My childhood Memories of the 1929 Depression


To 1939

Copyright 2005 Harless Edgar Warf

I was born at Wilco, W.Va Mcdowell Co, in 1928, I was the ninth child Of twelve children, 5 girls and 7 boys. My dad worked as a coal miner when the stock market crashed, at the time I had no knowledge of the economical or political structure that I was living in but I did know that the pencil my mother used to write a grocery list was magic, because any thing that come out of the end of that pencil and appeared on a piece of paper, later appeared in our house.

We lived in a duplex house across the street from a barbershop, A black barber by the name of Jim {I think his name was Wilson} cut all of my families children's hair and didn't ' charge our parents, our parents dearly loved Jim for his kind demeanor toward us children. Many years later after my dad died, my mother and two older brothers visited Jim in his old age and my mother said "' we all had a crying, hugging good old time ''.

Living in the other side of our duplex was my uncle Andy Lineberry that married one of my dad's sisters. Uncle Andy was a veteran of world war one, on the other side of us lived a Mr. Dunn who was a railroad conductor on the N&W passenger train that ran daily from Welch through Wilco to Anawalt to Filbert then return To Welch. When I was 2 to 3 years old, I would wait for Mr. Dunn to come home in the late afternoon, because he would always bring me a piece of candy and hand it to me while running his hand through my auburn red hair.

I recall being held by my hand and walked to a house near by, to attend the viewing of a small black child that was with his brother digging in a dirt bank to retrieve some coal when the bank caved in and smothered him to death. I knew he was dead, but he just looked like he was asleep. This happened in 1930 or 1931, the entire neighborhood grieved over this tragedy. They were digging near the highway between the church and later years location of # 2 mine machine shop, there were coke ovens in that area when this happened.

The year was 1931 my dad lost his job at the mine as did many others, and the depression was truly upon us. It was like an impending storm. Every one knew it was coming but no one wanted to run for cover until they had to. My dad moved his family to Carroll Co. Virginia where he had been born in 1889.

The house we were to live in was very small, especially when one of my older sisters with her husband and one child moved in with us. This must have been in the fall, because the owner of the property had a fair size field of red kidney beans, he gave to my dad that he hadn't harvested. The beans were on the vines and dried in the hulls, every one pitched in to shelling the beans by putting them into mattress covers, and thrashing them with sticks, then pouring them into a washtub through a small hole wire screen to further separate the beans from the shells. We ate so many red kidney beans that I have difficulty eating them today. " The Grapes of wrath was up on us."

My dad and three older brothers ranging in age from twelve to seventeen, worked for a neighbor farmer, my dad and my oldest brother was being paid 10 cents an hour, the youngest brothers were being paid five cents an hour setting posts and stringing barbed wire. The farmer found them sitting down on the job, he asked why aren't you working! Their reply was " we are on strike, " you will have to remember these boys had just come from the West Virginia coal fields depression or not they weren't going to work for five cents any more, he said " what will it take to get you to return to work," they both replied in unison! "Ten Cents per hour," The farmer said you must give me a mans labor, the boys said, " We have been doing that ". They both become future union men.

Cash was so scarce, much of the labor was paid for by giving food as agreed upon such as bacon, potatoes, molasses, dry corn for grinding into corn meal, buckwheat flour for pan cakes, milk, butter, apples, sweet potatoes, onions. The farmers skimmed their milk for its cream and sold it to the carnation milk company, after couple of cream separations the milk was called blue john because the lack of cream caused it to have a watery blue look, it was better than nothing.

We lived with in a mile of my mother's parents that presented a great comfort to us for the time we lived there. My grandmother assisted my mother with home remedies for treatments of every thing from chigger bites to rusty nails accidentally puncturing a bare foot. The treatment for a rusty nail, consisted of though washing with soapy water rinsing the wound with cold clear water dry the wound, then liberally pour on turpentine, our mother would say this will keep you from getting lock jaw and after wrapping a rag around the foot she would admonish us saying, " go now and watch where you walk!"I fell on a broken pitchfork that was missing the middle tines. One of the outer tines punctured a hole in my groin, I received the turpentine treatment, never got a doctors bill and never got lockjaw. I was very fortunate because the pitchfork had missed vital parts of my groin mainly a blood artery. As the future years went by I observed a scar the size of my fingernail move around my side and disappear out of sight when I was seventeen or eighteen.

During this time (which was the fall of 1931) our meat consumption was augmented by the taking of wild game, such as; rabbit, squirrel, groundhog, some turtle, bullfrog, as well as some but not all fish. Things that were not edible to my family were, snakes, toads, opossums, (some people were known to eat opossums), skunk and muskrat. We didn't take, Birds or deer because we did not have a gun or ammunition. My older teenage brothers were Delmer, Kemper and Bernard, they used their ingenuity to build and devise methods to trap and catch wild game, I didn't help them build or set the traps but I observed and enjoyed eating the results of their efforts. We had two small dogs at the time, they were mixed breeds for I heard my brothers say we know what the mothers are but we don't know about the fathers they were traveling men.

There were two ways to catch a rabbit, one was to entice a rabbit into a long wooden box baited with an apple, apple peelings or a biscuit dipped in molasses, the box had a stick through the top rear of the box which acted as a trigger when pushed by the rabbits head, this would drop a door behind him. The other way was when the dog run a rabbit into a hole, they would cut a limber stick with a fork on the end, about a half inch long, they would push the stick into the hole and try to feel the softness of the rabbit while searching they would twist the fork to entangle his hair and skin when hearing the rabbit squeal give a little more tweak on the stick, then pull him out get his back legs, hold him up with your fingers extended in join strike him behind the ears to break his neck. If people today complain about the procedure just described, let them hush because they are better off today than we were then, working for ten cents an hour and hungry.

To catch a squirrel my brothers would walk through the woods and scare a squirrel into a hole in a tree, one would climb the tree and hold a woman's cotton hose over the hole while the other brother beat on the tree trunk. If this didn't' t cause him to come out they would go to plan number two, they would stuff some urine, smoke or kerosene soaked leaves (which ever was most available) into the hole and beat on the tree again, when he come out he was always in a hurry, right into the sock. I recall rather than put a certain squirrel into the pot they caught, they decided to keep it as a pet so they built a wire cage to keep it in. As time went by he became real friendly even to where any one could feed him through the sides of the wire cage without him nipping at your finger, the entire family become fond of him .one day someone suggested that we should let our little friend out so he could play on the porch with us, he leaped out of the cage landing on the porch and looked at us before bounding into the yard saying, "Adios, Goodbye and the same thing in German, Japanese, French and a few other languages so their was no mistake in understanding that he wasn't coming back.

As the season moved into late fall our family concentrated on gathering and persevering perishable fruits and vegetables, local farmers and grandparents allowed us to take from their orchards and fields, (where there was an abundance) apples, pears, cabbage, potatoes, pumpkins, fall grapes, green beans that had dried on the vine which were called leather britches.

Money was scarce and what little we had was used to purchase essentials sugar, salt, pepper, soda, (baking powder was too expensive) flour and coal oil for lamps. Everyone pitched in to peel cut slice, string beans and apples for drying, cook can and salt different items in order to preserve them to be edible later when the snow was on the ground. All of this work was accomplished while the older children attended school, also not forgetting the kindness of Christian neighbors and the LORDS providence over us for many were going hungry elsewhere.

As Christmas neared, dad and the oldest two boys went into the woods and cut a Christmas tree which was not a spruce pine but was a black pine, the difference being a black pine is certainly not as pretty as a spruce so we decorated it with what we had to make it look presentable, we cut strips of paper from school writing tablets, colored them with crayon then folded them into small circles using flour and water we pasted the paper loops into long paper chains and decorated the tree like we use Christmas tree lights today. We popped popcorn and with needle and thread made long strings of popcorn that was strung around and over the tree, popcorn was rolled into balls, dipped in molasses attached to strings and hung throughout the tree for substitute of trinkets that we didn't have. I watched my older sister and brother who were nine and six, walkout of sight across a snow covered field to a neighbors house to attend a Christmas party they were invited to. I thought maybe next year (1932) I would be old enough to go with them.

We lived in the coal creek community near Galax, Virginia. A mister Cooley the father of James Cooley, was our Maine benefactor he realized we were living in very cramped quarters and allowed us to move into a large spacious house near his home, his sons James and Charles Cooley were the age of my thirteen and fifteen year old brothers; they formed a friend ship bond for the rest of their lives.

The house was very nice and as I have said, very spacious with large glass pane windows, hardwood floors and tight doors. This was 1932, I was four my brother Desmond was six, my sister Vanneta was nine just the right age to make quite a lot of noise when we played together. In order to assure we would not be running around in the house when she was baking a cake in the oven, during late evening after dark when she did her cake baking my Mother would say, " listen! I think I hear raw head and bloody bones scratching to get in, be quite and he will go away," we would be so quite you could hear a cake drop, which never did when raw head and bloody bones was trying to get in. We had a peach tree that had a fair size limb, (loaded with green peaches) that would scrape against the side of the house when the wind slightly blew, gave cause for Vanneta to stand on a chair and saw off the limb while Desmond held the chair, when the limb fell she exclaimed, " raw head and bloody bones won' t use this limb again to scratch to get in ". Being four years old I was happy to believe he could go somewhere else to do his scratching. After this limb (full of peaches were thrown away) my dad ask, " What happened to most of the peaches that were on that tree? " Vanneta replied " I think raw head and bloody bones ate them ", my dad turned and walked away but not before I caught a glimpse of a smile on his face, Many years later when the subject came up, I heard him say he knew that was where RH and BB did his scratching to get in.

Mister Cooley who was our Landlord; his ancestors had participated in America's Revolutionary war, as did ancestors of most people who lived in the area including some of my ancestors, the difference being the land we were living on was granted to the Cooley family for Revolutionary war service. Mr. Cooley had an apple orchard near our house that grew large juicy yellow apples, in the orchard was a hand crank apple juicer that processed apple juice from a hopper filled with apples, by cranking a rotary wheel it caused the crushed apples to fall into a container to be fed to the hogs that were penned for fattening, while the juice was separated into another container for making cider. Sometime we children would pick apples from the ground and put them in the hopper, if we accidentally threw an apple in that we felt might have had a worm in it we didn't make a big fuss over it, we just tried to be more careful with the next apple.

Mr. Cooley had setup a sawmill near our house and was sawing lumber out of trees that were cut on his land. My mother had made previous arrangements with James Cooley to give me transport to meet my dad and my grandfather about a mile distance on his next lumber delivery to town. I left the house and followed a small path for a distance of five hundred yards to the sawmill James spoke to me and told me to sit in the cab of the truck as he continued to stack lumber onto the truck. The truck was an old truck, built in the early twenties, the doors and the cab overhead were missing as was the wind shield, the radiator was square shaped and so was the cowling over the engine that was real long, the wheels were wooden spooked wheels with hard rubber tires, This truck had seen better days and now was regulated to hauling lumber or for people comfort it was a fair weather truck. On this day it was performing just fine as we zipped along doing ten to twelve miles an hour, since I was only two months past my fourth birthday I gripped the edge of my seat while watching the road go by, {past the missing door} as we traveled over the crushed stone surface. After awhile I relaxed, released my tight grip on my seat, looked up at the sky to watch the white billowy clouds move across the pretty blue sky and observe the green fields and trees go by, suddenly James said we are here as the truck stopped, My dad approached, thanked James, then said to me, " I am glad you are here to see how molasses is made ".

I recognized my grandpa Mallory Snow, Mr. Hanks, Mr. Cooley, Mr.Bedsaul, Mr. Hawks, Mr. Jennings and several other men from the surrounding area that I didn't know. An old man sitting in a rocking chair, much older than my grandpa motioned me over to him and said, " I heard you were coming, Harless, so I whittled you a licking paddle, hold on to it because you can use it when the molasses finishes boiling down " no body could buy or coax that paddle from my hand.

Because of my red hair several people knew my name, many of them would say, " you know, Thomas Jefferson had red hair just like you ", at that time I did not know who that great man was but I knew we had something in common.

The molasses had been simmering since early morning, it was about two o'clock when I arrived there was a small green scum on the surface of the molasses that was disappearing as time elapsed, the vat that was being used to boil the product was made of copper, the stirring paddle attached to a pole two inches in diameter six to seven feet long for the purpose of staying away from the fire, yet reach all parts of the vat where the heat was applied. The end of the pole was inserted into tight fitted hole in a paddle that was one to two inches thick, four inches wide and three feet long, the bottom of the paddle was convex or should I say rounded off to fit the curvature bottom corners of the vat, all day constant movement of the paddle was necessary to keep the molasses from sticking to the bottom and scorching. Cooking vat dimensions were approximately, two and one half feet in depth, five feet wide and seven feet long placed on a metal support over a wood burning fire. The molasses was made from sugar cane that was grown locally, and crushed by a cane mill that extracted the juice for making molasses, the procedure of one beast of burden tied to a long pole walking in a circle to crush the cane is as old as biblical times and beyond, but the gathering of old men for socializing and making molasses in Carroll County, Virginia was an inheritance from their pre-Revolutionary war ancestry. Finally at four o'clock the fire was extinguished, the molasses was cooled enough for canning which also allowed for old men and children to scrape and coat their paddles in the caramelized syrup along the top edge of the vat.

The community of pipers gap bordered the community of coal creek where in later years after I retired from the U.S. Air Force, I owned two homes and seventeen acres of land at pipers gap which is a small farm community about six miles south east of Galax, Va., sometime around eighteen hundred a Nancy Hanks migrated to Kentucky from pipers gap and married Mister Thomas Lincoln and become the mother of Abraham Lincoln, Nancy Hanks mother was a Moore, my triple great grand mother was Nancy Moore that married my grand father Beeryman Warf , I have been told that my grand mother was the sister of Nancy's mother and if so, me and President Lincoln share some DNA

In 1932 most county and a great percentage of state roads were crushed stone and dirt in southwestern Va. and southern W.Va. Travel between these areas was a challenge because small streams had to be forded, since their were no bridges, especially wolf creek in Wythe and bland counties.

My brother in-law Arthur Powers owned and furnished us transportation in his 1927 Chevrolet touring car with a long canvas top and amber ison glass zipper windows, to keep out dust and rain when necessary. The brakes were charged with an ether fluid that caused all the children to get sick when the brakes were used constantly crossing Big Walker, Brushy and East River Mountain. To travel more than fifty miles before experiencing a flat tire was rare.

When you stopped to fix a flat, the time afforded an opportunity for a rest stop, Men and boys went into nearby woods to relieve them self's boys four and five relieved them self's near the auto while all girls and women used a porcelain metal bucket with a lid cover in the car, this bucket was some times known as a chamber pot, also a gozonda, (another name for goes under the bed) type chamber pot.

To fix the flat a repair kit was used which consisted of glue, a rubber patch and a metal scraper, the metal scraper was the metal cap of the patching kit, the car was lifted with a jack which would allow the inner tube of the tire to be removed from the tire, the deflated tube where the puncture was located would be placed over a mans knee and the area around the puncture would be vigorously scraped to roughen the rubber, in order to assist the glue to adhere to the rubber tube, and the rubber patch, then the glue was set afire and heated in order to create a secure bond between the patch and tube.

During later years I observed the use of what they called a hot patch, that would be placed on a tube, then set afire and it would get so hot, the patch would vulcanize its self to the tube. Sometimes we would have a blowout that caused a hole in the tire. To protect the tube and to continue to use the same tire, a thick piece of rubber that fit the curvature of the tire, would be positioned between the tube and the hole (this was called a boot) a hand operated air pump was put into action as soon as the tube was placed in the tire to inflate the tube.

My mother was the conductor and that car did not move until all heads were counted to include pets that were not left at home to fend for them self while we were gone. It wasn't Un-common for large families to leave someone. When this happened they would stop and wait because the next car that came by most often had them aboard.

Living in the big house provided by Mr. Cooley we had a small barn near the orchard, this gave us an opportunity to nest some chickens to collect a few eggs. We not only had our hands full protecting our eggs and chickens from foxes, minks, opossums, skunks and egg sucking snakes, so to put up with a black and white egg sucking hound dog, no way! After finding him lying in one nest, eating out of another nest with egg yellow all over his chin he was treated with a harsh scolding, the next time he was subjected to a peach tree switch, the next time short of shooting him he was given the kill or cure treatment, " a rectum corn cob scrubbing soaked in turpentine " it didn't kill him but it sure broke him from sucking our depression time eggs. My three oldest brothers had to take matters in to their hands and apply the treatment.

Our immediate family consisted of my dad and my mother, the first and third born were girls that were married, Delmar, Kemper and Bernard were the second fourth and fifth born, the sixth born was named Frank who passed away at eighteen months with pneumonia Vanetta, Desmond, my self, and Theodore were the seventh, eight, ninth, and tenth child, our family at home included mom, dad, and seven children the eleventh and twelfth children were not born yet, which happened to be two girls.

During the fall of 1932 my dad was offered and he accepted a job offer in the Excelsior W V and Yukon area mines, although the mines were closed, his job was to start and stop water pumps that would keep the mines dry for a possible future startup. I don't know the amount of pay, but I'm sure it beat ten cents an hour so we moved to War, W.Va.

The first thing that I remember when we moved into our house at East War, I heard someone say," Here he is"! They had found me in a rolled up mattress, where I had crawled into and gone to sleep, the trip to our new residence was long and tiresome, my family had searched for more than a hour for me, In front of the house was a busy road, in back of the house was a river, they had expressed much concern for my safety while searching for me and mixed emotions after finding me, between crying and laughing.

When we arrived, the process of last minute cleaning and where things would be positioned in the house was complete. Everything was then unloaded, the kitchen equipment was moved in first to include connecting stove pipes to the wood and coal burning kitchen stove to discharge smoke through a hole about six feet above the floor into a chimney to outside atmosphere. All foodstuffs that we had brought from Virginia were unloaded and mostly stored in the kitchen. Next priority was to build a fire in the cooking stove, put biscuits in the oven, fry sliced cured meat in the frying Pan, make some redeye gravy, serve home made apple butter, Coffee and fresh water. Thank the Lord for safe arrival, bless the food and eat.

Just after supper is when I must have found my hole in the rolled up mattress. Our mattresses didn't have internal springs. They also were only three to four inches thick, placed on a set of springs that was positioned on a metal frame that was part of a fancy head and foot metal frames. The beds were the last things to be set in place except for unpacking the boxes

I remember we lived near the ice plant. Our house was the first or second house west of the bridge entering East War .The only neighbor I can recall was the Hunt family. They lived in the first house west of us. I remember two or three teenage girls of that family, friends of my sister Vanetta.They liked to gather and set and comb each other's hair. They would ooh and aah over my curly dark red hair (which is now snow white in 2005) a green jelly like substance called wave set was used. At the age of four I was a captive client, I wonder if any of the Hunt girls become `Hair stylist, my sister never did, but they sure loved to play with hair!

Christmas arrived soon after we moved, there was no tree for the boys to cut and I'm sure a tree was too expensive to purchase so I don't recall having another tree until 1938 or 1939 when we could afford one. My mother and Vanetta walked downtown to the five & ten store, when they returned I was given some candy, a cap piston (that I shot gangsters, Indians, and some cowboys, when I played the part of an Indian), and a box of cracker jacks with a prize in it. I can't recall receiving any other gifts that Christmas.

We did not live at War very long because we moved to Excelsior (a community just west of War) in the spring of 1933. At War we lived on the south bank of the river, but at Excelsior we lived on the north bank of the river in a one-story house next to the river west of the two story housing, we lived next to the last house on the western end of our row. Since we didn't have a car, I understand my dad had moved in order to be closer in walking distance to the coal mine where he maintained the water pumps.

It is hard for me to imagine the courage it took to walk through an abandoned mine through slate and rock falls, under bad top such as kettle bottoms and loose overhead rock, through water in many places almost to his knees. The distance covered through out the mine was for many miles; the pumps were started on the way in and shut down on the way out. I don't know how much my dad was paid when we were living in a time of economical depression. It must have been more than ten cents an hour, but it barely put food on the table. My mother, years later looked on it as a blessing because many people were worse off than we were. Although I must confess we were not eating very high on the hog at this time.

In the river row of homes last house toward the east, there lived a man who had a purebred English bulldog. His name was Jigs. He was probably named after a cartoon character of the time that was called, "Maggie and Jigs", who had a dog that looked just like him. Now Jigs had a face on him only a mother could love, a large head and face of wrinkled skin, small eyes with protruding bottom teeth set on a large front body chest and muscular bowed legs, his body sloped and tapered to a small rear hips and hind legs, after daylight during late morning and early evening Jigs' owner allowed him to take his twice a day walk to the end of the village and return. When children were busy playing in the road and Jigs started his walk the alert would be sounded by the first child to spot him, by crying out! " Here comes Jigs. " Then all of the children would pass the alarm down the road while scrambling through gates or over fences into the safety of their yards, I can recall as a five year old watching through the fence as Jigs walked by in the dusty road about six feet from me going and coming and thinking, "that is a mean looking dog. "

There was a row of houses running parallel to our row of houses between our row and a railroad. At the most western end of that row lived a black man who had a small barn located on the riverbank, where he kept a milk cow. One morning about day break; we were awakened by a cow bawling in anguish followed by three pistol shots POW, POW, and POW that caused every body to leap out of bed.

The reason for this early disturbance was because Jigs had gotten out of his kennel and attacked the cow. He had a death grip on the cows brisket under the cows throat, the cow went in to the river trying to drown the dog or make him give up his grip without success.

The owner of the cow walked into the river up to his knees and at about eight feet away with pistol in hand caused Jigs to give up the ghost. The cow had to be put down and skinned out that day, Jigs was recovered from the river and laid on the bank for all to see, my feelings were "Jigs I thought you looked mean, now you have gone and lived up to your looks".

All candy suckers today have a paper stick inserted into the candy, in 1933 all suckers had a wood stick with a sharp point 1/4 inch long that was inserted into the candy. On this day there were six or seven of us children ranging in age from six to two sitting on our neighbors porch steps, we were chewing and sucking on a hard candy chocolate tasting sucker called a bb bat, one of the children sitting on a higher step got to squirming around for a better seat and accidentally pushed a three year old forward on to its face in the yard driving the sharp end of the stick into the roof of the Childs mouth, blood was every where, most of the children were shook up and crying I was shook up and was feeling sorry for the child. My mother and another lady, after hearing children crying, rushed over to help, my mother took charge and advised the other lady to leave the stick in place to help stop the bleeding until the child could be transported to the doctors office. As I recall the child was a little girl who recovered quite well, I bet they used some turpentine some where in the process.

The houses that I have described that bordered the river were serviced by out houses constructed so they hung out over the river, I remember looking through our two holler to see clearly a sandy bottom and observe hog sucker fish swimming by and sometime they would face up stream with just enough motion to remain in place, the sand was amply covered with what looked like oysters, but the people called them mussels. Although my older brothers caught fish at the east end of town for the fun of catching them, I know of no one that ate fish from that area of the river. At the east end of Excelsior where the ground sloped down to the waters edge, I caught a fair size fish when no one was with me, I didn't try to take it off the hook, I dragged it behind me shouting," I caught a fish! I caught a fish! " At the age of five it was the first fish that I ever caught. The neighbor cat enjoyed it.

There was a young black boy my age who lived across the street near me that I enjoyed playing with, we would run our little metal trucks and cars in the dirt and sand making roads to climb over mountains of dirt we had made. The companionship of understanding of joy with my little black friend has served me well all of my life, I pray that our friendship served him as well all of his life.

I got up early on this particular morning. My little black friend had moved away and a young black couple had moved into his house. I was playing by my self in the sandy road when I heard loud angry voices coming from the young couples house, suddenly the front door of the house flew open and out ran a black man struggling to get his pants on as he run across the porch, and down the porch steps. The man who I recognized lived there, burst thru the door wearing his miners clothing chasing the other man. He saw the man he was chasing turn to his left around the house at the bottom of the steps, then the first man appeared from around the house, darting through a door under the porch (the house on the back side met the ground sloping down toward the front of the porch, which allowed the porch to be enclosed for a dry place of storage), next appeared the man of the house, I noticed he had in his hand an open straight razor like a razor that my dad used to shave with, he ran past the porch door stopping long enough to look around, when his eyes caught mine he looked surprised that I had seen and heard every thing , but being five years old I didn't understand the ramification of this game of tag they were playing because if I had I would not have answered him when he ask in a calm voice ," where did he go" I said, just as calm ," he went under the house".

As I cleared the road and ran to my house I heard cursing, crying, begging, apologizing and praying. A little later an ambulance arrived, also the police arrived and each participant was transported in a different direction, my dad said later he heard the man that was cut would survive. I thought if he does survive from all the blood I saw on him when he was put in the ambulance, they must have used a lot of turpentine.

Around the breakfast and supper table, there was a lot of talk about Delano Roosevelt and former president Hoover. They would talk about our relatives both on my dads and my mother's side of the family, but never repeat their table talk outside the family or to our relatives. I suppose it was a way to keep our family all on the same page about our feelings for our relatives and also as a way to avoid direct confrontation and hurt feeling. I remember talk about a black place of entertainment, on the high way between War and Yukon # 1 being shot up with a Thompson sub machine gun. My dad felt the army or the state police were the only ones with that type of weapon, so it was more apt to have been the state police, in a drive by shooting, I believe killed several people.

Not only did we listen to the music of the time on our Atwater Kent Radio, we would listen to our RCA Victor record player with mechanical hand crank. One song of the time was a Jazz tune that went something like this, " come here momma and look at sister Kate, she is hanging on the back yard gate, for here comes a man down the road with a sack on his back, filled with more crawdads than he can pack," then the music would cut in and give you the feeling that if the momma didn't grab on to Kate, she was going to leave with the man and that sack of crawdads. My sister Vanneta jumped around, danced and sang that song so much, every time I saw Vanneta climb on our back yard gate I would look up the road for that crawdad man, if any man had accidentally come down the road, I would have called my momma because at five years old I did not want to loose my sister to a slick talking passer by.

There was one other song from the 1933 era that brings to memory some thing that happened at Excelsior. I was standing at a window looking across the river and watched a horse drawn wagon with a wood box coffin, making its way from the edge of the river, up the side of a round top hill to a grave yard on top of the hill. It appeared the people were coming from the town of # 1 Yukon that is just west of Excelsior, I returned to Excelsior for the first time in 2004 since leaving in early 1934, The graveyard is now covered by a forest of trees, I ask local residents if they knew there was a graveyard across the river they said no! One young man said he heard a rumor their was one there.

As I stood at the window in 1933 a refrain of a song of the time went through my mind," As I stood by the window on a cold and cloudy day I watched them carry my poor mother away, undertaker, undertaker please don't take my poor mother away " I don't know who wrote or singer of the song, but the scene and song has stayed in my mind all these years also I must add I'm sure there are Lost graveyards through out mining depression communities, because when the big companies moved away, they took responsibility and money for up keep with them . All of these sites should be found and restored in respect to our heritage.

Everyone was hungry. Some were hungrier than others and expressed it by their covert actions. My mother had set a hen and raised a dozen of them to become laying hens, she kept some cooped and fed them while others run loose and lived mostly off of the land. Eating bugs, worms kitchen scraps, grasshoppers and etc. I was playing in the next-door back yard of my aunt when she appeared in her kitchen door with a hand full of bread crumbs and asked me to feed a chicken that was in the yard. When I said yes, she then gave me instructions to drop crumbs in front of the chicken in a straight line to her kitchen open door, I thought it very strange that the room was partially dark and my aunt standing behind the door prepared to close it, which she did and told me what a good boy I was and go back into the yard to play, then it dawned on me she was going to feed her family chicken and dumpling for supper, but I did not realize it was one of my mothers chickens until my mother said one of her chickens was missing. I sure wasn't going to admit helping steal a chicken so I kept quite.

To supplement our diet there was a man with a small truck that would drive between the two rows of houses and announce in a loud voice, fresh fish, and fresh fish for sale. He would have ocean perch and other ocean fish in large wooden barrels packed in ice, the price must have been right, because my parents bought many of them and ate them the same day of purchase. I wondered how they got them all the way from the ocean without melting the ice, which I was told was a long way from Excelsior, but I understood later, with the N&W Railway running from Norfolk, Virginia, thru McDowell Co., and a ice plant at War, that presented no problem for us to eat fresh ocean fish, if we could afford it.

Me and one of my mothers laying hens had a little arrangement, I would feed her a small amount of corn bread crumbs each day so she could lay a lot of eggs, about twice a week I would take an egg from her nest, walk to a nearby store close to where jigs lived, the grocer gave me a penny for it or a pennyworth of candy guess what I accepted? Now this little hen taught me something that many people don't know, but you are about to be told. I arrived at the nest and my little hen had not laid her egg so I patiently waited, but my patience was wearing thin when I saw the egg coming out, I then put my hand under her to catch the egg and to my surprise I caught a hand full of water and an egg, I was disturbed by the water, but I noticed that the egg was soft and rubbery I also become aware that a few seconds in the open air the shell begin to harden. That is quite a chemistry lesson before entering the first grade.

In 1934 we moved to # 2 Yukon About Five miles west of Excelsior West Virginia, This allowed the youngest children to be within walking distance of school. Where I started to school at a one-room school. I recall my teachers name was Mrs. Cox, an engineer's wife, (mining) who lived at Careta or Coal wood. She was pretty and a very good teacher for five grades in one room. From the teachers view there were five rows of double seats with students facing her. The first grade row was on her right with the fifth grade on her left while the back of our heads welcomed any one entering the school thru a one and only door. In this one room sat a potbelly railroad stove evenly spaced between the children and the door. Although this stove would get cherry red at times, it was not a fire hazard to the students or unseemly hot because there were three or four fair sized windows on each side of the room, one window would complement at least three of us to pass through at a time being as we were not eating large portions of food with a great amount of nutrition that year. The temperature was controlled by the degree of the window opening. .

Each morning after class was called to order we would stand face the flag and recite the pledge of allegiance, sing God Bless America, America The Beautiful and then follow Mrs. Cox instruction of breathing exercise, we would sit down feeling awake and ready to go to work.

My cousin and I shared a double seat together in the first grade and being near a window he stood upon the seat, extended him self through the open window and in a loud voice exclaimed! " I am about to get it, " while reaching for a icicle hanging beneath the window sill, disturbing the entire class including Mrs. Cox, who was stealthily bearing down on me while giving me that universal sign of a vertical finger across her lips extending from her chin to the tip of her nose, even at six years old I recognized that sign saying to me, " if you want to save your bacon don't you make a sound ", while at the same time she motioned to me to give up my half of the seat and said to him, " yes! You are about to get it" and gave him a couple of whacks with a paddle. That he remembered 24 years later when I was an Air Force Sergeant stationed in Hawaii, I Visited him on the Submarine USS Razor Back when it came in to Pearl Harbor. My cousin was a Chief Petty Officer, so when I told his sailors how Mrs.. Cox worked on his bacon they got a big kick out of it.

The school year was just getting started when one of my fellow first graders wouldn't stop crying. Mrs. Cox motioned to one of the students in the third grade row to come forward. I recognized her as Hannie's sister, she and the sister got into a whispered conversation then Mrs. Cox suddenly sat up straight with a surprised look on her face and then went back into this top secret conversation with big sister, and after being given her marching orders she smartly did an about face and marched directly to the rear of the class not looking left or right, not even looking at Hannie, "who was still crying", she left the room. About twenty minutes later big sister returned with a large proportioned woman that we all recognized as Hannie's mother (if you remember the wife in the Snufy Smith cartoons you would have a fair understanding of how Hannie's mother was proportioned), big sister took her seat and her mother took Hannie on her lap, after promoting his seat mate to the second grade, she proceeded to Breast feed Hannie. In our culture in 1934 we were like a popular soap of the time we were 99.9% Breast fed as infants, but not as a 6 year old! All of us boys teased Hannie so much at the following recess periods, that he never cried for any more meals on wheels-or should I say meals on shoes, to be delivered to him again.

Except for one family who lived past the school near the top of the mountain that brought their lunch, we would all return to our homes for lunch because the distance was only a three minute run or a six to seven minute walk. The school bell would summon us to class after lunch. One day I decided to go get him I had been listening to his call at various times of the day for the past week and knew exactly where he was. I caught him, and put him in my pocket and I might add he was a whopper I put my hand over the top of my pocket so he couldn't get out and ran home to eat my lunch.

I sat at the table and started to eat my corn bread and milk. We were one of the few families in the village that had a cow to furnish us milk. My mother asked what I had in my pocket and before I could answer, she ran her hand into my pocket and got a hand full of a one and a half pound bullfrog that jumped up and out on to the floor, When she got over her fright after seeing what it was, she said " Put it in the back yard, under the wash tub and maybe this evening your older brothers can catch some more, so we can have enough to make a mess to eat, '

Our back yard wasn't much to look at, a hand operated water pump, a two hole out house, a pile of coal, and a small space to plant a vegetable garden, bordered on both sides front and rear, was a wood postal four inch block wire fence that separated our property from the neighbors who had their yards fenced the same way for the same purpose, but I suspect the only saving grace use was for when we children got in a fight with other children, we could leap over the fence and dare any one under these circumstances to enter .

Soon after the icicle caper with my cousin he was moved to another seat and a first grader from the top of the mountain was moved into my double seat. Some one had given him a bowl hair cut, causing all of his hair to be the same length with all hair below that line being shaved. I first noticed what looked like a small ant run out of his hair and then run back in to his hair again and after watching this happen several times, I told the teacher at recess what I had observed. She said, " Oh no! " she then called the mountain top children up to her desk and sent them home, she informed the rest of the class that school was dismissed for the remainder of the day and then wrote a note to each parent telling them that a infestation of head lice had been discovered in the school.

Well the mothers of the village become panic-stricken; running from house to house-collecting materials to apply their dreadful home remedies on us children. This collection included octagon soap, homemade soap, kerosene and turpentine that were made into a mixture of soap shavings and water. The strength of the mixture was determined by how much the mothers were stricken with fear. I can attest to the fact that my mother was greatly stricken, because her concoction would kill all the ticks and fleas on a dozen blue tick hounds.
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The boys were bathed and had their heads shaved the girls were bathed and had their hair combed and washed in the blue tick killing mixture and all of our clothes and bedding got the same treatment. The water pump in our backyard got a work out, water was drawn for washtubs that were heated over backyard fires. Kitchen coal fired stoves were pressed into service to heat extra water on top of the stove as well as heating water in a water tank that was attached to the stove firebox. All heads of hair were washed outside in the head lice killing mixture then rinsed under the cold-water pump. When we complained our mother would say, "Hush don't fuss, many are worse off than you are, " when she talked like that I felt like the old mule that was caught in a hail Storm. I couldn't make it stop and I couldn't run from it. The only option I had was to hump up and take it.

We were fortunate to own a Maytag gasoline driven wash machine it sat on the back porch with a metal flexible hose that had a metal ball on the end of the hose. When the machine was in operation the machine gave off a muffled Thump! Thump! When the ball was put in a hole in the ground the Thump, Thump was less noticeable. We were not so fortunate when someone had a hand or arm caught in the clothes wringer. It was mainly used to wash mining clothes and other heavy soiled clothes. My mother used bulldog lye for extra cleaning. It was a great help on this day, when so many clothes had to be washed

Returning to school the next morning all of the girls hair looked extra nice after all the scrubbing and brushing they had received. The boys looked like shaved headed convicts that you some time would see working along the state roads. The top of the mountain children returned three or four days later looking just like us, boy shaved and girls looking nice.

To help in overcoming our hunger early one morning about daybreak there was a boom. That woke the entire village. My dad and some neighbor men in the village had exploded some dynamite in the local river to gather some fish. Being coal miners they were explosives experts and I might add good fishermen because they brought home three wash tubs of fish .Now remember this was during times that we called hard times, this kind of fishing was sort of winked at or joined in by enforcement authorities.

The next thing that I recall must have happened on a weekend. From our front porch looking toward the highway off to the left was an open field. Three or four men had a four or five hundred pound young beef tied to a stake and they were going to slaughter it and divide it among most of the village families. But they had a problem and the problem was this, no one had a gun to shoot the beef even if they had some ammunition. They had sold their guns and ammunition a couple of years ago to put food on the table for their family. Now it was crunch time to find a solution to the problem of how were they going to use to kill this beef. My dad and my mothers brother who lived next door decided that an ax with a flat back would do the job so uncle Charlie Snow went home to get the ax. When he returned, the beef had both hind legs hobbled to a single stake, it looked pretty good to me but who am I to give my opinion. I'm only a six year old by stander, after all, these were coal miners but no one had taken into consideration their lack of slaughter house technique.

Two ropes were looped over the beefs head and nose with a man on each rope pulling in opposite directions .The beef rolled his eyes from side to side and snorted indicating he didn't approve of what was about to happen. The two rope handlers should have paid more attention to the beef and coordinated their handling of the beef with the wieldier of the ax. The ax approached the head from behind and over the ears, the ropes were not stretched tight and the beef saw it coming and moved his head but not quick enough to avoid a terrible headache that made him want to leave town in a hurry.

Most of the other men women and children had gathered to observe what was happening. The village consisted of about twenty families and what. a happening. The beef was loose dragging three ropes, a stake and a man, he broke through the outer ring of spectators and would have left town as he had in mind except the weight of the man on the rope forced him into a half circle back into the crowd. The beef was bucking hopping and twisting in the air like a rodeo steer with a man on his back, but in reality he was trying to get his two hind legs untied that were still hobbled together. The crowd was scrambling in all directions dragging their small ones by the arm while running into and over each other because they all had their eyes on the beef. Everyone was shouting instructions to no one in particular hold him, grab the rope, hit him again, tackle him, grab his tail, don't let him get away, and one person said pet him on the head maybe he will calm down. If that beef could speak, he would probably say, " If you touch my head again, I will squirt manure all over you, " of which he had already liberally spread over the area.

One man using a rope lasso tried to lasso the beef but the lasso only caught one ear, this was just enough annoyance to allow some one to grab his tail. Lasso man was successful on his next throw, the men rushed in hobbling both front and rear feet the other men got their hands full of hair and hide while at the same time giving a pulling motion which put the beef on the ground at which time the ax man stepped up and caused the beef to give up the ghost. Every one was silent, feeling some compassion for the beef for giving up the ghost, while in their hearts thanking the LORD and the beef for the pot roast they would eat tomorrow. I dodged the people, the beef, and the manure and as a six year old I never gave instruction to any one on what to do as I continued to watch the excitement unfold.

No one had a freighter or a freezer, only a few had an icebox. The ice man brought us ice in a horse drawn wagon. The ice was covered with sawdust and a piece of canvas covered the sawdust a to keep the sun from melting the ice. The sawdust acted as an insulation to prevent further melting, the ice came in one hundred Pound Blocks. The ice Man used his ice pick to reduce the block to 50 and 25 Pound blocks. Most of our boxes would only hold fifty pounds that lasted for only 3 or 4 days, he would deliver to # 2 Yukon on Monday and Friday. To preserve fresh meat, milk, butter and other perishables was a challenge with what we had to work with. Much is taken for granted today by those who live in a land of convenience because they by the grace of providence are living in another time.

What did we do for recreation? The answers is what ever we could think of that we felt we could get away with and not break an arm or leg. The practice of grabbing a tail of one of the village cows, making it run then leap after the cow by the force of its movement five to six feet at a time was a great sport, by boys around the age of ten. This practice led to a grave consequence for a younger child.

I can only recall a few family names that lived at number two Yukon in 1934, they were Brumets, Radfords, Snows, Powers, Hanamakies, Warfs and Kings, believe me I was living in a small world. The King family lived two houses west of us, Mr. King was a timber man that had two or three sons in their twenties and early thirties. They traveled to and from work on a large timber truck which could carry their draft horses by installing a stake bed frame. I heard my mother say, " they were cutting timber logging on king mountain, " like as if they owned a mountain, where this mountain was located I don't know! But I don't believe it was very far from # 2 Yukon mine community.

One afternoon Mr. King moved his timber cutting operation to our village and started cutting timber up past the school near the mountaintop where our top of the mountain school children lived. He employed three of the most beautiful horses that I had ever seen. They were big and strong and appeared to be very gentle when working with their handlers. Their overall color was a fawn brown with golden manes and a same colored tail that all most touched the ground. Also they had long bushy hair that covered their feet. My dad said, " They were Clydesdales ' don't go near them because they might accidentally step on you. " I later learned they were Draft horses known and used for their strength.

The horses were kept on a tether when they were not working where the present day church stands. The cows of the village gathered there also at night to lie down and sleep I remember there was a hand operated pump there and someone had fashioned a watering trough for watering the animals, any one passing by was obligated to use the pump to keep water in the trough This was a responsibility men women and children accepted without complaint.

Early one evening just before dark the ladies and men all rushed to a house near where the horses were tethered on short ropes so they could have some movement but not leave the area. I understood that a small girl three or four years old either patted or pulled on one of the logging horses tail and an observer at the time said the horse gently lifted its hind foot and pushed back, but that was enough to crush the side of the little girls head. She was in a coma for couple of weeks, a doctor visited her every other day and eventually she was moved to another location. Soon after that we moved away and I don't recall what happened to the little girl after that, but I do know for sure no village boy ever touched a cows tail after that thinking they might have influenced the child to approach the tail of the Clydesdale. I don't think so, I believe the little girl thought this beautiful magnificent horses tail was so pretty, she just wanted to play with it.

Our Atwater Kent Radio continued to provide us with what was happening outside of the small world we were living in at the time, I would stand in back of the radio and stare at glowing filaments inside the radio tubes trying to see the people because I could hear their voice. In the ambience of 1934 there was no one in the village that could explain to me the theory of how radio waves were generated at a far away place then detected, amplified and converted to audio frequencies that I would recognize peoples voices talking to me. The function of a radio remained a mystery to me until graduation from army paratroop school and then being sent to the home of the signal corps, radio repair school at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey in 1948 .To describe the physical makeup of this radio is to tell you that the main body was approximately thirteen inches high, fourteen inches deep, and twenty four inches wide. The radio was small enough to set on top of a small table. The speaker had a base that was four or five inches in diameter with a narrowing tube rising upward to the back of a increasing flowering opening from a three inch diameter to an approximate thirteen inch face opening . It reminded me of an open morning glory flower. If anyone can remember the RCA record label showing a small dog listening to his "masters voice", you will recall the speaker that I have described.

We were kept up to date through the early thirties about gangsters robbing banks throughout the mid west, presidential politics, world championship fights, birth of the Deion quintuplets in Canada, Ammos and Andy, little orphan Annie, Jack Armstrong the all American boy, sergeant Preston of the northwest Canadian mounted police and king his faithful dog companion, jazz band music, the grand old opera, big dance bands of the forties that were getting started in the thirties.

After turning on power to the radio there were three dials used to tune into the desired station. Each dial as I recall was numbered zero to one hundred, the first dial to the left tuned the radio frequency stage, the second or the middle dial tuned the Intermediate frequency stage, the third or far right dial tuned the audio frequency stage. If you wanted to tune in radio station WLW in Cincinnati, Ohio and you knew that Cincinnati would come in around seven zero on the dial turn all dials to that number, and sure enough the signal started to come in so you would fine tune each dial a little more for a loud and clear station. If you were listening at night, you might hear, "Good evening ladies and Gentlemen this is Thad Baxter speaking to you from high atop the nether Len plaza hotel in downtown Cincinnati, I look over this warm and happy gathering, lovely ladies in beautiful evening dress and their male escorts in their evening attire, I can see they are ready to listen and dance to the music of our orchestra and the lovely Marjorie Sullivan singing, " Blue Moon over Miami " so now relax and enjoy this beautiful voice and music with us. Today's modern radio is tuned to a station by a single dial because the capacitors are ganged tuned on a single shaft attached to one dial.

While the members of my family enjoyed listening to our radio at Yukon #2. The eleventh member of our family was born,on the tenth of August 1934, she was named Betty Christene, and she now lives at North Tazewell, Virginia. My oldest brother, Delmer was very fond of his baby sister, the following year in 1935 he joined the U S Army and was sent to Scoffield Barracks Hawaii, I remember Delmer hugging his baby sister in her crib and my mother crying as her second oldest child departed for Fort Slocomb New York to board a ship for travel through the Panama Canal to Honolulu Hawaii. We at the time thought it was to the end of the earth, I could not comprehend how long three years would be; maybe for ever!

Delmer was 21 years old although the depression caused many men to be out of work. The Army only took a few good men into service during this time. It was a life time for me before my brother returned home in 1938. He married Miss Helen Richardson from War and went to work in the coal mine at Caretta, near coalwood W.Va., where he was working when Japan attacked Hawaii in 1941.Two weeks later he received orders to report to Fort Benning, Ga., to train raw Recruits how to be soldiers. Delmer landed on Utah beach at Normandy France, along with his younger brother Kemper, that landed on Omaha beach, both were in the Infantry in different units and survived that initial day of landing, Delmer was wounded near wars end but remained in the army, later he fought in the Korean conflict and was wounded again remaining in the army until he retired. Bernard the youngest brother was in several naval battles in the Pacific, on the Carrier USS Natomia Bay, he was a plane crew chief of a fighter plane, having a responsibility to see that it was capable of flying at all times.

But in 1934 there was a small room on our back porch where my three oldest brothers, used to get away for peace and quite. 'They liked to read cheap comic books, magazines and other books about World War One, especially about air combat. Actual war was far from their mind, but not girls. As I recall they teased and were flirted with by the neighbor hood girls. When I look at my brothers pictures of the time, they were good looking, Sharp features, blond and perfect white teeth. The secret of the teeth and reasonable good health was contributed to the fact that we always kept a cow for milk that we added to our meager diet.

In 1934 there were two ways to enter #2 Yukon, people on foot walked across a swinging dilapidated bridge that spanned the river at the East end of town, I must add it took much courage to cross that swinging and swaying bridge, that had some of the walkway boards missing, you could look through these holes and see water below that made me resist crossing unless someone held my hand. I recall being frightened the most, when the river was at flood stage and the water was just below your feet rushing by, muddy, angrily churning around with small debris as if reaching to grab your feet and pull you in!

During the summer of that same year the swinging bridge was removed, (to the town folks great relief) and in its place, a wood trestle bridge was constructed for automotive traffic to cross in to town. Previous to that, all automobiles entering #2 Yukon entered by fording the river on the West end of town. I'll take a guess and say, President Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration, better known as the W.P.A, did the bridge. I didn't care who got rid of the swinging bridge because I was glad to see it go.

As you crossed the bridge to the north side of the river, you could travel East toward Buchanan where there was a store slightly East and North of the Railroad Crossing, it was a large two story white building that is no longer there. You had an option to walk the gravel road or a smooth path alongside of the Railroad, which in those days was kept clean and clear for walking by the Railroad Company. I would walk this path toward Buchanan to meet my Dad, coming from work in the late afternoon so he could read the latest episode of Dynamite Dunn, Captain Easy and Washtubs, also Joe Palooka. All were comic strip characters in 1934 that I followed with great interest. As soon as we met, he would sit down and read to me.

After crossing to the north side of the river just to your left was a large slag pile. I understand in later years, this type of rejected coal was reclaimed, I recall this mound was thirty to forty feet high at a length of 150 to 200 feet long. The gravel road continued west past the slag pile to a series of metal garages on the left of the road, that I assume was used by Coal Company Officials prior to #2 Yukon mine explosion in 1924, no one used them in 1934, there were only three or four garages as I remember.

West of the garages 1/10 of a mile there was a place where local black people gathered for family picnics but most of the time men only were present for Rooster fighting, betting on the outcome of the fights, eating and drinking. I remember walking down to that area several times when there was no one there, I also remember being there on one occasion when the Rooster fighting was in progress! I had walked in and positioned myself at the edge of the ring, everyone was shouting and urging their roosters to fight, they didn't notice me standing there looking over the rings edge observing all that was going on until the fight was over. About half of the crowd noticed me at the same time, red hair, white skin against a sea of black and then the laughter and good natured teasing started, such as,' hey Henry! Is that your boy, I bet with that red hair, if you give him a small stick, he could whip any Rooster we could throw in the ring." A man standing beside me said," little man you shouldn't be here. You need to go home, I believe you come here to get a candy bar," He then walked over to a nearby snack bar and returned to hand me a candy bar, I don't remember thanking him but I'm sure he could see the happiness on my face as he told me to hurry home. I said," yes sir" and left.

When you cross the bridge to enter #2 Yukon on the South bank of the river; to your left front there was a mine entrance opening that was partially closed because of natural soil erosion. Just to the right of the mine entrance was a small building that at some time in the past must have served as an electrical or telephone switching center. About ten feet south of this building was an Electrical Sub Station that we stayed clear of, although we played freely in this small building, I was playing in this building one evening with a friend my age, when a disconnect breaker in the nearby sub station opened with a loud bang and a electrical arcing that caused me and my friend to evacuate this small building thinking we had caused the sub station to blowup. It didn't help my being afraid when I got home, because I was told the entire village was out of power, but I felt much better when I heard someone had chopped a tree down that accidentally fell across a power line at Berwind.

The site of the present day Church is where the livestock gathered at night, and where the logging horse injured the small girl. The northwest corner of the Church covers an area where a Mine Company Office was located. A few feet west there is still standing a boarding house that I played in Seventy-One years ago. It was vacant in 1934 and it appears to have remained vacant since 1934 to this year, 2005. There was an explosion in the #2 Yukon mine; on March 28.1924 killing 24 miners. Knowing today about the explosion, I wonder how many men went to work from this boarding house, to return no more. Also did the 1924 explosion cause a complete #2 mine closure? I remember this boarding house was vacant in 1934 and 1935; and appeared to have been for sometime.

In continuing to describe #2 yukon; Running the entire length of the road, between the double row of houses, was a set of tram tracks, That were of small gauge and bonded with copper grounding straps, that I analyze today as being used for mining cars and at some time in the past, used an over head electric trolley system, that I come to recognize in later years at Gary mine operation. Only the track remained while most of the copper straps had been removed and probably sold to a scrap man for a few pennies.

One night I was awakened by the sound of muffled voices in our back yard, I knew I wasn't invited to that get together, so I just watched as a group of men moved our coal pile and dug a hole where the coal use to be. They begin placing something into the hole, but it was dark enough to keep me from seeing what they were putting into the hole. I recognized my Dad, uncle Charlie and my oldest brother Delmer. There were two other men I didn't know, and I didn't know what that treasure was, but I knew my cousin an I would dig it up in the morning. Feeling sleepy I left the window and went back to bed.

I was always early to bed and early to rise and the next morning was no exception. I went next door and joined up with my six year old cousin, William Reece Snow, a future retired Navy Chief Petty Officer and my self, a future retired Air Force Senior Sergeant, proceeded to dig up that treasure, when a loud voice from my uncle Charlie brought us to a screeching halt by saying," What are you doing? Get away from there!" Since one of our commanding officers had spoken; We dropped our shovels and ran to the front side of the house.

When my dad talked to me and I told him what I saw, he suggested that I must have had a dream. When I said I felt it was not a dream, he replied it's best you forget it, but a week later the coal pile was moved and there was fresh dirt in its place. A day or two later I went into my older brothers small lounge and reading room, to discover small wooden kegs, stacked almost to the ceiling with blankets draped over them, and my brothers lying on top of them reading about World War One air combat. I overheard my brothers talking about the barrels containing moonshine whiskey. I had found the treasure that caused me to invoke the old saying, I knew if I wanted to stay out of trouble I should " let a sleeping dog sleep." One week later all the barrels were gone, peace and harmony between my mother and dad reigned again.

When I was twenty years old and a Sergeant in the 82nd Airborne, stationed at Fort Bragg, NC, I had the nerve to ask my dad about the whiskey stored at our house in 1935 at Yukon #2. He told me, that an old family friend had contacted him and ask for his help, because the State Police had setup a roadblock at Berwind in anticipation of his coming through this part of the county. I agreed to help him, but after we buried the whiskey in the yard, your mother took a fit over the entire situation, insisting on moving it into the house, since you and Reece had tried to uncover the buried whiskey. I felt we should keep a close eye on it until we could get rid of it, So on a dark night we moved the whiskey into the house, and on a dark night we moved the whiskey out on the same stake bed canvas covered truck that it came in on. They offered to pay me and Charlie, but we said no, They offered us each a keg of whiskey, that we accepted and your mother become more easy to live with, after I promised never to do that a again.

Around the hillside from our school toward the housing area, there was a water tank that I believe supplied water to company operation buildings at one time and for fire fighting. During the time I lived there it appeared to be abandoned, I On one occasion I climbed a ladder on the tanks side and looked in an entrance opening on top of the tank, I was looking for skeletons of, babies or animals, because I had heard gossip that squirrels, opossums, and raccoons would accidentally fall in and un wed mothers would throw their still born babies away. Today that is what I call an old wives tale. Rest assured I didn't know what a still borne meant, but I was sure I could recognize a Babies skeleton. The only thing I saw was a tank almost full of dark water. The tank was about 25 feet tall made of wood, close to having a 12 foot diameter with water dripping from the bottom sections of the tank. My family never knew as a seven year old, that I climbed the side of that very old and dangerous tank, because I knew what I would get, I never told my parents or other family members what I did.

I discovered I didn't have to climb an old rickety water tank for an adventure. Because at the one room school the playground was about 600 square feet of adventure that had rocks the size of oranges and grapefruits protruding out of the ground. Our playground equipment consisted of one seesaw; three small ones on one end two larger children on the other end. I remember we never fussed over it. We willing shared its use and gave it a workout

One day a new neighbor, said to my aunt Ocee Snow," is that little red head boy of Mrs. Warf afflicted with something," after observing me my aunt replied," if his mother sees him doing that monkey shining gyration, he will wish he is afflicted." My aunt spoke to my mother, my mother questioned me and this is what I was doing, (I would stretch my right arm and kick my right leg as far out as I could stretch it then do the same for my left arm and leg, then roll my shoulders up, down, forward and back and do a shake of my hips, my mother said," why are you doing that!" I replied," my under wear is too tight under my arms and between my legs." I was wearing hand me down long john under wear, that had been washed so many times; it had shrunk, to where it was unbearable. My mother took me in the house where a pair of scissors, some similar material and her pedal singer sewing machine cured my affliction. Everyone wore patched and hand me down clothes in 1935, but they were always kept clean by being boiled in water and strong soap mixture, in a wash tub over a fire in the back yard or run through our gasoline driven Maytag washing machine

Our neighbor had a grocery delivery, from the Buchanan Store, at Buchanan crossing, the people were not home so the deliverymen deposited the groceries on the edge of the porch and left. This delivery included a 50-pound sack of flour that our milk cow found after dark and ate its fill, which caused it to founder and die. Under the no fence law, the owner of the Buchanan Store had to protect the cow, as I remember to a cost of 100 hundred dollars. For what that cow provided as a milk cow, we considered it to be a great loss. The cow was buried because it had been dead too long. Although it was a depression year we were not that hungry.

At the end of summer1935 my dad was hired by the United States Steel corporation at Gary.There was no indoor plumbing, but we had indoor water and due to the size of our family we were given a six-room house, which in reality was two adjoining three-room duplexes. Our future home was at Venus # 10 Gary, that had a large United Supply Company store, which served as a recreation point for men and boys, to congregate for planning boy and men activities as well as discussing mining, sports and world current events. This store also acted as an extension of the mining company control, of low wages, high commodity price and issue of company paper money, called script, which was redeemable only at company stores.

We lived at Venus for the next ten years without having enough extra money to purchase a hot water heater or a Refrigerator. My mother bought a very small wrist watch from a suit case peddler for 37 dollars, 1 dollar down and 50.cents a week for 72 weeks, that is a testimony to our purchasing power from my dads wages brought in to the home. You would think my dad had a lot of vices, he had one, smoking! Once in a blue moon he drank a beer or a shot of whiskey, but never in excess, he never made a gamble wager in his life, worked every day that was available for him to work for his wife and children. When I cut scrip at the company store and purchased our groceries, I remember Camel cigarettes were ten cents a pack in 1938.

After a year of weekly payments on my mothers watch, one of my older brothers paid off my mothers dept, a year later my mother lost her wrist watch because the band broke when she was walking from Venus to main Gary Post Office, following the railroad tracks, the next morning on my way to school I found her watch, frost covered and shining in the morning sun. I ran back home with it and it made my mother so happy, she gave me three or four Yankee Nickels, (which is a kiss, a substitute for a real Nickel. That she didn't have, but was gladly accepted by me). Ever since I was very small my mother would promise to give me a nickel, for doing chores for her and I would only get a kiss on the cheek, at first I was disappointed, but I begin to look forward to being kissed and tenderly hugged.

During this time I was in the second grade at Gary Elementary school, Corporal punishment was allowed in 1935, but what I suffered was abuse. Four of us students were in a line at the back of the room, I was ask to spell the word, " Get, " I spelled the word, "Gut, " she said no! Spell it again! When I spelled it gut again, she then slapped me so hard I almost fell. She hit me again! And again! And again! Today I would say," that at the moment I had a complete mental block," I continued to spell the word incorrectly and she continued to slap me. I thought; if you don't quit slapping me, you are going to kill me. And if she had killed me! She would have killed an Engineer that assisted in test firing the very Saturn rocket during the Apollo program that put Neil Armstrong on the moon. I finally spelled the word correctly and she stopped hitting me, although my jaw hurt, and was swollen, I didn't tell my mother for fear she would come to the school and put a whipping on the teacher, but I did tell my older sister Vanneta, and she took it on her self to come to the class-room every evening to walk me home. I won't tell you the name of the teacher because she might still have relatives that live in the area, she must have been a frustrated old maid, I'm sure she is dead now so let her rest in peace. Although I had a tough time in the beginning with some Teachers and schoolwork, I believe I turned out ok. Some things I didn't deserve and some things I did. "Some times the Bear gets you and some times you get the Bear."

Negro league Baseball was being played at Gary #10 when we moved there in 1935. The ball-field had a bleacher with overhead rain protection , I remember the House of David traveling ball team, complete with beards played there also. I'm sure the field had a colored past," no pun intended," it would be interesting to know who those traveling teams were. A strong wind caused it to collapse, over the bank and into Tug River in 1936 or 1937.

When you consider in a coal camp that the company owns almost every thing, except where the state and railroad owns the remainder, this left very little ownership for the workers and their families that included the clothes on their back and a pitiful bit of furniture in their homes, during the 1930s. The company and other owners felt no need or responsibility to provide facilities or equipment for children to play that caused us to entertain our selves on company property and it was by Gods grace that I didn't perish in the coal tipple

The tipple at # 10 mine would shut down on the weekend, and I would walk the tram tracks from the carpenter shop, under the roadway, up the track incline to the mine entrance. I had no intention to steal, break, or misplace anything as I wandered around machine shop and tipple. I was very inquisitive as to how things were used and how they operated, I entered the tipple at the top through the scale area down a ladder to a picking table, walked across a large auger combination tooth coal crusher, slide down the inside of a slick steel chute and exited through a trap door to a ladder down to the ground where the railroad cars were loaded, I traveled that route many times when I was ten and eleven years old, not fully realizing the danger of having someone showing up and starting the machinery for maintenance or test purposes. I was always alone on this and other escapades.

I loved to fish and wander through the mountains by my self, there were a couple of little girl friends that liked to fish with me. I hope they continued to be fisher women and remembered me as I have remembered them. They would go with me even in the wintertime when using a homemade spear we speared some fish through thin ice near the bank. Since the water was clear, prior to coal cleaning plants blackening the water, we would use a thin copper wire to make a loop at the end then let it hang down three or four feet off the end of a pole, that allowed the loop to be lowered to the fishes nose, over his head and with a swift pull you could jerk the fish out of the water.

Wandering through the mountains by you rself had its pitfalls of danger, I recall very vividly on one occasion in 1938. I walked up the ridge from # 10 store toward # 11 mine, when I come upon a high cliff that I tried to look over the edge, and in the process I dislodged a loose stone that fell to the bottom of the cliff. There arose a sound like a swarm of bees, cricket or other insects. Then after a minute or two the buzzing stopped, but each time I threw a rock over the edge I got the same cycle of buzzing and silence. I never saw any snakes below the cliff because of heavy weeds, but I have always thought I had come upon a den of rattlesnakes. I ask an old black man if he was afraid of snakes and he said," There are two kinds of snakes that I'm afraid of," I said," copper heads and rattle snakes," He said, "no! Dead ones and live ones," what he said, expresses my feelings still for my entire life.

All of the boys between the ages of 8 to12 that lived at Gary #10 would slip into the company barn where the mining mules were kept and play in the large bins of corn on the second floor of the barn. We would play like we were covering our arms and legs with sand on a beach. You could only do that when the hired help wasn't around. Corn was brought in by boxcar and conveyed to the grain bins. On this day I had visited the barn alone by climbing an apple tree on the north side of the barn. Then I climbed onto the roof using toe and finger leverage I crawled up to the roof apex air vent, that ran several feet along the top of the roof, thru some loose vent wood slats down an air shaft into a large corn bin, I played like I was in a swimming pool. After I got tired of playing in the grain, I decided to go downstairs and look at the mules in their stalls. Now you would have thought I would walk to the end of the barn and walk down the stairs. But no!! I found a corn feed shaft near by down to a stall below that had no splinters after grain thru the years had worn it smooth. I looked down the shaft and after listening and hearing nothing below, I slid down the shaft and landed on my butt in the feed trough, I looked up and saw the largest, meanest mule I had ever seen standing in the corner, he curled his upper lip up to his nose to bite me, but he made a mistake he only stretched his neck toward me, he failed to take a step and stretch his neck which allowed me enough time to escape and leave the way I came into the barn.

Tug River was so un-sanitary we tried to keep our river swimming to a minimum. We went up the hollow, near the powder house and built a rock dam across the mountain stream, that head-watered at the top of the hollow coming out of the drift mouth of a mine on Mr. Kelley's lease. This water was so cold that we only got into it on the hottest days.

 

Some of The Good ---The Bad

The Good:

Coming home from school one after noon, I heard a puppy crying, sitting on a rock in the branch that run past Gary school. This was in 1937, when people wanted to get rid of new-borne pets by drowning them in the rivers. I pulled up my trouser legs, waded in to the water and carried the puppy home. My mother took one look at the puppy and said," you can't keep that dog because it's a female,' what she knew at that time, which I didn't know, was we didn't have the money or inclination to take her to a veterinary to spay her, so she could not have puppies. I took the puppy to a wooded area tied it to a tree, fed and watered it for three days before a neighbor told my mother who followed me and said,' if you think that much about that dog you can bring her home.' I named her Brownie, found homes for all of her puppies. She lived thirteen years and died in1950 after an operation for breast cancer. The entire family had so much love for Brownie that regardless of our age, we cried.

The Bad

When you observed two or three company officials wearing white helmets drive up and enter a company workers home, you knew they were carrying bad news and this morning was no different. We were waiting at # 10 church for the school bus to arrive, but on the opposite side of the bridge, first house on the right the officials arrived before the bus. They entered then the screaming and the crying begin which always followed bad news. A young man, who was the Power House operator with a young wife and child, had perished at his workplace that morning. The news got around quickly that he had walked on to the trapdoor to breakup some frozen chunks of coal and was dropped into the furnace to never appear again.

Death in a coal camp during the thirties wasn't cosmetically glossed over, not even covered with a sheet of cloth or canvas in some cases. Walking home from Gary school one afternoon where the sidewalk made a right angle turn walking away from the school, a black man was lying on the ground about a foot from the sidewalk, blood had coagulated in the road dust indicating he had been there for a while. There was a one armed deputy sheriff standing there His last name was Christensen. An adult ask what happened and Christensen said," I was called to a domestic argument and when I started to arrest him, he pulled a knife on me, " When you turn a corner and suddenly see a dead man, you have a tendency to stand and stare. (This happened in 1938) Christensen told us to move on.

I went to the company store at Venus #10, walked up the steps to the store porch there in front of the store entrance was a dead black man. The blood had run away from his head to cover a large area of the store porch, while people were stepping over the blood and around him I stood there and stared as it brought back memories of the year before. Several men were talking and one of them said," the fellow that did the killing, said he was going to kill him if he come over to the store today, because he had been messing with his woman, they got into an argument, he jerked out a razor grabbed him and cut his throat. " People kept stepping over the blood to enter and exit the store. No one covered him while waiting for the police And an ambulance, although flies were having a field day over this mans blood. This happened in 1939. I was eleven years old and had seen enough so I left prior to the body removal. The store was a United Supply Company store.

This also happened in 1939. I had awakened early and gone out to play, it was on a Sunday morning, I had a pocket of marbles so I made a circle in the dusty road and proceeded to practice shooting marbles. I was playing in the road between Mr. Dooley's house above the road and Mr. Blackwell's house below the road. After a while I become aware of these men talking to each other from their respective front and back porches. Since they worked at different mines, they talked about doubling back on their shifts, production picking up and etc. Before the week was out both men were killed at their mine and buried. I was eleven or twelve at the time, down through the years I have traveled back to that snapshot memory in time, a boy and two men privy to their conversation, with very different providence of future life. It's my remembrance that both lost their lives in rock falls.

In my class at school there was a boy, that my dad knew his dad from Carroll county Virginia, (I don't remember his name.) My dad sometimes would allow me to spend a night with him. My friend lived up the hollow above the # 2 mine, I was spending a Saturday night with him when his dad ask us to go down to the mine and get a sack of coal. We went down to pick up coal that had fallen off the bank cars, after picking up three quarters of a sack and finding not enough coal on the ground to fill the sack, I volunteered to throw coal off of the bank car, there was a drizzle of rain coming down which was just enough to make my hair damp, I suddenly smelled burning hair that caused me to squat down, and move to one side of the bank car at which time I wiped my hand across my head and wiped a handful of scorched hair off of my head. I had made several passes beneath a high voltage trolley line. I will always believe a supreme being was exercising his providence over me as he had in other times. This happened to me in 1938.

During the year 0f1939 coal production was up through out McDowell County contributed to the talk of war breaking out in Europe. Employment in the coal industry had improved, because there was not one house that was boarded up at Gary # 10 like it was in 1935 when we moved there. The United Mine Workers of America, was well organized in the county, partly contributed to by my dad cutting a dogwood club and carving UMWA on it, It was a fearful looking thing, it would put to shame the club that Alley Oop the cave man comic character of the time carried. I know of no one who passed that club on the picket line

I would say the depression was over, people started buying a few automobiles, in1938 and 1939,but they were not out of the woods yet. Because they were not eating as high on the hog as they would like .My three oldest brothers and my sister Vanneta went to war after 1941, I finally joined the military and arrived at Ft. Benning, Georgia, it was a hot day in July to start Paratroop School. A large muscular army sergeant said to us, " men you have arrived at a place where it's mind over matter. We don't mind and you don't matter, we have a sixty percent washout in this school training," my thoughts were, I was born with the depression raised in a tough company owned coal mining community on short rations and now seventeen years old, so knock off your tough talk and get on with the program. Five weeks later after participating in five operational parachute jumps, out of C47 Aircraft and three troop glider takeoff and landings in CG4 Gliders, a paratroop Major, ten days prior to my eighteenth birthday, pinned my Paratroop wings on me.

After 4 years in the Army I was discharged and passed exams for the Virginia state police force. While waiting for a call to state police school, the Korean War started. I enlisted in the Air Force for an additional 17 years military service, I feel I fought the cold war as a supervisor of maintenance of large AACS radio stations which were long range point to point single side band multiplex radio communication networks. Teaching the onboard inertial computer guidance system of the intra continual ballistic minuteman missile for target accuracy. And also as a detachment commander on St. Lawrence Island Alaska, in support of a security squadron and an aircraft early warning squadron, guarding the northern approaches to the United States, I believe is a testimony to the fact that although the depression years were tough on America's children, they were up to the task of standing up to protecting our freedom both at home and abroad, thanks to people like Mrs. Cox a first grade teacher who taught us children how to sing God Bless America, America the beautiful and to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I would like to know much more today about Mrs. Cox than I can remember about her now. She left a good lifelong impression on me.

After retiring from the Air Force I have worked as an electrical engineer on the Apollo program, at Bay St. Louis Miss. which put the first people on the moon, and for the next twenty two years was employed as an electrical startup engineer, for large industrial facilities to name a few: Litton ship systems, builder of nuclear sub marines, naval and commercial ships, Schlitz Brewing Company plants at Winston Salem NC, Longview Texas and Baldwinsville NY, Nuclear Power facilities at Phoenix AZ, VC Sumner plant in SC, and Madisonville IN, and several General Motors plants. GOD has been good to me, ROMANS 8:28.

Comments should be addressed to: cwarf3@insighbb.com



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