Accessibility Navigation:

Interview with Gail Lovell

Lovell, Gail
Lovell, Nicole
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with people and places; Stories and storytellers; Overcoming obstacles
Gail Lovell talks about her parents, her feminist mother, her daughter that died, and seeing Mother Theresa speak.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Nicole Lovell interviewed Charlotte, NC residents to collect various stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
NL (Nicole Lovell): This is Gail Lovell from the Charlotte America culture, interviewed by Nicole Lovell. Are there any stories you remember particularly from growing up?
GL (Gail Lovell): I think the stories I remember the most are stories that, uh, my mother told. She was 42 when I was born, so she, uh, was born 1901, which gave her quite perspective on history and life. She, uh, grew up on a farm in Iowa, the northern part of the state. Uh, her mother died when she was about five years old. So, she had sort of, uh, a difficult childhood, but, uh, very nice and a lot of respect with her grandparents which were kind to her and she had, uh, a lot of aunts and uncles and, uh, cousins to play with. It was an interesting life. They, uh, I think one of the stories that, uh, thought my mother that sort of defined her characteristics. She was a person who was a feminist before it was popular to be a feminist. She wanted to, uh, learn how to fly a plane. There was a person there in the neighborhood up there in Iowa who went around born, barn storming in a biplane and, uh, he took my mother for a ride. Well, she wanted to learn how to fly and her father told her that there was just absolutely no way that his daughter was ever going to fly a plane. And that was one of the big disappointments of her life because she wanted to be able to fly. But, she, uh, became a musician and she played in a band. And, uh, she had a very, uh, fulfilling career with music. She loved her music, and, uh, these are the stories about her playing in the band, living on the farm and, uh, things that I think I grew up with, and, uh, probably influenced me the very most.
NL: And she also raised you and took care of your brother and sister by herself and, uh, that was unusual for the time. Tell us a little about that.
GL: My father died when I was quite young and so she, uh, maintained the home and, uh, raised the family. She never ever heard her complain. She was the kind of person that she always looked at the positive view point on things and even though things were difficult she always, uh, looked at things as if the glass was half full instead of half empty. I think this was possibly because of her early training but, uh, you know life was basically good. It was what you made out of it.
NL: You remember any, uh, incidences of growing up or any of your good friends? Any things are poignant at the time when you were growing up?
GL: Uh, I think one of the interesting things, uh, when I went to school, grade school it was very much, uh, one type of, uh, social strata in school. And we had one girl in our school who was Jewish and she became my best friend and it was so interesting at that time because I hadn't had any contact with anybody who was not, uh, Protestant Anglo Saxon and it was very learning good experience for me and, uh, her, uh, parents and grandparents had had considerable problems through the years because of their religion and problems that way and, uh, it was very interesting and, uh, I think a very broading eye opening experience for me.
NL: Did you see like a lot of racism growing up and-?
GL: No, uh, we, I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. And, really, uh, it was everything was so separate that we didn't see it. This was something that, uh, until I was in high school and in college we really were not aware of the situation.
NL: And your mother taught you to be very // accepting-? //
GL: // Oh yeah. //
NL: -Of other people.
GL: That was, uh, that's what we grew up with that, uh.
NL: Perhaps you didn't see it 'cause that's not how you were raised.
GL: No, no, that was, uh, very much, we, we thought that, uh, everything we were all God's children and that's the way it was [laugh]. There was really no discussion of it other than, uh, everybody you know was, was equal.
NL: Do you remember any stories like, like literary stories your mother may have told you when you were little or do you remember any favorite books that you had?
GL: Oh my, uh.
NL: Did your mom read to you when you were little?
GL: She always read to us. I can't think of any just, you know distinctly but, uh, she read to me, but, uh, books were always valued in our home that was just something that was to be proud. My mother read the paper everyday from front to back. And [laugh], I can still see her sitting at the dining room table, uh, reading the newspaper and smoking a Phillip Morris commander [laugh].
NL: [Laugh]
GL: And, this was just, uh, this was something that, uh, you did it and enjoyed and uh, I think she bought a great love of books and literature to us.
NL: And music too?
GL: And music, and music definitely, uh, music is one of the things that just was part of my life and she liked all kinds of music, uh, she kept her mind open.
NL: [Laugh]
GL: For many, many years, uh, she even listened to uh. rock and roll. Yeah, I can remember when my uh, elder son was listening to Led Zeppelin. She listened to Stairway to Heaven, and she said, "Yeah. I think kind of like that." And she had to have been 80 years old at the time but, uh, she could always stop and listen and try to evaluate something.
NL: Did you notice any differences between here and the Midwest? I mean in the way people are or marked differences.
GL: I think the thing that's really interesting is the similarities. I think because the South, uh, is basically on an agricultural background and so is the Midwest, that you see a lot of similarities. You see similarities in speech, you see similarities in their stories and, uh, people's backgrounds are very similar when they're brought up on a farm, that sort of is a great equalizer [laugh] for a lot of people. So, I think this is one thing that's made it very similar. I'm, I was surprised by that when we moved here. I expected to see the South like in quotes, the South that you would see in Gone with the Wind, or uh, In the Heat of the Night [laugh] or something like it. And, I was very surprised when we moved to Charlotte and I found out that the South was not the stereotypical image that, uh, had been portrayed through the years.
NL: Did you have any favorite teachers that you remember, that inspired you, or?
GL: I had some wonderful English teachers. I had uh, Miss Floree who taught British Literature and she loved it when everybody used to kid that, she was there when, uh, Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales, but she was a person who loved, loved her work and she loved literature. And, I was very impressed by her and, uh, well, there was, and I had a Latin teacher that, uh, was just very, very, great too. She loved language and she loved Latin and she was very much, uh, trying to make, make everyone aware of our origins of language and, uh, I loved Latin because of that.
NL: Do you think when you were going through school, what kind of differences do you see like between what your children went through?
GL: Uh, it was a completely different experience [laugh] uh, when we were in school, uh, high school, uh, you took which was, uh, college preparatory classes. I mean that was what you took. We, we didn't have a diversity of classes. We had certain classes. You had English all the way through. You had math all the way through, science all the way through and, uh, socially speaking it was, it was uh, completely different [laugh] than it is now a days. Uh, like with my family for, uh, Nicole was the youngest and my oldest is 35. So I've seen quite a variety in their schooling experience. They've, uh, they had different, different levels completely.
NL: Were you around when they started having TV?
GL: Uh-huh.
NL: What was that? How much different was that like? Did it change what you were saying, reading, the news and everything, getting to see things on TV?
GL: Uh.
NL: And now seeing what it is today?
GL: I can remember when we first bought the television.
NL: Uh-huh.
GL: Perhaps 1950 and [laugh] it was, uh, it was quite an experience and it was, they looked at it as an absolute miracle and I think it has brought a lot of good things, it has brought a lot of bad things to us. I think people depend on television to much and they don't, uh, they don't read. They don't, uh, seek out the information themselves. They depend on somebody feeding it to them in very small short sentences. I think that's a mistake.
NL: What do you, uh, what do you think has changed about family structure, since you were coming up what was considered normal then and what you do now?
GL: Well, I think we've been very fortunate. Uh, my mother kept our family standing even though you know my dad passed away, uh, we always sat down to dinner together and this was tradition and this is something that, uh, we carried through in our family.
NL: Still?
GL: Yeah, we sit down. We don't sit in front of the television to eat dinner. That's our time to be a family, to talk and share and I think that is one of the most important things that you can share as a family and, uh, when you have problems it's much easier to face them if you have that kind of, uh, basis, an everyday working basis.
NL: Why, have you, have you been able to travel?
GL: Yes, I've traveled throughout the United States but, uh, I've never been out the country but, uh, I've traveled in most areas in the United States. I love to travel. This is uh, something we did as a family when I was young. We would, uh, we would either go by car, or by train quite a bit and this was a experience that, uh, you can't have literally today, traveling by train and, uh, you can really see the country that way. But I enjoyed visiting various areas and, uh, seeing the, uh, different ways of life and the different, uh, oh, people. I love to watch, watch people and hear people. I like to, I love to travel. I love to go through O'Hare airport in Chicago and I like to sit there and listen to all the people and, uh, try to figure out where they're from and, uh, what their stories are because it's just a sea of different people.
NL: What triggers memories for you?
GL: Well, I would say one of the main things, smell [laugh].
NL: [Laugh]
GL: We kid about that in my family because that's one of the things that, uh.
NL: ( )
GL: Uh, we sniff [laugh]. I can tell my children, I can tell them when I give them a hug I can tell them out of a crowd of a thousand, and uh, cooking smell, the smell of spring, the smell of winter, in the air, the, the leaves, um things like that are powerful triggers.
NL: What about food traditions in the family?
GL: Well, we have, we have very many food traditions. Great food ( ) [laugh]. My dad had, uh, was the turkey dressing person and he, uh, made the turkey dressing when I was real young and then my mother carried it through and uh, now, I make the same dressing, oyster dressing with sage and it's quite, quite famous through our family and group of friends, we have people to come over at Thanksgiving for no other purpose but to have oyster dressing, so, we have, we have a lot of family traditions that way.
NL: What are some of your, uh, what are some of the, uh, interests that you have acquired?
GL: Well.
NL: Alex.
GL: [Laugh] One of the things we have knowing we do, we have three dogs at our house and, uh, two of them are from the humane shelter and one is Nicole's dog and he's a pure bred and we forgive him that [laugh], I do, I do love having, uh, the various animals around and, uh, that's one of the fun things in the house. Uh, one of the things I really enjoy doing is I work with Holy Angels as a volunteer and I love working with the children up there.
NL: ( )
GL: It is uh, one of the, uh, most satisfying things I've ever done. It's one of those things I wish I had discovered earlier in life. I think I would have loved to have made a career in working with these children. They are so, so very, very special, and the feedback that you receive from them is like nothing else, nothing else at all.
NL: We seen, uh, a change in the role of like the mother since you were growing up and what do you think of it?
GL: Yes, uh I have three of my children are married and, uh, have their family. And, I think it's more difficult in some ways now a days to maintain the family and to keep that strength together because there are so many things from the outside pulling, pulling on families today that, uh, make it much more difficult for a mother to, uh, to be with her children and, uh, if you're working outside the home you lose an awful lot. There's, uh, quality time is important but quantity because, of it happens when you're not there, it happens and, uh, I, I would just feel terrible if I had to miss some of the things that I've missed. [Long pause]
NL: [Pause] Uh, what advice would you give, uh, a student here you know or a college student? What would you, things that are important for somebody to know?
GL: I don't know. I look at, uh, people starting off in college, my children [laugh] uh, when you start off as a freshman, you're going to have a lot of experiences, have a lot of knowledge, a lot of things in order to determine what you want to do with your life. Not easy 'cause sometimes when you're 45 and 50, you don't know what you want to do with your life. So, uh, I, I think that to get a broad spectrum of experience is really important so that you can make these decisions and test the waters, see what you want to do, but, gives you that feeling of reward. [Pause] There's a lot of people that, uh, I'm 56 now and I know a lot of people my age that, uh, have worked for years and years that are approaching retirement or have retired and they were never truly satisfied with what they were doing. And, that's really, that's sad that is so sad to reach that point in life and say I never really wanted to do what I did all my life, that'd be terrible.
NL: Is that a lot?
GL: Um-huh.
NL: Are there any particular traditions in your family?
GL: Well, I think, uh, a lot of our background I can kind of say that, uh, my family is a backwash of the British Empire. We're Welsh and Irish and Scotch. So, we have a lot of family traditions with, uh, the holidays and Christmas and things like that are very important, uh, I don't know, uh, I think we have evolved, have evolved our own traditions through the years because life changed from the time I was a child and, uh, now a days things are a little but different. We all tried to gather together on Christmas. One way or the other we manage to get it done. Just about every year, and uh, those are the things that, uh, are very important to us.
NL: Is there any life changing experience you can think of?
GL: We had, uh, oh, I think there have been several life changing experiences in my, my life. We lost a daughter when, uh, she was 18 in a, uh, car accident. And this was a kind of thing that, uh, it stopped everybody in the family in their tracks, it's, it's, uh, something that you don't get over. You learn to live with and you re-evaluate your standards, your life and, uh, I think it brought about a change in, I know it did, in all of our lives. We are, uh, I think a little bit more careful in that we know that, uh, that life can change radically at any moment so, that you have to be sort of careful if you, if you get angry, you better start figuring out how to take care of this situation because you know that you might not have forever. And, uh, there were, this was a, a big change in our life. One of the things I found, uh, is a fantastic experience. Nicole and I had decided to go see Mother Theresa when she was here in Charlotte and, uh, neither of us are Catholic but, I had read about her through the years, and I thought what a marvelous woman. So, we decided we would go. We got in the car like I said, with no tickets or anything and, uh, well we'll probably be at the very back of the auditorium. We got down there and we were in about the seventh or eighth row and it was, was just reach out and just practically touch Mother Theresa and she spoke for a hour. The strength that, that woman has it was absolutely a marvelous experience. The feeling, uh, the ( ) feeling, there was just, just terrific. Something I'll never ever forget and I think, uh, experiencing it with my daughter was one of the special, very special parts of it.
NL: OK, thank you.