D – DIARY Entry – Henry 1936

This is my tenth A to Z Challenge. My first was in 2013, but I missed 2021. This April I am going through the alphabet using snippets about my family through the generations.

Henry W. Cleage

My Uncle Henry Cleage was a twenty year old student at Wayne State University in Detroit when he kept this diary. He did eventually graduate and went on to geta law degree. He was a great thinker and during his life did a variety of things. Henry was also a printer and a publisher, publishing the Illustrated News, a radical black newsletter during the early 1960’s with family and friends. During WW2 he and his brother Hugh were conscientious objectors and spent the war farming in Avoca, Michigan. You can read the whole Diary here. Like many of us, he started off strong writing everyday, but as the year went on he petered out.

January 11
Awoke to find that I had lost 2 dollars very depressed. Wrote on theme. Played tonight at Quinn’s Lone Pine with Duke Conte, played bass, terrible night. Fingers sore. Noticed how good-looking Lene is… Ought to throw a line – Police stopped us at about 1:00AM. No permit to play until two. I was glad. Very animal acting bunch in River Rouge. Most of them seem friendly though.

January 12
Played matinee dance at Elks rest with Heckes, Toddy and Bill – Dracee’s band came in and sat in awhile (no trouble) Kenneth was there. Too tired and sleepy to study history. Get up early tomorrow (no English) Toddy is going downtown to get some books is supposed to get me ‘American Tragedy” and ‘Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations”

January 13
Haliver Greene died this morning -spinal meningitis. Didn’t get up early to study History, however there was no class – lecture tomorrow so I won’t slide, tonight. Toddy bought back two books about lives of Educators (putrid!!) only 25 cents a piece though – awfully windy out today-not so cold thought – like March. I would like to have been in the country, wrapped up good, walking into the wind at the Meadows, down the road towards the sand pile or over the hill to the creek – zest, spice, life, health, clear eye, firm step and all that sort of thing.

January 14
Cold out this morning although it became somewhat spring like after school. Went to show after school. Another big fight this morning, I think they think I skip classes because I am sleepy, nonsense. Bought ‘Bartlett’s Quotations” $1.53. Seems worthwhile. Read one of dictator books – Good – tonight as I was going to the store the weather brought memories of spring. Roller-skating in street, if not roller skating then walking. Everybody walking and friendly. The crowd at Krueger’s and the tent. Perhaps riding through Belle Isle – water, boats.


Henry’s sister Anna via my cousin Anna shared her memories of the combo: “Hi there! I had a chance to get Mom’s remembrances on Uncle Toddy’s band. This is what she recalls:
Uncle Toddy was trying to establish the business of being an agent where he would send singers and instrumentalists to different clubs etc. to perform. If he couldn’t get enough players, this is where he would ask Uncle Louis (player of drums), Henry (sax player, bass violin and vocalist), and sometime Mr. Hand (Oscar) – not really sure what he played – to fill certain jobs. Uncle Henry was a really good sax player and he had a great voice. Some group called the Vagabonds wanted him to play the sax for them. Mom thinks that Henry actually joined their band for awhile.”

#AtoZChallenge 2023 letter D

26 thoughts on “D – DIARY Entry – Henry 1936

    1. this was so interesting. Are there recordings of him? Wayne Sate should be so lucky. perhaps if he is watching he can see the new jazz center opening at Wayne State. This is the legacy of Dr. Roy Wilson.

    1. He and his brother were taking photographs emphasizing shadows. there is a black album with many of them. All dramatic.

  1. These diaries are priceless! Love that photograph, too! Thanks for sharing your family with us in such a special way.

  2. Fantastic to have a young man’s diary…and he seemed to express his feelings as well as the events! I can’t imagine getting to know my uncles in that way.

    1. Yes. Some of the other pages talk about all the movies he was going to see. It certainly gave me another view of Henry.

  3. Surely every family historian longs to find an ancestor’s personal diary- to touch the pages he /she wrote on, to see his or her handwriting and to read his/her views on the times he lived in. You were so lucky to find Henry’s journal – a diary written on the computer just does not have the same appeal

    1. There is something about seeing thoughts in their own writing that makes it more personal. Of course, I wouldn’t sneeze at a typed diary either.

    1. I hadn’t thought about it, but their mother was my singing Pearl. All seven kids played an instrument. Two sang in the church choir. My grand mother played the piano and the guitar in her youth.

  4. What a wonderful trove of stories. Great picture, too. I’ve always loved how your blog paints such clear pictures of life at different places and times – and even more so with a day-to-day diary!

  5. How lovely! ‘Too tired and sleepy to study history’ made me smile, I could have totally written that myself on more days than I care to admit.

  6. He looks too tired and sleepy in the photo but had a busy life.

    I wondered about $2 so looked up https://www.measuringworth.com/dollarvaluetoday/?amount=2&from=1936 : The Relative Worth of $2 in 1936
    … spent on a purchase is $43.41 or $96.65 today.
    … received as a compensation is $114.58 today.
    … of wealth held is $236.23 today.
    … spent on a construction project or as the cost of a historic event is $236.23 today.

    I would be kicking myself if I lost $40 or $50 too.

  7. Such a treasure to be able to read his thoughts. The value of currency then compared to now is striking. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be such a skilled musician,

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