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Maria Terry – Churchill Downs, Louisville, KY

David Holloway David & Mrs. Henrida Holloway

Churchill Downs - Louisville, Kentucky

September 12, 2006

Taylor: How long have you known Maria?

David Holloway: Is this your third or fourth year?

Maria Terry: It’s my third year, I will go to my fourth, if I’m still here. I’m going to tell you like I told the news media, when I quit, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll die here [laughing].

Henrida Holloway: You probably will, you probably will.

Maria Terry: But as I told the news guy, I’d die happy.

David Holloway: About 3 years.

Taylor: You’ve known Maria?

Henrida Holloway: And this is where we met here, right here. She’s been really sweet.

Taylor: Why is she so special?

David Holloway: Well, she just does her job. She takes care of it.

Henrida Holloway: And she’s so friendly, she knows everybody. You just feel like you’ve been friends forever.

David Holloway: She makes good lasagna too.

Taylor: How do you know that she makes good lasagna?

David Holloway: She made some.

Henrida Holloway: She made some for us. And brought it to our house…no I met her but she made it for us for Easter and also an Italian cream cake. Oh they were both wonderful. So we’ve gotten to be good friends. She and I have had lunch a time or two. She’s been to our home. She went out to dinner with all of us and another lady that works here one Sunday and we just feel like she’s gotten to be a good friend as well as she does such a good job here. You know she learns what everybody likes and makes sure you have what you like and that you’re comfortable and….

David Holloway: Some people just do what they have to, to get by, she does extra.

Henrida Holloway: Mmm hmm. She goes out of her way. Yeah, and if there’s things left over, she’ll make sure she wraps those for you adequately to take them home, so things don’t go to waste.

Taylor: I think it’s obvious that she’s genuine and really cares.

Henrida Holloway: Yes, and she’s so interesting to talk to. She has a lot of stories to tell. She’s had an interesting life.

David Holloway: She’s been here a long time and she knows everybody. It’s a good place for her and she’s good for this place.

Henrida Holloway: Now, I’ll have to admit, sometimes I have a little trouble understanding her [heavy Italian accent], but I just smile and listen.

Taylor: I know, I do too. But it’s almost like the sentiment comes through so strongly it’s like you do understand.

Henrida Holloway: I know, I know. But she’s had some hard things in her life that she’s overcome and she has such a wonderful attitude. You know she stays busy and she doesn’t sit down and feel sorry for herself.

David Holloway: A lot of people would quit or waitress and see what they could get for free, but Maria just stands up to the plate and hits the ball.

Henrida Holloway: And she really is a wonderful waitress, because like I say, she finds out what you like and she makes sure you have it. She knows I like coffee so she makes sure there’s a pot of coffee for me and she knows what he likes to drink and she just makes sure everybody’s comfortable and happy and sometimes it’s hard when she has a lot of people to take care of but she manages to do a good job. And I’m sure she gets tired but you would never know it. I’m sure there are days where she doesn’t feel well but you’d never know it. She’s always in a good mood, upbeat…she’s remarkable. I’m sure that’s how she’s survived this so long.

Taylor: Yes, she is a special woman. So how often do you come here? How often do you have Maria waiting on you?

Henrida Holloway: Well it depends.

David Holloway: Well we have two meets a year, the spring meet and the fall meet. We don’t come as much as we did at first because we don’t have as many horses racing.

Henrida Holloway: And that’s usually when we come, when we have our horse racing.

Taylor: And how many horses do you have?

David Holloway I don’t want to talk about… I don’t know….too many.

Henrida Holloway: The horse business is not the greatest right now. And he’s had some health problems so sometimes we’re not able to watch them but, I don’t know maybe we come about an average of once a week during a meet.

Taylor: And you always request Maria or how does that work?

Henrida Holloway: Well she’s usually here.

David Holloway: …if we’re in the suite she takes care of us. We ask for her and she asks for us.

Henrida Holloway: Yes, at the beginning of the meet, we ask for her.

David Holloway: There are three people that have this suite together.

Henrida Holloway: So we all wanted Maria.

Taylor: That’s wonderful. And compared to other places, when you eat out what do you notice, specifically that makes her different?

David Holloway: She does her job!

Taylor: So when you go to other places, what do other waitresses do that indicate otherwise?

Henrida Holloway: Well, we like for them to be friendly.

David Holloway: We very rarely have to ask her for anything. She’ll ask you what you want or she already knows and takes care of it. But you know it’s not like working in restaurant where there’s different people all the time. She’s just a hard worker, pays attention and does her job. Well there are a lot of good waitresses, but a lot of them do just what they have to do to get by.

Henrida Holloway: Yeah, she makes you feel special.

Taylor: Yes, especially with older waitresses it’s so important that you look at the background at where these women have come from, in relationship to hard work and many of them have a different attitude about being here.

Henrida Holloway: Mmm hmm. Exactly.

Taylor: And I think makes a huge difference and I think that comes through in their service. You can tell that they want to be here. So the point of my project is to not pity these women but to celebrate them. So many people look at a 76-year old waitress and feel sorry for her, thinking how sad it is that she has to work past retirement age, but once you get to know them, you realize that many of them love what they do.

Henrida Holloway: Right. I think she’d be miserable if she didn’t have this to do. She’s a person who needs to have something to do all the time. I think when she’s at home, she’s busy all the time too. She tells me she works in the yard and cooks for her children, takes care of her grandchildren and she’s just a person that needs something to do and I think she’d be very unhappy without this. She loves people too.

Taylor: Do you go to other places where you’re a regular that have older waitresses?

Henrida Holloway: Maybe a couple of places.

David Holloway: Shelbyville but they’re not older, they’re middle….

Henrida Holloway: Well that one lady at Shelbyville is not real young.

David Holloway: Yeah, but they’re not as old as Maria.

Taylor: Do you notice a distinction between the younger and the older waitresses?

Henrida Holloway: It depends, some places the younger people are just as nice as can be and then others are, like you say, “I have to be here, I have to do this job….”

David Holloway: A lot of the younger ones, there’s some real good younger ones but a lot of them just don’t pay attention. Just recently we had, I don’t remember where it was, but I’m sure they had our food ready before she delivered it and brought it to us, it was cold.

Taylor: Did you send it back?

Henrida Holloway: No we didn’t, we probably should have.

David Holloway: What I usually do, is just go ahead and don’t go back.

Henrida Holloway: Something that happened to us recently that was really irritating, this girl came back, well she was very attentive, you know she removed the dishes and kept asking us if we needed anything and then she brought the bill and instead of waiting until he paid the bill, she came and stood over him while he got the money out. That was…I don’t think I’ve ever had that to happen before. I guess she was anxious, maybe she needed to go home, I don’t know, it was strange.

Taylor: So do you have any stories about Maria, over the years?

David Holloway: She’s tough. She’s a survivor.

Taylor: When did she start telling you stories? When did you get to know her personal life?

Henrida Holloway: Sometimes we’d come up here and there was nobody else here.

David Holloway: And I like to ask a lot of questions.

Henrida Holloway: Yes, he likes to interview people. And we just got started talking and just got really acquainted and one thing just led to another and we shared different things in our life, things that have happened to us.

David Holloway: She doesn’t live to far from where we live either, about 3 or 4 miles.

Taylor: Have you ever been to her house?

David Holloway: No.

Henrida Holloway: No, we haven’t.

Taylor: But she’s been to your house?

Henrida Holloway: Mmm hmm.

Taylor: And you just invited her over?

Henrida Holloway: Well we invited she and another lady that works here and her family, and then we all went out to dinner, or to lunch actually it was that day and then they came back to our house and stayed for a while and had dessert and visited.

Taylor: But you’ve never had any other waitresses at your house?

Henrida Holloway: No, nope, because she’s special.

Taylor: Yes, I think that’s why these career waitresses stay because they make such deep connections with their customers and their work life is like an extended family. So when waitresses retire, it’s such a huge loss.

Henrida Holloway: Yes, you’re right.

Taylor: Well what do you think will happen when Maria retires? She has no plans for retirement as far as I know…

David Holloway: When she retires she’ll probably recommend someone that would do a good job.

Taylor: Do you think you’ll keep in touch?

Henrida Holloway: I think so, yes.

David Holloway: We’ll have to, she won’t let you not.

Henrida Holloway: Yes, yes [laughing], she’s good about calling. Certainly, we don’t mind. We’re glad when she does call.

Taylor: She calls you at home?

Henrida Holloway: Yeah, she calls us at home.

Taylor: Just to say hello?

Henrida Holloway: Yeah, just to talk. In fact she was really concerned about us, our phone was messed up for a while earlier this year and she couldn’t get a hold of us, she couldn’t get in touch with us and she was really concerned. The other lady that works here is the concierge, Angie, and she kept calling Angie wondering where we were, and what had happened to us and what was wrong. She was really concerned about us.

Taylor: Yes I know that happens with some regulars, if they die, the waitresses will attend their funerals. I know a waitress in D.C. who has the ashes from one of her regulars on her mantle.

Henrida Holloway: Is that right?

Taylor: Yes, because they’ve made such deep connections. I think there’s a certain level of trust that builds over the years and I just think it’s great that you appreciate her and that you make her feel appreciated because so many waitresses aren’t.

Henrida Holloway: Well she certainly earns that. And we really do feel close to her. We’ve kind of bonded.

Taylor: So how did you get to know Tony [Maria’s son]?

Henrida Holloway: Just through her.

Taylor: She introduced you to him?

Henrida Holloway: Uh huh.

Taylor: Because he works in the offices right? He’s not around here.

Henrida Holloway: Right, he works in communications, I think.

Taylor: Do you know any other of her family members?

Henrida Holloway: No, she talks about them. Well we met his wife one time when we went to Angie’s wedding. Maria was there and we sat with her.

Taylor: Have you ever seen Maria have a bad day?

Henrida Holloway: Not that I recall. She might get angry and upset with these people.

Taylor: What makes her upset?

Henrida Holloway: Oh, I guess people who make too many demands, or are just not nice to her, you know they just don’t treat her well.

Taylor: And she comes in here and tells you about them?

Henrida Holloway: Yes sometimes.

David Holloway: Some people will have bad days and she’ll come back all wound up.

Taylor: That’s really liberating for a waitress to be able to come to you and complain, it’s almost like a friend when you say, “I can’t believe this happened to me….”

Henrida Holloway: She can do that with us, she has.

Taylor: That’s wonderful. Well can you think of any other stories that you want to share?

David Holloway: I can think of one but it’s not about Maria. There’s a restaurant we go to in Shelby County, The Old Stone Inn, when Tom worked there. Tom didn’t have any education and he was a colored fella and he was a waiter forever, can’t think of his last name. We’d have 12 of us there and Tom takes your order and he gets it and even though he didn’t have any education, he would write it down and take care of us. He was a good waiter.

Henrida Holloway: I’m not sure he wrote it down.

David Holloway: Well maybe he didn’t. I don’t believe he did, maybe he did just remember it.

Taylor: Well if he was illiterate, he probably had a lot of practice memorizing everything.

David Holloway: And he had a job, a regular job after that.

Henrida Holloway: You just notice people like that, where you can tell they’re concerned about pleasing you, or making you comfortable or meeting all of your needs. Sometimes, she’ll go someplace and find us dessert or something and we didn’t even order it.

Taylor: Do you consider yourself easy customers, or do you have special demands…

Henrida Holloway: No, I think we’re kind of easy. I don’t think we make it too difficult for her.

Taylor: It’s funny because you know waitresses tend to be the most demanding customers.

Henrida Holloway: Is that right? Like nurses and doctors are the worst patients?

Taylor: Yes like that. I have a waitress, Rachel, in her 80’s and she’s taken me out to lunch a couple of times and when we go out people love her, they recognize her from when she was working and when we go out, the coffee’s never hot enough, she sends it back. There’s all these things that she likes just so and she knows it’s possible to get that service because she gives it, so she demands the same in return and thinks that most people should get what they want.

David Holloway: Yeah, well that’s the name of the game.

Henrida Holloway: Yes, that’s understandable. She knows that’s how it should be and that’s the way she wants it. And I think that’s the way Maria is, I think that she knows how she would like things and so she tries to do that for her people.

Taylor: So are you both retired?

Henrida Holloway: Mmm hmm, well that’s what we tell people but…[the Levitches come to be interviewed].