My Parents Time in San Francisco – January to July 1, 1944

This is the 23rd post in the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing ChallengeThe photograph for today is of a corner of the living room in my parents  apartment in San Francisco. It was 1944.

San Francisco Desk
My father’s desk in the San Francisco apartment. Photos of his sisters, Gladys and Barbara on the desk and one of my mother on the bookcase.  This desk looks like one that I have from my mother, but it’s not. I think the apartment was furnished. Surprised the typewriter isn’t visible.

My parents, Albert B. Cleage Jr and Doris Graham, were married in Detroit on November 17, 1943. They left immediately after the ceremony for Lexington, Kentucky, where my father had accepted a call from Chandler Memorial Congregational Church.  They were there only two months when he accepted an interim pastorship at the new, experimental San Francisco Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples.  He served from January of 1944 through June of the same year.  The captions under the photographs are taken from what my parents wrote on the back when they sent the pictures back home to their families.

church & house San Francisco
The Church – on the corner. We live upstairs – rear – behind the jungle. (Rubber, Magnolia – Olive, etc.)
church sign- san francisco
This is Romeo and Patrick and me – fat jaws and all. June 1944
Mountains! Taken out our front window – over the housetops across the street.
This is Post Street looking toward the Ocean. Looks like you could follow it right on up to Heaven, doesn’t it? June 1944
Looking down at the “Fillmore slum” from our front window. The lady who bakes cakes for us lives over there –
Guess who this gangster looking talent is. June 1944.
Birds eye view of my mother hanging up clothes in the backyard.

Following is an excerpt from a biography of my father, about his time in San Francisco. I wish I had the box of letters I know existed from those six months.

“Cleage does not remember his work with the famous Fellowship Church of All Peoples with any fondness.  The new congregation, which had about fifty members when he was there, was a contrived, artificial affair, he says.  ‘An Interracial church is a monstrosity and an impossibility,’ he said. ‘The whites who came, came as sort of missionaries.  They wanted to do something meaningful, but this was not really their church. The blacks regarded it as experimental too, or were brainwashed to think that it was something superior.’ He called his white counterpart, Dr. Fisk, ‘well-meaning,’ and said Fisk thought he (Fisk) was doing a great work, but had no understanding of tension and power.  He felt the Lord looked in favor on this work, and any whites that joined him were headed for glory. He hated to have problems mentioned. Problems included the property left deteriorating after the Japanese were moved out, and the boilermakers’ union ‘which set up separate auxiliary units for black so they could discontinue the units after the war.’ Cleage joined in with NAACP efforts to get at these injustices.  He was told he could stay at the Fellowship of All Peoples if he wanted to, and he said ‘they were nice people, but it did not seem to me it was a significant ministry.’ About Fisk, he said, ‘He talked about the glorious fellowship washed in the blood of the Lamb; I talked about hell on the alternate Sundays.  He felt upset about my preaching, but he didn’t want to raise racial tension in his heaven.'”

From Hiley Ward, Prophet of the Black Nation. (Piladelphis: Pilgrim Press, 1969), p. 55.


You can see a newspaper clipping of my parents and a very short post about their time in San Francisco here Newspaper Clipping of My Parents. Soon after July 1, my parents moved to Los Angeles, where my father studied film making for a year before he was called to pastor St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield, Massachusetts.

11 thoughts on “My Parents Time in San Francisco – January to July 1, 1944

  1. Kristin, I continue to be impressed and amazed at all the family photographs you have. I’m beginning to think they fill your house, or at least a whole room!

    In looking at the photo of your father’s desk I recognized a telephone that looks very familiar. Were they all the same in those days? And we had a desk that was a lot like your father’s. I also noticed that his open book looks like it’s sitting on top of the drawer, not in the drawer. Either the drawer was put in upside down to give him more space to write or there was a cover over the drawer, don’t you think?

    1. Nancy, I’m pretty sure that was the only model of phone there was. I remember a slightly different version later on but then they were all like that one. So far I have them in boxes and binders that are smashed into shelves in my half of the office.

      My desk is a lot like that but when I was writing about it, I noticed it had some differences. Yes, I think the book is resting on the open drawer, and when I go in close it does look like there is a shelf over the drawer. I used to have a dresser that had a shelf like that, which you could pull out and put over a drawer to make a desk. Maybe it was like that. I wonder why a desk would have that.

  2. So glad you shared these wonderful images of San Francisco and your family. I love seeing old photos of what we call The City.

    I wonder how your father would have felt about Glide Memorial Church and Cecil Williams.

  3. Great post Kristin. Loved the photos and the comment re: Post Street: “Looks like you could follow it right up to Heaven…” 🙂 Your dad’s desk, in the corner of the living room looks comfy and cosy and great pic of your mum hanging out the washing. Thanks for sharing. Cheers, Catherine

  4. As I read this I found myself becoming envious of your numerous photos. A desk. A corner of a room. A view from above of hanging clothes on the line. They all give a glimpse into every day life and those things that are so easily forgotten – especially if you don’t have pictures to give you a reminder.

  5. A wonderful collection of photographs to have Kristin. The streets of San Francisco are so distinctive. I’d like to travel there someday.

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