Mary Lavinia Cummins, and Netta Virginia Cummins, were identical twin sisters from Nevada, Missouri. They were children of the depression and World War II. My father, Donald Delos Doman married Mary Lavinia and spent WWII all over the South Pacific in the Merchant Marine. Virginia’s husband, Jacob Randall Whitworth fought in Italy during World WWII in the army. Both women married hometown boys. My parents mostly stayed in Nevada once the war was over and after I was born in 1945 and named after my father. Randall and Virginia moved to Tacoma. Randall’s brother Oswald had a farm in Puyallup near the Puyallup River.
In 1947 Virgina and Randall had a daughter. Her name was Lavinia Lou Whitworth. After she was born someone asked Johnny, a family friend what the newborn’s name was. At a slight loss, he responded “Lavinola Lou?” Once Virgina had a child the die was cast, the chicken was in the pot, a done deal, it was “fait accompli.” The twins needed to be together. My parents headed to Tacoma, so I could meet my cousin, or “cougie” as my almost two year old person pronounced it. Eventually, “cuggie” became “Cug,” which is what my cousin Lindy finally called my mom.
The story goes that my parents were on their way to Long Beach, California, which had been home port for my dad during the war. When my parents arrived in Tacoma they supposedly only had ten dollars in their pockets so they looked for jobs and a place to live. We stayed. I don’t think the twins could live very far apart for long. Eventually, my grandmother, the original Mary Lavinia Cummins, even moved from Nevada to Tacoma, to be close to Lavinia and Virginia and the grandchildren.
Virginia and Randall had more kids, while my parents put procreation on the back burner. Aunt Virginia babysat while my mom worked. I remember visiting their home on Sixth Avenue. Two lots west from their home was a Signal service station (now a 7-Eleven), while on the east end of the block, which sloped down was a house with a yard built slightly higher than the sidewalk. Their was a rockery of concrete and stones. I remember playing with my lead soldiers on that rockery. That house is now the home of Last Stop Computers.
Next door to the Whitworth home was a couple who had a collection of miniature cathedrals. Lindy and I would visit and every once in a while, they would turn on the lights behind the glass panes protecting them. We visited one day, but no one was home. We were bored . . . and hungry, so we helped ourselves to peanut butter in their pantry just off the back porch. I don’t know if we got spanked for that, but I can’t imagine not being punished.
In the Whitworth home we often played in the attic, which had an old box of some sort of detergent that looked like snow when it was shaken out. We shook it out. We could have been punished for that, but I don’t know that anyone besides us went up in the attic. Also, in the attic we played cowboys and Indians. The Whitworths had long handled plastic cocktail spoons. With wire coat hangers as bows we could launch them like arrows at anything . . . including cousins.
Mostly Lindy and I just played, but one day we had an argument. I think we used to play war with her dolls and stuffed animals, but this time we weren’t playing well together. Armed with a ceramic tiger she dared me not to come closer or take something or else! I said, “You wouldn’t throw that at me.” She launched it of course and it bounced off the bridge of my nose right between the eyes.” Infuriated and crying I grabbed a Brownie box camera and wacked her on both knees. I swung it left and then right. Soon we were sitting on Virginia’s lap as she quieted us down and stopped our tears. That’s really the only time I remember being at war with each other. Mostly we worked as a team.
Later, Virginia and Randall moved to South Tacoma Way. They rented a house my parents owned near the corner of 58th and South Tacoma Way near Mallon Ford. Uncle Randall worked at the South Tacoma Shops for the railroad. The sculpture of a railroad worker and his daughter outside the Heritage Bank on the corner of 56th and South Tacoma Way, reminds me so much of Lindy and Uncle Randall. Lindy loves the statue and also feels like it is the image of her and her father.
I remember two adventures at that home. Lindy and I were playing . . . that’s always how these things start. The next door neighbors had a small garden. For some reason we picked a stalk of rhubarb and ate it . . . followed by another stalk and then another . . . well you get the picture. I can’t imagine the two of us eating their entire crop, but you never know. I do know adults weren’t happy with us. Mostly what I remember is my parents stopping at a grocery store on the way home. I drank a bottle of Orange Crush. With a taste of raw rhubarb still in my mouth, it was years before I could even touch a bottle of Orange Crush.
Later the Whitworths moved to Sumner. At the Sumner house we mostly did crazy fun stuff like sneaking up on younger brother Chuck while he napped and peeling back his eyelids, so we could stare at this eyes. I think we were easily amused. He never woke up while we did this. We also got the biggest kick out of asking Chuck his name. He would answer, “Chuck,” of course, but he pronounced “CH” as an “F.” We would just giggle to ourselves.
Somehow the two of us managed to get through childhood without having anyone kill us. We shared, helped, and encouraged each other all the time. I’ve always enjoyed films. I told her about Joe E. Brown, who portrayed a private detective in a 1930s romp. He walked along the sidewalk with one foot on the sidewalk and one foot in the gutter, which gave him a herky jerky movement. He called it his un-noticeable walk so he could mix in with people while shadowing someone. The humor was that the un-noticeable walk drew attention from everyone.
When Lindy was attending Puyallup High School she needed a funny skit. She was into acting. I took part in plays at Clover Park as she did in Puyallup. I wrote the skit she needed. The next year in college I needed an essay on Lord of the Flies. I knew she had done one. I took her high school paper with a B+ and got an A- at Olympic College.
A year later we both were attending the University of Puget Sound. Once I met Peg at UPS the two of them became friends. Lindy became an elementary school teacher in Castle Rock. She hated it. She wanted to act. Aunt Virginia wanted Lindy to continue teaching so she could always be employed.
Lindy moved to Seattle and hung out with other actors and became part of the Empty Space Theatre on Pike across from the infamous Comet Tavern. We took the kids to see School for Clowns and all three enjoyed it. I think they liked the infantile jokes. So did we. “What do moles see?” “Molasses.” Later she moved to Detroit and was featured in a number of TV commercials. One paid for a new Ford. In Detroit, Michigan where she still lives with her second husband James Hart, she was the driving force of the Attic Theatre from 1976 to 1994. She was the Michiganian of the year in 1980. “The Detroit News has honored outstanding citizens who have helped make living in this state a richer experience for the rest of us . . .” When our daughter got married, her father-in-law was most impressed by meeting Lindy. He had been a manager for General Motors in Detroit and new the importance of the award.
Currently, Lavinia Moyer Hart is an Associate Professor of Theatre at Wayne State University. She finally followed her mother’s suggestion. She teaches, directs, and sometimes stars in their award winning productions. She recently confided she has taught her students the “un-noticeable” walk for years. For the past few years we have enjoyed each others company in Ocean Shores after she and her husband James visit Portland, where her daughter Jaime Moyer of Second City Hollywood performs in Twist Your Dickens at CenterStage. Two years ago Lindy was visiting our hotel room. I knew she had received all kinds of accolades for playing the part of Violet in August: Osage County. I asked if she could still remember the lines from the story of the cowboy boots. Sitting on the foot of our bed she did the scene. We were revetted . . . and almost in tears. In case you are unfamiliar with the movie/play, Violet is mean and vile. The story of the cowboy boots tells how she got that way. Lindy said that her actors not on stage cried during that scene every single night.
This year we are not going to Ocean Shores, but will remain in Tacoma. Lindy and James will see Jaime on stage again in Portland and then drive north for our family party.
Lindy quite often channeled her mother, Virginia. Jaime learned her craft from Lindy. Jaime is a fantastic “improv” actor as well as a great line by line reader. She has appeared on Parks and Recreation, Two Broke Girls and is a regular as the neighbor on Disney’s K.C. Undercover. When Peg and I celebrated our 50th Wedding Anniversary, Lindy and James flew in from Detroit, while Jaime flew in from Hollywood. Lindy and Jaime did a short skit as part of the entertainment for our guests. It’s interesting watching the two of them together. Lindy holds back and let’s Jaime take over and perform. Jaime seems like she is “on” all the time, but she has quiet moments as well. I wonder where she learned that?
Peg, Lindy, James, Jaime and I always have a great time together. There is usually some laughter involved. I can hardly wait to see Jaime and James and especially Lindy Lou.