Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Home Reflections From Andy Warholic

Dad and Mother rented in several places before buying a home already built, located at 309 Waddell Avenue, Donora, PA, on April 17, 1916. Dad often told us that the home that he bought was one of the first homes built on Waddell Avenue, which we believe was shortly after the year 1900.

Donora, PA HomeI was the first of the last five children to be born in this home, while the first three children were born elsewhere, in rented homes in Donora, PA.

I was born on December 6, 1916, in the upstairs bedroom, with a midwife assisting my mother. — The doctor came around later on in the day, in his horse pulled buggy. — I'm sure he didn't do too much for my dear mother. Mother was probably up the next day, taking care of the three older children; ages two, four, and six, and of course me. Dad was working 12 hours in the U.S. Steel Plant in Donora, PA; about a 15 minute walk from our home.

I can remember our home from about the age of six, and I do have pleasant memories.

Although we were very poor, my parents were very religious and good people. They couldn't speak English, and Ukrainian was the language spoken in our home. This made it very difficult for Ann, John, and Nick as they approached school age, because our parents couldn't help them.

Our home was a five room home; three rooms downstairs, and two rooms upstairs. It still stands today, April 25, 1984, and Aunt Nell, who is not married, lives in it.

We had no bathroom. — We had an outhouse in the backyard, next to the chicken coop. — Everyone had an outhouse. — In the winter it was bitter cold to go to the outhouse when nature called, and in the summer, the odor was almost unbearable, with flies, wasps, and hornets buzzing around. In those days we had no toilet tissues, but used any kind of paper available. — Sears catalogs were much in demand for that use, because the pages were made of thin paper, but of course any paper was used if one didn't have a Sears Catalog.

The outhouses were made of wood, placed over a hole lined with block, and the hole was about 4' X 4' square, and 6 to 8 feet deep. Inside the outhouse was a wooden seat about 30 inches high, and it had two holes cut out to sit on. — That's it. The seat and floor were scrubbed weekly with a very strong soapy solution.

Every so often, the hole had to be cleaned out, and dad would hire a black man, who was in that business, to dip out the hole. They would come at night. Four men would lift the outhouse off the hole, and with long handle dippers, they would dip out the hole, and put it in a wooden tank, which was on a wagon pulled by horses. After the hole was emptied, the men would sprinkle lime all around to cut down on the terrible odor, then place the outhouse back on the hole, and it was ready for business once again.

We never knew where the black man really emptied his tank, and we really didn't care. I can't remember how much dad paid the black man for his services, but I know that there were some cruel jokes made about "Old man Moses and his Honey Dipper." When you think of it now, this was a very important service, which very few people were willing to do.

At night, when nature called, the small children had potties by their beds, which were emptied the next morning in the outhouse. As one grew older, mother or dad would walk with us to the outhouse. — I can still remember, many times I would force myself to hold it until morning, so as not to bother by dead dad or mother, who needed their sleep so much.

Being that we had no bath rooms, our baths were taken in metal tubs, in the kitchen, near the big coal stove. Water was carried from the well, which was outside near the kitchen porch. We pumped the water into buckets, and heated it on the big coal stove in the kitchen. As the children grew older, baths were taken in the basement (cellar) for privacy. We also carried water Sunday nights, to wash clothes by hand on Monday mornings.

Every room in the house had either a pot bellied coal stove, or a small gas stove. — God was with us, for it was a blessing that none of us were burned or overcome by fumes.

We had gas lights, which were lit by mother or dad. Each light had a mantle, and they were very fragile and broke very easily. I can remember going to Macik's Store on Castner Ave., between third and second street, about three blocks away from our home, and buying mantles for mother; which cost about ten to fifteen cents. The lights weren't too bright, but it was better than kerosene lanterns.

In the winter, we spent most of our time in the kitchen, simply because our kitchen had a huge iron coal stove, and we kept as close to it as safety would permit. My, some days were sure cold! The kitchen was also a place where dad would mend our shoes in the winter time. He would bring in this shoe last and tools, and he would work very hard to repair our shoes. The kitchen floor wasn't too solid, and dad's shoe last would bounce around. Dad would bring discarded wide leather belts from the mill, and this is what he would use for the soles of our shoes. — Later on, when auto tires were available, dad would use tires for the soles of our shoes. This was hard to work with. He had no power tools to sand the edges smooth. So, we had a rough job done on our shoes, and of course we were laughed at by kids that were better off than we were.

In the winter, and in her spare time, mother would sit on a small bench and cut rags into narrow strips, sew them together, and roll them into tight balls about three inches in diameter. These were used for rug making in the summer, in our backyard.

Our winters were very long, very cold, and lots of snow (at least that's what they seemed to me, as I think back). You must understand, we didn't have a radio, nor a Victrola (a record playing machine). Dad was able to purchase those many years later. So, the boys made their own bobsleds, or yankees (a sled with a single seat above a single runner). The runners of the sleds were made out of barrel staves, or if you were lucky and found a junked car (which were few in those days) and they had the turned up end that we needed for a runner, and to make it glide faster on the snow, we put a flat narrow piece of steel on the bottom of the runner. We also stood on strips of bamboo wood and slid down the icy walks, — truly a miracle that more of us weren't hurt. In those days, girls didn't do the things that boys did. — Their place was in the home, helping mother. — So, I can't ever remember my sister Ann ever having any fun.

Written by Andy Warholic on April 25, 1984