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Interview with Ginger Smith

Smith, Ginger
Eller, Wendy
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with people and places; Childhood adventures; Stories and storytellers
Ginger Smith talks about her favorite childhood stories and family storytellers.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Wendy Eller interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
WE (Wendy Eller): OK. What's your name?
GS (Ginger Smith): Ginger Smith. And I am 42 years old and I live in Faith, North Carolina.
WE: OK. And how long have you been living here?
GS: I've lived here all my life, uh, I was born here and went to elementary school here and then went to college at UNC Charlotte and then came back and got a job, and I've raised my family here.
WE: Um, what stories do you remember reading as a child?
GS: Oh, gosh, when I was little, I used to read all the time and one of my most favorite books was Grandma's Cookie Jar. And now that I am a, a librarian and I am at the library where I went to elementary school, I was hoping it would still be in the collection, but it's not and I can't find the book anywhere. I can't remember what, who wrote it and I'm sure it's probably out of print now, but that was one of my most favorite books, Grandma's Cookie Jar. I also liked to read, um, Brer Rabbit and those stories. And then when I got older, I liked to read, uh, mystery stories. I enjoyed Nancy Drew and, um, oh gosh what's the other one with Nancy Drew? The other one and it's a guy, Nancy Drew, Nancy Drew [laugh]. Oh, and let's see, what else did I like to read? Oh, any fairy tale, I loved to read fairy tales. Um, The Wizard of Oz and Cinderella, those are some of my favorites, I guess. Then I, when I got to high school, I stopped reading for pleasure. I read what was required and also in college. I've started reading for pleasure again, so I'm glad.
WE: OK. What stories were read to you as a child?
GS: Hmm, OK.
WE: Like in bedtime stories?
GS: Bedtime stories, OK.
WE: Or at school?
GS: All right. Um, again I remember fairy tales being read. My mother read, uh, a lot of, uh, Bible stories to us when we were small. She used to get these collections of children's stories that would come through the mail. I remember waiting for them to come because there was like maybe 10 stories in one book. And I enjoyed them coming because that was real exciting, we couldn't wait to see what was in the next set. I think it was Good Housekeeping collection of children's stories. And I remember teachers reading to us in school, but I can't remember any specific title.
WE: Did you have sections? Um, like the red section and the blue section?
GS: When I was in school?
WE: Uh-huh.
GS: Like we would have like in the library?
WE: Yes.
GS: When I went, uh, when I was in elementary school, our library was just, uh, like a one room classroom and all you did, you went in there and checked out books, and you didn't have story time or anything. You just went in and got a book and you went back, uh-huh. I don't even remember the librarian reading to us when we were in elementary school. That's changed a lot because we share stories all of the time with children now. But I just remember the teacher reading for story time, but not the librarian at the time. I remember my grandmother, uh, reading some to us, mainly fairy tales like "Jack and the Beanstalk" and I can't remember and a lot of Jack and the Beanstalk stories, I guess.
WE: Um, what stories were told in the family?
GS: Oh, gosh! Long stories that I can remember being told had to do with actual experiences that happened mainly to my grandmother or her family when they were growing up. That was more like family tradition stories. I can remember though, uh, my grandmother, Lottie Belle, we would always, my brother, my twin brother and I, we would fight over who was going to sleep with her because she stayed with us. Because she was such a great storyteller and we would always fight to see who was going to sleep with her because we knew she would be telling the stories in the bed and her favorite one was Jack and the Beanstalk, she could do the giant when he said, "Fe, Fi, Foe, Fum." And she was so good with that story and every night, I bet for a year, we would ask her to tell that story [laugh] every single night about Jack and the Beanstalk. She would make up stories that she might start a story and we would have to finish it. 'Cause she, she did a lot of fairy tales too. Cinderella and then once she would tell it, we would want to go and check it out at the library because she would make it so interesting.
WE: Uh-huh.
GS: And I can remember at nighttime we would always want to sleep with her at nighttime because she had such great stories. And I had some, uh-.
WE: What were those stories about?
GS: Mainly, it was mainly fairy tales but that's, and well, things that she had done when she was a little girl that were funny. She would make up stories, too. She liked to make up stories. Or we would ask her to tell us about something and then she could just out of her head just come up with neat stories. And I have an aunt, Aunt Margie, that, um, taught me in the first grade. She taught, my father, then my sister, Delores, and then taught me and my brother Tim, which is a wide range of age because my father, uh, and then, uh, my sister, she's 11 years older than us, she taught first grade for a long time, but I can remember going back to her house. And she, like I say she was my aunt, but she was a wonderful storyteller too, and she would just make up stories from, you just give her a topic on anything and she would make up a story about it. She was really good.
WE: OK. What stories do you tell yourself?
GS: Oh, gosh! Well, since I am a librarian, I tell quite a lot of stories. Um, one of my favorites is The Jack Tales and I usually tell them to the fourth graders because they study, uh, North Carolina, uh, history and study the mountain regions. And that's about a boy named Jack that has some trouble with some giants. Um, the language is written in the book, uh, or at when you tell it, uh, you can use the language that the mountain people used. They really get into it and Jack, like I said, has some really big problems with the giants and he goes and, uh, there's so many stories that you could tell about Jack. Um, we have, um, a national, nationally known storyteller, Jackie Torrance that lives close by that uses The Jack Tales in her stories and she does a really good job with that, too. But, I like those and I like to tell the children folk tales because they, um, they usually have a good lesson that we can teach the children also and they are easy to memorize, the folktales are.
WE: Yeah.
GS: And they also, they, they can help, the folktales, the kids get involved with and help tell the story. Fairy tales too, I never get tired to telling fairy tales. Over and over the kids like to hear those. And even I like to share some, uh, personal experiences with them, too. They, they enjoy hearing things about, uh, my life. And I like to tell, um, stories again, that they can get involved with, uh, like action stories or, or things that, uh, that they can have some input. And we like to act out stories and-.
WE: Do you ever put them in the story?
GS: Yeah. Um, we put them in the story like at Christmas time. Gosh we have them being, playing like the Santa Claus part or the elves, or Mrs. Santa and they have to learn a certain part, they have to come up with certain actions and sounds. And they like that. That's one of their favorite parts, they like to be involved with the story. Especially, especially the little ones, but even the fifth graders, like 12, 12 years old, some who think they are too old for stories but they're not. And I still, um, even my own, my kids still enjoy stories and I still read to Colby every night, or try to, every night. He, he loves to be read to. He loves stories and that's one thing about growing up that I hope he'll remember, because they are so important and that gives us something, too.