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Interview wiwth Nikki Olliff

Olliff, Nikki
Reese, Kay
Date of Interview: 
Stories and storytellers
Nikki Olliff talks about books she read as a child and books her children like.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Kay Reese interviewed Charlotte, NC residents to collect various stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
KR (Kay Reese): I am interviewing my friend Nikki Olliff. Nikki what stories do you remember being read or being told from your early childhood?
NO (Nikki Olliff): Um, I remember my mother reading Peter Rabbit every night she'd and she'd read another Beatrix Potter story when we still lived in Brooklyn and I was eight when we left Brooklyn so I must have been five or six years old.
KR: What were these stories about?
NO: Peter Rabbit and Mr. McGregor and, and climbing under the fence and not getting dessert and being a bratty rabbit and [laugh] when his brother and sister were good rabbits.
KR: Can you remember any other stories from your childhood other than Beatrix Potter?
NO: Yeah I remember my father reading to me um maybe I was 11 or 12 years old I remember laying on our stomachs on his bed my parents' bed and my father read so incredibly slow that I was down to the end of the page already when he was still up at the top and I just kind of thought is he ever going to read it and get moving and it was just boring.
KR: And what story was this?
NO: Um, Huckleberry Finn.
KR: What do you remember about Huckleberry Finn?
NO: That my father read it too slow.
KR: Can you remember what it was about?
NO: No I really can't. Um, fishing or something and, and there was a fence I no I don't remember.
KR: What other stories do you remember from your elementary school years maybe stories you enjoyed in school in addition to what your father told you?
NO: How about Nancy Drew?
KR: Nancy Drew. I think I must have read all of the Nancy Drew books. Do you remember any particular ones or what they were about?
NO: I just remember wondering why in the uh in every single book her boyfriend never kissed her and I kept on waiting for that to happen and it just never did. I guess it was too obscene then.
KR: Well I remember reading about the roadster car in those.
NO: Yeah.
KR: Nancy Drew novels. Do you remember those?
NO: Oom huh and what it was, was a roadster and yeah.
KR: And it seems like one of the books mentioned a rumble seat and I, I wondered what, what the tumble seat or something in the back. Can you remember that about it?
NO: Yeah a rumble seat. I used to think that they rumbled in it but how did they rumble without him kissing her?
KR: [Laugh] Brought up a good point. Um [cough] in addition to Nancy Drew can you remember anything else from those elementary school years?
NO: Yeah. I mean I was always reading something, um, when I was elementary school teenager adult I just that's my escape. Instead of watching TV or talking on the phone I always had a book.
KR: Did you go to the library and check out books?
NO: Um, probably. I think I did but I, I know I had a law large Nancy Drew collection and with Cherry Ames nurse or something I don't something nurse.
KR: I've never heard of.
NO: Yeah.
KR: Cherry Ames.
NO: She was a nurse. That's all I remember about her. School nurse it was some specific nurse but um I remember when I was 14 the day of my grandmother's funeral um one of the cousins was allowed to go like our parents didn't think that we all that the kids should all go and the oldest was selected to go and that I read, uh, Gone With the Wind from beginning to end in that one day.
KR: You read Gone With the Wind in one day?
NO: Yeah I didn't want to think about what else was going on so I just remember laying in my aunts my aunts living room rug and it was a bright room huge carpet huge rug room um reading Gone With the Wind.
KR: Had you seen the Gone With the Wind movie first?
NO: No. Uh, uh.
KR: Who how later um was it that you saw the movie Gone With the Wind? I'm assuming you saw the movie.
NO: Yeah um I don't even remember. It was a while.
KR: I've never read the book. Did you find that the book was close to the movie or did you find that they were very different?
NO: No they were they the book followed the movie the movie followed the book pretty much better than they do now. Yeah it was good.
KR: Well one thing I do remember is in the movie there is a preface that starts out, "Gone are the days of the old South." And even.
NO: I think that that was in.
KR: Well even though I've never read the book I wanted to have some calligraphy done for my den with that paragraph with that forward and so I checked that book out from the library and I couldn't find that preface or forward in the book so I that must have been left out.
NO: I don't know that.
KR: But I'm really not sure though. What other things did you enjoy reading as a teen?
NO: Um I remember I looked for um-dirty stuff in the Bible.
KR: Did you find anything?
NO: Yeah but I don't think I understood what I found.
KR: Did you uh enjoy teen magazines?
NO: Oh yeah the movie magazines oh sure.
KR: Oh the movie magazines. Uh no well can, can you remember who some of the teen stars were?
NO: Sal Mineo. He's dead. I'm very old. Um I never liked Elvis. I was in sixth grade when he was popular. Um, oh, Pat Boone and his blue suede shoes and, and.
KR: Well we can tell how old you are. I remember Desi Arnez.
NO: Yeah. But.
KR: It's a real giveaway I guess as to somebody's age range.
NO: I'm older than you remember.
KR: But only a year or two I think. [Cough]
NO: Right OK we'll go with that. Um what else? I, I just the movie magazines I don't remember reading anything else and.
KR: Did you read Seventeen Magazine?
NO: Oh yeah. Yeah. See your I'm so old that I don't remember things unless somebody reminds [laugh] me. Yeah I read Seventeen for um make-up and, and fashion and how to talk to boys even though they didn't talk to me and yeah.
KR: Now you're from New York, Long Island?
NO: Oom, whom Brooklyn and Long Island?
KR: You were born in Brooklyn?
NO: Yep.
KR: I didn't know that.
NO: I'm a Yankee born and bred.
KR: But where did you grow up during your younger years?
NO: I haven't.
KR: Well where did you?
NO: Chronologically?
KR: Chronologically spend your childhood?
NO: I left Brooklyn when I was eight and grew up on Long Island and didn't leave Long Island until I was 30.
KR: Where were the public libraries in relation to each of these homes? Can you remember?
NO: In Brooklyn I don't have a clue. I don't remember. But um the library on the island I mean Long Island is nothing like this like it is here. But where one town ends another one there is a sign and you can tell another one's beginning. But it wasn't that far from the house. I don't think it was walking distance but maybe it was just beyond.
KR: Did your parents take you to the public library to check out books?
NO: Oh yeah cause my mother was always getting books also and my father would get one and read it and read it and read it like he still does and takes forever. And uh yeah cause everybody got books. We always went to the library. It was just we had to had to have something to read.
KR: I've known you and your family for several years and I know that your son was a very early reader. It sounds like this interest in books has been handed down from generation to generation.
NO: My girls read my girls are like I am with reading. Um Brian is like I am with reading. If he doesn't have something to read he will re-read something that he has read a while ago. He is reading Water Ship Down again. He read that. When he read it, it was 30 AR points. I mean it was such a long time ago and
KR: Now what are AR points?
NO: Accelerated reader.
KR: Would you explain what exactly what that is?
NO: It's a book that the kids at school can choose to read because is on the accelerated reader list which means that the teacher has a test for it and each book is at a certain grade level and each book depending on length and difficulty and is assigned a certain point value and at that time except uh um what's the name of that book I should say. See I told you I was old.
KR: \\ Water, Water Ship Down? \\
NO: Water Ship Down was 30 points and I think maybe Brian was in sixth grade or something and was probably a high school level book and he got the full 30 points because when Brian reads something he retains it just about verbatim.
KR: When you were growing up were there incentives for reading such as accelerated reader incentives that children have today?
NO: I can't remember anything like that but it might just be because I never needed an incentive to read. That's just what I do.
KR: Has your love of reading carried over into adulthood?
NO: Oh definitely. If I don't have something to read um we have one guideline in my house if there is a football game on that my husband wants to watch even during the day or at night he will have to ask me if I need to go to the library first because he can't do it unless I have something to read but I always do.
KR: So do you check out books from the library more than purchasing books?
NO: Oh yeah. Constantly every couple weeks. I mean they're usually overdue.
KR: How do you know what are good choices? There are just millions of books on the shelf at the library. How do you know what to choose?
NO: Usually what I'll do is I'll just find something that looks interesting and if I like the author then I'll go back um instead of at the new books section I'll go back to where that author has other books and I usually check out things by the same author.
KR: Who are some of your favorite authors and what have they written?
NO: Stephen King. I don't need to tell you what he has written. Everything.
KR: No but tell me your favorite Stephen King novel.
NO: Um, The Stand.
KR: What was that about?
NO: The Stand was the one where, uh, everybody was killed off in the very beginning about ac with an accident uh with um by, bio chemical something and there was this disease and I think that 98% of the population died and the rest of the population the good guys got um their society set up in Boulder and the bad guys went to Vegas and just what happened. I mean it was wonderful and I've read that. I've read the un the abridged first because that was what was put out first then I've read the unabridged about five or six times and its probably about 900 pages.
KR: Who are some of the other authors that you enjoy reading as an adult?
NO: Uh Dean Koone Richard LaPlant Leon Uris um what his name um he wrote War and Remembrance and, um, Winds of War, I can't remember.
KR: Irving Wallace did he write that?
NO: I don't remember? But-.
KR: So Stephen King is your favorite? Well in addition to Stephen King or, or am I incorrect in assuming that?
NO: I don't know. No it depends on what kind of mood I'm in. Um I like historical, historical fiction. I like anything about Israel and the fight for independence and every anything like that the Holocaust uh World War II.
KR: Is there a reason why you like books of that nature?
NO: Sure. Uh we lost about a lot of family in the Holocaust uh that we never account that we never have been able to account for and that's my heritage.
KR: Well I've enjoyed spending the evening with you and your granddaughter but now that you have a granddaughter do you find that you have less time to read?
NO: I have less time to read when I have her uh the books that I want to read but I have plenty of time to read to her.
KR: What are some of the books that you read to her?
NO: Well she loves Beatrix Potter also. She loves, um, Pooh anything with Pooh and Franklin. She loves Franklin books and Franklin cartoons.
KR: Now Franklin is a new series that wasn't around when you and I were children.
NO: Right.
KR: Could you tell us about one of your favorite Franklin books?
NO: I think my favorite Franklin book is probably I think it's the first one that was written the first one I read. It's about Franklin the turtle and he was um afraid of the dark so he dragged his shell behind him cause he was afraid to get in his shell and he went to all of his other animal friends and told them that he had a problem and found out how they, they solved their problems but nobody got came close to solving his problem until his mommy gave him a night light to put in his shell and then he wasn't afraid of getting into his shell anymore.
KR: Did that story help your granddaughter go to bed with ease?
NO: No it helped her to understand about my turtles.
KR: Turtles.
NO: Yeah.
KR: So you have a box turtle collection in the yard I noticed. Um do you enjoy reading books nonfiction books about turtles?
NO: The best place to find that I found the books about turtles that I need about turtles are the children's sections because the adult sections gets too technical and I don't know what they're talking about. But yeah we have about 40 about 40 turtles and we've done a lot of reading. My son is highly gifted and he found a turtle in the driveway when he was in third grade and wanted to know if he could keep it and that's how fast we were at the library to find out how to take care of them and we went from a two by four foot pen to an 11 by 22 foot pen. Um I do volunteer work with the Schiele, they bring kids out in the summer uh to I a field trip. And uh we've done a lot of reading a lot of research on turtles. And most everything we find at the library.
KR: Do you ever find books at Schiele Museum? I know that they have a good nonfiction collection of books scientific interest.
NO: No I haven't gotten anything at the Schiele but an organization that I'm with has donated um a lot of money for the Schiele to buy books and I found out that they bought books on bugs and I wanted the money back.
KR: Well is there a relationship from your childhood interest in reading that you think maybe has affected your adult life?
NO: Probably, um, when I went back to school to uh get my teaching certification when my son was in kindergarten um when I was taking the children's literature class I did a term paper on Beatrix Potter and I don't remember then thinking about the tie. But I think when I was finishing up I did because my mother was still alive then and I think that I really didn't really remember as much about her reading to me as I had since she's been gone and I did a lot of research about Beatrix Potter and, and her lifestyle and why she wrote what she did and you know her watercolors and things like that.
KR: What were you studying when you went back to UNCC?
NO: I was going for early childhood um certification.
KR: And did you complete your degree?
NO: No. My husband wanted to go into business and um and had told me all along that I would be able to continue going to school. But the restaurant we opened did not do as well as we expected and we couldn't afford to pay anybody else a salary. So the night before I took uh the NTE he told me that uh he'd need me full time in the business.
KR: Nikki thank you so much for letting me interview you. I enjoyed hearing about your reading interests and how reading affected your life.
NO: Thank you very much as long as you don't think "Yankee" is a foreign language.