Cypress Hills Senior Center

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A selection of stories from the program:

Jeannie Parker

Me and my husband met because we used to play in a band. Rock and Roll Music. He played the guitar and the piano. I just sang. He was in the band first. His manager wanted to manage us. We were a girls group that sang. We were in singing clubs that blacks were not too much allowed. That was in the time of segregation. My husband came up here, he wanted to leave the south. We were a girl group and we snag mostly in clubs that were men. Songs like… we used to make up a couple of them…. Mary had a little lamb… we made that up then sang it. Dance music mostly. Four of us. Years of smoking, this stroke… I don’t smoke any more. I had a stroke that’s what stopped me from smoking.  Years of being told by my kids “don’t smoke, don’t smoke” I continued to smoke. I’ve been smoking since I was a teenager. The more they told me to quit the more I wanted to smoke. I see the commercial now with the lady who has all her fingers amputated. I look it and say “wow, thank god that didn’t happen to me.” I’ve got 42 grandkids. I have 7 great grand.

I have a pretty special family. Everybody was over for Mother’s Day. That was my special gift.  Teach your children the best way you can, and love them , and it will be a struggle, and sometimes I used to get tired of them. I wanted to raise them myself. I didn’t even let my kids sell school candy because I didn’t want them knocking on strange people’s doors. My husband would tell them “your mom wouldn’t like that.” I can’t believe I did it all myself. My youngest son called me one time and he said “we didn’t have much, but we had a lot of love and I was glad for that.” And I used to really enjoy them when I was younger, and after they grew up and started having their own kids I said “don’t expect me to babysit, cause I did all my own babysitting. Once you have your own kids, you watch them. And now, don’t come over and say  ‘Grandma, can you babysit? ‘If you can’t go anywhere, tough, cause I didn’t get to go a lot of places.” I gave up going a lot, and once you have yours, you do too. After my youngest child was 12 years old, I got a job with school safety and my oldest son came by one day and said “No, you can’t go to work, because I’m used to having you home. So, I didn’t work long.


I used to work for Gregory Peck. I decided I would drive from Pittsburg to California. Got a new corvette and drove from Pittsburg to California. Went to Quebec City, Montreal. I just tooled round. True story:  I was going to California, and I was going to get some postcards that I could send back to Pittsburgh, someone said “Go Cross that border, and you can get all sorts of postcards.” I drove into Juarez, Mexico, the first time I was ever into Juarez in my  whole life. And I go into this place, and everyone is looking at my car, telling me all these stories, and I went in like 10 miles before I stated trying to get out and I got lost and I hid on the side of an embankment at the Juarez airport. I think it took about 10 hours and then at last, before it, I finally …. I couldn’t speak Spanish, I never saw Spanish before. I didn’t know what was going on. So I found the border. What’s there?  100 Mexicans standing in front of my car. And they said come on senor, we want to show you boys town, you have to see boys town before you leave this place. So they take me to this bar, and I was scared to drink anything so I got a soda. They eventually let me loose, and I left Juarez Mexico and I swore I would never ever in my life go back to that place. Actually I was so confused I got halfway to Florida before I realized I was going the wrong way.  I got to California, picked up the newspaper, and saw an ad for cameras. I call the number, and the guy says “come to work” so I went to work, and there’s Gregory Peck sitting in his office drinking.  All the boys are drinking. So I work for him for about a year. I shoulda went into acting, doing bit parts and stuff. I know Chad Mcqueen, Steve McQueens son. 


I came from a small pueblo in Puerto Rico. I grew up watching Fred Astaire and Gene Kelley. I had 6 kids, but then I started gaining weight. I do not want my kids to live with me. Once they visit, it’s impossible to get them to leave. I visit THEM. My daughter has lots of kids, the first when she was 16. Maria told her it was her responsibility, DEAL WITH IT. The hardest thing about being a mother is raising the kids, making sure they know how to do the right thing. Responsibility, respect, take care of yourself. All my kids know how to cook. Do what makes you happy. I love video games and sci-fi.