Accessibility Navigation:

Interview with Carolyn Gibbs

Gibbs, Carolyn
Stiger, Cary
Date of Interview: 
Then and now
Carolyn Gibbs talks about books she read as a child and books she reads now.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Cary Stiger interviewed Charlotte, NC residents to collect various stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
CG (Carolyn Gibbs): All right.
CS (Cary Stiger): Yeah. So what, um, things that you, stories that you remember from your childhood, books, or something to that effect?
CG: OK. The stories that I read as a child I remember that they were also my mom's books and she brought those, uh, to her home when she married. And one of them was The Ugly Duckling and I fell in love with that story because I think I always noted that it reminded me of me. I always felt like I was out of place. I always felt like somebody who didn't quite look like or act like everybody else in the pack or the group or the neighborhood. And I think that had a lot to do probably with how I started first grade. That was a large part of it but before that I remember that that was one that was read quite often and I asked for it to be read quite often. And then there was another story that had to do with, uh, the woman with a hundred cats. And that one was, was wonderful because we loved cats. We just didn't ever have any until much, much later on when I was a kid so I always thought it was very curious that this woman had one hundred cats and how in the world would she would manage that when we could barely stay in our house with four people in it you know so I couldn't figure that one out at all but it, it intrigued me. It was real interesting. Another story that I loved was an oral story that my great grandmother used to tell us. And, my great grandmother, uh, and my grandmother both married later in life so their stories were about an age much older than what you would normally think a great grandmother would have, but my great grandmother loved telling us a story about how she went to school. And, what she would tell us is that she would tell us about where she would walk from her house to stand to wait to go to school. And, she would talk about the yards that she went by and she would talk about the houses that she went by and she would talk about the other kids that would join her on the way and then we, when they got to the place where the, uh, um, uh, to, to be able to go to school she would say, "And then the stage coach drove, drove up." And, of course, the only stage coaches I had ever seen were those ones in the old timey westerns. That, that was just incredible to me that a stage coach would be coming around to pick up kids for school. And my great grandmother would always say that she was so proud that she was the one that got to climb to the very top next to the stage coach driver and I never heard why she got to do that. I don't remember. I just remember her telling that she got to ride next to the stage coach driver at the very top. I thought that was a great story.
CS: That's certainly cool.
CG: [Laughter] I thought it was pretty cool, too.
CS: I guess.
CG: I don't know. [Cough] Another story I remember, and I thought this was remarkable, that my mother would go and actually find a book like this, um, because I think it was my first introduction to, uh, women's liberation or the ability to do things that were normally reserved for men. And it was called, it was a book called Ann Can Fly. It was a book about a young woman who lived out in the Midwest and because she lived in such a remote area with the dad, uh, on a farm, they lived on a horse farm, uh, they had to fly in and out of the ranch to get to the larger cities quickly and, um, in the process of doing this, Ann learned to fly an airplane, a small airplane, and that always impressed me that a girl was the hero of this book, or the main character of this book and so that, that I think made me realize that girls can do things that men are usually the only ones [laughter] who seem to get the, the credit or the invitation to do as well or that the stories are about. Yeah, so I thought that was a pretty good book. Um, I don't remember the Dr. Seuss books. I remember hearing them but I don't remember having them so I think that was probably going to the library and hearing the Dr. Seuss stories told-.
CS: Uh-huh.
CG: -There, but we were big library people so we didn't go buy a lot of books. Any books that we had I think were already in the family or maybe were a couple that were purchased for, um, Christmas gifts so, um, the library was a big book place for us. I remember the Babar stories. Um, I remember The Cat in the Hat stories. I remember, um, the Madeline stories and [pause] as I got older I became fascinated with the Nancy Drew Mysteries. I loved all the Nancy Drew Mysteries because I like trying to solve them before she did which I rarely did because I didn't have quite enough of the clues, I figured out, and uh, what were some other stories?
CS: Another story with a female heroine to you. She was doing the job that usually the Hardy Boys did.
CG: That's correct. That's right.
CS: See, I read the Hardy Boys but I didn't read Nancy Drew.
CG: OK, OK. My sister got into the Bobbsey Twins. She got into that series, and I never got that. That didn't appeal to me at all. But um, I think that was something that, that was remarkable about, remarkable about my sister and me was that we tended not to do or read the same things. So oftentimes we didn't have a similar point of reference. Um, other stories. Let me think. I remember the Bible stories definitely. I mean that was a big part of the weekend going and hearing all of the Bible stories at church and Sunday school so that was a huge part of my life. Um, I remember hearing dad talk about stories about growing up on a, on the farm and what they had to do to work in the summertime or what they had to do to work on Saturdays to make some extra money by going to the farmer's market and selling the vegetables or selling the eggs or selling the hams that they cured. Um, they also made apple cider. They were real famous for their apple cider, um, on the farm he grew up on and that people knew about it well enough to, um, drive out to their farm to purchase it. So you know, not only were they working the farm but they were also selling from the farm. Um-.
CS: My family still does that.
CG: Still sells from the farm, or still sells farm, farm stuff?
CS: That's my, uh-huh, my uh, dad had, still lives on our farm.
CG: That's wonderful. That is, uh, that's still I think that's becoming a rare family tradition-.
CS: Uh-huh.
CG: -Or a lifestyle. Definitely. That's neat. OK, I think I'm just about hit a stop unless I get a prompt and remember something else. Um-.
CS: Do you remember what your favorite story was?
CG: Probably my favorite story was the very first one I mentioned, The Ugly Duckling. I loved that story, and it was also uh, one that was a springboard because I loved Cinderella. There, that was, that was, there it is, there's another one. Um, the fairy tales. I read, I read a lot of the fairy tales. In fact, mom had a book of Grimm's Fairy Tales so I remember reading about um, Rose-Red-.
CS: Rose-Red.
CG: -And Rose White.
CS: Uh-huh.
CG: And um, the troll that lived under the bridge and Billy Goat Gruff.
CS: [Laughter]
CG: -And um, oh gosh, Sleeping Beauty you know, and I think probably some of them had different titles because they, they were the original and not the Disney version.
CS: Right.
CG: And, Cinderella. I really liked Cinderella but that related to The Ugly Duckling story.
CS: So you liked the stories with the transformation-.
CG: \\ Oh, yeah, yeah, right. \\
CS: \\ -With the archetype\\ in it.
CG: Or, or the yes and not being recognized. The unrecognizable-.
CS: Uh-huh.
CG: -Um, character, you know, the hidden character until they, they undergo that transformation. Yeah. I did. I kind of, I related to that and uh, wanted my prince-.
CS: [Laughter]
CG: -To find that, that beautiful princess of course, so-.
CS: Yeah. I think I always wanted to turn into the beautiful princess. [Laughter]
CG: Yes. [Laughter] That's it. Well now I was waiting for that to happen, too. So I figured either the prince would recognize me or the fairy godmother would show up but-. [Laughter]
CS: Did you read Heidi?
CG: Yes, \\ I did. \\
CS: \\ I loved that story.\\
CG: I remember that. I remember. That was a Grammie story-.
CS: Uh-huh.
CG: -That she was able to get to me.
CS: Mine, too.
CG: Yep, yeah. I remember that one.
CS: That's a good story.
CG: Oh, that is a good one. Let me think, what else.
CS: I haven't thought about Billy Goat's Gruff in [pause] [laughter] I don't know how long.
CG: I know. I know. I know and well, I wouldn't have \\ thought of that story. \\
CS: \\ It's such a great story. \\
CG: Yeah. Oh, well, and The Three Little Pigs and you know-.
CS: Uh-huh.
CG: And then well, and uh, these weren't stories but the Mother Goose-.
CS: Uh-huh.
CG: -The rhymes, the nursery rhymes that are kind of a small version of those stories.
CS: "That lived in the house that Jack built." That kind of thing.
CG: Yeah, that's right. That's it. And you know or, "The old woman who lived in the shoe had so many children she didn't know what to do."
CS: Sounds like us now.
CG: Yeah. I know. That's it. [Laughter] Teachers do have too many kids. I, I'm aware of that. I'm trying to think what else. I'm just scanning, I'm, I'm scanned the tapes here. Get my retrieval system working again.
CS: Can you tell how different the Grimm's are from-.
CG: The Disney?
CS: The yeah, the rest of the stories? We had two books, we had the Grimm's that my mom wouldn't let me read-.
CG: Uh-huh.
CS: -And then had the, the Disney ones, the Little Golden Books.
CG: Uh-huh.
CS: -Like, um, Brer Rabbit and Tar Baby.
CG: Oh, yeah. OK, I remember some of the Uncle Remus stories, yep.
CS: Little Golden Books, we used to get them at McDonald's.
CG: Yeah.
CS: In the Happy Meals. [Laughter] It was the only time my mother ever gave me fast food.
CG: Yeah. I think we went through our fast food when it, when it finally appeared in town. And just to go through and say we'd been through a fast food restaurant.
CS: Uh-huh.
CG: That was I think the one and only time we went because our family wasn't a big one for going out to eat. Um, with my mom's major and my dad's farm background, you know, there was nothing like home cooking.
CS: Uh-huh.
CG: So, um, we did, we did not eat out.
CS: We didn't eat out either, only when they had books.
CG: That, well and I don't even think we did that. I don't, I don't even think that was a motivation enough because I, the library, the library was the big thing, you know. Once a week we went to the library or the book mobile came in the neighborhood.
CS: I loved the book mobile.
CG: That bus, I know that was magic wasn't it?
CS: It had the Ramona, do you remember the Ramona books?
CG: The Ramona? Yes, Bezus. Is it Bezus?
CS: Beverly. Beverly Cleary. Bezus.
CG: Uh-huh. Bezus and Ramona.
CS: I never got into those. I liked, um-.
CG: I remember reading one but just-.
CS: I read one because the librarian saying, "Oh, you should read these." And uh, I didn't like it.
CG: Uh-huh.
CS: Madeline L'En-, L'Engles?
CG: Ingalls? The House on the Prairie?
CS: The Wrinkle in Time.
CG: The Wrinkle in Time. Oh. And Charlotte's Web. I remember that from third grade. I know, I know. I remember that one from third grade. That one was read aloud to us by our third grade teacher and that meant something.
CS: Uh-huh.
CG: That was really special because the imagery in that.
CS: That was a wonderful book. Uh, James and the Giant Peach.
CG: I didn't read that growing up.
CS: My, that's what my third grade teacher read to us.
CG: OK. Now, Madeline, uh, no, Ingalls, Laura Ingalls Wilder. When you said Madeline L'Engle I heard Ingalls. And went off with The Little House on the Prairie. Um, my sister got into those stories and I did not. Just like she got into, um, Bobbsey Twins. But I knew the story. I mean she would be talking about them you know around the house-.
CS: Uh-huh.
CG: -Or with mom or you know something that interested her and she was asking mom, like, uh, well, "Did people really do that back then?" I mean you know, "Did you do that mom, when you used to grow up?" Course, no. [Laughter] Mom wasn't living out on the prairie-.
CS: Prairie. [Laughter]
CS: -In the, you know, yeah, in the farmhouse, you know.
CS: The sod farmhouse, no less.
CG: [Laughter] Right, exactly. Mom was, mom was born and raised in Boston, so-.
CS: Uh-huh. Tough. No prairie for her.
CG: So that's right. The Ugly Duckling really meant something because we got to go up and see the swan boat which was in that story and that was real to me and that made it even more wonderful because of the swan boats and the, the, the policemen that helped the ducks across the street. We saw one of those guys.
CS: Huh.
CG: And he looked just like the one in the book, too. He looked like, like that big roly-poly policeman.
CS: Posed for the sketch.
CG: With the big cheeks. I know. Exactly.
CS: He's probably there because he looks like that.
CG: That's right.
CS: Yeah. You get the Santa Claus duty and duck duty.
CG: Yeah, absolutely.
CS: The rosy cheeks.
CG: Absolutely.
CS: That's really neat.
CG: And there was, I'm trying to think. There was one other book and it had to do with all these brothers and they were Chinese brothers, and it was, it was one of those layered stories that it kept building on itself layers and layers and layers of stories and something would happen, and it would have an effect or a consequence on the next and it was all those bro-, Chinese brothers and cannot remember the name of that story.
CS: Hmm. That's something I haven't heard. Did your parents read a lot to you when you were real young?
CG: I do not remember them doing that. I remember, I remember somebody was reading and it was usually I remember Grammie or Great-Grammie but I had to have learned to have read because that mom kept me out of kindergarten because I already knew how to read. I already knew my letters. I already knew some words, so somebody was reading to me. I honestly don't remember it.
CS: Hmm.
CG: So I don't know if it was a bedtime story. I don't know if it was, uh, you know, my sister had, uh, her read the book, read the book, and so evidently I was able to read a book and that was what I did. But somebody had to have been doing that for me. She was small enough to get those three words, you know. She was interested in stories. And she is a reader. I mean she is a ravenous reader today and I am not. I go through spells of wanting to read something. And I still like mysteries. Still like you know, a detective story or a problem-solution story.
CS: J.D. Robb? Do you read some of those stories?
CG: I've been reading some of, um, Amanda Quick and, um, I love well, these are not mysteries so much as they're detective stories. They have to solve the crime. Robert B. Parker.
CS: Uh-huh.
CG: He's such a-.
CS: Uh-huh.
CG: -Man, you know, the Spencer stories.
CS: Very masculine.
CG: Yeah and let me think who else?
CS: Do you ever read any of the new sci-fi mysteries like Robert Ludlum and Jean Rodenberry?
CG: I did oh, a long time ago. I got into some of the Ludlum books. And uh, but what I found I was interested in later on was, um, the fantasy like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and then I got into a lot of the sci-fi Isaac Asimov and the Foundation Series and Robert Heinlien's, some of his stuff. And um, and then I found a couple of other folks who were doing some romantic adventure sci-fi mystery story combinations and-.
CS: Can you think of any of the stories that you read that might've sprung the, the sci-fi kick?
CG: Oh, that's a good question. I don't know what prompted that.
CS: See, I know mine. The first, when my third grade teacher read James and the Giant Peach to us.
CG: Uh-huh.
CS: And my fourth grade teacher read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The CS Lewis series, Prince Caspian, and all that. That was a whole fantasy world and after that, that was it. I was done. [Laughter] I found what I liked.
CG: I had not. I had not heard of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe until after I read The Hobbit and began to do some research because I was teaching at that time and I mean I read that late, later on and then started discovering about The Inklings. CS Lewis and, um, Tolkien and all those professors at Cambridge that would meet once a week and share their, what they had been writing and read it aloud to one another around the fire. I could just imagine that. And that's when I stumbled across CS Lewis and his writings and, uh, I was glad to start reading those. I have, I am trying to think. I hated horror stories. I absolutely hated anything that had to do with horror. And, E. T. I think that must've been it. And you know, I remember Dad and I had such a love for that movie when it came out that it was the first time I remember having a common interest with him and I thought, well, if he likes that and you like that kind of story, I wonder you know, if there some books that would be interesting. It was shortly after that that I picked up The Hobbit and the, the, you know, the other science fiction stuff and um, I think it was Star Trek came out, the original Star Trek series came out and, then, right after that or somewhere in that time frame, um, Star Wars. That was what launched all the science fiction stuff for me.
CS: So, media science fiction.
CG: Yeah, yep.
CS: That's neat.
CG: And I dug into the reading of it you know because there was just that one Star Wars and then there wasn't too much else that I remember seeing. Um, Lost in Space. I remember that as a, as a, and My Favorite Martian. Those were TV shows I think probably I saw later that got me interested a little bit more, but they were silly, you know, they didn't seem real.
CS: Yeah.
CG: They were almost like a fairy story.
CS: The um, the mystery novels. The mystery novels obviously from Nancy Drew. So, that's really neat.
CG: Yeah.
CS: Well, thank you.
CG: You're welcome. Thanks for asking. I hadn't thought about or talked about this in a while.
CS: Thank you.
CG: Sure.