Accessibility Navigation:

Conversation with Jeffrey Leak

Leak, Jeffrey
Ellison, Shelley
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with People and Places; Then and Now; Childhood Adventures; Stories and Storytellers
Jeffrey Leak tells the story of his grandmother's childhood and how his mother and sister found condoms in his car when he was a teenager.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Shelley Ellison interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
JL (Jeffrey Leak): Resident with me and the most from my childhood was, ah, the story about my grandmother. My mother I'm, I'm from Charlotte, and my mother was from here as, well she died in 1992, yeah December 1992, and she the only girl of 10 kids. She had nine brothers. I had nine uncles. Three of them are still living. Uh, but one of the stories, uh, my grandmother was born in 1898, yeah, 1898, and she lived to be, ah, 102. So she had 10 kids, and, of course, her parents had been slaves.
SE (Shelley Ellison): Uh-huh.
JL: So, um, my mother grew up out near the airport, near, in the Steele Creek community and, um, my grandmother, for all those years, all the 20th century, basically, lived out in the country until the last three years of her life. She came and lived with us. But she had her leg amputated so she moved in with us and we took care of her. Uh, but before that she was in the country, and so my mom use to talk about how as the only girl she would have to wash dishes and do the domestic things, so even at dinner, Sunday dinner, if their were a chicken, if they had fried chicken, my mother had to wait for her brothers to eat the choice pieces of chicken and then she could eat a wing or a back or a neck and to the day she died that's how she was. If she fried some chicken for us she'd always eat the smallest pieces. The meager looking pieces. So my mother use to sit back in her chair in the den and talk about how one Saturday Granny, uh, had decided she was going to go to town and you know back then, you're talking, oh probably 1930s, early 1930s, uh, my mother would've been 10 or 12, somewhere around there, and Granny, uh, went to the train track to get on the little trolley train, whatever they had at that time to come downtown.
SE: Uh-huh.
JL: Well during her absence my mom was suppose to clean the house and probably prepared dinner and stuff like that. This was a Saturday. Well my mom thinking, "Oh Mom's gone all day." She's gone hang out a little bit. Well after about, I don't know, about two hours, two and a half hours, I think, my mom said Granny came back and she was quite upset. One, Mama hadn't done any work she was suppose to do, and she got a beat down, all right, and two, Granny had sat about two hours at the, um, train stop and she hadn't noticed the tracks had been moved.
SE: Uh-huh.
JL: So there was no longer a train that ran there and so, [laughing] I don't know what the, um, I don't know what the rationale was for all of that. I guess they just changed the route and what not, but, uh, she laughed about that all the time, my mom did, she didn't laugh at the time she was getting beat, ah, but she use to always tell us that was really the only time that she got beat //
SE: Uh-huh.
JL: //by Granny and, and she never beat her boys because her boys could did no wrong in her mind. So that's probably my favorite story about, uh, or from my mom that I recall. I believe, yeah. And then, hum, there's another story, well this is a, this is not a, this is not a story she passed down this is a story of mine, I guess.
SE: Uh-huh.
JL: That happened with Mama and Granny and my sister Reda.
JL: Now bear in mind that I told you Granny moved in with us, um, towards the later years of her life, and when she moved in with us I was in the 10th grade, so I was just starting high school. Um, you know, going through puberty and dating and playing basketball and stuff like that. That, that was my favorite sport. So my senior year, I went to the health department, to get a physical. That's required for those who are playing sports.
SE: Yeah.
JL: You got to have a physical. No problem. I was up on Beatties Ford Road. Everybody knows where the health department is there. Well, standard procedure back then, I don't know what it is now, is that you come in, someone comes in and they give you, now I don't if it's like this now, but back then they would give you a bag of prophylactics, condoms, all right. So they gave me a bag, and I didn't really, you know, pay any attention to it. So I said, "OK, fine," and I actually put them in my trunk, trunk of my car.
SE: Uh-huh.
JL: This was like a Monday or a Tuesday. Now my mother never drove, her entire life she never drove, so I took her wherever she went.
SE: Uh-huh.
JL: Took her to the grocery store, took her to church, stuff like that. My grandmother never drove either, even before she had her leg amputated. So Sunday comes around and this particular Sunday we're taking Granny to her home church.
SE: Uh-huh.
JL: Out in the Steele Creek area, out past the airport. And that's fine, you know, I'm driving. I got, ah, at that point I was driving an Oldsmobile Delta 88. It was a diesel. And so this Sunday morning we had eaten breakfast and we're getting Granny situated in her wheelchair and everything and that was pretty much my job, and I told my mom and my sister to go out to the car and open the trunk. And my sister Rita did that. All of a sudden we hear these yells.
SE: Uh-huh.
JL: "Oh my goodness something's happened, Mama. Come back here." I'm thinking they found a dead dog, or, you know, something in the driveway, backyard. Then Mama goes, uh, "Oh Lord, help me." [Laugh] I say, "What is the problem?" And so, "Jeff, Jeff get out here right now." I mean everybody in the neighborhood. I mean it's Sunday morning and this is an old black neighborhood, everybody knows everybody. And so, I take Granny out, wheel her out, through the front door. I said, "Well, I say Granny, Mama's calling me. Something's wrong, but let's go on out and I'll get you situated in the car." And, um, get her in there and around to the back. "Explain this," and I said, "Explain what? I just told you to open the trunk." Well low and behold the condoms, which are multi-colored, had fallen out the bag. So they spread out all over the trunk, red, green, blue, whatever. And it's Sunday morning, we're on our way to church. I'm like, "Well," I'm speechless, what am I going to say, they already convicted me now, my mother and my sister. So, needless to say, that, that ride to church was very quiet and they said, "Excuse me, this afternoon you and your nephews," my sister's kids, who are my age, uh, "We're going to have a talk after dinner." And so we had the birds and the bees talk after dinner.
SE: Uh-huh.
JL: Now remember my mother was at that point, at that point, she was probably, she had me when she was 46, so she was close to 60, yeah she was close to 60 at that point. And it's hard enough talking to your parents about sex if they're fairly young. It's definitely hard getting it from a 60 year old.
SE: Uh-huh.
JL: Now, of course, my dad never talked to me about any of that stuff, but that's another story. So we had Sunday dinner and we went through the do's and don'ts of sexuality. Needless to say, my nephews and I were quite embarrassed and didn't want to be there. But they were just convinced that they were getting ready to just ruin our lives, but some women were going get us to do some stuff they didn't need to do and we were going be some baby's daddy, and Lord, and that's my story in terms of, um, um, something we still laugh about my sister and I, yeah.
SE: Thank you
JL: That will work.