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Multi-party conversation with Kaye Thomas and Lamar Thomas

Thomas, Kaye
Thomas, Lamar
Zhou, Yun
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with People and Places; Then and Now; Childhood Adventures; Stories and Storytellers
Kaye Thomas talks about her mother's life as a child.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Yun Zhou interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
YZ (Yun Zhou): To hear your voice.
KT (Kaye Thomas): I can hear my voice but not at through that.
YZ: ( )
KT: You're not plugged in yeah maybe you are plugged in.
YZ: I plugged in.
KT: Do I hear myself?
YZ: Maybe sound a little bit different?
KT: Oh it always sounds different but.
YZ: Uh-huh. [Laugh]
KT: Yeah, oh well. Yeah? Yeah OK. Do you want me to tell my story now?
YZ: Yes please.
KT: OK. I am a native of Charlotte as was my mother and her parents before her. Mother always enjoyed telling me stories of how she spent her summer as, summers as a young child. Mother was raised not far from the square in Charlotte which is a very center of Trade and Tryon Street. She had neighbors and a church close by and the trolley stopped not far from her home. She and her sister could walk to school. When summer arrived with the steamy hot weather the family would pack up and go out to the country to the river the Catawba River. This meant packing a tent with cots for sleeping, pots to use over an open fire, dishes because of course there were no paper product at that time, food, and most important of all a cane pole, pole to go fishing. They would set out in an old car up Highway 16 to Shuffletown then down a long dirt road till they came to the creek bed. There they would set up camp near the creek for washing a spring for drinking the river was not far down the road. As I was growing up Mother would often show me the very spot that they camped. My great grandmother, who was in a big wooden wheelchair, paralyzed with arthritis, would go on this camping trip for the whole summer also. Mother and her sister spent their days playing in the woods, wading in the creek, swimming on the scuppernong vines and sometimes picking berries and going fishing. When the rain came my grandfather would tell Mother not to touch the tent with her finger because then the tent would leak so of course Mother would lay on her cot looking up at the tent close to her and touch it with her finger a slow drip would come and Mother would be in trouble but not as much trouble as when she was playing on the muddy creek bank and lost her shoe the only pair she had. Thank goodness this happened shortly before their return to the city where she could got another pair. All of Mother's life she loved to go barefooted she loved to go fishing for the small perch that she would fry with grits and the rain falling at night.
YZ: Uh-huh.
KT: When they were camping at the river my grandfather would trap beavers and there were beaver dams.
YZ: Uh-huh.
KT: The edge of the lake of the river.
YZ: Uh-huh.
KT: Like the Catawba River and he would trap beaver and then he would come and he would skin them.
YZ: Uh-huh.
KT: And he would hang up their hides.
YZ: Uh-huh.
KT: And let them dry and then he would tan them with some process.
YZ: Uh-huh.
KY: And bring them back to Charlotte and, sell them but in an, a, especially to the haberdasheries is that a hot, oh a hat manufacturer.
YZ: Uh-huh. New.
KT: OK? A hat maker. And uh because at that time the ladies liked to wear beaver hats.
YZ: Oh yeah I see.
KT: And so that was a way of getting added income.
YZ: Oh so they are beavers in the Catawba River?
KT: They were at that time.
YZ: \\ Now they are no longer anymore? \\
LT (Lamar Thomas): \\ Her grandfather trapped them all. \\ [Laugh]
YZ: So he trapped the beavers just for the hide to make hats so he could make fashionable hats for the ladies.
KT: To sell them to for whoever would purchase them well.
YZ: Oh, uh-huh. Yes, I see.
KT: A big customer was the hat makers.
YZ: They were very slippery right? The beaver hide.
KT: No it's uh, well it might be slippery, but it's furry.
YZ: Uh, but it's sparkling, it look very elegant, um.
KT: Probably.
LT: The men wore hats made out of beaver too.
KT: Did they?
YZ: Why, I never see a beaver in the river. [Laugh]
KT: It has a big flat tail.
YZ: Um.
KT: And they build dams.
YZ: Um, oh.
KT: And he used some type of a trap.
YZ: Uh-huh.
KT: That he fashioned himself.
YZ: He pretty big right? Then they are very big. You cannot fish [laugh] oh.
LT: The tail make it that big.
YZ: \\ The tail just the tail would be that big. \\
KT: No, no, no.
YZ: Uh-huh.
LT: The body about that big and the tail about that big.
YZ: Uh-huh.
LT: All together.
YZ: Oh it's like a big fish?
KT: Well it's a mammal.
YZ: Oh. [Laugh] It's like a dolphin right?
KT: No.
LT: No it's like a rodent.
KT: It's more like a rat that live in the water.
YZ: Live in the water?
KT: Uh-huh.
LT: They cut the trees down.
YZ: \\ Oh. \\
KT: \\ Yeah \\ and they build dams to block.
YZ: Oh.
LT: ( ) House the entrance way is beneath the water.
YZ: Uh-huh.
LT: So they get have to dive down and come up inside their house.
YZ: Um, well--
KT: But this place is still out.
YZ: Uh-huh.
KT: On the Catawba River.
YZ: Uh-huh.
KT: Still there it's not a uh dusty dirty road now it's a paved road now with several very, very expensive it's still preserved some the old beautiful houses on it. Shuffletown is still there. Highway 16 is still there. But this was the entertainment and I don't know how grandmother did it looking after her mother in a wheelchair.
YZ: Uh-huh.
KT: They weren't of course was no running water.
YZ: Uh-huh.
KT: No facilities whatsoever they weren't in a campground.
YZ: Uh-huh.
KT: They were just out by creek.
YZ: They had power, right, electricity.
LT: No water, kerosene.
KT: No, no.
YZ: No water?
KT: No water other than what you would get from the spring.
YZ: Uh-huh.
KT: No electricity.
YZ: Uh, well that's amazing then that they could camp with no water and no electricity.
KT: \\Well they could get their water from the spring. \\
LT: Get water out of the creek.
YZ: Yeah, um--
KT: And the tent was a big tent and I suppose it was made out of canvas. And they slept on cots.
YZ: Uh-huh.
KT: Like an army cot that type of thing off the ground. And Mum said the tent would be very close to her face.
YZ: Oh, oh yeah.
KT: You know and she would lay there and listen to the rain. She knew that her father said, "Do not touch."
YZ: Uh-huh.
KT: Because if you touch it, it made it drip.
YZ: Uh-huh \\ yes, yes. \\
KT: \\ It would leak in that spot. \\
YZ: Uh-huh.
KT: And she would be on her cot and she would touch right up there. [Laugh]
YZ: She's naughty. [Laugh]
KT: And then it would start and then it would start dripping. [Laughing]
YZ: Oh yes, that's true. [Laugh] Well.
KT: OK that's one 15 minutes, but I don't, that's about it.
RECORDING PAUSED THEN RESUMED KT: She was born in Charlotte and raised [cough] and lived all her life in Charlotte. Her, uh, she lived in a city until the late 1920's when, uh, her father my grandfather lost his job. And the next job that he found was with the Charlotte Water Department and uh, had to move to the Water Department and that was about six miles from the center of the city and it was like the country. It was definitely the country. Most of the roads were dirt roads and uh, was far away from any public transportation. So Mother had to adjust to becoming used to a being a country girl. And [cough] one day in the summertime her good friend named Jackie had come from the city. Jackie had been a neighbor of Mother's and she had come to from the city out to the country to visit with Mother. And they were playing and they decided that they would go and pick up Jackie's sister who was at Jackie's house in the city. Well they had a little cart, had two wheels on it. And they hooked it up to a pony and they went riding towards Charlotte in the pony cart. They got just to the edge of the city, uh, when something spooked the pony and the pony reared up and when he reared up the uh cart turned over.
YZ: Uh-huh.
KT: And the pony took off running.
YZ: Oh.
KT: Well it ended up with the pony found his way with the cart behind it back to the house out in the country.
YZ: Uh-huh.
KT: But there was Mother and Jackie halfway between town and halfway between the country house having to walk all the way, and, of course, they were all scuffed up and their clothes were all dirty [laugh] and they were reprimanded when they uh arrived back home.
YZ: \\ Oh, so the pony. ( ) \\
KT: \\ Because they were not supposed to do it. \\
YZ: Um, the cart got turned over and the pony found his own way back.
KT: \\ Yes the pony found, own way back. \\
YZ: \\ While your mother and Jackie \\ were just left in the middle of the way and have to walk all the way back. [Laugh]
KT: \\ That was on the\\.
YZ: \\ That was all the transportation. \\
KT: That was on the west side--
YZ: Uh-huh.
KT: Of Charlotte.