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Mary Cherry

Mary Cherry was born Mary Cornelia Kyle on March 18, 1924, in Manteo, Virginia, to Annie Mae Shelton Kyle and Samuel Gibson Kyle. Her mother could trace her family back four generations to Washington Lomax. Her family moved from Virginia to Tarrytown, in upstate New York, in 1926. Cherry’s father was sexton for the local Episcopal church, but her family were members of Shiloh Baptist Church in Tarrytown. Cherry attended F.R. Pearson Elementary School, where she was a good student who loved to read. At age 15, while a student at Washington Irving High School, Cherry met her future husband, Lamon Q. Cherry of nearby Ossining, New York. Graduating from high school in 1942, during World War II, Cherry found employment at Eastern Aircraft for two years, then worked briefly for Reader’s Digest.

In 1946, Cherry married Lamon and lived for a while in the Bronx, New York. The couple then relocated to Ossining, New York. There, Mary found employment with the Frank Novelty Company, which was owned and operated by recent Jewish immigrant, Al Franken. The company made prayer cards and other paper and plastic products for church use. Soon, her husband became Franken’s most trusted employee, and Cherry was able to offer seasonal employment and after school jobs to neighborhood teenagers, especially in the African American community.

Cherry is the mother of Lamon Q. “Quincy” Cherry, Jr., Rose Q. Cherry and Cheryl Cherry Taylor McMillan. She has several grandchildren. Rose Q. Cherry, Mary Cherry’s daughter, wrote the history of her husband's family in The Cherry Outlaw Families of Bertie County, North Carolina, which was published in 2004.

A member of the Star of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Cherry lives near her children in Atlanta, Georgia.

Accession Number

A2006.113

Sex

Female

Interview Date

10/11/2006

Last Name

Cherry

Maker Category
Middle Name

Kyle

Organizations
Schools

Washington Irving High School

F.R. Pearson Elementary School

First Name

Mary

Birth City, State, Country

Manteo

HM ID

CHE03

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

New York, New York

Favorite Quote

I Love You Truly.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

3/18/1924

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Spaghetti, Meatballs

Short Description

Production worker Mary Cherry (1924 - ) worked for the Frank Novelty Company in Ossining, New York, where she and her husband's place of trust with owner Al Franken allowed them to employ members of the local African American community. Rose Q. Cherry, Mary Cherry’s daughter, wrote the history of her husband's family in 'The Cherry Outlaw Families of Bertie County, North Carolina,' which was published in 2004.

Employment

Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors Corp.

Reader's Digest

Frank Novelty Company

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Mary Cherry's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Mary Cherry lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Mary Cherry describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Mary Cherry describes her mother's childhood and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Mary Cherry describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Mary Cherry remembers meeting her husband, Lamon Cherry, Sr., pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Mary Cherry remembers meeting her husband, Lamon Cherry, Sr., pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Mary Cherry describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Mary Cherry describes her childhood in Tarrytown, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Mary Cherry remembers her schools in Tarrytown, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Mary Cherry describes her work experiences during high school

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Mary Cherry recalls her courtship with Lamon Cherry, Sr., pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Mary Cherry recalls her courtship with Lamon Cherry, Sr., pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Mary Cherry describes her work experiences during World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Mary Cherry remembers her marriage to Lamon Cherry, Sr.

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Mary Cherry recalls becoming the production manager of Frank Novelty Company

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Mary Cherry describes the operations of the Frank Novelty Company, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Mary Cherry describes the operations of the Frank Novelty Company, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Mary Cherry describes how her husband lost his job in the refrigeration industry

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Mary Cherry describes her husband's family background in North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Mary Cherry talks about her husband's light complexion

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Mary Cherry recalls the impact of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Mary Cherry talks about her involvement with the Parent Teacher Association

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Mary Cherry describes her decision to move to the South in 1987

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Mary Cherry recalls her parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Mary Cherry recalls her parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Mary Cherry remembers moving to Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Mary Cherry describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Mary Cherry reflects upon her life and family

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Mary Cherry describes the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Mary Cherry reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Mary Cherry talks about her grandchildren

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Mary Cherry describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Mary Cherry narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$3

DAStory

6$2

DATitle
Mary Cherry remembers meeting her husband, Lamon Cherry, Sr., pt. 1
Mary Cherry describes the operations of the Frank Novelty Company, pt. 2
Transcript
Do you have an earliest childhood memory?$$Of myself?$$Yeah, the earliest memory, the earliest thing that you can remember.$$The earliest thing I can really remember about--I remember everything but the most touching was when I was fifteen, and I was allowed to go roller skating. There was a couple in Tarrytown [New York] that opened up a roller skating rink right by the Tarrytown train station, and my mom [Annie Mae Shelton Kyle] said I could go, but my brother Shorty, his real name is Charles [Charles Kyle], he was younger, he had to go with me, and that's when I met the love of my life at the roller skating rink. And when I was skating around I was holding on more than skating, my brother called me over and he said, "Hey sis come over here." I skated over there, and there was this good looking guy standing there and he said, "I want you to meet someone," and he introduced me to Lamon [Lamon Cherry, Sr.]. Lamon said, "You called her sis?" And he said, "Yes," and he said, "You didn't tell me that she was your sister," because Lamon had already given him twenty-five cents to meet me. Lamon saw me skating, and he asked my brother, "Are you from Tarrytown?" And my brother said, "Yes," and he said, "Do you know that girl over there," and he said, "Yes." He said, "I'll give you a quarter to introduce us," and that's what Lamon did. So Lamon lived in Ossining [New York] which was seven miles north.$$Ossining, the infamous home of Sing Sing [Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Ossining, New York], right (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Yes, so it cost Lamon nineteen cents to ride from Tarrytown to Ossining on the train, and Lamon said that he went into the bathroom, and he stayed in the bathroom on the train until he got to Ossining because he didn't have the money.$$Oh, okay.$$He had given my brother the twenty-five cents. But about, I guess it was maybe about ten years later we calculated up that twenty-five cents and we gave it to Lamon for his birthday--we gave it to my brother for--Lamon and I gave it to my brother for his birthday 'cause we always remembered that's how we met. And I said to my brother when we were walking home, "Don't say anything to mama about this," and he said, "I'm not going to say anything." A couple of days later I came home from school because we came home at lunchtime, we walked down the hill and my mother said, "Who is Lamon Cherry?" I look at her and I said, "Lamon Cherry?" And she said yes. I said, "I don't know anyone by the name of Lamon Cherry," and she had something in her hand, and she said, "If you don't know him, why did he write you this letter?" She had opened that letter and she had read that letter, and I lied, and I said, "I don't know what you're talking about, I don't know any Lamon Cherry." She didn't say anything else to me, went on back to school and when I came home from school she said to me, "Here is the letter, write to him and tell him he can come." He had written the most beautiful letter asking--telling how he was elated, and I didn't even know what the word elated meant, upon meeting me, and that he wanted to come and meet my parents. And see when I met him, I gave him my address and my telephone number but he didn't have a telephone so he had given me his address, which I hid. I knew I was going to be in trouble. I was fifteen and he was seventeen. So my mother said, "Here's your letter, you can write and tell him he can come and visit you," and I said okay. So I really didn't want him to come to visit me because of his complexion, and I not knowing anything about his family or anything, you know, I didn't want him to come but my mother said write, so I did write back. I told him he could come, and he wrote back and he said, could I meet him at the train and I told him no because we lived directly in front of the train station and he would have no trouble finding the house. And he told me he was going to come that following--that next Sunday. And I had gone out because my parents--on Sunday morning, on Sunday afternoon we used to go driving. My dad [Samuel Kyle] had a car and he'd put all the kids in and we'd go riding, you know, just riding anyplace (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) That--$The women would sit on the sewing machine and sew them.$$All right.$$And we'd make thousands and thousands and thousands, and then we made the little chapel caps. Especially Catholic people years ago they did not go into the church--the cathedral without something on their head, and so we made them in all colors. I experienced that once when we went to Canada, and we wanted to go into the cathedral up there in Montreal, and the taxi driver--the tour guide said, "Miss, do you have something to put on your head?" And I said, "No, I need a cover on my head?" And he said, "Oh yes, you wouldn't go in there like that. Your husband have a hanky or something?" So Lamon [Lamon Cherry, Sr.] had a hanky and he said, "Put that on your hair and go in like that," and I said okay. So that taught me a lesson whenever I was going someplace, I always made sure I had something in my pocketbook 'cause I didn't want to, you know, do the wrong thing.$$Are there any good stories from the job that you can tell?$$Well we used to celebrate birthdays, everybody's birthday that we knew we celebrated that right in the plant there, and Christmas was always a big affair. Everybody went out for dinner, the boss took care of it. My boss, he loved my husband. He told Lamon--when Lamon didn't get a job in refrigeration he went to school again for auto body and fender, and that's when my boss said, "I don't care how many degrees he has, I want him to come and work for me." So I said, "What is he going to do?" And he said, "He's going to be a printer and I'm going to send him to school," which he sent Lamon to school to be a printer on the Multilith machine. My husband for thirty-seven years, he was a printer for the company [Frank Novelty Company]. My boss said to me one day, "Mary [HistoryMaker Mary Cherry], I want you to give Lamon a couple of extra dollars in his salary," and I said, "What happened now?" He said, "Because I want him to come to work dressed, so when I want to go out to have something to eat, I want him to take me." I said, "Mr. Franken [Alfred Franken], Lamon has plenty of clothes," you know, he says, "Well I want him to have extra money and I want him to understand when I want to go out for lunch, I don't want him to go out with his pants, with ink on it and everything." So I told Lamon, so we brought clothes to the job and hung them up so whenever the boss wanted to go out, all Lamon would have to do is wash up and change his clothes. He liked my husband, he bought the car--the station wagon--and we had the company car, that was our car for all those years, we did not have to worry about a car, insurance nothing, gas or nothing because he furnished the car. And at summertime, people were--when school was closed members of my community at church were calling me to say, can you please hire my daughter, could you hire my son and of course you know the station wagon with Lamon and I in it, we only had space for about four children, and we would bring them. Many people would say, "I don't care if you don't have room, we'll see that the children get there," and they worked for us plus my grands, I have four grandsons, all four of them worked every summer that they could, plus my children Cheryl [Cheryl Cherry McMillian], Rose [Rose Cherry] and Lamon [Lamon Cherry, Jr.], they worked, they worked with me.