Wading in the Water

In the summer of 1945 my parents moved from Los Angeles, where my father had been studying film making, to Springfield, MA. He was the new pastor of St. John’s Congregational Church, an historic African American church.  During their trip across country they stopped in Detroit to see their families. A trip to my Uncle Louis’ cottage in Idlewild was included.  More photographs from that trip can be seen here – Idlewild 1945.


My mother Doris Graham Cleage wading in Lake Idlewild with family friend Lillian Payne.


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31 Responses to Wading in the Water

  1. Little Nell says:

    I enjoyed all the photos; everyone looked so relaxed. It must have been a welcome stopping off point on the trip.

    • Kristin says:

      I’m sure they took the train and I’m sure it was a welcome visit home. They had been living away for over 2 years at that point, with no visits either way.

  2. Wendy says:

    We have a vacation home on a lake, but I’m not fond of wading in it except in areas where a “real beach” has been created, complete with sand.

    • Kristin says:

      When we lived on Lake Idlewild or went to my uncle’s cottage before that, we had a sandy beach. The whole place was sandy, if grass grew up it only had to be rototilled to bring back the sandy beach.

  3. Helen McHargue says:

    The video is such a great find for this theme. I’m afraid “Wade in the Water” is one of those worm songs…it’ll be playing in my head for days. I’ve dug out a fan I bought in Vietnam so I can fan along with the ladies while watching!

  4. La Nightingail says:

    With your mother & her friend Lillian outfitted in swimsuits, I’m guessing they did more than wade after they got used to the water?

  5. Sharon says:

    I wondered about the horn on the boat (bottom right corner). What is visible, does not look like a rescue boat so I am wondering why there was a horn? Yep……my brain works differently to most!

    • Kristin says:

      I think it was used as … a horn. It’s not a rescue boat but I think I vaguely remember it still being in use in the 50s. You know, tute, tute, here we come? Maybe not :)

  6. jo in Melbourne Aus says:

    Excellent photo and song choice. I suppose you knew all about the meaning behind the words there, as La Nightingall mentioned in a comment on the song in another blog.

    • Kristin says:

      I never heard that story about the song being a message to wade in the water to confound the slave catchers. I’m skeptical about that interpretation. I don’t believe in quilts as secret messages for runaways either. For one thing, she was not singing out there on the road as silence was necessary to keep hidden. Folks would already know that you went in the water to throw off the dogs, if water was around. You wouldn’t need a song for that.

      Found another analyses here http://blackhistory360.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/decoding-wade-in-the-water/

      I grew up knowing about Harriett Tubman and also hearing this song. I think it’s much deeper, spiritually than instructions for running away.

  7. Angella says:

    You have such a treasure trove of photographs. Beautiful.

  8. LindaRe says:

    Beautiful rendition of the song and goes well with the pictures. I love congregational singing and how everyone participates, even those of us who sit quietly meditating.

  9. postcardy says:

    I like the reflections in the water and the way your mother and her friend look almost like mirror images of each other.

  10. Kathy says:

    I enjoyed all the photos too. And the link. I’m going to have to come back to hear Wade in the Water .. my husband is napping in here and I had to turn down the sound!

  11. Tattered and Lost says:

    Such a wonderful rendition of the song.

    And your mom and friend look like passing boats heading in different directions.

  12. genepenn says:

    Two lovely ladies – so elegant – especially the hair styles – makes you wonder if they went under the water at all.

  13. Bob Scotney says:

    Is that a swimming cap I see in her hand? I’m intrigued by the horn too.

  14. boundforoz says:

    A interesting composition, with the two of them facing away from each other.

  15. anyjazz says:

    Above average photographs! Not the usual box camera snaps, a real photographer was a work here with a real camera. Fine post!

  16. Mike Brubaker says:

    A very artistic photo and a perfect song to accompany it. I’m guessing it was a small print that is now improved by being enlarged and framed on your blog.

  17. Deloris C Harrington says:

    Beautiful memories ! I also have of Idlewild, Michigan in 1957 with Helen Findlay and Arlene Carter. We motored from Columbus, Ohio, in Helen’s Nash Rambler, which took about 5 hours, and stayed in the Cottage of Catherine and Robert Higgins.
    What ever happen to the Resort?

    • Kristin says:

      Idlewild is still there. It’s not as flashy as it once was but people still come up for more usual north woods kind of things – swimming, fishing, jet ski’s (shudder) and sitting around on the deck/patio.

  18. Nancy Javier says:

    I’m wondering where your father might have gone to film school in L.A. Could it have been USC or UCLA? I can’t think of any other place that long ago where there would have been a film school. Very interesting. Did he want to be a filmmaker?
    Ladies of the Grove

    • Kristin says:

      It was UCLA. He toyed with the idea of making religious films but after he got a church, he was forever totally immersed in that. Much later in his life, he was in his 80s. I asked him if he regretted not ever making a film and he said he wasn’t that good anyway.

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