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Interview with Lynn Dolan

Dolan, Lynn
Cleveland, Vicki
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with people and places; Stories and storytellers; Tolerance and respect; Cultural identification
Lynn Dolan talks about how her life growing up overseas helped her to become racially and culturally tolerant.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Vicki Cleveland interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
VC (Vicki Cleveland): OK, there it goes. This is Vicki Cleveland and today is November 6th, 1998, and I am interviewing Lynn Dolan. Lynn, hello.
LD (Lynn Dolan): Hi.
VC: Hi.
LD: [Laugh] Can we start over?
VC: We can start over.
LD: [Laugh]
VC: Can you tell me where you were born?
LD: I was born in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, lived there until I was about three and then I grew up overseas. I didn't come back to the United States until I was about 16, 17 years old.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: So, our first country that we went to was Tehran, Iran so, pretty different \\ [laugh]. \\
VC: \\ I bet, \\ I bet. And how often did you get to come back to Charlotte or \\ to North Carolina? \\
LD: \\ We came back \\ to North Carolina, it was actually into Bessemer City, Gastonia area, once every two to three years, but it was only for a couple of months each time. It's what they call R and R.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: Until my father got his new assignment for the new post in the country we were going to go to.
VC: Uh-huh. And you said your father did what?
LD: My father was in the CIA.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: And, uh, but we lived on military bases and, um, the only place that we didn't live on a military base was when we were in Caracas, Venezuela.
VC: Hmm. Uh-huh.
LD: We were able to live off base because it was considered, um, a diplomatic mission that he was on at that point in time.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: So, and that was, uh, pretty different. We were there during the Kennedy assassination.
VC: Oh boy.
LD: And it was, it was a very different experience and being overseas, of course, things have deteriorated a lot with the Americans being overseas now. But at that point in time, um, it, it really threw the world into turmoil and it was, it was very different, although I was very young, to see how other countries reacted when America lost a leader was, you know, as I've grown older, really, um, at-, the United States controls a way, a lot of the way third world countries and stuff. I mean-.
VC: \\ Uh-huh. \\
LD: \\ -It's, \\ it's just remarkable.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: Um, and so the, the way the whole country went through that, first they wanted to send all the American home, and there was a lot of diplomatic kidnappings at that time. Of course, there still are, over in the Latin American countries.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: But it was just, um, it was very different.
VC: \\ Uh-huh. \\
LD: \\ One \\ of the things that stands out in my mind.
VC: OK. Was that one of the years that you were able to come back to the States so that you, you could see the comparison in the two reactions?
LD: No.
VC: Hmm.
LD: No. We were able-, they did show a lot of the television shows like the, um, funeral live over in Venezuela, you know, they, they, I guess, through TVs-, I remember watching it on TV. Um, proba-, it might have been a day later, I don't remember exactly, you know, but we did keep pretty much abreast of that.
VC: Uh-huh, OK. Well, back to when you said you would come home every two or three years for some R and R, what kinds of things did you do when you came back to North \\ Carolina? \\
LD: \\ I \\ played. [Laughter] It was usually during the summer time. We were lucky that, um, in the military if you have children, they try to, to coordinate your moves so that you don't have to relocate when your children are in school.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: I mean, it's not always the case, but they do try to work with you. So I usually came back, and we stayed at my grandmother's house and so it was summer time and I would get together with my cousins and we'd go playing and, and um, be able to do things out of mom's control and out of mom's sight \\ [laugh]. \\
VC: \\ Ah-ha. \\
LD: That you can't always do overseas.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: So, or on a military base. If you do something wrong on a military base, they call your dad [laugh].
VC: \\ Right, \\ right. Do you have lots of family here?
LD: Um, my, both my grandparents, both sets of my grandparents are here.
VC: Oh, OK. What kinds of things did, um, when you spent time with your grandparents, did, did your grandparents sit around and tell you all stories or did, were you just kind of free to just go out and roam around?
LD: I was free to just go out and roam and it was really good. But we would get with friends and, and we lived in a little town and so we would just roam the whole town. The only limit I had was, was I needed to be home before dark.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: That was it. You know, and of course not be brought home by policemen or anything like that \\ [laugh].\\
VC: \\ [Laugh] \\ OK.
LD: But, um-.
VC: It wa-, you said it was a small town? How, was it racially populated or culturally populated? Do you, do you recall any differences?
LD: I don't really-, it didn't make a point to me at that time. I don't really notice. I mean, everybody was the same to me which I think is great. I think all kids should be that way and I wish all adults were that way. I mean, I didn't-, when you grow up overseas you-, it's a different way of growing up and it makes you appreciate people for being people and it makes you see people for people.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: You get past what's on the outside and a lot of times, you don't even bother to look at it-.
VC: \\ Uh-huh. \\
LD: \\ -To \\ see what type of person it is. Because that's what you have to base how you're going to live your \\ life-. \\
VC: \\ Uh-huh. \\
LD: \\ -With, \\ with what type of person, it doesn't matter color, race, creed, anything. What type of person do you want to live your life with?
VC: Uh-huh. What about your cousins, who were here all the time, were you able to make an impact on their lives or, or did you find, um, maybe that, that they weren't as culturally diverse as you and-?
LD: No they weren't, they weren't. That's something that I could definitely see.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: And, and now I can see it coming back to another small town, you know, finally settling in another small town here, um, I definitely see that in people who have never been outside their little boundaries or their little city or their state, even.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: Um, it's, it's really, a shame.
VC: Uh-huh. Can you talk about it? I mean, what kinds of things you see?
LD: I just see where people define what's on one side of the tracks versus what's on the other side of tracks, there's the good part of town, there's the bad part of town.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: Or, up here, what I tend to notice most is that, um, families talk [laugh] about each other. There's, there's a lot of stories that circulate and a lot of people don't have names, but they'll say, "Well, did you hear what happened to Reverend Franks' granddaughter?" And, and it puts a mark on the whole family.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: And I don't think that that's right.
VC: \\ Uh-huh. \\
LD: \\ I mean, \\ and I don't think that people should be labeled by 'Reverend Franks' granddaughter' [laugh]. That person has a name and, you know, maybe that person made a mistake, but-
VC: \\ Uh-huh. \\
LD: \\ -up \\ here, I don't see that people tend to forgive as easily or forget it, it, once you have a stigma, it kind of like, stays forever.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: So-.
VC: \\ Uh-huh. \\
LD: \\ -It's-. \\
VC: Does your family have any?
LD: Of course they do \\ [laugh]. \\
VC: \\ [Laugh]. \\ Can you tell us about one?
LD: I don't, you know what? I don't, um, I can't honestly think of any right at the moment, but um, I know that just the, um, when we were up here during the summer I had to be very careful of what I did. You know, if I did anything that might have been [pause] I won't say bad because I really didn't do anything bad, but I will say mischievous.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: I had to be very careful because my grandfather was Preacher Franks \\ [laugh]. \\
VC: \\ Ooh. \\ OK.
LD: And I had to be careful because he would be the one that would be told about what was going on.
VC: \\ Uh-huh. \\
LD: \\ So \\ we, we had to be very careful about that.
VC: Uh-huh. Well, what kinds of mischievous things did you do? \\ [Laugh] \\
LD: \\ Oh, \\ just [laugh], well-, [laugh] just, one night, I spent the night with one of my girlfriends and I really didn't know at the time I was planning on spending the night, but she had a boyfriend. So, and I was new back into the United States at that point, so we hadn't really caught up on a lot stuff. And she wanted me to meet her boyfriend which she wasn't allowed by her parents to see because he was from the other side of town. So we snuck out of her bedroom window-.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: -After her parents had gone to bed and we thought we were being really cool. Of course we were being loud and everything else, so I'm sure that the whole neighborhood knew what we were up to, but we proceeded to go to her boyfriend's house who-, and it was after dark and he wasn't allowed outside and we decided to take a shortcut through a cemetery, which was not fun. Um, ended up the house next door to his parents was empty, so of course we were standing in the carport making lots of noise waiting on him to sneak out which he did. And then he had to sneak back in, but before he snuck back in, we noticed a car coming up the hill and it was the police, because we were making noise, you know, and people knew that it was an empty house and so they called [laugh] the police on us and, um, you know, we all just took off running and we were really scared and thought we were sneaking back to her parents house being undetected, walked past the car in the driveway and both her parents got out of the car because they had been out looking for us \\ [laugh]. \\
VC: \\ Ooh. \\
LD: So it wasn't that we did something bad, but we really shouldn't have been out and-.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: -It did teach us a lesson \\ [laugh]. \\
VC: \\ OK. \\ I bet. Getting caught right there in the act.
LD: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
VC: Wow. Well, do you think that, um, I know that, that your travels between, you know, between the States and other countries and just the, the kind of life that you led period was really, really made you a very, very culturally diverse person and I noticed that you're back in Charlotte, North Carolina.
LD: \\ Right. \\
VC: \\ Do \\ you plan on staying here and-.
LD: I do.
VC: \\ Uh-huh. \\
LD: \\ I do. \\ It was great to live overseas and I really, really miss it.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: Um, I would love to, to afford my children the opportunity that I had growing up to be educated overseas.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: To go and view different countries, view different cultures, meet different people.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: I, I hope one day to get that opportunity. I won't say that I want to go and live for years.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: Um, but, to be able to take a nice vacation there, but do more than just see the little touristy spots.
VC: \\ Uh-huh. \\
LD: \\ You \\ know, go, go off color, you know, to the countryside or-, in Germany they have beautiful castles. And I want to teach my children to appreciate-.
VC: \\ Uh-huh. \\
LD: \\ -What \\ other things have but, what other countries have, but also want to, I want them to appreciate here in the United States because we do have a lot that is just taken for granted.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: Um, I feel very strongly that the United States gives and gives and gives to other countries, but it's the politicians that are getting the money, it's not really getting to the people.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: That the United States needs to look at a lot of the people here, that are here-.
VC: \\ Uh-huh. \\
LD: \\ -That \\ need their help. We need to educate our children the way they're educated in Europe and we don't do that.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: European children are educated very, very well. It's not in the United States. That's what we need to invest our money in.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: In the children, in the education system, take care of our own. Then if we can help other countries, help them. But make sure it gets to the people, not to the, not to all the politicians.
VC: Right, I \\ agree. \\
LD: \\ But \\ that's just my opinion, you know \\ [laugh]. \\
VC: \\ Uh-huh, \\ it's a good opinion. Um, how about, um, some things that, that you do to help your children where they are. Are there-, do you tell your children fables or, um, um, like how do you teach them wisdom, because I know that you want them, even though they're here in this place, and they will grow up with the kinds of things that surround them here, how-, what kinds of things do you tell them to, um, to make them a little more open like you are?
LD: I try-, it's something my father told me, and I always-, and I think it works for any situation, not just, um, problem situations, if you put yourself in the other person's place, what would you do? How would you want someone to react to that? Would you like for someone not to like you because the way you wore your hair that day? Maybe you were having a bad hair day.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: Always put yourself in the other person's place before you make a decision.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: And it's really easier said than done. But if you stop and just take that one extra minute to do it, you can see a lot. You have to see the story from both sides no matter what it is. You can't just take one.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: And that's what I try to push on my children.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: You know, look at both sides first, then make your decision. But I also tell my children to, if you think that you're right in what decision you make and you honestly believe in your heart that you're right, I will back you no matter what, whether you are right or wrong. You know, hopefully I can guide you, if you're wrong, to make you change your mind, but I'll still back you no matter what.
VC: Uh-huh, OK.
LD: As long as you look on both sides and believe it, \\ you know. \\
VC: \\ Uh-huh. \\ OK. What kind of-, um, just one more question \\ [laugh]. \\
LD: \\ OK. \\
VC: What kind of, um, of um, [pause] in, in your own family, is there, um, different, um, I don't want to say races, but, you mentioned earlier that your family had some Indian line-, lineage?
LD: I-.
VC: Is that one of \\ the-. \\
LD: \\ Right. \\
VC: -The things that you're talking about?
LD: I come from, I call myself a mutt \\ [laugh]. \\
VC: \\ A mutt. \\
LD: Um, my, my grandfather was French-Canadian.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: He became an American, um, he was granted, during WW I, there was a, a program going on that if the Canadians-, and I'm not sure about other cultures, but I know specifically, that if you came and joined the American Army, they would give you an American citizenship.
VC: Hmm.
LD: And that's how my grandfather became an American citizen, because he was French-Canadian. They spoke French inside the home that my father grew up in, fluently.
LD: Um, you know, because that was their native tongue. On my mother's side, my mother, my grandmother, excuse me, was American Indian. She is from the Cherokee Nation.
LD: And my grandfather was from somewhere in Georgia [laugh]. And we've never really had a clear history on him, but he was a character himself, so, there's no telling. So, I'm kind of, um, a mutt.
VC: \\ Uh-huh. \\
LD: \\ I \\ have French-Canadian, I have American Indian, and I don't know what else in there [laugh]. So-.
VC: Do you speak French or, or did you learn-?
LD: \\ No. \\
VC: \\ -A lot \\ about the Indian culture?
LD: The American Indian culture is what I learned most about.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: Um, and it wasn't so much about fables as things that are passed down that you don't really take them as stories or as fables, but as facts.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: Uh, you always, there's always a spirit in everything. Everything has a spirit. Um, the earth is, is Mother Earth. The sky is Father Sky.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: Um, and then you have the winds. So you always give thanks to all of those. Um, and I really believe that, it may not be the fact that things have spirits, but I, I think that you should appreciate all these things, and, and I believe that it was probably the American Indian's way of getting you to appreciate and giving thanks for seeing the beauty of nature or, you know, the, the animals that fed them, they always, um, I always, um, thought it was kind of amazing when they would go out and, and have to, you know, kill a deer or whatever, that they always gave thanks to the deer for giving it's life-.
VC: \\ Uh-huh. \\
LD: \\ -To \\ feed them.
VC: Uh-huh.
LD: And I, I thought, that's pretty neat, you know, if more people today would give thanks for just a few things, it might be a nicer place.
VC: That's great. Well, thank you Lynn, I really appreciate \\ your time. \\
LD: \\ You're welcome. \\ You're welcome.