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Interview with Alexis L. Manser

Manser, Alexis
Rashid, Umar
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with People and Places; Then and Now; Cultural Identification; Childhood Adventures; Stories and Storytellers
Alexis Manser talks about stories she heard from her family, including fairy tales and stories about her grandparents when they were younger.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Umar Rashid interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
AM (Alexis L. Manser): Hi my name is Alexis Manser. I was born in 1980 in Warren, OH. My family is actually from Niles, OH and I'm half Lebanese from my father's side and half German on my mother's side. Um, when I was young my, the story that stands out most in my mind is this story that my dad would tell me that he learned from, I think it was one of his uncles, Uncle Joe or Uncle Johnny. And, um, it was a story about this character named Jehilehi. And this is obviously just some made up name my, uh, great uncle came up with, but, and my, my dad loved these stories as a child himself and related them to me when I was a kid. And--
UR (Umar Rashid): Sorry, can I just ask you how old you were when you heard these stories?
AM: Ah. Well I guess my dad started telling me these stories when I was about three, four up until whenever, still, I mean sometimes he'll be joking around at the dinner table and still tell me these stories. But, um, and the thing was Jehilehi was this hero, this brave guy and he had this motorcycle. And [laughs] he, he would always be saving a woman from some bear or something or some, some, some wild creature. And he would, you know, at the climax of the story my dad would, you know, the stories were always varied and they were improvised never the same plot but he would, you know, get on his motorcycle and speed away into the mountains and fight this bear, and save the damsel in distress, and they were just pretty exciting stories, especially when you are a kid, you know? And then, um, my mom, I remember her. She would read me a lot of books actually and, and she would sing me a lot of songs. She wouldn't actually make up stories out of the blue, but, um, and the songs that she would sing, um, I can't remember the name of this one but I always remember it was about. I sort of remember the words, but she told me them when I was very little, like, I don't know, like four or five, maybe even younger and it was always about how, um, her and my dad loved me so much and there was always, I don't know. See there was candy in the story. I just remember, like, it about, it was being about candy and sweetness stuff like this. Uh, sorry I'm being vague, but, and, um, she would read me, um, a lot of Grimm's fairy tales often, and the one I remember most is, um, the one about the, oh what was it, the one with the, hang on a second.
UR: Hansel and Gretel?
AM: I now recall the stories she would read to me. It was the one about the girl, the dancing shoes, or something like this these princesses had, uh, cast a spell, cast on them and they had to dance all night with these shoes and until the shoes wore out and their feet were all sore. And then, finally I, I forget how the story went, but I always remember her reading me this one story and I just loved it. And she, oh well this, this I guess both my parents imparted to me was this, this album they that we used to have. It was, um, actually the story of Hansel and Gretel and they, I think I would like listen to it everyday because I just loved it and they would put it on the record player and, ah, I would sit in a little rocking chair that we had in our living room and listen to it, and I was kind of scared at the part where the witch was going to put them in the oven, but [laugh], and my dad would come in and he'd sit with me and comfort me. But I loved it so much even though it was scary to me, I don't know why, but, um, and also, actually my grandma, which I call Situ, and that's grandma in Arabic. She, um, told me stories about when she was young. When I was a kid I would ask her like, you know, where, where she grew up and what it was like in her neighborhood, and she would tell me that, oh when she was little that all of her cousins and all of her, she had a big family, her sisters and brothers and stuff. They all lived on the same street in Youngstown, OH. And back then, Youngstown, supposedly she tells me, was a much nicer place than it is these days. You know, crime capital of the world. But, um, she, she would tell me about how, the kind of trouble they would get into, and, and how strict her parents were. And if she, she would go to the store and buy them bread. And one day she went to buy them bread and she came back with the incorrect change and so her dad got very angry with her and made her go back to the store and, and I guess the guy had given her too much money back and she hadn't told him that he had made a mistake and so she got in trouble way, way too much trouble, you know, unnecessary trouble, and she had to walk all the way back to the store, and I don't know, she just made it out that to seem like in a lot of ways, back then, times were, seemed so much better, and yet so much harsher in a lot of ways. And supposedly, you know, it snowed more back then and, ah, but, you know, family was closer knit, I guess, so, you know, pros and cons in every, every case but and my, my grandpa, called Jidu in Arabic. He told me stories about when he was in the war he flew a fighter jet, and he, well when I was young he never really got much into the details, being as I was little kid, but he would tell me, um, about the buddies he met, um, during the war and some of the turmoil and stress it caused him and, um, my family on my dad's side, as, I guess you can tell now, is obviously a lot closer than on my mom's side, ah, because my grandparents on my dad's side, well his parents had more kids than my mom's parents did and, and also my mom's, ah, parents died when I was too young really to remember anything they would have said. Um, so ,so also, um, my dad's sister and brothers, they spent a lot of time with me when I was little and they, they made up little tales about [laugh] my, my dad has, has a very imaginative and inventive kind of family and they would always be making up these characters and telling me stories about them. Like Fred Fredimecusson and, um, Connie, Connie, Bujane and um [laugh] um [laugh], oh let's see Ralph Rasselbossum and--
UR: And how old were you when they told you these stories?
AM: Well I was, the age at which they told me stories, just, it varied. I mean it was really pretty much all through my childhood, you know, up until I reached a certain age to where I didn't find it so interesting anymore, but, um, I guess it would be somewhere under 10 or 12 that they would tell me these stories, and, um, it usually would be at night and we'd be back in this little bedroom I always would sleep in. And when I'd stay the night at my grandparents house it'd be a holiday and all the aunts and uncles of mine would be at the house, and they were always very loving and, and, you know, actually, um, some of the stories I remember very much so were the ones that my Uncle Dave would tell me. We'd, we'd build a bonfire outside because my grandparents they lived out in the country and we'd build a bonfire and he would always tell these scariest ghost stories and he would make everyone of them up and they were so incredibly intricate. The plots, I just, I just remember, just being so well told. We would sit around the fireplace, my cousin Matt and my cousin Jamie and Jeremy, and he would tell me these stories about, you know, this boyfriend and girlfriend. I remember this one where one day they were, um, they were driving down the road, and actually I think this one might be a generic tale, but, uh, um they went to a gas station or something, and the guy gets out of the car to pump gas and the girl's been sitting in there but it's been a while. So she looks around for him in the parking lot and she doesn't see him and she's worried, you know? Because he's spent, you know, going on minutes and minutes now. And, um, so she gets out of the car to find him and the gas station attendant runs out of the, the, um, the gas station and he tells her not to get back in her car. He's like yelling at her, "Don't get in your car! Don't get in your car!" And she's, she's scared because this guy's all frantic and so she runs around and gets in the driver's side and she decides to drive off. Well she's driving down the road and she going down this dark country road. And he said the name of it was Duck Creek Road, which was actually a road that my grandparents lived on. He's trying to scare us even more. And the girl, the girl, um, stops underneath this tree to catch her breath she's really nervous and scared. She doesn't know where her boyfriend is and she hears this after a little while she's sitting with her head on the steering wheel she, she, she hears this thumping on the top of the car--
UR: Sorry, can you just give me one second? [Pause]
AM: So she gets out to check what this noise is and she's, she's looking on the car she sees nothing, and so finally, she sort of warily looks up and sees her boyfriend hanging from a tree limb and his leg is brushing against the top of the car and she's, she's so obviously scared at this point. She screams she runs down the road just to get as far away from the scene as she can, and, honestly, after that I don't remember what happens but something [laugh] happens. And anyways, the point is my, my uncle told these stories so much better, and he, he, just the way he talked and the way he enunciated certain words, and the way and the level and pitch at which he would speak was just he was amazing. So, uh, thank you, thank you for this time for listening to me ramble about my stories. I hope you have a wonderful, wonderful day. Thank you. Good Bye.