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William H. Berge Oral History Center

Interview with Mr. J.C. Slaven (1981 oh 465)

September 19, 1978

Conducted by William H. Berge

Transcribed by Emma Roach-Barrette

WILLIAM BERGE (WB): The following is an unrehearsed taped interview with Mr. J.C. Slaven of Revelo, Kentucky. The interview was conducted by William Berge of the Oral History Center at Eastern Kentucky University at Mr. Slaven's home in Revelo at, on September 19th 1978 at 10 am.

WB:: Well Mr. Slaven uh.

J.C. SLAVEN (JCS): Would it be alright if we sit right here?

WB: Oh sure yeah just say something.

JCS: Okay.

WB: Say something again.

JCS: Uh.

WB: Yeah that's good.

JCS: About the right distance?

WB: Yeah. Now uh what I'm what, what we're going to do today; I want to thank you for having me, letting me come to your home down here, is this Revelo?

JCS: Mm hmm Revelo, Kentucky this is Revelo.

WB: For the first thing just tell me your name, your full name.

JCS: J.C. Slaven.

WB: Okay.

JCS: But they call me Joseph now Joseph Castelo Slaven is really, but I just go with J. C. Slaven.

WB: C-A-S-T-E-L-O?

JCS: Yeah that's right.

WB: But you never been called Castelo?

JCS: Well yes, when back in my school days and all but after I got out of school and into the industry why then I just made J.C. big part of the time. But on my social security and all that it's Joseph C. Slaven that the way to come.

WB: How did you get the name Castelo, I've never heard it before.

JCS: I don't know. Well my mother told me some old lady drink my name and said if they called me that why I'd have good luck. But that old lady sure was messed up. [laughing]

WB: [laughing] Where were you born?

JCS: Scott County, Tennessee.

WB: That's not too far from here?

JCS: No, just across the line.

WB: Uh huh. Where were your parents from?

JCS: They was from down there to.

WB: What was your father's name?

JCS: John, John Slaven.

WB: What was your mother's name?

JCS: Savana Smith.

WB: Savana Smith?

JCS: Yeah.

WB: Where were their parents from? Do you know?

JCS: Well I couldn't tell you that I, I just I don't know. I might have had it but it's been too long I can't remember, I don't know. As far as I know they was from back in that neighborhood there somewhere.

WB: Uh, do you have any brothers and sisters?

JCS: Yeah I've got let's see I had one brother killed in Second World War, had one got killed in a car wreck, and then I got two brothers still living, and I got a sister living.

WB: Where do they live?

JCS: They live in Oneida. That's just.

WB: That's just.

JCS: Just across the line.

WB: Uh, Mr. Slaven what year were you born?

JCS: Born in 1901 February 19.

WB: You were almost born in 1900.

JCS: Yeah that's right, almost.

WB: Yeah. The uh, did you go to school?

JCS: I completed the fifth grade that's the farthest I could go.

WB: Down in Scott County?

JCS: Down in Scott County yeah. But back then now the fifth grade is about the, I guess about eighth grade.

WB: Yeah that was pretty good.

JCS: Cause you, you had to really get as far as you got.

WB: Yeah, yeah. What was the first work you did? Do you remember?

JCS: Well the first work I did was around Saw Mills. Now working in Saw Mills and driving teams, driving mules and logs and stuff like that around saw mills, just you know but uh.

WB: For money?

JCS: Yeah that's right.

WB: Did uh, how old were you then, do you remember?

JCS: I started now helping my Dad in the Ty Wood and things in the woods about 11 years old, but that as uh about when I was about 14 and 15 when I was logging and driving the teams.

WB: Well you said before we were talking here you were in the army. When did you go in the army?

JCS: I went into the army I guess 19, 1919. In other words they had just signed.

WB: The Armistice?

JCS: Yeah, I was too young I mean but uh I forged my dad's name and went in. They wouldn't take me without him singing it. I said yeah he's signed it. I just went off around the corner and signed his name and brought it back and give it to them and said "here you go".

WB: Where did you go when you were in the army?

JCS: I went to uh Camp Taylor. Camp Taylor, Kentucky that's was the first base I was stationed. Then we went uh they tore that camp out and we moved to Camp Dixon, New Jersey. And I stayed there till I retired, I mean my time was up.

WB: Did you like the army?

JCS: Uh well I got to liking it very well, but oh Lord they made me reenlist. I said "I wouldn't reenlist" oh they told me "times hard" I told them "theys harder than when I got in, I'm going back".

WB: What did you do in the army?

JCS: I cooked.

WB: Did you like that?

JCS: Yeah I liked it very well.

WB: Do you still cook?

JCS: Oh yeah, yeah I cook a lot. I help my wife cook. I can cook just about anything I can bake biscuits or do anything I want to in the kitchen.

WB: What year did you marry?

JCS: 1921.

WB: After you got out of the army then? Where was your wife from?

JCS: She was from down in Tennessee where I was at.

WB: And what was her name?

JCS: Betty Thomas.

WB: Betty Thomas.

JCS: Betty Thomas.

WB: How many children do you all have?

JCS: We've had I guess nine children. Two of them dead the rest of them gone living.

WB: Where did you, when did you come to Kentucky?

JCS: 1924.

WB: Why did you come? Do you remember?

JCS: Well I was helping build a bridge down in New River, Tennessee across the river there, a highway bridge. And I went down got a job helping to build that bridge. And my brother was working down the mine up here, Stern down at a place they called Co-Op and uh.

WB: The Sterns Company?

JCS: Yeah and he got me a job hostling after the machine. I'd hostled some before that.

WB: What does that mean?

JCS: Like working after a coal machines.

WB: Uh huh. What's the word hostl?

JCS: Yeah that's the feller that helps the machine out.

WB: How do you spell that?

JCS: H-O-S-T-L-E-R is the way we spell it.

WB: Oh hostler.

JCS: Yeah a hostler. He shovel the dust out from under the machine, help sets the jacks, and stuff like that it's just a two man job you know, but the machine I mean the hostler now when I started he got fifty cents an hour and the machine men got sixty-two and a half cents an hour.

WB: That was a lot of money then wasn't it?

JCS: That was a lot of money then; I worked on up till I got machine man and Lord I was tickled with it. I was making little over a penny a minute I was you know. Lord it [unclear] it wouldn't buy much now.

WB: No sir. When you came to Kentucky then you went to work for the Sterns Company.

JCS: Went to work for the Sterns Company worked for them till I retired.

WB: In other words, after you came to Kentucky you always worked for the Sterns Company?

JCS: Always well they, they come in, Rick Scambles took over the mine he kept it a while, but except that all the work I'd done was for Sterns Coal and Lumber Company.

WB: How many years was that?

JCS: I put up forty-six years. I guess let's see. No I guess forty-four years I worked two years at a little old mine down on what you call Warn W. Railroad out from Oneida at Zone. I put up two years at that mine forty-four years at Stern's Coal and Lumber Company.

WB: What kind of work did you do for them over those years?

JCS: Well I started out hosteling after the machine, and then they made me a machine boss kept that a while, and then went from that to assistant foreman, then from assistant foreman to mine foreman, then from mine foreman to superintendent, then from superintendent to general superintendent over all the mines.

WB: Oh, and you were with them the whole time?

JCS: I was with them the whole time.

WB: Well who were the people you worked with that you remember real well?

JCS: Oh there's a lot of them fellers like Gran Smith, and he's still living Gran Smith is, but the big part of them is dead those old timers I worked with.

WB: Who was Gran Smith?

JCS: Uh he, he was a mine foreman. There was two mines at this Co-Op mine there was one called the North Side and the South Side and he was the mine foreman on the North Side. I started out on the Southside and worked on up to mine foreman over there then finally got to be superintendent. But he worked on till he retired and uh he's older than I am, he's eighty about eighty-four or eighty-five years old now he's still living.

WB: Uh huh. Most of those men you worked with Sterns Company those years did they stay around here?

JCS: Yeah a lot of them [unclear]. Now the mines worked on up till I guess 1950. I believe they was and then the mine shut down and uh when it shut down of course it was they had signed up with the United Mine Workers and they, Bob Sterns was uh the head of the thing and he said "boys, I just can't get with this new contract soon if you can't give us summary of something we'll just have to quit", I believe it's the way he told them. And they were good, so he just closed all the mines down. So me and this Gran Smith stayed there at Co-Op and worked there we worked three years just keeping the mines up you know keeping it in shape to operate if they decided to. Then they decided to pull the steel out of it. We pulled all the steel out of it and then, and then these men all got together and they made them a union called it the McCrery County Miners Union. And uh, so then they signed the contract with them then, Sterns Company did and they started Mine 18 back then.

WB: Where's that?

JCS: That's down on up the river now up Big South Fork, back over this way and uh so they sent me to Mine 18 and I went down there and stayed there for eight years at Mine 18.

WB: Did you live down there?

JCS: Yeah, yeah we lived there and uh.

WB: What did they call that camp just Mine 18?

JCS: They called it Blue Heron.

WB: Oh Blue Heron.

JCS: Yeah that's what they called it, that's down right there you're going to here, this Devils Jump.

WB: Mm hm.

JCS: That's right by it, just down there shortly from Devils Jump.

WB: You take a lot of coal out of there?

JCS: Yeah, yeah and we worked all out we robbed it and worked it up worked it out you know. And then they sent me to Mine 16 that's back up Rock Creek

WB: What's the name of that camp?

JCS: That was, uh well that just went by Mine 16 that's the way it was.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: And the post office was Co-Op. Co-Op Kentucky was still the post office.

WB: When you live, when you worked those mines you always lived right there where the miens were?

JCS: Oh yeah, not till when I left Mine 18 and they transferred me to Mine 16 we bought this place where right here where we live.

WB: Oh.

JCS: That's been 16 years ago the sixth day of this last August.

WB: So you went to 16 you just stayed here?

JCS: I went to 16 and we just lived here, and I drove back and then stayed there and then we began to develop some more mines and they made me general superintendent over all. Well let's see there Mine 21, Mine 22, Mine 23, Mine 24, Mine 25, and then Mine 16.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: And uh they put me over all the mines, and I worked on them until I guess the first of 1967 then I retired, or was it 66?

WB: When you were superintendent of the mine did you travel around there every day to see?

JCS: Oh yeah I moved, I tried to do every day to see and I wouldn't go in all of them tried to go in one every day.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: And uh I was right there with them and then I retired and oh they begged me to work on. I was 66 years old when I retired and they begged me to work on. Then I quit and it was all about three months to come to for minute, I go back they said "if you go back and work just build your office, only thing to do is just sit in that office" I said "I ain't going back, I'm not going back". Then they started this Justice Mine down here that's the one they got now--

WB: Yeah.

JCS: Justice Mine, and they want to put a slope down, thirteen percent grade 800 feet down to the coal. And they got, went up to West Virginia and got some feller to, to uh put the slope down. He stayed down there two or three weeks and I don't know what happened if he quit or whether they fired him or what, but anyway they come to me and wanted to ask me if I'd go down and put that slope down I said "yeah I'd go down and try". I went down and worked about six weeks I guess or longer, put that slope down. It was rather tiring to put that down, so that's down at this mine where there having this trouble.

WB: Yeah.

JCS: Where their out on strike. But uh.

WB: But after you put the slop in there you never did work at the Justice Mine.

JCS: I never did, maybe I'd go back if they wanted me to go back go into mining look about something you know, maybe there's a hit, a squeeze or something they want me to go in and look at it see what it's all about something like that and uh that's all.

WB: Mr. Slaven, now these mines this coal here for the Sterns Company about how, how thick were the seams of the coal you were in?

JCS: Now a big part of this coal that I'm talking about that we worked now at Co-Op mine.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: We'll go back to that, but that they started that mine in the number one seem that was in the North Side of the Mountain and the Southside well they worked all of that drove it up.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: Then they robbed both sides robbed it on the North Side then they went through the mountain.

WB: What do you mean by robbing?

JCS: That's brining the coal all out. Just going back and getting the fillers and bringing it out.

WB: Oh yeah.

JCS: As soon as you drive up, you drive up maybe a par entrance then a parallel one of them and another and then you'll leave twenty foot filler between them. And then.

WB: Robbing is when you take the fillers out?

JCS: That's when you take the fillers out you go back and bring it all.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: And so uh, but now that they went on through at Co-Op through the mountain and in to what we call the number two seam. The number two and the number one are always from graft forty and sixty foot apart.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: And they drove through the mountain and went into the number two seam now they worked that then and that's where this coal was I'm going to tell you about it. We looked at for about three years we was in there number two seam and we pulled out we never robbed that mine they pulled out and left it. Left all the coal in there, never robbed it. Then with this coal I'm talking to you about this 21, 22, 16, 24, 25 that was all in the number two coal and uh so they drove them up and there was no robbing down on them, as well as I don't remember, they just pulled out and let go. But uh they got their mind down here all of its heading back to the mine I'm a tell you about down here.

WB: Justice?

JCS: Justice Mine, and they getting back down there. But it was a battle at that time getting in there. They drove in to the number two coal there for a long way just kind of far, I don't know how far. And then then it went down into the number one and the number, number one and a half is two seems. Now they were played from oh they were played from 8, 12, 14 foot apart that no one wanted a one and a half seem down.

WB: Huh.

JCS: And they drove up mines to Mine 15 they worked up there and when the number one they started in the number one I guess when it played out they'd just go down to the one and a half just shot down [unclear].

WB: Huh.

JCS: It play out go back to another to one and a half I mean up on the number one, that's the way it was.

WB: Huh.

JCS: And just you be a robbing you know and if you leave a number alone in number one here or one and half it fall out into this other seam if you was down in the bottom it fall out and you could see it out there. Fall out big chunks of it yeah.

WB: Well, how thick was the coal?

JCS: Oh I'll tell you a feller over there at Co-Op had eleven foot, the average.

WB: Eleven foot?

JCS: Eleven foot, but the average of it was about four, four and a half. Now that's just about average.

WB: Well compared to about coal strip mining now that was a lot of coal?

JCS: Oh Lord, Lord, yeah. Now the number two it run from anytime it run over you run over forty-four, forty-five inches you better be looking you'd be down at what we called the jack you wouldn't be in pure coal you'd be down in impurities you know.

WB: Mm hmm.

JCS: There's a jack growing from that much to on up to that much under this coal and it's black. You'd better be careful if you get down in that would count [unclear] that's about the average height. Now the number two seam it run forty forty-four to forty-five inches.

WB: Back in those days when you were at Co-Op about how many tons of coal were you mining a day?

JCS: When that mine shut down we were at 900 tons a day.

WB: How many men?

JCS: I believe it was 200 hundred men. We was working 200 men when that mine shut down. Every time you put on a coal hold on you put on a ship man you usually about 100 coal holds you have a 100 ship men.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: That's just about the way it run yeah, but we was working two hundred men there now when that mine shut down. But now back, now that was all place I told you about was when in the number two coal.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: But when they was in that number one coal they run more coal than that, with all that big fine coal you know. Four and half five six foot coal boy it was easy mine. I know why I was machine boss there I don't know how long I was machine boss, long time, but the superintendent would show me the cost sheet you know and we was cutting that coal for nine cents a ton.

WB: Dear, that was something else isn't it?

JCS: Lord, Lord Yes. Nine cent a ton

WB: What were miners making then?

JCS: They was making uh they pay them not uh a miner now he loads by the ton.

WB: Yeah.

JCS: Depending on his height now.

WB: Yeah.

JCS: His weights would depend on the height of his coal. If he had forty inch coal why it would be maybe seventy or seventy-five cents a ton, and if it was bigger it would be cheaper you know it just varied up and down.

WB: Yeah.

JCS: And the coal he loaded now he loaded by the ton that's what he made. If he loaded none he make none.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: So finally this contract now that I'm talking to you about that they had with the United Mine Workers, he got paid I believe four dollars a day. If he went inside if he got knocked out or he just loaded one car or something he got four dollars extra.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: Of course that's one thing that broke the camel's back they couldn't they couldn't stand it.

WB: Yeah, yeah.

JCS: Cause and they, they. Now there wasn't too many of it, but there were some fellers that just come out and they'd been leaving he wouldn't try and get his place ready to cut it a lot of time he'd come out then the next day he'd go back and load him a car full. But now a lot of times if you had a good foreman on that section he would clean up the place and I've got another place to be up to shortly they just get paranoid.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: [laughing] He'd have to go up there and load if he why he didn't, he didn't get that. I believe that's the way the contract worked.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: If he refused to go up and load he didn't get that, but if he went on load he still got that you see.

WB: That uh, in those days, uh did you ever have many caves in?

JCS: Yeah, Lord yeah. We got they, I don't know right I couldn't tell you. That the men got killed by rock there in that mine lord yeah, by boulders, and I don't know electrocuted.

WB: Yeah.

JCS: There was a lot of men killed in the mimes there.

WB: Did you use mules in the mine?

JCS: No not there, but now the first mining I'd done that down in this old mine I tell you about back on the Old W. Railroad down in Zinnia, Tennessee why they had mules there.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: And I drove a mule there, had a spike team and got up where you go you had to go right in right in front of the coal that's what you call a spike team. [Unclear] I think that us spike team we got three, three quarters fourth [unclear].

WB: That was good job though?

JCS: Oh it was a good job, yes sir. It was the best paying job there was a round there. Same way now when I come to this mine down here I was a making down there building that bridge I was making two dollars and seventy-five cents for ten hours, and I told that feller the whole time when my brother-in-law come and told me about this job here I told him I said," I'll give this feller a notice and I'll work all week give him a chance to get somebody in my place" and I went to told that feller [unclear] I got me another job and I'm going to work on till the end of the week then I'm leaving he said "if you stay with me I'll give you three dollars a day" I said no I'm going up there to get a better job he said "If you stay it will be three and a half" I said no I'm going up there, and he said "buddy if you ever come were I'm working" he said "don't ask for a job just go to work".

WB: Wow, that was nice wasn't it?

JCS: Yeah, he said "you're the toughest day laborer I've hired" [laughing]

WB: [laughing]

JCS: But I quit and went down there then and went to Hollsten Lab I tell you at eight(y?) cents an hour, but now that was the best paying job in the country. Now they talk about.

WB: How many hours a day were you working?

JCS: Eight hours.

WB: You'd be.

JCS: Wait a minute I'm wrong about that.

WB: You were making four dollars then weren't you?

JCS: Yeah I was making four dollars a day, but a big part of the time the cutting of this coal was all done on the nightshift [practically?] and we wait till all the men come out the day shift come off, the coal owners, motors, and everything and then we'd go in and cut coal through the night. We'd use the work, I'd say eight hours we'd work, if it was necessary we'd work till the time the day shift come in and work so many of a time fourteen hours. You'd just work as long as it took for you to cut it up.

WB: You'd make a lot of money then?

JCS: Oh yeah, yeah, you were making fifty cents an hour.

WB: Seventy cents an hour.

JCS: But now you didn't make no time and a half, you just got straight time.

WB: Yeah, uh huh.

JCS: That's all I never got an hour uh time and a half.

WB: Boy in those days' seven dollars a day was good money.

JCS: It was good money yes sir, big money.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: I just want to say now you hear people talk about "well coal mine is a rough thing" now listen fella, I'll tell you another thing now we lived there in company houses and uh--

WB: Were they nice houses?

JCS: Yeah compared to what we'd been used to, or what I'd been used to.

WB: Yeah.

JCS: Had electric lights and uh so uh we uh paid a dollar and half a month for coal, burn all you want for a dollar and a half month.

WB: What did you have to pay for the house?

JCS: I swear I couldn't tell you to save my life it was just very little.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: It depended on of course now different houses different rates.

WB: Sure.

JCS: They sell them maybe five or six dollars a month for rent. It was I thought it was good living.

WB: So for about eight dollars a month you could have electricity, and coal, and house.

JCS: That's exactly right.

WB: And some days you made that much in a day almost.

JCS: Yeah.

WB: You made seven dollars.

JCS: Yeah that's right, and then they talk about the company. Now listen feller I'm going to tell you something this Sterns and Lumber Company was the best company ever I worked for in my life and they, they just good to me. Listen I'm talking about the company now.

WB: Uh huh

JCS: Now sometimes you get a for-a boss that he wouldn't be too good.

WB: Yeah I'm sure.

JCS: He he [unclear] he wouldn't, he wouldn't, go now I've heard the old man the General Manager, Coal and Lumber company an old man J. Butler and he tell us foreman after he I got to work for him he say "boys if you got any doubt about anything give it to the man".

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: He'd tell us that, if you got a doubt about anything he said "give it to the man".

WB: Uh huh. What was his name?

JCS: John, Old Man John Butler.

WB: Where was he from?

JCS: I think he's from Michigan.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: Believe that's where he's from. He was a good man, lord yeah. But now all the head men of the Sterns Company that I worked for but maybe not like I told you they had superintendent that wouldn't be so good to you.

WB: Sure.

JCS: They, oh they'd be they just wanted really ready to give you what you ought to have you know and things like that now. I know this now this time there at Co-Op I was running a machine on the day shift I remember that well and uh so I was a good coupler too, that was the feller who helped the motor he used the break man on that trip to you know spot the car helped the motor and stuff, but I'd go up there every morning something and they wouldn't have no couplers to couple after a motor or something and they say "well what about you coupling today?" I'd go on and couple. But I'd get three I believe three forty-four and I'd quit my job I mean off the machine I was getting five, but now that fella there that superintendent of the mine foreman ought to have paid me my [unclear] riches you see .

WB: Sure.

JCS: But they didn't do it, they wouldn't do it. And uh so that now that wasn't the company don't misunderstand me but that was the man in charge he, he do that so I guess if I raised enough cane about it done something about that, but I finally told him I said now it's either coupling or running machine one, if you want me to couple I'll couple and if you don't, don't ask me anymore cause I'm going to stay on the machines. So they didn't ask me no more.

WB: When you lived at Blue Heron how far away was Blue Heron from Sterns?

JCS: I swear I believe it the best I remember I believe it was 12 miles, now I could be wrong. Now the big part [cough], the big part of the men drove back and forth. They lived back in this country back out in here and they drive back and forth.

WB: But you lived in Blue Heron?

JCS: But I lived down there you see.

WB: How many people lived down in Blue Heron when you were there would you say?

JCS: Well let's see.

WB: How many houses?

JCS: I'm going to try and count let's see there is 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11 there's about 12, 14 houses.

WB: Oh so it was a small camp?

JCS: It was a small camp, yeah.

WB: Was it a nice camp to live in?

JCS: Oh yeah, it was a nice camp wasn't a thing wrong with it even on the river; I enjoyed it and liked it. But my wife she had asthma and she just it just likely to kill her down there. That's how come when we uh when we uh when they was a fixing to send me to mine--.

WB: 16?

JCS: 16, why then we bought this place and moved down here. I'll tell you another thing about that cause a there was what we had a mine there called Mine 4 it was in the one and a half seam and they quit all that now pulled out and left all them big pillars in there that's the good coal, there was no better quality coal then that is there, well we pulled that out of there I never did get pulled out, but they pulled out. And then we was a planning to go back in there and rob that mine.

WB: Mm hmm.

JCS: And uh so uh, we bought this place and we was fixing to move out here, and they had a feller in charge of the mine, Marsh Blevins you might have heard that I don't know. But he was in charge of the mines and we was going to go in there on Saturday and do some surveying around in that mine and see just what all we have to do to rob it. Me and him and a fella name Laupherdy and uh and Frank Thomas he was the president of the company, so we had all gone in there on Saturday. Well this was on Friday and we was going to move to on Saturday my wife told me when I went for dinner she said "now you just have to get, have and help me with the moving" well I said "I don't know if I can or not we made plans now to go down there and go into Mine 4 and see about that". Well so I went back up and this Marsh Blevins he was a dandy feller a good man, and he was up there at the mine. I went back up there and told him "Marsh, she that old woman of mine said she just can't move tomorrow by herself and she wants me to help her" I said "would it throw you off too bad if I don't go in there with you?" And he said "no it won't bother" he said you "you go right on and move, then next week me and you will go back in there by ourselves and we'll look this all over". And uh uh one thing was he was the in charge of all the mine, but I was they considered me and I'm not bragging but being the best robbing man.

WB: Mm hmm.

JCS: That they had because I had robbed all these mines that I tell you about back behind us. And so uh well, the next morning so we moved but there's another feller that wanting to go in. And I called Mr. Blevins that evening told him, I said "Now [unclear] Tucker wants to go in with you, I'm not a going, he wants to go" he said "that'll be fine we'd like to have him". Well another fellers working there as the mine boss why he went with them. But I moved, and we moved out here and done along way into the evening it was getting about sundown. Somebody called me or come towards either one, said "them fellers have not come out of the mine".

WB: Oh dear.

JCS: I told them "there's something bad going".

WB: That's at Mine 4?

JCS: Yeah, Mine 4 where them fellers went in.

WB: What happened?

JCS: And so I just took off and we got a bunch of us got together and we went down to the mines, and uh when we got down there why of course theirs about five or six of us and this feller this other feller Frank Thomas like me he was supposed to went with them and somebody broke in something over here around Sterns and robbed something that night, and I don't remember what it was. But that knocked him out of going, but me and him got together and we got four or five other fellers and we went on down to the mines and we went up in there ways and we found this Marsh Blevins' jacket, he had pulled it off and laid it down on the road way they had been traveling well we went on up in there and we hunt, and hunt, and hunt and we couldn't find them. And we come back and we went way on down.

WB: What kind of lights were you using?

JCS: We was using battery lights.

WB: Okay.

JCS: And uh we went away on down there and hunted couldn't find them. We come back we pass the entry up there decided they wasn't in there because it looked hazy just kind of looked like this weather we've been having hazy.

WB: Yeah dust.

JCS: And that wasn't good the air was passing by.

WB: Yeah.

JCS: And it was going on it wasn't going up in there. And so I told them, I said "let's stop right here a minute". We stopped there, I said "I'm going walk up here a piece and see if I can see anything or hear anything" and so me and another feller started up in there, I hollered and told them "right here is where them fellers went" I said "here's their tracks they went right up through here it's in the sand and dust and stuff" you see.

WB: Yeah.

JCS: And uh me and this feller kept going, but now I had a mine safety light we called it a flame safety light carrying it in my hand and it was burning the whole time, but we got up in a directly told "we better stop here we, we're going to get too far away"

WB: Hold on just a minute.

[Tape paused] [Side two]

WB: You had been in there with the safety light.

JCS: Well that's a flame safety light it was still burning, we stopped I told him "let's stop right here". And when we stopped, why I could hear them fellers up there struggling.

WB: Huh.

JCS: Just going [Slaven makes snoring sounds].

WB: Breathing?

JCS: Breathing struggling. I told him "I could hear them fellers" and I hollered back at these other fellers Frank Thomas and three or four more fellers back behind me I said "we hear them come on up here". And we went on up there they'd, they'd come up we called them break through were just the air was entering, every 60 feet we would make a break through, come through.

WB: Sure.

JCS: To bring air through.

WB: Yeah.

JCS: Well there was a bradish advance and move the air with you. So they was laying over there one feller was sitting in that corner I don't remember which one, Blevins or Laugherdy but one was sitting in that corner that breakthrough up against the bradish the other one sitting over here against the bradish. And this other feller Tucker, I was telling you about, he was laying with his feet up against the bradish his head out this way his arm folded and I took a hold of him just reached over to him and had he was cold.

WB: Was he dead?

JCS: Yeah, I said this feller's dead there ain' no [unclear] in him. And uh so uh, I just throw that old flame safety light down because it wasn't no proper to us anyway, but this Thomas fellow I told you about he was a dentist when he took this job you know. And he was a good man, but he didn't know a lot about coal mining too much, but he comes out said "boy you can't see, light that damn safety light up" that damn safety light isn't going to do me any good from here on out we're on our own. And we got them fellers, drug them out of that breakthrough.

WB: How many of them were alive?

JCS: Two of them, two alive.

WB: Two out of how many?

JCS: Three just three went in. Two of them was alive and one of them died. We started dragging and feller we drug them back not just, out of there back down just out of there a little was and I see there wasn't no light and I told them "boy we hadn't got long its really dark out there let's get out of here". And we run them just as fast as we could walk together on back towards where this air was passing. I swear if I had twenty foot more I could have never got there.

WB: Yeah.

JCS: [unclear]. But we just went back to that fresh air and fell down and we stayed there and we kind of revived up. We had no protection or nothing.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: And we went back, and went back up in the middle of another drag and drove them up on down and had the same thing again.

WB: Go back for air?

JCS: Back for air. But now in the meantime one of them fellers went out and he told them that we found them and so they get some fellers come in and help us, and then finally one of these fellers died before we even got back to fresh air.

WB: Laupherdy?

JCS: Uh no Blevins. Blevins had died up there, but Laupherdy came out alive and took time to Oneida to the hospital. But there's a doctor outside and I never forget what he said about Doc [unclear] up here he said "boy he'll never live"

WB: Did he?

JCS: No he died. He said "I've seen too much of it"

WB: What do you think happened to them?

JCS: I know what happened to them. They went on down now and they'd been a fire in this old mine back before this and they'd went down in there and we wouldn't find out if that fire had went out which should have been, to have done it right they should have had some rescuers. I mean took [unclear]

WB: Sure.

JCS: Take it down and done it right. But they went down and nock the bradish out way down in that entry and when they done this black damp far down [unclear] come out.

WB: And they just passed out?

JCS: They started back of course and they made it back a piece, and this feller died they said this Lapherdy told us that he said "boys I can't go no further" and they just stopped there at that break.

WB: Which they couldn't keep going?

JCS: And they couldn't keep going you know because uh he died right there and they just stayed right there. When we found them there was just a big, it looked like a big white rose around their mouths where they were breathing and this froth out of their mouths. Lord it was pitiful those fellers. But uh.

WB: But that could have happened to you if you had went down there with them?

JCS: Oh yeah, that's all I'm saying I would've been right there with them but I always thought these fellers I might be wrong.

WB: What could they have done differently do you know?

JCS: I always thought if I had been with them I would have never stopped there, said "boys I'm going to try to get with that fresh air if I can I'd kept going.

WB: Yeah.

JCS: Yeah because now.

WB: [unclear] for you three to die.

JCS: No, and that feller he couldn't go no farther he had no use for me and I couldn't carry him you know or drug him. But they stopped there now and two of them died before we got him out and the other one he lived about two weeks they sent him on to Lexington, but he had so much that Carbon Monoxide in him it killed him. And they was an inspector and everybody that seen us you know said "[unclear] wonder how you fellas hadn't died" they finally got the mine safe and they come in and went up and got these fellers and brought them out, but they had their own self rescue and stuff so they could go up there and get them bring them out, but uh then uh it went on maybe a week after that I was in Mine 18 and I was in the office that day and I just blacked out in the office just a week after it happened.

WB: After it happened?

JCS: Yeah I blacked out and they carried me down to the bathhouse gave me a bath and brought me home and called the doctor and he come over here. I heard him say to his nurse, "[unclear]". That, that was long around 4 o'clock and then I slept from 4 o'clock till the next morning.

WB: Hmm.

JCS: But I just blacked out got overloaded by stuff, and this Thomas I tell you about the same thing happened to him he blacked out. But they said it was a wonder that we hadn't died and the after affect probably. Now we were just lucky we didn't you see.

WB: Oh yeah.

JCS: And we made it alright except then for what I was telling you about happening.

WB: Mr. Slaven let me ask you about some other things, what uh when you robbed that coal when you robbed those mines did you start in the back of the mine and work your way out?

JCS: We--

WB: Was that dangerous?

JCS: Well it really wasn't much dangerous near the rest of it, if you know now what you were doing, but if you didn't you'd get in trouble.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: You'd start now you'd see it well one of this or those half off just like a mine.

WB: Okay.

JCS: You'd start in out here at the outside of the mine we called this the drift mines you go in. And as you go in you pulled off your main entry you'd stay North Main or South Main or East Main whatever, then as your drive every 400 feet you turn off south entry there or east entry or west entry or something, and you'll drive you'll turn every 400 feet apart.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: Alright when you turn in you go down say fifty feet then you'll begin turn lose right and left and you'll ride then 200 hundred feet and then over there the next feller over there he'll start and come back and meet you. You cut them rooms together. You suppose say you're driving uh forty foot room or a thirty-five foot room we usually turn we've got to turn on a seventy foot center they call it. You drive a twenty, thirty-five foot room you leave forty foot pillars. Well that was fine, but then they'd get hoggish and the coal get good and they wouldn't do that all the time. They'd get wide and round.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: And they wouldn't be.

WB: That's when it got dangerous?

JCS: Yeah that's when it got dangerous. Now you go to the main back end and you if you want to do a good job robbing you had to get everything in line just plum just like this right across here, this would be your breaking point right across this whole mountain. Well now if you fool around and you let this entry up here get behind then you got in trouble, it just.

WB: It had to come out together?

JCS: Yeah, you had to bring it all out together, every time.

WB: But it came in behind you?

JCS: It fall behind you and you want to put up plenty of good timber, but not too big a timber. We first started out going we set them that big.

WB: Yeah.

JCS: Well that was the wrong thing we learned that just a good set of eight inch post of something like that then you just wait to come on it break that thing and it fall. That's what you wanted it to do when you got the coal out you wanted it to fall behind you.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: If you didn't it go ridding over on you, the way it build coming over on just busting these pillars you'd have to move back to live. That's where you lost a lot of coal. If you ever let the entry get behind it you'd have problems, but if you if you kept it all in line all through the mountain.

WB: It just comes out all together?

JCS: Bring it out together then you got the fall that'd take the weight off you see. Robbin all the day, robbin all the day. Oh a lot of them then you could cut al lot of it, it's just what we call crushing it think it was taking wait [unclear]you just roll.

WB: Yeah then that was dangerous [unclear]?

JCS: It was dangerous, but it wasn't if he kept his timbers up. Now if he kept his timbers he was all right. And we paid them what we called solid work I forgot how much more he got I believe it was ten cents extra on the ton, but I could be wrong it might have been more. But that's uh now we paid them when it wasn't cut you know? He was getting that on the solid, but now that was what they called robing work and it wasn't dangerous if everybody know his job. But like one of the bosses I went in one day some feller he was loading this person it was a fixing to fall you could hear it in the lumber way up in the mountain like thunder going--

WB: Yeah.

JCS: Boom.

WB: That's scary isn't it?

JCS: You know it's getting ready to come down and this old boy he asked that coal boss, how many cars we loaded today? He said we've loaded five cars and none came up. He goes why he was young you know run out of this place [laughing] he cooled off let him go back and load some more once in a while he'd run back and try again, but sometimes you get cars covered up and sometimes I, I got two or three machines covered up and but we could get them out you get machines covered and the cars because the way you started you know coal you have to get a motor to get in a and pull the cars out , and if you couldn't get them over there in time sometimes they'd fall over but we never left cars in there we'd work around and try to get them out but you'd get them covered sometimes.

WB: Yeah that would cost too much to leave them in there.

JCS: Yeah we would try to get them out.

WB: Well uh when you went to Blue Heron was there a store down there?

JCS: Mm hmm yeah there was a store there.

WB: Did the company own it?

JCS: Yep. Bath houses down there a light house, fellers got there lights, everything they was equip for everything.

WB: Was it a good company store, I mean did it have everything you needed?

JCS: Pretty well everything you needed, that's true they did they had about everything you need.

WB: What did the company ever do with that town?

JCS: Well I don't, they tell me I've not been there long they tell me not a house down there, they sold them sold them off. They just, when they pull out down there they sold them old houses to somebody maybe a hundred dollars, a hundred fifty, maybe fifty or something and they tear them down and hall them off. Good lumber when you go into them.

WB: Yeah. Did you ever live in Stearns?

JCS: Never did, never did I wanted two or three times to get a house and move out down there never did get one. Now this is the closest to Stearn's I'll ever live.

WB: When did the company sell those houses?

JCS: You mean at Mine 18?

WB: No at Stearns over here. Didn't the company use to own all those houses over there in Stearns?

JCS: Well yes, now that they use to own all them houses that was in the Stearns district you know. They owned all those houses, but now they finally got to building new tearing down houses and building new ones and selling them.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: You or anybody else could buy one you know. But it use to be just uh company town.

WB: Yeah I knew that.

JCS: Yes. They was and all these fellers now live off maybe two or three miles out of there. Now the company use to be.

WB: That was the best company town probably in Kentucky wasn't it?

JCS: I say it was, and they use to be now they made their own electricity. They furnished all these places like Whitley and Pine Knot and Sterns and everybody around here. And then KU come along and bought up their power. They use to make their own power right over here.

WB: At Sterns?

JCS: That big smoke stake, I don't know whether you've ever seen that.

WB: Yeah I've seen it.

JCS: That right there, I don't know how many big boilers they had in there and generators and everything. They made their own power.

WB: That was really something wasn't it?

JCS: It was. Well that use to be, first they tell me and I've read that somewhere but that was the first electric saw mill ever in the country.

WB: Huh, the one at Sterns?

JCS: At Sterns.

WB: Because they had their own electricity?

JCS: Yeah, and that was the electric saw mill. That thing use to be now I never did see it.

WB: Now did Sterns Company get all the timbers from themselves?

JCS: Yeah they had these, fact the rail road went on down to what we called Fidelity at Co-Op, White Oak Junction we called it. And you run up there and you just this rail road went on plum into Tennessee. That's what they logged all that timber out and they loaded it on to flat cars [unclear] and poor out [unclear] dump it out in the big pound out there and drag them out and saw. They use to saw there they said that [unclear] come back another one.

WB: That's something else.

JCS: That was something else yeah.

WB: It really was. Uh when you went to Blue Heron where did your children go to school?

JCS: Well we had this [unclear] out here, but the bus the school bus come down.

WB: Oh it did.

JCS: Mm hmm the school bus come down and got them.

WB: Is that uh was is that the only company town you've lived in, was the one at Blue Heron?

JCS: No I've lived at Co-Op now that's the first one I mine I went to Co-Op I lived there 29 years.

WB: In the company town?

JCS: In the company town, buddy that was my home.

WB: Was that a big company town?

JCS: Yeah Lord yeah. When I was superintendent there was a hundred and nine houses left there.

WB: Oh dear

JCS: [unclear] Yes sir hu8ndred and nine.

WB: What else did they have there? A store I guess?

JCS: They had a big store.

WB: Was there a church?

JCS: Big church, big bath house. That church still stands down there. Use to be we had a church in what we called the old school house.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: [unclear] and I don't know I finally I, I told some of them "after I got to be superintend" I told them "I'm going to build a church house here" they said "You can't do it" I said "I can do it". I said 'I can't build it myself, but the people helping me can" and I talked to the company about it they said "yeah if you can get up enough some". So I got me a paper buddy got and said "buddy I want to build a church what about singing this paper?" I'd say "What about putting down sixty dollars or five dollars a month?. And buddy I got enough and built that church house and it's a dandy boy.

WB: Where'd you get the lumber? From Sterns?

JCS: From the company. The company build it for us furnished the lumber build it and everything else their own carpenter everything and we paid over all.

WB: Well that was good wasn't it?

JCS: That sure was.

WB: The company gave you the land?

JCS: No sir now there's another catch to it.

WB: What did you do?

JCS: It's built on government land I won't tell you about that.

WB: On federal government land?

JCS: I never thought a thing about it and we thought we was getting leased, but now the other day I was telling you about they got a letter from the government wanting to charge them about twenty-five dollars a year for the land the church house sits on. Ain't that a sorry trip?

WB: Well what, that twenty-five dollars didn't mean anything to them?

JCS: Why Lord no what I'm talking to you about is a government as big as ours and as rich as uh they are and anything of course not so rich they have a debt they have to pay but between you and me that's our debt ain't it?

WB: Yeah.

JCS: But uh charge that old church house sitting on a hill twenty-five dollars. I don't think you could get anything out of that do you?

WB: No it wouldn't seem like it.

JCS: No.

WB: Three hundred dollars a year.

JCS: What about that. Well twenty-five dollars a year.

WB: Oh a year. Oh I thought it was twenty-five a month.

JCS: No it's twenty-five dollars a year now for the land for the house to sit on. But Lord have mercy I think they [unclear] what how much good it will be. Anyway it's bad for government, and that's not the only church house there's one back down this side they call White Oak Junction Church House, there's one out on I think on uh Rattle Snake Ridge and maybe one out in government land I'm pretty sure. But now that's bad charging a little community like that it. It a church like I told you when I moved to Mine 18 that church down there they let it go dead. Well now I said I wasn't going to live in a place where there wasn't no church.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: And we got to go and start it back up. They had a church house down there they never get the pay for it, they never got it paid for. But after the mines we worked it out and tore it down well they sold the buildings to somebody I don't know who.

WB: Mr. Slaven you know of course anybody living in Kentucky now has been [coughing] reading the last couple years about the you know the strike and the trouble down there in uh the Justice Mine.

JCS: Mm hmm.

WB: What's going to happen about that? What do you think?

JCS: I couldn't tell you feller to save my life I don't know. Here's the.

WB: How did it start? How did the whole problem start?

JCS: I don't really know to just to tell you the truth, but anyway what happened these feller they got confused I mean is the thing I think.

WB: You mean the local union?

JCS: In the well the men and maybe the company, they now they told me this some of them men, they go and talk to the bosses of course but now that's another.

WB: Of course you know everyone that's involved don't you just about?

JCS: No I don't, because this younger generation come in there now. I know some of them, but very few. Most of them young fellers I know their daddies probably and then know them if I could go walk up and see them and talk to them. But anyway they told me and that's what I told you a while a go about a lot of times the company don't know really what goes on in the mines.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: I'm talking about the head official.

WB: Yeah.

JCS: And they told me now the men did, but there still a lot that I don't know I never hear the other side about it. They say they take a case to the maybe to the superintendent they form the work or something and they tell them they so and so had been treated wrong or something and he'd say "you got no case just forget about it" and they told me now they go to where they wouldn't hear them now. And they was under now this uh McCrery County Miner's Union.

WB: Yeah, it wasn't the United Mine Workers?

JCS: That's right.

WB: It was a McCrery County Miner's Union.

JCS: And so they come to me some of them and talk about and talk, now I told them "now listen boys" I said "you got a good union, and yous better hang on to what you got" I said "now I went through with a lot of this other" and I said "it's rough going, now you'd better hang on to what you've got". They said "well they said they wouldn't listen to what we had to say" I said "go back and talk to them again" and I finally just uh went to one of the officials and told them "I believe it's time for you to check in to some of this stuff maybe they're getting as squared deal as you think. And uh I guess he did I don't know if he did or not, but finally they they uh they kept doing this stuff and then maybe some feller wouldn't get his uh when his seniority come up from got ready to move up or something maybe he wouldn't get it. It just kept going on and on.

WB: Little things like that.

JCS: Little things that got into big things and then they decided to going to get the United Mine Workers and they go in.

WB: When was that? Do you remember?

JCS: I swear I couldn't tell you. Now they've been out I'm sure.

WB: Two years.

JCS: They've been, been over two years. But it was in July now I'd say this last July I believe come out along about the 15th or something like that; two years I go this last July.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: And uh but uh when they voted in why they lost a big they just about two to one you see.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: And uh so they just come out and they never go back. Here's what's happened.

WB: Do you think they will go back?

JCS: Well I don't know what they're going to do about it, but here's the thing about it if these I'll say this to you, if they don't get it fixed up and get it settled in some way or another they never work the mine in satisfaction is my thought about it and I may be entirely wrong.

WB: Yeah that's my thought to.

JCS: I just believe that's exactly right because they've got this confusion some of them on one side are hot headed and some on the other side are just the same way an and they just keep stirring up sitting up.

WB: Yeah.

JCS: Stirring up and stirring up. But I start telling you I'd rather have one good old satisfied man that's ever been then a dissatisfied feller.

WB: Oh sure they never work.

JCS: No they never don't work, just as soon as you're get out of sight they say "let's take it easy [unclear]" [laughing]

WB: Yeah sure, sure.

JCS: I know that's what they do. Now they the the--.

WB: Do you think the United Mine Workers will stay here?

JCS: Well they keep saying they're going to; they keep paying these fellers a hundred dollars a week. Well that's.

WB: Well how long do you think they can keep doing that?

JCS: I don't, if they had never paid these fellers they had to went back, but they did. I went through at strike right there at Co-op it was about five months and we never give them nothing and they just finally called them in all together and said "you'd better go back to work because you can get back" and they went back and there was about four of them that never did go back [unclear] they were never taken back for work because they had been radicals, you know?

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: Went to the extreme. So I don't know now they paid these fellers a hundred dollars a week and uh they told them some of them did one of these feller did " now these old boys will lose there car and lose their home that never got paid for work" of course they didn't think the United Mine Workers go as far as they would, but they did. And aint none of them [unclear] I reckon, as far as I know they're at home with nothing else. They've had it pretty hard over, but now you can take the [phone ringing] there's uh, [speaking to some one off the recording] someone answer that thing, they may not hear.

[recording paused]

JCS: They started at a hundred dollars a week.

WB: Mm hmm.

JCS: And I don't know how long they're going to give it to them, but now uh that's where the things at it. Well now you can take a feller they work they walk the picket line if I understand it right one day a week.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: Now that boy over here he's one of them. He walks it one day a week, and gets a hundred dollars a week. Well now you can take a hundred dollars a week, but now you can't take a hundred dollars a week, but his wifes a working. Well these other fellers now a lot of them goes out and picks them up another job you see to work them.

WB: They may stay out forever.

JCS: That's exactly right, as long as they dishing out this money they may just stay out right I don't know, I don't know.

WB: The bad thing about it is I guess there's a lot of bad feeling amongst former friends here.

JCS: Of course there are, there's no doubt about it now and uh it's costing it's costing both sides feller a lot of money now you wouldn't.

WB: Oh it's costing the company a lot?

JCS: Yes sir.

WB: The police and everything?

JCS: It's costing them it's costing the UM to so I know it's a bad thing and it ought to have been settled looks like before now, but it's not and I just don't know where it's going to lead to.

WB: Now it's been going on a long time.

JCS: But now that mine down there that they.

WB: Does the shooting surprise you? It does.

JCS: In one way and in one way it doesn't. I predict it all the time I say, "somebodies going to get killed"

WB: And they have?

JCS: Yeah they have. And I say "well yeah until it gets settled somebody else is going to get it now wait and see". I here that one of them company men, scabs they call them, you know scabs?

WB: Yeah.

JCS: But he come down there to the picket line yesterday with a pistol around there told some of those fellers about half of them.

WB: Oh dear.

JCS: And told them said "I'm not afraid of none of you I don't want you to be afraid of me".

WB: No.

JCS: No I don't want a man to be afraid of me, that's when it gets dangerous when you get afraid of them.

WB: Sure, sure.

JCS: [laughing] Yeah, but you always got someone waving a pistol somebody a waving.

WB: Yeah.

JCS: Yeah bad, he's flirting with the undertaker now feller.

WB: Yeah, you can't do that sort of thing.

JCS: Now well that's what I'm talking to you about it just builds up and builds up maybe some friction back yonder build up way back before the strike ever come to some of the fellers you now but then they lay them on the strike. Well now this old boy the way they lay them down there he's just a kid young boy I know his daddy and I know him. Yes bud its bad that people will lets these things, but it will come in the churches and it comes in the--

WB: Schools?

JCS: schools then it gets in the whole community. You know it's a bad thing you see.

WB: Is this the longest strike you've ever know of?

JCS: Yes it is around here yes sir, and I don't this company they got a big mine back over there, two more big mines and of course you can see their if they thought about it signed up here then they'll go right over there and sign them up over there. But here's what it is feller uh just like I've told fellers different time like this old McCrery County Miners Union now they had a good union. Now I told them "boys you'd better live by that you'd better keep it" I bet you they're wishing they had a kept it.

WB: Oh yeah I bet.

JCS: Yes sir re buddy they wishing that they kept it there's no doubt about it, but they let it get away so now it over into this and I don't know how long it's going to last, it don't look good to me.

WB: Now.

JCS: That mine down there like I told you they went down in one end of the number two and they drove way out here and then the slope down into one and a half down there and that top down there, that seem of coal telling me awful bad, feller I don't know what kind of shape that mine is in cause when you leave a mine and you're not working it sure will get into bad shape.

WB: Yeah that's the worst part of it isn't it?

JCS: That's exactly right so I don't know what they're going to do with it but.

WB: Yeah when they go back in there it will be in awful shape.

JCS: Why lord someone told me the other day, some miner--

WB: [clears throat]

JCS: Told me it was the most awful shape he had ever seen not how true that is.

WB: Yeah.

JCS: [unclear].

WB: But it's bound to be.

JCS: You hear everything you know?

WB: Yeah.

JCS: [laughing]

WB: It's bound to be though.

JCS: I'd say it is I'd say it's in bad shape. A mine in good top, that old Barthal Mine now that's down there at Mine 18 moves up and they went back in that old mine, That top, that thing we wouldn't place it there those timbers had been there thirty years had dates on them, those timbers were as firm as the day they got them.

WB: Really?

JCS: Absolutely. Top just as firm just as and just a soil das could be they never knew that was number two coal.

WB: What was the worst mine cave in or disaster you remember around here?

JCS: Well I swear I don't know there's so many of them feller you'd just you could not, but now we never had to many bad cave ins we'd have a rock fall somewhere that's knock you out a day something. But now we never had those bad cave ins.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: Never did, no. It just be--

WB: You'd be careful?

JCS: What, what we'd always done now they tell us now you walk this hallway. If you had a section say you was the mine foreman you'd tell your assistants under you wouldn't you'd have and assistant who'd have so much section over here and so much section over here you'd tell them to walk that hallway everyday sometime or another walk away always you would.

WB: They would [unclear]?

JCS: Yes sir, and check it you know see if it needs more timber or some rock shot down or took down or something now we never got cave ins that way. But now that didn't keep men from getting killed up in the face it happened up there.

WB: Oh yeah.

JCS: They got killed. They had one here die at the slope I tell you about that I drove down there was some boy.

WB: At Justice?

JCS: At Justice Mine coming out with a shuttle car or something and he couldn't get by timbers or something, but he nocked the timbers I believe that's the way it was and killed him. Boy it was a big rock [unclear], but uh they talk about coal mining now being so bad and so dangerous I'll tell you the bad part about coal mining it it's not that way now use to use to be feller they didn't have no air in there you just you just.

WB: That was the worst was it?

JCS: That was the worst thing you didn't have no air in there.

WB: How did you check for air?

JCS: Well you didn't do much checking to tell you the truth. Just long as the old carbide lamp burn why you kept going.

WB: You figured you had oxygen?

JCS: [laughing] Yeah. And when it go out you had to back off.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: That's just about the way it was.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: And uh had these old wooden brandishes and they all leaked, but finally then they come a long and they went to building concrete brandishes.

WB: Oh really?

JCS: Made out of blocks you see.

WB: Uh huh

JCS: And then you could preserve air and it keep moving on with you, but you got so maybe a mile in there on these old wooden brandishes and we use to just build them single. They finally got to building double put them that far apart.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: Then you tell [unclear] that helped to hold it. But then finally they stopped that then went to building concrete the block branch. When they done that then we had air and they got bigger fans they got these turbine fans use to be we had these old four foot a six foot disc fans you know? And they would make a lot of air move then. Now that's how we mind that coal feller and you just go like I said till your old carbide lamp went out then you say "well we got to get some more air in here boy" [laughing]. That was the good part about that old carbide lamp.

WB: It was, wasn't it?

JCS: Yeah it warn you now feller if you get into that bad air, but this old battery light it will just burn right on you know.

WB: Yeah, you don't even know you're running out of air.

JCS: That's exactly right you don't know if you're running out of air. Then they finally got [unclear] now way back in my day when I was first mining you never see a mine safety law we never examined for gas or nothing we just went in and went to work. Yeah that's right. And I hear fellers tell over at Mine 4 they get gas and do you know what they do, they go up in there and crawl [unclear].

WB: How low was the gas?

JCS: And they crawl up in there set the fire and they lay down lay there, burn it out.

WB: That was dangerous wasn't it?

JCS: Dangerous as it could be Lord have mercy yes, but you know what they didn't have enough air though in there to make room and make an explosion.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: You've got to have a certain mixture.

WB: Yeah.

JCS: And that didn't happen.

WB: That's what saved them didn't it?

JCS: That's right they just didn't have enough mix, because apparently center.

WB: Wasn't enough air--


WB: to explode.

JCS: That's exactly right.

WB: Well Mr. Slaven I, I really want to thank you for letting me talk to you.

JCS: Well feller you're sure welcome.

WB: If I uh, when I find out more about this stuff and have more questions to ask you can I come down and talk with you?

JCS: Now I'm fixing to leave me and my wife going we're going to leave here I guess the fifth of next month we're leaving and going to Los Vegas to spend the [unclear].

WB: Well you got to beat that snow.

JCS: That's sure, yeah we stay two week out there about three years ago--

WB: You like that out there?

JCS: In December. Why Lord the sunshine just about every day we was there.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: Oh it's pretty weather out there. Feller you just don't know [unclear].

WB: Yeah, I bet it's good for your wife's asthma to.

JCS: It is and my lungs to you see I've got coal dust I mean that old rock dust and coal stuff.

WB: Yeah.

JCS: And I've got a big blood clot right there like to die about, oh it was a little over two months ago they thought I was going to die, and they couldn't dissolve it they said when I was up there see a a few days ago I'm about to go back Friday he said "I guess you'll have to live with it". It was so big.

WB: Uh huh.

JCS: Oh I.

WB: Are you going to fly out there?

JCS: Yeah we're going to fly to Los Vegas yes.

WB: Well that will be a good trip.

JCS: Yeah we're going out there, we've got a boy and a girl who lives there in Los Vegas

WB: Well I.

JCS: We got an apartment.

[end of recording]