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Interview with Phil Hecox

Hecox, Phil
Scardina, Trish
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with People and Places; Then and Now; Cultural Identification; Stories and Storytellers; Tolerance and Respect
Phil Hecox tells stories of staying in a hotel for prosititutes while he and his wife were vacationing in Italy, reading his favorite book as a child, and building a convertible hearse he drove around Charlotte, NC.
Italy, Saudi Arabi, 1968; Charlotte, 1978
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Trish Scardina interviewed Charlotte residents to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
PH (Phil Hecox): Uh, one of the reasons why you have to have reservations if you're traveling in Italy during the summer. In the summer of '68, we were living in Saudi Arabia, so instead of going back to the States for our vacation we spent a [pause] total of about, uh, a total of about of seven weeks in Europe, either, uh, negotiating contracts or on vacation. And so we get into, uh, Rome, uh, oh middle of, July, I guess. And, uh, get in on the repido about, oh, one o'clock in the morning and we need a hotel 'cause we were flying out the next day to, uh, Saudi Arabia. And, uh, Rome is packed with tourists, there's no, there is nothing available. And finally, the cab driver takes us into this lower class, residential area, seven-, eight-story tenement houses, both sides of the street [cough]. And, uh, which, at that time, it was normally, one floor would be leased out as a pensionne. And so we wind up at this pensionne and we're there, uh, uh, getting the low down from this woman that was, the manager, and about that time down the hall comes this good looking blonde all duded up peignoir. Uh, and she's got this guy in a business suit on her arm, and, uh, she sees him to the door. And about this time my wife and I look at each other and realize this isn't like most of the pensionnes that we'd spent the night in. And it was, uh, you've heard the, uh, expression, the, uh, house was done up Milwaukee whorehouse 1900s, well that was about the, uh, furnishings in this place. And so for the rest of the night, the doorbell was ringing a whole lot, and, uh, but it was, it was really kind of a nice experience, and the next morning we got up, had breakfast there, and then caught the plane back to Saudi. [laugh] And I always told the wife, I says, "I bet when we got married you'd never thought you'd spend the night in the cathouse." And, uh, let's see. Books that I was, when I was growing up so long ago, uh, white middle class people considered it an absolute responsibility to read to their children every night. There was no such thing as television yet, and radio, uh, the "Red Skelton Show" was over by, I think, probably eight o'clock, so by eight-thirty there was nothing really on radio that kids were interested in so you got read to. And I always remember, uh, a book, uh, that we still have in the family, Stocking Boy of West Texas, and it was the adventures of a 13-year-old kid in Texas prior to the, or about the time of the Civil War. And, uh, uh, it was politically incorrect that he would had aspirations to be a buffalo hunter and kill buffalo by the hundreds, and they were attacked by Indians. I remember once, and at age, about age 13, he was shooting at great Native Americans, and you think nowadays of a book, what chances a book like that could be published in the United States? About zero.
TS (Trish Scardina): I have one question, tell me about the convertible hearse.
PH: Oh that.
TS: [Laugh]
PH: Uh, in about 1978 I had this urge to buy a, uh, four-door Lincoln convertible. It was parked down the street from me. Three of the tires were flat and I was trying to negotiate the purchase with the owner who was senile. And, uh, he was actually committed before, to an institution, before I could get him to commit to me having me buy it anywheres near my price. So I was rather shook up about that, and then I saw this Cadillac hearse for sale in, by a small funeral home in South Carolina. I wound up buying a '63 Cadillac hearse with rather low mileage on it. It was a small town, so to get to the nearest cemetery or the farthest one wasn't that far. And so, uh, we drove this Cadillac hearse home, and I decided I was going to make a four-door convertible out of it. I cut the top off from the windshield back, including the back doors. And I, naturally, wanted to do it in [technical break] good taste, so I painted the thing Volvo sun yellow the seats I upholstered, that I got from a junkyard, I upholstered them in red velour, and I had metallic silver, uh, carpeting on the floor. I put dixie horns on it and, uh, I had a bumper sticker, this was shortly after, uh, Teddy Kennedy dropped his honey in the Atlantic Ocean, and I made a bumper sticker that said, "America needs the Kennedy's just like Kopeckne needed a glass of water." And the kids in the neighborhood would come and hound me to go out and what they called "Hooker Hunts" because, at that time, in downtown Charlotte any gal that was on the street after quarter o' six was obviously a hooker. And I'd have maybe six, eight, ten of the neighborhood kids, aged from say seven on up to 12, in there and we'd go through downtown Charlotte, uh, blowing the dixie horn. And, uh, really, uh, it was really something. I even had a guy spot it in, uh, the office parking lot and give me a call on it from Ohio, and, uh, people, if you went someplace, you'd have to take twice as long because when you park people would come up and want to talk to you about it. [Pause] That's 10 minutes.
TS: That's 10 minutes. All right, thanks.