Grand River & Temple – Anatomy of a Post

Looking south on Grand River Ave in Detroit toward Downtown. 1940s.
Looking south on Grand River Ave in Detroit toward Downtown. About 1940.

When I saw the prompt for this weeks Sepia Saturday, I knew that I wanted to use this picture if I hadn’t already used it.  It comes from my Cleage photo collection and my father or one of his brothers took it around 1939 – 1940, judging by the cars.  After posting it, I decided to look and see what was going on with my Cleages around then. There was an article that mentioned my Grandfather, Dr. Albert B. Cleage Sr. speaking at a meeting at New Light Baptist Church. This was part of a larger column in the Chicago Defender devoted to Detroit happenings.

Ethel Waters was performing in “Mamba’s Daughters”. During this same time my cousin, Sylvia Vincent played the part of one of Mamba’s daughters at a young age, she was 8. While I was looking for a picture of Ethel Waters, I noticed that the author, Dubose Haywood had written the book and also written “Porgy and Bess” and, surprising to me, one of my favorite books of all times, “The Country Bunny” who is choosen over all the big, rich fast bunnies to be one of the Easter Bunnies and she has trained her 21 little bunnies to take care of the house in her absence and does a stellar job of being brave and steadfast and true to the end.

Marian Anderson was singing in the Masonic Temple, which was just a few blocks up Temple from the corner in the photograph. This was the year that the Daughter’s of the American Revolution refused to let her sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall and so she ended up preforming on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for 75,000 people and to untold millions via radio.

Child prodigy, pianest Phillippa Shuyler was to preform to a thousand children at Bethel A.M.E. church.  There was a lot going on in Detroit at the end of 1939 and I never would have noticed if I hadn’t been looking for something to relate to the photograph of Grand River Avenue and Temple.  The heading is a photo from Google Maps of that corner as it looks today.


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

24 thoughts on “Grand River & Temple – Anatomy of a Post

  1. I do like the way you’ve taken the prompt picture and not only matched it, but used it to send you off discovering so many other intersting facts about what was happening at the time. Nicely presented too.

    1. Thanks for sharing that link. I especially enjoyed the one of Grand River and the Blvd, as that was where my high school, Northwestern, was located. I have a couple of other photos of Grand River from the 1960s that were taken at that intersection.

      Now I’m trying to figure out if that is a trolly island and tracks I see and if so, why are the cars driving over the tracks?

  2. Its worrying me…..where was your Father stood while taking the photo? It looks,maybe, actually in the road? Good reflexes as well as photographic skills!

    1. That’s what I think – the photographer was standing in the street, but not too far from the side because it’s centered. There must have been a light that changed and sent the cars all heading his way.

      There is a traffic light to the left. It must have just changed. The woman is crossing the street and the cars are beginning to move. The photographer stood in the street while the light was red and took several photographs, stopping just as the cars started towards him.

  3. The Country Bunny is new to me but if she trains bunnies to do her housework I am all for her! A great photo of back in time of Detroit with the autos..

    1. Her children/bunnies all have a task to do and they do it so well that she can leave them to go off and deliver eggs. There is no mention of the father bunny. Guess he works day and night to provide for all 21 of his children.

  4. One of the most interesting & fun things about Sepia Saturday for me is the research I do for many of my posts to make sure my comments paired with the photos are accurate & a bit educational, perhaps. I have learned so much I would not have known were it not for Sepia Saturday! And Marian Anderson had a richly beautiful voice. I have heard her on records and can only imagine what her voice must have sounded like from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

  5. I love ‘then and now’ photographs, and have a couple in my post as well this week. Great to relate a photo to what family members of relatives were doing at the time too, which I sort of did too, but I doubt if any of mine made the news like your did!

    1. I think it would be easier now, with only 2 cars on the road but you’d have to be able to move fast in either case. Not a photo I would take. A sudden thought do you think it could be done through the rear view window?

  6. I had the same question as Tony. Where was the photographer standing? Or more specific, what was he taking a picture of? The skyline? Surely not the traffic? I don’t think it was from the back window of a car as the perspective seems head height.
    I have several vintage pictures of Detroit musicians and groups, so I know what a center of culture it once was. Sadly the city has lost too many people, architecture and arts in the 21st century. It must be startling to travel on Google’s street view and see how much is missing today.

    1. I think the photographer was taking a picture of the whole thing – the skyline, the traffic, the buildings and that he was standing in the street doing it. You know, the city, the movement, all of that.

      I go back to Detroit every few years now that I’m not living in Michigan and before 2007 I went for weeks at a time several times a year so I have seen the devastation up close and personal. It is very depressing to travel the streets where I used to live, in life or on google, and see what it looks like now. And even more disturbing to hear from friends who still live there what’s happening politically and in everyday life.

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