Interview with Susie Gallagher
Is Part Of
Broome County Oral History Project
Interview with: Mrs. Susie M. Gallagher
Interviewed by: Susan Dobandi
Date of interview: 18 May 1978
Susan: Mrs. Gallagher, could you start telling us a little something about your parents, where they came from, and some of your earliest recollections of your childhood and, ah, continue with where you went to school and so forth?
Mrs. Gallagher: Well, I was born in my great-great-grandfather’s home. Five generations of my family have lived in that house, and he came originally from Nantucket Island, from there to the city of Hudson and from there to the—to the Dunham Hill Road, and bought up a large tract of a timber land, virgin timber, because he knew all about ship building, and he had grown-up sons to help him cut the trees, and he hewed them out and had them shaped just ready to go into the ships that was being built, and he established a quite a business for himself making the shingles and the little things called shooks that they put together shipboard to put the whale oil in. And when he first went there the neighbors around helped him build a log house because there had, nobody ever had lived there, and later on the land became cleared and he built a New England-style house—salt box shaped which was, ah, to me a very charming place, and ah, I feel that I had such a happy childhood. No Queen of England could have enjoyed it more than I did, but now it's all grown back up to timber again. It's all woods almost everywhere. The house is still there but it looks like a junk pile and there is another small house has been built in the rear of it and it's a place that I don't even like to look at anymore. That's what, ah, evolution has done to that place.
Susan: Mrs. Gallagher, let's continue and tell us what it was like when you were a little girl growing up in that home on Dunham Hill Road that your hus—that your father built for you.
Mrs. Gallagher: Well, I'll tell you what it was like in the wintertime. In the wintertime we practically lived in the kitchen. It was a large kitchen. It had a lounge in it. It had a built-in bookcase with drawers below that, and it also had a recess in the wall that the clock fit into. And we had a—to go down cellar, we had a, I guess it's called a trap door. There was a big iron ring in it, you pulled that door up and went down cellar that way, but also there was a—a cellar entrance outside that was called a cellar hatchway and, ah, that was used in the summertime. Now what else was there?
Susan: About your summer kitchen.
Mrs. Gallagher: Oh, then there was a walk led from the kitchen door out to a—a porch that went into a summer kitchen. It was quite a large building. It had, ah, in it, everything. It had a, a good iron range. It had a, almost like what we'd call a kitchen cabinet now, all made by hand where you put the—the cornmeal and the flour and the, all of those things, and the cupboard—a tall cupboard that stood on the floor. It had a long, ah, what's called a dry sink. It was wood but it was a long sink, you could set your dish pan and other things into it, and it had a spout that you could turn the water off if you wanted to and it would go outside if you'd want it to, it would go outdoors. We also had a grandfather clock in that summer kitchen, and just as soon it got warm at all, we moved out there to cook and eat there all summer long, and we put a carpet on the floor of the kitchen in the house and used that for a sitting room in the summertime. But we had a very nice parlor and it had small panes of glass, and when my son saw the picture he said, “Oh, we have twelve over twelve.” That means twelve panes of glass over twelve panes of glass, which was considered, ah, high class on the island of Nantucket. He was—he was so thrilled when he saw that, and well, there was a cupboard—a little bedroom, right near the head of the stairs there was a little bedroom. The roof slanted in it and you could go in there, turn around, in the corner there was a window and then there was a cupboard built in there of shelves and below that a cupboard with a door, and the handle on the door was made of scrimshaw. Scrimshaw is what the sailors made out of ivory when they were on the whaling voyages, and it's a hand that’s clasping a little, a round stick, and when our old home was sold I took that off and I now—it is now in my son Wendell's home on a corner cupboard that he has.
Susan: Tell us what you did when you were a little girl. How many people lived in that house with you?
Mrs. Gallagher: Well, when my mother was married and went there my great-grandfather had passed away, but his daughter who had lived with him was still there, so she had the parlor part of the house and the bedroom upstairs, and my mother had the kitchen and the pantry and a bedroom and the small bedroom upstairs, that part of the house, and I can't even remember Aunt Elizabeth because I wasn't old enough when she had a slight stroke and she went right back to Hudson because she wanted to be buried where her mother was and her—the rest of her family in Hudson.
Susan: Now getting back to, ah, Broome County here on Dunham Hill Road. What was life like for you then?
Mrs. Gallagher: It was a mile to walk to the school. You had to go up a hill and then it was a long stretch, it was nice and level, then you went down a little hill and up another hill, then there was a level stretch and you went up another hill, all that, on the way to school. The school house was a—a very nice building. It was one room, of course, but it had a separate hallway for the girls on the left side, on the right side was a hallway for the boys. Then there was a circle seat between those two closets or hallways, whatever you call them.
Susan: How many classes did they have?
Mrs. Gallagher: How many what?
Susan: How many grades? How many grades did they have?
Mrs. Gallagher: Oh—in a country school you had everything from the baby class to the graduation class, all grades in a country school, and 26 families sent their children to that school, and we had very very nice teachers and that is why I wanted to be a teacher. I admired those teachers so much I said, “I know what I'm going to do. I'm going to be a teacher,” and I stuck to it and I taught for six years in Johnson City and I taught a couple years in a country school and I didn't like the country schools—too hard to teach all those grades.
Susan: Where did you receive your schooling?
Mrs. Gallagher: I went to Binghamton Central one year. I went to Johnson City High School two years, and then I went to a teachers’ training school and then—
Susan: Where was that located?
Mrs. Gallagher: That was located in Whitney Point, and then I went to Cortland summer school and I had just passed Regents Examinations, until I obtained a State Certificate, the last one that ever was issued. I came in under the line. So, well—we, in our family there were two boys, then two girls, and then two boys, and we all left home, it seems, when we were about 18 years old, you know, when we left, and it's hard to keep young people on the farm. They had bigger ideas, but we all loved to get back there. There were so many nice things on that farm. There was a pond. There was a spring, and when my father was a young man he had made a terrace around, all around the edge of that, and we could sit on that and always put frogs in it. We always called it the frog spring. Then there was a fence, a cow pasture fence, and the spring continued on under that fence where the cows and horses came to drink.
Susan: Well, can you remember what you did for your social life when you were a young girl growing up on the farm?
Mrs. Gallagher: Well, then when I got older we went to Castle Creek. We had lots of parties in Castle Creek and we went to the Baptist Church in Castle Creek, but there were a lot of girls in the country school, you know, that we enjoyed, so we had plenty of social life.
Susan: Well, now tell us about how you got into that business with your husband.
Mrs. Gallagher: Oh, on the corner down here?
Susan: Uh huh.
Mrs. Gallagher: Well, if I even, when I passed by that old hotel on the corner of Front and Prospect St., which I always had to go by when I came to Binghamton, if I ever could have dreamed that I'd ever have lived in that place I would have said you’re out of your mind, but I lived there twelve years and a half in a very nice apartment over the business place which went from a used car business—
Susan: Well, let's—let's mention here that it started out as an Inn before you had purchased it.
Mrs. Gallagher: Oh, uh huh. It—it was a very old—a very old hotel. It was famous, you know, probably it was well over a hundred years old, you know. It was an old building—the only thing I remember hearing about it was there was a man there, a proprietor named Cap Hasley, and I guess “Cap” meant “Captain.” They always called him “Cap Hasley.” Maybe some people living that would remember—still remember something about it, but it had a “For Sale” sign on it, so Mr. R.J. Bump bought the place and set my husband up in business there. It was planned for selling used cars. They put in one gas pump in there, because people, ah, needed the convenience, and surprisingly they sold a lot of gas, and it, eventually they gradually went out of the used car business and put in more pumps and they were in the gasoline business.
Susan: Well, then it prospered until the highway came along.
Mrs. Gallagher: Then it was a very good business for a long time, until the highway was changed and they took the old Prospect St. out entirely and the service station was gone. Then my husband died and my son took over the business, but they—they built a smaller station because when the—when the government took over the property, they left a little piece of land in there shaped like a piece of cheese. No access to it in any kind of a way, but my son and I finally decided that the smartest thing to do would be to buy more land in there and build a smaller station there, which is what we did, which is now there at the present time.
Susan: That's called the Blittzen Station.
Mrs. Gallagher: Well, my husband named it the Blittzen Station years ago when he first started, the name has been kept.
Susan: Well, tell us about your family. How many children did you have, Mrs. Gallagher?
Mrs. Gallagher: Well, my father’s name was Robert Stevens Hall and my mother's name was Lucy Mirrah Howard and they met in the country school, and when they were married my great-grandfather had passed away and his daughter was still living there, so she had part of the house and my mother shared a part of the house with her and, ah, she had a stroke, a slight stroke, which worried her, and she just made plans to go as fast as she could, get there out to the city of Hudson, where her sister lived and where her mother was buried, and she died there. Then my father bought the place. Did I have my father's name in there?
Susan: Hall, wasn't it?
Mrs. Gallagher: And eventually they had six children. They had Harry and Claude, then they had Susie and Marjorie, and then they had William and Ray, and that was my family.
Susan: Now how many did you and Mr. Gallagher have?
Mrs. Gallagher: Well, I married Robert J. Gallagher and we had three sons. Our oldest son, Robert, was killed in the South Pacific in the Second World War, and my three sons were all in the War in 1942, all three of them, and one was crossing the Atlantic chasing subs, the other was over in the Pacific and he was stationed in Australia quite a while. Well, when it was all over and they came home my son Gordon decided he'd be a dentist, so he went to college in Scranton and five years in the University of Buffalo. And my son Wendell went to Syracuse University Art School. He graduated with the highest honors in the class, but he found that there wasn't much of any way to make a living in that line so he went to work for his father, and after his father passed away I inherited everything, but I finally gave the Front St. business to my son Wendell, which he is still carrying on.
Susan: Well, thank you very much, Mrs. Gallagher, for the interview. It has been nice talking with you.
Mrs. Gallagher: I've enjoyed it.