From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Mine Camp Childhood

Memories shared


Today, I asked one of my elderly customers if she had lived in Christian County (KY) all her life. My question was the only invitation she needed to tell me about her childhood.

Her family lived near Crofton (KY) when she was a little child. Her father was a coal miner. He walked six miles every morning from their home to a mine in the Mannington area. He worked all day in the mine, and then he walked another six miles back home each night.

Later on, they lived in a coal camp (in Hopkins County, KY, if I understood correctly). All the houses in the camp were owned by the mine. Everyone in the little town knew each other. It was almost like a big family. The kids all went to school together and played together, as children do.

The coal was pulled out of the mine in cars pulled by little mules. Her father was paid in scrip, instead of money, and the company store in their little coal camp was the only place where they could buy anything.

One time, there were problems related to the labor union. If I understood the lady's story correctly, labor organizers were trying to get the men to join the union. At any rate, all the men who were union members and their families were evicted from the company houses. Her family spent a winter in a tent provided by the union. They had a wood stove in their tent, but when the wind blew wrong, the tent filled up with smoke. Nonetheless, they made it through that winter.

"I have good memories of the coal camp," she told me. I wished I could have heard more of her stories, but unfortunately, I'm not paid to interview the customers. I told her I had enjoyed talking to her, and she should write down some of her memories. Her grandchildren would enjoy reading them someday.

I think these stories are probably from the 1930s. I know this lady's daughter, and she's a little younger than me. My mother was born in the 1920s, so this lady was probably born in the 1930s.

2 comments:

Collagemama said...

I hope she will write her stories, OR get you to help her!

Genevieve said...

Her childhood was very much different than mine, most certainly. I was fascinated with her stories!

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.