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William F. Hays'

At the End of the Emmitsburg Road

Part 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 firemen.

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 purpose.

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 Town

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 home.

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 brothers.

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 romance.

My Parents

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 expert.

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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