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The intellectual astronaut

My father worked at cape Canaveral in the fifties. He was hired to make movies; mostly technical, for Martin Marietta. I remember about twenty big boxes he brought home to study. He had top-secret clearance way back in the Second World War when he was General Counsel of Raytheon electronics.

Bob enlisted in the royal Canadian air force like many strong-minded Americans before we were even in that war. But, as fate would have it, he was plucked right back by the United States Government and given the classification II-B, Men necessary to national defense. Raytheon was an electronics corporation engaged in weapons manufacturing.
Yes, he was a lawyer, but he also held an engineering degree.

Robert Bailey Cumming was an outstanding student in Evanston, Illinois, from grade school right through college and law school he was a straight A student. He was president of the Senior Class in Evanston High School and Captain of the Debating Team. At Northwestern Law School he was the Editor of the Law Review. With a 4.0 average in high school, college and university of law, (he had four years of Greek and eight years of Latin) he graduated with the highest honor possible, summa cum laude, Juris Doctor, and Master of Electrical engineering.

My father always was a liberal democrat, agreed with Mahatma Gandhi, and always championed the ‘little man’. He litigated the first rent strike in Chicago. He was also a capitalist and created the first buyers co-operative in the country; American Buyers Cooperative, a new idea; by buying in bulk, club members would cut out the middleman and save 50%. Of course once it was established he sold it. Think Costco.

In 1948, when I was five, we lived in Beverly Hills, in Los Angeles where my father was negotiating a contract with MGM to distribute films in the United States that his company, Kingswood Films Ltd., would produce in Jamaica, BWI. He also flew to England to obtain a British Franchise. (He was allowed to rewrite British Law to establish exclusive rights to make movies in Jamaica. While he was in England, he negotiated distribution rights with The Rank Organization.
This is From the Daily Gleaner, Kingston’s main paper. “The advantage Jamaica enjoys includes its excellent climate and its LOWER PRODUCTION COST FACTOR BY COMPARISON WITH HOLLYWOOD”.

This was all very amazing for a man still in his thirties. The first movie he made, “Sunken Treasure” with Errol Flynn, Robert Preston and Linda Darnel, went over budget and just like it’s title sank Kingswood. Altogether there was a loss of 5,000,000 dollars. It seems that buildings and equipment don’t sell for what they cost. And this gigantic failure caused his divorce from our mother, Nancy, but it didn’t daunt Bob for too long, though he took to drinking heavily for a while.

Back in Chicago, licking his wounds, he got a job as a Desk Clerk at the Drake Hotel. I was nine and my brother Bobby was ten. We lived in a tenement at 1223 North State St.,
Our Grandfather Robert Cumming Sr. paid our tuition at Bateman, which was a private school. At night I used to go around to all the bars on State St. and shine shoes with my little kit I got for my tenth birthday. I would come home with both pockets bulging with quarters, nickels and dimes. Once I was tipped ten dollars but the bartender took it from me.

To be continued: