Bea, Park City’s "Second Silver Queen," returns
After convalescing in Salt Lake for more than a decade, Park City authority Berneil "Bea" Kummer is back in her lodge on Daly Avenue. Kay Grange, affectionately known as child No. 12, looks after her mother and lives in an upstairs apartment. Kummer raised 11 girls and one boy in her grand old home, called "Bea’s Canyon Lodge." Before there was a historical society and museum, it seems, there was Bea. A curious Parkite for 65 years, Kummer pasted Park City treasures, stories and photographs in a personal scrapbook. The hobby became a passion, and Kummer became a living source for local preservation efforts. While the Grange family lives upstairs, Kummer prefers the view from the living room. Grange and her husband, Gordon Grange, have only recently moved-in furniture, but there is no question which direction the decoration of the first-floor front hall is going: the room belongs to Kummer. On the back wall hangs a handmade quilt printed with old images of Kummer in earlier years, when she strolled the streets wearing a turn-of-the century costume and shared the secrets of old miners and pioneers. Beginning in 1969 for Park City’s Centennial celebration, she lead historical tours in a broad-brimmed straw hat with feathers, and a long striped dress, which, she now confesses, she sewed herself.
The freshly painted room has one shelf with a few photos and a frame of The Bea Kummer Proclamation, a 1994 announcement made by City Hall designating May 30th "Bea Kummer Day." The document honors Kummer’s "untiring service to the citizens of her home" through her leadership in local organizations like the Daughters of The Utah Pioneers, the Park City Athenaeum, Girl Scouts, for The Park Record column "Chit Chat," and for her work on two books on Park City’s history "Silver and Snow: The Story of Park City," and "Mountain Memories: A Book of Remembrance 1848-1986."
The feeling between Kummer and Park City is mutual. Ask Kummer what it means to her to be back and she takes a moment to dry her tears to say, "I had been here for so long I missed it very much."
Kummer was born in Porterville, Utah in 1923. Her family moved to Park City when she was seven so that her father could work in the mines. Kummer, by all accounts, was tough. According to legend, men asked her to stop entering the Miners Day Mucking Contest, because she continually out-shoveled her challengers.
"I used to be a daredevil," she confirms. "What ever the boys could do, I could do better and I used to win."
In the late 30s, Kummer married miner Ken Kummer. They lived in a one-bedroom house, with seven of their children, until friends offered the family the miners’ lodge on Daly Ave. for $1,500.
The 20-room house was built in 1914 and was once the home of Susanna B. Emery, the famous Silver Queen. Though Kummer family members occupied many of the rooms, miners and others looking for a temporary home, could still find a room to rent.
Kummer kept a scrapbook, and began to fill the pages with old papers she could buy at the low price of three for a nickel. Her keepsakes evolved into "Silver and Snow," the book she wrote with Noal C. Newbold in 1968.
Later Kummer became active in identifying and documenting the history of Park City landmarks, and was instrumental in restoring the Snyderville Cemetery. Her weekly newspaper column, "Chit Chat" reported on history, preservation efforts, and sometimes herkids, she says.
"All my neighbors are gone now," Kummer observes from her window, but she continues to keep in touch with old friends long distance. As she speaks from in her living room chair, a pile of letters sits on the stand beside her.
"There is one from Illinois who always asks me what Park City is like now. I gave her a place when she had no place to go, and she always tells me, ‘I’m so thankful for you. You helped me start again,’" she remembered.
She reports the old mining camp is doing well. She says likes to see her home thrive so many small towns disappear.
Grange says her mother was able to make the move because of new medicine. Initially, doctors said she didn’t have long to live. "Enjoy your mother," Grange remembers the doctor saying in 1994, "she doesn’t have much longer to live." But now, it appears, Kummer’s fought for a second chance to live.
But Kummer’s strength doesn’t surprise No. 12. "Mom always told us, ‘by god, you better not start a fight, but if you start a fight, you better well finish it,’" she said.
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