This is my tenth A to Z Challenge. My first was in 2013, but I missed 2021. This April I am going through the alphabet using snippets about my family through the generations. On Saturdays I’ve combined my usual Sepia Saturday post with the letter of the day. A double challenge.
In 1945 my father, Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr., became the pastor of St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield, Massachusetts. He and my mother, Doris, arrived there at the beginning of October.
Camp Atwater was connected to the church. It is located in N. Brookfield, Massachusetts, 34.5 miles from St. John’s. In November they took a tour in the company of former pastor Dr. DeBerry and his wife. Below is a page from my father’s photo album. Comments were written by him. The camp is still functioning, although no longer connected to St. John’s. The Urban League now runs it.
“Camp Atwater is a cultural, educational, and recreational camp designed for the children of African American professionals. The camp, founded in 1921 by Dr. William De Berry, was located in North Brookfield, Massachusetts. Initially named St. John’s Camp, in 1926 the name was officially changed to Camp Atwater when Ms. Mary Atwater donated $25,000 with the stipulation that the camp’s name honor her late father, Dr. David Fisher, a well-known and distinguished physician in the town. The camp is the oldest American Camp Association (ACA) accredited African American owned and operated camp in the nation.”
I do not remember seeing my parents dressed up for this dance or any dance. The most dressed up would be for church or holidays and there were no evening gowns worn for those. I was six years old. I do not remember ever seeing my parents dressed up and going out. After we moved off of Atkinson to Chicago Blvd, I remember that my mother had several fancy gowns hanging in her closet, but never saw her wear one.
That radio was passed to me when I was in college and I had it for a number of years before I moved to very small quarters and most of my stuff disappeared. There was a phonograph in the lower part. You could also get short wave through the radio and I remember listening to Radio Habana Cuba during high school while I was studying Spanish.
Now, if they were down there practicing their steps to the radio or their collection of 78s, that would be a life I wasn’t aware of. I was in college before I found those 78s and heard The Ink Spots, Bessie Smith and so many other classics. My mother never played them as I was growing up.
I found this article in the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity magazine, The Sphinx, about a ball in the spring of 1952 in Detroit. This might be the one my parents were going to.
Reading an article in the Dec 12, 1939 edition of The Detroit Tribune, about a concert Marian Anderson gave in Detroit, I was surprised to find a number of family members and friends among those who attended. My mother had several of Marian Anderson’s records, but she never mentioned hearing her in person. Click on images to enlarge.
“According to Anderson biographer Allan Keiler, she was invited to sing in Washington by Howard University as part of its concert series. And because of Anderson’s international reputation, the university needed to find a place large enough to accommodate the crowds. Constitution Hall was such a place, but the Daughters of the American Revolution owned the hall.
“They refused to allow her use of the hall,” Keiler says, “because she was black and because there was a white-artist-only clause printed in every contract issued by the DAR.” Denied a Stage, She Sang For A Nation
Photographs of some family members and friends who attended the concert. Family photographs.