Movies and Me

The first movie I remember seeing when I was about 4. We lived in St. John’s Congregational Church parsonage/community house in Springfield, Massachusetts where my father was pastor. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of the movie. I remember waking up from my nap and going down the hall to a big room where a movie was being shown. There I saw a larger then life, green genie coming horrifyingly out of a bottle. Perhaps it was The Thief of Bagdad, released in 1940. By 1950 it could have been available for showing in darkened rooms full of folding chairs to community groups. I did not stick around after the Genie started coming out of the bottle.

0My mother took my sister and me to see many Disney movies when we were young.  I remember seeing Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio and Bambi. Later there was Old yeller, Zorro and Davy Crockett.  We had popcorn and we each got a box of candy. For me it was the pink and white covered licorice candy – Good n’ Plenty.  My sister got Milk Duds. Or we got Jujyfruits. Or were Jujyfruits found under our pillow when we lost our teeth?

Movies_I've_seenThen came movies that we saw after we finished with the children’s movies.  I only remember going to the movies once with Pearl on our own.  We went to see Persona, an Ingmar Bergman movie that a friend had told her involved a razor blade.  We saw several movies with Henry and my mother at the drive in – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Bridge On The River Kwai come to mind. We saw West Side Story, with my father and The 10 Commandments with my mother at the Dexter Theater.  I think we saw Blow-up with my father? Sounds odd, but that’s the way I remember it. Dr. Strangelove, The Battle of Algiers (which I later saw about 50 times while librarian at the Black Conscience Library) and Los Olvidares (one of the scariest movies ever) we saw at the Studio Theater with Henry and maybe my mother. When and where did I see Rosemary’s Baby? Can’t believe I really saw that at the show.  I remember seeing several movies while visiting Pearl after she moved to Atlanta – Kagemusha, Rashoman and Austrailian movie The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith.  I remember seeing Midnight Cowboy with my cousin Barbara after I moved into my own apartment.  We caught the bus and walked down Dexter. I remember it was night.  Maybe the only movie I went to in Detroit after moving on my own.

I returned to watching children’s movies when my older children were younger – Charlotte’s Web and Sounder. There were probably others.

recent movies

Later I saw  a few movies when we lived in Mississippi – The Harder They Come, The Harder They Fall, Close Encounter of the third Kind.  In Excelsior Springs I remember seeing The Color Purple with my friend Roberta. When we moved to Idlewild for a long time the only movies I saw were on video – Daughter’s of the Dust, Danzon, and Strickly Ballroom were some of my favorites. I remember seeing quite a few movies with my youngest son in the theater in Ludington, mostly during the week while the theater was empty.  I can’t remember any memorable ones but we went often, taking juice and our own popcorn in my bag.

For several years I was a member of SASIALIT, an online discussion group about South Asian literature and movies.  Two of the favorite movies were Sholay and Amar, Akbar, Anthony.

Movie theaters have changed since I was going to movies in the 1950s and 1960s. I went to see “Hundred-Foot journey” at Phipps Plaza.  They have roomy, red recliner seats. Quite nice to be able to put up my feet.  

One of my very favorite movies is Danzón (María Novaro, 1991). The whole movie (Spanish, no subtitles) is available on YouTube in more than 10 parts. I would advise renting the movie. It has everything, dancing, true love, a fine young man on a boat, good hearted prostitutes, female impersonators, friendship, motherhood, getting older.

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My Quilt Tent – 1958

1958 july kris tentI am standing in front of my tent made of a quilt attached to the former chicken house, at that point storage shed, in Nanny and Poppy’s (my Graham grandparents) backyard.  It was a June Saturday in 1958.  I was 11 and would turn 12 in August.  My cousin Barbara had her own quilt tent built over the wooden slide.

1958 June barbara tentIn the header we are eating lunch in the yard the same day.  Sitting at the table from L to R is my aunt Mary V., my grandmother, my greatgreat aunt Abbie, my grandfather at the head of the table (of course) me, cousin Dee Dee and cousin Marilyn on the end. My mother probably took the picture.

More posts about my grandparent’s house on Theodore.

T is for Theodore Street

Memorial Day and the Fourth of July

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Dunbar Hospital Again

I saved this article from the Detroit Free Press years ago during the 1980s, because my grandfather, Dr. Albert B. Cleage Sr was one of the founding doctors of Dunbar Hospital and the article featured my aunt and cousins.  By August 2014, Dunbar was being auctioned for unpaid taxes, after being closed up for years.  I should have written the date on it.  Click each article to enlarge so that you can read.


Dr. Ernest Martin, Warren Evans, Anna Cleage Shreve and her daughter Dr. Maria Shreve Benaim.

dunbarcleage2You can read more about Dunbar Hospital in previous posts at these links A Speech on the Graduation of the first class of nursesBirths, Deaths, Doctors and Detroit, Part 2, Dunbar Hospital 1922 and 2014.  You can read about this building being auctioned in September 2014 here Detroit’s first black hospital hits auction

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Boys, Mules and a Cabin – 1918.

Who are they?

Who are they?

I have posted this photo several times as I try and figure out who these children are.  In one post I wonder if they are on the ALLEN side and on another I speculate that they are on the GRAHAM side.  I’m leaning more towards the Graham side because of the writing on the side which I make out as “date/18 On Barrons Farm” .  My grandfather Mershell Graham’s sister, Annie Graham and her children lived on the Barron Farm in rural Elmore County Alabama.  You can read more about these speculations here S is for Sibling, Annie Graham?   The other post speculated that the family the McCall branch – “More About Annabell’s Family”.  These are both families that I have lost and would so appreciate any cousins in those branches getting in touch to help me solve the mysteries.

For more information about the camera used to take this photo follow this link to the Photo-Sleuth’s post about the Autographic camera.


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Jo Mendi

edwardmccallpoemI found this poem in my grandmother Fannie Turner Graham’s large scrapbook.  She just pasted stuff in there without much rhyme or reason.  Edward McCall, who was a poet and publisher, was her first cousin. Her mother Jennie and his mother Mary were sisters, both Eliza’s daughters.  I remember seeing Jo Mendi ride around the ring at the Detroit Zoo in the 1950s on one of our annual Graham family Zoo trips.

Jo Mendi 1950

Jo Mendi 1950

The note in my grandmother’s scrapbook says he died in 1934, but the photo I found on the webb says it was taken in 1950.  It turns out there were 4 of them and you can click here for their stories The True Story of Jo Mendi. And here for a Chimp Trainer’s Daughter telling about the brutal side of training chimps.

You can read more about McCall in these posts:

James Edward McCall, Poet and Publisher.

Poems by James E. McCall

She Was Owned Before the War…

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Belle Isle Conservatory 1925


My grandfather Mershell Graham holding little Mershell and my mother, Doris.  They are sitting outside of the Conservatory on Detroit’s island park, Belle Isle. The photo is dated 1925.  Usually my mother and her sister had their hair cut short but in this and a few other pictures they have braids.

In case the first several comments below are puzzling, I removed a second photo from 1926 and added a photo taken by my cousin of the Conservatory during rain this very month.

A photo of the Belle Isle Conservatory taken by Maya, Mershell Grahams 2X great granddaughter.

A photo of the Belle Isle Conservatory taken by Maya, Mershell Grahams 2X great granddaughter August 2014..

More about Belle Isle – 2 posts and some info.


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My grandmother Fannie’s Fan


Grandmother Fannie’s Fan today.

IMG_0484Only the skeleton remains. It used to be covered with gossamer thin white material with little sparkling threads, like the fan below. All rotted away now.


The fan once looked similar to this one.  Click photo to see another fan.

I found this page with a short modern history of fans and the language of fans –

Photos of 1800s African American women & Church Hand Fans + the Courting Language of the Fan


Fannie Turner before marriage - 1909.

Fannie Turner before marriage – 1909.

I wonder if she carried the fan when she was married.

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Mug Shot – James Edward Williams 1972

 Today’s mugshot is of James Edward Williams, my husband. He was arrested for driving without a license on the Wayne State University campus in March of 1972.  This mugshot was included in his ‘red file’ which included local police files and FBI information from the 1970s.  He was arrested for driving without a license often because he either lost it or forgot it.  He didn’t spend time in jail but was released either with no bail or very low bail.  After we left Detroit, it never happened again.


Posted in sepia saturday | 31 Comments

Award For Excellence in Spanish

spanish award

Award for Excellence in Spanish.

I took 4 years of Spanish in high school.  It was with the 3rd year that the total number of students in the class fell to 2. We sat in the back of the 2nd year class and worked on our assignments. We missed a lot by not being in a 3rd and 4th year class geared to learning to speak and understand the language.  Both of us, I can’t remember his name, received awards in our senior year at the awards program in the auditorium.

I supplemented class work with listening to Radio Habana Cuba on the ancient short wave radio and the Mexican music program once a week. I also bought magazines and records, but I never had anybody to actually talk with or listen to.  Once my Aunt Barbara suggested that I work at one of the grocery stores in Southwest Detroit that my uncles printed flyers for because I could practice my Spanish on the customers. My mother nixed that plan.


Book for year 1.

honor society 3la_violetteIntermediate book. 3rd year? There was a great grammar book with samples and examples and explanations but I can no longer find it.


My Spanish teacher Señor Velasco.

I remember that he shared a letter from his sister once.  She was a teaching nun in the Dominican Republic.  I don’t remember anything about the letter.

honor society 1a

The Northwestern High School Honor Society. I am in the center.

When I got to college I studied a year of Classical Arabic my freshman year. I also took a year of French. Finally, during my sophomore year, I decided to finish my language requirement  of 2 years with Spanish.  I tested out of the first 1.5 years and needed 1 quarter more to complete. I should have taken more after that until I was fluent, but I did not.


Posted in The Book of Me | 4 Comments

Signs From On High – Wayne State University

Here is a photograph including 3 signs from the early 1940s and a rough sketch of the same area that I did in 1968. Both were taken from upper floors on Wayne State University buildings looking on Cass Ave.  I did the sketch from an upper floor of State Hall.  I believe that the photo was taken from Old Main, (the only tall building facing that direction on campus at the time), by my uncle Henry Cleage while he was a student at Wayne.

After looking on Google maps, I no longer think this was taken from Old Main, looking down Cass.  I wonder where it was taken from because that is definitely the Macabee building.


Photograph  taken from Old Main in the early 1940s

The Macabees building on the upper left corner used to hold the Detroit Board of Education. My husband and I went and picketed there the first day we met, in support of the Northern high school student boycott in the spring of 1966.  You can read more about that in I Met My Husband in the Library.

cityscape - sketch complete

Very rough sketch from about 1968.

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