Retired Coal Miner
If my father had been alive, he would have broken both my legs before he let me go underground. But I didn't mind it. Actually, there was a lot of friendship and fun down the mine. I think that's the one thing that's really missing now in any job.
My father came here from Italy in 1903, the year of the Frank Slide. He worked at the Leitch Collieries as a stone mason. I was born in 1917 in Coleman. I had to quit school to go to work and the only thing there was around here was a job in the mines.
I had just turned 17 and had to lie about my age to get into the International Mine. My first job, at $3.50 a day, was trapper, opening doors. This increased to $4.45 for bucking coal. Then I drove the dinky locomotive. I rode rope and I packed timbers until finally I got my miner's papers. After the mine, I did various jobs. Then I started a little confectionery store.
There were a lot of Italian, Slovak and Polish people in Coleman who came to work in the mines. I think there was a lot of resentment because most of the good jobs were held by English-speaking people.
You can understand that, because most of the old-country people who came here didn't have the education for a job like time-keeper.