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Conversation with Cullen Case

Case, Cullen
Case, Kari
Date of Interview: 
Storytellers and stories; Relationships with people and places; Childhood adventures; Overcoming obstacles; Tolerance and respect
Cullen Case recalls childhood memories visiting his grandparents in Asheville, NC, and how his grandmother did not like his mother until his mother had children.
Asheville, NC
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Kari Case interviewed NC residents to collect various stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
KC (Kari Case): OK. Umm, go ahead and tell me about a story.
CC (Case Cullen): Well I can remember as a small child probably between the ages of three and seven going to Asheville and visiting my grandmother umm and my grandfather but he died when I was fairly young so I mostly remember visiting my grandmother. She lived in a small house in Asheville. Uh, it was pretty much a kitchen a front room and two-bedroom house one bathroom. The uh neighborhood she lived in was very uh quiet mostly older people and uh we used to go around the neighborhood and visit a lot of her old friends. Um one couple in particular the Blankenships had a apple tree in their back yard and we would go and we would pick apples and take them back to her place and make apple pies. The Blankenships were kind of an odd couple in that uh both of them chewed tobacco and spit into little spittoons. Uh, it's kind of weird talking to an elderly couple spitting tobacco, especially because one of them was female and you always had that impression that chewing tobacco was a guy thing. Uh, [pause] strange little memories like that about my grandmother's house. She had a washing machine but not, not a dryer so all the laundry get, got put hung out on the clothesline. Uh she had a big garage that was separate from the house and almost bigger than the house it was almost like it was a barn. And a bunch of my grandfather's old tools were in there odd things like, like scythes and things that you would find only on a farm even though the house itself was not on farmland. Uh, my grandmother had a '64 Nova which a most people would consider to be a muscle car but uh she only drove it maybe two to three miles at the most and it usually took the whole day to plan what would happen if she were to need to drive somewhere so this car had very little mileage on it even though it was, at that point, about 20 years old. Uh, we used to sit on her back porch and uh snap uh beans or what they called doing snap beans, uh, which was really just taking green beans and snapping them into smaller pieces. Uh, I suppose it had some kind of great significance. My sisters seemed to get a good kick out of it. Uh, we used to walk up to the local grocery store, uh, which was about three or four blocks away. There was also a candy store about three or four blocks in the other direction called Pud's that we used to walk up to and across the street from Pud's was the local fire department and the uh the firemen used to let us play on the fire engines which is completely unheard of nowadays but they let us you know climb all over them, get inside and honk the horns you know put on fire jacket and boots or whatever we wanted to do and uh I guess there just weren't a lot of fires in Ashevillein that part of town because they never seemed to be concerned that we would be interfering with their preparedness. Um [pause] I don't know those are the, the sort of stick out in my mind about visiting Asheville. Um we always tended to stop somewhere scenic either going to or coming from. We went to Chimney Rock on a number of occasions. We went to Linville Caverns once and we went to Sliding Rock and Biltmore House and some of the other attractions that are up that way in the western part of the state. Uh I think we even went to Tweetsie Railroad a couple of times so, uh, you know the sort of just wholesome, down home kind of memories [laugh] about visiting my grandmother before she got uh, unable to take care of herself and she ended up moving in with us. You know, but they're rather pleasant memories of childhood and I certainly wouldn't trade them for anything.
KC: Is there anything specific that, uh, you remember about your grandma?
CC: Mm.
KC: A specific story that she used to tell or?
CC: Not any stories that she used to tell. Um she was always a very active person. Um she used to, she used to walk every day. Um, she had grown up on the farm. She had uh, I believe she had 12 kids in her family. And uh, they were all very active very strong people and even though my grandmother was a tiny little woman, she was about 5'2", uh, she was pretty strong for her size and rugged and sturdy and that uh even carried over into her later years when mentally she wasn't all there but physically she was still extremely healthy and it was uh, kind of a strange kind of position to be in. Um I guess the thing I remember most about my grandmother's personality is that she was extremely frugal. She would save everything. One thing in particular she used to save would be soup labels. I guess there was one particular program where you would returned so many soup labels and they gave you a rebate or something on collecting aluminum cans. And uh she had just cartons and cartons of soup labels that she had saved over the years and redeem them you know I don't know [laugh] five cents a bushel so she was very practical in that regard. Um, she always kept all her bills and expenses at an absolute minimum ran everything very efficiently kept an extremely tidy house uh.
KC: Is there anything your parents ever told you about her, stories that they ever did like when they were kids? Um, I guess when your father was a kid.
CC: Um, not too many stories about my dad's childhood. He spent most of his time with my grandfather learning things like how to work on cars and how to build things paint things and that translates over cause my dad does just about everything; he can fix about anything and build just about anything and repair just about anything. Um, I guess the only story that they ever say a lot about my grandmother was the fact that she did not like my mom when uh my father and she first got together. And uh mostly because my dad, my dad's side of the family were Southern Baptists from the mountains of North Carolina, my mom was a Catholicfrom California which, oh, just scared everybody right there. So, before she even had the opportunity to meet my mom she had already decided that she was this, this evil heathen creature that was going to corrupt her beautiful boy um and even wrote her a nasty letter to that effect. Um, she pretty much showed a lot of disinterest at best and, and outright hostility at worst towards my mom until we the kids came along. Um, once uh she had grandchildren my grandmother was all smiles to everybody which I think was kind of amusing. Um I guess at that point she figured it was too late so she might as well make the best of the situation.
KC: Anything else?
CC: Um, not that I can really think of off the top of my head.
KC: What about when your grandma moved into the house with you, were there any stories about her once she moved into the house? Anything you remember?
CC: Um, not really anything unusual. Um, she uh, at that point, things were, she wasn't in the best of health so there weren't really any, any unusual anecdotes that weren't immediately or at least tangentially related to her health and the decline of her health, so no, no interesting anecdotes about her personality or really, or really anything that I could talk about at that point.
KC: OK. Well, thank you very much.
CC: You're welcome.