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Interview with Daniel T. Denton

Denton, Daniel T.
Denton, Cayce
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with people and places; Then and now
Dan Denton talks about being in the Army, hitchhiking to Germany during WWII, Hurricane Hugo, and his great aunt shooting rattlesnakes
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Cayce Denton interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
CD (Cayce Denton): This is the end of Elaine Denton interview. This is Dan Denton interview. OK, why don't you first tell me where you were born and where you grew up?
DD (Daniel T. Denton): I was born in Gaston County in the hospital in Gastonia. I first lived in Lowell, North Carolina, and then when I was three years old I moved to the country between Dallas and Cherryville over in Gaston County.
CD: Where were your parents from?
DD: [Cough] My parents were from, uh, Lowell and Gastonia.
CD: Did you move around at all growing up or did you pretty much stay rooted where you were?
DD: From the time I was three years old we lived in the same place over in, over in the country, [pause] until I left when I was 17.
CD: Where did you go when you were 17?
DD: I went to school at East Carolina University. It was East Carolina College at that time, and then I moved to Charlotte and got a job at the telephone company after that.
CD: What did you do for the telephone company?
DD: I was a lineman and an installer. Then I left them and went to work for a cablevision company. Then I left the cablevision company and went to work for the ambulance service, and I then I was drafted into the Army from there in 1969 [pause] '68.
CD: What did you do for the Army?
DD: I was in communications, I was a radio teletype operator. And after I got out of the Army I went to work for the Dictaphone Corporation making recording devices.
CD: And then where did you go from there?
DD: Well, after that I decided to go to school on the GI bill. So I attended Central Piedmont College during the day and at night I was a bartender at The Cellar here in Charlotte. Um, after a couple years of that I went to work for the U.S. Post Office, as a clerk and I worked for them for almost six years. Then we decided to move to Texas. And while in Texas I got into the security business, as an installer of all types of alarms, commercial and residential. Then I moved back to Charlotte and I went to work for Wells Fargo and continued as an alarm service man, fire inspector, installer. I worked for Wells Fargo for about six years and then got a job as a distributor of alarm and equipment and other electronic devices. And that's the job that I still have today.
CD: What do you remember about Hurricane Hugo when it came through Charlotte?
DD: Well, it came through early in the morning I remember. And when we got up the next day, and when the sun came up we looked around to see what damage was done. We had no electricity and we had a hole in the roof from a tree limb, and much of Charlotte was in the same situation. Over half the traffic lights in the whole city were knocked down. And people were trying to find food and ice and flashlights [pause] and [pause] we sent the kids to my sister's in Gastonia because they still had power. And we started living our life without electricity. We had to cook all our meals on the charcoal grill, including coffee in the mornings. And nobody had refrigerators so one day I was riding in my car and I heard on the radio that a huge truck filled with dry ice came in from Tennessee and would be selling it out of the truck. And I figured well that's good and I could put some in the refrigerator and we could keep stuff cold. So I went over to where the truck was located and there was a long line about several hundred people were there. So I stood in line for about two hours and finally got up to the truck and paid 40 dollars for one block of dry ice. And I was happy with what I'd done, thinking we'd have cold food again. When I got home I put the ice in the refrigerator and then I looked in the refrigerator and all I had in there was a two dollar pack of bologna. I'd just spent 40 dollars on ice to keep two dollars worth of bologna cold [laughs].
CD: Growing up did you have a lot of encounters with your extended family?
DD: Well, I had a great aunt once that lived over on a mountainside, um, her and her husband were farmers and they owned about 400 acres of farmland. And on this farmland that basically, on this mountain, there were a lot of rattlesnakes. Sometime they would come up into the barn and even into their yard or their house. So my aunt always carried a, uh, 22 caliber rifle on a sling everywhere she went. When she milked the cows or fed the chickens or anything she was doing, working in the garden, she always had that rifle on her, on a sling on her. And she killed a lot of rattlesnakes in her time over there, um, some of them were so big they even took pictures of her holding and, one up and put it in the paper over there. Some of them as long as six or seven feet long. Timber rattlesnakes, um, no they were diamondback rattlesnakes, big ones. One morning she got up to go milk the cows and, it was just getting daylight and she saw a shape coiled up on her front lawn. She knew what it was so she immediately, like she always did, emptied all 15 shots of the rifle into the coiled up shape. Then when she walked over to examine the snake, she found out she'd put 15 shots into a sleeping opossum [laughs].
CD: You said you served in the Army, were there any experiences during that time that really stand out in your mind?
DD: Well, once while I was in the Army, I decided to take a two week trip to Spain down through southern Europe. I had a Volkswagen car that I had paid about 200 dollars for, and me and another GI took off and went down through Switzerland and France until we got to Spain and went down the coast of Spain and spent two weeks down through there, then decided to come back and when we left Spain and started to go all the way across France, the engine blew up our, in my Volkswagen. And we coasted into a little small French village and nobody there could speak English, so I tried to tell a guy that owned a little service station that he could have the car if I could just leave it there. And he didn't understand me. He went and got a translation book and we tried to figure out what each other was saying. And then I told him we were leaving so he started handing me French, uh, money. And then his wife finally figured out what was going on and told him to stop. So I ended up getting about seven dollars for the car. So then we had to hitchhike all the way back to Germany. The problem was I had a small suitcase and a large broadsword that was about five feet long. So while I was on the side of the road hitchhiking people would slow down and then they would see that large broadsword and keep going. I had no place to hide it. So finally a guy picked me up from Switzerland and took me all the way into Switzerland where I caught a train back to the base in Germany.