Augustus Feather and Bette DeGraw

Recorded January 17, 2011 Archived January 17, 2011 33:50 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBY007402


Augustus S Feather Jr (99) talks with his daughter Bette DeGraw (64) about his childhood, work, and meeting his wife Margarette.

Subject Log / Time Code

Augustus earliest childhood memory is with his uncle Raymond ridding on the wagon his uncle delivered produce with. When Augustus was 4 his uncle died of the flu.
Agustus talks about getting in trouble for mischief as a little boy.
Augustus did good in school and wanted to be an artist but the depression hit and he dropped out of high school and at 16 started working. First job as a messenger.
Augustus lessons learned from his work life are that you are never too old to learn, be diligent, and like the job you are doing.
Agustus was introduced to Margarette by his cousin at a party. Augustus took a long time to kiss her, he was so shy.
Augustus words of wisdom are that no matter how tough things become look at the sunny side of things, if you moan you won’t go far.


  • Augustus Feather
  • Bette DeGraw

Venue / Recording Kit


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00:03 My name is Betty feather DeGraw. And today is Monday, January 17th. 2011. I'm 64 years old. We're in Phoenix, Arizona and I'm with my father today. Dad. Would you say your name and age?

00:20 My name is Augustus Scott feather Junior and age is 99. I was born January 1st. 1912, January 7th.

00:33 January 7th 1912 going to say that again. I was born January 7th 98 and today's date. Today's date is January 17th. And where are we and what's your relationship to me? And my daughter? Yes, and we're in Phoenix Arizona. Okay, so, can you tell me dad when and where were you born what you just told me when you were born? Where were you born? I was born in the city of Philadelphia and

01:13 I think that is at the house was 2808 North Hope Street. And you grew up there. Didn't you in Philly right and tell me about tell your parents my grandparents? What were they like they were very caring parents. So I was the oldest of our children.

01:40 End

01:42 At this time, we're having some difficulty with it.

01:50 With a yen

01:53 Should I say I need money for the money ideas for finances right and during this interim as I started to get older we had we noticed that we had problems trying to make ends meet and

02:10 And my mother and dad between the two of them. We had five the children. I was the oldest tell me what tell me about some tell me their names. Tell me your grandpop's name full name. My father's name.

02:28 Yeah, your dad's name was Augustus Rowland feather know your father. Not your grandfather your father.

02:39 Augustus Scott feather and your mother's name others name was Sophie and Weimer since he Weimer feather, right and

02:57 Do you remember your grandparents you mentioned Augustus Rowland. Do you remember this?

03:03 What were they like?

03:05 How much is I don't recall much of the of the grandparents now. Okay, tell me how far back can you trace her family tree?

03:16 I can trace it back to it.

03:20 1746 what happened then? It's wearing one of my ancestors came over from Germany.

03:31 On the US Neptune think it was from the city of Rotterdam. That was Peter feather. Right Peter s e t e r and then sometime later they change the name from feather the feather feather. I remember you telling me that I think back to when you were a kid can can you recall your earliest memory?

04:04 Yes, I I break the remember one of my uncles it was my father's oldest. Next oldest brother was Raymond and he drove a team of horses with a tray wagon and he delivered materials to produce and stuff to the town from the ship sound of the Year Sports brought him up to the distribute them and this particular day that I saw him. He had a had just got rid of a lot of bananas and it was a lot of hay in the dryer a wagon and he got me just to sit up in the wagon along side of him as he drove the horses and I remember also he was partying the hay or still a couple loose bananas lying in the bottom of the of the wagon. Did you eat one of the bananas?

05:04 And what happened to Uncle Ray? This was I was about probably four years old then when this happened and World War II came on and he gives it contracted the contracted the scarlet fever that slow the type of individual. I think you've told me it was that flu epidemic of 1918. What about your siblings? You said you're the oldest of five tell me about your siblings and what it was like growing up with him with your brothers and sister. Next oldest was Raymond.

05:49 And then be below him was Robert.

05:54 And then below him was Sophie Freedia.

06:00 And then Albert was the youngest and he was born 13 years after Sophie was born.

06:10 No, 13 years ago, you were born and did you spend a lot of time with your brother or sister for the time being up for a certain time of the season when we were moving around we moved a lot and I Sophie was like a tomboy with lot of times in the winter time if we went sledding. She was always with us. So she did everything in the boys. Did I remember you telling me a story about her going down a hill on a sled and getting hurt and just wiping herself up and brush yourself off and going going for more stuff stuff. And let's see now we've lost Uncle Ray and we've lost Uncle Bob and we've lost and Sophie it's just you and Uncle Al now, right?

07:10 Bookends the oldest and the youngest how about your friends? When he's a baby compared to you? How about your friends growing up? You've mentioned a couple of friends that had some fun with the levers in New Jersey. I remember pretty much tied tubes and two boys, and it was Jacob Miller and Horace Goodfellow. They were the two. I remember I remember a couple girls one of them was

07:46 Helen Jones and the other

07:52 I'll probably think of it later.

07:56 Well, that's okay. Tell me about you told me I was a belt.

08:01 His belt minder Isabel playing at okay, you've told me a number of great stories from your childhood. And now you were not the angel. I was growing up to tell me one of your favorite stories from your childhood always found a way to get the trouble. Yes, you did.

08:21 Number one instance it when we were in bending in there in Philadelphia. I think it's weave.

08:34 We were having fun with the two of the motormen on the trolley and what we do this trolley bus going down one of the streets as a bridge and into the trolley had to make a stop just when I got to the bridge to take on passengers are tight. Let him off. So we agreed that is pranks. We can on the back of the trolley and there's the cord was as the port was compressed because it's going down to the bridge be taken Loop that cord around a box. So the guy would would drop off run away laughing and the guy would continue under the bridge but it got the other side of a sudden loss power and I was supposed

09:17 I bet he had a few Choice words for you kids. I remember another story you told me about when you lived in New Jersey and was it Jake and you when you when you fell through the ice tell me that story overboard quite a few times and we were supposed to go from Linda moles. I went to school in Lindenwold grammar school and we're supposed to walk down this street that goes right into

09:55 I didn't like and that's where the store was where I was supposed to buy some need for the dinner for that night.

10:03 Jake says over as we're walking down the street from the school is I know a shortcut this is winter time. So we take this shortcut.

10:14 And we come to this.

10:16 Frozen lake and I think imma spellings like if I remember correctly. It was frozen lake. So we start on this like he says that this was a shortcut that should take us right on down almost to the next damn and as we got them towards of the dam of this particular like it's open water and ice floes floating around in the open water and it went all the way around the shore on both sides for quite a few yards. So instead of Jake going back. He's a fucking since I can help you. So there's some lumber on the on the lights so is a pole he takes this tall and he hasn't to me and he said it was a big blank about 12in wide Annabeth

11:06 1560 ft long and he puts it on the on the ice on the good ice and it's part of its hanging over the Open Water with ice plugs and he said wait a lot more than they said you get on that easy to walk out the plank. He saw stand on the back end and ballast that he did and everything was fine. So I got the pole pole in the ice flow towards him and as easy as it comes close to Lisa's, I'll get it off of the plank download go into the drink and that was cold water. So I came out, you know, I'm running a jump from Iceberg ice floe got to the shore got another big piece of lumber and was able to extend it to me so I can get out so

12:06 I'm stand there shivering and I got it. We got to get home and had you bought the meat yet. You hadn't brought the meat at the butcher shop in touch with an old for broken down far is an Old Hen House. So he spends part of it. He had matches a little fire. So I stood and walked around that fire. That's all I got to ride and this now it's getting dark and I'm finally got them to eat and we got home. Well Dad hadn't got home yet, but Mom was upset cuz that had to come all the way from Philadelphia.

12:47 And I never told him what happened. I just got the devil and I got to go with her because I was home getting home late. What was your punishment? Did you get sent home? Did you get sent to bed without your supper had to go? Yeah, they said that he was only strict. So he sent me to bed without supper. So good old Mama. This happened more than once.

13:08 When when part went to bed Friday mom would come up the back steps and I hear Secrets. He's got my food. She's got to be able to see never knew. What was that the worst thing you ever did tired of doorknobs to get a knock on the door and you're tired of two door knobs are together knock on this person was the one that run this one day. The guy must have got wise to us because it's like a back to check to make sure he tried to grab me an Ironman.

13:52 Put a couple of guys weathers. As I said, I was an angel compared to you farmer had a farm right in back of us find a Regal and our youngest brother Osborne and even gotten the trouble of this going to call the Sandy Our Gang and they raided the hen house and they took all the eggs and swim up against the house and mother father came home and told my father he want to know what happened. And of course we go again punished for it because Bob was the leader but

14:41 These are kind of Franklin. What it what was your punishment? What did you have to do?

14:46 Did you have to clean up the hen house? Hopefully that we were that we had to go over there and then we got ladders ladders and we climbed up and scrub down the house and so in the midst of all this Mischief. How did you do in school? Did you enjoy school? I mean I wanted I wanted to be an artist. That was my Longing To Be an artist that all changed but I had to go to work when the depression came in 1929 had to go to work to help support the family. And and what did where did what happened? Your mom pulled out of school.

15:31 Is that what happened? How did you get started to work had to leave school? I got the working papers and was at when you turn 16 and so tell me what your first job was and how that progressed boy for 6 months earning $10 a month. I got a dollar in trees at 6 months.

16:03 At the end of the year I was making $12 for

16:12 There was something else that happened there. I felt I was being unjustly treated because I tell the foreman look I said when you hire somebody you started at $16 now I started at 10, which I understand but one of them I'm a messenger the what about at the ear and why don't they get 16? He said I can't do that. They said but we'll take care of it. They did straighten it out and he's at 2 years and even at that young age you spoke up for yourself. And then woke what happened after you were messenger boy. How long did you work for the phone company?

16:53 Well Cleveland lot 46 years later. I retired 46 years later you're retired. And how many what kind of different jobs did you do messenger boy? What else did your boy all the jobs in the in the test center all the jobs except that's been and let the test center do is the nerve center for the whole plant Department the construction and installation repair a business office. I will come through there. Okay, and you work most of the time would you say in the plant department? And in the test center you you work outside you worked inside? What happened was they decided to take and take the men who worked on the inside jobs at the race them with women released of replacing with women.

17:53 So that we could go outside to see why I went from after 13 years inside. I was transferred outside as a installer then the repairment a TV X installer PBX repairmen. So you did a lot of different jobs in this 46 years old and then when did you get into management? You were both in the union and then later in management?

18:19 What happened was over over the time I work for the company. I was always inquisitive why something didn't work and they do this. So what happened in the later years as always going through these jobs, they recognize this and they would not measure me on my production because I had these miserable jobs that if you didn't get it straightened out it was resulted in a puc complaint about that. So that's how I got that so I got this reputation and I used to stay a lot of times after 5 not get charged but take something apart, but people at my fellow workers didn't like me for this, but I didn't get paid for my time.

19:18 Somebody recognizes so I finally became a Simon formant back in the inside the test center. Then I test center Foreman grade education, but you went to school and learned other things didn't you? And what did you studied was it radio?

19:51 A teacher for the radio telephone license class

19:57 Hey, Bob, is a teacher to for a. Of time? When do the oldest person that went through the anybody ever 40 never made it but I bet you did.

20:15 No doubt and

20:19 Didn't you also run a business on the side when you when we were growing up. I told my wife I said.

20:29 I know what it's like that not bad Bunny and what you need education and where you need a good job. I said we have children. I would like to make sure all my kids get a good training a good college education, which I did to you did and I could do to help to to help support the family. I did this work on the side of used to do television radio repair set up a workshop on the basement and had all the equipment needed to test the stuff and I even got to see when they had this strike that workers rough and I was Foreman that they sent me up to the van sciver is playing up in the river the Delaware River tug boats come in there. They had trouble on their roads on the radio television. So I want the radio telephone telephone and got them straight.

21:29 During the time of the strike cuz they didn't have the workers in the field and not and so as you think about the time that you work, what do you think? We're the big lessons you learn from your work life.

21:46 Well

21:48 I think you're never too old to learn.

21:53 Number to you've got to be diligent.

21:58 And you like

22:00 The job that you're doing if you don't like it, then you got to look for something else. But I like what I was doing there was entirely different what I expected to do because I thought I might be an artist one time but that all month down the drain man ahead go to work. Well, I can remember having dinner every night. You know how we always had a big family dinner every night and I can remember you and Mom talking about the experiences of the day and I listen really carefully as you talked about what was going on you were in management at that time and I always credited those conversations with how I learned about how to be a manager and a supervisor cuz you taught me a lot just listening to you at night it dinner time.

22:46 Funniest things I think that we pulled off with when I was set up from the minors.

22:57 And the superintendent sent me up from Jefferson to Orchard.

23:02 And Orchard was this problem child Center out and it was pretty sure it was pretty sure they were running themselves. And the guy that was running the job was a college graduate ahead knew nothing about the plant department. So it was my job to get them straightened out and over the pier to the time. I needed some extra help. I need to add an extra formula an assignment for a minute and another assistant and but beside myself and what what I would do in the morning when I would come in today to arrive is there early but at 8 when everybody they come in I get them to stand around my desk and I'd say it out loud. I had a smile on my face swell fellas. We didn't get much done today before shirt yesterday, but we're sure going to give it a hold of Mark.

23:56 If you're going to give it hell today, I can remember those stories and thinking so that's the way you do it, huh for me to text my love. I want remark about the stuff that I did and I got a chuckle out of it then but you'd be out to do this because you get the end of the day by you guys did the ending private. Sometimes it's 9 or 10. What do I need to file? Anybody home? And I can remember that although I do remember you taking time periodically when things were fixed up you'd come home early and we go fishing. I did remember that.

24:42 But you mentioned Mom earlier. You mentioned your wife Margaret my mom. How did you meet her?

24:51 I was introduced to Circle girls over a period of a couple years. This would be for Atlantis round and she was the third girl. I was introduced to and it was at this party and it was a cousin who introduced that asked me to come there.

25:14 Is that Kathleen Amon she was

25:22 You know I had lipstick on and see you look very nice very attractive brunette, but she had a cigarette and now that really got me so I could get but you never spoke that it was just her parents and I never smoked and trying to show you. She was cool to say to me. She said you know you first time you kissed me is about six months after I met you and she wondered what was going on. And what was going on. You were just shy just very shy what's your favorite memory of mom?

26:09 Remember what time she was so a couple times she was so mad about something that happened. I forget what it was but

26:21 I tried to break the ice by laughing and she was at the at the at the range doing some work.

26:28 And

26:31 She got mad and she fell over and she kicked it and when she kicked it and came back and hit her in the shed and I started laughing and then she been told it and she stopped She come down and she starts to Kick the Can and it came back and kicked her. Okay. Well, that's a good how how did you decide that Mom was the one you wanted to marry?

27:05 She seemed to be very true Blues.

27:10 Didn't seem to have any bad habits.

27:16 Went fishing with me when I went back. There was Satan Craig. She would come along with me. She was an awfully good sport. She was and when she was pregnant with Gus, I remember pictures I took of her birthday.

27:34 Barton lane, Ocean City and

27:44 So you figured she was pregnant with constant. She was leaning over the rail and she had the fishing rod there. I took a picture of her in when I sell this evil laugh and we will laugh about it. I give her a lot of credit going fishing with you all of those times all those places you really like to go fishing. Didn't you you did that with your dad and your brothers. Will you also played ball with them you like to play softball play baseball was one of us 40 as I recall. You told me the last time you went ice-skating. How old were you when you and ice skating 8080, but I do remember when you were ninety. You said that maybe you thought you had to stop going up on my roof to fix things sleep. Yeah. I remember that. I thought that was a good plan to it 90.

28:44 Going back to you and Mom and and your family you had three children.

28:52 My older brother Gus my older sister Carolyn and me. How did you choose our names had to choose the names for each of us?

29:03 Because Carol was close to Christmas. We decide to color count because Christmas, Christmas carols and and Gus you named after.

29:14 He became Augustus Brother Scott feather the third and how about me? Because we like Mom like Betty Davis I like but if we decide to name her Betty Betty wasn't that was that dr. Mattern wife's name? And she was the he was the family doctor all of the kids like his babies Gus and Carol and me as it isn't babies and young kids.

29:57 Ghostbusters

30:00 Furry

30:02 Slow and picking up stuff a physical stuff, but his seem to be very sharp mentally cuz I would sit on the floor and this is before you what he had these blocks. But sit there and you ask him which is this with your fat and even put everyone's

30:27 She was a problem, but I thought he was very headstrong and how about me? I was an angel right you were you were an angel when her around we did fight a lot. Okay, Ted. Tell me what do you think the most important lessons are that you've learned in your very wonderful long life.

31:02 Any words of wisdom you'd like to pass along to me.

31:06 Yes, I would say this.

31:10 No matter how tough Things become and how hard it is to get along always look at the Sunnyside. The brighter part is going to moan about any of your problems.

31:26 So you're not going to get very far. In fact, if you smile people the whole world smiles with you. If you found your friend alone and this the my advice whatever you do put your heart into it. If you don't like it try something else, but always try to get something that satisfies you ever sit idle never sit and moan about it. But you've never said I don't have you you you mentioned earlier about to always keep learning. We we're listening still took courses on tape, aren't we and talking about them and they're still learning. Well, I think it's my turn to say a few words to you Dad. You know, I was always so close to Mom growing up. I shared everything with her and when she died it at such a young age it at 70.

32:23 I was really devastated but her early loss gave me the chance to spend so many wonderful years with you and you visited me you and Mom visited me every winter here in Phoenix and then after mom died in 1983, you kept coming out and I every year I get you to come longer and longer and longer and finally I had to hear for 4 months each year. And then finally you moved here five years ago. And that was really a thrill for me pop because you know how much I enjoy being with you and you've given me such great gifts at because every day you demonstrate to me your wisdom and your patience and your discipline your terrific sense of humor and this tremendous capacity to love that you have you live in the present and you accept things for what they are. I didn't get that Gene, but I'm working on it. It's just you shown incredible incredible Grace in The Art of growing older and I can only hope that I've been able to absorb just a fraction of the lessons. You've offered me, you know, I love

33:23 With all my heart. So I I really enjoyed talking with you today. Dad and I always enjoy talking with you.

33:32 Daddy, you're the best of a mutual admiration Society pop.