Monday, April 13, 2009

Photographic Journey of My Favorite Uncle...

....and Godfather! I only had a few uncles in my family and the one that has always been most special to me is also my godfather. Perhaps that is why we have always been close.

My uncle, Melbourne M. Schulte, was born on September 27, 1920 in Detroit, MI to Elmer and Ella (Wellhausen) Schulte. An early family photo, which appears to be a professional shot, is a part of my genealogical collection though I swear he looks like a little girl in this photo. I don't know what kind of outfit my grandmother had him dressed in and that curly hair - well he was destined to be a barber so maybe it was fitting!

By 1923, my father had been born and joined the family, followed by a daughter, Marilyn, in 1928. In 1938, the family was photographed while in a park having a family picnic.

Around the same time, my uncle was able to purchase his first car from his grandmother and he recently submitted this photo to a magazine which accepted it for publication. He was so proud of this submission and very proud of this car which he had to pay his grandmother $300 for. I think he would like to still have this vehicle!

When he graduated from Eastern High School in Detroit in 1939, he proudly had his photo taken with his grandmother Wellhausen who he was very close to. His grandfather Wellhausen had just passed away the year before and to this day he tells me how much he loved and respected that grandfather.

His first job came when he and his brother (my father) had jobs at the old Rialto Theatre in Detroit which was on the corner of Gratiot and Mt. Elliott. They posed for this photo outside of the theatre.

It was while working at the Rialto Theatre that my uncle met his future bride, Virginia Reske. He likes to tell the story that he shone his flashlight on her in the theatre, noted her legs and fell in love. On November 15, 1941 they were married at Mt. Zion Lutheran Church in Detroit, MI. They left for their honeymoon up north, as it was the start of hunting season, and my uncle was an avid hunter. My aunt also told the story that she sat in the cabin while the men were out hunting. Evidently that did not diminish their marriage, as last November 15th, they celebrated 67 years together!

My uncle has a great sense of humor, evident even today, but I particularly like this photo when he was joking around with HIS uncle and picked him up. They were obviously having a good time as they continued to do over the years.

In the early years of WWII, my uncle joined the US Navy and on the same date that he left for service, my father, who had joined the US Air Force, left for his service overseas. My grandmother told the story of dropping off one son at one departure location in Detroit and then going and dropping the other son off at another location.

It was while my uncle was overseas, in the Pacific, that my aunt delivered their baby son. The Red Cross apparently got their signals crossed and notified MY father, who was serving in Central America, with a telegram that said "The US government is proud to inform you that your wife has given birth to a baby boy. May your new son be as great of a citizen as you are a serviceman for your country." Obviously my father was a little confused to receive this message and it was over a week later before the message actually was received by the proud papa in the Pacific.

Upon returning from the service, both my uncle and my father decided to become barbers, both attended the Detroit Barber College on Gratiot Avenue in Detroit and both set up business in separate shops. My uncle's barber shop was on Gratiot Avenue, nearly downtown Detroit where he practiced his trade for many, many years.

Recently my aunt and uncle sent me this photo, taken in approximately 1952, which I had never seen before. It is a treat to have this as it shows both of them with their son and with me. I can't tell by the background where it was taken but it had to be somewhere in Detroit. I truly had never seen this photo before and I am pleased to have it.

In later years, both my uncle and my father left their barber shops and bought a shop together on Six Mile Road and Gunston in Detroit. There they worked together until my uncle decided to leave the barbering trade and take a job at Ford Motor Company. He was only 10 years away from retirement and worked the midnight shift - hard labor and long hours - but it paid off in the wealth of benefits that he received which are continuing to benefit both he and my aunt.

My aunt and uncle now live in Arizona where he is 87 and my aunt is 90. He still drives, does all the shopping and errands, has his groups of friends that he enjoys and takes care of my aunt who is physically limited but who has a memory and mind sharp as a tack. His sense of humor continues, he is totally knowledgeable on political and news events and has opinions on a wide range of subjects.

A person doesn't have to be famous to be special. My memories over my lifetime of my uncle are many. I don't recall him ever being angry, ever raising his voice and he has never been unkind to anyone. Still today he believes in family unity and when distension arises in the family, he is always the one to mediate. He has a strong faith and practices his religion, he is extremely attentive to my aunt and is a good friend to many and is always willing to drop what he is doing to assist a friend. The only thing I regret is that they live so far away in Arizona which is a goodly distance from Michigan.

Uncles can be very special indeed and I have been blessed with this very special uncle and godfather who has always cared for me and shown his affection. I couldn't ask for a better uncle!

Above photos and images - personal collection of Cheryl Schulte

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