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Interview with Coley McMenamin

McMenamin, Coley
Blocker, Cary
Date of Interview: 
Stories and storytellers
Coley McMenamin talks about stories his mom read when he was a kid.
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): Coley McMenamin, interview number two. OK, do you remember a time when you were a little kid where someone was telling you a story or, um, someone was reading to you?
CM (Coley McMenamin): My mother used to read, uh, The Little Engine that Could, when I was little and, uh, she used to read it to me in my bedroom I had a bookca-, bookshelf with tons and tons of books and it always in the bottom shelf, she used to reach down and pick it up and have me sit on the bed next to her and read the book. It was a bright yellow, it had-, the book had a bright yellow cover-.
CB: Yeah.
CM: -It was canvas and, um, I don't remember too much of the book, she used to read it to me all the time, but, uh, one page it kind of stands out in my mind is the page that had the little, the little engine trying to get up to the very top of the // hill. //
CB: // Yeah. [Laughs] //
CM: And, uh, he was sweating, he was discouraged, he didn't think that he was going to be able to do it.
CB: Do you remember what color it was?
CM: I don't think he was colored, I think the pictures were with, uh, just lines.
CB: Oh, OK.
CM: So that the pages didn't really have any colors to them, but, um, I remember that page, he had sweat pouring out of his face and he kept saying, "I think I can, I think I can," and finally he got up to the top of the hill, then a few pages later they, uh, they show the little engine that could racing down the hill and, uh, pulling into the station.
CB: How did he feel going down the hill?
CM: He felt great, it felt great. It was like, uh, but, uh, there was so much anti-, anticipation watching him trying to get up the hill and you knew he was going to everytime, but the way my mother told the story, you know, // she just-. //
CB: // What, // what way she-, how did she emphasize things he did? Do you remember?
CM: She used to slow down .
CB: Like how?
CM: With the, "I think I can," she used to start off very slow, "I think I can-."
CB: // Oh, really? //
CM: "-I think I can," just like, uh, a freight train when it's leaving the dock, you know? It starts off very slow and then the faster it goes, the quicker you hear the engine working. The faster the engine is working, the, the faster the noise is coming out of the engine, so she, she used to start off very slow with the, "I think I can, I think I can," and then gradually speed up, "I think I can, I think I can," and, uh, then sure enough, he would get to the top of the hill.
CB: So, how old, how old were you when this-, do you remember?
CM: I was probably three, four, five years old, uh-.
CB: Do you remember any other stories or plays or any other books that people used to read to you?
CM: I had two others, one was, um, uh, it had the trolls-.
CB: Uh-huh.
CM: -Which, which, what's the name of that?
CB: Where the Wild Things Are?
CM: Where, Where the Wild Things Are was one of them, but there was another one, um, it had, uh, a troll under the bridge. There was a troll-.
CB: Billy Goats Gruff?
CM: Billy Goats Gruff.
CB: // Yeah. //
CM: -That was it. There was, uh, there was one page that had the Billy goat or the troll standing under the bridge, under this bridge and, I can't even remember much of the story, but, uh-.
CB: ( )
CM: -That was something that always stood out in my mind. The other one was Where the Wild Things Are that most people know about, but those probably had the best pictures that any book that I remember with all the colors and, uh, the contrast between, uh, all the colors, and uh, the contrast within the picture.
CB: The way the monsters ( ).
CM: Uh-huh.
CB: Pretty cool.
CM: Yeah. That was probably one of my favorite books to look at, you know, I didn't start reading until I was almost in the first grade, like, I would always take that book out every night before I went to bed, e-, every night before I went to bed I would sit down with that book and looked through it and look at every single picture.
CB: Who was your roommate?
CM: Well-.
CB: I mean, was it just you, was it just your room?
CM: No, I shared a room with my brother who is three years younger than I am, I don't remember much about the first room that we had but when we lived in ( ), we, we had a house and Ted and I shared a room together and we, each had our own bed, they weren't bunk beds, we each had our own, uh, single bed, and they were opposite to each other. Mine was in one corner of the room against the wall, and Ted's was coming out of the opposite wall-.
CB: Uh-huh.
CM: -A few feet away, and, uh-.
CB: Did you have a certain type of pillow cases or anything, or matching or was it just whatever your parents put on your bed?
CM: It was what, what my parents put on the b-, put on the bed, I remember we had a blue sheet, the blue sheets and, uh, this ugly brown, um, comforter on top [laughs] And on top of that we had this blanket that I still have today somewhere, I don't know what kind of fur is on it, // it's like-. //
CB: // Was it comfortable? //
CM: -A dog fur, yeah, I used to love it, when I was growing up, but um-.
CB: How about school, do you remember any, any stuff you read at school or the teacher reading to you at school?
CM: I was never a big fan of reading when I was growing up. I could never get into it. That's something I kind of regret. I wish I would have done more of it. Um, one of my favorite books growing up was The Lion and the Witch in the Wardrobe, and I used to read that, uh, several times.
CB: Do you remember when you first read it? Do you remember the first time when you read it?
CM: Um, I believe I was in fourth or fifth grade, but, um, I'd originally seen the cartoon-.
CB: Uh-huh.
CM: -The cartoon version and loved the cartoon so much that I asked my mother to buy me whole series of books. I don't know if I ever read the other books in the series but I read
several times and would read it, uh, while I was getting ready to go to bed, I sit up, sit up and read it, um, in my bed for probably about 45 minutes every night before, before falling asleep.
CB: What was your favorite part of the book that you remember the story or is there a character you really liked? What was it about the book that attracted you?
CM: The-, I guess the thing that attracted me to most of the book was the characters in the book, probably the lion was one of them. And it's strange, as many times as I read that book, I still can't remember much about it.
CB: Yeah?
CM: Yeah, [Laughs]
CB: Do you remember anything about the beginning? What they were doing at the beginning?
CM: You know, I don't. I know they were in a house, and I think a little girl was-, I could be totally off the wall here, but I think the little girl was walking into her closet and her imagination just kind of carried her away.
CB: It's starts in an ordinary kind of place, doesn't it?
CM: Yeah, yeah.
CB: Um, so, what kind of stories you like to read now as an adult? What, what, what is your favorite kind of thing to read?
CM: As an adult, I do a lot of business reading now.
CB: Yeah.
CM: I like to read the paper everyday.
CB: Uh-hum.
CM: I do a lot of reading for, for my business.
CB: Uh-huh.
CM: And I do that probably about an hour, half an hour to an hour everyday still. Other than that, there is not much time to, to spend in reading other books.
CB: So you don't read people's stories or biographies or-?
CM: Other than what's in the paper. That's, that's one reason why I like to read the paper, read The Wall Street Journal, and on the front page, in the very first column there is usually a story about somebody or some type of biography about somebody and what they have been doing and, and, um, that's kind of my pleasure reading for the day.
CB: Can you think of any in particular that you, that you were struck by or that interested you that you read or is it just kind of, you know, momentary read that stuck with you?
CM: It's fun when I read it, I guess one, one article that kind of stood out in my mind was, uh, an article about rhinoceroses, um, I'm not sure if that's the correct term. // [Laughs] //
CB: // ( ) //
CM: But, um, rhy-, rhinoceroses is portrayed very calm, peaceful animal in many childrens' stories actually and, uh, this article talks about, uh, how vicious rhinoceros or rhinoceroses are and how very territorial the animal is, and it went on to mention some people that, uh, go out on safaris and travel down the rivers and happen to bump into these rhinoceros that are in the river and how several have been killed by the rhinoceros, um, and I can't remember exactly but, // uh-. //
CB: // ( ) //
CM: Right, they are very protective of their, their areas and when those territories are invaded they become very, very vicious creatures.
CB: Yeah, it's weird how, um, how in childrens' books the African animals are usually mellow, aren't // they? //
CM: // Uh-huh. // Little Black Sambo. Little Black Sambo.
CB: Babar.
CM: Babar, yeah.
CB: How about when you tell stories now, when you are in your social life or in your business life, what do you find yourself telling, like about yourself, about when-, do you tell stories about what you used to do or, certain time of you life that you like to tell stories more than another?
CM: We used to have the best time when we were growing up. We had a great neighborhood, we didn't have all of the video games that, that children of today do and we used to spend a lot of time outside building, um, tree forts in the fall, building uh, leaf forts in the fall, building snow forts in the winter, we used to have crab apple fights during the summer, and that was probably one of the best times of my life.
CB: Do you tell people now about that?
CM: Uh-huh, uh-huh. I have a lot of pictures too that I like to show to people.
CB: Uh-huh. What about, is there a particular experience that you had or a story that you like to tell and how ( ) during your lunch or something?
CM: We used to, we used to ( ) in the neighborhood and, uh, there was Tim who was two years older than I was, there was myself, there was Ted who is three years younger than, than I am, he is my brother and then there was our friend Daniel who was Ted's age, we used to hang out everyday and there was one day during the summer, it was really, really hot, we were running through the sprinklers and Tim had come across some wa-, some ballons, so we filled them up with water and we were throwing them, throwing them at each other having a great water ballon fight and that kind of got boring all of the sudden, so we were sitting on the driveway wondering what we were going to do, trying to think of something new to do when we saw two young females driving down the street in a convertible and Tim took one of the remaining water balloons and [laughs] threw it to the girls in the convertible and it hit the, the passenger mirrow, bounced off that and exploded all over the girls-.
CB: [Laughs]
CM: -In their car. [Laughs] And they came to a screaching halt naturally and Tim blamed his brother Ted.
CB: // [Laughs] //
CM: // [Laughs] //
CB: What did they do?
CM: Well, because Ted was only about, uh, he was probably about eight years old at the time-.
CB: // [Laughs] //
CM: -They didn't do too much, they, uh, they kind of let him go, but we were all laughing. That's probaly one of the best stories that I remember. One, one, one of the stories that I like to tell the most about growing up in the neighborhood.
CB: So if, if you had to think of reflecting back on, on reading stories, if you had to think of, uh, what do you use story time the most, the reason why, the reason why you use them now, why do you, why do you tell stories, um, for your job, for promotional support, um, humor, why do you usually tell stories now?
CM: I like to think back about all of the good times we had growing up now that I don't get to see Tim as much, we have all kind of gone in separate ways, but, um, it's, one of, uh, one of the reasons I like to think back and tell stories because they remind me of all of the good times we had even though we are not together now, um, but, other than that, they are just great stories that I like to share with people [laugh].
CB: OK, OK, good.