When I saw Prompt 18 – Your First Gift, in The Book of Me, I was sure I had a list of what I received when I was born in my baby book. Unfortunately, when I checked there was a list of people who gave me gifts, but not a mention of a gift. I remember having a little silver cup and a silver fork and spoon but I have no idea who gave them to me. I don’t know where they are now and I can find no photographs of them.
Something I did notice was that the handwriting and the language used in the baby book appears to be my father’s and not my mother’s. I had always thought it was my mother who kept the book. Only a few pages were filled out at the time. There is some information I added years and years later when I was about 12 – When I started to talk and walk, what childhood illnesses I had, and a list of some of my elementary school teachers.
One last thing about the baby book – it was found in pile of trash to be thrown out with other papers from my father’s office at the church but someone saw it and saved it. Why was it in the office? Anyway, I’m glad it was rescued.
Looking again, I see that Dearie Reid brought my going home outfit to the hospital. I’m thinking that she bought it. I wonder what I wore home. It must have been the second week in September in Springfield, MA by that time. Maybe cool? Maybe hot?
Today is the International Day of Peace. My post includes a petition, “A Plea for Peace and for American Democracy” signed by my father, Rev. Albert B. Cleage (later known as Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman) in 1948. It was printed in The Springfield Union newspaper of Springfield Mass, April 1, 1948 edition.
I have included several pages from a document prepared for the USA Senate titled Report on The Communist “Peace” Offensive. This includes a list of people who signed the petition in Massachusetts and a few other states. This happened as the anti-communist era got underway, leading directly into the McCarthy era. You can read more about it here McCarthy Era. As always, click on any picture to enlarge it.
A song written and sung by Victor Jara ends this post. Víctor Jara was a Chilean teacher, theatre director, poet, singer-songwriter and political activist. He was also a member of the Communist Party of Chile. When the USA supported coup against the elected government of Chile took place on September 11, 1973, Victor Jara was taken to the football stadium where his hands were cut off, his guitar smashed and after taunts to play his guitar now, they shot him to death. To read more, see this link Bruce Springsteen Honors Chilean Folk Hero in Santiago.
I am the first daughter, born during a thunderstorm in the middle of the night.
I was born at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts, August 30, 1946. My parents arrived there the fall of 1945 when my father was chosen as Pastor of St. John’s Congregational Church. My mother was 23 and my father was 33. Although I was one of the people present in the delivery room, I’ve had to rely on the memories my mother shared with me. My mother was given a wiff of ether as I crowned so she did not see me born. I had a head full of dark hair, enough that a nurse pulled it up into a little pony tail and tied a ribbon around it. The nurse told my mother that all of the dark hair was going to come out and I would have blond hair. She was right. All of that fell out and I had a small amount of blond hair. It would be years before there was enough to pull up in a ribbon. My eyes were blue/gray.My mother said that she was unable to breast feed me because she had no milk. I always felt very sad about this, not so much for me, but because I think that if I could have gone back in time with what I learned about nursing when my own babies were born, I could have helped her make a go of it. After ten days in the hospital, we went home. A member of the church, Reginald Funn, drove us to the parsonage because my parents didn’t have a car until I was 8 years old. Looking at my baby book, there were many visitors and gifts from friends, family and neighbors.
Both of my grandmothers came from Detroit to help out. I was the first grandchild on my father’s side and the second on my mother’s side. My maternal grandmother, Fannie Graham, had a cold so she was regulated to washing clothes and cooking and other duties that kept her away from me so I would not catch her cold. My Grandmother Pearl Cleage had the care of me. My mother said that her pediatrician told her not to give me any water because it would make me drink less milk. Below is a letter my Grandmother Pearl wrote home about it below. Poor baby me.
In this letter, Toddy was my father’s family nickname. Louis was his MD brother. Barbara is my father’s oldest sister, left in charge while her mother was in Springfield.
210 King St Springfield Mass Monday 23/46
How are you? How are Gladys and Daddy and the boys?
We have had atime with this baby, the first nights and all last week Toddy and I were up allnighteachnight! She cried and cried and screamed until she would be exhausted and so was I! Last night and today, so far, she has slept a lot better. Before we talked with Louis I’ve put her feedings 3 hours apart, justlastnight because she acted like she would burst open, with crying. This a.m. we got the Bio Lac and are giving her water regularly too and she is acting 100% better!
When I would have given her water before, they told me her stomach would not hold it and food and had me stop her feeding at about 3 ounces, for fear she couldn’t hold it all, not to feed her too much, and Kris just starving to pieces! I did as they told me until I said I was going to talk to Louis because I had never seen a baby eat and be dry and then just act like she was starving to death and never sleep!
I regret that nobody took any photographs of little me with either of my grandmothers.
Two excerpts from a letter my father wrote home in January. Actually, I did look like him, and more and more so as the years passed until now, if he were still here, we could pass as twins.
January 1, 1947
“…Doris and Kris welcomed in the New Year in their own inimitable way…at home. They got out only once during the holiday…on Christmas day we went to a Turkey dinner at the Funns. We had a tree “for Kris (and Doris) which Kris ignored…disdainfully. Our double-octet went out caroling to the hospital Christmas eve (yes Louis, for the white folks) and came back by and sang carols for us afterwards. Kris listened to them with her usual disdain…and they all agreed that “she is the most sophisticated looking baby they had ever seen!”
“…. She loves to play from 2 until 4 a.m. She had the sniffles for part of one day…but seems to have so far avoided a serious cold…even with us and the rest of Springfield down with Flu, Grip and everything else… She weigh 11:4 (last week) She’s learned to yell or scream or something…and will scream at you for hours if you’ll scream back (Just like M-V) and seems to love it…then after an hour or so…her screaming will shift into a wild crying…and then she must be picked up and played with for several more hours…SHE LOVES ATTENTION…No, mama, we do not let her cry…and her navel seems to be doing O.K. AND SHE DOES NOT LOOK LIKE ME! All reports not withstanding!”
March 18, 1947 – from a letter to my father’s sister, Anna by my mother.
“Kris (with her 2 teeth) says anytime for you all laughing at her bald head – I fear it’ll be covered all too soon with first one thing and then another.”
March 31, 1947 – From a letter to the Cleage’s from a friend of my parents in Springfield
“Last night at home, Kris had quite a time with her teeth and I think Doris was quite anxious. Reverend Cleage had to leave for Loring before Kris really let go so he didn’t know how much the baby suffered. I know it won’t last long, tho’ for mother says some teeth give more pain than others, but it is soon over with.”
From an April 7, 1947 letter my father sister Gladys wrote home while visiting Springfield.
“Kris is no good- but cute! Head’s not like the picture – kids! I definitely have no way with babies – I have truly lived!”
June 29, 1947 (from a letter by my father’s visiting sister, Anna)
“… Doris went to a reception today and I watched Kris. I tricked her, I played some soft music on the radio and waltzed around the room with her a few times, then eased into a rocking chair and first thing she knew she was asleep – so I put her in her crib and the next thing she knew Doris was home waking her to feed her.”
I seem to have done fine, as you can see below, with my dirty bare feet I am sitting on the porch with my father’s father and my parents. I started walking at 9 months and my first words were – “Bow wow.” soon followed by “Some manners if you please!” My mother said that people didn’t usually understand what I was saying when I came out with that.
You can read the front page of the Springfield Republican for the day I was born here.
Back in November of 2011 I wrote Moving – Springfield to Detroit 1951 for Sepia Saturday 102. I mentioned that I remembered the little girls in the photograph, but I couldn’t remember their names. Well, I found them!
During February, I was working on a post about turtles I have owned, when I came across the photograph below.
I recognized them as the Funns and realized that the other man’s name that I remembered from Springfield, “Lindsey”,must be the name of the father of the girls in the photographs. How could I find the last name? I decided to Google “Lindsey St. John’s Congregational Church, Springfield, MA”. The first item that came up gave me his last name, Johnson. I Googled “Lindsey Johnson, Springfield, MA” and came up with several articles. This was them! Sherrie was the oldest daughter, the one who poured milk in my dinner on that day so long ago. Below are some of the articles I found and some photographs of the Johnsons and also an article about Mr. Funn. Goggle and newspapers – it’s hard to beat them sometimes.
This post continues a series using the Alphabet to go through streets that were significant in my life as part of the Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge. Click on the link to see links to posts by other participants in this challenge. It’s too bad the streets in my life weren’t alphabetically and chronologically coordinated because the years are all out of order. Here we go back to the beginning and my first home – 210 King Street.
My father became pastor of St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield Massachusetts in the fall of 1945. The parsonage at 210 King Street is pictured above. This is the house I came home to when I was born in 1946. I was the first child of Rev. Albert B. Cleage and Doris Graham Cleage. We moved from King street before my sister Pearl was born in December of 1948. I was 2 years old and I don’t have clear memories of the house. I found the description below online.
My father and his congregation were involved in a church fight at this point. A former Minister had separated most of the churches property from the control of the church when he retired. My father and members of the church were trying to get it back or get the church compensated. Before my sister was born, they did sell the Parsonage and we moved into the Parish house. It was right next to the church and we lived in 4 room (plus bathroom) on the first floor, along with church offices, a big meeting room and I don’t know what else. There were roomers on the second floor. In 1948 they were trying to get $7,500 for the house. Today it is selling for $47,000. From reviews the neighborhood is crime ridden and drug infested so I don’t know if they will get that or if that is a low price for a 100+ year old house in that neighborhood of Springfield.
My mother describes the purchase of the new GE refrigerator in a letter to her in-laws below. She says that I am completely recovered. In an earlier letter she described my bout with roseola.
I don’t know if these are the refrigerators my mother and I saw that day in 1948 but they were both 1948 models. The one I remember had one door, like the Philco.
There is no letter this time. I am posting several newspaper articles mailed home about various Negro History Week activities in Springfield, Massachusetts in February, 1946. Included are some articles I found at GenealogyBank.I thought I would post them as African American History Month draws to a close. Something not covered by newspaper article is that there were only six more months until I arrived on the scene!
Fifty uniformed members of the new Crispus Attucks post, VFW, attended a memorial service for Pfc Carl L. Talbot yesterday morning at the St. John’s Congregational church. The service for Talbot, who died as the result of wounds received in Italy with the 355th infantry regiment, 92nd division, was also attended by his mother, Mrs. Z. Carl Talbot of New York city, and his widow, Mrs Georgia Mae Talbot, also of New York.
Before a congregation, which filled the pews and extra chairs, Richard H. Snyder, Jr., post commander, presented the mother of the soldier a Gold Star certificate and bouquet, and the widow a Bible bearing the post’s name and a reading by its chaplain, John Cranshaw.
A memorial sermon was preached by the pastor, Rev Albert Cleage, and Comdr Snyder made a memorial address.
Chapel of Air Lists Events
Special programs will be presented observance of Negro history week, which starts today, and Brotherhood month over the chapel of the Air program sponsored by the Greater Springfield Council of Churches.
Tomorrow and Tuesday members of the international seminar, meeting here at Hope Congregational church, will speak. They are Rev Sabapathy Julandran, Chaplain Gernanda Laxamana and Miss Manawora Powar of India.
Rev Albert B. Cleage, pastor of St. John’s church will be speaker for
the balance of the week. His topics will be “The Christian Dilemma” on
Wednesday; “Pigmies and Supermen” on Thursday; and “Hope vs Reason” on
Friday. The program is scheduled at 1:30 over WSPR. (Schedule transcribed from The Springfield Sunday Union and Republican. February 10 1946)
Civil War Called Economic Contest
George W. Goodman Asserts It was Fought Because Slave and Free Economies Were Opposed
The Civil War was not fought for the emancipation of the Negro but was a contest between two economic theories – slave economy and free economy – with the Negro as the scapegoat, was the declaration made by George W. Goodman, director of the North End Interracial Community Center in Hartford, in his talk last night at the observance of Negro history week conducted by the Springfield branch National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at St. John’s Congregational church.
Fluently expressing his thoughts on his topic of “Democracy at the Crossroads,” Mr. Goodman further declared that the present-day racial troubles in this country are not accidental but the result of an accumulation of negative attitudes and differences throughout the 300 years of this country’s existence.
Emphasizing that America must face squarely the matter of justice and equality for all men as being a basic moral issue, the speaker added “We’ve been talking democracy for about 200 years but we haven’t come close to actually applying it.”
Citing his experiences while a Red Cross worker for two years in England, Mr. Goodman said that the English people showed unreserved friendship to American Negro soldiers due to the friendly attitude and sense of humor the colored soldier displayed.
A part of the meeting featured the awarding of merit certificates issued by the national office of the NAACP in New York to eight members of the local unit who had been instrumental in increasing the membership during the campaign last year. The presentations were made by Rev. Albert Cleage, pastor of St. John’s church. Miss Marguerite Carson, president of the Springfield branch, was chairman of the meeting.(Transcribed from The Springfield Daily Republican, Springfield, Mass, Thursday, February 14, 1946)
“In a combination of choral speaking, music and plain speech, a program of Negro folklore called “The Negro Speaks” was presented at the YWCA last night. In three movements which took almost two hours, the speech choir, soloists, quartet, speakers presented a rhythmic, sibilant tone and word picture of the progress of the Negro from slavery to the present.”
“Choral speaking is the oral interpretation of verse possessing many of the qualities of the Negro spiritual. The speech choir was led by Langston Hughes. Soloist was Carol Somerville and the quartet was composed of Constance Taylor, Joanne Wilson, James Herbert and William Barnett. Speakers were William Woods, Isiah Hill, John Carter and Marguerite Carson. Other singers were Clarence Calloway, James W. Johnson and J.R. Johnson, Frances Jones accompanied.”
Members of the speech choir were Alfreda Desmond, Myrtle Desmond, Edith fuller, William B. Hill, Malcolm Lasseter, Nile Pettijohn, Joan Carole Porter, Charles Wiley, Willa Mae Porter, Lindbergh Pulley, Barbara Seymour, James Spruill, Alberta Walker, Dorothy Walker, Rodman Ware, Alfred B. Wimbish and W. Orrin Woods.
The program was a part of Negro history week which ends today. Opening remarks were made by Mrs William A. Lawrence.
According to The History of St. John’s congregational Church, published in 1966 “He (Albert B. Cleage) also wrote dramas; one of them coauthored with four other recalled ‘eighty years of progress’ since Emancipation and “the significant role the Negro played in our country’s history.'”
500 Brave Rain to Attend Holiday Auditorium Service
Franklin Loehr Delivers Invocation, Rabbi Klein Welcomes Servicemen, Rev. R.W. Barstow Preaches
Five hundred persons weathered a heavy downpour yesterday morning to attend the community-wide Thanksgiving service sponsored by the Greater Springfield council of Churches at the Municipal Auditorium. The clouds broke, however, as the service ended and the crowd started homeward for the first peacetime Thanksgiving in four years. Twenty-one flags of the United Nations were arranged in a semi-circle on the stage and a bank of yellow chrysanthemums stood at the altar. Numbers of servicemen, most of them accompanied by parents and children, were in the audience. Few persons went alone, for thanksgiving is a family day and the ushers were kept busy seating whole rows of family groups together.
Following the procession of the clergy, representing the hundred churches and synagogs of the valley area, which are members of the council. Rev Franklin Lochr. Executive secretary, gave the invocation. A Thanksgiving proclamation for the city was given by Mayor J. Albin Anderson, Jr., and for the nation by Daniel B. Brunton Mayor-elect.
Rabbi Greets Servicemen
“For us who have been on the far-flung battlefields of the world, Thanksgiving comes as a spontaneous expression of gratitude for the goodness and mercy of God that has ever been with us.” Rev. Isaac Klein. rabbi of Kadimoh Synagog said in his welcome to returned servicemen. “Last year at this time we also took part in a union service. Then it was more of a prayer than a service. Even though our arms were on the upgrade all over the front, our future was still uncertain.” he continued. “I faced an audience of begrimed men in battledress. Today, with the tumult and shouting over, we are most of us back at home and our hearts are filled with thanksgiving.
“We pray for our buddies who made the supreme sacrifice, and that the United States, great and mighty in war shall be great and mighty in peace. We pray that we will join with all good men all over the world in establishing a world of equity. May it become a good world that shall be the greatest blessing of war.” Rev Robbins Wolcott Barstow, director of the Commission for World Council service, gave the Thanksgiving sermon. “The world is in the valley of decision.” he said. “We are standing at the parting of the ways. Will we climb toward heaven, or fall into the aura of still darker days? Peace alone cannot restore the wasted bodies and starved souls.” he declared. “Peace alone cannot replace the blasted dignity of human life, nor make certain a commonwealth of nations, resting on aggressive good will.
“We give thanks for this fresh chance given out of this tragedy. To find and fulfill God’s eternal purpose as we know it in our hearts. As we compare our lot with that of most of the rest of the world, we wonder because of what merit we deserve such safety and bounty as has been ours.” He said. “The children of Europe are fatherless and motherless. What does the future hold for them? As we hold this service this morning, 166 people die in the city of Berlin. But there are still some who call themselves Americans who would deny food to those people to give them a chance to live. Our Thanksgiving is nothing but a mockery if it is just self-congratulatory that we have been singled out for such blessings.”
There must be a reconversion that is far more than just a retooling of machine shops, Dr. Barstow continued. “It must reach right down into the realm of practical business affairs. How does it come that factories large and small are closed by picket lines? How does it come that workers are idling and expect to be paid for their idleness? It would seem that we have so shackled our souls that we are blocking our entrance to a world of good will.”
Thrift Has Been Forgotten
Thrift is a word that seems to have been forgotten, Dr. Barstow said, pointing to the record sums spent last year on liquor and horse racing. Responsibility also resign with management, the speaker said, “If they expect an honest day’s work, they must offer an honest day’s pay.” He said.
“American labor and industry both need to be aware of covetousness.” He said. “If they would become a team to work together in the waiting world, we could thank God for the power of mutual understanding and altruistic cooperation. The world is hungry for a sign of sincerity.”
Presentation and retrieving of the color was made by the color guard of Boy Scouts from troop 34 of Hope church, with Morton Bates, scoutmaster and the troop 42 of Kadimoh synagog. Ben Livow, scoutmaster. Prescott Barrows gave the organ prelude and postlude and accompanying the Thanksgiving hymns. The flowers were a gift of Mrs. W.S. Schermerhorn in honor of her parents. Mr. and Mrs. Fred W. Wells.
Rev. Bryan f. Archibald pastor of First Baptist church gave the Scripture reading and Rev. John Hoon pastor of Wesley Methodist church gave the prayer. Rev. Raymond II Hendrick, canon of Christ Church cathedral spoke the offertory sentences. Benediction was made by Re. Albert B. Cleage of St. John’s Congregational church.
Anthems were given by the West Springfield First Church quartet, with Dorothy Ryland, soprano: Eunice Anderson, alto, Clayton smith, tenor and Charles Leonard, bass.