Tag Archives: #Springfield

The Fellowship Dinner

Rev. Albert Cleage on the steps of St. John’s Congregational Church

November 10, 1945

Hi Folks:

Well, you-all know all the news (I told you everything over the phone)…but you-all should have been at the Fellowship Dinner!!! We (the Committee) started setting up the “dining-room” Tuesday evening.  They ab-so-lute-ly refused to believe that there would be more than 150 people present… “Ain’t never had more’n 150 people.” they said…and that was that.  So I had to start “setting-up” for the other 150 myself.  A few of them… not wanting to hurt the preacher’s feelings… humored me and helped …We set up every old piece of table there was in the church …The supper-tables only seated about two hundred including those we had to fix with improvised legs and that…we then used the Sunday-School tables ( a little-low in as much as they were for the primary department!!)  and the Sunday School Sand-box with a cover over it…and everything we could find.  All of the time we were a-fixing my officers would “console” me by saying that “It just can’t be done even if 300 people did come…which they wouldn’t… We’ll just have to eat in shifts…and go up stairs for the ‘meeting’.”I tried to explain this was a FELLOWSHIP supper and there wasn’t going to be no “Church-meetin’ wringin’ and twistin’!!! But somehow they couldn’t hear me.  They been a itchin’ for a “meeting” ever since I got here so they can argue about what happened eight and ten years ago and all get mad all over again.  Things are going along too peaceful for them…Everybody is too happy and contented.  Well, finally we got set up for about 285.  I dragged some more tables out into the corridor at the foot of the steps and told them to set them up too…They drew the line there, that was just foolishness.  There wouldn’t be over 150 people…and we had already set up for 285…and now the preacher was trying to set up little tables out in the hall!  Well, I put chairs around them anyhow… I had insisted that we borrow seventy-five extra chairs from the undertaker.  The women then set up the tables…and Doris and one of her buddies went wild with crepe-paper around posts and that.  Then I took out all of the little “money-saving sixty watt bulbs” and bought a whole new set of 100 and 150 watt bulbs…and then some of the ladies brought flowers… and Doris brought her candle-sticks and candles n’ that…it began to look like a banquet! AND EACH STEP WAS TAKEN OVER GOOD PESSIMISTIC MEMBERS DEAD BODIES…BODIES WERE STREWN EVERYWHERE BEFORE WE GOT THROUGH.  The man who was to cook the dinner was my buddy, however. He took my word for the number of people. I told him 300 people and he prepared for at least 300 and just went on carting in truck-loads of provisions while the rest spread gloom.  We (me and Doris) got through “preparing” as though 300 were coming about 6 o’clock and rushed home to take a bath and rush back.

Bus route from parsonage(A) to St. John’s Church(B)

We got back at 7 sharp.  A member stopped and picked us up as we waited for a bus or we would have been late…AND THERE WERE CARS FOR BLOCKS AROUND THE CHURCH…We could hardly get in! The dining room was already full!!! And people were lined up on the stairs trying to get down…and sitting around in the social room waiting for their turn.  The Committee had just “gone all to pieces”!!! The lady who was in charge hasn’t recovered yet.  Dr. and Mrs. DeBerry were sitting off in a corner looking big-eyed.  The speakers table up front on the stage was empty. (Dr. DeBerry was to speak of  “St. John’s History”. I collected the DeBerry’s …The Senior Deacon and his wife and the Treasurer who were to sit at the speaker’s table and set them down and then acted as head-waiter. I crowded people in where it didn’t look like another sardine would fit.  The CHAIRMAN of the committee had about five girls (UNTRAINED) to serve!!! Other girls and men “VOLUNTEERED”  and gradually the food began to issue forth in a growing trickle from the kitchen.  The people were very nice about everything..Actually I think it was a better FELLOWSHIP dinner because more of the GUESTS had to pitch in and help…Well, finally we actually seated about 325 people. Some would eat and then get up and help serve the others.  The place was JAMMED and PACKED.  We had some group singing. Oh YES. The treasurer sat next to me on the platform whenever I could get to the platform…and even as we were eating dinner he “ADVISED” me that it couldn’t be done, we’d have to adjourn to the church auditorium for the “MEETING”. I told him we’d do it over my dead body…Finally we were all eating and we had group singing…Our Choir Director is a large uninhibited woman just made to lead group-singing…then we had a couple of numbers by two girls…and then Dr. DeBerry talked…He made an excellent talk…Told them little anecdotes about the church…and what a wonderful person I am…and how they had to get behind me and do what I said…and how the Lord had guided him to Springfield …and had guided him in his work…and when he had to put down the burden had guided me here to carry on, etc. etc.  He struck just the proper light tone…and the proper PEP MEETING approach…Then I ANNOUNCED and THANKED…Those who had distributed tickets…those who had agreed to be Group-Leaders…and told ’em we’re going to build a parish house…buy a Moving-Picture Projector etc. etc.  The Sunday School Superintendent showed them the Slide projector we just bought…(They were impressed).  I introduced the CHEF and he made a little testimonial speech about the church being the best church in New England…and The Chairman of the Committee thanked those who had helped..and we sang Old-Ang-Syne (I ain’t even gonna try to fix this one!) and then Fellowshiped for a while.  Everyone had a good time…Dr. DeBerry said there were people out who hadn’t put foot in the church since he left…etc. etc. Almost our entire membership was present.  The men stayed and took down the tables etc. Some wanted to take up an offering but I refused.

(letter to be continued)

New Pastor – Rev. Albert B. Cleage, Jr.

New Pastor

Rev Albert B. Cleage, Jr., pastor-elect of St. John’s Congregational church will begin his ministry at the church, preaching his first sermon as pastor Sunday morning. The day will be observed by the church as Fall Rally day when the fall and winter work of the organization will he formally launched. In the afternoon between 5 and 8, the congregation will tender a public reception to Mr. and Mrs. Cleage in the social rooms of the church.  The public is invited to this reception.

I found this article at GenealogyBank – The Springfield Daily Republican, Springfield Mass, Monday, Oct 1 1945 – page 3.

St. John's Congregational Church - about 1945


St. John’s Church Elects Rev Albert Cleage Pastor

On January 9, 1945, my father wrote home about finding a church to pastor. The next month on February 18, (Unbeknownst to him.) Rev. Haecock resigned from his position as pastor of St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield, Mass.  Springfield was one of the places my father had been trying to get information about an opening. On August 28, 1945, my father was appointed by the standing committee of St. John’s as pastor.


St. John’s Pastor Resigns Position; Remains in Army

Capt Roland T. Heacock thanks Parishioners for Cooperation – Church to Seek Successor at Once

Chaplain Roland T. Haecock, pastor of St. John’s Congregational church who has been serving in the army chaplains’ corps at three Teas camps since October, 1942, read his resignation as pastor at the morning service yesterday. He did so “In order that St. John’s may not longer be handicapped by having its pastor absent from the church and in military service for an uncertain length of time.”

Action March 15
Capt. Heacock’s letter of resignation will be formally acted upon at a church meeting March 15, Search for a new permanent pastor will begin at once.  George Burr, chairman of the standing committee said last night.

Rev. Herbert L. Wilkins served as interim pastor at St. John’s until into last year when he left to take a Washington (D.C.) pastorate. In recent weeks ministers of Hope church have conducted the services.

Capt Heacock left last night for Camp Swift, Tex. by way of Tulsa Okla., where he will take part in a seven-day interracial institute held in the Tulsa schools by the Conference of Christians and Jews. Before becoming post chaplain at Camp Swift, he served at Camp Walters and Camp Hood.

Come Here in 1937
Chaplain Heacock came to St. John’s in 1927 as assistant pastor and became pastor in 1931. He and Mrs. Heacock have been active in many community activities, especial-

( Continued on ninth page – Unfortunately, the ninth page was not available)

St. John’s Church Elects Rev Albert Cleage Pastor
New Minister, Who Comes Here From San Francisco, succeeds Rev. Roland T. Heacock.

Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr., former organizer and copastor of the Fellowship interracial church of San Francisco, Cal., has been appointed pastor of St John’s Congregational church, it was announced last night by the standing committee.

Mr. Cleage will succeed Rev. Roland T. Heacock, former army chaplain, who resigned his post here.  Until recently he has been taking work toward his doctorate degree in the Graduate School of Religion of the University of Southern California at Los Angeles.

Following his graduation from Wayne university at Detroit, Michigan., Mr. Cleage worked as social caseworker with the department of public welfare before entering the Oberlin Graduate School of Theology.  While at Oberlin he was director of youth work at the Plymouth Congregational church of Detroit and served a student pastorate at the Union Congregational church of Painesville, O.

He was ordained by the Congregational association of Detroit and accepted a call to the Chandler Memorial Congregational church of Lexington, Ky., before returning to Los Angeles to study.

The new pastor emphasizes that in his opinion has a profound responsibility for bettering the conditions under which people live “Religiously I feel that preaching should be based upon the Bible in as far as possible, and at the same time should have significant current application to the problems of the world in which we live,” he wrote. “I place considerable emphasis upon those aspects of the church program which touch children and young people.”

The appointment will become effective next month.  Since February, St. John’s church has had several temporary pastors.



Bigger Photos!

Yesterday I received a very important hint in the comment section from Angella Lister of 37 Paddington.  She suggested that I post my photographs larger. I responded that I had tried but they would overlap the other column if I made them x-large. She pointed out that I could make the columns wider by going to design/columns. Voila, bigger columns and bigger photos! I’ve spent today going back to older posts and enlarging the photographs.  I love it!

Me at age 3, 1949.  Photograph taken by Henry Cleage.


Checking in at "Winter Wonderland"

While looking through newspaper archives awhile ago, I unexpectedly found an article with a photograph of my mother. In the photograph below she is seated at the table checking people into the dance.  I looked for a photograph of the hotel where the dance was held and found the old postcard. Next I looked for something about The Girl Friends Society. I had no luck at first. Items about the Girls Friendly Society kept turning up and it wasn’t the same group.  After I dropped “Society” in my search, I found several  things, including the history of the group below with a link to their website. The Springfield, Mass. Chapter was founded in 1935 and they celebrated their 75th Anniversary in 2010.  

I never knew my mother to be part of any posh groups so this was all news to me. In February of 1951, my father was pastor of St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield.  I was 4 and my sister had just turned 2 in December. We moved to Detroit in the Fall of that year.

“Checking in at the “Winter Wonderland – Wonderland-shown above, at the 15th annual charity cabaret dance, held last night at the Hotel Kimball by the Springfield Chapter of the Girl Friends Society of America, are, left to right, Mrs. Doris Cleage, chairman of the ticket committee, Miss Helen DuBose and Harold Edmonds.Nearly 150 patrons of the Society’s charities attended the dance, which the Springfield Girl Friends termed the “Winter Wonderland.”  Dancing was to the music of Lenwood Cook’s Seven Sharps.  
The Springfield chapter has a membership of 12, including Mrs. J. Clifford Clarkson, president: Mrs Nello Greene, vice-president; Mrs. Marian Kennedy secretary; Mrs Irttle Funn, treasurer:  Mrs. Hazel Fitch corresponding secretary; and Mrs. Doris Cleage, parliamentarian.  Other members are Mrs. Maude Boone, Mrs. Cordella Clarke, Mrs Evelyn Delworth, Mrs. Charlotte McGoddwin, Mrs. Melle TAylor and Mrs. Theda Wilson.
“Hotel Kimball Springfield, Massachusetts. Ranks with the finest in the country.  A magnificant hotel, modern and metropolitan in every appointment.”

The History of The Girl Friends®, Inc.

* Founded during the Harlem Renaissance in 1927 by eleven young women based on friendship and community involvement

* One of the oldest social/civic organizations of African-American women in the United States

* Incorporated in 1938 under the legal guidance of Baltimore attorney Thurgood Marshall (spouse of Girl Friend Vivian Marshall)

* Founders of the organization were Eunice Shreeves, Lillie Mae Riddick, Henri Younge, Elnorist Younge, Thelma Whittaker, Dorothy Roarke, Helen Hayes, Connye Cotterell, Rae O. Dudley, Anna S. Murphy and Ruth Byrd

* Bessye Bearden, newspaper columnist, civic leader and mother of celebrated artist, Romare Bearden, served as the  groups chaperone and advisor.

* Currently there are 45 chapters across the country, and over 1400 women of prominence in membership

*The first chapter expansion was in 1928 with the formation of the Philadelphia chapter, with Baltimore (1930),  Boston (1931) and New Jersey (1932) and New Haven (1932) soon added

*The first Conclave (national meeting of chapters) was hosted by New York in 1933

*Organization colors are apple and emerald green, its flower is the Marshall Neal rose (now called the yellow tea rose)

*Since those formative years, the chain of friendship has grown to embrace a continent. Girl Friends have founded schools, headed colleges, earned all manners of academic and professional degrees, written books, headed their own businesses, saved lives, been elected to Congress and named to the cabinet of the US President. They have also been devoted wives, mothers, sisters and friends, and involved members of their communities.

*Currently there are 45 chapters across the country, and over 1400 women in membership.

Copyright 2007, The Girl Friends,® Inc. The Girl Friends® is a registered service mark of The Girl Friends, Inc.

Past is Present – Springfield Massachusetts 1948 – 1950

Here are three combined photographs using Google Images with photographs of my family superimposed on them.  I am participating in World Photography Day on August 19, through the Family Curator website with these photos.

This a photograph of my mother, Doris Graham Cleage, standing on the porch of the parsonage at 210 King Street.  This was taken in 1946, Several months after I was born.
St. John’s Congregational Church on the corner of Union and Hancock Streets in Springfield, Mass. My father, Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr, is sitting on the porch. This was around 1948.
The last photo was taken on the Community house/parsonage that we lived in after the house on King Street was sold. I am on the left, a little girl from church is in the middle and my sister Pearl is on the right.  This was taken in 1950 soon before we moved to Detroit.

Winter Springfield, Mass – 1949

I’m in the front, my mother is propping up my sister Pearl.  My father took the photo in our yard.  He was the pastor of St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield Massachusetts and we lived in the parsonage/community house right next to the church.  We moved to my parents hometown, Detroit, when I was four where we still had plenty of snow.

These photographs are in a crumpling album that my father put together back in the 1940’s.  He wrote comments on all the photographs. I have to photograph or scan them before they disappear.

Click here to see more sepia saturday posts from around the world.