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The Little Purple Shoes
Written By June Sergent Edwards

Some of the most cherished,and of my worst memories are those of my childhood in Harlan County,Kentucky.I was born in a camp house in Le junior.KY.on a cold January morning,I believe Mom said it was a camp we lived in called Bonita,also near Shields,in long rows of Green houses,owned by the mining company.

My dad George Sargent was said to have changed the spelling of our name to Sergent,because of a mix up in our mail.I just repeat what I have been told until I can remember,then I tell it as accurately as I possibly can remember.I liked the Sargent better and it stuck,so we were Sargent, whether misspelled or not.

My father George Sargent was a coal miner,for most of his life which was cut short due to a slate fall in a coal mine at Bailey's Creek,KY.We lived in three different houses there,The house we lived in that I can remember best was a white house by a hill,it had a huge front porch and because it sitting by a hill, the front of the house was so high we could stand under the porch, and I remember at one time we even had baby pigs under out porch.Also the huge blue building that sat down in front of our house,I think was maybe a maintenance building for mining supplies we were not to go near...But we did sometimes.

I remember the whistle blowing at the mines in Bailey's Creek and Mom running around and around praying,she said she knew each time it sounded  always meant something bad had happened,and it could be that my dad was killed or injured.This time she was right.A cave in at the mines caused a huge piece of slate to fall on my dad,and injured his back.They loaded him through a window of a train because to bend him may cause further injury,and he was taken to a hospital where we learned he was paralyzed from his chest just under his arms, down to his feet.He was taken to Vallejo,California later and my mother was left with 8 children.

My dad didn't make much money,just enough to feed us but we always had a cow for milk and butter she churned,and pigs for meat,grease,and she made our soap to.We always raised a big garden where we grew our vegetables,and mommy canned all she could for the winter months ahead,also dried beans,and I loved  to help string them.Our coal supply ran short not very long after my dad was injured and was taken away..

.I remember we had a big coal pile in our back yard always, to burn in our stoves for heat and to cook with,it ran out pretty fast and cold weather had set in,the house was freezing we kept warm by sleeping girls in one bed,and boys in another,with quilts piled high.Across the creek from us stood another white house,much like out own.The people who lived in it were the Blacks,I didn't know  Mr and Mrs Black  but they had a son they called Junior,and a daughter they named Patsy.We girls,Louise Myself,Crystal and Joyce would play with Patsy and Junior with my brothers,Bill,Bud and Danny....

Mr and Mrs Black sent Junior to knock on our door and told my mother we could use their coal until my dad came home,and he said his mother asked for me to come to their house with him,and I did.She took me into the bedroom and took a pair of shoes from a chifferobe,and said Patsy had outgrown them and if they fit me,and I wanted, I could have them.They were sandals,purple with 3 straps across the foot and a buckle strap around the ankle.They were suede I suppose, but they looked like velvet,I had never seen such a pretty pair of shoes....And they fit me perfectly.I don't remember how long I wore them,but they made me feel special,even to this day as a grandmother when I see a similar pair of shoes,I think of those little purple sandals and the people who lived beside us,also of coal they let us use until my dad's social security started and we could buy our own...I'm sure my mother thanked them many times,and repaid them for the coal... And thanked  God for their kindness...I thank God for them to this day.I don't remember ever seeing them again when my mother moved us away from Bailey's Creek to Evarts to wait for our house at Riverridge,but to this day it is a memory close to my heart.The shoes more than anything.I wasn't old enough to understand my dad would never walk again,and that injury from the coal mines would cause his death 4 years later,at the young age of 39 years. How those shoes made a little girl of about 5 years old feel so pretty,and I do thank the Black's wherever they are, for the coal also.

That is the way people helped each other where I was grew up as  child,you didn't have to ask, people knew when you hurt and were in need, and most were always willing to help each other...In good times...And especially in the bad times.

The Little Purple Shoes
A story of her childhood memories living in a coal camp.
Kentucky Coal Miners