Mary "Letty" McKendry

Mary "Letty" McKendry

Book - 2016
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Mary (Letty) Mckendry was born in Columbus, MS on December 3, 1935 and arrived up North when she was 2 years old. She was part of 9 siblings who attended the Lindbergh School in Muskegon Heights, MI. near the projects where they lived. Her father worked 30 years at Lakey Foundry but separated and moved out early to Twin Lakes in North Muskegon. All her brothers are World War II veterans. In 1955 Letty moved to Grand Rapids to the Rumsey Park area, now Roberto Clemente Park. It was then predominantly Black with Puerto Ricans who lived to the other side, and close to Grandville Ave. With only a minimal stipend she helped raise her sister’s 11 children. She would get bored on off days and go to the movie theatre. Then she started partying with “the crowd.” There were several well known bars like Bill’s Retreat on Wealthy and Division and the Limelight where she became the bartender. She describes many policemen on duty as patrons, businessmen, including Cubans selling Cocaine, prostitutes, pimps, and famous people like the boxer, Mayweather. There were a few bar killings that she witnessed. When she was young she fought in school, and so a couple of times she too pulled out the shot gun from behind the bar, “only when someone would just try to take things.” Only the first and last time ever, she tried to make extra income and was arrested selling a $5 bag of marijuana. She received 90 days and while incarcerated saw many people she knew from the Limelight. Her tight knit family who were deeply involved with the Two Light Baptist Church, on Wealthy and Madison supported her. She came out and joined a different crowd; a bowling league at the Fanatorium by Fulton Street. The league traveled to many cities and won many tournaments. She continues to live in South East Grand Rapids where she has lived nearly 50 years, surrounded by her large family of children, nieces, nephews and siblings, but says now new people are buying up the houses and are not being neighborly, friendly.

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