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Interview with David Emrich

Emrich, David
Barefoot, Jamie
Date of Interview: 
Storytellers and stories; Childhood adventures
David Emrich talks about the stories he read as a child and a young adult. He also talks about the destinations where he and his family went and the adventures they had together.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Jamie Barefoot interviewed a variety of people currently residing in North Carolina for a class project at UNCC.
Interview Audio: 
JB (Jamie Barefoot): OK. This is David Emrich and he also grew up in Philadelphia and he's lived in Charlotte for, is it almost three years. Is that right?
DE (David Emrich): Three years.
JB: Um, and, I'll ask you the same questions as well. When you were growing up, do you remember reading a book that uh, you particularly liked and you remember or do you remember someone reading you a book that you particularly liked?
DE: See. When I was growing up the books I remember the most of were like The Hardy Boys Mysteries and Frank Swift and those kind of, really, um, you know, just serial, serializations of books and those were the books that I remember first. I don't remember any specific mysteries or anything like that I just remember reading [pause] dozens of them really, until I was probably seven or eight years old.
JB: Is there any particular reasons why you chose those books to read over others?
DE: I think that I was given them as a gift. The other, because I would, and they kept giving me gifts of books because they knew, knew I liked to read. And they were, it would, it would generally be series and like for example I remember, now I, now I recall uh, I'd gotten a series, uh, they'd come in box sets at Christmas and they'd be paperbox, paperbacks in a box with a eight or ten books in them. And I remember reading, like, uh I remember reading Sherlock Holmes mysteries this way and I remember reading books by J.R.R. Tolkien uh, you know Lord of the Rings, [pause] and you know all those books the same way. So I guess that these were the, I mean my parents knew I liked to read and I would always for Christmas or my birthdays or, or um you know anytime [dog barking] a gift was appropriate. These were the kind of gifts that I would get. I would get other gifts, of course, but not only also get something like this every year.
JB: [Pause] Were, I mean, obviously, your parents thought reading was important because they'd give you books because they knew you liked to read. Did they, like, when you were younger maybe you couldn't read, did they ever read anything to you that you remember?
DE: Hum. [Pause] No, I don't recall anything like that, it doesn't mean it didn't happen. It just means I don't recall it.
JB: Hum. Um [pause] did, as you got older, did they types of book change? Did you still like mystery type books?
DE: As I got older? [Pause] Let's see--
JB: You know, ten, eleven or twelve--
DE: By the time I got to be ten, eleven or twelve, I mean, I remember I would read the books that were assigned in school and I really like those, like, you know, the seventh grade readers, usually that John Knowles, A Separate Peace I remember reading that and it was very good and I remember reading um, um, Lord of the Flies by Sir William Golding which was, was the type of book that was assigned then. Um, even then I used to like to read histories. I remember reading very specifically, uh, uh, history of the German rocketry program during WWII that reading, you know--
JB: [Laughs]
DE: I was just [laughs] a thirteen or fourteen year old boy. Uh, I remember, actually, I remember reading a book, it was on the best seller list at the time, it was uh, it was probably written in the late seventies and it was called The Third World War and it was, it was uh, it was written as if it were factual but it was uh um, sort of a fictionalized account of what of a, of a potential third world war and I remember the funny thing, I remember was I read this book like after it was probably '77 or '78 and the war took place, according to this book in like '85 or '86. I wouldn't say I lived in dread, but I always a little afraid of that year--
JB: [Laughs]
DE: That this was the year that these, these events would come true and that there would be a Third World War. In fact, I remember, it was seventh grade [laughs]. I remember because in this particular book, the Soviet Union, at that point, had used, um, nuclear weapons against Birmingham, England, um, and I had, uh, and that's what caused their coalition to unravel because none of the coalition partners wanted any part of that and that was what eventually caused them to lose the war. But I remember doing a creative writing piece for a seventh grade reading class um, where I invented a series of newspaper articles surrounding that particular event. The fact that the Soviet Union had launched nuclear attacks various parts, various uh, you know, cities around the world.
JB: So you used what you had read to actually, you, you wrote about things you'd actually read?
DE: Yeah, I'd--
JB: Created your own writing system?
DE: Actually, what I did was I imagined that this was, that I was a news reporter writing for the New York Times or whatever--
JB: Hum.
DE: And I you know, made up a big headline, you know, "Such And Such a City Destroyed," you know, give a by-line, you know, give a date and time and then just start writing what I, what I thought were journalistic articles at that point about that event, event which I had read about in a book, which I had imagined.
JB: Hum.
DE: Um-hum.
JB: Um, did, do you remember any particular stories that were told to you when you were a child?
DE: Well, ah, I don't remember my parents reading anything I do remember being in grade school and being in the library and the librarian reading James and the Giant Peach to us. And we would go to, I forget how often we'd go to library, like, you know, maybe it was once a week, maybe it was three times a week but everytime we'd go we'd all sit on the rug we'd sit Indian-style, cross-legged and, uh, I'm sure it's very politically incorrect at this point, but the librarian could never say that today. Um, and then she would read us, you know, chapter at a time of James and the Giant Peach.
JB: Did you look forward to reading or hearing her read James and the Giant Peach?
DE: Yeah, sure did, I think, think I enjoyed James and the Giant Peach.
JB: Hum.
DE: In fact, I remember a few years ago they made a movie of it and I thought, "I ought to go see that," but I guess it didn't do so well and it fizzled and I never saw it, no.
JB: Hum. Do ever go back and reread the things that you read when you were younger, now?
DE: Uh--
JB: Maybe not now but you know within the last four or five years?
DE: Right. I don't re, remember rereading anything. Besides, um, things like, you know first off what I mentioned before, it would, it could be adult reading like, um, A Separate Peace or Lord of the Flies I remember rereading those in college just because I wanted to reread them. Um, but I don't, I don't remember rereading anything that I read when I was a kid that, that I, that I reread as an adult.
JB: [Pause] OK. [pause] Um. Do you, like now, um, I asked Meganthe same question, but now do you, are there any family stories that you either remember or, you like think are bizarre or you know, would like to hear again?
DE: [Sigh] [Pause] Well, I mean, I don't think that, uh, my family generally, doesn't sit around telling stories about what people did years ago or that kind of thing, years ago, there is one event I remember, um, no, I mean there's a few things, a few things I remember, or have memories of, but it isn't like anyone sits around telling stories about them. Certainly the memory I have is different than the stories that, that uh, [pause] the family swaps around the table or anything like that.
JB: [Pause] So, like, you remember specific events?
DE: [Pause] I remember general things, I remember one time, we were at the shore, my fam, my grandfather had a house in Stone Harbor and there was a hurricane and I remember, um, you know, we moved all the furniture inside for the hurri, hurricane and we went out and he had an awning over his porch and, you know, and we, we double-tied the awning down. During the hurricane we'd go out and check to make sure that uh, uh, you know, all the strings were still tied and the awning wasn't going to blow away, but I don't remember, you now, I don't think we'd sit around and telling that story I mean, I occasionally mention that. "Do you remember?" "Does anyone remember that story?" That, that kind of thing that.
JB: You don't elaborate on it much?
DE: [Pause] No, no, but I remember it, like, um, most of my memories of, of, childhood memories, I guess were, were of that beach house and you know, my grandmother, and my mother and my sisters would stay there during the week and then on the weekend the men would come down, like the men meaning my grandfather, and my father and that kind of thing.
JB: Um hum.
DE: [Pause] But, I don't remember, we, we, don't generally sit around and swapping stories about it, I mean, we just [pause] last week we were at, the whole family again, went to this time a North Carolina beach. My mom rented a house there and we, you know, I think at that point just because, you know, being at the beach I remember things and I would say, "You remember when we used to do this or that and the other thing and?" We talked about some other things then, but it wasn't like we sat around telling hilarious tales and laughing over dinner and things like that.
JB: [Pause] OK. Thank you very much.
DE: Well, you're welcome very much.