A SHORT STORY ON LIFE IN THE COAL CAMPS
Written by: Bob and Ina Allen Kirby
Coal Camp Images depicted
We read so many stories of some of the families we grew up with and they speak of their "HOMEPLACE", where they had ground for a garden, a water well, smoke house, pig pens maybe even a milk cow and mule to plow the garden with...but for every family who had such blessings...if you went to the Coal Camps you would find a much different story. The "Home Place" was a 4 room Clap Board house that the company took $10-15 a month for rent (if the mines were on strike or "laid-off" you were still charged the rent), which came with a "walk-in" toilet. Let me add that you also had to walk to this toilet, from the Home Stead, no matter what the weather...Our Grand Folks, who were to old to go out in the weather had "Slop Jars" commonly called a "Thump Jug". Emptying this "Jar" usually became the dreaded, daily chore for one of the older Kids. The garden space was large enough for maybe 6-8 rows of Taters, and corn...The beans were always the climbing vines and planted with the corn to conserve space...If you were lucky enough to have pig, the space for the pen took away from your garden space, but the Pork made up for the space taken...You might find it strange to hear there was very little "Beef" sold in the Company Commissary. I heard you had to put in a special order for Steak...Hence Baloney was given the name "Miners Steak", Soup Beans were "Miners Strawberries", etc, etc.. To be continued, with the "School Days"...tomorrow.. Story continued...as we grew older and began school, we also had daily chores added to our "things to do"...Like cutting kindling, carrying in several buckets of coal (which had to be "graded" ) you had one bucket of small lumps for the cook stove, a bucket of small "lump" , a bucket of "mixed" and a bucket of "slack" for the Warm Morning..the "slack went in last to put the embers to bed for the night, then there was a bucket of small lumps that would "catch" fast for the heat when stoked in the morning.. . the girls in the family usually carried the water , 2 buckets, from the water hydrant on the corner. There probably wasn't more than 5 houses in a ground of say, 150 houses that had in door plumbing and they were usually occupied by the Company Supervisor's and boss's. I only had one Sister and she had Rheumatic Fever so I also got her Chores but I didn't mind, because SHE WAS "SISSY"!!! and everyone cared for "Sissy"...Alas, we lost her at the age of 21-22 to Blood Clots in the lung while under going Open Heart Surgery ( which was a fairly new procedure then.) The coal was very important to a good fire so that is why I added the size.