(Originally published in 2002)

It was a pleasure and honor to speak to Mr. and Mrs. Wilfred Lakey in this Chapman’s home. The friendly couple has resided there since 1915. This would quality the Lakey’s as the senior residents of the cozy borough. They have wonderful memories of their years in the community and provided me with an abundance of interesting information. They also shared a scrapbook with enough information for future “Looking Back” columns.

The Lakey family’s roots are in England. Grandfather John Lake came to America to work in the slate industry in Pen Argyl. Wilfred’s father, Albert, came down to Chapman’s because he heard about the booming quarries in the village. He searched for lodging and became a boarder at the home of Mrs. Betty Lakey’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Williams James.

Mrs. Lakey remembers, “We have fived boarders, I recall John Hearn, Sam Booney, Raymond Rupel and Albert Lakey. They were all single, hard-working men and ate their meals at a long table, which is in our present kitchen. Once a month the men would give me 25 cents, the first money I was ever given. I saved the quarters and went to the Bath bank and started a savings account. My mother had washing, cooking and baking so each Friday, Mrs. Miltenberger, whose husband worked in the quarry, came down to help. The washing machine was hand operated until we had a gasoline-operated machine in the backyard.

On the job training allowed Albert to become a first class slate splitter, a job you learn by doing. Albert married the daughter of Charles Remaley, who was a quarry teamster moving slate by horse and wagon to the Lehigh and New England Railroad siding. The slate was shipped throughout the east.

Albert and Jeanette Lakey started housekeeping in a Chapman company home. They reared a family of eight children: Myrtle, Wilfred, Walter, Ethel, Eva, Jean, Jack and Joyce. Mr. Lakey recalls, “All were born at home and delivered by Dr. Milton Phillips. As a young boy, I helped the doctor when he delivered my sister.” Dr. Phillips also delivered Mrs. Lakey at home. She recalls, “My mother walked the floor for a week and Dr. Phillips feared for me and my mother. I remember my father saying, ‘Please, doctor, I want them both to live.’ Thank God my mother and I both made it.”

I asked Wilfred about Dr. Phillips. “He started with house and buggy and was always there. I went to the office with a cyst on my eye and he removed it. The fee was fifty cents.” I wonder what HMO Dr. Phillips practiced with? Mr. Lakey continued, “I believe he was our last physician in Chapman’s. He would extract a tooth if need be. One day he fell while trimming a tree and died shortly after.”

Both Wilfred and Betty attended the Chapman’s one-room schoolhouse. They remember teachers, Mr. Ziegenfus and Mr. Schaffer. They said, “Mr. Ziegenfus was strict but good. We had 32 students in one room, grades one through seven. Some fellow students were Eleanor Jones, Helen Radcliffe, Walter Lakey and Joseph George. I think we learned so well because we also heard the lessons of the older children.” Mr. Lakey said, “The milk wagon would stop at the school and give some of us a ride. One day I missed the step and the wagon wheel went over my foot. I didn’t miss the step after that.”

Next time: I was paid 55 cents a week.


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