My maternal grandmother, Fannie Mae Turner Graham, was born 129 years ago on March 12, 1888, in Lowndes County, Alabama. She died on August 13, 1974 in Detroit, Michigan. You can read more about my grandmother in this post Fannie Mae Turner Part 1.
I am the same age as my grandmother was when we posed together on her back steps. Looking at the photograph below of me and my granddaughter made me think about the endless circle and the passage of time.
Recently my son James was in Detroit and visited many of the sites that were important in my life and my family’s life. He was lucky enough to have historian Paul Lee and Sala Adams as guides. I have matched photographs from the 1960s with some of the photos that they took last week.
Today’s photographs were taken at 5397 Oregon, on the West Side of Detroit. Ten years ago when I went around taking photos of places I had lived, there were people living here. Today the house and many in the area are wrecks. In one photo not shown here, I could see holes in the roof. The house on the left still has someone living there. The two houses to the right are also falling to pieces. It’s tragic.
I would never have imagined that this area would look like this when I lived there some 48 years ago. Today I’ve been looking at the house I live in right now and thinking about which parts would fall apart first if it were vacant for a decade. I doubt it would be in as good a shape as this one because it was built with much cheaper materials.
Reading about the present teacher’s sick out and the student walkouts in Detroit reminded me of this boycott of Northwestern High School in 1962. I was a junior and remember picketing in the cold. Several students from our church Youth Fellowship came and picketed with us even though they were students at Cass. Most of my classmates went to school that day, I particularly remember one of my friends said she was not going to stay home because she didn’t want to miss a day at school. Sometime later students from Northwestern were bused out to the white schools with vacant seats.
Click any of the images to enlarge for reading.
My sister Pearl in the checked pants carrying the sign. My father on the far right side walking towards Pearl.
I am pretty sure “A Northwestern Teacher” was Ernest Smith, an activist and member of my father’s church.
I am in the front bottom right photo, turning backwards with the high water pants.
Tulani, Ayanna and James , soon after we started homeschooling. Tulani was 11, Ayanna was 13 and James was 7 when we began. This is the story as I wrote it for a newsletter I once published. Click on the pages below to enlarge.
James, Tulani, Ayanna and Cabral holding flowers and produce from our garden.
This store was located some blocks from our house on Oregon on Tireman Ave. Sometimes my mother called and ordered the food and the delivery guy brought it to the house. This day we went there in person and there is my mother in the glasses and me in a scarf with the grocery bag coming behind her. Henry must have been there to take the photograph. There is that strange grassy stuff at the top of the picture. It seems to be on a bunch of photos, maybe they were all taken on the same roll.
My most memorial story concerning this store is the time my mother, my sister and I were on the way to the store. My sister and I were going in while my mother waited in the car and she was telling us what to get. One item was ground round and she was explaining the difference between hamburger (don’t get it!) and ground round (do get it!) when I heard my voice saying, “ok, ok. We’ll get ground round.” There was silence for a moment and then she said get out, get the groceries and walk home. That was about 5 blocks, with heavy paper bags of groceries. We made it. Probably she had little to say to us when we finally did get home with the ground round and the rest of the groceries.
I was going to put a photo of the store as it is now but that area on goggle maps was vacant lots covered in cracked asphalt or brush. I can’t even tell where it was. You can read more about the house we lived in during this time and my life there in O is for Oregon.
On the left my Uncle Henry is holding a ten inch blue gill that he and my mother caught in September of 1977 in a boat off of my Uncle Louis’ dock on Lake Idlewild. They would fillet them and freeze them in empty milk cartons.
On the right is a boat in front of Louis’ cottage on Idlewild Lake. I can’t quite make it out, but could be them catching the above string of fish.
In June, 1979 my mother sent to the Emergency Land Fund’s newspaper “Forty Acres and A Mule” her recipe for cooking blue gills. I wish I had a plate of those blue gills right now.
I just remembered this letter with a drawing of a fish that my mother wrote to Henry from Idlewild in 1956.
“In between showers, the children & I go outside to see what’s up. The lake is full of minnows & baby bass & even some half-size bass who stay around our beach. But the rowboat isn’t even down the hill – and the other boats are too fast – everything is gone before you even get to it – including the lake.
I’ve spent two evenings with Louis & his guests – and they took me out to “night club” – but they’ve given me up, I think, as a confirmed “prude” – but a pleasant innocuous one. I’ve been reading the book about Bronson alcott (no, I won’t tell you who he is) and also…”
I was going to write about the time when we hand printed fish one spring in Idlewild. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to have saved any of our prints. I did not know printing fish was a Japanese art form called Gyotaku. Ours were not as lovely as those at the link, but they were interesting.
Note: My sister tells me she has some of those prints. Whenever she finds them, I will add them to this post.
okay. i know you always deny saying this, but here’s how i remember it.
you said somebody who worked with you in the wayne cafeteria said you have to meet this guy. I think you two would really hit it off and you said cool and then on a subsequent day, the person said there he is and he was at the top of one of those school building stairways and you said — i swear you said this to me because at the time i thought “woah! she’s got it bad!!!” — you said the first time you saw him “it was like he had a glow around his head or something.” i stole that for the “in the time before the men came piece” when the lil’ amazon says almost those exact words…
amazing that i remember this so clearly, have even told it to people, and it doesn’t ring a bell at all. I don’t know why. maybe the glow had to do with memory erasure and he erased it from your mind so you wouldn’t know he was from another planet or something… who knows? all i know is, if i dreamed it, it was an amazing dream. ….
What really happened…includes the cafeteria, the actual meeting and a stairway. No glow.
The first time I saw Jim, I was working in the Wayne State University cafeteria, behind the food counter. A woman who worked with me, who wasn’t a student but a regular employee, said her boyfriend was coming through the line and she always gave him free food. It was Jim who came through and got his free food and didn’t make any impression on me to speak of. I didn’t think about him again until I met him later. This must have been the winter of 1966 or the fall.
The Northern high students walked out in the spring of 1966. Northwestern high organized a supporting boycott and my sister Pearl was the head of it. I used to study in the main library’s sociology room. As I was leaving to go to my next class, a guy came up and asked if I was Rev. Cleage’s daughter. I said I was. He asked if I was leading the Northwestern boycott and I said no, that was my sister. We made arrangements to meet after my class on the picket line in front of the Board of Education Building. We did and later sat around for several hours talking in the ‘corner’ at the cafeteria in Mackenzie Hall. I felt very comfortable with him, which I usually didn’t do with people I just met. He tried to convince me to join a sorority and convert the girls to revolution. There wasn’t a chance I was going to do that. He also told me that he was “nice”. I asked if he meant as in some people were revolutionaries and he was “nice”. He said yes, that’s what he meant. We saw each other almost everyday after that.
One day during the fall of 1967, I was going to a creative writing workshop that was on the third floor of State Hall. The stairway had ceiling to floor windows and I saw him, Jim, walking down the sidewalk across Cass Ave., in front of the library. Before I knew what I was doing, I was down the stairs and on my way out the door when I realized I needed to go to class and went back up the stairs.
I was hoping that this week I could find a photograph of someone in the family actually typing. I could not. I did find several photographs with a typewriter in the background. I chose this one of me in 1966 sitting in our dining room with our trusty Underwood in the background. It was an upgrade from the ancient Underwood we had before.
I also found a story that I wrote on this very typewriter a little over a year later. I share it below. I wrote it for a Creative Writing class at Waynes State University. The story alternates between a journal entry I wrote about a trip to Santa Barbara, CA and wanting to leave home and the rather strange story of #305751 (my student ID number) who works for a multinational corporation giving away cheese samples on the streets of Detroit. Judging by all of the corrections, this was not the copy that I turned in. I hope. Click on any page to enlarge.
Here is my father, Albert B. Cleage Jr, playing chess at his parents house about 1952. We lived down the street on Atkinson in the parsonage at the time. We have played a lot of chess in my family through the years.
I remember my Uncle Henry teaching me to play chess when I was in my teens. When I first met my husband, we spent hours playing chess on the second floor of the student center in Mackenzie Hall Below is a bit of a letter I wrote to my sister in 1966 that begins with a game of chess.
September 21, 1966
I am in bed with the flu. Monday night, I was playing chess with Henry when I developed chills. My teeth were chattering and I had goose pimples. I thought I was gong to die. just my luck to get sick on payday. I got two patterns Friday. I have to get some material now. I want some blue material with little black flowers for the suit.
I spent the weekend with (my cousin). I got high once on Saturday night. I didn’t like it. It was like everything was floating and everything was real slow. My thinking too, also my voice sounded real far away . This guy was there, he was talking and I was looking at him and I could hear him, but it was like someone else was talking. Very, very weird!!! I could still think, I knew I was high and what I was doing. It wasn’t my idea of fun and I doubt if I’ll ever do it again.
Sunday morning I went horseback riding. I really liked it. Me and (my cousin) and her friends went. Riding was really nice, but I was a little scared when the horse first started to run or trot or whatever you call it. I’m just a little sore.
Stokely (Carmichael) is supposed to be here in a few weeks at church. Linda and I finished our 15 page each quota of bruning at work by 12:30 Friday, so we messed around the rest of the day. Both Linda’s and my dress shrunk so now we have mini dresses.
On Friday (my cousin) and I went to the drive-in and saw “Breakfast at Tiffiny’s” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf” I liked the first, but, who the hell is Virginia Wolf? Higgins paper came out. Bar’s baby has measles. Everybody at work is singing La Bamba now, due to my great influence.
Unfortunately, I do not think I ever went horseback riding again. I never really took to getting high. It’s hard to believe I didn’t know who Virginia Wolf was. Luckily, in one of my early English classes, we had to read her book, Mrs. Dalloway.
The photograph in the header is my grandson Sean playing chess with himself four years ago. He would make a play and then make a play for the other color, often going around to the other side to make the play.