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Interview with Beverly Jones by Samantha Huffman
Question - Can you tell me about your people and where you were raised?
My people? I was raised in Mannington, WV. I grew up in Homewood Addition. And I only live about five miles from that now in Plum Run and I’ve lived in the same house since I was married 33 years ago. My grandparents lived in the round barn; I have a lot of memories from there. My granddad died in the round barn, he was found there when I was in the sixth grade, and my grandmother never went back. My dad’s parents lived in Kingmont in Fairmont and we visited there on Sunday afternoons a lot.
Question - What memories do you have of the Farmington Mine disaster?
What I first think of is, let’s see, that was in ’68 so I must have been in the eighth grade and I woke up, I lived in Homewood, and I remember looking out and seeing a lot of dark smoke in the sky. A lot of dark clouds. And a friend of mine, he lived across the road in an apartment like, and I remember seeing him and his parents getting in the car that day and leaving. And then when I got up that morning I started hearing talk that there had been an explosion at the mine. And there was a lot of talk about it. One thing I do remember, the church I was a member of then and still am, the Church of Christ, they had like a memorial service afterwards there. The church was very packed at the time of the service. I do remember that much. And just talking to people and watching it on the news report where they were trying to get them out and this went on for a long time. Then, they finally closed the mine. That’s all I remember right at this minute. I need to go home and look at my information but I do remember when it happened. None of my family was directly involved in it. The friend that lived across the road, his father was in it, they never found him. That’s all I remember right now to tell you the truth.
Question – Did you go to school with a lot of people whose parents were lost?
Actually, I went to school in Mannington and this was really kind of the Farmington area. There were a lot of Farmington families involved in this. Just the one boy that lived across the road from me whose dad they found him. And the one man that came out of the bucket, the last three men that came out of the bucket, his daughter does teach over in the child care area, he was my neighbor. He was one of the last three survivors that came up. I probably should have thought this more through. That’s all I recall right now. There was a lot of talk, in the evening and on the news. Everybody watched the news to see what progress was made. The sky was real dark for; I think it blew up three or four times even from what I remember. But I was in the eighth grade then and that’s all I recall right now. Maybe I need to think some more on this.
Question – You said there was a lot of talk?
Um-hum. I remember there were days when they met at the company store. Number 9 company store where they met and gathered, you know, the widows and their children. And I know arrangements were made to help support them, they were given some money for what they needed. Most of these wives didn’t have a job. They had several children and had lost their husband in the mine. It was pretty rough for a lot of them for a while. They were mourning over their husband for a long time hoping they would bring their husband back up and most of them didn’t come back up. And I do know in the neighborhood where I lived there was a father and his son. These people, their name was Parsons, Randy, he was probably only 19 or 20, he was just married, and his father was lost in the disaster also. His name was Parsons but I can’t remember his first name. There was this man, his son-in-law was also in the mine on another shift, so he was lucky he wasn’t involved in it. Can you imagine this woman; she lost her husband and her son in the disaster. So that must have been pretty rough. And the boy that lived across from me, his dad’s name was Triplett; I think they called him Roscoe Triplett. I know my husband, he knew a friend of his died in the mine, I can’t think of his name right now, but my husband has mentioned that before. But his wife remarried, married one of her husband’s friends. I need to go home and look up some more information and maybe I can come up with more things that I can recall.
Question – Do you know of any legislation or anything that came about because of all of this? Was there any grass roots movement around the community about it?
Not that I know of right now. It’s likely that there was though. I would think there was. This was a pretty bad mine explosion. I know every year at the anniversary, they meet up there at the Llewellyn Port for a memorial service and there’s like a list of all those that were in the disaster up there at the Llewellyn Portal were they have the service. Have you ever gone up there to see that?
Samantha – I haven’t gotten to…
O.K. it’s up at Mannington, you go up through Mannington and up towards Flat Run and it’s what they call the Llewellyn Portal. It’s where they have a list of names at the memorial site. Anything else I can tell you?
Question – You said you saw a lot of news coverage and everything. How does that, you were kind of young when it happened, did that affect you?
Oh yeah. The whole community mourned for a long time. And helping each other and taking food to some of the people. You know, like I said, I wasn’t directly involved; it didn’t directly affect my family. But your community, your neighborhood, any time it affected any of them, it affected you too. People were sad for a long time. For several days, they were hopeful they would find some of the men. They just helped each other as much as they could. Of course they became closer in a lot of ways. You think of all the widows and their children who lost their husband, no income, no support. It must have been pretty hard. I have my dad, he retired from the coal mines and both my grandfathers did too, so I feel I was pretty fortunate that I was not directly affected by that. Anything else?
Let me go home and think some more and see what I can come up with. It’s been a few years for me. I’m 53 now and I was in the eighth when this happened. You do remember the atmosphere of the community. The mourning and struggles of all those who went through this. And the loss. And trying to get on with their life after all this.
Samantha – This is a perspective we haven’t…we haven’t interviewed someone yet that wasn’t directly affected by their family…
So have you talked with those directly involved? I probably remember more about the memorial service. It was a new church building, probably the newest building in town, the Mannington Church of Christ, and I don’t ever remember seeing the building that packed. They probably had 200 and some members there and maybe 300-400 people there at that time. Every seat was taken, people were standing, people were mourning quite a bit. A lot of hard times for a lot of people then. They seemed to move on after some time.
Question – What else do you remember about the memorial service?
Just that there were a lot of people there. This was probably several days after the explosion. I would guess maybe two weeks afterwards even – just guessing when they had that. That’s all that comes to my mind right now. Just every day they were hopeful that they would still find someone. And I think it exploded two or three times within a few days after the first one. And then they finally closed it.
And I am 56 years old.
Sam – Again I want to thank you for giving us this interview. Can you tell me about your people and where you were raised?
Born and raised here in Ida May. Aaaaa Grew up here all my life. Come back here to visit often – Live in Lorraine, PA with my husband, two daughters and husbands and grandchildren.
Sam - Did you grow up here? Is there a lot of memories?
T – A lot of memories – lot of memories. Very small town. In fact, my mom and I were talking the other day we used to know everybody. We used to know everybody that lived in each house. Now we don’t. We used to be able to take walks and know everybody. Ahh, everybody was very close. Everybody – well , most people who lived here were coal miners. So, we all grew up in same type of environment.
Sam – Very cool. That sounds like up where I live.
Sam – You were a teenager?
T – I was 17.
Sam – I understand from Tina’s interview that you were a teenager. So how was that? I mean, can you describe the experience.
Toni - Back then girls went through adolescence a lot later than they do now. And, I felt like I was going through adolescence. And a … Just trying to find myself and doing real good in school. It wasn’t just like, you know, having your dad have a heart attack and being able to say “goodbye”. There was no goodbyes. And I think that was the hardest thing on all of us. It was the hardest thing not being able to say goodbye to him. And a …It was such a shock because we didn’t - nobody appeared at the door. It wasn’t like someone showed up at your door until after somebody called to tell you about it. My Aunt Christine called and said, “Toni, did you hear about the mines and #9?” And my mom said “No”. Christine – “Well, I think there’s been an accident.” And Mom came to wake us up…..woke me up first. I came downstairs. She said, “We need to call around and find out what is going on. She was getting ready to call somebody up at #9 when two men appeared at the door and they told us the mines had exploded. Mom went up and woke Tina up. And then they came in. They told us the mine had exploded. Some men had gotten out As far as they knew, 78 men had gotten out. My dad wasn’t one of them. They told us if we wanted to we could go up to the recovery site. I don’t remember the name now but there was a tiny little church and an old fashioned company store and we waited in those two places. They would come back about every hour and gave us an update on what was going on. I just remember it being really really bitter cold…and it was snowy. We could not see the flames. We could see smoke. We could hear the popping from the explosions. And that was really hard… We knew Daddy was in there. We didn’t know what part of the mines he was in. We did not know where the explosions were happening. Mom was trying to remember where he said he was working at that night. And what is really strange is that a month before this happened, my Dad told Mom there was a lot of gas in the mines. He went and interviewed at another mine. A week later, they called him and told him to work at the other mine. My cousin, Trudy (You might want to interview her. She lives in Carolina.) She was up there everyday with us. I think she stayed there as a comfort to me. My mom sisters’ went up and my Uncle Simon went up. They were a lot of comfort being there. I do not remember Tina being there. We never took Tina up. Mom said “She was just too young to have to deal with that. We was there from morning to night waiting for information. I remember watching them putting a mike in a hole. And we just all prayed that they would hear noise; prayed to hear something. We never heard anything. The mines kept on exploding, exploding. And they said the only way to control that was to seal the mines. A month later they sealed the mine. I don’t really understand the concept of how they did that. I have a booklet at home. I will get your address and I will send it to you. It was an investigation of the explosion - the investigation and of what they did – the procedures. And Mr. Boyles he came in. I remember he was the big top dog and he came in told us they were going to seal the mines. Did not know how long before they would open it. So, we had no funeral. We had no closure. And Mom had decided and we had talked about it and we did not want a memorial. We wanted to put Daddy to rest - We wanted to have his remains and then have a funeral. About four years later, I was living in NC at the time they found his remains. My mom’s sister (Aunt Irene) called and said you need to come home. They have found your dad’s body. and a………In fact, he was found over at the bottom of the hill. I don’t remember the name of it now but it was over in Farmington. And my mom took his brown suit over the one (the brown suit) he always wore for church. And this man (who has not couth what so ever) looked at my mom and said, “You know, it is just a skeleton”. My mom said, “I know that. I just want you to lay it on his body.” And so we had it. It was a closed casket viewing. It was hard too. There was nothing to see. But we did get some information. All the men who recovered my dad - These men said that when they went into this one part of the mines that no fire had gotten there and that my dad had died from the gases and that these men were sitting in a circle and their hands were overlapping each other. They knew it was my dad because he had on his famous plaid shirt and had juicy fruit gum in his pocket. And they said “We brought your daddy out.” I was so glad because I knew these men were all from Farmington #9- they were all such tender men - and I knew that my daddy was escorted out of there with such dignity and we buried him up there in Shinnston. We went through grief again – We went through grief when we lost him in the explosion; with the sealing knowing he was definitely not coming out; and we went through grief again when we buried him. And it was like ongoing emotions. My mom went into very bad depression – very bad depression. And a Tina and I just tried to make it not make it hard on Mom. We just tried to take care of each other. We did not want to burden mom and not really tell mom how we were feeling. We would sit up on the bed and talk and tell each other how we were feeling and talk about it. We just didn’t want to burden Mom – She just could not handle it. I practically lived over at my Aunt Lucy’s in Farmington. She’s passed away now. My Aunt Liz and Uncle Andy became like surrogate parents to me. And I really feel bad cause I feel like Tina was the loner. I don’t remember Tina having anybody except me. And a course then I was married I had a little daughter in NC I wasn’t back here living. And I think I stayed in for two months. And I had a little daughter – she was a year old. I just remember the grief just thinking when is this going to end. Hit the age of 22, I went for my first counseling session. My husband said at the time, “I think you are having post-partum stress disorder and I think you need to go to talk to somebody about this.” I needed counseling. I was in therapy for about two years and I was able to relive it, talk about it, cry about it and get rid of a lot of the grief I was storing. Uhmm My prayer to God has always been since this happened to Daddy is that all my family dies of natural causes that I get to say “Goodbye” and that nobody ever dies like that again in our family. We get to say Goodbye. And I was telling Tina on Monday, it came to me that when I was a teenager I remember reading in a book somewhere that these were the best of times; these were the worst of times. And I am just so glad that we were a close family unit and Tina and I had a lot of good memories.
Tina was just Daddy’s girl. She was just 100% tomboy. She was just out there working with Daddy on the lawnmowers. She followed him around like his little tomboy. We always had some kind of an animal: horse, puppy, dog, or rabbit or ducks. She followed him around. We always went to church. I feel like this is what helped us get through it. The month before my dad died (he was the lay speaker for the Methodist church here in Idamay) He stood at the pulpit and why he said this I don’t know, he said “If God’s ready for me, I am ready to go.” and a Rev Thomas who was our pastor there that day said “I think your dad took a lot of men to heaven that day.” And that gave me some Peace. I knew where daddy was I knew he was up in heaven. I knew He loved God with all his heart and he had raised us from childhood to go to church. I guess before that he was a hell raiser and a big beer drinker and he got saved and all that changed. He was just a totally different man. He was just home with me and Mom and Tina. My mom never remarried. The love was so deep there. That she just didn’t feel like she could have anyone else in her life. She was 42 and Daddy 43. Uhmm Like I said the biggest thing to overcome was the grief and sorrow. And Tina was not one to show emotion a lot. She went through a hard time – she was only ten. She was close to mom but dad was her everything. Where’s Daddy at? And I think Tina and I both went through this time where we just dated these losers. We just wanted somebody to love us. It was a replacement for Daddy’s love. We ended up with losers and having hard times with that. So, and I’m……. Dick and I (he’s my husband now) talk about Daddy would have go-carts and four-wheelers. And our daughters our oldest daughter has triplets And if daddy was here, there would be a go cart and there would be a pony because that was just daddy. We called him a “horse-trader” he - My mom never had a winter coat – never had the money to buy a winter coat and he traded something to get my mom this black fur coat. He was so proud. He stopped down at Martin’s Grocery down here at Kelly Town and bought her a pin to put on it. And I remember that so clear him coming in with that big heavy coat. And I said, “Daddy, where did you get that coat?” And he said, “Well I traded for it.” I don’t know what he traded but it might have been Duke the horse he traded for it. And but like I said it was the memories that kept us going. There was so many good ones. Is there any questions you would like to ask specifically?
Sam – I am just trying to take it all in.
How did your parents met?
Toni - They both lived in Carolina and mom worked at the Carolina company store and recreation center. And I think she really had a crush on another guy but my dad really wooed her. And I think they dated for about 2 years and broke it off a couple times. One time she threw the engagement ring on the ground. Cause he did not want her to go anywhere cause she had on a sweater and she looked to pretty and she said I am not married to you yet and she took off the engagement ring. So we laugh about that story. And so they got married. My dad was a farm boy. He lived up – raised up in Braxton County WV. My grandma and grandpa lived in a little log house. It was just a typical WV family – real quaint real countryfied. My grandmother after she heard the news, she had a stroke and did not come out of it. So, right after we lost daddy we lost my grandma. They were very close – my dad was very close to his mom. But Mom and Dad, I don’t know, he was just so tender with her. I think Tina looks like my Dad. Dad had part Indianin him , part Irish. Grandma had Cherokee in her. He had the ruddy complexion that tans good. I have the fair complexion. As far as Characteristics - Get it done; Get it out. My dad when he was impatient he would sit at the kitchen table and rumble his fingers. Tina does that. He was a whistler and a hummer. There is a lot of Daddy’s characteristics in Tina. I think I have some of Daddy’s personality. He loved people – he was a talker. Be good to people. A do- gooder, always help people out. Whether he knew them or not. When the mines were on strike, we would go and stand in line for commodities: cheese, flour, bread, canned ham. Daddy would say someone else needs this more than us. We would go home and cut it in half and take it to some other family. He was just a total tender heart. My husband Dick remembers Dad when he was delivering papers. I think your Dad would be glad we ended up together. He knew me. I think he would have been pleased. And like I said I started reading the report. It is so complex I could not get through it and it is about spreadsheets, and methane and the names of the miners that got out. That was hard too. Cause I went to school with Skitter Stevens and his dad got out. It was kinda hard going to school with him. He would come out and give me a hug. I was so angry and bitter thinking why couldn’t my daddy come out. I remember (I like to write poetry) sitting at the table and I started a poem to God - why dear god did you take my daddy away from me cause I am blind and I just cannot see I never finished it. I dealt with that feeling for a lot of years even though our pastor said, “God wanted your dad in heaven” but we wanted/needed him here. Like I said, I think that helped. Knowing God. I do not think how we would have reacted.. It was our first experience with that. We had had death in the family but nothing tragic like that. And the people. My goodness. We would hear a knock at the door. There was so much food coming in. You would open the door, but you were not hungry. There were these cameras flashing. Camera men and newspapermen saying that they wanted to talk to us. I said we do not want to talk with you at this time. Close the door. And I remember waiting at the mine at the bridge - Waiting there were all these camera people. We would cover up our faces. I just remember the food coming in. I remember this place in Farmington where all these people donated clothing and items for the children. My Aunt Liz took me and Tina and my mom. We each got 2 outfits and a stuffed animal. That was fun. A Sherlock Holmes dog (dressed up like Sherlock holmes) and Tina got a wiener dog. We got letters. From people we did not know. We got money from people we did not know. This one lady wrote Mom for our sizes and she made us all dresses. Mom and her still keep in touch through cards. It was a big tragedy. People wanted to help. They wanted to do something. And we reciprocated. We sent them our Love - Sent thank you letters back and cards for the clothes and money. Not even knowing them. That was a good time.
I had this dream from the time the explosion happened and I have the dream over and over about daddy handing me his handkerchief and he told me to hold onto it – hold onto it real tight And I would say, “okay, daddy” I would Be like sleeping hand would be stiff from holding the handkerchief. After we buried Daddy, I had the dream. (Crying) And Daddy said, “Let it go Sissie.” and I could see the handkerchief floating through the air except for this one little piece. I sat up in bed. And I saw this Beautiful angel. Angel stood there with her hands extended out. I knew it was okay. I just knew daddy was taken care of. I started a book about 6 yrs ago. I don’t know if I will ever write it – I just might give it to my family. I will call it the Handkerchief. But it is just about daddy and what I remember about the explosion. When I told the therapist, he said it was just a contact - it was just a part of him. When he was buried, it was like hope. It signified hope until the end.
I told mom I was going to share that with you about the dream because it was a part of my life every night. There was a peace about it. It was not scary. (emotional) I do not know what else you want me to say.
Any Special questions for me?
Sam – This is a question I want to know. Did you kind of feel a connection with the people at the Sago mine?
Toni – Mom called me and said to turn on news TV and we cried together. We know how they feel, don’t we, Sissie. We don’t want to go through that again. It’s been years and we thought the mines would be safer. I regret not writing a letter back then. Watching the men come out of the mines Tina and I always thought about Daddy coming out in a bucket. We just had so much hope. But I know I missed a part of a month of school. And my teachers were so good. They didn’t make me make up anything. I had to do a report or something. I got it for Homecoming Queen. Sweet and sour grapes at the same time. I told mom I was so excited they had chosen me. But I told Mom, “Dad won’t be there.” It was just really hard to go through that cause he was not there. Anybody that goes through any kind of tragedy has fires or car wrecks I think it is awful. I feel for them. Dick and I talk about it and I pray to God that I just get to say “Goodbye”.
Specifically need to know?
Sam – I guess a lot of your school mates were involved was it a bonding thing?
Toni- It’s funny you asked about it. I thought I just remember walking the halls and feeling alone. I was in majorettes but I don’t really feel connected to anybody. I do not remember any of my girl friends even coming to the house. I cannot remember. Don’t remember if it happened or if I just don’t remember. Basically, I felt close to my cousin Trudy cause we were the same age and we grew up together. She would come over here we spent a lot of time. I just remember feeling alone walking through the halls. Like I had comraderie maybe they did not know how to connect with me. It was like I went back to school; I just went back to school. The teachers came around. I don’t remember talking about it. I do not remember any phone calls. I just don’t remember that. Sam - Hard thing to feel? I remember feeling alone a lot. Tina had to feel it a lot. I just remember loneliness and just trying to go through the day. Then I would come home and mom was just there on the couch. Now, I would know she was depressed. A lot of it was grief but it was just a depressed state. Me and Tina just had each other. My mom’s sister would come back and forth. We always had food in the house. They would take us anywhere we wanted to go. I remember the holidays. It happened around thanksgiving. I remember all the turkeys and cranberry salad. I told the girls I do not celebrate I am thankful 365 days a year and I am thankful for all the blessings. I feel like that one small day I don’t have to celebrate it. Then Christmas came and we tried to act normal and we were all hurting so bad. Mom sent Tina and I to the mall with a list. We got a few gifts and decorations. We were just like a robot. I remember I think Tina celebrates Thanksgiving. We come in for Christmas. She has turkey. I don’t think she feels the same way I do about Thanksgiving. For me we just go out to eat or my daughter has over there. It is just another day for me. I grieve on that date I cry then. It’s been forty years and you think you would overcome it but you just don’t. I will call Tina and I will chat with her. And she will say, “Do you know what today is and how are you doing.” And I will say, “Well, you know.” I have shared with the grandchildren what would have been their Grandpa to them.
(VERY) Rough Transcription of Russel F. Bonnasso- Part 1/4 Celi Oliveto
My name is russel f bonasso and we’re here on uh march 28th march 28th 19 eh 2008 I better get in the right century 2008 and uh uhhhh miss Kayla oliveto is doing an interview with me and I’m Russel F bonasso I’ve written a book fire in the hoel we’re going to discuss that a little bit which is a mining history it’s from 1839-2002 it’s 189 pages and um it’s got some 125 pictures which makes it easy reading and easy digestion so … I am 86 years old I will be here in a month or so I was born in a little miining town up wyat wv which is in Harrison county next to shinston between shinston and Mannington and uh cough having lived in uhh about 20 years in two mining camps one was wyat where I was born and uh there was carolyna which is over is um in the other county marion county and I sigh I often say that I cannot sometime remember what I ate for breaskfast this morning but thie dear lord has blessed me with a kind of uncanny memory that I remember stuff I’m 86 I remember stuff about 80 years ago pretty vividly so the mining was part of my life I have some cold dust as many people who lived around coal camps have coal dust in these veins and uh uhhh it’s allways been a tough tough bissiness my dad imigrated when he was 16 years old came from Italy worked in the mines at at 16 year old boy he wages were 75 cents a day back then for 10 hr day work in water up up to his waist with coal coal falling down having roof falls and all killing people right and left most hazardous industry in the United state.s uhh the book shows that uhhhhhhhh we have uh in the back of the book I have WDL I GOT every major accident that’s five or more five fatalities for more and I thought when I went up ther to get to the statistics that these are single spaces and I thoguth I could probly umm five or six pages there all single spaces and it’s shows you the …. Name and the mine nad the location and work and what town there located uh and then how many were killed and the tye of disater across the top of the page and then going down singled spaced every accident from 18 1839 to 2002 and I ended up I ended up with 15 pages give you an idea of how how how horrendous this this coal mining buissines was they had very little safety rule sand they had less implomantation becase somehow or other the companies didn’t adhere uhhhhh they didn’t caew much about human life obviously because they just hurt and killed so many pople but now you have safety and theres still some accidents but they’ve been cut down a lot cause hh they are inspected carefully more carefully then back then hundred years ago we’ll say and it’s uh it’s uh it’s still read in the paper where uh seems like last year we had tow or three accidents major disasters that kiled several people so we have a long way to go we’ve come a long way but we’ve long way to go to make this safe enviroment Im not saying the mines the wages were any higher I when my dad came over 1913 uhh because the railroaders didn’t make much money and the contruction people didn’t make much money and the garment district worked for you know 1 dollar a day up in New York in the sweat shops but the difference was that the didn’t work under the hazardous worked that the miner worked the railroad man worked you seldom hada railroad accident there ewre some accidents and the girls that worked for 1 dollar an hour in garmet and seat shops they caled them there was no danger there ther ewas hard work but as dfar as the roof coming down lemme see when we say the roof we mean when we drive into a room or a heading its about 12 fee wide and 8-10 feet high and mother nature dosent like anybody down in it’s bowels uh diggin out and takin and extracting coal from her her her coal veins so what they do what happens it’s settles and when it’s settles the roof comes down and kills these people as if it were all these accidents that were listed here ummm the mining camp itself generally was configured around a coal the coal shaft that the coal company shaft which was an evelated that in shaft mining you go down 800 ft or 100 until you find the coal and then you go out left and right and forward and back and go and mine that coal out and these rooms or heading theyre called 12 feet wide and wich theyd lay down a track and theyd have to dymanite this coal cause because you are solid you are workin on solid blocks you have coal on your left you have coal on your right and you have coal in the celing and you have coal on the floor so what you are doing you are born into a solid block of coal if you can imagine that nd what people did in the early days people like my father had to do was drill with a hand drill put a plate on their chest for pressure and the five foot drill operated by hand cause you didn’t have hydrolic eputi back then what you did back then you drilled a hole about 2in in diamiter 5 inches deep into five feet deep into the solid coal and you placed 2 sticks of dynamyte into the end of that hole hooked onto two wires in which the miner brought it out and hten you’d put what theyd call dummies there was raggs or newspapers and you stuffed these you stffed the hole that was closest to his chest and the reason is if you didn’t have that blocked you wou;dnt have the the um success at at at having it blocked what it does the explosion will go left and right and bring down more coal if you left that hole opened that 2 in ole some of the blast would go out and you wont have a good explosion toto get that coal broken down it comes where you can look and you take a 5 should which is about 16 18 in wide and they load it into three tunnel cars and they laid the track as they go and the cars were there early 1900s it was puled by donjeys pulled by horse sand ponie syou didn’t have mechanizes motors to pull the coal out so they d bring it out on thse little cars to what they called the tippled which h was a super structure to what they had a kind of a ramp some way that they brought this coal up on an incline and dumped it they dumped it on the big car waiting down below and then you get 30 40 50 cars and they have your locomotive and pull that out and go down to either Pittsburgh or the barges they had barges on the mon which ended up in pitts and it was shipped all over the world that was the ming industry 100 year sago it was an important uhhh fuel to to power the american revolution which was which was bustin out from all the seams we had growth we had cities commin up you had roads you’ve had inustructure theres a lotta goin on and you need coal to provide the elec. And many time the heat cause many pople heated by by coal you iddnt have you had some gas back then but somehow or other it was it was more expensive so people used coal furnaces and fireplaces to heat their houses now the comapnyes usually bought a bout a 1 mile circle but the shaft the mine shaft in the center of that 1 mile and the they build two or three hundred homes of around the periphery of the property cause they have no automobiles no one had acar couldn’t afford it for 75 cents a day couldn’t afford maybe in the town of Fairmont just had a few dozen cars like manybe the police or the doctor but so on individuals couldn’t afford a car so you walked to work ½ mile or quarter a mile and you had your diner bucket and you went in not knowing they knew it was dangerous went in not knowing if they were gonna come out and all the while thye are in there down in that 800 feet deep or 100 deep however that shaft is um if you wenr’e hurt or killed then you ingested you breathed all that coal dust which had petroleum and all other impurities and after so many years you ened up with a big facy medical term called numocoliosus translated it mean black lung because you the human body can not stand breakthin all that stuff for you know eight hour shit 18 16 hours nad it went right thourhg your lungs and it hovered over the sacks so that your breahting is very much curtailed and since they are remember a lot of these people from Italy and France and Poland and wherever that imigrated they wer eyoung if I can remmber they were young 17 18 old boys healthy viril goin to work singing their songs in their native tounge and now I see some of these same people at the mal walkin bent over like a question mark they have black lung they cant breakthe so they carry a cnister or air oxygen to hep them do a lil shoppin go to the abk or whatever and so the miner has had such a terrible delt to them but you had no other work and I my father and many imigrants uhh tey didn’t even make 75 cents a day in euporpe so they decided 75 is better than nothing workin as sheep herders or shepars or whatever or a share croper where you worked from a land owner wher eyou get 1/3 out of what you raise so um it generated a justice it’s just so just so such a terrible horrible existence now the people that lived the company would build around 200 houses at the typical mine camp uhhh these houses were cookie cutter type were all build three and four bedroom clap board with no insulation no runing water no heat use the coal use the coal that they mine for the heat and your furnace for your grate uumm and uh the water was in this one mile circumference land they usually had in each quadrent in each quarter of that land they had a communal pump u went out and pumped yoru water and brought it in for your drinking water for the landry and the bath and so on now baths if I remember there are 6 kids in our family and we had a #3 tub which is about 24 inches across and about 12 inches deep we put it behind the old kitchen stove which was some heat and put 2/3 of water in there and al 6 kids took a bath in that water same water you know can’t turn on the focet and get more water when it was it was experience which Ill never forget and course the last guy getting in was the he had to worsh off the dirt that the first 5 ummm put in the tub you cou;ldnt carry that much water for an individual bathing the during the depression mummy the miners worked maybe one or two day a week because there was no call for the coal the market was soft and so now naturally if the company cant sell the coal the miners don’t work now theyd raise everybody raised a garden a big garden and they can stuff and they cured stuf for example everybody had two pigs and they made some sausage and made some ham and cured bacon and um um canning was a must if you didn’t wann starve you had to can during the summer time and my particular case my mother with 6 children she would can about 5 hundred cans of beans peppers corn umm anything that you can can and then of course you cured we cured and dried our sausage out and ummm usually up in the attic away from the heat opened up the attic windows and that air during he winter would cure so that we didn’t starve out with fresh casing you had a mill that you turned and it would be soft when you hung you up there in noveember lets say around thanksgiving and a couple months of that air drying it ow nand you had the salt n that salt and … other other condiments and that preserved the sausage so that in the spring about march then it had gotten uhh it hardened like modern day pepperoni which is in the stores so that was cured you need refrigeration didn’t have iceboxes so you had you had depend on your on you’re your upbrining that ummm you know the nessesities the mother of invention is an old saying so you had to make ways of preserving this stuff they had what they called an ice box but the coal miners didn’t have ice box in the city city neighborhoods and the man would come around and um he would put a card out in your window with it was a square card one had 25 a 15 a 10 by 10 which meant they want 10 lb of ice maybe 20 on the other one thirty and maybe 50 lb of ice and that’s what he brought in when he saw that on the window the man didn’t have to go up and ask the ice that he’d come in bulap bag on his shoulder and tey had big thongs and they hold the block of ice and they bring it in and that that wasn’t very good refrigeration it was alright it just kinda maybe keep vegetables maybe some meat for a day or so but it wasn’t like our modern refrigerators if yo uwanted a lotle more colder you just …… or something like that but it as terrible existence and and they work one or two days awek and some weeks they worked no days at all so theres no money commin in. now the poor woman all of them had big families six eight 10 12 kids and they would sometimes take in borders to suppliment hteir meager meafer income and um I knew a family the pucello family and jow who is now 75 told me this story he lived in duplex at Watson a lil mining community and there were 4 rooms on one side and 4 rooms on the other there were 2 bedrooms one for the girls nad one for the boys thres mom nad dads bedroom and the 4th room was the kitchen was the dining room was the parlor was the game room everything now when you worsh the clothes youd have to carry that water from whoever you you havppen to be you happen to be lucky the house was close to the pump if not you carried it a 100 ft or 150 ft brought in that water cause its laundry day and you put it in the big kettle copper kettle and boiled uh boiled the clothes for about 1hr and tried to loosne all the impurities all the oil and the slate and the dust and all that you’d find down in the mines and they’d boil that and then theyd drain that off and put it in number 3 tub which is in the same bathtub and use a coorigated wash board and put a little… and it was about 18inches wide and about two feet long and they had coorigation tin on it and you rub those clothes by hand with home made soap by the way couldn’t buy soap so you made home made soap uhhh with uh with lye and some fat that was used you save whn the pig was butchered now If it was a nice day you could hang them out on the clothes line to dry but if it wasn’t if it wasn’t a nice day I was the oldest in my family and I stayed sometimes with my aunts or granmother and htye had hooks up by the door jams in the house next to the kitchen and you’d wring that clothes line and criss cross the rooms and you’d throw extra coal in that stove bring the heat in in order to dry them so the man so the men wouldn’t have his work clothes the next day and the kids would have their clothes for school just a horrible horrible existence bt you know many hardly any of them complained cause everyone was havin it tough because he was gone down in that pit one of the biggest dangers dangerous most dangerous hazardous industry in the USA and so Joe tells this story that his dad brining in about 15 or about 15 dollars every two weeks so thatd be 30 dollar a month and 11 kids in that amily 7 girls and 4 boys so the mother said Josie I was 12 years old he tells this story which is just really touching he says you know joe we’re gonna have at take in borders says dad is only bringing 12-15 dollars every two weeks you know 11 11 people here mom and dad 13 well joe is 12 years old inquisitive well mom were in the world are we gonna put em I know you arent gonna put em in the girls room she said no we’ll put em in your room we said theres only two beds in there and there’s 2 boys for 2 beds Joe I have that figured out again you know the ummm the uh goodness again you know the invention…. But it is hardship but it’s invention… I just mentioned it well ago I said well a friend of mine just gave me an ol mattress we’ll put a mattress on the floor on your room the boy’s room now were you gonna sleep 4 people on one mattress well joe I got that figured out now two people gonna work night shift sleep day time and two people gonna work night shift goona sleep day time so there you are this you know thinking people now they’ve worshed the shee she worshed the clothes and fixed the men’s meals they maybe did bring in a hamburgher a pound of soup maybe twice a week but I’m sure he ate outta the garden and I’m sure the bread that was baked in those bake ovens beautiful beaut… bread that’s six inches high plus about 12 diameter just beautiful home bakced bread so they all partook of that I’m sure and for all that for all that the cooking the worshing the ironing and the all all that the border would pay 2 dollars and 50 cents a month so this woman said four times 2.50 is ten dollars so that was what dad makes meager as it is if we can it looked pretty good so that’s what she had now you had 11 kids mother and the fathe r13 and 4 boarder 17 people in four rooms of the house and that’s that’s the miserable miserable way these people lived and you know I remember I remember vividly you hardly heard anybody gripe course they they watched wathced every penny watched every penny ummmm and of course over the years we’ve gotten more more safety regualtion and they gotta a way to impliment em now although theres a lotta shenagegan goes on yet and the inspector sometimes… now for some times maybe they might turn their head on something but the safety has been improved nd we have we have a 80 percent today less fatalities 1 is better safety rules the other thing is they don’t dynamite anymore and uh you don’t hand load anymore thye had big machines that just grind that coal and put it on a belt and tey bring it on out and dump it on that cars and you don’t have the little cars and you don’t have the danger of the roof fall because used to have 54 people 54 miner on a typical shift uhhh mining coal by hand loading coal by hand well now theres four people during the shift secion you know and just two people out on the counsol guy that operates the big machine that have the big claws that dig up the coal and two men working in to take any coal well it was still getting still in the narrow belt the would throw they would throw the mummy coal onto the belt by hand cause it’s pretty hard to use the machines in there so youd have two men in and two men out so youd go through 54 men you’ve just liften 300 tones of coal now with 4 men that’s just 4 men 300 tons of coal today 4 men mine 3,000 tons of coal so it’s a big improvement and uh with more safety and that’s a blessing…..
End part 1
Russel Bonasso Part 4 of 4 Cont. Interview
Elaborating on a little bit on hwen I heard the news and I am kinda up on a hill and I told my wife I was goin down and it happen to be 6 miles from my house and when I went there was mine people goin in with gasmasks and oxygen and equipment for safety equiptment and I could see the teams goin in and I guess they weren’t in there very long cause they were afraid another explosion but that night tey worked till midnight but uh oh butt that last 6-8 hours that effor and about midnight I saw 28 cement trucks commin up makin cement and I knew then they were gonna block the the entry to the mine and try to smother the gas that was still still burning in there cause they had the fire didn’t have oxygen it would burn out so when these trucks come in I knew all that cement I knew also… that explosion when it happened was so intense that it blew the cage, the elevator cage from that took the men down that was sixteen feet by sixteen feet made out of iron and timber, barge and so on it blew that thing out of the hole like a shotgun out of the shaft and put it on a nearby hill which was maybe a hundred feet away fro mine mine I looked at that I looked at that and I said my God those men cannot survive a blast like that and sure enough it killed all 78 of em and then after four years they did stop and said well we cant search anymore it might hurt somebody else and to me it that time I was umm 22 and I remember a lot of other people who were killed and hurt and personally we lost two uncles and three cousins killed in the mines and not only that but the ones that weren’t killed dwere either crippled up or broken back crushed ribs and then black lung came to everybody that worked hardly anyone escaped that cause you are breathing that stuff in 8 to 16 hours a day and they didn’t have… on the smoke stacks on the mines so the stuff commin out wasn’t good or anything I remember our yard was covered with soot you didn’t have uhhhhhh black top or cement roads goin to the coal mining camp they called what they had red dog reg dog was rud hue from the slate dump and you might ask well what is a slate dump they had a little car in a separate little tram that carried it out to the edge about half a mile form the mile itself and they would put this slate and impurities and anything that wasn’t saleable and they put it in these little cars and every coal miner town had a slate dump refuse dump whatever slag dump you can call it whatever but it’s all impurities and the one in front of our house which was half a mile form the mine site that slate dump was about three or four hundred feet night and it’s got a lot of petroleum impurities in there which is combustible and they call it spontaneous combustion you have heat on a pile of coal and you’ve got this thing this slate and I dunno three or four feet and three or four hundred feet high and five or six hundred for the base for you know like a pyramid and having that thing ignited and they always did they had no way of puttin it out cause they have this tonnage of all this bad coal and slate and refuse that you didn’t have enough water wouldn’t put it ot and its way down in there it burns ten fifteen twenty years some of them and I remember standing on the porch as a twelve year old kid and I looked across the road and it was over within oh it was maybe for five hundred years away and I see that tallow smokle sulfuric there was some sulfur in there two and I see that yellow smoke commin up gttin in the atmosphere my goodness that’s terrible terrible for your health and you know you dont got no fresh air that the body needs cuase all that crappy lookin stuff yellowish stuff sulfur mixed up with the coal impurities and uh but uh some how or other we made it though and thank god but I cant emphasize how rough this industry was ok thanks for the interview and I’m always available I’m as close as your phone and if you want hwy I’ll answer any questions from my mine knowledge and I wish you good luck in your college work incidentally I’m back in college doin a master in history alright nice talkin to you.- ce ce celi this nice young lady, she’s gonna go places. And thank you for listening.
end part 4 of 4
Clean Copy of Charlene Harris Interview- Celi Oliveto
numbernine farmington number nine my grandparents all four of them were immigrants they all came to this country they were not married at the time. O have always found this amazing because I work with international students at Marshall and to come to a country where you don't speak the language which they didn't and to not know anyone to leave all of your fmaily behind and to come come here I find it incredible, but both of my grandfathers worked in the coal mines my father's father was murdered working to help form the union my father about fifteen when my grandfather died the only thing my fahter ever said about it was that my grandfather had been hit over the head with a I believe a shoulvel some something large like that and he probably had oh a fractured skull probobly consusions but he said that my grandfather was carried home he was placed in what was called the back bedroom and he said how hard it was to be a yong boy and to go into the room to see his father and his father didn't know who he was. my father was next to the youngest child my grandmother had six children he was next to the youngest. I think my grandfather lived probobly three or four days and then he died and my grandmother raised the children alone my mother's father also worked in the mines he was able to live long enough to retire and uh later on my father worked in the coal mines he worked at number nine all of my grandfathers worked at number nine. my father um has worked he started when he was sixten and he loaded coal cars he went to school during ht eday he studided at night and loaded coal cars. he was the I think the only one in his family of six children that graduated from high school and my mother was I think she's one of six Let's see my fahter on the day of the explosion the explosion that happened in 68 my fahter had been called out that morning at that time he worked as a mechanic he worked outside so we always felt much safer with him working outside cause he had been called in a lot and he had been called out that morning and I think he was working on one of the fans and if you are fimiliar with ht emine system the fans pull in good air in and get the bad air out. My father talked about how when the mine explosion occured he was walking away from the fan and I guess he was walking to his truck he was probobly maybe fifty 100 yrds away maybe not that far and whn it exploded flames came out through that fan and he was knocked down and I don't think that my fahter was ever quite the same. My father was not an emotional man, but he had a very difficult time getting over that. I think he came close to realizing how close he came to dying. And right after the explosion he talked about that over I guess in this day and age we call this a minor nurvous break down vecause he just talked about this over and over and he would cry and my father not an a man who cried. the day that mine explosion happened I was a student here at fairmont state our remember very well everything that happeend so funny that certain things in your life are just like yesterday. it's like it happened I had a class to Marget Wilard it was a children's lit class we caled it kiddy lit and that day our assignment was to go to the public libray and we were to do a story board for the children's hour and I was going to do stone soup we were in her car we were right in front of the libray here and she had the radio on I was in the back seat and we heard there was a mine explosion. I told her I had to call my mother. I didn't live at home so I didn't know that my fahter had been called out we went to the library and I called my mother and my mother told me that she didn not know where my father was. so I did my presentation I really dont know how i did that I guess you just compartmentalize and do what you haev to do and I kept calling my mother during th eday and then she did locate my father my father was fine he wasn t phycially harmed and he became his old self over a period of time but ther for the longest time it was very difficult I worked my senior year which is when this happened at the newspaper office I was a uh I did proff readin I m sure they don't have proof readers like I did anymore but I am I got the class really thorugh here at FSU also I was a socilogy major and I took a summer class in journalism as an elective and one of the I cant remember who it was from the newspsaer came to the class and said they neeed proofreaders and I needed a job and it was just perfect I went down I applied for hte job perfect got it it it wasa very good experience I met some veyr nice people I can really proof read now I can spot a mistake so I learned a lot from it but I worked on monday nights and saturday nights and when i WAS DOWN AT THE NEWSPAPER OFFICE I guess I went down there I guess the day that this happened and then when I was at work John Nesey was very nice about taking me with him he told me they were going to go to farmington and with his press pass he would be able to get back where other people couldn't and it wasso sad to go we went down to the compay store and to see people that I had known my whole life beacaus egrowing up i na coal camp everybody knows eveyrbody sometiems thats somethatome sthats bad it was wonderful palce to gorow up I wouldn't change it a thing. I would not change a thing those people were very good to me and it was like having a hudred sets of paperns people who genuinly celebrated eaach others hapiness or sadness but I saw people there I rember one girl susan daph that she's yonger than I and her father was not hurt I dont knwo that they lost anyone in the family but she just stood and cried and cried and cried and all I could do was all I could do was to put my arms around her and you just hold people. all that's all you can do sometimes that's all they need is just ot know thta somebody else cares. but I THINK we really but thought I didn't live ther eanymore cause I lived here in fairmont here with my aunt I think we really did come together as a community that we really suported each other. and I don't think a november goes by that I dont well I think I memtoend to you on the phone that I always have a mass said for the people who died I have it said in my church seven thrty mass our lady of fatima on the I beleive the date is the twentith and then I go to mass that day because there that they are not forgottne a classmate of mine, my cousin george died in the mine explosion georgie was older then I and he was prorbly I think he was nine or ten years older his body was found he was brought out bil tachish died with his father um I think Albet Bill and Albert are still down in that mine. They never found them. and sometimes when I think I get I had trouble I had trouble turnign sixty I remmber. I whned about it for three years whined about gettin older and one day I thought you know I ve had a change to do a lot of things and bill tachish is forever 21 we were 21 years old when that happened so I who am I to complain I've had a chance to have a life a good life I've had a chance to grow into being an old person. and he didn't have any of that. his life had jsut started cause at 20 and 21 your life is jsut beginning everything is ahead of you all the oppertunity all the things that you can do I've loved when I was growing up in number nine I ALWAYS WANTED TO live somewhere else. I think I lived for the day I could live I wanted to live in a house with a sidewalk I've never had that and thta's ok but you know it's unny beauaxe as I'VE GOTTEN OLDER i've really thought about sitting down and writing some of the thigns beause Im amazed at how many times in my mind I go back and I can still picture walking down the road I lived on I go back ther eand IT'S like comming to FSU things change things change they don't stay the dame cause things cgange they gorw they move on and I go back there now and I CAN see places that I went and the house sI LIVED in which pretty much the same and we're dfferent I poitned out to my husband where didftffernt people live and hting s that happened but I'm amazed how many time for someone who wanted to leave so badly how many time I go back there. and relive all the things that happened thinking about the mine explosion you know ther ewas one in 54 ther ewas a mine exposion in 54 my uncle died in that one with 16 men I was a child and I remember that one we I guess they saw plumes of smoke like my father say fire and I know when the one happend in 54 we heard it I was at home and my father ran out we ran up sort of up in the community to a little bit of a hill and looked nad I remember standing behind my father cause my fahter was I'm 54 and I'm considered tall in my family. I'm the tallest one if you can imagine. my father was probly 53 and I REMMBER that he seemed so big when I stood behind him and his shoes were untied yes his work books were untied and we could just see this big mushroom sort of looking cloud and that was when the mine exploded and that was difficult because everybody knew everybody even with ones that died in 68 I knew a lot of those men. I knew lee carpenter who married a girl from the comunity and emily we called her cookie and she was a year older then me and he was such a good man. paul frank henderson married a classmate in my grade judy judy snyder henderson and he was he was a hero to all the kids he really now that I think about it was not that much older then we were but it seemed it when your a teenager that age difference is so important and he was so good to al of us he had the biggest smile he as just truly a truly good perosn. a nice person people always become we sort of gloify sometimes when htey die but paul frank hendeson jsut sort of deserved every good thing that was said about him. he was just a good person he took time with the little kids he was like the pied piper we all followed him around we just absolutly loved him and see if I CAN THINK OF anyone else that died the jsut good people everyhouse just about out there was effected either with directly with some one wihtin hte house or an uncle a cousin a friend and it was just a horible time but you know sometimes the worst of times bring the best in pople you really do i think when aful thigns happen we find out what's really important and htta people are what really matters and the people that we love and sometimes we don't appreciate what we have until it is gone. but I know in that community it really did come together that people people really did share each other's sadness and even now when I see poeple from number 9 and we are sort of a little gorup to ourselves farmingtime high school is gone now and we have a reunion every year three year reunions this is they have done this every year since the year 200 but we have a three day reunion on even years which means this year and a one day reunion on the odd years and when I go back theres always a group of us from number 9 and they will tell me whos there who they havent seen this one nad one of the friends said you know all of us kids need to get togther we need to get together and see whos doing what becayse we were really like brthers and sisters it really was the best place to grow up it truly was. I think I have a wonderful childhood I had people who loved me who cared about me who were proud of me and but and had no reason to be. cause I was just one of the kids in the neighborhood. and even now when I come bakc if I run into people from number I nine I think we jsut have a closeness maybe that comes from amybe anyone who lives in a small town or a small area knows whats thats like you just you are just family you love each other you care about each other. I really wish I could remmber more about hte mine disaster I just remember it being such a horiblle time and I remember going home and seeing my father who was my fahter was very strong my fahter a bit of a crumugeon now he realy was he was kind of a rumpy man people loved it but it was hard on us as kids he was very demanding but to see my father almost go into sort of a shelll and to to jsut I remember sitting on the couch with him and he talked over and over about what hhad happeedn and what he saw. and I think he I think that was the first time he might had really thought aboiut his mortality cause he could have been killed had he stayed in that fan had he still been working in the fan he would have died and he cried and cried and cried and we sat there we held his hand I did my sisters did nighbors did and we just let him talk. and he sort of worked it out you know back then we didnt really go to counselor syou know people just sort of did things on their own and helped each other but was a difficult time it wasa difficult time thats why I htk whhat your doing with remmbering these people what hapned its so important cause its apart of the history of this area. its its some its just something would never happen again. when sago happened I came home I was out that the evening that it hapend and my husband came home I came hoe rather my husband said theres been an mine explosion and he was telling me about it and it was just like thinking all those things all these things happening again and baout those poor people I sent an email to their minister I found online and sent an email and said soemtimes its ifficult to people to say I understand how you feel becaus ehtye don't but I said I do. I do. I do know how you feel and how helpless you feel and you wonder why these things happen and why so many good people died. I dont know if theres anything else I can tell you I can say I'm I 'm pleased to be here I'm please to ad anything that I can add. Im anxious to hear what other people Im sure there are things that will trigger memories for e when all this is put together because so many people were affected and even people Im sure in fairmont have meories or lost loved ones. I dont know if I can tell you any more I THINKG thats probobly it. yes, I went I lived with my aunt here in fairmont we lived on maple ave. and we wen home that weekend and i remember my fahter sitting there and just and my mother said my mother I dont think she truly understood what was wrong. that he was just upset I dont think she really understood I think it truly did scar him and he and hse was proud to the point of she had heard it so many times the same thing and she said you know your fathers in the other room and he's just talking about this with what happend and he's talking and so I went in and sat down and he began talking about it and he sat ther eand cried other then when my uncle died in the mine explosion in 54 and my grandmother died when I was 10 I had never seen my fahter cry. My father did not just was not the sort of man who cried. and back then men didn't cry. and he sat there and cried and cried and talked over and over and it was just just thought you were running a tape over it was exaclty the same story again again and again and I thought well theres nothing I can do for him expcept sit here and listen let him know that somone is listening nad let him just sort of get this out and thats really what we did. what we did. now we would proboly see someone someone profession could have helped him more than we did, but he did compartmentazlie it but after that happend no I think it was after the 54 mine explosion my fahter had to identify his brother. and my uncle was so badly damaged that they identified by his watch nad his dog tags. and my fahter never went to a visistation at a funeral home again. even when family members died. he might have gone when his mother died. I'm not sure. he went to the funeral but not to the visisation it was just to difficult for him and I always thought you know if I had seen what he's seenmaybe I couldn't either. I would think that wou;d be something esepcially someone so badly destroyed that you can't identify them you assume that this is that person based on the things that are with them and Im sure withmy cousin george it was proboly the same was but I think where georgie was found my aunt had a sense of closure she was able to bury his body she she knew where he was Ive often thought of bill tachishes mother. and I thought she never and even her husband her husband and her son went off to work and htey never came back and she has nothing expect the things that she has of them she can't even put flowers on a grave unless she goes up to where the mine is sealed and I know even know if people are allowed up there. but it's so differnet when I go back to number nine. when you stood on the porch of our house you could see the mine you could see there were all these houses tere were two rows of houses. we had um a dirt road put gravel down and I used to take great prie in running bare foot on that gravel that was the great challenge whoever had the toughest feet. you know now I'm such a wimp. walking around barefoot but we'd run barefoot on that and it was just a sense of pride if you had the roughest feet and you culd run the farthest and not complain. but I go back now and of course the whole mine structure there is gone. the area that blew up was about two miles from where I lives the mine itself was down and we could look out we saw it every morning we could tell it was going to ran cause of the steam comming out of the name of the tings but anyway the steam comming out if it went straight up that meant it was a clear day and if it didn't do out very high that mean the atmosphere was low and it was going to rain. it was a wonderful ommunity because there were so many people from so many differnet nationalities a lot of immigrant background I live in huntington and most of te people who live there are appalachian and their families have lived ther efor generation. I was explaining that to a lady I ored with she said something about the fact that I have cats in my house thats an appalachian tradition I dont considermyself an appalachian I'm a polish american said my grand parents were imigrants I'm a second generation american immigeant while I'm not ciritizing or ciritcial of appalachian people its a culture itself I don't really itsednitfy with it I see myself as the product of immigrants in that area there were an awful lot of imigrants whell someone said to mye my maiden name was koverachich and in high school they just ued kovar when I came to college mr milum the registrar said your name is kovarsich and thats what it has to be but it has to be koveraxh on the records and my sister said we will use the approporate thing so I said to some one recentlt she saked me my maiden name and I said I'm charlene kovebasach hawkins and she said thats a funny name I said that's an unusal name thtas my granfather's name and I take great pride of that and I'm very proud of being a product of imigrants I really am I if I could have a wish I would wish for cause wishes are for impossible things things htat we cant make happen I would wish for a day with my grandparents cause my grandfather died when my father was fifteen my maturel grandfather died when I was six and both of my grandmothers died the year I was ten so I really havent had grandparetns not long enough to be old enough to truly appreciate the things they did. and I would just I jsut want to spenda day with them and know how all this came about with them comming to the country and just say I'm so grafeful I'm so grafetful cause we live in this country because of what tey did nad because of the courage of what they did and I don't know that I would be that courageous to go to another country alone and work and my grandmother especailly worked in NY she cleaned houses. and my grandfather worked in the mines and my both grandfathers woked in the mines nad my father's mother what she didn I m not sure and of course they all met each other and they all married and how they ended up here I think they I think my mother's parents lived in PA and then came down here prolly for work. for work. but I feel very lucky and I hadn't really tought about it till one of the ladies I work with saw me one day we were having a party at work and there wasa cake and so I was going to slice the cake and so I took the knife maybe you all do thse things two and I made a cross and then I cut the cake she she came over and said what did you just do? you you you do without htinkiing and I had to think for a minut ecase I SAID WELL WHAT? and she said you just did something oh. I made the sign of the cross and said we do that polish radition and im sure its other traditions we do that becaoe we cut a cake or pie or bread something made with flour. well why do you do that? I said its a tradition I keep these traditions that I remember and she said the nicest thing to me. caue her famiyls been in huntington for 10 generatiosn she said you are so lucky so lucky because you are so close to the traditions of your familyits not that far back for you. and that you keep them but I said I really um I really um an and my sister and I both try to keept the ones that we remember. and rembmer the people andthats why remmebering these folkes whove died is so important they dont die. when we talk baout them and we remember them theyre not dead they re not just a name on a list they belong to osme one theyre someones child they're soeones brother theyre someones husband. they mattered. and theyre lives ended so quickly and without any noticed at all. I can't immagine what that wouold be like to see my husband go out the door to work anf for him never to come home. never to come home and all the things that go unsaid. I jsut I can't imagine how hard that must be for someone. I know it happens in other ways also that people have car acciddnets things like that happen but that must be a horrible thing to have someone come to your house to say that your loved one is gone there not lost theyre not in the hospital maybe they'll get better maybe a mirable will happen. they're jsut gone. just gone. out in utah I dont know if it was an explosion or just a fall there were siz men and the resuers and the ended up being left and because they couldnt go back because of the gas this was jsut recently. I was thinking of them I thought how aful that must be. for the for thier families becuase theyre down there and they've sent resuers and there was another mine fall it was was decided it was just oo dangerous and I said to my husband that bothered me for several days I thought of those men. they were left. and they died and they're down there still. so I think something like this what I remember from 54 and 68 has made me I hink especially since it in my ears pick up whne I hear anything about mine disasters anywhere but... I guess it changed up all also. it changed and it changed these latest ones have changed so all have changed mining. um if I could go back I think I would orboly maybe tried to do more than I did maybe even tried to have write down what I rememberde because it painful thinks you just put in the back of your mind. I know for me for the longest time I always felt very sad in november I like november i LIKE thanksgivng and I would get this feelings of sadness overwhel,ming and it would go on for several weeks and I started thinking about it and I think it's thie mine disaster and thats when I began having a mass said and I found for me I don't know these are the sort of things that some people it matters it doesnt matters and it made a difference for me it's very comforting and I go to mass that mroning and I say a [rayer for those people and thanksgiving that I've had a change to live as long as I've had and that all of them are at peace and that their families have found a sense of peave everyone who is lost leaves a space in the family no one takes the place of anyone else. but hoepfully their families have found a sense of peace and maybe what your doing with theis project will give them a sesne of peace also to know that thier loved ones arent just forgotten it's not just something that happened a long time aga and it's it's gone beacuse it's for me as I say it just remember where I was it's like yesterday I can remmber everything that happened leaning over hte radio sitting in the backseat and leaning forwaord and I remmber saking mers willard turn it up and she turned it up caus eI live there and we heard. we heard about it. it's seems like a long time ago and some ways it seems like another lifetime in some ways and in some ways it seems like it just happened and if youve had a change to talk to probobly wives of soem of the miners I imagine for them it's like yesterday the memories are very vyer vivid and they prolly remember little thing that they were doing when it happened. my firned bill bill takish we pronoucned it takish I thnk its spelled takacs I m really not sure it's spelled about two or three differnet ways there a book called they died in darkness which has a list of all the different mine disasters and in that book I htink his name is misspelled bull takish and I went to grade school together we went to high school together and it semems to me that he was held back somewhere because he didn't graduate with me he and tom heston were good friends they were tall thats what I rememberd about both of them they were two of the talles t men in the class by the time we were kids and he was he was I would say he was never in trouble he just an orneriness about him if ther ewas somebody who was going to do something mischevious it was bill. it was bill takish and jut nice pleasant person I think he got married to a I think it was who was from the class after me and I dont htink theyd been married very long my sister had told me that case when he got out of high school he sort of just kinda moved around for a year or two I dont know htta he really found what he wanted and then he and veronica got married and they were married I dont think they were married very long maybe a year or so when he died and I've thought how sad he'd found hapiiness he'd found the preson that he loved he was working I'm sure they were probobly maybe buying a house doing all the things that young couples do and then for him to die like that for his life jsut beginning and I've ofetn thought for the young ones even ones who were older. the'r lives there whole life ahead of them especailly now that I'm older i can apprecaite having your life and the lfe the life adventure the advnture that life is ahead of you. I've thought of that the other day because my work study student just graduated and she's moving reighley NC and she's job hunting and I jsut thought her all of the things thought her all of those things you do when youre 21 22 your life's ahead of you it's exciting your striving because I'm to the point now where I dont need most things because if i dont have it I dont need it and it's a nice place to be but there such fun when your striving twords things. you working twords things. and I thought there was bill this whole life ahead of him. a new marriage and all the good things that go with that and probly pland for a family and it all ended so quickly. I think of him a lot Ive thought of him when I turned sisty Itold you I whined about turning sisxty and just carried on complained to my doctor I don't know what I expected anybody to do really but uh and I dont think I could put the skids on you know. and then I thought oh charlene you are so so silly you are so silly it's a number! thats all it is it just shows that youve lived a while and heres al these people for whom they didn't he didn't get the change to grow older he didn't get hte chance to get grew hair. or arthritis or all the things that go with it. but he didn't those oppertunities and I need to be more positive because Ive been given a gift and I need to look at age as a gift cause thats really what it is but I think of him and I thin kof him every year especially he especailly because when you in your 20ss yours firneds arent supposed to die people your age arent suposed ot die your grandpaetns do people that are older do but somebody your age isn't suposed to die its not suppoed to happen its not fair aND i REMMEBER saying that when I found out he was down there I said it's not fair and my mother said life's not fair bad things happen and thats what happened with bill but he's the one especailly that I remmber I remember my cousin george georgie and I unfortuantly werent as close because of our age difference but bills the person bill is the face of the mine disaster for me. he and paul frank henderson are the two when I personalize it those are the two that I think of. I pray for all of them but especailly those two.
well my father relived what he saw over and over of going in working on this fan I'm not sure what was wrong with the fan that morning but he had been called out and my fahter was called out a lot he did a lot of now we call it just over time but he would be called out and appreantly he was called out quite early and he left the fan and i BELIVE THE i'M NOT SURE IF THE DOORS WERE OPENED OR CLOSED BECAUSE THE fan of course was a huge round and the doors had the hingeses in the center of it so the doors could be closed and one half cpvered one half of that circle and the other half covered the other I'm not sure if it was opened o closed I always got the idea that the fan was open. and as he and he was just sort of I guess minding his own buissiness prolly not walking terribly fast just walking and then he heard that sound and it knocked him I think I knocked him flat on his chest and he I guess still lying down looked around and he could see it like all this smoke and even flames I think I know smoke comming out and I think he prolly was just so stunned that he laid there for a while and cause he was just so stunned when those things happened you dont know what to do and everything sort of stoped and I guess he got up up and he ran. and drove drove awa now I'm not sure where he went I'm not sure if he came straight home because it seemed of course that was before the days f celllphones when no one was contacting my mother but I GOT THE FEELING FROM MY MOTHER HTAT SHE did not know what heppened idf she knew where he had gone but she didn't know where he was so we did't know if he was dead or alive. we thought it could have blown with him in it. you know he could have been called into the mine because hse never really knew when he went out he might tell her he was going to the fan or called out or called out to the outside or something but she didn't always know a lot about where he would be. where he might be at the time it happened. and for him I really think time stopped for a while. and this is sure I'm sure he just had a nervous breakdown becase he was very very different now he did go back to his crumugeon ways he really did but I think it took a part of him but I remembe also when I WA SLITTLE because of the explosion in 54 when he had to identify his brother we had a couple of deaths in the neightborhood nad when anybody died the neighborhoos everybody went to the visitation you took food to their houses and you went to the visistaion and he would not go to the visistation and I remember one time rembering asking my mother and it was sometone who was a good firend and why wouldn't he go becaus eits the right hting to do and she said he can't. he just cant and it was until I was I gues prolly I was too young to understand but when I was older and my mother ever since you father had to identify his brother he just can't go he went to one one uncle and that was my fahter has been hone ten years now. that was maybe fifteen years ago and the family members said they appreciated what an effort it was for him they knew that was for him but I guess with anything awful it happens it just burns a memory it stays with you it stays with you but he was not himself for a long time nad there were lots of funerals when this happened 78 men thats a lot of funerals even though all of them didnt werent bought up all of them were not brought out there were memorial services and we went to a lot of them and again you just stand you hold people you put your arams around them sometimes nothing was said you jsut put your arms aruound people you hold them because you know that they know and sometimes too excuse me sometimes too just bieng there for someone again the thigns that bring the community like number 9 wher ewe re trully one family. I have visists as I mentioned I have very nice memories of growing up ther eI would not change a thing. I if I could go back and live anywhere else I would not change a thing I was vbery vyer lucky to have lived there and I think even with my friends from growing up were still close we don't keep in touch with I get christmas cards but a few of them but when we get together we pick up where we left off and we become kids again time sort of stopps and I look at them and I expect them to be the same that I remember them and I, sure they expect the same of me we all look a littel different but we're stil the same underknethte.
yes, yes, and that was hard that was very very hard. because again he was my age. he was my age and I remember thinking you know that this shouldnt be. it shouldnt be someone that young. you know he it was it was bad enough that his father died but you know he shouldn't have died. it it it wasnt fair that was what I said to my mother I kept saying htta it wasn't fair and I guess that was when I learned thta things arent always fair things do happen bad things happen to people that dont deserve them and sometimes there's no ryhme ot reason and...
uh he taked about what he saw he relived htta moment and that went on for oh prolly a year that he relived thta moment of running hearing that noise and when he would talk about the noise of it thats when he would cry. he would the tears would just come and that was very unusual because he just did not cry. my father was very strong man my father did not believe htta men cried and men of his generation felt that way you see it even with older men now elderly men men in their maybe 80s will tell you that men dont cry it's just not a manly thing to do but he would relive and when he would tell you about driving away hurt running and getting and driving away then we would start again with comming out you know and it was almost like he could see this on a tape player and it just played over and over and over I think for- CELL PHONE RINGS. 40 mins 30 sec.
I think we talked about the explosion it was something that was so loud it was incre apparently it was incredibly loud just a huge boom and I think that what other people have said when tey heard it in the differnet places he talked baout this huge boom I think he even felt like a temble like the gournd trembled cause when he fell flat on his chest he just lay ther eat first he idn't know what happened and wasnt sure what else was going to happen something but he he talked about how loud it was it was incredibly loud nad I'm sure when he replayed this that he kept hearing it he kept hearing it over and over and over again reliving it it must be very sad to relive something like that thats so painful and not be able to because for the longest time he couldnt get away from it he did not go out of the house he stayed in and when he went back to work cause work was really his salvation for my fatehr my father loved working he really did he would never admit that but he trully did he was he was a workaholic and he gradually came out this and I think going back to workh helped him the nagain my fahte rworked as a mechanic he worked outside so he dodnt have to go IN the minesI think if he had to go in he wouldnt have been able to do it when he went back to work that was for him a salavation that sort of put things back to his normal routine that was something was normal. and everything else seemed very abnormal to him. because when when the mine explosio happened everything was differnt life in the community was differnt I wasnt living there at the time but from things my mother said and when I saw when I went back and everything was different people were differnet it was just overwhelming sadness and shock at what had ahppened and so many funerals so much so much sadness. so much sadness. gradually things came back of course the mine is gone people still in number nine my sister and I drove out ther eone day I just wanted to see how it looked and it was it was fun in a way because we went back and we talked about so and so lived here and this person lived here and look how differnt this looks now becaus eits funny I do when I come back to fsu I expect it to look exsactly how it looked when I was a studnet here and I walk around and I almost to expect to see myself and the person that I was sort of almost I guess an andy whorol type thing stepping of seeing like the commercial on TV where the fellow sitting on the airplane and his older versio sits down and says we're gonna be alright I alsmot expect to go over to the AD building where most of my classes were and see myself walking down the hall and I think for my my father um for him he just wanted to see he he wanted things to be normal he wanted things back the way they were and of course the mine explosion changed that things went back to normal but it was a normal that was a little different from what everybody remembered it was a long time ago things have changed with mining hopefully nothing like that will ever happen again not to that expent 78 men is a lot of men to loose at one time. a horrible to loose them. terrible way for people to die and to die in darkness I htought hte title of that book they died in darkness just says it o well becaus efrom the Utah miners were trapped and thats what I jept thinking of to be down there so far under ground cause my father used to say thta where we lived in the coal camp that 300 was it 300 ft down there were I think they had mined it out. and we used to always worry that everything would alway collapse they talked about how it was undermined there. they said it was about 300 ft down and I I thought that when hte men were trapped in utah to be down there in the darkthat woud.. how awful that would be. and to be so far down knowing how far you were down and getting out it's not the same as walking out of a room or walking up the steps and out. how awful that would be. I dont know that I can truly aprecaite all that the families suffered. I feel a atied to them, but I cannot imagine lose my husband or loosing my brother or loosing my child I think would be hard and for those mothers. I kept a lot of I have a lot of articles at home that ummm from a paperat the time I guess it was when the coal companies were settling with some of the widows uh and those women their lives were changed so drastically and they were women who didnt work they worked at home and to have their lives just turned upseide down to raise children. How difficult. thats where thats where our strength comes thats where strength comes out and people are amazing with the things that they can do. not a good way to find out how strong you are, but and thtas why I say that a lot of times the worst of times brings out the best in people the kindness of other people the caring of other people. where we stop seeig hwo differnt we are and start feeling compassion for another person. and that truly did happen when I went out with john vesey I truly saw people trying to help each other trying to support each other and they were all in the same boat they were all rowing in the same direction but htey tried to help each other. and I'm glad I had that oppertunity I got to go go into the press area because having been from the area but not living there I would have never been allowed back in so he was very kind of him to do what he did. I thnk he's still here with the paper if Im not misaken but just uh... justa very difficult time I wish I had more stories to tell you I really do but I'm going to be anxious to hear about the others. no I'm afrad not he had a sister jean who was in a class behind me she went to school with my sister and no. I'm afriad I never did get to see the family living in town I didnt get to see as many people out there. so I would have liked to I would have liked to because I liked bill. bill was a nice guy he really way and we ewre a small class so we really were we fought with each other like bros and sises but we it was it was a nice time. it was a very nice time to grow up there and im so glad I had that chance. so glad I had that chance. and I apprciate that chance to talk to you. oh your welcome but Im sure others had so much more to tell you and so much more. but I, so anxious to hear this all put together and i'M going to make a trip back because im not htta far away im four hours away but I do want to come back and see or hear the finished product with whatever you all do. do with it. I hope that you'll keep in touch with us who have participated I bet the...
Mildred G. Hardman Clean Copy Complete Interview
Celi Oliveto Interview Transcript Conducted in February 2007 Although it is not recorded I asked Mrs. Hardman to, “Tell me about your people and where you were raised.” C.O.-Whenever you are ready M.H.- I am Mildred G Hardman I live on 126 Vernon street in Shinnston West Virginia and uh I’m here to uhh say a few things about the where I came from and all about me cause I am 81 years old and I was born in um Lewis county at napery and I moved uh my mother and dad moved down in this area probably in 193... cause I was just a few years old and I was born 1926 sooo it’s been um a time when my father wasn’t a watchmaker and he was a uhhh ok what else he but was… was a watchmaker and a shoemaker cause he done shoes he back years ago you had to get your shoes fixed cause you couldn’t afford t buy shoes all the time so he put poles and heel on on the shoes that people that came in and uh he shoe horses at one time and uh when we live on Maryland A.V.E. I went to a little one room school when I was 6 years old sooo it uh it seems like its been longer than 80 years ha ha ha and I am 81 so I went to this one room school and they was first and second grade and then I went to uh RW school and finished my years so when uh you don’t think I’m talkin loud enough so then in uh after I finished school I started workin worked my way through um different odd jobs and I went to work for Wilson Swifen company and meat market and uh I worked there for a couple years and then I went to Wilson company up where they made bread and I worked there until uh oh gee I found my future husband ha ha ha and I met him he was in the navy and uh me and my girlfriend they were home on leave out of the navy this ok? And so uh after uh bout three days of uh courting talking and uh dancing he had to leave to go back so after he was the back at camp we talked and wrote letters and um then uh we decided that we wanted to uh stay together so when he came home on leave and uh he asked me to marry him so then this is how my family started. He he he we uh we dated and for a few days and we got married on his first leave. So after that we uh he went back to camp and then when he got his leave again he took me back to Florida with him and that’s where I was at for about 3 months then he got discharged so we moved back to Shinnston cause this is where is mother and dad lived so we made our home here and uh that’s where we had our three sons you want their names and uh they was raised here in Shinnston and my three I had three sons one was uh rick we called him rick was Danny and one was chip, Chip was the youngest one and he was only eight… eight years old when my husband was killed in the mines and at the time my oldest son was in the navy he was in Vietnam and my other son Danny he was in California in the navy and then of course my youngest son chip he was here when my husband was killed. So we seemed thing that this was where we was gonna stay cause we had built this home and um even though my husband uh was killed at Farmington mine number nine in 1968 I have stayed in this home and kept a home for my sons and my family so it’s been a long almost 40 years since he’s been gone and I’ve uh seem to think that uhhhh m y time will finish right here in this home ha ha ha so in the meantime uh I well I was workin in Westing House I started working Weston house when my two sons my oldest son was three two and three and that’s where I worked until 1984 I had 34 years service it is now called north American Phillips and uh I feel that uh I made a lot of friends when I worked there for 34 years and now I like to travel. I have been traveling me and my husband we’d like to camp we’d like to go on vacations and uh just take the boys with us and enjoy summer vacation time so when uh after he passed away in the mines and I still worked until 1984 and he was killed in 68 and uh I worked until until 84 and the nI retired. So I started a little vacationing and my son’s were all on to the place where I could go so then uh after that uh I’m still tryin to do a little uh to keep my home up which what my sons don’t help me do then uh I have somebody do come in and help me. So I have um let’s see how many grandchildren ha ha ha I think I have 8 grandchildren and ten great grandchildren and uh they come and visit and my one grandson Stephen he’s a round here he’s seems to stop by more than any of the rest of them and of course Jessica she comes and sees me whenever she gets the chance and Matthew he’s the her lil brother so I’m I’m blessed with a good family I think that uh I have had a good life and uh my in-laws were all good to me and uh I seem to think that uh that the time now since it’s uh I’m goin on 82 I was only 43 42 when my husband was killed and he was 43 just this sound ok? Ha ha ha. And uh I’ve uh I’ve enjoyed uh going places and on trips with my friends and I’ve met a lot of friends on bus trips I still drive. And uh I still have my car of 24 years I bought it new and I still have it. My family all of my family is my own family my brothers and sisters only have one brother left he lives in Ohio and partially in florida. I have a sister that lives in Weston and we are the only three left out of a family of nine. And um it’s it makes it hard when you can’t really drive that far you know. So ummm my brother is about 75 I think. And my sister’s 70 and I’m 80 and soon be 82 so we’ve had a good family life. I mean my family was uh like I said my dad was a watchmaker nd years ago you just didn’t have a lot to do I mean not factories like they do have now and I’m I’m situated in a little house here where I’m comfortable.
- Stop. Tape turned off for a few moments of conversation until I could think of something to start her off or she remembered something that I wanted to know.
M.H.-Do you really want I mean uh… what all that supposed consist of? C.O.-Umm well if you could could you tell me what is was like to be a miner’s wife M.H.-Well yea- of course are you got it on? C.O.-Yes ma’am M.H.- Ha ha ha ok since I was married to my uh husband which was a miner and uh he had worked uh uh at Owens consol right after he come out of service and then uh after they closed down I don’t know what year he was called at Farmington and uh Hed already been over there two year when the accident happened. And uh he was uh a main line motor man and uh he had just brought a load of coal out to be the outside and had uh unhooked his coal cars and was headed back to the inside and uh he was inside when the explosion happened so it uh it was about well I was workin and I the way I heard it I had went to work that morning and uh when uh my machine attendant come and said Millie they all called me Millie by short and they said I just heard that Farmington mine blew up and I said uh oh I said that’s where my husband workin he worked midnight shift and he said blew up at 4:30 this morning so I said uh get somebody to relieve me I wanna call home. So he got a someone to relive me on my job and I went to the telephone and on the way to the telephone my brother in law my husband’s brother was workin on the same shift I was and I said to him I heard the mine exploded Im gonna call home and see what if Charles is home yet. And he said ok let me know what’s goin on so I called home and my babysitter was here with chip said no he’s not home yet. And cause he’s always home about 830 and this was like 8:30 quarter of nine- morning and so she said no he’s not home yet and uh She said uh let me know if you hear anything else I said call back so on my way back to my job I said to my hus- brother in low I said Charles is not home yet so I’m gonna see if we can go home so in the meantime my foreman and there’s a few other people there that had people in the mines so they let us all go him and so uh on our way home we stopped at the mines but we couldn’t go no farther in than I mean they stopped us they wouldn’t let us go up any farther so we came home and we’d went to his mother’s and I stopped her at the house first where my son and my babysitter was and then we just uh more or less used the phones and tried to find out what we could and uh we went up his mother’s house and I took a we was all gathered there cause the everybody just in an uproar cause we didn’t know what was goin on and then uh that happened uh on the morning of uh the 20th of November 1968 and so thy didn’t find any uh any the miners until uh a year later uh they was they had the close the mine and because the the uh poison gases I guess they said the cause caused and then un cough when they started goin back in after the gases had all left they started goin back in and it was startin to find the mine the miners and then uh they found one one miner that was on the opposite end of my husband’s uh uh miner that he was when they was goin one way he was a brakeman the other way he was a moterman so they found him first and then a couple days later they found my husband and I think that was on October the October was the 69 October of 69... So a that uh they found him and uh then they started really finding a lot of the other miners but uh that went on for quite a few years you know they would find a few and then it got ot the point where it was too too seriously um to go back in and and on a account of gases and they made a memorial over there at uh where the mine explosion happened and it’s black granite and uh I’ve been over there quite a few time they keep havin memorial services on date of the it’s either a week ahead or a week after whenever they can get group together for the and the get the paper paper reports to uh come to uh take some notes but umm it’s seems like it’s been uh only yesterday since this all happened I mean it’s uh they’ve been quite a few miners has been uh killed since then and they’ve put up memorials and uh my oldest son is a memorial freak he he he he likes to draw draw up memorials he drew up the one here In Shinnston and uh you can see it on pike street in Shinnston maybe you’ve seen it commin and uh then it just so happens that after all these years they’ve been so may other mines that has that has problems I have went to Washington after the mine explosion and I went to Washington to sign in the bill of the that they passed for um forget the name of it is ha but anyway they’ve done a lot since this mine explosion had killed 78 so I think that ummm after time that they’ve they are still kinda find things to help to keep the miners from being killed and the explosions and whatever goes on I was in the mines I went in Owings mines with him they was havin a lady’s day and they wanted to know how many of the wives wanted to go in and see how they worked so um I volunteered to go in with my husband and to see how they would how all the the umm how all the mines was set up to how the motors could go in and I mean it was just amazing I mean it was didn’t look seriously bad… you know but um I feel that Owings was a good mine he it was called a slope mine and um the one where they sent him to and Farmington was a deep mine you had to go down oh so many hundred feet before you could go into the area where you could I guess dig coal. but the job he had he could come in and out of the sides and um they called the portals and um I’m getting the place where I can’t hardly talk… ha ha ha. It’s ummm. Shut it off.
- Tape turned off and then turned back on at interviewee consent
M.H.-We were all tryin to find out what was goin on but I mean I just uh… after months went by you know I’d… course uh I’d didn’t work I took some time off you if you want to record that is it on? Oh ha ha ha. Well it’s a time when I heard about the accident uh I didn’t go back to work until uh it was about 3 months later and they kept wantin to know if they could do anything for me but… company where I worked. And u soo finally I did decide to go back to work because it was uh I couldn’t drawl insurance or anything on my job because I wasn’t sick I was just upset so after about 3 months I went back to work and umm then of course thye was quite a few people that at the plant that was in the same position I was that they had brothers or uncles or dad or whoever and uh they was all waitin you know from day to day when they was gonna open up the mines and try to rescue them again but… it’s uh… it’s been uh hard a hard life in a way because you know you see hear a lot of people ummm wantin to know about it you know just like now though I’ve said just about all I know to tell you about it I mean it could be uh it’s like the Monongah mine that happened I faintly remember that happened I mean I wasn’t here here but I the news and everything about that so I’m just just um… tryin to forget a lot of things that happened which I never will forget but there’s things that you ouwld like to forget. So I’d like to close my what am I sayin I’d like to close my time with you and ummm. See what um see what happens. Ok I don’t know… Couse he had umm five brothers that worked off and on in the mines and his dad worked in the mines and umm at the time his dad had just passed away about seven months before the accident and so umm all of his brothers and some was in service some was livin in Ohio and um course they all came in to be with their mother and um it it’s the time went by to where you could see it was takin an effect on all of us. Cause he you want to take a picture of the boys? A picture of all the boys? C.O.- Sure! That would be a good idea…- M.H.- They’ve all been good boys they’ve all had good families and um it’s not every often you have six boys that’s always that’s all come from a mining family and um after a while they’ve all had different jobs but they all started out in the mines except the one that’s a minister. So. I think… I don’t know what else to tell you. Ha ha ha. Umm I I know you have a lot of things that you think you know I could talk about but I don’t know what… Anymore like um specific memories or specific events specific emotions that you’d like to share? Well umm I don’t know anything that about his job course he was the miner since he come out the navy he was a miner before he went into the navy and um he resumed that job after he got out and um until the accident happened cause he liked.. He liked the mines… but ummm they was a time when umm when my youngest son was 6 years old before the accident ever happened that um he I wanted him to change jobs because I was always worried bout the mines and he his friend got him on up the Veaser up spelter and um he only worked there 6 months so if he hated every minute of it so then um his foreman that he had while was in the owings called him one day and said we need you one of our motor man fell and broke his back so we wanted to know if you want to come back well he jumped at the chance he said yes I’ll take it and that’s when he went back to the mines and that’s where he was until the closed it up and umm he just umm Mine Mining was his life. And his whole family His dad was a miner from time he was real young So he’s just a… when you are they always say you miner you’re always a miner ha… so… I know it’s umm it’s been a long long hard life when you think about it but it’s been a good life since he’s been gone . I mean umm I couldn’t have good memories of what we did when… we camped and we went fishin and he went huntin and I mean all these are good memories so… I think umm… right now that I wanna be left with those good memories. Not everybody has good memories I mean so we was married 23 years when the accident happened. And I’ve been a widow almost 40. So It’s been a… a long time. That’s Jessica’s picture… Jessica C.O.- She’s very pretty. M.H.- So anyway I think I uhhh that time that I have spent in this home that we built together at brings back good memories. Anyway I that umm… C.O. Could you tell me one of those memories- tell me one of those you and your husband? M.H.- Well just little things that- what we done together building this house we umm I helped him put up paneling and I helped him put up umm put down flooring and had mashed fingers and sore muscles ha ha ha and umm we all we had when we started building this house his brothers and dad and all of us went together. To build and ummmm We would every minute that we had we would spend on the house to get it done so we umm had well we lived in a little house that one only had five rooms. And no toilet I mean no bathroom. Ha ha ha. That was happenin years ago so ha ha ha when nobody hardly had bathrooms they had outside toilets. So We was anxious to get in a house where we could have our nice bathroom but umm it umm It took us about start of the house we started at the miner’s vacation We started the basement and built up and we moved in on thanksgiving day November the 25th so it took up from June July August extra bout 6 months and but we had friends the you know the friends come in that help us and the only I think the only thing we paid out was the guy to do the plumbing we done everything else our self so… I’ve had I had this room added since.. Umm we built the house this room is umm about sixteen by thirty forty and the garage used to be here so we moved the garage over there used this cause my family was getting bigger my sons was getting married and they was havin kids so I had to have a bigger bigger house for we have dinners and we have on Christmas eve we have umm get together here on Christmas eve all of us my there’s about 16 of us gets together the come they come and enjoy Christmas eve with me and other than that I mean we have a few get together outside picnics and a reunions and things like that that we all attend some of them lives in Florida and some lives in down with Parkersburg and Ohio so it’s hard to really get all of us together only when he have reunions just about two years ago we had a reunion that included my niece was havin everybody out her place she had oh I bet they was about 60 some stayed over night that was from Ohio one came from Rode Island few came from rode island him and his wife and family and some from Ohio and umm they was umm that been two years ago and now the last brother in law passed away so we don’t know what we’re gonna do about the reunions you know it’s ummm all the boys are are gone and now it’s up to us the daughter in laws to take care so we been thinking bout it cause his funeral been today or last week and we talked if we was gonna have another get together reunion or not so we just have to wait and see and decide what we all want to do… but umm I think I’m gonna finish. Ok?
- I turned the tape off and we started chatting, so then when she came back to the subject I asked if I could turn it back on again since she was already on the subject and she agreed.
M.H.-Well like I said on there we started miner’s vacation and we moved in that was like the 28th June or 30th June through July and we moved in on thanksgiving day it’s uhh just helpers you know no construction workers we just had everybody to help us So it took you about 4 months to build the house June july august September October November about four months thanksgiving say I had everything curtains up floors waxed all we done was bring the furniture in and set it down and that was it. Well… I appreciate you doin all this C.O.-Well thank you M.H.-He’s doing these like I said these memorials for the mines he went he came in Monday from butler PA and talked to athe professor down at the college what’s the professors name Workin on this project? He’s doin a statue a bronze statue C.O.- Dr. Byers? M.H.- Myers? C.O.- Judy Byers? M.H.-No- t’was a man C.O.- Tenney? Noel Tenney? M.H.-Ummm he doin a statue for this monument that my son is building or done the drawing down on the other side of Fairmont whats that park? C.O.- Palentine? M.H.-No- the other one. The ol one C.O.- Windmill? Uh? Windmill park? M.H.-No. I don’t know…. Where thye are building another park for the vertans? On the inside of Fairmont? East side? Ohhh See they call this Salem they call it umm Salem I forget what they call it but down Fairmont they call it ummm oh I’ll think of it after you leave. C.O.-Could I have his phone number if you don’t mind Whose? Could I call your son for an interview? M.H.-He lives in Butler PA He’s an umm architect and let’s see what…..
- End of interview
James Yost Part 1/2
I was raised in above number nine coal camp in the same community but it was called James Fork. I had my first schooling at number nine where the coal mines was loaced at recess I would watch the people drive by with their big equipment and worked on the tipple on the outside and watch them bring the cars out and put the little ones in and I was always somewhat fascinated with it my father worked there for forty years. On the outside then they worked wherever they wanted you to work the mine mainly was outside on the tipple I was ept operator I had different jobs as a laborer would do uh just different types of job as aside knew a lot of the people there when I was young and the nuh when I got married my um father was sitll workin there and had tow uncles working there my first daughter was born in 1967 and uh I seen the superintendent of the mines and he asked me if I’d like to have a job which of course I did and took the physical and went to work and was workin there Nov. 20th 1968 at 5:31 when the explosion occurred. We then the sup, called on the phone a lot of the times was outside and would hear the phone ring and would answer it because I was close to the hoist house which drew was a slop 1700 feet long and it as also a man trip where the men would ride in and out of the slop and the call said we’ve got a problem of some kind we don’t know have them shut the tipple down and run it off which meant get all the coal out we was usin a dryer at the time which is of course a fire hazard. So you had to get ride of the coal you was usin at the time or cleaning and go get the hoist engineer to stand by and talk to ya. So in a little bit the superintendent whose name was Lawrence Riggs we called him Monkey Rigs he was a good guy he said we had a problem but would someone go up to number 2 fan above the coal mines which was a vent fan and check the rpms on that thing which was how fast it was running and see if there was a problem or anything and which I did I went up and there was it was running ok and any regard there was the old portal which the men used to go in and out from an earlier date there was some men which I had the superintendent’s keys which I unlocked the gate and they come out what they called the motor barn and came up and I hauled them down to the preparation plant which was two three miles down the road still not knowing for sure what happened I know there was a big- the power went on and off and we really didn’t know what had happened but as I was watching the rpms on the fan the pit boss I believe his name was Fey Cassidey he come up and said we’ve got a serious problem check the rmps and get away from it and report back every ten minutes which is what I did and then returning back to the mine property we discovered that there had been a pretty serious explosion. And um then started a pretty long deal of hauling fuel oil for the men who was running guards to the entrances of the mines cause it was pretty hazardous had to have been a fall between Lllewlyn which is up in Mannington and Number Nine which is the operation plant that they hauled the coal to it oculd have been more serious the air of the people was really it was just I don’t know if you’ve ever had a bad dream and you wonder if it’s really true of if it’s gonna go on and that was the feeling that you had and it was a sad state of affairs when we realized the magnitude of the explosion and the 78 men many of which I had went to school with and had graduated high school with was employees there. And it was just an ait of the community that you cant hardly explain now. But uh that was the started a pretty big thing of unemployment saddened people because of the loss of their loved ones the waiting wether to seal the mines wether they could send rescue teams in to the mines cause there’s a certain percentage of methane and oxygen that is extremely volatile and they would watch this level and they would try and go in and they would have what they called little pops and they would retreat and come back out and knowing they was trying to save men or save lives or whatever the case would be they’d find out the magnitude of it so it was an air that I will never forget in my lifetime. Then it would being in November being close to Christmas time a lot of the churches received um good and money from all over the USA to help with the kids what had no Christmases I know one of our Christmases was given to us because I was unemployed as well after a period of time and we survied and I feel saddened by the people that lost family members dads and husband and brothers nad so on and at that time there was no women working there and now you do of course which is fine with me but that’s just not something you did then and anyhow the process went on with waiting and looking and decindg to seal the mines and recovery after they opened the mines went back in and tried to recover as many of the bodies as they could and identify them their means of identification it was just a long thing that I lived through and people and like I say I’ll never forget. Kay? You said people were guarding in the front of the mine? Yea- there were people there. The Red Cross was there and they were offering food and drink and coffee to to the rescue workers and the people that was around the mine and they also put guards at the gates- not necessarily at the gates but the entrances to the mines because there was reporters that would do anything to try and get stories some of the pople that knew anything about it and some of them was even dressed as coal miners to try and get in get a story they had pretty wel lsecured the entrances and st up road blocks cause it was a national event. It was pretty widely known what had happened. And of course they never did recover all of the bodies there is a monument up at Llewellyn I don’t know whether you’re familiar with it or not. That has the anmes of the men still in the mines and I understand that they donated the property to the widows of the men that were in the mines they have a nannual event there that they pay tribute to the miners and it’s a very nice monument so.. Other than that whatever you want to ask What drew you to coal mining It was an employment that was very well paid it was most young people other than the military strive for boys get on the coal company cause of the good pay and it was relatively dangerous work, but many other jobbs are dangerous too. But it was there my father worked there my father worked there I had some uncles that worked there and it just seemed like a good place to go to work. Then later after a while went ot number number 20 which is over there at four states and worked there for qite a while so it was a way of life I didn’t work a lot inside mostly outside cause I was heavy equipt opperator that line of work but I have worked inside some but it was it was just something that a lot of graduates- a lot of them didn’t graduate they just went to the coal mines because you didn’t have to have a high school education that time you do now but a lot of the younger men that was their goal was to go and work in the coal mines. So you said something about the ex- you felt the power go on and off? Yea it was at 5:31 I’ll never forget it- it was a friend a workmate and me in the bathhouse which was 75 feet from the mouth of the slope which uh the men entered the mines that end of the coal coal mine and it relly really shook hard and the empty coal cars you could hear em rattleen and rumblem em and it was very evident that something serious had happened and the power went off and the main this is is excuse me watching the making sure you’re ventilation fans were back and running and which they were there were some concerns about some of the fans whether they was still running or not that wasn’t my fans that was the thing that they checked first was the ventilation what they’re findings actually was I’ve heard different stories that they had a man fall and men I’ve heard something happened inside that created and explosion. I won’t go there cause I don’t know. Bit it was it was it’s something that wasa terrible thing to experience like I say it it come on the scene very quickly and mr riggs like I say was the mine superintendent was there just a very very minutes and We did as far as we knew all that we could do and there was some men that came out of that part of the mines and there was some that came out of the elevator which was up at the old portal which they used to go in which is no longer in use it was there for evacuation purposes. Uh there was some that comes out of a bucket fans but uh fans side or a bore hole what they call a hole down in the mines which is an evacuation route that was all that was al those means the other means was completely sealed off and no way of getting in or out. One thing about the explosion in 68 it enacted or was part of the enactment of the Mine Saftey Act which was uh passed in um in 69 asa result of the number nine mine disaster. In this area the monongah mine disaster and there was one I belive that uh what the called number 8 which was down below Farmington and one in 54 which is previous explosion which thre was a few killed and then 68 then they went to the Sago disaster so a lot of it’s sad a lot of safety laws is enacted after the fact. The safety acts like I said have been been past after disasters cause it’s sad caues it’s a dangerous way of making a living aking living. But anyhow I choose after bout 15 year of not going back to mining I went to other other sources of work Law Enforcement wasn’t as near dangerous. That’s basically bout it. There’s the way that people looked at the mines nad the sadness of the curbed one and the people were lost and many many much waiting for recovery of the bodies and not knowing what possibly your loved one went through entombed in the mines and how long they suffered. My heart goes out to those people that had to deal with that. Anything else Did the explosion influence going into other areas of work Uh Yea it did I have after I’ve seen it Ive a lot of friends I wasn’t real eage rgoing back to the coal company and the mines and I chose to It was a descision that I made I was consol had called me back uh the mines around here but I choose to stay here and I think right now it was a good descision. But I have a lot of friends still does it every day and they wouldn’t do anything else knowing the risks they still choose to be coal miners How do you feel about that If that’s what they want to do. You don’t You it’s like you hear these roofs collapse in those big shopping mall in a heavy snow and the feeling of being in a coal mine is not al whole lot different from being in a mall. It doesn’t look spooky. It’s white from rock dust it’s most places well lit where you are working and it just it’s just fact that that point of being out and the open is a long distance and the fact of being trapped possibly is why I decided not to go back I didn’t wanna… experience that. I seen too much heart ache and other things happen but the friend that I’ve got later on have worked and retired from the coal company tey wouldn’t have done anything else. Did you get to see anyone being evacuated form the mine. Yea… yea… As a matter of fact in my personal car brought two down fro that elevator that was up. To no longer I can’t remember their names that’s sad but I brought them down some of the didn’t even know what had happened there was sometimes more activity outside than what was in this end of the mines where they two guys they were working in the motor barn which is a place hwere they worked on the little trains that pull the cars coal cars in and out and stuff. They were there and they wans’t sure what had happened because eit was so far away. It yea… I helped with that not seeing the men come out of the slope probly all of them come out in the bucket I seen come out yes. They had the walk. About 1700 feet at a pretty like a 30 % incline and they were tired tired and scared. Lot of national coverage Johnan littles which was lhead of the union which at the time was there in person and was quite a rarity and it was rare to see some one of that caliber and it made a lot of national news and my father was one that helped seal the slope and the mines made to stoppings and he he was he had trouble dealing with the fact that you know he was helping seal the mines and it really bothered him. He since passed away but he didn’t like having to seal the mines but he was told to and that was his job and he was wasn’t crazy about it. Like you say and Like I say it was nothing else no choice do anything other than that. Anything else? Yousaid your father was he didn’t like having to seal the mines No he was afraid that theres a possibility that you know they waited a very long time but it’s just the fact that saying OK you’re not coming out of the mines we’re gonna seal you in there. It just bothered him. Specific incidence where he said this? No he just said it was hard to help seal it just you know it was he was employed there you know and it was just it was a decision that was made by consol consolidation coal company and they was a recorded discoing but it was a fact saying hey you know now way of coming out now and that bothered him. Cause he was a very compassionate person and my whole family pretty much is that way and it’s just the fact that if you had a loved one you know how you’d feel if it was entombed in there and sealed didn’t even have the body you know but they did for safety precautions and it almost had to be but it still was a hard decision that they had to make. It’s quite an experience I did also see the one in 1954. My brother and I was litle kids we was playing and we seen seen a mushroom cloud come up and it was on this end of the mines this time and a friend of our boy we went to school with father was killed on the outside cause the what I understand the coal bin which they used to heat the water and heat the bathhosue collapsed and fel over and fell over and pinned him and killed him his title was the lamp man that took care of all the lamps that they sued for mining purposes. There was a statement that was in my mind when I went ot work in the mines and after seen in the one is 68 I felt that it was just something that I really didn’t want to do any longer. Anything else? You said you saw men coming down the slope Comming up the slope. Yea they walked out because they didn’t want to put any thing powered in the mines because of possible high gas readings that could have ignited their triggers and another nother explosion. So they say I’ve heard and I don’t know but they say that allegedly a fall between the main explosion and and this end of the mines saved this whole wing of the mines probably no one would have made it out if it hadn’t a been for that fall which kinda sealed it off. Some of the miners I understand wasn’t aware of what happened and went right back into the explosion area you hear a lot of stories and actually what happened I don’t know but it was a lot of terrifying stories that you hear and I personal friend of mine that I went ot school with I rather not mention his name they say really panicked and ready to come out and he ran back into the explosion. And perished. So. So it was with so many things that they watched for in the process of recovery gas readings the flow of air back and forth which way it was going and it changed directions there was having gonna be a problem. So you know there’s a lot of things that well educated uh rescue workers and teams and coal companies and some of the union members really watched to know the size of what they needed to do and what they had to do and the sealing of the mines was evident it had to be and I don’t think anybody wanted to do that but it was a point that they had to do something for the safety of you could have had an ongoing problem situation and think how much worse but sometimes the people people that have loved ones in there luckily I didn’t I had a lot of friends but no family direct family members and I can only imagine what they felt like if you could bein like you have seen on some of the Sago put each of the people that have gathered awaiting news of their families and it was a devastating experience. To se those people hurting and suffering like that and then not knowing what their loved one was doing and to what extent was he hurt did he suffer didn’t he suffer dud he? Know what was happening was it an instantaneous and he didn’t know this is all going through these peoples minds and that would be a terrible thing to have to experience and you could apply that to yourself and know how you would feel . And then if you really wanted to see the emotions go to the dedication ceremonies some 30 some years later. And still see the emotions of the people that had the uncles and fathers and brothers were perished in the mines and it’s it’s uh it’s just a traumatic experience that a lot of people had to go through .I think if they do adopt the measure it would be very very nice. I don’t know I’m glad I could be a little bit of a part of it anyway. Long time ago. My aughter was just born the day that I was hired. She’s 41 years old now and that that was a big had a lot to do with how we got started out in our married life we were ready to build a new house on country club and the day the mines exploded we were to sign the papers over wher eheat center that why they’d get to hot and go off you know it changed out lives you know we. I always wanted to be the sole bread winner and it turned out that I couldn’t be cause 78 men killed and the rest of the mine lookin for work it was just impossible to finda good job. SO you did it changed all of our lives for a while. How we started our lives as young married people how we just a lot of things in where are you gonna go to work you gonna leave the area you gonna stay here? You know. My parents I choose my brothers left the area due to work. I stayed here to take care of my paretns when they becaome old which I did and don’t have no regrets don’t have any regrets about it. It’s so it’s just a think I don’t want- tape cut- kay anything else? How did that make you feel when you found you find work anywhere? It was hard but you know we say the world’s had really gone down hill you know? Way I lok at it theres atill a lot of good people I know I had times were difficult and was friend of mine handed me ten dollars here maybe this will help and we did. We needed some stuff for the babies and it did help so you know you couldn’t look at the good side and the bad side of people and I tell you theres still a lot of good people left. There was then and there is now. I think there is and on your behalf and if you weren’t good people you wouldn’t be concered 35 40 years ago and want to renact it and you know there’s still a lot of good people. And uh- it changes your feelings it’s like how you look at life and how short It can be you know people risk their lives every day to make a living and luckily I’m retired and have been pretty fortunate to not have been injured or hutr you know. It makes you look at things and it’s like I say it’s something that I’ll never forget. It’s something that you look back on and you’d like to forget about it because it’s just a terrible thign and imagine in this area 78 people being killed you seen the coverage at the sago mines got and rightfully so and I was very proud of our govenor at that time cause he made WV look good. Joe and I went to school together we worked together some laying carpet before I went to the mines I have a lot of respect for Joe I wouldn’t agree with everything he said but I respect him and he has a lot of compassion cause he had an uncle that was killed in the mines as well and at that time so you know he knows what it’s about he shared his compassion and his wife gale did as well and I appreciate that and I think that needs to be noted that people are very proud of what Joe manchin did and the sago explosion. *cough* but it’s something that you look back on and it almost looks like a dream that you’ve forgotten about that after forty years close to 40 year and annually they have this detiaction up Llewlyn monument and you still see the emotions very strong. And its just like almost like a dream twon everybody was fightin and afraid and saddened and you look you see anybody laughin Christmas time everybody walkin around sayin merry Christmas and that wasn’t happenin because they were very saddened so I think that’s the best picture I could paint it was a tramatic experience I wouldn’t couldn’t go into blamin who caused it caue I don’t know. Uh I think after you do something for a while you become laxed maybe in your safety company and union possibly. But I really if I could sum it up it really people needs to watch out for themselves and the companies and the unions and take care of the safety issues. Go at it from there from that stand point. Anything else Can you tell me anything about your friend? You don’t have to mention his name could you tell me how guy guys was friends The one that …. The one that was… was passed away in the mines? We had went to school together and was good firneds of course well you know you remember these guys and I knew I knew a father and a son team that was in there you know this one family the dad was in there as well was the boy but the gentleman was a friend of mine and I went through grade school and high school with him and was a nice guy but he can only imagine the fright and the terror that’s in your mind to turn and run back into harms way you know its just a sad situation. Yea there were good people you know Knew most of them a lot of them was the guys that I had went to school with and was friends with and you se that you know you almost feel like you was did something wrong by living cause here I am ok and theyre gone they was doin the same thing I don’t know it’s just a situation that weren’t you don’t you really don’t know what to think you’re emotions are I call them the emotional rollercoaster there up and down and it’s just to see the people like I say was hurting like it was it was really hard. Hard to see it happen. Course my whole world hcanged cause I had didn’t have a job had to go out and start all over again. And 63 years old and still building a hosue I don’t know but anyway a lot of emotions even still to this day about you know but if I needed to go in the mines tomorrow I wouldn’t I would but you know its just something that like I said a while ago you could be in a mall in the wintertime Christmas shoppin and the roof caves in from all the snow, but you don’t stay away from the mall. You know? At least my family doesn’t. Anything? Can you tell me a bit more about when you were seeing those men coming up the incline. Well I think of when they come out the the two gentlemen that I brought out of the elevator I had the keys to unlock the gate that blocked the elevator they were hollerin help you know and it was 5:30 in the morning and dark and I knew there was a problem and I went around to investigate the foreman was wanting outta the gate they said what goin on and I said well theres been something bad happen go get my personal car they was worried about the seats and I said don’t worry bout that they the least problem just get in the car so we did and I took em back down but they really didn’t know they knew something had happened but to what extent they didn’t but the fear that you seen on he guys faces that come up outta the slope after 1700 feet of rather brisk walking was you could see the fear in the face and they knew being experienced miners what had pretty much happened and the ironic thing in the ’54 explosion they sued horses to recover and ponies and they would lead em down the slopes and stuff and how the horse would change from being a pretty mild timid animal outside would be very difficult to deal with in the mines because I guess different surrounding and things the fear that you seen on everybody’s not ony the miners but the people that knew what had happened passion and hurting for the people lost family and friends and you just it was just a terrible terrible situation. Did you have to drive the men down the drive drive the men down the hill in the car It wasn’t down a hill heres the mines was located here and this fan was up the hill about 3 miles and its where the men used to go in the mines and later after progressing along they went to a different area which was llwyen which is where the explosion actually happened ther e were men still workin here and this is where I was checkin RMPs and which is still usin an escape route. They rode with me back down to down here to just to get outta harms way and not really knowing it’s a time what actually had happened. CELL PHONE So it was uh like I said you know something that you never forget take to my grav with me. It was a terrible thing. But you could see the fear on the guys and on the faces and not knowing some of the guys was A face was calling to see why the mine was not running and I was answering the phone telling em I don’t know what’s going on for sure. The superintendents was saying you say there till I get there and the country police some in it was like was in fact a big disaster its almost like a dream you know a nightmare. But uh. The the man that made it out a lot of the went back ot the mines and worked just as soon as they could find a job. A lot of them that’s all they knew. it’s the work that they did and that’s what they wanted to do and that’s what they was comfortable doing and you know the mining industry is a big thing now and the energy the way it is and because of explosions like number 9 and sago A lot of safety issues have been addressed as far back as 1969 and uh the mine safety act was and then the sago the identification the tracking things htta they are working on and again I thank Gov Manchin fur (what I talk likea hillbilly for?) For getting those things enacted and the safety the unique they talked about the men could survive in for quite a few days. And I talked for a couple of us sayin we don’t need that they don’t think its necessary you know its hard to do and try and do thigns that some of the men dosent want and a lot of the men don’t want that they say we’ll be ok. Course they want their they’ve advanced a lot since then and we had a little self resuce it was called it not an oxygen supply but it was to keep you from having too much carbon monoxide now they have some oxygen canisters they they have at their disposal and sould be or supposed to be but you can survive and that’s why evacuation and tracking is very vyer vital because if they can get in find you and get you out you are going to have the back in 68 67 there was no oxygen supply in there other than maybe an oxygen tank for cutting and welding purposes and they all came to pass where we have they have the oxygen containers and other tanks and self perservation tanks and you can survive in some situations the boys that survved sago how in the world he did it and he did it and the others perished. Its if theres were in place maybe these were in place maybe they could have trackind devise I don’t want ot second guess what they did and what they didn’t do and anything safety wise I think we should go for cause its to be a thousand feet underground and no way out would be a horrible way to go. Horrible and the fact of the thinking about it. You know it would be hard. So. If any of the higherups in the coal companies worry about the issue of safety they need to think of some of the men who’ve perished anything else? You told me about growing up? Did you go up in a coal camp. I grew up … the school that I went to was right beside the preparationpl ants which cleaned nad processed the coal for reseal public use and my home was about 2 miles on up near Fairview a quiet area called james fork being familiar with the coal business my father and two brothers worked there kids would would drive the big equipt by and just you know I really through that was great and they had a building called the fire womens culb which was some of the ladies 4 H club or stuff would meet and that’s where they supplied a lot of the food and the meals for the people waiting in the 54 explosion and they waited and the congregating place like where sago was just to be there and see the weeping and the crying you heard the biblical thing the crying and the knashing of teeth you almost seen that because of the devastation