Word count: 1495
The Marathon Man
On a warm spring night, I interviewed my grandpa, James Garn McBride at 7:30pm, but it was actually 8:30pm his time because he lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. For this reason, I interviewed him over the phone. He was so happy that I asked if I could interview him. He was very enthusiastic. Even though I couldn’t see him, I knew that he was smiling. I wanted to interview my grandpa because he is one of the most, funniest, kindest, interesting people I know. My grandpa is about 6ft tall and he is very thin, because he runs long distances several days a week. He really wants to stay healthy. He has grey hair, with a little white in it. He wears glasses and sneezes really loud, but he always has a handkerchief in his pocket. Some of his clothes are the same clothes he wore 30 years ago, but his clothes are in good shape. My grandpa believes in always being prepared for emergencies, which is why he has a large storage of food and supplies, such as; toothbrushes, toothpaste, toilet paper, bottled water, dried grains, and canned goods. During the interview, while he was talking, I took notes in a notebook with a black pen. He talked slowly, with a slight, southern accent; after all, most of his childhood was spent in South Carolina.
Where were you born, you were your parents, and what was your family like when you were a kid?
Garn has gone by his middle name ever since he was a little kid. He was born August 17, 1932 in Salt Lake City, Utah, to his parents William Wallace McBride and Nancy Breta Garn. He was best friends with his brother Ralph, who was exactly two years and four months older than him. They were always best friends. They played ball, they went to ball games, and they went to church together. They got along pretty well, but occasionally, they would but heads. Before Garn was born, his parents had their first daughter named Lawana. But she died a year and a half after she was born. She died of diphtheria. Then his brother Don was born, then Marjorie, then Ralph, then Garn, then six years later Marvin was born.
What was school like, and who were your teachers?
When Garn went to school in the 1930s, they didn’t have kindergarten, so Garn went straight to first grade. When he started first grade, his hair was very long, blond, and curly. He asked his mother if she could cut his hair so he could be a boy instead of a girl. His mother cut his hair, and then at school the next day, Miss Penny asked, “Where’s Garn?” Then, one of his classmates said, “He’s right here!” Miss Penny didn’t recognize him after his haircut. When I asked him if he remembered any of his teacher’s names, he said, “I remember all of them, Sweedart!” I asked him to tell me just his elementary school teacher’s names. His first grade teacher’s name was Miss Penny. When he heard her name, he always thought of a shiny penny with Abraham Lincoln on it. In second grade he had Miss Harriot, who was also his third grade teacher. In fourth grade he had Miss Winn. In fifth grade, he had Miss Thompson, who also taught music. In sixth grade, he had Miss Harvey. All of the teachers back then were never married throughout their careers. There were rarely any male teachers.
What was the style/trend, who were your friends, and what kinds of food did you eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
When Garn was in school, all the boys wore overalls. In warm weather, they would walk to school barefoot! He also wore shorts that went to his knees and a T-shirt. The girls always wore dresses. In the winter, they wore sweaters. For breakfast, they usually ate grits and eggs, hot cereal and oatmeal. They ate their lunch in a “big trailer”, which is like a big cafeteria. He ate with his friends Tommy Clark, Harold Jeffcoat, Miriam Whithers, and Francis Mott. For dinner when he got home, his dad preferred meat, so they would always have meat. His mother preferred vegetables, so they would have vegetables too. They ate toast, milk, and water, but they never drank “pop”.
What sports did you play, and why did you start running marathons?
In high school, Garn loved sports. He played on the basketball team in the winter and in the spring,
What was your major in college, and what did you do for a career?
Garn’s major in college was chemistry and he got his Bachelor’s degree. Then he got his Master’s degree in Business Administration. Garn worked as an industrial engineer, which is somebody who designs machines. He worked for 8 hours a day, Monday through Friday. In his whole career, he only worked 1 or 2 Saturdays in his whole 40 years of employment. He has been retired 13 years and he has gone on many great vacations.
Which places have you lived?
Garn was born in Salt Lake City, then he moved to New Orleans, Louisiana. From there, he moved to Columbia, South Carolina, where he spent most of his childhood. Then he went to Provo, Utah for college and he got married. Then he and his wife, Paula, moved to Salt Lake for their first three kids were born there, Jill, Jana, and Nate. Then they moved to Richmond Virginia. Then they moved again to Orlando, Florida where their fourth child, James, was born. Then they moved to Chicago, Illinois, where their last two daughters, Cami and Sunny, were born. Then they moved to Cleveland, Ohio for a few years. Then they moved back to Salt Lake City and they have been there ever since, in the exact same house. They even have the same phone number that they have had for 35 years! His favorite place he has ever lived is Salt Lake City.
What vacations have you been on?
During Garn’s life, he has gone on many vacations such as: Austria, Italy, Slovakia, Germany, Czech Republic, Canada, Mexico, and all around in the United States including Hawaii just recently.
What are some of your favorite memories?
Some of his favorite memories were; when he spent time with his family, going to parades in the summer with his kids, when they all went swimming together, and movies and ball games with all his kids. One time, Garn took his children on a vacation; they went on a hike at the Grand Canyon. Suddenly, they realized that they couldn’t find Cami (Garn’s second to youngest daughter). Then, they saw Cami up high on top of a big rock with a very steep drop-off, and she was very close to the edge. It was about a 500 ft. drop off! He said, “When Cami was up on that rock ledge, it looked about 1 ½ feet long by 1 ½ feet wide. I for sure thought she would fall. Me and Grandma just stood there frozen in fear.” They didn’t know how they were going to get her down. Then, Garn climbed up and got her down. He said, “I was scared that Cami was scared. I will never forget that moment and it was the most scared I’ve ever been!”
I learned a lot about my grandpa by interviewing him. I was surprised that he went to school barefoot when he was a kid and that his teacher couldn’t even recognize him after he got a haircut. I liked the story he told me about the bet that he made with his friend to run a marathon for a milkshake. Even today, he makes milkshakes when I go over to his house in Salt Lake City, Utah in the summer and the winter. He really, really, really, loves milkshakes. I love milkshakes, but I wouldn’t run a marathon and bet on a milkshake.