Coal Mining Men

This was the mine where my dad, uncles and grandpas worked when I was a child. The store visual is of a company store. My dad lied about his age and started working in the mines when he was 12. Fortunately by the time he worked there, the script system was no longer used. Previously miners had been paid in ‘script,’ either coins or papers like these. This meant their earnings could only be used at the mine’s company store. Their homes were rented from the mines. They bought everything they had from the company store. They barely made enough to exist, never getting ahead. Workers were tied, indebted to the mines. A miner literally could say, ‘I owed my soul to the company store,’ as the song said. Their only hope of getting out was being drafted by the service. They couldn’t leave. They had no cash!

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