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Interview with Thomas Goedeke

Goedeke, Thomas
Silva, Ivonne
Date of Interview: 
Overcoming Obstacles; Cultural Identification
Thomas Goedeke tells of the early lives of his family and himself, and the things they did to maintain the culture while surviving hard times.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Ivonne Silva interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
IS (Ivonne Silva): Hi Tom. What is your last name?
TG (Thomas Goedeke): My last name is Tom. Well, actually my whole name is Thomas R. Goedeke.
IS: Ah, OK! Tom I'll be asking you some questions and this will be the first one. What stories do you remember family members telling you when you were a child?
TG: Ha! How about a ghost story?
IS: Oh!
TG: When a person dies in my family they're supposed to visit all the relatives that are alive. And that was, that was a story that we used to hear. Of course when my 99 years old grandmother died, she didn't visit anybody. [Laugh]
IS: Who used to tell you this?
TG: My grandmother. I was kind of disappointed that she didn't remember to visit me after she passed away.
IS: Do you remember usually in what places she used to tell you? Like at home or special occasions?
TG: No. Just uh, when uh, I don't know, when, when we talked about family members. But, but as I recall, I never asked her if she'd ever had a, maybe she did, she did tell me that someone got on the end of her bed when she was a kid and it was a departed family member. It kind of, [pause] it scared her, but at the same time she knew whoever it was had uh, passed away. [Pause] How about that?
IS: And it never happened to you?
TG: No. Is that wild?
IS: Yeah, wild. Do you tell that to your children?
TG: No, no I haven't so far I haven't. [Pause] Yeah, I might have told Andrea, my daughter.
IS: Uh huh. And, and do you remember your house? How it looked? How it was?
TG: When I was a kid? Oh sure, very much. But I didn't grow up around here. I grew up in New Jersey.
IS: And your grandma was in New Jerseytoo?
TG: Yeah, she was in New Jersey, and she had a house that was not far from our house and it was just a little old house and you know, my mother, my parents, my mother grew up there, my uncles, my aunts. And I remember stories about grapes, how they had grapes in the backyard. They had a grape arbor, where the grapes grow, and my mother to this day hates having grapes. Grape anything. Because in the Depression they had grapes. You know, grape jelly, grapes this, grapes that, lots of grapes. So--
IS: Wow! That is interesting. What about stories from your parents? From your father?
TG: From my father? He talks about being in the Depression and they were very poor, and they had to get coal. [Pause] They had to uh, heat their house and there was a place where the trains had to slow down on this hill as they climbed with, with coal going to New York City and the kids would get on this train with big sacks, big heavy sacks called burlap sacks and they would steal coal from the train, put it in these big bags, throw the bags off jump off before the train got rolling fast again to go down the hill. And that's how they kept warm in the winter, and the winters were very severe.
IS: Do you remember how old your father was?
TG: He said uh, you know, ten years old, [pause] you know nine, just young.
IS: Um. What about your mom?
TG: My mom talks uh, tells stories about picking tomatoes and she used to pick beans and tomatoes for a nickel a bushel and a bushel is a big basket and they would, [pause] she'd work all day. Maybe it was, no, I think it was a nickel picking these beans and they got a nickel for it. This may or may not be true. It, [laugh] maybe it was a quarter, it was a very small amount of money. Beans are a pain to pick.
IS: When she was a child?
TG: Yeah, when she was a kid. Sure.
IS: And where? In New Jersey?
TG: In New Jersey too. They're both from New Jersey.
IS: Wonderful. What about reading? Do you remember something about reading?
TG: I remember my grandmother, who was Welsh trying to teach me Welsh and she would sing nursery songs to me and tell me little poems in Welsh. I've never forgiven her for it. [Laugh]
IS: And why?
TG: It is a very difficult language. It's got clicks and it just doesn't sound like anything that is even, that we are even familiar with. Like a Romance language, like Italian or Spanish or French. This is stuff that's totally, "whoo," over the mountain and people just, Welsh is a dead language.
IS: And do you remember anything?
TG: Oh yeah, I remember the sounds of it. Like "orrorrrrr" kind of like "rorrrroruh," click, and she'd click and say funny things with the clicking sound. The clicking was fascinating, how she can talk and click at the same time was fascinating and then she wore dentures too and that made it even more fantastic. [Laugh]
IS: But um, favorite books when you were a child?
TG: My favorite books? Oh, I always liked Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl and he was a man who was in the South Pacific and he demonstrated that the Polynesians could weave basket boats together and travel all around the Pacific with these boats and to me that was fab, fabulous.
IS: So, you read those books.
TG: Oh Yeah. And I still have them. I actually looked at them once in a while and reminisce, you know, an unfulfilled dream.
IS: Wonderful. Thank you very much.
TG: Is that it?
IS: Yeah. You want to add something else?
TG: No, I guess that's about it.
IS: OK. Thank you very much.