A Dance, a Box and half of Henry

Click for headless photos and more.

The prompt for this weeks Sepia Saturday is a photograph of a boy in front of a theater next a sign advertising a movie about an ex-convict. Standing on the far right side is a man with his head cut off by the photographer. I looked through my photos and was disappointed to find no sepia headless ones. I thought I had seen some in a box of photographs that came from my uncle Henry Cleage.

I came across this photograph in the box. Most of the photographs are of Henry’s first wife, Alice Stanton. She is the one in the front holding the purse. I noticed Doris Graham, my mother and Henry’s second wife, dancing in the background.  I do not know who either of the men are.  The photo was taken in 1939 or 1940 in Detroit.  Henry and Alice were married on 3 September, 1941 in Detroit and divorced not too many years later. At first I thought that this photograph was taken the same day as the one below, but when I compared them, the news photo was of a much posher affair.

“Oh, Mr. Photographer! That’s what pretty Doris Graham (left) probably said as she glided by in the arms of Robert Douglass … Chesterfield club…”    The incomplete caption at the bottom of this photo from my grandmother Fannie Graham’s scrapbook. Doris Graham, my mother.  The newspaper was the Detroit Tribune which was published by my grandmother’s cousin, Edward McCall. The date was added by my grandmother.

 For some reason, at this point, I noticed the address on the box that the photographs were kept in. It was addressed to Dr. L. J. Cleage at Homer Phillips Hospital in St.Louis.

The box.

Had my Uncle Louis done his medical internship at Homer Phillips Hospital? If so, it was probably around 1940.  Although both Louis and my father were enumerated with their parents on Scotten Ave. in Detroit, both were listed as absent from the home. You can see them here in the 1940 Census.  I went to Ancestry.com and looked for records for Louis Jacob Cleage. In the 1940 census he was indexed with his parents but there was also a Dr. Louis Cleage in St. Louis, MO. There he was, living in the doctor’s housing at Homer G. Phillips, as a Jr. intern.

Homer G. Phillips Hospital and surrounding area 1940.

The story of Homer G. Phillips hospital is a familiar one – black citizens tired of second class health care, black doctors tired of not being able to hospitalize and care for their own patients, of being unable to practice in the hospitals in their city. Click this link to read more about Homer G. Phillips Hospital’s interesting history.  My husband’s younger siblings were born in St. Louis. He thought some of them might have been born at Homer G. Phillips. As luck would have it, his sister called  right about then and confirmed that she and all of the youngest five Williams’ were born there from 1950 to 1963.

I seemed to be on a roll, so I decided to see if my father was enumerated in 1940 as a student at Oberlin where he attended Seminary. He did not turn up anywhere else outside of his parents home in the 1940 census. However, he was listed in the 1940 Oberlin Student Directory.  His birth date is off by 9 years, but the home address is his parent’s Scotten Ave. address in Detroit.

After all this it was an anti-climax to find one photo with half a head missing – Henry holding up some fish while standing by Lake Idlewild.  Since the focus is on the fish, perhaps this doesn’t really count. My family photographers seemed to have been more likely to leave lots of space with everybody crowded to the center than they were to chop off a head. Or maybe they just tossed all of those headless photographs.

Henry with his catch. 1940 Lake Idlewild.

38 thoughts on “A Dance, a Box and half of Henry

  1. The fact that every SS writer interprets the weekly theme in a different manner, makes reading all the contributions one of my favorite pastimes. And this one is no exception.
    I am a bit puzzled by the text on the news photo: “Oh, Mr. Photographer!” Apparently something was happening, but what? Did it have to do with the gesture the lady on the left is making? Anyway, I enjoyed reading your post, thank you.

    1. That was my mother on the left. I’m not sure what she meant by that gesture but This was just a photo from the “society” section of the weekly newspaper her cousins published. I think the blurb was supposed to be cute or amusing. She actually doesn’t look very happy or amused to me.

  2. Great finds and writings. How wonderful the old gracious buildings have been put back into use, instead of so many other deteriorating buildings (in STL and DTW – and elsewhere) that are passed the advance stage of neglect, ruin and no return possible… The legacy lives on.

  3. What an interesting story. Loved the part about the hospital. It reminded me so much of a book I read called “The Amazing Life of Henrietta Lacks”. Have you read it?

    Your Uncle Louis was really something.


    1. All my uncles were something else. I haven’t read that book but it sounds familiar. Going to look for more now. No wonder it sounded familiar! It’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” about the woman who has been so important to cancer research and every other kind too, involuntarily. I just ordered it.

  4. That first photograph is a fabulous one, outstanding. The very faded sepia tones seem to give it so much power and emotion. And you link wonderfully to the theme, although no link was necessary : it is just a quality post.

    1. I especially liked that one too Alan. It is of Alice and my Aunt Gladys. There several with this same quality that I will manage to fit into posts sooner or later. They are printed on thick, matte paper. I wish I could make the header I pick for each post stay with that post. I figured it out! The option was right there all the time.

  5. Half a head is better than none! That gesture is one I’ve seen when one person is telling another not to be nosey. Would be appropriate for a lot of photographers these days.

  6. I related to how the box the pictures were in caught your attention and how that led you to find something new. I love when that happens, but I’m always left wondering why I hadn’t noticed that before? That photo at the top of the post is wonderful.

  7. I agree with Alan, a quality post, and you really were on a roll with this one Kristin. I like the many layers you have drawn from just one prompt. That gesture your mother is making can also mean, ‘It’s a secret’ or ‘Don’t tell anyone’.

  8. Great pictures as always. I think your family was always too good with a camera to make the mistake of cutting off any heads. I really enjoyed reading about the history of the hospital. Very interesting.

  9. Another interesting post. I always look forward to seeing what wonderful family photos you’ll share with us. The first photo is my favorite as it captures a special moment. Enjoyed learning more about your uncle and the hospital also.

  10. Your last pic was a surprise and I believe there’s been some weeding done in your collection, tossing being a likely option. The hospital looked impressive. Do you know its capacity. Is it still active?

    1. If you follow the link you can see the building today. It looks great and is now a senior residential facility that is full, with a waiting list! There are 220 apartments.

      1. Pity that Phillips never saw his project fulfilled due to such tragic circumstances. A strange thought occurred to me but I’ll keep it to myself as it is mean, but I’m glad the building has been repurposed. Looks great!!

  11. What a heroic group of folks to get that hospital going. Kudus to them. I am sure the size of that fish was the main topic of conversation at the time it was caught. I too love all the different interpretations that we find. That is what makes SS one of my favorites too.

  12. I quite like the photo with the fish. Definitely unique. I see a lot of fish photos when searching through bins at antique stores and none are as artful as this.

    Interesting story about the hospital.

    You might also like to see a post I did a few days ago showing a public square in old Detroit. It’s called “Have a Coca-Cola at Capitol Square in Detroit” and dates to around 1914.

  13. Kristin you’ve clearly shown how bringing together little snippets from different places builds a large and evocative story. Being observant certainly paid off here.

    My mother was rather good at headless photos but not sure I have any of them.

    1. I have a fair share of badly focused photograph with half the person out of the view finder. Those we’ve taken recently though, but none from the sepia era. I have a nice photo of my 4th daughter but the photographer didn’t get all of her in the photo.

      1. Honey, with replies like that, the web crawlers are bound to bring every serial killers to your blog, and I know I’m NOT helping here… Do you watch any of the CSI series? Or even Bones?

  14. Thanks for including the link to the history of Homer Phillips Hospital. It’s nice to see how it has been restored as senior housing.

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