Gladys Helen Cleage, the sixth of the seven children of Albert B. and Pearl (Reed) Cleage, was born on September 29, 1922 at home on Scotten. Gladys attended Wingert Elementary School with her siblings when she turned six in 1928. She was eight years old when the decade ended.
My Aunt Gladys and I used to walk a mile in the evenings when we both lived in Idlewild in the 1980s. She told me that one year she had been sick so much that her father decided she would stay home the following school year. She was looking forward to it, but over the summer her health improved and she had to go to school after all.
Gladys also told me that she liked to play with dolls but neither of her sisters really cared for dolls so she would have to beg them to play, which happened rarely.
The photographs used in this series are from my personal collection. Please do not use without my express permission.
Barbara Pearl Cleage was the fifth child and first daughter born to the Cleages. She was also the first child born in the house on Scotten Avenue. She was born at home on July 10, 1920.
She soon grew taller than her older brother, Hugh. This made her self conscious until a dressmaker, Mrs. Chase, convinced her that she was very good looking. Barbara always looks quite stylish in her photos, even when a young girl. When I mentioned seeing her in a photo of “The Social Sixteen”, a group of young people that included my mother and her sister who met at each others homes and held dances and other social events, she said that they only let her in because of her older brothers.
This little magazine was published by some of the same people that published Crisis Magazine when Barbara was only a few months old. The purpose was to provide positive images and stories for African American school children.
Published Monthly and Copyrighted by DuBois and Dill, Publishers, at 2 West 13th Street, New York, N. Y. Conducted by W. E. Burghardt DuBois; Jessie Redmon Fauset, Literary Editor; Augustus Granville Dill, Business Manager
“Hugh, Gladys and Anna Cleage of Scotten took their share of places in the annual city ice skating meet which was held at Belle Isle last Sunday afternoon. Anna won first place and a gold medal in the Senior girls’ novice; Gladys, third in the same event and a gold medal. Hugh competed in the men’s 220 and two-mile events.”
This article is from one of the Detroit daily papers and is undated, but I would place it in the early 1940s. Years later when I was talking about this photo with my aunt Anna, she said that the story was wrong and that actually she came in third and Gladys won the race. She remembered taking an early lead in the race but soon falling behind as Gladys easily over took her. They learned to skate at the Northwestern High School skating rink, which was a few blocks from their home on Scotten. When my sister and I were in high school at Northwestern in the early 1960s we skated at the same rink. We got racing skates because Hugh and Gladys were so cool skating on the Lagoon at Belle Isle, but we were never gold medal material. The old Northwestern High School is no longer there. It was torn down and a new school was build where the skating rink used to be.
In 1986 my husband and I moved to Idlewild, Michigan with our children. We lived on Idlewild Lake. When it was frozen we skated right in front of the house. Hugh and Gladys could still skate circles around us. During the summer when Gladys and I walked around the Lake, people from Detroit’s Old West Side would stop us to ask if she was the skating champion. She was in her early 60s. This week I wish I had some skates. It would make it so much easier to get around frozen Atlanta. Above is a picture of four of my children skating on Idlewild Lake about 1990. To see more Sepia Saturday offerings click here.
I found another two articles about Eddie Evans and Gladys Cleage. This one tells a little more about what the happy couple was doing before the wedding. It also mentions more friends of the family, including Dr. Gamble and his wife who were old family friends of my grandparents. I came across my uncle Hugh’s birth certificate the other day and noticed that Dr. Gamble delivered him. He also signed the death certificate for my grandmother’s brother George Reed when he died in Detroit in 1945. Dr. Gamble died later in 1948. Here is a link to a speech my grandfather delivered at his funeral service.
My father’s sister, Gladys Helen Cleage was married to Eddie Warren Evans on Thursday, March 25, 1948 at Plymouth Congregational Church by Rev. Horace White in Detroit, Michigan. There were descriptions of the wedding gown and of the brides maids gowns. Unfortunately the last several lines of the article have been lost to the passage of time so we have to guess at the color and particulars of the brides maids dresses. It was mentioned that the grooms sister wore a violet gown. I wonder if the brides sister’s dresses were rose because the theme of roses and violets. But would they dress in rose and carry red roses?
The article misspelled Cleage as “Cleague” a few times, while also spelling it correctly several times. A typo made Paul’s last name of “Payne”, “Cayne”.
When I finished writing up this post, I googled Northwestern High School and found the following statement in an online article from 2011 about school closures in Detroit:
“The academic program at Northwestern High School will close and the Detroit Collegiate Preparatory High School program will relocate from the east wing of Northwestern into the main academic part of the facility. Because of the importance of the Northwestern name to DPS and the community, this new program will be called Detroit Collegiate Preparatory High School at Northwestern.”
So, like so many other places of importance in my early life in Detroit, Northwestern High is no more. The original building was replaced in 1980 and the school was closed in 2011. So many of my family attended high school at Northwestern, some just for a year or two. Here is something about those who graduated, starting with Alberta Cleage in 1927 and ending with my sister Pearl in 1966.
Click on any image to enlarge.
Cousin Alberta Cleage, my grandfather’s brother Edward’s daughter, came up from Athens Tennessee to stay with her Uncle Albert and his family and graduated from Northwestern High School in 1927.
My uncle Louis Cleage graduated Cum Laude in 1931 and appeared in a picture of the physics lab, right there lower right, first desk. Advertisements for his medical practice appeared in the Norwester in 1941 and 1942.
Henry Cleage appears in a photograph of the orchestra in 1933 and as a graduating senior in 1934. He is in the back row, 4th from the left with his cello.
My uncle Hugh Cleage graduated in 1936, unfortunately that yearbook is missing.
My aunt Barbara Cleage graduated in summer school in August of 1938
My aunt Gladys Cleage graduated in 1939. In the photo on the right Gladys is standing in front of the back steps. You can see Henry over her right shoulder. Not sure who the other two are but my grandmother Pearl is looking through the screen door.
My cousin Geraldine Cleage, Uncle Henry Cleage’s daughter graduated in 1940. They lived a few blocks from my grandparent’s house on Scotten.
Anna Cleage graduated from Northwestern in 1942 and appeared in the Norwester and in 1947 in the yearbook when she graduated from Wayne State University.
I, Kristin Cleage, graduated from Northwestern in 1964.
That is me in the middle, 2nd row. I pretty much looked like that throughout my high school career. I did not take a senior photo and didn’t plan to go to my graduation, but did end up going. Do not remember a thing about it.
My sister Pearl Cleage graduated from Northwestern in 1966.
Pearl gave the valedictorian speech at her graduation. Jim advised her to speak out against the war in Vietnam. She was horrified at the thought and regrets now that she did not do it.
Several family members attended Northwestern for part of their four year high school career and then transferred to other schools. Some were Ruth Cleage, Shelton Hill, Ernest Martin and Betty Floyd.
My mother Doris and her sister Mary Virginia with their dog Bonzo. The picture was taken in August 1932, about 6 months after their brother Howard died of Scarlet Fever. Mary V. was 12 and Doris was 9. The sisters were granddaughters of Jennie Virginia Allen Turner, who was the daughter of Dock and Eliza Allen. My mother later had a sister-in-law named Gladys Cleage, who will celebrate her 93rd birthday this Saturday. I could not find a photograph of her with a sister and a dog, but here she is with sister Anna.
Gladys and Anna were the grandchildren of Lewis and Anna Cecilia Cleage, and great granddaughters of Frank and Juda Cleage of Athens, TN.
Because my family seemed to socialized mainly with each other and a few long time family friends, I saw a lot of my aunts and uncles. When I was growing up, we spent every Saturday with my mother’s sister, Mary V. and her daughters at our maternal grandparents. We all rode over and back together. We also lived down the street and went to the same school so we saw her often.
My father’s family was very close and worked on political and freedom causes together through the years. We all went up to Idlewild together. Uncle Louis was our family doctor. My first jobs were working with Henry and Hugh at Cleage Printers. I babysat one summer for Anna and Winslow. I worked at North Detroit General Hospital in the pharmacy with Winslow. I worked with Gladys and Barbara at the Black Star sewing factory. My mother married my Uncle Henry years after my parents divorced so he was like a second father to me. I raked their memories for stories about the past for decades.
I had 4 aunts and 5 uncles, by blood. Two of my uncles died when they were children so I never knew them. All of my aunts married so there were 4 uncles by marriage. Three, Ernest, Frank and Edward, were eventually divorced from my aunts. I didn’t see them very much after that. Ernest lived in NYC and only appeared now and then so I didn’t know him very well beyond the fact he was very good looking and polite. Uncle Frank, who we called ‘Buddy’, was a an electrician. I remember him taking us to Eastern Market and boiling up a lot of shrimp,which we ate on soda crackers. And a story he told about a whirling dervish seen in the distance that turned into a dove. Edward, who we called Eddie was a doctor and I remember little about him except he was quiet and when I had a bad case of teenage acne, offered to treat it for me. Uncle Winslow was there to the end. I saw him often and I felt very connected to him. He had a wicked sense of humor and liked to talk about the past when I was in my family history mode. None of my uncles were married during my lifetime so I had no aunts by marriage.
We didn’t call our aunts and uncles “aunt” and “uncle”. We called them by their first names only. I did know two of my great aunts, my maternal grandmother’s sisters, Daisy and Alice. I knew one of my 2 X great aunts, Aunt Abbie. She lived with my grandparents until she died in 1966. Aunt Abbie was Catholic and I still have a Crucifix that she gave me.
I remember calling Daisy “Aunt Daisy”, but Alice was just “Alice”. Aunt Daisy had a distinctive voice and she laughed a lot. I remember going to dinner at their house once, and going by on holidays.
There were a host of great aunts and uncles that I never met but I knew from stories about them so that I felt like I knew them. Aunt Minnie and Uncle Hugh were my paternal grandmother’s siblings. I must have met several of my paternal grandfather’s siblings but I was small and don’t remember them, Uncle Jake, Uncle Henry, Aunt Josie and their spouses. And on the maternal side I heard so much about my great grandmother Jennie’s siblings that I felt I knew them too. When I started researching, these were not strangers – Aunt Willie, Aunt Mary, Aunt Beulah, Aunt Anna.
We didn’t call any of my parent’s friends ‘aunt’ or ‘uncle’. Not surprising since we didn’t call our own aunts and uncles, ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’.
Here are some memories from a newsletter my family put out from 1990 to about 1994. Daughter Ayanna did all the drawings. I added one new memory that my sister-in-law Jocelyn sent me in December, 2013.