Category Archives: Letters

We received your letter…

2130 S. Hobart Blvd. #4
Los Angeles 7, California
March 29, 1945

Dear Brabra:

We received your letter (letters)…and were very glad to get a “report” on doings on the home-front. We keep so “complicated and unfinancial” that we keep everybody writing exclusively about our problems to the exclusion of what you-all are doing n’ that.

We went out amongst ’em again Sunday. You may remember Maude and Walter Lewis from Detroit.  Maude was Maude Goins, I believe, before she married Walter Lewis who lived on the West Side and ran around with Harold Glenn.  She went to Plymouth. I didn’t remember either of them…I never remember people unless I know them pretty well.  He said he knew Henry very well (Perhaps Henry will remember him) Anyhow, we went to their home for dinner. They have a little cottage, and two little girls, and he drives a bus (semi-elite) Valeria Tandy (now Mrs. Valeria McCreay) was there too.  We hashed over what everybody still in Detroit is doing and where all those who are away are and what they are doing, etc.  They like California and are planing to stay if they can move all of their relatives out here.  After dinner five other semi-elite couples arrived (just like the movies … except we didn’t motor out to the Country Club for Cocktails) We played some silly game … Polino or something for pennies…My luck not being very good I lost my six pennies quickly and spent the rest of the evening calling out the cards.  They played as though the future peace of the world depended on it…the women especially…not bad looking howsomeever. (Note from my mother inserted – that’s the only reason he played. leering!) After several hours of it…they began to drop out with spots jumping before their eyes n’ that…concentration always gives my people either a head ache or puts them to sleep.  Since they were trying to be elite they all developed headaches.  A very nice time was had by all…’cept I can’t put up with no bunch for six hours without being very weary…very very weary. (incidentally marriage has improved Valeria…or perhaps it was the baby. (I mention this so you can tell Hugh, who I believe use to “go” with her.)

We also descended upon Hollywood the other day. (See enclosed invitation) Walt Disney is trying to bust into the production of Religious films which is supposed to be developing into a little gold mine as soon as the war is over.  He’s trying to “fix-up” a lot of old pictures for re-release to churches.  His idea is nuts…the pictures won’t fit into any church program … but he’s going to try because he has a million dollars tied up in old pictures that can’t be released any more through the old channels.  Cathedral Films is the “Big” Religious film Prodction company.  They’re trying to “encourage” Disney to come on into the field because there’s not enough production going on to meet the needs of the churches.  Churches have to know that films will be available before they put several hundred dollars into a projector.  (I’m going to show Louis, Paul, George, Hugh, and Henry the point where we also ought to go into the production of films soon as I get home… I’ve already re-designed Louis’ garage into a sound-studio for the production of movies and film-strips…they are very lucky boys!) Anyway, we descended upon Hollywood.  Reverend Galloway drove us out in his big Buick…We were late as my folks always are…and he drove like Pee-wee…with the same disregard for life and limb, I mean, but without the finese and flash that Pee-Wee displays, of course. The Studio is out from Los Angeles…where the sunshines all of the time…and the air is clear. Because they are making Training films for the army in addition to entertainment films the place was full of guards who demanded a pass every ten feet.  He has a little city all his own…not so large as the other studios…but much larger than anyone would need to produce animated pictures…except for the Hollywood glamour.  We passed Warners Studio on the way (see map in invitation) They were not working because of the strike.  Pickets were at every gate…just like the movies.  The stars refuse to break a picket-line (most of them being communists…except Eddie Brackeen who is a Republican) We looked for Peter Lorie and Sidney Greenstreet (our favorite actors) but couldn’t find them in the mobs around the gates.  Disney has a super-fine projection room with a big glamorous control channel in the center of the auditorium for editing “rushes” and that…The poor preachers who were guests stumbled about as though they were lost in a world of sin about which they knew nothing…and were properly awed and amazed…and dumbfounded.  They made speeches about this great new medium and the kindness of Mr. Disney who was going to help the churches with his great talents and that…very disgusting humility! In the midst of it all Reverend Galloway was darting about like a little termite trying to meet people and introduce me to the “right people as his friend, a Visual-Education expert n’ that.  I got so tired of chasing after little dumpy blad-headed white men to shake their limp moist hands and leer at them that I was O so happy to meet them.  Galloway, who has a considerable sense in most things, makes quite a point of this sort of activity.  It may pay dividends but it’s too strenuous a life for me…I’d rather be a wall flower.  Doris enjoyed the glamour…and kept interrupting the pictures and the speeches to “suggest” that we open a studio in Detroit in connection with the church.  She wanted ot operate the controls, I could tell.  That there Louis would have a “tinkering fit” if turned loose in a sound studio…such “pretty machines” to be fixed n’ that! I don’t think the fact that the most delicate mechanisms are sealed and should be sent back to the factory for adjustment would stop him, at least not until he broke them all up one time! Well, I suppose that’s all the news from the “ON” front at present.  I KNOW that Pee-Wee and Gladys are in there fighting every minute on their own little “ON” fronts (La Moor…La-Mor!) tell Henry & Hugh I’m trying to get back to Detroit in time to build ’em a new chicken coop this Spring…THIS IS THE TIME FOR EGGS n’ that… If they don’t get “rich” now, ain’t no use talking about it later!


“Brabra” is my father’s sister, as are Gladys and “Pee-Wee”.  Louis, Henry and Hugh are his brothers. Louis was a doctor who loved to tinker and build things and take things apart. Henry and Hugh were conscientious objectors who farmed during WW2.

The pass and the map were not included in the letter that has come down to me. To learn more about the Hollywood strike in 1945 click on the photograph to the right.

This is the last letter in my collection from Los Angeles to Detroit.  The next letter arrives in November from Springfield, Mass. I wish I knew how that eventually came about. There are several newspaper articles that I will be posting that announce his appointment to St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield. Articles, photographs and letters to come.

Guess We must be writing too often…

Another letter from the collection of my father’s letters home to Detroit while he and my mother were living in Los. Angeles California.  Other posts in this series include Christmas letter, Hi Folks (Happy New Year…), I have a little problem in design and Christmas Eve.

2103 S. Hobart Blvd. #4
"Albert B. Cleage"
Los Angeles 7, California
January 6, 1944

Dear Folks:

Guess we must be writing too often…don’t seem to leave you-all no incentive to feel communicative n’ that.  We received Gladys’ letter…sounded like you-all had a nice Christmas.  Everything here is about the same…except I’ve had a cold or flu or something ever since last Sunday…It’s much better now…and Doris seems bent on getting it too..kicked me out of bed this morning to phone her supervisor that she was taking sick-leave…and then woke up later (this afternoon) with a cold…which made her very angry…stealing sick leave and then really being sick. (po’ thing!)

Guess our telegram failed to stimulate the intended response…since we ain’t heard no “immediate” reply like we requested.) or did we forget the verb in our efforts to keep under the forty cent limit!)  Reverend White wrote a little note saying that the church in Springfield, Mass. is vacant and suggesting that I try for it.  I, having misplaced my Congregational Directory, had no way of looking up the church…and White with unconcern said nothing about the name of the church…names of people to be contacted or nothin‘. So we sent you-all “instructions” to contact White for this information…so I can get busy writing.  (Probably couldn’t find him until Sunday no-how – I suppose!)  A letter addressed to “Negro Congregational Church, Springfield, Mass” would I’m sure prejudice the good brethren against me.  I wrote to the Congregational Board of Pulpit Supply in Boston and asked them to place my name before the officers of the church.  But I have little faith in their “energy” or “ability” in so far as Negros are concerned, I had just corresponded with the Executive Secretary of the Board the preceding week regarding openings…and he sent me his best wishes and the season’s greetings.  But I wrote him anyway! I wrote Reverend White suggesting that HE contact the church officers placing my name before them. But I also have little faith in his “energy” n’ that. As a matter of fact I’m not sure that there is actually any opening there! He does so love to play the Big-Shot…I would not put it beyond him to just pull a name out of a hat…or say Springfield when the opening is really in New Haven or Boston…or something else absurd.  The Church in Springfield is “supposed” to be a good church…one of the old New England Elite outfits. I could probably get it if I could get to them… but without a reputation…and three thousand miles from the scene, it will be rather difficult at best.  Laviscount is in Boston…but I don’t know him…and fear to contct the swaggering self-centered ilk of typical Congregational bretheren.  Doris may write.  She and her folks know him.


P.S. Write sometimes!
P.P.S.-Do you know any Springfield Big-wigs? (Not like those in L.A.!!!)
P.P.P. S . – Did Rev. Pickett of First Church in Detroit go to Springfield, Mass, of New Haven, Conn.?
P.P.P.P.S. – How are Henry & Hugh doing with the new “draft young farmers” business? Still O.K. I hope!!!!!

I have a little problem in “Design”…

This letter should have come before the previous post where my father writes about lecturing on his Design Theory. “Gravi” is his younger sister, Gladys who was an art student at Wayne State University in Detroit at the time.  Below is a strip photograph of all the Cleages, the house on Scotten in Detroit and my parents and their apartment in LA.  This is how they looked at the time the letters were written and how they were identified in the letters.  If you click it, it will enlarge and you can enlarge it again which makes it big enough to see.

"The Cast"

2130 s. Hobart Blvd. #4

Los Angeles 7, California

December ?, 1944 (note: envelope dated Dec. 20)

My dear Gravi:

I have a little problem in “Design” for you to work out for me during the Christmas vacation. (If your hectic love-life and gadding about permits of the time.) ‘taint very important, if you’re too busy.

I want you to work out some little designs (like the one you did breaking down the picture into abstract lines and masses for your first course in design…remember…you used show-card paint.

I have developed a “theory” of graphic design which I would like to illustrate.  It goes as follows. All design is based upon the principle of dialectic tension and progression…moving (just as Marxian social-change…remember social-causation) from THESIS to ANTITHESIS to SYNTHESIS and BACK TO A NEW THESIS.  I want abstract designs to illustrate the three stages of development and two to illustrate the proper transition between them.  I will describe just what to do to design each stage as follows:

THESIS represents security…peace…calm…status-quo…the power of order… stability …etc.  It is essentially unpleasant unless you are somewhat akin to a clod. It represents the Middle-class ideal…the bourgeois unconscious.  it is usually used in picture of New England churches etc…There is balance…with the emphasis upon spaciousness (figures are not compactly massed)…and HORIZONTAL LINES combined with VERTICAL LINES (both boldly done. THERE ARE NO CURVES OR DIAGONAL! There can be a soft triangle but not too conspicuous (like the spire atop a church which is essentially a HORIZONTAL.  ALL LINES AND MASSES indicate the STATIC QUALITY…EVERYTHING HAS TO COME TO REST!  ALL DIVIATIONS HAVE BEEN SQUASHED! Simple isn’t it.  You can find a picture of this sort and break it down into an abstraction if you like or just build up the abstraction.

ANTITHESIS represents REVOLT against the THESIS. It is done with diagonals (not triangles) Bold diagonals form the basis of design.  Small contradictory diagonals probably in the foreground add to the general confusion.  The confusion, however, is orderly because it is a design BUT EVERYTHING GIVES THE FEELING OF REVOLT or ANTITHESIS.  Picture of the CITY, INDUSTRY, WAR, and POVERTY are usually designed this way to suggest the underling conflict and revolt.  Do one design representing this stage.

(Inserted handwritten note by my father) “Keep the idea of one basic design merging into the next and then into the next – etc – like a circle – where the design pattern is being changed as taught by external force.”

SYNTHESIS represents the tendency of ANTITHESIS to resolve back into a new THESIS. It is the most pleasant of the three because it is a compromise having something of both. IT has something of the HORIZONTALS AND VERTICALS of the THESIS, and the DIAGONALS  of the ANTITHESIS have all bee softened into CURVES.  It is not so spacious as the THESIS nor so compact as the ANTITHESIS.  Most rural scenes are SYNTHESIS… the rolling countryside..the soft clouds in the sky (curves) and the swaying trees…the cattle in the fields etc. all make for “SYNTHESIS” composition.

The TRANSITION between THESIS and ANTITHESIS would tend to emphasize the TRIANGLE (I think) these transitions are more difficult.  Some of the stability of THESIS is maintained but the suggestion of conflict and revolt DIANGONALS is present in triangles)

The TRANSITION between ANTITHESIS and SYNTHESIS would tend to have softened diagonals which are already becoming CURVES… some would have already become horizontals and verticals (which is the result of spreading out diagonals beyond the point where they result in curves.

Simple isn’t it!  you can find pictures representing each stage in that book of American Paintings… and just break down examples of each.  I think the abstract breakdown would have the same FEELING (emotional effect upon the observer) as the original paintings in spite of the fact that the subject (human interest) has been lost.  Incidentally this is the basis of all abstract painting! and the schools of Modernists (Cubists, Expressionists, etc.) In addition this conception should determine the artist’s rendidtion of any picture.  The style he uses should be determined by the meaning of his subject.  Most artists do it unconsciously but I am now in the process of bringing this great truth out into the open!

I want it for a class in CINEMATIC DESIGN because in the designing of motion pictures this unity of subject matter and graphic design is absolutely necessary…but apparently no one ever discovered it before (or why are they keeping it so secret…or don’t I read the right books!

If you have time to do them let me know.  Put each one on a white cardboard and place the title (thesis, Antithesis, etc.) on each one.  It would be interesting to do them all in BLACK & WHITE…and another set in COLOR (suiting the colors to the basic idea…which I would leave to you) Two sets could be done in black and white REVERSING THE VALUES IN THE SECOND SET (to prove a contention of mine that the tonal pattern is secondary to the linear pattern which would be the same even after the black and white values were reversed.)  THAT WOULD MAKE THREE SETS. LET YOUR TIME BE YOUR GUIDE.  SEND ME A BILL FOR THE MATERIALS. (and I’ll file it away with my other bills)  Don’t take as much time with each as you took with the one you did for yourself…SO LONG AS THE BASIC IDEA IS RENDERED IN ABSTRACT DESIGN I’LL BE HAPPY. To do it myself would take twenty-years or so!


(Note written in my my mother) “Pauvre Gravi!! Beware!!! This Negro loves to see people work!! Signed, Voice of Experience.”

A Postman, some pineapples and Alaska.

I can usually find a photograph to fit ever occasion in my collection.  Someone doubted I could find a picture in my collection of a postman, a pineapple and Alaska.  I put this together using cards in my postcard collection. I think it fits the bill. None of them are related I must admit.

A letter to my grandmother Fannie

I am sharing a letter from Victor Tulane to my grandmother Fannie after her family moved up from Montgomery to Detroit.  Soon after she and my grandfather bought a house her mother and her two sisters joined them.  They had two children under 5 and my mother was on the way.  Read more about Victor Tulane here and about my grandmother here.
"Letter to Fannie Graham from Victor Tulane."
Letter to Fannie Graham from Victor Tulane

Rents Collected                                                                                     Homes Bought         
Loans Negotiated                                                                                            And Sold 
Estates Managed

Telephone 388
                                                                                                      Montgomery, ALA.,        Nov. 23, 1922

Dear Fannie,
I am enclosing check from this M.R. & Ins. Co; for ten dollars which the sec’y should have mailed you some time ago.

We are winding up the affairs of this company and will send you another payment on stock acct. pretty soon.  I think that the company will be able to pay off it’s stock holders dollar for dollar.

I trust this will find all well and getting along nicely.

Your mother’s things were shipped yesterday.  Trust they will arrive on time and in first class condition.  Remember me to all the folks.  Tell the kids hello!
Let us have a line from you when convenient.

Your Uncle,

Missing Christmas Carols 1944

"Missing Home at Christmas Collage"

Christmas 1944 was my parents second Christmas together. My father, Albert B. Cleage Jr (Toddy) had taken a year off from the ministry to take classes in film making at UCLA.  He planned to use it later in the church.  My mother, Doris Graham, was working as a social worker and apparently taking a class too.  They were living in Los Angeles, Ca, missing Detroit and their families. In the montage we have in the top/center my mother, below her is my father.  The house my mother grew up in is the big photo of the house on Theodore, below is their Los Angeles apt.  The last photo is my mother’s parents Mershell (Poppy) and Fannie (Nannie) Graham.  This is a letter my mother wrote home Dec. 17, 1944.

December 17, 1944

Dear Folks,

Just a line to let you know we’re ok.  Hope you all are well

It’s almost midnight and we are both (as usual) trying to get some school work done that we left until the last minute.  Toddy has a paper due – and I have a book report.

Here it is – almost Christmas, but it doesn’t seem like it at all.  No snow – no cold weather – no nothing.  People out here don’t even sing Christmas carols on radio church services or anything.  We heard you all have lots of snow.  Well – guess I’d better go back to my book.  

Merry Christmas

and a Happy New Year.

Toddy + Doris


…to be where you can breathe a little freedom

Lowndes Adams, Rufus Taylor and Lewis Gilmer
Lowndes Adams, Rufus Taylor and Lewis Gilmer
204 Oak Street
Montgomery, Ala
April 7, 1917

Dear “Shell” – From my early acting in answering your letter, you may know or imagine how proud I was to receive a letter from the boy. I have thought of you often and wondering at the same time, if I was just to receive a postcard from you; for as you have said about me, I consider you one of my closest and most trusted worthy friends. It doesn’t seem that one can realize the feeling that exists until a separation, but after looking into the proposition, knowing that you had to get located, being in a new land, and being among strangers would consume lots of your time. I am certainly pleased to know that you are so well satisfied with Detroit and the surroundings. Yes, I would be tickled to death if I could be up there with you, for I am sick and tired of this blooming place. I know it must be an inspiration to be where you can breathe a little freedom, for every body down here are beginning to feel that slavery is still existing in the south.
The Teacher’s Association has been in session here from the 4th to the 7th and quite a number of visitors are here. The boys thru my chivalry managed to give a subscription dance, and believe me I came in an inch of being fagged out. You know how you have to run a “jinke” down to get a $1.00 from him. We had quite a success as well as an enjoyable one. Cliff was to make the punch but on account of his training being too late for him to even come to the ball, it fell my time to do something and I did wish for you but managed to brave the situation and tried to follow as close as I could remember my seeing your making punch and for a fact I really made that punch taste like “a la Shell punch”, and it turned out to be perfect class.
Alabama Medical Association will convene here on 9 and 10 and they are giving a dance at Tabors Hall on Randolph and Decatur Sts. No, not a full dress affair, so I think I shall attend. Sam Crayton is here from Chicago and he is very anxious for me to return with him, but I am afraid he will have to go and I come later.
Well, the U.S. is really in War with Germany and we can’t tell what the next war may bring. It will mean suffering for humanity, and we people down here especially. I am just as neutral as can be and expect to stand pat in the idea.
Yes, people are leaving here in droves for all directions and now you can miss them off of the streets. As many people that hung around the drug store on Sunday, you can scarcely find a dozen there now.
I have seen Miss Turner but once and that was down town. I know she keeps you well informed of herself. There is no news of interest. My sister Jessie was married in February and is now living in Pensacola, so you see so far 1917 has been lucky for me. Now old boy, I shall expect for you not to allow such long gaps between our writing each. All of my family sends the best of wishes to you and Mrs Wyman and Hubby. The boys and girls join in with me and send their share.

Your devoted pal,