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William H. Berge Oral History Center

Interview with E.C. Collins

March, 1 1982 (1983 OH 072)

Conducted By Pam Collins

Transcribed by Ed Wilcox

PAM COLLINS: Ok, tell me your full name.

EC COLLINS: Earnest C. Collins.

PAM: Ok. Where were you born?

EARNEST: Born in Lookout, Kentucky.

PAM: What county was that in?

EARNEST: That was in Pike County.

PAM: Ok. What was your date of birth?

EARNEST: September 25 and 1925.

PAM: Ok. And what was your parents' names?

EARNEST: Benny F. Collins. Neville Collins.

PAM: What was your, do you know your mother's maiden name?

UNKNOWN: Casell.

EARNEST: [unclear] Casell.

PAM: Casell?


PAM: Ok. Um.

EARNEST: Hey, I thought you was talking about initially or something.

PAM: No, her maiden name. Ok. How many were in your family? What's the, just . . .


PAM: Ok. Alright. Now. What was your, when you were young, what was your father's occupation? What was some of the things that he did there?

EARNEST: Well, my, my father started out in the coal business as a water boy. 1:00Working around the tipple doing little odds and ends and carrying water and as, of course as time went on as he got older, why he started, his father signed for him when he was, when he was thirteen years old why his dad signed for him and he started working in the coal mines and he worked in the coal mines a total of about 55 years.

PAM: Uh huh. [Recording paused]

PAM: Ok. Did your dad live in a coal town or a company town?

EARNEST: Well, while he's working for this one company in Pike, in Pike County, he did not live in a coal camp but as he worked there for about 20 something years he was transferred to Floyd County where the Utility, Utility Elkhorn Coal Company. And now there, he lived in a company, company house. Ok?

PAM: Ok.

EARNEST: And uh we lived in there and it had this house had three rooms. It had 2:00one big large room and that room was the, where you had the kitchen and the kitchen facilities in that room and you had the living room and one bedroom. So that bedroom was made in one end of the kitchen where me and my, me and my brother we slept there till later on then we, then we had a little, what they called a little side house, a little side room on this and we converted that into a bedroom.

PAM: You made the changes yourself?

EARNEST: We made the changes.

PAM: Were you allowed to do that? Make any renovations you wanted?

EARNEST: Oh you can do, yeah you make any kind of changes, there's no, there's no strict rules on modification to a house.

PAM: Yeah.

EARNEST: And we lived there for about eight or nine years. Then we moved to 3:00another company house which, which later on in his, in his, in his late sixties, they bought the house. And the house he bought at that time was one of the, part of it was still remaining which was the first post office in Floyd County and it still had some of the timber left that, in this house which they purchased, you know, that still had the post office. And there they lived for another, I'd say, fifteen to twenty years. And in this time they done a lot of renovation to this house and this.

PAM: They bought the second company house? Your dad did?

EARNEST: Yeah. Yeah, they.

PAM: They allowed him to purchase then? They started letting people buy it?

EARNEST: Yeah. Well, what happened, uh Bill Reynolds, Dorothy Reynolds, and some of the Reynold families bought up the property that the company had.

PAM: Which company was this now? The same one?

EARNEST: This is the Utility Elkhorn Coal Company. And they sold this, they sold this to some of the people there in, in Floyd County which is, at this time, known as Buck Springs. So the Reynolds bought this particular piece of property and then my dad, then he purchased that from them. He bought the piece of land off of them then he made some modifications to it.

PAM: Ok. That first house you, what all can you remember about that? What was it 4:00like? Was it just a wood, wood little wood house or?

EARNEST: The house was all wood and it had wood interior. Wood walls. Wood ceiling. And the wood was, it was 3/8th tongue in groove ceiling panel and ceiling walls. There was no plaster board or anything of that nature. It was all wood. Wood, wood entirely; in and out.

PAM: Did they have any type of insulation in those kind of houses?

EARNEST: No insulation.

PAM: How'd you heat them? What type? Did you have gas or.

EARNEST: We used, no. We used what they call a morning warming stove. It was a, it was a coal stove, a wood stove combination. Set out in the middle of the living room and you, you put the wood and coal in it and you got the heat dissipated from the outside. No forced air of any nature from this stove except just a gravity heat coming off the stove. Now that's the type of heat.

PAM: That's all you had.

EARNEST: That's all we had. And of course, in the kitchen we'd cook with a cook, 5:00with a, what they call a coal stove. And that stove was at that particular time was a Kalamazoo and you made, you had on each side of the stove you had what they call reservoirs on each side that you heated your water with that you, that's where you got your hot water. Did not have no hot water tank or any kind of hot water facilities except what the coal stove produced from the heat from the stove heated the water and that's how we got the hot water to, to bathed in or whatever we needed.

PAM: Did they have like a, what was the bathing facilities and things like that?

EARNEST: We, we, we bathed in the washing tub. We'd take, we'd take the water out of the stove and put it in the washer tub and dilute it and we'd take a bath right in the washing tub in the kitchen.

PAM: Did each, each of these company houses have its own outside facility then?

EARNEST: You had a, you had an outside toilet.

PAM: Uh huh.

EARNEST: Mm hmm. It was a little, little building with a hole. There was a little building and you'd dig a hole and then you'd set that little building right over it and that was the facility you used.

PAM: That's so bad. Ok. And each house had one of those?


PAM: Ok. And you lived, how long did you live in that first house then?

EARNEST: The one in Pike County?

PAM: Yeah.

EARNEST: I was only living in that for five years.

PAM: Ok. Now what did you do about school? Did you go to school? Did they have a 6:00company school or what did you do about that?

EARNEST: Well, it, we moved from Pike County when I was five years old so I didn't, I didn't.

PAM: Didn't start school yet.

EARNEST: I didn't start school and back in those days, they didn't have what they call a kindergarten school as they have today so when we moved to Floyd County why I went to, started going to school at Martin High School.

PAM: Ok.

EARNEST: And where we lived what was called Buck Springs and it was approximately about three miles. So we had to get up in the morning, we built, we built a fire in our, in our cook stove every morning. My brother and I, we'd take turns about building a fire to cook with and after that why we, we'd get, we'd feed the chickens, we had some chickens. We'd feed them and get some kindling wood and get, get in the necessary provisions to run the house all that day and then we'd walk to school. Well, we'd take a lunch and the lunch consisted of one little sandwich, peanut butter and sometimes we got a banana on it.

PAM: Yeah.

EARNEST: And, and what we drank was water. There's nothing . . .

PAM: School didn't provide any of type of food, did they?


EARNEST: School didn't, school didn't, didn't have no provisions to furnish lunch or anything of that nature.

PAM: Was this just a large school or a was it a one-room school or?

EARNEST: Well, no. This, this had all the, from the, from the first grade to the four years of high school in this one building but during that time though, we, for a while we, we had to go, one part of the school had what they called a gymnasium. There was a certain part of the gymnasium set aside and Will Barnett was a, was a teacher at that time and he'd teach from the first up to the sixth grade. And he'd teach this, so we had to do that for some time but ordinarily we, when we got back into the main schoolhouse, why they had all the schools laid out from, from the first to the four years of high school. And of course at that time, best I can remember, it was probably in the neighborhood of about 250 student who attended this Martin High School.

PAM: That's quite a bit then.



PAM: Ok. Now when you, on that, in that first camp that then your dad was just a coal miner? He just worked in the mines or did he do anything? What, what was his job, you know, you said.

EARNEST: Well, Ok. When, when he worked for this coal company in Pike County 9:00Kentucky, why he started out working around the tipple and then he started helping what they call dumping coal. Which later on led to him being, becoming a, a weigh, weigh-boss foreman. And, and when he started doing that, then he became bonded but he had to be bonded because he was taking down all the tonnage that the coal miners would load the coal in the mines and they'd have a check number and when they loaded their coal they put their check number on it and the check was taken off and the weight was put on a big weigh sheet and it was turned in to the main company's company store and there they had the privilege of drawing scrip buying groceries at the company store and, or they could wait till they got a pay day and then they could buy their groceries any, any place they wanted. But primarily this was a source of income at that time until they had sufficient money in what you call cash money in relationship of check money.

PAM: Ok. Well how, when he got his paycheck what did he do? Did he have, was there banks that you could go to or what [unclear].

EARNEST: Well, no. No. What they did, they paid him in cash. They paid him in cash and then they'd, but what they would do before they was paid though was deduct it from the wages you, if you drew scrip, between one payday and the next payday, if you, if you wanted to buy something, you'd go, you go out to this window in the company store and then, and your name would be on file and everything and, and telling them who you were and, and if you worked that day, you could draw up to ten to fifteen dollars of scrip.

PAM: Ok. When you say scrip now, explain what you mean by that.

EARNEST: Scrip, its, it's a form of money. It's a, it's a little brass thing 10:00about the size of a, of a half a dollar and it had on there the company's name. You know, like you tell Elkhorn Coal Company scrip. And that scrip and it had different ones. The scrip was, was a dollar and fifty cent piece and a quarter, nickel and dimes, and pennies. And the same form of, of regular currency money that we have but it was in the form of the company's, that was their type of money that they had to exchange for food, clothing, or commodities, or merchandise of their own company and that scrip was no good to nobody else except this company.

PAM: Right there.

EARNEST: It was strictly made for, for the company to issue their people that worked for them, to give them some means to buy.

PAM: So you had the choice of either taking scrip money or just regular cash?

EARNEST: That's right.

PAM: That's what you had the choices of.

EARNEST: But you only get the cash on payday. You can't get that cash every day.

PAM: But you could get scrip every day?

EARNEST: You'd get scrip every day.

PAM: And then they would just deduct it at the end of the week or the end of the month out of your check?

EARNEST: Uh huh. Right.

PAM: Is that where you did most of your shopping? At those company stores?

EARNEST: Well, I, we did about sixty percent of it. And the other forty percent 11:00why we, we were able to have a few extra dollars besides scrip, you know, instead of having scrip why we'd take, we'd have money and we'd go to another store because we could buy stuff a little cheaper--

PAM: Cheaper.

EARNEST: if we, than we could there at the company store. The company store was about ten percent higher on their, on their merchandise than a lot of the little private business people were.

PAM: Well, what all did they have in there? Just every type of thing you could want from clothes to food or?

EARNEST: Oh yeah. The company store, they, they, they called it an old saying, jot-them-down-store. They handled all lines of food, clothing of any, you know, clothing, you could have, you could get suits. If you wanted a refrigerator you could get a refrigerator. You could get a stove.

PAM: They had everything.

EARNEST: They had everything and this is what, you know, it's a company store. You, you know, you've heard the old saying that song was written by Merle Travis, "You owe your life to the company store?"

PAM: Oh yeah. Ok just go ahead and tell me all you know about the company store.

EARNEST: Ok. Also now, at the company store, say that you wanted feed, you know, 12:00like corn or chopped corn for your chickens or, or hay or any kind of utensils. Hardware, you could get plows, you could get all kinds of tools. See, a company store, the company that, that made, that provided service to the people had to have a store that was diverse, it was diversified. And by being diversified, you gotta have everything that, that people needed, their needs. So whether they lived in, in a mining, a coal camp or they lived independently or they lived on a little, what they called their own little farm or they had to have stuff like plow lines, you could buy, you could get anything that you needed in a way of tools, the clothing, the furniture, uh implements to, oh there, now you couldn't get a tractor or nothing like that. But anything out, anything that's associated to farming and small, and a small line, tool line you could get it there.


PAM: So you say you did sixty percent of your shopping there so you got most of your food and, or did you, what did you spend, what sixty percent of that purchase?

EARNEST: Well sixty percent of that was also included some clothes and some food 14:00and, and household, household stuff. Like soap, you know, like detergent and stuff like that. Of course then you, you didn't have the, you didn't have the different types and variety of soap you know, maybe, maybe they had Ivory. Just a few, few, few brands soaps but that's where you got it. But basically, depending on what your needs was, how much you bought. But when I say sixty percent, I'm, I'm breaking that down to, to a, a minimum, you know, that, that we needed. But we would buy like a hundred pound of beans. Or a hundred pound of potatoes. Now these, this percentage was, I'm talking about mostly in the, the winter months or spring months. Because in the summer time we would raise, we would raise our garden and we'd raise enough onions and potatoes. We would can, we'd can up, up to as much as three to four hundred half a gallon and quarts of canned food such as a green beans, you know, and tomatoes, and carrots, and stuff of that nature. So we raised, we raised about 80 percent of all the food that we ate.

PAM: Ok. How big of a garden did you have? Was that used on the company land? Did you, you could use as much land as you wanted?

EARNEST: We, this was company land and they had, this company had right there in this little mining camp around about 200 acres of land that they had, they had that we had access to. But now, of course, the land wasn't all tillable. You had a lot of timber, you had a lot of place. But we went back on top of a mountain and cleared out about two and a half to three acres and we had a tremendous garden. We had.

PAM: You and your brother and your father did that? Just you three did that?

EARNEST: Yeah. Just, and, and, and Pauline my step mother. We, we went back 15:00there and we had a big garden so we raised a lot of food and in fact it, we raised our own corn and then what we'd do with that corn, in the fall year, we'd have it sent to the mill and ground to make our corn meal. But we had to buy flour at the company store or some other store where we wanted to buy it.

PAM: Mm hmm.

EARNEST: Our, our main items that we that we bought were stuff like baking powder and salt and some of the rarer stuff you know like spices and all that. That you don't normally raise yourself so you have to, to buy that. And of course you had to take into account that when you're talking sixty percent, you're only talking about 25 dollars and that, and that's a good week's, that's a big week's salary because coal mines as a rule, as, when I was growing up, they didn't get to work no five days a week every week. Coal mines would work sometimes two days, three days. Very, very seldom did you get five days. When you got five days, you've got a real good paycheck.

PAM: How, why was that?

EARNEST: Well because of the demand of the coal.


PAM: Wasn't it that the demand [unclear].

EARNEST: No. Some, some, some of the coal companies up in Right Beaver and Left Beaver and those big companies like Will Wright and all them up in there, some of them work more because, I think the reason that they had more, more demand for, for coal than some of the other ones because they had steel mills in other parts of country like in Ohio or maybe up in Michigan or Illinois or someplace like that, like the Ford Motor Company, they had their own coal mines so they had, they had a need for coal and then of course some of the companies they, they sold theirs to some of the power companies which is a big demand now but then you didn't sell a whole lot so, well occasionally though they worked four and five days on the average I would suppose if you say give a percentage of how the coal mines worked you would say three days per week around the year.

PAM: What would you do what would your dad do then the rest of the week? Would, for the rest of the time, what, how was your time spent?

EARNEST: Well, Ok. Well, Ok. My, my dad at that time, he would go in sometimes 17:00in and do, do the similar job but on a little different basis or a different scale than he was doing before because the days that they weren't working coal, sometimes they had to go in and make repairs inside the mine and they'd have to bring, they'd load up where they had a slate fall or bad coal or, you had what they called braddishing in the mines. They had what they called braddish people. And now then those people would in and set timber and brad, and, and, and what they call where a mine had broke down or had a cave in, you'd have to go in there and, and, and redo that in there. You'd have to use timber and stuff and you called them braddish, braddishmen. And well you got to close off an old place in the mines and re-, open up a new place in the mine. All this, all this entailed had different, different ways of getting it done. But when they weren't loading coal, why they had what they call maintenance work to do, preventive 18:00maintenance. So that's what they had to do. They had to go in and repair the rails, maybe pump out a section where the water got in there. They had slate fall, they had to get this all cleaned up.

PAM: Yeah.

EARNEST: And also, a coal miner, when he had his place to work in the mine, him and his buddy and they each had a check and depend, and depending on the place that he had and that coal had to be shot down and they shot their own coal in the earlier days in the coal mine. They didn't have hydraulic and all the modern facilities and technology that you have now in the coalfields. Back then the coal miner would have to take an auger and he'd bore his coal, he'd put his, he'd take his own, his dynamite, and he would shoot his own coal and clean it and, and load the coal and clean up his own, his own place.

PAM: Each team? Each two, each team of?

EARNEST: Each two guys.

PAM: So every coal miner then had to understand or know something about explosives then?

EARNEST: Oh yeah. They had to have some knowledge of what, how to, how to shoot 19:00coal. Of course, as time went on with the Safety Act coming in, in the coalfields, why that put more restrictions on the coal, coalminer until he had, he had to be more indoctrinated, he had to be better educated, he had to know something about good air and bad air, he had to have kind of a sound judgment of when it was safe to do something when it wasn't safe. So there's more, there's more to being a coal miner than just going in there and loading coal. He had to, the environment, he had to know something about it in order to, you know, to accomplish his objective and loading coal. He had to do something.

PAM: So he was busy then maybe about, so his time.

EARNEST: Yeah. And only the sad part about it was that coal, what happens now in the coal mine you got so many miners and they, and let me give, let me, let me explain how they do it. They leave, in the morning they all gather in what they call, they'll have a gathering motor and they'd have a big tram and they'd put all these miners gets in these little mining cars that they put their coal in and, and they'll, and that, and the main tram will pull them about a mile to a mile and half to where they go into, into the mines. Then, the coal, the miner, 20:00the miners are taken then and gathering, in what they call gathering motors and they go back in the mines and they're, and they're let off back in mines to where they're going to load coal and they, and they'll have so many coal cars cut off and, and sent into that area where they're working and if they run into a problem, and they get bad coal, its bad because they, they don't get paid. If that coal comes out and its what they called dirty coal, it has bone or slate in it, and it's the judgment of the, of the, now like my dad, that's what his job was, he was, he was what they call the weigh foreman. He weighed all the coal and if that coal was, was declared bad, it would, got dumped in the slate chute and that man didn't get paid a nickel for that.

PAM: Oh.

EARNEST: But, but there at the tipple though, since my dad worked, he worked for management and then they had a union guy that worked there and he kept a coal sheet just like my father did.

PAM: Mm hmm.

EARNEST: Ok? And they would compare their two sheets at the end of the day to 21:00see if there was any discrepancy in that.

PAM: Yeah. Check on each other.

EARNEST: Yeah. Because then of course, my dad had to be bonded in order to do this because he was, he was, he was, what he turned in, the company took that and in return give them money for the coal that they loaded that day. It was, it was only till later, later on in the years until what they call, they got what they call porter to porter pay. And what that was, was they go in the mine and they, if it was bad and couldn't work, well they got so much pay, say three hours pay for that that time.

PAM: At least going in there.

EARNEST: But that's, that was later on in years. We're talking about in, in the earlier days in the coal business. And.

PAM: What were your, what year was that would you say?

EARNEST: Well that was in, in the, that was in the, that was in the thirties.

PAM: Thirties.

EARNEST: That was in the thirties. Thirty-sixes to thirty-eights up into the 22:00forties. Coal mining got more safer and, which you have today, you have the OSHA standards, right, but you always had the United Mine Workers, you always had the safety.

PAM: Was the union in there when your, your dad was in?


PAM: Did they have a union at that time?

EARNEST: They had a union. United Mine Workers.

PAM: So it was already established there.

EARNEST: It was established but it, it wasn't established not right at first, when they first went in there but by, just about four or five years after he started they got union, it was organized.

PAM: They have any trouble getting it organized?

EARNEST: Well yeah. You always have some opposition, you know, when, anytime you're trying to organize anything you got opposition because you got, you got people on both sides and some, the pros and cons, you know, you have people that, that starts out to say that's no good and the company will make it harder on you and all that but, but they did have a lot of, a lot of, I can't remember any killing around there but in some of the other mines they did.

PAM: There was some trouble.

EARNEST: They had, they had some, they had some real problems.

PAM: Ok. As far as your housing, how, how did you pay for that? Was there rent or?


EARNEST: Uh, we paid ten dollars a month for the house.

PAM: Ok.

EARNEST: That's what we paid for the rent.

PAM: Mm hmm. And that included all costs?

EARNEST: Yeah but the, but it was a time there though that, there was certain time that when my dad got on up in with the company a little bit, still doing the same type of work but they made his environment better so then he, he got, he got what they call free rent. In other words, you know, he became in charge of the tipple, why then he got, he got free rent there while he was doing that.

PAM: How long did he work with them at that time?

EARNEST: He had worked up until that time, he'd worked about forty something years.

PAM: Oh so he got free rent. What would you guess or maybe you know what his income would be? What was his income over the years like that?

EARNEST: Oh he would run about 2,700 dollars a year.

PAM: Mm hmm. Ok. Ok. What, could you describe then what your, your and your 24:00brother's life was living there? Some of the things that a normal day would be for you after, you know, you said you got up, fed the chickens and then you'd go to school. What, what else would you do when you got home?

EARNEST: Well, after school, why we, we'd always come home and then we'd have to do our chores when we in from school. And after we done our chores why we ate supper. And after we ate supper, why we, we would help do the dishes. And then after that, then we'd have to study. And if there was any time left, why we would get out and we'd, we'd play. We'd get with some of the kids there in the coal camp--

PAM: Yeah.

EARNEST: where we was at, and if it was in summertime, why we'd, we'd play a little ball or we would play, we'd shoot marbles. We would play all sorts of games, you know. Cowboy and Indian and stuff like that.

PAM: Yeah. Was there a lot of other children around there?

EARNEST: Well it wasn't too many. It was about oh, all told there right where 25:00this coal company was at, there was probably about eight to ten children that we could play with and we'd, we would sometimes we would get us a big, a big rope and tie it up into a tree, you know, and get a tire and we'd make a swing out of it [phone ringing]. And we liked to hunt. My brother and I liked to hunt real well so we, we, we'd go in the, in the, it [phone ringing] in the, in the fields, in the, in the hills to hunt and we, we'd hunt with a slingshot. And, you know what a slingshot is?

PAM: Well, what'd yours look like?

EARNEST: Alright. What we did, we'd take this, we'd take a forked, we'd find a, 26:00we'd, we'd look around in the trees and we'd find a, a Y-shaped branch of a tree and the better shaped it was and kind around the better it was. And we'd take that, we'd cut it off and then we'd take it and skin the bark off of it and then on each side of each prong, you had a left and right prong, right at the top we'd cut a little groove in that, a little groove, on each side. And then we'd take two rubber bands, say about five or six inches long, then we'd take a little piece of leather. We'd find us a piece of leather and then we'd cut two holes in that and that is what they call a, and they called it a slingshot. And, and right in the bottom would be that little piece of leather and that's where we'd put our rock or pebble and the rounder it is, the better, the better you could aim at it. So we'd use that to hunt with a lot. We'd shoot birds, rabbits with that.

PAM: Did you get stuff with that?

EARNEST: Oh yeah. Why sure. You get good. Man, you could, you could knock a bird out of that tree right out there with, when you got good enough just like, it's something similar to a bow and arrow.

PAM: Yeah.

EARNEST: But it's a slingshot.

PAM: What would you do then? Would you go home and dress the, dress the animal or skin it or whatever? Did you do that?

EARNEST: Well, depending on what we, we, we have big birds, they serve, we used to kill some big birds and we'd eat, we'd clean them up and eat them, them big ones.

PAM: You and your brother would clean them so--

EARNEST: Oh yeah, then we.

PAM: you knew how to do all that?

EARNEST: Yeah. Then we'd go at night and, on Friday night we would, you know, if we were allowed, why we'd go frog hunting in the summertime, we'd go catch frogs.

PAM: At night time?

EARNEST: Oh yeah. We'd, we'd go gig frogs.

PAM: How'd you do that?

EARNEST: Well we made us, we took a, we took a piece of wire and then we'd make 27:00like a spear on the end of it. Just take a piece and make a spear and we'd take an old carbide lamp and the carbide lamp you, they use carbide. You'd take carbide and put it in this lower section of this lamp, in the top section you'd have a little reservoir of water up there and you'd put that water in and you'd have a little thing you'd turn and let that water down in there and that'd cause that, perform gas and then that gas you take and you'd have, you'd light that and then you had a reflector on the front where the little nozzle come out and made a light what they call a carbide flash, carbide lamp. It gives us light and we'd go frog hunting with a carbide lamp.

PAM: Just you and your brother then?

EARNEST: Oh yeah. We'd just, we'd do that.

PAM: What did you do on the weekend then when you didn't have to go to school?


PAM: Did you have to work during the day?

EARNEST: Well, we most times, in the summer time we'd always be clearing, clearing some land off to.

PAM: Getting ready for the garden?

EARNEST: Yeah and then, but we'd try to find us a little place. We'd have a 28:00little ball game, you know, but our, we'd try to get a ball game with somebody else with our neighborhood with some other coal camp, you know, when we could and then we'd get together and we'd have different types of activities we'd do and we'd try to find some little odd jobs too. And then a lot of times we'd, we'd get out and hunt scrap metal if we could find metal or like brass, copper, or aluminum, or steel, and we could get five to six cents a pound for it and we earned a little bit of money by hunting scrap stuff up and then they had a junk dealer that'd come through there about once a month and you could sell it to him.

PAM: So that's how you made extra money?

EARNEST: Well, we yeah.

PAM: Did your dad give you allowance?

EARNEST: Wasn't no such thing as allowance.

PAM: Didn't have that? So whatever you, any money you got you guys.

EARNEST: You earned it yourself.

PAM: You made it yourself.

EARNEST: Yeah. Then on Saturday we had a.

[break in recording]


PAM: Yeah. Go ahead.

EARNEST: Ok. Well, see we, if we had a quarter why on Saturday we'd allowed to 29:00go and see a Saturday matinee, picture show like a good big western, you know, and for a quarter you could see a show and get all the popcorn you wanted to eat. Ten, fifteen. The movie was a dime and popcorn was a nickel for a big box for a nickel. So we'd see that same show, we'd see it three or four times. That same show. Then uh.

PAM: What other kind of odd jobs did you get? Did you ever work in the camp yourself or get any, make any money or?

EARNEST: Well we would go up to what they call the slate dump and we'd pick out coal. We'd pick out the good coal, the coal that was dumped during the slate, there was some good coal in it. But the company wouldn't, they wouldn't salvage the good coal so we had, we had the rights and the privileges, you know, if we wanted to, to go get some coal and we'd, we'd get out a whole wagon load of coal for fifty cents. In weight, you're talking about half ton of coal for fifty cents. And you'd work hard, you know, to get that coal.

PAM: [unclear], yeah.

EARNEST: Yeah. And then also you'd work for somebody. Somebody wanted, you know, 30:00to work in the cornfield if it was summer time why they'd give you fifty cents a day to hoe corn. Or you could go help somebody and they'd help you. And then we also, we always had, we tried to raise two big hogs every year, pigs whatever you want to call them.

PAM: And where'd you keep all your livestock? Right around the house or?

EARNEST: Well we had right where we lived there was a edge of the edge of the hill came down there and we had a hog pen built on the edge of the, what they call the holler. Right there in the holler. And we'd raise, we'd raise two hogs every year for, to get our meat in the winter.

PAM: And the company didn't care about you doing that?


PAM: They let you use that land? Where'd you get the hogs?

EARNEST: We'd buy little pigs and then raise them.

PAM: Yeah.

EARNEST: Yeah. We'd, we'd buy pigs off somebody, some neighbor up the holler.

PAM: Yeah.

EARNEST: If it's his sow would have pigs, you know, and you'd say well I want a couple of them pigs and so you'd buy them off of him for a dollar--

PAM: And then you'd raise them?

EARNEST: or two dollars and then you'd raise them.

PAM: Well where did you have them slaughtered at? Did the company have a facility?

EARNEST: No we'd do, we did our own killing. We'd kill our own pigs and then, 31:00the way you do that, why we'd get, when it comes time to kill them, you know, you get, you make a big, like what they call an A-frame, Ok? You'd have a big kettle. Well you'd have your water boiling hot so then you'd get your hog and you'd get him out to an area where you're going to kill him and then, and you come out and shoot him with a .22 or a, now there has been people shoot them with a shotgun but that's kind of cruel. But I remember one time, I remember one time my dad he would say, we had two hogs killed that day.

UNKNOWN: Either way you kill it it's going to be cruel!


EARNEST: Well, no wait a minute what's, are you putting that, is that going down like that . . .

PAM: Yes. Go ahead.

EARNEST: [unclear], interruption?


PAM: Go ahead.

EARNEST: One time, my dad said well I'm going to show you guys how to kill this hog. So we had, he went and got the .22 and he come out there and bang shot it and hog fell and when he falls to his knees you got to jump real quick and take a knife and cut his throat.

PAM: Why do you do that?

EARNEST: Well, you, they start bleeding. You have to do that, it don't, the meat won't be good.

PAM: Oh.

EARNEST: So we went to work and we worked real hard there for about three or four hours and we take that and we'd take coffee sacks and we'd put over this hog and then we'd pour hot water over it. Then we'd take . . .

PAM: The hot water from the boiling water?

EARNEST: boiling water and then you'd scrape that hog.

PAM: Yeah.


EARNEST: Ok. Then you'd scrape it.

PAM: What did you scrape it with? Just a knife or something?

EARNEST: You'd scrape with knives. But you had good sharp knives and whet rock there and your stone and you'd scrape that hog and after you scraped it, then you'd winch him up in the air. You'd take.

PAM: Was his whole body still hanging all together then or.

EARNEST: Oh yeah. You'd catch, there's a leader in the back of a hogs leg that you put what they call, just like a swinging tree in through there. And you got two hooks and you hook it on and then you got one, one center bolt loop and you pull him up in the air.

PAM: Yeah.

EARNEST: And then you cut the end.

PAM: Cut them up then?

EARNEST: Well, you clean the insides of him out first, you know, and get rid of all that and then you put him up on a big table and you cut him up. You cut your hams and your shoulders and your bacon. Then you take him and salt him down. You know, you cut him and cut your bacon and you'd put it in a smokehouse and salt it down.

PAM: So just you and your dad and your brother did all that? Where would you store the meat then?

EARNEST: In the smokehouse.

PAM: Did you have it or was it the company's general smokehouse?

EARNEST: No, it was our own smokehouse.

PAM: So you had that as part of your house there?


EARNEST: Mm hmm.

PAM: And what, when you say smokehouse, what?

EARNEST: Well a smokehouse ain't nothing but a building with vertical boards with stripping on it, weather stripping around the side of it and then you got, like a workbench inside on it, you laid your meat out on it and then you hung your meat up. And you had, it had to stay in there and of course you didn't want no kind of ani, uh you know, anything getting to it see, so you had to be sure that it was pretty tight.

PAM: So?

EARNEST: I say tight, you know,

PAM: Yeah.

EARNEST: You put water over places where something can get in at.

PAM: So you had to.


PAM: So you had to cure the meat then?


PAM: How did you, how did you guys do that? How did?

EARNEST: Well what we did there, we'd make sausage of it, Okay? And most of the time, the sausage, we'd make a sausage and pre-fry it--

PAM: Okay.

EARNEST: and then put it in fruit jars. And you could do pork chops that way if you wanted to.

PAM: In fruit jars?

EARNEST: You could fry them and put them in fruit jars, yeah.

PAM: And the other, you'd just uh.

EARNEST: Well, we'd just . . .

PAM: Salt it and wrap it up?

EARNEST: We would salt it down, you know.

PAM: Yeah. Do you, when you say smokehouse, is there literally smoke in there? 34:00Do you smoke something?

EARNEST: Well, you can.

PAM: What are they?

EARNEST: Some smokehouses, if you want to have smoked bacon or smoked ham, why you burn hickory, you know hickory limbs or something like that, you know, and hickory smoke.

PAM: Would give it that flavor?

EARNEST: Yeah, if you want it that way but we never did. We never did smoke any stuff because we didn't like it.

PAM: Ok. So that was your meat then. Mostly it was pork.

EARNEST: That was primary. Of course then we had chicken, you know, we raised chickens. Didn't raise any, any stock, you know. We didn't have the facilities to raise stock around there.

PAM: How much land did you say you had there to, at your house?

EARNEST: Well, where the house was set was oh about three quarters of an acre but we had access to.

PAM: A lot more?

EARNEST: A lot more, yeah, you know. We could go back on that mountain there and had that big garden back there in the woods there.

PAM: How did you move back and forth? What type of transportation did you have? Didn't you have an automobile then?

EARNEST: Well, we didn't, we had a, in later in later years why we got a 1937 Olds.


PAM: What did you have before then?

EARNEST: We didn't have nothing. That was the first car we ever.

PAM: Not horses or anything?

EARNEST: Well, we had horses.

PAM: Did you have any wagons or.

EARNEST: Yeah. We had what they call, we had two horses called Mike and, Mike and Pete and they were company horses. And those horses, we kept them, we took care of them, we fed them and uh.

PAM: Where'd you keep them at?

EARNEST: We had a barn there.

PAM: On, where your house was?

EARNEST: Yeah, right out on the edge of the field there.

PAM: Did everybody, could everybody use that?


PAM: It was just for you?

EARNEST: It was just for this, for them company horses.

PAM: Oh, that was where they kept their horses?

EARNEST: Yeah. And they used them horses there, they didn't have trucks then, 36:00you know, they, if they needed supplies from for Utility Elkhorn Coal Company for their supplies for that mine, if they needed a motor or needed something from another, when there, a place, another warehouse, you, really, we didn't call it a warehouse then but it's really what the intent was, warehouse where they, it was about ten miles and you'd have to take that, now we didn't do that we just took care of, we housed the stock and took care of them and but we could use them, you know, to plow with.

PAM: Did you get paid for keep, taking care of them?


PAM: Just you and your brother or all, your dad and you and your brother?

EARNEST: We took care of them; we didn't get no pay though. We got to ride them.

PAM: So you just got to?

EARNEST: We got to ride them. We got to use them if we wanted to plow with them but we didn't have no tractor.

PAM: So you and your brother would go over there and feed them and brush them and took care of them.

EARNEST: Yeah we took care of them.

PAM: How many did they have?

EARNEST: Two. They were big Army horses. I called them, they had another name for them but we called them Army horses.

PAM: And they would put a wagon to that and hitch that up to go get supplies or equipment?

EARNEST: Yeah, they had a big wagon, a big green wagon with yellow stripes on it, red wheels. Boy! And one was white and one was red. Boy, they were sharp.

PAM: Did you ever get to ride in that?

EARNEST: Oh yeah, All the time.

PAM: What would you ride in that for? Just for your own personal use or was it to go with them when they went in to get the machinery or?

EARNEST: No. We just ride that.

PAM: Just for fun?

EARNEST: Just right where we lived right there, yeah. No we didn't, we didn't 37:00ride it for pleasure. They wanted; you weren't allowed to ride them for pleasure. Just whenever you get to, you get the opportunity to ride them, you take advantage of it.

PAM: When you get the opportunity. Well, how far were you from then a main town?

EARNEST: Oh, it was about a mile and a half.

PAM: What was the main town?

EARNEST: A little town called Martin.

PAM: Martin?

EARNEST: Mm hmm.

PAM: What did they have in Martin?

EARNEST: Well, Martin they had of course naturally they had the company store.

PAM: Uh huh.

EARNEST: And they had one big five and ten cent store so it was called Pete Grisby. Then they had one theater. Lawrence Keithly had the theater. Ok. Shut it.

PAM: Ok. So you had a dime store and a.

EARNEST: Ok. Yeah, well you had in the store, you had what you call the depot. 38:00That's where the train station is. Alright, then you start out and you had independent people had a little business, you had down there like Zot Dangus, he had a little, little store that he sold food and then there was a whiskey store there, he sold whiskeys, he did there. And they had a restaurant, they had two or three little restaurants in this town but the main thing, I mean, it only had one theater, one school, and you had two service stations. You had a Pure Oil and a Texaco and uh.

PAM: How much was gasoline then?

EARNEST: Gasoline then was, I think, eight or nine cents a gallon.

PAM: A gallon, in the 30s?

EARNEST: Yeah, and oil was ten to twelve cents a quart for oil.

PAM: Did the company own most of, like the school, did they pay to have school?

EARNEST: No. All the company owned in this town was just the company store. That's all they owned in town. And then the coal mine.

PAM: Uh huh.

That's all they had. The rest of it was private, private enterprise, private owned uh.

PAM: Did you have a bank?

EARNEST: We had what they called, we had one, one bank in that little town and I 39:00forget what'd we call that little bank. But it was a private owned bank and you had, we had one big hardware Zeke Dingus had the big hardware there. He had quite a selection of stuff; he had about everything you'd want for the big hardware. And uh, of course you had a, let's see, you had a, did I tell you, you had a five and ten cent store?

PAM: Yeah.

EARNEST: Pete Grisby got that. Yeah. And the, that's just about the.

PAM: Extent of the town? How many people do you think lived there?

EARNEST: Well, the total people there, it varied from 800 to 1000 for 20 years.

PAM: Mm hmm. Stayed about the same?

EARNEST: Uh huh.

[Tape stopped]

EARNEST: Also, uh the law enforcement in this little town, they had one sheriff and sometimes I guess he had a deputy. His name was Tabus Flanner.

PAM: Flanner?

EARNEST: Flanner? F-L-A-N-N-E-R. Flanner. And then he had a pool room, they had 40:00a pool room in this little town and of course that's where most the recreation was right there at the, this little pool room. Then the other recreations why the Boy Scouts. So we started this little Troop 44 there so we had, I think it was around ten or twelve boys started out in the Boy Scouts and we was all excited about the Scouts.

PAM: Were those mostly miner's children that were, was in the Boy Scouts?

EARNEST: Well, yes. Not, not too many miners. Most of them were people that 41:00worked there in the town but they worked on the railroad. Some of the, some of the families there they had children that was employed there by B&O Railroad and they, they were some of the Scouts in there. But I recall particularly, we was all excited about the Scouts and we worked pretty hard to have, to make a, you know, make our troop, make everybody proud of us and I recall us getting hot, it was in July, we finally got our, our uniform and uh well we had to choose. We didn't have enough funds to get the summer uniform and the winter so we chose to get the winter outfit so you can imagine it being in July we got that, got our Troop's all uniforms, you know, so we put them on, and it was a old gentleman in this town that died so the Scouts was called upon to take him to the cemetery, they had a cemetery right there at the edge of Martin and Buck's Branch so all of us Scouts we got around the casket and we, we all had of our leggings on and our big hats and by the time we got the old gentleman up to the cemetery to bury him we were burned up. We was ringing wet climbing up that hill with that, with that casket and all that heavy uniform on.

PAM: Yeah.

EARNEST: Ha ha. So. But we was thrilled because, you know, we were being Scouts, you know.

PAM: Yeah, that's a big thing.

EARNEST: And then, and got that request.

PAM: Did the, did the mine support any of these local recreational things like, 42:00did they provide any funds for the Boy Scouts or anything like that?

EARNEST: No. No. You really didn't have a sponsor back then as you, as you do today, you know. In fact, I don't guess anyone really called upon to do that. Scouts sort of had to come up with little ideas and do things yourself to get money.

PAM: So that particular mine didn't provide any recreational facilities for the children or anything?

EARNEST: No. No. They didn't, they didn't supply--

PAM: Nothing like that.

EARNEST: anything. No recreation at all. The town, the town people there, why 43:00they backed up the Scouts and they'd have a cake bake, you know, bake sales and stuff like that to help Scouts and then the Scouts would go around and do things for the community to raise a little money and stuff like that. But all in all though, Scouts was important because, you know, we never had one there and it kind of helped the boys to, it helped motivate them, it helped them train them, you know, you learn a lot in Scouts, how to, how to be obedient and trustworthy and all that. You learn that growing up as a child but there was a lot of things that you didn't get at home that you got in Scouts and you got to mingle with other, other children of your age and you got ideas and things from them so the Scouts they built, I know we built a little log cabin back in the hills and we learned to tie a lot of knots and camp, you know, we'd go camping and stuff of that nature and . . .

PAM: Did you, were you still in the Boy Scouts when you, you and your dad moved to that second house, that second company house?

EARNEST: Yeah, that's where we.

PAM: That's where you started?

EARNEST: That's where we started. We, we moved from the one house down to where, to where the house that we were talking about now.

PAM: Ok. You, you said that to begin, you know, with that was the company home but later on that that was purchased by another group of people and then your dad purchased it from them?

EARNEST: That's right.

PAM: When did that happen? What.

EARNEST: Oh, that happened in, in the late '39s and early '40s.

PAM: But he bought it from those other people?


PAM: And they had purchased, they had previously purchased it from the coal company?


EARNEST: Yeah, the coal company divided that, all that land up and different people bought different pieces of it, different sections of it.

PAM: Do you know why they decided to do that?

EARNEST: Well, they, they went out of business. They quit mining.

PAM: Oh?

EARNEST: Yeah. See, they just quit, they gave up mining all together up there and they moved back over into Pike County or some, some other part of the state. They and they no longer continue mining there in that place.

PAM: What did you dad do then for a living?

EARNEST: Well, he went to work for a coal company up in, Reed Coal Company at Drift. He did weighing the coal and stuff up there for them.

PAM: He stayed in that house in Martin?

EARNEST: We stayed, yeah. That was his home there so we stayed there. That was only about, oh I think it was about seven or eight miles up to Drift so a lot of times we'd, my mother would take him to work and a lot of times why they'd, the company would pick him up.

PAM: Mm hmm. So he worked up there. Tell me a little about that second house?

EARNEST: Ok. The second had a, it had four rooms, four major rooms. It had the 45:00kitchen, dining room, and a living room, and two bedrooms.

PAM: It was a little bit bigger than that first one?

EARNEST: Oh yeah. We had our own bedroom then so, we each of us had a, my brother and I had one bedroom and then my dad and mother had another bedroom. Then of course, we had, we had a garage with it. We had a garage built, we didn't have one so we had to build a garage so we had a garage built there. And it was a little bit closer to Martin than the other one. Oh approximately a quarter of a mile closer--

PAM: To town?

EARNEST: To town than where the other one was and naturally being our own we, you know, we liked that better because we did a few things on it that otherwise we couldn't do, you know. We, we uh done some modification on the house, we built on a, put a fireplace on it, you know, and we had siding put on it and we fenced the yard in.

PAM: How was it heated and everything? Was it the same as the other one?


EARNEST: We had a, no. We had a gas furnace, a floor furnace. Maybe it was gas.

PAM: And that was put in by the company? That came with the house or did you put that in?

EARNEST: Well, it, no. It had, it didn't when we first had it, it just had a stove in it, a coal stove. We.

PAM: The same as the other one?

EARNEST: We had that taken out and put a floor furnace in. Yeah, much better, that was. And we had a big garden with this house also and we raised a pretty good sized garden even there and we had, one year we raised peanuts. We had offers, we raised twenty bushels of peanuts.

PAM: How'd you fix them? What do you do with those?

EARNEST: Well, you raise them just like, you know, you put them in the ground and you raise them and then you take them and pull them and you make a big stack. You stack them up, they're real high until they dry out, you know. So we enjoyed that. You know, it was a little bit different than the other one there.

PAM: Well what type of different things, now, you were older now. Did you start doing other, what other things did you and your brother do to make money over in this new, as you got older? You said you.

EARNEST: Well, there wasn't a whole lot of, there wasn't a whole lot to do to 47:00make money but we'd do little odd jobs for people, you know, we'd clean their, clean their yards up for them and we'd clear land off for people and uh we'd do, clean, we got little job there to clean the ditch out for the road up through there. There wasn't no employment, there wasn't very much employment outside of, you was just doing odds and ends for people. That's about all you do.

PAM: Well, how, how old, how did you have to be to really get, you know, like a regular job working in the mines or working at a gas station or something like that?

EARNEST: Well, when you work in the mines, if you worked, if you was underage, why your parents had to sign for you and uh my dad he signed for me and I, we done some work around the tipple cleaning up.

PAM: How old were you then?

EARNEST: I was fifteen.

PAM: You did just clean up jobs?

EARNEST: Yeah. We did cleanup work around the, around the mine and around the 48:00machine shop there. Just some odds and ends work. Then we'd, we helped one fellow out, he was a driller, he'd drill water wells and drill for gas and stuff and we'd do little odds and ends for him too, you know.

PAM: How much did they pay you?

EARNEST: You got fifty cents a day.

PAM: That's pretty good then wasn't it for a kid?

EARNEST: Yeah it was, yeah. Just odds and ends, yeah. Yeah, we helped out. Then, 49:00of course, when, while I was going to school, why I decided I'd take a, I'd get me training. I learned a trade, you know. So we got to, going down to uh, I started going to Mayo State down uh down to Prestonsburg but their main office was at Paintsville, Kentucky but they had, they had a section there in Prestonsburg where you could learn a skilled trade so, so my brother and I we started taking a welding trade in welding so we went down there and a lot of times we'd have to hitch hike to get down there and sometimes Pauline would take us down and then so we went down to Prestonsburg and we, Pauline talked to some people down there and then we stayed down there. Fifteen dollars a month and uh while we took our training. So we took six months of training down there in Prestonsburg until we, you know, until we learned our trade and that was very very beneficial because then after that, why, then when I finished school I went, I got, I went to Louisville, Kentucky and got a job down there working as a welder for the [Logall?] Company and the Murray Elevator and Machine Company and from there I went into service.

PAM: How long did you stay in Louisville there working?

EARNEST: Oh, about nine months. About nine months down there and then I went into service.

PAM: Uncle Sam got you then?


PAM: Yeah. And then you just, how long were in the service then?

EARNEST: I was in the Navy approximately 32 months. Almost three years.

PAM: Did you return then back to Kentucky to work or back to the same area to 50:00try to get work or?

EARNEST: Well, I came back and there wasn't too much work around there so I drawled what they called the rocking chair money.

PAM: What's that?

EARNEST: That's, well, you'd call it unemployment here but there in service you had, you know, you got service credit to you so you could draw we called it rocking chair money and then, and that wasn't very much but we drew that for a while and then, then I left there and came to, I came to Ohio.

PAM: To work?


PAM: But your dad stayed on there?

EARNEST: Yeah. My dad stayed working there at the, for the Reed Coal Company in Drift until his death which was in '72.

PAM: Ok. Let's go back to a the coal industry itself. How, how was the coal processed?

EARNEST: Well, the coal, the coal came into the tipple which that's the receiving place for the coal and the coal there was uh, was divided, whether it 51:00was good coal or bad coal and then the good coal was dumped in a big chute and transferred to the other side of the hill on a method of conveyors. Conveyors would take it across then you'd have what they called a cleaning process and in the cleaning process the coal was separated. The lump coal went in one car, egg coal went in another, slack went in another, and they had people, as the coal went down these conveyors, before it went into the coal car, why these people would check this coal to clean it. And if it had slate involved they'd throw the slate out and let the good coal go and then throw out the bad. Then you had, you, they had the capabilities up there about ten railroad cars and then when they got them filled they'd move one out and move another one in, that was all done by manual. No automatic whatsoever, they had a guy that worked on the track and he would release, they'd had a big cable and he'd work the cars down and as they filled them he'd move them out and move other ones in. Then they put in a big coal crusher there. They had a, they got, they got orders for what they call 52:00crushed coal and that's when it started to increasing their capacity of coal, their quantity of coal because the power companies they use coal, what they call uh slack. And they'd crush that because they blow that into the power, you know, to make the fuel for these power plants, they would blow this coal in to make the fuel and it then it would combustion and it would make hotter, hotter heat.

PAM: Was the demand for coal greater during the war years?

EARNEST: Oh well, yeah it was greater than before the war, I mean, you know, as I said, they worked anywhere between two to three or four days a week.

PAM: But that increased during the war?

EARNEST: Yeah, actually during the, when the war broke out, why they had a bigger demand and then, of course, they worked six and seven days a week, I guess.

PAM: What, how did they handle that as far as a lot of the boys had to go off to war, what type of people were left behind to run the coal mines?

EARNEST: Well, what they did there, you had a, each, each county, in other 53:00words, Kentucky had 120 counties and out of each county uh the draft would take so many people from each county. And regardless of the size of the family you had, I remember one particular family there, this guy had eight kids and he still had to go. Each county had to give up so many people as a draft demanded them.

PAM: So they, and but they left enough behind to keep the coal mines running. Do they pick like older men to stay behind or?

EARNEST: Well, the ones that didn't pass the physical.

PAM: Yeah.

EARNEST: Got to work.

[Background noises]

PAM: So, Ok.

EARNEST: Well, then, you know, then when they got their cars filled then the 54:00railroad company would come up, they would come and bring more empty cars and take the full cars out and they'd be sent off to their, and billing. See the coal was billed from different companies up in Cleveland. Cleveland, Ohio bought coal. Cincinnati bought coal of them and, and they sent coal, you know, mostly in the in the bordering states that took most of the coal from what was up there. Because they have, they say, Kentucky it, there's different types of coal, anthracite and bituminous. Anthracite is what Kentucky has, that's a soft coal, see. Now like in Pennsylvania, you got bituminous, a hard coal. Virginia's got hard coal but there's more demand for hard coal than there was for soft coal and that affected the operation of the mines. How much output that they do due to supply and demand. But still they had a, the power companies for fuel and also in the industry, steel mills all over the country, they would, they liked the, they take that soft coal because they use it for fuel like melting steel and stuff.

PAM: Yeah.

EARNEST: And even though like Republic Steel, Bethlehem Steel, all your big 55:00steel companies, they, they had some major mines of their own but still a lot of times they couldn't get enough coal so they'd buy coal off of the companies. So selling to the steel companies also helped them and making work available for them.

PAM: Did you have mostly large coal companies back there or did you have a bunch of bunch of small operations?

EARNEST: Well, yeah. You only had one, one, two major companies back there then. Will Wright, that was the, I think Will Wright had Republic Steel had Will Wright up Left Beaver and then Right Beaver you had one up there at Welling, you had a pretty, that was a pretty good size mine up there but you had a lot of small, small people in coal business that took their coal and sold it to these bigger, bigger outfits.

PAM: Did those smaller com, uh companies provide the company store and the company houses too?

EARNEST: No. No. No.

PAM: Just the larger ones provided those things?

EARNEST: They all the small outfits did was they'd have to pay, they'd have to 56:00abide by the, by the royalty, I mean they couldn't, they couldn't, they'd have to be under the jurisdiction of Kentucky mining, safety mine inspection, you know. They was, they were subject to be, to be monitored for safety, you know. Of course now they, they wasn't as safety as per say as the big mines was but they, certain things was required of these little truck mines but truck mines was privately owned. Maybe one or two people or a family, family deal that mined truck coal and they'd take and sell it to a bigger outfit now like Reed up there at Drift. Now, they bought mostly truck coal from, from people all over the, all over the community there around Floyd County and up in there. I don't know how far they, people hauled coal but I'd say that twenty to twenty-five miles would be, you start hauling coal much more, much further than thirty miles your, you know, that's a problem.

PAM: Yeah.

EARNEST: So coal was a major thing up there and you had some gas, you know, 57:00distributing but gas wasn't, wasn't as well-known as in the eyes of the people up there as coal. Coal was, let's call it the backbone of the, just like cars is today the automobile is the backbone of the country, the main industry. Well, coal in Kentucky is considered the main source of income for people. And wherever there was mines that was mining that's were the people lived.

PAM: Or moved to or lived.

EARNEST: Well sure. They had to go to where their work was at.

PAM: So did a lot of people that were the company coal houses weren't provided, did a lot of people just build their own homes or just make the best arrangements they could?

EARNEST: Oh no. Very, yeah, the company only had just a very few houses for the employees. They didn't, no there was people that came, came as far as twenty miles to work there. And they had their own homes.

PAM: Work every day?

EARNEST: And they'd have to come by the best way they'd get there, you know, if they had an automobile, they'd come in a carpool or whatever.

PAM: Ok let me ask you because we've just got a few more seconds. Ok, comparing yourself to maybe other kids that didn't live in a coal town, how do you, what just real quick, what do you think, do you think that that was, you were better off than they were or they were better off than you were?

EARNEST: Well, I don't, I think there was advantages and disadvantages on both 58:00sides but uh I.

[Recording ends]