Going Out – 1937

Mary Virginia, Mershell and Doris Graham

This photograph was taken in the alley beside my  grandparent’s house on Theodore in Detroit in 1937.  My grandfather, Mershell, was 47.  He stands here with his daughters dressed for church. He worked at the Ford Rouge Plant, taking the street car to work everyday and saving the car for going to church and other weekend activities.  Mary Virginia, my mother’s older sister, was 17 and a senior at Eastern High School, on East Grand Blvd within walking distance of the house.  She graduated in June and in September went to Business College where she excelled in typing.  My mother was 14. She graduated from Barbour Intermediate School that year and joined her sister at Eastern High School.  Here are their report cards from that year.

Meanwhile, a lot going on in the world in 1937. The montage below contains photographs of some. The Memorial Day Massacre when Chicago police shot and beat union marchers who were organizing at Republic Steel Plant. Ten workers died. Amelia Earhart flew off and disappeared. The German Luftwaffe bombed Guernica, Spain during the Spanish Civil War in support of Franco and inspired the painting of the same name by Picasso .  The Japanese invaded China, killing and raping thousands. Roosevelt was re-elected. The Hobbit was published. Gone With the Wind won the Pulitzer prize for Margaret Mitchell. The first animated full length film, Snow White came out. An anti-lynching law was passed.  The Golden Gate Bridge was completed and opened with a day for pedestrians to walk across.  Buchenwald concentration camp was build. The Hindenburg exploded and burned. King George VI’s coronation took place.  Auto workers in Flint, Michigan won recognition for the UAW after a prolonged sit down strike.  The Mississippi and Ohio Rivers flooded leaving devastation and death behind.  Ethiopia was now in the hands of fascist Italy.

"Events of 1937"
What was going on in 1937
"sepia saturday 118"
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29 thoughts on “Going Out – 1937

  1. I jumped when I saw 1937 on the top of the first photo – that was the year I was born. I’ve had to learn about the events you describe much later and we were almost in another century before I made it to Detroit.

  2. Your grandfather stood s tall and straight. What an impressive presence. Those report cards are priceless — how did Mary Virginia end up with a C in Child Care after earning B’s the rest of the year???

  3. A fine picture and report cards to be proud of. That montage is a work of art. When you hear how many world changing events happened in one year its quite startling.

    1. Nell, as I look into events for any given year to go with a photo or a family happening there always seems to be more going on than I ever realized.

  4. Love EVERYTHING about this post! Photo is fab, the collage and facts behind it very interesting! Oh, and love the report cards too! 🙂

  5. Kristin, I love your post! Of course I looked at the grades and spotted that your Aunt got a “C” in childcare among all of those “A’s”. Funny. Your collage is spectacular and I learned so much … did you make that yourself?

    Great job,

    Kathy M.

  6. You ought to link this post to Mosaic Monday. What did you use to make your collage (excuse me if I asked you this before). I love it that you were able to capture the 1937 flood — it seems to be the central focus in Cincinnati this year. We’ve had numerous talks by historians, etc. and it greatly impacted my family who lived across the street from the river. I, too, love everything about this post.

    1. My father-in-law lived in Arkansas during that flood and I remember him telling me about it. The Mississippi River part of the flood.

      I will go look at Mosaic Monday. I haven’t been there before. I’m finding even Sepia Saturday overwhelming these days, trying to visit and comment on all of the posts and there are 40 this week!

      I use Photoshop to do all my photo stuff, including collages, repair, sizing, etc.

  7. I also wondered about the C in childcare – and the big difference in subjects that Mary Virginia and Doris took at the same high school.

    1. My mother, Doris, was in the college prep curriculum while her older sister, Mary V., was not interested in going to college and took a general curriculum. Mary V. went to Business school after high school and was a typing whiz. She ended up using that skill for her entire work life.

  8. Your family must have saved everything! It seems odd to me that the younger one had academic subjects while the older one had more practical subjects.

    1. They do seem to have saved almost everything. They were planning on going different routes after high school. Mary V. was in the “General” course. My mother was in the “C.P” one, which stood for “College Prep”.

  9. Your father looks so nice in his suit & hat. Reminds me of my grandfather – he always wore a hat on Sunday. I enjoyed your post – the picture, report cards and especially how you related it to historical events from 1937. It’s interesting to see how many major events occurred in the span of one year.

  10. Talking out of “going out”, you went out of your way with this mosaic.
    When one looks at everything going on in a single moment,
    it is amazing how Life can have its highs and lows at the same time.
    One question though:
    On Doris’ bulletin, what is the “P” for ?

    1. TB, sometimes non-academic classes are graded “Pass” or “No Pass”. “P” means she passed.
      You are so right about the highs and lows at the same time. The photo of the group of men being entered into Buchenwald near the upper left and the group of people celebrating on the golden gate bridge near the lower right really stood out for me.

  11. Great post! I like the way you set the context and included both personal and historic events. While on a vacation last year, I toured the Ford Rouge plant. Your post helps me think about the individuals who worked there over the years–and how that plant and its history are intertwined with the lives of individuals.

    1. Sheryl, I think your blog of your grandmother’s journal and your added tidbits made me think more about what was going on historically during my famlies various years.

  12. I spent a few hours at an antique store on Friday sorting through bins of photos. So many photos of people posing for the camera, rarely interesting. This one shows warmth between the people which, from what I sorted through the other day, isn’t easily found.

    Love the report cards.

  13. Stellar, Kristin. It’s jarring to see events one knows of discretely assembled together. No wonder people sought out escapist movies and books.

    1. I know vaguely when events happened, that the Spanish Civil War was before WW2, for instance. I don’t remember the exact year. It’s always a revelation to see what happened in a particular year.

  14. This is a very warm photo, your grandfather has a very proud, distinguished look. Almost as though showing off his beautiful daughters. It is a headturner to see difference in studies back then till today. Amazing!!!

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