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Catlin History Online

1941 Window on Catlin

Business district

Postcards created by a former resident give a priceless historic view of Catlin in 1941.

But publishing the postcards proved costly to the photographer.

It cost Gerald D. Cunningham his job.

Catlin Bank

"At the time I took and made the Catlin postcards I was working for Grogan Photo Company in Danville," Cunningham wrote in an e-mail. The Grogan company made picture postcards and picture packets which were shipped all across the United States.

"I thought it would be fun to make some local ones for Catlin," Cunningham wrote. "I borrowed an old postcard-sized box camera and took the pictures on roll film which I developed. I made my own prints on postcard photo paper."

Service station

The postcards were sold at John Russell's service station on Vermilion Street in Catlin. "I am sure that the number sold was very low."

Cunningham couldn't believe his small-town views would be considered competition to the Grogan company. "But when my boss found out that I had made and sold a few of these cards, he fired me," Cunningham wrote. "It was the only time I was ever fired from a job in my life."

Town Hall

Cunningham was born October 26, 1918 at a rural farmhouse about one mile north and three-quarters of a mile east of State Line, Indiana. He was the son of George D. and Cora E. (Watson) Cunningham.

"My parents just lived in Indiana for one farm season and moved back to Illinois by team and hay rack when I was about two months old," Cunningham wrote.

"I can't tell you much about that move."

Cunningham lived on Henning Road in Blount Township until he was in the second grade. He graduated from Diamond Elementary School in Batestown and Oakwood Township High School, class of 1936.

First Church of Christ

"My first girl friend was from Catlin and I never dated girls from anywhere else," Cunningham wrote.

It was also during high school that Cunningham met John Russell, who was attending Catlin High School at the time. "Sometimes we dated or wanted to date the same girl, but did become very close friends," Cunningham wrote.

His first wife was Catlin native Florence Johnson, daughter of Dan and Laura (Britch) Johnson. They were married December 31, 1938.

Wabash depot

During 1940 Cunningham and his wife lived in a small house south of Catlin.

"Our little three-room house had no electricity or water -- just three rooms, nothing else," Cunningham recalled. "We hauled our water from John Russell's service station and burned kerosene lamps."

Gerald and Florence were living in that house when their first child was born on July 16, 1940. The boy was named for Cunningham's best friend: John Russell Cunningham.

Catlin Grain Company

"Nobody had any money then," Cunningham wrote. "I was working at just day work for farmers in the area at $1.50 a day. If I got to work all six days, I made $9 in the week. But I didn't always have a place to go and, of course, on bad weather days there wasn't any field work."

To supplement his income, Cunningham would run John Russell's service station for him on Sundays. "Of course back then you could buy six gallons of gas for a dollar," Cunningham wrote.

Grade School

The small house south of Catlin was not used as a residence after the Cunninghams moved away from Catlin in 1941. "It was used for a corn crib until it was torn down a few years later."

While living away from Catlin for about 10 years, Gerald and Florence had two additional children -- Betty Jean "Cookie" Cunningham born July 18, 1942 and Gary Dean Cunningham born May 20, 1944.

The Cunningham family returned to Catlin in 1951 and stayed until 1959.

Catlin Methodist Church

"I lived at 34 N. Paris St. and had a watch repair and gift shop in the front part of our home," Cunningham wrote. "I also had several dry cleaning trucks running from Mid-Way Cleaners in Danville out through the surrounding small towns, including Catlin."

Cunningham became an agent for Prudential Insurance in March 1955 and remained with them until his retirement in 1984.

After moving to Arizona in 1963, Gerald Cunningham remarried in 1967 to Hazel (Gardner) Chambers. She passed away on March 29, 2001.

He married again on November 27, 2002, to Mildred C. "Millie" Guernsey. They live in Casa Grande, Arizona.

Catlin Opera House

While living in Catlin, the Cunningham children attended schools here.

John Russell Cunningham retired recently from Quaker Oats in Danville. He lives in Perrysville, Indiana.

Betty Jean (Cunningham) McAnulty was valedictorian of her 1960 Catlin High School graduating class. She now works in Indianapolis, Indiana, and lives in Waveland, Indiana.

Gary Dean Cunningham lives in Belleville, Illinois, where he is general manager of an auto dealership.

You can e-mail Gerald Cunningham at

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