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
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.
Family and church members accompanied my father as he signed up to run for City Council in Detroit, MI in 1965. We all have on our Cleage for Council buttons. That’s him in the front with the bow tie. I am looking melancholy over on the left. My cousin Ernie is in the striped sweater. Rev. Hill’s ( assistant pastor) wife in the back with the hat. My grandmother (Pearl Cleage) looking happily proud on the right. This followed the Freedom Now Party loss in 1964 and the 3 + 1 campaign in 1963 and preceded the run for the 13th District congressional seat in 1966.
These campaigns were run as educational, not to win. Not that that wouldn’t have been a welcome surprise. My family talked politics morning noon and night. Not just talked, lived. Two of my uncles started a printing business and for years the family and friends put out The Illustrated News, an eight sheet pink paper where they wrote about the issues of the day, mostly local but as this was the time of the civil rights movement, bombs and demonstrations and riots, there was also some national news. I remember riding in sound cars, passing out information at the polls, silk screening posters, leafleting. The summer of 1966 I spent lots of time with Jim, who is now my husband, campaigning. We capped it off by attending a “Victory Party” for Ken Cockrel, who hadn’t won. Those were the days my friend…
I decided to accept the Saturday night challenge. After looking and not finding anything but parking lots and weed covered land where my ancestors used to live, I found 910 Fayette standing. My father, Albert Buford Cleage, Jr, was born in this house on June 13, 1911. His parents had married the year before after Albert completed his medical training and received his physician’s license. The little house must have been crowded with five adults and an infant. The three Cleage brothers, Jacob, Henry and Albert and wives Gertrude and Pearl shared the house until the following year when Albert opened a practice in Kalamazoo Michigan and moved his family there.