Katherine McKinnon

Ms. Katherine McKinnon was born on March 22, 1947 in South Carolina. She lived on a farm with her family.


Her favorite activities as a child were jumping rope, riding horses, and picking cotton with her father. Her father would have a bag where he collected the cotton, and she would lay on the cotton bag while her father pulled her around on the sack. When she was younger, she looked up to her Aunt Liz because she wouldn’t sugarcoat anything, which is how Katherine is now. Her mother was ashamed to talk about personal things with her, so she was glad that her aunt was able to educate her about her body and other personal matters.


Ms. McKinnon’s life in the country ended when her family picked up and moved to 215 111th street on 7th Avenue. She lived on the fifth floor and the building didn’t have an elevator. The stairs were a treacherous feat.


Katherine told us that the Holidays used to be much better than they are today. They were less commercialized… she also liked that she did not have  to spend money on gifts! She enjoyed the treats, Christmas trees, and being with her family. Nowadays, Ms. Katherine rarely celebrates Christmas. You might be thinking, “Who in their right mind doesn’t celebrate Christmas? I love Christmas. Tis’ the season!” She believes in Christ but feels the reasons to celebrate are now muddled, ingenuous and materialistic.  


Speaking of Christmas, Katherine told us about when she discovered that Santa Claus was not real. She remembers her mom telling her that she has to go to Macy’s to pick up the toys. Of course, she asked why and that’s when her mom told her, “You know there’s no such thing as Santa Claus, right?” When she saw “Santa” at Macy’s, she had the urge to run up to him and pull off his fake beard and call him a phony. She was outraged that everyone was celebrating this holiday based on this faux character.


Katherine’s family moved around a lot and the first place she moved was on 119th street. She told us this apartment was haunted!  She remembers hearing footsteps and seeing an unidentified figure walk into her kitchen. The second haunted place she lived was on 135th street. She remembers seeing a tall, dark man with what looked like a small child move towards the bathroom. She then witnessed this figure walk through her closed bathroom door and walk back out of the apartment without acknowledging her at all. Katherine didn’t scream as she did not want to alarm her family.


I was happy to hear that she left these haunted houses, and finally settled down in one place for twenty years. But I was not happy to hear that the place she moved to didn’t have hot water or heat. Every time Katherine wanted to shower or do dishes she had to leave her apartment. I can’t imagine having to live like that.


Katherine married Milleard McKinnon when she was only seventeen years old. She eventually separated from Milleard because he was into drug-related activities. She describes this first marriage simply as “Ugh.” The second marriage she had was to Jerry Thompson, which was much happier. He later died.


Katherine remembers the day when she walked down 114th street between 7th and 8th avenues in February and she noticed it was unusually quiet. She had just been accepted to live in Randolph Houses. She lived in a four bedroom apartment on the second floor.

She very much enjoyed the change in scenery as well as Morningside Park, which is very closeby. She found it very relaxing in the mornings and filled with bird songs. Where she lives now, she cannot hear as many birds.  There also used to be more block parties and activities and many fun things to do in the community. She finds that now she can’t even sit in front of the building and relax anymore.


We asked Ms. McKinnon, “What advice would you give to your younger self?”  She replied, “Be better, do better, and also finish school.” She rightly believes that while the body fades and gets weaker as you grow older, your education will always be intact.  She even gave us teenagers some advice: Do not show too much, be mysterious, don’t be revealing, and remember that KNOWLEDGE IS POWER! She also told told us, “Take care of yourself, stay smart, and don’t let any man abuse you. Use your mind, not your body.”


Ms. Katherine s very family-oriented and God is very important to her.  She also does not hold back on what she thinks. She can be blunt and expresses her opinions and experiences freely.  She would like to be remembered for the way she treated people, her contagious laugh, her vices, and her optimistic personality. She says they are all common characteristics of a true Aries. We will definitely never forget her.


She hopes that in some way or form, she has left an impact on the community that will stay with them forever. It is obvious that she is well regarded in the neighborhood. She told us that people she doesn't even recognize greet her kindly and converse with her as if they know her. She says she can be shy and antisocial, but she's not ashamed to talk about her feelings or personal things with her family. Katherine refuses to be a burden to her family, so she is very independent and does everything for herself.


Ms. Katherine is a matured seventy year old now. She says the difference between when she was young and now, is that she feels more free.  All her grandkids are older, her youngest being thirteen. All she expects from them is respect. They definitely give her respect, along with so much love and admiration.