Recreation & Entertainment

Although the residents along the Brandywine worked hard, they knew how to have fun too. Recreational activities included trips to local amusement parks, baseball, and bocce games.

During the period of many of the oral history interviewees' memories, the Eleutherian Mills residence and the Breck's Mill building served as gathering spaces for the community, the first as a workers' clubhouse and the latter as a musical, athletic, and recreational center. One of the unique forms of entertainment in the region was the "Honey Hunt." 

Listen to the clips below for a description of this mischievous tradition and other light-hearted memories.

James Cammock and the infamous “honey hunts”

Born in 1895 to Irish immigrants, James Brandywine Club membersCammock grew up on Breck's Lane.

After his father's death in a 1906 powder yard explosion, Cammock helped his family by working odd jobs before joining DuPont in the mail room in 1911. His difficult circumstances didn't stop him from participating in the lighter side of life in the Brandywine villages.

Listen to him gleefully recall his participation in the long-standing local tradition of the honey hunt, in which the local residents, or "Creekers," pranked unsuspecting outsiders.

McKelvey: Hey Jimmy Cammock, Jim were you on one of those honey hunts? Were you with those honey hunts?

James: We're the ones that put them on.

McKelvey: Yeah - what was your job?

Voice: My job was loading the shells, I'd put powder in them, but put no shot in them. And I'd give the guys a couple of hands full of shot, and they would stand about a hundred feet away from the tree, you know. We took him up, and we had another guy was taking him up, he had a bucket with him and a bag, so the bees wouldn't see him. He had the bucket to get the honey in. Well, he would get up the tree, and this guy had the molasses in the thing, and he'd dump it on his head and he said, "Oh the honey's coming all over me." And then he would light alight to see, and as soon as he did that - there's a guy hiding one or two hundred feet away, and he would fire the gun, you know. And then there's a guy there, closer, with a handful of shot and he throw it, and that guy would drop down out of that tree, you'd think he'd get killed. He'd drop the bucket and the bag and run up out about three or four hundred feet and somebody would go all around and catch him and take him down to the store and try him, and Simon Dorman would try him. 

One time he had the big store book upside down trying him. He said, "You guys from the city come out here and steal these farmer's honey.” And then he finally reads the law to him and then he puts ‘ em in the cell, he said, "I'm gonna give you a week confinement." And he leaves the door open a little bit in the cellar, you know, and of course he sees that and when he goes in there he goes out, you know. So they let him get out and they let him get a good start and they holler at him, they run after him. He runs like it or not, trying to catch him again, you know.

McKelvey: Yep. How old were you when you did that?

Voice: I must have been 18-19.

Voice: You were old enough to have better sense.

McKelvey: How many times did you do it?

James: Oh about once a month.

Voice: Oh they run them honey hunts quite a way off.

James: And they would always bring a guy out from the post - a dumb guy in the post office, you know.

Voice: He comes from down South.

James: He would come down and he didn't know anything about it. And neighbors would all be out. That was lined up from Rising Sun Lane to Breck's Lane, cars both sides, you know, when they knew that was coming off, everybody wanted to see that.

Voice: That was quite a spectacle. We had a lot of cops.

James: And there was one guy one time, they took him in there and they tried him, he was from the post office, you know. He was from the post office, this guy was, you know. And they tried him, and oh he was in a terrible stew when he went in there. He called up the preacher over in Elsmere and told him about it, working for the government, he said, "I'll lose my job, I'll lose my job now.” And he was so upset he put the ________ upside down on there. Oh it was something.

McKelvey: That's quite a gag.

James: Oh, we had a time with it.

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Image: Young "Creekers" pause for a photograph, circa 1907. View image in the Digital Archives

Ellas Fitzharris and the DuPont women’s baseball team

Growing up in Walker's Banks, Ella Fitzharris, DuPont Baseball Teamborn 1911, spent her summers outdoors swimming, canoeing, and climbing rocks. Her favorite activity, however, was baseball.

In these clips, she describes how she and other neighborhood girls would watch the women's team from the DuPont Experimental Station, pick up a few pointers along the way, and then borrow the field for their own game after the women finished. She also describes playing baseball on the road in front of Walker's Mill and details what the kids used for equipment.

Fitzharris: ...of course I do remember, there was a baseball team of girls, I would say maybe eighteen, twenty, they worked at the Experimental Station, they had a baseball team they called the DuPont Team.

Lotter: Oh did they?

Fitzharris: They called them the bloomer girls, they wore black sateen bloomers with white tops and white - navy sailor ties. They played also in the field back of where Walker's Bank is, those houses.

Lotter: I see, now what teams did they play?

Fitzharris: I don't know who, but they always played different teams. I guess it was like different DuPont's.

Lotter: These were other women teams?

Fitzharris: Yeah, u-huh.

Lotter: Were they pretty good?

Fitzharris: Very good. I remember, I think there was two people from - one lived on Breck's Lane and the other lived along the Brandywine - they worked for du Pont and they played, but I think the others were from the city. That was a great team, the bloomer girls.

Lotter: I'm sure that was fun to watch.

Fitzharris: It was, that's where we got a lot of points, too, you know, watching them.

Lotter: I'm sure you did, yeah.

Fitzharris: Then they'd leave and we'd take over the diamond, and we'd play there, see.

Lotter: Ch, now did you have an organized team, or just whoever was...

Fitzharris: Whoever was free that day, and anybody would be pitcher or anybody be catcher, but we always...

Lotter: I see, never had any certain position?

Fitzharris: There never seemed to be any fights over - no, everybody seemed to get along good, you know.
Lotter: When you played baseball, where did you play?

Fitzharris: Along the Brandywine in front of Walker's - those houses up Walker's Lane, you know, and then up in the field in back of those where DuPont's had the - DuPont Experimental had a regular baseball team. It was called the Lower Yard then, I think, and they called it DuPont Team, but the girls played ball there, so when the girls weren't playing, then we used it, the diamond. It was quite nice.

Lotter: Yes, oh that would be. Yeah, well now when you played down by the Brandywine, what did you use as bases?

Fitzharris: Stones.

Lotter: Oh, did you?

Fitzharris: Just block them off on the road. Then you'd just maybe get in the middle of a - somebody would be up to bat, and one of the wagons would come through, we'd have to stop.

Lotter: What about your baseball bat - was it homemade or...

Fitzharris: No, some of them, I guess the wealthier people had bats, but I remember at one time we had just a board. We used to - sometimes we had a tennis ball, too - you had a board and you hit a tennis ball, you could really make a home run - by the time it went over the wall and down by the Brandywine, you know. We never had more than two balls at a time, you lost those - the game was over.

Lotter: Where did you get your baseballs and bats from?

Fitzharris: I don't know who - somebody in the neighborhood had them. I think the boys had them.

Lotter: Now where could they be purchased?

Fitzharris: There used to be a toy store in town, I remember Bottomly's. And they had - they'd sell things like sleds. That's where I got my first made sled at Bottomly's - it was on the corner of Sixth and Tatnall, and that was a Flexible Flyer.

Click here to listen to the full interview from August 8, 1985

Click here to listen to the full interview from October 4, 1985

Image: DuPont Company Girl's Baseball League, 1920. View image in the Digital Archives

Eugene Bruno watches Italian workmen play bocce

The son of Italian immigrants, Eugene Squirrel RunBruno was born in 1915 in Squirrel Run. Although the family moved to Rodman Street in Wilmington when Bruno was five years old, he recalls taking the No. 7 trolley on weekends back to Squirrel Run to watch the Italians play bocce in front of Tom Catalina's store.

In this clip, he describes the game and the homemade wine the winners received.

...weekends we used to take our trips to Squirrel Run for enjoyment. We'd catch the No. 7 trolley at 6th a Woodlawn up Woodlawn Avenue down through Rockford Park and into Henry Clay and Squirrel Run. I think at the time...I'm not certain...but I do-feel pretty sure that the trolley fare was five cents. And we had five cents to spend at the end of the line, there was a little concession stand. And sometimes come home with two cents change. It was quite a treat. Then we used to go down to Squirrel Run after getting our treat and watch the men play the game of bocce, a famous Italian game they come from Italy with. It was played with large wooden balls about 6" in diameter. There would be 8 of those, and one little small ball. And..uh..actually the large balls they called Palle? in Italian and the smaller one they called Palline?? because it was small, about 2 or 3 inches in diameter. The object of the game was to throw the small ball a distance of thirty feet or so and then throw the large balls at the small one and see who can get closest to it. And you would pair off into partners, two on each side, and the people that would get closest to the ball, each ball counts a point. That's how they would determine the points. Sometimes it would be 11 points, 7 points, per game, with 20 points that concludes the game. Whoever won the game would get the treat of drinking the homemade wine, and whoever lost would have to pay for the wine. They would charge them maybe five or ten cents a quart, and the money they received from this game they would buy barrels, if they needed them. Things of this nature...groceries. This game, incidentally, was played in front of this store, and I remember, it had everything in and hardware and, oh gosh, anything that a person would need, this store had it. It was just a general store that had everything. There was a ...we used to sit on a bench in front of the store and watch the gentlemen play this game, and as the day wore on they would get drunk. That's when we had the fun...comedy...watching them throw a ball and fall down with it. It was quite a lot of fun.

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Image: Squirrel Run neighborhood, circa 1900. View image in the Digital Archives

Blanche Yetter takes the trolley to Brandywine Springs

Born in 1897, Blanche Brandywine SpringsMacAdoo Yetter lived in Squirrel Run between the ages of six and fifteen. After her father passed away in 1903 from tuberculosis, her grandparents helped to raise her. They lived at the Black Gates near the present location of the DuPont Country Club.

In this clip, Yetter describes taking the Peoples Railway trolley to Brandywine Springs amusement park and details the attractions there as well as those at Shellpot Park.

Wagner: Do you recall going to any amusement parks or anything? 

Yetter: Yes, Brandywine Springs. Of course, you wouldn't remember that, but that was a beautiful park. And it had every kind of amusement out there. And the people's line which put Rising Sun line up the crick, they had a line out to Brandywine Springs and you could go out there for - oh, I guess the tickets - I said six for a quarter, and you could get a transfer to the Brandywine Springs car and change at 7th and Woodlawn Avenue, and get the car out to Brandywine Springs so it didn't cost you much to go out there. And, they had everything out in that park. Carousels and scenic railways and things and beautiful shrubbery around and it was sort of in a valley - you know - down - and up the sides they had little houses like with roofs over them and tables and benches in there where people could take picnics. And there used to be trains come down from Philadelphia. Maybe five or six trains for a picnic from Philadelphia. Sunday Schools and things would come down to this park. It was everything imaginable out there, and beautiful. And then there was Shellpot Park, too, but that was a smaller park. That was out Market Street at the foot of Penny Hill. Where Penny Hill is now. But they didn't have too many amusements there. They had - they used to have orchestras and dance there, and things like that. They had a carousel and a few things like that. But Brandywine Springs was one of the main attractions. It was a beautiful place. So, if you had ten cents, you could ride out to Brandywine Springs on a Sunday for a day -- an afternoon outing when you were growing up.

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Image: Scenic lake at Brandywine Springs, circa 1927. (Hagley ID: 1994316_001_02_003)

Catherine Sheldrick dances and watches basketball

Catherine Hackendorn Sheldrick, the daughter Hagley Basketball Teamof a French immigrant, lived on Main Street in Henry Clay from her birth in 1902 until 1924. During her time near the Brandywine, the Hagley Community House in the Breck's Mill building was a community center and social hall, offering classes in sewing, cooking, and athletics as well as sponsoring sports teams.

In this clip, she recalls attending dances and basketball games with her friends.

Bennett: What kind of functions did you attend at Breck's Mill?

Sheldrick: Dances, mostly.

Bennett: Any local bands or how --

Sheldrick: It would be Bill Carney's Orchestra, you know the orchestra I was telling you about. And I can't think of who else. Wilkinson. Paul Wilkinson, his name was. But mostly Bill Carney. Somebody that somebody else knew. You'd get them for the whole evening for five dollars.

Bennett: That's changed, too. What other kind of functions did they have at Breck's?

Sheldrick: The boys played basketball. We had -- oh, my dear, Moses had nothing on some of those boys. We had a boy that played basketball on the Hagley team and his name was Tony Biddle. Poor Tony died young. He was murdered. If Tony got the ball, the rest of them could forget it. He could do anything with it. And the boys all played. It was called Hagley. And they played all the teams from town. They played Bronson and Parkside -- the different church clubs in town -- they would come out to Breck's Mill to play basketball. But that was about it. Just the basketball games. It was the community house for quite a few years. We went down there for gym and all those kinds of things.

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Image: Hagley basketball team, 1920. View image in the Digital Archives

Ann Hudson remembers the Eleutherian Mills clubhouse

Ann Hudson lived in the Upper Banks Brandywine Clubfrom her birth in 1894 until 1913. Her father, a powderman, set up a barbershop in the Eleutherian Mills building while it was operating as a workers' clubhouse.

In this clip, she describes the clubhouse and watching the activities there as a child.

Scafidi: Now, you told me when I came in about the Workmen's Club. The house that Mrs. Crowninshield later lived in. Would you tell me about that, let's say from the moment you walked in the door.

Hudson: Well, let me put it this way. We were in and out of there all the time. You could go in and out all the time.

Scafidi: It wasn't open, let's say, from late in the afternoon until early in the evening?

Hudson: That door was open all the time. And when they were finished at night Mrs. and Mr. Ferraro went through the place and closed it. It was open to all of us. And, as you went in the front door to the right was a carving and to the left was a poolroom, and then there was carvings all over. And then as I told you, when you'd go in and go toward the staircase, then you'd turn left and you went into Tim Hoopes' candy you went down the steps you went down to father's place, see.

Scafidi: Your father was a barber in his spare time? Was he the only barber around?

Hudson: No. There was one down the creek. Mr. Connelly, Johnny Connelly. He was the barber down there, but father used to do it up the banks. And we kids got a cut from him, too. You know, we had the saucer on your heads, out around. And you'd better not say anything about it.

Scafidi: So you walked past your father's barber shop?

Hudson: To go down to the ballroom.

Scafidi: To go down to the ballroom. Where did the band play?

Hudson: See, as I told you they had a balcony, and we had a balcony for the musicians that would face the floor, and along there was where we kids would be allowed to watch them for awhile. We could go and sit there for awhile.

Scafidi: Was this a special event to be able to go and watch them?

Hudson: Yes. They didn't have too many. What they had was nice. And they always had a big one at Christmas time. And then a couple of times a year the women would get all dressed up, you know, and they looked beautiful too, I thought. And believe it or not, the men wore tuxes in those days.

Scafidi: They did? Where did they get them?

Hudson: I don't know.

Scafidi: Were there any other activities at the club? Did they have, oh, physical culture?

Hudson: Nope. They'd go up there and sit and play cards and go down to the barber shop and sit and talk, but really, terrific to say it, but I don't think there was a light in the place after nine o'clock anyplace. Well, what was there to do? They would go up there and sit and talk for awhile and when we were kids, you had your lessons to take care of and when you got your lessons done you got your face and hands washed and went to bed.

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Image: Group gathered outside the "Brandywine Club" at Eleutherian Mills, 1892. View image in the Digital Archives