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Momma: 1964

"Cornett family, Kentucky, 1964." Vivian Cornett (1928-1994) and one of her twelve children on the front porch. Print from 35mm negative by William Gedney. Gedney Photographs and Writings Collection, Duke University.  View full size.

"Cornett family, Kentucky, 1964." Vivian Cornett (1928-1994) and one of her twelve children on the front porch. Print from 35mm negative by William Gedney. Gedney Photographs and Writings Collection, Duke University. View full size.

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Cornett Family

I talked again to the daughter of one of the boys in the family. She called her grandfather, Willie, the father in the picture. He prefers that I do not interview the family, for privacy reasons. I am disappointed, but that has to be respected. However, he mentioned that there is a well-known book about William Gedney and his writings about the family. It's called "What Was True: The Photographs and Writings of William Gedney." It's currently out of print, but expensive used copies are listed on Amazon. There is also the Duke University website devoted to the works of Gedney, including a gallery of the Cornett family photos.

Another Then and Now, sorta

I grew up on the iron range of northern Minnesota. We kids rode our bikes through the ore residue, and ran races through the dust, and thought nothing of it. Then our mother got ahold of us. "Soap and water is cheap. Don't come in my house with that dirt on you." We did not have junk cars either, but we knew kids who did and thought it was cool. Life was a better then. We had more money than the Cornetts, and looking at Mrs. Cornett snuggling her baby I think "I wish she had been my mother." I also think "12 kids!! I hope she could afford a doctor to tie a knot in her bladder. Yikes!"

Shorpy is just the best! I enjoy it so very much and Dave, your comments are always spot on !


just wow. William Gedney knew how to make the connection between subject and viewer, didn't he? Keep 'em coming, Dave. These photos are touching a soft, warm spot in the hearts of many of us. Thanks.

Thank you, Joe

Because I am of Appalachian heritage (southwestern Virginia, Scotch-Irish, Cherokee, other), I felt as if I were back in my mother's stomping grounds while looking at the Cornett family series. Hoping that Joe Manning would show up to give the circularity and connection he so often can, I can only sit here and say, "Thank you, Joe."

Go Joe!

Joe Manning, you are our hero, once again! Please keep us posted!

Not ALL Dodos

As non-Dodo Ontarian, I would just like to say that I appreciate ALL the photos posted on Shorpy.


Thanks for this series, Dave. The strength of this country was derived from the courage, sacrifice, hard work and love of people like these. I reckon a foreigner just ain't gonna understand.

Momma Cornett

Vivian passed away in 1994. I just talked to the daughter of one of the boys in the photo. She confirmed that the girl is Bernice. I am hoping to arrange an interview if the family is willing.

[Thank you, Joe! - Dave]

The richest people in the world

The affection shown in this photo is timeless. The times may change, but the special bond between children and parents is eternal.

It's photos like this that keep me coming back to Shorpy. Love you, guys!

Momma Cornett: 1964

The child is probably Bernice, who was born in 1961.

Fierce love

That's typical of families of that area; strong bonds, holding on to each other to make it through life. I'm going to ask my father if he knew Willie and Vivian; they're not far from where he grew up and I'm positive they're distant cousins, at least.

We know where this is going

Perhaps the Detroit Publishing Company and the National Photo Company Collection have slowed down the supply of glass negatives images from the turn of the century so now Shorpy is filling space with 1964 pictures of rural families. Coming next will be 1988 photos of Texas kids with kittens and puppies.

[Or perhaps dodos in Ontario. - Dave]

Southern Comfort

I am from Kentucky. While I love the California photos of tterrace, for instance, they are a world away from what I grew up with. The evocative photos of "country" people and the rural Southern buildings, including the general store photos, speak to my soul in a very special way that sometimes can bring tears to my eyes. They take me home in my mind's eye to a place that is locked away in my heart. Thank you for the best website going.

I'm NOT an old hippie

At the risk of sounding like one, here are a few lines from a Rod McKuen poem (paraphrased) that popped into my head when I first saw this picture:

Watching children grow
is like threatening the ivy
to climb the garden wall

Giving love to children
has made us older overnight.

I AM old but I'm not a hippie. This is a photo of a young woman growing old giving love to children. It is a beautiful mom and a beautiful child.

Only Mother

We each have only one mother, and only she can provide the comfort and succor we crave. I wonder if it grieved Vivian Cornett that she, her children, and their clothes were so dirty? Or if it was simply a matter of practicality: you do your washing and bathing once a week, and the rest of the time you simply wait it out. Bear in mind this woman was probably no older than her mid-thirties at this time.

Keep 'em coming!

This is a great series! My siblings and I grew up in a rural area much like that pictured, and just about the same time. Some of the negative comments remind me of our Northern city cousins. They always seemed to feel sorry for us, and we always felt sorry for them. We stayed close as we grew up while our cousins have suffered a very dysfunctional family life.

M is for ..

Love them all equally, make each one feel special. That's what mothers do. Good ones anyway.

All you need

is love, Love. Love is all you need.

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