Category Archives: Detroit

Mary Vee On A Bike

Fan & Mary Virginia 8 months 12/12/20
The weather was warm for December

On a Sunday in December, when my aunt Mary Virginia was eight months old, my grandmother held her on a tricycle for a photo opp.

The baby doesn’t look very happy about it. She looks cold, or terrified.Even though the weather called for rain instead of snow which made it rather warm for Detroit, I imagine it was still pretty cold.

I don’t know if the tricycle was an early Christmas gift or if it belonged to another child, a friend of the family because Mary Vee was the first and oldest child of my grandparents, Fannie and Mershell Graham.

Another photograph with a story I don’t know.

This is not the first time Bicycles have been a sepia Saturday prompt. Here are some of my past responses:

Biking at Old Plank Road, 1962
Girl On A Bike -Sepia Saturday #162
Buffalo Soldiers on Bicycles
Girls Riding a Bike, From the Porch of 5397 Oregon, 1962

Click to see other Sepia Saturday posts

Riding the Clairmount Bus – 1969

Oddly enough, I do not have any personal photographs of buses. I do have an ancient journal entry chronicling a very bizarre bus ride I took in Detroit down Joy Road on the Clairmount bus in 1969. I had just graduated from Wayne State in December of 1968 and I was enjoying my freedom. I was living in my own apartment and working at the Black Star Clothing Factory. My cousin Barbara was living in New York City, the East Village. at the time and I was plotting and planning a visit with her. I did make it later that summer. I turned 23 that August.

Kristin and Barbara 1969, at her sister Dee Dee’s house.

I didn’t capitalize anything in the journal so I just left it like that.

journal entry

June 25, 1969

I don’t know what is going on, it isn’t good though. i was leaving friday for new york, but i don’t think so soon. i need a bit more time (for what?) i been listening to new leonard cohen record.  two days over and over at first it was tired, but now i really like it, after the old revolution, i liked best the partisan song about coming out the shadows. i am so sleepy .

everybody is mad/crazy, and i really don’t understand at all. i need pearl’s youth card so that I can leave, go to NYC.

 yesterday on the way to a photo show, I was on the clairmont bus on joy rd.  the driver was crazy, he acted like he was taking a pregnant woman to the hospital, he was weaving the bus in and out between cars.  that was bad enough – old ladies rocking, weaving and falling, when suddenly a red light backs up traffic, or just stops it. he pulls belligerently into the lane of oncoming traffic (which lucky for us was empty at the time) and raced two blocks in the wrong lane to pull and bully his way in front of some poor car when the light changed. I was cracking up. the people weren’t, just me.  I couldn’t control myself laughing, mouth open etc. they probably thought I was crazy or something. so ridiculous, can’t even imagine a regular car doing that shit. I just don’t know, I really don’t. some lunatic jehovah’s witness knocked on the door to give me a bible study tract. says god’s kingdom is eminent. we should be so lucky.

Click to see other Sepia Saturday posts

An “At Home” In Honor of Chicago Visitors

"At Home Eliza's descendents"
Hosts and guests posed for photograph. My mother, Doris Graham is the first on the far left. Her sister Mary V. is second from the right. Publisher James McCall is right in the middle.
"At Home Eliza's Descendants verso"
Verso of Photograph
From the Detroit Tribune

“This is not the picture of a family reunion, although all in the group, with the exception of one intimate friend, are relatives who stood in the receiving line or assisted otherwise at the “At Home” given Monday evening, December 26 from 6 to 9 o’clock, at the McCall’s residence on Parker avenue, the affair was in honor of Dr. and Mrs. Joseph H. Howard, of Chicago, brother and sister of Mr. and Mrs. J. E. McCall and Mrs Robert F. Johnson, a sister, greeted guests at the door, while Miss Mary Virginia Graham, a cousin, acted as registrar. Mrs. Moses L. Walker, a sister, introduced the guests to the host and hostess, who in turn presented them to others in the receiving line – Dr. and Mrs. Howard, the honorees; Miss Victoria McCall, daughter; Miss Louise McCall, niece, of Chicago; and Miss Mignon Walker, also a niece. Mrs. William Hawthorn, a friend of the family, presided at the punch bowl, assisted by Miss Doris Graham, a cousin of the McCalls; and Miss Margaret McCall, a daughter. At the close of the reception, the principals and assistants stood together and were snapped by the camera. They are left to right: Doris Graham, Mignon Walker, Louise McCall, Victoria McCall, Dr. and Mrs J. E. McCall, Mrs. M. I. Walker, ( not named was Margaret McCall) Mrs R. F. Johnson, Mary Virginia Graham and Mrs. William Blackburn.”

The Detroit Tribune, Detroit, Michigan 31 Dec 1938, Sat  •  Page 5

The Detroit Tribune was published by James E. McCall and his wife, Margaret Walker McCall. He was also a poet and had lost his sight while attending college after having typhoid fever.

The links below take you to more information about various people in the photograph.

Victoria McCall interviews Eleanor Roosevelt in 1945
1940 Census – James and Margaret McCall and Family
James Edward McCall, Poet and Publisher 1880 – 1963
Interview With Mignon Walker Brown & 3 Hats
Otillia McCall Howard
Louise and Ronnie
Mary Virginia Graham – Social Reporter
Doris Graham, High School Senior – 1940
F – FAMILY, MY GRAHAMS in the 1920 Census
My Mother in the News

Click photo for more Sepia Saturday photos!

The Cleages at home

My paternal grandparents Albert and Pearl (Reed) Cleage. Youngest daughter Anna in the background.

Albert and Pearl Cleage at home. This was a tiny photo, probably cut from a proof sheet my grandparents doesn’t have the best exposure.It was taken in the house on Scotten Avenue in Detroit, in the mid 1930s.

Anna Cleage with groceries and ice cream.

Here is a better photo of youngest daughter Anna holding a bag of groceries and eating an ice cream cone on her way into the house when one of her brothers stopped her to take a photo. I bet they didn’t offer to carry that bag in though.

Click above for more photos of couples with children or anything really.

W – Window on My Turners

This is my ninth year of blogging the A to Z Challenge. Everyday I will share something about my family’s life during 1950. This was a year that the USA federal census was taken and the first one that I appear in. At the end of each post I will share a book from my childhood collection. Click on any image to enlarge in another window.

Earlier pictures of my great grandmother and her daughters Daisy and Alice.
1949 Thanksgiving at Grandmother Turner’s. The Detroit Tribune, Dec 3, 1949. Just a few weeks from 1950! Click to Enlarge.

“Three generations were present at the festive board of Mrs. Jennie Turner on Harding ave. A delicious Thanksgiving dinner was served, which Mrs. Turner who has been an invalid for several years, enjoyed in her wheel chair, while surrounded by her daughters, Misses Daisy and Alice Turner, and her daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. M. C. Graham; granddaughter and son, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Elkins, and their two children, and Mrs. Turner’s sister, Mrs. A. Brown.”

Actually Four generations were present – my great grandmother Jennie Turner and her sister Abbie (who is enumerated with her niece Fannie), her daughters (which included my grandmother), my aunt Mary V and her daughters DD and Barbara. Since my mother Doris and her family (including me) were in still living in Springfield, Mass, and missed this dinner.

Census Sheet from 1950 Census Archives. Some people were asked extra questions. The red line leads from those family members to the extras. Click to enlarge.

Looking at the census we see that all three members of my great grandmother’s household were born in Alabama and were enumerated as Negro. They lived in an integrated neighborhood on Detroit’s east side. Neither Daisy or Alice had ever been married.

Jennie V. Turner was listed as the head of the household. She was 81 years old and unable to work. Not surprising since she was 81 years old and in a wheelchair. She was a widow and had been for decades.

Daisy P. Turner is the only member of the family working outside of the home. She was 58 years old and worked at a fur store as a layaway clerk. The fur store was Annis Furs in downtown Detroit. Daisy had worked 48 hours in the past week and 52 weeks in the past year. Obviously Annis Furs was not a union store. She filled out the extra questions so we see more information. She completed 12th grade and earned $2,300 from her job and $482 from other sources.

Alice Turner was 37 years old. She did not work outside of the home and took care of her mother and the house.

Other posts about the Turners

A link to some historic photos of Annis Furs

Daisy Turner Dead at 70 Has links to other posts about Daisy
Jennie Turner – my mother’s memories of her grandmother
Memories of Alice – 5 Family Members Remember Alice Turner

Three Mice and a Cat

J – June Visit to Detroit

This is my ninth year of blogging the A to Z Challenge. Everyday I will share something about my family’s life during 1950. This was a year that the USA federal census was taken and the first one that I appear in. At the end of each post I will share a book from my childhood collection.

In June we visited our grandparents and cousins in Detroit. I remember a train trip, perhaps on this trip. There was bacon and being car sick. The only Cleage cousin born at that point, Warren Evans, was living in another state, so we didn’t see him, but we saw the Elkins! And all the grandparents. I wish I had a photograph of my Cleage grandparents on that trip. After reading my C – Cleage post, I realized we probably went in May to attend my Aunt Barbara Cleage’s wedding.

We visited my mother’s parents, the Grahams, on the near east side of Detroit where we played with our cousins in the backyard.

Barbara Elkins on our grandfather Mershell Graham’s lap, Kristin Cleage (with doll), Dee Dee Elkins, our grandmother Fannie Graham. In the backyard.
Barbara looking like she wants to sit in the wagon too. Pearl pointing at ?
In the wagon, Pearl Cleage (17 months) and Barbara Elkins (2). Standing in the back Kris (3) with her doll and Dee Dee (6).
Kristin, Dee Dee and Barbara making mud cakes, my grandmother wrote on the back. Pearl napping

We also visiting my father’s parents, our Cleage grandparents, on the West Side of Detroit. I am still holding that doll. Who crocheted that dress, I wonder. Was it a gift when I arrived or did I bring it with me? We look like we are ready for church. I remember that purse. It was a miniature version of the purse the church secretary had. Brown leather with a little gold clasp.

Pearl and Kris. With dolls.
Me perhaps after church, holding the doll.
The Tale of Jeremy Gay. At the end of the book there was a flap that was a door. When you opened it there was a friend for Jeremy Gray. There was supposed to be a photo of the child who owned the book pasted in there. In my case, the friend remained the drawing in that space.

E – Elkins

This is my ninth year of blogging the A to Z Challenge. Everyday I will share something about my family’s life during 1950. This was a year that the USA federal census was taken and the first one that I appear in. At the end of each post I will share a book from my childhood collection. Click all images to enlarge.

The Elkins Family in 1949. Frank, Dee Dee, Mary V. holding Barbara. In Mary V’s parent’s (Mershell and Fannie Graham) backyard.

My Cousin Dee Dee Elkins McNeil Remembers 1950

Mr. Jackson, Dee Dee Elkins and Janet Milben 1951. Mr. Jackson and his wife also lived in the 4 family flat.

I was born in 1943 and we lived on the corner of McDougall and Hunt Street on the East Side of Detroit, just South of Charlevoix. It was a 4-family flat. We lived upstairs. Mom worked at the County Building as a secretary. Daddy was an independent Electrician with a truck that had Elkins Electric Company painted on the side.

Elaine & Eleanor Millben were twins who lived in the same four-family flat. We lived upstairs on the left-hand side and they lived downstairs on the right-hand side.They used to baby-sit me. We called their mom Aunt Cecil and their dad Uncle Lorn. They had an older brother “Larry” and a younger sister “Janet” who was my best friend for many years. We were born just months apart and rolled in the same baby buggy that Aunt Cecil used for the twins. We’ve all remained friends over the years to present.

2640 – 2644 McDougall on Goggle today.

I also witnessed a big plane crash that happened in Detroit when we lived on McDougall. Three small planes came down just a few blocks from our house. I watched them crash to the ground. Mary V. was hollering at me to get up on the porch, cuz it looked like one of those planes was coming down right on our house. It was a scary moment. A flying instructor and his students ran into each other. As I recall, one plane crashed into a commercial building on Charlevoix, one crashed into a house and another one crashed into a school yard. (Note: I remember hearing about that crash. I was not quite three, but remember looking up at planes when they passed overhead for a long time afterwards.)

The crash site was 0.2 miles from the Elkins home at 2640 McDougal

Daddy also was in business with Aunt Maude and co-owner of MMM Shrimp Hut (Triple M short for Maude Mazique Miller). They opened later on and I used to be a waitress at that restaurant in the summer. I think I was twelve at the time, so that had to be in the mid-fifties. The MMM Shrimp Hut was on Warren Avenue on the East side. I think we moved from McDougall to 2034 Calvert Street around 1950, going to the West side of Detroit (between 12th and 14th Streets). I think one of those streets was renamed for Martin Luther King Jr many years later. Daddy had a storefront business for Elkins Electric Co on the East Side. I think it was on Warren Avenue also near John R.

I drove back to the McDougall residence the last time I was in town. It looks a lot different now. It used to have a black, wrought-iron fence around it.

Looking in the Census

Census Sheet from 1950 Census Archives. Some people were asked extra questions. The red line leads from those family members to the extras. Janet Millben appears right above the Elkins family. The Jackson’s were not at home. Click to enlarge.

The family lived at 2644 McDougall in Detroit, Michigan, where they had also lived the previous year. Frank L. Elkins was listed as head. He was 30 years old and married. He and everybody in the household was Negro and had been born in Michigan. Frank worked 60 hours a week as the proprietor or his electrical contracting company. He earned about $2,000 in the past year.

Mary V. was listed as the wife of Frank. She was also 30 years old. She had been a housewife during the past year and not worked outside of the house. Her hours were unrecorded. She answered the extra questions given to certain numbers on the census roll. We find she had attended two years of business college and that her parents were born in the United States.

Doris D. was six years old and Barbara was two.

The Saggy Baggy Elephant

I really wanted to find a book about the tooth fairy that I remember looking at when we visited Dee Dee and Barbara. Unfortunately, I don’t know the title of the book and so can’t find it online. Maybe Dee Dee will read this and remember!

Barbara at Cleage Printers

Barbara Cleage Martin at Cleage Printers

I can’t see what Barbara is doing here as she gets the copy ready to photograph and print.

You can read more about Cleage Printers and my Aunt Barbara in these posts

Cleage Printers.
B is for Barbara Cleaage
Person of the Month – Barbara Pearl Cleage Martin
My Aunt Barbara Colorized
Celebrating my Aunt Barbara’s 90th Birthday
The Afram River and Freedom School 1964 including an article written by my Aunt Barbara, who was married to Mr. Smith at that time so signed the article as Barbara Smith. This was during the time of the photograph above was taken.

Sepia Saturday 606 : Office Worker – Click to see more Sepia Saturday posts

It has been a long time since I participated in Sepia Saturday. When I saw the prompt photo, I immediately thought of the photo I featured today.

The Cleages in the 1930s

The Cleage family about 1930 in front of their house on Scotten. From L to R Henry, Louis, (My grandmother) Pearl, Barbara, Hugh, Gladys, Anna, Albert Jr (My father) and (My grandfather) Albert Sr.

The 1930 Census

Dated April 2, 1930

In 1930 the Cleage family lived on the Old West Side in Detroit, Michigan. In this neighborhood everybody was identified as Neg(ro) in the 1930 Census.

The trickle of Black people living outside of Black Bottom would grow exponentially in the decade following the Sweet trials. By the late 1930s, middle class African Americans are firmly ensconced in four other neighborhoods in Detroit:

Paradise Valley – the business and entertainment district north of Black Bottom in the area now occupied by Ford Field, Comerica Park, 36th District Court and the Chrysler Freeway

Conant Gardens – the northeast neighborhood between Conant & Ryan (west and east) and 7 Mile & Nevada (north and south),

The North End – the neighborhood situated Woodward (west), the city of Hamtramck (east) E. Grand Boulevard (south) and the city of Highland Park (north),

And the Old Westside – bounded by Grand River (East), Buchanan (South), Tireman (North) & Epworth (West).

However, those 4 neighborhoods primarily opened up for middle class Black Detroiters.” 

A Mighty Long Way: How Black People Moved In & Out and Around Detroit

On the enumeration sheet with the Albert and Pearl Cleage family were 50 people in six houses in seven households. Five had a few lodgers, five had extended family members – sibling, parents, cousins. All seven had radios. All of the houses were owned by people living there. One of the houses had another family renting part of their house.

There were 34 adults on the page. 30 of them had been born in the south.  One was born in Canada, one was born in Iowa and two were born in Michigan. They are all literate.  Three of the men were vets of World War 1. Ten were not vets. One of the men was an employeer. He was a contractor. Two worked on their own account, a barber and my grandfather, a physician . Eighteen people worked for wages.  Five women worked outside of the home. Three were married, one was divorced and one was single.

All of the children under 18 were born in Michigan. There were two eighteen year olds. One was born in Michigan and one was born in Alabama.  All of the school age children, including the two eighteen year olds, were attending school. 

Fifty people in the six houses on this enumeration sheet.
These are the houses where the families enumerated on this Census sheet lived.

The Albert and Pearl Cleage Family

My grandparent’s parents, my great grandparents, were born into slavery.  My grandfather was born in 1883 in Louden Tennessee. He was 46 when the 1930 census was taken. He was a physician working on his own account, that is he had his own office at 4224 McGraw, which was some blocks from the house.  He and Pearl Reed had married when he was 27.   Although it says Pearl was 21 when they married, she was actually 26.  She was born in Kentucky and did not work outside of the home.

They had seven children and all were still living at home and attending school. My father, Albert B. Cleage Jr. was the oldest and had been born in Indianapolis. He was eighteen. He had graduated from Northwestern High School in 1929 and was attending what is now Wayne State University.

Louis was sixteen and attended Northwestern High School.  Henry was fourteen and also at McMichael Junior High or Northwestern. Hugh was eleven and probably still at Wingert Elementary school. Barbara was nine, Gladys was seven and Anna was five. All three would have been attending Wingert Elementary. Anna was in kindergarten and only attended half a day.

Albert’s mother, Anna Celia Sherman lived with them and is listed as 76. She was born in Tennessee.  She died the following month after suffering a stroke. Her body was taken back to Athens for burial.

Two of Albert’s brothers lived in Detroit in 1930. One, Jake, lived several blocks from the house on Scotten. The other, Henry, lived further away although by 1940 he was in the neighborhood too.

The Cleages through the 1930s with news of the day

Cleage Posts from the 1930s

Scotten, Detroit – Paternal grandparents 1919 – 1948
Dr. Cleage Made City Physician – 1930 Detroit, MI
Uncle Hugh with friends George and Paul Payne
Celia’s Death Certificate – 1930
On the way to bury their mother… June 1930
James Cleage 1870 – 1933
Northwestern High School & Cleage Graduates – 1931-1939
Trying for shadows in this also? 1930s
Albert and Pearl Cleage late 1930s
Henry’s Journal 1936
Henry’s Diary Part 2 – 1936
Follow up on Henry’s Diary 1936
4 Men In Hats On Ice 1936
The Cleage Sisters at Home about 1937
Looking Over the Fence 1937
Mary Virginia Graham – Social Reporter – 1937
Albert B. Cleage Jr – Album Page – 1938
Grandmother Pearl Reed Cleage
Dr. & Mrs. Cleage Speak on Preventing Juvenile Delinquency – 1938
Thanksgiving 1939 – speaking at Plymouth Congregational Church
Where is Gladys?  – 1939
Hugh Fishing At the Meadows 1939
‘Rocco, Smitty – Getting a ticket for fishing! – 1939
Thanksgiving 1939

The Grahams in the 1930s

Fannie’s mother Jennie Virginia Turner, Mary Virginia, Fannie, Doris. In back Howard and father Mershell Graham.

My grandfather Mershell C Graham was the son of Mary Jackson Graham who we saw auctioned off with her family after the death of slave holder Crawford Motley Jackson in 1860. We move forward 70 years to 1930 and see what the life of the Graham family was like during that decade. Click on any image to enlarge in another window.


The decade began with the Graham’s living in the house at 6638 Theodore where they had been for almost seven years. There were five family members – Mershell (42), Fannie (40), Mary Virginia (10), Doris(7) and Howard(almost 2). They owned their home which was valued at $8,000. They owned at least one radio. Everyone was identified as Neg(ro). Mershell and Fannie had been married ten years.

Both Mershell and Fannie had been born in Alabama, as had their parents. They were 32 and 30 when they married. Both were literate. The children were all born in Michigan. The two oldest girls attended school. Howard was too young.

Mershell was working as a stock keeper in an auto factory for wages. He had been at work the day before the census taker came to the house. He was a citizen and not a veteran. Fannie had not worked outside of the home in the past year.

There were 50 names on this census sheet. Aside from the Jordan family who lived next door to the Grahams, everyone on the page was white, a number having been born in other countries. None of the males on this census sheet had served in the armed forces. All of the school age children were attending school. Three men were unemployed. One of the married women worked outside of the home as a laundress.. There were three widows. One was 70 years old, lived with her son and did not work outside the home. One worked as a servant and one as a laundress. Both for private families. One single daughter worked as a telephone operator. One single sister-in-law worked as a “janitress” in a steel factory. All of the adults were literate. One household Had spoken Polish and one German & French, before coming to the United States. Fifteen people were born in Michigan. Others were born in Canada, Ohio, Scotland, Poland, Pennsylvania, England, Missouri, Washington, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Alabama and Switzerland.

These statistics only include the people on the enumeration page. Not all of the people on the map below were included on the same page as my family.

My grandparent’s block.
As now there are so many things are happening in the outside world while we live our lives, so it was for the Grahams in the 1930s.

Posts for the Grahams during the 1930s
Mershell Graham’s Notebook – 1930s
Home Library 1931
Sisters and Dogs – 1932
Howard Alexander Graham Death Certificate – 1932
One Hundred and One Famous Poems 1933
Sisters 1933
13 Years Old, Mary Virginia Graham 1934
Going out 1937
Mary Virginia Graham – Social Reporter 1937
1937 Christmas Activities
My Social Butterflies – 1911 & 1937
The Social Sixteen 1937-1938
My Mother in the News 1937-1940
Mary Virginia Graham Colorized – 1938
Family Group – 1939
My Mother Smiling in a Hat – 1939
Thanksgiving 1939
Marian Anderson in Detroit, 1939