Category Archives: Houses

“K” is for King Street

This post continues a series using the Alphabet to go through streets that were significant in my life as part of the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge. Click on the link to see links to posts by other participants in this challenge.  It’s too bad the streets in my life weren’t alphabetically and chronologically coordinated because the years are all out of order. Here we go back to the beginning and my first home – 210 King Street.

Past over present. My mother, Doris Graham Cleage, is standing on the proch.

 My father became pastor of St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield Massachusetts in the fall of 1945.  The parsonage at 210 King Street is pictured above. This is the house I came home to when I was born in 1946. I was the first child of Rev. Albert B. Cleage and Doris Graham Cleage. We moved from King street before my sister Pearl was born in December of 1948. I was 2 years old and I don’t have clear memories of the house. I found the description below online.

I was born around 10 PM during a thunderstorm. That’s what I heard.
Me and my mother. Photo by my father.
1947 – on the steps with my mother. What is she holding that I am so excited about?
1948 – I spent a lot of time cooking. This is from the crumpling pages of an album my father kept. He wrote captions on most of the photographs. I have scanned the pages that are left. The photographs are fine but the pages are not.

My father and his congregation were involved in a church fight at this point. A former Minister had separated most of the churches property from the control of the church when he retired. My father and members of the church were trying to get it back or get the church compensated. Before my sister was born, they did sell the Parsonage and we moved into the Parish house. It was right next to the church and we lived in 4 room (plus bathroom) on the first floor, along with church offices, a big meeting room and I don’t know what else. There were roomers on the second floor.  In 1948 they were trying to get $7,500 for the house. Today it is selling for $47,000. From reviews the neighborhood is crime ridden and drug infested so I don’t know if they will get that or if that is a low price for a 100+ year old house in that neighborhood of Springfield.

My parents spent $8 a week for ice before they, with help from my grandparents, were able to purchase a refrigerator.

My mother describes the purchase of the new GE refrigerator in a letter to her in-laws below. She says that I am completely recovered. In an earlier letter she described my bout with roseola.

I don’t know if these are the refrigerators my mother and I saw that day in 1948 but they were both 1948 models. The one I remember had one door, like the Philco.








The refrigerator was still working fine in 1962. My mother standing in front of it 14 years later.

“F” is for Fairfield

This post continues a series using the Alphabet to go through streets that were significant in my life as part of the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge.

In the fall of 1968, Henry, my mother and her parents, Mershell and Fannie Graham, bought the flat at 16201 Fairfield. The Graham home on Theodore had been invaded, shot into and suffered an attempted armed robbery.  Nobody had been hurt.

In the spring of that same year an insurance salesman was shot to death in front of our house on Oregon. The murderer cut through our backyard during his escape. Although nobody was home, my mother never felt the same about living there. They began to look for a flat to share.

I didn’t realize I signed as a witness on the deed.

I lived there from the fall of 1968 until I left home in the spring of 1969.  My grandparents lived there until they died in 1973 and 1974. My mother and Henry were there until 1976, when they moved to Idlewild. My sister, Pearl, was a sophomore at Howard University when we moved and never lived there, although  she came home for holidays.

16261 Fairfield, Detroit with the people who lived there in 1968.

The people in the photos are, starting upstairs and going from left to right – Henry looking firm,  me the night before I left on my cross country tour, Pearl and my mother. Downstairs we have my aunt Mary Virginia who lived with her parents for some months, Alice (my grandmother’s youngest sister), my grandmother Fannie, my grandfather Mershell and my mother holding my daughter, Jilo.  I got the idea for this photo house from a photograph I saw via twitter of a house in Detroit. You can see it at Detroitsees here.

The flat on Fairfield was kitty-corner from a University of Detroit field.  The only thing I remember happening on that field while I lived there was a high school band rally with different bands doing routines throughout a Saturday.  I remember staying up late working on art projects and catching the bus across the street to go to campus. Most of my memories are of returning to visit with my oldest daughter.  I know that I didn’t spend half as much time as I could/should have spent talking with my grandparents when they were right downstairs.

This house is still standing and looking very good.  You can see it on the corner in the street sign photo above. Although the hospital that used to be directly across the street is gone, the rest of the block is all there!  Whooooohooooo!

You can see my mother and grandfather’s wonderful garden and read more about Poppy in “Poppy Could Fix Anything.”



“E” is for Elmhurst

This post continues a series using the Alphabet to go through streets that were significant in my life as part of the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge.  I wrote this post with “Sharing Memories: Leaving Home” in mind too.

In late March of 1969, I moved into my first apartment. I was in Detroit. It was located at the corner of Elmhurst and N. Martindale.  I was 22 years old and so happy to be in my own space and not to have to answer to anyone.  My rent was $80 a month, utilities included. I earned $50 a week at the Black Star Sewing Factory.

Journal entry  – March 29, 1969
reading back (in my journal) is strange.  I don’t feel that way any more.  Living alone takes the pressure off.  What you do, you do for yrself not through  fear of displeasure and endless discussions.

My apartment used to be on the upper right, now bare, lot. Walking straight ahead I got to Linwood and the Black Conscience Library.  Walking in the other direction I reached Broadstreet and my route to work.

Not surprisingly, the building is no longer there. Neither is the short row of store fronts behind it.   I found the apartment building below using Google Maps. I moved it to the empty lot at Elmhurst and N. Martindale using Photoshop.  The size and layout of the apartment is about the same. I had to change the color of the bricks from red to yellow.  My apartment was #304. You can see it on the top floor. The first windows on the right were my neighbors bathroom and bedroom windows.  My bedroom window is next, the short window is the bathroom, then my living room and last the eat-in kitchen.

My first apartment as I remember it and as Photoshop helped me recreate it.  It was yellow brick and the trim was darker, but I was unable to get it to look right , hence the peachy trim you see above. There were no plants or greenery around the front door, but otherwise, it is as I remember it.

Journal entry July 28, 1969 (Monday)  I’m so skinny I wear a size 10 and this kid said “hi twiggy” as I walked by. I am trying to get fatter. My hair is 12 feet tall.

My furniture was basic and made or found, except for the mattress. It was new and sat flat on the floor without spring or frame. I made curtains out of burlap which gave the rooms a nice orange glow when daylight showed through. I stacked a pile of shag rug pieces for a couch.  A piece of green fabric was stuffed with fabric scraps made a pillow to sit on. It was heavy as lead. Jim found an old table and some chairs somewhere for the kitchen. I used a box for a bedside table and the phone sat on that too. I kept my clothes in the closet or in the old trunk at the end of the bed. I had a nice round table top but I never got any legs for it.  I had an old combo radio/record player that had once belonged to my parents and had passed on to me.

I bought a sewing machine from Sears and returned it because parts were missing and it wasn’t what I wanted after all. Eventually I ordered a “Hudson” sewing machine, from J.L Hudson’s. It was a Japanese made machine and just like the one my mother had, except they had replaced some of the metal parts with plastic.

One night I was awakened by a loud crash and a flash of light.  A car had crashed into the telephone pole across the street. It was horribly crushed. A small, silent, crowd gathered. Everybody cheered as the driver climbed out of the window, unhurt.

Journal entry     June 30, 1969
Last night cooked cabbage and pork chops and rice at 1:00AM.  it was the first decent meal I’ve had in a month because I didn’t have any food and have been eating rice and beans.  I kept burning them and scorched black eyed peas are no treat.  I guess things are going to be o.k. for a while again.  It’s really nice outside.  Sunny, windy instead of 98 and muggy.

I remember the joy of going to a supermarket instead of the mom and pop store across the street and laying in a supply of groceries. Eating wasn’t something I spend a lot of time thinking about, planning for,  or doing at that time. Eventually my mother gave me a copy of “The Joy of Cooking” and I started making my own bread.

Journal entry  July 15, 1969  Saturday 2:10PM
I got another job after sewing It’s from 6 – 8pm , organizing teenagers.  some Methodist 5 week “imaginal education” program in Highland Park.  for reasons unknown, they made Jim director.  $30/wk for 6 weeks plus a $75 bonus at the end.  supposed to be with black teens but one center was mixed and I’m in it.  luckily i have Arthur, a 17 or 18 year old black-panther-cass-dropout and his girlfriend to work with me.  he’s actually good at working with the teens.  he gets on very well with them.  he got them all het up yesterday about organizing their community. they’re 13-14. only about 12 came.  first 2 days NOBODY came and we were afraid we’d be fired, but then one girl came and the next day, three came.  out of the 12, 2 are Mexican, 2 black and the rest white.  it should be interesting.   hardly ever get home before 10:00pm.

I spent a lot of time thinking about Jim and wondering about where we were going and where he was and when he was coming by and why he hadn’t come by and how long he was going to stay and on and on and on.

Journal entry      June 4, 1969
i’ve been listening to  Leonard Cohen’s new record.  two days over and over. at first it was tired, but now i really like it, after the 2,000th revolution. i like  the partisan song best, about coming out of the shadows.

Started thinking about some of the things happening in 1969 when I moved into my own apartment…Woodstock, war in Vietnam, war protests, draft lottery, moon landing, Nixon takes office, Hurricane Camile hits, New Bethel incident in Detroit, Robert and Mabel Williams return to the United States after years in China, Fred Hampton killed by police, protest at colleges continue, police attack on gays at Stonewall Inn, starvation in Biafra. And lots of music.

Click on the picture to enlarge.

You can read about my first moving out on I Once Worked at a Sewing Factory and about my trip up and down Broadstreet to work at B is for Broadstreet.


“C” is for Calvert

Stores stood on the vacant land.

This post continues a series using the Alphabet to go through streets that were significant in my life as part of the “Family History Through the Alphabet” challenge.

We moved to 2705 Calvert from 2254 Chicago Blvd when my parents separated in the fall of 1954. I was 8 and my sister was 6. We lived upstairs in a two family flat.  “Beans Bowles”, the musician and his family lived downstairs. Our elementary school, Roosevelt, was two blocks away. My mother, Mrs. Cleage to her students, taught Social Studies at the same school.  I remember playing outside a lot – on the block, at the playground and in a vacant lot at Lawton and Boston.  There were many children on the block of all ages. We played “7-Up” where you throw a ball against the side of the house, clap your hands and count higher and higher until you miss. We drew hopscotch grids on the sidewalk and played that.  We roller skated and rode our bikes.

There was a drugstore and a small grocery store on the corner of Linwood and Calvert. My mother bought rotten meat at the grocery once and the man didn’t want to take it back until she threatened to call the health department. We still bought penny candy there – wine candy, lick-a-maid.  My mother never shopped there again.  That whole business section of the block is empty now.

The year I wore glasses. My sister Pearl holding  her Christmas book “Amal and the Night Visitors.” I was about 9. The photo was taken by my mother before school in the backyard.

My sister Pearl and me. We are fake racing on the upper porch.


The houses in the background of the above photo as they look today on Google Maps.

 learn to skate.
I must have been about 12 helping my cousin Marilyn learn to skate.

I have no photographs taken inside the house but I do remember the layout.

One day my sister and I were sitting on the upper back porch playing paper dolls when one of the younger boys from downstairs climbed up from his back porch to ours.  That’s what his plan was anyway. As his hand came over the edge I started beating it with my fist. He went back down in a hurry. Thankfully he didn’t fall down and break his neck, but as I said to my sister at the time “You can’t let that get started.”

I remember my cousin Dee Dee babysitting us. We were laying on the floor trying to make something rise with the power of our minds, when she hollered “GAS!” and ran into the kitchen. Gas was indeed escaping from an unlit burner on the stove. She turned it off and we opened up all the windows and lived.  I remember having the measles during Spring break and laying in the darkened room.  My sister and I still shared a room so we had company in our misery.

We lived in the upstairs flat. This is how the house looked in 2004 after a fire.

In my mind’s eye I can see  a puzzle I did of sheep grazing on a hillside, and the view of the houses across the alley out of our bedroom window.  I remember a disaster of a birthday party where nobody came,  and cleaning the bathroom on Saturdays. I remember going to sleep while my mother played Richard Crooks, Paul Robeson and Harry Belefonte. I remember playing “water wars” in the bathtub with our poor, soggy dollhouse dolls floating around in plastic bag covered Kleenix boxes.

There were ballet lessons at Toni’s School of Dance, piano lessons from Mr. Manderville and violin at school that I never practiced.  I remember pet turtles, always with the same names and always dying from soft shell disease, in spite of being dosed with cod liver oil. I read Songberd’s Grove and The Little Princess.  While my mother was taking classes towards her master’s at Wayne I read Peyton Place, Mandingo and The Second Sex.

I remember walking home from school under a canopy of elm trees before they lost to Dutch Elm disease. And walking to school through 2 feet of snow after a March storm. I remember walking down Lasalle to our old house on Chicago, where my father still lived, everyday for lunch. There were plays at Central High School we attended with my cousins. And the days at Roosevelt when there were only a few students because everybody else was celebrating the Jewish Holidays  I remember graduating from Roosevelt Elementary school and the confusion of Durfee Junior high school.

The parking lot where 2705 Calvert once stood. From Google Maps.

My mother’s sister and her three daughters lived two blocks down Calvert in a lower flat. Later my Aunt and Uncle – Anna and Winslow, bought the flat next door and my father moved into the downstairs flat while they lived upstairs.

Me, Pearl and cousin Barbara. My cousin Dale watching us. We are between the 2 flats.  Dale and Barbara aren’t related.

My father lived downstairs on the left. My uncle and aunt lived upstairs. My mother’s sister and her family lived downstairs in the red house, which was yellow brick back then and all the porches were screened. This photograph is from Google maps.

Before my mother’s sister Mary V. Elkins and her family, moved into the flat on Calvert, my father’s sister, Gladys Evans and her family, lived there.  Jan was a baby. They had just moved back to Detroit after their father got out of the service and stayed with us for a minute on Chicago, then moved to Calvert. When they moved from Calvert to Pasadena, the Elkins family moved into the flat. The Wallaces, who were members of my father’s church, lived upstairs and probably passed on the information that the flat was available.

View Calvert in a larger map

Some posts about living on Chicago Blvd.  I Once Was a Brownie, Dinner Time (this one also mentions meals on Calvert) and We Never Had Outdoor Lights.

“B” is for Broadstreet

This post continues a series using the Alphabet to go through streets that were significant in my life as part of the “Family History Through the Alphabet” challenge.

In 1969 I moved into my first apartment at 11750 N. Martindale and Elmhurst in Detroit.  I was working at the Black Star Clothing Factory.  To get to work I would walk a block down Elmhurst to Broadstreet.  There I stopped by for a fellow sewer who lived on the corner. We would walk the 1.2 miles down Broadstreet to the Black Star Clothing Factory on Whitfield. According to Google Maps it takes 24 minutes to walk it.  I think we were faster.

"Black Star clothing"
Sewing machines on Broadstreet

By the time the factory moved into the basement of the Shrine of the Black Madonna Cultural Center on Livernois, at the other end of Broadstreet, my walking partner was no longer working at the Clothing factory and I walked the 1.1 miles by myself. Google Maps says it takes 22 minutes.

I worked at sewing from March 1969 to November of 1969. I was not chased by dogs, accosted by maniacs, or any other disasters on my walks. The only outstanding event was that one day I bought an ironing board after work and carried it home the whole 1.2 miles.

The sewing factory moved to the basement of the Cultural Center after the church acquired it.

View Broadstreet Avenue in a larger map

My aunt and uncle, Anna (Cleage) and Winslow Shreve lived at 12636 Broadstreet until 2010. Whenever I visited Detroit from Idlewild I tried to stop in for a visit.
My uncle Winslow Shreve
My aunt Anna Cleage Shreve

We would have cookies and coffee or tea. One time Winslow was making oatmeal, so I had oatmeal. They would tell me about how things used to be in Detroit, how it was living there now. And always had a good family story or two.

While working on this post I spent several hours “walking” through my old Detroit neighborhoods on Google Maps. Seeing the buildings that are gone, the ones that are trashed, the ones that are well kept and the ones that are boarded up, was depressing.  When I do the next street, I will try not to go traipsing down side streets to see how the neighborhood is doing because most of my old neighborhoods are doing terrible.  Here’s something good though, Anna said that one thing that made their house livable through all of the decline was that there was a park across the street so that she could look out of the window at trees.  The park seems to still be in good condition.

The park across the street from the Sheve’s

“A” is for Atkinson

 This post begins a series using the Alphabet to go through streets that were significant in my life, as part of the “Family History Through the Alphabet” challenge.

I will start with Atkinson in Detroit. The layout  of the house isn’t exact as far as scale, but it is as close as I remember it. The last time I was in this house was in 1953. I was 6 years old.

Downstairs at 2212 Atkinson with photos. Scale is way off.

In 1951, when I was four, my father received a call to St. Marks Presbyterian church in Detroit. We left Springfield, Massachusetts  and moved into 2212 Atkinson, down the street from my paternal grandparents who lived at 2270 Atkinson.    St. Marks was located a block away, in the other direction, on 12th Street.  The 1967 Detroit riot started a block from the church.

I attended kindergarten at Brady Elementary School. I was eager to start school and there were no tears or fear.  I remember a cartoon with the white corpuscles battling it out with germs, painting everyday on the easel.  I don’t remember my regular teacher but a substitute teacher stays in my mind.  She was short and wore her white hair piled high on top of her head, kind of like a wedding cake. I remember her as wearing a purple dress and being mean.

I  walked to school by myself – two blocks down Atkinson,  a short distance on Linwood to the light and a long block next to Sacred Heart Seminary.  Usually there were no other walkers because I was late. I especially remember being late when I started first grade and came home for lunch. I must have been a slow eater because I was late just about everyday.  I didn’t mind walking alone but I didn’t like being late. One day I was coming home for lunch and as I was passing the neighbors house, two girls around my age, were outside with their dog Duchess.  The dog came up growling and caught my wrist in her mouth.  They just stood there and I just stood there. Soon my mother came out and rescued me.  She said she heard me calling her but actually I hadn’t said a word.  My father kept a big stick by the door to hit Duchess with when she ran out to attack.

Pearl and I shared a bedroom. For much of the time she was still in her crib. She was 2 or 3 when we moved. She would tell me stories about Oliver Olive and a tear on the wallpaper right over her crib that we called Tecumseh.  Later, after I learned to read, I taught Pearl to read when we were supposed to be going to sleep. We had a little table over by the window and the street light gave us enough light. Out of our side window we would watch our neighbors, the two girls with the mean dog, playing in their fantastic attic playroom. We had to go to bed at 8pm all year long, light outside or not. They did not.  When it was light outside and I was in bed, I imagined pictures from the folds in the curtains.

We were not allowed to play outside of the backyard, even though I was walking alone blocks and blocks through rain and snow and sleet to school.  There was a large screened in porch on the back of the house but we couldn’t play on it because it never got cleaned off and we would have tracked dust and dirt into the house. It was a really nice porch and I longed to play on it. But I didn’t.  My mother bought us some easels and paint because I liked to paint at school so much and I used to paint in the basement when she was washing or hanging up clothes.

We didn’t have a car and we took the 14th street bus to go downtown and to go over to my grandparents on the east side on Saturdays. There must have been a streetcar around there too because I didn’t get sick when we rode the streetcar but when we took the bus we sometimes had to get off and walk because I would be getting ready to throw up.  My mother’s bank was on Linwood and I remember the black and white squares on the floor that my sister and I used to walk around on. Down the street was a Dime store where we use to buy tiny little dolls with tiny blue bath tubs and a comparatively big bottle. There were a lot of little toys but that is all I remember buying.  The bank is now deserted and the rest of the block is empty.

During first grade I told my mother I didn’t feel good one morning. She thought I was just trying to get out of school, although I don’t remember trying to get out of school, and made me go.  By the time I came home for lunch I had a fever. It turned out I had pneumonia and missed half of that year of school.  I was moved into my parents room and I guess they moved to the guest room.  My uncle Louis, who was a doctor and lived down the street at his parents house came by to see me everyday. I remember him singing “Oh if I had the wings of an angel over these prison walls I would fly…” as he came up the stairs.  For a while I had to use a bedpan and I remember holding on to the wall for support when I finally was allowed up. By the time I got to go downstairs it was like being in a new house it had been so long since I saw it.

In 1953, my father was involved in a church fight and led a faction of 300 out to start another church which became Central Congregational Church, then Central United Church of Christ and finally The Shrine of the Black Madonna.  My sister Pearl and I spent that summer with my mother’s parents on Theodore. My father stayed with his parents on Atkinson. In the fall we moved to a new parsonage on Chicago Blvd.

Recent shot from Google maps.

 I found this description of 2212 Atkinson online. Built in 1921, it is a single family 2,222 square foot residence. Has two stories with a basement. (I recall an unfinished attic.) It has one full and one partial bathroom.  The heating is by hot water. (I remember the radiators) The exterior walls are brick and there is a fireplace. (The fireplace was in the room designated for the use of the church only.)

Upstairs of the parsonage. Unfortunately no photos outside of my mind.

View Atkinson Street Detroit, Michigan in a larger map

The National Bank of Detroit on Linwood, St. Marks on 12th, Brady Elementary, Playground on Atkinson and 12th, at my grandparents


Other posts that relate to the house on Atkinson and St. Marks.

Dinner Time, Ghost photo of Atkinson then and now, A Day in 1953 Merges with a day in 2011, Politics



Playing Poker at Old Plank – 1962

Playing poker – my aunt Gladys with cigarette, me, my uncle Hugh, cousins Jan and Dale, my mother.

Still playing poker – my mother with glasses, cousin Warren, cousin Ernie, aunt Gladys, cousin Jan and cousin Dale.

The house on Old Plank Road. Between Milford and Wixom Michigan.

My mother and Henry bought this house about half an hour from Detroit about 1961.  There was talk of moving there year around, but it never happened. We had a large garden and went up on weekends and for longer periods during the summer. We only owned 2 acres of the 40 acre farm, not including the barn. In 1967 someone bought the barn and started keeping chickens and pigs there,  though they didn’t live on or near the property. The animals regularly escaped.  The pigs dug up our garden and the chickens roosted on the porch. Before Henry and the man came to blows, they finally sold the house to the man with the animals.

For more fun and games, click here –>

T is for Theodore Street

This post continues a series using the Alphabet to go through streets that were significant in my life as part of the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge.  For this post I am bringing back a post I did a year ago for 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy. The house at 6638 Theodore was my Graham grandparents house.

My maternal grandparents were Mershell and Fannie Graham.  We called them Poppy and Nanny.  They bought their house on Theodore Street on the East Side of Detroit in 1922 when my grandmother was pregnant with my mother, Doris.  They lived there until the neighorhood became increasingly violent and they experienced home invasion and shots fired into the house. That was in the summer of 1968 when they bought a two family flat with my parents near the University of Detroit.  So they lived in this house for 46 years.

When I was growing up we used to pick up my cousins on summer Saturdays and spend the day at my grandparents.  We had Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners there and backyard meals for the summer holidays.

There was a front porch across the front but by the time we came along there was no porch swing and we never sat or played in the front.  The front door had a full window. the window to the right of the front door was the “hall way” it was divded from the living room by wooden pillars. On the hall side there was a table that held the high school graduation photos of my mother and her sister, a lamp and underneath a brass bowl that held last years Christmas cards.  Next to it was my grandmother’s rocking chair.  The door to the kitchen was behind that and the stairs to the second floor were behind the table.  At the foot of the stairs, beside the single window, was a table with the telephone. The telephone sat on a small table my grandfather built, on the landing.  During the day, it came down to the little table and at night it went back to the landing.  But wait, I think I can show you better then tell you.  Downstairs on the first and upstairs below. No photos taken upstairs. There was a great basement too that included my grandfather’s workshop, a large converted coal furnace and a pantry.

When my grandparents moved in 1968, the people who owned the factory across the street bought the house and tore it down. This is what the spot looked like last time I was in Detroit taking photographs of family places.

To read more about the Brass bed  and see a photograph of it – Dollhouse update.


Childhood homes

Photos and Memories

I moved often while I was growing up because my father was a minister. When he changed churches, we moved. I have written stories about each house individually. There are links at the bottom of this story. This is an overview of all those houses, with memories.

2parsonage Springfield, MA
Parsonage at 210 King Street, Springfield,MA.

I was born on August 30, 1946 at 10 PM in the middle of a thunderstorm.  The first of the two daughters of Rev. Albert B. and Doris Graham Cleage.  I was named Kristin after the heroine of the novel by Sigrid Unset, Kristin Lavransdatter.  My father was pastor of the St. John’s Congregational church in Springfield, MA.  After my father convinced the church to sell the parsonage to pay debts, we moved into the back of the church community house .

Parsonage/Community house at 643 Union Street. Springfield, MA.

I remember…
Laying on a blanket in the yard looking up at the clouds with my mother.  Holding my sister, Pearl, on the way home from the hospital.  Sitting on the basement steps while my grandmother washed Pearl’s diapers.  Making Halloween cupcakes.  Looking at the clearing evening sky after rain.  Going to the ice ream parlor with my sister and parents.  Leafless trees against the winter sky.  The huge statues in a religious procession going past the house.  Fall trees, a stream and a dog in the park.  Watching the milkman and his horse from my bedroom window.  Ribbon candy at Christmas.

Parsonage at 2212 Atkinson, Detroit.

When I was four my father got a church in Detroit and we moved there.  All of the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins were there.  We moved into a house down the street from my paternal grandparents a few aunts and uncles lived there too.  I began kindergarten at Brady Elementary.

I remember…
My grandfather picking up a baby bird and giving it little pieces of bacon.  Not being allowed out of the yard.  Being late for school all the time.  A movie about white and red corpuscles fighting infection. Painting at the easel.

I attended first grade at Brady.  During second grade I had pneumonia and missed the rest of that year my father was involved in a church fight and led a faction away to start another church.  We moved.  During the summer before we moved, my mother, sister and I stayed with my mother’s parents on the east side.  My father stayed with his parents.  My mother was taking classes in education at Wayne State University.

6638 Theodore Street, Detroit, Michigan.
6638 Theodore Street, Detroit, Michigan. Maternal Grandparents house.

I remember…
Playing “Sorry” at my grandparent’s kitchen table.  Listening to the radio soaps.  Going to meet my mother at the bus stop and collecting dropped flowers that we made into a slimy mud pie soup.  Eating grated cheese and Ritz crackers.  Going to the creamery with my grandfather to buy vanilla ice cream.  Climbing up on the pile of logs against the wooden fence to look into the alley.  The electrical storm when we sat in the living room, waiting for my mother to come home. Crying when she finally got there, telling of jumping over downed wires.

Parsonage at 2254 Chicago Blvd., Detroit

In the fall we all moved into a big stone house that would be mostly the church community house and incidentally we would live upstairs.  The choir practiced downstairs, the youth group met in the basement rec room; they had card parties in the living room and piano lessons in the morning room.  They all used the kitchen.  It was kind of adventurous living in such a large, mostly empty house with servant’s quarters in the attic and buttons that lit up on a numbered board in the kitchen when pressed in each room.  At least my sister and I thought so.  My mother didn’t feel that way.  When I was eight, my parent were divorced.  It was a “friendly divorce”.  We moved into a flat closer to Roosevelt elementary school that my sister and I attended and where my mother was a beginning teacher.  My sister and I went everyday to my father’s for lunch.  He came by and visited.  Neither one talked negatively about the other.  My sister and I took piano lessons from Mr. Manderville and dance lessons at Toni’s School of Dance on Dexter.

We lived in the upstairs flat. This is how the house looked in 2004.
2705 Calvert.   We lived in the upstairs flat. This is how the house looked in 2004.

I remember…
Learning how to ride a bike.  My great grandmother dying.  Two more cousins being born.  My aunt and three cousins staying with us while their family looked for a house.  Saturdays my mother picked up her sister and three daughters and the seven of us drove over to the east side and spent the day at her parent’s.  Vegetable and flower gardens, bird bath, swing, dirt, snowball tree, marigolds and a big brass bed we jumped up and down on  and slid through the bars of.  Plays my older cousin Dee Dee wrote and we put on and on and on for the adults.  My grandmother’s aunt who gave us rosaries and told us about cutting her mother’s mother’s (who she said was from Africa) toenails, while my cousin was cutting her toenails.  Sundays after church at my other grandmothers where she had milk, tea and ice water on the table and the butter in little pats on a saucer and candles.  The endless discussion of politics, race, church around that table.  Getting my own room.  Going to the fish house and the zoo and picnics at Belle Isle.  Making dolls.  Learning to roller-skate and ride a bike.  Having a “best friend”.  Reading, reading and reading.  Roosevelt Elementary School changing from 99% Jewish to 99% Black.

On the porch of 5397 Oregon St. Detroit with my mother.

When I was twelve I graduated from Roosevelt and went to Durfee Junior High School next door.  Because of over crowding I was double promoted.  A year later my mother bought a house on Oregon Street and we moved to the McMichael school district.  I transferred there while my sister continued at Roosevelt where she was a sixth grader.  I was in the youth group at church.

I remember…
Going home after graduation with my best friend Deidre and having a snowball fight.  Finding everybody else knew how to dance and I didn’t.  How big Durfee seemed.  My crazy seventh grade math teacher.  Learning how to swim.  Getting home before everybody.  Never finding my way around McMicheal.  Chaos during TV science classes.  Learning how to sew.  Making pineapple muffins and pineapple muffins and more pineapple muffins.  My cousin growing out of playing ‘imaginary land” on Saturdays.  Wishing I had enough money to get everybody a really good Christmas present.  Arguing with my sister about who was supposed to do the dishes.  Making doughnuts.  Not getting “chose” at youth group dances. Not feeling comfortable dancing if I did.

When I was 15 my mother remarried. She married my father’s brother Henry Cleage, a lawyer, who was then a printer and started to put out a black paper, the illustrated news.  I attended Northwestern High School.  Favorite classes were Spanish and swimming.  I was on the Swim Team.  Worked at the Printing Plant one summer.  Baby-sat another.  My family bought an old farmhouse on two acres near Wixom, Michigan.  We went there on weekend and longer in the summer.

I remember…
Discovering Socialism, Revolution and Cuba.  Telling an English teacher I certainly had nothing in common with Holden Caulfield.  The freedom rides, school integration, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Kennedy’s assassination.  The four little girls in Birmingham bombed at Sunday school.  Being at the church Christmas bazaar while the Russian boats were headed for Cuba.  Bare trees against the winter evening gray/peach sky.  Not wanting to participate in graduation.  Not going to the prom.  Not wanting to.  The green fields at the farm under a heavy grey, clearing sky after a summer.  Not going on dates.  Wanting to be able to say I had a boyfriend, but not wanting anyone I knew for one.  Feeling like an outsider.

I attended Wayne State University from Sept 1964 until graduating in December 1968 with a Bachelors degree in Fine Arts.  I worked in the cafeteria, in the school library, at the Center for the Application of Science and Technology, as the art director of the student newspaper, The South End.  During Christmas vacations I worked as a saleslady in the Children’s only shop at downtown Hudson’s.  One summer I worked in the pharmacy of the North Detroit General Hospital.  I maintained a 3.0 average.  Joined the Afro-American Action Committee and demonstrated against the war in Vietnam.  Met my husband, Jim.  My sister went off to study play writing at Howard University.  My stepfather went back into law. We moved into a flat on Fairfield with my mother’s parents living downstairs. I did not attend my graduation.

16260 Fairfield, Detroit.
16260 Fairfield, Detroit.

I remember …
Meetings.  Meetings about the war in Vietnam, meetings about Black Student concerns, community meetings, political meetings, meetings about meetings.  Seeing Jim from my writing class and running down four flights of stairs before realizing I need to be in that class.  Both grandmothers saying that girl is in love.  The Pentagon March against the war in Vietnam, Visiting my sister at Howard.  Being tired of school and home and wanting to be on my own.  Dropping a tray full of dishes in the cafeteria and the diners applauding.  Reading Kristin Lavernsdatter.  Hanging out at the Montieth Center.  Putting out “A Happenin’.  Malcolm X’s assassination.  MLK’s assassination.  The 1967 rebellion.  Passing out campaign information at the polls.  Bell Bottom jeans.  Richard Grove Holmes, “Song for my Father.” Doing a two-color separation cover of the South End.  Being hopelessly in love.  Spending the night with Jim.  Eating oranges in the snack bar.  Hippies.  Afros.  Black pride.  Black Power.  Freedom Now. Graduating from Wayne and taking the bus west, to San Francisco. Leaving home.  Grown.


Specific memories of each of the many childhood houses (including floor plans) I lived in can be found in the following posts: