The informant is a Freshman at USC studying Biology. As a young boy, he learned many lessons from his grandfather. He tells about his experience with his grandfather trying to get him to eat watermelon at a family picnic.
Donovan: “Okay so my grandfather was the one who told me the story of Watermelon Wilson. My grandfather was a man of few words and everything I learned from him was from watching him and taking his example and examining his presence as the man of the house. And I remember we were at a picnic, it was just a family picnic we had at the park nearby.”
Me: “How long ago was this?”
Donovan: “I was about 7 years old. We had annual picnics. So for some reason, I didn’t trust the watermelon they were serving. Somebody ate it and said it wasn’t good so I was not trying to try it. And my grandpa picked out some good pieces for me because he wanted me to eat it, and I was refusing. So he sat me down and asked if I like watermelon, and I said “I don’t know if I like watermelon” and he said, “all black people like watermelon”. Then he tells me this story. The story is about this guy named Watermelon Wilson, and Watermelon Wilson was the first person to ever carry around a lot of watermelons. He carried them around with him and tried to get people to try them. So one day he comes to this community of black people and there’s this little house that everyone was scared to go in. So he’s passing out the watermelon: some people are trying it, and some people aren’t. So there’s this teenager. This little black teenager. He goes up to Watermelon Wilson and he says “I’ve never had a watermelon and I don’t plan on trying one.” Watermelon Wilson says “Okay, I’ll make you a bet. If you spend the night in the haunted shack, I will never try to give you watermelon ever again”. So the kid goes to the shack at night, falls asleep, and wakes up to a demon staring at him. The demon says, “If you don’t eat your watermelon, you’re coming with me.” So the teenager gets up and runs all the way back, straight to Watermelon Wilson and says “I want every watermelon you have, right now.” So he and Watermelon Wilson go spread the word about how good watermelon is.”
Me: “To the black community?”
Donovan: “Yeah, so that black community got it, and then they spread the word to the other communities, and now all black people supposedly like watermelon.”
Me: “So when your grandpa told you about the story, you started eating watermelon?”
Me: “So why is that story significant to you?”
Donovan: “Because I love watermelon to this day. But most importantly, that was the first time my grandfather sat me down and told me a story. Ya know, most grandparents want to give you those stories, and that was the first one I got from him.”
I personally find this story really random but interesting. I too, am half African American, but I’ve never heard the story of Watermelon Wilson. I’d be curious to know if there are other versions of this narrative within the African american community. It’s also interesting that the story implies that black culture embraces the stereotype that all African Americans like watermelon. It gives them a unique identity of their own. Although I don’t know that I would’ve believed the story or understood the associations of demons with watermelon, the story was a fun listen. I also admired the informant’s significance of associating Watermelon Wilson as an important bonding moment for him and his grandfather.