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INTERVIEW WITH MARY FRANCIS O'NEIL
THIS INTERVIEW WAS CONDUCTED ON JULY 17, 2001. PRESENT WERE MARY AND HER SON MICHAEL. THE INTERVIEW WAS CONDUCTED BY GWEN PALMER AND BOB BAYLE.
Mary's father was from Glens Falls and her mother was from Hudson Falls. Her paternal grandfather was of French / Indian descent. He came from an area of Canada north of Montreal. He took the name Frank Minor when he came to the United States because he thought no one would be able to pronounce his Indian name. She recalls that he kept the bust of an Indian in his living room all during his life but she does not know the significance of that bust. Her maternal grandmother came from Ireland when she was 12 years old with her sister who was 14 years old at the time.
Arthur Minor, her father, attended school until his third year of high school, when he "had words" with Professor McCarthy, and left school. He took an "electric" course and went to Pennsylvania to work. He later returned to this area and worked as a signal man for the Delaware and Hudson railroad. He was working in Westport, N.Y. at the time of Mary's birth in 1906. The family moved back to Glens Falls in 1908. They lived in a house on the comer of Wing and Hunter Streets.
Mary remembers her father riding a three seat tandem bicycle. He went on the bicycle with two other relatives to Vergennes, Vt. and to Amsterdam N.Y. on Sundays to visit relatives. Mary learned to ride the bicycle when she was young. She used to ride around town with her brother and father. The bike is still in the family and is in Conn. at her grandson's.
As a child she recalls the house was heated by a wood/coal pot bellied stove. At times the stove would get red hot. The kitchen stove was also wood and coal burning. For 25 cents a block of ice was put in the ice box to keep food cold. The ice might last a week. Melted water was caught in a pan underneath. There was no bathtub. Bathing was done in a galvanized tub with water heated on the stove.
At Christmas, they always had a decorated tree. They had clips to hold candles, but they were never lighted. In the dining room the stockings were hung on the knob of the buffet. The treats were usually fruit. The children were taught how to make taffy and popcorn balls.
In 1917, Mary remembers sifting on the porch steps of a store on Bay Street, watching the parade of horse drawn hearses going to the cemetery. Each side of the hearse was glass. Many people died from the influenza that year.
In 1913, the year the bridge was swept away, she remembers rain for several days at the time the snow was melting. Their cellar was full of water, but she doesn't remember seeing the bridge go out.
She said, they didn't have games, but remembered playing tag under the street light at the corner of Hunter And Wing Streets
Sometime between the ages of 12 and 15, Mary used to go to the movies. It cost 5 cents. The State Theater on Warren St. had silent pictures. The words were on the screen and a piano player played during the movie. One day, when she was about 16, she skipped school to go to the Empire Theater on South Street to a vaudeville show. She said they came every year during lent. Dances were held at the Queensbury and the K. of C.
Mary went to St. Mary's church and school. She graduated from school in 1924. She took a business course and started working in 1926 for Bickley Brothers at 172 Glen St. The store sold home furnishings. She worked for them for about 6 years.
Sometime, between 1925 and 1927, Mary came home and heard music coming from inside her house. When she went in, she saw her father hooking up a radio. It was the first one they had.
Mary said her mother and all the children always went to St Mary's Church. They would take the bus to get there. Her father, being French, always went to St. Alphonsus. The sermons at St. Alphonsus were sometimes in French. Her father spoke French as a child and could understand the language. When her father got a car, her mother went with him to his church. After mass, Father Leduc, the pastor, asked her who she was and why she was there, as he had not seen her before. She replied, I go where the car goes". He is buried in the old part of St. Alphonsus Cemetery.
In 1926, Mary drove her brother's Model T Ford for the first time, after he had taught her how to drive. She was 20 years old and had her little brother in the back seat. On Glen St., she slammed on the brakes and her brother went flying out onto the sidewalk. As he picked himself up, he said "I'm going to tell Ma on you.”
Mary recalls that lightning killed her father's brother when he was 21 years old in 1877. He was lying on the floor with his two sisters when lightning struck. His sisters lost their shoes but were alright. This was the occasion of the first long distance phone call from Glens Falls but she does not recall who made the call and who was called. There was a brief write up in the Glens Falls Messenger on Friday, January 4, 1878 in a year in review article.
In 1932 Mary Minor married Frank O'Neil. They moved to Hunter St., where they raised their family. She says her husband bought the house because he liked the front porch. Before their marriage, her husband lived on Grand Street. For Christmas, her husband's mother gave him a pair of boots with six fasteners on them. She said he would need them as he was moving so far out of town.
Mary does not remember much about the world wars. During World War I, her husband's brother John was gassed. He was lying on the ground when tanks came through. Another soldier broke ranks to pull him to safety. During world war II her closest brother, Buster, who was not married and didn't have a family, was drafted at age 38. He was killed on his way from Sicily to Italy.
She says the depression didn't make much difference in her life. Her father still had his job as a signal man for the rail road and her husband still had his job at the bank. Mr. O’Neil started working at the bank when he was 17 years old. He later was in charge of the bookkeeping department.
Mary recalls that at the time Crandall Park downtown was being developed, there was a house moved on a flat bed truck, pulled by horses from the park to Hunter Street. The house now at 50 William Street was also moved there from the park.
She remembers a bake shop, run by the Patersons, in a building on Glen Street. The Patersons also did catering. The library was located upstairs over the bake shop. She also recalled the library being in a home on Ridge Street for awhile.
At 95 years of age, Mary Minor O'Neil still lives on Hunter Street. She remembers people, places and dates like they were yesterday.
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