Here we have my sister Pearl swinging in 1953. This playground was two blocks down from our house, the parsonage on Atkinson. My father’s church was across the street. Right outside the playground was the building where the 1967 Detroit rebellion began after police raided and arrested people attending a welcome home party for a returning Vietnam veteran.
You can see Economy Printing on the far left. The playground is right next to it. The rebellion was in full swing here.
On the back of the photograph it says in part, “This is part of Cook High’s band. Greta looks sour on this this picture, but she was cute. That is Janice where I have the X.”
My cousin Janice shared this memory with me –“Greta is ‘the little girl’ smile and I am playing the bells. Must have been in about the 2nd grade…The writing looks like my grandmother Cleage’s handwriting. Greta started marching as a junior majorette when she was 5. I joined the band in the 2nd grade. There were 6 to 8 senior majorettes, but Greta marched beside the Head Majorette. My Uncle was the school principal and my Aunt Bea made Greta the Junior Head Majorette and then Head Majorette. Smile… K to 12th grade. We often laugh about that.“
The bells that Janice is holding are described thus on Wikepidea:
“When used in a marching or military band, the bars are sometimes mounted in a portable case and held vertically, sometimes in a lyre-shaped frame. However, sometimes the bars are held horizontally using a harness similar to a marching snare harness. In orchestral use, the bars are mounted horizontally. A pair of hard, unwrapped mallets, generally with heads made of plastic or metal, are used to strike the bars, although mallet heads can also be made of rubber (though using too-soft rubber can result in a dull sound). If laid out horizontally, a keyboard glockenspiel may be contrived by adding a keyboard to the instrument to facilitate playing chords. Another method of playing chords is to use four mallets, two per hand.”
Janice’s uncle E. Harper Johnson was the second and final principal of Cook highschool. He was married to Beatrice Cleage, sister of Janice and Greta’s mother Juanita Cleage and daughter of Edward Cleage my grandfather Albert’s brother.
A photograph of my aunt Mary Virginia Graham standing on the front steps of the house on Theodore in Detroit. She was named for both of her grandmothers. The writing on the photo says “13 yrs Mary Virginia 1934”. A double exposure shows my mother sideways, overlapping.
This photo looks like it was taken the same day at Belle Isle, which was 5 miles from the house. The dresses are the same. My mother is standing the same way that she in in the double exposure.
This photograph of my grandmother Fannie’s cousin, Naomi Vincent was printed on the cans of Tulane Coffee. This was one of her father Victor Tulane’s many projects, which included real estate, founding a Penny Bank, and owning Tulane’s Grocery. He was also on the Board of Directors of Tuskegee Institute and a generally active citizen of Montgomery. I found the advertisement below in the Montgomery Advertiser.
Years later, he traveled North selling Alaga Syrup. Naomi traveled with him and it was on a trip to New York City that she met her future husband, Dr. Ubert Vincent.
Grand River Avenue figured in my life in multiple ways. I walked to both McMichael Junior High and Northwestern High Schools down Grand River. I took the Grand River bus home when I worked at J.L. Hudson’s Department store during several Christmas seasons. In 1971 and 1972, the Black Conscience Library was located at 6505 Grand River and that is my focus in this post.
In 1971 the Black Conscience Library relocated from temporary quarters to 6505 Grand River, the upstairs offices in a building right across the street from Northwestern High School. I continued as librarian for awhile. This was around the time that the heroin epidemic hit inner city Detroit hard. Chimba, one of the active members of the Library, was from the North End community. I remember him saying that the year before they had a baseball team, but that in 1971 there were so many heroin addicts in the community that they couldn’t get a team together. It was Chimba’s idea to start a methadone program in the Black Conscience Library to help addicts get off drugs. This was before it was widely known that methadone was a powerful, addictive drug in it’s own right. Eventually, the drug program over shadowed all other Library programs. I spent less time there and eventually got a job as assistant teacher at Merrill Palmer preschool. I still came around but not everyday and not as librarian. It was pretty depressing up there.
There were lines of junkies waiting to collect their scripts, men and women. Some brought their children. In the beginning, I watched the kids while the parents went to the lectures. I remember one baby with a bottle full of milk so spoiled it was like cottage cheese.
We came to the Library one morning to find it had been broken into the night before. All of the printing equipment and the tape recorder were securely locked up. There were no prescriptions laying around. Nothing was stolen, but we couldn’t figure out how they got in, until I noticed glass from the skylight on the table. They had come through the skylight. One night someone was found hiding in the Men’s room hoping nobody would notice they were there so they could rob the place. Another man tried to break in one early morning. Luckily, he couldn’t get through the front chained door. I remember a junkie who nodded off and fell out of his seat during the planning session for a radio program.
There were a few non-drug related activities. One I remember, was a panel discussion on the role of the father in parenting that was presented by several ex-members of SNCC (Student Non-violent Co-ordinating Committee). There were karate classes. One night I had come back after a particularly trying day and a car crashed into the shop downstairs. I caught a plane to visit my sister in Atlanta the next day. Those were the days of cheap standby tickets. I remember The Last Poets record playing over and over and over. The relief when the drug program ended.
This is one of a three page surveillance report from October 29, 1971 is from Jim’s police file. We knew they were watching, but when we got this report several years ago it was still creepy to see how much time they were actually spending watching, following, keeping track. “N/M” = Negro Male. “N/F” = Negro Female.
The window on the top left was our bedroom window.
In 2004 I spent a day driving around Detroit taking photographs of places where I used to live and of other houses family members lived in. The angle of this house fit almost perfectly with the photograph taken in 1953 of my father with my little sister Pearl and me. We are in front of the parsonage on Atkinson. My father was the minister of St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church, two blocks up the street on the corner of 12th Street and Atkinson.
My sister and I shared the bedroom on the upper left. We used to look out of the side window into the attic of Carol and Deborah. They were our age and lived next door and got to stay up much later then we did. They had a wonderful playroom in the attic. I taught Pearl to read by the streetlight shinning into our bedroom. I don’t know why we waited until we were supposed to be in the bed to teach and learn reading.
Sometimes after Pearl was asleep, I would kneel in front of the windows and look out. I remember an amazing pale pink Cadillac. The cars I had seen up until then were dark colors. I remember looking out of that window and watching for my mother to get home. Was she taking night classes while working on her teaching certificate?
On our other side lived Eleanor Gross with her family. Eleanor was a teenager and babysat with us during the rare times our parents went out. My paternal grandparents lived down the street.
This photo first appeared on my blog in 2012 in a post about my grandparents magical yard. I used that post again in June of 2017. This time I am only posting the picture of my sister looking glamorous and me looking worried as we stand next to our trusty mounts. Neither of us can remember where we went on those horses. I remember a pillow/saddle that was made of some shiney purple fabric. That may have been the one I am leaning on.
This book has seen much use. It is held together with masking tape. It is full of the old standards of the day. It was published by “The Cable Company, Manufacturers of the famous Cable Line of Pianos and Inner- Player Pianos.” Click all images to enlarge.
My grandmother Fannie Turner Graham wrote on the cover of the book “Mary Virginia and Doris Graham. 1933. From Aunt Daisy who died suddenly 1961”
I chose this poem by James Whitcomb Riley because I was feeling rather nostalgic, thinking about my sister and me back in the olden days.
One of my uncle Henry Cleage’s photographs from the porch of our house at 5397 Oregon in Detroit. Below is a photo of the house and porch from which he took the photos. They were developed at Cleage printers, where Henry and Hugh had a full dark room.
I do not know who the little girls are. I have memories of riding bikes when I lived here, but no photographs. I remember going bike riding all around the neighborhood with my cousins, Dee Dee and Barbara. We rode in the street, which I wasn’t supposed to do. My sister and I used to go bike riding too but we usually had a destination – the library or my grandmother’s house. I lost that bike when I left it unchained outside of a store on W. Grand Blvd. We were on the way home from the Main Library.