“My family was eccentric, talented, zany, interesting, and dysfunctional, but happy,” said Carol Sherman, relaxing on the couch at her home in East Hampton. “And,” she continued, “we loved to eat. We were recreational eaters because eating is fun! We always ate our meals as a family and our meals were what I call festive eating experiences.”
At 82, Carol recalls her family trips to Coney Island and its fluffy pink cotton candy, and visits to Chinatown in New York City, where her family actually sat in the kitchen of the restaurant and ate with the staff. “My father, Albert, was an electrician and always did work for the owner. In appreciation, he would bring us into the kitchen and feed us like we were his family.”
“We lived in a tenement in the Bronx,” she remembered. “My mother, Betty, was a ‘fast stepper.’ She danced at the Cotton Club with George Raft. I had three brothers. My one brother would always be out front fixing old Fords. He’d buy old Model Ts and As that weren’t running, fix them up, and sell them for more than he paid for them. The neighbors called us ‘The Crazy Shermans.’”
Carol’s brother was not the only entrepreneur in the family. “With three brothers,” Carol said, “I was only safe at the sewing machine! I learned to make dresses from patterns that I bought at Grant’s department store, the five-and-dime.” Carol received compliments on her dresses with classmates asking where she had purchased them. It didn’t take long before Carol realized her talent and attended the Fashion Institute of Technology, eventually becoming a certified fashion designer. She had previously attended Hunter College receiving her teaching certification in home economics.
In the late 1960s, Carol opened her own shop on St. Mark’s Place in the East Village. She named it The Fast Stepper in honor of her mother. Carol loved to travel and loved to meet different people. It was on one of her many trips, while skiing in the Alps, that she met Eugene Cooper, her future husband.
With Gene’s encouragement, Carol opened a designer clothing shop on Jobs Lane in Southampton in 1970. Not knowing what to name it, Gene suggested she call it Carol Sherman. She was hesitant because she said, “No one knows who Carol Sherman is.” Gene assured her saying, “But soon they will.”
Carol spoke of her husband lovingly. “He was always supportive and encouraging. When we met, we knew we were meant to be together. We were soulmates. We were married over 12 years when he died suddenly from heart problems. I knew that Gene wouldn’t want me to be hurt, but honestly, divorce would have been easier to handle.”
Carol’s careers varied. In addition to being a fashion designer, she was a teacher, an associate professor, a private chef, and even a lifeguard. She laughs, “I was in my 50s and I was the oldest lifeguard on record at the time. I love to swim.”
Also, Carol had so many requests for the muffins she would bake, she started selling them to farm stands under her private label Muffin Mama.
Active in the poetry community since the 1970s, Carol laughed about the very first poem she wrote. “I did my first poem in high school. I was 14 years old. It started with, ‘I stood upon a windy hill …’ I really started writing when I lived in Sag Harbor in a house that overlooked the bay,” she recalled.
“I’ve belonged to several poetry groups including the East End Poetry Group in Southampton, was a member of the Choral Society from 1982 to 1989, and joined the community theater in Southampton where I had roles in the productions of Anything Goes, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Fools, Follies, and a few others. I’ve done poetry readings and had a few small books published of my poems. I’ve also had two memoirs published. I was encouraged by Marijane Meaker in my writing of Bronx Ballads in 2001 which was a journey through grief after World War II.”
Although Carol has cut back on a lot of her activities, she has recently tried her hand at watercolors and currently has her work displayed at the hall in Windmill Village II, where it is now open to the public for viewing.