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Interview with Dorothea Parker

by James A. Jones (Downingtown, September 16, 1996)

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Reference: Dorothea Parker, interview by James A. Jones (Downingtown, September 16, 1996).

The interview was held in the living room of Ms. Parker's home near Downingtown. Jim Jones (JJ) and Dorothea Parker (DP) were the only participants. There is also a transcript of a brief follow-up interview conducted by telephone at the end of this file.

BACKGROUND

Dorothea Parker was born in Riggtown on May 26, 1921. She lived there until she married at the beginning of World War II, when she moved to Downingtown. She has lived there ever since, but she has kept in touch with her childhood friends from Riggtown.
[begin interview: Tape opens with JJ repeating an answer to an
earlier question]

JJ: Between 1936 and 1944, the house at 500ENS was owned by
William E. Carey (Jr), who was your "Uncle Willie."  [change of
subject]  Charles (Carey, her cousin and Richard's son) talked
about when he put in the bathroom after the war, and it made me
wonder when the other houses [in Riggtown] got their plumbing.

DP: In the very beginning, you had the outside toilets back in
the yard.

JJ: When you were a child, did you have outside toilets?

DP: No.

JJ: When were you born?

DP: 1921.  May 26.

JJ: So they already had an indoor bathroom at your house.  That
means that Charles' house got it fairly late.

DP: His house had an indoor bathroom also.

JJ: Well, help me understand this, because it's not clear [to
me]. 
He talked about how the back porch was enclosed, but said that
when he got home from the war, he put in a regular bathroom.

DP: It wasn't really an outhouse.  There was a toilet and a sink;
it had everything.  On both sides, because it was a double house.

JJ: It was in there where your porch would be.  Is that where it
was located?

DP: I wouldn't say it was the back porch.  It was enclosed, like
an outside kitchen.  [we looked at a photo of Charles and Uncle
Willie the back of the house]  That's the enclosed back porch,
and down here is where Grandpop had his shop.  [He was a
woodturner.]

[discussion of objects J found buried in back of 392ENS,
including bricks that may have been the base of an outhouse.]

JJ: ... but your house had indoor plumbing earlier than mine.

DP: So did 500, 502, 504 and 506 [East Nields Street].  They were
all the same.  That was Uncle Dick's, next was Hamiltons in 504,
and then the next was Smiley's, Fillmore Smileys in 506.

JJ: That is interesting, because those four houses were built by
someone else than the rest of the block.  I wonder if they put in
better plumbing from the get-go, whereas everybody else had to
add theirs [indoor bathroom] later on.

DP: Well, later on they put in a tub and all that kind of thing.

JJ: Well, I guess the bathroom [in 500ENS] was upstairs in the
back.  Was it already there when you were a child?

DP: I guess they put that in when I was about fifteen [around
1936].

JJ: In your household, there was you, your mother Gertrude, who
was born a Carey, but was at least briefly married to somebody
named Work ...

DP: She was married for five years and they lived up on High
Street.  My father was a barber.  He worked for Gus Troutman, who
had a shop on Market Street.

JJ: What was your father's first name?

DP: William.

JJ: William Work

DP: His shop was near the Farmers & Mechanics Building [corner of
High and Market].

JJ: Did your grandfather live in the house when you were a child?

DP: When I was little, after my mother and father separated, I
lived with my grandfather and my grandmother.  My grandmother
died shortly after we moved in with them [July 20, 1926].  And
then [there was] my Aunt Florence, who was crippled, and Uncle
Willie.  Uncle Willie never married, and neither did Aunt
Florence.  My grandfather died in 1936 ...

[interruption when I present Charles R. Carey's genealogy.  D
offered to provide names of brothers of Robert E. and William J.
Carey.  I declined, but should take her up on it.]

JJ: John Carey lived on Linden Street, and I know there were
Careys on Church Street, and there must have been more.

DP: On Price Street.  Robert moved to Price Street.

[more discussion]

DP: The Truitts, Katie's mother and father, they had three
children: Dollie, Kate and Nathan.  Kate and Nathan went with
some of the relatives.  Nathan went down to New Jersey with
Alonzo Brosius.  That was his uncle.  And Kate moved in with the
Gauses.

JJ: Okay.  There was only one reference to the Gauses [in the
archives that I consulted].  Everyone else called her Kate
Truitt, or Katie May.

DP: Yes, Katie May.  Her name was Truitt.  They were from over in
Red Lion, near Kennett Square.

JJ: When the rest of the family left the area and moved to New
Jersey, she stayed with the Gause family?

DP: No, there was only one who moved down to New Jersey with the
Brosius, and that was Nathan.  They sort of raised him.  Katie
went with her aunt and uncle, and they lived over in Kennett. 
One person who I have not been able to trace was Walter Truitt,
her [Katie's] father.  

JJ: I don't know anything about him, but I've got another Walter
(Carey) on my list.  Do you know anything about him?

DP: He was the oldest child of William E. Carey and Katie May. 
He
was their first child, and he died in an automobile accident.  I
guess maybe he owned one of the first automobiles.  It overturned
when he was visiting his sister down in Broomall.  He was
traveling up and somehow it flipped over.  Maybe it was a
convertible ... I guess they were all convertibles back then. 

JJ: Any idea how old he was when he died?

DP: He was young.  

[discussion of D's information on the Carey family tree, compiled
for her application to the Daughters of the American Revolution]

JJ: [reading from D's materials] Walter Carey was born
1884/07/20;
Florence Carey was born 1885/10/24; William E. Carey 1887/01/25;
Mary Carey 1888/10/04; Isabelle D. Carey 1890/07/18; Harry D.
Carey 1892/05/05; Helen Carey 1894/06/03; Gertrude R. Carey
1897/07/12; and Richard C. Carey 1900/06/13.  Whew!  That was
another big Riggtown family.

DP: There were eight children.

JJ: You gave me a name that I didn't have before ... you also
gave
me William Work's name.

DP: William Vanderbilt Work.  

JJ: Prior to the marriage of Katie May Truitt and William E.
Carey
(Sr), she lived at her aunt and uncle's house, William B. Gause
... 

[gap]

DP: [showing a photograph] That was Katie May, my grandmother.

DP: Phoebe was the sister of Matilda Paxson ... and Phoebe and
William Gause didn't have children.  Phoebe was the second wife
of William Gause.

[gap]

JJ: What do you remember about growing up in Riggtown?  Do you
even think of yourself as a Riggtowner?

DP: Now I do.  Maybe at one time, I didn't.  The village itself
was made up of all Irish.  Surprisingly, three of the girls
became nuns--Katherine Finnegan, shortly after her mother died. 
And not too far from there--it really wasn't Riggtown--Agnes
Barry.  And up the street on Nields Street, Dorothy Joyce, up
near the alley [in the 200 block of East Nields Street].

JJ: I hadn't heard about that.  I'm interested in whatever you
can
tell me about the women of Riggtown.  I've already heard about
some of the things that the boys did together--playing ball,
building bonfires, etc.  Did girls form relationships the way the
boys did?

DP: I think they were like sisters.  The Smileys and myself were
very close, [even] to this day.  They had six girls and one boy.

JJ: Can you name them?

DP: Ann, Martha, Marie, Phyllis, Catherine, Christine and Buddy.

JJ: Which one or ones did you play with?

DP: Christine, and Catherine.  Catherine was a year older than
me,
and Christine was a year younger.

JJ: What did you when you were kids?  You didn't play baseball,
I'd guess.

DP: We played with dolls and baby coaches.  Christine had a
beautiful coach.  It was a sort of wicker ... she still has it to
this day.

JJ: Where did you get baby coaches?

DP: They were like Christmas gifts.  We really weren't real poor;
we got Christmas gifts and stuff.

JJ: So it was "store-bought" stuff.  People weren't making them
for their kids.

DP: I thought we were pretty well off.

JJ: You're one of the first people to say that.  Most people say
they were poor, but we worked hard and we got by.

DP: That's true.

JJ: Then how come you say you weren't poor.

DP: Because I was an only child in my family, and I was probably
spoiled, that's why.  [laughter]  The  Smiley family had six girls
girls.  I know that some of the younger ones got hand-me-downs.

JJ: Where did Mr. Smiley work?

DP: Mr. Smiley had a garage, right up there next to his house. 
[discussion to establish that this was the same place where
Smitty's Body Shop is located today]

JJ: Did Mrs. Smiley work?

DP: No, Mrs. Smiley did not.  I guess the Depression wasn't too
good, and he didn't make out to well at the garage business, so
he went to work for Schramms.  So did William E. Carey.

JJ: Later on, so did Jack Harvey.  Schramm's showed up a lot in
my
interviews.

[discussion of Charlotte Harvey.  D didn't know her, but knew the
family name Baum.]

DP: You live in the Gincley's house?

JJ: Actually, I live next door.  Levi and Helen Gincley lived
next
door to me in 392 East Nields Street.  [I produced a list of
residents of each house in Riggtown.]

DP: I'd love to walk through the old house again [500ENS].

JJ: That's where Joe Mingione lives. [discussion about arranging
a
visit]

DP: [responding to the price paid by Mingione for the house]  Oh
my word!  Do you know how much he sold that house to Big Jum
(Earl Harvey)?  He was a good friend of Uncle Willie's.  Uncle
Willie sold the house to him for, I think, $1200.

JJ: The deed only showed $1.00, which was the transfer fee.  Now
Earl Harvey was related to Jack Harvey and Gertrude Ferrier, and
Helen Gincley?

DP: He was Jack's uncle.

[D commented on how much work I'd done already, so I gave a long-
winded explanation of how I got involved in the project]

DP: Do you know Paul Rodebaugh?

JJ: Only by reputation.  I have his telephone number, but I've
delayed in calling him until I had some real questions for him,
because it sounds like everyone contacts him about local history.

DP: He gives lectures on the cemetery you mentioned [Friends
Burial Society cemetery] and he might be interested in your work.

JJ: Well, that gives me a reason to contact him.

[tape stops and then restarts as we look at some of D's pictures]

DP: This was his brother-in-law, who was married to Grandpop's
sister Harriet.  Grandpop worked at Baldwin's planing mill, which
was up there in the alley near the Keystone Tag building, but
nearer to Lacey Street.  He had an accident when he was in his
late forties or fifties, and he lost his fingers.  He had one
thumb--part of a thumb--and two fingers.  He was really
discouraged about that for a long time.

JJ: Could he still work with his tools?

DP: I don't think he worked for a long time.  Then my grandmother
died (Katie May).  I don't know who it was that knew he was
talented--he was a wood turner--but Francis and Deborah Brinton
were antique dealers.  In fact, Francis donated a lot of that
furniture up at the Historical Society.  I think he was
responsible for rehabilitating Grandpop.  Grandpop got interested
and built a bed for a lathe in the outside cellar, and he got so
he could work with what he had left.  Mr. Brinton would give him
antiques to repair or parts to make.  Also, he referred him to
[sounds like] Okie and Stockwell ...

JJ: These were antique dealers?

DP: They were all antique dealers around West Chester.  And all
during the Depression, Grandpop worked and earned enough money,
so we did not go on welfare.  The only people who I know went on
welfare were the Ferriers and the Holstons.

JJ: Isabelle and Ben [Holston] were your relatives.

DP: Ben was a painter.  They were the only ones--all those other
Irish people were too proud to ask for help, so they eked along
with what they had.  Grandpop was one of them.

JJ: How did they "eke along"?  You were old enough during the
Depression to remember it.  What kind of things did people do to
get along?

DP: They were resourceful enough.  Some of them had gardens, and
they did the things up so they would have things through the
winter.

JJ: Your family was good at gardening, from what I hear.  Would
you say that more people had gardens than didn't?

DP: I'm sure they did.  I'm sure everyone had a "patch."  They
called [gardens] "a patch."

JJ: Was there anything along the railroad that was worth
scavenging?  I saw a newspaper article about people in the 1890s
who scavenged coal from along the railroad on the north side of
town.

DP: I don't know, but they probably did.  I know we had a coal
stove, and you could use wood in there too.  John worked over at
the roundhouse for a certain time--did you see his obituary?

[discussion of John Carey's obituary and the difficulty of
deciphering old documents]

JJ: [new subject]  Voting ... I only thought of this recently,
but
I realize that it is an important question.  Did people vote, and
if they did, then how did they vote?

DP: Oh yes.  Grandpop was more or less ward leader down there in
the Fifth Ward.  I remember one time, there was a man named
Pinchot who was the governor of Pennsylvania.  A man by the name
of Scarlett over in Kennett Square, and he was going around
campaigning.  And then of course there were certain local
politicians; Chambers, for one.  He was mayor.  He was Tom
Chambers' dad, I think.  

JJ: So when you grandfather was ward leader, was he a Democrat or
a Republic, or wasn't that part of being ward leader?

DP: I don't know.  I remember one time, there was a meeting on
our
front porch, and all of the people down there listening to this
politician.

JJ: How about you?  Who was the first president you voted for?

DP: I don't know.  Probably Roosevelt.  It was war time ...

JJ: ... and nobody wanted to take a chance on messing things up?

DP: He was very, very popular ... NRA and all that.  I remember
Grandpop listening to all of his speeches on the radio.  

JJ: You had a radio in your house?  

DP: Oh yes.  It was a Philco.  I think Uncle Willie had one of
the
first radios in the whole neighborhood.  And Grandpop had the
first telephone on the block.  He used to charge people 10 to
make a call.

JJ: Can you remember the telephone number?

DP: 76N [amazed laughter]

JJ: Isn't that amazing?  I can still remember my first locker
combination from seventh grade.  [discussion of the quirks of
human memory]

DP: I was telling you about Grandpop doing the woodturning.  Also
he made baseball bats for the kids in the neighborhood.  He would
make them out of hickory and ash, because they were the hardest
woods.  He also made the billy clubs for the police.

JJ: Now, did any of the Riggtowners ever encounter the business
end of those billy clubs?

DP: Not that I know of.  I never heard of anything--maybe after I
left there.  It was a very good neighborhood; a very close
neighborhood.

JJ: That leads me to a question about Riggtown "spirit."  Was
Riggtown really a special place, or was it just special to the
people who lived there?  In other words, was there anything about
Riggtown that was of interest to people from outside of Riggtown?

DP: We all went to the Normal School.  When I first started, the
first grade was called the Model School.  Then the next year, the
college took it over, and it became the Demonstration School. 
From [grades] one to six, it was wonderful.  I loved it.  We had
music appreciation with Dr. Dan [sounds like] Rossin.  They would
take all the kids over to the [Philips] Auditorium.  We learned
all of the instruments in the orchestra.

JJ: Did you get to play them?

DP: [surprised at the question]  I didn't.  It was a sort of an
appreciation class.  I really wasn't musically talented, but I
appreciated hearing the music.  Also, I think perhaps we had a
lot more advantages from one to six than a lot of grade schools.

JJ: That's interesting.  Who got to go to the Demonstration
School?

DP: All of the people from the south end of town ... the
southeast
end of town.  All of the kids.

JJ: Did they have the choice of going to a regular public school?

DP: They had it divided up.  North of wherever the border was,
they would go to the High Street School, where the Burger King is
[today].  But we loved to have the students come in to teach us. 
And we had some subjects that most people didn't get until they
got up into junior high.  We had Egyptian culture, Greek
mythology, and we had a terrific art class.  William Palmer Lear
was our teacher in art.  One of our students--I guess he's pretty
well known now--was Tom Bostell.

JJ: So you figure that going to the Demonstration School was
something special.

DP: It was!  We had one girl who stuttered, Phyllis Smiley.  So
one of the teachers told her sisters and us, "when she starts to
stutter, you make her stop.  Tell her to take a deep breath and
start over."  Pretty soon, Phyllis didn't stutter any more.

JJ: When you all went on to high school, how did you make out?

DP: It was really different up there.

JJ: What do you remember that was different about it?

DP: Well, we walked, for one thing, through all kinds of weather. 
We didn't have buses.  There was a lot more people--it was awful
crowded.

JJ: How did you walk there?  What streets did you follow?

DP: We walked up Nields Street to High Street, and then followed
High Street up to Washington Street.  That's where the junior
high was located.

JJ: So you didn't have to cut across the railroad tracks?

DP: Oh no, that was in the wrong direction.

JJ: Did you ever have to cut across the railroad tracks for
anything?  What I'm getting at, is what was the relationship
between Riggtown and the black community across the tracks?

DP: The only time that I remember going over there, the boys used
to have a baseball diamond over there.

JJ: Near where the roundhouse was?

DP: Over near the roundhouse, but the roundhouse was no longer in
existence, but some fellows cleared it off.

JJ: Over where Wyeth is located now?

DP: Yes.  At that time, it was part of Mr. Reilly's farm.

JJ: James D. Reilly, I think.

DP: Yes.  He was a good friend of Grandpop Carey's.

JJ: [described the Kay Ruoss letter that mentioned taking walks
over to Reilly's farm.]  Did you ever take walks over there?

DP: Yes.  Kay would be a good one to talk to.

[discussion of Ruoss letter and the idea of Riggtown as an
example of community-building.  J showed D the picture of Charles
Carey's Riggtown tattoo.]

JJ: Talking about how the boys' friendships lasted a long time,
you've told me that the same was true for girls. 

DP: Wait a minute and I'll show you something ... [tape stops and
then restarts.  D handed a framed needlepoint to J, who described
it an read it out loud.] 

JJ: Needlepoint gift to Dottie entitled "Sisters by Heart."  
     We've shared so much laughter, we've shared so many tears. 
     We've a spiritual kinship that grows stronger ever year. 
     We're not sisters by birth, but we knew from the start, 
     God put us here to be sisters by heart.

JJ: That's an example of exactly what I was talking about [the
long-lasting friendships from Riggtown.]

[change of subject]

JJ: How old were you when you got your first job?

DP: I think the first job I had was down in Wilmington.  It was
an
Eckerd's drugstore [and I worked at] the soda fountain.

JJ: Where was it at?

DP: It was around Market Street.  Mother and I lived in an
apartment at 811 Market.  I think across the street was the Alden
Theater.

JJ: Your cousin said that your mother worked in Wilmington.  Did
you ever live in West Chester while she was working in
Wilmington, or were you with her all the time?

DP: No, work was hard to come by, and she worked as a waitress. 
She worked over at the Purple and Gold Tea Room.  People by the
name of Williard Ronk owned that property then.

JJ: Was that part of the university, or was it a private tea
room?

DP: It was private, but a lot of the university people used to
come in.

JJ: Where was it located?

DP: At the corner of Linden and High Street, where the
Rathskeller
is located.

JJ: Was it a nicer place than the Rathskeller?

DP:  Oh yes.  There was no beer.  It had a soda fountain, and
sandwiches.

JJ: Did the students come in?

DP: Oh yes.

JJ: It was a good location.  What did your mom think of the
students?

DP: I don't know, she never really said that I remember.

JJ: That's a good sign, if she didn't come home complaining.

DP: Oh no.

[J discussed another interview that mentioned the Oriole Tea
Room]

DP: Walnut Street and Matlack, they had beautiful homes.  I think
a lot of fraternities have taken them over, and they don't look
like they did.  A lot of professors used to live there.  There
were some beautiful homes.

JJ: [change of subject to unions and strikes]  I've asked
everyone
about where they worked, and I wondered whether there was much of
a union movement around here?

DP: I think it was before the unions really became active.  I
don't ever remember strikes.  Not when I worked over there,
because I worked for Schramm's during World War II.  I worked in
what they called final testing.  I was like a clerk, who got all
of the data for each unit before it went out.

JJ: After the war was over, did you stop working at Schramms?

DP: After the war was over and the fellows came back, they
claimed
those jobs, and women had to find other work.  I was used to
working, and [even after] my husband came home from the service,
I worked in a hosiery mill over in Downingtown.  Our daughter was
six months old when he went in the service, in the Seabees.  So
when he came back, I was used to working, and it sure helped out.

JJ: Did you drive up [to Downingtown] in your own car?

DP: I'd moved up with his mother and father [to Downingtown,
during the war].  I'd left Uncle Willie and he was there [500ENS]
by himself.

JJ: That was during the war?

DP: Yes, that was wartime, because "Parker" and I got married in
1941.  Andrew Earl Parker was her husband.)

JJ: What was the whole date?

DP: October the fourth.

JJ: When did he go in the service?

DP: He got a deferment because of war work.  He commuted down to
the Baldwin Locomotive Company in Eddystone.  He kept getting
six-month deferments from the government, but he knew that sooner
or later he would have to go into the service.  At one point, we
lived down in Prospect Park because it was closer [to where he
worked].  We weren't down there too long, maybe seven or eight
months, then I moved back with Uncle Willie [Carey].  Then Parker
said he was going in the service, so I moved over [to
Downingtown] with Mr. and Mrs. Parker, because i had a six-month
old baby then ...

JJ: ... and there wasn't any other kind of day care ...

DP: Right.  And then I went to work at Schramms.

JJ: That meant that when you were living in Downingtown, you were
actually driving to West Chester to go to work at Schramms.

DP: There was a fellow that lived in the same block who worked
over at Schramms.  We used to ride over with him.

JJ: Gasoline was in short supply during the war?

DP: Yes, gas was hard to come by.  There were four of us who rode
with him.  And then when the fellows came back from the service,
they over their jobs back at Schramms again, and I worked at the
hosiery mill, and then after that, at Pepperidge Farms in
Downingtown.

JJ: When did you go over there?

DP: In 1959.

JJ: That makes sense.  I was born in 1953, and I remember in the
1960s when Pepperidge Farms started to advertise and get big. 
Did you retire from there?

DP: Yes.  I worked there for six months, and the lady who was our
supervisor got sick.  I was just a couple years older than the
other workers there, and I guess they thought I was more
responsible, so they asked me if I'd be leader and take over
while she was out.  She was out for about six months, and when
she came back, we had gotten so busy, they asked me if I would go
on "night owl" [or "night hours"].  I started up "night owl"--
this was in the biscuit division making cookies--and I stayed on
night owl for five years.  I hated that.  

JJ: My dad used to work night shift and he hated it too.

DP: I never got used to night work.  During this time, some
houses
became available in Downingtown.  Little houses.  So my husband
and I bought one.  Then, I got changed to 6-to-3 and I was on
that shift for 25 years.

JJ: Does that mean you retired in the late seventies?

DP: No, in 1984.

JJ: When did you move up here [to Rock Raymond Road].  

DP: We moved up here when my daughter who graduated in 1960.  We
sold that little house and we'd bought this land up here.

JJ: Now, you had one daughter?

DP: Mary Louise. 

[answer went unrecorded because the tape ends; switch side; start
tape.  We were looking at candlesticks made by William E. Carey.]

JJ: There's something written [on the bottom of a candle holder
that once belonged to a neighbor, Mrs. Holden] "Given to me by
Mr. Carey, May 1929, handmade"

DP: One of the Smiley girls,  Marie
Smiley Doyle, [gave me this
candle-holder] ... my grandfather made these.  He was pretty
talented ...

[D continued to show me other photos, and documents.  On the
tape, J referred to the Casa Grande where Richard Carey served in
the navy.  D produced the poem listing all of the neighborhood
boys who served in WWII, and gave me a copy.]

DP: [Indicating another photograph] That's my husband, and that's
me.  And that's Lawrence Holston, and that's his wife Kate.

JJ: Ben and Isabelle's son?

DP: Right.  That's Kay and me--I was the matron of honor [at Kay
and Vernon's (Ruoss) wedding].

[J presented a copy of the Greenfield ball field petition to D,
and she helped me to identify some names.]

DP: Sammie Achuff lived on Nields Street.

JJ: Do you know in what house?

DP: It was coming down the hill above the bridge, but I don't
know
what the number was.

JJ: That narrows it down to the 200 block of East Nields Street.

DP: Tommy Baker lived ... in the 600 block of South Matlack
Street.

[tape stops, then restarts.  I asked about Harry Townsend.]

DP: He worked over at the mushroom plant on Matlack Street. 
Jacobs had it, and Jacobs got him to do a lot of research on
penicillin, and Mr. Jacobs thought a lot of Harry Townsend, and I
guess he paid him well.  Harry married Katie (Katherine) Kugler.

JJ: Was Mary A. Townsend Harry's mother?

DP: She was Wacky's mother, and also William's mother.  Anyway,
Jacobs did a lot of research, and worked with Dr. Fleming
[discovered penicillin for antibiotic].  I'm not sure if that was
the beginning of Wyeth Laboratories.

[commenting on names from the petition]

DP: Ernie Wilson lived over on South Franklin Street, in between
Linden and Rosedale. [700 block]  He worked at the Keystone Tag
Company, too.

JJ: [laughing] They just went out at lunch time and got them all,
didn't they?

DP: There were some Wilsons, the one guy's name was Walt, and his
brother was Paul, and they lived on Lacey Street, near the store. 
Walt worked out at Schramms', and Paul an I were the same age and
we went to school together.  Slater Zell lived near Thomsons on
Nields Street.  He was married to a Vesser girl.  They were a
German family, and Mr. Vesser was the baker over at the college. 
... Johnny Yannick had the store at the corner of Lacey and
Matlack, I'm pretty sure. ... 

JJ: [new subject]  What do you remember about your Uncle Willie? 
[William E. Carey (Jr)]?

DP: After my mother and father separated, Uncle Willie more or
less became my ... not a father, but you know ...

JJ: Your surrogate father?

DP: Yes, he was.  Of course, Grandpop was busy was busy with his
shop, but Uncle Willie was busy too.  He worked over at
Schramm's.  I remember when he took me fishing down in Westtown. 
We used to get on the train and ride over to Westtown.

JJ: Right, I know the Westtown station.

DP: I remember he would put a dime on my plate every morning. 
That was my allowance for the day. [laughter]

JJ: You were doing all right if you got a dime a day!

DP: That's what I said, I was spoiled.  I was the only girl in
there with old maid aunt, a bachelor uncle, my grandfather and my
mother.  And Uncle Dick lived next door, and he babied me too.

JJ:  Was there an Uncle Harry too?

DP: He had a sad marriage.  It didn't last too long.  He never
really got to be a happy person, I don't think.

JJ: He lived over there on Nields Street?

DP: He moved back in that house where Uncle Dick lived.  He
married a lady by the name of Anna Reece, and they moved out to
the west side of West Chester.  But no, I wasn't close to Uncle
Harry.

JJ: What do you remember about Aunt Florence?

DP: Aunt Florence was crippled.  I don't know if she had
infantile
paralysis or what, but she could walk around.

JJ: Did you have to take care of her?

DP: No, she was well enough to get around when she was younger, I
think she used to work for a family by the name of Martindale, as
a cook and a housekeeper.  But [the more I think about it] I'm
sure she must have had infantile paralysis.  Of course, back then
we didn't know what it was.  In any case, she was more or less a
semi-invalid.  She could cook and clean, but she didn't go
upstairs.

JJ: How was your house laid out?  Where were the bedrooms?

DP: We had three bedrooms upstairs.  There was what they called
the hallway, the parlor, the dining room and the kitchen.  Then
there was a big outside shed where we used to have an ice box,
and the ice man would come around there.

[telephone rang, tape stopped and restarted]

JJ: [Holding the "Honor Roll" poem in his hand] I've read a bit
of
this poem,  What can you tell me about where it came from?

DP: Richie and I were talking about it the other day.  He said
there was some kind of monument down in Riggtown.  [I later
learned that it was a painted sign at Giunta's store that listed
all the local boys who served in the war.]  These were all the
fellows that came from the south end of town.  There were a lot
of them.  One of the first one's to die was Jerry Davis.

JJ: Your cousin told me about him.  He died of a heart attack
while he was in the service.

DP: Oh, I don't know about the heart attack.

JJ: Do you remember the Farras?

DP: He lived up on Matlack Street in between Lacey and Nields.

JJ: In the 500 block then?

DP: Yes.

JJ: A while back, you mentioned the Barry family.

DP: They lived on Magnolia Street and had a little store there on
the corner.

JJ: Down by Matlack?

DP: Yes.  They lived there for years.  They had two daughters,
Margaret and Agnes.  Agnes was a little short girl, and she
became a nun.  It wasn't until years later that Chris McCallin
had a friend who lived down at Camilla Hall at Immaculata.  It's
a rest home for the nuns.  Agnes was there, so I talked to her. 
And then [there was another local woman who became a nun]
Catherine Finegan, who lived on Adams Street, she was the oldest
child and for a while, she kept the family together.  There was
Catherine, Eddie, Julia and Eleanor, and the father.  I think the
father passed away, and Catherine was the oldest one, and she was
always "the mother" ...

JJ: Where was the mother?

DP: The mother died.  Catherine went into the convent.  Her
Catholic name was Sister Marita Agnes.  I went down to see Chris
McCallin's friend, Sister Maria Corona--she's still down there--
and I started asking about all of these girls.  They were all
there.

JJ: At the same convent?

DP: At the same rest home.  Isn't that something?  They were all
Irish families, Finegans, Doughertys, Hamiltons and Townsends.

JJ: The Barry name turned up in a completely different context in
my research.  [discussion about Rigg and Barry who built the
majority of Riggtown houses]

DP: Alonzo Harvey, Jack's grandfather, was a harness-maker over
on
Franklin Street.  Next to him, there was a family by the name of
McDevitt.  They were Irish.  Eleanor Finegan, and myself and
Chris went over to see Mrs. McDevitt, and she showed us how to
crochet, and we would have tea with her.  I thought that was
really neat, and that's how I learned to crochet.

JJ: Did women in Riggtown do much baking themselves?

DP: That's where their bread came from.  Irish soda bread--I
remember that.

JJ: Did people can stuff.  You said they had gardens.  Did they
can stuff themselves?

DP: Jars, yes.

[J mentioned the cannery in the Quonset hut on South Franklin
Street where Ralph Smith Trucking Company is located.  D
remembered it, but did not know any details.]

[I showed D the picture of Richard Carey and two other small
children.]

DP: Awww, this is Richie [smiling], and this is my friend
Christine [Smiley].  That's her dolly, and this is her little
brother Buddy.  They had six girls, and then Buddy was the last
one.  He was spoiled.  

[laughter]

DP: Christine really is that well any more.  She had
triple-bypass
surgery.

JJ: How old is she now?

DP: She is 74 years now. [J gave D two copies of the picture]

[looking at the picture of Carey's horse]

JJ: I asked you earlier about the horse ...

DP: That was Uncle Dick's horse, and Aunt Becky's dog Betty
[sitting on the back of the horse]

JJ: What do you think these things are? [indicate posts in the
backyard]

DP: That must have been part of the fence.  Everybody had a
fence.

JJ: How come everybody had fences?

DP: I guess it was to keep the children out, or to keep the
animals in the yard.

JJ: Especially if you were like your Uncle Dick, who raised
turkeys back there one year.

DP: He was a would-be farmer.

JJ: Farmer on his 0.06 acres.  [laughter]

[looking at Kate Ruoss' wedding picture]

DP: That is Uncle Dick, Aunt Becky, Richie and Kay.

[looking at ESCO Cabinet Company picture]

DP: That was Jerry Davis, and Potter Hamilton.  I don't recognize
any of the others. [J pointed out Cie Gincley]

[picture of Gincley family.  D recognized about half]

DP: "Billy" Gincley moved to Downingtown and married a man named
Snyder, John Snyder.  He's still living, but Billy died of
cancer.

[discussion of Cie Gincley, the exhibit on "Working in West
Chester" at the Chester County Historical Society, and Anne
Gincley's reaction to D's invitation to see the exhibit.]

[discussion about the lack of photo resources for Riggtown]

JJ: Who do you know that owned a camera when you were growing up?

DP: I had a little Brownie, but I don't know [what happened to
the
pictures].  Uncle Willie used to have a little cedar chest and he
would keep pictures in there.  Then when he moved and sold the
house, I don't know what happened [to it].

[looking at pictures of Riggtown in spring 1996]

DP: Oh, that's our house.  It looks so nice.  Grandpop turned all
the posts and railings in our house. ... Brick must have been
really popular [at the time when Riggtown was built].

[photo of railroad tracks]

JJ: That must have been a busy railroad yard up there once.

DP: Oh, it was.  I can remember when Ringling Brothers, Barnum
and
Bailey Circus would unload the elephants there.

JJ: What did they do--hold their show over at the fairgrounds?

DP: Yes.

JJ: Then they must have walked them [the elephants] up Nields
Street.

DP: No, they walked them up Bolmar Street and then over to the
fairgrounds.  The fairgrounds were out on Route 3, out around
where that cemetery is.  [discussion about which cemetery.  J
suggested the Chestnut Grove Cemetery for West Chester's black
community, and D agreed, but I haven't found anything to support
that yet.]

JJ: Do you remember a name for the black section of town?

DP: Mud Row.

JJ: You're the second person to tell me that.  Have you ever
heard
of "Georgetown?"

DP: Yes.  

JJ: Do you know where the name came from?  Was that where are the
"Georges" lived?

DP: I don't know why they called it that.

JJ: Did you ever hear of Pigtown?

DP: No.

JJ: A black man from Georgetown told me that the area to the east
was called "Pigtown," but no one has confirmed that for me. 
Another black woman did tell me about Mud Row being the stretch
of houses along Bolmar Street, because apparently Bolmar Street
was not paved very well.

DP: No, it wasn't.  

JJ: That's one of the reasons that I think Riggtown was special. 
Because if you ask how many neighborhoods in West Chester had
distinct identities, you hear Georgetown, because it was black,
the Italian neighborhood because it as Italian, and Riggtown.

DP: Do you know how the Italian section got up there?

JJ: No.  Tell me about it.

DP: P. M. Sharpless of the Sharpless Separator Works made so much
money that he went over to Europe, and he saw all these beautiful
stone castles and homes, and he decided he was going to build
himself a nice home.  All in all, he was such a wealthy man that
he bought a thousand acres north of West Chester on the highest
part, so he could look over and see the clock on top of the
courthouse.  He hired the Corcoran brothers--these two brothers
who were builders--and they went into Philadelphia about the time
of Italian immigration, and they hired a hundred Italian stone
masons.  They came out, and they couldn't go back and forth
everyday, so they settled in West Chester and brought their
families out.  I think it was either two or four years it took to
build the Sharpless mansion, which is called Greystone.  They all
settled mostly around the Catholic Church, and they stayed.

JJ: They had some cultural reasons for staying together.  But
over
in Riggtown, they were Irish, but they weren't all Irish.  Were
they all Catholic?  No, there was a real mix of different
religions.

DP: Well, Eliza and John Carey [on Linden Street] belonged to the
Holy Trinity Church, and I've tried to look up their records.  I
found the index, but I couldn't find the book in which they were
listed as members, married, or anything.

[compared 1996 and 1947 pictures of the backs of 300 block of
East Nields Street]

DP: That's a shame about Wacky's house.  It's falling down.

JJ: Well, you don't know the people who live next door to him,
but
they are trying to sell their house right now, and how do you
sell your house when it's attached to a house that looks like
Wacky's?

[picture of Jack and Charlotte Harvey's house]

DP: Woodwards lived here [387ENS] and Doughertys lived there
[385ENS].  McDevitts were around the corner [on Franklin Street]
next to Jack Harvey's house.

[picture of Jack and Charlotte led to some discussion of Jack.  D
described him as "a feisty old guy."]

DP: He [Jack] didn't have it too easy living with his
grandfather. 

JJ: That's come up.  Apparently, his grandfather was quite a
terror.

DP: Oh, he was.

[change of subject]

JJ: If you were born in 1921, you were 10 years old in September
1931 when the Goose Creek fire took place.  What do you remember
about it?

DP: I remember all of this black billowing smoke scared the heck
out of me.  I ran as fast as my legs would carry me over to the
Purple and Gold Tea Room where my mother was [working].  But the
fire went up the creek instead of down.


JJ: It must have looked like it was going to burn up your whole
neighborhood.

DP: I think it was the next day, after the fire was out,
everybody
went to see what the damage was.  You could see all the trees
along the creek were charred.  My friend Chris and her husband's
family (McCallin) lived up on Lacey Street right next to the
creek.  [Chris was 8 years old at the time, but later they got
married.]

JJ: Oh, I know the house you mean.  It's a real nice brick house.

DP: Yes.  Mr. McCallin worked for the railroad.  He was a
conductor or something.  

JJ: One of the houses on Franklin Street had a chicken coop burn
up.  Did you know the family of Nathan Shur?

DP: No.  Actually, the oil shouldn't have been leaking down into
the creek.  You remember what you were asking about whether
people got into trouble?  Well, the people were angels compared
to what they are today.  The worst that used to happen was the
fellows would get up there by the creek and they'd smoke
cigarettes.  That was a no-no.

JJ: You mean they would have to hide out when they were smoking.

DP: Yes, because they weren't supposed to do that.

JJ: The parents didn't know?

DP: Well, I guess they knew, but they didn't like it.  And girls
never smoked.

JJ: Did you ever start smoking?

DP: No.

JJ: That's interesting, because a lot more Riggtown men than
women
started smoking.  I thought it might have had something to do
with going in the service, but I guess it started earlier for
them.

[change of subject]

JJ: What do you think people who lived outside of Riggtown
thought
about Riggtown?

DP: I really don't know, but I imagine ... they were working
class
people that lived down there.  They were hard working people.  I
think there was a rivalry between ... because when the boys would
have baseball games, there was a rivalry between the south end
and the north end.

JJ: But nobody would have ever called them "white trash?"

DP: I never heard anybody use that expression.  Whether they
thought it or not, I don't know.

JJ: Where was the poor part of town when you were growing up? 
Was
there any part of town that you definitely did not want to live
in?

DP: I don't know.  I guess it would be down there in Riggtown. 
[telephone began ringing, tape stops and restarts]

JJ: What do you think would be important to tell people about
Riggtown?

DP: I can remember my childhood, and it was very happy.  I think
one reason, even if I was an only child, was because of my
friends there in that community.  The Smileys, especially.  Mr.
Smiley and his wife Mary were very good to me.  They were like my
aunt and uncle, and the children ... I was very close to the
whole family, and especially Christine.  She's the last one of
the family, and it sort of worries her a little bit.  The others
are all gone.

JJ: I thought that Smiley was a big family around here.

DP: It is, but they're Buddy's children--the youngest boy's
children.  He had about nine children.  

JJ: Well, the one guy is head of Fame Fire Company.

DP: Yes, either Bill or John, I don't know which one.  Christine
became very active.  She went through all the chairs of the
Daughters of American Revolution, and traced her family back. 
She is the one who got me interested in genealogy.  Not only
that, she got the family together and started the family reunions
that they have every year.  As the older ones passed away, the
younger ones took it over.  They had it in Coppersmith Park last
year.  She's still very active and you have to give her credit
for doing that.  She found one ancestor who is buried in Great
Valley cemetery.  His name is Kugler, and I think she restored
his headstone and the DAR had a ceremony down there, fife and
drum, and a little reception down there.

JJ: The Kugler name is familiar to me.  [sound of shuffling
papers]

DP: Well, they were related somehow to the one who married Wacky. 
I don't know exactly how.

JJ: The main relationships seemed to have been the  Townsend-Smiley-Hamilton-Regans,
and the Harvey-Gincley-Ferriers.  When
you were growing up, were people conscious of these two large
groups [in Riggtown]?  Did the kids ever gang up according to
what family they were in?

DP: No, not that I know of.  Annie Davis and Mary Smiley were the
best of friends.

JJ: Well, with all of things going on in society today, all the
trouble in the cities and so forth, is there anything from
Riggtown that everyone should know about?

DP: Well, they knew how to get along with each other, and they
were very industrious.  All of their children turned out well. 
If anything had to be learned from that, I would say that no
matter what your circumstances are, if you have the right
attitude and are resourceful, and you really want to get ahead
and do things, the opportunity is there for you.  I think in that
age of the Depression--we were all children of the Depression--a
lot of lessons were learned, because you have to be happy about
the little things and strive to do better for your children.

[discussion about sacrifice for children's education]

DP: One of my proudest moments was when David [her son]  got
appointed to the naval academy at Annapolis.  He graduated in
1988, and he played on the football team.  Now, he is a captain
in the Marines, and he lives in Hawaii.

[The tape ran out during the final discussion on how to handle
interview transcript.]

=================================================================
Dorothy Parker, telephone interview by Jim Jones (October 29,
1996). 

D mentioned that John Darlington used to live on South Matlack
Street in the second house up from Jake's Bar on the same side. 
He worked in the Schramm's Co. office.  [Jack Harvey's Schramm's
photo showed a "Jim" Darlington who worked in the shops.]

D also told a story about Tommy Thomson, who also worked over in
Schramm's office.  He and a man named Chris Sanderson had an
orchestra.  Chris Sanderson was the fellow whose home became a
museum over at Chadd's Ford.


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Copyright 2010 by Dr. James A. Jones