Tag Archives: #me

Memories of Hair

I was born with a head full of black hair that could be pulled up into a little top pony tail. It soon fell out leaving me practically bald with a bit of blond hair. It slowly grew in sandy and kinky like my father’s and grandfather’s rather than wavy/straight like my mother’s and grandmother’s.

Hair_3_blog
Click to enlarge

From a letter written to her in-laws by my mother, written March 18, 1947.

Kris (with her 2 teeth) says any time for you all laughing at her bald head – I fear it’ll be covered all too soon with first one thing and then another.

Doris

When Pearl and I were little, my mother didn’t wash our hair often. Once every two weeks? Once a month? Not very often. She used Breck shampoo, put a little olive oil in the sink full of warm water and poured it over for the final rinse. After and between washings she’d part our hair and put “Three Flowers” grease on our scalp. I remember that sometimes, when I was in elementary school, she would roll it up on kleenix curlers and let me wear it “down” for one day after she washed it. I enjoyed the change from braids but it wasn’t really “down”.

Aunt Abbie, my maternal great grandmother’s sister, lived with my grandparents. She assured my mother that is was all right that Pearl and I didn’t have “good” hair because we had blue eyes.  She assured my Aunt Mary V. it was okay her daughter’s didn’t have light hair or eyes because they had “good” hair. The sister’s shook their heads about it.

When I was in sixth grade, a classmate asked me during art class if I had ever had my hair straightened. I had not. She hadn’t either. Ironically, that afternoon after school, my sister and I went to the beauty shop on 12th street near Calvert recommended by Aunt Mary V. and had our hair straightened for the first time. We got pony tails in back and a pony tail down the side. Going to the beauty shop always gave me a headache. I remember listening to my beautician talking to the other women about how hot it was and how her husband was going to have to sleep on the couch because it was too hot to be all up in the bed with another hot, sweaty body.

Eventually I stopped going to the beauty shop, although my sister continued for years. There were the beauty shop headaches and I started taking swimming in junior high and high school. Those horrible bathing caps didn’t keep out the water and my hair soon took back it’s natural form.

My mother still straightened my hair for special occasions. She heated the comb on the stove and there were the inevitable burnings of the ear. Other times I wore my hair in what a classmate described as a “shredded wheat biscuit”.  Sometimes I borrowed some of my father’s Murray’s Pomade and after brushing the stiff, yellowish stuff in, it did lay down and had small waves.

During the summers when I was about nine to thirteen, I spent a week at the mostly white Camp Talahi.  Some of the girl campers would ask me “Why is your hair like that?”.  At first I would say because that’s the way it grows.  Eventually I just responded with “Why is your hair like that?”  They would look puzzled.

My last semester of high school I didn’t take swimming and discovered that if I rolled my hair up on those hard, pink curlers I could wear it in a sort of curly side wave on the side and pull the back into a barrette for a low pony tail. Sometimes I even wore it down, somewhat like those hairdos in elementary school.  Once Pearl and I braided it all up into lots and lots of little braids, which reminded us of the paintings in Egyptian tombs. We thought it was great, and I would have been way ahead of the times, however my father hated it and I never wore it like that anywhere.

While visiting Pearl at Howard for Thanksgiving of 1966, I let one of her roommates straighten my hair. My mother complimented me and thought it looked lovely. When I went down to Wayne, I met Jim in the Montieth Center. He was aghast that I had straightened my hair. I went into the restroom and washed it out in the sink and that was the last time I straightened my hair. I was 20.

At one point in our lives, Pearl and I complained to each other that we had inherited our father’s kinky hair instead of our mother’s wavy hair. We reasoned that boys were supposed to get their mother’s hair so if he had gotten his mother’s wavy hair, we would have inherited that because girls (in our theory) inherited their father’s hair. Later, when natural hair came in we were so glad we had the hair we did. We didn’t have to do anything but wash and wear to have afros.

The next summer, 1967, we had the Detroit riot/rebellion. My cousins, Janis and Greta, came to visit us for the first time from Athens, TN.  They were the same age as Pearl and I. Somehow, it came up that I wanted to cut my hair for an afro. Greta volunteered to do it for me and she did. It was great! I loved it. The only scary part was going to my Grandmother Cleages for the first time afterwards. We were afraid she might say something negative or even mention it during mealtime prayers, but she didn’t. I was one of the first to wear an afro on Wayne’s campus.  That fall, in Miriam’s Jeffries project student apartment, I cut several people’s hair for their first afros. I remember Kathy Gamble was sad to see her long hair fall on the floor.  I cut Martha Prescod’s and can’t remember who else. I hadn’t cut anybody’s hair before, although I cut my own when it got too long.

I wore an afro until about 1988 when I decided to let my hair grow out and see what happened. I let it grow until 2004 or so when I cut it all off again and have kept it cut ever since.

******

Until 2014 when I decided to let it grow out. It was more trouble to trim it than it would be to grow it out and have it longer.

20013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019 (summer) and 2019 (Christmas)

Are you Gypsy?

Skirt I was wearing.
Skirt I was wearing.

gypsy_house
The house on West Grand Blvd looked like this one.

The first time I met Gypsies was the summer of 1964. I was 17, wearing a patterned skirt, my hair was long then, pulled back in a clip. I had on gold hoop earrings. My sister Pearl and I were walking down West Grand Blvd. to the Main Library. We passed a house like the one pictured above.  Three little girls ran off the porch and began to walk down the street with us.

“Are you Gypsy?” they asked me.  I wasn’t, I told them. My sister assured them that we weren’t. They weren’t talking to her, they said. Was I sure? I was sure. When we got to the first cross street, they turned and ran back to their house.

Several months later, an article came out in the Sunday Detroit Free Press Parade Magazine. There was a picture of the three little girls.  It was all about being a modern Gypsy in Detroit.  The man was their grandfather, identified as the head of their family’s clan.

In 1968 I was an art student at Wayne State.  I had been to the Utrecht art supply store on Woodward.  As I was on my way back to Campus, some women were sitting on the porch of a large house. They were wearing long skirts and of various ages.

“Want your fortune told?” One of them called out. What if it was a bad one? I thought. No, I called back and kept moving. I sometimes wonder what they would have told me was coming up if I had stopped.

In the early 1980s I was living in Mississippi. One summer afternoon, I was visiting my friend Carrie Ann, when a woman about my age came by in a pickup selling sets of hand made wooden porch furniture.  She had an incomplete set at a reduced rate and I bought it.  She drove them down the road to my house and said I reminded her of her cousin. She reminded me of my cousin Barbara, I told her.

No caravans of any kind were involved, but this is what I remembered when I saw the Sepia Saturday prompt for this week.

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To see more about travelers visit this weeks Sepia Saturday.

Click for recent Sepia Saturday posts

Poppy’s Garden 1953

 When I was growing up we spent Saturdays at my mother’s parents house, along with my cousins Dee Dee and Barbara and later, Marilyn.  When the weather was good we spent it outside in the backyard. There was a vegetable garden, lots of flowers and space for anything we could think of.

In the summer of 1953 I turned 7 in August. Dee Dee turned 10 in September. Barbara had already turned 6 in January. Pearl was 4.5 until December.  Poppy was 64. He would retire in December of that year when he turned 65. The yard was surrounded on all sides by a wooden fence that made it feel like a world apart.  In the photographs I can see the big house across the alley and a factory on Warren but when I was playing in the yard I didn’t much notice those things.

"collards"
In the collards – Pearl, Barbara, Kris with Poppy

Pearl and I are holding dolls and I have a purse I remember getting when we lived in Springfield, MA. A young lady who might have been the church secretary had a grown up purse just like it.  It was brown leather and had a golden metal clasp that turned to open and close. Looks like collards with the poison Poppy sprinkled to kill the cabbage worms. I think I see a little cabbage butterfly holding on to the underside one of the leaves.

"geni of the magic carpet"
Geni of the magic carpet go, go, go.

I am standing up at the table where Barbara and I are making something. Dee Dee is sitting on the arm of the swing. She was probably taking Pearl somewhere on the magic carpet (aka swing) the rider would have to say “Geni of the magic carpet, go, go, go!” and then Dee Dee would take you someplace magic.  She would tell you where it was when it was time for you to get out of the swing. Dee Dee was in charge of all the magic.  Each of our households had a little, invisible fairy that lived in the mud castle we built and rebuilt at the foot of the apple tree. Their’s was named Lucy and ours was Pinky. She also kept a box full of prizes that she gave out at appropriate times. I remember packages of soda crackers, prizes from cereal boxes and pieces of chewing gum.

"Pearl and Kris with saw horses"
With our horses.

Here Pearl and I are standing on the grassy part of the yard. The flowers are in full bloom behind us with the vegetables back behind them. We often made the saw horses into mounts. I see my purse over there on the grass to the left.

Greens in my Idlewild garden 15 yars ago.

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I have participated in Sepia Saturday for so many years that it is hard for me to come up with new photos when the same sorts of prompts come around. This week I am recycling a post from 2012.

To see other Sepia Saturday offerings, click.

For more recent sepia CLICK this

On Being 12 & 70

My maternal grandmother, Fannie Mae Turner Graham, was born 129 years ago  on March 12, 1888, in Lowndes County, Alabama. She died on August 13, 1974 in Detroit, Michigan.  You can read more about my grandmother in this post  Fannie Mae Turner Part 1.

1958 augkris&fan
I was 12 and my grandmother was 70.  1958 in my grandmother’s backyard.

I am the same age as my grandmother was when we posed together on her back steps.  Looking at the photograph below of me and my granddaughter made me think about the endless circle and the passage of time.

My granddaughter was 12 and I was a  a few months shy of 70. 2016, we were at the beach in St. Petersburg, Florida and the water was freezing!

 

 

Subject and Photographer

Me, 1949. My father is reflected in the mirror.

This shot was taken in our living room in the parsonage of St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield, Mass.  I just noticed the reflection of my father taking the picture last night. I looked everywhere for that teapot in later years but it was lost in one of the various moves. It was blue with a gold design over it.  The couch was with us for many years.  Eventually the cushions were covered in reddish leather, or something like it. I remember that table, which was also around for a long time. And those little plastic records my sister and I used to play on our little phonograph.

Bringing this back from August 2011 for this weeks Sepia Saturday prompt showing a mirror and the reflection of the photographer. If only I had a rose behind my ear like Billie Holiday.

Playing Ball – Old Plank – 1964

oldplankkrisdalejanblaira

Taken at Old Plank about 1963.  Me with my cousins, Blair, Jan and Dale. They seem to be trying to pose for the photographer while I am about to cause trouble with that ball. I was a senior at Northwestern High School in Detroit.  Old Plank was 30 minutes outside of Detroit near Wixom. We had 2 acres with a big house and although there was talk of moving there, we didn’t.  We went for weekends to get out of the city until 1967, after the riot when the printing business lost the businesses that burned or left. At the same time, a man bought the barn and let his chickens and hogs run lose. Before he and Henry came to blows, they sold him the house.

There were two more photographs taken that same day. I think they were taken in the order shown below.  My uncle Henry took the photos and developed them at the print shop that he and Hugh ran at the time – Cleage Printers.

three in one

In Nanny’s and Poppy’s yard – Spring of 1955

1955_kris_barbara_graham_yard

Here I am under the apple tree with my cousin Barbara where we built and rebuilt a castle for our fairies. Each family had one. Ours was Pinkie my cousins was Lucy.  In between the castles we made various dirt pies and cakes. That little black utensil next to me was a sifter.  It had holes punched in the bottom and we sifted the dirt with it.

We used to walk up the plank against the back fence and look out into the alley. Nothing really exciting out there, most of the time although I remember the police chasing a man through there once. I am pretty sure we were not standing on the plank watching.  If we did, it was only for as long as it took an adult to call us inside While the chase went on.

It must be spring because we can see that there is no garden bu the Pussy Willow bush in the background seems to have buds.  We are wearing our light jackets (or “jumpers” as Poppy called them.) and overalls.  My saddle shoes are horribly dirty. My socks had probably slid down inside of them.  Barbara is wearing buckled shoes but her socks look quite saggy.  In the spring of 1955 I would have been 8 and Barbara would have been 7. She is missing a tooth, but not those you loose when you are 6.

In the fall my grandmother made the best applesauce with the apples from that tree. They were not the kind you eat uncooked.  In spite of the sticky stuff my grandfather painted around the tree trunk, there were worms in the apples and they were very small and sour. They made the best applesauce ever though, with lots of cinnamon.

Hanging Up The Laundry – San Francisco 1944 & Mississippi 1977

My mother hanging up clothes in San Francisco, 1944.
My mother hanging up clothes in San Francisco, 1944. Photos of my mother by my father, Albert B. Cleage jr

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My mother with her clothes box after hanging up the clothes.

clothes in basket st. john's rd
Me posing with a basket of laundry to hang up. About 1977.  Photos of me by husband James E.Williams

hanging clothes st. johns road
Me hanging up or taking down clothes in the rain? About 1977.

 

Two other posts about my parent’s time in San Francisco

My Parent’s Time In San Francisco

Newspaper Clipping of My Parent’s Arrival in San Francisco

A post about my life on St. John’s Road, Mississippi

R is for Toute 1 Box 173 & 1/2

 

To See more Sepia Saturday, CLICK!
To See more Sepia Saturday, CLICK!