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Transcript of interview with Cecil Roberts, May 5, 1993, for the film "West Virginia"

Source: WV History Film Project


Q: Cecil, tell me about the long tradition of miners that you come from.
JJJB 0048
CR: My grandfather was talking to me one time, and he told me that all of our people come from Wales and we were coal miners in Wales and have been coal miners here in West Virginia. So, I go back to, just to Wales and I said generations of us have been coal miners. I was the fourth and my son will be the fifth one.

Q: Tell me when you went into the mines. How old you were and --
JJJB 0090
CR: I was sixteen in May, but I started work in June 11, 1932.

Q: I'm sorry. Could you start that over again. Could you tell me, just tell me your age and if you could start "I was sixteen when I first started working in the mines...."
JJJB 0114
CR: I was sixteen when I started working in the mines. And, I started work with my father as a hand loader. And, I done that, with him for several years and then he took a job on a cut machine and I went to working by myself.

Q: Tell me about what hand loading was like.
JJJB 0149
CR: Oh my gosh, it was rough. It was hard. Every shovel full of coal you picked up was heavy and hard. There was nothing easy about it. You had to do it. I used a No. 4 coal shovel and tried to get it as full as I could for every time I shoveled it up into the coal. And, when you pick a shovel full of coal up 2 1/2 to 3 foot high to fit in a car, it gets tiresome during the day.

Q: Describe to me, if you will, just sort of the outline of "blow in the face" and undercutting, and "blow in the face" and loading the car, working with mules. Describe the whole process.
JJJB 0214
CR: Well, the first process you had to do, you had to blast your coal down. The cutting machine would give you a cut, and undercut, and then you had to dust that cut, then you had to drill your holes to blast the cut down, then, once you get the cut blasted down, you start loading. And, that was all dead work. You got nothing for that. That was all at your expense. Blasting the cutdown and trying to get prepared to load coal. And, then you would load your coal in the car, the drivers would give you a car, and, a lot of times, the car was maybe a hundred feet or more back from the face. You had to push the car to the face and your neighbors would always help you on that. And, that was hard work, too. And, time you done that and load your car, you done had the sweat popping out all over you. You were sweating a whole lot then.

Q: How much did you make when you first went there?
JJJB 0313
CR: I got 32 cents for a ton of coal. 32 cents. A lot of people were working for less than we were, but we was getting 32 cents where I was working.

Q: So, what would that give you in an average day?
JJJB 0331
CR: I, I was working with my father. I was only getting about six to eight ton of coal a day. That wasn't very much. So you multiply say six ton, average, multiply it by thirty-two. You wouldn't get very much out of that.

Q: Was it crowded in the mines?
JJJB 0359
CR: Oh my goodness see. That mine, old Raccoon Mines, they had men working everywhere they could. Coal was coming out of the mines, but the miners wasn't making anything because they was crowded. And, you had to run a fair turn, you see, with everybody. So, like working with my father. If he got two cars, I'd get the third one. I got every third car, that's the way it was. He got what they called "man's turn" and I got what was a "boy's turn." And, so I didn't get very many tons a day.

Q: Were there quite a few boys in the mines?
JJJB 0418
CR: Yes sir. Yes sir, there was a whole lot of boys working in the mines at that time. A lot of boys I went to school with. When I started, I, working between school terms. When school was out, I went to work in June, and I was working up until school started. And, then I, we, had to go back to school. A lot of boys was doing that. They done that to make a few extra dollars to buy them some clothes, or whatever they need. The company was awful good about having them that way, I thought.

Q: Tell me about the mules. The other workers in the mine.
JJJB 0465
CR: Oh, mules, they run hard all day. It was pitiful how hard they had to work. And, they took a beating, too. A lot of people said that "they treated the mules better than they did the man." I could never say that. That mule took punishment. Every driver had him a whip, every driver when that mule didn't do what he wanted, he got cracked, and I mean he got whipped good. On his side, sometimes, the blood would come, it had hit him so hard. And, they would run those mules and work them, till their collars would rub big sores on them. And, then they would have to send them off for awhile. And, let them heal up a little bit. But, the mules wasn't treated better. I seen two different mules that got their legs messed-up and they hauled them outside. They come in the mines and run the car up to them, shoot them, drag them in the car and take them outside, burn them.

Q: Did you develop any attachment to any of the mules? Any of.
JJJB 0561
CR: Ah, there was two mules that we called "Sport" and "Larry." That was the name two mules that worked where I was at. I kind of fell in love with them. They were good workers. They were good workers. But, I never did want to drive. They asked me to start learning to drive, one time, said they needed me for an extra driver, and old "Larry," I got up to her to take the traces down off of her, and she started kicking. She got her hips up high enough, she'd probably kicked my brains out, but she couldn't get up high enough, so I said "no more driving, I've done had enough." And, I never did fool with them after that. I'm scared of them. I'll be honest with you. You never knowed when they was going to kick.
JJJB 0631
We was riding in the mantrip one morning and they had new mules. They was big mules. They was as big as horses, and a friend of mine was driving. He was sitting up on the bumper, and they was going along just as pretty as you please. The car was full of men and that mule kicked him, all at once, and kicked him in the chest. I don't know how he survived it. And when he fell back in the car, in my lap, and we had a hard time getting that mule stopped, and had to get it stopped to get him, we were trying to work with him. I remember at the reunion he told me, he said "Cecil, he said, when I come to and I looked up and looking you in the face," he said, "I didn't know where in the world I was at." I said "and yes, I thought I had a dead man in my lap, all the time, too." But, he survived it. I think he had some cracked ribs over it.

Q: Cecil, could you just tell me that end part, again. That clock made a big chime. Tell me what happened when he woke up.
JJJB 0713
CR: He said, when he come to, he looked at me in my face and I had him in my arms, and he said "Cecil, I didn't know what in the world happened to me," but, he said "I was dead for awhile." And, I said "I know it, and I said I thought you were dead, too, when in my arms, too." But, we got the mule stopped and we worked with him a little while, but he had to go home. He had some cracked ribs. That mule cracked ribs on him. They were dangerous. Of course, in a way I sometimes think they oughta were dangerous because they got abused a whole lot. The got, they had to go running. The run all day long, just as hard as they could go. Sweat just a pouring off of them.

Q: The mines were dangerous.
JJJB 0776
CR: Yes. Mines is a good place to work, now, compared to what it was back then. Old Pop Now??, that was one of the greatest things every went into the coal mines, as far as I'm concerned. But, we didn't have nothing but straight timbers in the hallways had nothing to support between the timberline. Only thing you had was slate barn?? pull it down when you seen it got bad. It was bad.

Q: Did you see anybody killed?
JJJB 0821
CR: As close as I've ever seen. I've a fire bossing, and I come off a section and a friend of mine, who had got run over with a motor. And, I worked with him, but I didn't see him get hurt. I worked with him and ?? to service.

Q: Did you work in any mines that had gas?
JJJB 0846
CR: The mines that I was working at, had some gas. Nothing serious. If you let a place go without ventilation, you get a pretty good reading of gas. It became late. But, as long as you had ventilation, you didn't have to worry.

Q: Did you ever work with anybody who had been in an explosion?
JJJB 0875
CR: I had a boss, one time, that had a lot of burned faces. He told me that he was in a small gas explosion. Because of that, they had to burn his ear off and he was burnt over his body, but his face showed it. And, he told me that was what happened to him.

Q: Did your father have any stories about some of the big mine disasters, Monongah or any of the others?
JJJB 0911
CR: No. He always worked around the small mines. Down in this area, that part up in there where you are talking about. They had quite a few explosion fires and such as that, but we didn't have that around where we was at.

Q: But it was still dangerous. Roof falls,
JJJB 0937
CR: Oh, yes. You had to watch the roof all the time. And haulage was another bad thing. It was continuous watch all the time. If you didn't watch yourself, you'd be a fatality.

Q: But, was there a sense that you were in control of your own job, your own work.
JJJB 0972
CR: Yes, that's one good thing about hand loading. You made yourself safe for the day. But, then you know you stood your chances of getting to the outside, maybe getting hurt or something like that. But, I always kind of watched that all the time. But, most of the time, I walked out and sometimes, I would ride the car inside when the drivers were ready to go inside.

Q: OK. That was a roll of film. That was very good.


Q: Cecil, tell me about when you were real young. Your father's experience being a miner.
JJJB 1033
CR: Well, the best I can recall. I was born in Logan County. My father wanted Union. He believed in Union. Don Chafin was bitterly against the Unions. I guess you all have heard that story before. But, he left Logan County and we come to Sand Creek, hit a Sand Creek coal mining town called Hico . And, we lived there for quite a while. And, my father, come out on a strike, the company did and the men worked for that company and we had to leave out of our house. They was kicking us out. And, we went down to, I guess they call it Sylvester now, but it was just a cornfield at that time. Down there on the Coal River. And, the guy allowed us, everybody, to set-up tents and my father and us lived in a tent for awhile. Well, my mother was bothered with asthma and the dampness was getting with her and so my father went back to work. Of course, everybody else went back to work, too.
JJJB 1138
Then, after we come back to work, they had the Blair Mountain march. And, I recall my father, he went on that. But, he told me he never got to Blair, because the troopers turned them back. Everybody had their own weapon and they took, they didn't take Poppy's weapon or anything like that, they just told him if he would go back, he could go back just like he come, but if he went across their line there, they was going to put, they'd lock him up and take their guns away from them. So Poppy walked all the way back. I don't remember whether it was Ramage or Jefferies? or somewheres in that area where they was at, but anyway he walked from Sand Creek to Jeffrey and, then they had to walk back and I recall when he came back.
JJJB 1211
His feet was in such a shape that he just sat with his feet in a pan of hot water trying to get them soothed up so he could walk. And, we, that was back there in the early '20's, I don't remember just what year it was, but I wasn't very old. And, Poppy wanted to, a machine job. You know, they paid a lot more money than just running motors and things like that. Poppy was a motorman. And, the company promised him that a new job on the cut machine. And, whenever they brought their cut machine in, they brought a new man in. And, so Poppy said "well, you can have your motor, you can have it all, I quit." And, we went back to Logan County.
JJJB 1281
And, depression years went to setting in and he worked for Allen Creek Coal Company for awhile and he went, I don't remember what company it was, but it was at Swisher , West Virginia. He worked there for a little while and they shut down. And, then we come to Blair, West Virginia, that was on this side of Blair Mountain. And, we was there, I guess, maybe a year, maybe something like that, and they come around and told my Daddy then to start job hunting because they was shutting down. A lot of that went on back then. And, so we ended up here on Cabin Creek. That was in '26, probably ended up on Cabin Creek, that was '26. My biggest nag about that was I made good grades, but when Poppy would change jobs, I wouldn't go back to the grade I was supposed to be in, because I was afraid I couldn't do it. So, I got held back about three years on that and, so, I worked, went to school and tried to work through the summer months. But, then -- Poppy was working on the cutting machine at Old Racoon Mines and, that was when I was hand loading, and I was hand loading by myself.
JJJB 1389
Then, in '37 my father was killed in a mine accident. The slate covered him up and killed him. Him and another young boy, about my age was killed the same time. That, when we lived at High Coal??, my father walked through that tunnel to hear Mother Jones make a speech at Kayford. That was about a mile and a half walk, the tunnel was almost a mile long. And, I guess, it would be closer to two miles, he walked to hear her. Wherever he could be around where the Union was at, that's where he wanted to be. He wanted to be Union. That's what he wanted to be. And, he would really love to have the opportunities that I've had since I become a coal miner.

Q: Tell me what he told you about a couple of those people. Tell me what he told you about Don Chafin.
JJJB 1471
CR: Don Chafin's was strictly for company. And, he got paid for every ton of coal that come out of Logan County. And, if he knowed of anybody that was, belonged to the Union, or was participating in the Union, he got, railroaded out of Logan County. He could leave on his own or they'd take him out on their own. So Poppy left. That's the reason he left. He didn't want no ruckus with him because he knowed he was powerfuller than he was. And, so that's the reason he left Logan County.

Q: What did he tell you about Mother Jones?
JJJB 1527
CR: I, Mother Jones was the greatest person ever lived as far as he was concerned. He, I guess, if he was living and she was living yet, and he could get a chance, a hundred or two hundred miles he'd walk to try to hear her. He really loved whatever she stood for. That was, that was what he lived for was people like her.

Q: What do you think it was about her that drew miners to her so much?
JJJB 1567
CR: She didn't care how she talked. She told it to them like she thought about it. If it took a cuss word, she put it in there, and, if it was a dirty word, she put that in, too. And, she got praised for the way she talked and that boy of mine, he likes to quote her a whole lot hisself when some of his speeches, too. And, my Daddy and my uncles, they liked her, too. They was crazy about her, too.

Q: It seemed like she and the other leaders like Keeney and Mooney could really relate to the miners.
JJJB 1616
CR: Yea, yea. They could.

Q: Did your father ever talk about Keeney or Mooney?
JJJB 1624
CR: I've heard him talk about them, yes. But, I heard him talk more about Bill Blizzard than anybody else. I don't know why, but he thought Bill Blizzard was the greatest, too. Now Bill Blizzard is my wife's uncle. Of course, he didn't know that for my Father didn't live long enough to ever know anything about me marrying into that family. But,

Q: What did he tell you about Bill Blizzard? What did Bill Blizzard?
JJJB 1663
CR: He said he was a good leader. They need more people like him. That's the way he always said it. He was a good leader and we need more people like him.

Q: What did your parents tell you about what it was like for them in those few years when they lived in a tent?
JJJB 1683
CR: Oh. It wasn't very pleasant. Food was very scarce. I know they'd go out on Coal River and probably tried to catch a fish or two to have something to eat. Then, we'd, they got food with their Union would give so much food. They wasn't very much, but it was just enough to keep, on survival and that's about it. You didn't have no luxuries. Nothing like that. I can remember there was a, I don't know what nationality he was, he couldn't talk very good English, but he was a bachelor and he had a tent in our little conclave there.
JJJB 1746
And, I guess, he had a little bit more money, or something or other, and he would make doughnuts and give to us kids. I never will forget that. They were good, the best in the world. I know I enjoyed every one I'd get from him. Every evening, he would make a batch of doughnuts and give to us kids. But, he didn't have no family and he wanted to get along with everybody and that was one thing I always remembered about them doughnuts. I know he couldn't speak English very good, I don't know if he was Italian or Hungarian or what. We had lots of them in our communities, Italians and Hungarians and Czechoslovakians, we had them. Had some British people. But, this --

Q: Did you have some Black miners?
JJJB 1814
CR: Oh, yes. We had a lot of Black miners. I had a lot of good friends who were Black.

Q: How did all those groups relate to each other?
JJJB 1828
CR: At the mines, they related just like people were supposed to. And, out on the streets, the same way. But, there at Kayford we had a town we called White Row. At one time, it was just white people lived there. But, they segregated it. And, Blacks was living all among every, whites, and this and that, so I guess the company figured they was going to have trouble or something later on, so they moved all the Black folks in this town they called White Row. You could down and pin?? among the Black folks and they treat you just as good as you want to be. When they come around us, we tried to do them the same way. Really, just like a colored friend of mine, he was going to school the same time I did, he said "Cecil, they was talking about integrating," he said "why, we never knowed what segregated was," he said "we was always integrated," he said "the only difference was I rode a bus and you rode a bus. I rode the Black one you rode the White one."
JJJB 1918
And, that was about the way it was. It was, and I always wished back to diver??, I look back at it and I say it's the best thing that ever happened, in a way. We all got along so good. They had just as hard time making a living as we did. They didn't have no easy time, and we didn't either.

Q: What were company towns like?
JJJB 1953
CR: The town, Kayford , it was clean. Of course, you had to do most of it yourself. And in the house, if you could afford it, you papered your own house, you know wallpapered it. And, you done your own cleaning and taking care of it and if you could get something to do outside, you done it. Sometimes, the company would give you a little something. But, they didn't paint the houses very often. I can only recall them, where I lived, being painted one time in a lot of years that I lived there. But, a lot of people would get paint and paint them theirselves, you know. And, of course, you had to have some money to buy that paint. Sometimes, the company give you a little bit of paint to do it, but, they didn't do that very often, I can tell you that.

Q: OK. Let's stop. We have a low battery. OK. That was another roll. We've got to load up another roll.


Q: Cecil, tell me about all the things that people did to make a little extra money to put a little extra food on the table.
JJJC 0019
CR: Well, right here on Cabin Creek, from here to the head of it, everybody raised their own vegetables. Everybody had their own garden. Why, you'd think it was a regular farm, sometimes, if you could drive right by through here in the summer months. And, when I was just, before I got old enough to go to work, well, after I got old enough to go to work, we had two, big gardens up there at Kayford and me, and my brother next to me, we had to work them gardens out. Somewheres, everyday, we had work in a garden during the summer months. We had our own cow and we kept the cow until after my Father got killed and, us boys, didn't want to fool with a cow, so we got rid of the cow.
JJJC 0097
But, we always raised chickens. Now, even when I was going to school, that was my egg sandwich I took to school with me every day. If the chicken didn't lay an egg, well, I didn't have no sandwich. But, we always had our own eggs, we raised enough chickens to have our own eggs. And, on a Sunday, maybe, we'd kill a chicken and have some chicken meat to eat. But, we raised a garden. Any spot that was level enough to have a garden or, if it wasn't too hilly, we raise a garden. And, the company we worked for, they was good enough to give us a mule to plow with. And, so, everybody had to rotate that mule around to do their own plowing. I never will forget that mule they called "Rabbit." He would work when he wanted to. He'd get out there on that hillside and he'd sit down, just looked, and you couldn't get him to do nothing. He had just as well take him back to the barn until he took a notion he wanted to work. I got tickled about that. Phil would fuss around with him, fight with him, tried to get him to do a little work. He wouldn't do it. He just lazied off on them. So, sometime, they give us a mule, maybe, that worked in the mines that was used to hard work and they done pretty good with that. But, everybody got a chance to plow their gardens up. Most of the time, we didn't fool with that mule, we just take a maddick and dig and loosen our dirt up with a maddick. It was hard work, but, we survived it.

Q: Do you remember the Company Store?
CR: Oh, my, yes. Yes.

Q: Can you tell me about that? OK. Tell me about the Company Store.
JJJC 0255
CR: Well, there at Kayford, we had a real nice, big Company Store. Acme had one. United had one. Leewood had one and then you go over to Coal River, Eunice, they had one. The company I worked for had, down Romney, they had one. Oley had one, but, I guess, one at Kayford was the biggest one. The had a lot of turnover in it. There was a lot of groceries turned over there and they sold appliances. Well, you could buy anything you wanted, but you could go somewheres else and get the same thing a lot cheaper, as far as that's concerned. But, they sold their appliances, they sold the furniture, they sold their groceries. And, on a Saturday, there nobody working, everybody congregated, loafed around the Commissary, they called it. And, I can recall it. Kind of miss 'em, in a way. I miss them now.

Q: Could you remember paying for your food and things with "script?"
JJJC 0348
CR: Oh my gosh, yea. He, that "script" business. Took over "script" book and get a dollar "script." And, sometimes, on Saturday, you get two. But, I remember, one time, we had an old car, friend of mine come to me and he had $2.00, cash. He said "can you get the car tonight?" I said "yea, I think so." He said "you get the gas," he said "we got $2.00 cash, we go out and honkey-tonkeyinghe called it." It was on a Saturday and I just knowed I had enough money in there to get me a $1.00 "script," plus what Mamma was gonna get for board. And, I got in the "script" bind and every high school girl there was, was standing behind me, and I got up to that "script" window and I asked for a $1.00 "script."
JJJC 0435
You could five gallon gas for a $1.00, at that time. He looked at me and he said "Cecil, he said, I give you a dollar, but what am I going to do when your Mommy comes up here and wants board?" He said, "do you want her to have board or do you want your dollar?" He said, "I know what you're going to do with it, whenever I give it to you." I said "well, you just keep your dollar, I'll do without." So, I didn't get the dollar gas money. And, it kind of embarrassed me, all them girls standing behind me. I got to thinking, well, they're probably going to ask for two and they might get one. They wasn't much better off than I was. But, that "script" business, I remember a lot about that. But, today, I guess, you could get a fortune for it if you had it. But, I didn't think nothing about that when I had a chance to get it.

Q: How did the miners view the coal operators?
JJJC 0510
CR: I don't think they really thought they were real mean, back then like a lot of people trying to make it is. They were strict. They were strict. And, they let you know that they was the boss. But, everybody got along pretty good with them, I thought. I always thought they did. You get kind of personal acquainted with them and you, know where they were at. Of course, they lived better than you did, but --

Q: They lived up on the hill, didn't they?
JJJC 0559
CR: Yea. We had to walk to talk to BB Town from Kayford. They had running water in their house. We carried our water. They had commodes and we had out-door toilets. But, they didn't take advantage of you, I mean, they didn't try to rub nothing like that in. They, some of the people, I thought was real nice. I had a lot of respect for them. They was friendly if they was around you, but, you didn't go to none of their parties and they didn't come to none of yours. They kind of separated, segregated, or whatever you want to call it, but, I always thought they wanted to be nice. They didn't want to be rude about anything.

Q: Did, in the company town, you said you sort of miss it now.
JJJC 0634
CR: Yea, in a way I do, 'cause everybody were friendly. Everybody was sociable. And, you always miss something like that when you don't have it, you know. And, like when I was just a young boy, oh, we had to go a long ways if we went to a movie, and a lot of people didn't have transportation to do that. And, a lot of times you didn't have the price for a movie ticket. But, on a Saturday night, somebody would throw a little party. We'd have Kool-Aid and a piece of cake or something like that. Sometimes, they'd dance a little bit. Play a few games. You got together. Everybody wanted to be friendly and sociable. And, next weekend, somebody else would have one. But, same old thing every weekend, everything went real nice.

Q: Did you have a feeling of community in the town?
CR: Have what?

Q: Did you feel like you were a community? Did you feel like you really had a sense of neighbors?
JJJC 0729
CR: Yea. Yes. Seemed like one person had trouble, everybody wanted to be in it. They would have their trouble, too then.

Q: It's a little bit different than when everybody was living up in the hollows and on the farms and all that, they were all living together, right?
CR: Yea.

Q: Ah. I want to ask you about. Could you stop. OK. Sure. When you were working the in 1950's, coal took a rough turn.
CR: Yea.

Q: A lot of people had to leave.
CR: Yes. That's --

Q: Did you know people who had to move away and everything?
CR: Yea.

Q: Let's talk about that a little bit. Let's just hold that, just as soon as we start up again.


Q: Cecil, tell me about the 1950's. What it was like when coal took a real dip and you planned to leave.
JJJC 0782
CR: Well, it, seemed like it come a big shortage. I mean, nobody had orders to operate. There a lot of mines shut down, stayed shut down for awhile, but they started back up later. We had a lot of people left Kayford. They went to Flint, Michigan and went to working for several lay people out there. They were lucky, they got jobs. And, we had a lot of people who went to Cleveland. They all stayed there until they retired, or passed on. But, they come back every once in a while, and I don't know just how many families left. I had a brother-in-law went out there and went to work. I had a nephew went to work out there. And, a lot of good friends went out there and worked. They worked for the Chevrolet people, where they helped build a plant that made the V-8 engines when they went to making the Chevrolet V-8 engines. And, they stayed right there until they got their retirement.

Q: Was leaving West Virginia easy?
JJJC 0878
CR: I don't think it was easy, but they come back. They still miss the comings around here. But, they're doing better where they're at. They done better. They bought their homes and they're living in Flint and different places around Pontiac and different places. And, a lot of them went to Cleveland, went to working in steel mills and different places out there. And, then in the '60's, another, well, I don't believe it was as bad as it was in the '50's. A lot of them went to Indiana and went to work. A lot of them was working in Indiana at different jobs. They didn't make as much money as they were making in the mines, but they made a living. And, they come back every once in a while.

Q: What was your opinion of John L. Lewis?
JJJC 0953
CR: Well, he was strict and firm, I know that. And, I always believed he meant well by everybody. He wanted everybody to have something better than what they had ever had before. He got our pensions, started with our pensions. And, he started us off with our health cards. And, that's one of the greatest things, I guess, ever happened to a coal miner is a pension and a health card.

Q: In the 60's everybody started to realize that there was another danger of working in the mines and that was Black Lung.
JJJC 1008
CR: Yea, well, that come up, too, yes. A lot of guys was dying.

Q: Just a second. We'll pick that up. We're out of film. Change our roll and go.


Q: Cecil, tell me what Black Lung did to miners.
JJJC 1040
CR: Black Lung is breathing coal dust. In all my younger days, I was always told it wouldn't hurt you, wouldn't hurt you. But, I seen a lot of guys that died and they was always said "he had miners' asthma." I forget what that doctor's name was down here in Charleston. He's the one that got things rolling on that. And, he said they're dying because their lungs is coated with coal dust and, that got the coal, Black Lung, started then. And, there's people dying today with it. And, coal mining is about better, I have to say now, than it was in my younger days and, it is now a lot better, today. But, they are always going to have that trouble. They going to be people involved with this disease. There's another disease that miners are bothered with, too and that's silicosis. And, that's where you work around, in rock, blasting rock and stuff like that, and drilling in rock. And, it's more serious than Black Lung is. But, there's not so much of that now, as is the coal dust.

Q: Did you know miners who had Black Lung?
CR: Yes.

Q: Describe to me what it was like to see them.
JJJC 1170
CR: Well, they just got down to where they couldn't even walk nowheres. The breathing was hard. Continuous spitting up stuff, all the time. And, having a cough. And, couldn't sleep. Couldn't lay down and sleep. They just sat up and sleep, most of the time. And, I had an awful good friend, and I worked with him, me and him worked together a whole lot of years, shifts, together died here a few years ago with it. And, I went to see him in the hospital, and they were trying to feed him through his veins and everything. And, he just went down to nothing. He wasn't a big man to start with, but he went down to nothing. He was the last person that I dealt with that died with it.

Q: At first, both the companies and the Union, didn't really acknowledge Black Lung.
JJJC 1257
CR: No. They didn't. In fact, they didn't know what it was all about. Just like I said, the old doctors always said it was miner's asthma. You got asthma, working in the mines. Well, you did, but, all the time, it wasn't asthma. It was silicosis and the Black Lung deal.

Q: Did you want to become a miner, Cecil?
JJJC 1294
CR: Not particularly. No. I, I kind of thought I'd like to work, you know, between school terms, that's what I had in mind was go to school and then go to work, like, well a lot of boys went through college, done that. But, I didn't get that opportunity. I didn't get to.

Q: What do you think about West Virginia? What, do you have a strong opinion?
JJJC 1336
CR: Well, I don't think there is any other state, to be honest with you. I have been in a lot of states and I liked them all, but I always come back home. I think West Virginia's the greatest. It's all, it's been beated in me and preached to me and I love every minute of it. I wouldn't trade it for any other state. It's the poorest state in the Union, I guess. But, I'm poor, too. It don't hurt me. I've been used to being poor.

Q: What are some of the things that you like about it? What are some of the things that bring you back?
JJJC 1388
CR: Well, I like these hills. I like to fish. I used to like to hunt. I don't hunt no more, but I do go fishing, once in a while. Last few years, I ain't done very much of it. But, I just like to get out. We go, my wife and I we go camping every summer. We got a campground up in Greenbrier County. We go up and spend a week sometimes two weeks up there.

Q: Do you think the people of West Virginia are different, as well?
CR: Yes. A lot difference. A lot difference.

Q: Tell me about it.
JJJC 1434
CR: Well, I think they are more sociable. More friendly. It, you can tell a West Virginian among everybody from Ohio, Pennsylvania, where ever you are at, you can tell there is a difference. You have respect for it. Of course, I don't know no better, I guess that's the reason I say that. You take the Pittsburgh area, those people, I think, are more like us than any other place. I have been in Philadelphia. I didn't have too much love for that place. They were good to me. I was stationed there for a little while in the Naval Yard, when I was in the Navy and, I got along good, but I could tell there was a difference between them and "my kind of people." A lot of difference. But, Buckeyes, I call them the people over in Ohio. My Mommy died over there and my brother still lives there. When I go over there, I see a big difference in them. Now in the southern part, right across the river from Ohio, Huntington, they are about the same as we are, but when you get up around Marion, Cleveland, and Columbus, you see a big difference in people.

Q: Do you think the rest of the country? Hold it. Battery. OK. One last question.


Q: Cecil, do you think the rest of the Americans have the right image of West Virginia and West Virginians?
JJJC 1563
CR: I, I don't believe so. I never did think they did. No. They look at us as somebody, sometimes, I think is too dumb to know right from wrong. But, I find people in West Virginia, if they don't know it, they know how to get it and they will get it. They got the guts. That's one thing about them. They got the guts. They believe in anything, they'll get it. And, they don't pay people no mind whenever somebody says something bad -- it goes in one ear and out the other. Get around a bar somewheres, you're liable to get your ears knocked down. Because I know there is a lot of people does that every once in a while.

Q: Are you aware that, to some people in the United States, West Virginia is a negative image? West Virginia has a negative image, the poor, people are.
CR: Yes. Yea. I see that.

Q: How do you think, why do you think it got formed that way?
JJJC 1660
CR: I don't know. I don't know. I think a lot of people looks back at the old Hatfield, McCoy days. They think we are still living in them days, I guess. But, and another thing, the coal miners, they are bad about striking whenever they think they are in the right and they strike. A lot of people don't like that and they give us a bad image on that. But I still believe in it. If I was working, I'd be ready to strike right today, if I was working'.

Q: What do you think the future for West Virginia is?
JJJC 1708
CR: I, it's not gonna be as great as it has been. But, it's going to get better. I think it will get a lot better. But, right now, it's not good. It'll get better, though. Can't get worse, got to get a lot better. But, it'll never, the coal industry, will never be the same as it was back in the 40's and the 60's and the early 70's. But, it will get better than what it is.

Q: Good. OK. Everybody just hold for a room tone. We are going to be quiet for 30 seconds. No talking.
JJJC 1768

Q: OK. Very good. Cecil, thank you very much.
CR: Thank you. I hope it.