MY FATHER’S WORK IN THE COAL MINE & HIS INJURY

MY FATHER’S WORK IN THE COAL MINE & HIS INJURY

One of Dad's typed reports of his experiences as a boy and young man involved his injury while working in the coal mine. Here's what he said about that:

"My father Nicola, my brothers Salvatore, and Consolato and myself worked for the International Coal and Coke Limited company in Coleman, Alberta.Once I was injured while I was working. Small steel cars were used in the operation that carried three tons of coal each, with ten cars to a train. When the driver of Dad & nonno head the cars was nearing the mine opening he would blow the whistle, so that the door attendant would open the door, and then close it, to keep fresh air in the mine.

Me and a young Pollack were to fill the cars. One of us would lift the slope door of the shoot to fill part of the car, and my partner would push it forward until it was filled and then continue with the next car etc. One day, one of the small cars got off the track. We called the fire boss for help and several men put their back to the car trying to lift up on the track. I was one of them. I was standing on a wood platform which was covering steam pipes and had a puddle of red-hot boiling water underneath. The plank broke and my foot fell through up to my ankle in the boiling water. I was rushed to the small hospital. As the doctor was cutting my clothing to get to my leg the skin was attached to the underwear. It was a long stay in the hospital.

Robert Whiteside was the manager of the company. He came to the hospital to see me and seeing how young I looked, he called the pit boss giving him hell for hiring a youngster. The pit boss said that I had insisted in front of other people that I was 16 years old. It was only later he found out I was really almost fifteen. The pit boss said to Mr. Woodside "Shall I let him go? And he said "No it’s too late. He’s now sixteen and he is one of us."

Finally I was driven home. My mother looked that raw skin and was horrified. Dr. Ross would come every day saying we were to continue with the salve he had prescribed. My mother was discouraged and said to me, "The doctor doesn’t seem to help. Our next-door neighbor had English ivy growing and mother asked her if she could pick the largest leafs. She said: "Yes of course Signora Philippa." So, she got the biggest leafs and pealed off the back part. Then she laid them on the burned area. I tried to talk her out of it but she wouldn’t listen. She would change the leafs very frequently because the heat of the burned area would dry them out in a hurry and she would put on fresh leafs.

Late the next day the doctor came. He lifted the bandages and there were dehydrated leafs but the skin showed improvement. The doctor was surprised and pleased. He said "Ask your mother where she learned that cure." Mother said "It was a handed down cure from one generation to another as no one could afford to pay a doctor." When the doctor said that a person had to go to the hospital in Reggio Calabria, Italy, the family and friends would cross themselves and begin saying Hail Marys because that person would surely die. The doctor patted my mother on the shoulder and said to me "Tell your mother she is a better doctor that I am." Mother had a broad smile.

Finally I was ready to go back to the "salt mine" job. I hated every day I worked. I worked as a helper to a Pollack, Ivan-something, a nice guy about thirty years old years or more. We carried timbers to the front of the coal vein where the two partner minors were digging or drilling holes for the fire boss to shoot dynamite. As they progressed inward they were told to set up the timber on each side and one on top so in case of a cave in the timber would start cracking and they could scramble away from there. The timbers would hold back small rocks from falling on their metal hats, but they could not hold back of vein of coal.

One the graveyard shift about 4 AM we usually stopped to try and eat a sandwich and drink tea. My food would not go down my throat so I started bellyaching again telling him what a lousy life this was. He was getting tired of this young punk bitching all the time. Finally he said "You are lucky to have a job as young as you are. What else can you do? You want a white-collar job? Forget it, you have got to be a Britisher for that kind of work so make up your mind to be a life time miner like your dad and my father and brothers have been. Try to be happy." I said "Ivan I don’t want to argue with you as you are older than I am, but I’ll tell you this I’m not going to be a lifetime miner. He said "Paolino you wait and see."

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