Jesse Lake Memoir
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University of Illinois at Springfield Norris L Brookens Library Archives/Special Collections Jesse Lake Memoir L147. Lake, Jesse b. 1916 Interview and memoir 2 tapes, 126 mins., 28 pp. ILLINOIS COAL: THE LEGACY OF AN INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY Jesse Lake, coal miner, recalls early mining experiences: management-labor relationship, role of the pit committeemen, changes in the mines, ethnicity in the mining communities of Christian County Illinois, wildcat strikes and company harassments. Also recalls early life experiences on a farm. Interview by Kevin Corley, 1986 OPEN See collateral file Archives/Special Collections LIB 144 University of Illinois at Springfield One University Plaza, MS BRK 140 Springfield IL 62703-5407 © 1986, University of Illinois Board of Trustees Preface This nruruscript is the product of a tape recorded interview conducted by Kevin Corley for a special project, "Illinois Coal: The Legacy of Wl Industrial Society." The project was sponsored by the Illinois State Historical Society and funded in part by the Illinois Humnaities Council and the National End<:M~JEnt for the Hulmni ties. Additional support cmre fran the Oral History Office of Sanganon State University. Joyce Fisher transcribed the tapes and Susan Jones edited the transcript. Jesse Lake was born in Vernon, Illinois in 1916. He grew up on a faxm and went to w:>rk at an early age to help support his eight brothers and sisters. He mrked in Peabody Mines in Olristian County fran 1932 until DDst of than closed in 1952. Mr. Lake then was anployed as a plmber until his retirement in 1979. Readers of the oral history memoir should bear in mind that it is a transcript of the spoken w:>rd, and that the interviewer, narrator and editor sought to preserve the infoxmal, conversational style that is inherent in such historical sources. Sangamon State University and the Illinois State Historical Library are not responsible for the factual accuracy of the lllBIDir, nor for views expressed therein; these are for the reader to judge. The manuscript rray be read, quoted and cited freely. It rray not be reproduced in whole or in part by any IIBans, electronic or IIBchanical, without pexmission in writing fran the Oral History Office, Sangaroon State University, Springfield, Illinois, 62708. Jesse Lake, Taylorville, Illinois, July 18, 1986. Kevin Corley, Interviewer. Q: <kay, one of the things I'd asked before we turned the tape over, we' 11 have to repeat it here was, did you save up nnney before you got married? A: Well, no. We just, not really save it up. We had a few bucks and we decided to get married. Another couple and us when to St. Charles, Missouri and got married. I had a Mxlel A Ford, I think it was a 1928 or 1929--1929, and didn't have very nnch dough but I know it was pretty cold, February 14th. That was in 1939. I think I started to tell you about I can remmi>er the song that was on the jukebox. We was either in a tavern or a restaurant or sanething before we got Drried, and I can remEmber the narm of the song. It was called "It Mikes No Difference Now." I've never forgotten that. (laughs) That's an old song, I'm sure you've never heard that one. You're too young. Q: You told me why you went to Missouri to get married? A: Yes. \\by we went to Missouri was because here at the time you had to wait either seven days or fourteen days for a blood test and we said "To hell with it," so we went to Missouri, us and the other couple. But we had a pretty good time. Q: Well, that's interesting. A lot of people that I've talked to fram this area went to Missouri to be married. A: Yes, a lot of people at about the sane time. I don't know what year that law was enacted here in Illinois. It was a year or so before that and it caused <pi te a lot of controversy. As a matter of fact, they had marriage sanethi~ like in Las Vegas, marriage chapels. lhis was kind of a chapel we were mrried in. As a JIBtter of fact, I imagine that guy was a mi 11 ionaire before he quit marrying people. Q: Was he a preacher or justice of the peace? A: I think he was a JP. I think so. I would imagine he nnst be legal because if he wasn't, I'm not lM.rried. Q: (laughs) Okay. All right. One of the things I might ask you here is, since so many people went to Missouri, didn't they ever consider a larger wedding with family tnEililers there and that type of thing? A: Well, at the time, if it had been a wedding we'd have probably got IIIlrried here in front of the JP anyway because there Y«>Uldn' t have been anybody rut just the witness. I'm sure that we couldn't afford a reception. We didn't have anything for a reception, aJXl that was it. Jesse Lake Q: Yes. Okay. All right, so when you Cline back then and set up your household, where did you 1ive? A: We lived in what they called the patch. I'm sure you've heard of the patch in Kincaid? Q: Yes. A: It was a cmpany house. A couple we knew by the rume of Wayne Sni th, they had four roans. They rented their two front roans out to us and that's where we set up housekeeping. Q: Two front roans, so • • • A: Two front roans of a four roan house. Ckle of them was the bedroan and. one was the 1iving roan, and he just slmt the door or samthing, and that's ¥here we lived. Q: Well, did you have a kitchen then? A: It had a kitchen and a bedroan and that was it. We had I believe an old oil stove, we had a bed and probably a little dresser and that was it. Q: Did that cane with the apartment, or with the house? A: No. We had to have our own furniture. They DBY have furnished it a little bit, but not much. Q: Yes. A: I think we bought the old kerosene cook stove and we might have had a table and a chair or two or samthing like that. We had to have a couple of chairs, we had to sit down and eat I guess. Q: Did either of your parents help you to set up house? A: No, because our parents were lucky to get sanething to eat about that time thEmselves. Q: Yes. Okay, no.v up until you had gotten IIBrried, did you continue to give nxmey to your parents? A: Yes. Yes. By the way, when I mentioned that we fanned in Kincaid, it belonged to Peabody Coal Calpany. We had to pay cash rent ani that was checked off of my wages every two weeks. It seEIDB like it was $25 a ODnth, aJXl twelve and a half dollars cam out of my pay every two weeks which is what I did to help my parents. There was a lot of thnes that I didn't have enough ODney caning to pay that lousy $12.50 because about that time, two or three or four years before \\brld war II cane about, they weren't working very good, IIBybe one or two days a week. By the time you bought your supplies that you needed at the coopany store and that was checked off of your pay, you didn't have a hell of a lot left. Q: Wbile we're on this subject, let's stay w1th it for a minute. When were your children born? '!heir names, you know. A: By nane, my first son was Robert Earl and he was born in Septemer. Q: Ybat year? A: 1939. Then my son Ron was born in Novanber, 1940. Q: November 12th? A: Yes. Q: All right. So you had two sons then? A: Yes, and a daughter. Q: All right, when was she born? A: She was born thirteen years later fran my youngest son. Her name was Linda and she was born in 1953, April 11th. Q: Her full nane was? A: LiiKla Marie. Q: Ckay. A: rv(y wife's middle nane is Marie. Q: Oh, I see. So three children then. A: Yes. Q: Okay. A: \\e lost one w1 th the sh.otgwt accident, our oldest son, Robert. Q: I see. A: He was twenty years old. Q: All right, let's go back now and go through your work history a little bit. You said you started off picking rock on top. A: Yes, in October of 1932. Q: How long did you do that? A: I guess 1932 to about 1939, 1940, then I started doing what they call check pulling. I was a check puller up in the tipple. That was a job Jesse Lake you had to pull the checks and call the nunbers out for the check weiglman who weighed the coal up in the tipple. There was scales up in the tipple. I didn't have to pill the checks just as long as I saw the nunber and hollered into the check weigtmm, and I dluped the coal. There would be about three to four tons each dm:p. Then it's weighed again after it was put in cars after the inpuri ties were picked out, and I think that way they could tell the difference between the tv.u. After the irrpurities were picked out how IDlch of the good coal they'd have, and. that way they could tell each section foreman Yklo put out the nnst coal that day. Q: I see. A: Did I make myself clear or not? Q: Yes. A: In other "M>rds, Yklen this coal v.uuld cane up out of this tipple, there was better than four dU1:ps a minute which is pretty fast. That way, say sane forenan had lllili>er, say 20 and another one had 25, they could tell who put out the nnst coal that day. Q: was there canpetition to do that? A: I think there was. They always had a lll3et ing of the bosses I think about everyday after v.urk. Th.ey' d go up and kind of critique their work during the day and I'm sure that the superintendent got on saneone' s rear if he didn't put out as IDlCh as saneone else. In other words, he'd say, "Hey, what happened here?" I don't knCM that's what happened, but I just suppose that they did because if I would happen to miss sane nunbers or sanething, I 'd have sane of the bosses say, "Hey, I think you missed sane of my cars today," you lmow. Of course, I'd say, "Hell no, I didn't either." But there was a t iim when there used to be stesn cane out of the mine by the difference in the tmperature below and that wann air caning out of the tipple in the wintertime. It looked like just nothing but pure stellll cane out, and this car v.uuld cane up. As that door f1 ipped open, I'd either pull the nmi>er off or see it visually, you knCNI, see it. A lot of times that stellll was so thick and I couldn't really tell for sure and maybe I'd just make a guess at it, you lm<M. Q: Yes. A: So maybe there was sanetimes that I did miss sane of them. But even if I didn't I think they'd probably raise hell anyway because I'd imagine the super got on their rears so they said, ''Well, maybe the check puller missed sane of thEm." Q: Yes. ()my. Now, being the check puller, was that paying III)re than picki~ rock? A: Yes, yes. That's exactly why I took it, and I hated that job. Q: You hated it? A: I didn't like the picking rock and I didn't like that job up in the tipple either. I've been up there and like the rope Y«>Uld break and a couple of different times they didn' t stop the cage in time. It went plum up and busted a piece out of the shive wheel. Boy when that happens, you'd get about four tons of coal scattered on you all at one time. Q: Is that dangerous? A: Yes. You get a c1mnk the size of a coal rocket, the size of your head, yes. But of course we had protection. I had a hole, you know, but a lot of the coal would go over and cane down fran the top. Q: Yes, okay. A: I can raneuber, I was getting sane, this was when I was getting ready to go to the anny, I had my draft notice in \\brld war II, and I was trying to get .•. people, they didn't like the job and they said they couldn't see the lll.llilers and stuff like that. I can remeober I had one guy pretty well trained and the engineer went up too danned high and he showered the guy with the coal. Scared the hell out of him and he wouldn't go back up there no IIJ)re. (laughs) Then finally I went to the anny in 1943, I forget what IIJ)nth, and they had to get sambody then. They always said, "Well, we can't get nobody to replace you," which is a tunch of crap, you know. But I didn't like it, because I'd dreaned about that tipple falling down and things like that. But when I cane out of the service in the first part of 1946, I told the top boss, "D:m' t ever put me back up in that danned place there. If you do, I won't go." So I never did go back up there and Y«>rk a.nynnre after that. But I can remeober the guy that was the check weigtman. He was a cmpany man, by the way. His nare was Al C'alpbell and him and I were pretty good friends. Q: Did the check weigtman ever cheat a little bit to help the bosses? A: No. It didn't make any difference to him. \\hat they were concerned about was the mmber of cars. Actually, that was a lot of guess Y«>rk too, because when this was dluped, his scale was just a hand went around there. Yhen this four tons of coal was in this hopper, so to speak, that thing was juggling around and that thing Y«>Uld fluctuate probably two or three or five lnmdred powds. He'd have to take kind of a guesstimate, as I always called it. Q: Yes. Okay. So Ythat did you do \\hen you cane back in 1946? A: I started as what they called a car repairman on top. I was in the pit car shed, and that's what I did wttil, I stayed in the reserves in the anny and I was called back into the service. I Y«>rked in the pit car shed fran when I cane back out of the service wttil 1950 and then I was called. This was during the Korean war, I'm sure you've heard of that. I stayed in reserve, and as a matter of fact, the Korean war started on I believe JWle 30th. August 15th I had my rear back in that damed anny. They always preached there when I cane out of \\brld war II you know, stay in the reserve and when you becane 60 years old, you' 11 get a little pension and all that crap, you know. I used to attend reserve anny meetings and get paid so ID.lch for each meeting. But the mi:rrute that war started in Korea, they had me back in there. I was sick about it too. Q: I' 11 bet. A: My wife was too. Q: Yes. Now, were there any exemptions for coal miners? A: No. I want to tell you about that. In \\brld War II, there were exemptions for coal miners. <be day, I think I'd been in the azmy quite a \\bile, and I read in the paper, "Coal Miners Are Exeupted Fran Draft." I said, "That does me a helluva lot of good. I've been in the dm:m azmy and they got me in here already." Q: Did they draft you then? A: No. I was in the azmy before, rut I picked up the paper while I was in the azmy. I think I was out at Fort Riley or down in Kentucky at Canp Can:pbell. I read a dann paper that said "Coal Miners Are Draft Ex:en:pt." I said, "That does me a helluva lot of good because I'm already in here." Q: Right. But had you been drafted when you first went in? A: Oh, sure. Yes. Q: Okay. But if you'd known that, then you could've got out of it. A: If that would've cam into being before I was drafted, sure. Q: Oh, earlier. A: I wouldn't have went into service. Q: I see. A: It's just one of those things. Q: Yes. All right. \\hat did you do in the service? A: I was in a reconnaissance outfit in Fort Riley and that outfit broke up. Then I went into a tank outfit down at Fort Knox, Kentucky. But I ended up going over into the Pacific • • • Q: Did you? A: . . • with the 41st Divsion, yes• Q: Okay. A: Over in that dam jWlgle. Q: Did you see action? A: Yes, a little bit. Q: Yes, okay. A: A lot of guys say they weren't scared, they're crazier than hell. Q: Yes. Okay. All right, so then you came back and you worked for a while? A: Yes. I cane back fran the a:nny and I worked until I was called, drafted into Korean war, yes. Q: Ckay. A: Then while I was gone, fran 1950 to 1952, all the coal mines along the midland, that's a tenn everybody used you know, the midland. Fifty-eight, Seven, and Nine were all shut down while I was gone. I could've went to work at Nllnber Eight, rut in the meantime I had got a job with a phnber here in Taylorville. I started a new occupation if you want to call it that. I think I got paid $1.45 an hour, which is quite a let down caning fran the coal mine. We IDlde fairly decent ooney out there. Used the shovel and the spade. I just happened to think of sanething. I cane back in July of 1952, this is the second time I was in the a:nny. I think I've been lucky during my lifetime, my wife had to have an operation at the hospital here. I got a notice that I could go back out to Nt.nber Seven coal mine and work. In other v.ords, they were taking all the equipnent and everything out of the mine. I had a chance to go back there two weeks, this is Nwi>er Seven, and in the ~mantime, I already had this job with this plumer here in Taylorville. Well, I asked him if I could go back to the mine for two weeks to get back in good standing with the union. Of course, they had medical benefits as I'm sure you've heard. So I went back there for two weeks and got back in good standing and she went to the hospital and had an operation. Just a minor operation rut it Y«>uld've cost a lot of ooney I didn't have at the time, and the union paid for it. But to show you how lucky I an, that two weeks gave rm nineteen years and nine mnths at the coal mine, which later turned out was a godsend if you want to call it that, gave rm enough t im3 to get the miners pension. So it was a twist of fate that she did have to have that operation. I v.ouldn' t have went back to the coal mine, I wouldn't have had my 19 years and nine mnths in, Yilich in turn gave me the pension. But at the time I didn't think I'd ever get it anyway. I didn't even know about it then. They used to have a clause in the miner's by-laws, you had to have 20 years out of the last 30 years before you could get the miner's pension. Saneone took that into court, that's how it was, and they declared this by-law WlConsti tutional about this clause they had in there. Q: Yes. A: I got a letter in the mail one day saying you might be eligible for the pension. So I signed up for it and ten nnnths later--at the time, they were paying $150 a oonth--ten IIX>nths later I got a check for fifteen-hundred rucks. I was in hog heaven. l\\v wife and I packed up and went to Florida. First time we ever went down there. Q: (laughs) I don't blaue you. So you cleared it by a week or t\\U then? A: \\\!11, no. I think 19 years and six months constituted a 20 years. In other words, six DDnths constituted a whole year. Q: Yknt on up another notch. A: Yes, that's right. Q: I see. A: And that's how I happened to • . . Q: well, that's great. A: So that gave DE sane extra dough. Q: Yes. A: In my old age. Q: Yes. So how long have you worked as plmiler? A: A phnber, yes. Fran 1950 wttil about eight years ago. was it eight or ten? Q: was that \\ben you retired? A: 1974. Yes. Q: In 1974 you retired. A: Yes, yes. Q: Now, did you get anything • • • phnbing' s not a bad, I mean • • • A: I IDlde good, I OBde a lot more than I did at the coal mine I' 11 tell you. Yes, it paid good., I saved money and paid our house off and everything. A DeW' car. But I don't get any pension fran that because I didn't belong to the union. But I did have to have a state license, plumbing license. After I retired, I did a lot of work for myself. I worked for a place here in Taylorville called Jaueson' s PlUJ.iling and Heating. 'llien I \\Urked for Br<Ml and Sons, and then later on, Issac's. That's Issac's Plunbing and Heating. After I hurt my lmee, that's when I quit work. Q: Okay. A: I fowli out I could live without working and I tell you what, I've enjoyed every mirrute of my retirenmt. Because I play golf, I fish, and we go to Florida in the wintertime. Q: Yes. Ckay. That's a good work history. Let' s back up know to the 1930s a little bit, and tell DE a little bit more about during the mine wars. A: I don't know whether I touched on it or not. I said that three or four of us used to ride together to the mine. This one time, I think it was about January 3rd, this is 1933. Of course, in the meantime, we've had pickets lining both sides of the road at the entrance to the mine. This one particular night, we noticed that there was nobody leaving the mine yard am v.urd got around that the Progressives were going to try to keep us in the mine yard all night. So in the meantime, saneone cane up with the bright idea, they cut off pieces of, I think it was same kind of cable. I never v.urked below so I don't know too nuch about, I think it was cable to serve power for either the cutting 1111chine or loading 1111chine or sanething. 'llley cut them like a billy club. They said, ''Well, we're going out am beat the hell of those guys," you know, so we can get out and go bane. So they proceeded to tie white ann bands around their arms. Q: \\by was that? A: That was so you could distin guish me fran you out in the dark. Q: Yes. A: See, it was dark. This was in the wintertime, see. Yes, in J8ID.lary, sure. I believe we got off at either four or four-thirty then and hell, it was nearly dark. \\ell, it was dark by the time they got together all that stuff. So we proceeded to go out there and I don't know, we no sooner got out of that mine gate and all of a sudden it sounded 1ike war broke loose. Boy, you could hear rat-tat-tat-tat am boan-boan, you know, and me and my brother and one of our brothers and a guy by the nane of ••• well, I'll think of his name pretty soon. we ran into an old garage and when it kind of subsided, the shooting, I ran back into the mine yard. Oh, I kn<M what I wanted to tell you. W1en we got out there, those people had a white 8.1111 band around their danned anns too! (laughter) So you didn't know who was who. Q: They didn't intentionally do that because they knew you were going to. A: Yes. Saneone had learned that they was tying white 8.1111 bands and that's what they had around their anna. You couldn't distinguish friend fran foe, so to speak. Q: Yes. A: As I say, I was just a kid, I weighed about 115-120 pounds and when they started shooting, I had enough sense to get back in that mine yard. But I rEillEilber one thing distinctly, they started bringing guys back in that were shot, back into the mine yard, and I remmber one guy. I looked him up in the office after the battle was over with and I guess he was Progressive. He either took off or sanething. They brought one guy and I ' 11 never forget , he had his shorts down there and he was shot right through both cheeks of his rear. I can rEIDEIIDer that just as plain as day. Ain't that how you rEmember sanething like that? Q: Yes. With a rifle bullet or .•• A: I think it was rifle or a pistol bullet, yes. I think I'd say a pistol, but I just thought how fortunate that was, right in the flesh part of his rear. Q: Yes. That's funny. (laughter) A: Yes. Q: Now, was that the day that Ehma Qmerlatto was shot? A: Yes. That was the sane night, yes. As a mtter of fact, years later why, I was a good friend of Mrs. Qmerlatto' s son, who was Daninic Qmerlatto, who was in partnership with the bowling alley out here. I played golf with him years after that. Q: Okay. Now, you had said sanething a little while ago that there was rtm>rs out that there was a mchine gun in the mine tipple at Nwber Seven. A: You know, I've heard that and I discount that theory. I heard it again at the drugstore just the other day. If the mchine gun was there, if it'd been in operation that night, I'm sure there W>Uld've been a helluva lot of people killed. I v.orked in the tipple picking rock, but I didn't v.ork up in the top Ytbere they dmp the coal. But I'm sure by being in the anny and firing mchine guns and stuff 1ike that, I don't know Ytbether anyone has said Ytbether they have used that machine gun or not on that night. I never heard. Seans 1 ike saneone said they did use that mchine gun that night, but I don't think so. But I discount that theory, I really do. Q: Your experience in \\brld war I I with the mchine guns • • • A: Well, Y«JUld lead me to believe those bunch of people milling out there and the trajectory of this machine gun shooting out, if they were shooting at that time, they would've killed as rmny United Mine \\brkers as they would Progressives if you want to call it that. Now, it could've possibly, the machine gun might 've been there in case sanebody was storming the mine. I don' t kn<M. Q: Yes. A: You understand Ytbat I mean? Q: Yes. A: The ones that were on strike, they wanted to storm into the • . • Q: So it my not have been used in that situation. A: Yes. I'd bet my life on it it wasn't used that night. Q: Would you have recognized the sound of a mchine gun you think? A: years old. Not really, because I was just a kid. See, I just turned sixteen Q: <h, okay. A: Of course, you know, living on a farm and lnmting and stuff like that, I'm sure there were shotguns, and then there were pistols being fired that night. Q: 'lbe only person that was killed that night was Bnna. Ulrerlatto. A: I think so, yes, that I know of. But I know there were people working at the coal mine because they brought than back into the mine office, and I know there were people shot there. But as far as fatalities, I don't think so. Q: Okay. All right. That night when you went hane, you nust've been pretty keyed up a little bit. A: \\e were scared because we didn't have any weapons or anything. See, we went out there with just this dBIDl piece of stuff in our hands. And I 'm sure there were sane thugs fran, maybe I shouldn1 t say Peabody thugs. I 1 11 call them caq>any thugs and those are the ones that probably had the guns. But after that, we started carrying a gun to YoOrk, the four of us in the car. Q: A pistol or a rifle? A: I think we had a shotgun and two or three pistols that we carried to v«>rk. I thank the good Lord that I never had to use the dam things. Q: Yes. A: Because I was always afraid of a gun anyway. Q: Okay. well tell me, do you rEIDEIIber hearing about any labor spies during that time period? A: Yes. Yes, I really do. This was about, I'd say tv«> or three years after the mine, Nlllber Seven coal mine had opened up. Of course, the Progressives were still active, and I received a copy of the Progressive Mine Workers of America's by-laws through the tmil. I thought, "Boy, that's awful damn funny." The next day. riding back fran work or going to work, there was four or five of us riding in the car. I said, "You won't guess what"--1 was talking to the people in the car--l said, "I got a copy of Progressive Mine \\brkers by-laws." I said, "I think I'll throw the damn thing away. \\hat should I do with it?" This one fellow says, "Read it." And I found out later that this man was working for both the Progressive and the United Mine Workers. As a matter of fact, he was a IIDle working for Peabody Coal Cmpany, rut trying to pramte the Progressive Mine Wbrkers of America. So that's a little bit of intrigue I thought. I have never told anybody the guy's ru:rm and I wouldn't now because I'm sure he had people around here. Later on, the man becane a boss for Peabody O>al Canpany. SO if sanebody hears that, maybe they can know who I'm talking about, but I'm not going to Dl!lltion the man's ll8Jll!. ~: Okay. That's interesting. A: I'm sure that the man was working for both sides. In other words, he was a United Mine W:>rker but I v.uuld irra.gine if the Progressives would ever cane into power, so to speak, that man would've probably been sane sort of a big shot in the Progressive Mine Wbrkers of America. I've often thought about that. Q: Yes. Did you ever see caq>any spies or hear about them in the mines? A: I always called then coopany Urugs. I don't want to say they were spies, theywere here as ••• oh, I want to say, well, you might call it to intimidate people. \\hat I wanted to tell you, the night we had this battle out here at Nmber Seven mine, the next nvrning we were caning to work. Of course, naturally we were scared, and as we went into the mine gate--we used to have to go over a set of tracks and there was the mine gate right there--there set a car that belonged to our top boss, ll8Jll! of Hiney Helmer, I forgotten his first rume. \\e foW1d out later that one of the bosses fran up in the tipple--a guy by the nane of Hiclmln--was killed in Kincaid. Th.ey had been patrolling aroWld Kincaid, which I always thought after that was kind of stupid or they were intimidating the Progressives, because they had that battle the night before out at the mine. They were patrolling around the streets in Kincaid and this one fellow by the rume of Hickman Ml.o was the boss up in the tipple, was killed and another guy who was doing sam of the patrolling was nane of Fulton Smith. He was the tipple boss, but this guy that was killed was what they called a table boss. I've always heard that he was a tlrug. He Clllle in here fran saneplace else. Th.en I know we had another table boss that was an ex-convict. I know that for sure. He was killed later on in a car wreck. So evidently the caq>any brought those guys in or it might be just by luck that these people happened to have records or sarething. But I always thought that they brought those guys in to intimidate the Progressives. Q: Yes. A: lbt I always wondered Ml.y the next 100ming that they were patrolling up around those streets in this guy's car and you kn<M, you get a dog cornered, he's going to bite you so to speak. So the sane thing, that's why I guess they took a pot shot at that car that nvrning. Q: \\here did the shot cane fran, do you have any idea? A: I don't know. I really don't kn<M. Along about that sam ti.m:;! there was a guy, he took care of the wash house, rume of Frank Angenendt . He was killed out at Kincaid by the Progressive miners. I think this guy went to trial rut he was never convicted. I imagine you've heard this Frank Angenendt sanewhere in a conversation? Q: I' 11 make sure. Jesse Lake A: Umy. Q: <:kay. Having v.orked in Kincaid, were there certain taverns and things that sare of the YtOrkers went to? A: Yes. Q: \\here was that? A: I believe there was one place where the Progressives went mre, and a place called Mlsh M;,ades--I 've got a little story to tell you about that later on. fun' t let 1m forget about it. M>st everybody that YoUrked in the coal mine went in there, and Lewey's Tavern, Lewey Jeckopazzi I think his nane was. I always called him Irislman. 'Dlat' s M3diterranean Irish I always said. (laughter) Anyway, you know Jeckopazzi I guess you know what that is, Italian. Q: Was he a Progressive? A: No, no, no. He ran the tavern, rut we could go in there, you kno.v. Q: You could go in, okay. A: Yes, no sweat. I just thought about sanething. In back of this guy's bar, used to have a sign. I think that's before I ever rret her, my wife. Had a sign back there, "Free Beer Tanorrow," a big sign. Q: So it was always up there. (laughs) A: 'lhey'd ask Lewey, "Free beer tanorrow IDuie?" "Yep." They'd cane in that next day, "\\here's that free beer Louie?" ''\\hat does the sign say?" That's blw I rEIIlEIIi>ered lDuie' s Tavern. So you could go in there. But I've heard my wife tell tales that just before I ever DDVed out of Kincaid, when the mine strike was really tough, that her and her brother--! guess at the time they were about I guess ten or twelve years old--they'd go to the store. Sane of the children of these Progressive miners caught then a time or two, took their groceries away fran than and clobbered than a time or two. They'd go bane with llllybe an apple or orange in their hand. That's all they had, and of course crying, I suppose. Q: Yell, I ' 11 be. Wlat about the Borgognoni Tavern? A: Yes. I believe it was Progressive if I rEIDflliler right. I'm sure saneone else has told you that. Now that was in Bulpitt. Q: Right. \\bat was the nam of that place? Was it called Borgognoni Tavern? A: I think it was Borgognoni' s Tavern. He had a son by the rume of M>nk, played around--ian' t that funny? A lot of guys, they were, so to speak, your enanies and llllybe in the next year they'd went back to YoUrk and there they were your friends, you know? Jesse Lake Q: Yes. A: As a OBtter of fact, there was brother against brother back at that t iJm. I'm sure you've heard that. Q: Yes. A: Talking about brother against brother, I've told this so Dlll1y times, there was a gentletllUl out at Kincaid who \Wrked at the mine. He let the cars down, so to speak. \\hen a car would get full, he'd hook a new one on a rope, naiE of Pete Haines. Seam like he was always going around 1ike Springfield or Decatur, rut he happened to be in Springfield one time. I don't know why he went down to where this Progressive's headquarters was at, and there was a fellow that knew him fran Stonington who was a Progressive miner that had a brother that worked out at Nwi>er Seven coal mine, Peabody, right alongside this Pete Haines. Well, they started I guess to beat up on old Pete and he pulled his pistol out and shot this guy by the nane of Staples fran Stonington. After that, it always seemed fwmy, here this brother of the Imll that Haines had shot walked by him every 100rning to go to work. I figured it would give a fellow a fwmy feeling to walk past the DBll that just shot your brother. But his brother was a Progressive mine worker. I'm sure there was uncles and cousins against each other, sOOE working and sOOE not. Q: Yes. A: It was a tough time, it reallywas. Q: Yes. Wlen the Progressives first cam back to the mine, were they treated any differently than the other men? A: I think they welcamd than back pretty well. They were like everybody else, they were hungry and they had to do sanething when they saw that the Progressives weren't going to win. You know, they kept going downhill and the mine was working. There DBY be sane places they might 've said B<JIBthing to than, but I don't think I ever did. SeEDEd like we were always glad to see than back to work. That way, you had less friction out on the streets. Q: Yes. Did you know of sane of the Progressives that were blacklisted and couldn' t get back to work? A: I think possibly there might be. I had never heard that, rut I'm sure that sme of the older coal miners have heard 100re. Of course, when you're sixteen, seventeen, eighteen years old, a lot of stuff, I would say, goes over your head. But you don't pay any attention to it. If you were older, MJ.y naturally you would be arot.IOO and hear ODre stuff like that. Q: In 1933 when you were first starting to work, was Nwi>er Seven Wlde:rmanned or did they have enough workers? A: I think they were a little short, rut they had quite a few people working. Of course, I worked on top picking rock. Seemed like there were quite a few people starting there that first day in October of 1932, am of course later on, there was always samone, they hired new ones and so forth. It's a £unny thing, when we first started there, they used to have on these picking tables where the coal would go along an::l you'd pick the rock out of it , they had boards mere you could sit down a lot of t in:es. They did over in the middle of this conveyor. Of course, they get plenty of n:en because a lot of people are wanted to go to work. Boy, they got tough and they better get rid of those boards because they think the people sitting down on their rear, they wasn't doing enough work. Then you stood along and picked on it. There would be two to four n:en who walked on these conveyors and that was hard work, bending over and picking that rock. Trying to walk on the coal am bend over and a lot of times, just boan, and a part of this table would be down like that so they could drop it into the cars and just 1ike walking uphi 11. So that was pretty tough work. Of course, men you're sixteen, eighteen years old, you knew, and you can work a lot harder then. Q: Yes. Okay. All right, let's stop here for just a minute. (tape turned off IIDilentarily) Okay, before I turned the tape off, or while it was off, we were talking a little bit about the relationship between the home people--that's the people who lived here in Taylorville--and the people ?tho were fran out of town that cane up to w.>rk in the mines. \\ere they treated any differently by the managenent? A: You lm<m, I haven't thought too ouch about that, but I believe they were. I really believe that they were treated different because the people that lived here, naturally the ccnpany wanted those people to go to work if they were Progressive. The people that were caning fran down south, they were caning here to .....ork. They know they were going to .....ork, so DBybe they were giving the better jobs, you might say, that paid a little more money or maybe a better job or easier. It's very possible. I hadn't even thought too ouch about that, but by God, I believe that might be true. Q: Yes. What would be the .....orst job in the mine that you could get? A: The worst job down below used to be, I've heard them talk about, was the dirt gang. So if you done sanething that the cmpan;y didn't like or if you say took up a case that they didn't like, you was trying to hold up for your rights, they would, in other .....ords, to shaft you, so to speak, they'd put you in the dirt gang. \\hich I guess was a dirty job loading old rotten dust with a shovel by hand. Q: Okay. So they put troublemakers there? A: Yes. That's What they called troublemakers. A lot of cases, the people were standing up for their own rights. Of course, back then they always say there was 20 guys out at the gate looking for a job so if you didn't knuckle down, so to speak, you were out. Q: \\here v.uuld they put you on top? A: And if you're on top, they .....ould probably put you picking rock. Of course at the time, picking rock was a cheaper scale than the yard w.>rk. Jesse Lake 1 think there was a dollar difference in the day's work, and everybody would strive to get out in the yard. They would sort of give you the shaft if you were holding up for your rights or done sanething that they thought might be wrong. They might Imke you walk the table 100re, make it tougher. Q: Yes. Okay. \"tell, tell me this, what about the pit canni tteenan, did they really represent the men well? A: Back then, I really don't think so. In sane cases, they may have, but I think when they took up a case, the ccnpany had about three strikes against you before they would take your case up. They'd cane to sane kim of a cmpranise, rut you always had the ccnpranise was in favor of the coopany about ten to one. Q: Yes. A: That was always my in:p re ssion. Q: I see. A: If be didn't like you, a lot of times you wouldn't even get that one point, I don't believe. Of course, now, I haven't got anything against the cmpany because I made a good living later on. But I can ranenber years ago, they did things out there I know was illegal, such as I think I mentioned stickers. These stickers was a means whereby if you were short of IJI)ney, you would go to the office before you went to work that morning and tell the people in the office you wanted to get say a ten dollar sticker, or a twenty dollar sticker. They would charge you ten percent interest on that damn stuff. \\hat w:>uld happen, the sticker, actually the sticker was a loan. I don't know where the teDil sticker cane fran. I never even thought about it unt i 1 we had talked about it, other than the teDil as used that they really stuck it to you. So maybe that's where it cane fran, I don't know. But I do know if you went up there and got a ten dollar sticker, applied for this loan, which is called a sticker, if you applied for ten dollars you w:>uld get nine. At pay day, you had ten dollars checked off of your paycheck. But actually you only received nine which they were charging you a ten percent interest on that lll)ney. To me, I always, I thought about it later, I thought that it was illegal as hell. I know that that was about five or six times, five t illlis DX>re than the going rate of interest that you could get at (tape ends) End of Side Two, Tape One Q: Okay, before I put a new tape in, you were telling me about stickers and how they charged five or ten percent mre you say, than you would nonnally have to give if you got a loan someplace else? A: I think I was talking about that before we changed the tape. They would charge you ten percent. As I said before, you w:>uld apply for a ten dollar sticker, you would get nine dollars but they would check ten dollars off your paycheck the next payday. I always thought that was i 11egal as the devil , and to this day I don't know who, I guess the canpany got the interest, or saneone did. But anyway, I know there was an awful lot of ODney to chs.rge at that t:iiiE. I do know that people, once you got hooked on those things and you drawed say a ten dollar sticker and a twenty dollar sticker, your paycheck was all gone. You were paying ten percent of that DDney, which was you might say your paycheck. But once you got hooked in that , a lot of t itres you didn' t draw hardly any paycheck at all. Q: Yes. A: I know of guys that were hooked like that. I think I was talking to you about carpany harrassrent. I rmlEIJber one t illE they were selling insurance and this fellow and I were the two ranaining people that didn't take this insurance they were trying to sell. It was a cmpmy insurance and it didn't pay very much hospitalization. If you got hurt at the coal mine, cmpensation or saneone would pay for your hospitalization. But anyway, I wasn't making rruch DDney anyway and they wanted everybody to take this lousy insurance. So there was two people left in the whole tipple that hadn't signed up for this insurance, and this friend of mine was n.armd 1\tlrle Ahlberg. So finally the tipple boss cane by and told us that the superintendent wanted to see us at the office. "\\hat about?" we asked him, and he said, "Well, about that insurance." So Merle and I proceeded to go up to the office and the mine superintendent was up there. He asked us why we didn't take that insurance. We said, well, we didn't want it, and said, 11\\hy, do we have to take it?" Well, this was the superintendent, what he says, ''You don't have to rut I suggest that you do." So we signed up for the damed insurance that we didn't want. That's what I'm saying, they put pressure on you for stuff that you really didn't need, you figured you didn't. But I can't kick. So later on I made a good living at the coal mine and it turned out everything was okay. Of course, when you're a kid, a ymmg kid, you can't see down the line. You can look back now and see that I made a good living in the coal mine. But it was awful aggravating when you were ymmger and they did things like that. Q: \\hat year was that that the insurance thing cane out? A: I'd say that was about, I don't know, 1935. That's in 1934, 1935, or 1936. Q: .Now, was that a 1i fe insurance plan? A: No. It was hospitalization, hospitalization plan. That's What bothered l1E so. I knew if you got hurt at the coal mine, you had insurance that MJuld take care of your insurance. This was for if you got sick away fran the coal mine, and it didn't pay very dEmn. rruch, the benefits, caxpared to what you had to pay. I can't rBilEflber how rruch it was and they checked it all off of your paychecks. I wasn' t making nuch DDney anyway and I didn't want the dam stuff. But I ended up taking it. Probably if I hadn't have, they Y«>uld have either harrassed us until, you know, we either quit or took the insurance. Q: Okay. Wlat was the canwn way of getting jobs and pranotions back then? A: W;;lll, I don't know. I think if you were mybe a good v.urker, you got a pramtion. I'm sure you heard the tenn brown-nosing? Q: Yes. A: Well, I've always fmmd out a good brown-noser succeeded sanetimes. I don't knCMT, llliybe that don't sound nice, but I've heard that tenn all my life. So I think that helped. Of course, you had to have a little ability, just like anything else you had to be able to do the job. But I think a little saying "Yes, sir," and doing what they wanted you to y.ould help. Q: Okay. Did you see Dlilly mine bosses that were not qualified for their IX>Si tion? A: well, back then, I think that most of them were older people. A lot of what you llEan by qualification--mybe cpalification, if you knew how to intimidate a guy to get more v«>rk done, I'd say you were a good boss then. I think that's what they figured was a good boss. You had to have a certain anonnt of qualifications, knowing how to, I guess and I'm talking about down below. I never v.orked below, so I really don't know that nuch. They had to know about the top and the gas and stuff 1ike that. I always v.orked on top and any dunny could use a shovel--or we called it an Arkansas drag line--or use a shovel or pick or nnload props. All you needed was a strong back and a dlllll weak mind. Q: All right. Tell liE this, what about ethnicity in the mines, what role did that play? A: The what? Q: Ethnicity, what ethnic groups ••• A: Okay. You know, I've talked to people about that and I believe it played a part. Each ethnic group takes care of their own, so to speak, whether that llEans Jewish, Polish, Italian, or whatever you might be. I think if you had a guy was a boss or sanething 1ike that and he had one of his fellow cmmtrynen there, a job was open, I'm sure that he \\OUld give it to his ethnic group before he would give the job to saneone with like an Irish nBDE. Say if he was an Italian, he would mybe give it to a guy that was a friend of his that was his fellow conntryman. \\hich I think that plays a part even in politics for chrissakes. They got the same thing right now. The joker they're trying to lllike a judge that can't even write up a robbery case. I think Reagan's got saneone now that he's--what's his rume, Minion, I think it is--that he's trying to put in for a judge? Q: For the SUprane Court? A: I believe so. No, not the Suprane Court, but I believe it is, and the guy, they had his record--well, I'm getting off the subject now. But anyway, that's what I'm saying if a guy was qualified. Q: \\hat v..ere sane of the strong etlmic camunities around this area? A: well, there were Italians Q: Where were they located? A: In Kincaid, and there was a lot of them in Kincaid, Tovey, Langleyville, and I think Hewittville here in Taylorville. Now, I just thought of sanething that just cane to my mind. \\hen I was a kid caddying at the gulf course, I'm talking about the golf course out east of Taylorville, the COWltry club, I had sane friends that were Italian. I can rEIDE!Iber going to their ham in Hewi ttville and their parents couldn't say anything in English at all. We chatted together, we were just young boys, and I "M>Uld go to their hare. They'd start talking in their native tongue and these boys were ashamed of them. So they'd chase than out of the house or tell than in the Italian or whatever it was, "Get back in the backyard." Because at the time, years ago, people when they came to this country they wanted to learn English. The faster they learned English, the better chance they had of getting a better job and stuff like that. So these boys were, actually I guess were ashamed of their parents, for 100 to hear than speaking Italian in America, see, or in the United States. Q: Now that was in Hewi ttville you say. A: In Hewittville, yes. Now this is back in the 1920's, 1928 or 1929. But anyway, I can rEmffliler those kids doing it. But here's the sad part of it, now then the people that I caddied with, or about my age--l 'm talking about 55 or 60 years ago--that were either Italian, 011ybe Polish. They didn't learn it and now to this day they probably can't say anything in their parent's native tongue, which is a sha:re because a lot of people is trying to pick up the heritage and bring it back. You knCNI what I'm talking about? Q: Yes. A: And I think it's a shame that they can't speak, their children can't speak the language of their grandparents. I know I've got friends, had friends in Kincaid, they were aoout my age and they couldn't speak. This one fellCN/ was an Italian, good friend of mine, Prim:> Casteloni, I don't think he could say anything in Italian hardly at all. It's a shame that he lost his heritage. Now then, people are proud of their heritage, whether they be Italian, Jewish, Irish, and I think they should be. lq!: Yes. Did etlmicity play a role in detemlining whether you were Progressive or UMMr. A: I don't think so. I think they were evenly divided. As I mentioned about the brother on brother, one working and one not, those people's rume were Staples and I think they were Irish or sanething like that. So maybe down around say Staunton and Gillespie, or someplace like that, might 've been nx>re people fran the old country. I'm talking about 1ike the Italians within the last 50 years, nx>re of those people Dllybe belonged to the Progressives. But I think it was pretty well evened out. Q: vmat were the strong Progressive canwnities arOW1d here? A: I think around down Stannton, Gillespie, down in that area. They had a lot of thEm here. Of course, they worked in the coal mine before the strike. But they never N>rked for Peabody nnt i 1 they went back Wlder the United Mine \\brkers. But there were a lot of Progressives that belonged to the IIDVenEnt but they had no place for them to N>rk arOW1d here. Q: Wlere were they located? A: ArOW1d in Taylorville, Kincaid, Stonington, Langleyville, Tovey, and I N>uld imagine Springfield. A lot of them in Springfield. Plus one time I believe Peabody had two, maybe three coal mines in Springfield, Illinois. Q: Yes. Was Hewi ttville a strong Progressive canwnity? A: Yes, I think it was, yes. Yes, it really was. I think maybe Langleyville might've been, well as a matter fact, they were all pretty strong you kn<JN. Q: Yes. Okay. ~t's stop here just a minute. (tape turned off nonentarily) ~t IIE just ask you Mrs. Lake, you were telling IIE about the miner's ward at the hospital, and did you say you worked there for awhile? 0: [Mrs. Lake] I worked there, yes. Q: Okay, what was that like? 0: Well, it wasn't very good to work in. You first went into the hospital to work, that was one of your first jobs that they give you. Either that or you cleaned and sterilized the bed pans. There was no toilets or bathroans like they have now, you kn<JN. Q: Yes. 0: The miner's ward, that was just sanething else. All the men had to use urinals and they'd spit on the wall, they'd spit on the floor. Everyday two or three sisters muld take you down there and you'd scrub the floor and you scrubbed it with a brush. You know, the floor, the wall. Q: They were spitting tobacco all over it, is that it? 0: They'd spit tobacco, they'd spit anything they had in their mouths, you know. Q: Well how' d they use the bathroan? 0: They used urinals and they weren't ever particular. I've been in there when they wasn't particular. They didn't get behind a sheet, they didn't pull the sheet or cover tha:nselves up. They just used it. Jesse Lake Q: Yes. How big was this ward, how big was the roan? 0: I know that there was eight, lots of tUnes, eight to ten beds in a ward. Q: It was just one big roan with eight to ten beds? O: One big roan, yes. Q: All right. 0: That's the best I can rEmEmber, that there were that many. Q: How mm;y of the beds were usually filled? 0: They mostly were filled all the tUne. Q: All the time. What type of accidents? 0: If they were hurt real bad or if they weren't hurt very bad, they just put than all in there together. I don't suppose that if any of them were real critical, maybe they had than saneplace else in another roan maybe. But [JJ)St roans then did have four beds in a roan. Q: I see. That SOWld.s like a locker roan atmosphere. \\hat did you say about the rurses, when they cmre in, they • • . 0: Wlen we would go in to clean the roan, one girl would clean awhile and the other girl would watch her to keep these guys fran sticking their hand up their dress. Then the other one would scrub awhile and the other one would watch. Q: &> were you told to go in in couples? 0: Yes. We always went into the miner's ward in twos and threes. Q: Yes. That's sanething I'd never heard before. Tell me, Mr. Lake, a little bit about the strikes during that time. Did you participate in strikes at all during your experience? A: No, no. Now, you're talking about strikes, they did have same strikes. I've participated in strikes on maybe a grievance. I'm sure you've heard of that. Q: Yes. A: This is United Mine W:>rkers I'm talking about now. They've had wildcat strikes, you know, and then they've had strikes over the years where they didn't sign a contract. I can recall right after W:>rld War I I, when I first cmre back, of course I was broke and in debt because I'd had a son that'd been in the hospital and I needed the money. The old saying for a coal mdner, if they had a little grievance, whether it was legitimate or not, if they threw the water up in the air, if it stayed up they would work. If it hit the growl.d they'd go on strike. That was the old cliche they used to have for the coal miners. ~: It was called throwing out the water? A: Yes. They always carried water, there was an area in the bottan of the miner's bucket that they p.tt water in there. That's how they carried their water to drink and the top was where they had their lunch. The old saying is, if they had sane kind of a grievance, they said, ''Well, what are we going to do?" If they throw the water and it stays up in the air, well, we' 11 going ahead and w:>rk. If it canes and hits the ground, we' 11 strike. That's the old cliche about the coal miners. Q: Yes. So that would be a wildcat strike then. A: Wildcat strike, absolutely. Right after Wbrld war II--of course, I was in the service and I cane back and as I said, wanting to work. At different times they've had same wildcat strikes over nothing. Maybe sane guy was out drunk and rmybe they'd run him hane or sanething like that. Any 1ittle grievance, of course, these guys had stayed there for three years and worked all that time. They had IIDney, they'd saved IIDney, but there I was in the service and hell, I didn't have any dann money and no way to save any nxmey. Finally I got sick of it. I told the top boss one day, I said, "Hey, next time these jokers go on strike, if you've got sane w:>rk arOWld here and if I can do the damn work, I' 11 work. 11 I said, "Man, I need the IIDney, I want to see same of them jokers say sanething to me, I' 11 knock them in the dam head." I would've, I'd have knocked thEm in the head with a club, because I was hungry. I wasn't really hungry rut I needed the money. I was broke. But these jerks have been here for three years working all the time us guys were gone in the service, hell, they had money saved. They didn't care, they wanted the day off because the mine was working everyday. That gave them a chance to take a little rest, go out and drink sane beer and get drunk or something. So in that case, I guess I would've been a strike breaker you might say. Q: Yes. A: I really would have, because I needed the money. Q: All right. That's interesting. Tell me more about your experiences in the mine. A: I think I told you about caning back fran the service the second time I was in. I was in on it twice, got a call back, and I worked two more weeks with the coal mine. After that, I v.orked there two weeks, and I could've went to w:>rk out at Nunber Eight rut I didn't want to. I think they had a job of picking rock and my memory of picking of rock in 1932 for a few years, I didn't want any part of it. So I stayed as a plumber's apprentice, using the shovel and a spade. (laughs) That was my experience starting as a plumber. In other words, I had to learn a new profession if you want to call coal mining a profession. Q: Yes. Well, tell me this, what was the difference between the way things got done with the union before W:>rld war II and after. A: There was quite a change because it seEJned like everybody had grown up, if you want to call it that. \\hen you cane back, they didn't try to shaft you or give you a dirty job or a lousy, hard job because people \\UUldn't put up with it. You know, you've been in the service and you saw people killed and stuff like that, and your outlook on life was different. You'd say, "Well, I'm not going to take no IIDre of that crap" that you did back when you were younger and hadn't saw things in that 1ight. I kno.v I had a different outlook on life. Of course, I had a brother killed in \\brld war II and I didn't want anybody giving me any crap. That's just what it armunted to. Because I think I \\Ullld've fought at the drop of a hat. I know I would've if they would try to shaft me, so to speak. So everything was different, it really was, and there was none of that stuff. I know of guys, that if they went on strike or sarething like that, the cmpany didn't get upset about it as nnch and things of that nature. Q: Okay. Had the rules changed at all for like handling grievances? A: The rules hadn't changed, rut the attitude of the managEJnent had, because there was a lot 100re work and everybody had plenty of m:plo)llllent. I'm talking about just right after, in 1946. Everything was boaning then, and they're wanting to get back in production. You could get a job anywhere, regardless, you know, if you was a coal miner or working in a mill or anyplace, you could get a job. So they didn't have people looking for all this work, where back in the 1930s, everybody was looking for work, a lot of people were looking for work. There was a difference in the attitude of the cmpany towards the miners and the union. Q: Yes. Tell me, what was the average age of the mrkers, say in 1932? were they fairly ~ A: I might 've been about the youngest one at the time. Back in the 1920s, they worked when they were ten and twelve years old. They used to drive nules. But when I started in 1932, the mine was all mechanized and so they didn't have any nnles down below. Everything was done by a nntor on tracks that hauled the coal. Of course they didn't want young kids arOWJd that mechanization too nnch. They couldn't have because the law had been changed that you had to be sixteen years old, I think, to mrk in that type of work. When I first started I was only fifteen years old. Probably the canpany could've got in trouble because I lied about my age when I got the job. You know, if I had been IIRybe fatally injured or sanething, they probably could have had, my parents, could have had a lawsuit against thEm because they didn't have me show any birth certificate or anything, you know, at the time. Q: Okay. Well I just wondered if the workers back then were like younger than 30 for the most part, or older than 30? A: I believe so, I believe they were yotmger, around 30. I'd say the average was say 25 to 35. Q: \\hen you cane back fran WOrld War I I, what was the average age? A: ~11, naturally we were older. Q: SanE \\Urkers? A: Yes. Of course, when you cane back fran World War Il, they had to give you your job back. Q: Yes. A: 'lllat was mandatory. As a matter of fact, I believe at the time Illinois had what they called a 52-20. In other words, if I had wanted to, I could've, to kind of rehabilitate ~elf, I could've drawed $20 a week for 52 weeks, and I think they w:>uld've had to give DE my job. Or any industry V«>Uld have to give the person their job back. But after caning back, I think I went and signed up two weeks and I couldn't stand it anyiOOre. I had to get back to -work, you knew. Because inactivity, you're sitting around and you're thinking. MY brother had just gotkilled not long before that and there was too nuch to think about. It was hard to read just even back to your family, because you've been in there all that time and everything was done by the nmi>er. You came hane and your kids do things that i rritate you and your wife. Everything had changed, and it took me a long time. I never did mention it to her, but I had sane awful thoughts different t:iires the first year I was out of the service. I think my v.ork even changed. Q: Okay. A: Of course I wasn't alone. There was thousands and thousands of guys in there. Q: Yes. A: In the anny. Had to cane back and adjust to going back to -work again. It's a hard thing to do for a lot of people. ~: Wbuld you like to tell me about it? A: It was just sanething that it just seemed like as I say, when you was in the service, you got a 1ittle rank and you told saneone else what to do all that t:iire. They didn't do it, you could do sanething about it. You could either put them on KP or extra--it's a funny thing, the annykind of reminded DE of the cm:pany so to speak, when I was at the coal mine. If they told you to do sanething, you'd better do it or you'd get put in the ds:m dirt gang. So in the army when you got a little rank and saneone, say well, he didn't want to do this. You could say, "Hey, you'dbetter do that or you're going to have your darm. pass taken away," or "You're going on the KP." So the sane thing failed in the damn armywhich carried over fran the coal mine. fu you understand what I'm saying? Q: Yes, I see what you're saying. A: But getting back to caning out of the service, it was a tough go. It just took a lot of doing to get back into the minstrean. One thi.rg that helped, I played a lot of softball. V\e used to have a pretty good team. lived in a little town called Jeiseyville. Jesse Lake ~: Yes. Fast pitch? A: Yes. Slow pitch, I wouldn't go across the street to see that. That helped, and we did a lot of that. As a matter of fact, rrw wife was a softball widow because we played two and three nights a week. I had a 1933 Ford and it was my pride and joy. A black one with the old doors that opened up like that, you knON? That's what rrw wife had while I was gone in the service. The first car I ever had was a 1933 black, two-door Ford. 1933 nxxlel. Q: I'll be. A: I'd like to have it now. It'd be worth a couple of bucks. End of Interview
|Title||Lake, Jesse - Interview and Memoir|
Christian County (Ill.)
Coal Mines and Mining
Coal Mines and Mining--Strikes and Lockouts, "Mine Wars"
|Description||Jesse Lake, coal miner, recalls early mining experiences: management-labor relationship, role of the pit committeemen, changes in the mines, ethnicity in the mining communities of Christian County Illinois, wildcat strikes and company harassments. Also recalls early life experiences on a farm.|
|Creator||Lake, Jesse b. 1916|
|Contributing Institution||Oral History Collection, Archives/Special Collections, University of Illinois at Springfield|
|Contributors||Corley, Kevin [interviewer]|
|Digital Format||PDF; MP3|
|Relation||ILLINOIS COAL: THE LEGACY OF AN INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY|
|Rights||© Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. For permission to reproduce, distribute, or otherwise use this material, please contact: Archives/Special Collections, University of Illinois at Springfield, One University Plaza, MS BRK 140, Springfield IL 62703-5407. Phone: (217) 206-6520. http://library.uis.edu/archives/index.html|
|Title||Jesse Lake Memoir|
|Source||Jesse Lake Memoir.pdf|
|Rights||© Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. For permission to reproduce, distribute, or otherwise use this material, please contact: Archives/Special Collections, University of Illinois at Springfield, One University Plaza, MS BRK 140, Springfield IL 62703-5407. Phone: (217) 206-6520. http://library.uis.edu/archives/index.html|
University of Illinois at Springfield
Norris L Brookens Library
Jesse Lake Memoir
L147. Lake, Jesse b. 1916 Interview and memoir 2 tapes, 126 mins., 28 pp.
ILLINOIS COAL: THE LEGACY OF AN INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY
Jesse Lake, coal miner, recalls early mining experiences: management-labor relationship, role of the pit committeemen, changes in the mines, ethnicity in the mining communities of Christian County Illinois, wildcat strikes and company harassments. Also recalls early life experiences on a farm.
Interview by Kevin Corley, 1986 OPEN See collateral file
Archives/Special Collections LIB 144
University of Illinois at Springfield
One University Plaza, MS BRK 140
Springfield IL 62703-5407
© 1986, University of Illinois Board of Trustees
This nruruscript is the product of a tape recorded interview conducted by Kevin Corley for a special project, "Illinois Coal: The Legacy of Wl Industrial Society." The project was sponsored by the Illinois State Historical Society and funded in part by the Illinois Humnaities Council and the National End<:M~JEnt for the Hulmni ties. Additional support cmre fran the Oral History Office of Sanganon State University. Joyce Fisher transcribed the tapes and Susan Jones edited the transcript.
Jesse Lake was born in Vernon, Illinois in 1916. He grew up on a faxm and went to w:>rk at an early age to help support his eight brothers and sisters. He mrked in Peabody Mines in Olristian County fran 1932 until DDst of than closed in 1952. Mr. Lake then was anployed as a plmber until his retirement in 1979.
Readers of the oral history memoir should bear in mind that it is a
transcript of the spoken w:>rd, and that the interviewer, narrator and editor sought to preserve the infoxmal, conversational style that is
inherent in such historical sources. Sangamon State University and the
Illinois State Historical Library are not responsible for the factual accuracy of the lllBIDir, nor for views expressed therein; these are for
the reader to judge.
The manuscript rray be read, quoted and cited freely. It rray not be reproduced in whole or in part by any IIBans, electronic or IIBchanical, without pexmission in writing fran the Oral History Office, Sangaroon State University, Springfield, Illinois, 62708.
Jesse Lake, Taylorville, Illinois, July 18, 1986.
Kevin Corley, Interviewer.