“H” is for Linwood and HOGARTH

This post continues a series using the Alphabet to go through streets that were significant in my life as part of the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge.

The church still stands on the corner of Linwood and Hogarth in Detroit.  It has gone through several names through the years, beginning as Central Congregational Church in 1953. It became Central United Church of Christ after the merger of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Churches in 1957. In 1967, after a large mural of the Black Madonna was painted for the Sanctuary, it became the Shrine of the Black Madonna.  My father was the minister.  I am going to write about my memories from the 1960s as I was growing up.

The Shrine of the Black Madonna on Linwood at Hogarth. Detroit, Michigan.

I remember many hours spent at church.   There were church suppers and political meetings. There were Christmas Eve services, Christmas caroling and my father’s annual “Little Patricia” Christmas sermon. He gave these for several years. They featured a little girl living in a cave with her family following a nuclear war. I think the last time he gave this sermon she had two heads. I remember a bazaar with booths of handmade items to buy as gifts and game booths with a shooting gallery. The year I remember best was 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis of late October.  A nuclear war seemed all too possible. I was 16.

The Youth Fellowship early 1960s. That is me 4th from the right in the middle row. My sister Pearl is in the middle of the back row.

I remember Youth Fellowship meetings, where we talked about what was happening in the city, and around the country.  Afterwards there was a social hour. Standing next to the coke machine and not being asked to dance, while at the same time, dreading being asked to dance, is not one of my happier memories. Social hour became less stressful once a ping pong table was added for those of us who didn’t dance much. I remember Workdays for Christ where we spent the day doing yard work to raise money for international service projects. And the “Friendship Circle” where we held hands and sang camp song like “Tell Me Why The Stars Do Shine” and “A Friend on Your Left and a Friend on Your Right”.

The Sunday crowd was not usually this big. I don’t know what the occasion was but my sister and I are in the balcony, left side, front row, sitting with the Youth Fellowship.  here must have been something special going on.
The Choir.

I remember the choir director, Oscar Hand (far right above) singing  and the time he held the door open for someone stealing a typewriter because he thought it was the repair man. There was a wonderful production of “South Pacific” one year. There was the tragic and shocking murder/suicide of two married choir members.  They had been having a clandestine affair.  Mostly though I remember the good singing Sunday after Sunday.

A church dinner. My cousin Dale is third up on the left side of the table with his eyes closed. Cousin Ernie, Uncles Winslow and Henry at the end. On the other side is Aunt Anna and I can barely see little Cousin Maria.

There were lots of church dinners. All members were organized into Area Groups that raised money and sponsored events for socializing. Sometimes Area Groups  sold dinners  to take out.  I remember one such sale.  Nobody was coming in to buy the dinners until one of the women suggested burning onion skins. They laughed about it, but someone burned some onion skins and people actually started to come.

The Church was fully involved in the movement for equal rights and black power. There were always speakers and rallies and seminars.

The sanctuary before the Black Madonna painting was installed.

My parents divorced when I was 8. We lived with my mother but often spend the weekends with my father. He would start writing his sermons Saturday night.  He wrote at the kitchen table.  There were piles of old mail, old sermon notes and who knows what, piled up at one end of the table. There was enough space for the three of us to eat and for him to write. He wrote late into the night, sometimes taking breaks to come in and comment about what we were watching on TV or to order some shrimp from Jags up on 12th street. He never finished the sermon on Saturday. Sunday morning he would get up early and continue writing until the last minute when we would get in the car and drive down Linwood to church.  Sometimes there were slow drivers in our way or people had already parked in his usual spot so he had to park farther away.  At that time, he always parked on Lamothe, which was what Hogarth was called on the other side of Linwood. Service started at 11.   Sunday morning excitement – would we make it!? We always did.

My father preaching.  The Black Madonna mural painted by Glanton Dowdell is behind him.

The bulletin and sermon notes below are from Sunday, July 3, 1966.

My father’s sermon notes.

His sermons always spoke to what people needed to understand about their lives in the present day. And they were always timely. Someone once asked me if he planned and wrote them maybe weeks or months ahead of time. He didn’t. And you could tell because of the current issues he always included.

Me with three of my children and four of my grandchildren on the steps of the church, 2005.  Those little children are now just about as tall as I am. How quickly time passes.


“F” is for Fairfield

This post continues a series using the Alphabet to go through streets that were significant in my life as part of the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge.

In the fall of 1968, Henry, my mother and her parents, Mershell and Fannie Graham, bought the flat at 16201 Fairfield. The Graham home on Theodore had been invaded, shot into and suffered an attempted armed robbery.  Nobody had been hurt.

In the spring of that same year an insurance salesman was shot to death in front of our house on Oregon. The murderer cut through our backyard during his escape. Although nobody was home, my mother never felt the same about living there. They began to look for a flat to share.

I didn’t realize I signed as a witness on the deed.

I lived there from the fall of 1968 until I left home in the spring of 1969.  My grandparents lived there until they died in 1973 and 1974. My mother and Henry were there until 1976, when they moved to Idlewild. My sister, Pearl, was a sophomore at Howard University when we moved and never lived there, although  she came home for holidays.

16261 Fairfield, Detroit with the people who lived there in 1968.

The people in the photos are, starting upstairs and going from left to right – Henry looking firm,  me the night before I left on my cross country tour, Pearl and my mother. Downstairs we have my aunt Mary Virginia who lived with her parents for some months, Alice (my grandmother’s youngest sister), my grandmother Fannie, my grandfather Mershell and my mother holding my daughter, Jilo.  I got the idea for this photo house from a photograph I saw via twitter of a house in Detroit. You can see it at Detroitsees here.

The flat on Fairfield was kitty-corner from a University of Detroit field.  The only thing I remember happening on that field while I lived there was a high school band rally with different bands doing routines throughout a Saturday.  I remember staying up late working on art projects and catching the bus across the street to go to campus. Most of my memories are of returning to visit with my oldest daughter.  I know that I didn’t spend half as much time as I could/should have spent talking with my grandparents when they were right downstairs.

This house is still standing and looking very good.  You can see it on the corner in the street sign photo above. Although the hospital that used to be directly across the street is gone, the rest of the block is all there!  Whooooohooooo!

You can see my mother and grandfather’s wonderful garden and read more about Poppy in “Poppy Could Fix Anything.”



“E” is for Elmhurst

This post continues a series using the Alphabet to go through streets that were significant in my life as part of the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge.  I wrote this post with “Sharing Memories: Leaving Home” in mind too.

In late March of 1969, I moved into my first apartment. I was in Detroit. It was located at the corner of Elmhurst and N. Martindale.  I was 22 years old and so happy to be in my own space and not to have to answer to anyone.  My rent was $80 a month, utilities included. I earned $50 a week at the Black Star Sewing Factory.

Journal entry  – March 29, 1969
reading back (in my journal) is strange.  I don’t feel that way any more.  Living alone takes the pressure off.  What you do, you do for yrself not through  fear of displeasure and endless discussions.

My apartment used to be on the upper right, now bare, lot. Walking straight ahead I got to Linwood and the Black Conscience Library.  Walking in the other direction I reached Broadstreet and my route to work.

Not surprisingly, the building is no longer there. Neither is the short row of store fronts behind it.   I found the apartment building below using Google Maps. I moved it to the empty lot at Elmhurst and N. Martindale using Photoshop.  The size and layout of the apartment is about the same. I had to change the color of the bricks from red to yellow.  My apartment was #304. You can see it on the top floor. The first windows on the right were my neighbors bathroom and bedroom windows.  My bedroom window is next, the short window is the bathroom, then my living room and last the eat-in kitchen.

My first apartment as I remember it and as Photoshop helped me recreate it.  It was yellow brick and the trim was darker, but I was unable to get it to look right , hence the peachy trim you see above. There were no plants or greenery around the front door, but otherwise, it is as I remember it.

Journal entry July 28, 1969 (Monday)  I’m so skinny I wear a size 10 and this kid said “hi twiggy” as I walked by. I am trying to get fatter. My hair is 12 feet tall.

My furniture was basic and made or found, except for the mattress. It was new and sat flat on the floor without spring or frame. I made curtains out of burlap which gave the rooms a nice orange glow when daylight showed through. I stacked a pile of shag rug pieces for a couch.  A piece of green fabric was stuffed with fabric scraps made a pillow to sit on. It was heavy as lead. Jim found an old table and some chairs somewhere for the kitchen. I used a box for a bedside table and the phone sat on that too. I kept my clothes in the closet or in the old trunk at the end of the bed. I had a nice round table top but I never got any legs for it.  I had an old combo radio/record player that had once belonged to my parents and had passed on to me.

I bought a sewing machine from Sears and returned it because parts were missing and it wasn’t what I wanted after all. Eventually I ordered a “Hudson” sewing machine, from J.L Hudson’s. It was a Japanese made machine and just like the one my mother had, except they had replaced some of the metal parts with plastic.

One night I was awakened by a loud crash and a flash of light.  A car had crashed into the telephone pole across the street. It was horribly crushed. A small, silent, crowd gathered. Everybody cheered as the driver climbed out of the window, unhurt.

Journal entry     June 30, 1969
Last night cooked cabbage and pork chops and rice at 1:00AM.  it was the first decent meal I’ve had in a month because I didn’t have any food and have been eating rice and beans.  I kept burning them and scorched black eyed peas are no treat.  I guess things are going to be o.k. for a while again.  It’s really nice outside.  Sunny, windy instead of 98 and muggy.

I remember the joy of going to a supermarket instead of the mom and pop store across the street and laying in a supply of groceries. Eating wasn’t something I spend a lot of time thinking about, planning for,  or doing at that time. Eventually my mother gave me a copy of “The Joy of Cooking” and I started making my own bread.

Journal entry  July 15, 1969  Saturday 2:10PM
I got another job after sewing It’s from 6 – 8pm , organizing teenagers.  some Methodist 5 week “imaginal education” program in Highland Park.  for reasons unknown, they made Jim director.  $30/wk for 6 weeks plus a $75 bonus at the end.  supposed to be with black teens but one center was mixed and I’m in it.  luckily i have Arthur, a 17 or 18 year old black-panther-cass-dropout and his girlfriend to work with me.  he’s actually good at working with the teens.  he gets on very well with them.  he got them all het up yesterday about organizing their community. they’re 13-14. only about 12 came.  first 2 days NOBODY came and we were afraid we’d be fired, but then one girl came and the next day, three came.  out of the 12, 2 are Mexican, 2 black and the rest white.  it should be interesting.   hardly ever get home before 10:00pm.

I spent a lot of time thinking about Jim and wondering about where we were going and where he was and when he was coming by and why he hadn’t come by and how long he was going to stay and on and on and on.

Journal entry      June 4, 1969
i’ve been listening to  Leonard Cohen’s new record.  two days over and over. at first it was tired, but now i really like it, after the 2,000th revolution. i like  the partisan song best, about coming out of the shadows.

Started thinking about some of the things happening in 1969 when I moved into my own apartment…Woodstock, war in Vietnam, war protests, draft lottery, moon landing, Nixon takes office, Hurricane Camile hits, New Bethel incident in Detroit, Robert and Mabel Williams return to the United States after years in China, Fred Hampton killed by police, protest at colleges continue, police attack on gays at Stonewall Inn, starvation in Biafra. And lots of music.

Click on the picture to enlarge.

You can read about my first moving out on I Once Worked at a Sewing Factory and about my trip up and down Broadstreet to work at B is for Broadstreet.


“D” is for Dexter

This post continues a series using the Alphabet to go through streets that were significant in my life as part of the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge.

I moved a lot when I lived in Detroit. Most of the time I was in the same area.  Dexter is one of the streets I never lived on but that runs through my years.

My earliest memory from Dexter happened in a Chinese Restaurant. I was about 8 years old and was there with my parents and sister, Pearl.  The booth was enclosed,  a curtain across the door made it like a little room, filled by the table and chairs. My father and sister ordered the turkey dinner. My mother and I ordered Chinese food. Pearl and I were laughing about something silly. My mother told us not to laugh because the waiter might think we were laughing at him.

The Dexter Theater – Thanks to Paul Lee for use of the photograph.

My mother took us to see the never ending “Ten Commandments” at the Dexter Theater, at the corner of Dexter and Burlingame. My father took us to see “West Side Story” when it came out in 1961. When Tony got shot to death and Maria started to sing “Somewhere”, the audience burst into laughter.

After the 1967 Detroit riot,  Rap Brown spoke to an overflowing and enthusiastic crowd. My father and sister milled around outside for awhile. Jim (now my husband) was working with the Inner City Voice newspaper, one of the groups sponsoring the event along with the Friends of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee).  I wondered for years why I wasn’t there until I put together the date with some letters I wrote home and realized I was at a student conference in Santa Barbara, California.  The whole block where the theater stood is now a vacant lot.

A group trying, unsuccessfully, to save the Dexter Theater after the 1967 Detroit riot. Note the bullet holes in the window. Thanks again to Paul Lee for use of this photo.
Former site of the Dexter Theater as it is today. Google maps photo.
Kristin and Pearl laughing at home (not on Dexter) – 1963.

 When we lived on Oregon Street, Pearl and I would catch the Dexter bus on Saturday to the Main Library, the Detroit Historical Museum or the Detroit Institute of Art. Bus fare was 25 cents. Admission to the museums was free. We ate hamburgers at a drug store on the corner of Warren and Cass. It had a lunch counter. Once we rode our bikes and parked them outside of the library, without using locks. They were stolen so we walked home.

During my college years I took the Dexter bus to and from school.  When we lived on Oregon, I walked 8 blocks to Dexter and West Grand Blvd to catch it. It took me right down Cass Ave. to the campus. When we moved on Fairfield, out by the University of Detroit,  the Dexter bus stopped right across from the flat.  I could stay on campus later and catch the bus right to my door after dark. I wished we had lived there for the other three years I was in college.

Ed Vaughn opened Vaughn’s Bookstore at 12123 Dexter about 1964. I remember winning a gift certificate to the bookstore during the summer of 1964.  It was the first black bookstore in Detroit. He carried some art objects along with a wide variety of fiction and history from African, the USA and the Caribbean Islands.  There were novels from the Harlem Renaissance and from West Africa.  I still have some of the books and small sculptures I bought there. You couldn’t find these books in other Detroit bookstores in the 1960s.

Vaughn also sponsored Forum -65, ’66 and ’67 which brought various speakers into the bookstore to talk about topics such as black nationalism, culture, Africa and the condition of black people in America and around the world.  Many lively discussions took place. I didn’t attend too many of the forums, but I regularly attended the Black Star Cooperative meetings, which were also held there. In fact, I was the secretary.  My uncle Henry and I attended the weekly meetings where the group talked about cooperative housing and other ways to pool our money. I remember Henry talking about starting a credit union.

During the 1967 Detroit riot, Vaughn’s bookstore was damaged by the police. To read an interview with Ed Vaughn about his bookstore and the Detroit riot click HERE. A more recent article about Vaughn and some memories of the bookstore back in the day, go to Ed Vaughn, Alabama NAACP president injured.

Vaughn’s Bookstore was in one of these buildings. There seems to be a church in one and the rest look empty.

I remember being very pregnant the summer of 1970 and walking to the grocery store on Dexter wearing platform sandles. The Black Conscience library was temporarily housed in the basement of friends house on Glendale and I was temporarily living in a nice size cedar closet with a window and view of the tree tops, in the attic. I remember going to Mattie’s Bar-B-Q at 11728 Dexter, near Glendale, during the same time.  I usually ordered chicken with sides of greens and sweet potatoes, or macaroni and cheese. Jim always ordered short ribs with his two sides. It was small, crowded and friendly. It wasn’t very expensive, stayed open late and the food was as good or better then what was served at The Red Satin, a more high tone soul food restaurant with table cloths. My father took me there several times. I remember going one year to celebrate Mother’s Day with him and my grandmother, sister and several uncles.  Mattie’s building is gone. You can see the building that housed the Red Satin as it looked in 2009 below.

The Red Satin used to be in the pink building. It wasn’t pink at the time. Buildings in Detroit didn’t use to be painted such garish colors as they are today.

About the time I moved to my own apartment, my aunt Mary V Graham Elkins, got a job at the Hospital across the street from the flat on Fairfield that my mother, Henry and my Graham grandparents shared. She moved into a flat around the corner from them and the hospital, at 16203 Dexter.  My cousin Barbara and her two sons eventually moved into the flat next door to her. Neither of the Dexter flats are standing now. The Fairfield flat is.


Sitting on my cousin Barbara’s porch holding a cat in 1970. The house in the background is still standing, you can see it below. In the other photograph Mary V., Barbara and Marilyn sit on her porch with friends in 1981.

The site where Mary V and Barbara’s flats used to stand.

View Dexter Ave. in a larger map

“C” is for Calvert

Stores stood on the vacant land.

This post continues a series using the Alphabet to go through streets that were significant in my life as part of the “Family History Through the Alphabet” challenge.

We moved to 2705 Calvert from 2254 Chicago Blvd when my parents separated in the fall of 1954. I was 8 and my sister was 6. We lived upstairs in a two family flat.  “Beans Bowles”, the musician and his family lived downstairs. Our elementary school, Roosevelt, was two blocks away. My mother, Mrs. Cleage to her students, taught Social Studies at the same school.  I remember playing outside a lot – on the block, at the playground and in a vacant lot at Lawton and Boston.  There were many children on the block of all ages. We played “7-Up” where you throw a ball against the side of the house, clap your hands and count higher and higher until you miss. We drew hopscotch grids on the sidewalk and played that.  We roller skated and rode our bikes.

There was a drugstore and a small grocery store on the corner of Linwood and Calvert. My mother bought rotten meat at the grocery once and the man didn’t want to take it back until she threatened to call the health department. We still bought penny candy there – wine candy, lick-a-maid.  My mother never shopped there again.  That whole business section of the block is empty now.

The year I wore glasses. My sister Pearl holding  her Christmas book “Amal and the Night Visitors.” I was about 9. The photo was taken by my mother before school in the backyard.
My sister Pearl and me. We are fake racing on the upper porch.


The houses in the background of the above photo as they look today on Google Maps.
 learn to skate.
I must have been about 12 helping my cousin Marilyn learn to skate.

I have no photographs taken inside the house but I do remember the layout.

One day my sister and I were sitting on the upper back porch playing paper dolls when one of the younger boys from downstairs climbed up from his back porch to ours.  That’s what his plan was anyway. As his hand came over the edge I started beating it with my fist. He went back down in a hurry. Thankfully he didn’t fall down and break his neck, but as I said to my sister at the time “You can’t let that get started.”

I remember my cousin Dee Dee babysitting us. We were laying on the floor trying to make something rise with the power of our minds, when she hollered “GAS!” and ran into the kitchen. Gas was indeed escaping from an unlit burner on the stove. She turned it off and we opened up all the windows and lived.  I remember having the measles during Spring break and laying in the darkened room.  My sister and I still shared a room so we had company in our misery.

We lived in the upstairs flat. This is how the house looked in 2004 after a fire.

In my mind’s eye I can see  a puzzle I did of sheep grazing on a hillside, and the view of the houses across the alley out of our bedroom window.  I remember a disaster of a birthday party where nobody came,  and cleaning the bathroom on Saturdays. I remember going to sleep while my mother played Richard Crooks, Paul Robeson and Harry Belefonte. I remember playing “water wars” in the bathtub with our poor, soggy dollhouse dolls floating around in plastic bag covered Kleenix boxes.

There were ballet lessons at Toni’s School of Dance, piano lessons from Mr. Manderville and violin at school that I never practiced.  I remember pet turtles, always with the same names and always dying from soft shell disease, in spite of being dosed with cod liver oil. I read Songberd’s Grove and The Little Princess.  While my mother was taking classes towards her master’s at Wayne I read Peyton Place, Mandingo and The Second Sex.

I remember walking home from school under a canopy of elm trees before they lost to Dutch Elm disease. And walking to school through 2 feet of snow after a March storm. I remember walking down Lasalle to our old house on Chicago, where my father still lived, everyday for lunch. There were plays at Central High School we attended with my cousins. And the days at Roosevelt when there were only a few students because everybody else was celebrating the Jewish Holidays  I remember graduating from Roosevelt Elementary school and the confusion of Durfee Junior high school.

The parking lot where 2705 Calvert once stood. From Google Maps.

My mother’s sister and her three daughters lived two blocks down Calvert in a lower flat. Later my Aunt and Uncle – Anna and Winslow, bought the flat next door and my father moved into the downstairs flat while they lived upstairs.

Me, Pearl and cousin Barbara. My cousin Dale watching us. We are between the 2 flats.  Dale and Barbara aren’t related.
My father lived downstairs on the left. My uncle and aunt lived upstairs. My mother’s sister and her family lived downstairs in the red house, which was yellow brick back then and all the porches were screened. This photograph is from Google maps.

Before my mother’s sister Mary V. Elkins and her family, moved into the flat on Calvert, my father’s sister, Gladys Evans and her family, lived there.  Jan was a baby. They had just moved back to Detroit after their father got out of the service and stayed with us for a minute on Chicago, then moved to Calvert. When they moved from Calvert to Pasadena, the Elkins family moved into the flat. The Wallaces, who were members of my father’s church, lived upstairs and probably passed on the information that the flat was available.

View Calvert in a larger map

Some posts about living on Chicago Blvd.  I Once Was a Brownie, Dinner Time (this one also mentions meals on Calvert) and We Never Had Outdoor Lights.

“B” is for Broadstreet

This post continues a series using the Alphabet to go through streets that were significant in my life as part of the “Family History Through the Alphabet” challenge.

In 1969 I moved into my first apartment at 11750 N. Martindale and Elmhurst in Detroit.  I was working at the Black Star Clothing Factory.  To get to work I would walk a block down Elmhurst to Broadstreet.  There I stopped by for a fellow sewer who lived on the corner. We would walk the 1.2 miles down Broadstreet to the Black Star Clothing Factory on Whitfield. According to Google Maps it takes 24 minutes to walk it.  I think we were faster.

By the time the factory moved into the basement of the Shrine of the Black Madonna Cultural Center on Livernois, at the other end of Broadstreet, my walking partner was no longer working at the Clothing factory and I walked the 1.1 miles by myself. Google Maps says it takes 22 minutes.

I worked at sewing from March 1969 to November of 1969. I was not chased by dogs, accosted by maniacs, or any other disasters on my walks. The only outstanding event was that one day I bought an ironing board after work and carried it home the whole 1.2 miles.

"Black Star clothing"

View Broadstreet Avenue in a larger map

My aunt and uncle, Anna (Cleage) and Winslow Shreve lived at 12636 Broadstreet until 2010. Whenever I visited Detroit from Idlewild I tried to stop in for a visit.

We would have cookies and coffee or tea. One time Winslow was making oatmeal, so I had oatmeal. They would tell me about how things used to be in Detroit, how it was living there now. And always had a good family story or two.

While working on this post I spent several hours “walking” through my old Detroit neighborhoods on Google Maps. Seeing the buildings that are gone, the ones that are trashed, the ones that are well kept and the ones that are boarded up, was depressing.  When I do the next street, I will try not to go traipsing down side streets to see how the neighborhood is doing because most of my old neighborhoods are doing terrible.  Here’s something good though, Anna said that one thing that made their house livable through all of the decline was that there was a park across the street so that she could look out of the window at trees.  The park seems to still be in good condition.

“A” is for Atkinson

 This post begins a series using the Alphabet to go through streets that were significant in my life, as part of the “Family History Through the Alphabet” challenge.

I will start with Atkinson in Detroit. The layout  of the house isn’t exact as far as scale, but it is as close as I remember it. The last time I was in this house was in 1953. I was 6 years old.

Downstairs at 2212 Atkinson with photos. Scale is way off.

In 1951, when I was four, my father received a call to St. Marks Presbyterian church in Detroit. We left Springfield, Massachusetts  and moved into 2212 Atkinson, down the street from my paternal grandparents who lived at 2270 Atkinson.    St. Marks was located a block away, in the other direction, on 12th Street.  The 1967 Detroit riot started a block from the church.

I attended kindergarten at Brady Elementary School. I was eager to start school and there were no tears or fear.  I remember a cartoon with the white corpuscles battling it out with germs, painting everyday on the easel.  I don’t remember my regular teacher but a substitute teacher stays in my mind.  She was short and wore her white hair piled high on top of her head, kind of like a wedding cake. I remember her as wearing a purple dress and being mean.

I  walked to school by myself – two blocks down Atkinson,  a short distance on Linwood to the light and a long block next to Sacred Heart Seminary.  Usually there were no other walkers because I was late. I especially remember being late when I started first grade and came home for lunch. I must have been a slow eater because I was late just about everyday.  I didn’t mind walking alone but I didn’t like being late. One day I was coming home for lunch and as I was passing the neighbors house, two girls around my age, were outside with their dog Duchess.  The dog came up growling and caught my wrist in her mouth.  They just stood there and I just stood there. Soon my mother came out and rescued me.  She said she heard me calling her but actually I hadn’t said a word.  My father kept a big stick by the door to hit Duchess with when she ran out to attack.

Pearl and I shared a bedroom. For much of the time she was still in her crib. She was 2 or 3 when we moved. She would tell me stories about Oliver Olive and a tear on the wallpaper right over her crib that we called Tecumseh.  Later, after I learned to read, I taught Pearl to read when we were supposed to be going to sleep. We had a little table over by the window and the street light gave us enough light. Out of our side window we would watch our neighbors, the two girls with the mean dog, playing in their fantastic attic playroom. We had to go to bed at 8pm all year long, light outside or not. They did not.  When it was light outside and I was in bed, I imagined pictures from the folds in the curtains.

We were not allowed to play outside of the backyard, even though I was walking alone blocks and blocks through rain and snow and sleet to school.  There was a large screened in porch on the back of the house but we couldn’t play on it because it never got cleaned off and we would have tracked dust and dirt into the house. It was a really nice porch and I longed to play on it. But I didn’t.  My mother bought us some easels and paint because I liked to paint at school so much and I used to paint in the basement when she was washing or hanging up clothes.

We didn’t have a car and we took the 14th street bus to go downtown and to go over to my grandparents on the east side on Saturdays. There must have been a streetcar around there too because I didn’t get sick when we rode the streetcar but when we took the bus we sometimes had to get off and walk because I would be getting ready to throw up.  My mother’s bank was on Linwood and I remember the black and white squares on the floor that my sister and I used to walk around on. Down the street was a Dime store where we use to buy tiny little dolls with tiny blue bath tubs and a comparatively big bottle. There were a lot of little toys but that is all I remember buying.  The bank is now deserted and the rest of the block is empty.

During first grade I told my mother I didn’t feel good one morning. She thought I was just trying to get out of school, although I don’t remember trying to get out of school, and made me go.  By the time I came home for lunch I had a fever. It turned out I had pneumonia and missed half of that year of school.  I was moved into my parents room and I guess they moved to the guest room.  My uncle Louis, who was a doctor and lived down the street at his parents house came by to see me everyday. I remember him singing “Oh if I had the wings of an angel over these prison walls I would fly…” as he came up the stairs.  For a while I had to use a bedpan and I remember holding on to the wall for support when I finally was allowed up. By the time I got to go downstairs it was like being in a new house it had been so long since I saw it.

In 1953, my father was involved in a church fight and led a faction of 300 out to start another church which became Central Congregational Church, then Central United Church of Christ and finally The Shrine of the Black Madonna.  My sister Pearl and I spent that summer with my mother’s parents on Theodore. My father stayed with his parents on Atkinson. In the fall we moved to a new parsonage on Chicago Blvd.

Recent shot from Google maps.

 I found this description of 2212 Atkinson online. Built in 1921, it is a single family 2,222 square foot residence. Has two stories with a basement. (I recall an unfinished attic.) It has one full and one partial bathroom.  The heating is by hot water. (I remember the radiators) The exterior walls are brick and there is a fireplace. (The fireplace was in the room designated for the use of the church only.)

Upstairs of the parsonage. Unfortunately no photos outside of my mind.

View Atkinson Street Detroit, Michigan in a larger map

The National Bank of Detroit on Linwood, St. Marks on 12th, Brady Elementary, Playground on Atkinson and 12th, at my grandparents


Other posts that relate to the house on Atkinson and St. Marks.

Dinner Time, Ghost photo of Atkinson then and now, A Day in 1953 Merges with a day in 2011, Politics



T is for Theodore Street

This post continues a series using the Alphabet to go through streets that were significant in my life as part of the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge.  For this post I am bringing back a post I did a year ago for 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy. The house at 6638 Theodore was my Graham grandparents house.

My maternal grandparents were Mershell and Fannie Graham.  We called them Poppy and Nanny.  They bought their house on Theodore Street on the East Side of Detroit in 1922 when my grandmother was pregnant with my mother, Doris.  They lived there until the neighorhood became increasingly violent and they experienced home invasion and shots fired into the house. That was in the summer of 1968 when they bought a two family flat with my parents near the University of Detroit.  So they lived in this house for 46 years.

When I was growing up we used to pick up my cousins on summer Saturdays and spend the day at my grandparents.  We had Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners there and backyard meals for the summer holidays.

There was a front porch across the front but by the time we came along there was no porch swing and we never sat or played in the front.  The front door had a full window. the window to the right of the front door was the “hall way” it was divded from the living room by wooden pillars. On the hall side there was a table that held the high school graduation photos of my mother and her sister, a lamp and underneath a brass bowl that held last years Christmas cards.  Next to it was my grandmother’s rocking chair.  The door to the kitchen was behind that and the stairs to the second floor were behind the table.  At the foot of the stairs, beside the single window, was a table with the telephone. The telephone sat on a small table my grandfather built, on the landing.  During the day, it came down to the little table and at night it went back to the landing.  But wait, I think I can show you better then tell you.  Downstairs on the first and upstairs below. No photos taken upstairs. There was a great basement too that included my grandfather’s workshop, a large converted coal furnace and a pantry.

When my grandparents moved in 1968, the people who owned the factory across the street bought the house and tore it down. This is what the spot looked like last time I was in Detroit taking photographs of family places.

To read more about the Brass bed  and see a photograph of it – Dollhouse update.