Memory from Christmas 1967

"Pearl and Kris Christmas 1968"
Christmas 1968. L to R My sister Pearl, me, Nanny in the window.

I can’t find a picture from Christmas 1967 but I think we looked pretty much the same.   I bought that pea jacket at the army surplus in Santa Barbara when I was there for a student conference, summer of 1967.  I cut my hair that summer too, right after the Detroit riot.  Not sure if Pearl had cut hers yet in 1967.  I have looked at this photo many times but this was the first time I noticed my grandmother looking out of the window at us.  We had moved to the flat with my grandparents that fall, so it’s a different house, but it’s Christmas time and I look the same.   I had just graduated from Wayne State University with a major in Drawing and Printmaking and a minor in English.   On January 2, I caught the Greyhound to San Fransisco.  But that’s not today’s memory.  Here is something I wrote in 1967.

Christmas 1967

It was Christmas and cold.  Snow blew wet, sticking to my coat and hair.  We went to the shortest corner, down Northfield, past three Junior High girls laughing and cars sliding slow on the ice.  The sky was gray behind bare branches.  Snow fell quiet, without any wind.  My sister and I talked some about…I can’t even remember.  We crossed to Pattengill Elementary, went down past the school and stopped outside the empty play field.


I got out my new movie camera and told her to walk away, down toward Colfax, and not to act silly.  She started and I turned on the camera,  feeling silly myself, taking pictures like a country bumpkin in the city.  She started lunging to one side, sort of a half skip with some serious drag to it.  I told her to be serious.  She did, then walked back.  I tried to keep the camera from moving.  It stuck and I turned it off  twice with a heavy click, jarring, blurring the picture.


We went inside the playground.  I shot some more of her walking up and away.  A little boy was sledging down a driveway into the street.  She said, come on take some behind the trash cans.  It’ll be good.  I shot some more.  Discovered while she was behind the garbage cans I was out of film.


Both of us bent over the camera and tried to shut it off, but we couldn’t.  My hands were cold.  Red, wet and cold.  I put on my gloves and we unscrewed the battery door with her suitcase key to shut it off.


We walked back toward the far corner.  I wrote BLACK POWER in the snow, and then PATRIA O MUERTE and VENCEREMOS.  Pearl asked what else can we write but I didn’t know.  We went on out of the playground and down Epworth talking about how bad somebody can be to you and you still love them.  We went on down Allendale.  There was a dog sleeping on a porch.  Pearl said, loud, keep on sleeping!  And he did.


It was getting dark and still snowing.  Cold, wet, quiet snow.  Grey like the inside of a shell and quiet like when your ears are stuffed up from a cold.  Some girls went by across the street, talking loud.  We turned back down Ironwood and went home.

The Christmas Tree Was Always Real

"My mother and I decorate the Xmas tree"
Watching my mother decorate the Christmas tree.
"Kris, Pearl and Doris"
Me, my sister and my mother. Job done.
"The Christmas tree."
The presents on the table go to the relatives.
"Christmas tree on Fairfield"
1968 – My last Christmas tree living at home.

Our tree was always real.  My sister, my mother and I would go to a tree lot to pick it about a week before Christmas.  This was Detroit and in my memory it is cold and there is snow on the ground.  We picked short needled trees of medium height and (of course) well shaped.  We used a mix of glass balls my mother had collected over the years.  When we were old enough, I can’t remember when that was, we helped decorate the tree – after my mother put on the beads, the tinsel and the multicolored lights.  We had the big lights but they were pointy.  My grandparents had round lights.  The icicles went on last and there was no tossing.  It was put on a few pieces at a time up and down all the branches.  I remember one year that my mother did not want to trim the tree and was pretty unpleasant about my sister and me doing it and doing it NOW, but usually it was a pleasant evening, either Christmas eve or close to it.  My mother usually had on the CBC, the Canadian station and by that time they would be playing Christmas music. The tree was always beautiful.

My maternal grandparents, Nanny and Poppy, waited until Christmas eve to buy the tree and set it up.  The tree was always scrawny and thin but that was how their tree was supposed to be.  Their ornaments were very old.  I wonder what happened to them.  What I remember are some little Santas that went on the tree and a jolly Father Christmas looking Santa that stood in the window with his removable pipe.  My paternal grandparents had a bigger house and a big, full, long needled tree that was in the corner of the living room next to the stairs.  My uncles Louis and Hugh plus my aunt Barbara and cousin Ernie lived there in addition to my grandparents so there were always a lot of presents under the tree.

The black and white photographs are all from the same Christmas.  I think it was about 1962.  I was still in high school, about 15.  My sister was two years younger.  Unfortunately these were all taken with a polaroid and they show it.  The colored photo is from 1968. We had moved into the flat we shared with my grandparents.  They were downstairs and we were upstairs.   I had just graduated from Wayne State University and was about to head out into the world to seek my fortune. But that’s another story.

 

Poppy Could Fix Anything

(This post was written for the 100th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy There’s One In Every Family hosted by Jasia of Creative Gene)

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.

"Poppy on Fairfield"
Poppy outside the family flat.

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.

“Memories to Memoirs Chapter Two Early Years of Life”

"Uncle Eds wife and children"

"Edward Cleage"
Charles Edward Cleage

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.

I won!

I won first place in the AfriGeneas FAMILY HISTORY MONTH CHALLENGE #1  with my piece Childhood Homes and Memories.

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.

Childhood homes – Photos and Memories

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.

"Places I've Lived."
2parsonage Springfield, MA
Parsonage at 210 King Street, Springfield,MA.

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.

house_union_street
Parsonage/Community house at 643 Union Street. Springfield, MA.

I remember…
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.

3atkinson+parsonage2004combine
Parsonage at 2212 Atkinson, Detroit.

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.

I remember…
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.

6638 Theodore Street, Detroit, Michigan.
6638 Theodore Street, Detroit, Michigan. Maternal Grandparents house.

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.

I remember…
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.

chicagoblvd
Parsonage at 2254 Chicago Blvd., Detroit

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.

I remember…
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

We lived in the upstairs flat. This is how the house looked in 2004.
2705 Calvert.   We lived in the upstairs flat. This is how the house looked in 2004.

  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.

kris&dorisonoregonporch
On the porch of 5397 Oregon St. Detroit with my mother.

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.

I remember…
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.

I remember…
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.

16260 Fairfield, Detroit.
16260 Fairfield, Detroit.

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:

A Transcribed Interview with Stella Brown McCall – Part 1

Margaret McCall Thomas Ward

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.

Part 1

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?
Stella: Yes.
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.
Stella: Yes.
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.

*****
Stella McCall and Roscoe Jr.

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.
Margaret: Afterwards.
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.
Margaret: Why?
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.

Roscoe McCall holding Roscoe Jr & Louise. Detroit 1921.

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?
Stella: State.
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
Margaret: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?

Victor Tulane Building -Ripley St. Montgomery 1973

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

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 and the people in her life – A Chart

Before I continue with the story of Eliza’s husband, Dock Allen and the rest of her children, I thought that a chart might make the story more understandable.

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.