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Conversation with Scott Putnam

Putnam, Scott
Napier, Katherine
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with People and Places; Then and Now; Cultural Identification
Scott Putnam talks about moving his family from Dayton, Ohio to Charlotte, North Carolina, and discusses some of the cultural, political, and dialect differences between the two regions.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Katherine Napier interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
SP (Scott Putnam): Just talk?
KN (Katherine Napier): Just talk.
SP: OK, um, we, um, live in Matthews, North Carolina. We are here from Dayton, Ohio. We've been here about 13 years and we have two children, Wes and Megan, who, uh, one just finished college and one other one is, uh, Megan is a junior at Carolina this, this fall. Um, we have enjoyed, I guess, our move here, and the people we've met and all, just the differences, I guess. We kind of had some, uh, not reservation about moving, it was an elective move for us, but certainly, um, living in a different part of the country than we were used to was, uh, something which was a change for us and something that we had thought long about. But coming here, rather than, um, perhaps picking up and focusing on the differences, I think we tried to look at the, uh, you know, just the, um, the, the special points about the, uh, life in the South and, and the people here and the customs and I think it's been something that we've always, uh, valued. Some, some folks, uh, either, uh, from the South don't value the people from the North and vice versa, but I think it's been a real positive thing, our move for us, in many ways. And, uh, it was a little harder on our children, particularly, uh, Wes. Um, he was at a, just, uh, had a real good group of kids, or boys, that he was friends with and did lots of things with. And when he came here, uh, you know, having to start all over for him was difficult. And I think it took him a little while, uh, longer than our daughter, who fit in I think with a group of people pretty quickly. We've been involved in the area, in our neighborhood. [Clears throat] There's a neighborhood association we've been involved in that pretty strongly. We've, um, we're members of Matthew's United Methodist Church and have been there for almost the 13 years that we've been here and have had various, um, areas of participation and leadership there, and have been pretty much a part of the community. Um, we have a fairly strong family. Uh, we have family in all parts of the country or at least this part of the United, this part of the, uh, Eastern United States, in Virgina and Kentucky. And just had a family member move here from Kentucky three years ago. And, uh, my wife's family is scattered, uh, back in Ohio and in Florida and Denver, Colorado. But we find that a, a fairly intentional way, every year, of getting together and we enjoy just, uh, doing some fairly mundane things. But when we get together, we, um, that is, we just enjoy eating food, we enjoy putting puzzles together, we sometimes go to the beach and just do as little as we can as possible, and just enjoy, you know, doing things together. So we have a fairly, um, I would say, strong family and important to us, and are fairly intentional about getting together as often as we can. Um--.
KN: What are some of the differences you noticed when coming down here from, that you mentioned--.
SP: Differences, well, it's uh, [clears throat] I think there's, you know, just different, uh, phrases, and different ways of saying things. I think that, uh, it will take a while for me to get used to mashing a button on an elevator or, or, um, I'm just trying to think of, instead of taking someone home that you would carry them home or carry them to the store. We picked up pretty easily the, um, phrase for, you know, "Hello," or a greeting is "Hey." And usually that was something you said up north to get someone's attention. Like, "Hey, you." or "Hey. Over there." But here it's just a greeting and we've gone back to visit in Ohio or elsewhere and we, pretty much it's just become a part of our language or usage as well and, um, you know, people ask us about it. But we've picked up some things and then certainly there are other things that, language wise, we, um, still find, uh, a little different to get used to. Uh, I think that, I don't know, I guess, in terms of pace of life, I don't know that it's a lot different from what we were used to. I think that maybe in the northeast you would find maybe things to be more hectic or people to be perhaps less friendly, but I think it pretty much depends on who you are and where you are and the kind of person you are as, as to whether or not you, you know, make friends easily or whether, you know, you actually put people off. To my mind that doesn't really matter what part of the country you are from. It seems if you're used to, if you're, if it's in your nature, you know, to treat people with respect that you don't have that, you know, problem fitting in. Uh, but if you try to emphasize I guess, differences then I think then that's probably another issue. One thing that was kind of interesting, too was that we, uh, you know, just some strange things about Charlotte, in fact, is that when we came here, well, we're, back in Ohio, I mean, there's a fairly, uh, developed, very well developed library system. And there, I mean, just good libraries and large libraries in neighborhoods and certainly the downtown area. When we came here they were just finishing the new main library in uptown Charlotte, but still there were, uh, libraries in storefronts on Independence Boulevard. There was a small library over on Sharon Road or actually on Fairview Road, it was the Sharon Library, and a very small one in Matthews and, and the rest were just hither and yon. And now we have one of the, I guess, well-recognized library systems and probably the better ones in the United States. We have regional libraries that have just seemed to have grown up in both the University area and Rea Road and, uh, South Park and other places. And it's just amazing how much change there's been, a, a dramatic change there has been just in that one institution alone. Um, and you look at other kinds of things and I think Charlotte, and maybe it's typical of the South, but I think that, uh, maybe there hasn't been as much growth here before and when you have growth and you have people coming in, who, looking for services. And you, and you also have a, a government, um, who are, are really ready to take that challenge as opposed to just deciding that, "Hey, listen we're gonna do things the way we've done it for the last, you know, 100 years, whether new people come or need services or ask for amenities or not, we're going to keep things the way they are." In fact, the town of Matthews, I think, um, at least my understanding is, is that when Providence Plantation, uh, reached a certain point in population they, they wanted to be annexed to the town of Matthews because they thought maybe that the city of Charlotte would annex them and so they wanted to, that they petitioned the town of Matthews to annex. But the town of Matthews at that point said, "No," because they were afraid that all these people from other places would come in and be a part of the town government and change things. And so they decided to, you know, basically vote the outsiders out and it will keep the town, uh, small. But Matthews has grown many times, uh, just in the last 15 years. And, and, and certainly the, the leadership has changed there. And, uh, you know, there is a more inclusive, uh, government there. Um, other differences, uh, I think we, we miss a park system, a little better organized park system. We were used to, um, probably some smaller parks and, and, and larger parks, regional parks and state parks. But we would often go to, to hike, and actually they had cabins and things like that, other activities and, with them that we did. Um, but people-wise, I think we've, we've found people to be probably pretty much the, what you hear about in the South. And that is the Southern house, hospitality and the people are, for the most part, warm and friendly and, um, and, and that's been a just a, a really a nice, nice part about moving here. I think that I, it just depends on what the accent is, but I could sit and listen for hours to, to certain southern accents. I enjoy listening, uh, to people who have grown up in the area and who speak with that accent. It used to be when you could come here that uh, [clears throat] that still the people who were native to Charlotte or to the South were the greatest number of the population. And now it seems like, at least in the place where I work and other people we run into, a lot of people, uh, seem to be from other places and fewer people, you know, are just native to uh, to the Carolinas or, um, to the South. Um [pause] just trying to think of other things that might be difference [pause]. Well, I guess, I work for the city of Charlotte and I'm probably partial, uh, to, to governments, but I worked for the City of Dayton before and also with a regional agency in Cleveland. And I think that, um, that in terms of at least Charlotte, if the, if the city government is, is, is at all representative of, of just the politics here, both in the private sector and the public sector, there's just a real interest in, in uh, in, in getting things done. And, and also, I think, not necessarily in reinventing the wheel, but in looking at everything that you do to see if there's some way that you can't do it better. And to reengineer processes, to, uh, to try to, again be, you know, I guess good stewards of the public's money and to, and to act in a, in a very reasonable and responsible way and to provide basic, good basic services. And I think that whether we're talking about, um, you know, that or we're talking about a can-do spirit to do other civic projects, public projects, partnering with the private sector, I think that there is just a real attitude to, again, be a place of excellence and to find a way to get things done. And that's been, uh, something which I haven't in, in other places. And I think Charlotte is, is recognized as not only as a, it's a business community and a growth community, but also as a community that has one of the best, um, governments, uh, in the nation for, for at least populations, cities our size. I think we're nationally recognized, uh, for what we do from just a managing standpoint. Um, and so that's been a, I think a good change for us, uh, since I work in that environment. One thing, is it's been difficult trying to, now, now that my family starting to move down here, I think that the one drawback was, uh, just moving probably eight hours away, driving time, from um, from Dayton. But now most of our family is in other places and so that's probably not as much of a factor. [Pause] So I guess one question might be how I met my wife. Um, I guess that's a, I've known my wife for a long time. Uh, we grew up in the same, uh, city together. We went to different high schools but we went to the same church. And our families were friends for many years and so we were acquainted that way, but it wasn't until I was probably a sophomore in college that, uh, we started dating. And, um, she went to Miami University in Ohio, and I went to Purdue in Indiana, so visiting was, uh, problematic but we, we did find a way every couple of weeks to, um, to get together. And I guess that started in probably '71 and we were married in June of '73. So Susan still had, uh, a semester or two to finish. I was in graduate school and then we, I graduated and we went to, moved to Cleveland, she finished up. Even though she went to Miami for two years, Purdue for two years she still had some classes to make up, and so she went to Cleveland State and to Baldwin Wallace in Cleveland and finally graduated with a, with a degree from Purdue. Um, she had lost some credits in transferring. But we had a, it was a good way to, to start out in life. We, uh, lived in married student housing, we, we had a fairly, uh, tight budget. Um, you know, I had an assistantship with, with the university so we were pretty much sufficient on that. But we learned, uh, to uh, to do with, uh, very little and to, um, just enjoy, you know, getting to, I mean being together and, and knowing each other and finding neat things to do. And so, I think that we've, we've pretty much carried that through, uh, the rest of our life in many ways. I think we enjoy, you know, being together, we enjoy, um, you know, talking [clears throat] and doing some of the simple things. If we have other things that's great and we, we seek those out, but we're not, I mean, we're not, we enjoy spending time together and don't necessarily seek time apart. And we've been doing this now for about 28 years, so it's been a, a good marriage for us.