For her 85th birthday, I interview my grandma — Carol "Gammy" Claypool.
My aunts threw a great party and asked if I'd provide the night's entertainment — an interview with the matriarch of our family tree.
I'm glad they did.
I've loved conversation my entire life.
And from the moment I saw the Talkboy in Home Alone 2 I've been obsessed with what comes out of people when the little red light is on.
Below are 80 minutes of history, memories, and wisdom from Gammy on her 85th birthday.
Dowload audio here.
Michael: All right. We're ready?
Gammy: We're ready.
Michael: I am so ready. [laughs] This is going to be fun. We have a bunch of premade questions from people, but I'm just going to ask you some questions, just the two of us. Just you and me. Forget these jokers.
Gammy: They're not there.
Michael: Yeah, they are not there. As I was talking with a bunch of people, today, a theme that came up a lot was just your creativity. Just this mad scientist well of creativity that's inside of you. I'm curious, what was the first time you felt that overtake you? What's the thing that you remember being the first thing that you're obsessed with and wanted to figure out?
Gammy: I can tell you that in my young years at school I was fully aware, suddenly, that I had math roaming around in my head. Didn't need books, everything just [makes sound] . [laughs] It was very strange, and I enjoyed it. I tutored lots of kids and used that whatever way I could.
Michael: How did that manifest as you started to do more and more creative endeavors? You have the math going on in your head, but that manifests itself into more like creative expression. The one that I'm most familiar with is the puppets. All that stuff came out, but this isn't the only thing. You've had so many interests. What are some of the ones that sparked the most in you?
Gammy: When I was about 11, I gathered a bunch of girls together that were about that age, and I had them writing books. Then, I'd have them acting them out.
Gammy: I started a bunch of groups. I can't even recall what the other ones were. That was the main one I can remember having done that.
Michael: Was it always something community? That's how I remember experiencing a lot of the puppets and whatnot. It was a group activity. Was it always a group-based thing?
Michael: Why so? What is it that entices you to the group dynamic?
Gammy: When I was 11, I went to a girls' school. There were a bunch of us at my age that lived upstairs on one flat place up there, and then kids all over. They talked about stuff. I could see that they were interested.
Although I was the youngest one, but I could see what they were interested in, so I just encouraged them to keep writing. Then, we'd act them out and have a good time.
Michael: I love that. Were there some people that were resistant?
Gammy: Oh, nobody was overly encouraged if they didn't want to do that.
Gammy: The thing is the majority of the group did because they thought that seemed like a fun thing to do.
Michael: I'm curious. This is something that I'm super fascinated by in you and in other people that I know is this ability to draw things out of people. You'd mentioned not having to encourage people too much to get involved and to be excited.
For a lot of people, it can be really difficult to bring them in and get them on board and whatnot. Is this just a super natural talent that you have, or do you have kind of a process, where it means of bringing people into this world?
Gammy: I don't know how in the world I would answer that because I have no...I mean, I was 11, 12, 13. I only reached out to them because they seemed like they were interested in stuff, and I was interested in stuff, so I encouraged them.
Gammy: What did you guys do?
Michael: I love that. I love it. Did you always think that you would have a big family? Talking about clans and groups and doing everything like that, did you always think that you'd have a big crew?
Gammy: I don't know is I could answer. Then, my family was...There were seven of us, so I was used to being in a group.
Audience Member: They wanted 12 children.
Gammy: My goodness. What are you saying?
Michael: We don't talk about the failures here.
Gammy: The odd thing was, when I married my marine, he came back from war. I got on a Greyhound bus and came out to California from Ohio. Every girl walking around there was pregnant.
Gammy: Not me. It took me three years before I had that, the first one.
Gammy: It was shocking. Every girl in the area had a baby, and I didn't. Then another three years, there was Sherrie. Another three years, there was Colleen and then Cindy. [laughs]
Michael: You had to warm up the machine.
Michael: It took a while to get going, but it was very productive after that.
Gammy: No, that was still always three years apart...
Gammy: ...but not quite that much on the last couple.
Michael: Tell me about your marine, as you put it. How did you meet, and then what was it that made you realize that he was the one?
Gammy: That's an interesting question.
Gammy: I had gotten older. I was 14, so my schooling was indifferent. My best friend and I had a bedroom downstairs, and I'd heard of the scoundrel.
Gammy: I was warned about the scoundrel. Twice, he did put leaves under the window and set them on fire.
Michael: In front of your window?
Audience Member: To get your attention.
Gammy: Yeah, to have my attention.
Michael: Oh, wow. That's a move.
Audience Member: That's a move.
Gammy: Didn't do him any good with me.
Michael: [laughs] I can't imagine so. That's arson.
Gammy: I had nothing to do with him. Then my girlfriend lived up above [inaudible 7:40] . He came in there, and that was kind of a different story. He came in there. My girlfriend knew him. I didn't have anything to do with him.
Gammy: Then he joined the Marine Corps, and when he came back in his blues, that was it.
Michael: It was the looks then. That's what...
Gammy: Not really.
Gammy: It was something about him. He had...
Gammy: ...grown up. He was somebody to make your head turn.
Gammy: This is true.
Michael: Interesting. He seemed pretty determined to get your attention though. Setting two fires in front of your house is a thing. He had his eye on you...
Michael: ...for a while.
Gammy: Maybe, partly, it was because I wouldn't pay him any attention.
Gammy: I would say that's where that came to. "All these other girls I'm dating here, so I don't know."
Michael: He had his eye on the prize, it sounds like. [laughs]
Audience Member: He did.
Michael: He comes back. He's looking sharp in his blues. How did things progress after that?
Gammy: Then he had to, of course, go back to the base, but he hung around for a while. We got more acquainted and started writing letters. Can't remember the name of the cruise that Marines go on back then.
Audience: The Med cruise.
Michael: Med cruise. Got it.
Gammy: I got letters and a proposal.
Michael: How was he as a writer?
Gammy: Probably pretty average.
Michael: Pretty average?
Audience Member: He was very mushy.
Gammy: Very mushy. You're right.
Michael: That's awesome.
Gammy: He was romantic. He was romantic all the way through this thing.
Michael: Interesting. Good at setting fires. Good at looking good. Average at writing.
Gammy: No. As he's proposing and stuff, he's doing a very good job.
Michael: I know you mentioned that you'd been waiting for a while to get pregnant and have a child. What did that waiting feel like? Did it make you more excited for the moment that you would start your family or were you getting worried?
Gammy: I was getting worried. It seemed very odd to be two years and something, and then baby takes one, two, three years.
Michael: They take some time. They don't come out right away.
Gammy: They don't.
Michael: Yeah. God did a number on that one.
Gammy: Everyone around us was having one kid after another.
Michael: [laughs] What was it like having your first, starting that family?
Gammy: It was just amazing.
Gammy: Really, yeah. I can't think anything better.
Gammy: Hey baby girl. [laughs]
Michael: [laughs] Then you had a perfect one right from the start obviously.
Gammy: This is true because I raised her.
Michael: What were those first few years like as you started your own little brood, your little family?
Gammy: It was very fun. We won't even go into that. When we went down to North Carolina and lived on the base there, it was weird because it had so many rows of houses where there's, I don't know, maybe six in one. There were two individual houses in the center of the playground, that area.
Michael: Oh, nice.
Gammy: That was really nice.
Gammy: Anyhow, it was a really good spot for Kathy to pull her wagon, her dolls, and all that good stuff.
Michael: What was your favorite thing about being a mom then and has it changed? You've had many years now of being a mom. What was your favorite thing then? Is it the same now or has it changed?
Gammy: I really liked being a mom and I think I did a pretty good job. Those are good kids.
Audience Member: [inaudible 13:12] .
Audience Member: We think very highly of ourselves as well.
Michael: No self-esteem issues.
Gammy: Then there's the grandkids and then there's the great-grandkids. It's all wonderful.
Michael: Pretend nobody else is here.
Michael: Are you more delighted about being a mom, a grandma, or a great-grandma?
Gammy: That's hard.
Michael: It's all right. You can be honest.
Gammy: No, I am all those.
Gammy: Seriously, that's what I am, all those.
Michael: Which brings you the most delight though?
Michael: When you think about it and you're like...
Audience Member: Remember who you're talking to.
Audience Member: We already know the truth. Don't worry. We know we're not it.
Gammy: You were when you were little.
Michael: Whatever the generation is, it's the newest? That's your favorite? That's where your heart's at?
Gammy: I don't know. I can't say that.
Gammy: I really can't say that. I love this whole family.
Gammy: I got more than anybody should deserve.
Michael: Which of your grandchildren is not living up to their potential the most?
Michael: I'm just kidding.
Audience Member: Say what?
Gammy: Oh, it's got to be...
Michael: Oh, now she's ready to answer that one.
Gammy: Because I'm not sure yet, Milo.
Gammy: He's like three months old but he's adorable.
Michael: Get tons of tickles every month. [laughs]
Gammy: Oh, is he cute? Oh, my goodness. He's pretty perfect.
Michael: You have so many grandkids now and great-grandkids and whatnot. Were you just over the moon when you found out you were going to be a grandma?
Gammy: Oh, my gosh, yes.
Gammy: Oh, yeah. Every time. Melody just had another baby. Yeah, every time.
Michael: You're just doing your happy dance every announcement.
Gammy: Yes, I am. I am, indeed.
Gammy: They're all adorable. Perfect. I thought you should know that [inaudible 15:46] .
Michael: Oh, thank you.
Gammy: Just in case.
Michael: I appreciate you bringing me into the confidence fold that we've...
Gammy: What I do appreciate about you...
Michael: Oh, thank you. I'm ready.
Gammy: ...is that you're married.
Gammy: I've got a lot of boys out there and they aren't.
Gammy: Here's a concern for me.
Michael: Yeah, I was thinking for a second that it was going to be about me. The fact that it's about Nelly, I'm good with that.
Gammy: Congratulations, buddy. I'm excited about that too.
Audience Member: [inaudible 16:37] .
Michael: There is some questions in here about some of your houses. I have only ever been aware of the Grapevine House. All of my memories are there. Tell me about some of the other places that you've lived. Obviously, you've had to move around quite a bit. Do you have a memory of your favorite place?
Audience Member: That'll be Marvin Street.
Gammy: Yes. Actually, the first house we ever bought was on Marvin Street in Oceanside. We really enjoyed it but we had to leave a lot behind. When we came back to this adorable little house, how many kids did we have then?
Audience Member: Five.
Gammy: We had one bathroom.
Audience Member: Five girls.
Gammy: I had a high schooler that had to get in the morning first. Then the junior higher that had to get in and out.
Gammy: Then a husband after that to get in and out. Then the little guys had to go to school. We thought it was probably time, as much as we loved that house, to get something a little bit bigger with two bathrooms.
Michael: Two bathrooms is big. Not that this is about me, but I remember we did the one bathroom thing for a while. I don't remember, it was around Valentine's Day or our anniversary or something.
We went out to dinner and we got food poisoning and we were both sick at the same time in one bathroom. That was it. I had papers on a loan drafted up that week.
Michael: It was too much marriage.
Gammy: Too much throwing up.
Michael: Marvis, that was your favorite house before you had to grow out of it into a larger place.
Michael: Was it Grapevine right after that?
Gammy: Yeah. We were shown a lot of houses, but Guff drove the church bus and he had gone past that...They were setting out the post. We went and saw them and we bought it. [laughs] As quick as that.
Michael: How much was it?
Gammy: I think it was 28.
Audience Member: Less than a car. 28...
Michael: 28 thousand? Unbelievable.
Audience Member: How much was your first house?
Michael: How much was your first house?
Gammy: Marvin Street. It was such a little house. $12,000, that's what it was.
Audience Member: Can I interject something about that Marvin Street house?
Audience Member: We met Dawn at that Marvin Street house.
Michael: Oh, OK. This is why you were so excited about the Marvin Street house.
Audience Member: She lived three doors down.
Gammy: She was like part of our family. She and her brother. Then, when we moved on Marvin, they'd come over and hang out.
Michael: Nice. What was it that enraptured you about this house as it was going on sale? You said that you saw a lot of houses, but this one you just snapped up. What was it?
Audience Member: The Grapevine house.
Michael: The Grapevine house, yes.
Gammy: I don't know, I just really like the house. It was half-acre. That's nice. Can do with that. It was just quiet and it was right down the school, down the street. There weren't very many houses back then, and you could look out my side window towards Oceanside, and the only thing you could see is orange groves, no houses.
Michael: That's wild, because there's tons of houses there now.
Gammy: [laughs] Then it dipped down, remember?
Michael: Yeah. I mean, I don't remember, but believe the vision.
Gammy: It dipped down there on our side. There was no houses on that side. Then it was when you had your baby I came back. They had built it all up, so the houses are way above...
Michael: That was the prosperity coming to meet me, and greet me.
Michael: Paving a path. It was surely disappointed, but it was coming for me.
Gammy: No, I still have my house and my piece of property.
Michael: That's wild.
Audience Member: That's a lot of ATVs.
Gammy: Oh, Cliff was always on that thing trying to kill himself.
Gammy: I'm sure.
Audience Member: And me?
Gammy: And you.
Michael: I'm curious at the time, my memory of this is...Look, all that I remember is your house, neighborhood, there's the Quonset hut and the pool, and all that kind of stuff. Did you build all of that?
Gammy: The Quonset hut was there for workers. The guy had owned more property down below originally, and he raised beams and stuff so his workers were in the Quonset hut.
Michael: Got you.
Gammy: That was there, yeah.
Gammy: Then the pool we put in. Cliff said, "Do you want a volleyball court or a pool?" [laughs] We put the pool in.
Gammy: We got too much money out of that other house that we had enough money to put a really nice pool out back there.
Michael: Oh nice. That's so wild. First house was $12,000. Do you remember what you turned it for?
Michael: Do you remember what you sold it for?
Michael: Wait, 57?
Gammy: Something. It was a lot.
Michael: You bought it for 12. You bought the next place for 28 and you sold the first one for 57?
Gammy: I was shocked that we got that.
Michael: Dang. Nice work.
Gammy: My husband...
Michael: It was the math in your head. That's good.
Gammy: [laughs] My husband was a smart guy.
Gammy: Was he working at Credit Union then?
Audience Member: Not yet.
Audience Member: He would have came back when you bought that house.
Audience Member: I had turned 16 when you bought it and he was already out of [inaudible 23:57] .
Gammy: He was vice president at Navy Fit. No not Navy Fit. I'm in love with Navy Fit.
Michael: He was with the Marine Corps. [laughs]
Gammy: He worked his way up at that.
Michael: Now we'll have a lot of memories about that house. Sorry, rewinding a bit. One of the things that was asked a bunch and I lost my place which is really discouraging because it was such a top notch tie in that I would've been proud of myself but I'm OK with not being proud of myself.
Gammy: You'll be proud now.
Michael: One of the questions that we had was when this...I remember what it was. You have a lot of things that you studied and I was curious. I know you have a number of degrees and things. What was your favorite thing to have studied?
Gammy: I don't know if I'd say that I have a degree.
Audience Member: Certificates.
Michael: Yeah, certificates. Sorry.
Gammy: I was offered to go to college for free [inaudible 25:14] married that marine and have kids.
Gammy: Anyhow, I don't know. I don't remember how to answer that question.
Audience Member: Can we hear what you just said, because this is cool. She chose to get married but she had been offered a scholarship to study science and pretty much school for college but you said, "No, I'm good."
Michael: Interesting. Tell me a little bit about that decision. What was the scholarship for?
Michael: Science. Broad science?
Gammy: I guess because the family had this...My grandfather, all his daughters way back then all went to college. Which is unusual but he had enough money to do it too. Anyhow, I said, "No thank you."
Michael: Why so?
Gammy: Because I was going to go meet my husband or I got married here. When he came back but no, I had already decided what I was doing with my life. It was a good one. A good choice
Michael: Absolutely. I agree wholeheartedly.
Gammy: You wouldn't be here.
Michael: I know. Just poof. That whole thing kind of goes. There's some tangential universe where you're doing science and I'm not around.
Gammy: This is true.
Michael: I know that you did study a lot of things at MiraCosta and I know...
Gammy: I liked MiraCosta. I took a lot of those classes after papa had passed away. I like taking classes over there.
Michael: What were some of your favorite things to have studied over there?
Gammy: The brilliant one that you love.
Michael: Hit me.
Gammy: I was taking many other classes. Her mother came with me and we took a drama class, and then after that drama class was over the drama teacher had a puppeteer come in to teach us how to make puppets.
Gammy: There we were. It was all good there and the other part that I liked was writing the scripts and stuff. Not that I ever knew I could write but I did.
Michael: That brings an obsession into your life from that point forward.
Gammy: A little. They had to fall in.
Gammy: It's like they were good puppeteers all along.
Michael: This is the coercion thing that I was fascinated in a little bit earlier, but we'll cover that.
Gammy: They didn't have any choice.
Michael: If you made them, then they had to.
Gammy: If I was in there with the puppet stage, and there were kids, I think they loved it, they were very good at it there was not a one that couldn't do that and they take on the personnel of the puppet.
Audience Member: There was one. One [inaudible 28:43] . She was at college.
Michael: She was at college. It's what I heard.
Gammy: Oh, that college kid. She invited us to come up and do puppets.
Michael: If you hadn't gone to college, maybe there would be another better me.
Michael: As we've learned, it's very important there should've been more me, I think.
Gammy: Or maybe, if you'd have come over, you did do puppets all good.
Michael: I got in on that.
Gammy: I know you were there.
Michael: I was coerced. I was coerced into the puppetry. What was it that enraptured you about the puppet, when you took the class, because when someone comes in and shows you how to this thing, but it doesn't wash over you. You're just like, "What?"
Gammy: No, that was it. I was all for that.
Michael: Yes, your calling.
Gammy: Yeah, because it had have had everything in it, you'd write scripts. I really liked to sew on stuff, so making puppets was a blast. Then the kids liked the puppets, and then, we made the walking puppets.
Michael: I was talking with Jessica about those earlier.
Michael: She soiled herself, with one those coming out of closet on her.
Gammy: Little frightening.
Gammy: Almost human, but not quite.
Michael: There is a lot there. I guess that's what I'm interested in, is you have puppets and it seems to pull in a bunch of your interests, the ability to write a narrative and a story, and to work collaboratively with a lot of people and all of these things.
I know what I'm like, when I get obsessed with something...What did your space look like as you start going deep into puppeteering?
Gammy: It looked like a cyclone when we were making puppets.
Gammy: Fortunately, puppet was all courage and he did the sound and stuff because he did like those things. Everybody seemed to be interested and it was all fun.
Audience Member: How did you convince Dad to be so obsessed, how did this whole thing go down?
Gammy: OK, now think about the fact that if I was doing something, would your dad support me in every way he possibly could.
Audience Member: And you guys had taken a speech...
Gammy: He was good with...
Audience Member: You guys had taken a speech class together right, you and dad? You got the book for standard...
Michael: ...for writing, because I remember, you at the time you were doing a lot of work with church and churches in the neighborhood and you were working with youth groups and just sharing stories through this script writing process and whatnot. Can you tell me how you got in to that and what that looked like during this time?
Gammy: It seemed an awful lot of fun and it's with the wonders, they would invite me to come down with my troop, which I thought was a lot of fun I don't know if they were annoyed or not, but it was fun. Anyhow, so much went into that and we worked with the youth group. That's funny, I've got to go back to that.
Michael: Yeah, please.
Gammy: The first puppets...Kids had some puppets. We had junior high and I decided that, instead of doing little skits I decided I'd have them do puppets. It was a fun.
Gammy: It was just kids' puppets. There always had to be some skit coming. They did with the puppets, instead of just staying behind the stage. Anyhow, that was another funny thing to have done but we did that too.
Michael: One thing that I can't remember, who was it I was talking with, they mentioned this -- I think it was with my mom -- we talked about how when we were in Brazil and we are working with the kids down there and the puppets, that was the first time that I remember seeing people really catch on to your excitement for this.
Gammy: People in Brazil were fantastic.
Michael: Oh, my gosh they were nuts about it. Yeah, absolutely.
Gammy: I guess there was one group that was way out. You probably know more about that now but I remember that they were so excited about this and they got their puppets and they were out in the fireplaces with those and they continued doing that.
Michael: Like you were saying, they were amazing. What do you get excited to see when you take something like puppeteering to kids?
Gammy: I can tell you my best thing I've done recently.
Gammy: I had all my grandchildren come over and they all made puppets.
Gammy: That was the coolest thing to have them...Your kids too.
Gammy: Have all those kids over there and they were just excited about puppets.
Michael: There's the puppet but is there something really excites you about what it means for people. Is it because certain people are able to get into it in a way that they weren't able to, maybe, express themselves before, is it the creativity in the design of the puppet, that you get excited about? What's the spark that you like seeing when you share puppet creation with people?
Gammy: I've got a lot of schools and taught the kids to do puppets. I really enjoyed that, because it's something they've never had any association with. They did go home with their puppets, and that's all good. I like doing that for a while but...
Michael: [laughs] I remember thinking how funny it was. Especially in Brazil, how funny it was...There was some people who wanted to get themselves into the puppet, and there were some people who just went the opposite direction. It was like they have the alter ego that was waiting in them to come out as manifested by this puppet.
Gammy: That's funny.
Michael: Do you have a favorite alter ego in the puppets that you've created?
Audience Member: Oh, my gosh, yes. I think we know, so we'll say, "One, two, three, Herc."
Michael: Herc? [laughs] Tell me about Herc.
Audience Member: [inaudible 36:33] .
Audience Member: Is that a Lion?
Audience Member: A lion?
Gammy: A lion.
Michael: Because you got...I don't...OK. Describe Herc to me physically. Then we'll talk about his characteristics.
Gammy: Thank you, think I'm waiting. I think it was very big, really big. Big mouth. Looked like a lion.
Audience Member: I think you took both of your hands to work it. [inaudible 37:09] It was a stuffed animal that you [inaudible 37:12] .
Audience Member: It was.
Gammy: I did.
Michael: It's a stuff. OK.
Audience Member: I won it. It's not very fun for them.
Gammy: That's right. You are so right.
Michael: Maybe you should come up and I should ask you how you feel about Herc.
Michael: You and the stuff on Colin's.
Gammy: I forgot about that.
Gammy: I could not [inaudible 37:40] .
Michael: Tell me.
Colleen: I won this giant lion at Knott's Berry Farm. Our house is small. There is not room for a lion. This is big, it's big as a human. It took a little bit, but she kept sneaking out of my room a little bit at a time.
Michael: One Piece of stuffing.
Colleen: Exactly. Why this is stink? Am so stink and skinny. Then all of a sudden, she's by the puppet stage, and she's got her hand in it, and she is telling the dumbest one-liners. She can't even remember even...
Gammy: "I'm just a lion lying around."
Gammy: How can you be mad at a mom for stealing your stuffed animal, unstuffing it, and then giving it that voice?
Colleen:: Oh, yes, "I'm not lying."
Gammy: "And I'm not lying."
Gammy: There you go.
Colleen: I'm brilliant, and to know that that sound intelligent...
Colleen: When I'm 85, you can interview me, and I'll have a bigger story.
Michael: Bigger story about...
Michael: What was it about Herc that you liked voicing so much? Was it that you had an opportunity to tell silly jokes, and be goofy and totally looney?
Gammy: Exactly. It was just goofy. Should've named it Goofy.
Gammy: I liked the lion. It was a funny lion, made me laugh. It did get all the jokes.
Michael: I like this idea that you're puppeteering a lion, but it sounds almost like it's possessing you.
Gammy: Then I wouldn't have to write out the jokes.
Michael: They wrote themselves?
Gammy: No, I said I had to write out the jokes. [laughs]
Michael: Oh, you did?
Gammy: You can't give that lion credit.
Michael: Do you have a joke or a puppet that you were most possessive about, like, "Nobody can touch this one. That one's mine"?
Gammy: I can't imagine.
Audience Member: Can't imagine that.
Audience Member: I never used Herc. Did anybody else?
Audience Member: That's true. None of us ever...
Gammy: Maybe you were embarrassed.
Michael: You were worried about what would happen if you used Herc, the jokes that would come out. It sounds like a very terrifying experience.
Gammy: Maybe your quote's my favorite. I don't remember.
Gammy: Seriously, I don't remember, but I might've...
Michael: Herc was your...
Gammy: ...It was unique enough.
Michael: I love that. [laughs] I love the simpatico of you and Herc.
Michael: You were the author, of course. They have your name on it, but you co-writing these amazing dad jokes together...
Gammy: Was with Herc.
Michael: With Herc, yeah.
Gammy: We were working on it together.
Michael: All right.
Gammy: We're all serious here now.
Michael: [laughs] We got to rein it back in. This was a professional thing we were doing, and I don't want to...
Audience Member: Can you have her tell us about her coding experience?
Michael: Oh, yeah. Mom would like to know about your coding experience. That was one of the things that you studied at MiraCosta, I understand.
Gammy: Yes. It was interesting. There was one seriously big building that was the guts of the thing. You had to work in another building to do your typing in, and you'd send it over to the building. It was bizarre.
Michael: The computer building?
Gammy: Yeah. That's where they poke the...I don't know what you call it now, poke the holes. Anyhow, it was weird.
Michael: I remember so much of my interest in the actual use of computers was guided by you and your fascination with computers. I remember ruining our first computer...
Michael: ...and you coming and trying to fix it. My dad didn't know anything about computers, and you were trying to help us out and fix that. All the games that you would have, and you'd have printer, like the dot matrix. You're always printing out "Happy birthday" banners for people.
Gammy: I was a nerd. What are you going to do?
Michael: I love it. Those are very formative memories for me about the joy of computer science, the creativity that came from being able to make this tool do something that you felt expressed you.
Gammy: I like being able to do that. I didn't have to try to write it out. You could get on the computer.
Gammy: I can do that.
Michael: I want to make sure that we get to some of these questions. I'm going to shift gears a little bit. These are in no particular order, but we're going to knock them out as best we can. Your son, Cliff, asks what your earliest memory is.
Gammy: My earliest [laughs] memory...
Audience: [inaudible 43:26] chicken coop...
Audience: ...being run over by bikes, being run over by car...
Gammy: Being run over by bikes, being run over by cars but younger than...
Audience Member: Electrocuting yourself?
Audience Member: Peeing on something and electrocuting yourself?
Gammy: All those things.
Michael: Wait, hold up.
Michael: You electrocuted yourself by peeing on something?
Audience: Barbed wire.
Michael: Barbed wire.
Audience: Not barbed wire, electric wire.
Michael: Electric wire.
Gammy: It would have had to been a bad cord.
Michael: Wait. How does this happen?
Gammy: I don't know. I was a baby running around in my diaper.
Michael: You were a baby.
Michael: This wasn't like, "I wonder what would happen if I peed on electrical wire?"
Gammy: No. I'm sorry. I was very not that.
Audience Member: Do you remember that, or is that something you were told?
Gammy: Remember, it's a story that I know. It's probably always been in there.
Audience Member: She and her brothers were known as the spring brats.
Michael: The spring brats?
Gammy: Oh yeah.
Audience Member: They used to ride over her with their bicycles because they dared her to lay on the street. She always would take a dare.
Gammy: I'd take the dare.
Audience Member: Always.
Gammy: Not anymore.
Michael: Really? Just in case it didn't get picked up. You always had to take a dare. [laughs] What were some of the most ridiculous dares that you had to say yes to?
Gammy: Nothing much more than getting ridden over by bike. [laughs]
Michael: Nothing much worse than getting ridden over by a bike.
Gammy: No, I'm saying, nothing more dramatic than that.
Michael: It's funny. l wonder...
Gammy: I didn't put up with anything from anybody.
Michael: I believe it.
Gammy: I was a mean, tough kid. I seriously was.
Audience Member: Please tell us more about that.
Gammy: Thank you.
Michael: It's funny because I, up until recently, after maybe putting my health at risk, could not say no to a dare either.
Michael: I'm curious. If I dared you right now...
Gammy: Go ahead.
Michael: Now your obstinance has shifted gears, like, "I don't have to prove anything to you."
Gammy: It's true. When I was a kid, I was terrible brat.
Gammy: I shouldn't go on with that.
Audience Member: No, you shouldn't.
Michael: You could. What were...?
Gammy: Here's the deal.
Michael: There we go. That's it.
Gammy: My brother had asthma very bad.
Michael: It's a great story.
Gammy: The next brother...
Gammy: Wait. The next brother was a nice kid.
Gammy: I was the youngest.
Gammy: If they dared me to do something, I was going to do it.
Gammy: We had many a scraps on the way to school, in the snow, whatever. I would take them down.
Gammy: It's always boys. I certainly wouldn't deal with a girl. The biggest purpose for that...My littlest brother, we were coming home from the movies and this big kid tried to hit him with a bat. There I was, in the snow, waiting for him to go to school.
Gammy: He was pretty big, but I beat him pretty bad. Ended up waiting for the principal. He got [inaudible 47:18] and terrible happened to him.
Audience Member: Your little brother was actually bigger than you, was older than you?
Gammy: No, no, no. This is David, Little David. Anyhow, he didn't do anything. I was a little teeny girl killing this kid. I needed it. [laughs] It was all right. It was cool. That was my reputation.
Gammy: If they needed to be taken out, because I was a girl, I would take them out. If they needed it. Only if they did something like that, like they did with my brother.
Michael: How many people would you estimate you took out?
Gammy: Innumerable. [laughs]
Gammy: A lot.
Michael: Wow. That's cool. You're the enforcer. This is a daily thing, then.
Gammy: No, not that. Probably once a week, maybe.
Michael: Once a week.
Gammy: Maybe every other week. Only if somebody did something way out of line.
Audience Member: Once a week.
Audience Member: They actually take them out.
Gammy: You take them out.
Gammy: Maybe you all missed this. My father, because it was the years when there was no work, he became a boxer. I wanted to be a boxer. I followed in his steps and learned from him how to do these things.
Michael: Street boxing.
Gammy: I was good.
Michael: What's the worst thing that you ever did to one of these kids?
Gammy: I don't think I ever did anything that they didn't deserve.
Michael: That doesn't answer the question, though. Let me rephrase. What offense deemed the worst punishment?
Gammy: Like the kid that hurt my brother? I get down in the snow and pound them out.
Audience Member: What was that? You get down in the snow and what?
Gammy: Pounded them out.
Michael: Pounded them out. Kneaded them like bread.
Audience Member: I was asking her the other day what she liked to do when she was a child. She did say she [laughs] liked to fight. I'm pretty sure, every offense -- it didn't matter what the offense was -- it was the same result of...
Michael: ...punishable by death.
Audience Member: ...take them out.
Audience Member: It was all...
Audience Member: She's a girl. There was no punishment.
Michael: Like a vigilante, you're like the Dark Knight.
Gammy: I had the encouragement of my brothers.
Michael: Oh, I'm sure. They were like, "Watch my sister. She's going to take out so many people. It's amazing."
Gammy: Here's the beauty of this. My brother Tommy was a big buff. He looked like a football player. He had asthma so bad, he couldn't do anything. That was convenient. They have him stand by because they had a second fear.
Michael: Yeah, which is great because then he doesn't have to risk the asthma and then get beat up the next time. That's awesome.
Gammy: He wouldn't have let them hurt me. It was OK.
Michael: It sounds real OK.
Gammy: I had a lot of fun. I was mean. I'm sorry.
Michael: It's good. Some things are coming into perspective, though.
Michael: I'm sitting here. I'm like, "OK. Maybe it comes from that side of the tree."
Audience Member: It's a funny story. [inaudible 51:37] . One time, Cliff was at the house. He came upon them, and she didn't know he was there. He loves the story because she immediately took this strong stance, like, "I'm going to take you out."
Gammy: I didn't know who it was. What was he doing in my house anyhow?
Audience Member: Probably 20 years ago, so it was a long time ago.
Audience Member: She didn't get scared that there was a man in the house. She stepped back, and her hands went up.
Michael: About to pound you out.
Gammy: I don't know if I have the energy anymore. Who's going to support me?
Michael: I have asthma. I'm just here to watch.
Audience Member: Explains why you were so brave taking the bus from Ohio to Sacramento.
Audience Member: That's true.
Gammy: Pardon me?
Audience Member: You took the bus from Ohio to Sacramento.
Gammy: Why not?
Gammy: I'll tell you, I could have pounded somebody out on that trip.
Audience Member: Was there someone?
Gammy: The bus driver.
Audience Member: What did he do?
Gammy: He was done with his thing new one whatnot, and he wanted me to stay and go to the whatever the heck was going on there. I had to pound him out.
Michael: Yeah. Better pound him out. That's getting a T shirt.
Michael: Just wearing those for sure. We're going to make them look like those gaming kids' ones except they just say, "Better pound him out."
Audience Member: Or the grey pants. I've to wear them.
Michael: Good stuff. So many questions, so we're going to carry on. Cliff also asks, "What do you remember of your parents when they worked together?"
Gammy: My mother was a hot-headed redhead. My dad [inaudible 54:17] . She would [laughs] take a cover.
Gammy: Anyhow, she was overprotective of us and under-protective of my dad.
Gammy: Nobody was supposed to touch us ever. We were perfect. Do you believe? [laughs]
Audience Member: ...which leads into the story of kindergarten.
Audience Member: Yes.
Gammy: I went to kindergarten, and somebody behind me cut my hair.
Audience Member: No, pulled your hair.
Audience Member: No.
Gammy: What was the other one?
Audience: Dipped your hair...
Gammy: ...in the ink. I knew it was my hair.
Audience Member: [laughs]
Michael: Someone dipped your hair in ink.
Gammy: My mother was appalled, red-headed Irishwoman.
Michael: Did she pound that kiddo?
Gammy: I don't have to go to school.
Audience Member: You didn't go back to school? What, you didn't go to kindergarten ever again?
Gammy: I didn't need it. [laughs]
Michael: You already have the math in your head. It was good. Natalie asks, "What are your favorite places that you've traveled?"
Gammy: We were talking about that day. I loved up in New Hampshire.
Audience Member: New England.
Audience Member: The New England area.
Gammy: The New England area, that whole area. I don't know whether it was one or two different trips that were so nice. I don't know. Anyhow...
Audience Member: They were both nice.
Gammy: It was lovely. Beautiful.
Michael: We've answered this one, but Anaya asks, which I feel like this is a good corollary, what you were like as a kid.
Gammy: Don't answer that.
Gammy: Do not answer that to her.
Michael: I'll send the last section to her.
Gammy: That's what I was thinking, that that little girl can take anybody out.
Michael: [laughs] Hartley asks when you first drove a car, and what that car was.
Gammy: It was annoying.
Gammy: I don't know. I might've had three kids by then, but...
Audience Member: I was with you [inaudible 56:44] . [laughs]
Gammy: Which one?
Audience Member: When you had to get somebody from school and you didn't know how to drive a stick, that's all there was. I remember getting in the car with you...
Gammy: Silly little girl.
Audience Member: What, I was probably nine?
Gammy: Possibly, but that was probably the right story.
Gammy: I shouldn't be driving.
Michael: [laughs] Mom asks, "You've made a lot of meals in your time as a mother. What was your favorite thing to make?"
Gammy: That is so hard to think of. So many things. I don't know if I can think of one particular thing. We were talking about that flank steak with the stuffing in it in the pan, and then I'd take the bell...
Audience Member: Round steak and red gravy. You called it round steak and red gravy.
Gammy: Then, we'd have bell peppers -- unfortunately, they only had yellow back then, or the green -- and stuffed those with the rice.
Gammy: I can't remember what else. Anyhow, that was good.
Michael: Round steak and red gravy, you said? That sounds good.
Gammy: That was all in the pan, and then that stuff was pretty good.
Michael: I love that.
Gammy: I love it more now that you got the other color of bell pepper.
Michael: [laughs] The other color peppers?
Gammy: I love the bell peppers.
Michael: It's not going to be round steak and orange gravy.
Gammy: I only eat the rice out, because I didn't like the peppers.
Michael: Mom continues you and Dad were super young and didn't have much when you started out. You told me stories about you eating ketchup for dinner and washing your hair with dish soap or something like that. You two love birds were survivors. What were some creative ways you stretch a dollar?
Gammy: I don't know we were talking about that. Fortunately, we lived on Camp Hamilton and they had a truck that came by that would credit you. Of course we were careful about that runover or you would have to be paying it off with your income. We were very thrifty with that.
Pop, could've gone to the basement and eaten it anytime. I mean that was his privilege. If we didn't have stuff at home he would not let me sit there I would have just ketchup.
Gammy: It didn't happen that often, we were careful, but it would happen.
Michael: What do you think was the most important aspect of your relationship together that made it all work?
Gammy: I put him first he put me first simple as that.
Michael: Love it. A hundred percent both ways?
Michael: That's good, that's good stuff. Mom asked, she says you and dad were always a good team. What were your favorite projects that you guys worked on together?
Gammy: The kids.
Michael: Oh wait no, she actually continues, "Besides raising your awesome kids of course."
Gammy: OK. Read the whole thing again.
Michael: OK, you and Dad were always a great team. What was your favorite project you worked on together besides raising your awesome kids of course?
Gammy: Oh, I see that's different [inaudible 60:44] .
Michael: I know, I skipped the first part because I just thought maybe that wouldn't be your answer.
Gammy: The only time that I could...The few competitions there, but the time that I could think of that was really boring was... Where were we stationed in the desert?
Michael: [inaudible 61:07] .
Gammy: They did have a place where you can paint pottery and stuff. We loved doing that. Ceramics and stuff.
Michael: Clay and latte type of thing.
Gammy: She's got the other answer because, then I painted something and then he never painted either. He painted something and then I painted something and I've got some of those at the house.
Audience Member: Very cool. Also [inaudible 61:41] .
Gammy: Oh, yeah. He'd win. He never made a crust in his life and he made a crust. It was like, "OK, this is enough of this. You got to make the crust. You can't get credit for that."
Michael: Oh, you would make pies together but he would never help with the crust.
Gammy: Right. He would put them in with the men's competition and he always won because he had delicious pies.
Michael: This would be like Herc taking credit for your jokes.
Audience Member: Yes.
Gammy: No, I didn't think the crust was that important it just there came a time where he learned to make the crust.
Michael: You're a grown ass man.
Michael: I know what you're talking about. Yeah, make the crust man.
Michael: You just do it.
Gammy: He did and he won.
Audience Member: How did you help dad with fixing cars?
Gammy: With what?
Audience Member: Fixing cars.
Michael: How did you help Dad with fixing cars?
Audience Member: You had one particular job whenever you helped dad.
Gammy: I can't remember what it is.
Audience Member: You were the grunter.
Michael: What's a grunter?
Audience Member: I would say he held the flash light.
Michael: All right, so Brian asks what was your favorite activity to do as a child? I think we answered this one already, but...
Michael: ...if you have a different answer...
Gammy: Getting into trouble.
Michael: Pounding them out.
Gammy: Being naughty.
Michael: I just put, "pounding 'em out" down here.
Michael: Do you have a favorite age and stage of life?
Gammy: I think when I was raising my kids.
Michael: Raising the kids? When you had all of them are before John?
Gammy: You're bad.
Michael: I know, but now I know where I get it from.
Gammy: Without John, there wouldn't have been any challenge. Look at him now, come on.
Michael: You just had to pound them out.
Gammy: No, he was busy pumping.
Michael: You always have had great hair and skin. Do you have a secret?
Gammy: Say that again?
Michael: You've always had a great hair and skin. Is there a secret to this or just comes naturally like math.
Michael: There you go.
Michael: Math, hair, and skin.
Gammy: I've done very little, to do anything about it, except I wash. That's good. [laughs]
Michael: That's good.
Gammy: What else do I do? I don't...
Audience Member: What do you always wash with?
Audience Member: [inaudible 65:02] caress?
Michael: Caress. White caress. Now I remember, yours is the only house I've ever seen Caress in, but it's everywhere.
Gammy: The thing is, my hands would crack and be yucky and Caress seems to be the answer. How many years have I been using Caress without any problems?
Michael: I think you're keeping them in business.
Gammy: I'm trying hard.
Audience Member: No sponsor.
Audience Member: She would just put on some lipstick and she was good to go.
Michael: Lipstick and good. Uncle Linus. When did you know you were in love with Pap and how did he win your heart?
Gammy: I hate to tell you this. This is so shallow. That blue uniform, man.
Gammy: He was one good looking Marine. I got to tell you that.
Michael: If you got to use it. Right?
Gammy: I got him.
Michael: I like it.
Gammy: We did a lot of writing in between. It wasn't...
Michael: Average writer, right?
Gammy: Average writer.
Gammy: I'm just saying there was time between to communicate rather than just the blue uniform.
Michael: Was there a point where you wrote the letter real, "Look dummy, you're going to have to make another appearance because I need to see you in the suit. If we're going to keep this thing going?"
Gammy: You're silly.
Michael: I had to ask. Just trying to be thorough, is all. Do you have a favorite movie that you remember?
Gammy: Yeah, but what could I think of?
Gammy: I did have a lot of favorite movies.
Audience Member: You loved Joe Versus the Volcano.
Gammy: I don't remember Joe.
Gammy: Why would I like Joe Versus...
Audience Member: Is there a movie star you were in love with as a teenager?
Gammy: I don't remember.
Audience Member: John Wayne.
Audience Member: Yes.
Gammy: John Wayne.
Audience Member: Paul Newman was really a heart throb of hers.
Michael: Paul Newman, he's good.
Gammy: That was a little later and I was a little more very much into my husband, and not into Paul Newman. I think John Wayne was just something else.
Michael: John Wayne and a blue uniform that would have...
Gammy: They wouldn't let him in.
Michael: It'd be too much.
Michael: I hear you. I'm modifying this question a little bit, but I have so many memories of, the giant burrito, the giant chocolate bar, what is it about the giant?
Audience Member: [laughs]
Gammy: If you have as many kids at your house all the time, you need the giant burrito.
Michael: I remember the giant chocolate bar being for you.
Gammy: I don't remember the giant. I don't remember a giant bar.
Gammy: Oh, yeah. Thanks.
Gammy: I was gaining weight. I always just weighed what I weighed and then I would ski and you get to this huge chocolate bar.
Michael: That's sweet.
Audience Member: What did I say to you, mom?
Gammy: [laughs] Since am not eating it.
Gammy: I've got enough trouble. Then I did eat the chocolate bar.
Michael: Of course, you can't have chocolate in the house and not eat it
Gammy: I love chocolate.
Michael: Do you have a favorite chocolate or just if there's chocolate in it, "I'm game."
Gammy: Pretty much. I would go with...Sometimes I just love pure chocolate, but the other way too. Anything that's chocolate.
Michael: [laughs] "I'm good. Bring them my way." Mom says you had a ton of creative endeavors making a lot of dresses, outfits, gardening, all kinds of things. Did you have an item that was the biggest challenge in your creation? In seams of string or puppetry or whatnot, that you had to overcome?
Gammy: I think puppetry came easy. I'm more of those...
Audience Member: You made a suit for dad.
Audience Member: You made a suit for dad. That seemed like a challenge.
Gammy: Did I?
Audience Member: Yes. [laughs] [inaudible 70:15]
Gammy: I am good.
Gammy: Oh my goodness.
Audience Member: It was a really nice suit.
Audience Member: What about the turkey?
Audience Member: We really struggled with the turkey.
Gammy: The Turkey. We had a puppet that...
Michael: The Turkey puppet was the one that almost did you in.
Audience Member: Somebody commissioned it.
Audience Member: Somebody commissioned the Turkey. They wanted you to build them a turkey.
Gammy: I said, "Too much money has gone in here, you can't really afford this turkey."
Gammy: I would let him use it whenever he wanted. I couldn't see...
Audience Member: It was...
Gammy: ...him having to pay that much money for...
Audience Member: ...very elaborate. They'd let him see it.
Gammy: I still got it.
Audience Member: You have it and what did you do with it?
Gammy: It's in the little trailer.
Audience Member: Huh?
Michael: It's in the trailer?
Gammy: I think it's in the little...
Audience Member: What did you...
Audience Member: You made Colleen wear it.
Audience Member: ...wear it.
Michael: Oh, this is a Colleen-size turkey.
Audience Member: Oh, it's a whole person...
Michael: I have some forbidden memories around the turkey.
Audience Member: My new technique is to use the turkey to win costume contests.
Michael: Oh, nice. Nice.
Audience Member: [inaudible 71:38] me who wore the turkey for Halloween a few years back.
Michael: Oh, it's still around?
Audience Member: Yeah.
Audience Member: Yeah.
Michael: Excellent. That's not scary at all.
Audience Member: No, not terribly.
Michael: We have a few questions.
Gammy: They won't eat them up. They'd gobble, gobble. They're safe.
Michael: We have a few questions left. What is your favorite Bible verse and why?
Gammy: Hard question.
Audience Member: Remember, you told me when we were blocking for this?
Gammy: Yeah, that was on that...I prayed for John all the time.
Audience Member: Yes.
Gammy: Jeremiah 29:11.
Audience Member: Yes. What is it?
Gammy: I don't know, say a word, just a minute.
Audience Member: Something about plans.
Gammy: I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper, not to harm you. It was for Cliff, and look at him now. It's a miracle.
Michael: Yeah. [laughs]
Michael: What was the hardest thing for you in going through that transition and having to depend on God to raise Cliff up?
Gammy: What was the first part of that question?
Michael: What was the hardest part for you in actually going through this transition and living Jeremiah 29:11?
Gammy: I believed he was going to come through. I would go visit him, and take the kids with him. That really worked for him, because he loved babies.
Michael: That hope?
Gammy: The hope and the belief that God could make that happen, and he did. [laughs] Now, he's preaching to me.
Michael: With 85 years on the board, what do you think is the most important thing for someone to find to have a good life?
Gammy: You're saying an 85-year-old, how do they find...?
Michael: I hope that you've found it.
Michael: With 85 years of life, I'm curious, for someone who's trying to figure life out right now, what's your recommendation on how to get the good life? How to find happiness. How to get the things that you're after in life.
Gammy: I'm pretty content with what I got.
Audience Member: Somebody's asking if you have advice for all of us, being older and wiser than the rest of us. You're saying find contentment?
Audience Member: Be content?
Gammy: Be content, yeah.
Gammy: I said be content. The way I approach life is to be content. I know that God's going to take care of it, and I try not to make it seem like, "Ugh, misery." [laughs]
Michael: Whether it's the...
Gammy: I enjoy life, mostly.
Michael: Just have fun with it.
Gammy: I don't know, I could live another 10 years, another two minutes. I don't know.
Michael: I have one last question, and this one's for me. I saved my question for last. What is it that you get most excited by in other people? Whether it be someone that you just met or someone that you've known for a long time, what's something that you see in other people that gets you going?
Gammy: A lot of instances, it's if they're not a Christian and become one. That would be the main thing.
Michael: A belief in God?
Gammy: Uh-huh, because then, they'd have the peace that I have. Although sometimes, I'm Screwy Louie, but...
Gammy: ...I do have peace, and I would like to see other people to be sure of what life is like.
Michael: I like that. Finding the common ground that you like to find with people is that contentment. The only place that you've found it is hope and God, because life can just be too nutty.
Gammy: It is too nutty sometimes.
Michael: I love that. Is there anything that you want to say that I didn't ask about that you'd like to share before we end?
Gammy: [laughs] I don't know. We had a good time.
Michael: We had a great time.
Gammy: I think you covered as much as I think I could cover.
Michael: [laughs] Good. Awesome. I like to hear that.
Gammy: I enjoyed you.
Michael: Thank you. I enjoyed chatting with you. Thank you for this time.
Gammy: You're welcome. [inaudible 77:20] .
Michael: [laughs] Happy birthday.
Gammy: Thank you.
Audience Member: ...has a question. She wants to know what's your favorite animal is, and your favorite color?
Gammy: My favorite color is green. My favorite animal? I like drawing horses.
Michael: Horses? OK.
Gammy: I did. I can't draw anymore.
Gammy: That's the thing. I like drawing trees and horses.
Michael: I will ask one follow up to the animal thing. Ruby asked me this today when I was getting all this stuff set up. Would you rather be an animal or a robot?
Gammy: That's interesting.
Michael: I'd agree.
Gammy: I think she's adorable.
Gammy: Then I would rather be an animal.
Michael: An animal?
Audience Member: A nice animal. Maybe a puppy dog.
Michael: OK puppy. Does it have a breed, or?
Gammy: I tend to like German Shepherds. I have one.
Michael: A nice German Shepherd. I like that.
Michael: All right. I think we covered it all. Thanks, Jamie. Happy birthday.
Gammy: I thought that was going to be horrible.
Gammy: You laughed with me.
Michael: Of course.
Gammy: That's what did it. Like somebody's going to come and drill you.
Michael: No. I don't drill. I just like to talk with people.
Gammy: Thank you.
Michael: Of course. Thank you.
Michael: Excellent. I agree.
Gammy: A little silly at first.
Michael: Yes. I enjoyed getting to hear so many stories. That was...
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