“G” is for Grand River Avenue

This post continues the series using the Alphabet to go through streets that were significant in my life as part of the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge.  It was first published in June, 2012.

Grand River Avenue figured in my life in multiple ways.  I walked to both McMichael Junior High and Northwestern High Schools down Grand River. I took the Grand River bus home when I worked at J.L. Hudson’s Department store during several Christmas seasons.  In 1971 and 1972, the Black Conscience Library was located at 6505 Grand River and that is my focus in this post.

Grand River Avenue in 1967. The Black Conscience Library was at the far end of the block past the church on the right.

 In 1971 the Black Conscience Library relocated from temporary quarters to 6505 Grand River, the upstairs offices in a building right across the street from Northwestern High School. I continued as librarian for awhile.  This was around the time that the heroin epidemic hit inner city Detroit hard. Chimba, one of the active members of the Library, was from the North End community. I remember him saying that the year before they had a  baseball team, but that in 1971 there were so many heroin addicts in the community that they couldn’t get a team together.  It was Chimba’s idea to start a methadone program in the Black Conscience Library to help addicts get off drugs. This was before it was widely known that methadone was a powerful, addictive drug in it’s own right. Eventually, the drug program over shadowed all other Library programs. I spent less time there and eventually got a job as assistant teacher at Merrill Palmer preschool. I still came around but not everyday and not as librarian.  It was pretty depressing up there.

The scale is off. The “Doctor’s Office” was for Dr. Gerald, a lay doctor, not an MD.

There were lines of junkies waiting to collect their scripts, men and women. Some brought their children. In the beginning, I watched the kids while the parents went to the lectures. I remember one baby with a bottle full of milk so spoiled it was like cottage cheese.

We came to the Library one morning to find it had been broken into the night before.  All of the printing equipment and the tape recorder were securely locked up. There were no prescriptions laying around. Nothing was stolen, but we couldn’t figure out how they got in, until I noticed glass from the skylight on the table.  They had come through the skylight. One night someone was found hiding in the Men’s room hoping nobody would notice they were there so they could rob the place. Another man tried to break in one early morning. Luckily, he couldn’t get through the front chained door. I remember a junkie who nodded off and fell out of his seat during the planning session for a radio program.

There were a few non-drug related activities.  One I remember, was a panel discussion on the role of the father in parenting that was presented by several ex-members of SNCC (Student Non-violent Co-ordinating Committee). There were karate classes.  One night I had come back after a particularly trying day and a car crashed into the shop downstairs. I caught a plane to visit my sister in Atlanta the next day. Those were the days of cheap standby tickets. I remember The Last Poets record playing over and over and over.  The relief when the drug program ended.

The Black Conscience Library was in the dark part of the building on the far corner. There seem to be vertical blinds on the windows. The Lucky Strike Bowling Alley was next door. You can see part of the sign “…TRIKE”
This is a police memo from my husband Jim’s police file from October 23, 1970.
The poster in question.
Memo #2 about who rented the building.

This is one of a three page surveillance report from October 29, 1971 is from Jim’s police file.  We knew they were watching,  but when we got this report several years ago it was still creepy to see how much time they were actually spending watching, following, keeping track. “N/M” = Negro Male. “N/F”  = Negro Female.

Staff – Dr. Gerald, Sam, Miriam, Chimba, Me & Jilo, James Williams

 

The block where the Black Conscience Library once stood. That end is now a vacant lot.
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Graham-Turner Wedding – 1919 Montgomery Alabama

I recently found that The Emancipator newspaper was online at Newspapers.com.  The Emancipator was published from October 1917 to August 1920. My grandmother’s first cousin, James Edward McCall and his wife were the publishers. You can read more about him at the link above.

Lowndes Adams sang a solo.  Victor Tulane walked the bride in. Clifton Graham was best man. Naomi Tulane played the piano.
"Jennie Allen Turner and Daughters"
Fannie, Jennie, Alice with Daisy standing in back.

Announcement

Mrs. Jennie Turner wishes to announce the engagement of her daughter, Fannie Mae, to Mr. Mershell C. Graham of Detroit, Mich. The marriage to take place in the spring.

Mershell and Fannie (Turner) Graham. August 1919 Detroit, Michigan.

Graham-Turner Wedding

Graham-Turner Wedding

On Sunday, June 15th at four o’clock Miss Fannie Turner and Mr. Merchell Graham were happily united in marriage at the home of the bride on E. Grove St. The home was prettily decorated for the occasion.

Just before the entrance of the bridal party, Mr. Lowndes Adams sang a beautiful solo, immediately after which the groom entered the parlor to the strains of Mendelson’s wedding March, with Mr. Clifton Graham, his brother, as best man. The bride entered with her uncle, Mr. V.H. Tulane, who gave her away, gowned in white satin with real lace and pearl bead trimmings the hat, a beautiful creation of white Georgette, the bride made a very pleasing appearance.  She carried a large bouquet of roses and fern.

The home was crowded to its fullest capacity, fully two hundred guests being present which bespoke the esteem and popularity in which the young couple are held.

The presents were many and varied, consisting of silver, cut glass, linen, wearing apparel, money, and many useful household articles.

Rev. E.E. Scott performed the ceremony and Miss Naomi Tulane presided at the piano.

The guests were served delicious refreshments.

The happy couple left Sunday evening for Detroit, Mich., their future home.

Some of the Graham’s friends in Detroit.  Mershell and Fannie are at the end of the line.

On Friday evening, 29th ??? at 8:30 the beautiful home of Mr. and Mrs. M.L. Walker, St. Jean Ave., was the scene of a delightful entertainment complimentary to Mr. and Mrs. M.C. Graham. The guests were limited to Mrs. Walker’s Club members and their husbands. The house was artistically decorated with cut flowers. Progressive Whist was played, mints and salted peanuts were served throughout the evening, after which a delicious salad course with punch was served.

________________

Mrs. Topp Detroit 1919

Mrs. J.W. Topp had a few friends over to meet Mr. and Mrs. M.C. Graham on Saturday evening. Progressive whist was  played after which a delicious two course luncheon and punch were served.

_________________

Mrs. J.A. Martin entertain quite a few friends at a real Southern dinner Sunday afternoon at 4 o’clock. Among the guests were Mrs. M.L. Walker, Mr. and Mrs. M.C. Graham, Mrs. Thompson, Mr. Moses Thompson, Mr. Chas. Love, the Dale Family, Mr. and Mrs Mills, Mrs. Dora Davis, Mr. James Payton, Mr. Joe Shannon, Mr. Oliver, Mr. Barnette, and others.

__________________

Other related blog posts:

The Proposal

The Proposal Accepted

Marriage License

The photographs are from my personal collection. The newspaper articles are from The Emancipator via Newspapers.com

More 5397 Oregon Then and now

4-in-front-of-window-oregon-blogMy father, then Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr, me, my mother Doris Graham Cleage, my step-father and uncle Henry Cleage. Summer of 1966.

james-couch-blogSitting on the couch, braiding my hair with my mother and sister Pearl. 1963. My son James walking across the room summer of 2017.

after-abs-conference-1967-blogI had just come in from the Association of Black Students’ Symposium at Wayne State in February of 1968.

My cousin Barbara Elkins in the front room.
My cousin Barbara Elkins sitting in the front room.  Early 1960s.

 

Other posts about 5397 Oregon.

Detroit Then and Now – Other then and now photographs

“O” is for Oregon Street – Memories of living in the house on Oregon.

 

Barbara on a Bike

My cousin Barbara on a bike around 1949. Her older sister Dee Dee is holding her up.
“1949  Dee Dee 5 1/2 and Barbara 16 months.”  On the porch of their 4 family flat on McDougall and Hunt Streets in Detroit.
The Elkins Family in 1949. Mershell and Fannie Graham's backyard.
The Elkins Family in 1949. In my grandparent’s (Mershell and Fannie Graham) backyard on Theodore.

My cousins  lived upstairs in a 4-family flat on the corner of McDougall and Hunt Street on the East Side of Detroit. Their mother, Mary V. Graham Elkins, was my mother’s sister. She worked as a secretary at the County Building.

Their father, Frank “Bud” Elkins, graduated with honors from Cass Technical high school in the late 1930s. As an electrician, he tried to join the Electricians Union but as a black man was barred.  He set up his own shop as an independent Electrician.  He drove a truck with “Elkins Electric Company” on the side. I remember riding in it a few times. There were not seats for all and we sat on the floor.

mcdougall-hunt
Their building is gone, but it looked very similar to these houses that still stand on that corner.
bird-view-mcdougall
A birds eye view of the corner of McDougall and Hunt streets. The house was on one of the now vacant corners. Both of these photos are from Google Maps.

Some other stories about this family:

Remembering Barbara Lynn Elkins

Old County Building and Mary V Elkins

The Frank and Mary Elkins Family in the 1940 Census

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Then and Now St Mark’s

detroit-free-press-5121951-st-marksIn 1951 our family moved from Springfield, MA to Detroit, where my father, Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr., was called as pastor of St. Marks United Presbyterian Community Church at Twelfth and Atkinson. My paternal grandparents lived several blocks up Atkinson.  The parsonage was right down the block from them.  He was there until 1953 when there was a church split. My father and 300 members started a new church that became Central Congregational Church and finally The Shrine of the Black Madonna.

Here are links to two blog posts about these events, Moving Day – Springfield to Detroit 1951, A Church and Two Brothers .

Below are some then and now photographs of St. Mark’s and the parsonage at  2212 Atkinson.

 

Son James 2016. My father and Mr. in 1953.
My son James in 2016. My father and Mr. Lindsey Johnson from Springfield, Massachusetts in 1953.  Photograph by Paul Lee. Moving Day Revisited has more  information about Lindsey B. Johnson.
st-marks-1953-frontblog
After church at St. Mark’s Community United Presbyterian Church in 1953 combined with a 2011 photograph taken by Benjamin Smith. In the group near the door I see myself, my sister Pearl, my mother Doris Graham Cleage, my uncle Henry Cleage and Choir director Oscar Hand leaning out of the door.
Front
In front of St. Marks 1953. I see my mother in the dark suit and part of my little sister Pearl behind her in a light colored dress.  Combined with another photograph by Benjamin Smith.  This photo and the one below first appeared in the blog post “A Sunday After Church About 1953
The parsonage now and us back in 1953.
The parsonage now and us back in 1953 before the church split.  This photograph first appeared  in the blog post Then and Now – Atkinson About 1953″.

split-1953_st_marks

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Detroit Then and now – 5397 Oregon

blended house blog
My son James sitting on the porch of our house as it is now in 2016. My mother and I sitting next to him in 1963.

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.

You can read about my life in this house here “O” is for Oregon Street.  This is the first of a series.

My father and I sitting in the living room in 1966 while Paul Lee takes a photograph in 2016.
My father and I sitting in the living room in 1966 while Paul Lee takes a photograph in 2016.

 

Around the dining room table in 1963 amidst the crumbling house of 2016.
Around the dining room table in 1963 amidst the crumbling house of 2016.

 

My mother in the kitchen in 1963, with the present day shambles around her.
My mother in the kitchen in 1963, with the present day shambles around her.
stairs w- james-1963blog
Me looking over the railing in 1963 while James walks across the room in 2016
My sister and I looking out of the living room window. 1963
My sister and I looking out of the living room window. 1963

 

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Northwestern High School Boycott – 1962

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.

Parents Protest NW pg 1My sister Pearl in the checked pants carrying the sign. My father on the far right side walking towards Pearl.

a million merediths comboI am pretty sure “A Northwestern Teacher” was Ernest Smith, an activist and member of my father’s church.

Parents Protest NW centerspreadI am in the front bottom right photo, turning backwards with the high water pants.

Vicki’s Bar-B-Que 1962 – 2016

vicki-que ad

While looking through old copies of The Illustrated News for something completely unrelated, I came across this advertisment for Vicki’s Bar-B-Que.  I noticed the oven and immediately thought of the Sepia Saturday prompt for this week.  I decided to google Vicki’s and see if there were any photographs or other ads from the past.  Imagine my surprise when I found that the restaurant is still operating and that the same family still owns it!

Although I do not remember ever eating at Vicki’s or tasting their sauce,  I was able to find a family member who has been to the restaurant recently and she said, “Yes. Vicki’s is still there. Some people love it! I’m not a fan but I’ve only been there once. Maybe it was a bad day. They have the kind of bbq that is grilled meat and then you dip it on the sauce instead of grilling and caramelizing the sauce while grilling.”

vicki's bar-b-quevick's ovenYou can see an interview with the present owner, the oldest son of the original family, and photos of the food and building, plus reviews of the present food and service at this link Vicki’s Yelp Page.  The link to the video is just under the photos of the restaurant at the top of the page.

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