Seniors share life stories at Marysville event

MARYSVILLE — Jim Cummins, 79, was telling his life story before the camera even started running.

He spent time as a student on the campus of San Francisco State University during the protests of the 1960s. Later, he taught inmates at Soledad state prison near Monterey, Calif.

“I had in my class Eldridge Cleaver,” he said, referring to the Black Panther leader from the ’60s. He also taught Juan Corona, convicted of murdering 25 migrant farmworkers in Northern California in the early ’70s.

Cummins taught at Soledad prison for 17 years and then moved to the Northwest, where he worked for nearly five years as an administrator of the education program at the prison complex in Monroe. Previously, he’d been in the Navy, working in lithography, a type of printing, until his position was discontinued.

All this came out before Cummins, now retired and living in Arlington, began his talk, which was recorded for posterity Tuesday at the Ken Baxter Senior-Community Center in Marysville.

Cummins was one of eight people who took advantage of an offer from Diane Wilson-simon of Tulalip, who runs a one-person video business, for seniors to speak on video and have it recorded to take home, free.

“I can pass it on to my grandkids and they’ll know something about me and know what I’ve done,” he said.

Betty Fisher, 76, gave similar reasons for getting in front of the camera. She said she wanted to talk about the nearly 40 years she’s spent in the same home in Marysville, and leave it for her family after she’s gone.

“It was a happy time when the kids were being raised,” she said. “It just means an awful lot to me.”

Cummins’ talk turned into as much a soliloquy on the state of current affairs as his life story.

“I wanted to get a message across,” he said later.

Some excerpts:

n “I am opposed to the guys with the $1,000 suits who are telling me about the cost of living.”

n On how seniors can help young people: “We just want to talk to you. I’m not saying this because I want the kids to walk 10 miles in the snow. The older generation has got to speak up.”

n On traffic: “To put it in the vernacular of our young people, it really sucks.”

n On politics: People should talk and come up with solutions, “and then quit beating up on each other.”

n On growing up in Missouri: “We had to raise our own crops to survive.”

n “My mother believed a switch was an important part of my training.”

n On living to be 100: “I’ll probably get shot by a jealous husband, a jealous boyfriend or a jealous girlfriend, with my activities.”

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