Sue Bramhall was born July 26, 1934 in Seaford, Delaware. Mrs. Bramhall’s father owned the local paper, the Seaford Leader during her childhood and World War II. This provided the elementary school aged Sue with a closer look at the war. Her mother also was a plane spotter. As an adult, Sue has been a History and English teacher as well as a writer for the local paper. Now 84, Sue has resided in Seaford her entire life, and she continues to write for the paper.
In this interview, Sue Bramhall conveys Seaford, Delaware’s connection to World War II by sharing stories from the Home Front. She emphasizes the perspective of the youth during this time leading to stories of her own Home Front experience. Her elementary school was located near the town’s POW camp which she describes as a frightful experience having to pass it regularly. She recalls her parents volunteering as plane spotters and spoke about the influx of engineers coming to work for the DuPont Company. Sue also discussed how rationing impacted her family and reflected on the news coverage of Seaford boys and girls who left town to serve.
In fact, a young man in my class, his parents had fled Nazi Germany, and he was in my class. I grew up with Henry. He was German, and I knew that they had come from Germany, and they had to leave abruptly. But his father was now here and the owner of a store. I couldn’t see anything the matter. He was fine.
My mother was an airplane spotter. So was my dad, and I don’t remember going with him. My mother probably didn’t trust him to babysit too well. But I would go with her, and I can remember it would be—it was an elevated building. I don’t know if it was enclosed. I think everything was open, and, if a plane flew over, they had to identify it, write it down and then report this plane had flown over at what time and where. And so, in that way, I became, I guess, a little closer to my mother seeing her do something besides cook and clean.
But in this particular one, they auctioned everything. And they gave a list: everything from galoshes to girdles to candy to cigars, motor oil, pen knives, paint, even hams and just other things. And one thing they had — sugar —was sold at five hundred dollars for a ten-pound bag of sugar. Now, was sugar desired? Can you imagine not being able to get sugar, and you’re willing to [pay that]. And the one I could not believe, and I think they must’ve meant a thousand dollars, but they said a pair of nylon hose sold for ten thousand dollars at this particular auction. Now unless DuPont bought it—DuPont Company maybe as a big thing paid ten-thousand dollars for a pair of hose because we were a DuPont Company town. I don’t know if you knew that or not. Seaford is where the first nylon plant was built. And so, they called us for a number of years “the Nylon Capital of the World.”
And there’s one that hurts my feelings. This one boy was killed on a mission. Anyway, it was on his 23rd birthday that he was killed flying over Germany. And it talked about his mother and father or whoever. It turned out he had just recently gotten married before he left. His wife was pregnant. And in here, there’s even a news article that the lady cut out, and it said that the baby had been born and was born in Wilmington Hospital, was doing fine.
I don’t know how far along her pregnancy was when he was killed in action. But, yeah, this lady even followed up with her cutting out of all this stuff to put that in there. And I just thought it was such a good collection of stuff.
But now she did tell me later on that she felt very reluctant as she got older to come over and play with us. And I said, “Because you were older?” And she just said, “No, my father told me that I wasn’t a part of you.” And I couldn’t understand what that meant. And I said it hurt my feelings. What do you mean you’re not a part of us, you know? You helped bury that bird too, you know that kind of thing.
So, there was this separation, there really was. But I don’t think, I don’t think there were ever any riots or any ugly things. I just don’t think so. There could’ve been hostility beneath the surface. I know there was a young woman working for my mother when they were having forced integration. I say “forced integration.” She was very upset. She said, “I do not want my sons going to Seaford High School.” And I remember my mother said, “Why, Emma, don’t you want them going to Seaford High School?” Because they were going to Jason, and back then Jason was, trust me, a superior black school. But it was a comprehensive, and it was a black school that had been created for all the blacks in Sussex County. And they went to this school and my god, they had the best chorus, they had the best football team. You couldn’t beat’em in football. And I thought that’s what she was saying, that she didn’t want to go to an inferior school.
And she said, “I can’t dress my children as well as you whites dress your children, and I don’t want them to be different.” And that’s when it hit me. That was the first, and I had to have been in my teens by that time or after my teens when that happened. It just had never occurred to me that that was her feeling that there were two sides to this. She was very upset.
Thoughts About FDR
Oh, now that was something else. My grandfather was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat. I think a lot of the businessmen in Seaford were Democrats. From what I’ve been reading they were staunch Democrats. And my grandfather was a staunch Democrat obviously. And when he found out that my father had not voted for him—I think it was his second term, I don’t think it was the third—whichever, he told my father he couldn’t come in his house ever again. He said, “He’s a fine man, and you’re not my son if you did not vote for Roosevelt. He was so for Roosevelt and his policies that when my grandfather died in around 1951, I think it was—just before he died, my father and one of his sons had gone in, or one of my uncles had gone in and talked to grandpa about—and because he was in his 80s— they found out he had never paid income taxes. And my father said, “Pop! You owe those taxes!” “I do not.” And Dad said, “Well, yes, you did. President Roosevelt passed the income tax law.” And whatever it was, he said, “No, he may have done that but he didn’t intend for people like me to have to pay him, and I’m not paying.” He didn’t. When he died about a year later, my father and uncle ended up having to pay all his back taxes. Now you ask about Roosevelt, you couldn’t have asked a better question! Yeah, that’s how my grandfather was so strong for Roosevelt.