This week the Sepia Saturday theme is telephones or telephone operators. I would like to write about my cousin Marilyn’s amazing career as a telephone operator for Bell Telephone Company in Detroit. She started working in 1981 and continued until her retirement in 2008.
My cousin sent me a photograph of herself at work with the phone company. She wrote a bit about her years at there:
At Michigan Bell Telephone Co, which turned into AT&T Inc. Worked from 1981 to 2008 (about 28 years)
Information operator (“What city?”)
Also worked as a clerk in the company and
A telephone booth $ collector (Drove a big truck with a hard had, lots of keys hanging on side – 2 way radio “walkie talkie.”
Unfortunately I do not have any photographs of Marilyn at the switchboard so I am inserting a photo grab from one of my favorite movie, Danzón (María Novaro, 1991). The whole movie (Spanish, no subtitles) is available on YouTube in more than 10 parts. I would advise renting the movie. It has everything, dancing, true love, a fine young man on a boat, good hearted prostitutes, female impersonators, friendship, motherhood, aging. I found it on Netflix here and also cheap on Amazon.
Henry Cleage was my uncle and also my step-father. He was a great thinker and during his life did a variety of things. He kept this journal while he was a freshman at Wayne State University in 1936. He did eventually graduate and got a law degree. He was also a printer and a publisher, publishing the Illustrated News, a radical black newsletter during the early 1960’s with family and friends. During WW2 he and his brother Hugh were consciencious objectors and spent the war farming in Avoca, Michigan.
January 1 Had argument with Toddy about pay for gig last night. Led me to believe I would receive 1/3 of pay and then tried to pay me 5 dollars. He eventually paid. (Not like a gentleman) (7 dollars)- worked on English paper – decided to take Mama to show and see “Peter Ibbettson” tomorrow.
January 2 Did not go to show, rain, snow, and slush. Bought this diary today- got up about 4:00 o’clock today on account of having gone to bed so late last night – Toddy stays up late and I have to stay up too-not being able to sleep with light on and cigarette smoke. Mama and Daddy went to show tonight -I spent night writing on 16,000 word English paper – am worried. Have so much schoolwork to do. Will take Mama to show tomorrow.
January 3 Went to see Peter Ibbertson”- bought “Rodget’s Thesaurus” at “Demings Bookstore” – It was nice out today. Wind was strong, skies overcast – seemed kind of wild out. Sat up all night talking about Book to write with Louis, Toddy. About Negros flying through fogs and dropping bombs, revolt, tom toms woods! Swamps, conquerors! (bog water)
January 4 Rainy, slushy, dirty out, then at about 7:00 got cold and froze over-stayed home all day – tooth swelled up again – wrote a bit on speech. Worried about tooth, and schoolwork. Have Economics test Wednesday. – Luck!
January 5 Weather was chilly and windy. Awoke this morning with swollen tooth. Went to Y.M.C.A. to hear Tompkins (Negro) recorder of Deeds (WA) Such abysmal ignorance for one in a high place!!! Said Negros should not be ungrateful!!!! (imagine) it was funny. Have a cold too now and must go to school tomorrow. Worried about speech and physiography
January 6 Chilly in morning began to snow about 11:00 AM good packing snow. I watched it from my physiography class window. Furry and ? First day at school since vacation. Was returned. Not so bad. work not so close as I thought should get it. However will have to give 2-minute speech Wednesday. Slept after school till 7:39 – going to bed now at about 2:30 – started ‘Magnolia Street” Good if I have time to read.
January 7 Snow on ground – test tomorrow in Economics – must make speech tomorrow – Momma and Daddy went to show. Nothing much.
January 8 Snow melting slow – dirty and slushy again. Gave speech and wonder of wonders I received an enthusiastic applause. Spoke on The World is Flat. Took test in Economics. Pretty good I think. Now about 4:00 children coming home from Wingert. Fighting with snow! “Man and War” inseparable. I wonder if I ever acted as they. I know I did. Heaven forbid, though! Going to bed at about 1:00 o’clock.
January 9 After school I went to see “Captain Blood” Very good. With Brewer. After dinner wrote some on theme. Mama, Daddy, went to a show, returned at 1:35.
January 10 Went to school at 11:30 on account of I didn’t go to speech class – no speech to give. Have felt much better after giving 2 min speech on Wednesday. Still worried about Geology report. Went to show tonight saw “I live my life” Joan Crawford and Brian Ahern – “Special Agent” Came home – wrote on theme. I have thought of spring tonight.
January 11 Awoke to find that I had lost 2 dollars very depressed. Wrote on theme. Played tonight at Quinn’s Lone Pine with Duke Conte, played bass, terrible night. Fingers sore. Noticed how good-looking Lene is… Ought to throw a line – Police stopped us at about 1:00AM. No permit to play until two. I was glad. Very animal acting bunch in River Rouge. Most of them seem friendly though.
January 12 Played matinee dance at Elks rest with Heckes, Toddy and Bill – Dracee’s band came in and sat in awhile (no trouble) Kenneth was there. Too tired and sleepy to study history. Get up early tomorrow (no English) Toddy is going downtown to get some books is supposed to get me ‘American Tragedy” and ‘Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations”
January 13 Haliver Greene died this morning -spinal meningitis. Didn’t get up early to study History, however there was no class – lecture tomorrow so I won’t slide, tonight. Toddy bought back two books about lives of Educators (putrid!!) only 25 cents a piece though – awfully windy out today-not so cold thought – like March. I would like to have been in the country, wrapped up good, walking into the wind at the Meadows, down the road towards the sand pile or over the hill to the creek – zest, spice, life, health, clear eye, firm step and all that sort of thing.
January 14 Cold out this morning although it became somewhat spring like after school. Went to show after school. Another big fight this morning, I think they think I skip classes because I am sleepy, nonsense. Bought ‘Bartlett’s Quotations” $1.53. Seems worthwhile. Read one of dictator books – Good – tonight as I was going to the store the weather brought memories of spring. Roller-skating in street, if not roller skating then walking. Everybody walking and friendly. The crowd at Krueger’s and the tent. Perhaps riding through Belle Isle – water, boats.
January 15 Awoke looked cold out but it wasn’t – nothing happened at school- after had hamburgers and coffee and then went to Public Library to get my Geology report. Will have to go back tomorrow. After dinner went to sleep about 3 hours. Then got up and studied until 3:00 – oh yes, I bought Emerson’s “Conduct of Living” 25 cents. (Hal Green’s Vagabonds) Haliver Green’s Funeral today.
January 16 Got to history late, about 10 minutes. (No English) don’t know whether was marked absent or not. Had hamburgers, coffee and then to the library to study Geology report – think I’ll trying to memorize some of it instead of writing it all out. Got haircut today. Mama just went over to Aunt Minnie’s. John is here now. Mama’s gone so now I’ll smoke!!
January 17 Went to school at 11:30. No speech to give, my report is Monday. Alas! After school – hamburger and coffee. Went to library to get Geology report will go back Sunday, I think. Makes me feel good to study hard – feel like I am going somewhere – hope it all comes out alright – A’s and B’s I mean. Joe Louis knocked out Retzlaff after 1 min and 25 seconds of fighting. Listened to Times Golden Belt tournament. Negro’s didn’t do so good. Won 2 or 3 or 4 fights though. However Mt. Olive (Negro) won tournament.
January 18 Awoke and found it had been snowing – cleaned snow off sidewalks and took out ashes _(my week) – wrote notes on English paper as far as I have written on it – went to hippodrome (Rodgers) saw “Fighting Youth”. Stayed over.
January 19 Awoke about 2:30 – still cold out. Snow on ground. Went to main library to finish geology report – came home with Andrew Prue – he was reading Bible (researching the scriptures). Find that my report which is to cover Canadian Rockies just covers small part of them, worried. However I must five it tomorrow. Took Mama to Aunt Minnie’s when got home. Margaret called me Claire S., Marion’s Smith – took them for 1/2 hour ride – thought much of show last night
January 20 Awoke at 7:30 to school at 8:30 no English Class, no history nor did I go to speech went to main library to add to my report morning reading and it was inadequate – gave report – we both finished in little more than a half of an hour – Pastrcer talked about 5 minutes imagine! Tooth swelling again. Will be terrible about time I have to give speech Friday. Toddy told me of some boy who told him of how nervous I am when I speak. Has made me nervous again. (Playing Elegy on radio. Beautiful) Contented hr. Singing contented – reminds me of day (long ago) when I played with the Vagabonds.
January 21 8:30AM cold, snow on ground- had to go to public library to read 25 magazine articles for English. After this came home and took a nap. Awoke about 8:30, ate and then started studying – went to bed about 3:30-
January 22 Awoke 9:30 – cold!!! – Tomorrow will be 10 below. After school came home and went to bed. Slept till about 9:00- up date – wrote on my theme- studied speech a – a little more confident that I shall do alright- thought of Meadows to day – horses, dogs, – live there and come into city about once a week – country gentleman and all that sort of thing – Gladys has been helping me with my copying English theme.
January 23 Cold!!! After school went to sleep- awoke about 8:00 could not eat right away because we had company after dinner. Wrote summaries of the 25 and 27 for economics – then finished preparing my speech – must give it tomorrow! Alas.
January 24 Cold out at 10:00- Gave speech, not as good as it might have been, not as bad either. Sprinkled applause! After school came home. Went to bed – woke about 6:30 – played to night at Quinn’s Lone Pine – River Rouge. I don’t think I’ll ever play there again. “Pap” Cootes seems more and more to be a good fellow.
January 25 Awoke about 3:00 – not quite so cold – got book at library for English paper. After dinner I thought I would go to the show, but didn’t. Louis was going too, but didn’t. Have written about 600 words on theme today – might go to main library tomorrow study for Geology final – not sure – Toddy has ruined ?my pen? He’ll pay for it. O |/ (Oh boy that’s good) /\
January 26 Awoke late today – didn’t go to library. Did nothing all day but write on English paper – finished it. 13000 words. Not finished copying it though. Think maybe I will go to show tomorrow. Don’t know – will however go to the library (at school) to study physiography for final.
January 27 went to library but couldn’t study – went to show with Daddy and Barbara and Pee Wee- came home and studied for Physiography a bit – Will have final tomorrow at 12:30 – will go to school at 8:30 and study till 12:30.
January 28 Had Physiography final terrible very doubtful whether I’ll get a C – home and work finished up my English theme and notes. Hand in tomorrow – final in English tomorrow. Haven’t studied – nothing to study. Luck!
January 29 Warmer, about 10 above. English test today – nothing to get excited over – English teacher informs me that he lost my first theme (6,000 words) adds thought that although he hasn‘t mark for it, he has read it. I had better get credit for it – !!!
Daddy and I received comic valentines today – don’t know who from – family thinks Louise sent them – somehow I don’t – test tomorrow in speech. Here’s luck!. Pee Wee’s birthday.
January 30 Cool – 6 below tomorrow test in speech – but it was not test. Told us our marks – C. I came home today – studied all day for finals in History and Economics finals tomorrow – didn’t study Econ much. must study tomorrow between tests. Here’s to luck!!!
Had history test and economics test. Last night had indigestion or something didn’t sleep but about two hours – don’t know how I did on test. Economics was pretty bad. History might be alright received my last paper in economics 100% – test are all over – just wait now – must have tooth pulled next week.
February 1 Not so cold out – awoke about 3:30. Have done nothing all day. cleaned out my drawers tonight I wrote of Spring in my journal. Am worried about marks. woe is me!!! tooth will come out next week. (Happy am I.)
February 2 Not cold out- supposed to get warmer. Have done nothing all day – restless – test over. Worried about economics mark. Average so far is a B (87+) But I’m afraid that my final will bring it down. About 2:15 now. Going to bed. Going to school tomorrow to see about Economics grade.
February 3 Went to school and tried to jive myself a B in Economic – 67 on final!!! 89 average. I thought it would be bad. Told Goodman to disregard final!!! said he would remember to remember that I was sick during final. Wouldn’t promise but would do what he could. After this went to show with Margaret and 7 or 8 Negroes. After show didn’t have money to get home -? Dillard’s girl got ticket from someone, boy in Frank Sedor – I used it. Dillard and Margaret went home with some girl who they would meet somewhere.
February 4 Awoke at about 2:00 – after Breakfast went to Dentist. didn’t know whether to have tooth pulled or not – taking speech. Said come back Saturday was cool and windy – snowy.
Tonight have worried over my program and requirements going to school tomorrow to see adviser and etc.
February 5 Cold and icy out. I did not go to school today, nor will I go until Monday. My tooth is swelling again. I have done nothing all day – seems that I having been driving to store etc. all day. I did go to show and saw “The return of Peter Grimm” and “I live for love” all-
February 6 Not so cold out. Awoke at about 3:00- nothing much happened – went to library. Saw George and Paul there. Paul was getting more lessons, studies hard -smart. I have been looking at outdoor life magazines tonight – boats – guns- fish etc. Wish I had money enough to buy tackle and go fishing this spring.
February 7 Not so cold out – awoke at about 3:30. Nothing much happened all day. I went to library after dinner with Paul, George and Morocco. got “Jean Christophe” – Toddy wanted it. Tomorrow I shall go to dentist. I guess that’s all.
February 8 Fair out. Awoke too late to go to the dentist did nothing much all day. Just before dinner I helped Uncle Jake to fix his tire – gave me a quarter. Shouldn’t have taken it, but I was broke. So I went to show tonight – saw Bing Croby in something I forget and Jane Withers in ‘There’s the life” the last was probably not a good picture but it was good entertainment. Tonight it was real windy and snowy, mellow.
February 9 Cold out all day – I suppose (haven’t been out all day._ Have done nothing today but read some of “Jean Christoph” by Rolland -I must go to school tomorrow and register – finished Jean Christophe. I hope none of my classes are closed.
February 10 Awoke at 9:00 arrived at school at about 10:30 to register – registered not taking public speaking 2 – taking En. Hygiene instead. Also taking Geology II under Mosley instead of Mac Lachten – tonight I went to Oscar’s. Listened to him and Arther Thompson lie. Lied a bit myself. Tonight I have thought again of the “Outdoor Life” No school tomorrow. school starts Wednesday.
February 11 Awoke at about 3:30 – did nothing all day. Must start school tomorrow. If I get 3 B’s and 2 C’s this semester I will have an honor pt average of 1 (better than .6, which I had) But I am not sure of 3 B’s and 2 C’s. woe! woe! woe! But I am hoping.
February 12 Well today after school to find my marks had arrived. 3 B’s and 2 C’s just what I had hoped for on the other page- H*A*P*P*Y happy am I – B in Econ, B in History, B in Eng. C in speech and C in Geology. Seems that this is the first time I have ever planned something that came out exactly as I planned. I saw little Harlem today (at school)
February 13 Snow storm today. Rode to school with Daddy. haven’t gotten my books yet. Have a class tomorrow from 7-9 Might go to show after school and wait there for class – Saw “Metropolitan” tonight very good. Lawrence Tibbett.
February 14 After school (3:30) I went to Madison and saw “Littlest Rebel” and “Mary Burns, Fugitive” – arrived after show back at school in time for 7 o’clock class in Diction and Usage -after class 3 crowded street cars passed by – finally had to catch a bus.
February 15 Awake late and did nothing all day. Went to show and stayed over – nothing.
February 16 Woke late – nothing. Took Mama to Aunt Minnie’s came back and took Margaret to club meeting at Nacirema. Margaret is a nice girl. We listened to radio, mystery – George Beagle.
February 17 Awoke too late for 10:30 history class – I told Mama she didn’t wake me – she’s been mad all day – slept downstairs on couch until 1:00. Nothing else.
February 18 Unable to attend accounting lab because I had no book. Came home and slept until about 12:00. got up and ate something and went back to sleep again.
February 19 Late to history (haven’t a book as yet) and quiz Friday. Home. Tonight had argument with Mama, Hugh, Barbara, Pee Wee, Gladys – are Negros inferior to Indians. I said they were superior. Obstacles etc. have worked and accumulated some degree of wealth – Indians, no obstacles, live on reservations and have no wealth etc. Toddy and Louis settled it – all races are equal – sociology.
February 20 Just two classes today – is my hygiene teacher ignorant!! seems nice though. No geology tomorrow. Go to show at 2:30. Stayed up late to get ready for history quiz (oral) tomorrow.
February 21 Flunked out on History quiz (oral). Lent Ed Carson 20 cents. Owe Hugh 20 cents. Went to show at 2:30. Saw “Magnificent Obsession.” (Irene Dunne and Robert Taylor) Good! “Collegiate” (Jack Oake, Joe Kenner, Betty Grable) English class 7-9. Haven’t book yet.
February 22 spent all day driving Mama and trying to get Hawks for Toddy’s gig. Went to show – ‘Crusades – ???? (Ginger Rogers)
February 23 Sunday. Washed my hair. Hugh took all my Vaseline. After dinner I took car for a little ride. Got ice cream. Took Margaret, Marian, Elaine to store too in car.
February 24 Wore my gray suit today – the first time in quite awhile. Toddy’s racial inventory test is on display at school. Was warm, relatively – water, water, everywhere.
February 25 I skipped hygiene today. continued warm. I have forgotten to write. Went to Oscars. Am sick, oh so sick, going to bed early. Woe! My head.
February 26 Awoke to find it had snowed – but not cold – after my 10:30 class it began to rain – hard. So fellow who used to be in my chem class said that one had to have 90 hours, no D’s to get in law school under combined curricula – woe is me. I thought it was 60 hours and a 1.3 average. Maybe he was talking about University of Michigan Law School (I’m speaking about Detroit City Law School) Rebellion in Tikoo(?) militarist tried to coup d’etat. Don’t know whether successful.
February 27 Only two classes at school today – stayed down in lobby and talked from 11:30 until 2:30. I had, by the hardest, managed to save a dime, to help go to the show with tomorrow – I lost it at Carne’s store across the street.
February 28 Wasn’t called on at history quiz today – borrowed a quarter from Ed Carson to go to the show – I ate today at Vinion Lunch Room. Nice. I bought sandwiches and ordered coffee. They serve sandwiches and pie etc. too. Saw “The Bride Came Home” and “Dangerous” at Madison. Went back to school for my 7-9 class at 5:45. (Mistook times at show)
February 29 (leap Yr) Sat – nothing happened.
March 1 Went to spinn meeting this evening in V8 had to leave before meeting was over to get the car home at 3:30. Pres etc. stated that some action is going to take action against those who don’t pay assessments (me). took car for rides.
March 2 Snowed, went to school – I am not studying. nothing to study (I think) I’ll get a jolt when my first test comes. I must remember that I have got to get all A’s this semester – well, not all A’s, but good marks at least – accounting lab tomorrow.
March 3 Went to school to find that my hygiene field trip was scheduled for today – borrowed 10 cents from Brewer. I collected fares for my bus. Went to library with Margaret (she’s writing something about the social securities act) a big fuss at home. Tonight I went to the hockey game Wayne vs Michigan. Michigan 7-1. Not as bad as it sounds – after game a fight. Had Michigan players piled up like a pyramid – good night.
March 5 I didn’t write this time (mar. 5)
March 5 Been all day trying to do my accounting problems. I’ve done 4 of 6 and one doesn’t balance – I have history quiz tomorrow. I shall try to get up early tomorrow and study. Fire next door to Mary Jones house tonight.
March 6 Handed 4 of the 6 assigned problems in acct. Miss Armstrong copied 3 of mine and I balanced my first one by hers. I didn’t go to the show after 3:30. No money. found a dollar at Oscar’s. Nobody knew who’s it was – I think I’ll take it back tomorrow. It isn’t mine. Daddy met me waiting for street car at 9:00 – saw “Night at the Opera” 4 Marx brothers.
March 7 I gave Oscar the dollar back today – he said they were three dollars short. Took out the ashes. Nothing much to write.
March 8 I have worked all day on 1 accounting prob – however I don’t think the other two will be so hard – due Wed. Nothing else. I wish I had a car. I would like to ride out into the country now.
March 9 School – home – did an accounting problem this makes two due done- borrowed 25 cents from Hugh to go to a show. Toddy had gone but I didn’t know which one to go to, so I stayed home.