Playing Chess

Albert B. Cleage Jr playing chess

Here is my father, Albert B. Cleage Jr, playing chess at his parents house about 1952.  We lived down the street on Atkinson in the parsonage at the time.  We have played a lot of chess in my family through the years.

I remember my Uncle Henry teaching me to play chess when I was in my teens.  When I first met my husband, we spent hours playing chess on the second floor of the student center in Mackenzie Hall   Below is a bit of a letter I wrote to my sister in 1966 that begins with a game of chess.

September 21, 1966

I am in bed with the flu. Monday night, I was playing chess with Henry when I developed chills. My teeth were chattering and I had goose pimples. I thought I was gong to die. just my luck to get sick on payday. I got two patterns Friday. I have to get some material now. I want some blue material with little black flowers for the suit.

I spent the weekend with (my cousin).  I got high once on Saturday night. I didn’t like it. It was like everything was floating and everything was real slow. My thinking too, also my voice sounded real far away . This guy was there,  he was talking and I was looking at him and I could hear him, but it was like someone else was talking. Very, very weird!!! I could still think, I knew I was high and what I was doing. It wasn’t my idea of fun and I doubt if I’ll ever do it again.

Sunday morning I went horseback riding. I really liked it. Me and (my cousin) and her friends  went. Riding was really nice, but I was a little scared when the horse first started to run or trot or whatever you call it. I’m just a little sore.

Stokely (Carmichael) is supposed to be here in a few weeks at church. Linda and I finished our 15 page each quota of bruning at work by 12:30 Friday, so we messed around the rest of the day. Both Linda’s and my dress shrunk so now we have mini dresses.

On Friday (my cousin) and I went to the drive-in and saw “Breakfast at Tiffiny’s” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf” I liked the first, but, who the hell is Virginia Wolf? Higgins paper came out. Bar’s baby has measles. Everybody at work is singing La Bamba now, due to my great influence.

Unfortunately, I do not think I ever went horseback riding again.  I never really took to getting high. It’s hard to believe I didn’t know who Virginia Wolf was.  Luckily, in one of my early English classes, we had to read her book, Mrs. Dalloway.


The photograph in the header is my grandson Sean playing chess with himself four years ago. He would make a play and then make a play for the other color, often going around to the other side to make the play.

31 thoughts on “Playing Chess

  1. …and the circle will be unbroken… I love the pictures of Sean and your dad, both at chess boards. The continuity is precious. The best part is, some little Williams / Cleage kid playing chess in a hundred…or two hundred years might wonder where that started in his family, and he will have your written history to refer to. Your dad might not have been the first person in the family to play chess but it will certainly give him some direction and food for thought. This is such a gift you are giving Kris!

    1. I hadn’t thought of that. I hope the different branches continue to pass the photos down in a way that 200 years from now they can be identified and enjoyed!

  2. Your grandson is learning the game of chess at what appears to be an early age & how great is that! Young children can handle a lot more than we often give them credit for. Having watched my own 3, and now my 6 grandchildren growing up, I can say this with utmost confidence. I laughed at your description of not liking the feeling of ‘getting high’. A lot of my college-age friends drank so I tried, but I went straight from feeling a bit tipsy to being sick. Not much fun there! And even at the tipsy stage, I felt out of control of things & like you, I do not like feeling out of control. The only time I remember being really high is when I was given a major dose of Valium before surgery once. I was so high I didn’t care where they were taking me or what they were going to do. As I was being wheeled down the hall to surgery I was gaily saying “Hiiiii!” & waving to everyone. When they got me to the operating room & on the table I remember waving my arms around wondering where I could put them & hearing someone say to the anesthesiologist “For heaven’s sake get that needle into her!” meaning ‘put me out asap. I did really feel absolutely wonderful – but I think somewhere in the back of my mind I knew someone was in control so I didn’t need to worry about it.

  3. Great to have those photos of your father and your grandson playing chess. Can you tell me what “bruning” is please?

    1. It was a method of copying that we used for documents, just like xeroxing. Maybe that’s not even the way to spell it. Or maybe it was the name of the machine and it was really just xeroxing.

  4. Love the fact that your father is in the same pose as the man in the SS prompt photo — left hand to head…thinking….thinking. Great find!

  5. How wonderful to have the letter you wrote in 1966. I wrote in my diary almost every day for something like 12 years but when I left home my mum threw them out. I would give anything to read them again.

    1. I threw a bunch of letters from those days away once in a misguided effort to move forward. Wish I had them back too!

  6. Hi Kris,
    Your mom taught my parents, brothers and myself how to play chess. And we’ve been playing ever since then, at least when we can find some challenging opponents. Did your mom learn from your dad?
    Later, I taught chess to a group of students at Chrysler Elementary, and one of my students went on to become a chess champion at Yale. A legacy continues.

    1. She probably did because I don’t think her parents or sister played chess. I’m glad the legacy continues!

      Just remembered that her brother in law, Frank ‘Bud’ Elkins played chess and I still have the chess board that he made her.

  7. I’ve heard that some schools teach young kids chess – I really wish we’d had that kind of learning when I was in elementary school.

    1. Some schools around here have after school chess clubs. When my children were growing up in Lake County, MI, the two youngest participated in the Chess Tournament in Ludington a couple of years.

  8. That’s a perfect match with the photo prompt, Kristin. I haven’t played much chess since I left school, horse riding neither.

  9. Beautiful photos and great memories there Kristin – I’m glad Jomin asked what bruning was – I felt so stupid not knowing.

  10. What a perfect match Kristin.
    We have several beautiful chess sets in our home that never, ever get used. But the Mah Jong set is a favourite.

  11. I’m always struck by how handsome your father was. Particularly in this thoughtful pose.
    La Bomba hmmmmm.

  12. That’s a spectacular chess set! I’m always amazed that you seem to find the perfect family photo for the SS prompts, Kristin!

  13. I was just watching “Searching for Bobby Fisher,” maybe the next chess champion will come out of the Cleage clan!

  14. Your father’s photo is certainly a perfect match for the prompt. But the idea of your grandson playing “Solitaire Chess” makes me laugh. I wonder if he made bad moves for one side on purpose.

  15. I love your post. Very interesting and full of details. That is how we are supposed to write. I hope to remember that the next time I jot down a quick post.

  16. I had a Russian friend who tried her best to teach me the game, but I figured I was doomed from the get-go. She was so intense when she’d stare at the board. I figured I’d lose every time and so I usually left the room when she’d bring the board out.

  17. I taught myself and my children how to play chess with a jr. chess set. It came with a set of cards showing the moves each piece could make, plus the chess pieces we were supposed to switch to once we understood the moves. It worked. Some of our children have joined chess clubs as they grew and have become quite good. It’s been fun.

  18. Hi Kristin,

    It’s been quite some time but I just wanted to tell you I continue to enjoy your blog immensely. I just finished reading all of Eliza’s story, which was amazing especially you finding the slaveowner proof in the newspaper! I’ve seen them before but hadn’t known anyone to find it that way. I also love your pictures (montages and charts) and your insights are a joy to read. You and I share the same maternal DNA–mine also came back to the Mende of Sierra Leone and Kru people of Liberia.

    Have a great summer!

  19. A Superb photograph Kristin.Your Dad was a very handsome man.
    To my shame, I cant play Chess.
    However, you may be interested in this site. The guy often includes chess-moves& suchlike.
    Bestest Wishes.X

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