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Early Life in WV Coal Camp


Ball PlayerMy dad returned from World War II when I was three years old.  He was anxious to reconnect with his family and…..get a job.  My dad was one of the most recognized baseball pitchers in the state and believe it or not it would get him a job.  The big coal companies had their own teams and they scouted out daddy and asked him to play on their team.  Of course, he would get to work in the coal mine too.

This meant I would have to leave Lincoln County and go with my mom and dad to Mammoth, WV.  I would be 100 miles away from my Grandma and Grandpa McClure and this was very upsetting for me.  Living in a coal camp was really different than living on a farm in Lincoln County.

coal-miner.jpgMy earliest memories of the coal camp were when I was around five years old.  I seemed to have a blank year when I was four years old.  There were no big barns, no corn fields, no strawberries, and no grandma & grandpa.  However, there were train tracks right in front of our house and it made our house squeak when it passed.  As the miners mined the coal, the train carried it down the tracks and dumped it on barges in the Kanawha River.

The engineer on the train was Mr. Lackey and I would stand and wait for him to pass.  I started waving at him and before long he would wave back.  I suppose he really liked me and he started throwing me pieces of candy when he passed our house.  I made the mistake of telling the other kids and before long they were all waiting beside the tracks , waving and waiting for candy.  I don’t know what happened, but before long Mr. Lackey stopped leaving candy.  Go figure.

coal-camp.jpgMany of the people living in Mammoth had names that were very strange to me.  There were several people from Germany and Italy.  Mrs. Gadget lived across the road and she couldn’t speak a word of English.  She ran a boarding house for miners who needed a place to live.  My mom said she had really mean kids and they played in the road all the time.  One day her youngest child was playing near the railroad tracks and the train ran over his arm and cut it off.  My mom said, “I knew that was going to happen.”

There was an old “beer joint” down the road and a scary old man by the name of Mr. Borasky was the owner.  He had a daughter and her name was Carolyn Borasky.  Carolyn was probably 10 years older than me and I would see her walk up the road.  She was very fat, had curly hair and wore bib overalls.  My mom and dad would not let me associate with this family.

Larry Hudnall lived beside us and he was a mean little boy and could “cuss like a sailor”.  My mom said he heard this kind of talk from his parents.  I didn’t know what it meant to cuss, but Larry was using some words that were very new and exciting to me.  I thought I would try out of few of them on my parents and make them very proud of me.  I went into the house and ripped out a few d….. and h…..words and my parents turned pale.  I didn’t get a spanking and they took time to explain that the words were bad.  I was supposed to tell Larry not to use these words when we played, but he just kept cussing.

Lynn Hudnall lived on the other side of our house and he had great big brown eyes.  He reminded me of a cute little mouse.  I am sorry to say, but I sort of took advantage of Lynn.  I could talk him into anything.  Lynn and I would play jump rope by tying one end to the fence post and one person turn the rope and the other person could jump.  When it was Lynn’s turn to jump I would “give him hot pepper” (turn the rope really fast).  Of course he would start crying and I would swear I didn’t do anything.

Chapters in future BLOG articles:

1.  Carol Ann Could Write In Cursive Writing

2.  Getting Put in Probation in 2nd Grade

3.  The Company Store

4.  The Edens Family

5.  My Dad Was Saved

6.  I Have a Little Sister

7.  Black and White Schools

8.  The Pringles

9.  The Sirens Mean Death

10.  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

11.  First Grade