This picture was taken at Belle Isle in 1930, which used to be a city park in the Detroit River and was free to all. It has since been changed to a state park and there is a fee for entry. Howard must have been almost one year old, he had been born the previous September. He seems to be wearing a gown. Mary Vee was ten and Doris was seven.
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.
Time passed and ten years after yesterday’s 1939 Thanksgiving dinner, we find that Jennie Turner is in a wheelchair, having broken her hip in a fall. Her sister, Abbie Allen Brown is in town, the Graham’s are there with their daughter Mary Virginia, her husband and two children.
“Three generations were present at the festive board of Mrs. Jennie Turner on Harding ave. A delicious Thanksgiving dinner was served, which Mrs. Turner who has been an invalid for several years, enjoyed in her wheel chair, while surrounded by her daughters, Misses Daisy and Alice Turner, and her daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. M. C. Graham; granddaughter and son, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Elkins, and their two children, and Mrs. Turner’s sister, Mrs. A. Brown.”
Actually Four generations were present – my great grandmother Jennie Turner and her sister Abbie, her daughters (which included my grandmother), my aunt Mary V and her daughters DD and Barbara. My mother Doris and her family (including me) were in still living in Springfield, Mass, and missed this dinner.
In 1937 Mary Virginia, my mother’s older sister, was 17 and a senior at Eastern High School, on East Grand Blvd within walking distance of the house on Theodore Ave. She graduated in June and in September went to Business College where she excelled in typing.
After attending business school, Mary Virginia worked for awhile at her cousin James McCall’s Newspaper, The Detroit Tribune. In 1940, he helped her get a good job typing with the city. 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.
Below is a transcribed article from Nov 20, 1937 issue of The Detroit Tribune. The clipping is below.
“Now for a bit of “Who Goes Where.” Running true to the Tribune’s policy of giving our young people a chance, we here introduce Miss Mary Virginia Graham of Theodore Street, and this is what Mary Virginia tells us: “There were a number of social gatherings over last weekend, so there was plenty of competition.
“The Beta Mu Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority had a dance at McKenzie Union. St. Matthews had their annual Balloon Dance, the play “Go Down Moses” was presented at Cass Technical High school; an Armistice dance was held in Windsor—this was all held on Friday night so everyone had somewhere to go.
“First of all I’ll start out by telling you who was at the Balloon Dance: Howard and his cute new girlfriend, Jean Johnson; Shirley Turner and “Don Juan” Graham and Charles Hill, Bob Johnson, Bud Elkins, Connie Stowers and Ted “Romeo” Williams, Thomas Askew, Lois Hall, Jeanette Bland, Catherine Redmond, who looked very cute in a red lace gown; Tolula Smith, Allie Mae Harriss, Helen Wilson, Veralee Fisher and Robert Truman, Pete Whittaker, Dorothy Smith, Christine Smoot, Bobbie Douglas, William Patrick, Jr., Walter House, Johnny Roxborough, Harriet Dunn, Bob Coker, Paul Smith, Wendell Turner and Mary E. Elkins, Billy Horner, Elizabeth and oh so many, many others.
“Well, the dance at the Mackenzie Union wasn’t lacking for guests either. Those seen swaying to George Dunbar’s recordings were: Margie Dunbar and her one and only Kermit Bailer; Carolyn Plummer and Toddy Cleage, Alice Stanton and Henry Cleage, Mary V. Graham and Carlyle Johnson, Oscar Hand, Charlotte Watts with Bassett Jones, who seems to be giving the little girl quite a rush; Eddie Donald, Frances Raiford with a very handsome stranger; Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Stanton, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Solomon, Mr. and Mrs. C. Johnson, Marjorie Greenidge, Francess Horner and Billy Russell, Spencer Cary, Lorraine Moss and Albert Wallace, St. Clair Billups, Walter Greene, that wise cracker; Frederick Cain. Theodore Woodson and others too numerous to mention. The Union certainly looks swell after its recent doing over.
“Shirley Turner, Doris Graham, Connie Stowers and M. V. Graham, attended the play “Richard Bordeaux” which was given by the Wayne University players at Wayne last Saturday. The girls reported that the play was put over very well by these student players.
“The Social Sixteen Club is really going places since its organization about 3 months ago. The members give this credit to its president, Miss Doris Graham and its secretary-treasurer, Miss Shirley Turner.”
Thank you, Mary Virginia. You have done well and we invite you to chat with us at another time.
In my grandmother Fannie’s scrapbook, I found two library cards made by my mother, Doris and her older sister, Mary Virginia in 1931. My mother was 7 and Mary Virginia was 11. There is no book listed on my mother’s card but Mary Virginia names “The Children’s Story Hour” on hers. I wonder what other books they borrowed and lent or if this was a one time happening. I did notice that Mary Virginia returned her book on time.
Mershell, Mary V. and Doris Graham, my mother sitting on their front steps waving balloons on sticks. It was 1926. The house was on Theodore, the east side of Detroit. Sometimes I dream about this house and the porch usually figures in the dreams as I leave or enter or start down the street going somewhere.
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.
My mother said that after a difficult birth, her sister Mary V.’s foot was turned inward.She did not know if this was the fault of the doctor or not, but Mary V. wore a brace for years.
Mary V’s grandson, Ahmad Elkins, posted the pictres below on fb recently. They are his grandmother’s well worn baby shoes, saved through the years. Amhad shared his photographs with me and gave me permission to post them here.
Two other posts about Mary Virginia Graham Elkins are:
From Left to right My grandmother, Fannie Mae Turner Graham, peeking over my greatgrandmother’s, Jennie Virginia Allen Turner’s, shoulder. My grandmother’s sister Daisy Turner. Behind and between Aunt Daisy and Aunt Alice Turner, is my aunt Mary Virginia Graham Elkins, although she was not yet an Elkins. At the end, behind Alice, is my mother, Doris Graham Cleage, although she was not yet married a Cleage either.
They are posed in Grandmother Turner’s backyard on the East Side of Detroit at 4536 Harding. The house is gone now. They look like they just came from Church, at Plymouth Congregational, however the photo is dated July 4, 1939 on the back. July 4 was on a Tuesday that year. Maybe they went on a church picnic. My grandfather, Mershell C. Graham took the picture.
These three photographs of my mother’s sister, my aunt Mary Vee were taken in and around 1938. The first two have been colorized, and not very well either. What was happening in my aunt’s life then? She was 18 years old and had graduated from Eastern High School and was attending business college, where she won a prize for certificate for her speed and accuracy. After completing the program there, she worked for awhile at her uncle Jim McCall’s Newspaper. Later some friends of my grandparents from Montgomery helped her get a job at the City County Building as a secretary, where she worked for many years. Some years ago, Mary Vee talked with her daughter about her experience working at the paper.
“… her job was to read all these articles to Cousin Jim McCall, since he was blind. From what she read to him, he would formulate his editorial articles. She said he had a braille typewriter. She said she learned so much, just reading to him and talking to him about various topics. Mom said he was a wealth of information and he knew a lot about everything. She started working for them when she was 16 and continued every summer until she graduated from College. At that time, she said, it was due to a letter of recommendation from Uncle Jim that she landed the County job.”
What was happening in 1938: following a number of years of success with the US economy a recession hit which caused unemployment to rise back to 19%. In Europe Germany was continuing it’s strategy of persecuting the Jews and occupation in Czechoslovakia, the British prime minister Neville Chamberlain went to Germany fearing another world war and after agreeing to allow Hitler could occupy Czechoslovakia declared “Peace in our time” . The law changed in the US that meant the minimum hourly wage was 40 cents per hour for a 44 hour working week. On September 21st a giant hurricane slammed into the east coast with little or no warning from the Weather Service , the hurricane caused 40 ft waves to hit Long Island
and sixty three thousand people were left homeless and some 700 dead. On October 30th Orson Wells dramatization of “War of The Worlds” radio programme caused panic when it was broadcast more like a news breaking story than a play. Most of the world cheered when Germany’s Max Schmeling was defeated by a knock out in the first round by the great Joe Louis for the heavyweight championship.
And more: The Nanking Massacre took place in China during the continuing invasion of the Japanese during their invasion of China. The battle of Teruel, one of the most violent to occur during the Spanish Civil War, took place with German planes bombing the Spanish city. Guerilla warfare against Italy continued in Ethiopia.