Accessibility Navigation:

Interview with Sherry Reese Spivey

Spivey, Sherry R. (Reese)
Hilton, Brandy
Date of Interview: 
overcoming obstacles; relationships with people and places; childhood adventures; stories and storytellers; then and now
Sherry Spivey talks about growing up in Charlotte and about stories she read as a child, told to her niece and nephew, and reads today.
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): OK. What's your name?
SS (Sherry Reese Spivey): My name is Sherry Reese Spivey.
BH: What's your place of origin?
SS: Charlotte, North Carolina.
BH: Have you lived here your whole life?
SS: Yes.
BH: OK. Um-.
SS: Third generation.
BH: Really? Um, let's see here-.
SS: And I'm 51-years-old.
BH: Um, what are some memories you have of growing up here in Charlotte?
SS: Well, the city's like tripled. Um, it was really small when I was growing up. Um, we lived in the county off-, and we lived off of Eastway Drive [laugh] which is the city's way out now-.
BH: Uh-huh.
SS: -Compared to that. Um, we rode the orange school buses. And, um, we always had to wear dresses, when we were growing up, to school. We never could wear pants except on snow days or real cold days. They'd let us wear pants under our dresses. We still had to wear dresses, but that's what little Southern girls did back then, [laugh]-.
BH: Uh-huh.
SS: -Growing up in the 50s and 60s.
BH: Right.
SS: I went to, ah, several schools. And we never moved. But one school burnt down. Ah, and they transferred us out to, ah, Hickory Grove Elementary.
BH: Uh-huh.
SS: I went to Oakhurst Elementary. And mother sent me to Merry Oaks the first year because it was close to home. But then, the next year went, a-, actually I started first grade at Oakhurst-.
BH: Hmm.
SS: And then went to Merry Oaks in the second grade, and then back to Oakhurst, [sniff] 'cause they charged you, you know, if you lived in the county, and went to a city school.
BH: Uh-huh.
SS: So they decided to let me just go back to Oakhurst. Um, [pause] that's-.
BH: Something else. Um, like what are some stories that you remember reading or hearing as a child or even as an adult?
SS: I think one of my favorites would be "Cinderella." I always loved it. Um, I read it again in ah, a lit class I had, a children's lit class. We did fairytales.
BH: Uh-huh.
SS: And we read the harsher version than Disney.
BH: Oh, really? \\ How harsh? \\
SS: \\ I always loved \\ the movie. And the, you know, the little storybooks we had then would have been gentler than the real stories, the real fairytales.
BH: And how is that different?
SS: They weren't as harsh. I mean the, the wicked stepmother was wicked. And they were ugly, and, you know, those sorts of things. And Disney made them funny ugly.
BH: Hmm.
SS: They were, they were, they were, ah, kind of caricatures-.
BH: \\ Right. \\
SS: \\ -Rather than evil \\ type people. But, um, growing up in the South like I did, that it, the "Cinderella" thing went hand in hand with what a Southern girl wanted to do with her life. Grow up and get married and live happily ever after.
BH: \\ Yeah. \\
SS: \\ And hopefully marry \\ Prince Charming [laugh].
BH: [Laugh] That's everybody's dream, right?
SS: I did enjoy one story. Now, I never, I don't, I didn't read it as a child because the book wasn't written until I was grown up.
BH: Uh-huh.
SS: But it's Ellen Foster. And it's about a girl growing up in the South and the family difficulties she has. Ah, her fam-, her mother died and her dad was, um, alcoholic-.
BH: Hmm.
SS: -And really unreliable. Um, a lot of people my age, uh, didn't have divorces in their families. And now my mother and dad divorced. So that made my life a little different-.
BH: Right.
SS: -Than most. Now, it's commonplace.
BH: Uh-huh, very.
SS: And I think that may have been another Southern thing, that, you know, they hung on-.
BH: That's true.
SS: Parents hung on when, because of the way they were reared-.
BH: Uh-huh.
SS: Southern Baptists and Presbyterian.
BH: [Laugh]
SS: We come from, ah, Scotch-Irish on both sides of my family. My, ah, one grandmother was born in Greenville, South Carolina and the other grandmother was born in Atlanta, Georgia.
BH: Oh, really? Atlanta, Georgia.
SS: Uh-huh, and that's, now there's, another one of my favorite stories is Gone with the Wind.
BH: Oh, yeah.
SS: A real Southern story. And, ah, I can relate to Scarlet very much. I feel like I'm like a, like a Steel Magnolia. [Laugh] And Scarlet was somewhat-.
BH: Uh-huh.
SS: -In the long run. Um, but Southern girls were always supposed to be so fragile and- [laugh].
BH: Uh-hmm. Now how many times have you seen that movie?
SS: I don't know. I'm reading the book now for the first time in my life.
BH: Oh, really?
SS: And it's wonderful. I am just so enjoying it.
BH: That's neat. OK, um, let me see what my next question is. What are some stories you have heard from your family or friends or in your neighborhood growing up?
SS: Um, my mother-in-law, ah, used to tell a story over and over and over [laughs]. She tends to tell her stories again. But she had, I don't know whether it was her aunt or her cousin who lived kind of out in the county, or you know, in the country-like. And it appeared their house was haunted.
BH: Hmm.
SS: Um, one morning, ah, her husband had left to go to work, and she was, ah, doing her housework or whatever and she smelled and heard bacon frying in the kitchen. And she went in the kitchen and there was nobody there but you could smell the bacon and you could hear it.
BH: Oooh.
SS: She went out beside their house. Ah, a little ways away from the house was a big boulder. She went out there, and sat on that till he came home from work. [Laughter] So ah, she just couldn't put up with the ghost [laugh].
BH: Wow, and where was this?
SS: Ah, it, ah, it was out in the country around here, like, ah, between Pineville and, ah, Providence area, down there now, ah, that was all cou-, ah, country. It's farms, and no stores whatsoever. Little old country store maybe.
BH: Wow.
SS: But it was just nothing like it is now, absolutely nothing. We drove out that way one time and had, ah, we're driving a little Maverick. It's a small car, a compact car that Ford made. And we were just out riding around with another couple. Um, and this, all of a sudden, I was driving the car, and all of a sudden, there was something in my headlights. So I started slowing down and it was a bull, crossing the road [laugh].
BH: No way! \\ Shoot. \\
SS: And if we'd hit that bull, \\ it was as big as that little \\ Maverick. That would have not been a good thing [laugh].
BH: Huh-uh, definitely not. Ah, what are some stories that you've read to, ah, children?
SS: Um, I remember, uh, my niece and nephew. Uh, I always read the Carolina Ghost Stories to them-.
BH: Did you?
SS: -When they were little. They loved them. They, they would borrow the book, and take it home with them. And every time they'd come over I'd read it to them again.
BH: Uh-huh.
SS: Um, Vera, my niece stayed with, uh, with us one, it was Christmas night. She spent the night with us. I guess she was about maybe eight, nine, something like that.
BH: Uh-huh.
SS: And I tried to read The Christmas Carol to her. And I have never thought about reading it to somebody so young before because you see the stories on TV, you know, the movies they've made over the years. And it's, the language is not quite the same as sitting down to read-.
BH: Oh, really?
SS: -Charles Dickens, The Christmas Story. And the language was somewhat over her head. [Laugh] And it started scaring her too because it's a ghost story, you know.
BH: Uh-huh.
SS: But they always loved the Carolina Ghost Stories, like "The Devil's Tramping Ground." And I would, um, do my best to make them more interesting and terrifying, you know \\[laugh].\\
BH: [Laugh] \\ Yeah, I know. \\
SS: [Laugh] But they always enjoyed that. And I said, "You know that's not far from here."
BH: See, I've never heard of it.
SS: It's, Siler City is where the devil's tramping ground is. The story goes, that, um, there wa-, uh, there's a place out from Siler City where the devil has walked around in a circle. And the, you, people go out there and spend the night.
BH: Uh-huh.
SS: And they'll try to stay out there and everybody panics and leaves. Something happens like at midnight, you know, and it scares them away, probably their nerves. But, but they can, they'll put things in the circle and the next morning they'll be moved out of the circle. And grass won't grow on it. It's been there for I, \\ you know, a long time. \\
BH: \\ Oh yeah, I think I have heard of it now. \\
SS: And we've got some other good ghost stories in North Carolina, too. There's one called "The Strange Hoof Marks at Bath," where, um, a man was supposedly race, horseracing on Sunday. And he told the horse he said, "You make me the winner or take me to Hell." And the horse stopped, and he went flying into a tree and it killed him. And the hoof marks are still in the ground. And they, it does the same thing like the devil's tramping ground, where you can't put anything in it. It won't stay and no grass will grow and-.
BH: \\ Damn. \\
SS: \\ And things like that. \\ It's creepy!
BH: That's odd. \\ I never heard of that one. \\
SS: \\ But they, they always \\ loved those stories. I read those to them a lot. And now they had their favorite books when they were little. Um, there was Goodnight, I think's the name of it. Where you say, "Goodnight chair, goodnight bed, goodnight hat, goodnight trees" [laugh].
BH: It goes on and on.
SS: They liked that one, but they always brought their school, different little schoolbooks with them. And, um, Vera was more of a reader than Jim was, when they were growing up [laugh]. My nephew, ah, he liked, he liked cartoons better [laugh].
BH: That doesn't surprise me [laugh].
SS: But she would bring a stack of books, and I, I'm, I think I read all of them.
BH: Really?
SS: But, the, the children's lit class I took, I enjoyed, because, ah, we did Dr. Seuss. Um, I can't think of the name of it. It's, it's a really nifty little story a, about, ah, pollution.
BH: Oh, really?
SS: What pollution does. I, I never realized his stories had, um, themes to them about things like that.
BH: Yeah, 'cause it seems that-.
SS: When I was growing up I didn't care if it had a theme.
BH: I know.
SS: It was just a cute little story.
BH: Uh-huh.
SS: Like Green Eggs and Ham. But this one's-.
BH: Yeah.
SS: -Um, where the, ah, people come into town and there's a factory and all that. Um, we read a lot of fairytales as I said, in that lit class and, and the Dr. Seuss story and, ah, there was one about three, um, [pause] three witches, like or something.
BH: Hmm.
SS: But they sounded more like, after you read the book, it sounded more like they were aliens from outer space. But I figured out towards the end, that they were guardian angels. And I wish I could remember the name of it, but it's been some time since I've read it. But I thought that was a wonderful little book-.
BH: Hmm.
SS: -For ah, children. I liked any-.
BH: \\ Did you ever read-? \\
SS: \\ I think children need messages, too. \\
BH: Yeah.
SS: Even if they're not, they don't realize it's a theme or a message when they're little later on in their life they'll say, "Oh, yeah!" Sort of like Andy Griffith shows on TV. There was always some kind of little moral going on there that, um, to make you a good child [laugh].
BH: Yeah, I remember that. Um, did you ever read Tuck Everlasting?
SS: Tuck-?
BH: Yeah, Tuck Everlasting.
SS: Nuh-uh. ( )
BH: That was a good book. I remember that I read when I was little.
SS: I don't remember reading a lot in school. I don't think I really cared that much about it when I was growing up.
BH: Uh-huh.
SS: I, I love reading now. I don't know why I didn't, ah, why I had a problem. I had some problem with reading, I think, when I was growing up. Um, uh, I was rather a slow reader and I think that-.
BH: Frustrated you?
SS: I, frustrated me somewhat. I'm still not the fastest reader there is, but I enjoy it.
BH: Uh-huh.
SS: And if it takes me longer, so what?
BH: It takes me a while sometimes too, to get into it.
SS: But, um, I guess I've outgrown some of that, because I've read a lot of technical books, ah, while going to college.
BH: Uh-huh.
SS: I was a math major for a time, so, um, I had to read some heavy-duty stuff [laugh].
BH: I didn't know that.
SS: And I've had philosophy and, um, psychology and all kinds of other classes, that the reading really puts you to sleep [laugh]. But I like to read biographies \\ about people. \\
BH: \\ Oh, that's interesting. \\
SS: I like to read about people. So I probably tended to like books about people when I was a kid.
BH: It makes it more real, I guess.
SS: Yeah, you can relate to them and you, you can share their adventures more.
BH: What's the last one you read?
SS: I'm reading Gone with the Wind right now. And ah, before that I read The Gone with the Wind Trivia Book, which was fun.
BH: Right.
SS: And I read, ah, uh, I read part of a biography of Margaret Mitchell and, you know, she's from Atlanta.
BH: Uh-huh.
SS: I'm, I relate to Southern people more so than people from other regions of the country because, um, well, religion, I guess, religious background.
BH: Uh-huh.
SS: I loved Bible stories when I was little, too.
BH: Did you?
SS: And I, I've read the Bible, most all of it. I've read all the New Testament, and the biggest part of the Old Testament. But I figure you can always pick it back up and read it some more. It's not like it's- [laugh].
BH: That's true.
SS: -It's a library loan or anything [laugh]. But, ah, like I said, I read everything I get my hands on now.
BH: That's good.
SS: Even, ah, shampoo bottles. [Laughter]
BH: Well, is there anything else you want to add that we didn't talk about?
SS: Well, just that I love the South. I think it's, we're a good people, uh, for the most part. Um, other people have trouble with our language and the way we speak.
BH: Uh-huh.
SS: But if you talk to someone from like Ireland now-.
BH: Uh-huh.
SS: And you, you can recognize some of our slow, [cough] even though they're talking faster-.
BH: Right.
SS: You can still detect the same, ah, slang. And, um, ah, I don't know exactly what I'm trying to say here. Ah, you can recognize-.
BH: \\ We're somewhat-. \\
SS: \\ That our origin is that Irish quality. And, and, um, \\ even when you speak to Irish people today.
BH: Right.
SS: And the accents, I think come from that, you can hear it.
BH: Uh-huh.
SS: [Cough] Um, whereas, like a friend of mine is from Boston, and her accent is totally Boston, of course. And I don't know why they drop their R's but they pick them back up in Texas anyway. So, that's cool. [Laugh] [Cough] They don't. They 'pak the ca.'
BH: [Laugh] They 'pak the ca.'
SS: And in Texas you, you go buy some 'earl' for the car. [Laugh] The carrr.
BH: Thank you, Sherry.
SS: Oh, you're welcome. I enjoyed it.