George Anthony Waller & Becky Hall Interview June 15, 2002
Interviewer: James Shea [JS], George’s grandson
Interviewee: George Waller [GW]
Also present: Lisa Shea [LS] and Jenn Mottram [JM], George’s daughters;
Becky Hall [BH], George’s sister
Jenn – George – Becky – Lisa
JS: How old are you?
JS: Where did you live when you were my age? (James is 13)
GW: When I was 13, it was 1959, I lived in Ipanema Brazil.
JS: When did you move to Connecticut?
GW: In 1961
JS: What was school like when you were my age? Subjects studied? Size of school? Uniforms?
GW: I went to a private school called Escola Americana del Rio de Janeiro. It was a walled school because in previous years some Brazilians who didn’t like Americans would drive by the school and shoot machine guns into it
BH: I’m glad I didn’t know that!
GW: We studied Portuguese, Latin, English …
BH: Math and science?
GW: Math. They didn’t have teams. No uniforms
BH: Unless you did? Did you wear the same thing every day and we just didn’t notice?
JS: Did you go to college? If so, what did you study?
GW: No, I did not study. Yes, the University of Connecticut, started in 1964.
JS: Started in 1864 …
GW: Yes, started in 1864, smack dab during the middle of the Civil War. I was a draft dodger. And what did I study? History.
JS: What did you do in your “free time”
GW: Collected stamps.
LS: Did you use stamps back then?
BH: No, we just strapped them on pigeons.
GW: Collected rocks.
BH: You hung out with Earl.
GW: I hung out with Earl.
LS: Who was Earl?
BH: His buddy that was SO cute, and he called me one time, comin’ through, you weren’t even around, he said ‘I was going to come see you Becky’ and he stood me up! Broke my heart. And he was so cute!
GW: Went swimming at the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.
LS: With all the naked women?
BH: There weren’t naked beaches?
LS: They’re famous for their string bikinis and thongs, or was that back in the days of bloomers?
GW: No, they wore very skimpy outfits.
BH: The beach was SO hot in the summer that you had to take a newspaper and you would take it in sections and you would throw it ahead of you and run and stand on it and pick up the other one, I mean it was THAT hot.
JM: So you really hoped for a Sunday Times for a paper.
BH: Well we would pick up the other sections. It would be easy if everyone had done it.
LS: Didn’t they have flip flops?
BH: I don’t know why we didn’t wear them.
GW: We didn’t have flip flops.
JS: What kind of punishments did you receive for misbehavior?
GW: I misbehaved?
JS: “They smacked the bad baby in the head!”
LS: Did you get that message from Aunt Nancy, in her baby book, her mom was writing in her baby book, and one of the things they said one Easter is that the baby was going around saying ‘Whip the bad baby in the head’.
JM: Lisa used to write in MY baby book, there’s a big spot for an 8×10 wedding photo, and there’s me running towards Lisa going ‘Where’s my sister?’ and my husband, “Rudolph”, was saying “Where’s my kiss?’
LS: So for punishment, we whipped the baby in the head, like your ancestral parents?
BH: We were spanked!
GW: Verbal admonishments … sent to our room without dinner.
LS: They’d starve you?
BH: Except we had an in with the cook and she’d sneak us up pies.
GW: Smack on the bottom.
BH: I got it with a yardstick one time.
GW: Spanking with the hand.
BH: We’re moving up the scale, this is how bad it is.
GW: Spanking with belt.
LS: Waaa you were belted??
BH: It wasn’t called that, it was called spanking.
GW: They didn’t use the buckle.
BH: Was that the max?
BH: Between hand and belt could be yardstick.
JS: Wooden spoon.
BM: Oh, you know what! Mom used to say that HER mother, Ora Belle, used to – when they’d get in trouble – make them go out and pick their own switch off the tree, and they knew that if they didn’t get a good switch she’d go out and get a branch, so they’d go out and go ‘that’s not good enough … that’s good enough but that’s going to hurt’.
LS: How did they punish you in school? Did they take one of those wooden things?
JM: That’s in fraternities
BH: Paddling. That’s what they called it in our schools.
JS: What was your first job?
GW: My first full time job was 1962, I was 16. I commuted on a train every day during the summer to New York City and worked in a skyscraper delivering computer output.
JS: Were the jobs for men and women different or were there equal opportunities?
BH: Different, different, different! I can speak to that. I remember going to work in a shoe store one time and they said I couldn’t work there because I was female. They wouldn’t let females sell shoes.
JS: Were you married? Any children?
GW: No. No.
BH: How could he your grandfather if he weren’t married and have children?
JM: Well, he wouldn’t have to be married. It’s the have children part.
JS: I do not exist. No author of paper.
JM: Wait, this means you don’t have to do it!
LS: Yes, four children. Or do you have more than four?
JS: How many grandchildren.
JM: This is a test.
JS: How have the prices of things changed?
GW: They went up.
BH: Cokes used to be a nickle.
GW: That’s what I was about to say. Cokes used to be a nickle.
BH: And gas used to be 20 cents?
BH: We got to use our Parents cars.
JS: What kinds of food did you eat? Do you eat differently today?
GW: Lots of homemade food. and nowadays pre-processed foods.
LS: So what did this cook cook for you? What was she like?
BH: We lived in 3 different houses and at one time she did live with us, there was generally a child care person, and then a cook, and then sometimes someone came in ironed. Labor was so incredibly cheap.
LS: So you were supporting your local economy
BH: That’s how we looked at it.
JS: Have you ever lived during a war?
GW: Yes. From 1967 to 1971 I worked at the Pentagon with the US Air Force.
JS: What do you remember most about it – about the war?
GW: Having lots of free time.
LS: How did you have lots of free time?
GW: We worked shifts. There were 2 days during the day, but they had enough people so you didn’t have to go in most days. Then there were 2 midnight shifts during which you slept. Then there were 2 evening shifts where you actually had to work, and then you had 2 days off. So really you worked 2 days and had 6 days off.
JS: What was the best thing that ever happened to you?
GW: Taking this interview with my sweet little grandson.
JS: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen during your time?
GW: Television …
LS: What was the first thing you ever see on TV?
BH: A test pattern.
GW: Computers. Space travel.
LS: You saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. You said they had really long hair …
JS: What was the most historical event you can remember during your lifetime?
GW: Kennedy’s Assassination.
LS: Hey Jenn, did you know that Dad was almost sent to Vietnam?
LS: Was I the only one who didn’t know this?
GW: I’d say the assassination of President Kennedy.
LS: Where were you?
GW: At school.
BH: We were in Connecticut.
GW: Yup, Staples high school.
JS: Did you listen to music? What kinds?
BH: Woah! Get out a couple of pieces of paper here!
GW: Elvis Presley. He’s the King.
BH: I have a story for you on music. What was the first song the Beatles came out with. Was it I want to hold your hand?
GW: I think it was She Loves You.
BH: When that song first came on the radio, your dad said, these guys are going to be incredibly big!
LS: Ooo got any stock picks for us?
JS: The Beatles are dead now.
LS: No, one of them just got married!
JS: Ringo Starr.
LS: No, Sir Paul McCartney.
JS: Paul McCartney is evil, he sings hippy songs.
JM: We were sitting in a Marketing meeting with this newbie college hire guy, and the Marketing manager said, “you know some people are still saying ‘you mean, Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?'” and our little co-op guy said, “Wings?”
LS: So what did you listen to before the Beatles?
GW: Pop music.
LS: Like Frank Sinatra?
GW: Patty Page. We lived in the south before rock and roll so we listened to a lot of southern type music. Hank Thompson.
JS: What did you listen to music on?
GW: Radio, television, American Bandstand.
LS: Did you have your own radio?
GW: I had my own radio.
LS: Did you play it loud and get yelled at by your parents?
JM: When they switch to stereo?
GW: About 1961.
LS: Huge improvement in sound?
GW: I didn’t notice a huge difference myself.
LS: Was that the am/fm switch when it went mono to stereo? I thought AM had no bass, the FM brought in bass.
GW: I don’t know.
JS: How has technology changed? What is available now that you didn’t have then?
GW: Computers and the Internet. Plastics.
LS: That’s the answer to the universe!
JS: No, it’s 42. There’s a lot of things that are related to 42. Elvis Presley was 42 when he died.
JS: Have you seen any cures or treatments that weren’t available when you were my age? Which ones?
LS: Is polio the iron lung one?
LS: People used to have to cure polio by putting them into iron lungs.
JM: The iron lung was lower pressure to help them to breathe.
LS: So it didn’t cure them but it helped them from dying.
BH: But we also got completely rid of smallpox, until it was reintroduced.
LS: Wasn’t malaria really bad?
JS: If you could live your life over again, would you do anything differently.?
LS: Not that you would admit to.
JS: What advice would you give to me?
GW: Enjoy life.
BH: Stay away from credit cards.
JS: Don’t set fire to your own head.
JM: Stop drop and roll.
GW: Try hard at whatever you do. GNOTIES SEAUTON which is Greek and it means “know thyself”.
[James’ school interview is over]
LS: What was the name of the monkey?
BH: Something like Dinero, but that means money. I don’t know.
LS: Where did you acquire the monkey?
BH: I got it for my birthday. It was a really sad situation, we could never train it. Then we went through the rainy season, and dad made a bit wire cage that sat outside and there was a house inside but it stayed so wet and rainy that it just got wet One time it got out and the lady that was helping us – the maid – climbed up on the roof and caught it. It had a wild streak.
BH: I remember you named the cat Princess Anne, remember that?
[ordering of pizza]
LS: So what do you remember about your mom’s mom, because you don’t remember her dad right?
GW: That’s Mamaw. I have a picture of my grandfather holding me, but he died in 1947.
LS: So just after the diary, because he’s in all of the diary entries, they have him as B.
GW: Yes I was a year old, less than a year. He died March 5 1947. So I don’t remember him. I remember Mamaw as being … quite literate.
LS: She was like reading in the diary all the time, Moby Dick, then Main Street, I don’t remember the name of the other two.
GW: She was very religious.
BH: She had the golden book. She knew what was right and wrong.
GW: She was quite the gossip. Knew everybody and everything. She was politically active. She was in the 1920s she took the census for the district that she lived in. So when I read the census for that year I can see on every page she signed her name.
LS: Her mark on history.
GW: She wrote to Al Gore Sr.
LS: What was the OAS she wrote about?
GW: The OES, order of the eastern star, Masons.
JM: I’m in it.
LS: Is that like a female mason?
JM: There are both it runs along side the masons.
LS: So people who do good things for the community?
GW: And worship devils.
JM: Yup the upside down pointed star thing.
GW: She was very much against drinking, so when she came to visit the house, my parents would hide all the liquor up on the refrigerator.
BH: And they used to have beer delivered when we lived in Westport, it was kind of like soft drinks and beer that they delivered, and she told the guy don’t you DARE come over here and say beer man. He showed up one day and said “soft drinks!”
GW: I remember when Elvis Presley – Haley and the Comets – Rock around the Clock, she knocked down several priceless lamps in her living room dancing to it.
GW: No, that’s a lie. A complete lie. That was the Devil’s Music.
LS: Did she ever talk about what it was like for her growing up?
GW: I didn’t really see her that much in my life, maybe 10 times when I was old enough to remember. She probably did but I didn’t remember.
BH: She taught me about doodle bugs. They’re little bugs that bore down into that silky soft dirt, and when she lived in Fayeville the last place she lived, she had a garage out there and they had it. You would see a swirl go down, and you would take a piece of straw, and kind of keep going around and I don’t remember this ever happening but we would spent hours doing it, the bug would grab of the straw and you would pull it out, and you would say ‘doodle bug, doodle bug, something …’
BH: Remember Aunt Lucille had that really cool room upstairs that she had all redone, that green one?
GW: I remember my mother telling me that if it was raining and sunshine at the same time, that that meant the devil was arguing with his wife, and if you took a straight pin and put your head down to the ground you could actually hear what they were saying.
BH: I swear he’s lying like a dog!
GW: That’s true!
BH: That’s true? I never heard that one.
BH: My mother told me, I swear, I swear, that any time you eat a piece of pie, that you cut the tip off, and you move it to the side, and eat the rest of the pie, and then you eat that first piece, and it’s a wish pie. That’s what it’s called. So I did that for years and years and years. I moved to the north, and proceeded to educate the entire north about this. Now they never heard of this.
JM: With reason.
BH: Never heard of it. Every time we sat down to eat pie “No no!” and I’d explain the whole thing. And a year before mom died I said something about the wish pie and she said, ‘what are you talking about?’
GW: I remember cutting off the tip of the pie and saving it for the last bite.
BH: That was the wish pie!
GW: I don’t remember it being called a wish pie.
BH: So why would you do it? I mean, what would you do it with?
GW: Saved it until the end.
LS: See, you can corrupt the minds of children by telling them things and they think that it’s normal.
JM: I taught my children to take the Bonita sticker off of bananas and stick it on their foreheads!
BH: They stand themselves out. Scanners are something else new.
LS: People had to type numbers in by hand, and get them all wrong.
BH: Yeah they’d type in the amounts, 59 cents.
LS: Right but if they got it wrong, you’d never tell, because you’d just have a long line of numbers and who went back and compared all the numbers to the actual items.
BH: I do remember my mother teaching me a lesson in a grocery store which has been really valuable to me. Back then you would get cokes in glass bottles so you would just bring them in and put them in a big cart. And then when you got your groceries you would come back and say I brought in an 8 pack or 6 pack or something. I was pretty young and I can remember asking my mother how do they know – you came in, you went shopping … and she said, well it’s about trust. Are your willing to sell your soul for 10 cents worth of bottles? Is your soul worth that much, to lie about it? And it was pretty impactful to me and every time I decide I’m going to tell a lie to somebody or cheat on something I decide, is my soul worth THAT amount? But it hit me at a pretty fine time.
BH: But we’re talking Mamaw right?
LS: One of the things that hit me when reading the stuff from Mamaw is that they made everything that they had, that she was talking about in the spring they finally got to have some fresh greens because the first greens had finally come up, and she was sitting there canning all summer long, canning and shelling and stuff so they’d have stuff for the following winter, do you know when they were able to buy food? it seemed like everything they were doing at the time was they were buying chicks and then eating chicks all summer ..it didn’t sound like she’d ever gone out and bought anything. And when I was asking Aunt Nancy about where did you get the fried chicken, she said they never bought food because they didn’t have enough money to buy food everything that we ate we had to grow ourselves. So you guys had a cook, did you grow all the stuff you ate?
BH: No, and that was only in Brazil that we had that cook stuff. We had cans when we were growing up?
BH: We didn’t grow any of our food when we were growing up. Except when dad had his big garden out back, he decided he’d grow a bunch of vegetables. And mom had this mean, funny streak, and every night dad would come home from work and check his garden, he had some sort of cucumber coming in! So mom goes to the grocery store and buys a huge cucumber and goes up to the vine with a straight pin and puts it through the vine and the cucumber, so when he picks it up it looks like it came off the vine. So the next night he comes in he goes “OH MY GOD!” Mom really did have quite a neat sense of humor.
LS: She was being nice to him!
BH: Yeah and he says “SEE look at this look at this!” and she’s grinning from ear to ear she’d been tired of hearing that little cucumber growing … So no, we didn’t. In Brazil they went to the market every day but .. I don’t think early on I remember, but I don’t ever remember us having a garden other than what you might have out back.
GW: And do you know why, we might not use them, but do you know why we know our proper table manners?
BH: Because Mother was a fanatic about it!
GW: You’re exactly right, but why was she a fanatic about it?
BH: I don’t remember, now who’s the woman who she just quoted night and day and day and night?
GW: Emily Post.
BH: Emily Post!
GW: But it’s more than that. I didn’t realize it until a year ago but she went to school at the University of Tennessee and graduated in Home Economics where they teach you – put the spoon and fork HERE – and all that kind of stuff – so she was really using her education.
BH: Except Mom DIDN’T want to do that, back when Mom went to college her mother told her the only thing she could be was a teacher, or go into Home Ec, or go into Nursing. Those were her only options. But you know Mamaw got a college education. She went to Belmont which was really unheard of, but her father really believed in education, and she got a college degree.
GW: Her brother went to Vanderbilt.
BH: Really? Uncle Hud? Is that who it was, the dentist?
BH: Uncle Doc?
LS: Ah, Doc was the uncle! Because she writes about Uncle Doc.
BH: And HE had … wasn’t uncle Doc that had the really cool place … who was married to Aunt Virginia?
GW: Uncle Hub.
BH: They didn’t have any kids I don’t think.
BH: He had this game room with pinball machines and everything, I mean this was unheard of – maybe people had a TV set but that was it. And we’d go down there and he’d say “just have a good time”, and we just loved him.
BH: I have a lot of Mom memories. She said when she was in college that she was a little bit of a hellion.
LS: She was a wild person in high school! I’m reading this diary and I’m thinking she must be 18 or 19 … going out to these dances every night, staying out until 1 am, her parents are staying up worried sick because she’s not home and where could she be, and she kind of wanders in with Lester, and I get to “she turns 17” and I’m thinking Good God, she’s only 16! So I can imagine when she took off for college she must have been even worse!
JM: Do you remember your 16th year?
LS: Well, but you think that far back they were so sweet and innocent, it’s only the current generation that’s bad, and then you saw well, they’re all like that! All the parents have these worries!
BH: I think Mom started out … I ran into, believe it or not, when we went to Mom’s funeral, I ran into the guy that happened to be the principle of the elementary school, I don’t know how that guy was still around, But anyway, and he was talking about Pop Blake – Mom’s dad. Mom would get in trouble all the time and so they’d call and Pop Blake would go down there to see what was going on, and that he was saying Pop Blake would come in and say ‘what’s the problem’ or something and he’d say that Pop Blake would kind of shake his head – I don’t remember what he said but the whole point was he just thought she was pretty cool, She had such spirit, he got a kick out of it.
BH: But I do know in high school one time she HATED her Home Ec teacher, just hated her, and she said she carried this BIG wad of keys everywhere, and one day she was going down the hall and she saw this wad of keys stuck in some door and she thought … she took them out – this was in the middle of winter – she took them out and froze them in one of the freezers ice trays and it was the middle of winter, they weren’t using ice ever – and finally I think they found out.
BH: And one of the things in college was – she said it was really sad – the war started and all these guys and everything was fun – she had this boyfriend and one time they had to be in the dorm at 8:00 and in fact I went to the same college she went to, the University of Tennessee of Martin, and the first time (I’m going all over the place) but the first time she came to visit me was Thanksgiving after I started and she was driving on campus and this screen that this happened to was still there all these years later, but she told me the story that they had to be in at 8 and this was when the guys were on campus – they hadn’t been pulled for the war – and she called her boyfriend and said we are just starving. We’re about to die. Bring us some food. and so he went somewhere and got a pie for them And he came and just cut the screen and gave them the pie. So when mom came to visit me, that screen hadn’t been replaced, after all of those years. it was still cut from that pie.
BH: But one time they got a cow and got it into the president’s office. And one of the things, they always had these blackouts during the war so they did all the shenanigans … mom said when they would have those blackouts that they would go kind of crazy. Everybody dumped their garbage in these big garbage cans at the tops of the stairs, and I guess the janitors would come and get them. This is while she was in school. So she said this one time it was too tempting, so she decided to just push the whole can. But at that millisecond the lights came on and the dorm mother was standing right at the bottom of the stairs and she said she picked up garbage All Night Long.
BH: But her biggest shenanigan was you were NOT to cook in the room. Period. So they got really ingenious and my mother had an iron and she had one of those little tiny flat skillets. And she would stand up books – and they had a trunk and I guess they opened the trunk and it was empty, and they would stack up books so it would hold the iron upside down and they would cook bacon – I mean of all things, bacon – I mean what smells more in the whole world than cooking bacon. So they’d be frying bacon and someone would yell down the hall that the dorm mother was coming, so they’d unplug the iron and throw the cord in there and put the top on it and sit on it and she’d come in and say “what’s going on” and they’d go “We just don’t know what you’re talking about. Cooking in here? We’re not cooking in here.”
BH: She was pretty feisty. Pretty gutsy.
BH: Mamaw was always really sweet. I mean, she was pretty hard nosed on everybody, but for her grand kids she really was kind of sweet. I think she told each one of us that we were her favorite.
JM: Until you all got together …
BH: I think we just knew better than to ask. We kind of knew that she might be doing that. But she was really sweet. She was hard on everybody else in the world.
LS: I guess in a way it was sort of depressing, I only went through the ’41 stuff, she had this woman that she called “E” that would come and do her ironing once a week. Sunday was always SS and church and they didn’t do anything else, and Monday was washing, and then I think E came by Tuesday to do the ironing and they used to get into these giant fights apparently, and she’d write about oh, she showed up late and I had this giant row with her, oh this week she showed up late, oh I fired her I told her never come back again, and she’d come back again.
BH: You’ll have to ask Nancy who E is, she would know.
LS: I only started looking at the diary pretty recently, and have to ask her, but Nancy was already out of the house by then, she writes about being unhappy that Nancy didn’t write her a letter.
[talking about the 1941 diary talking about the war]
[Becky is looking at Dec 7, no mention of the war]
LS: Right the next day she says that they declare war.
BH (reading) “Got up late, sent out laundry, Jane out to store, listened to president speech and declaration of war. bad times. Jane home late, and off to Tullahome to dance. I went to dressmaker and Lucy’s till she came home. Bitter cold. B still away.”
LS: Oh right and her husband’s off somewhere doing some sort of buying or selling so her husband’s not even home for the entire week, her daughter’s off dancing, her other two kids are off in their own homes, she’s sitting home alone … but she does have these spells where she says she’s “blue” – she calls it being “blue” when she’s feeling sad – so she says she’s “blue blue blue” she spent all day canning, she can’t take it any more.
BH: You know depression runs in our family, my mother was saying when she was reading that that she picked up all the times that Mamaw talked about being blue, my mother really dealt with depression, I mean I’ve sure dealt with it. Blake has some, Bruce does too, I think your dad has a little bit recently, it’s interesting.
BH: I’m trying to think of other Mamaw things. I do remember Mom saying that on Sunday they were not allowed to do anything. You couldn’t play cards, you just had to sit. you couldn’t go out and play, you couldn’t do anything, because that was the Lord’s Day.
LS: But apparently you were supposed to visit each other because she’ll write about being depressed that nobody came over to visit that she just sat alone all day waiting for someone to come see her, but nobody did.
BH: But she didn’t go out.
LS: Right, because if she left someone might be coming to see her, and she wouldn’t be there to greet them.
BH: Somewhere along the line, and I never got the inside story on this, but Mamaw was supposed to have had a vision of some kind, I don’t know what she saw, I don’t know if she saw an angel or something, I just remember hearing references to a very spiritual thing for her. Maybe it’s something Nancy would know about. She was a big, strong Presbyterian. She could cook. She could cook.
LS: She talks about the farm hands in the summer, I guessing the summer her husband Blake would go out scouting for farm hands when they needed people, and would gather up random guys, and go out and do the corn or cotton or whatever, and then she’d have to feed all of them, so there’d be like 10 guys in the house, and she’d be upset that she didn’t have Jane around to help and have to cook for all these people, and she was cooking from her own stock, it’s not like she could go to the store and get something so she’d have to dress some chickens and get some potatoes or whatever from her back yard.
BH: Their days were full because they had to … they had to work so much harder, they had two huge meals, lunch and dinner. Working off a lot of calories. But you’re at the time when they’re living on the farm. My memories of Mamaw are I don’t have any memories of her living on the farm, she was living in town after … I’m not sure when she moved, but I’m sure it was after Pop Blakely died. And I had always envisioned you know that my dad, your grandfather’s father died at the wedding reception. What I heard was that it was at the wedding reception and he had this heart attack and they went back and got him on the bed and had the doctor over there pretty quickly and they thought everything was going to be ok but then he must’ve had a second heart attack. And mother was talking about remembering that back then that they would bring a big basket to take somebody away and I mean here it’s during their wedding reception and they’re taking him away in this basket and how difficult it was for my dad and that he carried around with him this kind of idea that he was going to die before something major happened, like he was going to die before George as born or he was going to die before his first grandchild was born or before somebody graduated from something, he always thought some sort of huge event was going to happen and that he was going to die before that. and mother said he carried it all thorough his life, feeling like that precedent was set. But she said it was so difficult, because she had never really been out of the south, and then she had to go up to Chicago for this funeral and everything was so different up there, and in the south part of it was because in the south particularly in the summer because it was so hot, if somebody died you got him in the ground. But up there they didn’t get the funeral for about a week and obviously my dad was really upset and emotional and here she was 20 years old and trying to figure out how to comfort him and it was a really stressful time. I’m sure it was hard on dad because here he’d just lost his father and just taken on the responsibility of getting married, which back then wasn’t – it was like you took care of the woman, it wasn’t like you were in a partnership with someone. She said it was really pretty difficult time, I can imagine. How traumatic.
JM: At least everyone was gathered.
BH: They got married in Tennessee. and so that’s what brought it up for me, I had always envisioned them being in the house that Mamaw lived, and then just suddenly as I’m talking I’m like oh no they would have been out of the farmhouse, I was envisioning that maybe they put them in this room, but no. They would have been at the farmhouse.
BH: And you heard about tippy tap? Mom used to have this goat named tippy tap. And backing up a little bit, pop Blake had these – they’re either called straight legged Billy goats or they’re called nervous Billy goats, and they’re these Billy goats that if you startle them, it’s part of their reflex thing that they straighten out their leg muscles and they fall over.
JM: Really bad reflex.
BM: The deal is I think that they’re really still and whatever predator was after them would leave them alone. So the rumor was that Mom said was this tourist was coming through the countryside and honked his horn and this whole herd just fell over. so he hunted down pop Blake and said “I just killed your whole heard I’m sorry” and pop Blake knew exactly what was going on and said “well, come show me” they went around the corner or whatever and they were all up. Well anyway, I don’t know if tippy tap was one of those nervous goats or not but they gave it to her when it was just a little kid and he just followed her everywhere they had a good time and finally he got so big he kept butting out the screen door so he had to go back to the heard – or she actually, and mother said she used to be able to call and he would come up and the last time she called and she was coming up on age too and tippy tap came up and had twin little goats.
BH: Mom said she was also quite a shot, and could shoot pretty accurately and then dad in the Army and all that so they took a 22 out and were shooting a bit and mom just out shot him to smithereens.
LS: So what are some of your earliest memories? Was it Brazil, or before then?
BH: I remember before then. I remember television coming in first, and this guy down the street had it, and it was amazing, can you imagine never having seen something like that, and about that time I remember as it moved on a little bit there were only 3 stations and were only part of the day, I think it was ABC, CBS and NBC for a while. I know later on those were the only things on. Then I remember someone saying “did you know such-and-such has a color television” and this was just like “oh my gosh” I mean this was like four days after someone got the first television and they’re saying a color TV? And we went down there, and it was some kids’ show where they took a piece of that plastic you know that you can put on something and then peel off and it had a bit of color on it but it was basically clear with some color on it and so on the television set you would put that thing on and then he would draw something and you would draw on the television set with him but that was the color TV set that we saw, so something was lost in the translation by the time it got to me.
BH: But the big scare was that you couldn’t sit too close to the television, because it would make you sick or blind you.
LS: You still have that! I remember that when I was little!
BH: Is that true?
JM: I don’t think so.
BH: I don’t think so, but that was big back then. and my big issue was – now we’re going to get into – we only had one TV for years and years and years and I loved Dr Kildare, that was like m favorite show of all shows, it was a doctor show with Richard Chamberlain was like 25 years old and just the best looking thing on the face of the entire earth which then I later find out was he was gay and I lusted after him for years and years and years.
LS: Maybe you could have changed him.
BH: I know. It could have been me.
JM: The reason he was gay was that he never met you.
BH: I’m feeling better now. But anyway it was on Thursday nights at 8:00 on channel 4 on NBC and back then you know Dad kind of ran the world and Dad would come in sometimes and I had waited all week, man that’s just what I waited for, and he’d come in and sit down and be like, I don’t want to watch this. and there were no remotes. “Change the channel” and I remember just feeling heartsick. Kids just couldn’t, they didn’t, so anyway. Thus my issues with my father.
BH: So I remember living in Texas, Oak ridge. I remember we had this little dog named Ginger, this little Pekinese, the meanest little … would nip at my feet all the time and my mother thought it was funny and I was just terrorized so I’d be up on the couch and mom said it was this big (small hand motion) but it scared me but sometimes I would dress it up and put a bonnet on it and put it in a stroller and it would just sit there. I would stroll it around. Where ever we lived in Texas was really dry and all the kids would run around and I remember one day we were playing cowboys and Indians and I was tied to a tree and poor Ginger got hit by a car which was really sad so all the neighborhood kids went running over to see and I’m tied to a tree, you know? And I missed Ginger. I remember that, and I did have a situation with electricicty, when we first got electricity. I think George was like coloring or something and had a little light plugged into a thing right by his coloring and I was pushing the plug and pulling it out by the cord and pushing it in and sure enough I finally pulled the cord one time too many and the electricity just shot out and hit me right here and burned me, nd I think for 2 or 3 years I would not touch anything electrical.
And I remember my dad used to fly a lot, out, and back then you walked out to the plane, it was like chain link, and I remember being really upset, because he was walking towards the sound. And in fact to this day if I’m watching a movie and it gets scary, I always cover my ears. That’s my way.
They were building Rio de Janeiro when we were there, and Mom at one time said there was this huge city that they were building out in middle of the jungle, where these six-lane highways that would go out, and there was just jungle.
[When we were kids] we used to go jump on trampolines.
Lisa: They didn’t have trampolines when you were kids?!
Becky: Yeah, they had trampolines, and what they’d do is dig a pit in the ground and the trampoline was level with the ground, and it was 50 cents an hour or something like that. That’s where lawyers got really big with the lawsuits.
Lisa: So did you guys have Brazilian friends, or were they mostly American friends?
Becky: I do remember when we first came down there, school wasn’t in session, and I remember walking down the street and we ran into some Brazilian kids, and we were teaching each other. They were really interested in learning. They’d point at something, and we’d exchange words.
Lisa: Were you fluent in portuguese?
Becky: I could sure get around. Mom was a basket case. Mom could not pick up Portuguese, and we’d go places and she would just butcher it and we were just too cool to say, “Mom”. I remember when she went out looking for those paper chickens …
Becky: [their cat] Princess Anne, do you remember why she was named Princess Anne? It was named after Princess Anne. You didn’t know she could be queen or something. She was a true Siamese, she had a kink in her tail. Blue eyes. It used to be a signal that it was pure bread We brought it back from Brazil, we drugged it with like 9000 mg of XXX. We stayed at bars when we got back and it didn’t wake up for hours
Dad: And then when it woke up it walked like this (staggers)
Becky: It did and remember the bar had that dog, a cocker spaniel, you have never seen a cat wake up that fast and RAAAR Princess Anne was runnin’!
Becky: That was a cool thing, I remember when we came back from Brazil, since I had left they had invented automatic doors and we went through customs and there’s Suzy my friend over there and I can’t wait to see her and I dove to push the door open and it opens automatically, and I’m just like (surprised)
Jenn: I remember the first time I found one of those doors, it was in a hotel, and we’re both sticking our hand out, it was like magic, you didn’t even have to step in front of it.
Becky: Blake could speak no English, and when we came back I remember he was about 5 and was supposed to start school and they recommended he watch a lot of television.
I remember Mom said you could have anything you want to eat. And I’ll make each individual person whatever they want. I remember saying I wanted a TV dinner.
Dad: I probably wanted chicken noodle soop.
Becky: I bet you did. And when we were in Brazil I remember Dad’s birthday coming up. And they didn’t have cake mixes back then, so Mom had to cook the cake from scratch, and she tried it like 3 times and it just fell every time. So Dad comes home, and there is this incredible birthday cake sitting right there, it’s just beautiful, and Dad takes a knife to cut it, and Mom had turned a cake pan upside down and frosted them, and it went CLINK! But that’s kind of how she was, she was kind of funny sometimes.
Then I remember they told us, oh I know, they were telling us – Blake was 7 years younger than I was – when they announced Blake was going to be born to us, they put out birthday napkins and I said what are these for, and they said well we’re going to have another baby. Then in Brazil, Mom was pregnant when she went down, with Bruce in Brazil, and I guess they never told me, so one day she ran out of napkins and she put out birthday napkins because that’s all she had, and I said “Oh are we having a baby?” and she’s probably out to here (big arms out) and she said, Didn’t you know? and I went, (surprise) I can’t imagine that they hadn’t told me, and she was showing and everything. But she’s your mom.