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Interview with David and Gail Adinolfi

Adinolfi, David and Gail
Adinolfi, Gail
Adinolfi, Elizabeth
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with People and Places; Then and Now; Childhood Adventures; Stories and Storytellers
David and Gail Adinolfi discuss their favorite childhood and adult literature with their daughter. They recall what their parents liked to read and why. They both relate their ideas on the importance of reading and stress literacy.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Elizabeth Adinolfi interviewed Charlotte residents to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
EA (Elizabeth Adinolfi): OK. Um, we're going to talk about today childhood stories and what I'm wondering is what are the stories you remember as children?
DA (Dave Adinfofi): I recall, a number of stories. My mother read a great deal, to me. Ah, Uncle Wiggly was a favorite.
EA: Uncle Wiggly? What was that about?
DA: That's about a rabbit, and about a farmer that used to chase the rabbit out of his, uh, carrot patch and, uh, all the characters that were associated with that.
EA: Was that your favorite story?
DA: I think that's one I remember, a lot because when I was in first grade, I was sick a lot of the year, and I was out of school a lot of the year. And, uh, because of that, my mother read to me a lot, you know, to help me, me feel better [clears throat]. So, she uh, she read a lot of Uncle Wiggly stories to me. But I think the story that was, was a favorite was one that my mother made up herself, utilizing characters from, you know, like Bugs Bunny and, and Thumper and Bambi and all that. And ah, she, she made it up, a story about a, me and my cousin Phil, ah, going on this trip to the Canadian Northwest to hunt and meeting these little characters, uh, while we were there. Of course it can't be published because all those things are copyrighted, but my mother made up the story and I thought it was very nice and I still have it, uh, handwritten, uh, in our file here.
EA: OK, how about you Mom?
GA (Gail Adinolfi): I remember, uhem, Peter Cottontail and the farmer chasing him under the wire and Peter Cottontail getting out just in time. And I remember Mickey Mouse stories. I liked those Disney World things. Of course, who knew about Disney World a hundred years ago but, um, Mickey Mouse was a favorite. And, um, Little Women, that was and, now I had three older sisters, and I always kind of envisioned us patterned after Little Women, and, because [laughs] there were four girls in that family and I loved that story, read it over and over again. In fact, I took you to Louisa May Alcott's home in Massachusetts, and we, ah, umm--. Let's see, other stories. Oh I hated, I, well, I'll just tell you that later. Um, uh, I, I, I just, um, I guess I'm drawing a blank here. I can't think anymore.
EA: Well, what was your favorite story? If you had to pick out of all of them?
GA: My favorite story, um, oh, Cinderella. I just loved Cinderella [laughs]. I also saw my sisters as the wicked stepsisters sometimes [laughs], and I was Cinderella, running around waiting on them [laughs].
EA: What, ah, story in your childhood had the most impact on you? I'll ask you first Mom, and then Dad.
GA: Oh. Um, most impact on me? [Clears throat] I think--. Oh Heidi! I loved Heidi, and that, in fact, I wanted to name one of my children Heidi [laughs] because I loved Heidi of the Alps. Um, as far as having an impact on me, I guess, uh, being a good girl and doing all the right things. Those were the stories I read, OK Dad, want to tell--
EA: What's your favorite?
DA: [In Gabby Hayes voice] Well, I'll tell you there was a record, Roy Rogers and Gabby Hayes, and I still quote it today when I'm, when I'm being funny. And it had to do with the description of all the cowboy paraphernalia that was, ah, existent at the time. Like tapaderos that were on the, the, uh, place to protect your boots in the saddle [laughs] [reverts to 'normal voice'] and all that sort of thing. So I remember silly things like that, that were a lot of fun [laughs]. I read, uh, the story that, I don't, this isn't, ah, I think the first real story that I read was, uh, The Red Badge of Courage. Uh, more serious, and that was, that was a very interesting story because it was the first time I came upon a character who was real, who was afraid, who ran away who, uh, then came back and, uh, and conquered his fear which is something that we all have to do from time to time.
EA: What are your least favorite stories? When you're thinking of stories that affected you and really you abhorred. What are those stories?
GA: Well, Aladdin and the Lamp! That genie that came out of that lamp scared me half to death!
EA: Was that told to you or did you read that?
GA: Um, that was told to me and I saw that genie coming out of the bottle in the picture in the book was not about a kind and loving genie. It was kind of scary looking and I thought, "Ooh! I don't think I'd like to meet up with that genie!"
EA: Well, who told you that story?
GA: Ooh, one of my three older sisters. Probably Lois, your Aunt Lois.
DA: I can't think of a story that, uh, had a real negative impact on me. Umm, I guess I'll leave it at that.
EA: Um, when you're talking about your favorite stories, what was your favorite part of the story?
DA: Remember I told you about the story my mother wrote and I can remember at the time and in some ways it's still true today. Ah, the favorite part of the story was the fact that I had somehow bought an old Model T Ford [laughs].
EA: How appropriate!
DA: [Laughs] That was the favorite part of the story!
GA: Well, I think all the happy endings we read as children Pollyanna, you know and, uh, everything always seemed to turn out right.
EA: \\So, these were your favorite parts?\\
GA: \\Stories I liked, yeah.\\
EA: What were your least favorite parts of the story? What parts of the story were boring?
GA: Oh! In Little Women when Meg died, oh dear! That was so traumatic and, ah, Swiss Family Robinson. Uh, I loved the part where they would, you know, make things out of nothing. They made a home out of, out of things they found on the island, fashioned things, oh uh, implements, uh, out of coconut shells and whatever stones and whatever they could find. I liked that part.
EA: Did you identify with any of these characters? And what's the one you identified with the most?
GA: Well, I think I identified with Jo. She was kind of headstrong and she was, um, kind of artistic maybe, and, uh, uh, liked to have a good sense of humor.
DA: Yeah, the main, I, The Red Badge of Courage, the main character, at first I had never, you know, all of the cowboy stories that I saw or read, it was, uh, uh, you know, the good the bad and the good were very good and the bad were very bad. And this was the first occasion where the good person had some, some flaws. So I didn't like that at first, and then, of course, you know, as the story unfolded, you would, uh, relate that to your own experiences of being afraid and, and learning to conquer those fears and that kind of thing. So I thought it was, uh, uh, it was at first a part of the story I didn't like, but afterward, uh, you know, it certainly taught a lesson.
EA: We're talking a lot about childhood stories and stories that um, were read to you and what were the first what did you start reading when you were first allowed to choose what you read? What did you choose?
GA: Well, I chose to read the ones that had been read to me. We had a great big book of Grimms' fairytales, and looking back on that they were grim! They were scary, throwing a child in the oven and all that sort of thing! However, it didn't seem to be so horrifying. It was a story and I, you know, you knew it was fiction, but I would go back and read, when I could read myself, I read everything. I read the backs of cereal boxes. I read everything I could get my hands on.
DA: I didn't do a lot of reading. I guess I read a lot of classic comics.
GA: Classic comics, yeah!
DA: Uh, well yeah and I remember Ivanhoe and, uh, The Disinherited Knight and all that kind of thing. I was always into those kinds of heroic things, um, so I read a lot of those things.
GA: I forgot about comic books! Oh, Archie and, oh I loved Archie comics.
DA: Oh yeah, superheroes like Captain Marvel, Superman, Batman and all of them.
EA: I'm talking to you as your you know my mom and dad and, uh, what were, if you know, what were your mom and dad's favorite stories?
GA: My father read, uh, liked history and read, um, a lot of historical, uh, factual things, not into fiction at all. Uh, my mother was probably so busy running around taking care of all of us, [laughs] I guess she read, um, I think she read biographical things rather than um, novels.
DA: My father didn't read anything in terms of what you'd call a book, uh, but he was analytical of the sport of kings, and, so would peruse the paper to check on that [laughs]. But, uh, my mother, uh, you know, didn't read a whole lot, but spent a lot of time reading to me, uh, my being an only child. Uh, so yeah, I took up a lot of her life and she read a lot of children's stories to me as a result of that, but I don't believe she read a lot for her own amusement.
GA: At that time, and now later on she, she lives at the library just about.
DA: Absolutely does.
GA: So, it's like she, uh, and the education wasn't the same back in those days. So um, you know, it was different people would read for different reasons and I think your mother has, um, you know, she's educated herself at the library.
DA: Yeah, that's true.
EA: We're talking a lot about stories and, um, novels and children's books, was there any poetry that was your favorite?
GA: Golly, I never really got into poetry. Yeah I had to take it, as children? Or high school? I just really didn't ever love poetry for some reason.
DA: I still recall, and I'm sure your mother does too, "Whose woods these are, I think I know his house is in the village though." And I won't go beyond that but, uh, you recall that Gail, when we were, when I was in college and we were first dating that was a, a favorite poem of, uh, us and our friends.
EA: Was that self-written?
DA: Oh no. That was Robert Frost.
EA: OK, I thought so. Um, and we're talking about childhood and middle school, what about high school? What about high school into college into adulthood what are some of the books that you read?
GA: Oh, gee. Um. [Pause] Can we turn that off while I think? [Laughter] One in particular I read while in college that we just howled over and that was Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. Um, Peyton Place was, had, um, kind of a fascination because I was at summer camp in New Hampshire, near Gilmanton Iron Works, where that woman, the author, lived. So, that was such a racy and shocking book at that time, and so, of course, we had to read it. I. I liked, uh, oh gosh, go ahead Dave you've got--
DA: Well, I remember another book that you read that that I didn't read but that, uh, painting was made '84?
GA: Oh Ayn Rand? Yeah, um--
DA: And I remember that being, appearing to be so far in the future.
GA: Atlas Shrugged. Oh yes, and George Orwell books I read, uh, uh, um 1984 and what's the other one? Animal Farm and they, yeah, it was so far in the future, and, my gosh, now it's the past. Whew!
EA: Into adulthood, what books do you like now?
DA: I like, uh, political non-fiction, and I've read The Making of the President series from 1960 on up. I, I like, uh, uh, those kinds of things that talk about why people do what they do when they're in positions of political power or aspiring to positions of political power. I also like to read things about the Civil War.
GA: I've read all the, the lawyer books, Grisham and Turow and a lot of the, um, current, uh, writers, novelists. Um, oh gosh, Anita Shrever is one, um, Rosamunde Pilcher, Maeve Binchy, um, I like all of that type of reading.
EA: Have you ever read any books from foreign authors? Somebody who obviously that English was not their first language, but they wrote a book?
GA: Um, I'm sure I have I just can't think of what. Um, I just can't think of what one. You know what? I should have remembered back as a freshmen, I read An American Tragedy. And, and years later we ended up living in the place where that took place and the, uh, and it was not something that was, uh, not a subject that people liked to talk about because many of the people in town knew the young man who was charged with that murder. And so that was really interesting, uh, in retrospect.
DA: I can't remember reading anything, foreign authors. As I say, American political non-fiction doesn't exactly lend itself to that.
GA: Dostoevsky. I mean I'm sure I have read I just can't even remember what, Dr. Zhivago, I read that.
EA: Did you notice any differences between an American writer and someone of foreign descent?
GA: Oh well, the cultural differences would come through in the writing, yeah, sure. Um, I wish I could think more. I just can't remember. Go ahead.
EA: Well, I'm going to ask a final question that, um, I mean, you're my parents, and you imparted a lot of, uh, a lot of the love of reading to me. Uh, how important it was to read and we're all English majors, I think that has something to do with it, my brother, sister and I are all, we're all English majors in college. So, what I am going to ask you is what was your philosophy behind that? Why is reading so important?
GA: I can't imagine not reading. Reading is the basis of all learning. I can't imagine not reading and for pure enjoyment and, uh, for growth, broadening your knowledge base. Um, reading is fundamental as they say and it truly is. What a sad thing if people can't read! If I had, if I was retired, I would definitely be working in a literacy, um, you know, volunteer literacy capacity. I think it's so important. It's such a handicap not to read.
DA: I think, uh, that intellectual stimulation is very important I think thinking is very important I think reading is a part of that. And I, uh, too often, much too often, see people, um, feeling superior somehow because they don't read, they don't think, they don't experience other ideas. And so, uh, those things come about through the work of reading rather than through listening to some person on the street corner or, uh, gazing on TV.
EA: Well, thank you for being part of this study.
DA: Our pleasure!
GA: Thank you!