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Conversation with Jack Claiborne

Interviewee: 
Claiborne, Jack
Contributor: 
Guillard, Courtney
Interviewer: 
Murray, Brian
Identifier: 
LGCL0599
Subjects: 
Relaitonships with people and places; Stories and storytellers
Abstract: 
Jack Claiborne talks about working for the Charlotte Observer, his wife, and changes in Charlotte and the English Language.
Collection: 
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Brian Murray interviewed Charlotte, NC residents to collect various stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Transcript:
JC (Jack Claiborne): ( ) And I will go to the desk and I will find it, whatever it was you want it.
BM (Brian Murray): By the way, let me introduce ourselves, this is Courtney Guillard.
JC: Courtney-.
CG (Courtney Guillard): // Nice to meet you. //
JC: // -Glad to see you. //
BM: And I'm Brian Murray.
JC: Courtney-, I'd like to change seats because-.
CG: // That's fine. //
JC: // -That sun // is in my face.
CG: OK, // that's fine. //
JC: If // it's all right with // you.
CG: No problem. [Telephone rings]
BM: And the phone is going to ring.
JC: Hello, this is Jack Claiborne, yes [talks on the phone].
BM: [Whispers into recorder] Courtney-, you smell funny. You look like an idiot. Shut up Courtney-. Courtney-, I have no idea what I'm going to say. It's your turn to talk. You can talk. It's your turn. You tell him what it's about and I'll go from there.
JC: [Talks on the phone]
BM: Shut up. If I get my hands on you-.
JC: [Talks on the phone] I know, I know. That's OK. Now, the earlier, the better because if, if, if we have a new-. // ( ) //
BM: // Should we put up the microphone or something? //
JC: [Talks on the phone] But I think there ought to be some discussions and I'd like to discuss ( ), OK, thanks. And we'll take care of that as soon as ( ) OK. [Clears throat] Now-.
BM: Now.
JC: Good, good, good. You want to close that door? Now what's this all about? Remind me again.
BM: Uh oh.
CG: He said, "Uh oh."
BM: [Laughs] What it's all about is, um, we have Boyd Davis for a teacher, Dr. Boyd Davis.
JC: Yes.
BM: Do you know who she is?
JC: Yes, I do.
BM: OK, good. Uh, um, our class is called The History of the English Language.
JC: Yes.
BM: And what we're doing is really studying the linguistical tendencies in Charlotte over the, over the past, you know, // past few years. //
JC: // Whan that // April with his shoures soote-.
BM: [Laughs]
JC: -The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, and bathed every veyne in swich licour, of which vertu engendred is the flour, whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth, inspired hath in every holt and heeth, the tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne, hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne, and smale foweles maken melodye, that slepen al the nyght with open ye, so priketh hem Nature in hir corages, thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages, and palmeres for to seken straunge strondes, to ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes, and specially from every shires ende, of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende, the hooly blisful martir for to seke, that hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke. // [Laughs] //
CG: // Did you // study that? [Laughter]
BM: Is that Chaucer or something?
JC: That's Chaucer, that's the opening of The Canterbury Tales.
BM: Oh, I should know that, probably.
CG: You should.
BM: I don't know, I took children's literature.
CG: Wow, I'm impressed.
BM: That is very impressive. What, what was that? Old English dialect?
JC: That's Middle English.
BM: Uh-huh.
CG: She'd die if. ( )
BM: I know. She would die, well, she may die when she hears this. [Laughter]
CG: Yeah. She'd die.
JC: Well now, have you ever heard Shakespeare ever played, have you ever heard a Shakespeare in, in Elizabethan English?
BM: Well, I went-, I was in Stratford-upon-Avon last summer-.
JC: Uh-huh.
BM: -And I watched A Midsummer's Night Dream. If that has any consolation.
JC: Was it in, in Eliz-, Modern English, or Elizabethan English?
BM: It was modernized. I watched that and The Merchant of Venice.
JC: Well, I took, uh, linguistics at, uh, in graduate school and, and had to take the history of the English language and, uh, loved it. Loved the // course. //
BM: // Uh-huh. //
JC: Just, it was an eye-opening to me but, um, um, but I also heard recordings of Chaucer's Middle English spoken and, uh, heard recordings of Shakespeare's, uh, plays played in Elizabethan English. And you would not recognize them. Sounded like someone from Charleston, South Carolina.
CG: Hmm.
BM: Really?
JC: It sounded like Fritz Hollings. Have you ever heard Fritz Hollings talk?
BM: No, sir.
JC: Well, Fritz Hollings is the only United States senator who doesn't speak English [pause]. [Laugh]
BM: No, I hear you, I hear you.
JC: He is, he is from Charleston, and he speaks Charlestonese.
CG: [Laugh]
JC: Uh, and it is very difficult, even when he's trying hard, if you don't understand what Fritz Hollings is saying. But when he gets excited and starts really just letting fly, his, uh, he reverts to his ancestral, uh, language and it's-, but it's fun, it's interesting.
BM: Is he still up on the hill?
JC: Oh, yeah. He got re-elected, uh-.
BM: Him and Strom?
CG: [Laughs]
JC: Yes. He's been there, I guess he's 78. I think he got re-elected-.
CG: Hmm.
JC: -And he'll be 84 when he finishes. // [Laughs] //
BM: // Wow. //
JC: OK.
BM: That is // interesting. //
JC: // So we're // going to talk about English, OK.
BM: Well, the, uh, the whole idea of our project is, um, we were talking to Dr. Kiser or Mr. Kiser, he, he, uh, corrected us, he, um, about really the history of Charlotte, and really many of the linguistical tendencies, uh, that or changes that have occurred over the last 30 or 40 years maybe if you've noticed anything, I mean, you started us off with that great Chaucer-.
JC: // [Laughs] //
BM: // -Uh, real monologue // I guess-.
CG: // [Laugh] //
BM: // -If that's // what you want to call it, but ri-, um, what we're looking for since you've-, tell us about yourself, tell us, you know, how long you've been here, what-.
JC: // OK. //
BM: // -You've // been doing-.
JC: // All right. //
BM: // -How long // you've been at UNC Charlotte. And any changes you might have noticed in say. // ( ) //
JC: // I was // born right down here, Newell's Turnout. It's a, it's a stop, was a stop on the railroad where the railroad, the main line of the Southern goes right through Newell and the railroad used to stop there and take on water and wood back in the days when trains burned wood. And so it was called Newell's Turnout because the train turned out and stopped at the water pump, uh, and the little village grew up around it. So I was born there and I grew up, lived there for a little while and then moved into Charlotte and grew up right smack in the middle of Charlotte in, uh, the Central High School area. And-.
BM: When was this all around?
JC: Huh?
BM: If you don't mind me asking.
JC: When was // this? //
BM: // Yeah. //
JC: Well, I was, when, when I was born or when it was called Newell's Turnout?
BM: Take your pick. [Laughter]
JC: Well, it was probably called Newell's Turnout in the 1870s and 80s, uh, but it-, uh, I was not born there until 1931, so it's been a few years ago.
BM: Hmm.
JC: Uh, but I grew up in Charlotte in the 1930s, uh, and used to walk uptown and, on my own to go to the barber shop on Saturdays mornings and, uh, knew every store that lined the, Trade Street from Central High School to the square and back again, um, used to carry the Observer along that route and knew a lot of those people. Harry Golden was one of the subscribers to my newspaper route. I carried, uh, papers when the war ended, when WWII was ending, I was carrying papers, I was carrying papers when, um, Joe DiMaggio was hitting, uh, his, uh, 56-game hitting streak.
BM: Uh-huh.
JC: And people would pull unto the curb and, with their car lights on and they would see me with the paper and they would roll the window down and say, "Did he get a good hit?" And I would say, "Yeah. Got one." And they'd roll the window down and drive on. Um, there was no television news in those days and baseball scores rarely made the late radio, so, but there was great interest in whether Joe DiMaggio got hits or not.
BM: I bet that was a great time.
JC: It was a great time.
BM: Because that's right around Ted Williams and, I played baseball here for three years.
JC: Oh, yes.
BM: And, uh, I know-, I studied the history of ball and I really would liked to have spent one week back then and to be able to go to, uh, um, it just es-, escaped my, my mind, Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. with my dad, 'cause my dad, uh, sold peanuts there.
JC: He did?
BM: Out, out in the, uh, stands, always talked about how great games were at Griffith Stadium. And that-, that's one thing, see, see the Yanks come in and, and play, uh, Senators. I would liked to have done that. Do they have, uh, minor league baseball around here?
JC: Yes, they did-.
BM: // ( ) //
JC: // -And // it was owned by the Washington Senators.
BM: Really?
JC: The, the Charlotte team was owned by the Washington Senators. And the park in Charlotte was called Griffith Park.
BM: Hmm.
CG: Hmm.
JC: It was Griffith Stadium in Washington but it was Griffith Park in Charlotte. And, um, they built the park in 1942. I was there for the opening game and saw them play and saw the first home run hit, uh, in that park. But it's, uh, and-, but you want to talk about language.
BM: // Uh-huh. //
CG: // Uh-huh. //
BM: I mean, but it all coincides, though.
JC: OK.
BM: Um, because if, if you could tell, tell us the changes you noticed the first day that park opened or when you were walking down the street delivering newspapers, The Charlotte Observer or, was that what it was called then?
JC: Yes.
BM: The language then compared to the language now, um, if there's any difference, or, maybe the people that have come in, say in the past 10 years around here, we were talking to Dr., Dr. Kiser, and he, uh, you know, he, he mentioned that he'd been in banking and really Charlotte's pretty much a banking city, but, and it's had a major influence now. Tell, tell, tell us if you can, um, what you've noticed in just the way people speak in the past 30 or 40 years.
JC: OK. Speak-, people spoke a great deal more in those days. You had conversations with people. There were extended conversations.
BM: Uh-huh.
JC: As I was carrying the paper frequently I would, uh, people would be up and they would see me coming along with the paper and they would wait for me and I would hand them the paper and they would strike up a conversation and we, we would talk. That doesn't happen anymore. People are busier. Their lives are busier. Uh, there isn't time for that. I knew them and they knew me, and we, we, we knew each other's names and, uh, uh, that doesn't happen anymore.
BM: Now wer-, were they all southern? // Like-. //
JC: // Oh, yes. //
BM: -Did they have that southern // drawl? //
JC: // Yes. // Oh, yes.
BM: 'Cause you have a southern // drawl. //
JC: // Oh, sure. //
BM: Like a slight-, you have a southern drawl.
JC: Sure.
BM: Now, Courtney- is originally from New York, and, right?
CG: Well, I'm from California.
JC: OK.
CG: But I moved to Winston Salem.
JC: OK.
BM: But ( ) northern Chicago, is it?
CG: My parents are from Chicago.
JC: OK.
BM: Uh, I knew something was in there. Uh, // Chicago. //
JC: // Went to // graduate school.
BM: Exactly [laugh], well, she's from up there and I'm from D.C. and, you know, we come down here and just 'cause of this class, we notice different southern dialects.
JC: When I was in graduate school in Chicago, they used-, they were forever asking me to say-.
BM: [Cough]
JC: -The words "blind' and "blonde"-.
BM: [Laugh]
JC: -Because people from the Midwest don't differentiate between blind and blonde. They're almost the same sound.
CG: Hmm.
BM: Yeah.
JC: But they wanted to hear a southerner say them because southerners have more vowels, and diphthongs-.
BM: Yeah.
JC: -Than other people do.
BM: What about "pen" and "pin"?
CG: "Pench" "pinch."
BM: "Pench?" Can you say "pen"?
JC: Pen.
BM: Now say "pin." Like a pin.
CG: Pen, pin.
JC: P-i-n and p-e-n?
BM: Yes.
JC: There's no difference, I don't think.
BM: [Laughs]
JC: I don't think there is.
CG: Northerners think there are.
BM: Yeah.
CG: ( )
JC: Well-.
CG: ( )
BM: Uh-huh. Um, uh, do you notice anything that. // ( ) //
JC: // I // notice that, um, let me say that I think that the, uh, English, spoken English, as well as written English, changed, uh, [pause] noticeably, even to someone of my age, in the period from, let's say 1940, and 1950, in that 10 year period, the language, English language got a lot, uh, more direct, much, it got truncated. Uh, it got a lot more flexible. Um, it began to lose the structures that it used to have and the, uh, the cases, and the, um, um, I forget all my English grammar now, but it, it lost a lot of those. Uh, largely I think for two reasons, one is that I thought, uh, I think that I've read a lot of the newspapers in the years since then, I've read in the newspapers that were published in the 1940s and the 19-, during the war then after the war. And I see the difference in the writing and reporting but the war forced, the news media, print media and electronic media to report rapidly. Enormous interest in the war, but enormous cable charges from Europe to the United States and from pac-, the Pacific to the United States. So the news writers really worked to conserve words. Radio also made a great impact. World War II brought radio an enormous audience that it didn't have. Um, Edward R. Morrow and all of those CBS news reporters and all the NBC reporters that were telling you about the war beginning in about the, 19-, the late 1930s and through 1945, built a radio audience and the radio language began to filter into one's everyday hearing and the pronunciation of words slowly changed, but more than that, it's the pace of speaking and the short sentences, uh, purer sentences, much more direct, uh, fewer of the sort of elaborate, um, circum-locution // that you find-. //
CG: // [Laugh] //
JC: -On those street corner conversations that would happen when Mr. Griffith, uh, on my morning newspaper route. // Uh-. //
BM: // Now, // now when you were delivering that newspaper, do you remember like, the languages that were used, or, what-, was it in a southern dialect?
JC: Oh, yeah.
BM: The way it was written?
JC: Oh, yeah. Most of those people were southerners.
BM: Was it written like that? Like ya'll? // Come down ( )-. //
JC: // Oh, no. // No, no. They did not write it that way.
BM: That, that I, I was just wondering about // the-. //
JC: // They // would not write it that way.
BM: That quote, unquote proper English?
JC: Yes, it was proper English. Yeah, it was very, it was pretty good English. Uh, we had two very good newspapers in Charlotte. I'm sorry that you folks missed The Charlotte News, uh, which was an afternoon paper, but it was a, um, it was a, um, livelier newspaper. The Observer came out in the morning and published every car wreck, news of every car wreck and house painting, uh, in 37 counties, you // know-. //
BM: // [Laugh] //
JC: // -Just // sucked up everything.
BM: [Laugh]
JC: Uh, and the News had to find something that was going to be interesting for people to read at the end of that day, so they worked hard to go at the news with an angle, you know. The Observer might report that the City Council, um, voted not to s-, approve the proposed for a new park.
BM: Hmm.
JC: The Charlotte News would go at it in a different way. They would say something like the, um, seven blocks of granite met the four mules head-on yesterday in the City Council chamber and the blocks of granite didn't move as usual and the proposal for a park died. And they would write it colorfully and they would choose an angle // to it. //
BM: // Creatively. //
JC: Exactly, 'cause they, they were look-, and so it was much more literate in that sense.
BM: Uh-huh.
JC: That there were a lot more metaphors and similes and they used, uh, a lot more literary, uh, illusions than, uh, the Charlotte Observer did which was pretty straight stuff.
BM: Do you think that appealed to Charlotteans, uh, just as much or do you think that would work everywhere?
JC: True. That was the case everywhere.
BM: Really?
JC: I think, I think afternoon newspapers by and large that was the case. Uh, I'm sure the afternoon newspapers in-, you lived in Washington?
BM: D.C.
JC: Did you ever read The Star?
BM: No, oh, the other, no.
JC: The Star was gone before you got there.
BM: Uh-huh.
JC: The Star was gone before you got there. Is that right?
BM: Too young probably, sorry. // [Laughs] //
CG: // [Laughs] //
JC: Well, uh, when I was in Washington, I was in Washington for The Observer in the 1960s.
BM: Uh-huh.
JC: The Star was still going. The Star was a, uh, reporting paper. Uh, it had to get it's stories in by one-fifteen because they had to be printed and delivered // you know-. //
BM: // Uh-huh. //
JC: -And on the street by three or something and so their reporters had to close the news hole in a hurry. Uh, and I have seen reporters up in The Star for Senate hearings who would hold the door open with their foot and dictating their story to the rewrite desk while the hearing was still going on. So, you know that-.
BM: Are those pictures of up there?
JC: Which one?
BM: That's the House, the House right there.
JC: That's the, that's the John F. Kennedy's, uh, speech, uh, State of the Union Speech to the, uh, Congress on, uh, January 1963 when all the Kennedy's were in the House.
BM: Really?
JC: Bobby and // Teddy-. //
BM: // Yeah. //
JC: -Bobby is there as the Attorney General, Teddy is there, it's his first day as Teddy's tenure as a senator. Uh, Adlai Stevenson is there, and um, [cough] it happened to be my first day at work, um-.
BM: What'd you do up there?
JC: I was The Observer's correspondent.
BM: You worked the newspaper here?
JC: Yeah. Yeah, I worked for The Observer for 35 years.
BM: When did you, when did you come here?
JC: In November of 1994.
BM: And you were with The Observer in '93?
JC: Oh, no. I, uh, was, uh, I left The Observer in '90 and went to Park Communications in Ithaca, New York.
BM: Uh-huh.
JC: And worked there for four years. You know where Ithaca is?
BM: Yep.
JC: Cornell University is there. Um, and Mr. Park was a North Carolinian who, uh, was 80 years old the day he interviewed me, um, it was his birthday. And he promised me he was going to live until he was 96. But he was getting old and he wanted someone who spoke his language to come and work for him. He was from Surry County, North Carolina.
BM: Where's that?
JC: That's, it's just above Winston-Salem. Uh, and so I did. So I left The Observer. He doubled my salary and I left The Observer and went to work for Park Communications. And he was a wonderful, interesting old man. He was a tyrant. [Laughter] But he was funny. He did like to use, um, barnyard English, uh, you know. He would, he would say, um, "Tell that fellow that I don't want to f-, participate in that proposal because I got enough hay down already."
BM: [Laughs]
JC: Uh, and, uh, I'd know exactly what he meant so I'd be able to write his letter for him, he, he I wrote all his mail, answered his mail and wrote all his speeches and did all his memos and attended to most of his meetings and accompanied him in all of his travels. Um, he had a stroke finally and died and his widow liquidated the estate and I came back to North Carolina. He always wanted to be a millionaire and never thought he made it, but he died with a billion dollars.
BM: Wow.
JC: Most of which he has, his estate has given to NC State University where he graduated in 1931 the year I was born, he was graduating from college.
BM: Hmm. Where'd you go to college?
JC: I went to the University at Chapel Hill. And then the University of Chicago, I went up there in '58 and '59.
BM: How was that, going up there to Chicago after you lived in North Carolina for a while? // Lang-. //
JC: // If, s-. //
BM: -Lang-, language speaking, did people // make fun of you or-? //
JC: // Oh, yes, o yes, they-, // they frequently, uh, I don't think they made fun of me, they always wanted to say-, they would say things like, "Say that again."
CG: More fascination.
JC: Yeah.
CG: ( )
JC: And, they, they would say, "Oh, that sounds so // good." //
CG: // Hmm. //
JC: "Say that again," // you know. //
CG: // Hmm. //
BM: [Laugh]
JC: Uh, I would ask-, I would call up on the telephone and I would ask, ask to speak to somebody and they would say, "Oh, say that again."
CG: // [Laugh] //
JC: // That // happened a lot of times.
BM: Did you-, where'd you meet your wife? Here?
JC: In high school, she // was-. //
BM: // In // high school?
JC: Yeah.
BM: She went to Chicago with you?
JC: Yeah.
BM: Now // she-. //
JC: // She's // my high school sweetheart.
BM: That's great.
JC: // Yeah. //
CG: // It is. //
BM: That is great. How long have you all been married?
JC: Well, uh, we have been married, uh, four years, uh, we didn't marry at the time we were in high school. I, I married another woman and she married another man and we, uh, didn't see each other for 37 years. And then I was chairman of our 40th anniversary high school reunion and she came to the reunion and I said, "Where've you been? I missed you." And she said, "I missed you." So we talked and, um, we got married.
CG: Uh-huh.
BM: That's a great story.
JC: // [Laughs] //
BM: // [Laugh] //
CG: // It is. //
BM: // [Laugh] //
CG: // Oh, wow. //
JC: If you don't mind me saying.
CG: // It is. //
JC: // It is. // It's a, uh, thrilling story to me because I've lived it, but, um, I was working my way through Chapel Hill-.
BM: Uh-huh.
JC: -Literally working my way through Chapel Hill, um, I was in Wolfen, um, I, um, I was on my own entirely and I was waiting tables in Lenoir Hall, I was working for the university news bureau from one o'clock until six o'clock, I was a dormitory, uh, manager and a laundry agent and a dry cleaning agent and, uh, sold programs at the football games and worked in the press box and I did any, everything I could to make money. And I got mononucleosis and I got sick and they put me in the hospital. And I couldn't work and all my jobs were ones that you had to // be there-. //
BM: // Uh-huh. //
JC: -To get paid.
BM: Yeah.
JC: So, uh, the bills came due and I said, "I can't make it." And my faculty advisor, whose name was Claiborne, uh, said, uh, "Jack, you're making going to college much harder than it ought to be. Why don't you-, they stopped shooting at each other in the Korean War," they, you know-, "Why don't you volunteer for the draft and get that over with? And collect the GI Bill and come back and go to school like a student and stop being an entrepreneur."
CG: // [Laugh] //
BM: // [Laugh] //
JC: I said, "OK, I'll do that."
BM: Just like that.
JC: So, I dropped out, I was hopelessly in debt, and, uh, not hopelessly in debt so much, but I was in debt. Uh, to me at the time, it looked like, uh, a long climb out.
CG: Uh-huh.
BM: Just like what I feel. [Laughter]
JC: And my sweetheart, uh, was going to school at Greensboro, and I called her up after I had dropped out and after I made the decision and she said, "You made that decision without discussing it with me?" And I said, "Yes." That's, you know, "It's up to me to do it." And she felt like that meant that I was not interested and she wanted to be married, she had wanted us to be married for some time and I didn't know that, but anyway, so I went into the service and while I was in the service she started dating other people and she married, when she got out of college, she graduated and married somebody, and, uh, then I married somebody, uh, then we saw each other at the high school reunion.
BM: Wow.
CG: // Hmm. //
BM: // And // you hadn't seen her in 40 years.
JC: Almost.
CG: Hmm.
JC: Almost, yes.
BM: Wow. That's another-, that's a real good story.
CG: Uh-huh.
JC: I'd like to write it one day.
BM: Ri-, I bet. Do you write fiction or-?
JC: No I don't write fiction. I'm not that good. You've got to be much more imaginative. You have to be smart to // write fiction. //
BM: // Uh-huh. //
JC: I'm just dumb enough to write // type. //
CG: // Aaw. // [Laughter]
BM: // I can't buy that-. [Laugh] //
JC: // [Laughs] //
BM: // I really can't buy that. //
JC: // [Laughs] //
BM: Now, say in the past 10 years here, if you don't mind me going back to those, this city has really metropo-, metropolized.
JC: Yes.
BM: It is, who knows where it's going to be in 10 years from now. Um, I, I love Charlotte, probably will stay another year. But with the invasion, I'll say, of northerners and westerners and everywhere else, can Charlotte, in-, I, I had a conception of Charlotte as being a small, a small town that now has just exploded, really. This is just my perception. Now have you noticed, what have you noticed about the last ten years in Charlotte, // the change? //
JC: // OK. // OK. Let me correct that impression.
BM: Please do.
JC: Um, Charlotte was a, um, village, uh, in the 1860s. Well, not in the 1860s, uh, Charlotte was a village until about 1850. Two things happened in the 50s, the South Carolina railroad came up from Columbia forcing the state of North Carolina to build a railroad to Charlotte, they were not going to build a railroad to Charlotte. They were going to build a railroad from Raleigh to Asheville and they were going to bypass Charlotte. But the South Carolina railroad to Charlotte meant-.
BM: // [Cough] //
JC: // -That the // wealth of the Catawba Valley was going to go out the port at Charleston and that was not what they wanted to have happen, they wanted to keep commerce within the state if it possible. And so they built a railroad line around to Ch-, to Charlotte and put Charlotte on the map and beginning in the 1850s, Charlotte became a significant city. By the way, the North Carolina and the South Carolina railroads that met in Charlotte were different gauges, the tracks-.
CG: // Uh-huh. //
BM: // Yeah. //
JC: -Were wider for one than they // were for-. //
BM: // Uh-huh. //
JC: -The other. So every piece of rolling stock had to be stopped in Charlotte and you had to move it off one and put it on the other. S-, so, you know, Charlotte made a nuisance [laughs] of itself. // [Laughs] //
BM: // Oh, wow. [Laughs] //
CG: // Hmm. //
JC: // But // it was a very important place. Uh, anyway, Charlotte grew, it started growing in the 1850s, and it grew rapidly in that 10 year period. In the Civil War, Charlotte didn't grow very much, though it did grow some, uh, it had an influx of people from other parts of the Confederacy because Charlotte was an important place in the Confederacy. It was a munitions center, they made ammunition here. They also armed shells. They did so at a thing called the Confederate Navy Yard. It didn't have anything to do with building ships but it had something to do with arming shells. Do you know what an armed shell is? You, you put the explosive in it. Uh, they did that here because we had the chemists in Charlotte. The chemists were here because the United States Mint was here. So anyway, Charlotte was an important place. It was also a quartermaster place. It was a place where they, they gathered together uniforms and shoes and things like that to ship north to supply the confederate army. And so it was the quartermaster center as well as a munitions center. So the city actually grew some during the, uh, war. And the influx of people who came here for those two purposes stayed. And the, uh, the mechanics who were here to work at the shell loading plant, which required metal-working skills, stayed on and they later, when the textile industry came, they became the kind of mechanics who built machinery for the textile industry so that, it's-, uh, gave Charlotte a supply of people that they didn't have. But they were largely from Virginia, from the tidewater area around Norfolk. Um, the first pressman for the Charlotte Observer, which was begun in 1869, it was a black. It was a hand-operated Washington press, I don't know if, you've probably seen drawings of one of those or not, but he came here as a slave with the navy yard and that's how he got in Charlotte. He was a freedman after that. And he needed a job and The Observer hired him to run its press and he did. But, but from 1870, after the Civil War and after reconstruction, from 1870 through 1900, Charlotte has been doubling just about every 20 years. Doubling in size every 20 years.
CG: Uh-huh.
BM: Really?
JC: And the, the influx of people that you're seeing today is simply a continuation of something that has been going on. The scale is larger today.
BM: Uh-huh.
JC: But it is not anything that is new. I just wrote a little piece for the Chamber of Commerce about the organization of the Chamber of Commerce. In, um, 1905, the Chamber was organized. Woodrow, uh, Theodore Roosevelt came to speak here in 1905. There were 18,000 people in Charlotte. There were 20,000 people in the little park where he came to speak, so that there were more people there than were in the city.
CG: Hmm.
BM: [Laugh]
JC: A few years later, the chamber was an active organizer for something called Camp Greene which brought an army training base to town, Camp Greene was a training base for soldiers in WWI. There were 56,000 soldiers in the tents at Camp Greene. That was more people then there were in the City of Charlotte. Many of those soldiers stayed after the war was over, they didn't go home, they stayed. Uh, one of them, a native of Boston, later became the mayor of Charlotte, his name was Herbert Baxter. So this is not a new thing that has happened. And those accents, can you imagine a Boston accent?
CG: Hmm.
BM: // Yeah. //
JC: // Uh, // Harry Golden, can you imagine Harry Golden's accent? Harry Golden was from the Bronx, and Brooklyn, New York. Uh, and so a lot of accents in Charlotte. Uh, I grew up working in, uh, the Anderson's Restaurant over here on Elizabeth Avenue. I worked for the three Anderson boys, Jim, Bill, and Pete. Uh, and uh, their family, their father was a Greek immigrant. Uh, and they spoke Greek and they used to teach me to speak Greek so that I could talk to their mother when she ans-, she called on the phone, I'd be able to respond to her. And, um, if she came in, I would be able to take her order and serve her in the, uh, in the restaurant. So there are a lot of different languages and a lot of different accents and a lot of different kinds of people in Charlotte. Most of the people who have had leadership positions in Charlotte have not been natives. I'd dare to say that most of the mayors have been people from somewhere else. Uh, a few Charlotte people have been mayors, but most of them have been people from somewhere else. The current mayor is from where? Isn't he from Kansas City?
BM: No idea.
JC: He's not a Charlottean. He is not a native, that is. The previous mayor was Sue Myrick she is from, well, the previous mayor was Richard Vinroot, he is a native, but the previous mayor to that was Sue Myrick, she's from Ohio, uh.
BM: She's-, what's she do now?
JC: She's a congressman.
BM: That's what I thought.
JC: Yeah.
BM: I met her // a couple of years ago. //
JC: // Congresswoman. // Um, the mayor prior to that was Harvey Gantt, he's from Charleston, South Carolina.
BM: Uh-huh.
JC: Mayor prior to that was Eddie Knox. Eddie Knox was from north Mecklenburg County in Huntersville, Mooresville area. Uh, the mayor prior to that, hmm, who was mayor prior to Eddie Knox? [Pause] Was it John Belk? John Belk was a native.
BM: Uh-huh.
JC: Stan Brookshire was from Mooresville. But a lot-, I've, I've, I've gone and looked to see where these people came from and they came from different places. And in the 20th century, I would say, many of the people who have had leadership positions in the city, David Ovens was from Canada. He was a Canadian Jew who came here and became a Methodist and went to work for Ivey's department store and did very well and became a philanthropist and they named the auditorium for him. Um, the Belk family is from South Carolina originally. Uh, the Ivey's are from Rutherford County. Uh, the Effird's were from, I've forgotten where else, but they weren't from Charlotte. Um, the people who ran-, I remember when Celanese came. Celanese came here in the late 1940s, early 1950s and opened an office and a laboratory in the southeastern edge of Charlotte. And that o-, office today is Barkley Downs Drive and around it today is Southpark and that whole area. So that was out in the country when Celanese went out there. But those people were New Yorkers and they came here in, they couldn't, when they wanted to transfer them back to New York, they wouldn't go, and they took other jobs in other businesses. So what you're seeing is on a scale larger than it used to be but it has been going on a long time in the city.
BM: I never would have guessed that, you know. We've been doing this now really all semester, this study, and everyone has talked about how Charlotte's such a growing city, you know, just lately // because of banking. //
CG: // ( ) //
JC: It has always been a growing city.
BM: But when you put it in perspective like that, I never would have guessed that. But really the point of our, of our project is to get people like you on record because these are, this is the history of Charlotte. This is the truth. This is not stuff you're reading in the textbooks, really-.
JC: // In 19-. //
BM: // This is the true history. //
JC: -In 1900, Charlotte had a population of about 18,000. In 1908, it extended its city limits to take in all the textile mills that had grown up around it. Places like Belmont, neighborhoods today, // Belmont. //
BM: // Uh-huh. //
JC: Uh, and the, uh, Louise Mill area around, you know where the Louise Mill is? Do you know where Louise Avenue is? Central Avenue and Louise Avenue and the Piedmont Heights, uh, Piedmont Junior High School? You know where that is? Uh, that they added to the city. Uh, the Elizabeth Mill, the Ada Mill, the Victor Mill [pause], the men named all their mills after their wives and so they all have feminine names.
BM: [Laughs]
JC: Um, they all were added to the city limits of Charlotte and suddenly Charlotte surpassed Wilmington and become in 1908 the largest city in the state. It held that distinction until 1912. And then the towns of Winston and Salem merged in 1912 and Winston became the largest city in the state, Winston-Salem became the largest city in the state and it held that until 1940. And Charlotte kept building and growing and by 1940 Charlotte surpassed Winston-Salem and it has been the largest city in the state for the next 60 years. Uh, but it has outstripped-, once upon a time all these cities in the state were about the same size. Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Asheville, Fayetteville, Wilmington, they were all about the same size. And now suddenly in, since World War II, Charlotte has just stripped past them all and is now in a class much larger than they are. Uh, I think what, Raleigh is second today? Well, what's Raleigh's population? 250,000?
CG: ( )
JC: Charlotte is about twice as big as Raleigh?
CG: Uh-huh.
JC: Something like that?
CG: Uh-huh.
JC: But that is what happened. And I think Charlotte is, um, people are just beginning to realize it. I think with the coming of the first real sign and awakening to the people was the coming of the Hornets, because they said, "How did they do that?" Well, then people got out the map and they looked at, "Gee. Look at the metropolitan population here." Uh, and then they got the, uh, Panthers and they did it again and that called the nation, the nation's attention to it.
BM: Uh-huh.
JC: So, but this has been going on for some time.
BM: Do you think they'll get a baseball team?
JC: Yes, I think they will. I would hope they would.
BM: Yeah.
JC: Uh, I am much more a baseball fan than I am, uh, a basketball or a, uh, football fan.
BM: Who is your baseball team? Who do you like?
JC: Uh, well I watch the Atlanta Braves.
BM: Yeah.
JC: Because they are on television-.
BM: // Yeah. //
JC: // -And // are available to me. Uh, but I have liked different teams at different times. I loved the, uh, Baltimore Orioles. Uh-.
CG: Uh-huh.
BM: You're a good man-.
JC: // [Laughs] //
BM: // [Laughs] // Very good man.
JC: I liked the Orioles, I loved the, them when they had, uh, the, the manager who was so tempestuous.
BM: Yeah, Earl Weaver.
JC: Earl Weaver.
BM: Uh-huh.
JC: And I thought they had the marvelous pitching staff. And Earl Weaver was a great handler of pitchers despite what his pitchers say.
BM: Yeah. [Laughs]
JC: He was a wonderful handler of pitchers, and catchers.
BM: Yep.
JC: Uh, he was very good at that. Uh, and I went to see, uh, the Camden Yards when they opened it. I was a great advocate when I was writing for The Observer, I was always writing about the need to build a baseball stadium downtown. And I encouraged George Shinn not to go and build it across the line in South Carolina. "Don't do, please don't do that. It would be a mistake, for you and baseball and it would also be a mistake for the city for you to do that." And it has been.
BM: Yeah.
JC: George finally sold the baseball team and it's having trouble drawing people down there today as a result.
BM: If they had it downtown-.
JC: Yes.
BM: -It would, there would be people there all the time.
JC: But I was a great advocate for an uptown coliseum, uptown arenas, uptown stadiums, uptown football stadium. I think I had some influence in the fact that the, uh, Panther's stadium was built uptown, but, I went to see Camden Yards when they were, when they finished it and built it.
BM: Uh-huh.
JC: And I loved it. It was just a marvelous place. And, uh-.
BM: Well, you have to.
JC: Yeah. When I was in Chicago I used to see the, uh, White Sox play. And I was there, they won the pennant the year I was in the, when I was there. The first time since 1919 they had won the pennant. And this was in 1958. No, '59, they won the '59 pennant. Um, and Al Smith was playing right field for them. How can you be against a team that has a right fielder named Al Smith? [Laughter] I'm a democrat. [Laughter]
BM: Good enough. Wow. Well, you know, you've really helped us a lot, // uh. //
JC: // Well, // it's been fun for me. I-.
BM: I'm glad, I'm glad because I mean, what we're doing is grasping the history from someone who's been around really, whatever you want to talk about, we just go with the flow. // We could talk about all areas. //
JC: // Well, I would tell you // that if you're interested in going farther in linguistics and if you're interested in writing a Master's paper or a PhD paper in linguistics, I want you to do a study on what has happened to the language since, to, to the American English since 1940, and look at American English from 1940 to 1960. And I think you will see American English has become enormously more flexible. Everything counts on word placement. Uh, and the old structures of the language have gone and much of the old grammar has gone. Uh, word placement is everything.
BM: // Uh-huh. //
JC: // And // the language is much more, uh, open, so much more accessible. It takes in, uh, new words just at an exceptional, just an enormous rate. Somebody, I heard a figure the other night somebody said that, uh, French is, uh, uh, the French language today has something like 45,000 words in it and the German language has something like 50,000 words in it mostly because those two countries want to preserve their language as it is, and that English has something like 250,000 words in it. And but that, we're just reaching out all the time and bringing all these words and I think much of that happened between 1940 and 1960, the internal dynamics of the language changed hugely. So if you're looking for a nice, easy, quick master's paper to do. [Laughter]
BM: // You've written one up on that. //
JC: // Exactly right. [Laughs] //
BM: Well, we thank you very much.
JC: Thank you.
BM: Um, we appreciate you taking time out of your day to let us do this.
JC: Well, I loved it. My pleasure.
BM: Good.
JC: Good luck to you.
BM: Thank you very much. It was nice meeting you again.
JC: You, too.
CG: Nice to meet you.
JC: Good to meet you.
CG: Thank you.
BM: I hope we didn't spend too much of your time.
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