Tag Archives: #me

A Buggy, A Visitor and a Mystery – 1950

The Boston Globe, Boston, Massachusetts
Nov 04, 1947 · Page 13

We were living in Springfield, Massachusetts where my father was the pastor of St. John’s Congregational Church.

One cool day in 1950 my little sister Pearl and I were playing with our dolls and buggy in the back yard. Perhaps it was one of those in the advertisement to the left.

I was four. Pearl was about 18 months. An older girl appears on the scene. I do not remember who she was. A neighbor? The child of a church member? No idea.

Me and my doll.
Pearl joins me.
Showing the guest my doll.
The guest looks suspicious while I explain things and Pearl looks on.
Uh oh!
Pearl is pointing at something in the guest’s hand. Are my fists balled up? My doll watches
Looking for …

For more posts about me and my family in 1950 go to this link- My family in 1950

For more Sepia Saturday posts, click picture

Riding the Clairmount Bus – 1969

Oddly enough, I do not have any personal photographs of buses. I do have an ancient journal entry chronicling a very bizarre bus ride I took in Detroit down Joy Road on the Clairmount bus in 1969. I had just graduated from Wayne State in December of 1968 and I was enjoying my freedom. I was living in my own apartment and working at the Black Star Clothing Factory. My cousin Barbara was living in New York City, the East Village. at the time and I was plotting and planning a visit with her. I did make it later that summer. I turned 23 that August.

Kristin and Barbara 1969, at her sister Dee Dee’s house.

I didn’t capitalize anything in the journal so I just left it like that.

journal entry

June 25, 1969

I don’t know what is going on, it isn’t good though. i was leaving friday for new york, but i don’t think so soon. i need a bit more time (for what?) i been listening to new leonard cohen record.  two days over and over at first it was tired, but now i really like it, after the old revolution, i liked best the partisan song about coming out the shadows. i am so sleepy .

everybody is mad/crazy, and i really don’t understand at all. i need pearl’s youth card so that I can leave, go to NYC.

 yesterday on the way to a photo show, I was on the clairmont bus on joy rd.  the driver was crazy, he acted like he was taking a pregnant woman to the hospital, he was weaving the bus in and out between cars.  that was bad enough – old ladies rocking, weaving and falling, when suddenly a red light backs up traffic, or just stops it. he pulls belligerently into the lane of oncoming traffic (which lucky for us was empty at the time) and raced two blocks in the wrong lane to pull and bully his way in front of some poor car when the light changed. I was cracking up. the people weren’t, just me.  I couldn’t control myself laughing, mouth open etc. they probably thought I was crazy or something. so ridiculous, can’t even imagine a regular car doing that shit. I just don’t know, I really don’t. some lunatic jehovah’s witness knocked on the door to give me a bible study tract. says god’s kingdom is eminent. we should be so lucky.

Click to see other Sepia Saturday posts

Y – Youth & a Mop

This is my ninth year of blogging the A to Z Challenge. Everyday I will share something about my family’s life during 1950. This was a year that the USA federal census was taken and the first one that I appear in. At the end of each post I will share a book from my childhood collection.

Youth with a mop. Sunday school? My birthday? August 1950.

Why were we all sitting on the stairs in our dresses? I have no idea. It was during my cousin’s August visit from Detroit. Maybe it was my birthday and I had turned four.

Why didn’t the photographer notice that mop propped against the wall and move it? I understand that. I’ve taken many photos and never noticed the distracting bottles on the table.

I do recognize about half of the children. Taking the front row from left to right – unknown girl with purse, Sherrie Johnson looking mad, unknown girl with a doll, Pearl eating something. Second row: unknown smiling girl, my cousin Dee Dee looking peeved, my cousin Barbara looking worried, me saying something to Barbara “Don’t worry Barbara.” On the top step, unknown girl looking at the camera and Lynn Johnson (Sherrie’s sister), also eating something.

The Springfield Union February 7, 1950
My mother – Doris Graham Cleage
Mrs. Cleage Speaker

“When the St. Paul’s Youth Fellowship gathers in the parish house Sunday evening at 7, it will hear from Mrs. Albert Cleage, Jr., of Springfield on the subject “What it means to be a Negro”

Mrs. Cleage is the wife of the minister of St. John’s Congregational Church, Springfield. A graduate of Wayne University, Detroit. Mrs. Cleage has done social work for the American Red Cross in Detroit and Los Angeles”

The Springfield Union February 7, 1950

A Poem From Today’s Youth

After posting this, I found that my thirteen year old great niece Bailey Tucker, had written a poem that could have used the same title as my mother’s talk, except we don’t use “Negro” today. I am adding it to the post. I know my mother must be smiling to have her great granddaughter following in her footsteps.

Black by Bailey Tucker. Transcribed below.

Black

It’s not fair we get shot at.
It’s not fair we get pulled off a bike at 8.
It’s not fair they yell because our skin tone.
It’s not fair they’re mad because our hair.
It’s not fair they call us ghetto because our voice.
It’s not fair we can’t walk with our hoods on.
It’s not fair we can’t walk with our head down.
It’s not fair they call us thugs for having tattoos.
It’s not fair we get stared at.
It’s not fair they call us fatherless.
It’s not fair we are treated different.

IT’S NOT FAIR IT’S NOT FAIR IT’S NOT FAIR

_________________

Little Galoshes

Unfortunately they don’t share the pictures in the book, they just read it. You can see some of the illustrations here -> Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves

X – Xmas 1950

This is my ninth year of blogging the A to Z Challenge. Everyday I will share something about my family’s life during 1950. This was a year that the USA federal census was taken and the first one that I appear in. At the end of each post I will share a book from my childhood collection.

Kristin and Pearl with Christmas dolls.

This was our last Christmas in Springfield. In the fall of 1951, we moved to Detroit. I remember the metal dollhouse I received. It was like the one in the ad below but didn’t have the garage and patio.

Pearl received this ferris wheel. A very colorful metal toy that wound up and went around. I remember that ferris wheel was around long after the dolls and the dollhouse bit the dust. Eventually it wouldn’t wind up any more, but we manually turned it.

Pearl also received this musical rocking chair. She still has it. You see my grandson Matthew standing next to the chair on the left. This chair has a bad habit of flipping over if it was rocked too hard. I remember it being taken back and exchanged. The replacement chair was no better. You had to rock gently. Pearl remembers our mother disconnecting the music box after awhile.

Kristin and Pearl on Christmas day 1950.
Christmas in the Country

________________

I’m also participating in the Genealogy Blog 1950s Blog Party hosted by Elizabeth Swanay O’Neal, “The Genealogy Blog Party: Back to the 1950s,” Heart of the Family™ https://www.thefamilyheart.com/genealogy-blog-party-1950s/

Q – Quiet Naps

This is my ninth year of blogging the A to Z Challenge. Everyday I will share something about my family’s life during 1950. This was a year that the USA federal census was taken and the first one that I appear in. At the end of each post I will share a book from my childhood collection.

Naps were a regular part of my day back then. Usually I fell asleep because I remember several times when I woke up and nobody seemed to be around. Once I wandered down the hall and found the movie “The Thief of Baghdad” being shown. I came in just as the genie was coming out of the bottle and it was quite frightening. I didn’t see the rest of the movie.

Another time I woke up and, again no one was around. This time I heard music and noise outside and went out to find that the church was holding a carnival with rides and I don’t know what else. I think there was even a ferris wheel like the one my sister got for Christmas that year. I seem to have had my nightgown on and was hustled back into the house.

Kris, Dee Dee, Barbara. Pearl was napping

In the photographs at my grandparents in Detroit, Pearl doesn’t appear in some of them and my grandmother wrote on the back and speculated that she must have still been sleeping from her nap.

Dee Dee and Kris have a chat while Pearl makes a get-away and Barbara sleeps

The same happened in Springfield when my cousin Barbara didn’t appear in the photo, my mother guessed she was still asleep from her nap.

The Naughty Little Guest

I remember this little 2 x 3 inch book. The picture I remember is of the writing on the walls that was done by the naughty little guest, who was actually the little goat’s imaginary friend, ie herself.

L – Leaves

This is my ninth year of blogging the A to Z Challenge. Everyday I will share something about my family’s life during 1950. This was a year that the USA federal census was taken and the first one that I appear in. At the end of each post I will share a book from my childhood collection.

Pearl, our mother Doris, Kristin (Me). October 1950. Springfield, Massachusetts

Now and Then

Golden leaves fell in the bushes 
overnight brightening my yard. 
Behind my eyes, 
I walk beside a river 
with my mother.  Trees all golden. 
A dog splashes in the water, 
 shakes  himself . 
My four year old self 
watches.
Lucky Mrs. Ticklefeather

J – June Visit to Detroit

This is my ninth year of blogging the A to Z Challenge. Everyday I will share something about my family’s life during 1950. This was a year that the USA federal census was taken and the first one that I appear in. At the end of each post I will share a book from my childhood collection.

In June we visited our grandparents and cousins in Detroit. I remember a train trip, perhaps on this trip. There was bacon and being car sick. The only Cleage cousin born at that point, Warren Evans, was living in another state, so we didn’t see him, but we saw the Elkins! And all the grandparents. I wish I had a photograph of my Cleage grandparents on that trip. After reading my C – Cleage post, I realized we probably went in May to attend my Aunt Barbara Cleage’s wedding.

We visited my mother’s parents, the Grahams, on the near east side of Detroit where we played with our cousins in the backyard.

Barbara Elkins on our grandfather Mershell Graham’s lap, Kristin Cleage (with doll), Dee Dee Elkins, our grandmother Fannie Graham. In the backyard.
Barbara looking like she wants to sit in the wagon too. Pearl pointing at ?
In the wagon, Pearl Cleage (17 months) and Barbara Elkins (2). Standing in the back Kris (3) with her doll and Dee Dee (6).
Kristin, Dee Dee and Barbara making mud cakes, my grandmother wrote on the back. Pearl napping

We also visiting my father’s parents, our Cleage grandparents, on the West Side of Detroit. I am still holding that doll. Who crocheted that dress, I wonder. Was it a gift when I arrived or did I bring it with me? We look like we are ready for church. I remember that purse. It was a miniature version of the purse the church secretary had. Brown leather with a little gold clasp.

Pearl and Kris. With dolls.
Me perhaps after church, holding the doll.
The Tale of Jeremy Gay. At the end of the book there was a flap that was a door. When you opened it there was a friend for Jeremy Gray. There was supposed to be a photo of the child who owned the book pasted in there. In my case, the friend remained the drawing in that space.

I – I Was There!

This is my ninth year of blogging the A to Z Challenge. Everyday I will share something about my family’s life during 1950. This was a year that the USA federal census was taken and the first one that I appear in. At the end of each post I will share a book from my childhood collection.

I wrote about being in the 1950 Census ten years ago. Let’s see what I got right and what I got wrong. The first post was I was there.

My father, Albert B. Cleage, was 38 years old and he had worked 60 hours during the past week a pastor of a Congregational Church, not a Methodist church as it says in the 1950 census. He was born in Indiana. He and all members of the family were identified as Negro.

Census Sheet from 1950 Census Archives. Some people were asked extra questions. The red line leads from those family members to the extras. Pearl actually appeared on the next page, but for ease of viewing, I’ve added her to this page. Click to enlarge.

My mother, Doris G. Cleage, was 27. She was a housewife and her hours were not recorded. She was born in Michigan. She got to answer the extra questions and they show that the family lived in the same place the year before and that she had completed 4 years of college.

I, Kristin, was three years old. My younger sister Pearl who appears on the next page, was 1. We were both born in Massachusetts.

So, I didn’t get anything wrong, although the census did, getting the denomination wrong.

I Can Fly

I remember reading this book to my younger cousin Marilyn years later. She eventually memorized the book.

____________

I’m ’m also participating in the Genealogy Blog 1950s Blog Party hosted by Elizabeth Swanay O’Neal, “The Genealogy Blog Party: Back to the 1950s,” Heart of the Family™ https://www.thefamilyheart.com/genealogy-blog-party-1950s/

A – Announcing 1950!

This is my ninth year of blogging the A to Z Challenge. Everyday I will share something about my family’s life during 1950. This was a year that the USA federal census was taken and the first one that I appear in. At the end of each post I will share a book from my childhood collection.

Me in 1950, arms spread in the backyard on Union street.

Amazingly, the 1950 Census will be the first one I will personally appear in! I have spent years looking through old census records and trying to piece together the lives of my Ancestors. When I realized that the 1950 census would be released on April 1 this year, I was pretty excited that now I would get to see what picture the census gives of a year I know. Although I was only three when that census was taken in April, 1950, I remember and I recall those days. Sort of. With the help of news articles and photographs I will go through my family’s life in 1950 during this A to Z Challenge.

Although the news items show that my family was active and aware of what was happening at the time, I was blissfully unaware as I lived my young life. I was living through that simpler time everyone remembers as the past, but the adults were living through lives that were as complex as any. And so it goes.

A poem I wrote six years ago about this photo.

I was almost four
 swirling
in the backyard. My
life beginning.

August 2016 sitting at my 
desk
writing
listening to Sati. The 
ceiling fan creaks
around my husband's voice on
the phone.

Outside cars pass.
A Year on the Farm

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)