I was 21 when I first came to NewYork-Presbyterian. I’m from Swan Quarter, North Carolina, but my mother came to New York to have a better life. She was a single parent, so she had to take care of my two sisters and myself. She came to the hospital for a sickness, back in the ’40s, and she used to talk about how great it was — the patients and employees and everything like that. I also had a cousin who worked here many years ago in the kitchen.
I worked here during the summer of 1957 when I was going to school. That’s how I met Mitchell Springer. He came here from Panama City, maybe two or three weeks before I came to the hospital. I was going to New York Vocational High School, which was at 103rd Street and Fifth Avenue at the time. I was a gym fighter too. I did more training and boxing at the gym, but I fought at Madison Square Garden one time. I fought up in Boston one time. I used to fight at the Veterans Hospital up in the Bronx. I was in the Golden Gloves. I never really won all the way, but I was in the Golden Gloves back in the ’50s. I was studying to be an auto mechanic, but I didn’t go through with it. After school, in ’59, I came back to NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center for good and worked in the kitchen.
Back then, they had hand trucks to deliver food. They used to carry the desserts, meats, and vegetables; gravy, soups, and broth in pots. They had about 24 trucks and everybody pushed the trucks around, and cooks were like, “That’s where we will load the food — straight from the stove to the truck.” And we’d take it back upstairs to the pantries at a certain time and serve the food. Then we’d go back to pick the trucks up and bring them back down to be cleaned.
We used to make old-fashioned desserts, cakes, pies, and different Jell-O that we don’t make anymore. I used to work in the salad room. I’m still making salads but different kinds. Back in the day we used to make sliced tomato salads. We made “Under the Sea” Jell-O salads. Now, salads are different. Since room service started, they came up with one I never knew: Greek. There was one particular Jell-O that really stood out to me and, I think, most everybody. I almost forget how to make it now, but they called it “Angel Delight” Jell-O salad. It was very good. It was made with Jell-O, crushed pineapples, and ground-up nuts sprinkled on the top. It’s a very good salad. It was the best one we made.