William M. Cummings: Pocket Money
William M. Cummings faithfully kept a diary during his growing-up years, which provide some insight into his early career. William had difficulty in school and encountered some trouble with the law, but he worked periodically as a newsboy for the Minneapolis Tribune and Journal, sometimes selling papers late into the night. His diary also sheds light on where most of his earnings went: a passion for the movies, and his first car.
Mon. April 17, 
Went downtown after supper with Eugene and saw "King Kong." It was swell.
Fri. May 19 
Ratted school all day. Ate lunch in woods by our house...Monkeyed around all afternoon. Went to the Hamline Theater with Eugene & saw "Forty Second Street." It was swell.
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. It sure was swell. Shirley Temple sure is cute.
Sat. November 24 
Went to school in the a.m. Minn. Played Wis. Today. Minn winning 34-0 thus winning the Big Ten championship. Went to Montgomery Wards with Louise & Lola Jean. Art, Dit, & I sold papers at Selby & Snelling. Went to bed at 12:30 a.m.
Sun. November 25 
Peddled papers. Read all the papers. Had a swell goose dinner.
Monday November 26 
Mother started to work today at the Welfare. Boy! Is that swell. We get 32 bucks a week now.
Sun. December 9 
Peddled my papers at 1 a.m. this morning. Thus I slept until 10:30. We get four Sunday papers. I read them all. I like the Editorial page, the general news, & the funnies best. Listened to the radio.
Temptation to have more pocket money may have prompted William to engage in some less savory business enterprises.
Mon. December 10 
Went to school today. Got caught for special dicks for lifting overcoats. Got expelled from school. I got put in jail (East Side Jail, Minneapolis) at 2:30 P.M. Didn't have a good supper. Called up mother to tell her where I am.
Tues. December 11 
The cops took me in a police patrol to the Hennepin County Jail at nine a.m. I stayed there untill 5:30 P.M. Then two St. Paul police came to get me. They took [me] to the St. Paul Jail. Had a good cell.
Wed. December 12 
Sat around all day in my cell with B-- Crosby, a 17 year old "gangster." We just talked & read. Hedsnicker & his assistant took me around to get all the overcoats I sold. The food is rotten here.
Thurs. December 13 
Hedsnicker & his assistent took [me] around to get some more coats. In the afternoon they took me to the court house. Hedstrom my probation officer took me home. I went to Salley's & Althea's house after supper.
Sat. December 15 
After supper Art Oltman & I sold papers till 12 midnight. We sold 25.
Like modern-day teenagers, William also had another "temptation" for raising cash. He wanted his own set of wheels, and was willing to give up a lot to get it.
Tues. December 18 
I'm getting my car tomorrow for sure. Sold my watch & a ring to get money to pay for it. I gave him my shotgun also.
Weds. December 19 
Arthur Oltman & I went to the capitol building to get the car of Davenport's transferred to me. After supper we got the car. Rode all evening. The car is a 1925 Chevrolet coach.
Thurs. December 20 
Rode in my car all day. Had a lot of fun...I drove in to another car head on. Wrecked my car completely. Dick got cut in the face.
Fri. December 21 
Got up at 11:15 a.m. Have three cracked ribs. I feel rotten.... I'm going to junk my car for 5 dollars.
Sun. December 16 
Early in 1935 William began to look for better employment opportunities, and landed a job working at the Coliseum, a dance venue, where he (ironically) checked overcoats. He began the job on January 9th.
Wednesday January 16,1935
Went to work I dusted all the benches & checked overcoats, hats, purses, rubbers, etc. Starting next Saturday I'll get paid $2.10 a night & work three nights a week at least.
This job was short-lived. William was fired for some unknown reason on January 19th.
Cummings, William M., Diaries and Related Papers, 1924-1995. Minnesota Historical Society Manuscripts Collection, 2006.