Coal Miner/UMW



Charles “Hawkeye” Dixon

I spent a lot of time with my grandmother. She taught me a whole lot about hardships endured by, you know, the coal miners back then. She was a young girl during the Matewan massacre. She passed away probably about four or five years ago; She lived well into her nineties, just a great lady. She would tell me about her and the coal miners, about her home, about her house. They had a lard bucket, for a dinner bucket. Most of them would have their clothes…tied on ‘em, with no suspenders, holding the clothes on ‘em. They just really had it tough. They made their clothes out of sacs that they used to carry feed in and I try to learn a lot of my lessons from her.

I myself, I graduated high school in 1970 and in 1971 I went into the coal mine, got married at an early age too and went into the coal mines. The first seven years I worked in a coal mine was in thirty inch coal. But it was a union mine. I learned pretty quickly that these union miners, they took up for each other. The older miners, they took you under their wings and watched out for you. Union mines had that. You had safer mines that way. After about a year or so I learned how to run a roof bolter. My primary job was to make the top safe for everybody. They would put roof bolts into the roof of the mine. Thirty inch seam would be thirty inches thick. You had thirty inches. It’d be like crawling under a coffee table and then working all day. What was over top though was a mountain.