Minnesota's Greatest Generation

William M. Cummings: Into Mischief

William M. Cummings was born in St. Paul in 1917. His diaries reflect a carefree attitude toward life during the difficult years of the depression – an attitude that often got him into mischief. Like many of his contemporaries, William loved going to the movies – and the challenge of trying to sneak into the theatre without paying. His more prosaic pastimes included bird watching at Fort Snelling, caring for family pets, playing with friends, reading, and listening to the radio.

Diary Excerpts

April 17 (1933) Mon
Went downtown after supper with Eugene and saw King Kong. It was swell.

April 18 Tues
Went to school today. I am going to collect flowers. The biology teacher is swell at Roosevelt. I think I might go to Fort Snelling tomorrow. Went downtown at 2:15. Try to sneak in the shows but couldn't get in. Came home & cleaned the yard the rest of the day. Put manure on the yard. Monkeyed around after supper & listened to radio.

April 19 Weds
Went to school. Cleaned the rabbit pens out. Put the ginny pigs out side. Read and listened to the radio after supper. Played around outside and had a lot of fun.

April 20 Thurs
Went to school today. Got excused at twelve o'clock went to Fort Snelling and saw ducks and other birds had a good time. I was going to the YMCA guy but he wasn't there. Came home and made a plant press. Am going to collect plants. Listened to radio & played outside after supper.

May 19 Fri
Ratted school all day. Ate lunch in woods by our house. The Warblers & Vireos are everywhere today. Monkeyed around all afternoon. Went to the Hamline theater with Eugene & saw "Forty Second Street." It was swell.

May 20 Sat
Got up at 6:45 Mother & girls were on Picnic breakfast Daddy went work early. Worked in garden hopped trucks down Saw parade on 75th Anniversary of Minn. Went to freight yards. Hopped trucks home. Ate lunch Hopped trucks back. Went swimming at YWCA. Snuck in Riviera Saw J.E. Brown in "Elmer the Great." It was swell. Hopped a bus home. Ate & went to Jim's house. Went to bed at 9:05.

May 21 Sun
Went to Red Wing. Art drove the car. Daddy is fishing at River. Went to Harve's & played ball in the morning. Ate dinner & went to the creek in the afternoon. Art & me went swimming. Got some grain & ate lunch. Came home & read papers. Grandma & Grandpa are coming to Red Wing Fri.

May 22 Mon
Stayed home & work in the yard until noon. got a ride to school. Wrote bird notes 6th period. Came part way home. Went to beginning of ball game. Cleaned fish & read Sunday Papers. Ate fish dinner & went to YMCA to swim. Hopped a bus home.

Fri. October 26 [1934]
All the kids went to the Hamline Theater to see "The Dragon Pool Murder." It was quite interesting. Had a final four weeks test in Farm Dairying, and Farm Management I. I bum to school everyday & back. I sure like shows.

Sun. October 28
I peddled papers this morning. The Minneapolis Tribune & Journal. I went to the show at the Hamline Theater. Saw "Now & Forever" with Shirley Temple, & Gary Grant [Cooper]. it was swell. Shirley Temple sure is cute.

Mon October 29
Went to school today. Hopped a truck home. I like hopping trucks as I can get around in a hurry with it costing me anything. The only trouble the trucks don't stop where you want them to.

Weds December 5
Went to school today. After supp Daddy took Jim & Audrey, Art, Louise, Lola Jean and I downtown. I took the whole bunch to the R.K.O. President. We saw the musical comedy "Down to their Last Yacht." We had a swell time.

Thurs December 6
Went to school today. We are all going to a party to at Audrey Hadler's house tomorrow. Audrey & Jimmy Hadler are sure swell kids. They are both swell kids.

Fri December 7
After supper we went to Audrey Hadler's house. We played Bunco, pool, ping pong, winks, & over games. We had delicious ice cream, cake, & cookies. Mr. & Mrs. Hadler are both very nice people. So is Mrs. Hadler's mother.

Sat December 8
Audrey, Salley, Dick, Elizabeth, Bob Swain, Art, Jimmie, Art Johnson, Wally, Chuck, Norma, Ann, & I went to the Park Theater in the morning. We saw "Harold Teen." We brought toys for admissions. It was swell. After supper Art Oltman & I sold papers.

December 16 Sun.
Peddled papers. Art Oltman over in the afternoon. We just talked & listened to the radio which has good programs on Sun. One program I like best in Grand Hotel, a different play is on each time.

Sat. December 22
Went to Wards. Bought some presents. Lola Jean and I went to the Hamline Theater. We saw "The Case of the Howling Dog." It was pretty good.

December 23 Sun.
I peddled my papers today. It was 0º out today. Mother, the girls, and I went to church today. After supper Lola Jean and I went to the Hamline Theater. We saw Ginger Rogers in "The Gay Divorcee."

December 24 Mond.
Art, Eddie and I went downtown on trucks. We went to the Riviera Theater. We saw W.C. Fields in "It's a Gift." It was real funny. After supper we had our presents. We went to Grandpa Cummings until midnight.

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Manuscript: Cummings, William M., Diaries and Related Papers, 1924-1995.