I didn’t have six, I only had four children then. It was Wally and Bob and Betty and Lee. I didn’t have the two younger ones.
[Barb]: Where was Tad born? Might he have been born in Boston? And Steve?
I believe he was. Yeah, I think so. He was born in. . . . I know he was born in. . . .
[Barb]: Yeah, because he was just a small baby when we were in that house.
He was born in the Newton-Wellesley Hospital.
[Barb]: OK. You have to backtrack. He was, what, your second born in a hospital.
Yeah. Tad [b. June 22, 1937?] and, uh, Steve [b. December 19, 1939].
Those two were born in the Newton-Wellesley Hospital. Well, they were born when I went there.
[Barb]: OK. Yeah, went back there.
I can’t remember.
[Barb]: OK. You just told me you had a lot of stories to tell about Wally because he was your mischievous one.
Yeah, he was sure in a lot of trouble.
[Barb]: I guess the earliest one was when he ran away as a little kid and you found him on the church steps.
Oh, that wasn’t him.
[Barb]: Oh, that wasn’t him? You said that. . . . Oh, that was Bob, I guess.
That was Bob, yeah.
[Barb]: Wally told me that was him.
That was when we lived in the Philadelphia house, you know. The one that you saw, I guess.
Wally. That’s where he was the one when he was just about the age of your little boy now. Taylor.
I sent him to the store because my children were ill and it was almost impossible to get a doctor at that time. You couldn’t believe it. You didn’t go to the doctor’s office. The doctor came to the home. I couldn’t get ahold of the doctor because my children were all sick. All of the bunch of them were sick and they were coming down with the measles. That’s the reason. I just didn’t know what was the matter with them, you know. I could tell they were sick.
I asked the doctor over the phone if he could give me, if he could tell me what I should do for them. Well he read a prescription to the den . . . to the. . . .
You know, to the store, the druggist. He read a prescription to the druggist. The druggist gave me some medicine to bring home. I don’t think it, you know what it was in a paper bag? A whole bunch of aspirin. That’s just what it was, like a whole handful of aspirin in a little paper bag. Imagine, that’s what he gave to Wally to bring home.
So then I got in touch. He was the osteopathic doctor that I had at that time. You could hardly get a doctor. You see, it was war time [WWII: 1939–1945] and doctors would not come to the house. And they didn’t have any office hours. I really was . . . you have no idea what. . . .
[Barb]: You were alone, too. Dad was in the Navy.
Dad was in the Navy and he was away more than he was home, you know.
So, anyway, I got this prescription filled, this little bag of aspirin. That’s all there was. And I was to give them two aspirin. I guess I did. I don’t remember the dose. Just say aspirin. I gave it to them as was prescribed.
Then first one came down with their rash. It all came out. How in the world I ever got them so that none of them ever got pneumonia?
Lee helped me. She was a pretty big girl, you know. She would help me with the kids. And then she said, “I’m not going to get pneumonia. I’m not going to get sick. I simply am not going to get the measles like everybody else!” But, you know, everybody was all over it and down she came with it. She was a pretty sick girl, too.
But we all got over it and I just marvel that the Lord took care of us because I did not have anybody to help me. I had had Rachel, but she had left at this time.
[Barb]: Now Rachel was a lady that came with the house, isn’t that right?
Yeah. She lived with us.
[Barb]: Yeah, but when you bought the house, isn’t that how she got to stay with you?
She lived with us six years. She had been sent by a friend. Well, one of my friends, it was Mrs. Caley, told me about this tabernacle in Philadelphia there. And she said, “I’m going to call them up and see if they have anybody that will come over and work for us.” Because she wanted a maid. She had six children, too. I had six children. She needed somebody to help her. She got one. She didn’t keep hers very long, but I had Rachel for six years. She lived with us for six years. She was from this church in Philadelphia.
[Barb]: Rachel was?
Ollys. O L L Y S. She has since died, too. She was about my age. I mean, she wasn’t old or anything. She was just about my age.
Anyway, Wally went over to the drugstore and he got this medicine for me. But if anything I needed to get, he would go to the store for me. He would go on that little bit of a bike he had. The wheels weren’t any more than twelve inches across. They were just little bitty wheels. Somebody had given us this little bike. He went around.
I used to have a friend named Mrs. Pancoast. She was the one I really eventually bought the house from. I would send him to Mrs. Pancoast and she would come along and help me with the kids sometimes. She was the person I really lived with before I was married. Her name was Ella Pancoast.
Wally was always one I could depend on.partial transcription of Virginia’s life story as told to Barbara Duncan (Wally’s wife) in the summer of 1987, courtesy of Barbara Duncan
Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.).
- What year was it when everybody got measles? Virginia says it was “war time,” but if she had four kids and not the last two yet, it must have been before the war. Can Lee confirm the year?
- What years did Rachel live with the family?
- Can Lee tell us more about Rachel?
- Can Lee tell us more about everyone having the measles and her determination not to get them?
- Can Lee tell us more about Mrs. Pancoast?
- I wrote Tad’s birthday as June 22, 1937. The year is a guess. Can Gloria confirm the date?
- The photo I included is from the calendar. The caption reads, “The drugstore in Drexel Hill, Penn., where Wally worked as a teenager. He worked at a soda fountain, which was in the store, and while making a sundae for a customer, squirted the whipped cream all over her coat. He’d laugh as he described how he tried to clean it off.” Was this the same drugstore he would have pedaled to as a kid to get the aspirin? Can anyone supply the electronic copy of this photo?