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Interview with Anita Wall

Wall, Anita
Smith, George
Date of Interview: 
Overcoming obstacles; Relationships with people and places; Childhood adventures, Tolerance and respect; Then and now
Anita Wall talks about growing up in Mt. Holly, NC and about her family.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
George Smith interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
GS (George Smith): Could you tell me your name and, uh, a little bit about yourself and where, where you grew up?
AW (Anita Kendrick Wall): OK, I'm Nita Kendrick Wall. Actually my name is really Anita, but nobody calls me that. I am a, was born in Mount Holly, and, but moved to Monroe when I was two. My daddy was in charge of the brickyard, Kendrick Brick and Tile. And that's where I grew up. I was telling I.V. that when I was growing up my first playmates were the little, the black kids, actually at that time they were called colored people, but, um, lived out at the brickyard. And then, oh, I probably should've gone to Indian Trail because that was the closest school, but when the family moved there my mother didn't think that school was good enough. So she drove my brothers, who were twelve and seven years older, to Monroe schools, so that's where my sister and I ended up going. And graduated from there. And then attended, well, graduated from Salem College in Winston-Salem. Um, I taught school in Atlanta for three years and then married and taught in North Carolina for one year. Then, my husband wanted to learn bronze casting and so we moved to Mexico where he learned that first hand, and we were there a year, maybe a year and a half. And then he got a teaching job in Florida but he was teaching ceramics and not bronze casting, so we only stayed there a year. And then in '67 moved to Plattville, Wisconsin, which is, was Wisconsin State University then but later on it became University of Wisconsin at Plattville, and he was in the art department teaching bronze casting, sculpture, all that. I was busy raising my children. Tex, my oldest, was three and a half when we moved there. I had my middle one, Colt, the year I moved there, and then two years later Bucky. Some of these are nicknames. Um, they're now 38, 33 and 31 old. And one's L.A., one's in, still in Wisconsin, and one's in Texas. It was really something raising three boys which I'm sure your parents [laughs] understand. Um, in fact, I wonder how I lived through it sometimes with, um, the police, court, paying lawyers, all that kind of stuff, wrecked cars, uh, all of that. But I guess the thing I remember most happened maybe about five years ago and that was, well maybe six, seven year ago. It was Father's Day, and my son Tex had come in from, uh, L.A. and, at that time Bucky was living in Atlanta and he came up and Colt, and we all took Bud out to eat lunch at a, a really nice restaurant. And then after that, Bud took Tex to the airport for him to fly back, and Bucky and Colt decided to go out on a boat with some friends and it was on the Mississippi River, which is funny because I always think of the Mississippi River as being Southern.
GS: Right.
AW: But it goes all the way up through Wisconsin and all the way, you know, up. Anyway, it was, had been, um, really rainy that year, and the river was up. I mean it was actually treacherous and they shouldn't have been out in the boat. But you know guys, they were in their twenties, and, the, something, all right, they finished, they went out and of course, I'm sure they were drinking beer which they're not supposed to do, but, I mean, I can't imagine that crew not having something to drink. And then Shannon brought, came back to the dock, and everybody got out but he wanted to take it for one more spin around. And so Colt told Bucky, the one from Atlanta, the youngest, "Why don't you ride with Shannon?" And so Shannon took it out. Now Shannon has been involved in more wrecks than my own children. And he was just flying. And the river, like I said, there were trees coming down, everything, it was just full of debris.
GS: Right.
AW: And Shannon says that something happened to the steering column but he got hit, he got thrown out of the boat and hit his head. And Bucky said he was sitting there thinking, "Oh my gosh, nobody's driving this boat." So he dove in and luckily they didn't have on life jackets because the boat then was circling because there was really something wrong with the steering column, and it kept circling and circling and circling so they had to keep going under water. Actually the water revived Shannon. And so they were trying to get, of course, Colt and all the guys on the shore saw this happen and then they saw them go under and then didn't see them again. So then, of course, we get the phone call saying that there'd been a wreck and they couldn't find Bucky. And Shannon somehow swam to the side where they were, the Iowa side of the Mississippi. And so they, people pulled him out and, of course, he was bleeding from the head and all, but nobody could find Buck. And what had happened, is, with the current of the water was so, awful, that he would swim, he'd actually been on the swimming team in high school so he was a good swimmer and diver and all that. And so he was swimming, but the current was taking him away from the Iowa side, it was taking him down the river toward, well the Wisconsin side, and so he would swim and then float and then swim and then try to get over, you know, to there, where he could get out. Well, if you keep going on down the, it's only rocks, it's like a big cliff. Well, that's where he finally could get out so then he said he swam all this way and then he had to climb a rock mountain. [Laughs]
GS: Gosh.
AW: And, then got up to the bridge that was, uh, going across from Wisconsin to Iowa and he was walking across the bridge and then was circling back down to where they were. And he said this old man and his rattletrap of a truck came by and said, "Are you the young man they're looking for?"
GS: \\ Oh, man. \\
AW: \\ And Buck said, \\ "Well, I, I don't know." And he said, "Come on, get in my truck and I'll take you." Well, they had television crew, everything was out there. And then of course it was on TV and \\ all that stuff. \\
GS: \\ Like Baby Jessica \\ or something. [Laughs]
AW: Well, I mean, I, you know, to be told, and here I was in, at home and \\ I had friends \\ that came out to be with me.
GS: \\ Oh man. \\ Yeah.
AW: And, um, you know, like there's a wreck and your son's missing. And he was, he was missing for two hours.
GS: \\ Really? \\
AW: \\ You know \\ it wasn't like he did it and then got back. I mean he was way down the water and then was, like I said, walking back. But anyway it all turned out and they all were, had their pictures in the paper and on TV-.
GS: [Laughs]
AW: -And so it was a pretty famous thing. So in essence what I'm saying is I'm surprised I survived-.
GS: Yeah really.
AW: -All of this.
GS: That night, especially.
AW: Yeah.
GS: What year was that?
AW: I, I'm thinking it was about seven years ago.
GS: \\ Oh yeah. \\
AW: \\ I don't know. \\ I have pictures in my photo albums.
GS: Yeah.
AW: I have twenty-seven photo albums so you can see I like to take pictures. [Laughs]
GS: Yeah.
AW: Um, I, like I said, taught school in Atlanta for three years, one year in North Carolina. Did not teach when I went to Wisconsin because I was raising the boys, but then I put my name in to substitute teach but nobody ever called me. So then I took a job, um, with a local paper as a proofreader. And, of course, right after I signed the thing and took that job, then they started calling me to proofread, to substitute teach.
GS: Right.
AW: Which I did some, but not a whole lot. And I stayed with that company there for 18 years until I just retired. And when I first started with them in '83, we had 15 people in the, uh, production department, which is what I was in. And, um, at that time they called it paste-up artist, proofreaders or typesetters.
GS: Hmm.
AW: And I was a paste-up and proofreader because I wasn't that great a type, typist. And then now, the department has six people, we do twice the work but it's because everything's on computers and somehow they've changed it to you're a Graphic Artist One or a Graphic Artist Two. I was One 'cause I still did, I did some typesetting. I could typeset classifieds, but then, um, then they took that and put it in another department. So, anyway, I'm down here now-.
GS: Yeah.
AW: -Back home. I lived in Wisconsin for 34 years. But, I've been wanting to come home for long time. [Laughs]
GS: Yeah. [Laughs] Um, what was it like with uh, your sons, um, did they, was it, was it, uh, did, did they grow up speaking more like their mother \\ or more \\ like their peers in Wisconsin?
AW: \\ Oh, oh. \\ Um, well see Tex was, see, three and a half when we moved there so he wasn't talking a whole lot. No, I stood out like a sore thumb in Plattville, Wisconsin. Luckily, uh, at the university there were people, one from Mississippi-.
AW: -And so, and some from Texas, so, but I obviously never lost my accent. Bud worked at losing his 'cause he \\ was teaching \\ and all.
GS: \\ Right, OK. \\
AW: Um, but like I said, I used to have to go in that class and-.
GS: Yeah.
AW: -Talk so they could write my accent \\ stresses \\ and all that down. [Laughs]
GS: \\ Oh yeah. \\ You're a marvel. [Laughs]
AW: Yes. I think so. And, I mean, it's so funny to come back here and hear people talk like I do-.
GS: Yeah. \\ I bet. \\
AW: \\ -You know, \\ all the time and not making fun of me. [Laughs]
GS: Yeah. I'm surprised it didn't influence your, your speaking more.
AW: Well, see I didn't hear that I spoke differently.
GS: Right.
AW: I just didn't hear it.
GS: That's true.
AW: Although as I lived up there longer and I'd call home, I'd think, "Oh my gosh, she sounds Southern."
GS: Yeah.
AW: You know, I then noticed that there was a difference, but I think I had more of a Southern accent when I moved up there than-.
GS: Did you, um, did you encounter any, uh, uh, people's first impressions of a, a Southern lady \\ up there? \\
AW: \\ Oh yes, \\ yes. For some reason they looked up to me. [Laughs]
GS: Really?
AW: Yes, and nobody ever spoke really awful in my presence, you know.
GS: Oh, oh yeah.
AW: I mean it just was so strange \\ because, \\ you know, growing up down here, I guess, well, people down here still, the guys still say, "Yes ma'am," and, "Yes sir," and that doesn't happen up there-.
GS: \\ Uh-huh. \\ Right.
AW: -Not at all. And people down here just say, "Mommy," or "Mother," and "Daddy," and up there it's, "Mom," and, "Dad."
GS: Uh-huh.
AW: And the boys that were born there, that's how they talk.
GS: Yeah. Um, did uh, so your, your sons pretty much, they just talk like everybody else up there?
AW: Well Bucky, who's in Austin, Texas now, says he can tell when somebody's from Wisconsin. And I think that's odd because I didn't hear, uh, like a, um, anyway they spoke any differently. You know, like here, in Tidewater, Virginia you hear this, like they sound like they're from Boston or somewhere.
GS: Uh-huh.
AW: But I never could tell that and he said one time he had to, I don't know, he had to go to the emergency room and that, uh, he heard somebody out in the hall talking and said he went out there and he said, "You're from Wisconsin , aren't you?" And the guy was from Madison.
GS: Yeah.
AW: And he said he could just tell by the way he was talking.
GS: Huh.
AW: But now Bucky is the one I think is going to be my Southern boy.
GS: \\ Yeah. \\
AW: \\ Because he, \\ like I said, was in Atlanta, then Florida, now in Texas.
GS: Right.
AW: Although, he loves snowboarding and skiing and all that.
GS: Uh-huh.
AW: So he likes all those sports.
GS: Yeah. That's cool.
AW: He, um, is a graphic artist.
GS: I was going to ask you that.
AW: Colt, uh, the middle one that's still in Plattville, works on cars and he works, he's manager of a body shop and car dealership and he also fixes up cars in our garage. Although he did build a giant garage where he could work on things, 'cause at one time he was painting a, an airplane in the garage but you could only do like one wing at a time. And I mean, I always, every year I just say, "Now Colt, you've got to get finished with this so I can park my car in the garage."
GS: Yeah.
AW: You know, because a lot of times, with all that snow, if I came home you couldn't stop, you had to just keep going, so I'd have the garage door open and then to drive right on in it, of course it had four wheel drive, but if the snow's really deep that's not going to help.
GS: Yeah.
AW: So anyway.
GS: I was, how, how did you put up with the weather up there? [Laughs]
AW: Well the first year I was up there, well, we were really poor when we moved there because we went up there in August and Bud didn't get a paycheck until, like October. So we really were short on funds and I did-.
GS: What year was that?
AW: '67.
GS: Oh, I, yeah.
AW: Um, 'cause, I'm trying to think, 'cause he'd been teaching in Florida and then had like got his last paycheck in May or June or something. So we had some months that we needed some money. But any rate, so I did not buy the right kind of boots and coat, and that first winter my toes got frostbitten.
GS: \\ Ugh. \\
AW: \\ And so \\ if that happens then that, you're going to have problems the rest of your life.
GS: Yeah.
AW: And so I could never go out for a long time with the boys because my feet, I just couldn't \\ do it, I mean. Ached. \\
GS: \\ Ached, yeah. Right. \\
AW: They would start, toes would start swelling and splitting and turning red and the toenails would come, I mean it was horrible looking. I'd think, I don't even want to look at my feet. It turned purple and all this horrible stuff I don't want to think about. So, I never went out much, I mean, I, it was too cold.
GS: Yeah.
AW: I'd go out if it wasn't really cold but you know, my gosh. It'd be like 25 degrees and 30 degrees below-.
GS: Uh-huh.
AW: -For days and days and days and then with the wind chill factor of sixty-five below. I'm not going out in that.
GS: Yeah, that's true. \\ Well. \\
AW: \\The \\ boys, though, liked it. Except for the one that was born in North Carolina.
GS: Yeah, OK. [Break in recording]
AW: I had never even been around babies until I had one of my own.
GS: Really?
AW: I mean, I don't know why I was never asked. I guess they just didn't think I was responsible enough. I probably would have, but then Angela is a lot smarter than I am, so she probably would have been telling me what to do.
GS: Um, going back to Charlotte, um, back then when you all used to meet up and go into Charlotte.
AW: Uh-huh.
GS: Have you gotten a chance to see what's still there and what's not? And tell me \\ about the \\ places you all liked to go.
AW: \\ Well the, \\ we always went to the Gondola Restaurant. Now they say that's still there. And we'd go, it's on the other side of Charlotte. I mean, Charlotte is so awful. When, when I'm driving at home, which is two days from Wisconsin, and I get to Asheville, I think, "Oh. I'm almost there."
GS: Yeah.
AW: But the worst part is \\ you've still got \\ all that way to go. And go through Charlotte. I mean, that's when you just want to start screaming.
GS: \\ You have Charlotte. \\ I know.
AW: Um, although my cousin did show me a way to get around it when we were coming back from Blowing Rock, where you bypass it, go through Fort Mill and-.
GS: Oh, OK.
AW: -Weddington and all around down there.
GS: Uh-huh.
AW: Which I think I'm going to do from now on because driving through Charlotte just is awful.
GS: Yeah. Besides the, um, traffic change and everything, what about, um, what, what are some other places like to go that are there or not there any more?
AW: I don't know. Like the malls that, well, all the time we shopped uptown, \\ because \\ it was like Effird's and Ivey's, and all that was uptown. I mean, there weren't any malls at that time.
GS: \\ Uh-huh.\\ Yeah.
AW: Malls were never even heard of.
GS: Yeah. That's right.
AW: And then, like I said, I taught in Atlanta and I was there from like '60 to '63. And I loved driving then. Because I was what? 21? 22?
GS: Uh-huh.
AW: And I just thought that was more fun to get in with the traffic and try to beat somebody at the stoplight [laughs] and \\ all that kind of stuff. \\
GS: Yeah [laughs]. \\ Of course, yeah. \\
AW: But, um, now I'd be scared to death to do it. And I mean, and that town has what, doubled since I was there?
GS: Yeah.
AW: I mean that was what, 30 some years ago. And then I had bought a Plymouth Valiant in 1960. It was the first year they were made. And now if you, if I had looked in the Consumer's Report, that was the worst car you could have bought in 1960 because, something about the way it was tilted under the hood. And every time it rained, I guess it would be my sparkplugs would get wet? Something, and the car would just stop running.
GS: [Laughs]
AW: So I would have to, if I knew it was going to rain, I would go out of my apartment and put plastic under the hood, over it, so nothing would get wet.
GS: God.
AW: Then if I were running late the next morning, I many times drove with the plastic melting over it. [Laughs]
GS: Oh man. [Laughs]
AW: But otherwise the car would stop on a freeway, and, you know, cars are just honking and like, "What are you doing?" It's like, "Did I do this on purpose?"
GS: Yeah. [Laughter]
AW: You know? Like, "Oh, I think I'll stop." [Laughter]
AW: But, I don't know. [Laughs] I mean, that was, it was a good time.
GS: Yeah.
AW: 'Cause I lived in East Point one year and then I lived in, uh, near Decatur one year, off of Piedmont and then the next, I can't remember the next year. I kept having, roommates kept getting married. In fact, I was in about 12 weddings [laughs] before I was in my own.
GS: Yeah.
AW: Because I didn't get married until later. Everybody else got married in college and I didn't so I was the bridesmaid.
GS: Uh-huh. I bet, um, Charlotte looks about, as far as size and stuff, about like Atlanta did then.
AW: Yes. You're right.
GS: Yeah.
AW: That's true.
GS: I've heard that, but, uh, did Charlotte still sort of have a, in the late 60s, have a big city atmosphere, a little bit?
AW: Oh, well yeah. See, where I lived in Wisconsin is Plattville, and they have 10,000 people but about 5,000 of those are college students. So it's a small town. I think they have two stoplights, which were not there when we first moved there. And Dubuque, Iowa is 20 miles, 20 miles away.
GS: Across the river.
AW: And so Dubuque is to Plattville like Charlotte was to Monroe when I was growing up-.
GS: Oh, OK
AW: -'Cause that's where you'd go over, the best restaurants, all the movies.
GS: Yeah.
AW: But I remember going and ice-skating at the Coliseum \\ when I was in \\ high school.
GS: \\ Oh yeah, huh. \\
AW: And we went to see, it was, oh, Nat King Cole was supposed to sing at something, so we went over there. And only the opening act went on and he cancelled because, uh, because of segregation.
GS: Uh-huh.
AW: And they wouldn't let the blacks in. I never know whether to say blacks, colored people or \\ Afro-American \\ [laughs] anymore.
GS: \\ Yeah. \\ [Laughter]
AW: I don't know. It was just so great growing up in the 50s though.
GS: Yeah.
AW: I mean we were so young and so innocent and things we did we thought were so awful, they really weren't, but we did that was [pause], I mean little things we would do. Like if you broke a window or did something like that, you know, your daddy would go up and talk to somebody, and then you would pay for it. But now you get a record.
GS: Yeah, that's true.
AW: You know? And, and Bucky at one time went with some people and they decided to take a ride on some, uh, golf carts at the golf club. And, uh-.
GS: Oh yeah. [Laughs]
AW: -At the golf course. And they, I mean, they got in so much trouble. And, you know, it was like, these are kids. You know, they didn't mean to do anything. And yet, oh my gosh. The police called, and, you know, we had to get a lawyer for that, you know. It was just like, "Give me a break."
GS: What ever happened to, "Boys will be boys?" \\ Yeah. \\
AW: [Laughs] \\ Yes. \\ I mean, I can understand if it's, you know, vandalism.
GS: Yeah.
AW: But it wasn't. [Pause] But I, I did like living in Plattville and it was a small town and or it still is. And it was a nice place for the boys to grow up.
GS: Yeah.
AW: They didn't really have a whole lot of black people in that town. The only ones that were, were if their parents taught at the university.
GS: Yeah.
AW: Um, there were a lot of, um, people at university who are Iranians.