A Coal Miner's Son
Written By- Roger Philpot
In his own words
I am the son of a Kentucky coal miner, I was raised in a coal camp, and in my OWN words I want to document this life on this web site, so those who are interested can read about that experience. First of all I would say they are other segments of our society that have experienced hardships and this is just one of them.In a coal camp, the company owned all the properties, the houses and everything associated with the camp. Miners who worked there just worked for wages and the pay they received was not enough to provide decent living for their families. The houses were mostly four rooms without-facilities or indoor plumbing, there were no streets, just dirt lanes filled with coal ashes from the "warm morning' stoves that were used to heat the home. Some houses only had a single fireplace for heat in the cold winters. A general store owned by the company, allowed the miners to trade for necessities. The miners used company monies called script which could only be redeemed, at the company store. Tennessee Ernie Ford had it right with the song lyrics :I owe my soul to the company store". I went to a school that was built on the side of the mountain. I had to walk three, maybe four miles to get there. Our basketball court was rock and dirt. Some of my class mates wore torn and ragged clothing, and were not clean.
Segregation was part of the poverty-ridden society back then. The African Americans, I am sorry to say, were worse off than the white people. A camp was provided for them separate from the whites, and I would wonder why it had to be this way. Discrimination was prevalent and this would bother me and as a child I knew it was wrong.
Miners didn't have the luxury of full week's pay at all times. The pinto beans became the main diet for the miner's and their families, I truly believe the pinto bean kept some families from starvation.Coal mining in the twentieth century was very dangerous, not to mention the hard work. A lot of the mining was done by hand, safety for the coal miner was not an issue. I can remember miners getting killed quite frequently. The top would cave in and crush them. Coal operators would neglect safety for the better profits.
Black lung was prevalent and most of the miners contracted this disease. Coal mining is dirty filthy job I saw my Father come home every day covered with coal dust. I made a vow that I would never go to a coal mines to work. Organized labor came into being, thanks to the United Mine Workers and John L. Lewis. This changed pay and mine conditions for the miner. Prior to the union, life was not easy. Folks had to "make do", which in my opinion made stronger and better people. This life did me no harm it made me a better person who appreciates what I have today, I am sure others who have experienced this life can give testament to that. I made this web site for those who have experienced this life and can appreciate what it means to be a coal miner's son or daughter.