farmhouse?
PR:Yes. Aunt Louise was there when I came back and she was still going up to the school and still living there also. Aunt Sue, when she came back..... Well I got married about the same time and then Aunt Susan and Uncle Arthur came back.
DH:But they say California is wonderful. Why did Sue come back?
PR:Retired. Came back to the farm.
DH:And they all managed? Weren't there stories of fights down there or was Arthur very agreeable? I mean if Louise was so pig-headed...?
PR:Louise was sort of the boss.
DH:And he sort of accepted it. I mean Arthur was there before Louise came back.
PR:No, no, Louise was there first.
PR:He was the last one that came back. Well they're six bedrooms, so it's big.
PR:And they each have their thing to do. They worked pretty well together, but Louise was boss.
DH:Okay. Well they came back here in the late '60s when they had retired. So what did they do when they were in the house, in the farmhouse? Did they do farming or did they just.....?
PR:No, they just sit.
DH:They just lived there even though Louise was still teaching?
PR:Yeah. She didn't teach very many years. She retired also.
DH:So what did they do down there in that farmhouse? Did they play games? Did they talk?
PR:They talked, but Aunt Sue would travel here and there. She's been everywhere. She's been around the world. She's a very renown traveler.
DH:Did she take photographs and show them or slides or anything like that?
PR:No. She wrote letters of her travels that were fabulous.
DH:Where are those letters?
PR:My sister's got them.
DH:Now which sister?
PR:Alice. snd they would be nice to be published.
DH:Where does Alice live now?
PR:Connecticut, Madison Connecticut.
DH:How many letters are there?
PR:There's enough to make a book.
DH:Is she thinking of that?
PR:I don't know. Actually what happened, Aunt Sue had a very close friend in California who amassed these letters. Aunt Sue could write a letter that made you feel you were right with her. You know, even like the cool, gray of the night, you know, open to the blazing dawn.
DH:So it was really very.... A lot of images.
PR:Yeah and she collected all these letters and she put them together in a folder and my sister's got this.
DH:In those letters she doesn't talk at all about Delaware, just her travels?
DH:That was always so exotic.
PR:She was sort of..... Had a little bit of hippie in her. She liked the desert and the outdoors. And at birthday times on we kids..... This is Aunt Sue I'm speaking of. She would send a box of presents. It wasn't one person had a birthday, everybody had a birthday and we always liked that. And Christmas it wasn't a big present, it was a big box full of little stuff. All kinds of stuff in there. And even until she passed away she'd still give us stuff that somebody gave her or whatever, you know. She'd wrap it up and bring it up. We took care of her the last few years of her life, Mary and I. And she lived here.
DH:She lived here in this house with you?
PR:Before she went to the rest home.
DH:Shall I turn this off so you can try again to the doctor?
DH:We're nearing the end of this tape.
PR:I'll stay on Aunt Sue.
DH:Okay. We were talking about Aunt Sue and all her letters. We were talking about the letters.
PR:She could write a letter, you know like I said, that would make you feel like you were sitting right there. I think they should be published. That would be neat. I mean she's been places all around the world. I don't know if she had her favorite place.
MR:I don't think so.
PR:Anyplace she went she just fitted right in. See she never married, but she had a boyfriend for 50 years.
PR:And he would come to the farm in the summertime after she retired. What every two years or something like that? And then there for awhile it was every year. And he'd stay for three months. And they'd travel together.
DH:What is the scuttlebaum why they didn't marry?
PR:They said they couldn't get along if they got married. He was a a principal. He was a math teacher and a principal.
DH:Did they work in the same school for awhile?
PR:I think so. I can't swear by it.
MR:She was a kindnergarten teacher so I don't think she would be..... And I think he was in highschool.
PR:But anyway it was in the same town or area.
MR:They were in San Diego.
DH:So what did you think of him?
PR:I liked him. He was a nice guy. Everybody liked him.
DH:How about Louise?
PR:They all got along well down there.
DH:Maybe he didn't want Louise to boss him too.
PR:But when they traveled together they had separate rooms and they'd always go low budget.
DH:Okay. That meant they could take a lot more trips didn't it?
PR:Yeah. And she loved the desert. At home on the farm as long as her health held out she had flowers everywhere. That was her thing, flowers.
PR:Right. And the grass was Aunt Louise's thing. Uncle Arthur would cut it.
MR:And Aunt Leola would do the cooking and the chores.
PR:Do the cooking and the housework.
DH:That sounds wonderful. No wonder.....
PR:They got along pretty well considering.
DH:No wonder Kathy became a hippie. It looks like there was division of labor even at the farm, you know. And you know those things work well because when you're on your own you do everything yourself. Interesting. Do you remember any of the specific times in history, like World War II, because you would remember that, the Korean War? Are there any times that you particularly felt strongly about or that you knew a lot about or disagreed with anything that the government was doing? You always listened to the news you said.
DH:And that was something that your dad also did and everybody did. They always turned on the news at six.
PR:My dad and mother would have that as their time, you know Lowell Thomas. He put on the commentary. Usually around six o'clock or seven o'clock or whenever it was. I'm very interested in the Second World War. I'm reading the "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" right now.
DH:You were too young you wouldn't have eh....
PR:I remember hearing them listen to it on the radio and the blackouts and the curtains having to come down when you had the lights on and all that.
DH:But there was no question of your father going and serving because he had been hurt?
PR:Nobody in our family that I know of has been in the service outside of John's wife's daughter's kids. That's Gene, Curtis and Carroll. Curtis and Carroll were in the Navy. Outside of that....
DH:Now would that have been World War II? Were they older also like William is?
PR:They're older but.....
DH:But they wouldn't have been that old during World War II?
PR:It was either the Korean War or the Second World War. I can't say. I don't know how much older they are. I remember them very..... I mean me being small and them being big. But I'm not close to them. I don't even know where they are. I think one's in Egypt and I don't know where the other one is.
DH:Where were you when Kennedy was assassinated?
PR:In Smyrna, Delaware, at Ennis Ford garage having my Ford worked on. A muffler or something put on it.
DH:What did you think?
PR:I was devastated because I kind of liked him. I remember him the Bay of Pigs. I remember that. I remember him coming on the television and it scared us. I remember that up to the trailer. I was shining a brass radiator for a Model T Ford. I never will forget it. I remember the Korean War when it was signed, the armistice. And I remember V Day in the Second World War. I remember all the parties and all the excitement, the ticker tapes in New York City. You saw that in the paper, you know Life magazine. I used to read the National Geographic a lot.
DH:But life here in the farm area was never very much affected by things one way or another?
PR:No, especially with nobody in our family being in the service.
DH:Well when you were 18 did you have to register they way the kids do now?
PR:I always wanted to go but they wouldn't take me because of my eye. I've tried to get into the National Guards.
DH: I forgot about that eye.
PR:So our family hasn't been touched by the service, hardly.
DH:How did you feel about Viet Nam?
PR:I was against it totally. It seems to me this thing that's going on now is another political money thing. But the Second World War was different. But I still... My childhood recollections of it are sort of more patriotic, but once I studied into the history and how Ford and Chrysler and all those guys helped Hitler to get started and give Hitler the money that he had and then how we were pushed into it by Roosevelt, yeah. See we weren't taught that in school. But you get out and then you find out what's going on.
DH:Sometimes you have to wait and get a distance from it before the historians can write the facts.
PR:I like history. I've studied it quite a lot.
DH:So far as we can see about the Iraquie situation we'd just as soon.....
PR:I think they ought to do what they're going to do and get out or whatever. This hanging on is nothing. It's just making us look worse each day we stay there. But I think it's more or less oil anyway.
DH:That's what the President said when he first sent us over.
PR:He's an oil man and I just fee that's the difference.
DH:Were there any games you played when you were a kid?
PR:Everything. Monopoly, checkers, chinese checkers, cards.
DH:What did you play in the terms of cards?
PR:Rummy, both kinds, and Canasta. And then your Old Maids as kids. We played all kinds of stuff like that. Plenty of games.
DH:Now you didn't have horses anymore. Did you learn to ride horses?
PR:Oh yeah. I had a pony when I was 6 years old. My mother had a Tennessee Walking horse, but as far as horse riding like it used to be, it wasn't. That sort of stopped.
DH:Why did that stop? Expense, roads?
PR:I think work on the farm and daddy, he was sick too. They did a lot of riding when they were courting and in the first few years. But once the farm really demanded more there wasn't time for riding.
DH:How does your mother feel about this family now that's she's away?
PR:She talks about it sometimes but I think there's still bitterness there. I mean she tried to talk to Aunt Louise. She got along with Aunt Sue pretty well and she was with Aunt Catherine when she passed away. Aunt Leola she got along with pretty well. Aunt Louise was the biggest problem plus the fact that all the girls sort of babied my father.
DH:Does your mom come down here to visit or do you go up there to visit? Do you see her now and then?
PR:Oh yeah. We go up two or three times a year. But she hasn't been down here in what a year, two years?
PR:But she comes back.
DH:She does it see you rather than anything else.
PR:Oh sure, there's nothing else here.
MR:There's still some friends from when the children were little. There's a couple of ladies in Townsend that she still occasionally goes in to see.
DH:Are there any family customs or traditions that you remember that you have tried to pass on to your kids? You said everybody sang at holidays and so forth. Were there family reunions or did it all just revolve around who was on the farm at the time? Did you get together at Thanksgiving or Christmas?
PR:We'd always go down there for Thanksgiving or they'd come up here.
DH:Down there meaning down to the farm?
PR:Back to the farm, yeah. I can't remember too much on that.
DH:There weren't recipes of food that you remember they made that you particularly liked?
PR:Hotcakes. Aunt Sue made the best hotcakes. They were thin.
DH:They weren't buckwheat flour or anything like that?
DH:Okay, and what did you put on that, syrup or jam or nothing?
PR:I put jelly, jam. syrup, you know the whole thing. Peanut butter, everything.
DH:Was that a supper dish?
DH:Or a breakfast dish?
PR:Sometimes or a noon dish. One thing I remember. I remember threshing. I remember hand cutting of the corn, the crops put in silo also drawn by horses. And you loaded the fodder up in a wagon and you took it to a blower and it was cut up and blown up. It's not all done out in the field like it is now. And shocking corn and husking corn. Doing it like the Amish do, you know, making the single shocks and then you husk it and you put three or four shocks into one. You make one big double and you tie the fodder up and you do it for the cows. That's something that's a lost art. Nobody does it around here anymore. My mother used to have to feed all the help and that would be 30 or 40 people. When corn came on we'd have great big long tables.
DH:What did she feed them? Do you remember?
PR:We raised pigs. We killed pigs, I remember that. We butchered pigs. I wasn't allowed to see them killed.
DH:Well she was a Christian Scienctist.
PR:But I could help them prepare them. That was alright. I usually made the.... I stirred the scrapple when they cooked it and made the sausage.
DH:What was your recipe for the scrapple?
PR:I can't remember. You know a man wouldn't remember that. But I never will forget it I had to clean out the intestines for the sausage.
DH:Oh dear, how did you feel about that?
PR:It didn't bother me. I'd clean it all out and get a little bit of lye water as disinfectant and you'd fill it up with meat and you'd make the links certain long. A certain length I mean. And you'd make patties. Put lard on top of the sausage, I mean scrapple. You'd put it down in the cellar and it never would go bad. We buy scrapple now and it won't keep a week in the refrigerator. I remember after killing we'd have the tenderloin that night for dinner. That is excellent. I love that. There was no hunters in our family either. I can remember hunting season guys from town that knew daddy he'd let them hunt. And they'd catch a rabbit or something and we'd have it for supper.
DH:You dad didn't hunt though?
PR:No hunters at all. I don't even hunt.
DH:Why do you think he didn't hunt?
PR:I have no idea. He owned a 22 rifle. That was it.
DH:What did he use that for?
PR:Shooting rats or something like that. Groundhogs, target practice. But never any hunting.
DH:He wasn't a Pacifist or anything like that do you think?
DH:So you still like scrapple but it doesn't keep very long.
PR:It's not like the old homemade scrapple. It's got too much meal in it.
DH:So when your mother would cook for all those 30 people it would be pork?
PR:Pork, ham, you know whatever. We raised everything. Daddy had a garden, oh it must have been an acre. Pull weeds, I hate to pull weeds. We used to have to do that. That was his form of relaxation. He would pull weeds and relax and think. And I would pull weeds and...
DH:Kind of like Sue because she had her flowers.
PR:Yeah, they all had their little things. Aunt Louise's things was reading deeds and survey lines and all that and messing them up. Our place is surveyed wrong because she told the surveyor it was wrong and we never have changed it. We got to do it sometime.
MR:I was told William's is wrong.
PR:Yeah, his is wrong.
MR:For someone who was so, supposedly so knowledgable, we find out she wasn't.
DH:She had a personality to uphold. She had to pretend that she knew everything, didn't she?
PR:But the early days of farming, you know the hand work that was hard work. I can remember Aunt Sue running me out of the field with a pitchfork. We were out raking hay and piling it so we could pitch it and put it on the wagon. There wasn't any bales or anything. And I wanted to go into to town with boys and she ran me right out of the field.
DH:You mean so you could go?
PR:She told me to get away from it if I didn't want to work.
MR:If you were there you were to produce.
DH:And if you didn't feel like it, if you preferred to be.... But that made you feel pretty awful.
PR:Oh it bothered me, but she laughed about it later, years later.
DH:But you needed some relaxation yourself and she might have known that.
PR:But they were sort of jealous that I went to camp. I was lucky in that aspect.
DH:Are there any family heirlooms, keepsakes, mementos from the old farmhouse? I mean you said that wasn't even that old. I mean the family goes on beyond that. You were talking about possibly a log cabin underneath.
PR:We have what the rocking chair? We have a couple of things.
MR:But then they're not necessarily from that particular family. These were given to them.
PR:From a Ratledge family, but I don't know which one. There wasn't that much old furniture down there. I mean it was just regular furniture. It wasn't any really antiques. You would think there would be, but there wasn't.
DH:There is a person who still uses the land for farming?
DH:That person's name was......
DH:Yes. Now where does Norman live? I mean does he live far away? Is there an arrangement whereby he rents the field? How does that work?
PR:He rents the whole farm for a specified amount. And he has rented it for what 25 years, 30 years?
MR:About 32 years he's rented it.
PR:And he lives in Kenton, Delaware, which is 20 miles away to the south. He used to live right around the corner more or less, but he sold his farm and bought another one. He grows corn and soybeans.
DH:That would have been part of the estate of Arthur Anderson, I mean the rentals that come in, or the specified money would be part of that estate?
PR:Uncle Arthur used to divide it when they got down to just two of them. When Aunt Louise was alive it all went into the farm account and they ran the house and all that on it.
DH:That's good. You've mentioned if you had any old photographs or letters, you know the Century Farm people would love to have a chance to look at them sometime. Of course she'll ask because there has been reference to some stuff here.
PR:Well William's got what I have. I think that I destroyed the letter from Aunt Louise sometime ago.
DH:Your family has survived but not necessarily because of working the farm. I mean they've done other occupations.
PR:The farm ground isn't that good and never has been that good. It's always been poor ground and just, you know, more like truck farming until daddy decided to make it a dairy farm. Aunt Sue told me about her father going to the market on Fridays and there's a millpond just north of Townsend that they'd run through with the buggy to tighten the wheel up. Through the water. Then they'd go up and sell their things and come back. She was very close to her father.
DH:There's a little book that I was supposed to read about Delaware agriculture and that's one of the things that it said. You know that Delaware is fortunate that it's got a good climate and it's flat, but that the land has always needed to be you know fertilized extraordinarily because it is not good soil.
PR:It's not even a good farming state. I always thought it was, but it's not and you can see it's being developed.
DH:Your own kids. Are they at all interested in the farm, in the history of the family and......?
PR:Not at this time I don't think. I mean they all have their own little world. It bothers me I think it ought to be maintained, or something ought to be done with it. I'm not a farmer and I hate to see the ground just, you know, be farmed and not maintained quite right. And the house really bothers me because it's going down, just falling apart. I can't afford to live in. You know in this day and age who can afford a house like that. I think it should be.... Somebody ought to get in there and fix it up, you know.
DH:It's being rented now?
PR:It's rented yes.
DH:So who owns it?
PR:The three of us. All four of us kids.
PR:I'd like to see it fixed up or whatever.
DH:So the money from the rental of the farm is divided equally among you?
PR:We've never gotten a cent out of it. It just stays in escrow right now. Nobody can make up their mind what they want to do.
DH:Is there a big hunk of money there or not?
DH:Well you have sentimental attachment, you know and sort of.... You probably have it more than anybody, right?
PR:I'm here. I grew up there and I've been here all my life and the girls have all been away and they don't even think about it until they see me and it's sad. They've got to face up and really figure out what they're going to do with it. I can't get anybody to come up with any suggestions. It's not right to just sit there. Yeah just sit on a big piece of real estate and not do anything with it. It should be managed right. We ride by and we see it falling down and it's ???????, or somebody's hunting on it and not supposed to be. We have to run them off or some problem, we have to take care of it. We have to do it all. And the last ten years taking care of Aunt Sue, you know we had everything to do.
DH:Was she quite ill?
DH:Was she able to.... Did her mind wander?
PR:Well the last six months.
DH:That's not too bad.
MR:But prior to that we had to have help come in.
MR:It got to the point where she couldn't do. It wasn't safe for her to get..... Well her eyesight was gone, so that was a problem.
PR:Plus her mind and she broke her hip.
MR:But the last two years were..... We were really starting to feel it, but he said as long as she recognized him he would not have her put into any type of a home. That he would look after her. So the last two years she spent the nights with Pete and I. Then he would take her down ????? He'd have help in to look after her and then he'd go back in the evening and pick her up.
DH:That was a wonderful thing to do because then she was able to stay in her surroundings during the day. Gosh there's so few.......
MR:She spent a month in a home.
PR:She didn't know it. She didn't know anything.
DH:She wasn't aware of it. I'm sure she appreciated it.
MR:But there's still something I felt in her..... Her body knew something was different because it seemed like that last month each day was more of a give-up. But she did, she was lucky. She didn't have to be in a home very long until she died.
DH:That's a wonderful thing to do. Was it a very great burden on you?
DH:At times I'm sure it was.
PR:Well we couldn't go as much. If we left at anytime we'd have to get a baby sitter.
DH:It was like having a child and your own kids were grown and out by then right? No, not quite.
MR:No still not.
PR:I still have one here. But we still ??????? quite a lot. We're not really that much anymore. I mean she goes to Weight Watchers or Jazzerise and I'm usually here. You know we're not real partyers or anything.
DH:Yeah, that's good.
MR:We still got away. We made a special point to get away for a long weekend and have someone cover so that we could. But we really didn't travel as frequently as we do now.
DH:That sounds very good. I'm going to end here and as I said before when they have an opportunity to look back over these tapes..... We've really had a big jumble of, you know, of the people and so I'm sure there are going to be things they're going to want to ask about. Thank you very much. And I'm glad you came in, Mary at the end. I'll turn it off.