Tag Archives: #Henry Cleage

Aunts & Uncles

book+of+me+adYesterday I talked about cousins, today I am going to share something about my aunts and uncles, some plain old aunts and uncles and some great and some 2X great.

Pearl and Albert with their children and 3 of the grandchildren. My sister and I were at our other grandmothers and the youngest 4 were not yet born. 1951.
Pearl and Albert with their children and 3 of the grandchildren. My sister and I were at our other grandmothers and the youngest 4 were not yet born. 1951.

 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.

My mother and her sister with cousin Dee Dee inbetween. Front row: Me, sister Pearl and cousin Barbara.
My mother and her sister with cousin Dee Dee inbetween. Front row: Me, sister Pearl and cousin Barbara.
  • Aunts by blood and Uncles by marriage.
    Aunts by blood and Uncles by marriage.
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Aunt Abbie – my great grandmother Turner’s sister.

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.

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My maternal grandmother’s sisters, Aunts Alice and Daisy. On Bob-lo Island 1961.

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.

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2X Great Grandmother Eliza and her children. My 2X great aunts and uncle.  Aunt Mary, Ransom, Aunt Abbie, Aunt Beulah, Eliza, Great Grandmother Turner, Aunt Anna and Aunt Willie. Don’t know why Ransom was just ‘Ransom’.

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’.

Left to right: Albert, Josephine, Edward. Back L Henry, back R Jacob
Left to right: My grandfather Albert Cleage with my great aunt and great uncles, Aunt Josie, Uncle Ed. Back L Uncle Henry, back R Uncle Jake.

Old County Building and Mary V. Elkins

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Henry Cleage 1955

When I saw the prompt, I immediately thought of some photos of a building in Detroit that my uncle Henry Cleage took.  I found them in the first place I looked (amazingly). They aren’t labeled or dated but looking at a few old Detroit buildings I found they are of the old County Building. I would date them around 1950 from the people and cars.  These are only a few of the many.  Court was held in the building and Henry was a lawyer. Perhaps he had some cases there.

Old Detroit County Building
Old Detroit County Building

“The cornerstone was laid Oct. 20, 1897, in a ceremony that the Detroit Free Press called at the time “simple but impressive.” Under a headline in capital letters proclaiming, “It is laid!”, the Free Press wrote that it had rained all morning the day of the ceremony, but just at 2 p.m., as officials were gathering at Old City Hall, the sun broke and the clouds parted. A band led the procession down Cadillac Square to a platform decked out in American flags in front of the county building, where Judge Edgar O. Durfee had the honor of laying the cornerstone. Judge Robert E. Frazer gave what the Free Press called a “stirring address,” and Mayor William C. Maybury also participated.”   Go to Old Wayne County Building  – Historic Detroit to read a detailed history of the Old County Building.

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“One of the building’s most prominent features is the pair of large sculptures flanking its center tower and portico. The copper sculptures are known as quadrigae, a Roman chariot drawn by four horses. The pieces were done by New York sculptor J. Massey Rhind, who intended the quadrigae to symbolize progress. They feature a woman standing in a chariot led by four horses with two smaller figures on either side.”  From Old Wayne County Building – Historic Detroit

Mary Vee 1940 - In front of Plymouth Congregational Church.
Mary Vee 1940 – In front of Plymouth Congregational Church.

My mother’s sister, Mary V. Elkins, got a job at the County Building in 1940.

“June 10, 1940 — Mary Virginia has just gotten (through Jim and May) a good job at the County Bldg — God is so good to us. M.V. won high honor in her business Institute for typing and short hand.”  Fannie Mae Turner Graham’s little diary.

Mary V. attended business school after she graduated from Eastern High School, then worked for awhile at her cousin’s Newspaper office until he helped her get a job in the old county building.  She held the job for many years and received  a proclamation from the City of Detroit for her service to the city during a Family Reunion when she was in her 80s.

seasons greetings
Wayne County Courthouse (2)
Wayne County Courthouse

Old Wayne County Building could soon be allowed to seek buyers.  “A Wayne County Commission committee approved a nonbinding agreement today that would settle a nearly 3-year-old lawsuit against the owners of the Old Wayne County Building and allow the owners to seek potential buyers.”  From an April, 2013 article in the Detroit Free Press.

Playing The Piano

I started taking piano lessons when I was about seven years old.  We lived on Chicago Blvd. in the parsonage.  Mrs. Fowler was our teacher.  I remember her as a stern older woman who, according to my cousin, sometimes smashed her fingers on the keys when she kept making mistakes.  I think of the room with the piano as the “Morning Room”. Maybe that’s what my mother called it. There was wall paper with fruit on it. My music book was “Teaching Little Fingers to Play” and I learned 3 note pieces with words like “Here we go, up a row, to a birthday party.”  When played in a different order it became the piece “Dolly dear, Sandman’s here.  Soon you will be sleeping.”  I must have practiced between lessons because I remember being used as a good example to my cousin Barbara one time.  The piano must have belonged to the church because when we moved, it stayed there.

The piano I took lessons on behind Henry and the cello.
The piano I took lessons on behind Henry playing the cello.

Several years later we were living in the upper flat on Calvert.  I told my mother I wanted to take piano lessons again.  She bought the used upright piano in the photo above. We all signed it on the inside of the flap you rest the music on and raise to get at the insides. Our new teacher was Mr. Manderville, the church choir director at that time.  He was my parents age and went in more for mean, sarcastic remarks as opposed to banging your fingers on the keyboard. I wanted to play “Comin’ Through The Rye” but he wouldn’t assign it and, for unknown reasons, I didn’t just learn it on my own time.

The only piece I remember by name was “The Wild Horseman”. I remember it as a complex piece that I played exceptionally well. Sort of like this.

Well, maybe I wasn’t quite that good, but in my memory, I am every bit as good. Eventually I told my mother I didn’t want to take piano lessons any more. She was not happy with that and mentioned buying the piano at my request so I could take lessons. She did let me stop. My mother played the piano much better than I ever did. She played it often after that.  Pieces of classical music she played on the record player and those she played on the piano have become confused in my mind now.  I will have to ask my sister what she remembers.

Another part of the prompt is pictures within the picture. You will notice three pictures on the wall and one of my sister and me on the piano, in my photo above.

Cleage Cookout – August 1958

My uncle Hugh by the gate.
My uncle Hugh by the gate.

I remember several cookouts in my grandmother Cleage’s backyard. There was the one where the tables were set up right in front of the gate that looked out on the street. There was some sort of minor argument about this. Afterwards, my sister and I called any sort of family argument a “cookout.” On that occasion Grace Lee Boggs dropped by, not for the cookout, but for some political reason, dating it in the 1960s.

tables
You can just see Hugh’s head behind Louis, my mother, Henry.

The cookout pictured below took place during the summer of 1958. My uncle Louis bought a big blue plastic swimming pool that took up most of the cement part of the yard. I don’t remember it being there any other summer. Once, my sister Pearl was drowning when my uncle Henry noticed her on the bottom of the pool, reached down and pulled her out. I don’t know why she didn’t stand up.  She was 9 and I turned 12 that August.  The bushes on the fence were full of tiny, pink roses during the season. Those are still my favorite roses.

Pearl remembers: I am still mystified as to why I didn’t just put my feet down. I don’t remember being at the bottom of the pool. I remember going down and splashing my way back up to the top and not being able to stay with my head above water. and then Henry came over and grabbed me and pulled me up and out. who knows what was going on? and we had those little plastic life preservers, too. how deep was the damn thing anyway?

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Pearl, my aunt Gladys, Kris, cousin Ernie in the pool. It was blue plastic with a metal frame.

doris
My mother sitting beside the pool.

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My aunt Barbara standing by the fence between my grandmother’s and the Smith’s.

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To see more picnics and such, CLICK!

N is for a Nostalgic Interview with Henry W. Cleage

a-to-z-letters-nIn my fourteenth post for the April A-Z Challenge, I am going to share a Nostalgic interview I did with my Uncle Henry Cleage in 1994. I’ve done several posts about the Freedom Now Party before. At that time I didn’t know how to embed the actual audio interview. I figured it out yesterday and so, here it is!

I wish my interviewing skills had been better when I recorded this.  Obvious things like, turn off the radio and go to a quiet room. I edited out as much of the extraneous noise as I could. Henry and I were sitting in the living room of my house in Idlewild, MI. You can hear the sounds of the kids getting dinner on the table and hollering at the dog in the background. In 1994 my youngest 4 were all at home and we were homeschooling.  Henry lived about 4 miles away and often had dinner with us.

An interview with Henry Cleage about the Michigan Freedom Now Party.

Henry W. Cleage
Henry W. Cleage

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