Category Archives: Grahams

Mary Virginia Graham – Social Reporter

In 1937 Mary Virginia, my mother’s older sister, was 17 and a senior at Eastern High School, on East Grand Blvd within walking distance of the house on Theodore Ave. She graduated in June and in September went to Business College where she excelled in typing.

After attending business school, Mary Virginia worked for awhile at her cousin James McCall’s Newspaper, The Detroit Tribune. In 1940, he helped her get a good job typing with the city. She held the job for many years and received a proclamation from the City of Detroit for her service to the city during a Family Reunion when she was in her 80s.

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Below is a transcribed article from Nov 20, 1937 issue of The Detroit Tribune. The clipping is below.

Mary Virginia Graham, 1937

“Now for a bit of “Who Goes Where.” Running true to the Tribune’s policy of giving our young people a chance, we here introduce Miss Mary Virginia Graham of Theodore Street, and this is what Mary Virginia tells us: “There were a number of social gatherings over last weekend, so there was plenty of competition.

“The Beta Mu Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority had a dance at McKenzie Union. St. Matthews had their annual Balloon Dance, the play “Go Down Moses” was presented at Cass Technical High school; an Armistice dance was held in Windsor—this was all held on Friday night so everyone had somewhere to go.

“First of all I’ll start out by telling you who was at the Balloon Dance: Howard and his cute new girlfriend, Jean Johnson; Shirley Turner and “Don Juan” Graham and Charles Hill, Bob Johnson, Bud Elkins, Connie Stowers and Ted “Romeo” Williams, Thomas Askew, Lois Hall, Jeanette Bland, Catherine Redmond, who looked very cute in a red lace gown; Tolula Smith, Allie Mae Harriss, Helen Wilson, Veralee Fisher and Robert Truman, Pete Whittaker, Dorothy Smith, Christine Smoot, Bobbie Douglas, William Patrick, Jr., Walter House, Johnny Roxborough, Harriet Dunn, Bob Coker, Paul Smith, Wendell Turner and Mary E. Elkins, Billy Horner, Elizabeth and oh so many, many others.

“Well, the dance at the Mackenzie Union wasn’t lacking for guests either. Those seen swaying to George Dunbar’s recordings were: Margie Dunbar and her one and only Kermit Bailer; Carolyn Plummer and Toddy Cleage, Alice Stanton and Henry Cleage, Mary V. Graham and Carlyle Johnson, Oscar Hand, Charlotte Watts with Bassett Jones, who seems to be giving the little girl quite a rush; Eddie Donald, Frances Raiford with a very handsome stranger; Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Stanton, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Solomon, Mr. and Mrs. C. Johnson, Marjorie Greenidge, Francess Horner and Billy Russell, Spencer Cary, Lorraine Moss and Albert Wallace, St. Clair Billups, Walter Greene, that wise cracker; Frederick Cain. Theodore Woodson and others too numerous to mention. The Union certainly looks swell after its recent doing over.

“Shirley Turner, Doris Graham, Connie Stowers and M. V. Graham, attended the play “Richard Bordeaux” which was given by the Wayne University players at Wayne last Saturday. The girls reported that the play was put over very well by these student players.

“The Social Sixteen Club is really going places since its organization about 3 months ago. The members give this credit to its president, Miss Doris Graham and its secretary-treasurer, Miss Shirley Turner.”

Thank you, Mary Virginia. You have done well and we invite you to chat with us at another time.

The Detroit Tribune Nov. 20, 1937

The Social Sixteen

I never realized how sociable my mother and other family members of her generation were until I started reading the social items in The Detroit Tribune. I first found this photograph in the family photographs of my mother, (center back row), her sister Mary Vee (seated on the floor), and my father’s sister Barbara seated on the couch to the far right. I also recognized my uncle Bud (Frank Elkins) who later married Mary Vee and a few family friends. I wondered what sociable things they did and when I found the following items in the Tribune, I found out.

No wonder my mother worried that I wasn’t social enough.

"The Social Sixteen"
The Social Sixteen – 1937 – from my family photos.
The Social Sixteen 1937. Howard Tandy, Phyllis Lawson, Shirley Turner, John Roxbourough, Doris Graham, Bob Johnson, Christine Smoot, Bud Elkins, Gladys House, Lewis Graham, Connie Stowers, Burney Watkins, Jean Johnson, Barbara Cleage, Jack Franklin, Mary V . Graham
The Detroit Tribune, January 8, 1938

“The Social Sixteen Club met at the residence of Gladys and Walter House, Monday, Dec. 27. Plans were completed for the club’s New Yea’s Eve swing, which was held on December 31. Following the completion of these plans, members turned their attention to the refreshments and dancing, both of which were enjoyed. Later in the evening, the crowd went out to Bob Johnson’s home on Montclair, where they had a grand time. These young folk included Jean Johnson Howard Tandy, Shirley Turner, Lewis Graham, Bob Douglas, Bud Elkins, Connie Stowers, Jack Franklin, Jack Barthwell, Vee Graham.”

From The Detroit Tribune, March 12, 1938

“Members of the Social Sixteen Club feel that they will have pleasant sailing, under the pilotship of their winsome new president Doris Graham, talented daughter of Mr. and Mrs. M. C. Graham of Theodore avenue. Miss Graham is very popular among the “teen-age” set and is an honor student at Eastern High School.”

The Detroit Tribune, March 12, 1938

“The Social Sixteen Club held its latest meeting at the home of Mrs. Christine Smoot. After the completion of business, a repast was served by the hostess. The next meeting will be held at the residence of Miss Barbara Cleage, on Scotten avenue. At this meeting, they will render a program as follows; vocal solo, Christine Smoot; tap dance, Shirley Turner and Connie Stowers. The newly-elected officers of the club are; Doris Graham, president; Howard Tandy, vice president and corresponding secretary; Bob Johnson, secretary-treasurer.”

Christening of Doris Diane Elkins- 1944

Elkins Family photo- Mary Virginia holding Doris Diana, Frank Elkins .

Another item I found in the Detroit Tribune. My cousin Doris Diane was christened at our great grandmother Turner’s house in 1944.

Fannie and Mershell Graham
Detroit Tribune 1944
Sunday, four generations were represented at the christening of Doris Diane Elkins, the small daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Elkins of McDougall. The ceremony took place at the home of the baby’s maternal great grandmother, Mrs. Jennie Tuner, of Harding avenue. Her paternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. M. C. Graham, also her paternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Elkins, Sr.; her aunts, Misses Daisy and Alice Turner, and Mrs. Elizabeth Roberts were present to witness the event. The baby’s godparents, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Franklin, of Oakland, Calif, sent their godchild a beautiful bonnet for the christening.
Doris Diane wearing her bonnet. 1944.

Baby’s First Photograph – Feb. 9, 1929

“Feb 4, 1929 – Dad snapped Baby and me through dining room sun window. Not very good – sorry as now he has whooping cough? Weather’s been too bad to take him out to have pictures made…”

Baby Howard and Mother Fannie in the window 1929.
1929 Doris and Mary V. and 1951 Barbara and Pearl
Dee Dee, Barbara, Poppy, Pearl and Kris – 1953 & Doris and Mary V. 1929

More about Howard: Howard Alexander Graham’s Death Certificate

For more Sepia Saturday, Click photo!

Family group

Three Generations. Click to enlarge

From Left to right My grandmother, Fannie Mae Turner Graham, peeking over my great grandmother, Jennie Virginia Allen Turner’s, shoulder. My grandmother’s sister Daisy Turner. Behind and between Aunt Daisy and Aunt Alice Turner, is my aunt Mary Virginia Graham Elkins, although she was not yet an Elkins. At the end, behind Alice, is my mother, Doris Graham Cleage, although she was not yet a Cleage either.

Grandmother Turner was 73, about my age. My grandmother was 51. Daisy was 49. Alice was 30. My mother was 16 and her sister was 19.

They are posed in Grandmother Turner’s backyard on the East Side of Detroit at 4536 Harding.  The house is gone now.  They look like they just came from Plymouth Congregational Church, however the photo is dated July 4, 1939 on the back.  July 4 was on a Tuesday that year. My grandfather, Mershell C. Graham took the picture.

Front of Grandmother Turner’s house on Harding Street in Detroit.
Sepia Saturday Click for other Sepia posts

Emma Topp

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 my grandparent’s circle of friends. All of the news items were found on Newspapers.com. Each item is transcribed directly below the clipping.   Click on any image to enlarge.

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After they married in Montgomery, my grandparents relocated to Detroit. They roomed for awhile with the Walkers, who were not blood relatives but related through marriage. Mrs. Emma Topp was also a roomer in the house.

“Mrs. J.W. Topp had a few friends over to meet Mr. and Mrs. M.C. Graham on Saturday evening; Progressive Whist was played after which a delicious two course luncheon and punch were served.”

My grandfather Mershell Graham and Emma Topp in the Walkers yard. 1919.

Mrs. Emma Davis Topp roomed with Moses and Jean Walker after her husband died in 1912. Her husband, John W. Topp had been an engineer. He was a black Canadian who arrived in Detroit at age 17, in 1875.

Mrs. Topp was born in Mississippi and attended school through the 8th grade. She was a dressmaker. By 1930 she had moved to Los Angeles, CA and was living with her cousin and aunt. Mrs. Topp was no longer working and lived with her cousin until her death in 1948.

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Wikipedia says that “Progressive whist, similar to whist, except one suit is declared trumps at the beginning of play, and usually remains so throughout the evening.”

Progressive Whist scoring cards

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I found this information on Ancestry.com in Census Records, Directories, Death Records, Military Records and Marriage Records. The news item was found on Newspapers.com.

Announcement

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 my grandparent’s circle of friends. Each item is transcribed directly below the clipping.   Click on any image to enlarge.

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“Pom, Shell & Fan” My maternal grandparents, Mershell and Fannie (Turner) Graham. August 1919 Detroit, Michigan two months after their marriage.

“Mrs. Jenine Turner Wishes to announce the engagement of her daughter, Fannie Mae, to Mr. Mershell C. Graham, of Detroit, Mich. The Marriage to take place in the spring”

The Wedding – June 1918
Graham-Turner Wedding

On Sunday, June 15th at four o’clock Miss Fannie Turner and Mr. Mershell Graham were happily united in marriage at the home of the bride on E. Grove St. The home was prettily decorated for the occasion.

Just before the entrance of the bridal party, Mr. Lowndes Adams sang a beautiful solo, immediately after which the groom entered the parlor to the strains of Mendelson’s wedding March, with Mr. Clifton Graham, his brother, as best man. The bride entered with her uncle, Mr. V.H. Tulane, who gave her away, gowned in white satin with real lace and pearl bead trimmings the hat, a beautiful creation of white Georgette, the bride made a very pleasing appearance.  She carried a large bouquet of roses and fern.

The home was crowded to its fullest capacity, fully two hundred guests being present which bespoke the esteem and popularity in which the young couple are held.

The presents were many and varied, consisting of silver, cut glass, linen, wearing apparel, money, and many useful household articles.

Rev. E.E. Scott performed the ceremony and Miss Naomi Tulane presided at the piano.

The guests were served delicious refreshments.

The happy couple left Sunday evening for Detroit, Mich., their future home.

Everybody mentioned in these articles will appear in this years challenge, plus a few others.

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I found this information on Ancestry.com in Census Records, Directories, Death Records, Military Records and Marriage Records. News items were found on Newspapers.com. I also use Google Maps. The photograph is from my family photos.

Reports of My Parent’s Wedding

The only things I knew about my parent’s wedding was that my mother wore blue and they were married at Plymouth Congregational Church. My parents separated when I was eight years old and apparently the clippings that my grandmother’s must have saved, disappeared.

When I found an archive for the Detroit Tribune Newspaper, published by my publishing poet cousin James McCall, I was hopeful that I would find an article that described the wedding. And I did! Unfortunately the article is so faded as to be all most blank. To say this was frustrating, is an understatement. The archive is housed at the Library of Congress – Chronicling America.  Maybe one day Newspapers.com will add The Detroit Tribune to their collection and find better copies.

Here are the pieces I found.  The first one, about a before the wedding event.

A before the wedding festivity. My father’s name was Albert B. Cleage. He got the nickname “Toddy” as a toddler and it stuck. The article refers to him as “Todd”.

“Doris Graham is being feted, because Wednesday evening she will say “I do” to Todd Cleage, after which they will go to Lexington, KY. The local chapter of Iota Boule fraternity honored Doris Graham and Todd Cleage Friday night at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Gamble on Willis street. Among those who came with heart loads of good wishes were: Mr. and Mrs. Henderson, Dr. and Mrs. James Moore, Mr. and Mrs. M. Graham, Atty. and Mrs. P. Piper, Dr. Lloyd Bailer, Mr. and Mrs. H.S. Dunbar and their petite daughter Margie, Dr. and Mrs. Peyton Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. Winburn and Dr. and Mrs J.A. Moore and others.”

“These young people composed the bridal party of the Graham-Cleage wedding which was solomnized at Plymouth Congregational Church Wednesday evening, Nov. 17. They are left to right – Mrs. Frank Elkins, Jr. matron of honor; center the bride and groom, the Rev. and Mrs. Albert B. Cleage, and Dr. Louis Cleage, best man.”

The unreadable details of the wedding.

Doris Graham Cleage – 1923 – 1982

My mother would have turned 95 years old today.  She was 59 when she died  in 1982, 32 years ago.  So much has happened since then.  She never saw either of my sons. She hasn’t seen any of her 11 great grandchildren. We were still living in Simpson County, MS.  Since then we’ve lived in Excelsior Spring, MO; Idlewild, MI and back to Atlanta, GA. Computers hadn’t made their way into our lives. Y2K. 9/11.  The 21st Century. Octavia Butler’s books. She would have loved them.  Detroit under siege. Strange weather. Monsanto. Obama. The Gulf War. The War in Iraq. The war in Afghanistan. Drones. Blogging. All the family history I’ve found. The oral history I’ve  proved right. All the questions I still have.

doris Graham Cleage
Individual Information Sheet my mother filled out for herself.
Individual Information Sheet my mother filled out for herself. I had filled out some information that she corrected. I added the death information much later. She filled this out soon after I started collecting in the late 1970s.

You can read more about my mother in these posts:

Growing Up – In Her Own Words
My Mother Was A Teacher
My Mother 1952
Airports and Answers: Some Thoughts on Lighting by Pearl Cleage

Did Poppy Go To The Theatre?

1958 behind the house on Theodore.  L > R Sister Pearl, Kristin (me), Mershell “Poppy”, Aunt Mary V. Cousin Marilyn in the front and Cousin Barbara in the back

While looking for news stories about my ancestors, I came across this little item at newspapers.com. Mershell C. Graham was my maternal grandfather. I do not imagine that he went to the play.  I wonder if he even saw this announcement and how they came to pick him.

Mershell C. Graham
6638 Theodore, Detroit

You have won two free tickets to “Once Upon A Mattress” at the Shubert Theatre. Call Miss Lee at Classified Advertising, The Free {ress, WO 2-9400, extension 13, between 8:30 A.M. and 5:00 P.M. Monday.

The play was an adult version based on the fairy tale, The Princess and The Pea For an over view of the musical, click ->  Once Upon A Mattress.

The Shubert in 1963 – a year before it was demolished.  Photo from the Burton Historical Collection.
The Shubert was demolished in 1964. Photo from the Walter P. Reuther Library
Click to see more Sepia Saturday offerings

Other posts about Mershell C. Graham

Poppy Could Fix Anything
Mershell’s Notebook
Graham Turner Wedding 1919 Montgomery
From Montgomery To Detroit – Founding a New Congregational Church
Poppy The Worker
Poem for Poppy