I – IDLEWILD -Cleage family visits

The Cleages and friends at Idlewild. My father, Albert in the back far left. Grandmother Pearl 3rd from left. Down front on the right, Barbara, Gladys and Henry. Grandfather standing behind Gladys. I think about 1925.

My grandmother Pearl Reed Cleage, did not think much of Idlewild vacations when her children were growing up, because she still had to do all the cooking, washing and other chores she did at home, but without the familiar home tools. Everybody else loved it and they probably went out on the water in a row boat and went swimming and fishing and visiting friends. Maybe the older ones went to dances. While Grandmother cooked and washed and did the usual. I hope she also had time to sit outside and relax. They rented houses until the 1940s when Louis Cleage built a cottage.

I remember my grandmother reading to us from the book “Told Under the Red Umbrella” the summer of 1953. The electricity went off during a storm and she read to us by the kerosene lamps until the lights came back on. During that trip I am sure my mother and aunts did the cooking.

The Cleage Family on vacation in Idlewild, Michigan about 1928. Left to right: Pearl Reed Cleage, Gladys, Louis back between, Hugh, Anna, Henry, Albert Jr, Barbara, Dr. Albert B. Cleage Sr behind Barbara.


Beginning in 1915, African Americans from throughout the country, particularly the Midwest, came to Idlewild in the summer. During the early years the resort offered beaches, boating, and other typical summer diversions. By the 1920s and into the 1960s, however, Idlewild’s rousing nightlife lured swarms of viitors to the community to see elaborate floorshows and some of America’s most popular black entertainers. the Arthur Braggs Idlewild Revue toured the country during the off-season, spreading the Idlewild name. The 1964 passage of the Civil Rights Act – comprehensive legsation that prohibits segregation- opened doors for blacks to stay at previously whites-only resorts. Idlewild’s heyday ended, but it remained the largest African American resort in the nation.

The location of Idlewild is at “A”

22 thoughts on “I – IDLEWILD -Cleage family visits

    1. This reply keeps going to the bottom of the comments, but it is for you, Tarkabarka – My grandmother probably could have written such an article.

  1. Your family’s lifestyle is always so amazing to me. I grew up middle class, but didn’t know about this other (higher) level of black life until I was well into my adult years. I love reading about your family experiences and seeing all the photos. Thanks so much for sharing with us!


    1. When I was raising my family the only vacations we took were to visit my mother or to my husband’s family reunion. I helped with meals but our mothers were in charge.

  2. Pearl looks so very elegant in that photo. I don’t know how their generation managed to work so hard and make it appear so effortless. True grace.

  3. As long as her family was happy I guess she was happy. I loved the picture of the family in front of the house. Makes me smile.

  4. I found your site by accident. When my father died in 2003 there was a picture of a Martin Band in his papers which caused my search. As it turns out the picture had no known value but it led me to your site and your photo of the Martin Band included my father, Edward McCall Martin son of Annabell McCall Mary Allen’s daughter. Until now I didn’t know anything about his family. Thank You, Ed

  5. While I sympathise that there is still cooking and cleaning to be done on family holidays Idlewild looks a lovely place for a vacation. I enjoyed reading about the building of the cottages in your 2013 post too.

    1. It was. We lived there for over 20 years and, of course, I did the cooking and stuff, but I also involved my family in it and I was at home with my usual equipment. The summer people would be coming up for vacation and we would be living our regular life, no holidays for the locals.

  6. In the first photo everyone looks grumpy, as if the photographer was taking forever to get set up. They all look a lot more happy and relaxed in the second one. Idlewild is a revelation to me–the idea of a place where the whole family goes for the summer. Aside from your blog, the only other place I’ve heard of such a thing has been recently, watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, set in the 50s, in which the middle class-upper middle class Jewish families would go to a camp for the summer. I hope your grandmother was able to relax more in later years, when they had their own cabin.

    1. They do look rather bored, although Gladys and Barbara are enjoying their treats and my father looks mildly pleasant.

      Everyone wasn’t able to stay the whole summer. We only went for a week or two. It depended on your vacation schedule and if it was your own cottage I guess. There were quite a few family members and friends staying at Louis’ cottages in rotation, by the time we were going up there.

      By the time Louis had his cottage all of my grandparent’s children were grown up and I’m sure she got a break, being by that time the honored matriarch.

  7. How sad that Pearl didn’t really have holidays. I never considered that: that going on holiday for the mother of a family could be more trouble than relax, because of the usual housework, but without the usual tools. It must have been a very peculiar kind of discomfort.

    The Old Shelter – Living the Twenties

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