Accessibility Navigation:

Interview with Courtney McMenamin

McMenamin, Courtney
Blocker, Cary
Date of Interview: 
Childhood adventures
Courtney McMenamin talks about school and a run in with a jellyfish.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Cary Blocker interviewed Charlotte, NC residents to collect various stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
CB (Cary Blocker): OK. Try it.
CM (Courtney McMenamin): Hello, Cary?
CB: Yes, go, I can hear you. [Tape interruption] Courtney, McMenamin, take one. So, as you remember back in your childhood, is there one in particular reading experience or one particular, uh, place that you remember reading?
CM: I remember reading with my mother, it was always in her bedroom, on her bed, she had a huge king size bed, and I remember that now 'cause I had a twin, [laugh], double, and we used to always read Where the Wild Things Are and it was a book that she had given to my older brother Mike when he was eight, I think it was for his eighth birthday, 'cause it always had his inscription to him on the cover and it was never mine, so I just remember her writing, you know, it would say, "Love, mom and dad," and that was always my favorite book and it was always-, it was that and she had a collection of books from when she was little, child craft and they had a story in it about goblins, and if these little kids didn't behave, the goblins would get you, and I remember the picture on the book of this black kettle in a huge stone fireplace and these little goblins and there was an old, almost like a Hansel and Gretel type story-.
CB: // Uh-huh. //
CM: // -'Cause // it had the huge stone fire place with a big black, like cauldron, the big thick wooden table with, a, like a knife on it with vegetables chopped up and they are making some kind of stew and, but that was-, those were the two of my favorites.
CB: Do you remember how old you were?
CM: Um, hmm.
CB: Or what grade you were in, maybe?
CM: Yeah, I think I was probably in nursery school or kindergarten, because I remember staying-, handing out with my mother a lot because I was the youngest.
CB: Uh-huh, // so-. //
CM: // How-. //
CB: How much, uh, what was the difference between you and your, like the next oldest?
CM: The next oldest was six years older than me.
CM: So, as soon as he was off to kindergarten, you know, I was still a baby and then I remember hanging out with my mother all the time, it was always-, she had to run her errands and go see my father at his store and then go out to lunch and [laughs], that was about it. But I remember having these green doctor ( ) that I used to wear, the green fuzzy ones // [laughs]-. //
CB: // Uh-huh. //
CM: -[Laughs] And they, even when I grew out of it, they cut off the feet and I still // [laughs]-. //
CB: // [Laughs] //
CM: -Wore them [laughs]. And my brothers, I know they still remember because they still laugh about them.
CB: So, you-, did you, um, did you ever read anything that, uh, that you, that you, uh, learned in school, or do you rememeber doing any reading at school, when you were young?
CM: // Umm. //
CB: // Remember // any books that-? //
CM: // I-. //
CB: // Those. //
CM: -Don't remember any books in particular. I remember reading sessions that we had in kindergarten where you sit around the teacher on the floor, everybody had their mats, and you would arrange your mat around the teacher would sit on the chair, but I don't remember any stories in particular that she read to us.
CB: So you, you remember the ones that your mother told you the best, // correct? //
CM: // Yeah, // I remember the teacher gave us pretzel rods to eat while we listened to the story and that's all [laughs] I remember. [Laughter]
CB: // The importance of it, right? //
CM: Yeah [laughs]. It wasn't the book I was waiting for, it was that pretzel rod // [laugh]. //
CB: // How // about the first book you read on your own. Do you remember that?
CM: // Hmm. //
CB: // Or that // you really remember reading you-, on your own may not have to be the first one.
CM: A book I remember reading on my own [pause]. Um, I don't know if I was reading it exactly but we had the-, a machine where you could put the film strip in it and it showed pictures, scenes of a book that you went through the book and read along and you were supposed to look at the picture on the screen when you got to a certain part of the book.
CB: You mean those round things you, like, the Scooby Doo thing the view finder thing and you look and it would move?
CM: No, it was a regular, regular TV screen and it had, it had an Edgar Alan Poe film that you would put in it and you had the book that went along with it and there was always this part where he opened the door and all of the sudden there was a scary face and I remember the face being on the screen, but I always thought I was reading 'cause I knew how the story went and I would turn the pages [laughs], and everything but I // [laughs]-. //
CB: // Ohh. //
CM: -I don't know if I was reading it exactly [laughs]. But that was my older brother and sisters's, // so-. //
CB: // So // there was a-, you-, it was a Poe story?
CM: Yeah. 'Cause I remember being very scary and I used to sneak up there and look at it when nobody was around 'cause I was not supposed to play with it but I knew the whole story, it used to just scare, [laughs], scare me [laughs].
CB: Do you remember, um, any stories, any oral stories like stories that people made up they ever told you that weren't read from books. Did you have any family stories or did your, did your mom ever make up a story to tell you?
CM: // Um-. //
CB: // Or // your brothers or your sisters maybe or-?
CM: Well, I used to make up, you mean just the kind of story // that-? //
CB: // Any, // any story, it doesn't matter, pasted, official, you know, published story. // ( ) //
CM: // Yeah. // Um, well, they used to have these characters they used to tell me about, this-, it was right before this was before Nightmare on Elm Street came out.
CB: // Yeah. //
CM: // And // there was this character Freddy, and they used to always tell me how he wore this leopard coat and had this weird hat and I remember being in the-, a crib, when they were telling me this, but I think I was in a crib till I was about four or five // 'cause-. //
CB: // Uh-huh. //
CM: -I shared a room with my sister, and they used to tell me all the time that he was this guy that, I don't know where he came from, but he used to go around and sneak into kids' rooms [laughs] And scared them // [laughs]. //
CB: // [Laughs] // That's stupid // [laughs]. //
CM: // [Laughs] // Yeah, and [laughs] And I remember them telling me this story and I opened the door and my brother was standing with a stocking over his head and my mother's leopard coat on and this hat and, "Oooooh," and from then on I was like, "Remember Freddy? Well, watch out, he's out again," [laugh]. So you have to-, I think they did it just to scare me [laughs]. It wasn't like [laughs] a past time story [laughs]. It was catching a lot of reviews from older siblings [laughs], um, but, let me think, another kind of story that they used to tell me [pause].
CB: How about, uh, looking back on what your, your, uh, mother told you or, uh, stories you read, do you-, can you see how it shaped what you read now or what you enjoy to read now?
CM: Um-.
CB: Or, or, or starting again, what do you like to read now? What kind of stories do you like to read?
CM: I, I like to read mysteries, um, [pause] I like to read, well I like to read at my niece and nephew's, they have to liv-, uh, their books and I like to read to them, and there's one, there are a lot of weirdos in your neighborhood and it's just kind of , kind of weird, twisted poems-.
CB: // Uh-huh. //
CM: // -By // an English author and it's, they're just goofy things that, uh, the kids think it's funny and The Stinky Cheese Man is a book that they like // [laughs]. //
CB: // What happens at The Stinky Cheese Man? // [Laughter]
CM: It's just wei-, bizzard drawings and I can't think of the author who does it, but it's just [laughs] really weird characters, this guy with a big cheese head-.
CB: // [Laughs] //
CM: // -A cheese wheel head // [laughs] But I think just from hearing strange stories and stuff like that, I mean, um, where the wild things are, it's kind of a weird story, it has the weird art in the book-.
CB: Do you remember where, what the point or, or-.
CM: Of, to-, Where the Wild Things.
CB: // Yeah, what was the plot of this? //
CM: // -Of the wild things? //
CB: Do you remember?
CM: Well, I remember Max who was sent to his room, I think his mother sent him to his room for his behavior but he had this little outfit that had a tail and these little ears, and then he imagined that he was in the jungle or something, he was where these animals were because he had to spend time in his room by himself, but it-, I kind of liked the pictures in that book, just the way the art was done-.
CB: // Uh-huh. //
CM: // -I don't know, // it's kind of a distinct way of doing pictures and I don't know [laugh] what it is exactly but, these other books that the kids had, my niece and nephew had, with the same kind of weird, uh, drawings, but I-, myself I like to read, um, mysteries, mostly, but I like the true mysteries ( ).
CB: Like crime, crime stories, // or-.? //
CM: // Yeah. // Uh-hmm, and, um, [pause], that's about it.
CB: Um, as fas as-, are there any stories that you tell yourself, it may sound kind of an odd question, but, you know, is there some kind of story you tell about your own life?
CM: Like, stories that had happened to me before that I, that I remember in particular that I tell people // or-. //
CB: // Yeah, // or just about, you know, what you think your life is, is about, you know, what, what, you know, 'cause, uh, a story ke-, basically, is like your life in a // way. //
CM: // Uh-huh. //
CB: If you are, you know, your past events had to make up who you are, so are there any particular things that you tell yourself?
CM: Um, [laughs], usually if I'm telling someone a story that has not happened to me, it's usually something humorous of somebody's past [laughs] // not-. //
CB: // OK. //
CM: So, it's // like-. //
CB: // What // would be an example?
CM: Stories when we were kids, like just I told my class the other day because we were talking-, it was a science and we were talking about, um, they asked if we were going go learn about jelly fish and things like that, and when I was like telling the story when I was little, we just to go down to the beach, a block away from the beach and we just to hang around down there all day long me and my friends, and, um, we were down there and there was this huge jellyfish [laughs] at the beach [laughs] and we assumed that it was dead so we had sticks and we were pocking at it and everybody was running around chasing each other with it and we had, uh, like tentacles at the end of the stick and we tried to fling it at each other, and one of my friends thought she was really funny, she went and sat down on it and all of the sudden she went, // "Woo-aahhh," [laughs]-. //
CB: // [Laughs] //
CM: -And she looked across from the beach and all of us just stopped, we all started screaming and we went up there, and we were taking our suits off in the outside shower and she had-, her whole butt was red and pum-, [laugh], pumpy // [laughs]. //
CB: // [Laughs] //
CM: And I has red slashes all over my stomach and my arms and legs and I ran home screaming but the kids thought it was hysterical [laughs] and I always tell everyone that story because I think it was the funniest thing I think that it ever happened, she sat on that jellyfish [laughs], they've never laughed so hard [laughs].
CB: Um, do you find that, that, that kids like your stories about when you were younger?
CM: Yeah, definite-, yeah, definitely. The, uh, my nieces and nephews like it-, like to hear just how we were when we were little to see if they do the same things, or if we were as goofy as they are, but the kids in class, they definitely like hearing stories about your personal life because it just makes them feel like you are human, you are normal too, you are not just this // [laughs]. //
CB: // ( ) //
CM: Yeah, you don't live, you know, eat and sleep in the school you're actually out there doing stuff too. // ( ) //
CB: // Is // there any other particular story about yourself that you like to tell them, or-?
CM: Um-.
CB: About your, your past life? Past // life-. //
CM: // [Laughs] //
CB: // -( ) // Past life. [Laughter]
CM: Well, I had so many, let me think // [laughs]. //
CB: // [Laughs] //
CM: Um, oh, I can think of one in particular, I mean, I have certain memories that I have, I just remember there was a huge blizzard-.
CB: // Uh-huh. //
CM: // -One // year, and I can't remember, '70-.
CB: // Do you remember-. //
CM: // -Something. //
CB: -One in particular time when that blizzard, you know-.
CM: I remember my brother since there were five other ones and they were all, they were way older, they went out and we had a huge fenced yard and we had a gigantic garden and the snow had to be, uh, i mean a few feet deep, I can't remember what year it was but-.
CB: '78?
CM: Yeah, something like, we had tons of snow and we have pictures of it, but I was really small and they had this huge igloo with all these tunnels in it and it was-, it had to have like five or six entrances and, I mean, it was this elaborate thing they built, and I just thought they were the greatest in the whole world, I say, "Wow," [laughs], telling all my friends, like, "Yeah, my brothers built this for me," [laughs].
CB: Did you go inside?
CM: Yeah, I used to crawl in and just sit there and, you know, they had their flash lights in it at night.
CB: What, what, what did it look like inside?
CM: Um, they curved out the roof so you could, you could, they could sit comfortably, so, that I could almost stand in it-.
CB: Wow.
CM: -So, um, 'cause all, all of them worked in it together, it took for ever, they took their friends over, too, and, um, you know, I think they were smoking cigarrettes, [laughs] // in there-. //
CB: // [Laughs] //
CM: -[Laughs] Reading magazines, smoking cigarrettes, hanging out at night-.
CB: Uh-huh.
CM: -But it was-, I mean, I could walk around on my knees, I remember, and we were running through, and they were getting annoyed because I was having my friends over there, but, uh-.
CB: How did you feel when you were in it?
CM: That was great, I thought I was on top of the world [laughs], I thought I was the best [laughs] bragging to my friends, their coolest brothers, and you know, of course it was mine when I described it, "Yeah you should see this igloo I have," [laughs], you know, let them come in.
CB: You liked to invite your brothers in?
CM: Yeah, yeah, [laughs], [pause], my sisters aren't so bad either. [Laughter]
CB: OK, is there any other, as fas as stories // ( )-. //
CM: // Uh-huh. //
CB: -Is there anything that you, besides telling the humorous stories-.
CM: Uh-huh.
CB: -How, how has the stories-, telling the stories helped you in your daily life, just, you know, how has it helped you get by?
CM: Um, I don't know, I guess at the time when those things are happening you don't really appreciate it too much, but now when you meet people who, uh, who only have like one brother or two brothers and sisters and haven't spoken to them in a while and, they have a brother who lives out in, you know, California or somewhere or something like that and they see them every couple of years, I don't know it kind of makes me appreciate what I have and what I remember 'cause we were really close, even thought it was eight of us, I mean, you hear a lot of people that even when they have large families they don't-, because they have large families, I guess, they are closer to one sibling than they are to another or, you know, the girls are closer and the boys are closer to each other but, we are all, I mean, we're all really close, we spend holidays together when we can, and everyone is always visiting each other, my parents are always coming up, so I guess, you know, I kind of consider myself lucky now that my parents are still alive, all my brothers and sisters alive and everybody is close together, 'cause I have friends whose parents have already died and their brothers and sisters are older and they have their own families and they're more into their new families than what they were their siblings, so, I don't know, I just like remembering when we all lived in the same house together and [laugh], the little town with the neighborhood's school and the beach was right down the street, we got a boat and got to go on and, it was kind of nice hanging out together, that's all // [laugh]. //
CB: // OK, good, thanks a lot. //
CM: // [Laughs] // Yep.