SmoogeSpace : Family : Paul Peter Sr (1890-1970)

Most of what I have learned about Paul Peter Sr, known to his grandkids as Pop-Pop, has been through anecdote and side story. My grandfather (who I also knew as Pop-pop so lets call Paul Peter Sr as Pop-Pop I ) didn't talk much about his family and prefered to talk about things from before his time like the Civil or Revolutionary Wars. So it wasn't until many years after my Pop-Pop had died, that I learned about his father and where the Zmudzin family had come from. Most of this was written by my great aunt Florence who I am very thankful to for sending me this info.

The story goes as follows. A long time ago in a little Pennsylvania coal town called the Coal Township, there lived Jan and Rosalia Zmudzin. They had come over from the Palatine region of Prussia/Baltic Russia sometime in the 1880's. They then moved to the area around Shamokin, Pennsylvania due to its strong Polish neighborhoods and traditions. Jan and Rosalia had several kids and adopted others until Jan died from a mysterious beer cart/lightening storm accident.

Paul Peter was about 10 years old then, and going to school as was the law of the land. In order for the family to survive, Rosalia had the local priest change the birth certificate to make Paul 2 years older so that he could leave school to work. He got a job picking slate pieces at the Colliery for a short while until he witnessed another boy losing a hand from falling slate. The image was quite vivid as he remember the hand rolling down chute with the other lumps of coal. He ran away from home after that by jumping a coal train that was heading to Philadelphia. This must have been something that hurt the others in the family as some would never talk to him again. [His sister Nellie and his nephew Beezie did visit him several times later on.]

He landed in Philadelphia sometime around 1904, and lived the life of street urchin for a while. He stole food from street vendors, learned the ways of the back alleys, and did various odd jobs until someone gave him a room and board job at a tailor shop. Here he learned how to mend shoes and do various alterations. [I did learn this from my Pop-pop as he told me that he had learned leather work from his father.]

Several years later he took a job as a farmhand at the Frederick Phillips Manor Farm (on Mt. Pleasant Road in Villa Nova PA). The Phillips were a big named family at the time with various orchards, farms, and minor industries. Paul Peter Sr mainly did "horse driving" like his father with Charlie Lake who was the Phillips' Herdsman for a good many years. He slept on the floor of their cottage.

An aside here. Charlie Lake had brought a wife Gertie over from England in the late 1890's. He had met her while getting Mr. Phillips Guernsey cows to improve the breeding stock in the US as the cattle at that time were not as well suited for milk as the Guernsey. This became big business for the Phillips Farm for many years as there would be yearly sales that would bring gentleman farmers from all around for stud rights and such. Years later Gertie let her sister Florence Burdett know about a job at the Manor being governess for the various Phillips children as the family had grown to 3 and an eldery relative was also needing care.

Paul Peter Sr and Florence met at Aunt Gertie's cottage, and began a courtship of long walks and pony cart rides. In 1914, Paul left the Manor to get a job at the Remington Arms factory. On a visit back, Paul and Florence married and moved near the factory in Chester Pennsylvania. They had a son, Paul Peter Jr during this time and stayed in the area until 1919 when the arms plant was closed in the post war bust. Paul took jobs whereever he could find them, and they had their second child, Florence in 1920. The story of that birth is that the midwife cost more in one week than Pop-Pop made in a month.

The outlook was bad until around 1922 when the Lakes had moved onto a different job and Paul got the job as gardener and horse care-taker. Paul mowed the yards, moved the manure, made hay in the fields, and all the usual work as a farm laborer. In the summers he had two hired hands (old Tom Fitzgerald and Frank Loder) who helped him with the gardens, orchards, and flowers.

The Phillips had a trucking company that they ran out of Philadelphia and it must have been doing quite well as Mr Phillips drove a Rolls Royce to town daily to check on things. Mrs. Phillips had her own Rolls that she used for social events.] By this time a "woodie" station wagon had been gotten for Paul to drive from the estates to Villanova in the morning to pick up the mail, and then to do various errands with the children to school and such. Things were very good, and my Aunt Florence remembers big parties with Paul Sr playing banjo, and on Christmas a large pony cart of presents being given out to the kids.

As with many good things, it came to an end. The Phillips divorced, and the stock crash of 1929 further brought Mr Phillips fortunes down. For a while, he had to give antique furniture to Paul Sr in lieu of money. Mr Phillips died in 1932, various parts of the farm mysteriously burnt down, and the estate was sold at auction for about $6000.00 to the Eshleman's in 1934. The Eshleman's remodeled the house and lands and moved in around 1936.

With fortunes down, Paul Sr brought food in from the woods with his "trusty" .22 rifle and food from the fields was still coming in. They ate pheasants, rabbits, squirrels, chickens, but tried to avoid eating opossum and coon as being too greasy. The children had a quart of milk each day which became a family tradition that when I was in my teens, my father would make sure I had drunk my quart to gallon of milk. Thankfully, the family never went hungry in this terrible time in US history. The kids were paid by the Eshleman's to weed, garden, and being weekend maids. Paul Jr gained the nickname Duke (more about this later), and did various work around the neighborhood.

... to be concluded later ...

Stephen Smoogen