This is a continuation of a family history written by my grandmother. Click here to access Part 2.
My mother was crippled with arthritis and had not been able to do laundry for years so she gained a girl to wash our clothes and one to iron. On every Monday morning, Mattie, our laundress, came and took the clothes and all of us kids down to the creek to wash our clothes. The huge black kettle was left there upon some bricks all of the time. We had fun on Mondays and really enjoyed our days at the creek.
Later we all four helped Mattie take the clothes back to our house to hang them on the line to dry. The following day, her sister Norma came next door to our house to iron. My mother paid $1.00 for the laundry and $0.50 for the ironing. Juanita was just a small child at that time, but she came along when she could to just be with all of us. [Juanita is my grandma’s younger sister.]
We had a very happy childhood, good schools. We went to Sunday school and prayer meetings. We also had a movie theater, paid for and run by the coal company. You could buy a monthly family ticket, so my father had it taken out of his check each month. For a family of six, the ticket cost $2.00 and you could all go as many as three times a week. My father seldom went and when he did, he slept through the movie. He worked such long hours and such hard work that he was exhausted from it. Weekends were good for him, he got to do as he pleased and rest.
We always had plenty to do because we raised a big garden and had to harvest what we raised for the winter. This was most likely when the mining company would have one to two lay off days a week. This cut my father’s pay. He always managed well and had a small bank account.
We had one big lumber guy move on to our street and build a big house. They were nice people and I went to school with their son, Clyde. One day the lumber guy came down to our house and wanted to speak to my father. After he left, my father came into the house and told my mother he was going to Aunt Molly’s, our grocery store. We learned later he went to get a case of formula milk for this man’s baby. Times were really bad back then even to the ones who appeared well off.
The years when my brother and my sisters needed more things were tough. My father had to go away to work as the tipple of the coal company burnt and the company would not rebuild it. [A “tipple” is a structure used to load the extracted coal for transport, typically into railroad hopper cars.] We all felt later they did it themselves to stop the unions from coming in. This was all John L. Lewis time and they were trying to unionize all of the mines in the area.
It took a couple of years but they finally did it. They got hospitalization, workers’ compensation, and better wages. Although work was scarce, working conditions were much better and even though we missed the theater and having more things close by we were glad of the unions. Lives were lost and very ugly things happened but they finally achieved what they set out to do. For some reason not easily understood, men who were coal miners did not want to do any other jobs.
To be continued…