the End of the Emmitsburg Road
2 of 7
Recollections of Early Days
One of my earliest recollections is of a simple little thing we did
at home. Exactly how old I was when we first did this, I am not certain.
Our stairway to the second floor had a bottom landing, with a three-step
entrance to the dining room, and as I recall it, two or three of us
young ones would sit on the landing, our feet on the step below, then
all of us in unison saying or singing: "BACK BACK BACK TO
BAL--TI--MORE" followed by our falling back in unison, with our
feet up in the air. This would be repeated over and over again. I don't
know whether in our imagination we thought that we were really going to
Maryland's largest city, or whether the repetition of the letter
"B" amused us, but whatever it was, we had great Laugh.
Another early recollection is of a practice which was common
throughout the town in the hot summer months. With few exceptions,
houses had no front yards. Many had a small front step, extending out
into the sidewalk. At the outer edge of the sidewalk, the unpaved street
began, which meant that horse drawn wagons and carriages would create a
cloud of dust. So, faced with the heat and dust, every housewife was out
with a broom and hose before the sun was very high, trying to make
things cool and clean. When we were quite small, Mother would let us
take part in this daily routine. My Aunt Weema, across the street, was
as sure to be out as the sun was sure to come up.
The third in my list has to do with the evenings of those hot summer
days. Although the sun had gone down, homes stayed hot inside, so the
older folks, after supper, would move to the sidewalks, or to a front
porch, of which there were very few. Chairs and benches were brought
out, blankets were spread on the front step, and here the family, joined
by relatives and friends who lived nearby, spent the evening. There was
much talk and visiting and eyeing those who might stroll by on either
side of the street. In some cases the family group was so large as to
fill the sidewalk, forcing a passerby to detour by way of the street.
While this was going on, we kids would work off our energy by playing
games of some sort. Mother sometimes sent one of us down with an open
dish to Matthews' ice cream store, for a special treat of strawberry or
chocolate, to which Mother added some of her own cream chocolate cake.
There are a few more recollections that I should record. Sundays were
a problem for active youngsters. We went to Sunday School in the morning
and then to Church, but what to do in the afternoon was the question.
One thing we did was to go across the street to Aunt Weema's house and
do some bowling in her parlor, but not with ordinary bowling balls.
Instead, we used some Civil War cannon balls that had been picked up at
Gettysburg, after the battle. It was good fun on a quiet Sunday
afternoon. The story was that some days after the battle, my grandfather
Hays drove by horse and wagon to Gettysburg, and came home with several
muskets, with bayonets attached, and the cannon balls. For some years,
the muskets were kept in what we called the "stove room," on
the second floor of the shop. I still cannot figure out how my
God-fearing Aunt could bring herself to allow such a horrid thing as a
cannon ball in her home.
Almost directly across the street from our shop was a small, one
story, wooden structure, which housed a part of the town fire fighting
equipment, a reel of hose. The reel had two high wheels, with a long
shaft in front, so that a number of men could take part in pulling the
thing to a fire. Except for a 'hand-pulled ladder wagon, this was the
total equipment. No pump, no engine; nothing more. No pump was needed,
since town water came from a reservoir, located at a point in the nearby
mountain, high enough to create the needed pressure. As children, we
used to go over to this "fire station" and pretend we were
It seems strange that even before we had a car, and when we relied
completely upon horse and wagon, that an airplane landed in town. It had
come down in a field in the western end of town, along the road leading
to Hartman's farm and the reservoir. I was the proud owner of a $1.00
box camera, so of course I ran right out and took a picture. It was a
single engine machine, with an open cockpit, but beyond that, I can
remember very little. I think I was ten or eleven years old.
One more institution comes to mind, the town jail, better known as
the lock-up. It was an iron plated, gazebo-like thing, about seven feet
high, that stood over near Patterson's horse barn. It had a heavy door
that creaked when it was opened. There were two very small windows. On a
hot summer day, the temperature inside must have been something awful. I
cannot say that I ever saw it occupied, and I believe that when it was
abandoned, Papa bought it and used the iron sides and top for some other
I do recall the jail which took the place of the lock-up. It was a
room at street level, at the rear of the hotel, down at the Square.
Inside the room were two cells, both of which we could look in on as we
daily passed on our way, to and from school. We usually knew the
occupants, so would stop at the window for a friendly little chat. In
almost every case, the offense was being drunk. There were two brothers,
by the names of Pete and Bern, who saw to it that the cells were not
vacant for very long. Bern wasn't very talkative. Pete, on the other
hand, exuded friendship. All my brothers, from Harry the youngest, to
Jim the oldest, had the unique experience of stopping by that jail
window, and hearing Pete ask: "you're my fren, ain't you, you are
my fren." I must mention one more recollection. When we were quite
small, we were taken to Greencastle, Pennsylvania, to visit Uncle Ed and
Aunt Betty Snively.
How we got there I am not sure, but I dimly recall
going at least part of the way by trolley. It might be that we were
first driven to Waynesboro, and went from there by trolley. Uncle Ed, a
retired farmer, had a white horse which he allowed us children to ride.
As I remember it, he nailed a strip of wood to the side of his barn, in
such a way that it extended about two feet from the barn. He then
fastened an iron ring to the end of the stick. Now he gave us what I
suppose was intended to be a lance, put us on the white horse and told
us we were knights on horseback and ready for jousting. And now, moving
at a slow pace with Uncle Ed in charge, we tried to put the lance
through the ring. I remember all this very clearly.
Finally, I recall that Aunt Betty and her two daughters thought that
we children should rest in the afternoon, and so we were put in a
bedroom for that purpose, and the door was closed. But since we didn't
do this sort of thing at home, we were not about to submit quietly or
willingly. I don't recall how it came out, but I am sure they were glad
to have us return to Emmitsburg.
Life Generally in
I would like to give a picture of what it was like in Emmitsburg
from, let us say, 1908 to 1920. Houses were next to one another, and
fronting directly on the sidewalk. Almost all were brick. We (meaning my
sister, my four brothers and myself.) Knew just about everyone, and
especially our neighbors. On one side lived the Shuff family, consisting
of two girls, Ruth and Helen, two boys, Frank and Clay, and their
parents. Their home and shop seemed like an extension of our own, and
later in this narrative I will have more to. say about the happy and
pleasant relationship we enjoyed.
On the other side were Mrs. Andrew Annan and her daughter, Luella.
The husband and father, Andrew Annan, died in, 1915, I should say that
what endeared these two families to us Hays kids was the fact that in
both families there were wonderful cooks. The Shuff kitchen window was
right next to our yard, with the happy result that we would share in
whatever was being baked. They just handed the cake and cookies out the
window. And our good fortune carried over to the other side of our
house, for it was often our job to drive the horse and wagon down a very
narrow alley, which brought us within arm's length of the Annan kitchen
window, for equally tasty handouts. How could youngsters, always hungry,
have it any better'? ... 'Let me, however, add a word of explanation, in
case you might think that we were underfed at home. Far from it. Mother
was a marvelous cook. There was no one better. It is just that we were
very active and always hungry.
And thus it was that we felt very close to our neighbors, and to many
others. We knew the people who ran the stores, the shoemaker, the
harness maker, the grocer, the druggist, the blacksmith, the livery
stable operator and a number of others. At our shop, meaning the
plumbing, heating, roofing and machine shop, we saw it all first hand.
If a water pipe leaked, the call would come to our shop to send someone
for repairs. If someone needed a new stove, be it a cook stove or range,
or home heater, more than likely they came to J. T. Hays & Son for a
new one. That meant that one of the five of us boys would bring the
horse and wagon to a point in the alleyway alongside the shop, where a
heavy rope, on a pulley, would lower the stove from the second floor,
and off we would go to deliver and set up the stove at the purchaser's
Very few people in town went on anything like an extended trip. On
occasion, someone would take the train to Baltimore, or go to Frederick
or to Thurmont, by what was called the jitney bus, that being a model T
Ford, made into a minibus. I remember that our family doctor, by the
name of Jamison, stirred up a lot of talk by going to Montana to see the
Jack Johnson-Jess Willard prize fight. I think the place was Shelby and
the time about 1916. But no matter the date, it was a big event, and
talked about as if he had gone to China. If a young boy wore long
trousers for the first time, he could expect to receive a lot of
attention from the older boys and the town loafers, when he appeared on
the street. The same was true when a boy walked down the main street,
with his best girl friend. I tell you, it was tough. I know from
experience. I remember asking a very popular girl to have a ride on the
handlebars of my bicycle. That alone was bad enough. But when I swerved
to avoid a hole in the road, and my beautiful friend fell off,
sustaining a bruised knee, I was really marked for life. I never heard
the end of it, and still am reminded of it by one or another of my
We felt a closeness, a familiarity with townspeople generally. I
recall that when I would come home from College, on vacation or perhaps
only for a weekend, I was expected to make the rounds, that is, to go
see the Shuffs, the Annans, Frank Rowe's shoe shop, the local
blacksmith, two or three other neighbors, and of course my Aunt Weema,
across the street. I had been away to the city, and they all wanted to
near about it.
What I am trying to say is, that in one way or another, we felt a
close relationship to almost everyone in town, and the nearer they
lived, the closer you felt.
It was a feeling of dependency, certainly of familiarity, that is not
so evident today. And if I can recreate it, even if only in a faint way,
I will feel rewarded, for it truly was a warm and human touch, that
helped make my days in Emmitsburg a time of high adventure, fun and
I am sure that Papa never heard of what is called the "work
ethic," but he certainly' practiced it. He worked hard and long. As
he once told me, his aim was to provide us with as good an education as
he possibly could. He had never gone beyond the sixth grade. He would
show us how to use a soldering iron, or cut a thread on iron pipe, or
unload a heavy machine from a wagon or truck, and, though perhaps hard
to believe, we, meaning myself and brothers, enjoyed it. We were proud
to be trusted and anxious to do the job to his satisfaction. No matter
what the problem was, he could figure a way to solve it. He was a genius
at using wedges, levers, rollers and jacks. Incidentally, I find this
trait carrying through to my three sons and grandsons, and already I see
some signs of it in my great-grandson, Avery, at the ripe age of three.
Mother, on the other hand, had music in her heels. Her laugh was
full-bodied and contagious. She loved to entertain. She could work all
day and, I think, could have danced all -night. She had little time for
books or for logic. She was motherly, affectionate, soft-hearted and
generous. Whatever she had, she was glad to give away. In her eyes,
everyone was to be taken at face value. She was proud, sentimental and
romantic. Papa, though completely unselfish, was wise, prudent,
unromantic and only slightly sentimental. He was deeply religious.
Mother never took time to think about the hereafter. The present was
good enough for her.
J. T. Hays & Son
It is difficult to describe adequately the Hays shop. This is partly
because so many things were done there, as I will explain. For me, it
was a great source of pride to hear it said that Tom Hays could fix
anything. I recall being in the shop one night and hearing a farmer
trying to persuade him to say he would repair a part of a mower that was
broken. Papa used a phrase that was his favorites that he was "too
intolerably busy," but the farmer persisted, saying that there was
no one else who could do it, and his farm work was being held up.
"Tom, if you will just say you will do it." In the end he won
out, and went off happy.
Let me mention some of the things that were sold, or made, and some
of the work that was done. Stoves of all kinds were sold and repaired;
plumbing, roofing, welding, acetylene lighting of homes and public
buildings; some blacksmithing and on occasion well drilling. I recall
very clearly going with Papa to the P. O'Donohue place, near the
College, to fix a windmill. I should mention the sale and installation
of pumps, for every farmer had one. It was routine for him to rig up a
device to pull a pump from a well and, more than likely, find that it
needed a new leather. Then, after fitting a new leather, the pump went
back into use and he was off to another job. For years there was a large
sigh, hanging over the sidewalk in front of the shop, advertising F. E.
Myers Bros. pumps, with a logo featuring an attractive young farm girl
at the handle of a Myers pump.
I should note one other type of work that came to the shop. Town
water was provided by a reservoir in the mountain to the west of town,
and from time to time a break would occur in the water main, or in a
service line, and in either case a hurried call would come for repairs,
sometimes in cold weather and sometimes at night. In 1976 my brother Sam
and I contributed an article entitled Mountain Water Comes to Town for a
book called Emmitsburg: History and Society, in which article we
described the long association of the Hays family with the Water
Company. The book was edited by Emilea A. and Mary B. Nakhleh, and
published by the Emmitsburg Chronicle.
James T. Hayes
The shop adjoined our house, and you could walk direct from the
kitchen door into the front of the shop. For some years prior to 1856,
my grandfather Hays and his brother, Joseph Hays, had been in business
under the name of J. & J. T. Hays. They operated an iron foundry,
made cream separators and other metal products, but I believe that ' the
foundry was the big item. In any event, sometime about then they
separated, with Joseph keeping the foundry, and my grandfather, James T.
Hays, taking the plumbing, tinning and other parts of the former
business. Sometime later, my grandfather, James T. Hays, took my father,
Thomas C. Hays, into the business, and thereafter it continued under the
name of J. T. Hays & Son, until 1935, when it was discontinued.
Up to the time I went off to college, and for some years after, the
shop was a busy place. Some of the men who worked for Papa were Robert
Rider, Webb Felix, Joseph Orendorff, Warren and Luther Kugler, Charlie
Motter, Harry Weant and his son, Frank. I am reminded of a little
episode involving Warren Kugler. It seems that Papa had asked him to cut
a piece of 3/4 inch pipe, twelve inches long. Now Warren wasn't too sure
of himself, so rather than measure twelve inches long, he measured 13
inches instead, and cut it that length. When papa came along shortly
after, he discovered what was happening and asked Warren about it.
"Well, I thought I would make sure it was not too short, so I
figured to cut it 13 inches first and then I could take off what was
needed." We often laughed about it.
The men, meaning the workmen, came at seven and quit at five. On
Saturday, work stopped at four. Then they went home, changed clothes,
had supper and later returned to the shop to be paid. This always
bothered me, because it sometimes was a long wait. No one would speak
up. So, if Papa was talking with someone about some work, or happened to
be showing a stove to a customer, the men had no choice. They waited,
and finally they were paid. As I recall it, the average pay was about
eight dollars a week. Mr. Weant was special, since he was a skilled
mechanic, so his pay was ten a week. But there was no complaint.
Papa ran everything. He would assign jobs, and often he would go
along to supervise, or, if it was a long job, he would have one of us
boys take him several times during the day, either in the Model T or by
the horse and wagon, so that he could be sure that all was going
properly. If it was a water pipe being laid, he would be down in the
ditch; if it was a tin roof being put on a barn, he was on the roof.
This was the routine, checking up on whatever was in progress. But once
that was done, it was back to the shop, where more than likely he would
tell one of us to get a gasoline torch ready, for he needed to weld, let
us say, a section of a boiler. Or, if not a boiler section, it might be
a broken plow or some piece of machinery.
Now a gasoline torch was a really dangerous thing. It held, I would
guess, about a quart of gasoline, and had a pump attached so as to
produce a spray. Once you put a match to the end of the nozzle, a hot
flame shot out. Our job was to bring the piece being welded to a white
heat. Meanwhile, Papa had lighted an acetylene torch for the welding
operation. All this was being done over a hot blacksmith fire, and often
on a hot summer day; once finished, even though his shirt and trousers
were wringing wet, he was off to whatever the next job might be. As the
final act, we were to cover the welded piece in some fashion, so that it
would not cool too quickly. The wonder is that no one of us was ever
burned or hurt.
There were some jobs that came often. The radiators on the early cars would freeze and crack, and then were brought to the shop for repairing,
meaning a soldering job. Now the radiators had narrow tubes that were encased in webbing, and this webbing had to be chiseled away, in order to allow
access to the broken tube. What a miserable job! Of course these breaks occurred in winter time, so that the chiseling took place in the shop, which was
not very warm. Then there were farm tractors, now available for the first time, and when used on rocky ground, they would often suffer a break and need
welding. So off the farmer went to Tom Hays, with an urgent plea for as much speed as possible.
Then there was acetylene lighting. Acetylene gas, made from carbide, was not exactly new, but nonetheless, was not in common use in most homes and
public buildings. Kerosene lamps were generally used. What changed the picture was a device, on which Papa
obtained a patent, which automatically mixed the water and carbide, with the resulting gas being piped throughout the house or church or other building.
We sold the carbide in 100-pound drums, it having been bought in carload lots, and brought to Emmitsburg by way of the Emmitsburg Railroad.
I remember that the carbide came from the Canadian Carbide Company,
Shawinigan Falls, Quebec, Canada. The name fascinated me; it seemed so
far away. We stored the drums in what we called the "old barn"
and would go there for one when it was needed in the shop or to supply a
customer. This is a good time to speak of what was called
"slack," meaning the residue that was formed when the water
and carbide combined. It was a thick white substance, which was commonly
used for whitewashing. Anyone wanting a supply could have it at -no
charge. And as far as we boys were concerned, nothing better could
happen than for all of it to be taken by others, for we then would be
spared the tiresome job of whitewashing our many fences. It was always
much more fun to go to our favorite swimming hole, or play baseball or
shoot marbles, or anything than that monotonous whitewashing. I know
exactly what Huckleberry Finn felt.
Cutting an iron or steel rod with a hacksaw was my bete noire. It
went so slowly, especially on a hot day. After working at it for a
while, I would make the fatal mistake of turning it just a little in the
vise, thinking it might cut faster. Sure enough, the cut would not be a
clean straight one, and I would be told again by Papa, not to try
short-cuts. My brother John was never in such trouble. He did it the
correct way, and this carried over into other shop duties. He was the
The period I am speaking of was one when most homes were heated by
stoves, burning either wood or coal. This was equally true as to
cooking. And stoves meant lots of stove pipe, which Papa could turn out
about as fast as Mother turned out bread and rolls. 'I can see Papa
turning a seam with a wooden mallet, which I am sure he could have done
with his eyes closed.
All in all, it was a beehive of activity around the shop. Everyone
was busy. It might be several stoves being unloaded in the alleyway
alongside the shop. We would bring them by horse and wagon, from the
freight office at the railroad station, and then tie a large rope around
each stove, one by one, the rope being part of a pulley arrangement. By
pulling a rope which turned the pulley, the stove was hoisted to a
doorway on the second floor. Or there might be a shipment of what were
called "oil stoves. "They were very lightly made and used
kerosene for fuel. Some were for home heating and some for cooking. One
or more of us, sometimes Sam and I, or John and Harry, would assemble
them and immediately set out with one for a customer, who often was a
farmer living several miles out of town.
I think that each of us felt
pretty important, being entrusted with this entire operation. Oh yes!
There was a lot of labor spent cutting a length of iron pipe and then
putting a thread on one end. We used a set of dies, depending upon the
size, and turning the stock by hand. I was never very good at it, but I
could cut a thread on a 3/4 - inch pipe, without too much trouble. I
should mention that my brother Jim, being the eldest son, was entrusted
with more important and more difficult jobs.
While mentioning the use of kerosene, I should add a note about an
individual by the name of "coal oil Johnnie." (Coal oil is
another name for kerosene) "Jonnnie came to town, I think from
Thurmont, driving a two-horse wagon, the body of which was a large tank
filled with kerosene. The driver's seat was higher than the top level of
the tank, and as I recall, there was a roof above the seat to protect
Johnnie from the weather. But the interesting thing is that there was,
great demand for kerosene and not much for gasoline. The result was that
while he had a large tank of the former, he had only three or four 5
gallon cans of the latter, in a rack alongside the kerosene tank.
I might round out this part of my story by describing a Typical day,
a week-day, that is. Up about six, Papa would, if it were Fall or
-Winter, start a fire in the kitchen stove, and another in what we
called the blacksmith shop, and still another in the front shop. Then he
would start calling us, going right down the list: Jim, Billy, John Sam,
Harry-- are you up ?--- Well--- get up. Margaret, of course, was spared.
She was Mother's responsibility.
By seven the "men" had arrived and were ready to go to
whatever job was then in progress. Every day, without fail, one or more
were to go to the college ( Mt. St. Mary's) and that meant that one of
us must "hitch up the horse and we would be ready to go. (Later I
will describe the college operation.)"!' Then Mother would send one
of us to call Papa to breakfast, and that was not easy. First, you had
to find him. Then it would take two or three calls, but eventually he
came. After breakfast, it might be a ride on his motorcycle" (Thor) to check up on some work that was underway. After one or
More stops he was back at the shop, ready to do some welding, machining
or tinning, etc. At noon it was again a big effort to have him stop for
dinner. Not lunch.
Dinner was more than a meal, although it was the principal meal of
the day. It was the time for fun. Sam was a real mimic, and my part was
to play the straight man, or what today would be called the emcee. It
was a circus, and the fact that Papa would laugh until he cried, at
Sam's antics, made the show that much better. Poor Mother, she would
make a wonderful chocolate cake, or strawberry shortcake, to mention
only two of a long list, and I would give Sam the signal. Soon he was
groaning and coughing on the floors faking an upset stomach, and
pointing to the cake or whatever. Now it had reached the critical stage
and one of us four would administer first aid. Meanwhile, Mother
pretended to be offended, but it was no use.
She soon was joining in the
laughter, with Papa begging Sam to stop, which only made matters worse.
Then, having gotten things properly warmed up, the second act moved to
the parlor, where Mother was at her best. She played the piano, fast and
loud, and everyone sang. I often wonder what the neighbors thought.
Papa, of course, would try to escape, saying he couldn't stand it any
longer. This always had the same result: Sam would literally hold him,
bodily, and tell him he had to listen. And the show was off again.
Papa's routine in the afternoon was much the same as in the morning,
except that now it was necessary for one of us to make a return trip to
the college, to bring the men home. Suppertime, and just as usual, it
was like pulling teeth to get Papa to stop work and come to the table. I
can remember Mother getting supper, often fried ham and fried potatoes,
with hot rolls, and then waiting for him to come home from some job that
was keeping him late. After waiting for what seemed an eternity, we
would see him drive around the corner, down at the barn, and after
putting the horse in the barn, he would come in. If it was cold weather,
he would come in, swinging his arms to keep warm. Finally, with everyone
at the table, we would soon finish off those wonderful hot rolls.
After supper, Papa would go back to the shop, perhaps to do some
small repair job that had been promised, or talk to some salesman, (then
called a "drummer") or perhaps just to play with a kitten as
he sat beside the stove. This was the extent of his playing, which is
the reason, no doubt, why I remember it so well. Sometimes he might
tinker with some mechanical gadget that was not operating properly. A
carburetor, perhaps. But it was fun for me, and my brothers, to climb up
on the high counter, when someone was there talking business, and listen
to the talk. There were two men I especially remember. One was Mr.
Warrenfeltz, the cashier and manager of the local Savings Bank, for whom
Papa had great respect. The other was Mr. Gillespie, a salesman for a
Company in Baltimore, from whom Papa bought a great deal of material. He
was a friendly gentleman, full of news of the outside world. We loved to
be in the shop when he came in.
After locking the front door and taking a final tour of the shop by
lantern, Papa would come to tie dining room, settle in his favorite
chair and read the Baltimore News, while munching an apple. Then to bed.
He never took a vacation, seldom bought anything for himself, seldom
took part in any community activity, went to only one movie in his life,
never played any sports or games with us, and never complained. Knowing
these things, you might think he was a poor father and an unfeeling man.
But he was just the opposite. Unselfish? You bet he was. A sense of
humor? He had a great one. Educated? Not in a formal sense, but well
informed, wise and endowed with plenty of common sense. His comments on
public figures or public issues were all supported by facts. He never
hesitated to express his opinion. He was a Republican and voted
Republican, except when President Wilson was running for a second term.
Papa thought he was a great man and voted for him. Later he doubted
whether he had done the right thing. I think he did.
I feel that Papa was a great man, a genius of sorts, and the kind who
made our country strong. He worked hard, with no complaints. He did not
expect nor ask for any help from the government. By modern standards, he
probably made some mistakes. He should have played more with his
children, or should have done this or that. He did, however, teach us
the value and dignity of work, and to do a job as best we could.
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