Tulani, Ayanna and James , soon after we started homeschooling. Tulani was 11, Ayanna was 13 and James was 7 when we began. This is the story as I wrote it for a newsletter I once published. Click on the pages below to enlarge.
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.
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.
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.
I was quite surprised to find this news item awhile ago while searching for information about Jacob Cleage. It would have been interesting to find that my grandfather and his brother were involved in a knife fight, however there are several things in this clipping I know to be untrue.
R.C. Cleage is unknown to me. Jacob was my grandfather’s older brother’s name. My grandfather, A. B. Cleage, was the only medical student name of Cleage in Indianapolis during that time. He did work on the excursion boats out of Detroit during the summer of 1909. However, he graduated in June of 1910 and did not work on the boats in 1910.
My grandfather was married with a baby (my father) in September 1911. My grandmother did receive several postcards from Detroit dated July, 1911. I could find no record of legal happenings and no further news articles about it.
July 12, 1911 (Mrs. Pearl Cleage)
Just got back to Detroit, Hope you all are well and happy. Will feel better when I hear from you. Albert.
7/12/11 to Master A. B. Cleage Jr.
Did not forget you were 4 weeks old yesterday and tomorrow you will be 1 month. My, but you are getting old fast.
7/21/11 to Mrs. Pearl Cleage
Dear Pearl –
I am lonesome for you and baby. Want to see you all awful bad. Hope you are well and happy. Albert
Today I’m going to write about my mother’s parents, Mershell and Fannie (Turner) Graham grandparents in my preview of the 1950 Census.
In 1950 Mershell and Fannie Graham were still living at 6638 Theodore Street. The single family frame house was built in 1913 and was probably worth about $7,000. The Grahams bought the house in 1923. If they had a 30 year mortgage, they would have had 3 more years until it was paid. I like to think that they had already paid it off. The house probably cost less than $2,000 when they bought it in 1923.
The house was heated with forced air using a converted coal to gas furnace. There were three bedrooms and a bathroom complete with indoor plumbing and running water upstairs, including a claw foot bathtub and a flush toilet. Downstairs were three more rooms, making six in all (not counting the bathroom). The kitchen had an electric refrigerator and a sink with hot and cold running water. There was also a full attic and full basement. They did not own a television but did have a radio, probably more than one. I remember one in the kitchen and one in my grandfather’s bedroom.
Mershell Graham had worked 52 weeks as a stock clerk in an auto factory. His annual wages were probably about average, $3,210. He had completed 8 years of school. He was not a veteran. Mershell and Fannie had been married once and this marriage had lasted 31 years. Fannie had birthed 4 children. She had completed high school, and had not worked outside of the home.
Living with them was Fannie’s 75 year old widowed aunt, Abbie Allen. Abbie had birthed 2 children and her 1 marriage occurred 46 years ago. She hadn’t worked in the past year. She had completed 7th grade.
All three of them would have given “Negro” for race, but if the census taker didn’t ask and assumed, they may have been enumerated as “white”. All three were born in Alabama and all of their parents had been born in the United States.
Helpful links for figuring out costs and wages were:
- Historical Census of Housing
- Cost of Living in 1950 – including some news of the day
- Money and Inflation – 1950s
- National Average Wage Index
Other posts in the 1950 series
Today I am previewing my paternal grandparent’s, Albert and Pearl Cleage’s, household in 1950.
In 1950 the Cleage household consisted of Albert B. Cleage, his wife Pearl and five of their seven children. Albert was a Physician. He was 66 years old and had retired from his medical practice, my Aunt Gladys remembers. He was born in Tennessee and both of his parents were born in the United States. He had completed over 5 years of college. He and his wife had been married for 40 years. This was the only marriage for both.
Pearl D. Cleage was 64 years old. She had given birth to seven children. She was born in Kentucky and had completed 12 years of school. She kept house and had not worked or sought work outside of the home during the past year. Her parents were born in the US.
Louis Cleage, their son, was 36 years old and also a physician in a private practice. He had completed over 5 years of college and never been married. He worked 52 weeks. Henry Cleage, a son, was 34 years old. He had worked 52 weeks as an attorney in private practice. He had been married once and divorced about 6 years. Hugh Cleage, a son was 32 years old. He had never been married. He worked 52 weeks as a postal worker at the US post office. Not sure of his salary yet. He had completed 2 years of college. None of them had been in the military.
Barbara Cleage, a daughter, was 30 years old. She had worked the previous year as receptionist her brother’s doctor’s office. She had never been married and had no children. She had completed a year of college. Anna Cleage was the youngest daughter at 26 years old. She had completed over 5 years of college and had worked the previous year as a pharmacist in hr brother’s doctor’s office. She had never been married and had no children. All of the children were born in Michigan. Everybody in the household was identified as Neg(ro).
By 1950 the Cleages had moved from their house on Scotten Avenue to 2270 Atkinson. This three story brick home with full basement was built in 1919. Because it was bought only 2 years before, in 1948, I believe there was a mortgage.
There were two full and two partial bathrooms. There were four bedrooms on the second floor and two in the attic. On the first floor there was a kitchen; a breakfast room; a dining room; a living room; a library and a sun room, adding another six rooms and making twelve rooms in total.
The house was heated by steam heat, with radiators in every room. The house was fully electrified, had hot and cold running water and indoor plumbing. There were two bathtubs and 4 flush toilets in the various bathrooms. In the kitchen there was an electric refrigerator. The stove was gas. The sinks all had hot and cold running water. There was a radio and probably a television. A friend who lived across the street from my grandparents says that his parents bought their house for $15,000 in 1952. My cousin Jan found papers about 2270 Atkinson. When my grandparents bought it early in 1949, the cost was $12,600.
The other day I was thinking about when the next census would released – 2022. I enjoyed finding my family and placing them in context in the 1940 Census. I thought that I know much of the information that would be asked on the 1950 Census. Why wait? I Googled a blank form for the 1950 Census. This is the first of a series based on all of the unpublished censuses – 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2010. I was there!
The 1950 Census is the first one in which I make an appearance. I was three years old. We lived at 643 Union Street in Springfield, Massachusetts. This was the parsonage/ community house located next to the church.
My father, Albert B. Cleage, was the “head” of the household. He was 38 years old and had worked for 52 weeks as the pastor of St. John’s Congregational Church. I do not know how much he earned the previous year, but I’m sure it was on the low side of the $2,992 average wage. He was born in Indiana and both of his parents were born in the United States. He had completed at least 1 year of post degree college work.
My mother, Doris G. Cleage, was my father’s wife. She was 27 years old and was born in Michigan. Both of her parents were also born in the U.S.A. She had completed four years of college and had not worked outside of the home the previous year. She had given birth to two children, both of them still alive. Three year old Kristin and one year old Pearl had both been born in Massachusetts. My parents had been married 6 years. Everybody in the house was identified as “Neg(ro)”. My mother took education classes at Springfield College in 1950 but I’m not sure if it was before or after April, when the census was taken.
Some things that I know about my family at that time that aren’t listed include that we did not own a car and that my father hoped to eventually find a church in Detroit so they could move back home. This happened the following year, 1951.
I have added two articles from April, 1950 concerning my parents activities. Read more about our life on Union Street at – U is for Union Street. Read an overview of news and other happenings for the 1950s here American Cultural History 1950 – 1959.
For this post I used ancestry.com, newspapers.com, family photos and personal knowledge.
Graham, Mrs. Annie, Elmore. Funeral service will be Sunday at 11 a.m. at East Chapel MP church. The Rev. Paul Cook will officiate. Burial will be in Jackson Cemetery with Ross-Clayton Funeral Home directing. Survivors include one daughter, Mrs. Emma Reves; sons, Clyde Jackson, William Jackson, Birmingham, and Joe Jackson; a brother, Marshall Graham, Detroit, Mich.; 16 grandchildren; 43 great-grandchildren; three daughters-in-law, Mesdames Edith, Odessa and Ethel Jackson; and other relatives. She was a member of the Esters of America Society No. 1.
When I found this obituary for Annie Mae Graham on Newspapers.com, I wondered who the son “Joe” was. I had never heard of him before. At first reading I thought that “Marshall Graham” in Detroit was her son, formerly identified as “Michele” in census records. On re-reading, I realized that the “Marshall Graham” was named as her brother, and was my grandfather Mershell who lived in Detroit. And that Joe was Annie’s son, Michele.
I had been looking for something to tie my grandfather Mershell C. Graham to those I suspected were his siblings – Annie, Jacob and Abraham Graham. All of them listed the same parents on their delayed birth records and death certificates, but I could not find them in the same household. In 1900 my grandfather was not in the home with the other children. I have yet to find him in 1900.
Annie Graham’s great grandson, Cedric Jenkins, saw the obituary and contacted me on Ancestry. That was the first he had heard of my grandfather Mershell. We exchanged photographs and information. Annie and Mershell certainly look like sister and brother in the photos below.
After Cedric got in touch with me, I realized I had a DNA match on 23 & me with the surname Jenkins. That Jenkins matched my maternal first cousin, Dee Dee, and was identified as a probable third cousin. He turned out to be Cedric’s nephew.
Using an obituary, a genealogical paper trail, DNA and a newly connected cousin, I was finally able to connect my grandfather Mershell Graham to his sister.
Cedric was also able to identify the children in the photo above as Annie Mae Graham’s children. In the front are Joe (Michele) and Emma. On the mule closest to us is Will and next to him is Clyde.
Mershell Graham with his wife Fannie and children Doris (my mother), Mary Virginia and Mershell Jr. Standing in front of Plymouth Congregational Church in 1927. Detroit, Michigan.
Other posts about Mershell’s siblings
Note: I published an earlier version of this post but I got so much new information that I decided to re-write it but keep the comments from the first post, as I did not want to leave that one up.
I came across this photo while looking for a picture for my cousin last night. I don’t remember seeing it before, although I must have because it’s in my box of Graham photographs.
Since the end of the April A-Z Challenge this year, I’ve been working on my grandfather’s migration story – his move from Montgomery, Alabama to Detroit, Michigan in 1917. The more I look, the more I find, much more than I had originally been looking for.
When I saw the prompt for Sepia Saturday this morning, it reminded me of the picture of my grandfather in the garden and I decided to post it while I continue to work on putting together his larger story.
I had been reading along with Sarah Zama’s continuing story on her Old Shelter Blog last year, when she mentioned that we were entering the twenties again. I decided to write about my family during that time period. On January 1, 2020, I wrote to her “I have got my A to Z schedule all laid out and every letter is sketched in. The theme is – My Family in the Roaring 20s. I hope other people do the 1920s too.”
In my eight years of participating in the A to Z Challenge, I have never gotten such an early start. Usually I spend everyday during the month of April researching and writing my posts.
I had known most of the people I wrote about. They were my parents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles. I had even met one of my great grandmothers. I had visited some of the places they had lived, heard their stories, collected their memories and had many family photographs.
In February, I started putting the posts together, matching photographs with memories and I had written the majority of my posts when the Covid-19 pandemic came crashing in. Even so, I was ahead of ahead of myself when April 1 rolled around.
I did some adding and changing, as I went along, but it was much less stressful than usual. There was lots of time for visiting other blogs and commenting. I am not really sure if I visited more, but I didn’t have to do it at midnight! There was a core of blogs that I visited everyday, commenting most days, adding a few different ones here and there. Most of my regular visits were to blogs I follow all the time or from former challenges. I found several new ones that are now added to my list.
I seem to have received about the same number of comments as last year. I tried to reply to all of them and visited back all who posted.
You can find an index to my posts here 2020 A to Z Challenge.
Thank you to everyone who makes the challenge work and to everyone who read my posts and to those who commented. And to my husband Jim who proof reads my posts. Although I do sometimes change up afterwards, so he’s not to blame if some errors creep in!
See you all back next April!
The Belle Isle Zoo was originally established on the island in 1895 with a deer park and a bear den. By 1909, the Detroit Zoo on Belle Isle had 150 animals in 32-acres. The Belle Isle Children’s Zoo was established in 1947 dismantled in the 1970s. In 1980, the Belle Isle Safari Zoo was opened with raised walkways expanded into the wooded area. The Belle Isle Safari Zoo closed in 2002. Historical Gallery and Fun Facts
Can’t Get Animals For Belle Isle Zoo
Buying Trip Fruitless; Market Empty; War Blamed
Added to the other shortages which have taken the joy out of life during the past year, we now have the wild animal shortage.
The lack of supply in this commodity was brought forcefully to the attention of E. G. Becket, commissioner of the park and boulevard department. Last week when efforts to obtain additional specimens for the Belle Isle zoo came to naught.
James Timmons, animal keeper at Belle Isle, was sent on a scouting expedition by Mr. Heckel, with instructions to bring back some zebras, camels and any other specimens obtainable. A trip to Cleveland Toledo and Cincinnati resulted in a report from Mr. Timmons that no animals worth buying were to be had.
“The scarcity of wild animals for zoo and menagerie specifically is due to the World War.” H. W. is Busch, park department superintendent, said Sunday. “There have been no importations for more than four years, with the result that what stock is offered for sale is of such poor quality that the city cannot affort to waste its money.”
According to Mr. Busch, the supply of deep sea fish from which the aquarium is stocked also is limited. A recent trip made to the West by Mr. Heckel in quest of deep sea fish failed to produce a single specimen.
The park department has a fund of $2,500 to spend for zoo specimens this year and to date has succeeded in placing but one order, which is for a pair of ostriches. These are expected to arrive within a few weeks.
I can’t believe this is my last A to Z post for 2020!