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Interview with "Sarge" Clark

by James A. Jones (West Chester, PA, September 9, 1996)

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Reference: T. Walter "Sarge" Clark, interview by James A. Jones (West Chester, PA, September 9, 1996).

This interview took place in Sarge's home on East Linden Street in West Chester. Sarge (S) and the interviewer (J) were the only people present. Sarge had a collection of photos and memorabilia to share.

BACKGROUND

"Sarge" Clark was born on January 19, 1915, in Wawa PA. He was the son of Walter Clark (born in Kennett Square in 1889/1890), and the grandson of Obadiah and Julia Crossan Clark. Sarge's mother was Emily Pennell Clark.
Sarge worked most of his life as a carpenter, but he became well- known in West Chester for his ability as a baseball player. He played minor league baseball before World War II, and remained active in local sports circles his entire life.

J: The newspaper said that you lived up at 135 ENS and [your
father] died in 1963 after 42 years at that address . . . that
works out to 1921 when your family moved there.  I noticed that
you got married in 1942.  Where did you live when you first got
married?

S: We moved in here (200 East Linden Street) after the war.  I
was married before.  We lived up on Magnolia Street during my
first marriage, and we lived up on Barnard Street for my second
marriage.

J: I'd like to talk to you about baseball.  You're kind of a
local hero and ...

S: No, not really ...

J: Well, you know how much people around here liked baseball. 
And you went farther with it than anybody ...

S: Farther I guess, than anybody from around West Chester.  But
there are kids from West Chester high school who got higher in
the leagues than I did.

J:  How far did you get exactly?

S: The farthest I got was with Harrisburg in the Interstate
League.  That was Class B league then.  Of course, baseball has
changed now--all the teams and leagues.

J: Harrisburg was a farm team for which team?

S: Pittsburgh.

J: And what position did you play? 

S: I pitched and played the outfield.

J: Were you any good at hitting?

S: Yes.  One year in the minors, I hit 358.  That was in the
Florida State League.

J: How many years did you play minor league baseball?

S: Six.

J: Was this all after the war?

S: No, it was before World War II.  After I got back from the
war, I still belonged to a minor league team, but I decided not
to play.

J: What did you do?  Did you get a job around here.?

S: Well, I was working in the shipyard at Sun Ship before I went
in the service.  I went back there for about a year after I got
out of the service, and I came back to West Chester to live.

J: How did you get to work?

S: We car-pooled because everything was rationed.  I rode with
Harry Wilson, a local insurance man, and ... I can't think of his
name now.

J: Did they all work at Sun Ship?

S: Yes, we all worked at Sun Ship.

J: Dotty Parker said something about car-pooling too.  Was there
any public transport to Chester?

S: Yes, there was a special bus to the shipyard.  It was one of
the largest employers around.  I rode the bus a couple of times. 
When there were launchings, I had to be in there because my
department had to help with the launchings.  We took the blocks
out from under the ship before it was launched.

J: What was your department called?

S: 66.

J: What did your department do?

S: We built scaffolding for everybody to work on.  Of course, we
lost a lot of guys who got hurt.

J:  Yes, I guess so.  [change of subject]  Getting back to minor
league baseball, when did you start playing baseball.

S: In 1935, I left West Chester [after one year at West Chester
State Normal School].  Herb Pennock was a big league ball player
with the Yankees, and he signed me to a contract with Charlotte
(NC) in the Piedmont League.  He was one of my father's best
friends and he had heard that I was playing ball, and he wanted
to give me a chance.  I went down there in the summer, but I had
no idea that I was going to stay there, because I had a good deal
up here at the college.  I was living at 135 East Nields Street
and they gave me a job over at the college.

J: What kind of job?

S: We used to have to report to the gym for a couple hours a day
to see if they needed us.

J: Cutting grass or something like that?

S: No we didn't cut the grass.  We worked in the gym, handing out
equipment and straightening up the place.

J: How did your father know Pennock?

S: They were kids together.  Herb Pennock was from Kennett
Square.  Do you know where that shopping center is on Route 1
right before you get into Kennett?  That was his property.  It
used to be a farm.  He tried raising silver foxes there when he
was at the height of his career, and he lost his shirt.

J: You played from 1935 for six years to 1941.  When the war
started?

S: Yes, they closed down minor league ball during the war. 

[discussion of the film "A League of Their Own."  S was not
familiar with the women's professional baseball league during
WWII.]

J: What were you doing on December 7 [1941]?

S: I was on Bataan ... no, on December 7, I was working at the
shipyard.  

J: How did that work?  Did you play ball part of the year and
work at the shipyard the rest?

S: I wasn't playing ball that year.  I took the job at the
shipyard, and then I was called up.  I was taken for limited
service, and I didn't want to do that so much, so I volunteered
for the Seabees.  That's how I wound up on the island [Bataan].  

J: What did you do, blow up obstacles?

S: No, we built runways out of coral.  We had dumptrucks and he
hauled crushed coral all day and all night.  Roll it out, wet it
down and it would turn hard just like cement.  We also built tank
farms for fuel.

J: Can you remember what places you got to while you were in the
service?

S: I got to Pearl Harbor.  Took the maiden trip of the Bunker
Hill.  We were in Pearl Harbor for nine months.  We built a bunch
of barracks and runways for the army.  Then when it came time for
the invasion of the Marianas, we were selected as one of the
units to go along.  They sent about thirty battalions of Seabees
to construct things.

J: Where did you get to in the Marianas?

S: I got to Tinian Island; that's the only one.

J: I'll bet there's a story about that.

S: Yes, well the first atomic bomb [was dropped by a place from
Tinian].

J: So you guys built the runway that used by the airplane that
carried the atomic bomb.

S: One squadron was chosen to carry the bomb and you couldn't get
near them, and then when the bomb arrived, you couldn't get near
that either.

J: How long before the bomb was dropped did the people on the
island know that something was up?

S: About a month, I think.  The colonel that was in charge of the
squadron came and made a speech that the war would be over in two
weeks.

J: Did you believe him?

S: [laughing, emphatic] No!  

J: How did you feel after you heard that the bomb went off?

S: Oh god, everybody was happy.

J: How much longer did you stay on Tinian after that?

S:  Oh, about another year.  At that time, they let you out of
the service according to how many points you had, so we all went
back in different groups.  One time while we were there, we had a
typhoon and lost everything.  We had frame tents and ... gone! 
When we got there, we landed on LSTs [because the Seabees hadn't
built the harbor yet] and then when we went back, the harbor was
all gone because of the typhoon, and we had to go back to our
ship in LSTs and climb up cargo nets.  [laughter]

J: You must have got back in early 1946.

S: Late '45.  I was discharged down in Havre de Grace at the navy
base down there.

J: What did you do then?  Hitchhike home?

S: No, I had a cousin who lived in Havre de Grace.  She came and
got me, and I stayed at her house for a few hours, and then she
brought me up here.

[change of subject]

J: Back to baseball again.  After you started playing minor
league ball, did you ever play up in this area again so that the
people you grew up with could see you play?

S: Yes, I played in Harrisburg.

J: And folks from West Chester came to Harrisburg to see you?

S: Sure.  I played in Harrisburg and in Wilmington against the
old Blue Rocks.

J: So sometimes the people from the neighborhood came down to see
you.  How did that work?  Did they all pile into cars and come
down to the game?

S: Yes, or they took the bus.  They were running buses down to
Wilmington on a regular schedule too.

J: One day a while back you told me that you once got your
picture on a Wheaties box.  Now that seems to me like pretty big-
time stuff, because I don't know anybody who has had their
picture on a Wheaties box.

S: We thought it was at the time.  [laughter]  

J: What did people do around here?  Did anybody collect the
pictures?

S: [laughing] Oh no, I wasn't that famous.

J: Yes, but it was someone local who got themselves on a Wheaties
box, that's kind of neat ... you must have gotten your name in
the newspapers a few times ...

S: Oh yes.

J: I found a couple of newspaper articles:

     "Junior Elevens in Hectic Fray" in Daily Local News
     (November 16, 1925).
          In a local football game, the Riggtown Terriers
     defeated the Matlack Street Bums by 47-0.  The team lineups
     included:

     Position             Riggtown      Matlack St.
     Left End              Reilly         Stamper
     Left Tackle            Malin         Delaney
     Left Guard            R. Fox         Divine
     Center                 Clark         Gibson
     Right Guard           Gincley      Whitecraft
     Right Tackle           Green          Barry
     Right End              Young         Painter
     Quarterback            Peck          O'Neill
     Left Halfback           Fox          Burnett
     Right Halfback       Hamilton         Reed
     Fullback              Wilson          Ewing

J: Were you the Clark who played center in 1925?

S: That was me.  [I read off the names but Sarge didn't remember
many of them.  Just Reilly from across the tracks and the
Hamiltons from Riggtown.]

J: You should know some of the names from the Matlack Street.

S: Gibson ... that must have been Jack or Chip.  Stamper, that
was Bud Stamper.  [didn't recognize other names] There was a
Painter who lived over on Price Street named Bud.  I remember
O'Neill.  I remember the Reed boy ... Herman Reed.

J: You lived up on on Matlack Street, but you were playing for
Riggtown.  I realize that not all of the boys we just named lived
on Matlack Street, but you did, and you had to make a choice. 
How did you decide who to play for?

S: Well, Matlack Street was the dividing line for Riggtown and
the other neighborhood.

J: It looks like the Riggtown team was a lot better, at least
that year.  Or was the Riggtown team always better than the
Matlack Street team?

S: Well, they sort of feuded all the time--football, baseball ...
it wasn't really bad.

J: The other article has first and last names.

     Daily Local News (September 9, 1926)
          "After a successful baseball season the Riggtown
     Terriers have traded in their bats and balls for foot ball
     togs and are now ready for the opening of their grid season. 
     Manager "Cie" Gincley is on the lookout for games with teams
     composed of players that range in age from nine to 13.  The
     formidable line-up presented by the Terriers follows:
     Tommy Davis    left end
     Howard Malin   left tackle
     Sam Holston    left guard
     Lloyd Mason    center
     Lester Quillen right guard
     Jack Gibson    right tackle
     Lewis Green    right end
     "Cie" Gincley  quarterback
     Walter Clark   right halfback
     Ray Fox        left halfback
     Jerry Davis    fullback
     Herman Reed    substitute
     Bud Singer     substitute
     Robinson       substitute
     Fling          substitute

S: [in response to my reading the names] Lloyd Mason moved away
from here.  I went to school with Lester Quillen [of Quillen's
store on Matlack Street].  Lewis Green lived in Riggtown, but he
moved out to Marshalton.  His wife is still alive out there, but
he died about twelve years ago.  Cie Gincley died a few years
ago.  He and I were good friends.  [Cie Gincley was Anne
Gincley's husband.]  

J: Cie was also the manager for the team.  Was he any older than
the rest of you?

S: No, he was about the same age.  He was just organized.  Is his
widow still alive?

[discussion of Anne Gincley and Siddy Stanley]

S: Siddy Gincley married Jim Stanley.  He was out at Esco Cabinet
Company for years.  [Cie Gincley worked at Esco when he was 16
years old, in 1933.]  ... Oh, I've got something to show you.

[S produced an invitation to a reunion for the 1931 WCHS football
team.]  This is the second reunion.  We had a fiftieth reunion
...

J: And this one is the 65th.  Wow, that is pretty incredible.

[I showed S some of my Riggtown pictures to get his reaction.  He
recognized Jack Harvey's house and the Wyeth plant.]

S: Where do you live?  Which house?

J: I'm the fourth one up from the corner, next to where Cie
Gincley lived.

S: Were you there when [sounds like] Carrie Reem lived there?

J: No.  I recognize her name ... 

S: Her father was out the other day going bow hunting.  He
climbed a tree, and fell.  Didn't break a thing, but he was in
bed for a week.  He had a big bruise on his butt.  [laughing]

[continued to look at pictures.  S enjoyed them but had little to
say about any of them]

S: Did anybody go into any detail about the saddle shop?

J: I've heard a little about it.  Alonzo Harvey's old place, then
Reggie and Grace got a hold of it and made it bigger.  Why, what
do you know about it?

S: Oh, just that.  I was wondering if you knew about it, that's
all.

[picture of Jack and Charlote Harvey]

S: Oh, there's Jack Harvey.  

J: Did you know him very well?  You're both about the same age.

S: Oh yes.  [pause]  Are they both doing pretty good?

J: Oh, yes.  Jack's pretty amazing ...

S: Well, he was always full of shit [general laughter].

J: Well, he certainly has the gift of gab.  Jack still mows about
eight lawns for people.  They both get around pretty good.

S: He's pretty friendly with Shainline, isn't he?  ["Shainline"
is Ted Shainline, who used to own a house in Riggtown and still
owns a wood-working shop on the southwest corner of ENS and SF.]

J: [repeat story of Chock Carey's tattoo, acquired during his
service in the navy at the beginning of World War II]

S: I took boot [camp] at Williamsburg [VA].

[picture of pre-WWII backyard at 500ENS, showing Carey's horse]

S: Speaking of horses, did anybody ever tell you about Jo-Boy,
the harness horse?  He belonged to the Learys.  They were horse
people, Dan and Joe Leary.  They used to race him at the
fairgrounds, and he was one of the best around.  

J: Did they live around here in the neighborhood?

S: They kept the horse up there just before you reach the borough
stables.  [S gestured up the alley that runs along the side of
Ramsgate town houses in the direction of the town center.]  They
had a little barn up there and that's where they used to keep Jo-
Boy.

J: So when you were kids, did you used to go up and see him?

S: Hell yes, that was a big deal in those days!  The Learys lived
up a block, right on the alley.

J: On Lacey Street between Matlack and Walnut?

S: Yes, on the last house right at the alley [Mechanics Alley]. 
And when I lived at 135 [East Nields Street], it was an easy walk
to go over and see the Learys all the time.  They had Dan, Butch,
T, and one younger one.  There were three Leary boys.  Mrs. Leary
was a real ol' Irish lady--she was real nice.  So was Dan.  And
Joe was his brother--he used to drive the horse and Dan used to
train it.  Dan was a groom really, and he worked for a lot of
rich people in Chester County.  He was real good with bad-legged
horses, just like a doctor with them.

J: It is kind of neat that he got his own horse together, instead
of just working for other people all the time.

S: Well, really they had their horse before they went out to work
for other people with thoroughbreds.

[on to more pictures ... picture of ESCO Cabinet Company workers
circa 1933]

S: I worked up there back when it was on Lacey Street. [The ESCO
cabinet company was located in the brick building at the corner
of Lacey and South Franklin Streets.  Later, it was purchased by
the United Dairy Equipment Company.]  I played ball for them in
the summer time and they gave me a job when I was in high school.

J: Was that how they did it around here?  All of the companies
sponsored teams, paid for unifroms, and so on?

S: Yes.  Andrew Hockenbach was the guy's name.  He ran the ball
club.  He was a real smart guy with ESCO about building and
engineering.  He came down here from up-country around Harrisburg
to run the ball club, and he ran it just like a big league team. 
Everything had to be just right.

J: Where did you play in those days?

S: We played out at the fair grounds, out where the cemetery is,
where the black cemetery is.  [some discussion of location, but
I'm not sure if we established its location].  They had a ball
diamond right about in the center of the tract.  A family named
Sheller, they farmed it, and two of their boys, Bud Sheller and
Hap Sheller, they played on the ball team.  In those days, I
don't remember if you could still ride out there on the trolley. 
I think that was later . . . [he remembered] . . . the trolleys
weren't running because they used to have mule races, and on the
third day that had automobile races out on the dirt track.

J: In the summertime, is that when they had the fair?

S: Yes, in July or August.  This was when I was little.  The
trolleys used to run all the way into Philadelphia, to 69th
street.  The trolley used to start down by the college and run up
to the center of town.

J: Did it go up as far as the Friends School (at Marhsall Street
and North High Street)?

S: It went up there somewhere.  The trolley barn was right there
across from the old police station, and the Daily Local News was
right next to it.  It was the center of the whole town.

[picture of Cie Gincley at the Hoopes Brothers and Dar;ington
Wheel Works]

S: He [Cie Gincley]  was a character.  He was a lot of fun.  [S
did not elaborate, but his manner suggested that he and Cie were
good life-long friends.]

[tape stops and resumes after S pulled out a picture showing him
and other members of the 1933-1934 West Chester High School
basketball team.]

J: Can you remember their names?

S: Oh yes.  That's Billy Bender.  That's Jake Johnson from
[unintelligible, maybe Marshallton].  That's Petey [sounds like]
Himmelwright, he was a carpenter ... or a plumber.  And that's
Harold I. Zimmerman, the coach.  Did you ever hear of him? 
[That's who they named] Zimmerman field [after].  That's Spuds
Bruno--he lived up in the West End.  He went over here to college
and he became a Little All-American football player.  That's
Jesse Lewis and that's Ed Marinoski--he had a shoe store up in
town for years.  That's Robert Spaziani, who had Spaz's Beverage. 
He graduated with me.  

J: What about this guy?  Was he an assistant coach?

S: He was a high school student, what you'd call a manager.  His
name was Paul and he became a doctor.  . . . that's all of them .
. . oh, yes, the last one was Durnal, Skip Durnal from
Marshalton.  He later was in the storm window business for years. 
His wife just died not long ago.  They still lived out in
Marshalton.

[Interviewer's note concerning the names of the people in the
photo: 1st row: Robert Spaziani, Ed Marinoski, Jesse Lewis, Billy
Bender, Jake Johnson, Petey Himmelwright.  2nd row: Paul the
manager, unnamed, T. Walter Clark, Spuds Bruno, Skip Durnal,
Harold I. Zimmerman]

J: It sounds like a lot of people lived out in Marshallton.  Did
a lot of people move out there?

S: It was a nice place to live, a little village.

J: Was that a big trip to go out and visit someone in
Marshallton?

S: No, not really.  I can still remember when I used to go out
there, a lot of those roads were dirt roads.

J: Some of them still are.

[S produced an old newspaper clipping and I read part of it out
loud on the tape]

J: The title reads "Pitcher of Southern Leagues with locals
Walter "`Sarge' Clark ..." even back then they were calling you
Sarge.  Why?

S: That nickname came to me back in high school when I was
playing ball with ESCO.  There used to be a comedy team that
showed almost every week in the movies--Slim Somerville and
somebody else--and they called me "Sarge."  He was Somerville's
boss.  

[I continued to read.]

J: [summarized except where noted] S played ball in Florida and
Georgia before obtaining a tryout with the Harrisburg Senators in
the Interstate League at age 23 (this is probably inaccurate,
since S was born in 1915 and later in the article, it suggests
that this was already in late 1939).  Clark pitched in Class C
and Class D ball games for the past five years.  "With a big
frame and lots of power to qualify him for pitching duty ..." 
the article mentions that S weighed 205 pounds in those days.  He
played with the Charlotte NC team of the Piedmont League in 1935
and 1936, and got a tryout with the Baltimore Orioles of the
International League.  He wasn't experienced enough yet, so he
was optioned to Thomasville GA where he pitched for a record of
14-9 in 1938, including a no-hit shutout against the Albany GA
team.  That earned him a promotion to the Jacksonville team of
the South Atlantic league where he went 9-5.  In 1939, he went 9-
8 for Leesburg FL.

[S produced a picture of the Thomasville GA team which "won the
pennant that year."  He also had pictures of one of the Florida
teams.]

J: If you were 205 pounds, how tall were you?

S: I was six two-and-a-half.

J: Then you must have been one of the biggest kids in the
neighborhood.

S: I was fairly big.  Kids weren't that big back then.

J: My dad was six-three and around 205 pounds, and he was always
the biggest dad around.  Then when I went to college and he
started coming to visit, there were kids in my dorm who were
bigger than he was.  The next generation got a lot bigger.

[change of subject]

J: I'd like to ask you a couple of questions about growing up in
Riggtown.  Did you guys ever get in trouble?

S: Oh sure, we were ornery, like all kids.  We used to have fun,
rob cherry trees, things like that.

J: There was a story from 1928 about a bunch of kids who used to
call themselves the "Riggtown gang."  They stole a bunch of
motorcycle parts from a garage that belonged to Frank Stancato,
and they had to go up in front of the burgess (mayor).  [S
laughed and acted as if he knew all about this, so I asked him]
did you ever have to go up in front of the burgess.

S: [laughing]  No, I never got in that bad trouble.

J: Who were the kids who got in trouble like that?

S: They were Riggtowners.  I don't know if Jack Harvey got into
it or not; he was ornery enough.  Anyhow, one good story was ...
the Bituminous Company was up there, and they said Jack Gibson
set it on fire, but I don't know if it was true or not, but
anyway [significant pause] somebody set it on fire.  [This was
the 1931 Goose Creek fire.  S confirmed details.]

J: Where were you when it started?

S: I wasn't there! [meaning he didn't start it].  

J: I heard that the boys used to sit on the bridge over the creek
and smoke cigarettes, and someone dropped a match in the creek
and set it on fire.

S: There was a lot of suspicion thrown around at the time.  Later
on, every time I'd see Jack, I'd ask him, "Hey Jack, what
happened to the creek?"  [laughter]

J: One of the stories I used to hear about Riggtown was that if
you wanted to date a girl from over there, you had to get past
her brothers.

S: That's true.

J: Did you ever date anyone from over there?

S: No, I never did.  I lived up above Matlack Street, but I was
accepted by Riggtowners.  I used to almost walk through there at
night when I came home from high school.  I was one of the few
that could walk through Georgetown [the black neighborhood].

J: You could walk through Georgetown and Riggtown.  Was that
because you were big?

S: Probably.  Nobody ever challenged me.

J: Well, it sounds to me [based on other interviews] like the
Riggtowners never went over into Georgetown and the Georgetowners
didn't come over to Riggtown at all!

S: No.  

J: Do you remember anything about Georgetown?

S: Jerry Harmon's father was the junk dealer over there.

J: Was he the guy who used to come around with a horse and cart?

S: His father used to come around with his truck to pick up junk
and stuff, and he used to sit in his wagon and holler to get
people's attention--this is what he used to holler--"Oh party
rags."  Jerry was quite an athlete.  He went to Lincoln
University and started there.  He died young.  He used to play
with the old Liberty Boys baseball team ...

J: A black baseball team?

S: Yes.  And ESCO was  ... we were real deadly rivals.  I was
only a kid, sixteen years old, most of them were older than me
... It was real fun.

J: When you were growing up, you had two sisters?

S: My older sister Betty, she married Vince Talley.  He was from
down Brandywine Summit.  My other sister Mary Ruth is a nurse
supervisor on two floors at Chester County Hospital.  I was just
at her birthday party last night.  She's worked there for some
thirty years.

J: What did your older sister do?

S: She was a nurse too.

J: So everybody made out all right in your family?

S: We did good all our life.  My father always made a good
living.  He worked in a dairy ...

J: Highland Dairy?

S: Yes.  And then he went to Wyeth.  He was in charge of the
boiler room.  He went to college and learned to test milk--that's
how come he did so well.

J: That had to have been unusual in those days.

S: Oh yes.  He took that course on how to test milk, and then, I
can remember, during the Depression, he was making $65 a week. 
All the rest of the family wasn't doing too good, so they came
and lived with us so we could feed them.

J: Did your mother ever have to work?

S: Yes, she worked in her later years after all the kids were
raised.  She worked at Wyeth, over on the line.

J: Nobody in your family ever worked at the Tag Company [Denny or
Keystone]?

S: No.  Honey Hamilton worked at the tag company.  

J: Anne Gincley worked there too.

S: Almost all of the girls in the neighborhood worked at one of
the tag companies.

J: I also heard that people used to take in boxes of tags and
string them at home.

S: Oh yes.

J: Did your family ever do that?

S: Oh hell yes.  We didn't make much, but it was money.

J: Tell me how people in the neighborhood thought about the
Keystone Tag Company.  Was it easy to get on there, so that
people always figured no matter what, they could get a job at the
tag company?

S: It wasn't too hard to get on there, but a lot of people worked
[... end of side one of tape]

J: What can you tell me about the relationship between people who
lived in this part of town and the State College?  You went to
school there for a bit, and you mentioned other people who went
there.

S: Over the years, as the kids grew up, we used to go over to the
college for a lot of games, and we knew all the players.  Do you
know where the new science building is--that's where we used to
play football [behind the fieldhouse at the site of Schmucker II]

J: Did you guys used to get in to watch the games for free?  Is
that how it worked?

S: Yes.  And we used to sneak into the girls' gym on the
quadrangle.  We used to go into the steam vents, lift the lid
off, and go through the tunnels up in the girls gym and shoot
baskets on Sundays.

J: Nobody ever caught you?

S: A few times, but nothing was said.  They'd just chase us out.

J: Chock Carey told a story something like that.

[change of subject]

S: By the way, I went to Demonstration School [in Ruby Jones].

J: Do you remember any of your teachers?

S: Sure, Miss James and Miss Pierce.  I went through grades one
through six.  I got sick in the second grade and had to repeat
it.  I missed half a year's school.  I had what they called back
then "a spot on the lungs"--a touch of tuberculosis.  I was over
it in a year's time.  My sister, who's a nurse had the same thing
later in life, but she had to go away for six months.

J: Where did she go?

S: Where Bryn Mawr is now.  She was like me, she got well.

J: Did anybody in your family ever smoke?

S: Oh yes.  My father smoked, and I smoked up until about ten
years ago.  I quit "cold turkey."  Of course, I don't breathe as
well as I used to, but I exercise every day as much as I can.

J: Do you have arthritis or anything?

S: I've got arthritis in the hips, so I had to quit playing golf.

J: But you mentioned that you went out fox hunting the other day,
so you still get out.

S: Oh yes, I still get out and get fresh air.  The huntsman at
Brandywine Hunt was one of my closest friends.  He just passed
away.  I still go out--I've been out once this year ... but he
was a ball player too, that's how I knew him.

J: Speaking of hunting ... did you ever go hunting back in the
swamp before World War II?

S: Sure.

J: What did you get?

S: Muskrats.  We used to set traps.

J: Leg-hold traps?

S: Yes.  All the kids in Riggtown were trappers.  That's how we
used to get a little bit of spending money.

J: What did you do?  Who bought them?

S: Different people bought them that were in that business. 
There were three or four around here.  We used to get about a
dollar and a half for a real good skin.

J: Whoa!  That was serious money!  Did anybody ever eat the
muskrats, or just get the skins?

S: Nobody that I knew ever ate the muskrats, but they used to eat
groundhogs.  People around here used to shoot the groundhogs for
fun and take them up and dump them at that [sounds like] "High
Corner" place in the West End ...

J: ... out there on the way to Downingtown, over by the "Pizza
Island?"  Why?

S: There was a taproom on the corner.  They used to dump them
there and the black used to come and pick them up and eat them. 
Groundhog isn't bad to eat, they say--I never ate them.  They
don't eat anything but grass, so they're clean.

J: The swamp sounds like it was the playground for a lot of kids
in the neighborhood when they were growing up.

S: Oh yes.  We used to go "tuft-jumping" from one tuft to
another.  The swamp grew up in chunks.  There was some right here
[gestured across the street towards Ramsgate Townhouses). 
There's not many cellars underneath those places.

[discussion of wet basements and sump pumps]

S: This house has the old stone base and double brick on top. 
Later they poured the concrete basement floor about six inches
thick, so it cracked, and when it rains, the water comes up
through the cracks.

[change of subject]

S: Carrie Ring--Ring wasn't her married name--but Carrie Ring was
related to Beth Ring who lived up on Matlack Street.  Beth was
her mother.  Now they live up in Lionville.

J: Are you still in contact with the people you knew grewing up?

S: Yes, but a lot of them are gone.  It's sad in a way.

J: Are you much for religion?

S: No, not really.  I've been in the Masons for fifty-four years.

J: Are the Masons a very big deal around here?

S: Oh yes.  I just got a notice from them.  There's still five
hundred and eighty-some members in West Chester--in this lodge. 
You know where the lodge is located?

J: No, I don't think so.

S: It's up on Church Street at the corner of ... they own the
stores at the corner of Church and Market, opposite the bank. 
All of those stores belong to the Masonic Temple.

J: Your father was a member of  ...

S: He was a Mason.  He was a member of the West Chester band for
years.

J: He was a member of the West Chester Lodge #322 F & AM, ...

S: That stands for "free and accepted Masons."

J: He was also a member of the Uppowoc Tribe 47 of the Improved
Order of Red Men.  What was that about? [laughter]

S: I don't know.  I was never too interested.  They used to have
a big home up, you know where the home for the aged is on Church
Street?  The apartm,ent house?

J: Up north [on the north end of Church Street]?

S: The south building, right from that [first building south of
the home], that's where the Red Men were.  And where the home for
the old folks is--that used to be, like a hardware store, there
for years.

J: Did yo ever go up there for metings?

S: A few times.  I had to go up there for my fiftieth aniversary
to get a pin.  I was surprised at how many fifty-year members
there were.  [Note: I'm not sure of S was referring to the Red
Men or the Masons in this sentence, since he was a member of the
Masons but not the Red Men.]

J: That's interesting, because from all my conversations with
Riggtowners, it seems like not too many of them joined
organizations like that.

S: [thoughtful] No ... no.  In fact, when you went in, you had to
be asked.  You couldn't just chose to go in, and if anyone
decided to black ball you, you couldn't get in.

J: You father was a member and you got asked--is that how you got
in?

S: Yes.

J: I wonder if, since there weren't many Riggtowners who
belonged, there was no one to ask them to join.  In other words,
I wonder if they didn't get asked to join, rather than they
didn't want to be part of it.

S: It was different.  Traveling around, you got to know a lot of
people.

J: With all your traveling around as a ballplayer, did being a
Mason ever help you out?

S: Not really.  When we were in the service. we had a club on
Tinian Island and we used to get together about once a month,
just to socialize.

J: Did that include ber?

S: Yes, it included beer.  In our outfit, we had access to all
the beer we wanted for five dollars and something a case.  We
knew guys in the ship's store, and they weren't too "solid." 
They were making money.  [laughter]

J: Well, all of this is good.  You've filled in some holes for
me,. and now I know why so many people from around here talk
about Sarge Clark.

S: I tried to be nice to people.  And my wife--my second wife--
she was in my class in high school.  I married her after I got
back from the service.

J: Did she grow up around here?

S: She lived on Lacey Street when I started going with her, right
across from where Bob Ayers lived.

J: How did you know her?  From around the neighborhood?

S: I knew her before I went in the service.  Everybody went out
and had a drink once in a while.  Then, there were taprooms
everywhere in West Chester.

J: More than there are now? [S nodded]  Where did you like to go
for a drink?

S: I used to go to the "Corners."  That's up near the Catholic
School [St. Agnes], right on that corner.  At the end of Chestnut
Street and the bridge over the railroad tracks. [more discussion
eventually led to the conclusion that the bar was near the old
Sharpless Separator Works, probably at the corner of Chestnut and
Patton Avenue.  In that case, I am not sure what Catholic School
S referred to.]  One of my best friend's sisters and her husband
had that place a long time.  Now she lives over on the corner of
Church and Price [by the 4-way stop sign one block from the
Burger King.]

J: You said that you were married a first time.  Was that someone
local too?

S: Yes, her name was Ralston.  She's still alive. Of course, my
wife and I--we went to high school together, and I met her after
I came back out of the service.

J: There's some other stories about people whose marriages did
not last through the whole war.  I wonder if people got married
quick before they went in the service ...

S: Well, I knew her already for a long time.  I went with her
when we were in high school.  We had a long relationship, but
those things happened ...

J: I think the war changed a lot of people, so even if you got
along before the war, after the war you were different people.

S: Oh yes.  [more discussion about people, personal relationships
and change]

J: Laura [Lessig Clark], your second wife, had a sister too?

S: No, she had two brothers.  One's Park--he's still alive.  He
lives down in Marshallton.  The other was Bud, he was at the
Battle of the Bulge, and he died of a heart attack about 15-16
years ago.  He lived in the first house out on Forest Lane.  Do
you know where that is?

J: No.

S: You go down the hill before you get to Lenape ...

J: Oh, okay.  Right after the Mews on the right side, which
actually cuts you back towards the creek, and if you keep on
going around, you wind up coming back into town on Miner Street.

S: Yes.  Before they built all those houses, that used to be fox
hunting country.

J: Oh, I'll bet, with all that creek and brush.  There's not a
lot of fox country left in Chester County, is there.

S: No, there isn't.  The other day, I went fox hunting over on
Frolic Weymouth's place down belkow Twin Bridges, down below
Chadds Ford.  They cross the Brandywine Creek.  I go down there
lots of Sundays to hunt foxes.

J: You know the Weymouths? [wealthy family connected to the
Duponts]

S: Just to speak to.  I know the fellow who keeps the hounds down
there.  His name is Hansby.

J: They've built houses down there too.

S: Not on Weymouth's land.

J: No, but right past there.  I know about it because I bought a
motorcycle down there a few years ago.

S: Weymouth doesn't fix up his road so that people won't drive
onto his land.  There's big potholes and you have to drive slow.
[laughter]  But it's beautiful country down there, with lots of
deer ... you can see almost anything.

J: I used to like to get a canoe and go down there from the Art
Museum  [at Route 1].

S: When I was a kid, I used to go from Nields Street and go out
to Lenape and camp in the summer time.

J: Did you walk out or take a car?

S: We used to take a car.  There used to a road that ran up there
behind all those cabins out there [probably on the west side of
the creek, across from the Lenape Forge.]   At the first falls
there, we used to camp along side of it.  We had a camp canoe--
our own canoe--and we had another canoe with a motor on the back
of it.

J: You were equipped then! [laughter]  Camping--that's something
that I do a lot, but did a lot of people go camping back in those
days?

S: No, but we had a nice tent that we put up, and four of us
lived out there in the summertime, and we had a lot of fun.

J: You and who else?

S: Bill Burnett, he worked for the [Daily] Local [News].  And
Toby Bowman, he lived next to us at 135 [East Nields Street].  A
kid by the name of Blackburn from Media, and there were three or
four other kids from Media who came up here.  I remember
Blackburn because he wanted to go to college--he played football-
-and he had to have a scholarship because he didn't have any
money. I talked to coach Killinger and they gave him a
scholarship to go to West Chester.

J: Did he do all right when he got there?

S: Oh yes, he graduated.  I think he ended up coaching, but you
lose contact ...

[change of subject]

J: In all of your ball-playing years, what was the greatest
moment you ever had?

S: [thought for a bit]  Playing baseball?

J: Playing any kind of sports.

S: I guess it was the 105 yard touchdown.

J: Yes, I suppose that would stand out. [laughter]

S: I did kick a football Thanksgiving Day against Berwyn from one
end of the field to the other.  A lot of people still remember
it.   [sounds like] Allen Cook, he still [pretends to] broadcast
it every time I come up to the barbershop. [laughter]

J: Were you punting?

S: Yes, punting.

J: Wow, that is pretty good, if you didn't have anyone holding it
for you.  How did you get the 105-yard touchdown?

S: We were back in kick formation, behind the goal line, and the
quaterback said to me, `This tackle is playing kind of wide. 
Maybe if I block him to the outside, you can get inside of him. 
When I came inside of him, I broke to the left and went right
down the sideline.

J: Were you fast?

S: Oh, I could run.  I wasn't exceptionally fast, but I could
run.

[discussion of Dallas-Eagle game from the previous week, with a
runback for a touchdown, thank-yous, and end of tape]

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Copyright 2010 by Dr. James A. Jones