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Interview with Michael Shelton

Shelton, Michael
Shelton, Kristi
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with People and Places; Tolerance and Respect; Childhood Adventures
Michael Shelton recalls his favorite childhood books, stories about his father and grandfather, and memories of growing up and dating his wife.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Kristi Shelton interviews her husband to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
KS (Kristi Shelton): You can just answer them and feel free to respond however you want to, OK? What stories or books do you remember reading as a little person? Little boy?
MS (Michael Shelton): My two favorite books as a child was Curious George and The Jungle Book.
KS: Curious George. That was the little red monkey with the black and white--?
MS: Yes.
KS: Did you have that doll?
MS: No. I didn't have the doll, I just had the books.
KS: Who told, did, did, is that story your mom read to you or did you like--?
MS: My mom started reading it to me when I was small and, and I picked it up on my own reading and I enjoyed the illustrations as much as the book.
KS: So you liked the pictures?
MS: Yes.
KS: Were they bright books? Or did they have bright pictures?
MS: They all had yellow covers and they were all paperbacks. And they had just little, uh, cartoons. Not vivid pictures, just--.
KS: They weren't real bright colors, were they? And the whole page wasn't colored.
MS: No. It was just individual pictures of the monkey himself and his immediate surroundings.
KS: [Laughs] The monkey, I didn't like Curious George. That's neat. All right, um, well, what about that book that your mama bought you that time that, she told briefly that story. That book that she bought called In One Light.
MS: That's why I have such fond memories of The Jungle Book. Because she purchased a book for me and my brother and, um, it was a publishing company that could add your names and your friend's names and family names into the, into the plot of the story. So you became a character. And it really brought home, um, events of the book to you because it was personal and it was, it was, individualistic.
KS: Who were you? Do you remember what character you played?
MS: I was just one of the jungle boys--.
KS: [Laughs]
MS: Who went through and had interaction with each of the members of The Jungle Book. There was the snake and the lion and the elephant.
KS: I remember The Jungle Book but do you remember the book Little Black Sambo?
MS: No I don't.
KS: OK. That was a story that I have fond memories of. Who would you consider the best storyteller in your family?
MS: The best storyteller would be my grandfather, my mother's father.
KS: Lemmie.
MS: Lemmie. Because he, he grew up, um, one of six children, and so that just adds to his storytelling and imagination and his, he's always had interaction with people so that just adds to how he interacts with people now.
KS: Do you remember any one particular story that he told? You can't think of a story?
MS: Not, um, right off.
KS: I know the story he tells about, well he's always telling about going to play music and how they'd play when he was young. So can you think of a story?
MS: I can remember a story that really is humorous in a way because he always tells a story about how he used to double date with his future wife, and my mother, which is his daughter and my dad because, unfortunately his wife passed away when, when she was really young so--.
KS: So Eileen and him double dated with your mom and dad?
MS: Right. He would talk about how he would ask, um, he would always try to get my dad to end up paying for all four of them's dinner.
KS: [Laughs]
MS: And how they used to ride around together some. That, that to me is just something. It's hard to imagine your, your grandparents double dating with your parents, but, you know, that was a unique situation.
KS: [Giggles] So he's always been tight?
MS: Right.
KS: Um, how does he tell, when he tells those stories, like does he usually tell them at family gatherings? How does he do it?
MS: Most of the time it's during family gatherings. He's always got a story to tell, regardless if he sees you or if it's a family gathering. He's got, you know, he's going to be the one that's got, the one who is keeping the crowd up, or, or, you know, just being himself.
KS: [Coughs] What about you? What do you, when we, you and I, since we are husband and wife, when we have kids, do you imagine yourself as that kind of person? Like that kind of storyteller? Like Grandpa George and Lemmie? Do you see yourself like that?
MS: Probably, I don't know, some, to a degree. Um, he's probably the one person in my family who's like that. The rest of my family is pretty laid back and goes with the flow. So I think I'd probably be a little bit of him, yet a little bit of everybody else, and I'm not really one to steal the, steal the show at gatherings or what have you.
KS: If you were going to tell a story to your kids about your childhood, what story would you tell?
MS: It would probably all be sports related stories, um, because sports to me has been such a big factor in my life whether it teaches you the value of competition or the value of sportsmanship or the learning from mistakes of, um, in sports you are sometimes forced to make quick decisions and sometimes those decisions are not necessarily the right ones. You may end up being thrown out of a game for something stupid you do.
KS: Well, I think maybe you are, ah, trying to preface some story about getting thrown out of a game.
MS: Well, um, there have been times when me and my friends have gotten into a little bit of trouble. But we'd play our archrivals in a summer league baseball game.
KS: Who was your archrival?
MS: The team from the northern part of our county, North Stokes and we were the southern part, South Stokes. And, uh, they had one pitcher in particular who didn't like us and he was scheduled to pitch that night and after I had been hit the third time and my best friend had been hit the second time, we kind of decided that we were going take it upon ourselves to hit back. Only not with baseballs but with fists, so we charged the mound. Um, so, you know, things like that are learning experiences where you learn to grow up and mature.
KS: So what you going to tell your kid if someone from away hits them three times with a baseball? Charge the mound?
MS: I've been there and I know what isn't necessarily the right decision.
KS: What about, what is your worst memory, not your worst as in bad, but just the worst kind of memorable memory you have about playing sports all through your life?
MS: Well, the good thing about sports is you can remember one thing that occurs or it, or it can be a collection of memories. And a lot what I have are a collection of memories because when you play for 21 years of your life in sports like I have, um, really what stands out is just year to year. So many things can happen over the course of a year that, or over the course of that many years [phone rings] nothing stands out in particular it is just bunch of fond [phone rings] memories.
KS: OK, we have a phone call. We have an interruption. [RECORDING PAUSED THEN RESUMED]
KS: OK, sorry about that. Uh, back to the sports thing. You were talking about how you just had a collection of memories. Well if you had, how do you think you got started in sports? What was your family's connection to you in sports? Like Jeff, your brother, and Denise, and your dad and mom?
MS: Well, the funny thing is my parents were both athletic in high school. My dad played baseball in school and my mom was the star basketball player.
KS: Yeah, with her hook shot.
MS: With her patented jump hook shot. But, when it came to my older brother and older sister, neither one of them part, participated in sports. And I wasn't, um, pushed by either one of my parents to play sports. It was just the kind of thing where, um, in kindergarten or even before kindergarten, it just, it just came to me that I wanted to play tee ball and from there it started. And after that, I asked to put up a hoop in our backyard and luckily I had plenty of, of children my age to play with and that used to be the ritual, have the neighborhood kids come over to my hoop and we'd play basketball and it ended up I was playing with a lot of older kids and so I developed an athletic ability through playing with the neighborhood kids in basketball and just starting so early and continuing on in baseball. So it's kind of just evolved. It wasn't something that was, you know, forced upon me.
KS: So Jeff or Denise neither one, you don't have any memories of playing with them in the yard?
MS: I would play with them in the yard, but they never played any organized sports. My sister is quite older than I am so, she and I, as far as playing sports together, you know, that was few and far between.
KS: She was dating when you were playing sports?
MS: Right. But my brother and I would play basketball in the yard or play baseball, and we used to play a lot of kickball in our yard, because we had a big yard and a lot of kids, so we were always coming up with something.
KS: What about, hmm, your daddy?
MS: My dad would always play too, um, he was always just one of the kids. Um, because we had, you know, when I was 10 or 12, we'd play against kids who were 14, 16 and my brother was about seven years older and he would come out and play, and so it was just kind of natural for my dad to fit in and play along. And, uh, he was always good too, and he was one of the reasons, he made me good in what I was doing because he would challenge me. Of course he was about 6'2" when I was growing up at 10 or 12 years old, so, he, he would challenge me to get better.
KS: Did he let you win?
MS: Sometimes, but not usually.
KS: Um, what's the best memory you have with your daddy and sports, because I know your daddy's--.
MS: Well--.
KS: Important to you.
MS: Well, they always say that some of the bad things are what stands out and not necessarily a bad thing but it is one of my best memories is, ah. Well my dad was diagnosed with cancer right before baseball season my senior year and it didn't keep him from coming to any of the baseball games though. I can remember him just in, in the months prior, just prior to when he died, it was like it took every ounce of energy he had to show up at the baseball games, but nothing kept him from showing up. Like I said, you don't remember one thing in particular, you remember things collectively and I remember that season collectively and him making that effort to show up at the games.
KS: So, it meant a lot to you that he did that for you?
MS: Absolutely.
KS: He always videoed all your games too, didn't he?
MS: As many as he could. That last year I don't have any of those because he wasn't able to do it, but all of my baseball and basketball games prior to that he wanted to videotape them for--. It kind of started out in a funny way. It started out as, "Well, if I videotape them and we take them home and watch them you can watch each tape and you can analyze what you need to do to get better. And you can also show those to your coach and, you know, he can view the team and see what they need to do to get better." But, you know, it just turned into something that I will always have, those collection of tapes, such memories. Both hearing his voice on them, screaming at the refs or screaming at me, cheering, and what have you. So, it's, it's become something that been unique as a collection of tapes.
KS: You said your daddy played baseball and that was the sport you were best in.
MS: Yeah, probably. I mean, relative to everybody else I was good in basketball but, you know, that can't really compare to Jerry Stackhouse or anybody like that.
KS: [Laughs]
MS: When you add six inches to me it makes it a little bit tougher for me to compete.
KS: But you are good at baseball?
MS: Um, I was decent I guess.
KS: So is that going to be the sport you push on our kid?
MS: I'm probably not going to push any sport on our kid, my kid, although I have always said when I was in college and, right after I gave up my sports career, I always said my kid, I'm going to teach him more and work with him all the time. But as I've grown older and matured I've decided I'm going to let my kid be who he wants to be.
KS: So if we have a--.
MS: Or she.
KS: Or a she, exactly. Um, well, hmm, since, you know, this, I'm interviewing you, and you are my husband. I want you to tell me the fondest story you have of me and you together. Something that we have done.
MS: Well, it's kind of a, of a defiance story probably. One of the stories I remember most. Your dad's always been real, or kind of protective of you.
KS: Yeah.
MS: Especially when we first started dating and you didn't necessarily have the most reliable car of the people in NC.
KS: [Laughs]
MS: Your little wrecked '84 Honda Accord wasn't necessarily the thing you were going to drive two hours away, especially two hours to come and see me. But, um, one of the things I remember was you putting it, putting yourself getting in trouble, and really probably wasn't one of the wisest things we have ever done. Putting your personal safety on the line when you took off two hours up to my house against your parent's knowing. I guess your mom may have known but your dad didn't know.
KS: Yeah, I think I told my mom.
MS: And, uh, and we had a nice dinner and we went out to a movie and--.
KS: What movie did we see?
MS: I don't even remember the movie.
KS: I think it was Pelican Brief.
MS: I just remember you coming up and that was one of the best times we have had. And of course one of the things I remember most was going out to the Farmhouse which was our first official, unofficial date.
KS: [Laughs]
MS: [Cough] And by our first official, unofficial date, should I go into that, too?
KS: Yeah. You can tell that.
MS: OK. Well, we ah, I had just broken up with my girlfriend of, on and off girlfriend of two and a half to three years, and you were supposedly dating a guy in the Navy--.
KS: [Laughs]
MS: Stationed in San Diego.
KS: ( ) [Laughs] kind of a long distance relationship.
MS: And my, um, fraternity was having a cocktail and I, of course, needed someone to go with since I didn't have a, uh, girlfriend at the time. And all my friends said, "Why don't you ask Kristi? Why don't you ask Kristi?" Because we had a bunch of mutual friends in the fraternity and--.
KS: Which one pushed you the most?
MS: Morgan Collini.
KS: Hum. Morgy.
MS: And, um, so we ended up going out but I didn't have any idea that you did have a boyfriend.
KS: But I told them to tell.
MS: Nobody told me. And so I was looking at it as a date, whereas she was looking at it as a, a night out just to get out and do things. I don't know, I don't remember if you ended up telling me at some point during the night if you had a boyfriend, um, but it really didn't slow me down any.
KS: [Laughs]
MS: I kept hitting on you, kept trying to charm you. I guess it got to you a little bit, because we ended up eventually--.
KS: Eventually. Yeah I told you I had a boyfriend on the couch remember? You listened to the Christmas music too much maybe a little bit too much. Um, tell me, uh, about your Grandpa Willis because I don't know him that much. Tell me something about him.
MS: He was one of the most reserved people you will ever meet and ah, he was 84 when he passed away and he was about 5'10" and he never weighed over a hundred thirty-five pounds.
KS: You take after him.
MS: He grew up as a farmer, a tobacco farmer, and the thing about it is that he smoked non-filtered Camels since the time he was 15 years old and he passed away at the age of 85 with the cleanest lungs, but I'm sure it didn't make the rest of his body too healthy. But, um, but he was just an average hard working rural American. With one child and he loved his one child dearly.
KS: That's your daddy?
MS: When my dad passed away in 1992 it wasn't long after that he deteriorated. Um, pretty much to nothing because he, ah he had lost a major part of his life and it really brought him down but he didn't necessarily, he wasn't one of the most talkative people. If you talked to him, it was like pulling teeth sometimes, but he would do anything in the world for you. Um, he would always go the extra mile, he just didn't do it with words, he did it with actions.
KS: Did you ever remember him playing, was he a sports guy? Did he play sports with you or anything?
MS: Not really, hmm, he grew up on a farm and, you know, playing sports was, um, and he was so much older that I was, he wasn't really in the best of health when I was growing up. Um, of course, we would go up there every Sunday for Sunday lunch and, uh, he would get out in the yard with us and watch us climb trees and throw rocks and play, but he never really participated because he was 70 years older, you know, 70 years older than I was.
KS: So your grandpa was fairly old when you were born?
MS: Right.
KS: I didn't know that. I didn't know your grandpa was a tobacco farmer.
MS: Both of my grandparents were tobacco farmers. It's the main economy in Stokes County, is farming. So there's no big towns whatsoever in Stokes County.
KS: I know that you used to do that when you were little didn't you?
MS: Yeah. All of my neighbors and family members grew up on farms and, and as a child in the summer when you weren't playing sports, you were farming or working in tobacco to make money.
KS: What did you do?
MS: You primed the leaves, you'd chop it, and you'd plant it. You know, all the things necessary to raise the crop.
KS: And then did you sell it? I mean, is that what your grandpa did?
MS: Then the owners would take it to the, to the tobacco warehouse and then they would auction it off and sell it per pound. And that's what their, uh, that's what their way of living was, was to sell that tobacco.
KS: Hmm, that's all your grandpas ever did?
MS: Well, that's what they did until they became 55 or 60 years old, and then my late grandfather Lemmie went to work in a textile mill as a supervisor and my grandfather Willis went to work in a furniture factory.
KS: Industry--.
MS: Industry.
KS: Industry, industry came in there. Um, what about your, um, [pause] childhood with your brother and sister? What is the funniest story that you remember with your brother and sister as a child? I've heard a couple, but--.
MS: My sister was always the little tyrant. She is 11 years older than me and my brother is 7 years older than me. And during the summer when we were home from school, and I was five or six years old when they were both still home. She was responsible for making sure the house got clean and the chores got done and to make sure we played a part in that, and of course she was going to make sure we did our part. So she was the biggest slave driver I've ever seen, and my brother was always the rebel, and I, you know, as a five or six year old, I did what I could and she didn't really have a lot of trouble with me, but with my brother being, when she was 16 he was 12 so you can imagine what kind of battles they had. She always had this thing about when we rebelled she would lock us in two separate bedrooms.
KS: [Laughs]
MS: Well, my brother's idea of rebelling was to escape out the window and run around. And one day, what he did was, we got locked into the room. I don't know what we did necessarily that day, but he climbed out the window and was running around.
KS: Which bedroom was he locked into?
MS: He was locked into the front bedroom.
KS: And you were locked into the--.
MS: I was locked into the back.
KS: Which back? Your back?
MS: Well, that doesn't really mean anything to anybody who's listening.
KS: Well, it does. Me.
MS: But anyway, he climbed out a window and came by my window, and my window was several feet off the ground so it wasn't like I could escape. But he would throw rocks up to get my attention and he saw me look out the window and he was jumping up and down waving his arms and laughing because he was out and I was still in. Well, about that time he, he jumped on a honeybee.
KS: [Laughs]
MS: And, and the first thing I saw him do was hit the ground holding his feet so he kind of got what he deserved that day.
KS: [Laughs]
MS: Um, showing off a little bit, hmm, base, but they had their share of fights.
KS: Did he get caught?
MS: Yeah he got caught. And got locked back in with a, with a sore foot.
KS: Well, you were perfect, you never did anything? What about the hole in the wall?
MS: Well that's a different story. [Laughs]
KS: Huh. Yeah, that's what I thought. All right, uh, what about, um, your mom? Tell me some funny stories about your mom. She doesn't really tell many stories about her childhood or anything.
MS: My mom's got plenty of stories to tell I am sure. The funny, I think one of the most humorous things about her if you know my mom, she's, uh, 56 now and to imagine her with this patented hook shot on the basketball team and uh, the all-star of the, of the Stokes County Basketball League as a senior in high school is pretty funny. And she used to demonstrate that for me, too. We would go out and we would play horse and she would kick my butt because she had that hook shot that nobody else could do.
KS: [Laughs] In her high heel shoes.
MS: In her high heel shoes.
KS: Um, well OK. I guess that is probably about enough. Anything else that you want to add to your interview? OK thank you and now you are always on tape.