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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Little Cody Cunningham, the Seamstress

Letters to Bee from Cora Cunningham

Cora “Cody” Cunningham was one of the six young women who shared the “Deaux Drop Inn” tent #60 in Yellowstone the summer of 1916 when they all worked for the Wylie Permanent Camping Company and were known as “Wylie Savages.” My grandmother Beatrice Boedefeld, “Bee” to her friends, kept most of the letters she received from the friends she made in Yellowstone that summer. (See the note at the end for a list of the people at the Park; just to get you started, the Deaux Drops were Bee, Cody, Rae Wylie, Dorothy “Dick” Loeffler, and Perla and Vessie Caughey.) Here are the letters from Cody.

Sabbath Eve.
Oct. 15/16

Dear Deaux Drop Sister,

Guess I owe you a letter or else you have forgotten me for I looked for a letter all wk. Just rec’d 11 in the past two wks. Also 10 pictures. Everett Olson sent me 3 pictures. Ray send me 7 and I got 90 films from the Caugheys. How’s that for pictures.

I have been working now for 2 wks. It is hard to sit and sew since I came back. Made a beautiful coat suit and two evening Gowns besides more common things. Haven’t got much for myself yet.
1916 Evening and Afternoon Dress Styles

Have been going to Concerts, Picture Shows, Showers, and Fancy work clubs.

Was over at the Caugheys one night all night. Don’t think the alt. has helped Vessie’s nerves much she giggles as much as ever. Nevertheless I had a lovely evening. Dick was to have come, but had Company and could not leave.

Gym class is going to start soon and I expect to join. Think I will get Dick and we will walk over to Caugheys and return their Films some evening this wk.

I sent a letter to that Girl in Cal. asking her if she would send me 6 of those pictures of the Bunch of Drivers. Haven’t heard yet from her yet, but it was only last wk. I wrote to her.

Have you heard from Allen? I had a big letter from Matthews. I think I’ll send Allen a picture of the Giant. I have 3 good ones taken from the Overflow.

Do hope he sends us some of his for they are soo good. I am willing to pay him for them.

Am going to town soon & look for a coat and hat. You can’t do much in B.F. and I don’t know how it will be in Pitts. I want to get a Georgette Crepe waist for dress. Don’t expect to get much as it goes out of Style too quick.

Well I must close. Lots of love and kisses for you dear one.

Your savage chum,

Write real soon.


My dear Bee,

That “sure enough” was a grand magazine you sent the Deaux Drops and we sure did enjoy it. We, Dick and I, went over to the Caugheys and spent the eve and read your letter. Perla made a copy of it for each of us.

I have not heard from Ray for some time. But I suppose she has fallen in love with some Prof. or else is buried in her Books.

Well my winters wardrobe is completed. I got a new plaid skirt, Georgette crepe waist, Taffeta Petticoat, Grey topped shoes, Grey silver & Pauce [puce?] velvet hat, Dark Green Wool Velour coat lined with Silver grey Satin. Camisole Gloves & Hose. How is that. I feel muchly dressed up.

Vessie got a black lace dress over Pink. They got new hats & waists. Dick got a nice new loose long waisted silk dress. She looks fine in it. I have a silk skirt to make but not for a while yet.
Chanel long-waisted
dress, new for 1916

I bo’t the material for my coat & made it. It is long, loose and trimmed with beautiful buttons. It cost me $21.00 and I could not buy one for less than $40 or 45 like it.

I am going to get a white silk Marquesette waist & embroider it. I am beginning to get ready for Xmas. My presents are going to be few and simple.

I had a nice letter from Allen & 10 pictures. It sure was nice of him. Perla had a letter from King. I intend to send him a couple of my pictures (the ones I took of him) as soon as I get my negatives; the Girls in N.C. [New Castle, Pennsylvania] have them now.

I was up to N.C. and stayed with Helyn Fisher two wks ago today. Tillie & Maud were both in N.C. that day. Spooks was up to see Johnnie. I saw he & Mird on the Stone night. He is just the same rough, uncouth Mird that we knew at the Geysers.

I guess I can’t join the Gym Class till after Xmas as I am too awful busy. I am working nights to get my work thru.

I had a card from Ison, telling me he would send the Pictures soon. Had a letter from Gene, Olson, Gorman (a regular one from him every wk) a card from Clara Sample, Virgil Evans, & a long letter from Ed Klingensmith.

Will get your pictures printed as soon as I get my films back. I got 10 from Fisher, 15 from Johnnie, & 20 from Billie. I have over 300 now.

I expect to go to Pittsburg to sew for a wk, wk after next. I Guess Miss Johnston is thinking of Entertaining the Geyser Savages at her home, The night before Thanksgiving. They are beginning to plan for the Savage Party here.

Wonder if we’ll ever get to see all of the Texas boys & all the 1916 Savages again? I surely hope I can. Am sending you that Picture of the drivers I also am sending Ray one. I got 6, 1 for each “Deaux Drop.”

Have never written to Miss MacCartney yet.

Well Bee dear I must close as I have 3 or 4 more letters to write. I owe Everett Olson a big long one. Write to me real soon. With lots of love & kisses.

Your savage Sister,

Thanks for the Pictures. Will get yours ready soon.

Note: Cora Cunningham worked as a dressmaker through the end of 1917 and then intended to train as a nurse. She married William H. Mueller in 1921 and had four children, one of whom died young. Cora died in March 1984, just before her 90th birthday.

Cast of Characters:
Everett Olson, a coach driver, also Cora’s summer romance.
Allen, aka Ivan J. Allen, a coach driver from Texas, also Bee’s summer romance.
Matthews, aka Red Matthews, a red-headed driver from Texas.
King, another coach driver from Texas.
Fish or Fisher, aka Helyn Fisher, a Wylie Savage tent maid like the Deaux Drops, from New Castle, PA.
Tillie Sample, another Wylie Savage tent maid.
Maud, aka Fergie, aka Maud Ferguson, a nurse at the camp.
Spooks, aka Fred Stroeter, a Wylie Savage pack rat (the young men who did the heavy work around camps).
Johnnie, aka Martha McIlvain, a Wylie Savage tent maid.
Mird, aka Millard Mecklem, a Wylie Savage pack rat.
Ison, aka Harry or Harrison Ison, a coach driver from Idaho.
Gene, aka Eugene Eleson, from Elkhart, Indiana (Bee’s home town), a pack rat.
Gorman, a coach driver.
Clara Sample, Tillie’s sister and a tent maid.
Virgil Evans, aka Cupid or Lovey; a pack rat.
Ed Klingensmith, a pack rat, also Dick Loeffler’s summer romance.
Billie, aka Helen Wilson, a tent maid.
Miss Johnson, the Wylie Camping Company matron for the Geysers Camp.
Miss McCartney, aka Lady Mac, the director of the Wylie Savages work crew for Geysers Camp.


  1. Hi Marci,
    As usual, these views of life back then are delightful. One of the ladies I worked with at RWMC is married to a Ison. I asked her if Harry was a relation and she checked their family history. He was a great uncle of her husband. I have made copies of the letters that reference him for them.

    1. Hey, if she has cousins who would like Harry Ison's actual letters, I would be GLAD to send the originals! I am sitting here wondering what the heck I am going to do with all these things in the future. I would love to keep them together in this digital, online format, but send the originals to descendants of the letter writers as keepsakes.


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