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. Venetian Drive is the street I now live on. When my husband retired in 2007, we decided to move to Atlanta where most of our children and grandchildren lived. We had looked at several houses when the realtor took us to see this one. The solarium told us this was the right house for us. There was also the wild yard that reminded us of the real woods we were leaving behind in Idlewild. Below is an article about the way the house is built. There was a studio with a kitchen and bathroom added later. The plan was to use it for an actual studio for silkscreen, sewing and other projects, but so far it has housed various family members as they settle in Atlanta. The best thing about the house is that we are close to the family. I must admit, I do wish it was on a lake and had a sunny garden spot.
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. Back to Springfield, Massachusetts for Union Street. During the first 4 years of my life, my father, Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr, was pastor of the St. John’s Congregational church in Springfield, Massachusetts. After my father convinced the church to sell the parsonage to pay debts, we lived in the back of the church community house. Rooms upstairs were rented out. The church offices were in the front of the building down a long hall. When I was 22 we went back to visit. Everything seemed so much smaller.
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 newborn Pearl’s diapers. Making Halloween cupcakes with orange icing. Looking at the clearing evening sky after rain. Going to the ice cream parlor down the street with my sister and parents. Leafless trees against the winter sky. Huge statues going past the house in a religious procession. Yellow leaves on fall trees, a stream and a dog in the park. Watching the milkman and his horse from my bedroom window. Watching my mother being taken to the hospital on a stretcher down the long hall. A friend of my mother cutting her hair. Ribbon candy at Christmas.
Other posts about life on Union street
The Thief of Baghdad and A Negative
Moving – Springfield to Detroit
Past is Present – Springfield, Massachusetts
Subject and Photographer
Wordless Wednesday – Christmas 1950
Sepia Saturday – Winter 1949
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. This week I remember living on St. John Road in Simpson County, Mississippi. However, since I already have an “S” street coming up and I needed an “R” street, I am using our mailing address, Route 1, Box 173 1/2, Braxton, MS. I don’t have a photo of our mailbox so I am using a return address from a letter I wrote back then.
We moved to Simpson County, Mississippi in the fall of 1975. I was pregnant with our third daughter who was born April 12, 1976 at the home of our midwife. We had never lived in the real country before this move. Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, outside of Charleston, was the closest we had been. My husband was working as an organizer with the Emergency Land Fund (E.L.F.), a group to help black farmers save their land, which was being lost at an alarming rate. We first lived at Rt. 1 Box 38 where the Emergency Land Fund had a model farm. Maybe I should say we helped setting up a model farm, complete with rabbits in the pen and tomatoes in Green houses and our own milk goats and chickens. When the Emergency Land Fund wanted to move us to the Mississippi Delta to run a soy bean farm we opted to stay in Simpson County and Jim quit working for E.L.F. We had to move from the farm and so bought our first house and 5 acres several miles away. The house was a Jim Walters House that had been built by former volunteers to the Voice of Calvary Church in Mendenhall. You can buy the house in various stages of completion and the more you finish yourself, the cheaper the cost. It was from the plans in this picture. Unfortunately there was not a big lake in the yard and there was no danger of flooding. We were much more likely to have a tornado come through and that caused me many anxious nights as storms rolled through and we were 10 feet off the ground. There was indoor water for the bath and the kitchen sink but there was no indoor toilet. There was an outhouse outback. There was electricity and my husband, Jim, hooked up the washing machine. It wasn’t too hard to run pipes since they were all exposed under the house. That caused problems when we forgot to drip the water when temperatures dropped. Eventually we did get an inside toilet but it was several years coming. Three of my six children were born in Mississippi.
A letter I wrote home from Mississippi not too long after we moved in.
January 19, 1977
Dear Mommy and Henry,
Here’s your late gift box. I’m sending some books – not to keep but to read (smile). The Tatasaday book should be read with the Iks in mind. I hope the hats fit and the cake is o.k. It didn’t come out as god as the last but i figured i’d better send it on.
It snowed here – about 2 1/2 inches and it’s still on the ground! Boy oh boy – first time the temp went to 6 degrees here – ever and most snow since 1958. Jilo’s schools been closed 2 days. We went for a walk in the woods yesterday. it was nice. Jim’s been going out with a neighbor down the road to cut pulpwood. Do you have those big trucks up there? He likes it fine. But it keeps him busy and working nights.
The goats are fine. 1 month until 3 more are due. The chickens are giving us 6>9 eggs daily with 13 hens. Still 4 aren’t laying i think. The midwife’s parents came over and told me to keep them locked up until non and keep food and water there and they’d probably start up – and they did. The garden isn’t started – luckily for it.
Ife cut her hair in places so i just gave her an afro. She looks so grown up! It looks nice though. Ayanna has 4 teeth and crawls funny but gets wher she’s going and is still happy. I braided her hair last week in the front where it was long enough. it rounds her head up so she looks more like the other two round heads at that age. The sun just went down and it sure droped the temp in here. We have solar heat benefit of those 2 south facing double doors.
Jim’s fine and we both read and liked the book. We had his other one – Welcome to Hard Times – have you read it? I’m ok too. Not keeping a Betty Crocker house but at least keeping up with the dishes. Jilo’s fine too, has had a sub(stitute teacher) since Christmas vacation and seems to make them work a bit harder – the teacher who had that grade before.
Write soon – Love Kris
P.S. Ife did the farm picture. She did it by looking as at a picture in Jilo’s cook book. Isn’t that good perspective and stuff. I told her we’ll start doing from life soon.
Also, the pigs still alive in this cold. it’s a wonder.
For more about living in Mississippi, including goats, killing chickens, heating with a wood stove, midwives, friends and work shoes read these posts.
- The LUBA Farm Project – Simpson County, Mississippi
- Burning wood – pictures of our wood burning stove
- 1978- Mississippi Shoes and Film 5036
- Memories of Chickens
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. Amazing I know, but Q is a letter I do not have a street for. Someone suggested I do “A quiet street” for Q so this post will be about the house on Water Mill Lake, the quietest place I ever lived. Except for that one night something was killing something out in the forest. And there were those duck feathers strewn around the pathways as the ducks down the road disappeared, one by one.
In 1976, soon after the birth of my third daughter, my mother and Henry moved from the house on Fairfield in Detroit to the house on Water Mill Lake in Lake county. Water Mill is a much smaller lake than Idlewild and is less than a 5 minute drive away. Lake county is a 4 hours drive from Detroit. The house was separated from it’s lake front by a dirt road. In the back, through trees and underbrush, was the Pere Marquette River. This house was in the Manistee National Forest. Houses were few and far between. My mother and Henry planted a wonderful organic garden, fished and froze the bluegills they caught for winter eating and installed a wood furnace to cut down on the heating bill. I would go up for several weeks in the summer during June, with my children after the Williams Reunion in St. Louis. We lived in Simpson County Mississippi at that time.
In 1978, shortly after the birth of my fourth daughter, my mother was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She had noticed bleeding but ignored it for too long and after several years of treatments that took them to Detroit far too often, she died in 1982. Just after the birth of my son. Henry continued to live there by himself, seeing his brothers, sisters and friends who came up to Idlewild in the summer. In the winter there weren’t too many visitors.
In 1986 we moved to the house on Idlewild Lake. Of course Henry became part of our life, eating dinner with us often, us visiting him and him visiting us. He contributed lively discussion, the same kind I remembered from my growing up years to my children’s growing up. In 1996, shortly after being diagnosed with liver cancer, Henry died. He left us his house. We rented it out for several years. Our oldest daughter lived there when she returned to Lake County as Assistant principal of the local high school.
In January of 2005, with only one of the children left at home and serious foundation problems with the house on Idlewild Lake, we decided to move to Henry’s. We added a few windows and had the attic turned into another bedroom. We had to replace the septic system which took out a few trees behind the garage so we put a garden in back there. We bought the lot next door at an auction. There were deer in the yard, racoons trying to get into the garbage cans. Racoons are so much bigger then they look in children’s picture books. At one time there had been a lot of people who came to that road to fish but the owner of the property had posted it so there was not much traffic on the road and not many people coming to fish. The lake was too small for jet skis and speed boats, that was nice. We had to walk up to the corner to get the mail because the mail man didn’t come down that road to deliver. There were only 4 houses on the road and only ours and one at the corner were occupied all the time.
Our third daughter moved home after graduating from University of Michigan while searching for a job. The spring of 2005 another of our daughters and her family moved to Idlewild on the way from Seattle to wherever she found a job, which turned out to be Atlanta. During that summer we had visits from the other children. They stayed between our house and the old house on Idlewld Lake. It was good to have everybody close by again. In the fall of 2005, our youngest son moved to Atlanta to work with AmeriCorps, then the second daughter moved to Atlanta. Somewhere in there the third daughter moved to Indianapolis for her new job. Our two elderly dogs died. We were down to one cat. My husband and I were alone for the first time in forever. It was wonderful. It was peaceful.
In 2006 our daughter who lived in Detroit moved to Atlanta. In the summer of 2007 we helped our third daughter move from Indianapolis to Atlanta and decided to look around and see what we could find because it seemed to make sense that we all settle in one place to be both support and company for each other. We found the house with the solarium (which is on Venetian so I will be writing about it in a few more posts) and that decided us. Just as the Michigan housing market went downhill, we sold the Water Mill house and bought the one Atlanta just before that market went downhill. We sometimes talk about how we could have done it differently and held on to that house in Idlewild while spending some of the winter months in Atlanta. Moving made sense but I really miss being on the water and being out of the city.
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. This week we go to S. Payne Drive in Idlewild, Michigan. We moved there in August of 1986 when I was 39 and lived there until January of 2006. Almost 20 years. The longest I have lived anywhere.
When I was growing up we used to go to my Uncle Louis’ cottage in Idlewild. My cousin Barbara and I fantasized about riding our bikes from Detroit to Idlewild and living in a vacant cottage. Our plan fell through because we never came up with the agreed upon $10.00 each. This is still my favorite house of all I have lived in. If only the children and grandchildren had been closer, we would still be there.
Some of the things I remember about living on S. Payne Drive are – the lake in summer for swimming and in the winter for skating. The stone fireplace. The wood burning/electric stove we cooked on for several years before the electric side went out. Cabral joining the family the year after we moved in. The unacceptable local schools and our journey into homeschooling. The years the uncles, aunts and cousins were at their own places in the summer and sometimes the winter. Story rounds and the AOL homeschooling area and my addiction to the computer. Years without television. Dollhouse Doll Ville. Delving deeper and deeper into my family history. Track and basketball and Interlochen. Tulani’s dog sledding. The children growing up and moving out. When you have 6 spaced out 2 to 4 years apart it seems an endless process but end it did.
I remember times when family came from far and wide to be together. The grandchildren being born. My husband Jim traveling hours to work for the Michigan Dept. of Transportation in Ludington, Traverse City and points north. Winter layoffs. His years on the Idlewild volunteer fire department. The short periods of time I worked at the Baldwin and Idlewild Libraries. Our yearly Community Kwanzaa Celebrations. Icicles hanging from the roof. Keeping the wood burning furnace going and realizing the meaning of the saying “Keep the home fires burning.” My most wonderful garden. Henry’s Status Theory. Endless discussions. Walking 4 miles around the lake most days. Developing chronic tendonitis and no longer walking around the lake fast enough to keep the weight off. Deer season and the deer Ayanna, Tulani, James and Cabral skinned and cut up. Relatives selling their places. Louis, Henry and my father dying. Moving to Water Way Drive.
Here is a page from our family newsletter, Ruff Draft, from those years.
Others posts about life at S. Payne Drive
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. This post takes us back to the time when I was still living at home.
My mother bought the house at 5397 Oregon in 1959 for $8,000. It was the first house we owned. Before that we lived in houses owned by the church my father pastored or, after my parents divorced, in a rented flat on Calvert. I was 13 and in the 8th grade when we moved in and a 21 years old senior in college when we moved to the flat on Fairfield. Nine years was the longest I lived in any house when I was at home.
There are no photographs of the upstairs. There was a hall, three bedrooms and the only bathroom in the house. My room looked out on the backyard. The other two bedrooms looked out the front of the house. The bathroom was right across from my room and the stairs were right next to it. The hall ended in a door that went out on the upper back porch. These two drawings are of my bedroom, looking out on the hall and the stairs and the bathroom. They are ballpoint pen and then I sprayed them with perfume. I had to come up with an experimental project for this advanced drawing class and that is what I came up with. I ruined many drawings with that perfume.
Some memories from those years:
Discovering world wide revolution as I started high school. Getting magazines from Cuba, China and Mexico. Listening to radio Habana on the short wave band of our radio. Spending hours in my room reading, clipping photos and articles, looking at maps, filling in maps.
The Christmas we got several of Miriam Mekeba’s records and they became the sound track for that Christmas.
The neighbor’s house being so close that in the summer I could hear them talking through my open bedroom window.
The summer my cousins came to visit from Athens Tennessee and slept in my sister’s room while she moved in with me. The visit was half over when we discovered they had not set up the cot and were crowding into one twin bed. We set it up for them.
My cousin, Greta, cutting my hair so that I could wear an afro during this same 1967 visit.
Almost getting to Cuba and Mexico, but not quite. Did make it to Santa Barbara, CA.
Coming down with the flu one fall day while playing chess with my uncle Henry and being sicker then I remembered being since having pnemonia.
Dried peppers hanging on the kitchen door. Tomato wine/vinegar brewing in a big vat in the kitchen. My mother’s garden under the mulberry tree where she grew green beans. The moldy mulberries under the tree later in the year.
Building an igloo in the backyard one winter.
Pearl walking around the living room on the furniture without touching the floor when my mother wasn’t home.
Nikki Giovanni staying at our house during the 1967 Black Arts Conference.
From my journal:
12/22/67 the winds blowing dry seed on the tree of heaven outside.
1/4/1967 gray, rustle, wind, snow makes more gray. Creaks and roar, grey, grey sky.Everything is quiet. the wind sounds cold. Even the drip of the faucet is cold. Creaks and breath of wind.snow like cover of cold. pale blue summer sky over grey cold.
2/6/1968 i don’t know what’s wrong. every so often i sink into one of these things. deep down loneliness. loneliness fills you empty. Apart in a separateness or a separateness is in me. it’s felt inside my stomach. a lump of muscus won’t digest. sits inside me. floats inside my emptiness… apartness is inside me – is me. me is separate. apart. alone. it’s dark. cold/hot. Still. i stand in a vacant field, large clear area of land off Warren Avenue. The moon is out. i stand in center and watch the moon.
4/4/2968 it’s beautiful weather out. warm. windy. you should be in the country. Tonight i a. type 2 stories, one for Billy Thomas, b. do drawing, guess i’d best do the drawing first, correct – part of armor, maybe college type thing. yeah. that’ll be interesting. go to museum at 4 or 4:30. Eat when? ¿Quien sabe? i have the terrible feeling none of this is going to come out.
4/21/1968 tell him i cried. sat on porch wanting him to come back. look out the window wanting him to take me with him. i didn’t just not want to go home, i wanted to go with him.
“When you are singing
a bird comes
and joins you”
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. It takes us back to North Martindale, kitty corner from my first apartment.
As soon as I reach a letter for which I have no street, I am going to post a chart of where I lived and for how long. From the time I left home until Jilo was a bit over 1 year old I must have been getting ready for this series by moving every 3 to 8 months.
Today I will write about living at Brother John’s. Brother John and my husband, Jim, were both members of the Republic of New Africa and they all called each other “brother” and “sister”. We were there from October 1970 to March 1971, about 6 months. Bro. John lived in the downstairs flat, we lived in the upstairs flat. We didn’t have the whole flat though. He had his office in what would have been the front room. The dining area was empty, sort of a buffer zone. We had the kitchen, bathroom and three bedrooms. I made one of the bedrooms into a living room. The other two were bedrooms. At one point Jim, and I cleaned out the basement in hopes that Bro. John would move his office down there. He didn’t. Even cleaned out the basement was not very inviting.
Some of the things that I remember… the wild kids next door who shot a BB gun into the house. Because we were living a charmed life, nobody was in the room. I remember the pear tree outside of the back porch and that I never picked any pears.
I remember once when Jim was out of town somebody, a community organizer, was shot to death when he answered his door. This disturbed me so much that I put Jilo in her stroller and walked from my house to Miriam’s house on Lee Place. I just didn’t want to be home alone. It was 2.8 miles. It was night and the only part of the walk I remember is that I didn’t walk down 12th but went down the next street over because there were so many people out on 12th.
I remember when three friends and I started a food and baby co-op. We went to Eastern Market, a farmer’s market, early Saturday morning, babies on our backs. We bought cases of greens and sweet potatoes and eggs. We divided them up. We also took turns watching each others babies for a few hours a week so we could get a bit of free time. I can’t remember what I did with my free hours. The co-op eventually fell apart but Martha started a co-op with a La Leche League chapter and I started one at my father’s church.
Some random memories. going away one day and leaving the little washing machine I had earned by babysitting, running. It over flowed and dripped down to Bro. John’s kitchen below. Having the flu while Jim was out of town. Getting Jilo to sleep through the night only to have that go for naught when we visited my sister in Atlanta and she started waking up through the night to nurse again. And last, Bro John finding the dynamite in the attic and being incredulous that anybody would be so dumb as to store dynamite in a house that was being watched by the police and the fbi because it belonged to a member of the Republic of New Africa. I could not fault his logic. At that point we moved to the horrible house on Monterey . Luckily Jilo had no idea what was going on during these times. She probably still doesn’t, unless she is reading these posts.
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 can’t believe we are half way through the alphabet already and that I have found a street for every letter so far.
Today I’m going to write about living on Monterey Street on the west side of Detroit. The house was between LaSalle Blvd and 14th street and in the same area as the Black Conscience Library’s Linwood location. Unfortunately by the time I lived here the library had moved to Grand River which was a bus ride away. Living here is one of those situations where I am thankful we made it out of there unscathed. It included living with supposedly reformed junkies who turned out not to be, a wandering wife, explosives in the basement and finally a beating of the wife. That was the day I left that house never to return.
This song always reminds me of that couple and the spring of 1971.
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.
Linwood was woven through my life from the time we moved on Calvert, between Linwood and Lawton, 1954 until I moved from Detroit in 1972. If I have done blog posts on the spot already, I will provide a link to the earlier post.
To view Linwood, Detroit in a larger map, click on the blue link.
13211 Linwood – Toni’s School of Dance Arts
I was about 9 when we started taking Saturday ballet classes at Toni’s School of Dance Arts. They went on for several years. We wore blue tutus, black ballet slippers shoes and white ankle socks. There was a bar and a wall of mirrors. I learned the five ballet positions and to point my toe. Each year culminated in a big recital at the Detroit Institute of Arts. On the Saturday before the recital all the students spent the day at Toni’s so that the entire program could be gone through. Those not performing would wait outside in the walled in yard of the studio. It was crowded and hot. For the performance one year we wore white calf length dresses, net over satin fabric. The next year we wore net tutus. I had bright blue. My sister’s was bright green. My mother thought the costumes were getting too expensive. I don’t remember minding when we stopped going about the time we moved off of Calvert. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of myself wearing a dance outfit but I picture the me in this photograph wearing a black leotard and blue tutu, white anklets and black ballet slippers.
12019 Linwood – Black Conscience Library
The Black Conscience Library was located here from the winter of 1969 to the spring 1970. In addtion to a small collection of books there were classes and movies related to black history, culture and freedom struggles in various parts of the world. For more read – Once I Worked In A Sewing Factory.
Roosevelt Elementary School
I attended 2nd through 6th grade here. My mother taught Social Studies there from 1954 through 1965. We also cut across the athletic field from Linwood to get to and from Roosevelt. The building is no longer there.
Durfee Junior High School
I attended half of the 7th grade at Durfee. I learned to swim in the pool. The school address is not on Linwood but, the back of the school is.
We walked across here to get to school when we lived on Calvert between Linwood and Lawton. I remember a neighbor lost her boot in the snow cutting across this field in 2 feet of snow. Once my sister and I went with our mother to fly kites here.
2705 Calvert between Linwood and Lawton. I lived here, from 1954 to 1959. We bought penny candy and fudgesicles (ice cream on a stick), from a store on the corner of Linwood and Calvert, walked to school down linwood and at times walked blocks and blocks to activities at church. Read more here – “C” Is For Calvert.
Linwood and Chicago Blvd. – Detroit Rebellion Journal – 1967. During the 1967 riot, this statue belonging to Sacred Heart Seminary was painted black. It was repainted white and then repainted black. It has stayed black right through to the present. You can also find more photographs of the statue here.
I crossed the street here at Linwood and Joy Road when I attended Brady Elementary School for kindergarden and part of 1st grade. There was also a block with the bank my mother used and the dime store we spent our pennies, one block down. The photo is looking across Linwood to Joy Road. Read more here “A” Is For Atkinson.
Shrine of the Black Madonna. Formerly Central Congregational Church. The church I grew up in, pastored by my father Rev. Albert B. Cleage,Jr/Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman Read more here – “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. Click on the link to see links to posts by other participants in this challenge. It’s too bad the streets in my life weren’t alphabetically and chronologically coordinated because the years are all out of order. Here we go back to the beginning and my first home – 210 King Street.
My father became pastor of St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield Massachusetts in the fall of 1945. The parsonage at 210 King Street is pictured above. This is the house I came home to when I was born in 1946. I was the first child of Rev. Albert B. Cleage and Doris Graham Cleage. We moved from King street before my sister Pearl was born in December of 1948. I was 2 years old and I don’t have clear memories of the house. I found the description below online.
My father and his congregation were involved in a church fight at this point. A former Minister had separated most of the churches property from the control of the church when he retired. My father and members of the church were trying to get it back or get the church compensated. Before my sister was born, they did sell the Parsonage and we moved into the Parish house. It was right next to the church and we lived in 4 room (plus bathroom) on the first floor, along with church offices, a big meeting room and I don’t know what else. There were roomers on the second floor. In 1948 they were trying to get $7,500 for the house. Today it is selling for $47,000. From reviews the neighborhood is crime ridden and drug infested so I don’t know if they will get that or if that is a low price for a 100+ year old house in that neighborhood of Springfield.
My mother describes the purchase of the new GE refrigerator in a letter to her in-laws below. She says that I am completely recovered. In an earlier letter she described my bout with roseola.