This year as we begin the 2020s, I decided to go back a hundred years to the 1920s and write about what happened to my family during that decade. My grandparents had settled down to marriage and family and my parents and their siblings were too young to participate in any “roaring” that was going on.
While preparing my posts, I found out several things that I wish I had asked my grandparents about, but strangely never thought to do so. I managed to cover all of the letters in the alphabet and to tie them in with my family in some way. I actually started in February to decide on the words for each letter and to chose photographs. In March I started writing the posts. The plan is to be completely done by the time I post this.
This picture was taken at Belle Isle in 1930, which used to be a city park in the Detroit River and was free to all. It has since been changed to a state park and there is a fee for entry. Howard must have been almost one year old, he had been born the previous September. He seems to be wearing a gown. Mary Vee was ten and Doris was seven.
Time passed and ten years after yesterday’s 1939 Thanksgiving dinner, we find that Jennie Turner is in a wheelchair, having broken her hip in a fall. Her sister, Abbie Allen Brown is in town, the Graham’s are there with their daughter Mary Virginia, her husband and two children.
“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, her daughters (which included my grandmother), my aunt Mary V and her daughters DD and Barbara. My mother Doris and her family (including me) were in still living in Springfield, Mass, and missed this dinner.
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.
Below is a transcribed article from Nov 20, 1937 issue of The Detroit Tribune. The clipping is below.
“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.
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 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.”
“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 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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”