Museum the New Llano Colony

Tom Cunningham


Family Information:  

Description: Once described as a "distinguished ex-lion tamer."

Colonists were often awakened to the tune of Cunningham summoning the mules to breakfast -- "that voice that's like the voice of the ancient Thor, summoning the tribesmen to battle."  

Pre-Colony History: He had been an animal trainer and widely travelled circus man prior to joining the colony. The boulevards of Paris and the thin streets of French provincial towns were as familiar to him as to any globe trotter.  

Home in Colony:  

Job in Colony: In 1932 he frequently helped to load and haul freshly cut trees to the sawmill; Also plowing the gardens and grading around the industrial buildings.

In June 1932 he with his powerful mules, and Horney and Mansfield helping, were grading around the sawmill which meant a nice level yard for the great number of logs they expected to bring there.

In 1933, "the old circus driver" was hauling timber from the forest and firewood where it was needed, helping with the plowing as needed, and more. In August it was reported that "none of the stuff would move if it were not for the old mule power, engineered by Tom Cunningham, circus and animal man."

In 1934 he was the "conductor and motorman of the colony roustabout wagon, delivering groceries, vegetables and miscellaneous supplies about the colony at the vertiginous speed of about two miles per hour." In that year he "acquired a new conveyance... It [was] a rubber-tired rushabout, pneumatic in front and solid rubber behind. And the box [was] painted in bright red." Both he and his nag were forgiven their hauteur on the occasion. He and his faithful blind horse delivered as high as 2800 pounds of ice to the colonists on a daily basis.

In addition to his roustabout delivery duties, Tom was an expert veterinarian. He took care of the horse and mule barn and looked after the livestock. "Then while he [was] resting, he [took] care of the hogs."

In February 1934 he was a member of the Sunday Volunteer Gang including: Bill Heath, Charles Brown, Rob Roe, Walter Gaulke, Dad Thomas, Ernest Prodon, Bert Busick, Roscoe Busick, Gossett, Jack Carnahan, Ed Hiatt John Calgarry, Tom Cunningham, Phillips, Real Baril, Nick Lentz, Ed Mansfield, Septer Baldwin, F.W. Fay and F.S. Hammond. They spent the day cutting some eight hundred feet of cypress lumber into two-inch planks, twenty inches wide and as clear as a hound's tooth to be used for shingles.  

Other Info: When working in the barn, he wore a pair of shoes made by Comrade Clarke in the colony shoe shop. They had light, curved wooden soles and were perfect for wearing while he went about his duties in the barn.

For Christmas, 1932, Tom hauled in the big tree from the pasture beyond the goat ranch, which was placed in the roof garden and decorated by Homer Loutrel and Elliot Self, electricians, and Mrs. Killian. For Thanksgiving 1933, he and Frank Quipp butchered 7 small pigs for the holiday meal.

In 1934, he contributed to the fun at the theater by "butting in" (all pre-arranged) on a fifteen minute "magic show" by Ted Landrum.  

Post-Colony History:  


Sources: "Llano Colonist": April 16, 1932, May 7, 1932, June 18, 1932, June 25, 1932, July 30, 1932, August 6, 1932, August 13, 1932, October 2, 1932, November 12, 1932, January 7, 1933, January 14, 1933, March 18, 1933, August 12, 1933, August 26, 1933, September 16, 1933, October 14, 1933, December 2, 1933, December 9, 1933, January 27, 1934, February 3, 1934, February 24, 1934, April 14, 1934, June 9, 1934, June 30, 1934, July 28, 1934, August 18, 1934  


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