Sweet memories linger in my heart of days I lived in the Lynch Coal Camp.
I was the eldest child in our family and I remember my brother, Jack Dempsey, and I played with all the other children. There were Hungarian boys I remember — Peachew and Andy Epash. Their mother was Lizzie and she let the boys play with us. She was a good lady. She would make homemade noodles and cook them with cheese and butter and bring Mom a big dish of them often. We loved them.
There was also a girl who was older, but she would play with us also. Her name was Gezzie Doodask.
My brother James and I loved to get in the garbage cans and see what we could find. We had fun. We had a lot of friends that did that also. We were all three, four and five years old. I was four, Jack was three, and Peachew and Andy were about five and four. Gezzie was 10 or 12, but she liked to play and got us in trouble with our moms.
One day I remember we got some stale bread and cheese out of the trash and made sandwiches out of it. Gezzie came over and we gave her a big cheese sandwich and she ate it. Then we told her it was from the garbage can. We got a whupping from her and we got one from Mom also. But she told Gezzie she must not fight us anymore; she was old enough to know better than to eat that. We really didn’t know that it might cause her to get sick, only she didn’t, thank God. That put a stop to eating out of the garbage.
We also had some black children we played with. I loved to play with the Squire girls. We got along well with them except for a big boy. He was mean, especially to my little brother. We would play on the fence that was made with wire with a board over the top of the wire so we wouldn’t get hurt. We’d climb up on it and lie down across the plank and rest sometimes. On day that big boy came by and whipped our backsides and then ran away and we cried and cried. It upset Mom and she got after him over hurting us.
We would get out in the street and play and get the bubbly tar that bubbled in the hot sun and we would chew that for chewing gum. One day one of the big black boys was riding his bicycle and he ran over Jack and hurt him pretty bad. Mom happened to see him and gave him a hard way to go. Then she told his mother and dad and they gave him a good whipping and wouldn’t let him have the bike anymore for a long time.
I got old enough to go to school but Dad wouldn’t send me because of those boys fighting us all the time.
We were running around all over the camp playing with other children. We got in a big ditch that ran down from the mountains and we would slide on the slick rock of the ditch and then we’d slip off and go to the Y, a small restaurant. They let us buy ice cream and Brown Cows and charge it to Dad. But we were worrying Mom and she was always hunting for us.
We had neighbors on one side of the big house we lived in in the camp and a lady and her husband lived there. She had a little baby one day and I feel in love with it. I’d go sit on her step and hold the baby while the mother did her work. I loved to tend to the baby. One day it got sick and died and I cried my eyes out over that.
I went with the mother to the funeral home. I didn’t know what death meant. I wanted her to get the baby out and take it home. She told me that she couldn’t because it had to go live in heaven with Jesus. I didn’t know what that meant either.
That was in 1933 and later in that year in December my mom had us a new baby brother. He was born at home and there were a big bunch of women there to sit with her. A doctor finally came and took care of her. The baby was in bad shape at birth. The umbilical cord was around his neck and he was really dark looking or blue. They told me that he would be better in a little while and he was OK. I loved him so much. I helped tend to him when Mom was cooking or working at housework. He was so little and so special.
He is now 80 years old and not well. He lives in Sweetser, Ind., and has Parkinson’s disease. His wife is sick also. They are having it hard in their health. Their daughter lives nearby and helps with them. She has it hard trying to work and keep her home and husband and two grandbabies. Their mother has cancer and is so sick.
There was also another death about the same time as the neighbor’s little baby. It was a man that lived near us. He died with spinal meningitis. He had two little boys. Dad took us to his wake. They had him in a casket with a glass lid over his body under the regular lid. I couldn’t understand it all at that time. His little boys were crying for Mom to get their daddy out of there. It made me cry also because they couldn’t get their dad out.
Anyway, we kept Mom busy trying to keep track of us and she wanted Dad to move out of that crowded place and get a house in the country away from so many people mixing and fussing. Dad found a home at Blair and we moved to it. We had lots of room to play and Mom got some rest and peace.
I started school at Blair Grade School and I was six. I loved to go to school. My dad always helped to teach me to count, say my numbers and how to write all my family names and how old we were. He was proud for me to go to school. He bought me a raincoat, a pair of boots and an umbrella. I was so proud of everything. I had to walk about a half mile to the schoolhouse along an old dirt path and cross a big swinging bridge to get there.
It was a two-room school. We had a big place to play at recess and dinnertime. We had to take our lunches.
I loved my teacher Dorothy Blair. I had lots of friends and we got along good. I played with the Stone girls, the Sturgill girls and Jackson boys, and the Stones were my best friends. Their mother was a really nice lady. She always told me to come play at their home anytime I wanted to.
I remember a bunch of people came by our home and asked my parents if they could sleep in our barn that night. They were gypsies we found out. One of the women was going to have a baby and she and her husband asked if we had a bed where she could rest. They let them sleep in the house in a bed. Mom got afraid of them and told Dad that they were getting up and down too much and she was thinking they had a snake in there with them. We never did know. They fed them and told them they had to leave that day. They didn’t do anything bad around our home that we knew of.
I think back on all those times and remember so vividly of all that went on in my young life.
I love all!