Title: Interview with Frank Thomas Identifier: 1997oh038 Date: 28 Oct 1996Interviewer: Jerrell Reynolds Project: Blue Diamond/Stearns Coal Mining Strike
Side 1 Jerrell REYNOLDS: The following is an unrehearsed taped interview withDr. Frank Thomas. The interview was conducted by Jerrell Reynolds, student at Eastern Kentucky University with the Blue Diamond Coal Mine Strike Oral History Project. The interview was conducted at the home of Dr. Frank Thomas in Somerset, Kentucky on October 28th, at about 10:30 am. First I'd like to thank you Dr. Thomas for allowing me to come and visit with you again today. Could you please state your name, sir?
FRANK THOMAS: Frank T. Thomas.
REYNOLDS: Dr. Thomas, can you give us a brief history how you came to Stearnsand how you got involved with the Stearns Company?
THOMAS: Well, I was in Stearns originally because my parents lived there. I was1:00born in Stearns in a company housing assembly. My father was a dentist in Stearns and um they had built this house in order to attract him up there, and see he was there and um . . . I went to school there for twelve years in the Stearns School which was an independent district. Then I went to the University of Tennessee um for pre-dental and um then I also took pre-law because I couldn't quite make up my mind whether I was going into medicine dentistry or law so I could switch and then [unclear] but I went to Northwestern University to dental school that's where I graduated. I was in the Navy a couple of years and came back to Stearns to practice. I had not intended to but my father died suddenly and so just about the time I was going to get out of the Navy. I went back, promised my mother I'd stay there one year and ended up staying... six years when I was called back into the Navy for a couple of years. Um I nearly went to Maysville, Kentucky um and I talked to a hospital up there about getting on their staff and, I don't know when I got back to Stearns and looked at it, I 2:00was lonesome for it. So we went back and I practiced another four years when Bob Stearns who was uh one of the chief owners of the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company, it was a family owned um corporation; they the family owned 90% of the stock and uh he was president. And we used to talk about business and a time or two I had talked to him uh about things. I recall once going to him rather indignantly and telling about how the store had extended some man credit and [unclear] when I told him he was an employee of Stearns and the store manager said well you've got to pay all your bills because I've decided your job might not last much longer and so we're just going to get the money now. And I stuck my nose into it and went up to Bob Stearns and I said that's a hell of a way to 3:00do business. And uh so he called the man on the carpet and they gave him, they gave the man his money back; told him he could pay when he wanted to. It was just; we would discuss things like that. And one day he um said I sort like for you to go in to business with us. I had never thought of it. My wife and I had talked about it. I was not unhappy in practicing dentistry. Looking back, I was probably a little restless; I had thought about um going to Knoxville and working in general hospital there for a while but uh we decided, well, let's do it and I agreed to do it for three years to be a full time employee at Stearns and at the end of that time I could quit or they could tell me to leave and um the whole [unclear] I figured well I could go on and take a post graduate course 4:00in oral surgery and specialize. But at the end of three years I didn't think about leaving the business. I had only been there about fourteen months when uh Bob Stearns had a stroke and uh so I had to learn faster than they had intended for me to. But I enjoyed it and I never regretted doing it.
REYNOLDS: Now what was your position at the time Stearns Company sold theJustice Mine to Blue Diamond Coal Company?
THOMAS: Well, let me back out of that and I'll try not to make everything so5:00long. Uh the Stearns Mining Company was not owned by the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company. Everybody thought so but it wasn't. It was a uh separate company that had been founded in 1973 uh with the idea in mind that we were going to separate these businesses. Stearns was in many businesses when I went there and it was my feeling after being there for some time that uh the real business ought to be coal mining and they said they were involved um a wholesale and uh Ford garage and a theater and a bunch of company stores and a wholesale and it looked to me like they had uh I guess at that time 250 houses, uh rental units um over the property. And my dream was to get it to be a coal company. So we did form this coal company and it's called Stearns Mining Company. Uh it was spun off to be the same stockholders more or less not the same, not absolutely the same, but that was what we sold Stearns Coal and Lumber Company was made of [unclear] any portion of it. Just, just a second company. I was president of 6:00Stearns Mining Company the time that it was founded; uh we originally called it BR10 and son. And like many corporations, it all gets sort of involved but it did eventually become the Stearns Mining Company. And that was what we sold on December 31st, 1975 to Blue Diamond.
REYNOLDS: And you told me, sir, that you'd worked with Blue Diamond. What wasyour position with them?
THOMAS: I was executive vice president of um Blue Diamond when, I had no thought7:00of going with Blue Diamond in the middle of these negotiations to sell the mine and property. Uh their executive vice president, uh fellow [unclear], and uh, just about the time they were closing this deal and they were rather insistent that I come with Blue Diamond and uh I turned them down at first but then did do it and um was with them only two years.
REYNOLDS: How did that position affect your responsibility with the day to dayoperation of the Justice Mine?
THOMAS: Day to day operation I had uh almost nothing to do with the day to day8:00operation. When, when I was president of the Stearns Mining Company, I think I still kept that title, because it was a subsidiary of Blue Diamond, uh but when, when I went to Blue Diamond, they had their mining organization, they had a superintendent of mines. They owned Leatherwood, and Scotia and those where their two main mining properties. They had another one down, they had called it Royal Blue and they, they let me know that, you know, they knew how to mine the coal and they were, they were going to operate the mines and they did. They went so far as to tell me uh don't talk to the men there at Stearns. Uh it was getting close to time to negotiate a new contract and they explained very patiently that they had people who were quite experienced in labor negotiations and they uh had lawyers who had been with them a long time and they would rather handle it than and um, um would appreciate my keeping my nose out of it. I thought that strange since I knew the men up there uh but I did what they requested.
REYNOLDS: Before the strike on Stearns Company, Stearns Mining Company owned the9:00mines, how would you describe the relationship between management and labor at that time?
THOMAS: Well, I thought it was very good. Stearns uh and LAM as a company had10:00a reputation of, of them being strike free, the um Whistlers uh an independent union that had been formed in 1954 it had been virtually strike free during that time. Uh we felt, and I always appreciated that, you know, because, and not because they, they rolled over and played dead. But if something came up, you could, you could talk to the men. We could get together and we, we had some big disagreements at times. But we could finally straighten it out. Uh the um the problem with the larger unions it is, and I saw this in the negotiations that occurred between Blue Diamond and um the United Mine Workers, uh the men, as far as I could see, had nothing to say of what was being demanded uh and I was not in any of those negotiations but uh, but I felt like the men were just sort of left without a spokesman. I think our relations were good, not perfect uhh... After the strike began and everybody gets emotional and starts ticking their [unclear] and variety of things you hadn't thought of in twenty-five years suddenly pop into mind but uh I think it was very good. I don't think that had Stearns not sold it, I don't think that the United Mine Workers would have ever even tried to become their um representatives. 11:00
REYNOLDS: Ok, that relationship, did it change that drastically between the menand Blue Diamond after they bought the mine?
THOMAS: Yes. Uh It changed uh, uh partly because here they were working for a12:00uh, for a completely different company. Uh the men had heard of Blue Diamond but, as I say, if they asked a question, uh-uh I wasn't supposed to talk to them about what the future held and uh Doc Coffey was the superintendent of the mine there was not supposed to talk to them about that and, and I think the uh men resented the fact that, uh and they say oop, our contract's up in, um at the end of um March, what are we going to do? What's Blue Diamond going to do? And nobody including the uh Blue Diamond people would utter a word, there's, there's a lot of laws that have to be observed and um there's a period in there where you're not supposed um to do uh any talking as I recall it but it's not that type now. They had uh, to ask for a new uh union, they had to petition 60 days before the uh, uh , before the time the contract expired. As far as I've ever known, there's no part of doing that until uh , until maybe the last week in January and they just said we, we don't like what's going on and they did select to petition to have an election and they won the election and [unlear].
REYNOLDS: After that time, where there any other signs that would maybe indicate13:00a strike?
THOMAS: Yeah. If you look back at things uh you can uh, you can see things uh.Quite frankly, the uh wage, wages had never been as good there as uh the United Mine Workers deal. Uh one of the big selling points on, on the breaking away from the United Mine Workers in 1954, is I understand it and I was in the Navy, I knew nothing about all this, but I was there and more or less said look, you go back at this wage scale and how much less it would be, I'm not, I don't know, uh we'll be able to work five days a week and anybody that wants to work six days a week can work that. Whereas under UMW they were only getting one or two days a week. So overall the men took home a lot more money during that period 14:00of time uh than they would have taken home, well I think the mines would have closed if they had to pay that, but uh the one thing that they had was a full working week. But as I look back and try to tell what, what are the things that we've done that are wrong. I can, its easy for me to say well you, as Blue Diamond should have done this that and the other. We had a uh, the contract had a no strike clause if, if you went on an unauthorized strike uh we had the right to fire you. Uh we had a little flare up over a minor thing. Some man had not been coming to work and he would be there a day and missed two or three days and 15:00so forth, I don't remember all the details but I do remember that, uh that he came to go to work one day and uh the superintendent or foreman, I don't recall which, told him uh um he couldn't work that um he'd had too many unexcused absences, and uh he'd have to um take a layoff and so when the men on that uh it was at Justice, when the men on that shift heard of it, they walked off or several of them did, they promoted a strike which without even you know coming and pleading the case or anything and there were uh maybe twelve, I don't, I don't recall but that happened one week, I think, and perhaps that weekend we 16:00had those men in and [unclear] and all of them said the same thing that um , I had gone down there and said it was either you go to work, your job is down that way and home is back that way. Well, some of them said they'd [unclear] it'd be all right to go home. I didn't believe them um and we had about twelve men that were fired. I don't think, I think I was wrong and should have listened to them some more and so uh some of them came on back and were working during the strike as I recall but,uh when the strike began, but I think I should have uh 17:00handled it differently and we talked to the union about that. But I'm not sure we that did the right thing. If I had it to do over, I would have done that differently. There were little irritants or the um ... there was one thing that always bothered me and I thought that might have been [unclear] a little bit, we had a man there, he was an older man and there was an opening for a job for which he really had the seniority uh to, to take. Well, the union came to me, the president of the union and, not their, not their lawyer, he didn't come, but one or two of the people on this man's shift and they said, Doc we're, we like this fella, we like X, he's a good man but he's dangerous this, this machine he 18:00could, he could hurt one of us. And we want you to not put him in that job but leave us out of it. And I said, well, I, he's a friend of mine, I can talk to him and I think I can, I can tell him you all were here. So I did have him in and I beat around the bush a lot of course and uh, and uh didn't let him have that job he wanted. Uh I thought he accepted it quite well but I found out later that uh it infuriated him and his whole family and they thought that uh, that his reward for working there for a long time was to um be mistreated. And once the strike occurred there were people that had um, had caused him not to get the 19:00advancement, uh by [unclear] him up and so I was [unclear] . I think they were sincere when they said they didn't want him to [unclear] I think he probably was a little um but . . . I took the blame for something that I and, and as I say they'd all been friends and I think it was quite embarrassing. And we made out alright. I mean there were times that um, that you don't handle things right so it was far from perfect but I thought our relationships were very good. What happened was their president from another union was the one that was talking to UMW all the time, he was sworn to uphold the McCreary County Miner's 20:00Union and he was the one that led them into other room and lots of them really didn't know what it was all about. I think I've had too many men tell me that they really didn't know what the whole thing was about until the strike started.
REYNOLDS: Oh I interviewed my dad and he told me that he felt that one of themain reasons they went on strike was over the wages that you mentioned earlier and . . .
THOMAS: I don't . . .
REYNOLDS: he felt that was the primary reason.
THOMAS: I don't, but, but the, well it was the wages when the United MineWorkers came in but, but it was more than that and when, what I found, they went over the wages. I think they were believing they were going to get a big raise. Look, this is when the big coal boom was going on and uh I don't think there would have been any big argument over wages. They never went to uh Blue Diamond until it got with the United Mine Workers and all that. Uh the, but Blue 21:00Diamond and um the United Mine Workers had been fighting with each other like cats and dogs for many years. I knew they'd had some [unclear] I did not realize it was uh as deep as it was and I think there had been people killed in those strikes. I know that Blue Diamond had a uh, it was either a two or three million dollar um-uh judgment against the United Mine Workers and it was waiting to be paid and collected interest there and such I think they were sort of one up on the union and it was over some, some um-uh destructive practices of the union when they had the strike over at uh Leatherwood. Blue Diamond, since they did not intend to negotiate with the United Mine Workers, uh and my feeling was 22:00that the United Mine Workers really didn't give a damn whether the people in Stearns got anything or not, they wanted to uh hurt Blue Diamond. So it, its an unfortunate thing that here was a group of men who uh, they weren't used to strikes, they weren't used to all this stuff and, and you had two people who wouldn't give an inch, neither side would give an inch and uh, as I say, I've never sat in on any negotiations, but I,I know what went on in there and they just, they just refused to talk to each other in [unclear] .
REYNOLDS: So basically, where would you say the miners were in this whole equation?
THOMAS: They were just, they were just a pawn. They were, there were a coupleof chess players there and they were uh ... I'm sure the UMW would have liked 23:00for them to have uh gotten what they were after, I'm sure Blue Diamond would liked to have worked something out for them but they never meant to sign with the United Mine Workers. No matter what they say, they never, they were not going to work under the United Mine Workers and, you know, it was just a, you know I, I could just see the collision there and uh what, one reason that I, I'm not being evasive on some of this stuff I know about certain things, if you will recall, if [unclear] could recall, uh just about the time that Blue Diamond bought Stearns Mining Company within ten weeks or less they had an uh explosion at Scotia which they owned which killed 15 men. And uh two days 24:00later, while they were going in there to remove some of the bodies, and to investigate, no I guess, I guess to investigate, I don't know if there were any bodies left, I think they had the bodies out, but uh they were in there again and it was uh a federal inspectors, uh there was uh mine management, and there was another explosion and it killed 11 people. Uh well of course, the UMW took that as anybody would and um made a big issue of safety. And then, then they uh, of course began going on how unsafe the mines was, no mine is as safe as we are in here, but um it, that mine wasn't uh, those mines are safe, I always 25:00felt sorry for, the uh mine safety man was Tom Perry and um Tom had a, let's see, I may have him mixed up, but a son-in-law who was very much, and was very active on site of the um UMW, and he had a son who was a very close to the UMW and, but they were, they were talking about how horrible the safety was and um, Tom who was, he finally creased, he just couldn't take the pressure of his son, his son-in-law and more and everything but Tom says, when their saying all this 26:00stuff, they're talking about me. And but, it was an emotional time for a lot people.
REYNOLDS: There was a report in the Courier Journal, it was uh 1978 and it wasdiscussing Stearns' reopening and beginning to, Justice mine reopening and they were going to start production back and it said, in the, and the thing that struck me as funny is that the, that Blue Diamond had agreed to not ship any coal out during the national United Mine Workers' Strike. But as soon as that strike was over, that they would resume production. Uh do you recall . . .
THOMAS: I wasn't with them in 1978. I left, well uh I was with them a shorttime in, in 1978 but I had, I don't, by the middle of 1977, uh the, there were 27:00two things at Blue Diamond. One, they felt that uh Bob Gable who represented some stockholders and uh the Stearns Mining Company and I was president would negotiate the deal, most of it, that we had known that there was going to be a strike and that we had just sold them, instead of selling a coal mine, we had misled them and sold them a uh a uh situation that we had hid from them. Uh It wasn't true but uh almost once the strike began, it was an atmosphere in Knoxville where they're located uh that, that I wasn't welcome to, to do much uh 28:00and you know, they felt that I was on the side of the miners. The miners felt I was on the side of Blue Diamond and my wife thought I was crazy staying in the job and I said, I've got to stay two years. Then after two years I left shortly uh after that. Uh the, uh but the other reason that I that I wasn't involved as much there, one reason, they really didn't want me for certain things. Uh When the uh explosions occurred, of course they were in deep trouble and uh they sealed 11 bodies in the mines, and uh so they said you, uh you're going to be responsible for getting us a lawyer to uh represent us and in all this. Well now, this was a national issue, it, Blue Diamond's name is mud all over the 29:00United States at that, so but we got uh , I called Bert Combs who'd been governor and a federal judge and he agreed to a ... Well I spent an [unclear] and my next one was to find somebody to help us recover the bodies and those elderly gentlemen, when they got tired, they'd been with US Steel and uh I got him to come and so I spent a lot of time uh with him and with the federal people. They called me and reported or they'd tell me how much gas was there and so I spent an awful lot of time on that. The bodies were recovered on, the explosion occurred about on the 15th of um March. The bodies were recovered on November 19th, I remember that. And um..and so during that time, I was very 30:00involved in that and then the uh wives and the dependents of these men filed suit against Blue Diamond and I was uh involved in running back and forth on a lot of that stuff. So really, it was about March before I got back to Stearns uh to any extent and then something happened which, now this was March of '77, something happened. I went to Stearns once uh and um everybody was just raising hell with me, a bunch of women who took at me a little bit and it was so 31:00different than, than I expected it to be. I knew I wasn't going to be a hero at that time but I didn't expect that. Well what Blue Diamond had done without even consulting me, they had written a letter to all the men and all the miners and said if you're not back to work
(End recording, Side 1)
SIDE 2 THOMAS: . . . the courthouse and, and uh about ready to leave uh andthere were a well they were mainly women, well they were women, they just got me in a corner and they wouldn't let me uh leave until the state police came but they kept saying to me, talking about the letter and uh-um one women that I didn't know kicked [unclear] . I really didn't know what they were talking about. Uh I had never seen a letter and uh so after this was all over I asked 32:00uh Doc Coffey I said what, what letter are they talking about, and he said about [unclear] the letter that you sent them, I said no I hadn't sent any letters, I haven't even seen a letter. And they had forged my name to that and I was so, so from that time on there was so much distrust between me and Blue Diamond. They didn't always tell me everything that was going on and um-uh I didn't go out and out on the street. It was very uncomfortable feeling but that I think I resented that as much as anything that uh, that happened to me uh personally in the [unclear] uh but the odd thing was that the thing I got the most blame for, I hadn't even seen it.
REYNOLDS: Have you seen one to this day, sir?
THOMAS: I'm not sure that I ever saw the letters go out. They told me what was33:00in it but I'm not sure I ever actually saw the letter. Uh, I think they had, there was a stamp uh that uh when we signed checks, we had had it there at Stearns and it was a uh metal one you know, cut into the check and I assume they would use that to uh get the signature but uh when I left there, when I left um Blue Diamond, they uh, somebody pointed out to me, you're well still signing the checks there. So I called them up and told them you can take my name off that, there was no way I could use that but they didn't use it after that.
REYNOLDS: Can you tell me, I know you said you'd left Blue Diamond at the time34:00but Southern Labor Union, where did they come from, who were they?
THOMAS: Southern Labor Union was started in Oneida. It was originally called35:00the Scott Labor Union. The men in the, in the Stearns' mines, they were the Stearns Coal and Oil Company in 1954 had uh created or became members of the um McCreary County Miner's Union and the man who really put it together was a lawyer named Leonard Stevens. Uh and he represented the men until he died in about 1960 or something like that. Uh But when there were some people in Scott County that uh were doing the same thing and they wanted to become a part of the McCreary County Miners Union and Leonard Stevens said, look, this union knows the conditions here. They know the men here. The very reason the men want this union is not to get involved with uh, with uh somebody who's having a dispute in Robins, Tennessee and it doesn't affect us in any way, they don't want to be involved in it. So they formed, instead, the uh Scott Labor Union. And a fellow named Ted T. Wells a lawyer down there, uh became the president of them but he was very ambitious now. He tried to make it into a national organization and then call it the uh Southern Labor Union. And um they had, they had members in three or four states as I recall. But they were not connected to the administration of the mines.
REYNOLDS: Uh When the strike ended, did the Southern Labor Union not representthe people who were working at the mine at that time.
THOMAS: I don't think so but I'm not, as I say, I, uh they, uh they may have.36:00The union over at um Scotia was a Southern Labor Union and so I, I guess they became a part of that and um, I don't know if they formed it completely separate but it had, it had, it had entitlements I guess, but I hadn't thought of that, but I guess. I guess they had a local there. My recollection was that there was a fella named Bashem and um uh Kim Keshnut [unclear] one of them who were Junior Hill, and some of them, those were the names I heard batted around. The reason I say, I was not with Blue Diamond at that time and um I know that 37:00finally they had an election, if I recall it correctly they, they were going to see whether the men would accept representation by this new group and the UMW just advised their men not to, not to vote. They knew that they were, they were whipped and, now the scuttlebutt at the, down around in mining circles at that time was that the uh United Mine Workers and Blue Diamond made a deal that UMW would pay off that two to three million dollars uh that they owed Blue Diamond 38:00and Blue Diamond would then in turn agree not to sue them over the strike at um Stearns and they let uh the UMW just drop out of the picture. I don't know, I wonder if your dad's ever heard that.
REYNOLDS: Well, I talked to dad about that and I, the report I used was out ofthe Courier Journal again and it said that there was an agreement to allow 70 of the Justice miners to vote and 50 of the United Mine Workers picket people to vote and it was agreed to by the National Labor Board, Blue Diamond, and the United Mine Workers.
THOMAS: Well, as I say, they uh, I, I think it really what happened after allthis thing is, but I think there was an under the table deal made. I think that, uh you never heard any more about their refusing to pay the UMW if it 39:00wasn't done and their refusal to pay Blue Diamond. They paid Blue Diamond about that time. As a matter of fact they, a uh reporter called me and asked me what I knew about it and uh I said, I had heard it. But I said, look, there's been, there's been warfare uh in McCreary County now for the last three years and it looks like there's peace right now. Don't write the stories to stir up something and let it, if its gone, its gone and don't, don't start another story there that uh, that might reopen all these wounds and get them started with each again. And I'll say on behalf of this reporter that he didn't feel that he'd 40:00been chasing the story hard and he sort of agreed that enough is enough.
REYNOLDS: Well, I asked dad about the vote, you know, as recorded in theCourier Journal and he said he had no knowledge of the vote or any agreement.
THOMAS: Uh well, I think that the uh, think the sort of face-saving thing was41:00they just said, look, this is a rigged election and we're not going take part in it and they urged the UMW people just don't vote. I don't know what the final vote was and seriously I didn't recall if there was any 70/50 agreement ever talked of or anything but my recollection is that they said, look, uh we're, uh we're just not going to vote at all. Things are broken against the union, they uh, you know they put uh several of them in jail for that. Uh and that in affect broke the back and then, then this young man was ambushed and uh know to this day nobody's ever been indicted for that.
REYNOLDS: Um, in your opinion, did the United Mine Workers forsake the minersthat walked picket?
THOMAS: Yeah, yeah, they, I don't know whether they stood by them along time,Jerry. Um-uh I don't know how long you have to do something but I think that um , I'm convinced um that as I say um that there was a, I've never felt that they had a great interest in the men anyway. I think it was try to hurt Blue Diamond. Uh you had two hard headed people just, just fighting and, uh you know 42:00there was shooting that occurred and went on. There is one, one thing that I should probably tell you that I had some influence on in the, when the strike uh started, at Blue Diamond they talked about they were going to have to put guards there which I think is usual in cases like that and they asked uh somebody uh apparently in the county had contacted them uh and said they could hire a bunch of guards from uh a certain area in the county and I feel really strongly that using local people as guards [unclear] to begin with you don't know if they're for you or against you. Uh your liable to get somebody that's mad at somebody on 43:00the picket line and um give them an excuse uh to start shooting at them and its, if I were doing it I'd be recognized that the guard unit, a security unit, you know. So they uh , they contacted Storm Security in London and the uh men uh were awful upset about their having uh guards that they'd brought in from out of county. Well, I thought they were, I thought that that's what they should have done if they were going to have guards. Uh By then I had learned that they fought back and forth, just warfare over it, for a long time and they had some 44:00guards from that thing that they brought over there and that they trusted a lot of them [unclear] but uh I uh I never could figure why if you have guards you wouldn't have rather had somebody that was more neutral and I knew that I'd heard of Storm at Kerns, who had, had a strike in London uh they had been the guards then but uh the reaction during was really sort of, might have been, might, no matter who you had, things were getting pretty emotional by the end but um as you look at things when you do something, you think, well now, that's the way to do something. It turns out that everybody was absolutely wrong. Just shows you're not as smart as you think you are. 45:00
REYNOLDS: The uh strike. I know Stearns Company took pride in not havingstrikes. Stearns had had a pretty good name in the county prior to the strike. Do you think that the strike cost the greatest loss on the name of the Stearns Company?
THOMAS: I think so. I think uh that uh for some reason, uh the, uh it was,there were just people, and I think some of them just had animosity toward Stearns and they just refused to believe that Stearns wasn't behind the scenes. Uh I heard a thousand times during that, Stearns still owns the mines and the, and it was, it was just sort of like the election going on now. You tell something, you know it's a lie, and they just kept telling it and everybody, an awful lot of people believed it and uh I had people uh years afterwards say, 46:00when were we going to take the uh mine back over and what, I tell you, I liked mining very much. If it had been left entirely up to me, we never would have sold the mine but Gable didn't really, wasn't, he wasn't raised there, and uh he and mining is an uncertain business. You can see over the last, over the last many years how many smaller coal companies are out of business now. You don't see small filling stations in small coal companies anymore. But we had a, we had a contract for 20 years with uh Georgia Power to sell that coal and uh we were quite prosperous. They were buying a coal business, were quite prosperous. My recollection is that we gave, I know we gave some uh raises just, you know, 47:00the union didn't even ask us [unclear] raises because coal prices had gone up and we could well afford to. Uh I, I had hoped that we were going to accomplish a lot in our time frame in that April but um it never came about. But yeah, I think it, I think when somebody says Blue Diamond slash Stearns Company strike, I always get a little up on the ear and say, look, that was, that was Blue Diamond uh that had the strike. Uh Stearns didn't have a strike. They sold the thing and they strike occurred but uh you're, you're young and dominant 48:00[unclear], the dominant business force in any county is hugely unpopular and Stearns did dominate the uh county. They at one time had 2200 people on their payroll and uh McCreary, Scott, Wayne, uh [unclear], and Scott counties and uh, and so decisions that you make uh affect people's lives and one of the, one of the things that was sort of pathetic, people wanted to work. Uh and uh we were to have a, if there was one job open at the mine, you'd get 50 people that'd 49:00come by your house, they'd come to the office, they'd call you uh and they all wanted to work. And you could only hire one person. Well, you ended up with 49 people asking what have you got against me that you didn't hire me? Uh It's a, so lots of times just because you didn't hire somebody, uh they, they, they'd blame Stearns for not having more jobs but my, my own opinion of Stearns is that they were well respected. Uh No matter what anybody says about them I don't think you ever hear anybody say well they didn't pay me. And, and the philosophy when I was there, when I went there, and I'm hopeful [unclear] that 50:00if you tell somebody that you're going to do something that you for it. That you might negotiate hard but then you keep your word. I've been exposed to other companies that say, well, negotiate and then get a lawyer to figure out a way to put it in writing to where you can get out of it and that's (unclear) . But it all is, the strange things in McCreary County that people can find out are always going to hate the people in Whitley City, it just, if you can explain to me why an election that occurred in 1914 is still a dominant political factor 80 years later in McCreary county, then I think you can explain a lot of things but, its true, its still a, there's still a uh , people who, who live in one of 51:00those two towns that just, just don't want to see the other one have anything. Maybe both of them don't want Stearns to have anything, I don't know. But I think, Stearns is no longer a dominant force there. They don't have anything now. Is the county better off? That's what the matter. [Unclear] They have a steady payroll and trade and now that they're gone there's a lot of jobs that are just not there anymore.
REYNOLDS: Well, sir, I thank you very much for time. Thank you very much foryour information. I appreciate the opportunity to come visit with you again and . . .
THOMAS: Well, I hope I don't sound like I'm lecturing too much when I get into52:00something like I did a minute ago but I'm, I'm a native of McCreary County and I want to see them do well. And I get very discouraged sometimes.
(End recording, SIDE 2)