Category Archives: Family History Writing Challenge

4315 Third Avenue, Detroit – 1966

 This is the 18th post in the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.   I am doing four  posts about some of the places  that I didn’t cover in the Alphabet Challenge last year. Today I am going to remember 4315 Third Avenue, Detroit, where my husband, Jim, lived for several years while I was a student.

Jim’s apartment was right before the sign that says “BAR” on the right.

When I met Jim in 1966, he was sharing a flat near Wayne State University’s campus with Eizo.  Eizo was slightly older than we were, taught math at WSU and was an artist. He was a Japanese American who had spent part of his childhood in a concentration camp during WW2.  Jim and Eizo met when they were both members of the Congress Of Racial Equality. They organized tenant strikes and demonstrations against absentee, ghetto landlords. The store front downstairs was empty. One of Jim’s friends, Cebie, an art student and friend from Missouri, lived in the basement for awhile before he moved out and  into the Artist’s Workshop.

The flat on Third  in 2004. A religious group has a mission for addicts there now. It looked a lot less spiffy in 1966.

One Friday, Jim asked me to go to a party with him but first he had to go do a radio play he was working on. We went to his flat and he left me there while he went for an hour to practice.  This was the first time I had been there. When the phone rang I was afraid to answer it, not only because it wasn’t my place, but because I was half sure my mother knew I was there and was calling to fuss.  It actually was Jim trying to call and tell me it was going to take longer than he thought.

As I was waiting night came and his roommate, Eizo, came home and asked if I was waiting for Jim or Bernard.  Bernard? I didn’t know who Bernard was. While we waited for Jim to return he showed me his drawings.  I said they reminded me of Cuba.  He asked if I’d been to Cuba and I had to admit I hadn’t.  I had just spent my high school years reading about and dreaming about it. His drawings were of California.

That summer, I worked at the Center for Applied Science and Technology. It was several blocks from Jim’s flat. Every morning before work I went by his house and everyday after work we would meet either at the student center in Mackienzie Hall and play chess or sit around the snack bar or at the Montieth Center, an old house that served as classrooms for Montieth College and also had a mimeograph machine and a lounge area. A friend of ours and fellow member of the African American’s Action Committee was the person in charge for the summer.  We published A Happenin’ using their equipment.

The back porch. There used to be piles of newspapers out there.

I remember standing at the back door watching the kids come home from the swimming pool at the rec center down the street and the winos looking through the bottles in the alley for one that still had a sip in it.  And the man in the apartment across the alley practicing the trumpet, badly.

I remember the colorfully painted wall over the kitchen table  and the squash left in the oven way too long. I can see the room full of television sets in the little room with the skylight, that Jim was going to repair.

On August 30 I turned twenty.  That evening I was at Jim’s, he had once again invited me out to a party. There were other people there too, five or six.  After awhile he told me that he had planned to give me a surprise birthday party but not enough people had come.  We sat around and talked for a bit and then all went to another party.

At the beginning of September there was a trip to New York planned. Several people were driving over for something. I wanted to go but my parents said absolutely not. Jim went and the people he was riding with had car trouble and he ended up stranded there.  I don’t remember how he got back but I do remember I was waiting and waiting for him to get home. I was at his flat and his friend, Cebie was there. While we were waiting, Cebie made some mashed potatoes and we ate them with olive oil instead of butter.  Finally Jim called and he had gone straight to the AAAC meeting without coming home first.

In the fall of 1966 Eizo moved out and got another place where he didn’t have to be surrounded by Jim’s bizarre friends. Not including me, of course.  At that point Jim moved in some of Cebie’s cousins who, he says, were Robitussin addicts. They worked in downtown hotels.  After they moved in, I stopped going by. Eventually Jim resorted to drastic measures to get them to move out – he stopped paying the heating bill. By that time it was November in Detroit and cold. One night he decided to build a fire in a trash can to heat the place up. Amazingly, it didn’t burn to the ground but there was so much smoke that he coughed his way outside. He made it across the freeway to the student housing at the edge of the Jefferies projects and found refuge with a couple of student sisters.   That takes us to a whole different chapter of the story that we won’t be covering here.

Poor Pete and PJ

small-pet-turtle-01This is the 16th post in the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing ChallengeToday’s prompt includes a turtle tortoise.  None the less, I am going to write about my experience with turtles. My sister and I owned several turtles when we were growing up. We always named them PJ and Pete and they always got soft shells and died.  They lived in a little plastic turtle scape much like this one.  We added small, colorful rocks to the bottom. Turtle12

Their bowl sat on top of our bookcase in the bedroom. The room was bright but there wasn’t any direct sunshine there.  The turtles were fed a diet of dried food that came in an orange little container. Sometimes we supplemented it with a fly we caught, or some lettuce. As the shells began to go soft, we would try to get them to drink some cod liver oil and moved their island home into the sunlight. All to no avail.  They all died.  I don’t remember any turtle funerals but there might have been at least one. Perhaps my sister will remember. Pearl says, yes we did bury some of them. I don’t remember being upset, or even minding, when they died.

Our mother didn’t want any real large pets, like cats or dogs, because nobody was home during the day. Maybe because both of her childhood dogs died rather sad deaths too. She was happy to buy us fish and turtles. I think the turtles replaced the fish because it was easier to keep their habitat clean.  Once my sister and I took them out on the porch for a walk with strings tied around their shells. Not a big success.

I have since learned that turtles are salmonella carriers. Luckily we never had that problem.  My children never had turtles for pets but my husband used to find turtles trying to cross the road and bring them home for them to see before releasing them into the nearby woods or lake. After writing this, I have to wonder if they were disoriented from being moved like this. In fact, this whole thing sounds like the torture of turtles.

Pearl and Kristin pretending to race on the upper front porch. Notice the well kept houses in the background.
My sister Pearl and I pretending to race on the upper front porch of the flat on Calvert. This was the house  and the ages we were when we had turtles.
To see more turtles and other stuff, CLICK!

To read more about living on Calvert  go to “C” Is For Calvert.

What happened to cousin Dale?

This is the 15th post in the February Photo Collage Festival, and the last post of five that will answer the question someone asked when I posted this photograph (follow the link to see it) – What happened to these kids?  Today is the turn of cousin Dale Evans. This is the hardest of the five posts to write because I really don’t know what happened to Dale. I know that for some years he was out in California acting on TV, in the soaps I think.  I’ve heard that he did promotions for events, like beauty contests and talent shows. He was making and selling crafts for awhile. He has a tendency to show up once in awhile and then disappear again for years at a time. I hope all is well with him.

Dale in 1958 and 2012.

This post ends the series on cousins then and now. I decided not to include myself since you can read many posts on this blog and find out my story.

What Has Pearl Cleage Been doing since 1958?

pearl_writingThis is the 11th post in the February Photo Collage Festival, and the first post of six that will answer the question someone asked when I posted this photograph (follow the link to see it) – What happened to these kids?  I will be starting with my sister, Pearl Cleage.  She became a writer. Pearl just completed another book which will be out not too far in the future.  Aside from being a Genius and an acclaimed writer she also raised one fabulous daughter and now enjoys four wonderful grandchildren. She is also married to the love of her life, fellow writer Zeke Burnett.  One of her favorite activities is walking on mornings when it’s not raining, with me.  You can listen to an interview with Pearl from several years ago at the bottom of this page.

Pearl in 1957 and now

pearl66-7-2, B-17,

Pearl’s work – plays, stories, novels, non-fiction, poetry.