Monthly Archives: January 2008

Early Life in the WV Coal Camp-The Taffy Pull


taffy.jpgThe Agee family lived just down the tracks and on the right of the road.  They lived beside the Shadeeds Furniture Store in a big house with lots of activity.  Elizabeth Agee was one of my mom’s best friends and we were always walking down for a visit. 

One day Elizabeth had us to come down to join in on a taffy pull.  I had no idea what we would be doing, but it sounded like fun.  Elizabeth had already cooked the ingredients and let them cool.  We had to rub butter on our hands so the taffy wouldn’t stick.  She gave her daughter a glob of taffy and told me to grab about half the taffy and pull it up the hallway (without getting it on the floor).  We kept pulling, then mixing the glob and pulling some more. Finally, it reached the stage that Elizabeth got out her scissors and began cutting it into pieces and my mom wrapped them in paper.


hershey.jpgThis was a once in a lifetime experience, but I decided it was easier to just eat a Hershey’s Chocolate Bar.

Early Life in the Coal Camp-First Grade


red-hair.jpgWell, the day has finally arrived for me to get some new clothes, tear myself away from my mom and go to the Mammoth Grade School.  The first grade class was on the first floor and Miss Hall was our teacher.  I can still see her red hair and gazing blue eyes that just seemed to see through me.

When I started to school I already knew my numbers, alphabet and could read a little.  Needless, to say this put me a little ahead and I finished my work before most of the other kids.  This was not good.  I liked to be funny or talk when I finished my lessons.  Sometimes the teacher would have me help some of the other kids with their work.  I would start talking and the teacher would call me down.

We always said the pledge of allegiance each morning before we started our classes.  I will never forget the morning I was about to pee and it was time to say the pledge with our hand over our heart.  Well, for a first grader it is hard to raise your hand to leave the room when you must place your hand over your heart.  I thought ……I can hold that pee…I know I can.  Well, that was the longest pledge ever and when we got to … national under God…..the pee started down my leg and there was no stopping it.

Of course, Miss Sassy Hall humilitated me by saying only babies pee their pants and why didn’t you go to the toilet.  I just told her I didn’t know how to raise my hand to leave and be expected to keep it over my heart at the same time.  She smiled and told me to go home to change my clothes.

One day I was making the other kids laugh and Miss Hall told me to go stand at the reading table and put my elbows on the table and read a book.  This was not a comfortable stance and I began to shift from one leg to the other and still giggling.

paddle.jpgMiss Hall when out of the room one day and told us to not get out of our seat.  Well…………this just made us want to roam around more than ever.  Most of us were out of our seat when she came back and she really got angry.  He said she was going to paddle everyone of us and we better not go home and tell our parents.  Paddling really hurts and no one had ever hit my bottom with a board before and I never wanted it to happen again.

Every child that got paddled told their parents and Miss Sassy Red Hair Hall lost her job and we were glad. 

Early Life in the Coal Camp-Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs


snow-white.jpgYou may be thinking that this must have been an awful life and very boring.  Well, it was a good life and adventures every day.  Just think.  There wasn’t such a thing as a television in your house so we had to find other things to do.  Every Saturday morning I would sit in a comfortable chair and listen to “Big John and Little Sparky” on the radio.  They would play a song about….better not go in the woods today….the Teddy Bear’s are having a picnic….and I loved it.  I had a large book titled “Activities for a Rainy Day” and I loved learning to write, print my numbers and play games.  This was my favorite book forever and always.

……but the was something missing in my life.   I had heard about a movie theater, but I had never got to go see a movie.  Well, Punch Edens said she heard a movie called “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was going to be showing at the theater in Ward, WV.  Punch always called me Mindy and she said, “Mindy, would you like to go see a movie”?  I was so excited and could hardly wait.

Ward was only about 3/4 of a mile down the tracks from Mammoth and she said we would just walk.  I was only about 7 and this 3/4 of a mile seemed like a million miles away.  Punch held my hand and down the tracks we went.  

john-derek.jpgWhen we got to the theater…………………Snow White was not showing and I was so sad.  We decided to just stay and watch the other movie with an actor by the name of John Derek.  I don’t remember the title, but I thought John was truly handsome on that big screen. 

My dad was waiting outside in the car to take us home after my first big visit to the movies.  I am so glad Punch took time for a little girl who lived in a coal camp.  She gave me a memory I will never forget.

Early Life in the Coal Camp-The Pringles & Sound of Sirens


coal-mine.jpgTwo doors up from our house and along the tracks lived the Pringle family.  There was the daddy, Cereda and the son, Cricket.  I can remember my mom putting together a big dinner and inviting the Pringle family down to eat.  Mother had home canned peaches for dessert and Mr. Pringle loved them.

The Pringles were a typical coal mining family that lived in Mammoth, WV.  I suppose Cricket was a nickname with a loving meaning.  I can remember little except the last name.  I always thought the last name sounded like the name of Santa’s elf.

The miners’ wives stayed home to care for the children, take care of the house and prepare a good meal for their husbands.  The mother’s were always on alert for any sounds of sirens in the community.  The sirens going off meant there had been a mining accident and everyone would run to their front porch.  I suppose each wife was hoping and praying her family and friends would not be hurt.

One afternoon the sirens went off and soon several ambulances arrived and headed for the mine. Everyone was out in their yard and on their front porches hoping to hear and see what was happening.  News began to break that a roof in one of the mines had collapsed and there were injuries.  Within a few hours someone from the mine arrived at the Pringle home and informed then that Mr. Pringle had been crushed and didn’t make it.  I could her people crying with disbelief.

My mom was so sad and just wanted to know daddy was not hurt.  I remember daddy coming home and mother and daddy hugging and kissing with joy.  Others can make an impact on your life with their name, their lives or where they live.  We all influence someone.