To Market, Selections from
Herbert Borneman MS
Selections from Herbert Borneman’s memoir (MS in New Hanover Historical Society archives) in his own words of his family’s huckster business.
“During World War II, chickens were very scarce and we got chickens from a man by the name of Frederick S. (not the real name). He had chickens almost every week. Frank Smith [Borneman’s hired man] said one day that we had better stop taking chickens from Frederick S. He said I believe they are stolen chickens. One week they were Rhode Island Reds, another week they were Barred Rocks, or Wyandottes, another week Plymouth Rocks. Nothing uniform. So dad got concerned. So one day he talked to Stroud Webber, assistant district attorney at the time.
“Dad told him the story and wondered about taking more chickens from Frederick S. He said keep on getting chickens from him and we’ll send a detective up there. So one day I got a calf and chickens from him and when I got home several detectives were waiting for me. They inquired about all what was said and I told them. I said that he said that they had some fryers but they could get 2 cents a pound more from Hartenstein’s in Pottstown. So they immediately went to Pottstown. Mr. Frederick had rented the farm from—X— from Allentown who owned the farm and Frederick had two young fellows in turn working for him. These boys were happy go lucky boys. These two boys did the stealing at night. Well these boys took the frying chickens to Hartensteins and the detectives arrested these boys on the spot, on suspicion. So this was around November. Around January Dad was informed he or me would have to testify in court in February. Well dad had me to go. These boys by this time served several months in jail and Frederick was still free. So when the boys were on the stand they were asked did you steal chickens from (they mentioned a name). They said yes. They denied nothing. They said we took them back to Frederick’s farm. Then what did you do with them? we took them to Borneman’s. What did you do with the money? Well Frederick got half and we got half.
“So the question was asked at least 6 times if they stole chickens at different places, and they denied nothing. So they cared very little about Frederick because they had served 3 months in jail and Frederick nothing. So they did not care. But when the mentioned the name Borneman that they took the chickens to I felt rather small. But owing to the fact that Dad reported it left us out. So Frederick got a sentence also. The farm that he rented was back of Gilbertsville along the Swamp Creek. They had chickens of their own and also a dairy. So they could hide some of this work. …
“In my growing up the winters were much colder than they were lately. Around New Year it generally got cold and Dad kept an eye on the condition how thick the ice was in the neighboring ponds at Medinger’s in Neiffer or at Lake Side on Ridge Pike. The ice was marked by a plow pulled by a horse in squares about 2 feet by 2 feet. It was then sawed and split into squares. It was hauled by two horse teams by sled or wagons to the barn. It was placed in the barn and insulated with saw dust. The ice was kept away from the side about a foot and filled with saw dust and each layer of ice had a layer of saw dust. There is a little over chute up at the roof and it is still there. That had a pulley wheel and a rope to pull up the ice one piece at a time. A man would lead a horse attached to the rope and an ice tongue fastened to a piece of ice. It was taken up one piece at a time. Underneath the room was what we called the cave and that was the only refrigeration we had until we got electricity. The ice generally kept for the summer. The ice we needed for cooling the chickens and the offal from the calves we got at Lizz’s at Pruss Hill most of the time. Neighbors helped out with teams, sleds or wagons according to the road conditions at the time.
“Going back to school days. Fruitville to me was a great school. Anna Medinger was a great teacher. I got different books from her as a gift as well as others who got books. A teacher’s concern for her students. All grades were together. Sometimes you learned from the upper grades teaching. My close buddy was Howard Steinmetz who was in the same grade and lived close to us across the hill to the south. We were together very much. …His father had a farm. He visited me quite often. One Sunday afternoon I visited him and he took me to the water melon patch and he busted a melon in the field and we had watermelon. It was in the fall of the year and then we went to the corn field and he made a cigarette from the dried corn silk from the corn husks. I said do you smoke that. He said that’s great. So he made one for me. Well, did I get sick. I was sick during the night and into Monday morning. I was so sick on Monday morning that I was not able to go to school. Well, a blessing in disguise. That cured my smoking to this day. I must have been about fifteen years old at the time. …
“Now that I reached a good age of 89, and this is July of 1992, and looking back over the years I can see that God was with me and my family in so many ways that were not realized at the time. Dad nearly went bankrupt in 1930. We nearly had 3 fires during the years and a number of close accidents on the highways, especially in going to market in all kinds of weather….”
[One example of a close call with a fire]
“One time on a Wednesday we wanted to go to the Allentown fair so we hurried to get our work finished. So we had a very hot fire going in the Farmer’s Boiler in the room where we had the stove [the butcher house]. So we were able to go. Dad had long seats made for in our 12 foot truck body and different times he took neighbors to the fair. At this time not many people had automobiles. …All week long whenever I went to the butcher house I smelled smoke. The following week when we used the stove again, that Wednesday evening in the butcher house the smoke or the smell of smoke was worse. …I told Dad about it and he called the fire company and told them that we smelled smoke but no flames. They would not need to send up all the engines and would not need to send an alarm. But a few moments later the Fire Whistle went off and I think all of Limerick showed up. They went at it like wild men. They started to move the stove and started to break through the floor underneath the stove. …The more they broke through the worse the smoke appeared. The timbers under the stove must have been smoldering from the week before and did not show up. So at no time did we have flames. The damage was minor….So the floor was repaired and an extra base was built on the floor with an extra cement height of about 10 inches.”
Herbert and Florence Bornemans’ lives were typical of their era. Hard, hard work from sunup to sundown and into the night six days a week. Also Florence was supervisor of the primary department of Faulkner Swamp Reformed Church, and they saw to it that neighborhood children were taken with them to Sunday School and church.
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