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Interview with Allen Blackwelder

Blackwelder, Allen
Philbeck, Amanda Andreasen
Date of Interview: 
Childhood Adventures; Relationships with People and Places
Allen Blackwelder talks about his Native American grandmother and his love for the ocean.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Amanda Andreasen Philbeck interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
AA (Amanda Andreasen): State your name.
AB (Allen Blackwelder): My name is Allen Blackwelder. I'm an Assistant County Fire Marshall in Mecklenburg County, Charlotte, North Carolina. I've been asked to, uh, share some of the possible history or different things I mayhave some knowledge of. One of the things that, uh, may be beneficial to this, is my grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee Injun, Indian [laugh]. Injun. Anyway, uh, the stories I will always remember about her is when I was about 11 years old I was on her farm with a cousin Walter, and we were throwing rocks at the ducks and smoking cigarettes and, actually Fisher Sweet Cigars,and just [laugh] cussing like you wouldn't believe. Well Walter happened to see my grandmother coming over the hill and he dropped his little cigar and got rid of it, well, I didn't see her until she was almost there. When I did see her, knowing how strict she was, I closed the, uh, little cigar in my hand and, which burned me, but of course with grandmother there, there was no way I would let her know. So she stood there and talked to us for about 15 minutes and explained that we were all going to be damned for throwing rocks at God's ducks, and taking God's name in vain. Well, during this entire time this little cigar has burnt my hand pretty severely. And she finally said, uh, when she was getting ready to leave, that if I took my hand and put it in the cool mud it would take the fire away. To this day I can not stand the smell of a cigar. And there are so many stories that I could tell you about her, uh, one that you will also possibly understand. I used to spend summers with her and one day my father and mother came down there to take me back home and I was coming back up again from this same farm pond and I'd been fishing and I handed the fish to my grandmother. And my father said, "You know better than that. You've always been taught that if you ever shoot any thing or catch any thing that it's your place to clean it and be sure you eat it. Don't kill unnecessarily." And, about the time he said that, my grandmother looked at him and said, "Samuel Boyce, you never cleaned a fish in your life, or anything else. You always brought them home to me. It's not his place to do it." That's the way she believed. Of course, that's totally unacceptable today, but that was my grandmother. I've also had the occasion to, um, [pause] meet a lot of different people in my line of work. And it's interesting how [pause] you can almost tell where people are from, by the way they talk. Uh, not only with accents but just like the word house. And, you know, Virginia people say "hoose" or something [laugh] similar that. But they don't say "house." Or like "Concord, North Carolina" or "Conkard." Jelly, jam, so many different words that really ought to me mean the same thing but they're just pronounced differently. Uh, [pause] especially now with things that are going on in this area as far as the Piedmont area of North Carolina, we're having so many different people come to this area, not only from Asia, or Mexico, but also from this on north area, uh, mainly West Virginia. Ah, those people really are unique because again they have their own vocabulary. [Pause] And it's, ah, just part of it. [Tape interruption] When I think about [sigh] my future, I like to think that someday I'll be able to have this fantasy I have always wanted. And, came very close one time, about buying a sail boat that would be large enough to accommodate at least six people comfortably but small enough to where two people could handle it without too much effort. I think the greatest thing in the world to me would be able to just get away from telephones and television and, in my line of work, radios [laugh] and sometimes people and just be able to sail away, enjoy God's nature, God's beauty because to me I don't think I've ever seen anything as pretty as the moon on the ocean. Ah, it's beautiful. Which, I guess the love affair for that came in when I was in the military. Ah, I had the occasion to be assigned to special projects and was part of the crew that first successfully fired both the Poseidon and the Polaris missile at sea. And, we had the occasion to have a night launching. And that's when I realized how beautiful things are. And one other thing while I think about it, you know, ah, at the risk of sounding, ah, somewhat like a Bible-thumper, and a lot of the people are in this area, that's one thing in in my line of work that really makes you appreciate the love and forgiveness that is there. Because in my line of work again, you see a lot of ugly things. And you see a lot of people giving so unselfishly of themselves for other people. And makes absolutely no difference as far as nationality, creed, color, whatever. Uh, that's one thing I have to really respect about say volunteers whether it be the Red Cross or firemen or anybody in this line. They're just, uh, very dedicated and very unselfish.
AA: OK. Please stop.