Mary Frankie Forte

Listen to Mary’s interview!

Mary Frankie is a homegrown East Oaklander. Her educational career is rooted in Oakland Public Schools. As a toddler she attended Highland Children’s Center, then Webster Elementary and Frick, and later on, she graduated from Oakland High. She says she was “literally born on 82nd Avenue and A Street,” in the heart of East Oakland. Her parents purchased the house in the early 1940s with a $200 deposit. Mary now owns the house she grew up in and is determined to keep her property in her family.

Mary has had a full life. She worked for Chevron in San Ramon for 30 years, and after retiring, ran It’s A Grind Coffee House, which was located in downtown Oakland, for seven years. Mary is retired now. She has two children and is a full time grandmother of a two-year-old and five-year-old.

Mary is committed to making Oakland a cleaner and safer place, like she remembers it was when she was growing up. She still remembers how vibrant East Oakland was. She reminisces, “I can tell you from about 73rd to 98th, where all the banks were, where the Safeway’s were, where the Shell Stations were—on every corner—and it was very safe.”

Because of the memories and experiences Mary has had over the past decades in Oakland, it has motivated her to be active in her community. She volunteers for her local neighborhood council and other groups that are working to clean up the illegal dumping that is more than a nuisance for Mary. She believes it is the city’s job to address the litter problem. She remembers the “Don’t Be a Litter Bug” campaign back in the 1960s and how people all over the country were familiar with that message.

Listen to the full interview to hear more from Mary Frankie herself—she is a treasure trove full of stories about life in Oakland, past and present.