Even though I’ve lived in a whole bunch of places since I left my home town at the early age of 17, I feel lucky that the house I grew up in is still there and I’ve returned to it practically every year since I left. Lately its been a couple times a year since my Mother is about to turn 90 and I need to help out my sister.
If I could write, I could write a book about living in a small coal mining town on the outskirts of Pittsburgh PA, but I can’t. Although I can occasionally document a few memories.
A lot has changed in the 50+ years since I left, but a lot is still the same. Some of the people are still there, such as my Mother, but most have moved on.
My thirteen year old granddaughter had a report due in which she has to interview someone who grew up in the depression (the 30’s not Obama’s!). She did that last night with my Mother and asked if there were any pictures of the kids in that era. It happens that a cousin has gathered a few. Thought I’d document a few.
I’ve heard the stories from before my time (boomer, born in 1944), but picture bring it alive. Don’t have any bread-line, starving pictures, just a few from the times.
I grew up in what were called company houses, in a patch that was usually named after the name of the mine. The coal mines build houses for their employees to rent (reasonable) and provided other benefits that kept the worker working. Tennessee Ernie Ford immortalized the times in the song Sixteen Tons. I owe my soul to the company store, a line from the song talked about the store that all the miner had credit to purchase food and essentials. (rent and store credit deducted from pay!)
Most of that was gone in my time. They were still called company houses and stores, but the mines sold them to the miners or banks.
This is the house I grew up pictured sometime in the 30’s.
The houses were two bedroom duplexes, maybe 1200 sq ft on each side. Build in the early 1900’s. Originally with no electricity, running water, and of course with a duplex outhouses! Coal was the fuel you used in your pot belly stoves and kitchen stoves. The mines put in electric and water later. There was still had an outhouse when I left in 1962.
This is the house in 2012.
Not much different outside, but a lot of upgrades. Some of the wiring is still 80 years old and presents some problems, but it is still the home I visit a couple times a year.
And kid still play in the back yards, in the woods and boney dumps (waste coal) that are part of living in the area.