Plymouth Congregational Church was the church that my mother’s family attended. Her father, my grandfather Mershell C. Graham was one of the founders. Later my Cleages were also active in the youth group with my father being the youth leader.
What was happening with my family in 1937? My mother Doris Graham (age 14) and her sister Mary Vee (age 17) both attended Eastern high school. My father Albert B. Cleage, attended attended Wayne State University.
Although none of my family members were mentioned in the article, I’m sure my grandparents were participants with their church groups and that the family attended.
Bazaar Sponsored At Plymouth Church A Great Success
The bazaar recently held at Plymouth Congregational Church was a huge success. There were seven booths which were all beautifully decorated in red and green. Color(ed) lights were strung in front of the booths making them very effective. The Sunday School had two sections — the Fish Pond and the Candy Booth. There was a very cute sign hanging in front of the Candy Booth which read “Ye Candy Shoppe.” The sign was made by Lewis Graham. The Crusaders Club had the smock and apron booth, and this looked like a flower garden with it’s beautiful different colored smocks and aprons and the variety of styles. The Go-Getters Club handled the linens which was also very lovely. The Men’s Club operated the Country Store that had everything in it from cider to cookies. The Meridian’s Club took care of all baked goods and Oh such cakes and pies. They really made one’s mouth water. Last but not least was the Fortune-telling Booth which was sponsored by the Junior League. Miss Caroline Plummer and Miss Berney Watkins took charge.
Dinner was served both nights. The first night the menu included spaghetti and wieners and plenty of soft drinks. The second night the menu included a delicious turkey dinner. Both dinners were served by the ladies of the Missionary Union.
On Friday night Mrs. Le Claire Knox’s dancing class entertained. These numbers were enjoyed by all because these little girls can certainly dance.
On the whole the bazaar was enjoyed by all who attended.
My great grandmother, Jennie Virginia Allen, was born October 1, 1866 in Montgomery Alabama, seven months after the end of the Civil War and the ratification of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. She was the forth child of formerly enslaved Eliza and Dock Allen. Her mother was a seamstress and her father was a carpenter. The girls were taught the seamstress trade while the boys were taught the carpenters trade. She married Howard Turner in 1887 when she was 20 and Howard was 23. My grandmother Fannie was born the following year. According to the 1940 Census she completed the sixth grade.
Below are my mother’s memories of her grandmother.
Memories of grandmother
By Doris Graham Cleage
Today I’m going to write about Grandmother. Grandmother Turner was born about 1872, nine years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Don’t know if she finished high school – but she did go. Her mother taught her to sew and it was a good thing she did because grandmother worked the rest of her life supporting herself and her children at sewing. That is, she worked after husband Howard Turner died. They married when she was about sixteen. Don’t know his age. He looked something like grandmother’s father and also like my father, mother said. He was a farmer’s son from around Hayneville, AL, but he preferred the big city – Montgomery. His father had three sons and planned to give each one a large share of the farm when they married. Howard and Jenny received their farm, but neither one liked the country. One day they were in Montgomery. He was at a Bar-B-Q. She was at her parents with their daughters, Fannie Mae, 4, and Daisy Pearl, 2. someone brought word that he had been shot dead. Apparently no one ever knew who did it, but mother always said grandmother thought his father had it done because he was angry that Howard would not farm and had even been talking about selling his part. The father did not want the land sold, but wanted it to stay in the family forever. (Bless his heart!). He and the son had had some terrible arguments before they left to come to the Bar-B-Q. I often wondered why he was there and grandmother wasn’t. She always seemed to like a good time.
I remember her laughing and singing and dancing around the house on Theodore. She was short, about five feet I guess, with brown eyes, thin dark brown hair that she wore in a knot. She was very energetic, always walking fast. She always wore oxfords, often on the wrong feet, and never had time to change them. We used to love to tell her that her shoes were on the wrong feet. (smart kids!)
She never did things with us like read to us or play with us, but she made us little dresses. I remember two in particular she made me that I especially liked. My “candy-striped” dress – a red white and blue small print percale. She put a small pleated ruffle around the collar and a larger one around the bottom. I was about five, I guess, and I really thought I was cool! The other favorite was an “ensemble” – thin, pale green material with a small printed blue green and red flower in it – just a straight sleeveless dress with neck and sleeves piped in navy blue – and a three – quarter length coat of the same material – also straight -with long sleeves and lapels – also piped in navy blue. She never used a pattern. Saw something and made it! She taught us some embroidery, which she did beautifully but not often. She never fussed at us – never criticized – and I think she rocked me in the upstairs hall on Theodore when I was little and sick. The rocker Daddy made stood in that hall. I remember lots of people rocking in that chair when I was small.
Grandmother went to work when her husband was murdered – sewing for white folks – out all day fitting and sewing – and sewing all night – finishing while mother and Daisy stayed with their Grandfather Allen, who would tell on them when Grandmother came home and she would spank them. Mother said she remembered telling Daisy to holler loudly so Grandmother wouldn’t spank them hard or long and it worked!
Grandmother stayed single until she was about 37 or 38 when she married someone Mother hated – looked Italian, hardly ever worked. Liked a good time. Fathered Alice and left when she was very small. Somehow when mother spoke of him I had the feeling he would have like to have taken advantage of her. She was about 20 and had given up two college scholarships to stay and help Grandmother.
Sometimes after her husband’s death, Grandmother took the deed to the farm to a white lawyer. (was there any other kind?) and told him to sell it for her. He went to see it and check it out – told her to forget it – her title wasn’t clear, but he never gave the deed back and she figured he made a deal with her father-in-law. (The rest of the land story.)
Aunt Abbie (note: Jennie’s sister) said the father-in-law built Grandmother and Howard a “shotgun” house on the farm. She would turn up her nose as she said it. You know that is a house like this – no doors on front or back, you could shoot a gun through hall without damage. Animals (pigs, dogs) would wander into the hall and have to be driven out. Aunt Abbie only stayed there when the plague was raging in Montgomery. Yellow fever (malaria) and/or polio every summer. Many people sick or dying. Huge bonfires in the streets every night to ‘purify’ the air”, and closing the city if it got bad enough – no one in or out. More than once they fled the city in a carriage through back streets and swamps because they were caught by the closing which was done suddenly to keep folks from leaving and spreading the “plague”
In Detroit, when they came in 1923 when Mother and Daddy had bought the house on Theodore and had room for them (room? only 5 adults and 3 children!) Grandmother, Daisy and Alice got good jobs, (they were good – sewing fur coats, clean work and good pay.) at Annis Furs (remember it back of Hudsons?) and soon had money to buy their own house much farther east on a “nice” street in a “better ” neighborhood (no factories) on Harding Ave. While they lived with us I remember violent arguments between Alice and I don’t know who – either Grandmother or Daisy or Mother. Certainly not Daddy because when he spoke it was like who in the Bible who said, “When I say go, they goeth. When I say come, they cometh.” Most of the time I remember him in the basement, the backyard or presiding at table. Daisy and grandmother were what we’d call talkers.
Grandmother got old, hurt her knee, it never healed properly. Daisy worked and supported the house alone. Alice only worked a little while. She had problems getting along with people. Grandmother was eventually senile. Died of a stroke at 83 or so. Alice spent years taking care of her while Daisy worked. Daisy added to their income by being head numbers writer at Annis!!
I got this from Wikipedia about playing the numbers. “The numbers game, also known as the numbers racket, the policy racket, the Italian lottery, the policy game, or the daily number, is a form of illegal gambling or illegal lottery played mostly in poor and working class neighborhoods in the United States, wherein a bettor attempts to pick three digits to match those that will be randomly drawn the following day. In recent years, the “number” would be the last three digits of “the handle”, the amount race track bettors placed on race day at a major racetrack, published in racing journals and major newspapers in New York.
Gamblers place bets with a bookmaker (“bookie”) at a tavern, bar, barber shop, social club, or any other semi-private place that acts as an illegal betting parlor. Runners carry the money and betting slips between the betting parlors and the headquarters, called a numbers bank or policy bank. The name “policy” is based on the similarity to cheap insurance, which is also a gamble on the future.”
I think the numbers writer – Daisy in this case, would take the bets in the store (the numbers people picked and their bet money) and pass them along to the numbers runner, who would take them to the center. She would get a cut.
The next year we see my great grandmother Jennie Allen Turner standing with her daughters, Daisy on the left and my grandmother Fannie on the right, outside of the fence surrounding my grandparent’s backyard.
And because it is Thanksgiving week here in the U.S.A., I include a clipping from 1939 of my great grandmother hosting a dinner with her daughters and her granddaughters and her son-in-law, my grandfather.
“On Harding Avenue, Mrs. Jeannie Turner bade the members of her family to dine with her. At the table were her daughters, Misses Daisy and Alice Turner; Mr. and Mrs. M.C. Graham, and her granddaughters, Misses Mary Virginia and Doris Graham.”
In 1948 I was almost two years old and I lived in Springfield, Massachusetts. My family had an ice box. The ice cost $2 a week and was delivered daily. I don’t actually remember ice being delivered by horse wagon, but that’s how it worked. Ice came in blocks 25, 50, 75 0r 100 pounds, depending on the size of your ice box. We were a bit behind the average because by 1944 85% of households in the USA owned a refrigerator.
According to an online article, the ice rested on a metal corrugated shelf which allowed for the ice to melt with the water passing through a tube in the bottom of the compartment to a flat pan located under the icebox to catch the water. Some finer models had spigots for draining ice water from a catch pan or holding tank. People would lift the bottom flap, empty the water pan, and replace the pan for the next day’s use.
That summer, we spent three week visiting family in Detroit. While there discussion took place between my paternal grandparents and my parents about purchasing an electric refrigerator to replace our ice box in Springfield.
When we had returned home to Springfield, my mother and I went downtown to Steigers Department store and bought an electric refrigerator on time. Below is a letter she wrote to my paternal grandparents about the purchase. It is transcribed below the image.
July 17, 1948
Well – Kris and I went down to Steigers and bought the refridgerator yestereday- to the tune of $315.00! Can you imagine? I had been thinking in terms of $200! It is a G.E. De Luxe 8 ft. (medium size) and is certainly beautiful. They also had a Philco – same size – same everything – but only $277.00. I sort of favored it, but I called Toddy and he said (from the bed of course) “G. E. – period!” So it will be delivered next Wednesday.
The store gave us a ten percent ministers discount of $31.50. Carrying charges came to about $20 – so final price was about $304. Down payment was $56.70 and beginning August we’ll make eighteen monthly payments of $13.80. That should hardly be felt because ice comes to amost $8 a month and I’m sure I’ll save more than $5 on food – to say nothing of convenience and peace of mind!
Kris is completely recovered and she told me yesterday – “That’s the way” – then smiled and said “Gamma.” Then she said “Gamma’s hat” and pointed to her head.” What hat does she remember? The black shiny one at the station? Anyway she looked pleased about it.
Write soon, Doris
In my mind, I can still hear my grandmother Cleage saying “Dat’s de way!” as she did to the littlest ones.
My grandmother Fannie, my grandfather Mershell and my mother Doris. I am standing on the table. I was 22 months old. My mother was about three months pregnant with my little sister Pearl.
That refrigerator was still going strong when I moved out on my own in 1969. When my parents left Detroit in 1975 and moved to a house that had a more modern fridge they left it behind. That new one, I might add, did not last as long as the one my mother bought in 1948.
In November of 1945 my uncle Dr. Louis Cleage participated in an experiment to measure the effect that Billy Eckstine’s singing had on the young women he sang to. He used an electrocardiograph and measured their blood pressures and heart rates while listening to him sing “Jelly, Jelly Blues to them. It turned out that their blood pressure and heart rate rose during the experiment.
The photograph below that accompanied one of the articles in the online archive of the Michigan Chronicle must have been better in the original. Unfortunately, I don’t have an original.
Click to open articles in a different window.
Billy Eckstine’s power to sing and make young women’s hearts beat faster was proven Saturday during an experiment conducted by Dr. Louis J. Cleage in his clinic at 5383 Lovett street. (Photo 1) Shows Billy Eckstine holding hands and crooning to Miss Frances Carter, whose heart reaction is shown before (A) and (B) after he finishes singing. Her blood pressure rose 20 points and her heartbeat increased from 90 to 120. (Photo 2) Miss Louise Lester awaits her turn as Dr. Cleage adjusts his electrocardiograph before she listens to Billy’s singing. Her chart (C) shows a 10 point increase in heartbeats (D). Her blood pressure rose two points. All of which proves that Eckstine does have a definite heart and emotional appeal when he sings to young women. No wonder he is thrilling female admirers at Paradise theatre. For Eckstine can now be called the “heart-throbber.” The experiment is conclusive proof that women listening to him feel an increase in heartbeats. – Photos by Fowler.
Test Proves Eckstine Has Way With Women By Larry Chism
Billy Eckstine, vocalist now appearing at Paradise theatre with his band is a “heart throbber.” This means that his singing does something to the women listening to his songs.
When women listen to Billy sing their hearts beat faster and their blood pressure rises.
Conclusive proof that a singer can make a girl’s heart beat faster and draw from her an emotional response was made Saturday when Dr. Louis J. Cleage used an electrocardiograph to record the reactions of two young women to Billy (heart-throbber) Eckstine’s singing.
The experiment, which proved that swoon singers have a way with the hearts and emotions of women, was conducted at the clinic of doctor Cleage at 5335 Lovett, Saturday morning.
The blood pressure of Miss Louise Lester of West Grand boulevard rose from 130, before Eckstine start singing, to 132 after he had finished singing “Jelly, Jelly Blues” to her. The electrocardiograph recorded an increase in the rate of heart beats from 70 per minute to 80 during the serenade by Eckstine.
The reaction of Miss Frances Carter of 7515 Cameron was more pronounced. Her blood pressure rose from 125 to 145 as she listened to Eckstine’s singing of I’m Falling for You.”
Her rate of heart beat rose from 90 per minute to 120 as the handsome young singer serenaded her. A soothing effect of his singing was recorded after the first tremors of emotion passed following the first few minutes of the singing experiment.
The mere presence of Eckstine in the same room showed a definite reaction on the part of Miss Carter who admits that she is an ardent fan of Eckstine, who can now rightfully and scientifically lay claim to being a “heart-throbber” vocalist.
The experiment was arranged by Milt Herman, publicity director of Paradise theatre.
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:
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.
I didn’t capitalize anything in the journal so I just left it like that.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.