Tag Archives: #Los Angeles

Well, we is in Los Angeles…

“This is our house the square (unreadable) one. Aug. 1944 Los Angeles

Hi Folks:

Well we is in Los Angeles… (Typewriter is still on the way) Our last two weeks in San Francisco were a conglomeration of everybody sending us on our way. We had supper out almost everyday — and all of San Francisco’s Elite entertained us — quite a time was had by all. We also received several gifts in addition to the church’s gift of books — Cigarettes — Candy — towel set — 2 lbs of coffee — ash trays — and books (even a copy of Strange Fruit). People were very nice — with their regrets and hopes that we will return when Thurman leaves. Frisky kept smiling even though it seemed to hurt his face.

Just before we we left we met Rev. Roy Nichols who has another inter-racial church (Congregational) across the Bay in Berkley. His co-pastor is Rev. Gallager who was president of Talladega College before coming to the “Pacific School of Religion”. Nichols “offered me a job “working with him and Gallager — and tried to arrange a meeting with Gallager but I was too busy. (I’m tired of inter-racial churches for the present!)

President Imes of Knoxville College sent me an application blank which I returned (with a letter in which I re-organized Knoxville’s curriculum around religious education!) He said he had an opening for a Prof. of Religious Ed — and a college Preacher — the combined job paying $1,890 per year and house.

(The top corner of the page, where the return address would be on the reverse side is torn out, leaving four half sentences.

….ply to my application …happy to have …ine training and …Knoxville faulty – but he would have to work slowly to get the Elders of the church – and he does not want to seem to be forcing – the issue etc. He also admitted that the salary is very inadequate (with which I agree!!!) He said that he had mentioned my application to the President of Virginia State College who also is looking for a College Preacher but just for a year while the regular preacher is away studying. He suggested that Virginia State will contact me — giving me the opportunity to pick the position which offers the best position. (Nice, isn’t he!)

Anyway – I’m writing Imes and advising him to take his time — I’d rather stay here until next fall anyway I can finish two years work at the U. of Southern California by that time. As I told him, I’m looking for a permanent position which will still allow me time for study during the summer — with an occasional semester off for study etc. I don’t suppose anything will come of it!

Los Angeles is a fine town! Except for our present financial uproar we like it better than any place we’ve been yet.

Our financial-uproar is due to the fact that we have not as yet received our last — $200 — pay! Dr. Smith stopped payment because I insisted upon $200 instead of $135 –. So — I have turned a bill into the church for the balance of $65 due. I suppose I’ll get it all one of these days! (over Frisky’s dead body!)

Our apartment is Super-duper!!! It’s “on the hill”– which in Detroit would be the “North-End” — except its more like Boston Blvd — or Lake-shore Drive!!! — Big — fine houses, lawns and palm-trees. Negroes have not broken into the “hill district” A Mrs. Hammonds of Detroit owns the building (Husband a racketeer (?) or something in Detroit). Our living room is right out of “House and Garden” magazine — It is long with blue wall to wall carpet — and white walls and woodwork — and white walls and colored upholstered furniture — end tables — cocktail table ‘n that — (Ohhh yes and Venetian Blinds at the windows which are all the way across one end of the room with wine-colored drapes at either end!) The bathroom is pale-blue tile with white woodwork ‘n that. Shower — built in bath tub ‘n’ that!

The only catch is the kitchen which is an alcove between the living room and the bah-room. It’s shrewd, too but it ain’t got neither sink nor stove! We’re supposed to get an electric plate to cook on — and the land lady is supposed to put in a sink! The ice-box and cupboard are in. It was called a Bachelor-apt. — and so had no stove or sink.

Click for more information on in-a-dor beds

Both the kitchen living room and bath have built in automatic heating units (gas). The living-room has an “In-a-door-bed” which is very nice — and the closet for clothes! We also have a garage for storage, the building is new and shrewd! Thousands of Negroes within walking distance and all in nice homes – quiet and taken care of just like white-folks. I can see why Daddy wanted to move out here. It would be a fine place to live if you had money!

We’ve been here eating at the restaurant ever since we got here – There’s a very nice little colored restaurant within walking distance “The Faun” – very elite — ‘n’ that! But our pocket-books won’t stand much more of it, — fun though while it lasts!!!

I registered at the University of Southern California today. Its a fine campus and buildings — I can’t tell about classes yet. With the religion fellowship — my bill was $73.00 for 16 hours (full semester). Without the reduction it would have been over $200.00 (and I’d a been right home!) Most (all but one) of my courses are in Cinema — with one religion course to enable me to register in the graduate school of religion.

Doris starts job-hunting any day now! She has an appointment with the Red-Cross and the Urban League. Can’t tell how everything is going to turn out — quite an escapade however, if we can just last a year! and then move on to New York – authorities in the field of Cinema and Religious Ed. ‘n’ that.

Tell the Junior Doctor to keep his fingers crossed until we wire him for money — and then to wire the money — and send “the I told you so” on by air-mail!

Well so-long

Other Letters Home

My Parents Time in San Francisco January to July 1944
Its Friday afternoon August 18, 1944
I have a little problem in “Design” December 20, 1944
Christmas Day 1944 – Part 1
Christmas Day 1944 – Part 2
Christmas Day 1944 – Part 3
Guess we must be writing too much.. January 6, 1945
Thanks for the Springfield information January 13, 1945
We received your letters…March 3, 1945
The Missing Months – March to November 1945

Just a short note…

June 11, 1944

Dear Folks,

Just a short not to tell you-all that we have our Los Angeles address and that the apartment is at least partially furnished. We received a Special from Mr Woodard, the agent who has been looking for a place for us, and this is what he said about the apartment he has for us.

“It is a modern apartment in every detail and is equipped with a living-room suite, carpet, Venetian blinds, and a pull-out bed in the living-room. Adjoining the living-room is a small alcove which is used as a kichenette. It has a frigidaire (I can hardly wait!!) in it but does not have a stove. Adjoining this kitchenette alcove, is a complete tile bath.” The rent is $37.50 per month.

Their apartment – 2130 S. Hobart Blvd. #4. Window upstairs between trees.

So ——it looks like we will go to Los Angeles and stay awhile. I hope the apartment is as good as he makes it sound. We are very lucky to have a furnished one…. it will save us quite a bit of expense. We have our tickets for July 2 and will leave at 8:15 a.m. and arrive at 6 p.m. the same day. The apartment will be ready for us when we get there, so we will not have to spend money for a hotel room. I am getting all ready to pack. Freight rate from here to L.A. is 90¢ a hundred pounds and if we ship our things four or five days before we leave, they should get there when we do.

Everything here goes well. We went down to Palo Alto yesterday with the Brittons and had a very good time. It was cold and foggy in San Francisco, but down there the sun was shining and we felt the first hot weather we’ve seen since last summer! Stanford University campus was a very interesting place to see what white-folks money can do. Five thousand acres of palm trees, huge stone buildings, carillons, a 30-room house for the President of the University, and an estate for Herbert Hoover… a mess.

Don’t worry about us if our letters are short for awhile. We’ll be busy getting ready to go. We’ll write something every week, though. It takes about six days for your letters (not air-mail —three days for them) to reach us, so if you mail any after June 25, send them to 2130 South Hobart Boulevard, Apartment 4, Los Angeles.


Hi Folks:

Looks like the “fabulous” Cleages are off on another “fantastic” adventure or something. WE’D VERY MUCH LIKE TO BORROW HENRY’S ELECTRIC-STOVE if you-all aren’t using it (or planning to use it soon.) It’s about the only thing we’ll have to buy for the apartment … except a desk (or table) for me. IF you-all can see your way clear send it to us at the address above RAILWAY EXPRESS right away SO IT WILL BE THERE WHEN WE ARRIVE. and (O.K. LOUIS) send us the bill (for carting and shipping)

I don’t remember whether I mentioned this or not. I heard from the Detroit Council of Churches a few days ago…saying that my application will be placed on file until they raise the money… and promising to contact me this FALL when the plans are worked out a little more definitely.

Don’t worry too much about our Los Angeles expedition… if it doesn’t work out WE’LL BE ALONG HOME ANY DAY. Seems like it might work if the good Lord decides to keep Albert B. Cleage, 3rd in heaven for a couple more years … and Doris can find an EASY job (which is the only sort she’d keep!)

Everything here is just too sweet … the church is arranging a farewell party … and getting a present etc. I preach my last sermon here next Sunday. We had a fine trip yesterday … down to Palo Alto … SOUTH …warm and everything … (Like Los Angeles). A lady in the church has a FORD she wants to sell for $250.00 … I’m trying to talk Doris out of getting it … (since it would leave us too close to broke!) (You can see she sure is a STA-BAL-IZING INFLUENCE! DON’T FORGET THE STOVE! Let us know, either way as soon as possible so we can try to pick up something here if you’re using it!



Other Letters Home

My Parents Time in San Francisco January to July 1944
Its Friday afternoon August 18, 1944
I have a little problem in “Design” December 20, 1944
Christmas Day 1944 – Part 1
Christmas Day 1944 – Part 2
Christmas Day 1944 – Part 3
Guess we must be writing too much.. January 6, 1945
Thanks for the Springfield information January 13, 1945
We received your letters…March 3, 1945
The Missing Months – March to November 1945

Its Friday afternoon

This is another letter that my father wrote home to Detroit from Los Angeles when he was studying film in 1944. The photograph of my mother putting a hem in her skirt is also from August, 1944. I’m not sure if this picture was enclosed with this letter.

Putting a hem in a skirt. Aug 1944 in Sunshiny living. Los Angeles

231 South Hobart Blvd. #4
Los Angeles, 7, California
August 18, 1944

Hi Folks:

Its Friday afternoon and I just got home from school, and I thought I’d drop you-all a note on the state of the nation.  My “little” wife is still working. She gets off about five-thirty and comes home by way of the grocery store. Everything is about the same as usual. We’re still at large (out of the poor-house)…but I’ll have to find something to do pretty quick if we’re planning to stay that-a-way! I’m “dickering” with the Los Angeles Church Federation for a “position”. The “boss-Man” is out of town but I’ve filed an application and we’ll discuss the matter further when he gets back in September. It would be a pretty-good job if I can get it…sort of Negro field-worker for the Federation, co-ordinating the community work of the Negro churches… recruiting and training volunteers and organizing programs and clubs and groups and what-have-you. I’ve also applied to the Negro Community-Center, just-in-case.

On the way to school this morning a man picked me up in the safety-zone (big fine looking red-faced white man) in a Packard from here down town…and we got to bulling each other, and it turned out that he’s the Director of Audio-Visual Education for the Los Angeles Public Schools.  Of course he was very happy to meet a real authority in the field…and invited me down to his office to see the experimental work the School System is doing in Moving-picture production.  I’ll go down as soon as I can and see what them there “amateurs” are a trying to do.

School is going along fine…(no grades yet, of course!) Me and the Dean of the School of Religion are having a little long-distance controversy through his secretary.  He thinks I ought to take half of my work in RELIGION…and I think I ought to take all (or almost all) in Cinema.  He has an ace in the hole, however, in as much as I’m registered under the School of Religion and therefore pay only the special fees (Fellowships in religion make up the difference) …However, I’m not going to take half of my work in religion in as much as the religion courses will not contribute to what I’m trying to do!

 SPECIAL NOTE TO LOUIS: If he makes me pay up the REGULAR REGISTRATION FEES I’ll have to wire you for a small loan of $100.00 or so until I can work long enough to pay it back. I think we can “arrange the difference of opinion” without such a drastic step… but with the good-white-folks you can never tell…especially preachers. My wife will divorce me if I have to borrow…but I aint no sentimentalist myself…and so I’m a warnin’ you.

How’s the farm going? How’s Mama getting along? I hear that “Racial-tension” in Detroit is a thing of the past! We’re getting ready to have a riot here…The FEPC has ordered the Street Railways to hire and upgrade Negroes immediately! Maybe I can get a “Riot-Movie”.

Here are some “snaps”- Did you get the ones we sent from San Francisco – I don’t think you ever mentioned them.

Fancy Free In The Hollywood Bowl – 1944

“The air was cool at night. I stretched out my arms in the moonlight and flew. I raced and raced in the cool night expanse, on the largest stage in the world. Around me the mountains ribbed the sky. Under my feet lay the beat of a full symphony orchestra.”

— Agnes De Mille, Dance To The Piper, pg 174

The Hollywood Bowl.

This excerpt below is from a letter written by my father to his parents and siblings in Detroit. You can see my mother hanging up clothes and my father smoking during that same time, up in the header photo.

2130 South Hobart Blvd. #4
Los Angeles, 7, California
September 2, 1944

Hi Folks:

It’s Sunday afternoon…hot as usual…Everything goes along about as usual (the poor get poorer and the rich get richer)…

We went to the Hollywood Bowl last night to see the incomparable “Ballet Theater”…Russian Ballet by S. Hurok. The Bowl is way out in “West h—” from were we live.  It took over an hour on the street car to get there… and the last mile took about half of the time… the street-car would move about an inch and wait for ten minutes and then move another inch.  We were late…as usual… but in plenty of time to see all we cared to see.  The Bowl is a dished out place down in between some mountains…with thousands of seats rising up the mountain sides in front of the stage.  The place was jammed!  We had the cheapest seats, naturally, which Doris purchased through the Red Cross for a slight reduction…but by climbing over the backs of the seats…very undignified…we managed to sneak into the next higher priced section..where we could see the performers… after a fashion…the section where we belonged …ran on and on…up the mountain…and the people on the stage must have looked like little ants or something…which was just as well…considering the nature of the performance.  The dancing was about what you would expect Pee Wee, Gladys and Barbara to put on after a week-end of rehearsal out in the barn.  Romeo and J. went on and on for hours…The people sitting next to us…who apparently had never heard of Shakespeare…decided the dance must be about an Egyptian princess or something.  “Fancy Free” which was supposed to be terrific…dragged on and on and on…long after the dance was finished.  All in all it was quite an evening.  We left before the last extravaganza in order to catch a street car before the mob…ran a block and a half…and finally caught what they humorously call street cars out here..and made our way home…

The Hollywood Bowl

About Fancy Free

We received your letter…

2130 S. Hobart Blvd. #4
Los Angeles 7, California
March 29, 1945

Dear Brabra:

We received your letter (letters)…and were very glad to get a “report” on doings on the home-front. We keep so “complicated and unfinancial” that we keep everybody writing exclusively about our problems to the exclusion of what you-all are doing n’ that.

We went out amongst ’em again Sunday. You may remember Maude and Walter Lewis from Detroit.  Maude was Maude Goins, I believe, before she married Walter Lewis who lived on the West Side and ran around with Harold Glenn.  She went to Plymouth. I didn’t remember either of them…I never remember people unless I know them pretty well.  He said he knew Henry very well (Perhaps Henry will remember him) Anyhow, we went to their home for dinner. They have a little cottage, and two little girls, and he drives a bus (semi-elite) Valeria Tandy (now Mrs. Valeria McCreay) was there too.  We hashed over what everybody still in Detroit is doing and where all those who are away are and what they are doing, etc.  They like California and are planing to stay if they can move all of their relatives out here.  After dinner five other semi-elite couples arrived (just like the movies … except we didn’t motor out to the Country Club for Cocktails) We played some silly game … Polino or something for pennies…My luck not being very good I lost my six pennies quickly and spent the rest of the evening calling out the cards.  They played as though the future peace of the world depended on it…the women especially…not bad looking howsomeever. (Note from my mother inserted – that’s the only reason he played. leering!) After several hours of it…they began to drop out with spots jumping before their eyes n’ that…concentration always gives my people either a head ache or puts them to sleep.  Since they were trying to be elite they all developed headaches.  A very nice time was had by all…’cept I can’t put up with no bunch for six hours without being very weary…very very weary. (incidentally marriage has improved Valeria…or perhaps it was the baby. (I mention this so you can tell Hugh, who I believe use to “go” with her.)

We also descended upon Hollywood the other day. (See enclosed invitation) Walt Disney is trying to bust into the production of Religious films which is supposed to be developing into a little gold mine as soon as the war is over.  He’s trying to “fix-up” a lot of old pictures for re-release to churches.  His idea is nuts…the pictures won’t fit into any church program … but he’s going to try because he has a million dollars tied up in old pictures that can’t be released any more through the old channels.  Cathedral Films is the “Big” Religious film Prodction company.  They’re trying to “encourage” Disney to come on into the field because there’s not enough production going on to meet the needs of the churches.  Churches have to know that films will be available before they put several hundred dollars into a projector.  (I’m going to show Louis, Paul, George, Hugh, and Henry the point where we also ought to go into the production of films soon as I get home… I’ve already re-designed Louis’ garage into a sound-studio for the production of movies and film-strips…they are very lucky boys!) Anyway, we descended upon Hollywood.  Reverend Galloway drove us out in his big Buick…We were late as my folks always are…and he drove like Pee-wee…with the same disregard for life and limb, I mean, but without the finese and flash that Pee-Wee displays, of course. The Studio is out from Los Angeles…where the sunshines all of the time…and the air is clear. Because they are making Training films for the army in addition to entertainment films the place was full of guards who demanded a pass every ten feet.  He has a little city all his own…not so large as the other studios…but much larger than anyone would need to produce animated pictures…except for the Hollywood glamour.  We passed Warners Studio on the way (see map in invitation) They were not working because of the strike.  Pickets were at every gate…just like the movies.  The stars refuse to break a picket-line (most of them being communists…except Eddie Brackeen who is a Republican) We looked for Peter Lorie and Sidney Greenstreet (our favorite actors) but couldn’t find them in the mobs around the gates.  Disney has a super-fine projection room with a big glamorous control channel in the center of the auditorium for editing “rushes” and that…The poor preachers who were guests stumbled about as though they were lost in a world of sin about which they knew nothing…and were properly awed and amazed…and dumbfounded.  They made speeches about this great new medium and the kindness of Mr. Disney who was going to help the churches with his great talents and that…very disgusting humility! In the midst of it all Reverend Galloway was darting about like a little termite trying to meet people and introduce me to the “right people as his friend, a Visual-Education expert n’ that.  I got so tired of chasing after little dumpy blad-headed white men to shake their limp moist hands and leer at them that I was O so happy to meet them.  Galloway, who has a considerable sense in most things, makes quite a point of this sort of activity.  It may pay dividends but it’s too strenuous a life for me…I’d rather be a wall flower.  Doris enjoyed the glamour…and kept interrupting the pictures and the speeches to “suggest” that we open a studio in Detroit in connection with the church.  She wanted ot operate the controls, I could tell.  That there Louis would have a “tinkering fit” if turned loose in a sound studio…such “pretty machines” to be fixed n’ that! I don’t think the fact that the most delicate mechanisms are sealed and should be sent back to the factory for adjustment would stop him, at least not until he broke them all up one time! Well, I suppose that’s all the news from the “ON” front at present.  I KNOW that Pee-Wee and Gladys are in there fighting every minute on their own little “ON” fronts (La Moor…La-Mor!) tell Henry & Hugh I’m trying to get back to Detroit in time to build ’em a new chicken coop this Spring…THIS IS THE TIME FOR EGGS n’ that… If they don’t get “rich” now, ain’t no use talking about it later!

“Brabra” is my father’s sister, as are Gladys and “Pee-Wee”.  Louis, Henry and Hugh are his brothers. Louis was a doctor who loved to tinker and build things and take things apart. Henry and Hugh were conscientious objectors who farmed during WW2.

The pass and the map were not included in the letter that has come down to me. To learn more about the Hollywood strike in 1945 click on the photograph above.

This is the last letter in my collection from Los Angeles to Detroit.  The next letter arrives in November from Springfield, Mass. I wish I knew how that eventually came about. There are several newspaper articles that I will be posting that announce his appointment to St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield. Articles, photographs and letters to come.

“It’s me again…”

2130 Hobart Blvd. #4
Los Angeles 7, California
January 9, 1945

"Albert B. Cleage"

Hi Folks:

It’s me again.  I heard from the Board of Pulpit Supply in Boston this morning… and as I “suspected” there ain’t no vacancy. Reverend White has not as yet contacted me regarding names and addresses… He was no doubt surprised that his “bluff” had been called.  The pastor is on a leave-of-absence and another pastor is serving for him. so that’s that.

You-all failed, apparently, to take my suggestion regarding the organization of a Detroit church very seriously. ‘Tain’t no use, however…in view of the absolute lack of Congregational openings I’m going to have to organize somewhere.  Let me present the matter again in an orderly manner so you can let me know your reactions immediately.

I think I can organize and operate a church in Detroit without any great difficulty IF either the Presbyterian or Congregational Board can be interested in contributing to such an undertaking.  By contributing for the purchase of an adequate plant in which the execution of a full church program would be possible.  The local Congregational Board does not think in those terms so I would prefer not to have to deal with them.  I have no way of knowing what the Presbyterian board would consider SO I WISH THAT DADDY and/or Uncle Henry would find out.  In my previous letter on this matter I mentioned a small church on Forest near Brush.  After more lengthy consideration, however, I think organizing that close to Reverend White could not but be considered a declaration of war… and I would rather not start with any more declarations of war than necessary (Rev. Hill and the rest would automatically consider any such move WAR no matter where it was located.) So, the Church on the Blvd. and Warren being out of the question until the war is over…I end up with the only practical possibility, The Church building at the end of Scotten (facing Grand River) is available and adequate. It is offered for sale for ninety-five thousand, ($15,000 down) THE LOCATION is better than it would seem off-hand.  It is convenient to both the WEST SIDE and the NORTH-END (where any members I might pick up would come from for the most part)  The building has two auditoriums… club rooms… offices… and a gas station on the corner  (For a co-operative venture!) WOULD THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH LEND A MISSION THE DOWN-PAYMENT ON SUCH A BUILDING? If a membership of say 100 and pledges of $100 a week could be lined up?

You are no doubt thinking the idea “impossible”…but I should think that a Board without a Detroit Church, properly approached regarding such a “community church idea” would not consider the risk too great.  Talk it over with Uncle Henry and let me know as soon as possible. (So I can get Bud busy sighing up members!)

Everything is O.K. (Same as usual).


I tried to find a photo of a church on the corner of Scotten and Grand River in Detroit, which was only a few blocks from the Cleage family home, but there is no longer a church there.

To the left is a photograph of Bud Elkins, who was helping my father look for a church building in Detroit. He was married to my mother’s sister, Mary V. Graham Elkins. At this time they had one daughter, Dee Dee, who is the 7 year old photographer who appears in this photograph.

Guess We must be writing too often…

Another letter from the collection of my father’s letters home to Detroit while he and my mother were living in Los. Angeles California.  Other posts in this series include Christmas letter, Hi Folks (Happy New Year…), I have a little problem in design and Christmas Eve.

2103 S. Hobart Blvd. #4
Los Angeles 7, California
January 6, 1944

Dear Folks:

"Albert B. Cleage"

Guess we must be writing too often…don’t seem to leave you-all no incentive to feel communicative n’ that.  We received Gladys’ letter…sounded like you-all had a nice Christmas.  Everything here is about the same…except I’ve had a cold or flu or something ever since last Sunday…It’s much better now…and Doris seems bent on getting it too… kicked me out of bed this morning to phone her supervisor that she was taking sick-leave…and then woke up later (this afternoon) with a cold…which made her very angry…stealing sick leave and then really being sick. (po’ thing!)

Guess our telegram failed to stimulate the intended response…since we ain’t heard no “immediate” reply like we requested.) or did we forget the verb in our efforts to keep under the forty cent limit!)  Reverend White wrote a little note saying that the church in Springfield, Mass. is vacant and suggesting that I try for it.  I, having misplaced my Congregational Directory, had no way of looking up the church…and White with unconcern said nothing about the name of the church…names of people to be contacted or nothin‘. So we sent you-all “instructions” to contact White for this information…so I can get busy writing.  (Probably couldn’t find him until Sunday no-how – I suppose!)  A letter addressed to “Negro Congregational Church, Springfield, Mass” would I’m sure prejudice the good brethren against me.  I wrote to the Congregational Board of Pulpit Supply in Boston and asked them to place my name before the officers of the church.  But I have little faith in their “energy” or “ability” in so far as Negros are concerned, I had just corresponded with the Executive Secretary of the Board the preceding week regarding openings…and he sent me his best wishes and the season’s greetings.  But I wrote him anyway! I wrote Reverend White suggesting that HE contact the church officers placing my name before them. But I also have little faith in his “energy” n’ that. As a matter of fact I’m not sure that there is actually any opening there! He does so love to play the Big-Shot…I would not put it beyond him to just pull a name out of a hat…or say Springfield when the opening is really in New Haven or Boston…or something else absurd.  The Church in Springfield is “supposed” to be a good church…one of the old New England Elite outfits. I could probably get it if I could get to them… but without a reputation…and three thousand miles from the scene, it will be rather difficult at best.  Laviscount is in Boston…but I don’t know him…and fear to contct the swaggering self-centered ilk of typical Congregational bretheren.  Doris may write.  She and her folks know him.

P.S. Write sometimes!
P.P.S.-Do you know any Springfield Big-wigs? (Not like those in L.A.!!!)
P.P.P. S . – Did Rev. Pickett of First Church in Detroit go to Springfield, Mass, or New Haven, Conn.?
P.P.P.P.S. – How are Henry & Hugh doing with the new “draft young farmers” business? Still O.K. I hope!!!!!

I have a little problem in “Design”…

This letter should have come before the previous post where my father writes about lecturing on his Design Theory. “Gravi” is his younger sister, Gladys who was an art student at Wayne State University in Detroit at the time.  Below is a strip photograph of all the Cleages, the house on Scotten in Detroit and my parents and their apartment in LA.  This is how they looked at the time the letters were written and how they were identified in the letters.  If you click it, it will enlarge and you can enlarge it again which makes it big enough to see.

"The Cast"

2130 s. Hobart Blvd. #4
Los Angeles 7, California
December 20, 1944

My dear Gravi:

I have a little problem in “Design” for you to work out for me during the Christmas vacation. (If your hectic love-life and gadding about permits of the time.) ‘taint very important, if you’re too busy.

I want you to work out some little designs (like the one you did breaking down the picture into abstract lines and masses for your first course in design…remember…you used show-card paint.

I have developed a “theory” of graphic design which I would like to illustrate.  It goes as follows. All design is based upon the principle of dialectic tension and progression…moving (just as Marxian social-change…remember social-causation) from THESIS to ANTITHESIS to SYNTHESIS and BACK TO A NEW THESIS.  I want abstract designs to illustrate the three stages of development and two to illustrate the proper transition between them.  I will describe just what to do to design each stage as follows:

THESIS represents security…peace…calm…status-quo…the power of order… stability …etc.  It is essentially unpleasant unless you are somewhat akin to a clod. It represents the Middle-class ideal…the bourgeois unconscious.  it is usually used in picture of New England churches etc…There is balance…with the emphasis upon spaciousness (figures are not compactly massed)…and HORIZONTAL LINES combined with VERTICAL LINES (both boldly done. THERE ARE NO CURVES OR DIAGONAL! There can be a soft triangle but not too conspicuous (like the spire atop a church which is essentially a HORIZONTAL.  ALL LINES AND MASSES indicate the STATIC QUALITY…EVERYTHING HAS TO COME TO REST!  ALL DIVIATIONS HAVE BEEN SQUASHED! Simple isn’t it.  You can find a picture of this sort and break it down into an abstraction if you like or just build up the abstraction.

ANTITHESIS represents REVOLT against the THESIS. It is done with diagonals (not triangles) Bold diagonals form the basis of design.  Small contradictory diagonals probably in the foreground add to the general confusion.  The confusion, however, is orderly because it is a design BUT EVERYTHING GIVES THE FEELING OF REVOLT or ANTITHESIS.  Picture of the CITY, INDUSTRY, WAR, and POVERTY are usually designed this way to suggest the underling conflict and revolt.  Do one design representing this stage.

(Inserted handwritten note by my father) “Keep the idea of one basic design merging into the next and then into the next – etc – like a circle – where the design pattern is being changed as taught by external force.”

SYNTHESIS represents the tendency of ANTITHESIS to resolve back into a new THESIS. It is the most pleasant of the three because it is a compromise having something of both. IT has something of the HORIZONTALS AND VERTICALS of the THESIS, and the DIAGONALS  of the ANTITHESIS have all bee softened into CURVES.  It is not so spacious as the THESIS nor so compact as the ANTITHESIS.  Most rural scenes are SYNTHESIS… the rolling countryside..the soft clouds in the sky (curves) and the swaying trees…the cattle in the fields etc. all make for “SYNTHESIS” composition.

The TRANSITION between THESIS and ANTITHESIS would tend to emphasize the TRIANGLE (I think) these transitions are more difficult.  Some of the stability of THESIS is maintained but the suggestion of conflict and revolt DIANGONALS is present in triangles)

The TRANSITION between ANTITHESIS and SYNTHESIS would tend to have softened diagonals which are already becoming CURVES… some would have already become horizontals and verticals (which is the result of spreading out diagonals beyond the point where they result in curves.

Simple isn’t it!  you can find pictures representing each stage in that book of American Paintings… and just break down examples of each.  I think the abstract breakdown would have the same FEELING (emotional effect upon the observer) as the original paintings in spite of the fact that the subject (human interest) has been lost.  Incidentally this is the basis of all abstract painting! and the schools of Modernists (Cubists, Expressionists, etc.) In addition this conception should determine the artist’s rendidtion of any picture.  The style he uses should be determined by the meaning of his subject.  Most artists do it unconsciously but I am now in the process of bringing this great truth out into the open!

I want it for a class in CINEMATIC DESIGN because in the designing of motion pictures this unity of subject matter and graphic design is absolutely necessary…but apparently no one ever discovered it before (or why are they keeping it so secret…or don’t I read the right books!

If you have time to do them let me know.  Put each one on a white cardboard and place the title (thesis, Antithesis, etc.) on each one.  It would be interesting to do them all in BLACK & WHITE…and another set in COLOR (suiting the colors to the basic idea…which I would leave to you) Two sets could be done in black and white REVERSING THE VALUES IN THE SECOND SET (to prove a contention of mine that the tonal pattern is secondary to the linear pattern which would be the same even after the black and white values were reversed.)  THAT WOULD MAKE THREE SETS. LET YOUR TIME BE YOUR GUIDE.  SEND ME A BILL FOR THE MATERIALS. (and I’ll file it away with my other bills)  Don’t take as much time with each as you took with the one you did for yourself…SO LONG AS THE BASIC IDEA IS RENDERED IN ABSTRACT DESIGN I’LL BE HAPPY. To do it myself would take twenty-years or so!

(Note written in my my mother) “Pauvre Gravi!! Beware!!! This Negro loves to see people work!! Signed, Voice of Experience.”

Hi folks: (HAPPY NEW YEAR) Part 2

"Albert B. Cleage"
Albert B. Cleage, Jr

Page two of the New Year Eve letter my father wrote home in 1944.  This part deals with a cinema class he was taking. I will have to post his theory, which he explained in a previous letter home, soon.

Everything is O.K….(pursues its petty pace from day to day etc.) Last week one of my Cinema Professors turned over his class to me and I delivered the lecture of the evening! Honest….I turned in my thesis on CINEMA DESIGN with my own personal theory of HOW and WHY.  He said he didn’t agree with my point of view but insisted that I take the lecture hour to explain my ideas…After I “explained” we argued until after ten o’clock and he asked permission to continue the discussion of my theories next week.  I very graciously granted the permission.  Doris “visited” the class that night.  She has her class Wednesday afternoon from four until six… then we eat supper at the Student Union, usual with Lee and Naomi (whom I have mentioned before)… then she goes to the Library until about eight and then comes over and looks at the picture we have in connection with the class…well Wednesday she got out Soroyan’s book instead of studying her lesson as I had instructed her to do…and came over to the projection room to wait until the picture.  Instead of the usual order the prof. reversed the order and we had the film first…and then the “Lecture” and when he “announced” that I would deliver the lecture she came on into class.  I had to sit on her (practically) to keep her from fighting the man when he tried to disagree with “our” ideas. (Quite a woman!)  (note from my mother written in here: I am not Mary V’s sister for nothing!!  Eh, Barbara!)

Doris Graham Cleage 1944

Well, I guess that’s all the news for the present… We received the BOX.  Thanks!!! There is one thing I want to know…WHO PICKED OUT THOSE “HOLLYWOOD FASHIONS” FOR ME?  THAT NYLON SHIRT…THOSE OUTSIZE TIES WITH THE BOLD DESIGNS!!!! I would presume that Pee-Wee and Gladys picked them out…I can sort of smell their fine Italian hands…THEY ARE JUST WHAT THE “FILM FOLKS” WEAR OUT HERE… fit right in and that…I’m gona put on my shirt and tie and visit the Studios one of these days soon…won’t have no trouble gettin’ in…they’ll think I’m one of the stars.  I ain’t kiddin’ the folks out here go for that flowing Art in dress…and Hollywood leads all the rest.  Everytime one of the men from Hollywood used to visit school to lecture I’d think he was a light Negro who had slipped in…until Moore introduced him as this Director or that Camera-man…etc.

Well so-long

P.S. Is anybody sick?  I dreamed some sort of nightmare this afternoon about somebody being sick…seemed like Louis had something wrong with his hand or something…probably just something I ate.  How is Uncle George?  Tell him we’ll probably see him before next New Years (we hope!)

P.P.S. Junior Doc. – How about a carton of Cigarettes from your black market – Can’t get none hardly here! (Will send cost by return mail!)


My father’s brother Louis at some point in his medical career had to have a skin graft to his finger because of radiation burns he received while giving x-rays. I don’t know when it happened but it would be interesting if it happened around the time of my father’s dream. I will have to see if anyone else remembers. Note: My Aunt Gladys assured us that Louis had injured his hand years before this.

Uncle George was my grandmother Pearl’s oldest brother.  He became sick and moved from Indianapolis to live with my grandparents around this time. Uncle George died in May of 1945 in Detroit.  My father was appointed to St. John’s Congregational Church in August of 1945.  I’m not sure when my parents left Los Angeles but I don’t think it was by May so I doubt my father got to see his Uncle George before he died.

I have a little problem in “Design” December 20, 1944
X is for X-Ray – Story of Louis Cleage’s Puffy Finger
George Reed’s Funeral – May 31, 1945
The Missing Months March to November 1945
Idlewild 1945 – En route to Springfield

Hi Folks: (HAPPY NEW YEAR) – Part 1

A letter written home to Detroit by my parents on New Year’s Eve, 1944. My father was studying Cinema with the plan to use it in his ministry in the future.

The inside of the bulletin from the New Year service.

2130 S. Hobart Blvd. #4
Los Angeles 7, California
December 31, 1944


Well it’s New Year’s Eve…10:25 p.m. here…so we’re waitin’ for the New Year…and its 1:25 a.m. there… so you-all are already into 1945. I suppose you-all had a little Coffee-Ice-Cream and Tuna-fish salad n’ that celebration.. and since Hugh was in for Christmas I suppose Henry was in… leavin’ po’ little Hugh out at Plum Nelly by his lonesome.  We just finished supper and my “worster-half” is stretched out on the couch reading Soroyan’s “Human Comedy”. I can’t remember whether you-all read it or not. If not get it (Barbara) cause it’s good… in its own way.  Henry and Hugh ought to like it.

I preached this morning at the Congregational Church.  The minister, Reverend Galloway went up to some “Snow Mountain” with his young-people for some sort of New Year’s Conference. He asked me sort of late… but Doris made me do it…so I did. We had sort of a time getting ready at the last minute n’ that. Doris had to put my one still presentable suit back together with a needle and thread (they all fell to pieces at the same time) … and press my robe which I haven’t used since leaving Lexington… and I had to “prepare my message” Saturday night. We got to bed about three A.M…and got up at eight-thirty because it takes about an hour to get down off of Sugar-Hill and across town to the East Side…on the Streetcar.

Major Dean assisted me in the Pulpit as a Deacon and introduced me to the Congregation (again). See enclosed Bulletin.  I arrived at 11:03 (late as usual)…Me and the choir rushed in at the same time. (Negroes is Negroes the world over…like Daddy’s Fried Chicken)  The service went very well…and the attendance was very good in spite of the absence of the young-people…bigger crowd than the other times we’ve been present.  I brought them a powerful New Year’s Message (which I will have Doris describe in detail in as much as I’m modest!)  After the service the people were very nice…invited us to the annual church supper and that.  Mrs. Dean was present and threatened to have us over soon.  She said that she’s been ill for the past three months…and has planned to write you-all for lo these many months but… first one thing and then another n’ that.  Her brother Captain York has been sick in the hospital for some several months…but seems to be improving she said.  A young woman and her little son of about six (or so) joined the church under the power of the message and that.  The officers didn’t quite know what to do when they said they wanted to join but we finally fellowshipped them N’ that.  Everyody was very nice but all neglected to mention the customary “HONORARIUM”… which, of course, I didn’t mention…but thought about nevertheless!

(Handwritten note by my mother along the side of the letter:)

Dear Folks, Wish you all could have been at Church this morning.  Toddy preached one of the best sermons he’s ever preached – and that I’ve ever heard.  A very simple theme – Text: “the Kingdom of God comes not with observation; the Kingdom of god is within you” – with his own pecular interpretation and illustration.  It was good.  Thank you for the lovely Christmas presents and a very Happy New Year.

P.S. After the sermon “Montgomery” rose as a body and testified for the reverend.  My aunt Gwen’s cousin from Alabama said, “I have been in Los Angeles six weeks and I belong to the Episcopalian church, but this is the first time since I’ve been here that I really feel like I’ve been to church.”  Amen!

Continues at -> New Year’s Eve 1944 – Part 2
Lincoln Memorial Congregational Church History

Missing Christmas Carols 1944
Christmas Day 1944 – Part 1
Christmas Day 1944 – Part 2
Christmas Day 1944 – Part 3

 For other Fine Sepia Saturday New Year offerings click the postman’s picture —>