Rexistrau: 14 Xun 2011
|Publicao: Xue Xun 28, 2012 9:34 am Asuntu: Asturian Coal miner in West Virginia
During his life as an American and West Virginian, my late father, Arsenio Albert Alvarez, tried many professions including a short stint as a coal miner. From his chest x-ray taken back in 1959 for a job at the now defunct Dixie Narco located in Ranson, West Virginia, our family doctor was able to determine that he had a touch of black lung disease and some emphysema probably as a result of smoking Camel cigarettes.
Sometime between 1920 and 1930, he claims to have mined coal at Rivesville, located outside of Fairmont and also in Logan, in Southern West Virginia. He recounts that his first job in the mines was to ride the last coal car so that if the mules stopped pulling, he could chock the wheels and prevent the mules from being dragged back down the mine shaft by the fully loaded coal cars. Later, he would man the wooden air baffles that supposedly supplied fresh air to his coworkers deep down under the earth.
Their only light sources were provided by the open flame of a carbide lantern that each miner wore on their hats. This caused the death of approximately twenty-one miners who perished in a methane gas explosion working on the right tunnel of the mine. Everyone including Dad were safely rescued on the left side.
During his sojourn working in Logan, he and his brother found themselves virtual prisoners of the coal company who paid everyone in tokens and the company had armed guards keeping the workers from leaving the coal mine and town. The conditions were very harsh and everyone was expected to attend the tent revivals provided by the coal company. There were even murders taking place. Dad escaped by jumping off a bridge into a train car loaded with coal. He covered himself with the coal so that he would not be detected. Once he arrived to a place of safety, he wrote a letter in Spanish to instruct his brother on how to make his escape.
In one mine accident, a worker had four of his fingers cut off and the foreman asked Dad to retrieve the amputated fingers in a paper bag. Not relishing this assignment, he promptly quit and cleared out leaving behind the coal mines forever.
He never submitted his medical application for black lung benefits and our family will never know the reason.