Why do the Cunninghams go to reform school in Chapter 1?
The young Cunninghams go to a reform school in Chapter 1 as their punishment for disturbing the peace. This story is part of the gossip about Arthur (Boo) Radley as a youth told by Miss Stephanie Crawford, the town gossip. During his teenage years, Boo's friends were the Cunninghams.
As the story goes, one night Boo and the young Cunningham boys went joyriding through Maycomb in a stolen car, resisted arrest from the town's cop and locked him in an outhouse (bathroom). The cop testifies in court that the boys were also swearing loudly.
The punishment by the judge for the Cunninghams and Boo was to go to a reform school. The Cunninghams went to reform school and Mr. Radley (Boo's dad) refused to send Boo. Instead, he locked Boo Radley away in their house for many years. This is why many people in the town, including Stephanie Crawford, gossip about Boo Radley and believe he is evil and dangerous.
Other Cunninghams make appearances throughout the novel. Walter Cunningham, Jr. is a child in class with Scout. He is from a different generation from Scout. Mr. Walter Cunningham, Sr. is Walter Jr.'s father and is known as a poor, but honest man who works for everything he receives. He does appear at the jail cell of Tom Robinson with Tom Ewell and a mob of men who intend to hang Tom because he is suspected of a crime against Tom Ewell's daughter, Mayella. Walter Cunningham, Sr. is not accused of any crime himself.