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Monologue by Catherine Stowe

Stowe, Catherine
Stowe, Graham
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with People and Places; Then and Now; Childhood Adventures; Stories and Storytellers; Tolerance and Respect
Catherine Stowe contrasts growing up in Hamlet, NC in the 1950s and her children's childhoods in Charlotte, NC today. She also gives an account of some neighbors' reaction to her mother's death.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Graham Stowe interviews his mother to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
CS (Catherine Stowe): I've never been timid in my life. This is a change of pace for me. I grew up in a small town east of Charlotte, Hamlet? There are only 5,000 people there, and in the 50's it was a great place to grow up. It's a railroad town and most people work for the railroad, including my dad. So we're all pretty much on the same economic plain. There wasn't too much difference between anyone. The schools were not integrated at that time, which was just a way of life. We didn't think of it as right or wrong, it was just the way things were. The biggest prejudice that we saw exercised at the schools, the children that lived out of town were called bus children, and they were brought into town on a bus, and they were grouped together in a class. They had to come earlier in the morning and had to stay later in the afternoon, and most of them were poor, because if you tried to farm in the sand hills of North Carolina, it was pretty hard to make a living. The soil is not particularly fertile. The freedom that we had as children is unheard of today. There was nowhere in town that you couldn't ride on a bicycle or walk, as long as you told your mother where you were going and you were home by dark. I wish that my children, growing up in a different age where they didn't have this kind of safety and where everybody in the town didn't look out for them, could have had this experience of this much freedom. To be able to go into the woods on the edge of town and play without anybody worrying about me was a wonderful gift. And we had time to explore and imagine and do things, without adult supervision, which were totally innocent and great fun. [Long pause] There were many interesting characters in this small town, two of whom lived across the street from me. They were the Lann twins. These were identical twins who had dressed alike probably since the, they day they were born. By the time I was a child, they were well into middle age and were the most incredibly nosy people in this entire town. They went to the same church we went to, First Methodist, and they sat on a certain pew and woe be unto the person who sat, that chose to sit on the Lann twins' pew. They watched everybody's coming and going when we, we kids on the street became teenagers. They could tell you who everyone was dating and, if you were a girl, whether or not you got a goodnight kiss under the porch light and probably reported it at every bridge table they sat at for the next several weeks. Probably my most memorable occasion with the Lann twins was when my mother died. Um, my mother was very adamant about never telling her age. She was a good deal older than most people thought she was and she just didn't ever want that to be made public. She had made me promise that when she died that her age would not be put in the newspaper. She had been with us during her last illness, about six or eight weeks, where we were living in Virginia, and died there. When we came home for the funeral we had not been in the house more than five minutes and here come the Lann twins across the street. The first words out of their mouths, or out of one of them's mouths and their names were Augusta and Virginia, and I never knew who was who, so I don't know who asked the question. The first thing one of them asked was, "Kitty's age was not in the newspaper, how old was she'" I said, "Kitty didn't tell her age when she was alive and I just don't think we're going to start now." They were not even put off and did not even slow down. The next thing they wanted to know was I going to sell the things in mother's house and how much did I want for the mirror above the fireplace. It, I guess it was somewhat reassuring even then, that it didn't matter that they didn't express sympathy, but that some things never change and always stay the same.