A Frog, A Doll And An Open Door – Summer 1956

It was 1956 and my mother, sister, grandfather and I were on our way to a few weeks out of Detroit at my Uncle Louis’ cottage in Idlewild. Click all images to enlarge.

2705 calvert
It started here, with an open door. Our door was the one on the right, the Bowles family lived through the door on the left. We didn’t have security doors in those days. 2705 Calvert. We lived in the upper flat. This is a photo taken after a fire in the early 2000s.
kris,ma,pearlon dock
Me, my mother and sister Pearl on the dock that summer. Pearl has her walking doll. 1956
kris_pearl_beach
My sister Pearl and me on the beach.  1956. I was 9 and Pearl was 7.

ruff draft - idlewild blog

Click for more Sepia Saturday offering
Click for more Sepia Saturday offering

Surprise Birthday Party – Dec. 29, 1991

ruff draft dec birthday
SURPRISE!
By Tulani Williams
 
On December 29, 1990, Jim Williams and Warren Evans were in for a surprise!  Nikki Evans (Warren’s daughter) and I (Tulani Williams, Jim’s Daughter) planned, with the help of our cousin Jann Shreve and her mother Jan, (Warren’s sister) a surprise birthday party.  We got permission to have it at Hugh and Louis’ house.  They are our great uncles.  Then we began to get ready for the party. First we went into town to buy a few last minute things.  On our way in we passed Warren on his way home. He saw us and stopped to ask where we were going.

 Jan who was driving, answered, “We’re on our way to the store to get some eggs and hamburger buns.”

Warren then said, “Well, could you get me some ‘Stay alive food’.  Some hamburger, fries or chips….you know?” He handed Jan some money and we were on our way.
 
Now we had to go out of our way to get Warrens “stay alive food”.  At Ben Franklin’s (a dime store), we got a few presents and Jann looked at the cards and picked out one that said, “I was going to get you an expensive watch for your birthday:…Then you open it and it said “But at your age time doesn’t matter”. She showed it to her mother and they bought it.

After going to the grocery store for Warren, we headed home.  Nikki, Jann and I started mixing up the cake.  When we put the cake into the oven Jann, Nikki and I sat down with Kriss (Jan’s brother) and James (my brother) and started playing Seaga.  We hadn’t got very far when the cake was done and we started the icing.  After we iced the cake, we were going to get Jan to drive us over to Louis’.  I went over to tell my mother (Kristin) and she suggested that we put the cake into a box and drag it over on the sled since the roads were iced over.  So we decided to pull it over on the sled. When we got to Hugh and Louis’ we started decorating the house with balloons, and crepe paper.  We even had a sign that said “HAPPY BIRTHDAY JIM AND WARREN!” that James and Kriss had printed up on the computer.  When we finished decorating, people started to arrive.  We were all brainstorming on how to get Warren to come over.  Louis said that we should tell him that we were having a surprise party for Jim and then…the fire siren went off.  Jim is a volunteer fireman so that meant he had to go to the fire.  But lucky for us it was a false alarm.  Jim arrived a few moments later with Kristin, who knew about the party and brought him over.  We all hid and had the lights out and yelled “SURPRISE!” when he came in.

Gladys called Warren and told him that the washing machine was clogged up.  When Warren finally got there we were in a dimly lit house.  He came in talking about “With all these strong backs why… ” but then we yelled “SURPRISE!” and we sat down to have cake.
See Happy Birthday to All! and Happy Birthday Poppy! for last years birthday stories

Celebrating Kwanzaa

"Kwanzaa Table"The Kwanzaa Table

 

When I was elementary school age our neighborhood was majority Jewish for several years.  We never celebrated the Jewish holidays but we learned about them.  I remember singing the dreidel song in school and learning about the menorah.

We have celebrated Kwanzaa in various ways over the years.  Once again I bring you a reprint from Ruff Draft 1991.  We didn’t celebrate it when I was growing up since it didn’t begin until the late 1960’s.  Our children grew up celebrating either at home or in community celebrations.  At one point we didn’t celebrate Christmas, only Kwanzaa but after the kids started school we gradually added Christmas back into the celebrations.

Kwanzaa

By Ayanna Williams

Kwanzaa is an African American holiday started in the U.S.A. in the 1960s.

This year on the last day of Kwanzaa, which was New Years Day, we had a big to-do and invited Henry over.  We dressed up.  Tulani and I in sarongs.  That is material draped around your body and hung over your shoulder.  James and Cabral wore baggy pants and African print shirts.  Jilo and Ife, who were home on winter break, wore long skirts.  All the girls but Jilo, wore geles (head wraps).  Jilo didn’t want to cover her dreadlocks.

When Henry got there we were downstairs in our regular clothes so we ran upstairs and after much losing of skirts and falling off of wraps, we finally went down.  As we went Tulani played the drum, James used the shakare, Cabral strummed the ukelele and I had to use two blocks.  We chanted “Kwanzaa, First Fruits!” as we came. We giggled a little as we went through the kitchen.  Black eye peas, sweet potatoes and rice were simmering on the stove for us to eat directly after the ritual.  When we got to the living room, all the lights were off except one.  By that light we, in turn, read the seven principles in Swahili and their meanings in English.  The introduction was read by Daddy.  Nia/Purpose was read by Henry. Umoja/Unity was read by Tulani.  Kujichagulia/Self determination was read by Ayanna, Ujima/Collective Work and Responsibility by James.  Ujamaa/Cooperative economics by Ife, Kuumba/Creativity by Mommy for Cabral and Imani/Faith by Jilo.

Then we read the meanings explained in plain English that Jilo had written.  After we read the principles and lit all seven candles, Jilo read a story she had written about Kwanzaa with all of the principles included.  We then ushered everybody into the dining room while chanting the principles and their meanings.  Well, that was the plan, but nobody but us kids knew so the adults just sat there and watched us.  So we finally just got up and told them to come to the table.

After dinner Henry told tales about when he was a kid and about his uncles and cousins.  Some how the conversation went from reminiscing to the state of the world today. He and Jilo had quite a discussion that lasted for hours.  At the end Henry went home and we all went to bed.

The Ruff Draft – July 30, 1991

In 1990 my family began putting out a newsletter, The Ruff Draft.  We had recently started homeschooling and the purpose of the Ruff Draft was to both give real writing opportunities and show the relatives they were learning something. Here are 3 pages from the July 30, 1991 edition.  What I noticed while looking through it this morning was how similar the News Shorts on page 3 were to the News Shorts in the papers in the early 1900’s where I have found information of births, weddings and at home celebrations for my grandparents.   We stopped publishing when the writers had moved on to bigger things away from home.

Person of the Month – Barbara Pearl Cleage Martin

In 1990 my four youngest children began homeschooling.  They went from Ayanna in 8th grade to 2 year old Cabral.  Soon after we began to publish a family newsletter, The Ruff Draft.  They did the writing and I did the layout.  They would send out questionnaires to family members and write a Person of the Month article from the information they got back. Last night I was going through my Ruff Draft archives and thought I should publish some of the articles on my blog.  Since today is my aunt’s birthday, it seems like the perfect time to run this. Last year we went to South Carolina and helped her celebrate.  This year she said she’s keeping a low profile. See more photos and information about my aunt at Barbara’s 90th Birthday.

Advent Calendar – December 11 – Kwanzaa

"Atlanta Kwanzaa Table"
The Kwanzaa table, minus the fruits and vegetables and plus a globe – 2009

When I was elementary school age our neighborhood was majority Jewish.  We never celebrated the Jewish holidays but we learned about them.  I remember singing the dreidel song in school and learning about the menorah.  I didn’t realize Kwanzaa was in the “another tradition” category until today, so here is my late offering.  Once again I bring you a reprint from Ruff Draft 1991.  We didn’t celebrate it when I was growing up since it didn’t begin until the late 1960’s.  Our children grew up celebrating either at home or in community celebrations.

Kwanzaa

By Ayanna Williams

Kwanzaa is a Black holiday started in the U.S.A. in the 1960s.

This year on the last day of Kwanzaa, which was New Years Day, we had a big to-do and invited Henry over.  We dressed up.  Tulani and I in sarongs.  That is material draped around your body and hung over your shoulder.  James and Cabral wore baggy pants and African print shirts.  Jilo and Ife, who were home on winter break, wore long skirts.  All the girls but Jilo, wore geles (head wraps).  Jilo didn’t want to cover her dreadlocks.

When Henry got there we were downstairs in our regular clothes so we ran upstairs and after much losing of skirts and falling off of wraps, we finally went down.  As we went Tulani played the drum, James used the shakare, Cabral strummed the ukelele and I had to use two blocks.  We chanted “Kwanzaa, First Fruits!” as we came. We giggled a little as we went through the kitchen.  Black eye peas, sweet potatoes and rice were simmering on the stove for us to eat directly after the ritual.  When we got to the living room, all the lights were off except one.  By that light we, in turn, read the seven principles in Swahili and their meanings in English.  The introduction was read by Daddy.  Nia/Purpose was read by Henry. Umoja/Unity was read by Tulani.  Kujichagulia/Self determination was read by Ayanna, Ujima/Collective Work and Responsibility by James.  Ujamaa/Cooperative economics by Ife, Kuumba/Creativity by Mommy for Cabral and Imani/Faith by Jilo.

Then we read the meanings explained in plain English that Jilo had written.  After we read the principles and lit all seven candles, Jilo read a story she had written about Kwanzaa with all of the principles included.  We then ushered everybody into the dining room while chanting the principles and their meanings.  Well, that was the plan, but nobody but us kids knew so the adults just sat there and watched us.  So we finally just got up and told them to come to the table.

After dinner Henry told tales about when he was a kid and about his uncles and cousins.  Some how the conversation went from reminiscing to the state of the world today. He and Jilo had quite a discussion that lasted for hours.  At the end Henry went home and we all went to bed.