Tag Archives: #Mary V. Graham Elkins

Mary Virginia Graham – Social Reporter

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.

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Below is a transcribed article from Nov 20, 1937 issue of The Detroit Tribune. The clipping is below.

Mary Virginia Graham, 1937

“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.

The Detroit Tribune Nov. 20, 1937

Home Library 1931

Bonzo, MV and Doris Graham. 1932. Backyard of Theodore, Detroit,MI

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.

This photograph was taken later that year in their backyard. Howard died of scarlet fever the following year. He was two and a half.

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Balloons – 1926

Mershell, Mary V. and Doris Graham on their front steps. 1926.

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.

Other posts about the house on Theodore are – Everyday Things Then and Now and T is for Theodore Street

The Graham Sisters and Their Dog Bonzo

Bonzo, MV and Doris Graham. 1936. Backyard of Theodore, Detroit,MI
Bonzo, MV and Doris Graham. August 1932. Backyard of Theodore, Detroit,MI

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 Cleage, about 1930 beside their home on Scotten, Detroit.
Gladys and Anna Cleage, about 1930 beside their home on Scotten, Detroit.

Gladys and Anna were the grandchildren of Lewis and Anna Cecilia Cleage, and great granddaughters of  Frank and Juda Cleage of Athens, TN.

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Mary V’s Shoes

mv with shoes
Mary V. wearing little black shoes. This picture was taken in 1921. She would have been about 1 year old.

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.

shoes side by side shoes - side view

Two other posts about Mary Virginia Graham Elkins are:

Mary Virginia Graham Colorized

Old County Building and Mary V. Elkins

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Three Generations – 1939

Three Generations
Three Generations

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.

Mary Virginia Graham Colorized – 1938

1930s mv hats08These 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 1930s M.V.hats07typewriter. 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

Connie Stowers and Mary V.
Connie Stowers and Mary V.

 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.

What was going on in 1938?
What was going on in 1938?

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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.

aunt_abbie
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.

daisy_alice_1961_boblo
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.

header_eliza
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

Henry_1955
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.

top_2_statues

“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.

Belle Isle – Summer 1922

names
“Belle Isle. Grandma Graham – Mary Virginia – Clifton – Mershell Jr + Fan

This photograph was taken about two years after the one of my grandmother Fannie at Sugar Island. Grandma Graham was my grandfather, Mershell Graham’s adopted mother. Mary Virginia was born in April 1920 so she would be 2. Clifton was the son of my grandfather’s adopted brother, Clifton.  Mershell Jr was born in June of 1921 so he must be about 1 year old. My mother was born in February, 1923 so my grandmother may have been just pregnant with her here.  The park tables and benches are so unanchored. They are all cement now.