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Interview with Oscar Beninca

Beninca, Oscar
Christie, Lara
Date of Interview: 
Stories and storytellers; Relationships with people and places
Oscar Beninca talks about history and stories his grandfather told him.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Lara Christie interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
LC (Lara Christie): The interview with Oscar Beninca on March 19th, 2000. [Break in recording] OK do you remember hearing any stories when you were young?
OB (Oscar Beninca): At this moment I don't remember but if, if you start talking maybe I can remember.
LC: OK like for example when you were a child did anybody tell you stories?
OB: My grandfather, my Italian grandfather he used to not stories he use he used to talk about history about what happened in the Roman Empire Greek Empire like a story telling about all that stuff, the saints, the painters it's a kind of small details that you don't see in the history books about Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rafael when they were children. Interesting stuff that they used to say they used to do before becoming famous. You cannot find that in any storybook.
LC: Do you remember any of the stories? Can you tell me specifically?
OB: Let's see. I guess, ah, one of Leonardo da Vinci when Leonardo da Vinci was, ah, less than two year old. He was, ah, observing the, the yard, the back yard or park or whatever and a professor or the mother or someone asked him something and he picked out or picked up a little seed. And he said to the mother to that person that, ah, "Do you know this little seed now is very small but in the future it's going to be a very big abeto." An abeto is a kind of pine tree.
OB: The per-, the person got amazed because so young a child how can a young child one and a half year old knew that. So you can say that his mind started wondering about the wonder of the nature since he was very young. Other stories about the Attila the Hun. Attila was a Mongol warrior. He used to have a his soldiers were arriving in elephants. He had a big empire something like that. There was a saying that says, "Where Attila the Hun used to ride no grass is going to grow," something like that. Attila the Hun el Huno in Spanish. I don't know how you say it. But he used to tell me everything in Italian in Venetian dialect. Other stories I don't remember right now. The, the story of Atlantis. Ah, interesting story in the Vatican, in the Vatican there is a, in the center of the Vatican there is a, an obelisque. You know obelisque?
LC: Uh-huh. In that time there was a, a pope that prohibited the people to talk in the Vatican. If a person used to talk was going to be killed because it was a sacrilege or something they thought over there. And when some when the person the architect was ready to put the oblisque in the Vatican was so heavy and every time that they wanted to raise the obelisque because the obelisque was, ah, laid was laid on the ground every time that they wanted to pull with the rope and the horses to put it vertical used to the ropes never had the strength to put the stuff vertical. And there was a person who knew to how to do that but that person was not a noble or was peasant or whatever. So he decided one day to tell the people so he took a horse start riding the horse and start screaming, "Put it water. Put it water." And he escaped before he, he got caught and then they realized that if they put water on the rope you know the water make the rope stronger. So they put the obelisque vertical. That's the kind of story that my grandfather used to tell me. That's the reason I prefer that story than the freaking American story about Walt Disney about the freaking stuff. I hate that stuff. They brain, they brainwash you ( ) put freaking spinach Pluto and stupid Goofy the stupid Donald Daffy. That's stupid stuff. [Laughs] I prefer all the stories about, you know, Michelangelo, Rafael, the Greek Empire. Ah, he used to tell me stories about the, how do you call, the gods of, ah, Greece and Poseidon, you say Poseidon. The, he used to tell me stories about the murdic but I don't remember so well. I remember all that stuff because he used to tell me I followed my grandfather. He was a library in person because he knew about everything. He used to have a, a map a globe. He used to round the globe and I put the finger. "Talk about this country." He knew about that freaking country. And then he used to have a map of Italy and Europe or whatever and I used, I had I use, I use, I used to pick put a city to pick out city. "Tell him about that city." Oh, he knew about everything. Everyday he used to tell me about the history of the cathedrals of paintings, painters. Well, interesting grandfather that I had. Did you enjoy hearing those stories?
OB: Yes and then I used to learn geography about the Himalayas, about the llamas, about religions.
LC: What do you think was your favorite story?
OB: My favorite. I didn't have any favorite story. I liked about stars. He used to talk about stars.
LC: What did he used to tell you about the stars?
OB: The name of the constellations, the nebulas, the sound light speed of speed light. How do you say that in English?
LC: The speed of light.
OB: The speed of light, that kind of stuff.
LC: What did you like about the stories that he told you?
OB: Ah, because they, they were true. And you cannot find that in the book.
LC: Do you ever remember anybody reading you stories?
OB: No. I hate when the person read a story because it's not natural. It's like it's reading something that it's written for anybody else.
LC: You only like to listen then. Do you like to read stories yourself?
OB: I don't know. I have to because no, no one, no one, no one can tell me the story I have to read.
LC: Do you ever tell the stories that your grandfather told to you?
OB: No. You because you asked. [Laughs] I don't want to tell. I ,I, I get all the information by myself and I store the information in my brain. Sometimes I have a memory. I record the stories. I have all my brain all the time working. When I see a tree I switch with him to whatever story. When I see a special tree and I switch with ah Leonardo da Vinci or I switch with when I was in the mountains with him because we used to go the mountains in Italy. He used to explain everything about the fungus. "This fungus is poisonous because the of the color, the name of the fungus is this the scientific name of the fungus is that this fungus is, ah, you can eat this fungus, ah, that kind of stuff. And then the tree the food all that stuff. I like that.
LC: Do you think you'll ever tell those stories to anyone?
OB: Hm?
LC: Do you think you will ever tell those stories to anyone?
OB: If I will?
LC: Uh-huh.
OB: I guess not.
LC: How did you used to feel when he told you stories?
OB: How did I used to feel?
LC: Uh-huh.
OB: Well I was all the time, ah, entertained.
LC: Do you ever remember hearing stories about yourself as a child?
OB: About myself?
LC: Do you ever remember your parents or anybody in your family telling stories about you?
OB: Oh yeah.
LC: What were those stories about?
OB: Ah, that I used to ask everything. [Laughs] And, ah, I remember the first time that I went to school. I didn't want to go to school. I was with my grandfather and I had a bunch of stones in my pocket. I didn't like the place so I start throwing the stones and I throw a stone to a girl and she cried. They called my parents and they said how come. The schools doesn't have any stones. Because in that day my grandfather used to explain about the stones river stones and I had a bunch of stones in my, my wallet river stones. So he you see this stone is round because off of water has so many years passing through this stone that kind of stuff. I, oh, OK I'm going to have that that stone in my wallet in the other wallet I have in my other pocket I have another stone. Because I got mad that day because I didn't want to go to school I, he dropped me off to school walking as if we were visiting some place. And then when he saw me talking to other students he left because he, he knew that if I was with ah the bus to school if it was going to pick me up I would never enter in the bus for school.
LC: Uh-huh.
OB: We went as if we were visiting someone. When he saw me talking to other children he left and he got so mad that I took that stone and I threw the stone to her and the stone went directly to in the girl's eye.
LC: Then what happened?
OB: No they called my parents but they didn't do anything. What can they do first day of class.
LC: Do you remember hearing any other stories about yourself?