Powell, Dennis (interviewee)
Dennis Powell, born in Pittsfield Mass, 1945, discusses the West Side of Pittsfield, business and residential streets there, that were later destroyed by urban renewal projects. He lived with half siblings, mother, grandparents; talks about men, mentors in the neighborhood, especially Saint Clair Gunn. After graduating Pittsfield High School, enlisted in Army, Fort Dix, then Germany. Upon return, worked a short time at GE in Pittsfield, and then went to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), on GI Bill. Remembers while at the CIA, then in New Haven, CT., hearing the news of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. After graduation had a teaching fellowship at the CIA; while there entered and won a competition in Basel, Switzerland. Worked at Waldorf Astoria and Hotel New Yorker in NYC, married, lived in Brooklyn; went to work for many years as faculty member and dept chair at the CIA, now in Hyde Park, NY. Decided to move the Berkshires, had a difficult time finding a job. His top of the line resume did not match the expectations employers had of a black man. Eventually opened a restaurant, all in the family pitching in: the Wendell House Bistro, a white tablecloth place that may have been ahead of its time. He and his wife had two children, sons, and adopted a teenage girl whom they knew. When his wife suddenly died (aneurism) he closed the restaurant and began catering, in order to care for the children. After his son’s graduation from Northeastern University, and opening of Mad Jack’s Barbeque, Dennis went to work there. Powell is President of the Berkshire Chapter of the NAACP, on the Pittsfield School Committee, Vice Chair of Clinton Church Restoration, Pittsfield Licensing Board (first African American), Du Bois Lecture Series, Four Freedoms Coalition.