Aunts & Uncles

book+of+me+adYesterday I talked about cousins, today I am going to share something about my aunts and uncles, some plain old aunts and uncles and some great and some 2X great.

Pearl and Albert with their children and 3 of the grandchildren. My sister and I were at our other grandmothers and the youngest 4 were not yet born. 1951.
Pearl and Albert with their children and 3 of the grandchildren. My sister and I were at our other grandmothers and the youngest 4 were not yet born. 1951.

 Because my family seemed to socialized mainly with each other and a few long time family friends, I saw a lot of my aunts and uncles. When I was growing up, we spent every Saturday with my mother’s sister, Mary V. and her daughters at our maternal grandparents. We all rode over and back together. We also lived down the street and went to the same school so we saw her often.

My father’s family was very close and worked on political and freedom causes together through the years. We all went up to Idlewild together. Uncle Louis was our family doctor. My first jobs were working with Henry and Hugh at Cleage Printers.  I babysat one summer for Anna and Winslow.  I worked at North Detroit General Hospital in the pharmacy with Winslow. I worked with Gladys and Barbara at the Black Star sewing factory. My mother married my Uncle Henry years after my parents divorced so he was like a second father to me.  I raked their memories for stories about the past for decades.

My mother and her sister with cousin Dee Dee inbetween. Front row: Me, sister Pearl and cousin Barbara.
My mother and her sister with cousin Dee Dee inbetween. Front row: Me, sister Pearl and cousin Barbara.
  • Aunts by blood and Uncles by marriage.
    Aunts by blood and Uncles by marriage.
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Aunt Abbie – my great grandmother Turner’s sister.

I had 4 aunts and 5 uncles, by blood. Two of my uncles died when they were children so I never knew them. All of my aunts married so there were 4 uncles by marriage. Three, Ernest, Frank and Edward, were eventually divorced from my aunts. I didn’t see them very much after that. Ernest lived in NYC and only appeared now and then so I didn’t know him very well beyond the fact he was very good looking and polite. Uncle Frank, who we called ‘Buddy’, was a an electrician. I remember him taking us to Eastern Market and boiling up a lot of shrimp,which we ate on soda crackers. And a story he told about a whirling dervish seen in the distance that turned into a dove. Edward, who we called Eddie was a doctor and I remember little about him except he was quiet and when I had a bad case of teenage acne, offered to treat it for me.  Uncle Winslow was there to the end. I saw him often and I felt very connected to him. He had a wicked sense of humor and liked to talk about the past when I was in my family history mode. None of my uncles were married during my lifetime so I had no aunts by marriage.

We didn’t call our aunts and uncles “aunt” and “uncle”.  We called them by their first names only.  I did know two of my great aunts, my maternal grandmother’s sisters, Daisy and Alice.  I knew one of my 2 X great aunts, Aunt Abbie. She lived with my grandparents until she died in 1966. Aunt Abbie was Catholic and I still have a Crucifix that she gave me.

I remember calling Daisy “Aunt Daisy”, but Alice was just “Alice”.  Aunt Daisy had a distinctive voice and she laughed a lot. I remember going to dinner at their house once, and going by on holidays.

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My maternal grandmother’s sisters, Aunts Alice and Daisy. On Bob-lo Island 1961.

There were a host of great aunts and uncles that I never met but I knew from stories about them so that I felt like I knew them.  Aunt Minnie and Uncle Hugh were my paternal grandmother’s siblings.  I must have met several of my paternal grandfather’s siblings but I was small and don’t remember them, Uncle Jake, Uncle Henry, Aunt Josie and their spouses.  And on the maternal side I heard so much about my great grandmother Jennie’s siblings that I felt I knew them too.  When I started researching, these were not strangers – Aunt Willie, Aunt Mary, Aunt Beulah, Aunt Anna.

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2X Great Grandmother Eliza and her children. My 2X great aunts and uncle.  Aunt Mary, Ransom, Aunt Abbie, Aunt Beulah, Eliza, Great Grandmother Turner, Aunt Anna and Aunt Willie. Don’t know why Ransom was just ‘Ransom’.

We didn’t call any of my parent’s friends ‘aunt’ or ‘uncle’. Not surprising since we didn’t call our own aunts and uncles, ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’.

Left to right: Albert, Josephine, Edward. Back L Henry, back R Jacob
Left to right: My grandfather Albert Cleage with my great aunt and great uncles, Aunt Josie, Uncle Ed. Back L Uncle Henry, back R Uncle Jake.

Henry Rototilling Garden at Old Plank

Henry Cleage rotilling the garden at Old plank which Hugh Cleage watches.
Henry Cleage rotilling the garden at Old plank while Hugh Cleage watches.
examiningpotatoesoldplank
Picking potatoes at Old Plank.
henryhugh@oldplank
Holding potatoes.

To see more about Old Plank read this post from the past:

Picking Beans – Old Plank 1963

Playing Poker at Old Plank – 1962

Old Plank road in Shadow – 1962

 

For more Sepia Saturday posts, CLICK!
For more Sepia Saturday posts, CLICK!

Hugh Cleage Skiing

Back in the day, my uncles Hugh and Louis Cleage used to go up to Idlewild and ski. Sometimes my boy cousins got to go with them, but never any of the girls. It was a male bonding time, I guess.  Anyway, we never did learn to ski, my sister and I, while the boy cousins became quite good at it. They sometimes went to Caberfae, a skiing resort very close to Idlewild. You can read about the history of Caberfae, with photographs, here Caberfae Peaks: 75 Years of Michigan Skiing.

My kids went cross country skiing there a few time.  I wonder if I have any photos.  Don’t seem to.

skiingGetting ski’s on next to Louis’ cottage.

skiing_2Hugh skiing on Lake Idlewild.

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Cookout – August 1958 – Sepia Saturday 190

My uncle Hugh by the gate.
My uncle Hugh by the gate.

I remember several cookouts in my grandmother Cleage’s backyard. There was the one where the tables were set up right in front of the gate that looked out on the street. There was some sort of minor argument about this. Afterwards, my sister and I called any sort of family argument a “cookout.” On that occasion Grace Lee Boggs dropped by, not for the cookout, but for some political reason, dating it in the 1960s.

tables
You can just see Hugh’s head behind Louis, my mother, Henry.

The cookout pictured below took place during the summer of 1958. My uncle Louis bought a big blue plastic swimming pool that took up most of the cement part of the yard. I don’t remember it being there any other summer. Once, my sister Pearl was drowning when my uncle Henry noticed her on the bottom of the pool, reached down and pulled her out. I don’t know why she didn’t stand up.  She was 9 and I turned 12 that August.  The bushes on the fence were full of tiny, pink roses during the season. Those are still my favorite roses.

Pearl remembers: I am still mystified as to why I didn’t just put my feet down. I don’t remember being at the bottom of the pool. I remember going down and splashing my way back up to the top and not being able to stay with my head above water. and then Henry came over and grabbed me and pulled me up and out. who knows what was going on? and we had those little plastic life preservers, too. how deep was the damn thing anyway?

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Pearl, my aunt Gladys, Kris, cousin Ernie in the pool. It was blue plastic with a metal frame.
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My mother sitting beside the pool.
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My aunt Barbara standing by the fence between my grandmother’s and the Smith’s.
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To see more picnics and such, CLICK!

Me, Detective – A Short Story by Henry Cleage

Today is my uncle Henry Wadsworth Cleage’s birthday. He was born on March 22, 1916 in Detroit Michigan. If he had not died on June 15, 1996, he would have been 97 today. In honor of his birthday I decided to run another one of his short stories. He wrote it in March of 1947 and sent it out to an agency but it wasn’t published. He also wrote a longer and slightly different version of this story. There was, however, no mention of a camera and that is the prompt for this weeks Sepia Saturday.

Henry and Hugh examine a camera.
Henry and Hugh examine a camera.

Me, Detective

By Henry Cleage

“Rural Detective Agency routes Thief” was in great big letters and underneath was the picture of the old man Lucas’s cat wearing the false teeth.  Then there was a little article about Sam and me.  I was humiliated. I jammed the magazine in my pocket and went up to the office.  The office is over the drugstore.

I opened the door and started towards my desk. I was almost there when I fell over the tripod. It was sulking in the shadows the better to destroy me.  I staggered on to the desk and sat there trying to organize myself.

Finally my mind was made up.  Whoever heard of a detective agency with a darkroom? I would just have to force Sam to stop fooling with them cameras and stick to business.  I couldn’t stand the strain and the indignity any longer.  It was getting so bad I was getting a fixation about cameras.  I could smell one a block away, and the smell didn’t do my blood pressure any good either.  After all, who was running the joint anyway?  I was in a state when Sam finally wandered in.

“Hello Dan.”. he said. He was loaded down with a camera almost as big as he was. He’s just about five foot six himself but he’s all energy and foolishness.  Oh, he’s a good boy all right. I don’t mean to say that he ain’t been a big help and all that, but after…  Just because he was the one who got us our license and set up the office don’t mean he can run around with a camera all the time. Besides it was only because he happened to know Sidney Jones’s daughter in the university where he was taking some fool course in photography that he was able to get the license.

 

But take that university business.  Ain’t that just like him?  If I wanted to be a photographer I would just grab a camera and start snapping pictures.  But he’s got to go at it the hard way.  He’s got a stubborn streak a mile wide.  If he wants anything, he’ll bust hell wide open to get it.  I didn’t even speak to him when he walks in.  He wanders around awhile tring not to get in my way, but I’m right there looking him dead in the eye.

At last I speak. “Sam”, I says, “What do you think is wrong with the business?”

“Geez” answers Sam “I think it’s wonderful.”

Now, ain’t he a ninny?  “Wonderful?” I gasp. “How can you say that when we ain’t had no business since old man Lucas lost his false teeth?”

”I don’t think we can expect a great volume of business, ever.” Says Sam. “That’s why I’m developing a sideline. With photography and our detective business, we ought to do alright.”

“How come we can’t expect a lot of business?” I says, stung to the quick by this fresh evidence of unamericanism.

“Why, the town is too small.” Says Sam innocently, his wide eyes even wider.

“Well”, I says “I think we can do more business if a certain one of us would tend to business and let our hobbies go.”

Sam seemed shocked.  “But, I think my camera work can be a help in the business.” he said.

Ain’t he a ninny though?

“Did the camera help in the Lucas False Teeth Case?” I roared.

“The picture I got of the cat wearing the teeth did.” Replied Sam.  “We sold it to the magazine for a hundred bucks.”

“Did the camera help in the Lucas False Teeth Case?” I repeated.

“I found the teeth.” Sam had the indecency to say.

“Did the camera find the teeth?” I scored.

“No.” Sam admitted.

I rose to my full six feet and glared down at Sam, sitting at his desk.  “Then admit you are wasting time with them gadgets.”

For a minute I thought I had him, but he’s stubborn.  He looked pained for a minute and then scratched his head.  He don’t like to argue.  That’s what I was counting on.

“I don’t think the camera has had a fair test.” He says.

I am almost exasperated but just then the phone rings and I grab it.  It’s old man Jones’ daughter herself.  She wants an appointment right away.  She gets it.

“I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do.” I says, turning back to Sam. “I want to be fair about this thing so we’ll make a bargain.” I look at him like I’m giving him the chance of a lifetime.  “That is if you got the nerve, the faith of your convictions.”

“What is it?” asks Sam.

“If you can use your camera in some legitimate way in our next case, I’ll keep my mouth shut. If you can’t, you’ll get down to business and forget it.”

Sam starts to protest but I come in fast.

“Oh?” I says “Welching?”  I shake my head disgustedly.  “Just a kid who don’t want to give up his toys.”

This gets Sam where he lives. He hates to be called a kid. That’s what I counted on.

“All right.” He says, his face tight and confused, “I’ll go along with you.”

I got him, I got him, I got him!  Geez, what a sucker.  I don’t know why, but I can get away with anything on him.  With other guys, he is as shrewd as the next one, but with me, he is putty.

Things are still pretty tense in the office that evening when Miss Jones comes in.  She is a looker all right. A tall well stacked dame with plenty of everything that makes the world go around.

When she sees Sam, she almost picks him up and puts him in her lap.  It seems they were regular old buddies at school.  Sam seems pretty fond of her too.  They act like two old college buddies.  Disgustin’.

“How is the demon photographer?” she hollers, laughing like mad.

“How’s the philosopher?” says Sam, grinning like an ape.

They kid each other around like two guys. I look at this chick again.  It’s amazing.  Usually a big shot chick with as much on the ball as this one, is got a lot of agony and such.  You know what I mean.  I figure this chick must be a problem to someone.  I can imagine her pulling almost as many silly ones as Sam.  I clear my throat and bring the meeting to order.

She’s really got a problem.  It seems that in her studies at school she comes across something pretty interesting in the way of the law of averages. And being the girl she is, she shoots right out to Whitey’s Roadhouse to see if the books are right.  They ain’t.  One thing follows another and before all is said and done, she gives an I.O.U. Now, for some peculiar reason, Whitey don’t want to give her back the I.O.U. even for the money.

“Well”, I says, “Why worry?” This chick must have a screw loose, I think to myself.  I would take the money and call it a good deal.

“Her father is running for mayor on the reform ticket.” Says Sam.

“What’s that got to do with it?” I shouts, very much put out by Sam’s habit of bringing up non-essentials.

“Petey Grace, the mayor’s handyman called me today and advised me to see that daddy did not choose to run or he would publish a Photostat of the I.O.U. in the paper.” She says.

That Sam, I think to myself.  Always showing off.  How in the world does he think we can get an I.O.U. if the guy don’t want to give it?  Besides, that Whitey bunch ain’t no boys to get too gay with.  And he’s in with the mayor too.  That’s a hard combination to beat.  It ain’t like finding old man Lucas’s false teeth.

I’m just on the verge of telling her that we are pretty well tied up, when I get a flash of genius.  This is just the case for showing Sam the folly of his ways.  It’s got to be strictly hush-hush, see.  The last thing you could use in a case like this is a camera.  I turn back to Jones with a suave smile.

“The way I see it”, I says, “the whole thing has got to be strictly hush-hush.”

“Definitely.” Says Jones, tossing her blond curls with a certain twist of her shoulders.

“No pictures or nothing.” I insist.

“Heavens no.”, replies Jones.  “That would discredit the reform ticket.”

“I’ll take care of it.” I say, standing up and bowing like they do in the movies when the interview is over.

Sam is pretty quiet after Jones leaves. I am pretty quiet too.  She carries quite a thrust, that girl does.

“Dan.” Says Sam.

“Huh?”

“That bargain,” he says.

“Yea?”

“Of course we can’t use this case as a test.”

“And why not?” I come back indignant.

“It ain’t a normal case.” Says Sam.

“There ain’t no such thing as a normal case.” I says.

“The bargain is unfair anyway.” Says Sam.

“Oh!” I says. “Baby wants to back down.”

Sam stalks out of the door.  I am dancing with glee, myself.  Sam knows he is licked.  He is so beat he walks out with only one camera, that little one with the light on it.  How can I lose?  It’s open and shut.  I look around at all the photo junk Sam will have to cart out of here.  Why with all that stuff out, I can get a bigger desk.  One like them big shots got.  Then I can get my bluff in on clients when they come in.

The twelfth hour found me doggedly making my way to Whitey’s Roadhouse.  It’s on Latham Road, about ten miles north of town.  Ordinarily I would have made it in half an hour.  Indeed in even less!  The fact is, the gas pedal on my 1936 Ford sticks, sometimes up and sometimes down.  Tonight it sticks up and so instead of traveling approximately 80 miles per hour, as I sometimes do, I was traveling ten miles an hour as I sometimes do.

When I finally reached the club, it was all dark.  I looked at my watch.  Two thirty AM! I kicked the gas pedal so it would know just who was to blame for my unseemly arrival.  The pedal, in perverse retaliation, became unstuck at that precise moment and the car, roaring like a lion, charged headlong into a large black limousine then leaving the driveway and pummeled it to a standstill.  So authoritatively did my car get in it’s licks that the limousine backed up in hurried confusion and swooshed off into the darkness.  But not before I caught a glimpse of Petey and the mayor.

Strange, I said to myself as I pried my ribs from around the knob on my steering wheel.  I drove on to the door.

When I walked in the door, I realized that I had taken quite a beating from that steering knob, particularly that spot on my chest where that knob had hit.  I stopped a moment in the dark to gingerly touch the bruise.

Immediately a short jug-headed individual who was looming out of the darkness skidded to a halt with his hands waving wildly in the air.

“Don’t shoot, boss!” he said. “The joint’s yours.”

I tried to gather my fumbling wits together but I didn’t do so good.  “Turn around,” I growled “and take me to Whitey.” I kept my hand on my chest because I knew he thought I had a gun.

So there we go, across the lobby and down a very discouraging hallway.  It felt like I was getting in deeper and deeper with every step.  I was in such a state, I wished I could see old Sam, cameras and all.  I want him so bad that for a minute I figure I can smell them cameras, even out here.  They don’t smell half bad now, but I had to stop dreaming ‘cause jughead stops in front of the last door.  I tell him to knock.  Then I hear voices inside.

“Did you hear that?” says the first.

“Who, me?” asks the second.

Finally the obscenities quieted and the second voice was prevailed upon to see to the knocking.  A guy who looks like the brother of the guy I am trailing opens the door and looks at my boy with considerable disgust.

“What the hell you knocking f…” then he sees the shape of things and waves the air with his hands too.

“A stick up!” grated Whitey who was cowering behind his desk in amazement. To him, the whole thing was like the tail wagging the rat. But a rat is fast.

I’m having myself a time.  I got the corners of my mouth turned down like a regular tough guy and I’m looking them over through narrowed eyes.  And then I hear the noise.  It’ just a little creak but I know it’s the door behind me.  Quick as a wink, I wheel towards the door, but I don’t see a thing.  Then I turn quick to keep whitey under control, but I am too late.  Whitey’s hand darts to the switch on the desk lamp, turns it off and continues on towards my head.  Somehow or other there is a gun in it when it point at my head.

Undignified as I must have looked I dived for the back of the desk and the protection it would give me.  The crash of the gun seemed to unhinge all the brains that I have.  Light and more light seemed to blast the room with almost as much authority as the noise of the gun.  It was all so unheard of, that the last I remember is the smell of that photo junk and that light.

The mumble of voices welcomed me back amongst the living.  I looked about wildly.  I was in my room and Sam was giving orders to the landlady.  It seemed he wanted a bucket of hot water and a tub of ice cubes.

“Oh no you don’t.” I shouted hysterically.

Sam dashed over to the bed and looked at me professionally.  He had a certain air about him and I didn’t like it.

“What happened?” I asked suspiciously.

“Well,” said Sam “after you dived into the desk and knocked yourself out, they gave me the I.O.U.”

“Yeah!” I hollered, scared that he would see how happy I was, but everything was so mellow.  We got the note and Sam has got to give up the camera.  Everything is breaking my way.  “Where did they find you?”  I ask, not that I give a darn but just to make conversation.

“I was there.” Says Sam.

A horrible feeling comes over me.

“If it wasn’t for the picture, we wouldn’t have got it.” Sam is swaggering, even though standing still.” I followed you in there and when Whitey shoots you through the hat, I get a picture.  After you knock yourself out, he finds out you ain’t out to hijack the joint, so he is glad to forget the whole thing if I give him my roll of film.”

Sam takes out a cigarette and lights it, all the time looking at me like an owl.  “Anything I can do for you before I go?” he says.  “I got to develop some pictures.”

I wave him out.  I ain’t got the heart to speak.

To see more Sepia Saturday offerings, click.
To see more Sepia Saturday offerings, click.

Cleage Printers

Click on this and other photos to enlarge. Scenes from Cleage Printers – 1960s. Most of these photographs were developed in the plant dark room. I wish I’d learned more about photography while there was that great dark room available and all those wonderful cameras.

My uncles, Henry and Hugh Cleage owned and operated Cleage Printers for about a decade, from the late 1950s until the late 1960s.  It’s difficult to pinpoint the time they started printing.  They published a newspaper called The Metro in 1956. I’m not sure if they printed that themselves or put it together and had it printed elsewhere. On the March, 1960 marriage license for Henry and my mother, he listed his occupation as Printer/Lawyer. The plant, as we called it, was located behind Cleage Clinic at 5385 Lovett, near McGraw on Detroit’s Old West Side.  Henry was an attorney and Hugh worked at the Post Office before they started printing. I don’t know if either of them had any experience printing before that.  I asked my husband, who was also a printer for a number of year without much prior experience. He said it’s not that hard to learn while doing. Maybe armed with “In business with a 1250 Multilith” they were able to set up shop and learn on the job. I still have the book. Uncle Louis, the doctor, put in the start up money for the press. Later when they had to upgrade Henry said that family friend, Atty. Milton Henry, contributed that money.

According to the memories of family friend, Billy Smith and my aunt Anna, they went into business for themselves because they wanted the independence of being their own boss and Henry had always been interested in printing. They had several long term employees and a number of young people who worked there for a short period of time. My aunt Barbara worked there for awhile.  My sister and I worked there the summer I was 16. I learned to run the small press and use the Varityper described below.  I remember Ronald Latham keeping up a running story about being a Venusian now living on Earth. Henry kept our first weeks wages of $10 to make it like a real job. He was supposed to give it to us at the end of the summer, when we stopped work but we never saw that $10 and we didn’t bring it up.  If we had, I’m pretty sure we would have been paid.

 They made their money by printing handbills for neighborhood markets.  In addition to that they printed up flyers, newsletters, magazines for various radical black groups, materials for the Socialist Workers Party and the Detroit Artist’s Workshop.  The printing plant was a place where people came to find discussion of the issues of the day and in the 1960s there were plenty of issues to discuss.  My Uncle Henry loved to hold forth on a variety of topics and his arguments were always well thought out and convincing.  Hugh didn’t talk a lot but he would have something to put in, maybe just a quiet shake of his head over what Henry was saying. If Louis came back he would join in with his sarcastic comments and distinctive laugh.

Various flyers printed at Cleage Printers
Four pages from the October 6, 1962 issue of The Illustrated News. They printed it on pink newsprint left over from the market handbills so it was often called the “pink sheet”. My uncles published it from 1961 to 1964. It started off as a weekly and eventually went to bi-weekly and consisted of 8 pages of commentary about local and national events of concern to the black community. My father wrote many of the article.  My uncle Louis had a biting, humor column called “Smoke Rings” on the back page.
I wonder if my uncles knew they were members of TransLoveEnergies. There they are, Cleage Printers, 2nd line, 3rd paragraph.
In addition to grocery store circulars and race literature, Cleage Printers printed a variety of other alternative materials, such as a series of poetry books for the Artist’s Workshop in Detroit, headed by John and Leni Sinclair.

Sometimes there would be things that had to be collated in the evening and all of us cousins and our mother’s would be down there at night putting whatever it was together.  After the 1967 Detroit riot so many stores went out of business that they couldn’t make enough to keep going.  Henry went back to law and worked with Neighborhood Legal Services.  Hugh held on for another few years, printing for the church and teaching young people how to run the small press. Finally, he too left.  I wish in all those photographs that were taken, one or two had been of Cleage Printers in it’s prime. All I have is a photograph I took in 2004 of the way it looks now, deserted and overgrown.  I wish I had interviewed and taped Henry and Hugh talking about their experiences.

The building that housed Cleage Printers as it looks now.

This was written as part of the 120 Carnival of Genealogy hosted by Jasia at CREATIVEGENE.

 

Cows and Conscientious Objectors – Sepia Saturday #127

These cows appear to be coming to the barn for milking. I believe they were on the farm my uncles Henry and Hugh Cleage had during WW2 as conscientious objectors.  They had to milk a certain number of cows and they also had chickens. Henry was 26 and Hugh was 24 when they started farming. Hugh had a degree in agriculture from Michigan State University.  They were conscientious objectors because of segregation and discrimination both inside and outside of the military. All of the training camps were located in the segregated south and the officers were all white.  Henry wrote several of his stories while working on the farm, which was called “Plum-Nelly”, as in “Plum out the county, nelly (nearly) out the state”.  Their farm was located near Avoka in St. Clair county, 62 miles north of Detroit.

Albert B. Cleage Sr with a good looking cow.
From left to right: Great Uncle Henry Cleage my uncle Henry was named after his uncle Henry.), Albert B. Cleage Sr. On the other side of the cow are Uncle Jake, Henry’s son Richard Cleage & the husband of a cousin.

Hugh (with pipe) and Henry (on porch) from around the time they were on the farm.

___________________

I found an interesting interview with Ernest Calloway that reminded me of talking with Henry about being a conscientious objector below.  You can read the full interview here – INTERVIEW WITH ERNEST CALLOWAY where he talks about other aspects of his long and interesting career as a labor organizer.

CALLOWAY: “Of course, in the first instance, I was a conscientious objector on the grounds of racial discrimination. I had the first…mine was the first case, you know. I refused to go into the Army as long as the Army was Jim Crow. And, oh, this was a battle for about two years. Over local draft board and state appeals board. I don’t think they ever actually settled the case…I think the case is still on the files somewhere…they just forgot about it. But I had pointed out on my questionnaire, the military wanted this questionnaire that I was given, the question was asked, “Are you a conscientious objector on moral grounds?” I scratched out the word “moral” and wrote in “special”, social grounds. And then I submitted a statement to explain that on the question on racial discrimination, under no condition did I feel like I was obligated, you know, to accept service in the Army. Of course, the chairman of the draft board thought I was kidding. And I insisted to him that I wasn’t kidding. I pointed out to him that if I was going to die then I was going to insist that it be on the basis of equality, you know. And, of course, finally, finally I did. Finally, the Communists wanted to take over the case in Chicago…then I get a telegram from Walter White of the NAACP that the NAACP would be interested in pushing the case. And White suggested that I contact the Legal Redress Committee there in Chicago, at the Chicago NAACP. And I went down to meet with the Legal Redress Committee which included such people as Earl Dickerson and some of the top black lawyers, you know, in the city of Chicago. But I found myself on the defensive because they were primarily concerned on…to determine what was my political background and my attitude about war in general. At that time, I was associated with the Keep America Out of War Congress which was headed, I think, by Norman Thomas… Norman Thomas, at the time…and a number of other liberal, socialists and liberals. And after about an hour and a half of this being on the defensive, trying to explain myself, I finally pointed out to these, to the lawyers, that I’m here at the invitation of Mr. White…that he asked me to come down and said the NAACP was interested in the case… that they would like to pursue the case of discrimination in the Army, but if you fellows are not interested in this, and I do not have to explain my political, you now…political motives and that sort of thing. That I can take care of myself, you know. I know what to do to take care of myself. Then I walked out of the room and, of course, one of the young lawyers followed me and he said he felt that I was right, that he would like to work with me on the case. And finally I was called into the office of the State Appeals Chairman who happened to be a Negro. And he wanted to know what was, and, of course, evidently a lot of publicity was being given to the thing, the national magazines, the black press, and that sort of thing. As a matter of fact, we had decided to form a little organization of our own, which included Sinclair Drake, who at that time was working with Horace Keaton on that Chicago, black Chicago project, Enoch Waters who was the editor of the Chicago Defender at the time, and a number of other youngsters; we were all youngsters. That was something like… Committee Against Jim Crow in the Army. And what we had discussed was the question if we could ever get a public hearing before the Appeals Board…we could put on a show, you know. And this was what we were after, you know. So, finally, the Chairman of the Appeals Board called me into his office. And he wasn’t clear about what in the hell this thing was all about. Of course, there were two technical aspects to it. Number one, the local draft board had refused to issue me, at that time…what was called Form 47, which is the form that is supposed to be issued to conscientious objectors to build their cases, you know. And, secondly, he had denied me the right to appeal from the decision of 1-A. I couldn’t appeal from this decision. Now we used to have more damn hassles, he used to, he called one day and he said, “You think you’re a smart nigger. But you think you’re gonna come in here and mess up this draft board, but you ain’t gonna do it to my draft board.” I said, “Well, you know, when I, when they, when I registered up here at the school, they told me I should look upon my draft board as a committee of friends and neighbors, and if I had any problems, I should discuss it with them, with the draft board.” And I said, “Gentlemen, I got a problem. I ain’t going into no damn Jim Crow Army. How we gonna work this thing out?” And, oh, we would sit there and argue like cats and dogs. And, of course, I had problems with my own organization, too, which was the redcaps union. The President of the Union, Thompson, felt that this would be bad for the union. Very bad for the union, you know. But the secretary-treasurer, we…I was very friendly with the secretary-treasurer… he felt I was not handling the thing properly…that I should keep from getting into arguments with these people and play it cool and that sort of thing. I said, “Well, John, you come on over to the draft board with me. Let me see how cool you can be with these guys.” And, you know, he said, “Mr. Calloway, let’s look at it this way.”…I think what they were trying to do is change my mind… he said, “Let’s look at it this way. Two neighbors are fighting, like cats and dogs, and so one neighbor’s house catches fire, what you do is stop fighting and help the neighbor put the fire out,” he said. “You understand…you understand what I’m talking about?” I said, “I don’t understand a word you’re saying. I’m not going in any Jim Crow Army. I don’t know who’s fire you’re talking about.” But, anyway, then I explained to the Appeals Chairman the technical problems and he said, “Well, hell, they can’t do that to you.” He said, “You have the right to appeal the 1-A and you have a good case. And I don’t know anything about this Form 47 for conscientious objectors, but I’ll go and get you one of those forms.” And he was a Negro, a Negro lawyer, and he said, “These people made me the chairman of the appeals board, but I been a black, too long…been a Negro too long, you know…I think you’ve done the right thing.” He said, “I’m going to get you a…this conscientious objector thing…and I don’t know, you talk about on social grounds, but it says something about moral. But you take as much time as you want, and you put your best foot forward.” And, of course, I did work out the statement and submitted it to the Appeals Chairman. And I haven’t heard from the case since. So, that’s been from 1940, this was, of course, all of this was before Pearl Harbor. All, most of this was before Pearl Harbor.”

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1940 Census – The Albert B. and Pearl (Reed) Cleages

6429 Scotten, Detroit, Michigan

In 1940 my grandparents and family were living at 6429 Scotten at the corner of Milford. They owned the house and it was worth $5,000. They had lived in the same place in 1935 and in fact had been there for over 20 years as all the girls in the family were born in that house.  My grandfather was a medical doctor in private practice at the Cleage Clinic.  The amount of money he made in 1939 was a crossed out number, replaced with “0”. He was the informant.

Albert, Pearl, Albert Jr, Louis, Henry, Hugh, Barbara, Gladys, Anna.

My grandfather was 56 years old, born in Tennessee with plus 5 years of college. My grandmother was 50, born in Kentucky with 4 years of high school. My father was 28, born in Indiana, had plus 5 years of college and was absent from the home. All the other children were born in Michigan. Louis was 26, had plus 5 years of college and absent from the home. Henry was 24 and had 5 years of college. Hugh was 21 and had 2 years of college. Barbara was 19 and had completed 1 year of college. Gladys was 17 and had completed 4 years of high school. Anna was 15 and had completed 2 years of high school.

All of the children were in school. Anna was still attending Northwestern High school. Gladys had graduated in 1939 and was a freshman at Wayne State University. Henry, Hugh and Barbara must have been at Wayne. Louis graduated from Wayne State medical school in 1940.  Was he doing residency or internship outside of Detroit? My father graduated from Wayne in 1938 and was in the seminary at Oberlin College.

Source: 1940 U.S. Census. State: Michigan. County: Wayne. City: Detroit. Ward 14. Enumeration Districe: 84-787. Sheet number: 11-A. Head of household and informant: Dr. Albert B. Cleage.  To see the census sheet for the Albert Cleage family click HERE.


View The Cleages on the Old West Side – 1940 in a larger map

I hadn’t realized that one of my grandmother sisters and all of my grandfather’s living siblings lived within walking distance of their house.  I have labeled their houses, Northwestern High School, Wingert Elementary School and the Cleage Clinic.  I sort of knew this, but I didn’t realize it until I mapped it out after finding everybody in the same neighborhood.  In future posts I will share what I learned about each household in 1940.