Category Archives: 52 weeks of personal history


This year I am going through an alphabet of news items taken from The Emancipator newspaper, published  between 1917 and 1920 in Montgomery, Alabama.  Most are about people and places in my grandparent’s life. Each item is transcribed directly below the clipping.  Click on any image to enlarge.


Lewis Gilmer was one of my grandfather’s good friends. Annie Wimbs and my grandmother were both members of the Edelweiss Club.

The Emancipator Sat. Dec 28 1918

Wimbs-Gilmer Wedding

“On Tuesday morning at six o’clock, Miss Annie Wimbs and Mr. Lewis Gilmer, two popular young people of Montgomery, were happily married at the residence of Mrs. Josephine Curtis on So. Jackson Street. Rev. P. A. Callahan performed the ceremony. The bride is the daughter of honorable Ad Wimbs, of Greensboro, Alabama, and has been teaching in the public schools of this city. Mr. Gilmer is a highly esteemed young man and holds a responsible business position in this city. The many friends of the young couple wish them much happiness.”

Lowndes Adams, Rufus Taylor and Lewis Gilmer, Lowndes niece Edoline with puppies.
The Emancipator Sat Oct 25, 1919.   A year later, more news! Birth of their first child, Iola.

“Mr. and Mrs. Louis Gilmer were recently made the proud parents of a little girl. Mrs. Gilmer was formerly Miss Annie Wimbs.”

Lewis Abram Gilmer was born in Montgomery, Alabama on May 18, 1885. He and his seven siblings were raised there by their parents Louis and Cornelia Gilmer.  His father was a porter, a butler and a chauffeur.    Lewis worked as a bank messenger in Montgomery.  He and his wife, Annie, had five children.  Iola was born in 1919 in Montgomery.  Cornelia was born in 1924 in Mississippi.  Ellen, Willese and Dolores were born in 1925, 1927 and1931 in Detroit.

Lewis worked as a waiter when he first came to Detroit and then as a porter in a department store. Annie worked as a teacher in Montgomery before she married and did not work outside the home afterwards. By 1930 they bought a house in the Conant Gardens neighborhood of Detroit.

Members of Lewis Gilmer’s family moved to Detroit and lived on Scotten Avenue, several blocks from my other grandparents, the Cleages who were not from Montgomery. Some of the Gilmers later returned to Montgomery.

Annie Gilmer died in 1948. Lewis lived another twenty years and died in 1969.  Their descendants are numerous and widespread.


I found this information on in Census Records, Directories, Death Records, Military Records and Marriage Records. I also received some update through a descendant of the Gilmer’s who read an earlier blog post about her grandfather. The news item was found on

Aunts & Uncles

Pearl and Albert with their children and 3 of the grandchildren. My sister and I were at our other grandmothers and the youngest 4 were not yet born. 1951.
Pearl and Albert with their children and 3 of the grandchildren. My sister and I were at our other grandmothers and the youngest 4 were not yet born. 1951.

 Because my family seemed to socialized mainly with each other and a few long time family friends, I saw a lot of my aunts and uncles. When I was growing up, we spent every Saturday with my mother’s sister, Mary V. and her daughters at our maternal grandparents. We all rode over and back together. We also lived down the street and went to the same school so we saw her often.

My father’s family was very close and worked on political and freedom causes together through the years. We all went up to Idlewild together. Uncle Louis was our family doctor. My first jobs were working with Henry and Hugh at Cleage Printers.  I babysat one summer for Anna and Winslow.  I worked at North Detroit General Hospital in the pharmacy with Winslow. I worked with Gladys and Barbara at the Black Star sewing factory. My mother married my Uncle Henry years after my parents divorced so he was like a second father to me.  I raked their memories for stories about the past for decades.

My mother and her sister with cousin Dee Dee inbetween. Front row: Me, sister Pearl and cousin Barbara.
My mother and her sister with cousin Dee Dee inbetween. Front row: Me, sister Pearl and cousin Barbara.
Aunts by blood and Uncles by marriage.
Aunts by blood and Uncles by marriage.
Aunt Abbie – my great grandmother Turner’s sister.

I had 4 aunts and 5 uncles, by blood. Two of my uncles died when they were children so I never knew them. All of my aunts married so there were 4 uncles by marriage. Three, Ernest, Frank and Edward, were eventually divorced from my aunts. I didn’t see them very much after that. Ernest lived in NYC and only appeared now and then so I didn’t know him very well beyond the fact he was very good looking and polite. Uncle Frank, who we called ‘Buddy’, was a an electrician. I remember him taking us to Eastern Market and boiling up a lot of shrimp,which we ate on soda crackers. And a story he told about a whirling dervish seen in the distance that turned into a dove. Edward, who we called Eddie was a doctor and I remember little about him except he was quiet and when I had a bad case of teenage acne, offered to treat it for me.  Uncle Winslow was there to the end. I saw him often and I felt very connected to him. He had a wicked sense of humor and liked to talk about the past when I was in my family history mode. None of my uncles were married during my lifetime so I had no aunts by marriage.

We didn’t call our aunts and uncles “aunt” and “uncle”.  We called them by their first names only.  I did know two of my great aunts, my maternal grandmother’s sisters, Daisy and Alice.  I knew one of my 2 X great aunts, Aunt Abbie. She lived with my grandparents until she died in 1966. Aunt Abbie was Catholic and I still have a Crucifix that she gave me.

I remember calling Daisy “Aunt Daisy”, but Alice was just “Alice”.  Aunt Daisy had a distinctive voice and she laughed a lot. I remember going to dinner at their house once, and going by on holidays.

My maternal grandmother’s sisters, Aunts Alice and Daisy. On Bob-lo Island 1961.

There were a host of great aunts and uncles that I never met but I knew from stories about them so that I felt like I knew them.  Aunt Minnie and Uncle Hugh were my paternal grandmother’s siblings.  I must have met several of my paternal grandfather’s siblings but I was small and don’t remember them, Uncle Jake, Uncle Henry, Aunt Josie and their spouses.  And on the maternal side I heard so much about my great grandmother Jennie’s siblings that I felt I knew them too.  When I started researching, these were not strangers – Aunt Willie, Aunt Mary, Aunt Beulah, Aunt Anna.

2X Great Grandmother Eliza and her children. My 2X great aunts and uncle.  Aunt Mary, Ransom, Aunt Abbie, Aunt Beulah, Eliza, Great Grandmother Turner, Aunt Anna and Aunt Willie. Don’t know why Ransom was just ‘Ransom’.

We didn’t call any of my parent’s friends ‘aunt’ or ‘uncle’. Not surprising since we didn’t call our own aunts and uncles, ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’.

Left to right: Albert, Josephine, Edward. Back L Henry, back R Jacob
Left to right: My grandfather Albert Cleage with my great aunt and great uncles, Aunt Josie, Uncle Ed. Back L Uncle Henry, back R Uncle Jake.

Remembering 1963

Week 49.  Historical Events.  Describe a memorable national historical event from your childhood.  How old were you and how did you process this event?  How did it affect your family? 
Me in the upper left corner. News photos from 1963.
In 1963 I was 16 and a junior at Northwestern High School in Detroit.  In the news were pictures of dogs  attacking people who were peacefully demonstrating, high pressure hoses being used on people who were peacefully demonstrating, bombings of homes and churches, people being abused while sitting at lunch counters, people  being arrested. Governor George Wallace of Alabama, stood in the door to block the integration of the University of Alabama. Women were dragged from demonstrations to the paddy wagon. Medgar Evers was murdered in Jackson, MS in front of his home. Four girls were blown up while attending Sunday school in Birmingham, Alabama.   Two teenage boys were killed during the rioting afterwards.  There were two gigantic demonstrations that year, the Detroit Walk to Freedom followed by the March on Washington. Both drew over 100,000. President Kennedy was assassinated. Lee Harvey Oswald was killed, Cassius Clay who had not yet become Muhammad Ali was winning fight after fight. Malcolm X was speaking out and Martin Luther King, Jr was arrested in Birmingham, AL.  Here and there people began to wear their hair in  afros. In Detroit, the Freedom Now Party was seeking petitions to get on the ballot for the 1964 election and  Malcolm X spoke at the Grassroots Conference.
How did all of this affect me and my family?  I was angry but I also felt I was part of the struggle of the black community. I wondered why the federal government didn’t send troops down south to protect people who wanted to vote. I wrote revolutionary poetry. It wasn’t very good poetry. My family talked about everything that was happening. They were publishing the Illustrated News during that time and wrote about changes that had to come and the movement of the struggle from the south to the north and what the differences would be as this happened.

Thanksgiving – 1991, Idlewild, Michigan – Part 2

"Idlewild house in winter."
Our Idlewild House

After I wrote my Thanksgiving 1991 post several days ago, I talked to several people about what they remembered. Some remembered nothing. Several others remembered the snow, Zaron with his head wrapped in a towel and the status discussion. Someone remembered it was Christmas but I was lucky enough to have the Ruff Draft article saying it was Thanksgiving.  A reason to keep a journal or a family newsletter.

Yesterday I was reading the post “Had to Walk Home in the Snow” on the blog A Hundred Years Ago. The blog is set up so that it always begins with a diary entry by Helena Muffy in 1911 and is followed by information her granddaughter, Sheryl, has found that relates to the entry.  This entry was about Helena Muffy walking home from church in the snow. Sheryl followed with a weather service report about conditions in that area on just that day!  Sheyl was nice enough to explain to me how I could find the information for Thanksgiving, 1991 in Lake County, Michigan.  I highly recommend this blog.

According to the chart from the National Climatic Data Center it started snowing on Nov. 24 and left us 4 inches. We got another inch on Nov. 25.  By Thanksgiving there were still 3 inches on the ground. By the following Monday the snow had changed to rain and the snow was all gone.

And for my daughter, Jilo, I add these photographs of Pearl in her yellow shirt and Zeke with his head wrapped in a towel.

Moving – Springfield to Detroit 1951

I was born in Springfield, Massachusetts and lived there until I was almost 5.  We moved in April of 1951 when my father got a church in Detroit, Michigan. Here we are on moving day, my sister and I, with two little girls I knew then but I don’t remember their names.  I have a photo of the oldest girl, my sister and myself, standing on the parsonage porch.  I also have a memory of the oldest girl pouring milk in my dinner, which I wasn’t going to eat anyway, but still… we were sitting at the little table in our room eating. My mother said if I’d eaten it in a timely fashion it wouldn’t have happened.  No sympathy there.  I remember another time when this little girl hit me and my mother told me if I didn’t hit her back, my mother was going to hit me.  I hit her back. Don’t remember that she ever hit me again.  

Me, sisters I cannot remember the names of, my sister Pearl

I saw them one more time, after we moved to Detroit.  In the winter of 1967 my father returned to Springfield to preach for the Men’s Club. I went with him. We also went to New York on this trip where I bought my first pair of bell bottom jeans.  My grandmother was so disappointed that I didn’t get a nice dress.  But that isn’t this story.  I remember the living quarters in the parsonage seemed so small on this trip.  Nobody was living in them at the time. I’m sure the next minister got the congregation to move him back into separate quarters. We stayed with the family of these two girls. I was 20 so they were probably 20 and 18.  The oldest one was going to a party.  Well, actually she wasn’t going to the party, she was going to meet her boyfriend  there and  they were going elsewhere.  Her father had forbidden her to see this boy.  I was never a big party person and I sure didn’t want to be left at a strange party with a bunch of strangers.  Needless to say, I didn’t go. The adults tried to persuade me that it would be “fun”. Ha. I didn’t give away her plan but I didn’t go.  Wish I could remember her name, I’d look her up on facebook and see what she remembers about any of this.

Dinner Time

I remember being three years old. My parents and I ate dinner together while my younger sister, Pearl, played in her playpen, wearing her favorite fuzzy blue hat.  The dinner table was in the living room/dining room of the parsonage of St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield, Massachusetts where my father was the minister.  I used to hide my food under my chicken wing bones because I was never very hungry.  I thought nobody noticed.

Pearl in her tam. 1949, Springfield, Mass.

When my sister was older, the four of us ate meals together.   We moved to Detroit when I was 4 and lived in two other parsonages. The first was on Atkinson we had a small dining room and ate there for all meals.  My father’s parents lived down the street and he was often there for dinner leaving my mother, my sister and me eating alone.

The dining room on Atkinson. My mother is standing. You can see the back of my father’s head. His brother Louis is on the left. His brother Hugh is on the right and you can just see his sister Anna’s curl and chin. I guess Henry took the photo because he isn’t in it.  I wonder why they are all at our table and where Pearl and I are.  I remember those little fat turquoise salt and pepper shakers and the glass sugar and creamer.  About 1952.

 The next house, which was on Chicago Blvd, was huge and shared with the church. We always ate in the kitchen.  My father teased me about being so skinny and told me I needed to eat more before I went down the bathtub drain or stuck in the chair because my bottom was so thin. When I was 8 years old I had my tonsils removed. I told my mother my fork wasn’t heavy any more.  I started eating.  There was roast beef and sliced tomatoes, chicken pot pies and oatmeal.  I only remember eating one meal in the dining room.  It was the Thanksgiving dinner right before my parents separated and we moved.   My mother started teaching at the same elementary school I attended.

My mother, my sister and I moved to an upper  flat on Calvert. What was supposed to be the dining room, was made into the television room and we ate our meals in the breakfast room while watching the pigeons nesting near the roof next door.  We named one of them Bridie Murphy.  We ate family style with bowls of food on the table that we served ourselves from.  There was no free for all.  “Please.” and “Thank you.” and “You’re welcome.” were expected and used.  My mother cooked but my sister and I set the table and took turns washing the dishes and clearing the rack and table, usually with much whispering about who’s turn it was to do what. We whispered because my mother said she didn’t want to hear any arguing about it.  I took cooking in junior high school and learned to make pineapple muffins which I made often. I remember fried chicken, mashed potatoes, jello salad and green beans.

When I was in 7th grade we moved to our own house on Oregon St.  The kitchen was too small to eat in and we ate in the dining room which was pretty crowded with a piano, the dining room table and chairs and my mother’s desk (See photo below).  My sister and I soon added cooking one meal a week to our dinner chores.  I don’t remember what I cooked, aside from biscuits. I remember Pearl cooked a lot of hot dogs and corn bread.

My mother remarried when I was in high school and we all ate dinner together unless Henry was working late.  He and my uncle Hugh had a printing shop at that time and often worked through the night.  I remember Henry saying how important it was for a family to sit down to dinner together because it might be the only time of the day they spent together.  As we got older there were interesting dinner table conversations about politics, what happened that day and more politics.  Dinner continued to be a meal shared by all who were home as long as I lived there.

Not dinner, but this is the dining room of the house on Oregon Street about 1962. From left, my mother with the braid, sister Pearl, aunt Gladys, Me, my father.

When I was raising my own 6 children we ate together, although my husband was often working and did not get to eat with us. We continued to have meal time discussions and to serve family style. Now that my children are grown with their own families and dinner tables, my husband and I eat still eat our meals together at the table.  Television has never been a part of our mealtimes.

My husband Jim eating at our present table in the dining/kitchen/living room. 2010.

The prompt: Week 32: Dinner Time. On a typical childhood evening, who was around the dinner table? Was the meal served by one person, or was it a free-for-all? What is dinner time like in your family today?

T is for Theodore Street

This post continues a series using the Alphabet to go through streets that were significant in my life as part of the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge.  For this post I am bringing back a post I did a year ago for 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy. The house at 6638 Theodore was my Graham grandparents house.

My maternal grandparents were Mershell and Fannie Graham.  We called them Poppy and Nanny.  They bought their house on Theodore Street on the East Side of Detroit in 1922 when my grandmother was pregnant with my mother, Doris.  They lived there until the neighorhood became increasingly violent and they experienced home invasion and shots fired into the house. That was in the summer of 1968 when they bought a two family flat with my parents near the University of Detroit.  So they lived in this house for 46 years.

When I was growing up we used to pick up my cousins on summer Saturdays and spend the day at my grandparents.  We had Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners there and backyard meals for the summer holidays.

There was a front porch across the front but by the time we came along there was no porch swing and we never sat or played in the front.  The front door had a full window. the window to the right of the front door was the “hall way” it was divded from the living room by wooden pillars. On the hall side there was a table that held the high school graduation photos of my mother and her sister, a lamp and underneath a brass bowl that held last years Christmas cards.  Next to it was my grandmother’s rocking chair.  The door to the kitchen was behind that and the stairs to the second floor were behind the table.  At the foot of the stairs, beside the single window, was a table with the telephone. The telephone sat on a small table my grandfather built, on the landing.  During the day, it came down to the little table and at night it went back to the landing.  But wait, I think I can show you better then tell you.  Downstairs on the first and upstairs below. No photos taken upstairs. There was a great basement too that included my grandfather’s workshop, a large converted coal furnace and a pantry.

When my grandparents moved in 1968, the people who owned the factory across the street bought the house and tore it down. This is what the spot looked like last time I was in Detroit taking photographs of family places.

To read more about the Brass bed  and see a photograph of it – Dollhouse update.