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Interview with Elizabeth Nelson

Nelson, Elizabeth
Nelson, Amy
Date of Interview: 
Childhood Adventures; Stories and Storytellers; Relationships with People and Places; Overcoming Obstacles
Elizabeth "Beth" Nelson talks about her childhood in northern Iowa.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Amy Nelson interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
AN (Amy Nelson): This is Beth Nelson, in your 50s.
EN (Elizabeth Nelson): Early 50s.
AN: Early 50s, um, who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina now, and she was born in Iowa, and she's going to say, or tell a story about her childhood, her childhood memories.
EN: Well, when Amy first asked me, um, about doing this [pause]. Well, when Amy first asked me to do this, I think it was, we were talking about, um, a story that I remember, and I said to her, what kept coming back was the memory that I had when I was in elementary school. We went to basically a country school. There were two classes in every room. There were, there was, kindergarten was, like in a little closet, first and second were together, fourth and fifth, sixth and seventh and so on. And I was in the fifth grade and sixth grade, with this marvelous teacher Mrs. Moore. And what she would do is, every, uh, afternoon, after we'd had lunch and then recess, she would, uh, read a book to us. And, living out in the country as we did, we did not have access to libraries, but, uh, we liked reading a lot and, uh, Mrs. Moore, uh, one of the books she read was Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I, I loved that book. And in fact she, um, even let me take this book home, um, for I guess it was probably a week or so, and it was just so exciting and I, I just think about times have passed now and how, uh, we have access to bookstores and libraries and, I mean, there is really no excuse anymore for anyone not reading at all. But, uh, that's one of the fondest memories that I have. Well, apparently I need to, uh, [laugh] tell you more of my memories of growing up. And, um, again, I grew up on a farm in northern Iowa. Um, it was a farm that we had, um, at different times beef cows, milk cows, pigs, chickens. I really hated having chickens because I'd have to go and, um, get the chicken, the eggs out of the hen house, and it smelled in the hen house and the hens were not necessarily cooperative when you stuck their hand, your hand under them to get the eggs and I can't say that that was exactly one of my favorite things. Um, another thing that I didn't especially enjoy was, um, every so often the cows or pigs would get out of the fence. Maybe the fence would break, I don't remember exactly, you know, every circumstance, but I always hated it when pigs got out 'cause, um, they're kind of mean and, and we'd have to like form this, this, uh, we'd have to try and, and get them to move in the other direction, toward either, uh, back into the fence or into the barn or something and pigs can be mean and so I never really liked that. Uh, our summers were spent, I would say, quite carefree. Um, we would not necessarily, I, we did not have to spend much time, my sister and I, um, um, working on the farm because I had an older brother and also my grandfather came out to the farm every day, so there were, with my father and my brother and my grandfather, there were three people that basically operated the farm machinery, so that responsibility did not fall on me. But we always had a large garden, and we had to, of course, keep the weeds out of it and pick it, and then we'd can and freeze, and can and freeze, and um, did a lot of mowing. We had a, a big yard and the buildings around the farm, we always had to mow those also, uh, it, it was, as I said, though, I would say, though, a pretty carefree existence. Also, what I remember in the wintertime was that if we, um, ha-, were snowbound with a, a blizzard, we would end up, um in the kitchen around the table and playing, uh, card games like Hearts and Cribbage, and, basically, we played from sunup to sundown and uh, that's another fond memory that I have. My father and also my grandfather really enjoyed playing Cribbage. That's something that I never taught my children how to do, I don't know why. Um, the, another thing that I remember about my upbringing is that, um, certainly you had friendship and loyalty of neighbors. Um, we would, one thing I always enjoyed was, uh, when the hay needing baling because the, the men in the Leefamily would come, and, well first, my father and grandfather and brother would help the Leesto bale their hay, and then they would come to our house and help bale ours. And, um, it was always fun to prepare the meals for that. Whenever anybody was out, um, in the field, um, in the summertime we would always take a snack and something to drink out in the middle of the afternoon, because it was awfully hot even though it was in northern Iowa, it does certainly get hot there. Also, another thing that I remember was, when my, when I was 16, my father was killed in a car accident in late October and the crops had not been picked yet, but certainly we were not even concerned at all about the, the crops because we just knew that our neighbors would come and take care of that for us. And they, they certainly did. They had a Saturday, uh, that all the neighbors came and they picked all the crops and the Amoco, um, gas man came and filled up the gas, the big gas tank that we had, so that anyone, uh, needing gas for their tractors could have gas, too. And it was a, it was a good community, it was tight community, and it was a good way to grow up.