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Conversation with Crystal Patrick

Patrick, Crystal
Anderson, Dawn
Date of Interview: 
Relationships between people and places; Childhood adventures
Crystal Patrick talks about Hurricane Hugo and other memories from her childhood.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Dawn Anderson interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
DA (Dawn Anderson): This is Crystal Patrick. She's going to tell us about when Hurricane Hugo hit. She was living in Rockingham.
CP (Crystal Patrick): It was [pause] November, September 22, 1989 and it was Thursday afternoon and we had, it started out that afternoon. I was a cheerleader at my, at my junior high and we had our varsity football game that afternoon and we had made this banner that we thought was just really cool and we were so excited 'cause we had had our little homecoming and we were playing our rival junior high. And we started out and when we held up our banner, the winds were so strong, 'cause Rockingham's only about 80, 90 well, I'd say about 80 miles or so from the coast and the winds had already started picking up by that point. And the winds were so strong it ripped the banner out of our hands and took it all the way down the field and hit the other team. So that was the first thing. And so we knew a bad storm was coming and they said that the hurricane was supposed to hit, but the track that they originally had for it, it wasn't really going to do any damage, as much damage to the middle part of the state and everything. Well, we went on home. I remember going out to dinner that night and everybody was all prepared and all upset and worried and everything. And I remember my mom saying, "Oh, it's not going to hit us, you know, it'll bypass us. It'll hit the coast or whatever." And on the newscast for Charlotte they were having the little, you know, "Well we're expecting some high winds but nothing too dangerous," to start off with. I guess it wasn't 'til later on that night that they changed the path of it. Well we went home and we were and, this was Thursday night, and we go home and it just so happened that I had a cousin who was pregnant at the same time. Well we, after we got home, they called and said that you know she was doing fine nothing had happened. She hadn't had the baby yet. The baby was due any day. Well, I member I got up and did my homework and started to go to bed. Well when I started to go to bed Mama said, "Hey the wind's blowing really bad." There was a huge old pecan tree out beside of my bedroom window. And she said, "The wind's blowing really bad. Why don't you come get in the room with us?" Speaking of her and my daddy. Well, I go and the only bed in there was their king size bed, so I just crawled in the middle and got in the bed and I say, "Oh nothing's going to happen. It's just raining." And by this time it had, the winds had picked up a little more and you could hear, actually hear the winds blowing through the house. And we lived in a house that was constructed in 1864 so it was old and stable but, we go, we go to bed. It was around 11 o'clock and so by the last forecast they had on the news, 'cause I member watching the 11 o'clock news, the last forecast they had on the news, we were forecast to get some of the affects of the hurricane. They had, it had changed it had changed paths and it was coming, it, the destination was between Charlotte and Rockingham. So we were supposed to get some of the outlying winds which it was a category four so it was huge hurricane anyway [laugh]. Well, me and my daddy go to sleep. My mama got my little portable walkman, which that was back in '89 so it wasn't anything compact like it is today, but she grabbed, she got the walkman in case the power went out. And she had all the candles and the flashlights and everything. Well, I guess it was about 12, about 12 o'clock or so, our power went out because of trees blowing down on the lines. And so the power was out. And it woke me up when the power went out 'cause the house got real quiet and I got hot. And so somewhere, a couple hours later, [giggles] I could hear the wind blowing but it wasn't enough to keep me awake but I knew that my mom had gotten up and she wasn't in bed any more. And all of a sudden she comes, we have, we had a big bay window that was just glass and all of sudden she comes running down the hall just a screaming, "George, George get out a bed. Get out a bed. The wind's blowing. The wind's blowing." And my daddy sat up, comes from a dead sleep and sits up and looks at her and goes, "What do you want me to do? Go fight the wind?" And at that time I started laughing. And I was laughing and they have this thing that they pick on my about 'cause if I laugh, my nostrils flutter. If I laugh really hard, if it gets really good, that's the way they can tell if I'm really laughing or not. And so they, for some reason I was just cackling. And Mama goes, "I can't see her but I'm sure her nose is just-a-going," because they could tell by the laugh that it was getting pretty good. And we were sitting there and about that time I, I remember hearing something crash. And we didn't know what the crash was. And I said, "Well Daddy aren't you going to get up and go check it?" He says, "Like I just told your Mama what do you expect me to do? Go out there and pick a tree up off the house? I can't really do it. The best thing I can do is just sit here and wait for the storm to pass." Now my daddy has the most mild-mannered temper. He doesn't really get upset over things. He just takes it as it comes. And me and my mama are just the emotional train wrecks anyway. But, the night goes on and so finally, she never went to sleep that night, she stayed up. She had the radio, the little walkman on a, on a station in Charlotte so she was hearing how bad it was in Charlotte and how this was happening and that was happening. And instead of her just staying in the bedroom that had four windows, she goes sits in the bay window that was nothing but glass, so she can see all the lightning and everything and see trees blowing by. And the bay, a limb hit the bay window and cracked the window. Well, we heard another crash. And there were limbs falling through the roof. We, me and my daddy were still, "Oh it's nothing. It's just some trees cracking out in the backyard." You know, attitude and telling her she was overreacting like she always does. She was running up and down the hallway screaming. But finally when daybreak came, we got up to go outside to look around and having been that we had just had the football game the night before and everything, we were supposed to have school on that Friday. So I was more anxious to find out if the school was still there but they had, they had canceled school for that day because the county was basically without power so they had canceled school. Well, I remember putting on my white Nike cheerleading shoes and going outside because they were, I had still had them out from the night before, and I remember putting them on and I had on, I just threw on some jogging pants 'cause I had to go outside to see what, you know, all damage that had happened. I had to go check out Grandma's house. Well, when I went outside for some reason, and to this day I still don't know what it was, but all the pecans had fallen out of the pecan tree. And so, you know, we were walking on the pecans but for some reason when I would step on, on the bottom of my shoes, it changed the color of my shoes and if it hit on the sides, it changed the color to a weird, it was like a rust color almost. So I thought you know no big deal, we'll just wash them later. But we walked around the neighborhood and naturally had to go see the neighbors to see what was going on, to see how everybody survived the storm, to see who had power, who didn't have power, and see who had a generator and you couldn't really drive anywhere because trees were down over the roads and everything. My grandma only lived three blocks away so we walked over to her house to make sure she was OK and her and her nice little 20 pound cat were fine in the house. But there was a little tree outside and the tree actually looked like, it looked like almost where a tornado had been because the way the tree was twisted off it was the, the top of the tree was twisted. It hadn't broke like a clean break or it wasn't laying over but it was literally twisted. And so everybody was coming out to see the tree that was twisted but, so we walked. We spent the whole morning out just walking around the neighborhood and everything. Now, we lived in an old mill village. And so everybody knew everybody and everybody was kin to everybody and everybody was just, you know, checking on everybody. Well we got back home and I was you know still excited we had a day out a school I was going make the most of it, hadn't heard it, you know, anything from anybody. And later on in the day Daddy said, "Well, that you know, they're clearing the trees out," and what's funny was when something happened like in the neighborhood, all the men would get out and clear the streets, not wait on the state to come by and do it or whatever. They would go ahead and do what needed to be done so that we could get on with life. So they had, you know, cut the tree down that was blocking the main road to get in to our little neighborhood and a lot of the houses had trees all through the roofs and everything. So everybody, there was chain saws going everywhere. Well Mama said, "Well let's ride over and check on your grandpa," which lived on the other side of town. And naturally, I think it was not so much, "Let's go check on Grandpa." "Let's go be nosy and see what kind of damage it did to everybody else's house," [laugh] is was it really should a been. So we go, we had went to see Grandpa. Well, we get over there and they weren't there. And Grandpa has, had a heart condition since fifth grade. And so we're like, "Well where are they?" My uncle goes, "Oh, they had to go to the hospital." And naturally you're thinking something's happened to Grandpa. No. The cousin that was pregnant went into labor. Come to find out she'd went into labor about the time the storm was hitting, got to the hospital, power goes out while she's in delivery. They had to wait on the backup generators to kick in, so she's giving birth in the dark. [Laugh] And all the monitors and everything were going haywire because the backup generators were taking over but they had to have it linked, they didn't have it linked right at the time, because they really weren't expecting the storm and they hadn't prepared for it. So I, I'm still wearing these same little white cheerleading shoes that I had on earlier. We, we got back home that night and everybody's cleaning up and you know, by Monday everything's back to normal. Well, Mama washed my tennis shoes 'cause my mama's just a neat freak like that. Your tennis shoes had to be white. I was the only child that never had dirty tennis shoes growing up. So she washed my tennis shoes. Took them out she said, "I can't get this stain out of them. What have you got on these tennis shoes?" And to this day I don't know why but where I was walking around that pecan tree after the storm came through, it stained my tennis shoes. And the tennis shoes, when I got rid of the tennis shoes, probably four years later 'cause I keep everything, they still had the stains on them. Clorox would not take the stains out. And I used to say, "There was something in that air when that storm came through that dyed my tennis shoes." But anyway, that's, that's my personal memory of when Hurricane Hugo came through Rockingham and devastated the little small town by knocking the power out.
RECORDING PAUSES THEN RESUMES START OF TAPE 1 AT 11:10 MINUTES CP: This is the story of my favorite book ever read as a child, and if I asked my parent they would probably, both of them would agree to, as to which book it is. Um, when I was little, I was about two, my mom was real sick and was on bed rest for a while. So, instead of being able to pick me up and play with me, she would sit and read to me. Well, I had the whole collection of Little Golden Books but I had this one Little Golden Book and the name of it was Baby Dear and the whole premise of the story was the little girl was an only child and she was given a baby doll and her mom was expecting. And so she had to take care of her baby doll while her mom took care of the new baby so that she could understand how to love and care for the baby. Well, that was my favorite book growing up and I would say, "Read Baby Dear. Read Baby Dear." So they had to read Baby Dear to me. And we were reading, they were reading Baby Dear and it got to the point where I knew how to turn the pages, I knew when the story should turn the pages, and they would, when company would come over or something, I'd say, "Can I read you a story?" And here I am two, two maybe three, learning how to talk and offering to read stories, because I just had to learn the story because it was my favorite story. And it was like, "Baby Dear's my brand new baby doll. Daddy brought her to me on a very special day." "It was the day he brought Mommy and my newborn, my new baby brother home from the hospital." I can even see this little girl holding this baby in the pink blanket, you know, on the pages. And years later, um, I look back at the book and I still have the book. I can't part with the book. That was my favorite book, um, but at one time I had a little cousin over and I was going to let her read Baby Dear because if I liked it, surely she would like it, too. Well, she tore a page. And I cried and I cried and I cried. And Daddy taped the page back together and Mama said, "Well, we'll put it up so nobody else will tear it." And, oh. That broke my heart when she tore up Baby Dear, because Baby Dear was my favorite little book growing up. All right. I don't know, I think I must have been about five or so and I loved animals. Any, any kind of animal, I didn't care, I wasn't scared of anything. I had accidentally picked up a snake before thinking that it was just an earthworm. And, I didn't realize it was a snake until I said it made a sound at me. And so I was never scared of any animals or anything, I just love them. And we were going to the circus. My parents had told me we were going to the circus and I had remembered, you know, the elephants and I thought you could see giraffes and bears and all this. And probably what I was doing was combining the circus and the zoo because they were both just different animals and it was just wonderful. Well, I had, when I was little, and in the winter my mom always made me wear a little T-shirt under, under my sweater or under my shirt. I had to wear layered clothes so I wouldn't get cold. And so I had, she put on me a little T-shirt and I think she had put on the horse T-shirt. Well I kept telling her, "No. I want elepoo. I want elepoo." And she said, "But Crystal you have on your horse T-shirt." I had on a horse T-shirt and a bear on my little sweatshirt I had on. And she said, "Elepoo's dirty. He's in the dirty clothes." But I said, "I want elepoo. I'm going to see elepoos." Instead of calling them an elephant, it was an elepoo. Well, Daddy was supposed to be watching me, we got ready to go and we lived about two hours away from the circus. Mama said on the ride up she noticed, she said, "Well, you know, Crystal's sweating a lot. She shouldn't be sweating" She said so she took my little jacket off and everything and said, uh, "We'll turn the heat down in the car," 'cause it was during February and its still real cold here during February. And we got to, it's now Cricket Arena, it used to be the Charlotte Coliseum on Independence, to see the Ringling Brother's Barnum and Bailey Circus. And I was all excited. I was wanting, you know, cotton candy and buy little noisemakers and everything. And Mama said that, Daddy said, "Well is she getting sick? Do you think she's got a fever?" And Mama said, "Well no. She's sweating and she doesn't have a fever, she's just hot for some reason." And my, they kept talking and everything and 'cause I'm usually a real cold natured person. Well, they showed some bears playing with a ball and I said, "I got bear." And Mama said, "Yeah. You've got a bear. You've got a bear on your shirt." And so, they had a little, the horses came out and the girls were riding the horses and I was like, "I have a horsy, too." And Mama said, "Yeah, you have a horsy on your T-shirt." And she said that, finally, you know, I was eating the, eating my little cotton candy and playing with my noisemakers and everything and I was excited about the circus. And at the end of the circus, they would always bring the elephants out. 'Cause the elephants wore like the banner and so they would usually parade the elephants around at the end of the circus. Then Mama said at the end of the circus, I started screaming, "I got elepoo. I got elepoo." and she said, "Yes, you've got an elepoo, but he's at home. Elepoo was dirty and you had to leave him at home." And I said, "No Mommy. I got elepoo." And she said, "No Crystal. Elepoo was dirty and you had food on him. We left him at home." And she said I was just bound and determined and I stood up in my little seat and started trying to pull my shirt up to show her and she said, "Crystal, stop. You've had, you know, look you have on your horsy." She was going to try to show me that I had on my horsy and that she pulled up my sweatshirt to show my I had on the horsy T-shirt and she said, "Wait a minute. She's got on two T-shirts." And so she pulled up the horsy T-shirt and said there was the elepoo T-shirt. And said that before this they had always dressed me and, you know, I wasn't, I didn't dress myself. They had just always taken care of everything. And so she looked over there at my daddy and started laughing and she said, "You put this on her, didn't you? So she would have her elepoo because she wanted it." Because my mama always thought my daddy gave into me naturally anyway. He said, "I didn't do it. I was watching TV." And she said, "Crystal, where did you get this?" And I said, "I put elepoo on. I dressed myself." And I had taken off both of my shirts and had turned them inside, right side, turned them from inside which was the right side, put them back on and put my elepoo shirt back on. Because I had learned how to dress myself, they just wouldn't give me a chance to because they were always doing everything for me. Well, when I was 20, when I turned 22, I was in college, and it was my last year in college and it just so happened that the circus fell on the day of my birthday and my mom was over the nursery at the church and she said, "You know, I think I'm going to bring the kids up to go to the circus." She said, "What would you, what do you want to do for your birthday since it's on the day, since we're going to be there on the day of your birthday, you know, we'll take the, we'll take the kids." And I said, "Well I want to go to the circus." And that just thrilled her and Daddy to death that that's what I wanted to do on my birthday was go to the circus. 'Cause every year, especially as I got older I want to do a kids thing on my birthday. So I wanted to go to the circus. Well, naturally I went to the t-shirt, T-shirt Plus in the mall and got, uh, a screen print of an elephant that 'elepoo' written on it. And I had on my Pepsi sweatshirt and my t-shirt on under it and we got there and Daddy was joking about, "Crystal, you're looking like you're kind of hot under there. You haven't got on too many clothes has you?" And now its just been a big joke all the time, and I waited until the elephants came out and I said that, "But Daddy, I've got elepoo." And he said, "Yeah, baby. I know you've got elepoo." And he was still playing off this thing that had happened when I was five years old. [Laughs] And I pulled up my sweatshirt, and I said, "No. I've got elepoo Daddy." And I promise you, him and my mama both, their little, their eyes just filled up and they were like, "Oooh." 'Cause it looked like one of those little sweet moments or whatever. But, so I had to go out and I was, I went out and got another elepoo t-shirt made, so that I would have an elepoo.