I often wonder about my legacy that I will leave my children and their children. Looking at my dad and what he achieved during my childhood got me to wonder what is a family legacy? Let us start with my last name, “Danage.” I have the alternate meaning of what my last name means that lives through me and will carry on through my children. D is for desire, A is for adaptable, N is for nurturing, A for achievements, G is for Great, and E is for endearing. Once you finish reading this 2-part series, you will see how the definition I just gave you explains how I am today and where it all began. Many in the Peoria community know my father, Fred M. Danage Jr. He was known as the boss of many young guys who delivered newspapers back in the day on Peoria’s southside. He was known as the son of Fred M. Danage Sr, my grandfather, who owned Danage Hardware on Hurlburt street. He was also known as the first black contractor to break the glass ceiling to build affordable housing in Peoria for Best Homes.
I hope that reading this story encourages you to look at your ancestry and heritage like I look at mine. I am my father’s daughter. If any of you know me, you will see how I embraced so much so I could leave my children and their children a legacy of my own.
My father always wanted to be a journalist. He received a scholarship to attend Bradley University for journalism from Manual High School. I knew my father was good at writing and did not know he was a reporter for his high school newspaper. Might I mention he is a Manual Alumni! I remember my journalism teacher Ms. Sharon Crews, at Manual High School. Who would know I would have the same desire to write? I think I got the writing bug, honestly. I started writing at 16 and continued without knowing the history of my dad’s passion.
As mentioned, Dad received a scholarship to attend Bradley University for Journalism; however, after three (3) years of education, he left to pursue a career in business. Dad felt that was not enough for a young Black man back then. The desire to be a black Businessmen in Peoria was a way to break that glass ceiling.
By the grace of God, Dad had help to get his first job with the Peoria Journal Star. A Director for George Washington Carver Community Center by the name of Dick Pendleton recommended him for a job with the Journal Star as a Copy Boy. Dad got his first job working as the first black full-time copy boy working the night shift. This came about by a long talking to from one of his mentors. Mr. Pendleton saw potential in my father and wanted to help him along. This was a time when dad, Richard Pryor, and many others attended Carver Center and had mentors to help groom them to follow their dreams. Dad’s journey got better; he did not remain in that copy room for too long. An editor by the name of Thomas Pugh, who graduated from Woodruff High School and degreed in Journalism and English from Bradley University, saw potential in my father. Tom also started his career with Peoria Journal Star as a writer concentrating on race relations and civil rights. Mr. Pugh saw potential in my dad and helped him get a job as Regional Circulation Manager with the Peoria Journal Star. Some of you may remember the tiny little office that sat there at the end of Shipman and Second Street. It was a small office attached to another building, light blue-greenish color, and the size of a small bedroom. I remember it well and hanging out with my dad watching him in action getting the newspapers out to the carriers, or a better term, the “Paper Boy’s.”
In my next series, I will talk about how my dad, Fred M. Danage Jr., got his start in business as a businessman in Peoria. I will share how my grandfather influenced him and how my dad influenced me to become an Image-Builder and impact those in the community. The journey continues on creating a legacy to tell our children how much Dad meant to us growing up and the values we learned from him and mom to achieve our dreams and pass down generation to generation.