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Interview with Jon Childs Jr.

Childs, Jon Jr.
Childs, Anya
Date of Interview: 
relationships with people and places; cultural identification
Jon Childs talks about a Gastonia, NC Sister Cities trip he took to Germany.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Anya Childs interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
AC (Anya Childs): Jon, what would be one of the best trips you have ever taken?
JC (Jon Childs Jr.): Two years ago um, we went to Germany, and that was probably the best, I know it was the best trip, I've taken. I was able to go with my wife and representing the Gastonia Sister Cities Program with 10 or 11, 10, I believe 10 other high school kids. We were chaperones, and that kind of gave me a little, I was kind of a little nervous going into that cause I didn't know how the kids would act, you know, if they'd be discipline problems, that type thing, but the kids turned out to be great, and we were able to enjoy our vacation, you know, and see a part of the world that I had never seen before and make some good friends. Um, we flew into Frankfurt Airport, and we were met by the, the host school, a lady named Christiana, who we got to know very well, she spoke excellent English and, and we were driven into, um, a town called Gotha, which is Gastonia's sister city. And they had a, we were exhausted from our trip, you know, from that long a trip but they had, um, little cakes, and sandwiches, and tea ready for us to greet us. And so, so we did that and met the principal. It was wonderful just the way they greeted us and made us feel at home and we were taken to, um, by one of the teachers there, her name was Ute, we were taken to her home, met her husband and her two children, husband's named Harald, and they made us feel right at home, and we, we ended up spending about six days in Gotha. We were able to tour the city, which, you know was real old, historic buildings, beautiful, um, it was just-. That was really interesting, we got to meet the mayor, and represent Gastonia City Council, gave the mayor a gift and he gave the city, the city a gift and we brought that back and that was neat, and the cooperation that the two cities have, they send delegations over regularly, to each other's city, and that was, that was a, that was good. It felt like we were good will ambassadors.
AC: What did you like about Gotha?
JC: It was, it was a fairly big city, well, about, fairly big, had a thriving downtown area, but it kind of had a distinctly European feel obviously and just lots of open streets to walk on and that type thing. And they had a, they had excursions for us every day. We went to, one day we went to, up into the mountains, can't remember the city's name, but this is where they had their training for the German Olympic Team, bobsled team, and louge. We were able to ride on a bobsled on wheels down a run and really, it bumped us around good, but that was fun, that was really interesting. Had a pool, indoor, well, not a pool, it doesn't do it justice, but an indoor water facility, um, with the slides and, and wave pools and, and all that and it was cold outside that day, cold and raining but that place was packed, we just had a blast, um, with the kids. And, they took us on excursions to other cities that were close. During the days we went to Goethe's hometown, the writer, I don't know a whole lot about his work, but we were able to go to his birthplace, and to this little town, um, it's just very interesting.
AC: You mean Weimar?
JC: Weimar, yes. And um-.
AC: We went to Erfurt. Remember the one with the big cathedral?
JC: I am getting there. Yeah, we went to Erfurt, and they had just a beautiful cathedral and a real, it's a bigger, bigger city, um, just a lot of real interesting cathedrals that we visited, that type thing. We went to a little ice-cream shop called San Remo's, and that was great ice cream. And the kids loved it, the kids, and, and I think the things that our kids really enjoyed was the relationships they built with the German kids. And, and subsequently after our trip the German kids came over here and spent time with our kids, and Christiana came and stayed in our home, and it was a real good opportunity to, a great cultural exchange. And, and probably the best thing was, was um, meeting the, the people we stayed with Harald and Ute and, and their boys. And, they had, they just treated us great, treated us like we would people in our homes, and [long pause]. Another highlight of our trip was a chance to go to Christiana and her husband Volkman, um, to their house, and they lived out in the country, you know and it was just really nice, had a, had a pond out back, and, and, um, a flower garden and that type thing, we were able to go into their house and, and they served an excellent meal, had some other, they had Ute there with them, and, and just, just made us feel really welcome, made us feel really at home. Um, that was great. The whole, whole time in Erfurt was great. But, I'm person that likes to travel, and I was really glad we got to see some other, other places while we were over there. Um, we left, we left Gotha, and we traveled to a, we traveled outside of Munich to a, to a little place called Chiemsee, um, on the lake, beautiful lake was there, and we stayed in this, this hostel, um, that this family owned and it was great, it was just. It was, you look out the window and they had cows grazing out in the meadow and the Alps rising beyond and it was just beautiful, every day when you'd look out. I remember one morning woke up, saw hot air balloons coming over the Alps, and you know, it was just marvelous, and we were able to, to visit a palace that was just there, took a boat out. I say palace, it was really a country home for one of the kings, um, but, you know, it's like no other building I've ever been in, I guess the thing we have to compare most to it around here is Biltmore House. But it was beautiful, you know, gold plated everything, was just interesting to see that, um, spent two nights there, we were able to go into Munich, had a really quick trip of Munich, we saw, saw a little bit of the city. I wish we could spend a little bit more time there. After that we were, we were able to go into, we went to Salzburg, Austria where the Sound of Music was filmed. They have a castle that's in that, in that little, little city, uh, that is on the top of a hill, or a mountain I guess, a little mountain, and it falls off on every side, and we walked up that, and it was quite a hike, but we were able to go up and into the castle. And saw where the cannon ramparts were, and they said that in all the time, all the wars, and all the invasions, that castle was never taken, and it's easy to see why, when saw how, um, I mean I don't see how anything could penetrate it, because I know how hard it was for us just to walk up, up to there just on the street. And they were having a, um, some kind of musical concert there that evening, but they had sold tickets beforehand for that which, that would have been a really interesting thing and you know, to be able to do that in Mozart's home, home country, and, and, um, that was, Salzburg was, we, the next day we went on a tour of the town and saw lots of really interesting landmarks, just a beautiful town, I'd love to spend more time there. We were able to, at the end of our trip; we were able to go to Vienna. And Vienna was just wonderful. Um, they have big, wide, cobblestone streets, that there's no, no automobiles that are on it, except like delivery vehicles, that type thing, stores, stores all up and down, selling chocolates, and all kinds of, of goods. It was, it was just beautiful city, they got. We were able to visit some museums. And we visited a street that, I can't think of the name of the street exactly, but it was like Street of Blood, it's the translation and it was where the Christians were slaughtered on this street back in one of the invasions and they said the whole street ran with blood and that is how it got its name. Um, that was very interesting and just visited a lot of the cathedrals there, uh, and the palaces, and sprawling estates, that, that type thing was great. And like I said before, being with the kids, and, and seeing their eyes as they opened to the history of the world, and, and that kind of gave me a world view compared to the view we have in America, that we're the center of everything. Um, it was interesting. I would love, I'd love the opportunity to go back to spend more time in places like Munich. Um, we didn't get to go to Innsbruck in Austria, and I'd love to have done that, get up in the Alps more, even though it was beautiful. I mean scenery was just stunning everywhere you looked, the scenery was just stunning, It was, it was just a, I mean it was just a great trip. It's kind of hard to describe when most of, most of it, most of the things that made it so great were the scenery and the relationships that we've built. That was marvelous and I, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.