Cambria Publishing
mining songs, music, photographs Lawrence Chrismas Photography
Drumheller Valley Miners Gallery
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Frank Zaputil
Retired Fire Boss

I was born in 1908 in a little coal mining town in eastern Washington State. My dad was looking for a new mine to work in and we ended up in Wayne in 1920. From that time to now I have been in the Valley. In 1920, that's when I had my first fight, too. I wasn't halfway down the railway tracks with the suitcases and some kid challenged me and he got it.

Oh yes, I went to school in Wayne until I was 15 then I hit the pits, the Jewel Collieries. I was a motorman for 20 years on the main haulage. My dad was responsible for me going into the mines because I wouldn't go to school. So he said, "Okay, I'll fix that." Well, I wasn't sorry about it because I wasn't satisfied with the teaching at the school. They were 17th-century teachers. They were still wearing the long skirts and celluloid collars.

In 1938 the Jewel Mine closed in Wayne and reopened in Cambria as the Western Gem & Jewel Collieries. When I moved here, I studied up and made my third-class fire boss certificate.

I closed the mine here in Cambria in 1950. I was the boss on the job. When everything was taken out from inside, I closed-up her up the airway and the main entrance. After Cambria I fire bossed for another 10 years in the Atena and Murray mines. When the Murray closed in 1960, I came home and I told the wife, I said, "By golly they are all closing up everywhere I go." I said, "Maybe I should stop going anywhere." I tried another mine, the Highgrade in Drumheller and it quickly closed so I said, "That's it."

I have always lived in this house since I came here in '38. We moved this house from Wayne and it only cost me sixty-five dollars. Originally it was only a two-room house. Cambria was filled with people when the mine was operating. We had a hotel, post office, two grocery stores and a bus stop. When the buses went out any day, they were full. The hotel was the only place you could get beer when it was rationed. There was more beer there than you could throw a stick at.