Monday, March 31, 2014

Life in a Coal Camp - damnpamn's Blog - Blogster

Life in a Coal Camp - damnpamn's Blog - Blogster

House My Great Grandmother Brennan Bought.

This is a condensed version of a family history written by my great uncle, Gerald Brennan.

arrived in Logan County, West Virginia in the fall of 1934.  After
moving in with relatives we got our own coal company house in a coal
camp called Hatfield Bottom.  It only had 2 bedrooms but mom and dad
turned the living room into a 3rd. bedroom.  Mom, Dad and I (as a small
child) slept together in the bed in the living room: Marg and Kat (my
sisters) had bedroom number 1.  Frank and Bill (or which ever brother
who may have been home) had bedroom 2.  Nobody ever talked about the
chamber pot which sat between the bedrooms in the hall at the top of the
stairs, but it was a character-building reality.

In the late
1930's and 40's Dad had steady work in the No. 15 mine at Stirrat and
the Littles Creek Mine (No. 19).  Never good enough to afford a family
car though.  We had an outdoor toilet, no running water initially nor
electric refrigeration.  We depended on the "ice man".  Carrying water
from the community pump was a chore, but there was lots of socializing
and courting as adults and children met at the well to do water duties. 
Later we did get running water in the early 1940's and bought a second
hand refrigerator from a black man who lived in the camp.  They brought
the refrigerator from his house to ours on a big wooden sled pulled by a

Our Hatfield Bottom neighbors, both black and white, were
like family.  By the late 1940's 2 of my brothers and Marg had 3 of the
houses around us.  Elaine's sister, Avanelle, had a house also (Elaine
is my grandma, she married Gerald's Brother, Bill).  It was truely the
Brennan Coal Camp.  There were 20 duplexes (40 families) in the camp.

late 40's were heady times for me in the old coal camp.  Family affairs
were big entertainment.  The big milk cow that J.P. kept meant
awkwardness and hilarity as he and Opal tried to care for it and milk
it.  They wanted me to drink the fresh cow milk, but it was sickening. 
Bill raised hogs for a season in a pen across the creek from his house
at the upper end of the coal camp.  I'll never forget the fiasco when he
tried to herd them across the creek for butchering - shouting men and
screaming pigs, trying to hold the pigs still so they could shoot them
between the eyes.  It was a ridiculous scene, but it was great fun for
the kids watching and even participating by building the big fires,
scalding and scraping and butchering the hogs.

There were plenty
of kids my age to play with and we played from dawn to dark everyday of
the year.  The older kids and sometimes even the adults joined us in
ball games, hide and seek, 50-more, and foot racing.  We had our tram
road around 900 hill for sleigh riding in the winter, our powder house
holler for building swimming holes, a field at the upper end of the camp
for cowboys and Indians and army battles, a flat at the lower end of
the camp for baseball and football and hills all around for building
forts, playing Robin Hood and hunting and exploring adventures.  Berry
picking, killing snakes and holing groundhogs were big activities.

did things we were ashamed of too.  Drowning cats in the creek, putting
them down in the toilet hole alive and conducting funerals over the
poor animals we dispatched.  Some things we did, it is a wonder we
survived ourselves like swimming in the 40-foot water tower, bursting
.22 rifle shells between rocks and jumping on moving railroad cars.

dad had steady work in the mines, mom kept boarders to help make ends
meet.  Dad was a pumper at the mines (a highly skilled job) and if the
mines were open he was needed.  Mom sold dresses and candy and delivered
the Grit newspaper to help with the budget.  She made quilts and sewed
feedsack dresses for herself and Marg and Kat.  Mom squirreled money
away for rainy days and her frugal ways resulted in  her being able to
purchase a house for the princely sum of 300 dollars when dad's health
failed and he could no longer work. (Black Lung).  That little house was
in Switzer, where she lived until her death in 1982 and is still in the
family today.

BL, Wallace, Vina, Frank, Marg, FL, Joe L and Kathleen

Crystal Block Coal and Coke Company

Omar, WV

Picture: Rossmore tipple mine supply house, bath house and engine going to load 1930's
Logan County, West Virginia

the pictures are places within 5 miles of where my uncle is talking
about in his narrative.  They are from the 1930's as well.

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