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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region.

ORAL HISTORY

Bernice Cofield & Mary Whitley


Tabernacle Christian Church

Yock fundraisers are common among African American churches in Tidewater Virginia. When people hear about a yock sale, they typically have only one question: Is Florida making it?

Bernice Cofield started working at The Horseshoe Café in Suffolk, Virginia in 1970. Most people around Suffolk know her as “Florida,” a nickname given to her by her first customer each morning at the Horseshoe, a man known as “School Boy,” who told her she was “just like sunshine.”

For twenty-five years, eight months, and five days, Bernice worked the morning shift. She learned to make yock from Perry Jane Davis Lambert, owner of the Horseshoe. After the restaurant closed, Bernice took a job cooking for Tabernacle Christian Church, where she met Mary Whitley, Tabernacle’s kitchen manager. For the past twenty years the women have sold yock as a church fundraiser.

Yock sales are advertised in the newspaper, word spreads to local schools, hospitals, factories, and offices around Suffolk, and people call Mary to place orders. Others show up at Tabernacle the day of a sale to wait in line for their box of yock, hoping it hasn’t already sold out. The women typically sell between 200-300 boxes of yock on a Friday.

The popularity of church yock sales is growing. People outside the church who were previously not aware of yock are now come from towns nearby and hours away with coolers to transport as many as fifteen to twenty boxes home.

Date of interview:
2014-05-21

Interviewer:
Sara Wood

Photographer:
Sara Wood & Vicki Cronis-Nohe (The Virginian-Pilot)

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