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Interview with James Thomas Reese, IV

Reese, James Thomas IV "Jim"
Hilton, Brandy
Date of Interview: 
overcoming obastacles; relationships with people and places; childhood adventures; stories and storytellers; tolerance and respect; then and now
Jim Reese talks about growing up in Charlotte and his opinions of dialects in the area.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Brandy Hilton interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
BH (Brandy Hilton): What's your name?
JR (James Thomas Reese): James Thomas Reese the Fourth.
BH: What's your age?
JR: Twenty-four.
BH: Place of origin.
JR: Charlotte, North Carolina.
BH: Occupation?
JR: Sales.
BH: OK. What are some memories you have of growing up?
JR: Um, how young do I have to be? Five? Ten?
BH: It doesn't matter wherever you want to start.
JR: OK, let's start in, uh, elementary school. Elementary school I, um, started to draw a lot. Um, that's when I first started recognize, recognizing art. Um, I was always pretty good at math, in elementary school, like division, multiplication, things like that. We used to get in a little circle and, ah, all the kids would have like a number in their hand, like different numbers. And, ah, the teacher would put a multiplication table on the, ah, board. And all the kids in the circle would raise up. It's kind of like Duck-Duck-Goose. We'd kind of play little games like that, um, with multiplication. And then when you got to the end of the circle and you went around a full time you'd get a nice big silver star on the calendar. And the ones with the most silver stars, of course, won candy or some little small little insignificant prize. Back then if you won that prize you were the "daddy" in your class. Um, as far as junior high goes, didn't have too many friends in junior high 'cause my parents moved. Um, so I had to grow up with new people. Um, it was kind of hard, you know. Ah, I missed my old friends. And I had to make new ones and it was really hard to find out what kind of a group you had to be in because everybody's got to find their own little niche, you know. Somebody that they pal around with all the time. And, ah, you know, like either you're a jock or a, you're a, you're a skinhead, or you're, you know, I guess a gangster [laugh]. Whatever you want to call it. Um, I hung around with all of them, just about, ah, people from out of state, people from in state. A lot of people come here from New York, so I think, ah, some of the New York accent is rubbing off on us, and we're kind of rubbing off on them and we're starting to get a really weird accent [laugh]. Um, as far as, ah, high school goes, I made a lot of friends then. Um, did all kinds of things, like going to the football games. I loved doing that. Ah, we used to go out and party and we'd have scavenger hunts. I remember at Garinger we went to Independence High School and buried the rock. We all, we had like 22 guys. We all dug this hole and they had a rock you know, everybody has their rock at the high school. It signifies the school spirit. People paint on it and stuff like that. Well, we buried that sucker [laugh]. That's basically what we did. And it was the most fun I ever had 'cause we got by with something like that. Um, I remember also, ah, I guess playing a lot of basketball, more in high school than I did when I was younger. But I really got involved with it in high school because that's all I wanted to do is play that and keep fit. In high school I also played soccer for the team. But I didn't get on the basketball team. I didn't even try out. I didn't think I had a chance. But I didn't really want to be on the team. It was pretty much, ah, dominated by taller people [laugh].
BH: Uh-huh.
JR: Um, I remember in high school the most, thing that I remember the most that really, really, really helped me was a teacher of mine. Um, when I went to South Meck, I went to three different schools. I went to Garinger, South Meck, and Independence. So you got Garinger, that's kind of like the ghetto school. What they call, ah, a bunch of street gangs and people like that hanging out there. That's where I went first, tenth and eleventh grade. Then I went to South Mecklenburg from when I was ten-, ah, tenth grade, from when I was, excuse me, in the eleventh grade to the beginning of twelfth. And that was like your rich yuppie school. Everybody was rich there. Everybody's name was Buffy, Darren, Chris or Stephen [laugh] or like Stephan. But, you know, then when I liked that school a lot because there's a lot of benefits knowing rich people. Get to hang out in cool cribs and play games and swim and do all kinds of stuff 'cause they had just about every recreation available. The parents were always saying, "You want to bring your friend to the football or basketball game?" My dad never really took me to them.
BH: Uh-huh.
JR: So I usually went with friends. Um, then, ah, we went to, ah, Mint Hill. We moved from, ah, Cameron Woods in South Mecklenburg to Mint Hill and Independence High School.
BH: Uh-hmm.
JR: And that's where all the rednecks hung out. And I mean it's redneck galore. Everybody always made fun of that school. And I did not want to go to it because those are the people that I went to junior high with. And I didn't really get along with them too well. But ah, I ended up graduating and, ah, did some college, and went into sales and I guess now I'm here.
BH: OK. What are some stories that you remember reading or hearing as a child or as an adult? And what are your favorite stories and why?
JR: Um, I remember reading stories like ah, Johnny Tsunami. Or I mean when I was real young I wrote that, I read that back in junior high. I remember I was into bigger books because I thought I would be smarter if I learned, you know, read thicker books [laugh] than anybody else. So I got novels and things like that. And I liked reading, ah, Journey to the Center of the Earth. I liked something that they called, it was called, Time Travel, that was the name of the book. It was a series.
BH: Uh-hmm.
JR: And it was kind of like ah, you'd read a section in the page and it gave you three options, whether like you went back in time to the dinosaur era. And, ah, it gave you three options to like jump back and forth, like either you're going to jump to this limb-.
BH: You can plan the ending, you mean.
JR: \\ Yeah. \\
BH: \\ Like it has different endings? \\
JR: \\ You can plan the ending \\ but you can also kill yourself. I mean it's really weird.
BH: Uh-hmm.
JR: You have so many different ways you could go. That was one of my favorite books, and just about everybody loved those. I'd love to get a copy of it, probably, but I don't know if they've got them anymore.
BH: I'm sure they're somewhere.
JR: Um, let's see here. I know Ralph S. Mouse was my favorite. It's about this little mouse, ah, it was called The Mouse and the Motorcycle, by Beverly Cleary.
BH: Yeah.
JR: Yep, ah, she also did, ah, some other books. I think there was one on this girl, can't remember the name of the girl but I did read it. And I can't really remember that much of this story. But Ralph S. Mouse, I read that book over and over and over because I never really had a stable pet. My parents were always getting rid of them. Um, except for cats. But I always wanted a little gerbil or something. But the closest thing I had was Ralph S. Mouse. It was a little mouse that could talk.
BH: Hmmm.
JR: And he would make little sounds and noises like he would get in a car and sound like a car. He'd go "Vroom, vroom." And it'd even say it in the book. And the car would just start moving. No engine. The little mouse would start mentioning the word "Vroom, vroom" and the car would go. He found a motorcycle and did the same thing. This little boy used to leave his toys everywhere. Well, well, you know, ah, when the boy would leave his toys, ah, sitting around, Ralph S. Mouse would just go on and play with them while he's gone. Well, the little boy found Ralph S. Mouse. The cat caught him. And when, ah, he found out the mouse could talk it just became his best friend. So, whenever the parents would leave, you know, the little boy, ah, what's his name? His name was Timmy. 'Cause I remember my name is Jim and his was Tim. And I thought that was real cool 'cause his name was close to mine. And he had this little mouse that could talk to him and actually make his toys come alive. And it was just a real magical little story. And Beverly Cleary was a great, I really loved her books back then. And I'd probably would like them now. I haven't read them in awhile. But, um, those are some of my favorite books. I remember, aw man, gosh, so many books I used to read when I was-, I, I read a lot of comic books, X-men. Oh, you got me into X-men, Spiderman. Um, then, of course Image came out with Spawn. I got into that. That was around in high school. And, ah, I used to have a bunch of copies of that magazine and somebody stole them out of my grandmother's shed. So now without, you know, some valuable copies of Spawn, which is the number one selling comic in America. OK. Back to-.
BH: \\ What is Spawn? \\
JR: \\ -The books. \\ Spawn is, ah, a comic book that came out. It's by Todd McFarlane and he's one of the greatest comic book artists I've ever seen besides Jim Lee who draws the X-men for, ah, or the Wildcats for Image. Um, he, ah, it's kind of about a man who was working for the government. And the government destroyed him because, uh, he knew too much. And, um, he comes back from hell because, you know, he was a hired killer so, ah, he pretty much had to go to hell because he killed people. Um, what happened was he came back because the devil said um, "If you lead my army I will let you see your Wanda" which was his wife and that's the only wish he wanted to go back. Well, he agreed to do that for the devil but the devil didn't give him his body back. He actually gave him a disfigured body. So he can see Wanda whenever he wants, it's just that she's not going to want him. He's hideous. So he's got all these powers and he fights demons all the time. And it's just a real crazy story. They made a movie about it and a cartoon on HBO, um, recently. So it's really, really cool, um. Um, that's about it on books though.
BH: OK. What are your attitudes about, um, the English language in this region?
JR: Ah, well, um, ah, I really don't know. There's a lot of different attitudes I got. Ah, for, some of them make me laugh, some of them, um, strike a little fear in me, some of them make me feel comfortable, some of them make me feel, ah, normal I guess, not make me feel anything. Really the ones I'm most uncomfortable with probably is Ebonics, or the slang that's used in Ebonics. It's just, ah, I know it's form of language but I've heard it used in positive and negative terms. But when I hear it, mostly every time I do hear it, from a person and not television from somebody's whose actually using it around me, it's usually negative. I mean not towards me just what they say it's usually, ah, a lot of cussing involved. And it's usually if, I feel it's on a low mental level the way they talk. Um, most of it, ah, comes from people who are, ah, poor or living in a ghetto, I guess, or selling drugs or narcotics or into any kind of, type of crime. You find it mostly in crime. Um, I, you don't hear business owners and executives and stuff like that talking Ebonics do you? I mean it's not really s-, in that type of a class because they seem, it seems like lower class speaks Ebonics more than the upper class does. And, ah, I really don't know that we can call that a language, because it's using the same thing, it's using the same thing it's always been. It's just, it's distorting it. It's like, it's like saying they didn't get no education, you know? So they made up their own language and it's Ebonics. And now they're trying to separate it and I don't think that should be done because it's really not a separate language. It's just that these people weren't educated enough to talk right. Seriously. That's just the way it is. I wish it wasn't that way because I think education is important. But some of these kids brought it upon themselves because they chose not to be there and some of them didn't because their parents couldn't help it. Ah, they couldn't, ah, afford it for them to go to school. And some of them do the home school training and they don't want them to be integrated with other races. You know there's a lot of parents who are that way.
BH: But, um, let me just ask you one thing. Um, language is, is, ah, is a constant, ah, changing thing and don't you think that's a, just a, a way that the language is evolving?
JR: I hope it's not evolved that way because it's kind of negative. Um, if it evolves in the upper class, which I doubt that it will, that's not, that's probably going to bring a negative edge to everything because when I've seen it in reality, I mean I've heard it on TV, I've heard it in a positive way and I heard it in bad ways. But I hear it more in negative ways than I do positive like I said. And if it becomes more popular that's not going to be good for our culture. But I think that, um, languages will evolve real bad, ah, in the future because the more we get integrated with other countries here in America the more our language is going to change.
BH: Huh-uh.
JR: Um, I really don't know. I probably won't be alive by the time it really starts to change but I can see it going somewhere and a lot of people can, they just don't know where. Well, I just hope it goes to a more of a positive level than it is right now because I know it's bringing a lot of people down. And a lot of people can't understand it. Ah, I, however, can because I've got a lot of friends who talk that way. Um, like I said, earlier I don't know if I mentioned on the tape but I hung around all kinds of groups when I was younger so pretty much grew up with rich kids, I grew up with, ah, people who live in the ghetto and talk slang and, ah, a bunch of gangsters. They want to be gangsters, if they were or not it's, I guess none of you guys have been arrested. Um, a lot of my friends who were like, that are in jail now. Um, I do have some redneck friends too. Now that is another language that's been here for a while in the south. They call it redneck. It's just redneck slang, ah, they call it white trash slang, too. Um, again, like Ebonics, that redneck slang comes from people who are sometimes in low class but I hear it on positive and negative levels. Um, some of my friends, however, used it [sigh] I really can't explain it. It's, it's not as negative as Ebonics.
BH: So-.
JR: But it can be.
BH: So you just mean really it just depends on the context it's used, right?
JR: It does. You're so right. But, ah, I'm at constant battle with which one I think is more negative than the other. If I was at a battle of that because I really don't think about it. But now that you're asking me these questions I'm thinking about it. I'm not really sure which one's worse or if one's better or they're both different, totally different. They are here in Charlotte. They both speak that way. Um, both of them, um, I think that both of them, um, I think will possibly be integrated in the future. I know that sounds weird but if you think about mixing Ebonics with redneck it may sound funny but if, but if some, somebody ever starts talking like that and you notice it, you'll know what happened to the language.
BH: Uh-huh. OK. Is that all?
JR: Uh-huh.
BH: Thank you.