Today on Senior Voices, we meet Cheryl Grimes, who moved to Dayton in the late ‘60s after graduating college. She remembers the businesses owned by her entrepreneurial family in the small town of Laurel, Mississippi, where she began working in 1950, at the tender age of three. Cheryl spoke with Metro Library volunteer interviewer, Jason Coatney-Schuler.
Cheryl Grimes: My parents were owners of a business, my grandmother ran a daycare and so all I can remember is either in the business or in the daycare and I think I started at about two or three years old working my mother’s restaurant. I sold the penny candy, and Coca Cola was a nickel so I could count the money. Coca Colas went up to six cents and then I had to learn how to subtract.
And my father would say you only went up one penny, and you can count from six to ten. So I learned to do that.
We had tootsie rolls, I think they were called long boys, we had bubble gum, we had jawbreakers, we had malto-meals, these little I think it was about maybe five or six of these little malts, and we sold penny cookies. You could buy one little cookie for a penny. I think we had peppermint, and there was a whole little showcase of nickel candy and some things you could get two for a penny. If you got a coconut cookie which were smaller than the other cookies you could get two for a penny.
And my mother, as I said before, ran the business, and my father went from the restaurant he and my mother had to another restaurant that was in another part of the little town. And he also had an area which is called the mini-markets of today, the little curb things you could walk to, so he had a store like that and I grew up working in every facet of their business.
I think my mother left me I was eleven years old, she went to California and she said “You’re in charge of the store” and she left me there, I think I was eleven or twelve and she had employees and they had to, y’know, deal with me. <Laughs>
But it was an experience that you know, I knew how to do what she had taught me over the years. How to take the money off the register, how to start the business up in the morning, how to run the ice cream machine, how to do hot dogs, chili, everything I could cook y’know, I just learned to do all that stuff very early and it became second nature y’know, I can tell anybody I can fix a hamburger with my eyes closed. So you know she taught me a lot. We barbecued, we grilled, my father had an open pit right in the restaurant, ice cream and I have a sign at home that says my father opened his business, and he sold ice cream for a nickel a scoop.
This interview was edited by Community Voices producer Zeb Reichert. Senior Voices is a collaboration between the Dayton Metro Library, Rebuilding Together Dayton, and WYSO. This series is made possible through the generous support of the Del Mar Healthcare Fund of the Dayton Foundation.