I have never participated in a carnival of genealogy before. I thought about it but never took the plunge. After reading Jasia’s contribution about her tinkering father I started thinking about the handy men in my family. On my father’s side his brother Hugh Cleage was called on when things needed to be fixed. My husband’s father was famous for building things and taking them apart. He could build and he could fix, he just didn’t seem to have enough time to finish. Sometimes he would get ideas for how he could do it better and change up in the middle of a big project multiple times.
The one I’m going to write about is my mother’s father, Poppy. I’ve written about him before, about his notebook with projects started and completed. See that here. Poppy had a workshop in his basement. It was in the old coal room. He had a workbench, a tool chest, and a bin full of small pieces of wood. He had filled up an old treadle sewing machine with a stone to sharpen knives and tools. Outside of the workshop in the main basement was a long workbench. There were short pieces of wood stored underneath. Against the wall were longer pieces. The workshop had a special smell of machine oil and wood and basement.
Poppy made furniture sometimes. Not fine pieces but basic, useful pieces. A rocking chair that sat in the upstairs hall when my mother was growing up where it was used to rock fussy babies and sick children. I remember it next his bedroom window where you could sit and rock and look out over the backyard. He made a small table that sat on the landing for the telephone. The phone had a long cord so it reached upstairs at night and downstairs during the day. He built me a wonderful two-sided dollhouse when I was about 8 and described one I had seen at a friend’s house. I was the envy of my cousin and sister. I still have it.
During the summer he set up a homemade slide when we came over. The wood was planed and sanded smooth and then waxed regularly with the ends of candles. I don’t remember any splinters. It wasn’t a very long slide and eventually it served more as a support for our tents.
Poppy built flower boxes for his back porch and the back yard as well as for his daughter’s porch. He could be seen coming up the walk to repair things with his toolbox, like a doctor coming to see a patient. I remember Saturday afternoon spent at Plymouth Congregational Church while he fixed something; often it was the temperamental furnace. Both of my grandparent’s sons died as young children so my mother spent a lot of time with her father fixing things.
My grandfather was in his eighties when things in his neighborhood became very dangerous. It was around 1968. Someone shot into the house. A man walked in to the open side door, went upstairs and went through my great, great Aunt Abbie’s things and stole some. She thought it was odd but didn’t try to stop him. Luckily he came in and out of the house without running into my grandfather. Eventually someone came to the door with a gun. Poppy slammed the door shut and fell to the floor. After this he and my parents decided to sell their houses and buy a two family flat together. They bought one out by the University of Detroit. Poppy set up his basement workshop again. He and my mother planted corn and green beans and tomatoes in every spare space in the small yard. Some days he would take a wagon and collect useful or interesting items people had thrown out around the neighborhood. It was my last year of college and I was ready to leave home. I wish now I had taken the time to sit and talk to my grandparents. Maybe they were ready to tell some of those stories I wonder about if I had just asked.
Edward Cleage was my grandfather, Albert Cleage’s brother. This post is a chapter of a memoir written by his daughter, Beatrice in 1990. This is a part of the SepiaSaturday postings.
Memories To Memoirs
Written in 1990
By Beatrice Cleage Johnson
Chapter 2 – Early Years of Life
1926 – I remember the early years of my life living at 216 Ridge Street. We used wood and coal stoves for heating and cooking. I will never forget the range stove that my mother cooked on. She made biscuits every morning for breakfast. There was a warmer at the top of the stove for left overs. I would always search the warmer for snacks. We had an outside toilet. Everyone that we knew had these, so we thought this was it. We never dreamed of ever having inside plumbing.
We had a water hydrant in the front yard and every night it was my job to fill the water buckets which had stainless steel dippers in them. My sister also helped with the chores. My other job was to clean the lamp chimneys. We used oil lamps. Momma always inspected them to see if they were clean. I decided then, if I ever made any money I would have electricity put in our house. And I did. I would babysit during the summers and save my money.
I have always loved poetry. I learned many poems and stories from my mother and sisters, such as “Little Boy Blue” and “Little Red Riding Hood”. I think my favorite food was any kind of fruit. I was always happy to see Summer, when the apples and peaches were plentiful. I always looked forward to Christmas. We never saw any oranges until then. I remember my first doll. It had a china head and straw body. I loved it so much. Momma always made a special white coconut cake for Christmas, which I looked forward to. She made other pies and cakes, but the coconut was my favorite. We didn’t get too many toys for Christmas, but my sisters and I enjoyed everything we got for Christmas.
My father became ill and my mother was to be the sole support of the five girls. I was six years of age when my father passed away in 1926. My youngest sister, Juanita, was three years of age and she didn’t remember him, but I did. After he died my uncles took the two older sisters, Helen and Alberta, to Detroit to live with them. Alberta stayed and finished high school there, but Helen came back home and helped Momma care for the three of us. Ola, Juanita and myself went to high school here.
We always celebrated the holidays. Thanksgiving was very special as my birthday would sometimes come on Thanksgiving Day. We always had special food on these days. Pies, cakes, chicken, rabbit. On Halloween we always dressed in our older sister’s and mother’s clothes. One of the main pranks the boys would do was to push the outside toilets over. We used to beg them not to push ours over. In those days, thre was no trick or treat. It was all tricks. Easter was also special. Momma would make us a new dress for Easter, and Helen always bought me black patent leather slipper.
Now to get busy on Challenge #3.
FAMILY HISTORY MONTH CHALLENGE #3
Your family photos might hang on the wall or kept in an album or box or displayed on the mantle, table or cabinet.
Pick your favorite family photo and tell us the story behind it.
Interpret the theme any way you like. Write as long or short as you like. For this challenge, especially, please post the photo that you’re writing about.
I moved often while I was growing up because my father was a minister. When he changed churches, we moved. I have written stories about each house individually. There are links at the bottom of this story. This is an overview of all those houses, with memories.
I was born on August 30, 1946 at 10 PM in the middle of a thunderstorm. The first of the two daughters of Rev. Albert B. and Doris Graham Cleage. I was named Kristin after the heroine of the novel by Sigrid Unset, Kristin Lavransdatter. My father was pastor of the St. John’s Congregational church in Springfield, MA. We lived in the back of the church community house after my father convinced the church to sell the parsonage to pay debts.
Laying on a blanket in the yard looking up at the clouds with my mother. Holding my sister, Pearl, on the way home from the hospital. Sitting on the basement steps while my grandmother washed Pearl’s diapers. Making Halloween cupcakes. Looking at the clearing evening sky after rain. Going to the ice ream parlor with my sister and parents. Leafless trees against the winter sky. The huge statues in a religious procession going past the house. Fall trees, a stream and a dog in the park. Watching the milkman and his horse from my bedroom window. Ribbon candy at Christmas.
When I was four my father got a church in Detroit and we moved there. All of the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins were there. We moved into a house down the street from my paternal grandparents a few aunts and uncles lived there too. I began kindergarten at Brady Elementary.
My grandfather picking up a baby bird and giving it little pieces of bacon. Not being allowed out of the yard. Being late for school all the time. A movie about white and red corpuscles fighting infection. Painting at the easel.
I attended first grade at Brady. During second grade I had pneumonia and missed the rest of that year my father was involved in a church fight and led a faction away to start another church. We moved. During the summer before we moved, my mother, sister and I stayed with my mother’s parents on the east side. My father stayed with his parents. My mother was taking classes in education at Wayne State University.
Playing “Sorry” at my grandparent’s kitchen table. Listening to the radio soaps. Going to meet my mother at the bus stop and collecting dropped flowers that we made into a slimy mud pie soup. Eating grated cheese and Ritz crackers. Going to the creamery with my grandfather to buy vanilla ice cream. Climbing up on the pile of logs against the wooden fence to look into the alley. The electrical storm when we sat in the living room, waiting for my mother to come home. Crying when she finally got there, telling of jumping over downed wires.
In the fall we all moved into a big stone house that would be mostly the church community house and incidentally we would live upstairs. The choir practiced downstairs, the youth group met in the basement rec room; they had card parties in the living room and piano lessons in the morning room. They all used the kitchen. It was kind of adventurous living in such a large mostly empty house with servant’s quarters in the attic and buttons that lit up on a numbered board in the kitchen when pressed in each room. At least my sister and I thought so. My mother didn’t feel that way. When I was eight my parent were divorced. It was a “friendly divorce”. We moved into a flat closer to Roosevelt elementary school that my sister and I attended and my mother was a beginning teacher. My sister and I went everyday to my father’s for lunch. He came by and visited. Neither one talked negatively about the other. My sister and I took piano lessons from Mr. Manderville and dance lessons at Toni’s School of Dance on Dexter.
Learning how to ride a bike. My great grandmother dying. Two more cousins being born. My aunt and three cousins staying with us while their family looked for a house. Saturdays my mother picked up her sister and three daughters and the seven of us drove over to the east side and spent the day at her parent’s. Vegetable and flower gardens, bird bath, swing, dirt, snowball tree, marigolds and a big brass bed we jumped up and down on
and slid through the bars of. Plays my older cousin Dee Dee wrote and we put on and on and on for the adults. My grandmother’s aunt who gave us rosaries and told us about cutting her mother’s mother’s (who she said was from Africa) toenails, while my cousin was cutting her toenails. Sundays after church at my other grandmothers where she had milk, tea and ice water on the table and the butter in little pats on a saucer and candles. The endless discussion of politics, race, church around that table. Getting my own room. Going to the fish house and the zoo and picnics at Belle Isle. Making dolls. Learning to roller-skate and ride a bike. Having a “best friend”. Reading, reading and reading. Roosevelt Elementary School changing from 99% Jewish to 99% Black.
When I was twelve I graduated from Roosevelt and went to Durfee Junior High School next door. Because of over crowding I was double promoted. A year later my mother bought a house on Oregon Street and we moved to the McMicheal school district. I transferred there while my sister continued at Roosevelt where she was a sixth grader. I was in the church youth group.
Going home after graduation with my best friend Deidre and having a snowball fight. Finding everybody else knew how to dance and I didn’t. How big Durfee seemed. My crazy seventh grade math teacher. Learning how to swim. Getting home before everybody. Never finding my way around McMicheal. Chaos during TV science classes. Learning how to sew. Making pineapple muffins and pineapple muffins and more pineapple muffins. My cousin growing out of playing ‘imaginary land” on Saturdays. Wishing I had enough money to get everybody a really good Christmas present. Arguing with my sister about who was supposed to do the dishes. Making doughnuts. Not getting “Chose” at youth group dances.
When I was 15 my mother remarried. She married my father’s brother, a lawyer, who was then a printer and started to put out a black paper, the illustrated news. I attended Northwestern High School. Favorite classes were Spanish and swimming. I was on the Swim Team. Worked at the Printing Plant one summer. Baby-sat another. My family bought an old farmhouse on two acres near Wixom, Michigan. We went there on weekend and longer in the summer.
Discovering Socialism, Revolution and Cuba. Telling an English teacher I certainly had nothing in common with Holden Caulfield. The freedom rides, school integration, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Kennedy’s assassination. The four little girls in Birmingham bombed at Sunday school. Being at the church Christmas bazaar while the Russian boats were headed for Cuba. Bare trees against the winter evening gray/peach sky. Not wanting to participate in graduation. Not going to the prom. Not wanting to. The green fields at the farm under a heavy grey, clearing sky after a summer. Not going on dates. Wanting to be able to say I had a boyfriend, but not wanting anyone I knew for one. Feeling like an outsider.
I attended Wayne State University from Sept 1964 until graduating in December 1968 with a Bachelors degree in Fine Arts. I worked in the cafeteria, in the school library, at the Center for the Application of Science and Technology, as the art director of the student newspaper, The South End. During Christmas vacations I worked as a saleslady in the Children’s only shop at downtown Hudson’s. One summer I worked in the pharmacy of the North Detroit General Hospital. I maintained a 3.0 average. Joined the Afro-American Action Committee and demonstrated against the war in Vietnam. Met my husband, Jim. My sister went off to study play writing at Howard University. My stepfather went back into law. We moved into a flat on Fairfield with my mother’s parents living downstairs. I did not attend my graduation.
I remember …
Meetings. Meetings about the war in Vietnam, meetings about Black Student concerns, community meetings, political meetings, meetings about meetings. Seeing Jim from my writing class and running down four flights of stairs before realizing I need to be in that class. Both grandmothers saying that girl is in love. The Pentagon March against the war in Vietnam, Visiting my sister at Howard. Being tired of school and home and wanting to be on my own. Dropping a tray full of dishes in the cafeteria and the diners applauding. Reading Kristin Lavernsdatter. Hanging out at the Montieth Center. Putting out “A Happenin’. Malcolm X’s assassination. MLK’s assassination. The 1967 rebellion. Passing out campaign information at the polls. Bell Bottom jeans. Richard Grove Holmes, “Song for my Father.” Doing a two-color separation cover of the South End. Being hopelessly in love. Spending the night with Jim. Eating oranges in the snack bar. Hippies. Afros. Black pride. Black Power. Freedom Now. Graduating from Wayne and taking the bus west, to San Francisco. Leaving home. Grown.
Specific memories of each of the many childhood houses (including floor plans) I lived in can be found in the following posts:
This is partial transcription of a very long interview that my cousin Margaret McCall made with her Aunt Stella Brown McCall in 1986. Margaret was Mary McCall’s granddaughter. Mary McCall was Eliza Williams Allen and Milton Saffold’s daughter. Stella Brown McCall was married to Margaret’s father’s brother. Margaret’s father was James McCall and his brother was Roscoe McCall. Louise was Stella and Roscoe’s daughter. Joe was Margaret and Stella’s cousin.
Margaret: I’m doing family history now and I’m on the McCall side. And I want to learn as much as I can because there are some gaps in things that I have been able to find.
Stella: Well, I don’t know too much about the…
Louise: She doesn’t know about the McCall side because she’s given me all the memories of her side. I have all those you know…
Margaret: On the Brown side?
Louise: Oh yes.
Margaret: But it’s the McCall side I’m interested in.
Louise: Mother you can tell her one thing I remember you told me about the McCall side, you told me that Daddy, that Daddy’s father was a jailor
Stella: He worked at the jail, the Montgomery jail down in Montgomery.
Louise: and they used to have him…he was the whipper and, you know, he was supposed to whip the prisoners, you know the black prisoners. And he would pretend that he was whipping them and you know, make them yell and he would make the whip sound. Isn’t that interesting? I can just picture that.
Stella: Well he had to pose to keep from whipping the prisoners.
Louise: Oh and mother you can also tell her about how Daddy was getting that man out of Montgomery for looking at the white girl. And then they were going to hang him and Daddy had to take him out on that lonely road and get him out of town. And …
Stella: they got stopped on the road.
Louise: The police, the posse, don’t they call it a posse? Or whatever.
Louise: came after him and then when they shined the light on Daddy. They were in a field and they saw that it was Mr., your grandfather McCall’s son and they said “Oh Rossie…”
Stella: Because his father, not cutting you off, Ross’s own, father had worked at the jail and had charge of the colored prisoners. They would have him punish the colored prisoners and he never punished not one. Because he could do it like he wanted to do it. He just posed… Had a whipping place and made the noise like he was whipping them but he didn’t touch a one of them.
Margaret: So this incident of Uncle Ross in the field, what happened?
Stella: They stopped him, right at that field.
Louise: No mother, start with how they were standing outside the drugstore… he and that other one, that Watkins boy and the white girl came by and she told her boyfriend that they had, that this Watkins fellow had winked at her and that started a riot in the city.
Stella: Winked at her.
Margaret: Is that right?
Stella: A riot.
Margaret: Well, how did Uncle Ross get him out of the city?
Stella: Out of the city?
Margaret: You said that they were in the field and the police came and said…
Stella: Now all before this started, Ross had a friend out in the country. This man was a good friend of his and they would go hunting out there. And that’s why he knew the man… his name… I can’t think of his name… what was his name…anyway, well he had a home down in the country and he would go down there every summer you know, just take a week off and hunt and…
Louise: A good place to hide out.
Stella: To hide out. Yes.
Margaret: That’s all?
Stella: And there was a railroad train coming out of Montgomery going on to Atlanta and Ross got this man out of Montgomery and had this porter on this train to stop at this little station down there in the country and nobody would ever think a train would stop there and he stopped just like he got him to do and he put this man on this train in the back and had a place for him to stay and stay shut up and he did that until he got to Atlanta and he was safe.
Margaret: And did he stay in Atlanta or did he leave Atlanta?
Stella: Oh he left Atlanta. We didn’t hear any more of him. But Ross saved his life! They were going to lynch him uh huh, oh yes. Ross had some narrow escapes in that time.
Margaret: He did?
Stella:Yes, because you see this one was taking him for that and that one was taking him for this and it was terrible.
Margaret: Now tell me, you and Uncle Roscoe married in Montgomery?
Stella: Montgomery, yes I married in Montgomery,
Margaret: Where did Uncle Roscoe go to school?
Stella: At State Normal School in Montgomery. And he went to the senior class and some girl got him in trouble and he had to jump out and go and that’s why he didn’t get his papers, you know.
Margaret: How did she get him in trouble?
Stella: Well she was… I guess something was wrong with her…. pregnant. That’s why he had to leave Montgomery. He left Montgomery.
Margaret: And where did he go?
Stella: Where did he go? New York.
Louise: Who are you talking about Daddy?
Stella: And then later he came on down.
Louise: Married you.
Stella: yes came back. Stayed away a long time though. I didn’t hardly…I was his little sister’s dearest friend and I didn’t know anything about him. Nothing. I’d heard of him because he was my brother, he was the age of my oldest brother Scott.
Joe: Was Jeanette your friend?
Louise: Um hum. Jeanette was your friend.
Stella: Jeanette was my best friend all the way from the first grade. And I didn’t know anything about him. I didn’t know there was a brother because he was away. Finished the senior class and everything and gone. Got in trouble and gone.
Margaret: Where did you go to school?
Stella: Same place he did – State.
Margaret: You went to State?
Stella: Yes, same thing. Same school but many years later, you know.
Stella: Now I was Jeanette, his sister’s age, his baby sister. And I didn’t know anything about him (laughs) he came on the scene later. And we were swept away (laughs again. He’d come to the house everyday..
Margaret: Uncle Ross would come to the house everyday, uh?
Stella: Everyday. Every evening. I can see him coming now.(laughs) Well, and that went on so far and we decided to marry.
Margaret: How did you happen to leave Montgomery?
Stella: Oh people were leaving Montgomery like mad at that time.
Stella: There was kind of a thing going then, getting out of the South. That’s when all this uproar started down there. Started changing schools and everything and getting the different things in order for the blacks to go to one school and the whites to another school and they had to fight that and different things and it made an uproar in the city. And then many many of the… all the important families in the city just packed up and said they were going to leave the city and that’s what was happening.
Margaret: When you were going to school, where did you go before Normal?
Stella: One school for me. One school for him. Same school.
Margaret: What was that?
Margaret: No, but before State Normal for your early education where did you go?
Stella: The only education they had from the cradle to the top floor.
Margaret: Oh, State went all the way.
Stella: Yes, they had buildings on the big grounds and the grammar school buildings were around on the circle ad then the juniors and then the seniors.
Margaret: Now was it integrated then or was it all black or…
Stella: All Black
Stella: All black.
Margaret: Okay, what about the teachers. Who were the teachers?
Stella: White. They started off with all white. Now I remember when I was down in the grades there was one teacher that they had kept, teacher name of Mrs. Foster and she was an excellent first grade teacher. And they kept her. But then later on they started putting the white people in and they’d keep them in, then they’d kick about it and then had to give them recognition you know and finally they got the school like they wanted it and then they… it was a black school. Had it turned black, see, but in the beginning it had all white teachers. Yes because when Ross was there now he graduated, well I’d say, a good eight or ten years before I was in there and he had a teacher that I remember a Mrs. Stuart. She had been teaching there from the beginning and she was there until the end. She was from up North. They brought those teachers down from the north. That’s the way they did. The whole school was white but then finally turned right back because they were fighting it so. They wanted colored teachers in there.
Margaret: Who are they who were fighting?
Stella: The people.
Margaret: The black people?
Stella: Yes, that’s who fought. They had… I can remember the teachers, they were crazy about Ross. He was always such a good friend to them. (laugh) Getting in with everybody. He always was on the good side. Yes, Ross was a sight.
Joe: You remember…one day…he was the first one I ever did see ride a motorcycle.
Louise: That’s right. You know everything.
Stella: Nobody had a motorcycle in the city but Ross.
Louise: You remember that?
Joe: First time I ever remember seeing him.
Margaret: Where was this, Montgomery. He had a motorcycle?
Stella: He used to ride that motorcycle out to my house everyday and ride it back downtown to the drugstore where he was working. They had opened up a drugstore.
Margaret: Who had opened up a drugstore?
Stella:Mr. Tulane, his uncle and they all were working in it It was a nice big, good business and everybody would be so congenial and everything when you would go in. You remember the drugstore? You used to hang out around the drugstore every Sunday. You could find anybody you wanted at the drugstore (laughs) when you’d court.
Dock Allen’s Story
As told to me in a phone conversation with my cousin Jacqui Vincent
Dock Allen was a white man’s son but not the one he ran away from. His owner was a mean man who kept vicious dogs so that the slaves would be afraid to run. Dock decided he was going to escape anyway but he did some things to throw the dogs off of his track. He walked through a wet field of wild ramps. He rubbed himself with them, poured the water on himself and practically rolled around in the field so the onion smell would hide his own.
Further along he came to a farm. By that time he was very tired so he climbed up into the hay loft and covered himself with hay. The tracking dogs came and he could feel their breath as they walked over him, but they didn’t find him because of the onion odor. Eventually they left.
This was the same place where Eliza lived. Later he decided to give himself up and the white people at the house send a message his master. When he came to get Dock he said that no one had ever out smarted his dogs and that any man who was smart enough to do that deserved to be free and he freed him. Dock stayed on that place and married Eliza.
Doc Allen in the record.
I found Dock Allen in in the 1867 voter registration database living in Montgomery, AL. He appears with his family in the 1870, 1880 and 1900 census in Montgomery. According to the records he was a carpenter born in Georgia. He owned his own home. In the 1900 census he and Eliza had been married 40 years which puts the beginning around 1860.
I have three addresses for him, 237 Clay street, 216 Holt street and finally 444 S. Ripley street where he lived for the five years before he died March 29, 1909 of “inflammatory bowels” after being ill for several weeks. His mother is listed as Matilda Brewster on his death certificate. No father is listed. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery.
I would like to find information about a runaway matching his description in the Dallas/Lowndes county area around 1860. Probably that will have to wait until I am able to go to Alabama and do some research there.
Eliza is in the largest photo towards the center of the chart. Her mother is Annie Williams. Both were slaves of Edmund and Jane Harrison of Lowndes and Montgomery Alabama. Later, I hypothesize, Eliza went with the Harrison’s daughter, Martha when she was married to Milton Saffold. Milton and Martha (she and her children are in the violet boxes) had three sons and then Martha died. Eliza had a daughter, Mary with Milton. Later Milton married Georgia Whitting (She and her sons are in the green boxes). Oral history says that Eliza and Mary were freed soon after this. Eliza later married Dock Allen, a free man and a carpenter. They had 8 children that survived to adulthood (blue boxes). Around 1874 Milton Saffold had a relationship with Clara Bolten (peach boxes) and they had two children together. Clara had a third daughter with an Irwin. Milton Saffold went to California and died there in 1879.
My mother wrote this as part of her family history memories for my sister and me in 1980. I am putting the whole piece here then I will reprint each sister’s section with the new information I found and corrections that needed to be made after I found descendants for most of them. My mother’s grandmother was Jennie Virginia Allen Graham. The women she writes about are her grandmother’s sisters, her great aunts. When “grandmother” is mentioned that is Jennie Virginia.
Now a word about her sisters….Aunt Willie was the oldest….married well…Victor Tulane (Tuskegee trustee and owner of a general store and many houses). He was not what you’d call a “faithful” husband, but Aunt Willie (the family said) looked the other way because he always took such good care of his wife and only child, a daughter Naomi, who was sent to Howard, married a doctor and went to live the high life in New York. Aunt Willie had a beautiful apartment over the store. Always had a maid and never worked. She was living like this when Grandmother was a struggling widow. She was the last sister to leave Montgomery. She died in New York. Her son-in-law had died, left her daughter wealthy with apartments in NY paid for, insurance, money for the education of the four children in the bank, etc. I remember shoes hand made in Italy being in the boxes of impossible things she sent mother. They were always distant “rich relations”. Don’t remember even seeing any of the children except one young woman who came to Detroit briefly, stayed with Margaret McCall. Saw Aunt Willie once. She and Aunt Abbie came to visit us when I was small. Don’t remember her saying much or ever smiling while Aunt Abbie was as you remember her, friendly.
Aunt Abbie married a Mississippi Riverboat gambler, swarthy and handsome and no good, who stayed home on two visits long enough to give her two sons and then sent her trunks of fine clothes to wear or sell to take care of herself and the boys. Whenever she talked about him she sounded like she hated him. She resented the lack of money. Said once the oldest boy Earl (named for his father) screamed for days with toothache and she could not take him to the dentist who didn’t want any fancy clothes or jewelry. She resented raising the children alone. I got the feeling she hated them and they hated her and she resented him being off having a good time while she stayed home with the problems. She talked about him In a completely different way than she talked about her Jewish policeman who bought her a house on Ripley St. and spent much time there, for whom she loved to cook and keep house.
She came to live with Mother to take care of Daddy (!) so Mother could come to Springfield and help me when Kris was born. In later years when they lived on Fairfield, Mother and Daddy used to argue about this and they would call me in to referee. He’d say he took Aunt Abbie in out of the goodness of his heart like all the rest of her family, and that she was not supposed to stay on them forever but was to go live with Aunt Margaret. Mother would say Aunt Abbie came to take care of him because (here she would make a mouth at me) he could not take care of himself and work even tho he could cook better than she and do everything else in the house too. I think we are always angered at the way men can say this is the limit. I can’t or I won’t do this or that and we seem to have lives where you do what is to be done since you have no one who will hear you if you say you can’t or won’t…hold my hand Charlie Brown! And that he knew very well she was going to live with them and visit Margaret occasionally. Mother was right. He said Aunt Abbie came to have cataracts operated and to be taken care of. He was wrong. Her eye operations came years later. He said to me once that he had always taken care of Mother’s people and she would have nothing to do with his. I know how Grandmother depended on him to fix things around their house and he was most agreeable and I always thought he loved it. They made over him when he came with his box of tools. I was always there as helper, but he got very tired and mistreated about having both Alice and Aunt Abbie to take care of. He didn’t like either one. But I never could get him to send them to a nursing or residence home to live. He always said what would people say if I did that. When people talk like that I give up because they are obviously making the choice they prefer.
Back to Aunt Abbie. She loved to cook and do everything else about the house. Mother would not let her do anything except clean her own room and do her own washing and ironing and Mother hated everything about housekeeping except cooking, but she said her husband expected her to take care of him and his house and (she didn’t say this) she’d be damned if she’d let anyone else do it as long as she could. I couldn’t talk to her about it.
Aunt Anna was the sister who went to Chicago, got a job as teller in a bank, married the bank manager who was a widower with children. He knew she was black but no one else in his family ever did. I’ve often wondered what they did for birth control. They were young when they married. He was well to do. She used to write Mother and Mother would write back c/o general post office. Said she loved him but felt very lonely all the time not to be able to see her family and knew the children would have nothing to do with her if they knew. She was supposed to look like Margaret McCall. She got sick. Wrote Mother she was not to live long. That there might be no more letters. That she would dearly love to die with her family He had died years before…had left his money to her…had asked her to promise to stay near the children to pass so they would not be embarrassed…and leave the money to them. She promised and told mother she had made her bed and would lie in it to the end but would surely see them in Heaven. Mother was the only one she wrote to. The rest would not answer letters. That was the last letter.
Aunt Mary married someone named James McCall whom I never knew. Also never heard anyone say who he was or what he did. As I write this it strikes me that the men these sisters married were for the most part very shadowy creatures. I’ve seen a picture even of only one. Strange. Aunt Mary looked rather like Aunt Abbie but was quiet and rather grim, I thought. Lived with Aunt Margaret and her son Uncle Jim all her life as far as I know. I think Aunt Mary helped with money although I don’t know where she got it. Uncle Jim, her son, was blind. There were two children, Margaret and Victoria, and no help from the state. He caned chairs and wrote poetry for a living. I think they were very poor but did better when the state helped blind people And they got enough money from somewhere to buy the Detroit Tribune and make money.
Aunt Beulah who looked something like Grandmother, I’ve heard, married someone named Pope and went to Milwaukee. Don’t know what he did or what she was like. Never saw her. Sent one son through dental school Robert Pope. Very handsome, his twin sister, a beauty married well, had one child the one who kept pushing me around when they came to visit us. I must have been about four, so was he, and he wanted to follow MV everywhere and not let me come. I went anyway. I remember him banging my head against the wall beside the stairs. Strange. He especially hated me because I could cut up my own meat and his mother wouldn’t even let him try. Ha ha!!! Another son of Aunt Beulah was a teacher who married had one daughter who wrote once to Mother and Daddy about family history. Wonder what she got together. I keep hoping to find someone who has already done all the hard work. Back to Aunt Beulah, who was considered the least beautiful of the sisters. Her son Robert built her a beautiful home and stayed there with her until she died not too long ago. Ten or twelve years. They all spoke of her with envy.
Today I am posting writings from my grandmother Fannie Mae Turner Graham’s scrapbook/journal, along with some of the notes she made about her son’s deaths. Entries were made from 1927 – 1946. I thought this was fitting for a Sentimental Sunday.
My Scrap book – started 1932 after Howard’s death to keep my mind off the tragic death of our Mershell Jr (6 years old), Nov 1 1927 and our Baby Howard (3 years) March 4, 1932 – Fannie Turner Graham – Maybe Dad and our girls will look over this book and see how some of “mothers” spare time was spent…. I get a kick out of this book myself. Fan
From the envelope holding Mershell’s school books:
“In Memorium 11/10/17 by his mother
Our only little boy – Mershell – was struck by an auto truck on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 1927, just opposite Thomas School to which he was returning from lunch with his sister – at 12:40 P.M. His little skull was fractured, neck broken, shoulders fractured and he was rushed to St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital by the man (Jno Merlo) who struck him and a foreign woman who picked him up before I could reach the scene. He never regained consciousness, and died at 12:20AM Wednesday, Nov. 2nd, 1927. Funeral services held from house on Friday Nov. 4th 1927. Re Laviscount officiating. Mr. Greenlaw sang “When he cometh” and Mrs Spaulding accompained him.
Our hearts are all but broken and only time can heal the wounds caused from shock and loss but God knows best and we still trust him and asking him to keep us realize “Thy will be done”
Truck owned by Charles Marimanti Bros. On West Grand Blvd.
(Inserted: Our hearts are bleeding still – but we know he’s safe with Jesus. Loyalty of friends and floral offerings never been equaled.)
Other side of envelope: Something has gone out of our hearts but I get comfort from the following song which I’ve so often heard my mother sing: as best I remember it
“Go bury thy sorrow
Go hide it with care,
Go bury it deeply,
The world has it’s share.
Go tell it to Jesus,
He **** will hear
His is the best solace
He always is near.”
God be with us, strengthen and comfort us in these, the saddest hours we’ve ever known, and prepare us to meet our darling boy in heaven
9/27/28 Howard came in place of Mershell, we thought. He was such a beautiful darling. Stayed with us 3 1/2 years, then God took him…
8/25/1929 We went to cemetery for first time today.
Now we go to cemetery weekly.
From an index card stuck in Howard’s baby book:
Give us strength and courage to bear whatever
is in store for us.
In Jesus name
We ask it
3/1/32 I believe my baby Howard is dying.
From the ‘Little Book’
Feb. 5, 1940
Dear God and Little Book: the mail has just brought us the long looked for letter from Wayne University and the Board of Education that Doris has received the yearly scholarship to Wayne… I shed tears of joy… for more reasons than one or even two and the main reason is she deserves it for being such a sweet little “trick”…even if we do say so ourselves.
February 12 – Doris’s birthday – 17 today. We had a nice dinner, cake, ice cream and gifts for her from all.
March 12, my birthday, among all a purchase certificate from JL Hudson’s from our daughters and dad
April 3 – Mary Virginia is 20 today. We had nice dinner cake and ice cream and gifts from us all – also Aunt Daisy never forgets with money.
Dad celebrates Christmas day.
June 7, 1940 Doris received $100 scholarship from the Deltas today… Isn’t that grand! It served 2 years.
June 10 — Mary Virginia has just gotten (through Jim and May) a good job at the County Bldg — God is so good to us. and today our Mershell Jr would have been 19 if he had lived – but we still say – God knows best.
Remember he was killed by auto – Nov. 1, 1927 and 10 months later Sept 7, 1928 our baby Howard came and on March 4, 1932 we buried him.
11/9/41 MV and Bud married.
9/7/43 Doris Diane born to them
11/17/43 Doris and Toddy married ( divorced!)
8-30-46 Kris arrives
Dear God bless our dear children and their seed forever, for they’ve been good to our teachings and lost house for a good husband and father. Amen
Wednesday March 12, 1941
Dear little Book: – This is my birthday and as I waked up feeling fine for a change and as happy about it as any mortal could be I am now thrilled almost to pieces. The house wished me a “Happy Day” Maus and girls called up at 7:30 AM and Maus says they sang the whole verse “Happy Birthday to You” the sweetest song I’ve heard this year and the girls came down to breakfast with the most beautiful BD card $1 enclosed and I figured that was aplenty – but JL Hudson has just sent a beautiful toaster with a “Happy BD card” from my own Dad and girls” who wouldn’t be proud and cheerful for such a grand family – so bless them.
June 15, 1942
Our wedding anniversary. Having washed all day (it being Monday) it slipped my mind, when Dad came home with a lovely #2 box of Sanders’ chocolates and the most beautiful card to “The sweetest girl in the world, my wife.” I wouldn’t take a million for it.
June 23 – Doris marks just came and we’re so proud. she got 5 A’s and 2 B’s and in the fall will be a senior at Wayne. All marks so good that scholarship was extended another year – graduated with Distinction in June 1944 and was publicly acknowledged as a high honor student at honor convocation at the Horace Rackham building… so proud.
M.V. won high honor in her business Institute for typing and short hand.