Home Coming Banquet -1966

Part of the crowd at the Banquet.
Part of the crowd at the Banquet.

October is Home Coming Month for the church I grew up in.  At the time of this banquet on October 9, 1966, the church was known as Central United Church of Christ. Later it became the Shrine of the Black Madonna. Looking over the room, I can’t find myself. I was a junior at Wayne State University and lived at home so I don’t know why I wasn’t there.  Maybe I just made myself scarce during picture making.  Or maybe I had a lot of homework due the following Monday and pleaded out. I don’t remember ever helping serve or dish up the food.  Now that I think of it though, I don’t see my cousin Jan either. Where were we?  My sister Pearl was a freshman at Howard in DC so that explains her absence.  But enough rambling.

The Banquet is taking place in the Fellowship Hall immediately after the morning service. Services started at 11:30AM.  My father preached for about an hour so 1 really would be right after the service. The sermon that week was a part of a Series that extended over several weeks. Women are circulating around bringing plates to the table.  Unfortunately there is no clock showing in these photos, so we don’t know what time it was.

By banquet time the next year, after the 1967 Detroit Riot, there would be afro hair styles here and there. This year there are quite a few hats, everybody still in their Sunday best, eating and waiting.  There are real plates and glasses and silverware being used. I wonder if there was a dishwasher in the kitchen or if after waiting table the women washed all those dishes by hand.

I see my mother, Doris Graham Cleage (with the white blouse) and aunt Gladys Cleage Evans (sleeveless dark top) over at the window to pick up plates to serve the waiting crowd.
My uncles Henry and Winslow with my little Grandmother Cleage in the hat and my Aunt Anna.
My uncles Henry and Winslow with my little Grandmother Cleage in the hat and my Aunt Anna.
bulletin sunday 1966
Church Bulletin

bulletin oct homecoming 1966 cover

My father's Sermon Notes.
My father’s Sermon Notes for that Sunday morning.
Annabell Washington 1966
Ms Annabell Washington serving plates. She was one of the advisors for the youth fellowship. She later retired to Tybee Island, off of Georgia and became an artist, a painter.
grace & Jimmy boggs 1966
Grace and Jimmy Boggs chatting with fellow diners while they all wait to be served.
Ed Vaughn, founder of Vaughn's Books. Sitting a few seats away on the left is Arthur Smith who later took an African name, but I can't remember it right now.
Ed Vaughn, founder of Vaughn’s Books. Sitting a few seats away on the left is Arthur Smith who later took an African name, but I can’t remember it right now.  I wonder if the people at this end of the table had been waiting a long time for their food.


homecoming menu 1967
I do not have the menu for the 1966 Banquet but it was probably similar to this one from 1967, except I think they had chicken.
Church dinner in the Fellowship Hall.
At the far end of this table was my family – on the left we see Henry Cleage, Winslow Shreve, Ernest Martin and Dale Evans with his eyes closed.  On the other side is my Aunt Anna Shreve and  her daughter Anna with glasses.
Mr. Perryman at the head of the table. To his right is Oscar Hand, I don’t recognize the next man, then my father, then a man, I suppose, from the United Church of Christ Associateion, Rev Webb and his wife giving the photographer a very firm look.

And from that day’s service “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” sung by Mahilia Jackson. Of course she didn’t sing at our service but this is the same version we used.

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23 thoughts on “Home Coming Banquet -1966

  1. GREAT pics! I am soooo glad i was not in any of these pics at that age! Thank you! 🙂

  2. I thought you were pretty cute at that age. But it wasn’t due to me being nice that you aren’t there, I couldn’t locate either of us in the photos I have.

  3. Great that you remember who so many of the attendees were, despite apparently not being there yourself. I love that song too.

    1. Meant to also comment that homecoming celebrations seem to be a peculiarly American custom. We don’t do homecoming or thanksgiving in Aus.

      1. Churches often have a day where they welcome members who have moved away back. My husband’s family’s traditional church in Arkansas has theirs the weekend of the family reunion. It isn’t on any one day. and has nothing to do with the homecoming football games and homecoming parties that high schools have.

    2. I might not have been at that banquet but the people were at Church and meetings and all over the place on other days, as was I.

  4. Absolutely wonderful. There is so much fascinating detail – the images almost drip with history. It is so important that memories such as yours of times such as these are fixed for posterity – proof yet again that blogging will serve an important function in documenting social history.

  5. Wonderful Pictures. I felt the same about the picture with Ed Vaughn. People seem to have that look like they may have been waiting a bit for food. 🙂 So much history here Kristin. Thanks as always for sharing.

  6. Great reminiscences of the era…I wonder if anyone still does this level of church gathering. Everyone was certainly dressed up with hats and suits. I’ll bet the women had housewives’ hands after all those dishes, or I guess they used rubber gloves.

    1. My husband went to his extended family reunion in Arkansas this year. The local church always has homecoming Sunday and a dinner afterwards. It’s not as big a church as my father’s was but it there are always many people there. One of my daughters attends a large church. Not sure if they have big dinners though. I will check.

  7. I just love the fact that everybody’s dressed well (we seem to have forgotten how to do that these days). And your father’s sermon notes are fascinating. Great, great post, Kristin…

  8. Dear Kris,

    Arthur Smith, known as “Smitty,” later took the African name Kwame Atta. He and Ed Vaughn worked together at a Detroit branch of the U. S. Postal Service.

    About three years after the last photos were shot, they co-founded the Pan-African Congress, U. S. A. (PAC), which was conceived as a U. S. counterpart to South Africa’s Pan Africanist Congress, one of that nation’s two chief national liberation movements.

    Great post, as usual.

    I have the honor to remain

    Your Li’l Bro’,


  9. HA — yes, from the looks on those people’s faces, I’d say they had been waiting a long time for their plates. My godfather was named Jimmy Boggs — not the same guy though, obviously, but it made me sit up to see that name in print.

    My husband’s home church does homecomings, but our current church does not. But everyone’s church dinner looks like these in your post.

    I loved seeing your dad’s sermon notes. How wonderful to have those and to know what he was thinking at a given time.

  10. At rural churches in the south during the time of your photographs, there was usually a Sunday in the summer months set aside for homecoming. The Sunday usually followed a week of revival. Dinner would be held on the grounds, food pulled from boxes and baskets, presented on wooden tables with pretty tablecloths. My folks enjoyed returning home for this event…I enjoyed reading this post. It reminded me of the dinners held in my childhood church’s small dinning hall and the chore of washing dishes.

  11. Serve from the left, clear from the right. How well I remember those instructions as we squeezed our way up & down crowded aisles when I used to help serve church and community dinners as a teenager. The best part was in the kitchen afterward where all the helpers were laughing and joking and teasing each other as we cleaned up! 🙂

  12. I echo the sentiments of Bob above in finding it wonderful that you can name so many of those gathered, even now. It gives me quite a pang that such close-knit community is so hard to find these days. I remember my mother, who has always been a secular person and an agnostic, saying that it was too bad we weren’t religious, because church congregations could be such a supportive community. As immigrants coming to the US in their forties, my parents found it integrate into the society without such a ready-made community. (Of course I know that a strong community doesn’t just happen–it has to be forged through work and struggle, over time–and that’s also what is so moving in these photos, seeing the multi-generational loyalty as people return to re-affirm their ties to the church.)

    Lovely photos and your annotations are priceless. The woman giving the photographer a “firm look,” for example! And noting how 1966 was perhaps the last year when no one would be sporting an Afro and so many of the women could be wearing hats.

    I love “Just a Closer Walk With Thee, ” and Mahalia Jackson’s rendition is flawless in all respects.

  13. Looks like you have the church’s archive there:) Great photos.
    PS the lady wearing a hat with a bow in front in the secondlast photo is beautiful.

  14. More great photos from your seemingly bottomless shoe box, but as others have noted your father’s sermon notes are the most fascinating. He had a very personal style that could almost be a work of calligraphy art.

  15. You can almost hear the buzz of conversation at those long tables. Fascinating memorabilia too; the menu and your father’s sermon notes.

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