Where in the World: Sherman Greene remembers
By Harry Enoch and Jane Burnam
Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series about black history in Winchester authored by Harry Enoch and Jane Burnam. The second installment will appear in the Feb. 28 edition of The Sun.
Jane and I recently had the opportunity to visit one of Winchester’s elder statesmen, Sherman Greene.
We had heard Sherman reminisce about early times several years ago and wanted to record an interview with him. (This is the first in the Winchester Black Oral History Project.) We were treated to stories for three and a half hours and left feeling like we’d just begun.
Sherman is now 91 years young, sharp as a tack and physically fit. He told us he has records of his family going back to a great-great-grandmother, Mollie Greene, who was owned by John Greene of Montgomery County.
Her son, Bryant Greene, enlisted in the Army at Camp Nelson during the Civil War and served in Company A, Sixth U.S. Colored Cavalry. He later received a military pension for his service. Bryant died at the age of 95 and was buried in North Middletown.
Sherman was born on Second Street in Winchester to Willie Roy Greene Jr. and Margaret Hall. When 10 months old, he lost his mother. About that time, the stock market crash brought on the Great Depression. Sherman, his brother and two sisters went to live with relatives for a time.
Sherman stayed with his grandparents on Sixth Street at first then moved with them to the Clay Farm on Paris Road when he was about 5 years old. He remembers riding out in a truck loaded with their furniture.
Grandfather Greene, who was overseer of the farm, milked 19 cows twice a day. Sherman and his cousin carried milk pails to the house, balanced on tobacco sticks.
His grandfather also kept 10 beehives and taught Sherman how to capture a swarm of bees — “You get a pan and beat on it with a big spoon until the bees calm and settle on a limb.”
When it came time to start school, he stayed with friends in Winchester until his father was able to buy a house on Meadow Street.
Sherman’s first memorable educator at Oliver Street School was his first-grade teacher, Miss Missouri Quisenberry (later Bluster), who had taught his uncle and later taught his daughters. His most outstanding teacher was Mrs. Mildred Henderson, who taught English literature and inspired his love of poetry.
Sherman recalled that after the ice storm and flood of 1937, Winchester took in refugees from Covington and Newport. A soup kitchen was set up at the corner of Burns Avenue and Washington Street, near where Walter Newell had a cabinet shop.
“I remember the storm made me miss my first day of school in three years,” he said.
Living on Meadow Street near Harmon Field, Sherman was there when barnstorming teams from the Negro Leagues came to town. He got to see the Louisville Zulu Giants and Indianapolis Clowns and recalls players Satchel Paige and Stonewall Jackson.
“We didn’t have a swimming pool in Winchester, so we had to come over to the Douglas Park pool,” he said.
They would ride the train to Lexington in the morning, use their spending money to buy snacks then return home the same way.
Since the train didn’t leave until 9:30 p.m., they’d often visit with Mrs. Mayme Grimsley to get something to eat. She was his music teacher at Oliver (she commuted there from Lexington).
“Her favorites were Marion Anderson and Rex Teagarden,” he said.
Mrs. Grimsley also taught multiple generations, including Sherman’s daughter, Juanita, whom she always called “Sherman.”
Sherman took a variety of jobs to earn pocket money, starting while he was still in school. One of these was with Garfield Bell, who had a blacksmith shop near Oliver School.
When King Ranch came to Kentucky — buying part of Idle Hour Farm on Old Frankfort Pike — they sent upwards of 200 horses to Winchester for Bell to shoe.
Sherman walked over to work with him after school. His job was to keep the bellows going and hold the horses while Mr. Bell did the shoeing.
He once had a horse that would not settle down. Bell tried his hand and he couldn’t settle the horse either, so Bell slugged him. The horse went down and when he got up, he stood very still.
Sherman said he worked at every drugstore in town, all on Main Street: Shea’s Drugstore; the St. George Hotel; McGuire’s and Corner Drug.
“I got the job at George’s Drugstore after Frank ‘Mutt’ Frazier went into the service,” Greene said. “He became a doctor and his brother George was later the principal at Oliver. I was the short-order cook and made ice cream.”
Doctor Shea closed on Wednesday afternoons and often took Sherman and John “Goo Goo” Jordan out to his farm for target practice with .22 rifles.
“Do you know what we used for targets?”
“Did you ever hit any?”
At the George’s Drug Store Sherman worked for Leslie Duff. He went there before school and shaved 50 pounds of ice with a tool that looked like a frog gig. Then he’d go back after school to shave another 50 pounds.
He also had to bag up bluestone and lime, and bottle muriatic acid and ammonia. He took a bit of ammonia to school once to introduce his friends to “smelling salts,” which did not go over too well.
Sherman said he was allowed to take one pack of cigarettes a day and would save them till he filled a carton of 10. Then he’d take those around to George Boone’s pool room on Washington Street and sell them.
“At Boone’s you could walk through a door to the restaurant, so you could have yourself a sandwich while you shot pool,” he said.
At George’s drugstore, “I made ice cream too.” As the mixture ran out of the machine, he ran it into quarts and half-gallon containers.
“Some people who came in called for ‘hand packed’ quarts which had a little more ice cream but took more work. And cost more too,” he said.
Another of Sherman’s tasks was to prepare a rum concoction that was hugely popular at Christmas-time. He described a mixture of rum-flavored fruit and raisins that was added to ice cream, along with a tad of bourbon. He procured the bourbon at the liquor store next door.
“Since they knew me from the drugstore, I could go to the dispensary and get liquor for people who couldn’t buy it themselves.”
“How old were you then?”
“About 14 or 15. They weren’t as strict back then.”
Harry Enoch, retired biochemist and history enthusiast, has been writing for the Sun since 2005. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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