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Interview with Effie Lawing

Lawing, Effie
Childs, Anya
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with people and places; Stories and storytellers; Childhood adventures
Effie Lawing talks about stories she remembers from childhood, Bible stories, and reading to her granddaughter.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Anya Childs interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
AC (Anya Childs): All right Miss Effie, can you please tell me a story or tell me what stories you remember hearing growing up?
EL (Effie Lawing): I remember hearing one called, uh, Little Black Sambo that related to a little black boy who went fishing and hunting, and I really don't remember the details of it.
AC: You said this story is politically \\ incorrect now? \\
EL: \\ [Cough] \\
AC: That they wouldn't \\ tell the story? \\
EL: \\ Right. \\ It's probably been banned now because of the racial, uh, differences. And I remember, uh, Little Red Riding Hood went to see her grandmother through the woods and she came upon a fox, and, uh, when she got to her grandmother's home, she was taking a basket of fruit because her grandmother was sick, and uh, the grandmother saw the fox and she hid Little Red Riding Hood, and the fox got in the bed and took grandmother's place and put on her, uh, nightcap and her gown, and that's about all I can remember of that, too, and, anyway, he scared the Little Red Riding Hood, when uh, she came into the room. And there were nursery rhymes, like, uh, "little boy blue, come blow your horn, the sheep's in the meadow, and the cows are in the corn," and "Jack, be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jumped over the candlestick." And, uh, "Little Jack Horner, sat in the corner, eating his Christmas pie, he stuck in his thumb, and pulled out a plum, and said, 'What a good boy am I!'" Uh, "little Bo Peep, lost her sheep, and doesn't know where to find them, leave them alone, and they'll come home, wagging their tails behind them." And I grew up going to church, uh, I grew up Presbyterian, and we learned the shorter Catechism. And I can't remember too many questions and answers. One was, "Who made you?" and the answer, of course, was God. And, uh, [cough], oh, gosh, uh, [pause] and hearing, uh, Bible stories, like uh, Moses being put in the bulrushes to be hid from the king, and his, uh, the king's daughter taking him as her child to raise. And, of course, uh, the story of Christ being born in Bethlehem, and uh, Joseph taking him and Mary and fleeing to Egypt from Herod and Daniel in the lions' den with, uh, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Uh, gosh-.
AC: Which one was your favorite, your favorite Bible story?
EL: Aah, oh, goodness [cough], I always loved the Christmas story, and the, uh, singing Christmas carols, and uh, and I liked the Easter songs, the Easter story. Uh-.
AC: Can you, can \\ you t-? \\
EL: \\ And \\ I grew up on a farm, and I can tell you a little about how I grew up, as well. Uh, we had chickens, and pigs, and cows, and, uh, we grew a lot of what we ate, vegetables and fruit. And I can remember my grandmother drying apples, and peaches, and I can remember when we butchered hogs, and worked up the meat, made sausage and liver mush, and, uh, took wheat to the mill to grind into flour, and corn to be made into cornmeal and grits, and I can barely remember my daddy making molasses from homegrown cane.
AC: Hmm.
EL: Uh.
AC: Was it a big family?
EL: I was an only child, my parent, my daddy came from a family of seven. Two are still living, one is 92, and one is 84, his two youngest sisters. Uh, his youngest sister went to North Africa during World War II as a nurse with the 38th Evacuation Unit from Charlotte, and her husband was prisoner of war in Germany. They're, my daddy and her first cousin was in the Bataan Death March and survived. Uh, some of my relatives have lived to be in their 90s-.
AC: Hmm.
EL: -And some died young. Uh-.
AC: Who did you play with \\ if you were-. \\
EL: \\ [Cough] \\
AC: -the only child?
EL: We had farm hands, that lived on our place, and I played with the little black children, and uh, played, we drew little rooms in, on the, in the dirt-.
AC: Uh-huh.
EL: -And played house, and I played hopscotch, and, but we would draw little rooms on the ground and have our little houses, and we'd have our little kitchen, and then our different rooms and, imagined things [laugh]-.
AC: \\ Uh-huh. \\
EL: \\ -and \\ I had an imaginary playmate whose name was Eelie. And, uh-.
AC: Why did you name her Eelie?
EL: I don't know why I named her Eelie [laugh] but that's just what I came up with.
AC: Uh-huh.
EL: Uh, and back then people used what they called brush brooms, and swept their yards pretty bare so that snakes and creepy crawlies couldn't come up in the yard as easily without being detected.
AC: Uh-huh.
EL: And uh, [pause], let's see, I remember one time we had an old rooster that every time mother and I would come up the back door that rooster would try to flog us, so we had a stick we had by the back door, and we went out one day, and he started chasing mother, and I grabbed that stick, and she said, "Hit that rooster, hit, kill that rooster!" Well, she didn't really mean for me to, but when I hit him up side of the head [laugh], it did kill him, so we ate him for supper.
AC: [Laughs] What did you do there all day on the farm when you were little before you went to school?
EL: Played. We used to play under the front porch, and we-, stirring these little circular places, that were in the dirt called, uh, doodlebug nests, and we would stir that dirt and call the doodlebugs. And we'd sing, and we'd, just, I don't know, we entertained ourselves, uh, better back then I think than children today do 'cause you would just find things to play with, and be [laugh] content to play with them-.
AC: Uh-huh.
EL: -Although you didn't have money to buy many toys. And I remember looking forward to Christmas coming because my uncle worked for a company that was a distributor of candy and things like that and uh, I would get candy at Christmas, from him. And uh, I remember, one of my uncles had a, a grill in downtown Charlotte, near the bus station and my daddy would go up there uh, once a week and pick up for, the throw-outs to feed the hogs, and my uncle would give me, uh, Lance crackers and things like that, that was a treat that I didn't get as a rule. And uh, I can remember, when I was going to school our buses were not like the buses today, they had three seats, one down the center, long ways, and one down each side.
AC: Uh-huh.
EL: And you sat sort of back to back on that center seat, and if the driver, started off too quick, he jerked you backwards, and if he stopped too quick, you went to the front [Laugh]
AC: Uh-huh.
EL: Uh, let's see, [cough].
AC: What was school like?
EL: Uh, school was segregated back when I was in school and, uh, we come to envy the black children because they got out, uh, in the fall for what they called cotton picking time, 'cause back then our community was still rural, and most people farmed to a great extent.
AC: Uh-huh.
EL: And I can remember in the spring when we would go to school they were putting out manure from the barns on the fields that joined to the school property, and we always hated to smell that. And uh, we uh, we had the elementary school, and then the junior high school and the, then the high school. And uh, [pause], let's see.
AC: So did you learn your catechism there or at church?
EL: Learned the catechism at church [cough].
AC: Who taught you that?
EL: But, during school, when I was in elementary school, we had a lady who came to the schools on Wednesdays with a flannel board, and told Bible stories. And of course now they prohibit that and I think it's a big mistake that, uh, they don't allow the Bible to be taught. Back then we pledged allegiance to the flag first thing in the morning and we, uh, listened to Bible stories that the teacher read to us every morning, and uh, we had smaller schools in our local communities, and the teachers knew the students, knew the parents, and the parents knew the teachers. A lot of them went to the same churches that the families did, we had teacherages in the community, for the, uh, teachers to live in, and, uh, I think back then we had, uh, better relationship with students, and teachers because the parents knew them well and \\ uh-. \\
AC: \\ Uh-huh. \\
EL: -They knew the parents, and children knew that, uh, if they did things bad, then the parents were going to find out about it and some-, and they would be disciplined.
AC: Um-ha, that's true. Can you, on those Wednesday nights, I mean, those Wednesday flannel board stories, can you tell me one?
EL: Uh, well the one with, uh, Moses in the bulrushes would have been one, and they would have, uh, The Christmas Story, Joseph and His Coat of Many Colors, uh-.
AC: Can you tell me The Christmas Story?
EL: OK, uh, the angel appeared to Mary and told her that she was expecting a child born of the Holy Spirit. And uh, she was betrothed to Joseph, and he could have, uh, put her away discreetly if he had so chosen, but the angel appeared to him and told him not to be afraid to take Mary to be his wife, that the baby that she was carrying was of the Holy Ghost, and uh, would be our savior, and then the angels proclaimed to, uh, the shepherds in the fields the night that the baby was born. And then, uh, Herod tried to find out where the baby was born so he could have him eliminated, but, uh, the wise men who had gone to him chose to go a better wa-, a different way back and, uh, so consequently the baby survived, and we have a promise of salvation through his death at Easter-.
AC: Hmm.
EL: -And Resurrection. Uh-.
AC: Do you, do you tell your grandchildren The Christmas Story now or do they just hear it at the church?
EL: They just hear it at church, but I need to start telling them more stories.
AC: But when you have them, you read, read to them?
EL: I do read, uh, little books, my daughter takes her little girl to the library and checks out books every week-.
AC: Uh-huh.
EL: -And she wants about six of them read to her every night before she goes to sleep.
AC: Uh-huh.
EL: Uh, [pause].
EL: Part of them nursery rhymes, part of them you know, short stories, ABC books that show them, uh, animals or words that belong to each letter of the alphabet.
AC: OK. And you said that some of them are the stories that you read too when you were little?
EL: Right.
AC: Like Mother Goose?
EL: Yes, Mother Goose rhymes.
AC: OK, well.