By: Paige Cline
If you have ever watched a television documentary about life in the coalfields during Times were tough in the early days of the coalfieldsthe early times, you see the company store and coal towns in general depicted in a completely negative way.
The same holds true for the fictional accounts of coal town life. While there is no doubt there were some abuses, there are some memories of wonderful times and even a sort of community pride in their home towns.
times were tough in the early days of the coalfieldscoping with the Great Depression and two world wars. Comparatively speaking, the folks who lived and took pride in their coal camp homes lived better than their family and neighbors up the hollow.
A long time before I was born, our family lived at Wyco. Our mother remembered her time there very fondly. She recalled that the store employees were all ice people, and friendly.
She especially remembered the store manager’s wife was kind to her, a sixteen year old bride.
The company store was a sort of social center where folks met to discuss everything from politics to. baseball. Mom recalled that the women would rehash the troubles of Stella Dallas ir Our Gal Sunday. These were the radio serials that women, and some men, listened to faithfully every weekday. They were the forerunners of the television “soaps” which would be a staple of early television. Mom said that they were very real to some of the ladies and some even asked in church for prayer for some of their heroines to help cope with life’s problems.
Our oldest sister, Pauline, recalled a fellow who would skate from one end of the Wyco company store on the sawdust-covered wooden floor. Sawdust was readily available and was good for absorbing coal dust, grease or whatever else may have found its way to the floor. After a while the old sawdust would be swept up and discarded and new put down.
Our parents often recalled the Wilcox family from their days at Wyco. They emembered them as neighbors and good friends.
Many members of the Wilcox family stayed in Wyco and raised their families there The surviving members of the Wilcox family. The Wilcox family always considered Wyco home. Ivan, Bill and Toots Wilcox became successful businessmen in the Mullens area.
By the way, our dad moved his young family from McDowell County to Wyoming County when he was offered a job which paid fifty cents more …PER DAY.at that time it was worth it. After I was born and grew old enough, I can remember how the grownups would visit and the men would sit on the porch after dark and talk about life and events. We kids would sit on the floor nearby and listen with full attention as the men talked about stories of fights, murders, ball games and life in general in the coal fields. The impact of those stories was heightened when the porch was dark and the only light would be from a cigarette hand-rolled from a can of Prince Albert or a corncob pipe. We were completely entranced.
There were no computers, no tv’s and no telephones. But it was interesting Good people and good friends. Most of them are gone —faded into memory as have the old company stores and the coal towns as we once knew them.
Some of the coal towns still have annual reunions. Good times with old friends and neighbors .