I Remember Grandma

Please feel free to write your own memories

for this page and e-mail them to Steve Carter

 

MEMORIES OF MAMA

by Mack B. Cunningham

Being the youngest of a large family has been a most unusual experience. By the time I was born, half of the ten remaining children in our family were teenagers and the oldest three were in their late teens or early twenties. When I was due to be borne, it was a Friday and Luella had returned from a school dance at about 11 o'clock. 'Papa', as our father was known, told Luella to run over to Bishop Gardner's house, two houses east and call Dr. Noyes to come as Mama was having labor pains. At about 2:30 a.m. I came into the world. Howard was about 4 or 5 at the time. The 4-plus year gap was due to the death of my next oldest sister, Catherine, who died in infancy during the great 'Flu' epidemic of 1918. Another gap occurred with the death of another brother, Stanford, also in infancy, a few years earlier. Mama bore 12 children plus one or two mis-carriages over a span of about 22 years. I understand she lost a child at the time Papa died. I was 2 1/2 years old when he died. They say he was shipped home from Caliente, Nevada in dry ice, clad in his underwear.

My remembrance of my siblings during the years between ages six and fourteen are very vague, a fact that has always been a source of great sorrow to me.

When my chin was about even with the top of the big round kitchen table, I used to stand by Mama while she kneaded the bread. I waited in great expectation for her to suddenly whack me in the face with a wad of dough that was ready to go into the pan!

Mama used to wear her hair long. It was very thick and kind of auburn in color. It was her custom at the end of the day to let her hair down. She would sit in the rocking chair and let her hair fall away over the back of the chair while I combed or brushed it for her.

Many times I have played make-believe games under the quilts she had stretched out on the frames in the "Front Room." In cold weather, after supper and after the dishes were washed in the pantry by lantern or candle-light, Mama would take a shovel full of glowing coals from the kitchen stove(originally located where the sink and cupboards were later installed) and start a fire in the 'Peninsular' stove in the front room. At Christmas time we hung our stockings on a small rope strung behind the stove.

I slept for a time with Mama on the softest feather tick ever made--but what a job it was to get it ready to sleep in again! How well I remember Johnny Davis whistling as he went by on his bicycle on his way to his work at the Post Office. In the spring of the year we would wake up to the Baaa-ing of sheep being driven down our street on their way to summer pasture miles away. Mama would say,
"Mack, get out there quick and keep those sheep out of the garden!!" Originally there was a wooden picket fence out front which was replaced with a wire fence before my time or remembrance. Eventually the wire fence was removed, but I don't know why, except that fences were no longer desired(or allowed?)

Mama and I had many a breakfast on the oven door of the kitchen coal stove. She used to make me a cup a 'granma's tea' consisting of hot water with milk or cup hot milk and sugar. She would have her "cup of Sin" as she called it and that is about the nearest she came so sinning.

When Mama felt moved to do so, usually when there were several of us around the table, she would instruct us to turn our chairs facing outward and kneel down at our chair to be led in prayer. I still remember the quiet pause and then her lovely reverent voice as she slowly said: "Our Father, which art in heaven..."

I danced with Mama just once. I don't know why. Perhaps because she never went to many such events during my lifetime. She taught me the steps to: "Have you seen my new shoes?" It was a precious memory.

I accompanied Mama to Relief Society meetings and to the City Hall when she had work to do for the City as Treasurer. I remember that long hard bench I had to sit or lie down on. Out in the entrance vestibule there were World War I guns displayed. Over the west entrance was sort of a platform on which was displayed a water cooled 30-caliber machine gun. Little did I realize that the time would come when I would command a platoon of a slightly updated version of those very guns in combat! (They were called "Stuttering Sams").

One time, Mama took me to Salt Lake for some reason. Other than getting sick from the careening motion of the Inter-urban railway car, my one recollection of that trip was eating in a restaurant and sharing a piece of pie with Mama. That was really living!

Washday at our house was a weekly ordeal that began well before daybreak and ended well after sundown. It took place in the "grainary". Gallons and gallons of water had to be boiled on top of the coal stove and everything had to be rinsed in boiling water. I had to cut up bars of Fels Naphtha soap into thing slices which had to dissolve in the water. The primitive washing machine, although operated by an electric motor from underneath, sounded like a threshing machine. Mama wasn't satisfied with the job the washing machine did on some clothes which left many pieces to be scrubbed on the washboard. We had what seemed like about 13 miles of clothes lines and the washing covered every inch of it. While hanging out the clothes with Golda, I remember us singing a popular singing radio commercial that went: "Socks! Socks! We're the Interwoven pair. Billie Jones and Ernie Hair Now we're coming on the air! Socks! Socks!...etc. Etc.

How Mama kept us all fed, clothed, is a source of great wonder to me. She collected rags for rugs, made quilts and sold them for next to nothing. Instead of mailing out the water bills at 2 cents per bill, some of my brothers and sisters would deliver them and be paid 2 cents for each card delivered. Two cents was worth something in those days. Another contract that we all hated was that of cleaning cemetery lots in early summer. This was before the cemetery was transformed into the beautiful place it is now. The cemetery was divided into small lots about 15 or 20 square feet. At lunch time we used to sit under the lilac bushed to eat our lunch.

I was the Rhubarb King of American Fork. We had a row of rhubarb that grew like crazy. Mama and I would package a wagon load of five and ten-cent bunches and I would canvas our section of town. I usually sold the entire load.

As near as I can figure it, from the City Council minutes quoted in the History of American Fork by George F. Shelly, Mama was the City Treasurer of American Fork from 1925 to 1935. She never campaigned for the job. Seems like the folks knew she could do the job and needed it so they just kept electing her time after r time It might also be that the job only paid $18.75 a month. Sometime later, it was raised to the astronomical figure of $35.00 a month. I think she reached the age where she was eligible for an old age pension. I'm not sure...

I must include the following chapter in this recollection because I think it should be told. I don't have all the facts...just the gist of the matter. When I was a sub-teen, a local widower named Harry Chipman started to pay court to Mama. He was quite well off in a modest way...a sheep man primarily. He was tolerable good looking in a craggy sort of way and wore rather thick glasses. The quaint thing about him was that when he came to visit Mama, he would bring, among other things, a dozen eggs! He knew of Mama,s circumstances and was a practical man. When he died, he left some kind of stipend to Mama. However, his relatives(including maybe Delbert and Ora Chipman and others) aided by none other than Clifford E. Young Sr. And their attorney contested Mama,s entitlement to the amount willed to her. It meant nothing to Mama, of course, even though she sure could have used it. But in so doing, this family group through their attorney, misrepresented Mama's position, making it appear that she was some kind of culprit. Mama brought it to Uncle Clif(Tolboe's) attention and when he saw what was going on, he was furious and hired an attorney to set matters straight. The actions of these upstanding pillars of the church was displicable, but simply demonstrates that greed and selfishness are universal. This branch of the Chipman family, like most everyone else in American Fork, knew that Mama was widely loved and respected and yet they stooped to that level for the sake of a small token of an old man's high regard for your Grandmother. I am sorry that I failed to get the facts from Clif while he was alive. If I were rich, I would look into it and learn the facts in the matter, and expose them, even though they're dead. However, God knows about it and "vengeance is the Lords."

I'm sure that after I've mailed this letter, other memories will come to mind. It is my greatest desire to write a rambling chronological account of my life, solely for the edification and enjoyment of my family...and myself. I've had a great life and even if it should end tomorrow, I shall be grateful for every moment of it.

I would like to be at the reunion this year and will try to make it. The only possible reason for not making it(apart from the worst one I can think of!) would be Betty's condition, which at present is pretty good.

P.S. I've gone to sleep in my bed in the 'Granary' many a night to Mama's voice humming one of her favorite hymns, to the accompaniment of the old Singer Treddle Sewing Machine. I don't remember her going to bed before I did but when I awoke everything was neat and tidy.

Love to All,

Mack 


MEMORIES OF GRANDMA CUNNINGHAM
by her Grandchildren


 

My memories of Grandma start I believe, with a feeling of safety and peace that I always felt when I was in her home. Her house was always cool in the summer and very warm in the winter - a safe place where I always knew I was loved and wanted. I remember the two big rocking chairs and the wall heater in the living room. As a small child, the rockers seemed to envelope me. I would sit and rock in front of that old wall heater and look at the picture of the little girl who had fallen asleep lying against her big dog. Before long in the warmth and comfort of Grandma's house, I too, would be asleep. I loved to play Chinese Checkers with Grandma. We would sit in those old rocking chairs with the Chinese Checkers board between us on our knees. Grandma had to have the white marbles because she couldn't see the black ones very well. I wasn't very good at the game, but sometimes Grandma would let me win. Then I would put the marbles back in the old pharmacy can and I would put the can and board back in Grandma's bedroom closet.


Grandma always smelled so good. I can't quite put my finger on what she smelled like - she just smelled like Grandma. She had a tin of old beads - necklaces and such that were out of style - that she saved for grandchildren to play with. I remember sitting in the little settee in the corner of her living room by the bookshelf and playing for hours with these beautiful "treasures". I remember them smelling like Grandma, even though she probably hadn't worn them for years. I thought they were wonderful. There are so many memories that I could write. It seems like only yesterday that I was there with Grandma in her big kitchen. She would fix cinnamon-sugar toast and we would sit at her round table and have a snack. I think one of my fondest memories, though, is of Grandma at her sewing machine. She would sit at her treadle sewing machine and sing church hymns while she sewed strips of fabric together for the rugs she made. Mom would bring the strips home to our house and Kent and I would sit in the backroom and wind them into huge balls. Then Mom would take Grandma and the balls of fabric to the weavers who would make them into rugs for Grandma to sell. Grandma taught me to sew at that old sewing machine. When I was about five years old, she gave me some wool scraps and a few buttons and then very patiently showed me how to hold the needle and go up and down with the thread. She showed me how to sew on buttons. My stitches weren't as neat and tiny as hers, but I was very proud of my accomplishment and so was Grandma. I still have that first "quilt". Grandma's quilts were wonderful. I remember her round-top trunk in the backroom that was filled with pieced tops waiting to be quilted. I also remember the stacks and stacks of pieces that she had already cut for those quilts she wanted to piece someday. Grandma was quite elderly by the time I came along, and she didn't do as much quilting as she once did, but I remember a few quilting bees held in her living room on hot summer days. While the adult women quilted, Kathleen and I played dolls under the quilt. It was like our little hideout.


Since I was the youngest granddaughter, I got in on lots of parties for birthdays, etc. I also got in on the housecleaning. Mom and Aunt Doris and Aunt Moselle and Aunt Luella would go to Grandma's house every so often to do some deep cleaning. I was too little to do anything very heavy but I wanted to help. On one such cleaning trip, I guess Grandma noticed that I was feeling a bit left out. She brought a can with an oiled rag from the kitchen and asked me if I would like a very special job. She took me to the corner what-not shelf in the living room. The shelf was filled with all kinds of treasures that she had collected over the years and which for as many of my five years of life that I could remember, I had wished to touch, but my Mom had always warned against such action. You can imagine my surprise and delight as Grandma said she knew that I was a big enough girl now to take everything off the shelf and dust the shelf and all it's contents and then put everything back without breaking anything. I worked all afternoon on that what-not shelf. And I remember what praise I received from Grandma when I was finished. My Mom inherited that what-not shelf from Grandma and I in turn inherited it from her. It stands now in my living room full of treasures that I have collected over the years, some that I even got from Grandma. And every time I dust it, I think of Grandma and how proud she was of a little five year old girl.


There are so many memories - I can't possibly write them all. I remember the bouncy bed in the backroom, the log cabin part of the house (I used to tell all of my friends that my grandmother actually lived in a log cabin!), the big old barn out back with the huge doors, the pink flowering almond bush just outside the kitchen door, the cellar with all the spiders. I remember all the Christmases - the parties at the Lehi Riding Club, the Hokey Pokey, the tiny Christmas tree Grandma had every year (she saved the icicles from year to year in a little ball), and all the relatives that would be at Grandma's house on Christmas Day. But the thing I remember most about Grandma is the love. I knew, even at a young age, that she had lots and lots of grandchildren, and that I was only one of many. And even though I always knew that Grandma loved us all the same, when I was with Grandma, she had a way of making me feel that I was the most special child in the whole world. Grandma was a lady, always dainty, refined, quiet. She was spiritual, kind, loving. And the legacy of love that she has left for us will continue for generations to come

Leesa Gurney Spencer


As a child, I knew that Grandma Cunningham had to be the world's best Chinese Checker player. Each of us kids would take her on, with the shouts and yells of the Three Stooges as a back drop. One by one, Grandma would wipe each of us off the board. At eight years of age, I knew Grandma C. Was a genius.

During our annual trips to see Grandma C. We little Cunninghams had great times. Despite the fact that there was a total of eight of us visiting, Grandma took everything in stride. Grandma was gracious, sweet, and never seemed to lose patience with us.

My favorite meal at Grandma's house was breakfast, because she shared the bounty of her fruit cellar with us. I remember going to retrieve fruit for Grandma. On the porch, I would lift the heavy , big door from the floor and descend into the dark recesses of the cellar. Pulling the light on, I'd keep a sharp eye open for possible spiders lurking in hidden in hidden corners. There on the shelves were rows and rows of gleaming jars of fruit - testimony of Grandma's hard work. Grabbing a few jars, I'd turn off the light and race up the stairs, hoping nothing would catch me on the way to daylight and safety. Then Grandma would open her wonderful peaches and serve them along with buttery cinnamon toast.

Every once in a while Grandma would open her "magic" chest for us. Inside were porcelain dolls from a time we were too young to have experienced. How different these dolls were from my plastic dolls! Each doll had a felling of age and history to it. We dressed Grandma's dolls up in the beautiful, hand- made dresses, but we were very careful. Somehow we knew these dolls were special to Grandma.

The best present Grandma gave me, of source, was my dad! Her wonderful traits were re-lived through Dad - selflessness, kindness, gentleness, and the willingness to do sacrificial hard work for others - especially for the family.

I am blessed to have come from the roots of a person like Grandma Cunningham. Hopefully her traits will live on in each of us!

Sue Fuller
(oldest daughter of Mack Cunningham)


I'm very thankful for the memories I have of Grandma "Jennie" Cunningham. I remember her as a kind, welcoming woman with an expression of quiet humor, patience & wisdom. My visits at Grandmas house were filled with things like exploring the house, cellar, and yard, enjoying make-believe with Grandma's dolls, eating wonderful meals and playing lively games of Chinese Checkers,(And she didn't always just let us win!)

Looking back, I am impressed by the way Grandma was able to make each grandchild feel especially respected and loved. Having now raised some children of my own, I'm very proud of the heritage she left us - she modeled for us faithful and sacrificial mothering, while keeping her great sense of humor as well as a strong faith in God. I would be delighted if my children and grandchildren could see some of Grandma in me!

Kathleen Cunningham Rosenwall


My dad has been telling me I should be sending you my memories about Grandma Cunningham, but I never received any form letter like I was supposed to so he said just send you a few lines. Hope I'm not to late!

I really don't remember much about Grandma as she passed away when I was in grammar school and we only visited once a year or two. I guess that's always going to be my fate as the youngest child of the youngest child.

I do remember looking forward to going to Grandma's as she would always get a box or suitcase out of her closet that contained an old doll with clothes for me to play with. And we also got to use her board games while there. I particularly remember learning to play Chinese Checkers.

Once I went down into some sort of larder that was nice and cool and kind of spooky.

I remember going to the funeral but not many of the details about it - just my Dad's tears which I had never seen before.

Grandma was a neat lady. I've always been sorry I didn't know her better. We'll have to get re-acquainted in heaven some day.

Love,

Dayle Ann (Dolly) Cunningham Caldwell

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BOYHOOD MEMORIES OF VISITS TO Grandma's

Smell of Lilac, collar of Lace
Ready smile from wrinkled face
Time-worn dress in darker hues
Soft, veined hands that are well-used
Frail and small yet strong of will
Twinkling eyes, wisdom filled
Sense of humor, gentle touch
Close to God she loved so much

Gnome-like cottage, cozy, quaint
Covered porch, white-wash paint
Big round table, old cabin walls
Candy hid in bathroom jars
Exploring cellar, cool and black
Preserved this and pickled that
Spider webs, Uncle's swords
Taken home from Foreign wars

City park, tree-lined streets
Lots of friendly kin to greet
Playing games, singing songs
Reminiscing all eve long
Hugging Grandma as we leave
Yearning for more time to cleave
To one who raised our Dad so dear
But get to see just once a year

Mack Jr.

 

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