May 1, 1882

What does the First of May mean to you? Does it conjure up images of ribbons and maypoles?

To some, today is known as International Workers’ Day. To others it is Labor Day. Perhaps it makes you think of the Bee Gees song, The First of May.

For me, the First of May will always be remembered as my paternal grandmother’s birthday.

My Granny Cummins was born on this day in 1882. Mary Ann King, known to everyone as Polly… or Granny, even to those who were not related to her. She was 71 when I was born, and it’s only a few years ago my brother Patrick Cummins sent me some photos of her in her younger years.

Martin & Mary "Polly" CumminsShe was a quiet lady, already over 70 when I was born. I don’t have a lot of memories of her, but those I do have are warm and pleasant. We lived across the street from her during my first five years, and just around the corner the following year. I walked past her little white house every day on my way to and from kindergarten.

Hers was the first TV I ever saw. It was housed in a wooden cabinet, with doors that opened and closed. It was she who introduced me to the Howdy Doody show.

Granny also had a pair of magic dogs on her coffee table. I watched in wide-eyed wonder as she put her hand under the table and made the dog on top of the table move around. She enjoyed watching my amazement for a while before she showed me the “magic” was the magnets glued to the bottom of the dogs. I was too young to understand the concept, but I had lots of fun making the dog walk.

Granny attended Chapel Street School when it was the only public school in town, and before they even had grade levels. They went by what “room” you were in and what “book” you were studying.

I attended that same school for five years, and my brother Jim graduated from the last Grade 8 class they had before a junior high opened up in nearby Stewarttown.

My brother Patrick took tons of photos of the inside of the school after it had closed down.

Years later, Granny lived in a basement suite in Aunt Mary’s home. She was a semi-invalid by that time, and spent a lot of time in her living room with her feet up, watching TV. I liked visiting her, but I could never get her to talk about the past, and my father as a little boy. I sorely missed my father, and never felt like I knew him.

Aunt Mary and Uncle Scotty used to have all the aunts, uncles and cousins over to their home every Christmas, for a buffet dinner and evening of fellowship. My brothers and I felt privileged, because after our father died, we got two Christmas dinners every year — at home with Mom, and at Aunt Mary’s with the whole Cummins clan. Aunt Mary said she would continue to have this annual family reunion every year as long as Granny was alive — and she kept that promise.

Granny passed away in September 1970, when she was 88. She was born and raised in Georgetown, and lived her entire life there. After she was gone, I sorely regretted not having spent more time with her. I wished I had learned more about her… her dreams, and what she held most dear. I wished I had learned more about my father as a boy.

My father wanted to put down roots in his hometown. He’d gone away to the war for a couple of years, but came back afterward. I remember going with him and my mom to look at an acre of land on a hillside between Georgetown and Stewarttown, with just enough land leveled off to build a house and landscape a nice yard for us three kids to play in. But then my father took sick, and died not long after.

After Daddy died, we moved every school year until I was in high school. We stayed in the same town but bounced back and forth among three elementary schools.

I continued to follow that nomadic pattern as a young adult, and after Ian and I married, did the same — moving every couple of years until just before our sixth child was born in 1993. I guess that tendency has left for good, because we’ve lived in this home for 12 years

There is no one left by the name of Cummins in Georgetown now — not since my father’s oldest brother passed away a few years ago.

I’ve often wished I could have lived in the same place for many years, like Granny Cummins. Or like my husband, Ian, whose parents lived in the same farm home in Alberta since his dad was a baby. But all I have to do is visit the cemetery in Georgetown, to see numerous references to the King and Cummins families.

Cummins Family 286It’s comforting to know I do have roots, and I have a family heritage that goes back many generations on both sides of my father’s family.

This is Granny and Granddad Cummins just after my dad returned from the war. That’s my dad, grinning proudly in the back row, in his uniform.

© Willena Flewelling

Comments

  1. love that photo..

  2. Hi Willena,

    What a great share! Love hearing stories like this and seeing pictures of how people were back then 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing your story here……I feel like I know you a little bit better now 🙂
    Joan Harrington recently posted…3 Overlooked Elements To Growing Your Email ListMy Profile

  3. Hello Willena, What a great story! The first TV I ever saw was at my grandma’s house to, we lived right next store and I would get up and rush over and sit with my grandma almost every morning and watch TV with her.. I could remember I was so amazed with this wooded box. LOL

    Loved this photo’s too. Thanks for sharing.. Chery :))
    Chery Schmidt recently posted…5 Essential Keys To Becoming a Successful Internet MarketerMy Profile

    • Isn’t it interesting that it was our grandparents who embraced the change of having a TV in their home, whereas today it’s the older generation who is so slow to get on the computer? Of course, a TV was easy to learn to use when there were only a couple of stations to choose from, as there were in my hometown in the late 50’s.
      Willena Flewelling recently posted…The FarmMy Profile

  4. Hi Willena, Very sweet of you sharing this story with us. It reminds me of my childhood days when I used to visit my grandparents and used to have a lot of fun with them and my cousins. Their love was always unconditional. Thank you!
    Anant Thakur recently posted…100 Day Challenge UpdateMy Profile

  5. I could never get my father to speak much about his past either, Willena.

    I always wondered at that, and thought maybe I should have pressed harder. I’m not sure why having a heritage is so comforting, but I agree, it’s a wonderful thing to connect to.
    David Merrill 101 recently posted…How Do Bloggers Make Big Bucks?My Profile

    • It’s especially meaningful for me to know my heritage. Losing my father when I was 7 really did a number on me security-wise, and after his death we moved pretty well every school year till I was in high school. For many years I never felt like I had any roots — until I recognized my home town as my roots, because that’s where so much of my history on both sides of my family took place.
      Willena Flewelling recently posted…Character DevelopmentMy Profile

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