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|Oral History Interview
with Lindsay Cherry
KENNELLY: Now, I know you have a daughter—
CHERRY: Two daughters.
KENNELLY: Two daughters because the one daughter is involved in television. She produced that TV spot for Black History Month.
KENNELLY: And what about your other daughter?
CHERRY: She works in New York.
KENNELLY: So has education been something that you've pushed for them, or is it—
CHERRY: You know, you have to be careful about how you push things on kids, because once they think you're starting to lecture them, they just turn you off. But education has been a prime thing with me with my kids, but I think I pushed it to them wrong. They just turned me off. So it's one thing about people. No one likes to be lectured to. You have to learn how to talk to people, and that's when you get into the area of human dynamics. Make them think it's their idea [chuckle]. Do you agree?
CHERRY: They realize the importance of education, I think, but growing up in a different era, you see, I see things far differently from the way you see them and the way they see things, because we had far different experiences. When we weigh our experiences now against the background of our experiences in the past, that's how we evaluate. Things come out a little differently. We view things quite differently. I may see things that, "You need to do this in order to get ahead," but they won't understand that.
KENNELLY: You can't tell somebody.
CHERRY: Or you—there are some things I could tell you that you wouldn't understand even though you're doing a good job, but you wouldn't understand. So some things you don't even mention, because there's your view, and there's my view in life, and in my trying to communicate, those particular experiences or my evaluation of life to you. The fact that you have not had similar experiences means that you're not going to understand them.
KENNELLY: But you could still say them, and then maybe I won't understand, but maybe somebody else would eventually. I might understand -- I find myself at this stage of my life -- I'm not going to be talking on this thing, but anyway, I tend to understand things that happened 20 years ago. Then I think, "Oh."
CHERRY: You know, sometimes it does hit you. Oh, that's what they were talking about. Oh yes, it's true. Right.
KENNELLY: It's like it's there, but sometimes you're not ready.
CHERRY: Yes. Right. I remember—you know, I grew up having faith, and there used to be an evangelist named Oral Roberts.
KENNELLY: Yes, I've heard that name.
CHERRY: He used to be a TV evangelist. He probably still is, but I remember one day—he used to just preach faith, and I took that with my eyes, and I just prayed that God would do something to make my eyes better, and the next year it happened when the doctors came down, because at that time, I never knew you could—I never heard of anyone operating on people's eyes during those years, but again, that's my belief. I believe if you ask God things, he will make it happen in his own time.
KENNELLY: Are you active in church now?
CHERRY: I'm active, but what used to be called active, I'm not. I go to church. For instance, I sang in a funeral just two days ago.
KENNELLY: So you still sing?
CHERRY: Yes, a little bit.
KENNELLY: Did you ever get to cut a record or anything like that?
CHERRY: You mean for money? I cut a demo for Decca Records once.
CHERRY: And they said, "We'll call you. Don't call us," [laughter]. No, but that's basically what it was. I used to try to sing show tunes like ["They Call the Wind] Mariah." Have you ever heard of that?
CHERRY: Songs like that, yes.
CHERRY: Is that it?
KENNELLY: Well, is there anything else that you'd like to say that I haven't asked you?
CHERRY: Well, I tell you, I really don't think I'm going to release this.
KENNELLY: Okay. What we'll do is—I take it you don't want to sign the release papers now. What about if I get it transcribed—is it okay to get it transcribed? That would be somebody typing it up, and then we could send you the transcript, and what you can do is—if you want to, you can edit parts of it or make parts of it not available.
CHERRY: Tamara, to be honest with you, some of the things we discussed I don't even want it to see the light of day. You said you agreed [chuckle]. I mean you've done very well in asking me questions and that. In other words, I imparted some information that I wouldn't normally tell people, but I don't think I'm going to want to have this released or even transcribed.
KENNELLY: You don't want us to transcribe it?
CHERRY: No, I don't think so. Well, you could probably give it to me and let me go and listen—well, I don't have a digital type unit. You see, that's another thing. Once you start having copies, then you lose control of it, and I really, from what I've said here and crying my heart out to you. [laughter].
KENNELLY: What about if I have—
CHERRY: You see because talking to you, you're very easy to talk to, but when you leave things to others, you leave it to their interpretation, and some of these things I feel comfortable talking to you one-on-one, but when you produce something for the public, to me, you have no idea how people will interpret it. I don't mind talking to you, and we will continue to talk, but I don't think this is something that I would want to have published.
KENNELLY: Okay, what about if—
CHERRY: Oh boy, she's going to keep on [laughter].
KENNELLY: I am. I'm just going to suggest something.
CHERRY: You're good. You know, you're the one who started me on this Virginia Tech thing. You remember you called me.
CHERRY: That's when it all started.
KENNELLY: Did you see what we did with the thing on the web? Oh, you haven't seen it yet.
CHERRY: No, I haven't seen that yet. You had me going and searching through all these books for pictures. I didn't even know I had those pictures.
KENNELLY: Okay, I'm just going to present some options. One is you can say, "This interview is closed for 20 years. It may be looked at at such-and-such a date." Twenty years is a long time. I probably won't be here in 20 years, but anyway—or you can say x number of years it's closed. Another option is we can make a tape for you. We'll consider it closed and unavailable. You can review the tape and make your decision at a later date and decide yes or no. It would be sealed as far as anyone else having any access to it, and if you decide absolutely no, then we'll just send you the materials.
CHERRY: I think I'm going to decide absolutely no, because I just don't feel comfortable with some of the things that we have discussed, and I understand what you're doing, but I feel the better people to discuss these things with would be Yates and Dr. Finney, because they were successful. Even in here, I'm giving you reasons why I feel I wasn't successful in graduating, the eyes and things like that, and I would not want that to be the subject of anyone's conversation. To me, that's personal, and I've gone past those—you see, the other thing is because things happen to you it doesn't mean they're negative. Because I didn't graduate that didn't keep me from going on and doing other things.
KENNELLY: Being successful.
CHERRY: That's true.
KENNELLY: Right, you are successful.
CHERRY: And that, too, depends on how you look at things. To some people—just to give you an idea about ideology. One person's success may be if they are making $200,000 or $300,000 a year with their kids going to the finest colleges, and they have one percent fat. Another person, when they get up in the morning and don't see themselves lying there, will have a great day. It's all what you consider success, and the key thing to success is just being happy with yourself. Enjoy Life. Do you agree? What do we work for? Primarily that, right?
KENNELLY: Right. Well, would you like a copy of the tape for your own family?
CHERRY: I don't even think I'll—don't listen to it. Let it just be you and me. Is that possible that you heard and I heard and that's it? See, I really don't want to release it.
CHERRY: And I'm sorry.
KENNELLY: That's okay.
CHERRY: If I've used your time—
KENNELLY: That's all right. It's your life, and if you want to share that experience or not, that's really up to you.
CHERRY: Because you know a lot of what I've discussed had nothing to do with my training and the school. It was just personal things.
KENNELLY: Oh, I think it helped a lot. To me, it's very interesting. Your story is a wonderful story, and a very moving story, too.
KENNELLY: Yes, and it's coming from those incredible obstacles and coming here. It's always interesting to see—I've interviewed several of the first black women students here and just seeing what kind of networks people had, how they managed, what they did, what they felt about those things, it just—your experience is a wonderful, very moving experience and powerful, and to me, I respect your opinion. You can say no, and you've said no, and I'll accept that, but to me I feel like students can learn a lot from what you've said, and researchers coming along—it's just amazed me. This project started—
CHERRY: You know, you're right in this way. You find so often people complaining and having everything going right for them, and you have other people, who start from very humble beginnings, and they still overcome.
CHERRY: So for a person who complained about not having anything, and you say, "Well, this guy, boy, he went to school without eating." They are humble beginnings.
KENNELLY: That's right, and it wasn't like dad was going to send you 20 bucks when you needed it when you were in school so you could go out and have a good time or whatever. Go to the rock 'n roll show or whatever it is that you wanted to do with your friends at that point—it wasn't like that at all.
KENNELLY: You had to do it yourself. I think it's a great story, and I would love it if you wanted to share it, but I respect your not wanting to share it, and I'll tell you in the back of my mind, I wonder, "Now, if his daughter heard that, I bet she'd want him to share it," but I don't know your daughter. All I know is that she made that wonderful little short film.
CHERRY: She'd probably say, "There he goes again," [chuckle]. No, she's really proud of me.
KENNELLY: I bet.
CHERRY: You see you have a very special quality about you, and it even comes up in talking to you over the phone. You're a very special person, but you have to understand we're all different, and we all view things differently. Where you can empathize or sympathize with people, everybody's not into that thing. Just talking to you over the phone, I just got a very good feeling about you and everything.
KENNELLY: I got a good feeling about you, too.
CHERRY: I went and got these -- and I can tell. You know how you still just want to interview me. I went and got these pictures and sent them to you, whereas if it were someone else, I'd say, "The heck with those pictures," but you're a very special person, and I certainly wish you continued success. I wouldn't even have agreed to this interview. If it weren't you, I don't think I would have done it, but it's just something about you. I said all right. I wanted to say no, but I found it hard to say no to you.
CHERRY: You should realize that you have this special quality about you, and continue to develop it. It's a good thing.
KENNELLY: That's weird, because I feel like I do not have very good persuasive powers, so it's sort of amazing to hear this.
CHERRY: Well, you do have. You have a certain honesty about you.
KENNELLY: Well, thank you.
CHERRY: And when you have that type of honesty, people are ready to confide in you, and some of this stuff I've told you is really in confidence. I haven't told a lot of this stuff to my wife, so you should really—you should say you're a powerful person. "I had this guy telling me"—there are people in interviews who can really pull, like Barbara Walters. She can pull stuff out of people, and after the interview, they say, "Did I say that?" You have the same to me. You have the same basic quality about you, but it is. I do feel that some of these things have been—I don't want it transcribed. I wouldn't mind listening to it.
CHERRY: And then I could --
KENNELLY: I'll send you a copy.
CHERRY: Okay. It's not going to get out of your hands?
KENNELLY: No, and I'm going to put it in a—what I'll do is, when he gives me that thing, I'll put it in a container and physically seal it so it can't get out. Then, I'll just let you review it, and then just in case you happen to change your mind—otherwise we'll destroy it, and we'll send you the original.
CHERRY: Okay. Well, I've certainly enjoyed sitting down here talking to you. It makes people feel better when they can sit down and talk about things they don't talk to others about.
KENNELLY: I appreciate your taking the time.
CHERRY: Well, I certainly appreciate it. It's really been my pleasure, but that next step would be a little tough for me, because I really didn't want to—in the beginning, I really didn't want to do the interview, but because it was you and you had been so nice to me, I said, "Well, maybe I'll go here and talk about one or two things like what was it like in the house where we lived over at"—
KENNELLY: Yes, actually we didn't even talk about that.
CHERRY: I thought that's what you were going to ask me. Who lived in what room? How did we eat?
KENNELLY: Do you want to say something about that?
CHERRY: No, but I do want to say that Mrs. Hoge, the lady who lived with—Mr. and Mrs. Hoge—what a wonderful couple to take care of us. We were really good kids, but that was a tough task. They did everything for us, fed us, washed for us, cleaned and did the whole at very modest fees, very modest fees. It's really been a wonderful experience. You know in life, when you can look back and just go through the things you've done and really get a very good, fuzzy feeling because of the people who had a positive impact [on your] life, that is really good. Okay.
KENNELLY: Okay. Now, let's see, you're the technical person. I'm not sure how to turn this machine off. What am I supposed to do? Stop? Okay.
[End of Interview]
Note: Mr. Lindsay Cherry's parents were Vera Burks and Lindsay Cherry. His maternal grandparents were Virginia Kimble and Ed Robert Smith. The maiden name of his paternal grandmother, Louis Cherry, was Mary Louise Smith.
Last Updated on: Tuesday, 17-Aug-2004 16:37:41 EDT by Mark B. Gerus