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Interview with Eric St. John

St. John, Eric
Maurer, Darlene
Date of Interview: 
Overcoming Obstacles; Relationships with People and Places; Then and Now; Childhood Adventures; Stories and Storytellers
Eric St. John talks about growing up and reading as a child, recounts stories from his father's childhood and tells religious stories that motivate and strengthen his faith.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Darlene Maurer interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
DM (Darlene Maurer): This is an interview with Darlene Maurer interviewing Eric St. John. So, Eric, would you tell us what stories or book you remember reading as a child? What was your favorite story?
ES (Eric St. John): Uh, my favorite book or stories were the, uh, phew, The Cat in the Hat because I always loved all of the colors. And there's always, all of the kids were having a great time while the parents left, and it was like one big, huge flight of fancy and they just go from one thing to another thing and it was like really fun and chaotic and just neat. And then, and then it was always like an adventure though because then all of a sudden, toward the end, like the parents are coming back. And we all know that if we don't have everything cleaned up you're going to get punished. And so it was like, "Can they do it? Can they do it? Can they get cleaned up in time? Are they going to make it?" So it's like having a blast and going on a flight of fancy and then coming back to reality and then like not getting caught [laughs], kind of. And they always did.
DM: And what age were you when you read this?
ES: Oh boy! I don't know. I was probably anywhere from, anywhere five on up. I don't have a lot of memories. I can remember four and earlier. They come once in a while, but I don't really have anything real strong. But, uh, I loved the colors and all the illustrations too, and just the zaniness. And then everything's, a little bit later I really I loved reading. I would be, this is more like when I was eight, nine, and ten, and 11 I would have a bedtime, and it was always way earlier than I wanted but I would lay, I would have this little lamp I'd put underneath my bedcovers and I would be reading. And I would read, I would read like baseball biographies. I loved baseball, still do, but, uh, you know, just to read about these famous people and dream about playing sports and being some kind of hero. And, uh, every once in a while, I think my dad caught onto that, but, uh, he'd come down and tell me to shut the, shut the lamp off every once in a while. But, uh, I'd usually, I just read and read and read. I'm surprised I didn't set the whole house on fire with that high intensity lamp.
DM: So what baseball hero did you want to be when you grew up?
ES: Oh, I wanted to be, uh, Harmon Killebrew because I was from Minnesota.
DM: Hmm.
ES: He was the famous slugger from Minnesota, played for the Twins. And then when I'd play baseball I, I could hit pretty good too, when I was real young. I couldn't in high school. I became a pitcher.
DM: Uh-huh.
ES: And they never hit, but, uh, I always loved biographies of, of famous people and events in history as I got older. And uh I still have kind of a passion for history and historical type things. Uh, golly. Also some of these other questions that also leads to the fact that, uh, my brother, you know, I had seven or six brothers and sisters, four until I was 11, and then three more joined the family when I was 11. And my, my younger brother was, he's like the most hilarious storyteller. And I remember his stories too because he would just make them up, and just, it would just be zaniness. And, yet, he was he was really funny too, and he could make faces and really creative even as a little kid. He's always the happy-go-lucky kid and I was the oldest. But it was a blast to hear him tell stories and then just start building off of them and just go all over the place. I guess that's kind of like The Cat in the Hat story too. But, uh, that was, I liked him. He was a really good storyteller. Now a good, as I get older, a really good storyteller is my other brother, who is like really serious. You never really catch him really laughing he's always really controlled. But he tells a good story with a dry sense of humor, and, uh, golly, he spent his career in the Army still; he just went to Germany. But, uh, those are the two best storytellers I know in our family. I remember my dad, my dad told us he would tell us stories about his childhood but usually, usually from him that, that doesn't really come until later. But, uh, when he would start telling about when he was a teenager some of the, some of the teenaged stuff he and his teenaged brothers did when they worked for their dad's business, my grandfather. Uh, I didn't, I never did know him. I don't remember him, he died when I was four. But it was hilarious just hearing what they did. I'm surprised they're still in business. Well they were in business.
DM: Do you remember any of the stories?
ES: Oh yeah. How hard it was, how hard it is, you know, way back then they would drive half-ton trucks. They were only half-ton trucks and they would drive grain feed around and coal and stuff to the farmers in Minnesota in southern Minnesota. But they would, the father, my grandfather wanted to save money so he would rig them up so they'd haul, he'd haul a ton and a half on a half-ton truck. And so he was constantly busting up and twisting up axles and he always he would get mad when the sons would do it--
DM: Uh-huh.
ES: Which usually meant that they weren't being careful. But anyway their stories would go on and on about going one mile an hour up a hill taking forever to get somewhere driving getting up, a head up steam in the winter and bucking snowdrifts is what they called it. The snowdrifts would come out into the streets into the road and, uh, this was in rural Minnesota, so half the time you couldn't see where the road was anyway but they would go plowing these snowdrifts, you know. It was all fun and teenaged fun until you, until you ended up in a ditch in the middle of a blizzard. [Laughs] You broke the radiator or twisted an axle of a truck and had to call your dad and tell him what happened.
DM: Oh. \\ ( ) \\
ES: \\ And top of that \\ of course all the dad, all the grandfather wanted, he wanted the customer serviced. [Laughs]
DM: Get the job done.
ES: Of course, you're in the ditch trying to explain what happened but, uh--
DM: Was that your dad or his brother?
ES: Both.
DM: Both.
ES: Both would do that. I think my dad was the ringleader he was the oldest also.
DM: What year do you think that would have been?
ES: That was probably, uh, golly, my dad was born in 1926. So when he was 15 and 16ish, probably the early 40s, as best I can tell from those stories because they both went into the service very late, my dad went into the service at the very end of World War II and my uncle served in Korea. So that would be about right. [Pause] I tell you, I don't really remember anyone reading stories to me that's, although I know my mom did. I just have a sense that, that happened but I don't remember specifics.
DM: What are some stories that you might tell yourself now that to help you through hard times?
ES: Well now, now the two stories would always be, uh, would be the story of Joseph in the Old Testament or, and, or the story of Paul in the New Testament. Which is in, Joseph, throughout his life, he was basically done wrong by his brothers and jailed unfairly and so on and so forth, but in the end, no matter, he didn't pay back his brothers even though he was the second most powerful man in Egypt. He just said, you know, the moral of the story, and what he said was, "You meant evil for me but the Lord meant good. That I might save," you know, "That many might be saved." Uh, and that's been a huge, a huge blessing and, and source of comfort. Especially in the midst of trials that, uh, no matter what's happening it's being done to, uh, for our, for our good and our, and our, uh, perfection, meaning, meaning that, uh, he's sanding off the edges constantly of us. And, uh, also the story of Paul, and, in particular, it's in, I think, it's in the Book of Romans, Romans 8:28 where he says, "All things work for good for those who love the Lord." Uh, and Paul, Paul's life is like a Indiana Jones movie, where, at one time, there's 40, 40 Jews, uh, Jewish scholars or whatever had taken the vow of hunger, until they caught him they weren't going to eat. So there's 40 guys who hadn't eaten in 30 days chasing them. So you reckon at least one of them is going to catch them somehow but he, he managed to elude them all. And then of course he spent the rest of his life you know on shipwrecks and in jail and being beat up, and, uh, I'm sure verbally abused and just you name it. But he counted all that joy, uh, for the work he was doing for the Lord. And, and that no matter what was happening, he was able, he was able to, uh, mentally adjust to the situation knowing that the Lord was working in his life, uh, for his good even if he couldn't always exactly see why. So that's it. And then, of course, the story of Jesus is the other one, uh, the biggest, uh, just about what he took on himself and that he was, you know, he was betrayed by everybody, his closest, closest friends, uh, and loved ones, uh, down to the last, the last disciple and apostle. Well, excuse me, just disciple. Uh, and yet he, you know, he still carried through with the father's will, uh, and, and kept his composure and, and his perspective and focused no matter what. So those are the three that, no matter what the situation, there'll be something in those three lives that speak to me that I will repeat to myself, no matter what.
DM: Through difficult times?
ES: The harder it gets the more I will reflect on those lives and go back to the passages that talk about their lives.
DM: OK. Sounds like you get a lot of strength from your faith in Jesus.
ES: I get all of it, all of it from there. It happened three years ago and it's been amazing journeys I'm looking forward to the rest of it.
DM: Umm that's great, that's great. Is there anything else you'd like to share?
ES: That's about it I think.
DM: OK Eric, thank you.
ES: You're welcome.
DM: I appreciate it.