Tag Archives: #Detroit

The 5th Annual iGene Awards!

Once again it’s time for the Annual IGene Awards when we look over our blog posts for the previous year and pick those we think are deserving of winning in one of five categories – Best Photograph, Best Screen Play, Best Documentary, Best Comedy and Best Biography.  Before we start, I must thank my family for both their written contributions and their behind the scenes inspiration. Without further ado, here are my winners for this year.


For Best Photograph my mother once again stole the show, this time sharing the spotlight with my father in the photo My Parents About 1943   taken at the Meadows.


For Best Screen Play He Had Him Hidden Under the Floor, based on the story told to me by my cousin Jacqui about the daring rescue of a local black dentist from the angry mob of white men by her grandfather, Victor Tulane. It takes place around 1918 in Montgomery Alabama. The movie begins with dentist William Watkins flight from his house located 3 minutes away to the Tulane’s home.  It’s dark and Aunt Willie and Naomi are already asleep as he’s ushered inside by Victor.  Next we see the light shinning through the window, waking up the women. We see the mob come in and go through the search of the house and don’t know until after the mob leaves that indeed the dentist is there, hidden in a secret place under the floor.   Of course Aunt Willie and Naomi are terrified without knowing that he’s in the house because after all, a mob is a mob and where it will end you never know. It ends with his ride to the train station under the produce and we see the train leaving the station with him on it and perhaps Victor Tulane heading back home down the still dark and lonely street, which is just beginning to wake up.

I called on my sister Pearl Cleage to cast my movie because she is a playwrite and knows about those things. Not to mention she watches movies and plays and knows who would work while I do not have a clue. From Pearl…

Okay here’s my cast. I think the way you laid out the movie was great, from the arrival of Dr. Watkins with the women being sent back to bed, through the mob search, through the ride to the train station and the farewell in the early hours of the morning. I can truly see the ending with Victor Tulane heading home in the dark. bravo. You get the Oscar for the screenplay. I get the one for casting:

Dr. William Watkins: Terrance Howard, currently being seen in “Red Tails,” where he plays one of the Tuskegee airmen. Nominated for an Oscar for “Hustle & Flow,” where he played the lead. He was also featured in “The Best Man,” and has appeared in many films, playing a variety of characters.

Victor Tulane: Idris Elba, a British actor of African descent who can do such a convincing American accent that when he first got famous in the USA for his role on “The Wire,” playing a Baltimore gangster, people were shocked to hear him on the talk shows speaking with his real accent, which is undeniably British. I’m sure he could do a perfect Alabama accent. He was wonderful in the Guy Ritchie film “RocknRolla,” and has been in many films and television series.

Willie Lee Tulane: Viola Davis, Oscar nominated star of “The Help,” Tony Award winning star of “Fences” on Broadway. Also known for her ten minute turn in the film “Doubt” where she played an anguished mother with amazing grace, truth and dignity. She would be able to bring the complexity required of the role of Mrs. Tulane, who has to remain calm in the face of terror she knows all too well.

Naomi Tulane Vincent: Phylea Rashad, daughter of actress Phylicia Rashad, who is currently featured in a critically praised role in the Broadway play, “Stickfly.” she also won critical acclaim for her role in Lynn Nottage pulitzer prize winning play, “Ruined.”

Klansman #1: Billy Bob Thorton, featured in films as different as “Monster’s Ball,” and “Pushing Tin.” A great actor with a great southern accent. He makes a great bad guy and could play the role of the klansman who comes to the door.

Klansman #2: Sean Penn, featured in many films, including “Milk,” where he played San Francisco activist Harvey Milk so realistically it was hard to watch him get killed at the end. Penn can also play a convincing bad guy and would be great walking through the house with Billy Bob.

Best Documentary – Is the combined series featuring several doctors in Detroit and how their lives were interwoven with the lives of both sides of my family. It started with these two posts earlier in the year “Births, Deaths, Doctors and Detroit – Part 1” , “Births, Deaths, Doctors and Detroit – Part 2″. The more recent posts started with “The Hat”“Dr. Palmer Gamble – Solving Mysteries Part 1”, “Dr. Alexander Turner – Solving Mysteries Part 2” and finally “Loudin’s Jubilee Singers and a Clock.”.

Best Biography goes to “Growing Up – In Her Own Words” by Doris Graham Cleage for telling her own story.  Last year she won the best biography with a story about her mother, Fannie Turner Graham.


And once again Henry Cleage walks away with Best Comedy for one of his short stories,“The Devilish Ghost”, written in his usual suave, wise cracking style. There is a special guest appearance by piano playing fool Slim Gaillard, also a Detroiter.

To read other igene offerings, click here. Thank you, Jasia, for once again hosting them. I enjoy writing and reading them.


Dr. Parker Blair Gamble – Solving Mysteries – Part 1

Since posting “The Hat” on January 12 I have been sucked into a research whirlpool.  It wasn’t that hard to find some of the names. I looked on the backs of other photos in the set and found “Dr. Gamble” and “Mrs Gamble” identified.

Of course I wasn’t satisfied with just their names.  Where were they from? What building was that in the background? How did they meet my grandparents? Why were they all in the DC area?   When were these photographs taken? And who was the lady in the polka dot hat?

I thought the building might be on the Howard University campus in Washington, DC, but looking at photos online I was unable to find one that looked exactly right. I asked my sister, who attended Howard, if she thought it was on the campus and she suggested it was Freedmen’s Hospital, which was established in 1862 and served as the teaching hospital for Howard. The building shown below was new and completed in 1909. Googling “Freedmen’s Hospital” I found several photographs of the hospital that showed me she was right.

Dr. Gamble in front of Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington D.C.  My grandparents in back.
Dr. and Mrs. Gamble

I needed the Gamble’s first names to do more research. First I looked at a photograph I have of the doctors who practiced at Dunbar Hospital in 1922 to see if he was there.  He was and you can see him third from the right in the first row.  His name is listed as Parker G. Gamble. His middle name was actually Blair. My grandfather is on the end of that same row, on the far right.

Next I looked in a book I have called “Michigan Manual of Freedmen’s Progress” published in 1915 to”celebrate 50 years of freedom for the former Negro slaves of this nation…” where I found this entry for Parker Gamble on page 53.

“Gamble, Parker Blair,M.D., 226 E. Lafayette, Detroit.  Born at Chattenooga, Tenn.  Graduate of Knoxville College and the medical department of the University of Michigan, class of 1912.  Like almost all other Negro Professional persons, Dr. Gamble worked his way to his sheepskin and is now successfully practicing medicine in Detroit.”

With this information it was easy to go to Ancestry.com and Familysearch.org and find the following information in census records, draft registration records and marriage records.  I also googled and found small bits of information online.

In 1900, 14 year old Parker Gamble was in school.  He lived in Hamilton County, Tennessee with his parents, Wesley and Mary Gamble. There were six children in the family ranging  from 20 year old Lula who was teaching to 12 year old Jessie. All the younger children were in school.  Mary Gamble had birthed nine children and six were still living. Wesley Gamble earned his living as an iron moulder, that is he made molds for casting iron.

Parker attended Knoxville at the same time as my grandfather, Albert B. Cleage.  In 1906 he graduated. He enrolled in the University of Michigan Medical College and worked his way through.  I wonder if he worked on the cruise lines that went from Detroit to New York, as my grandfather did in the summers to pay for his education. On September 21, 1909 twenty four year old Parker married twenty two year old Melzetta M. Crosby, a teacher in Ypsilanti Michigan. In 1912 he graduated and moved to Detroit to practice medicine.

By 1918  Dr. Gamble had his own practice as a physician and surgeon  at 346 St. Antoine on the east side of Detroit.  According to his World War 1 draft registration papers he was 5 foot 6 inches tall and weighed 178 lbs with brown hair and brown eyes.  His wife, Melzetta Gamble was someone who would always know where he was.

He and his wife had no children.  By 1942 according to his his World War 2 draft registration he was an inch taller and had gained 10 lbs. His hair was showing some grey mixed with the brown and he had a mustache.

I found a few things out about him by googling. He wrote a thank you letter to W.E.B Dubois.  He introduced another doctor at the National Medical Association Convention held in Detroit in 1927. There is a scholarship for medical students in his name at Wayne State University.  Dr. Parker Gamble died in 1948.

Dr. Parker Gamble seems to have led a pretty quiet life.  The same cannot be said for Dr. Alexander Turner and his wife Leota Henson Turner who I will write about in part two of Solving Mysteries.

Three in a Wagon 1951

 On the back of the photograph my grandmother, Fannie (aka Nanny), wrote “Barbara Lynne 3, Pearl Michelle 2, Kristin Graham 4.  May 30 – 1951.  This was snapped by DeeDee.”

This photo was taken in my grandparents backyard. We spent most Saturdays back then at Nanny’s and Poppy’s playing with our cousins.   On the left end of the wagon is my cousin Barbara holding a cowboy boot and a toy gun. In the middle is my sister Pearl who is writing madly.  I am on the right end holding a doll and looking worried.  My sister grew up to be a writer.  I grew up to have 6 children. If only cousin Barbara had grown up to ride bucking broncos or live on a ranch or rob banks, the mirroring of the future would have been complete.  This photograph was taken by Barbara’s older sister, Dee Dee who was 7 years old at the time.

Front: Barbara, Pearl. Back: Dee Dee the photographer, Poppy, Kristin

For more old photos, with or without dolls, click on the picture below.

Remembering 1963

Week 49.  Historical Events.  Describe a memorable national historical event from your childhood.  How old were you and how did you process this event?  How did it affect your family? 
Me in the upper left corner. News photos from 1963.
In 1963 I was 16 and a junior at Northwestern High School in Detroit.  In the news were pictures of dogs  attacking people who were peacefully demonstrating, high pressure hoses being used on people who were peacefully demonstrating, bombings of homes and churches, people being abused while sitting at lunch counters, people  being arrested. Governor George Wallace of Alabama, stood in the door to block the integration of the University of Alabama. Women were dragged from demonstrations to the paddy wagon. Medgar Evers was murdered in Jackson, MS in front of his home. Four girls were blown up while attending Sunday school in Birmingham, Alabama.   Two teenage boys were killed during the rioting afterwards.  There were two gigantic demonstrations that year, the Detroit Walk to Freedom followed by the March on Washington. Both drew over 100,000. President Kennedy was assassinated. Lee Harvey Oswald was killed, Cassius Clay who had not yet become Muhammad Ali was winning fight after fight. Malcolm X was speaking out and Martin Luther King, Jr was arrested in Birmingham, AL.  Here and there people began to wear their hair in  afros. In Detroit, the Freedom Now Party was seeking petitions to get on the ballot for the 1964 election and  Malcolm X spoke at the Grassroots Conference.
How did all of this affect me and my family?  I was angry but I also felt I was part of the struggle of the black community. I wondered why the federal government didn’t send troops down south to protect people who wanted to vote. I wrote revolutionary poetry. It wasn’t very good poetry. My family talked about everything that was happening. They were publishing the Illustrated News during that time and wrote about changes that had to come and the movement of the struggle from the south to the north and what the differences would be as this happened.

They Worked at Annis Furs

Workers at Annis Furs in Downtown Detroit. Taken in the 1920’s.  My great grandmother, Jennie Virginia Allen Turner is in the second row, far left. Her daughter Alice is next to her. Skip the next woman and her daughter Daisy is there, 4th from the left.  The three of them got jobs at Annis Furs soon after moving to Detroit from Montgomery, Alabama in 1922.  I remember a little teddy bear Daisy made for my younger cousin Marilyn Elkins out of scraps of real fur. To read more about my Great Grandmother Turner, click Jennie Virginia Allen Turner.

Above is a photograph from the Burton collection at the Detroit Public Library.  The Annis Fur Company is in the corner building. Although this was taken in 1917 I think the area looked pretty much the same 7 years later.  To see a photograph of the Woodward Ave in 1910 click at Shorpy. You can see Annis Fur Post and Grinell Bros Pianos on the left, looking down the crowded street, past the Eureka Vacuum sign.

For more photos of crowds of women and other fascinating subjects, click Sepia Saturday.

Births, Deaths,Doctors and Detroit – Part 2


As I was transcribing my grandmother Fannie Turner Graham’s  records of her children’s births and deaths, I began to wonder about the lives of Dr. Ames and Dr. Turner (no relation) who attended these events.  As I read about their lives in various online sources I also learned about Detroit race relations, some of which I knew but I had not put them together with the lives of my family and those they knew. I also realized some tie-ins with my paternal Cleage side of the family.  They all get mixed up in this post.

On April 3, 1920  Mary V(irginia)  Graham was born at home with  Dr. Ames attending. My mother, Doris Graham Cleage did not remember him fondly. “It was a very difficult delivery, labor was several days long.  The doctor, whose name was Ames, was a big time black society doctor, who poured too much ether on the gauze over Mother’s face when the time for delivery came.  Mother’s face was so badly burned that everyone, including the doctor, thought she would be terribly scared over at least half of it. But she worked with it and prayed over it and all traces of it went away.  Mary V’s foot was turned inward.  I don’t know if this was the fault of the doctor or not, but she wore a brace for years.”

Dr. James Ames came to Detroit in 1894 after graduating from Straight University in New Orleans and Howard University Medical School in Washington D.C. He was elected to the Michigan State House of Representatives from Wayne County’s 1st district for a two year term, 1901-1902.

In 1900 the total population of Detroit was about 285,704. When my paternal grandparents, Albert B. and Pearl Cleage, moved their family to Detroit in 1915 the black population was about 7,000. By the time my maternal grandfather, Mershell C. Graham, arrived in 1917 the black population had soared to over 30,000.

Black doctors were routinely denied admitting privileges at white hospitals.  This meant their patients had to be admitted to the hospital by a white doctor.  They were sometimes also denied the right to treat their patients once they were admitted.  Often hospitals had segregated wards and once they were full, black patients had to find another hospital.  In 1918, 30 black doctors came together and founded Dunbar Hospital. Dr. Ames was Medical Director and Dr. Alexander Turner was Chief of Surgery.  My grandfather Dr. Albert B. Cleage was one of the doctors. Dr. Ames is first row second from left in the photo of the Dunbar staff above.  My grandfather is first row, last one to the far right.

Fannie Graham’s second child, Mershell C. Graham Jr, was born June 10, 1921 at Dunbar Hospital with Dr. Turner in attendance.  In that same year, membership in the Ku Klux Klan in Detroit totaled 3,000.  The third child, my mother, Doris J. Graham, was born February 12, 1923 at Women’s Hospital with Dr. Turner attending.  By that time membership in the KKK in Detroit was 22,000.  In November of that year between 25,000 and 50,000 Klan members attended a rally in Dearborn township, which is contiguous with Detroit’s west side.

By 1925  Detroit’s total population was growing faster than any other Metropolitan area in the United States, the black population was over 82,000.  Housing segregation was widespread, although there were neighborhoods such as the East Side neighborhood where the Grahams lived that black and white lived together without friction.  Perhaps the area wasn’t posh enough to invite trouble. Maybe the large number of immigrants accounts for it. Unfortunately that was not the story citywide as people began to try and move out of the designated black areas into the other neighborhoods. Families moving into homes they had purchased were met by violent mobs that numbered from the hundreds into the thousands. This happened in 1925 during April, June, twice in July and in September.

An Angry Mob Greets Physician in All-White Neighborhood in 1925
RoNeisha Mullen and Dale Rich The Detroit News
Dr. Alexander Turner College Graduation Photo
In the 1920s, Dr. Alexander Turner was one of the most prominent black doctors in Detroit.  A successful practitioner and surgeon, Turner co-founded Dunbar Memorial Hospital in 1918. The 27-bed hospital had an operating room and catered to Detroit’s black community.  Widely respected, Turner moved easily between Detroit’s black and white worlds. He held appointments at two white hospitals that barred most black doctors. He owned a chain of pharmacies and operated two private offices, and his clientele was 75 percent white.
But none of that mattered when the doctor moved his family into a house on Spokane Avenue, in an all-white neighborhood on the city’s west side.
On June 23, 1925, as Turner, his wife and mother-in-law were moving into their new home, they were greeted by members of the Tireman Avenue Improvement Association — thousands of people carrying rocks, potatoes and garbage, news reports said.
At the time, the neighborhood was off-limits to blacks. And it was common practice for mobs of whites to keep blacks from integrating neighborhoods, said Charles Ransom, a reference librarian at the Graduate Library at the University of Michigan.
The Turners had only been in the home five hours when the group attacked. At gunpoint, two men forced Turner to sign his deed over to them and, with the help of the police, had the Turner family escorted out of the house.
The family returned to Turner’s Warren Avenue home, which contained one of the doctor’s two offices, several bedrooms and a five-car garage. Turner later moved to Ohio, where he died in 1944.
Albert B. Cleage Jr age 15

While writing this I realized that in 1925, my father, Albert B. Cleage Junior, was 14 and attending Northwestern High school with the children of the families that forced Dr. Turner out of his home. The elementary schools for both communities fed into Northwestern High School, which my father and his siblings attended.  No wonder my grandmother Pearl Cleage is famous for going up to the school and fighting segregated seating and other inequalities practiced at the time.  Ironically, in the ’60s when my sister and I were living on Oregon Street, several blocks from where Dr. Turner tried to move in, and attending Northwestern High School, the community was 99 percent black.

On November 1, 1927  Mershell C. Graham Jr was killed when he was hit by a truck on the way back to school after lunch. He was taken to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, a Catholic Hospital on Detroit’s East side. Dr. Turner was there with him when he died.

On September 9, 1928 Howard Alexander Graham was born at Woman’s Hospital with Dr. Alexander Turner attending.  By 1930 Detroit’s population was 1,568,662.  On March 4, 1932, Howard Graham died. I know that his first name was that of Fannie’s father. I wonder if his middle name, Alexander was for Dr. Alexander Turner.

Some links you might find interesting:
Part 1 – Births, Deaths, Doctors and Detroit – Grandmother Fannie’s Notes
The Sweet Trials:  An Account
Click For other Sepia Saturday Posts

Births, Deaths,Doctors and Detroit – Part 1- Grandmother Fannie’s notes

#1 Baby Mary Virginia – #2 baby in cap Mershell – #3 Baby Doris – #4 Baby Howard

From the back pages of my grandmother Fannie Turner Graham’s Bible

“Our darling little Mershell Jr. was run over by a truck on Tuesday Nov. 1st – ’27 at 12:45 PM. on his way to school from lunch. skull crushed etc. – Neck broken – shoulder fractured- rushed to St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital – never regained consciousness – died – same night at 2:10 – Dr Turner at his sid(e) (Fun)eral-Nov 4th … (Lavi)scount offic(iated)  sang….”

Mary Virginia born April 3rd 1920 at 5:10 AM on Saturday.  Detroit Mich at 1031 St. Jean Ave, 7 #. Dr. Ames & …
2nd baby – Mershell C. Graham, Jr. born June 10th – 1921 at 7:45 PM.  On Friday.  Detroit, Michigan. Dunbar Hospital. 8 1/2#  Dr. Turner.  Died 11/1/27 killed by auto.

3rd baby – Doris J. Graham born February – 12th – 1923. 5:10 A.M. – on Monday at Women’s Hospital Beaubien and For(est) Detroit, Michigan  7#

Two pages from Howard Alexander Graham’s baby book.

The Arrival

A baby Howard A(lexander) Graham   was born to Mershell C. and Fannie Turner Graham – Woman’s Hospital. 

On the 7th day of September 1928 at 5:10 o’clock P.M.
Address 6638 Theodore Street.
Autograph of Mother  Fannie T. Graham
Autograph of Father Mershell C. Graham
Autograph of Doctor A.L. Turner M.D.
Autograph of Nurse Aunt Abbie Allen
Autograph of others Aunt Jean Walker presented this book to him.


Saw his first circus – 2 1/2 years old – and what a thrill. July 1931
On Oct 23 1931 – Howard came into bathroom while Dad was trimming my hair.
Where have you been I asked?
Answer …In the children’s room.
Question—What doing?
Answer – “Lecturing on common-sense.”
The above is true – Believe it or not.
Had more sense then any child his age we’ve ever seen.


2/20/32 Howard sent to hospital – scarlet fever.
2/28 – began to grow worse – they sent for us to come see him –Sunday 2/28/32 – He was unconscious and didn’t know us…remained unconscious 4 days
On Tuesday 3/1 – called us to Hospital to see him.
On Thursday AM he began to get better.
Thursday eve – regained consciousness.  At 12:45 AM.  The phone rang and Dr. called us to come see him…
Then again at 5:30 a.m. “Dr” phoned us to come. Mr. Vorpogel dressed and drove Daddy out there – but Howard was dead on arrival. Died 3/4/32 at 5:00 AM…
Buried 3/15/32 – beside Mershell.


Presbyterian Church Connections in the Cleage Family

Louis and Albert Cleage

Yesterday I was working like mad to complete an entry for the “Carnival of Genealogy – Our Ancestors Places of Worship”, by the midnight deadline when I came across two interesting pieces of new information.

First, even though I thought I had done this before with no success, I asked my cousins to ask their mothers what church they had attended as children in Detroit.  The answer came back – St. John’s Presbyterian Church. At first I thought there was some confusion because I knew that my father had been pastor of St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield, Mass. and St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Detroit but St. Johns Presbyterian? I didn’t remember ever hearing of it before. So, I googled it and found that not only was there a St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Detroit but that my Cleage grandparents were among founders and that it was founded in 1919, the same year my Graham grandfather was participating in the founding of Plymouth Congregational Church, also in Detroit, also on the East side.  I looked for more information on St. Johns.  I searched for even one photograph of the old church. I came up with very little. I looked through the family photos for something that looked like it was taken at a church but also found nothing aside from a few where the family is on their way to church. I did find the information below.

Detroit and the Great Migration 1916-1929, by Elizabeth Anne Martin Religion and the Migrant

“We, the believers in Christ members, are very proud of our rich heritage. We rejoice always; give praise and thanksgiving to our Lord for His abundant blessings of the faithful shoulders we stand on. We accept our charge of ensuring an African-American Presbyterian witness for our Lord in the city of Detroit, Michigan and beyond to the glory of God! St. John’s Presbyterian Church was among the new congregations formed because of the migration. In the winter of 1917 Reverend J.W. Lee, “field secretary for church extension among colored people in the North,” came to Detroit hoping to establish a Presbyterian church. He was disturbed by the fact that many migrants of the Presbyterian faith had turned to other denominations because there were no Presbyterian churches in Detroit. In April 1919 Lee organized thirty-nine believers into a new congregation. He served as pastor until 1921, when he recruited a southern preacher front Alabama to take his place. By 1925 the Sunday services at St. John’s were so popular that some people arrived as much as three hours early in order to secure seats. Hundreds of persons had to be turned away at both Sunday and weekday services.”  One clarification, there were Presbyterian churches in Detroit but they were white.

Something the churches my grandparents helped found have in common is that they were both urban renewed and torn down to make way for, in the case of Plymouth, a parking structure and I’m not sure what for St. Johns but neither of the historic church buildings are standing today, although both churches are still going strong in their new buildings.

Next I decided to google the church my grandfather, Albert Cleage attended when he was growing up in Athens Tennessee. I found that he was too young to have helped start First United Presbyterian Church, it was founded in 1890 and he was born in 1883. However, his step-father, my great grandmother Celia Rice Cleage Sherman’s second husband, Rodger Sherman, is listed as the architect of the church on Wikepidia.  Amazed?  Yes, I was.  Mr. Sherman and Celia Cleage weren’t married until 1897,  First United Presbyterian church had been standing for 5 years by then.  The church is still standing and still looking good today.

First United Presbyterian Church - 2004

From the Website “J. Lawrence Cook – An Autobiography”
“After a short time at Fisk, just how long I do not know, my father (note: J.L. Cook) entered Knoxville College in Knoxville, Tennessee. [5] He worked to pay his expenses, and was also aided by donations from individuals back in his home town of Athens. In 1888 he received his bachelor’s degree from Knoxville College and entered Allegheny Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to prepare for the Presbyterian ministry. [6] On 9 April 1890 he was licensed as a minister by the Allegheny Presbytery, and with this credential returned to Athens to establish a United Presbyterian mission. Fresh out of seminary, he began holding services in an old dance hall. [7]”

Other posts about church founding in my family. 
From Montgomery to Detroit, A Congregational Church – COG Our Ancestors Places of Worship

Witherspoon United Presbyterian Church 1909, Indianapolis Indiana

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.