Born on 6 September 1920 in Blytheville, Mississippi County, Arkansas, Frencella Kathleen Hudson was the daughter of Willie Miller and Velva Mae (Morton) Hudson. She grew up in Blytheville, Arkansas, and Bragg City, Missouri. Frencella graduated from Sumner High School in Cairo, Illinois, on 26 May 1939, after which she attended Lincoln University and St. Louis Community College at Forest Park and worked for the Works Progress Administration.

In September 1941, Frencella accepted a job as a waitress at the Turf Grill located at 100 North Jefferson Ave. in St. Louis. Before long, the failing restaurant was gifted to Frencella by the owner. She changed the name to Southern Kitchen, and started her career as a restaurant and bar owner in St. Louis City for forty-six years.

On 10 September 1941, Frencella married John Henry Banks Sr., born on 8 April 1918 in Luxora, Arkansas; died on 18 October 1993 in St. Louis City. He was the son of Phynous and Priscilla (Monger) Banks. Frencella and John had two sons: John Henry Banks, Jr., (also known as Armose Zudammon), born on 14 June 1949 in St. Louis City; died on 24 March 2016 in St. Louis County, and Karl Gerald Banks, born on 9 April 1954; died on 24 Oct 1988 in St. Louis City.

Frencella and John Henry lived at 6516 Whitney Avenue in St. Louis County in 1944. On 24 September 1954, Frencella was granted a divorce from John Henry and awarded custody of their two sons.

In March 1957, Frencella married James Evans in St. Charles County, Missouri. James, son of John Evans and Rebecca Elliot, was born on 3 May 1912 in Starksville, Oktibbeha County, Mississippi. The couple lived at 7908 Stanford Avenue in University City. This couple divorced in October 1970. James Evans died on 27 August 1978 in St. Louis City with burial at Jefferson Barracks.

In June 1959, Frencella moved Southern Kitchen and Steak and Still Bar to 4509-15 Delmar Boulevard where it remained until Frencella retired in 1988.

Frencella Kathleen Hudson
Frencella Kathleen Hudson
Photo in the collection of Eloise Hudson Hunt
Used with permission

On 22 February 1975 in St. Louis County, Frencella married Joseph Thederick Bonner, son of Joseph Thurston Sr., and Ethel Vernell (Sanders) Bonner. Born on 15 December 1905 in Mason, Tipton County, Tennessee, Joseph died on 20 May 2000 in St. Louis County. Frencella and Joseph lived at the Stanford address and at 5527 Donbar Drive.

According to an article in the North Side St. Louis County Journal on 18 October 1990, Frencella made rolls by the tubful at her restaurant, which was open all day, every day. Black athletes, entertainers, and social clubs frequented her popular restaurant during the 1960s and 70s. Per Frencella, “Blacks didn’t have many places they could go out to eat, so they came to Southern Kitchen. When Billy Ekstine and Sarah Vaughn came to St. Louis to perform, they came to my restaurant as did Jackie Robinson, Bob Gibson, and Curt Flood.”

Frencella was in business for forty-six years and owned the building that housed Southern Kitchen West until June 1999. After her retirement, she cooked breakfast at Father Dunn’s Catholic Charities, volunteered for the food pantry at her church, and worked for the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners. She was a member of the Pine Street YMCA, a lifetime member of the NAACP, and participated in church auxiliaries at All Saints Episcopal Church. Her last residence was 7176 Hunter Avenue. Frencella died on 28 October 2011 in Florissant, Missouri. Her burial occurred on 4 November 2011 in Garden of the Cross at Valhalla Cemetery. She is with her third husband, Joseph T. Bonner. On 5 and 6 October 2012, Frencella’s life was re-enacted in “Voices of Valhalla” by the Hawthorne Players at Valhalla Cemetery.

Sources are from personal interviews, property deeds, family documents, marriage records, census and court records, death certificates, newspaper articles, obituaries, and a baptismal record.

Written by Eloise Bernice Hudson Hunt

September 2016

© 2016, St. Louis Genealogical Society

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Last Modified: 25-Oct-2018 21:51