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Interview with Bernard Smith

Smith, Bernard
Smith, Kelly
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with people and places; Childhood adventures; Overcoming obstacles
Bernard Smith talks about a bike he received one Christmas.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Kelly Smith interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
BS (Bernard Smith): When I was a child I was, uh, raised in Bristol, Tennessee. I had six sisters, and a brother and another brother that had died when I was an infant so I never knew him.
KS (Kelly Smith): ( ).
BS: My father was dead. Uh, by, by today's standards we might've been considered poor, but I had to grow up before I realized that. We didn't have a lot of money that I knew of, but we had plenty to eat, had warm clothes and a roof over our head and everybody was happy.
KS: How old were you when your dad died? ( ).
BS: When my dad died? I was about [clears throat] [pause], about a year old.
KS: ( ).
BS: I never remembered him. And, uh, but anyway [clears throat], I always looked forward to Christmas just like all the other kids and, uh, at that time one of the big things that we'd give for Christmas was 'big little books,' we called them. They were little books about an inch and a half thick, and, uh, about three, four inches wide, maybe five inches tall and they cost a dime. And they were, they were nice little books, and, uh, they, uh, we would buy them and read them and then wrap them up and give them to whoever we were going to give them to. And, uh, back then you could buy a box of chocolate cherries for 25 cents if you had a girlfriend, you know, that was the thing to do. But this, uh, one particular Christmas, I woke up on Christmas morning and [clears throat] ran to the tree to see what Santa Claus had brought me, if anything. Of course he always brought something, and there was the most gorgeous bicycle I've ever seen. Even to this day, I haven't seen one any prettier. It, uh, it had twin headlights. It had a horn, had a chrome luggage rack-.
KS: Whoa.
BS: -And curved handle bars-.
KS: Cool.
BS: And, uh, beautiful bicycle.
KS: What color?
BS: It was two or three different colors but it was a, it had a lot of chrome on it. And, uh, it was gorgeous [clears throat]. And, of course, I hadn't expected it, I didn't ask for it. But my brother had bought it for me. My brother is, i-, was 11 years older than I am. And, of course, he's dead now. But, uh, at that time he worked at, uh, at a hardware store and I'm sure he didn't make much money. I'd, I'd be surprised if he made 25 dollars a week. And at that time that bicycle probably cost 30, 40 dollars. It was a gorgeous bicycle. And I'm sure that every week he paid two or three dollars to get that bicycle for me. And I loved that bicycle. And uh-.
KS: Did you ever have a terrible accident on that bicycle?
BS: A what?
KS: A terrible accident on that bicycle? Did you ever get hurt on it?
BS: Yeah I did. All the other kids had cheap bicycles and they would run faster than mine because mine was heavier, it had all the equipment on it. So after, you know, that summer, after the new kind of wore off that bicycle, I started stripping it down and I took the luggage rack off and the horn and, and the chain guard and a lot of things that I didn't feel like I really needed on that bicycle. And [clears throat], and I, uh, somewhere along the line somebody gave me or I bought it or something, a siren that you hook on your front fork of your bicycle and there's a chain and when you want to blow the siren you pull the chain and, uh, and this little wheel runs up against your tire and, uh, it's a siren.
KS: Cool.
BS: [Clears throat] So it was, uh-. One day I was riding my bike to school.
KS: How far away was school?
BS: And it was about, school was about three miles from the house and, uh, when I got close to the school there was, there was a bunch of girls standing there talking and I'm coming down the hill on my bicycle toward the girls and I'm going to blow my siren.
KS: [Laugh]
BS: And, and, and see what happens. So I pull the chain for my siren to rub up against the tire but what I didn't know was that it had slipped and then slipped down a little bit instead of hitting the tire went between the spokes.
KS: [Laugh]
BS: And when it did, that bicycle just threw me right straight up in the air-.
KS: ( ).
BS: -And I know I did a couple of flips and maybe a half-gainer or something.
KS: That's funny.
BS: And [laugh] right, in the middle of those girls and I landed flat on my back. And for a while I thought I was dead because I couldn't breathe-.
KS: Oh no, knocked your breath out.
BS: -And I cracked, I think I cracked all my ribs. Of course they were laughing. But, uh, [clears throat] that, was an accident that I, uh, had to happen to me. And, course I loved that bicycle and rode it all over town, through the woods, uh, and I rode it. How am I doing?
KS: You're doing good. I mean times over but you can finish your story if you want to.
BS: Well I, uh, I rode it uptown one day and I was going to the movies and I parked the bicycle bes-, in a little alley beside the theater. There was a double feature and it cost nine cents to get in and see both of those features-.
KS: I can't imagine.
BS: -But when I came out my bicycle was gone-.
KS: [Laugh]
BS: -And I never knew what happened to my gorgeous bicycle.
KS: That's sad. And how long had you had it at that time? Was it still new or was it a couple year-?
BS: No it wasn't new. I probably had it maybe a year or maybe two years, I don't know.
KS: Aww, that's still sad.
BS: I've thought about it a whole lot and it, it meant so much because my brother bought it for me.
KS: He had worked so hard to get it.
BS: Yeah.
KS: Well that's good.
BS: And, uh.
KS: [Laugh]
BS: That's it.
KS: Well thank you. That's good.