By: Paige Cline
If you have ever watched a television documentary about life in the coalfields during the 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 also some memories of wonderful times and even a sort of community pride in their home towns.
Times were tough in the early days in the coalfields coping 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 the family and neighbors up the hollow.
A long time before I was born, our family lived at Wyco. Our mother remembered their time there very fondly. She recalled that the employees at the company store were all nice people and friendly.
She especially remembered the manager’s wife was kind to her, a sixteen year old bride.
The company store was a sort of social center where folks met and discussed everything from politics to baseball. Mom recalled that women would rehash the troubles of Stella Dallas or 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’ that fill our screens today. Mom said that they were very real to some of the ladies and some even asked in church for prayer to help their heroine to cope with life’s problems.
Our oldest sister Pauline remembered a fellow who would skate from one end of the Wyco company store to the other on the sawdust covered wood floor. Sawdust was readily available and was good for absorbing coal dust, grease or whatever else may have found its way into the store. 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 in Wyco. They remembered them as fine 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 always considered Wyco home although they had not lived there for years. Ivan, Bill and Toots Wilcox made their homes in the Mullens area and have owned successful businesses there.
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 would recall stories of fights, murders, ball games or just about daily life in the coal fields. The impact of some of the 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 tobacco or a corncob pipe. We were completely entranced.
There were no computers, no TV’s and no telephones. Bt it was interesting.
Good people and good friends. Most of them are gone–faded into memory, as have all the old company stores and the coal towns as we once knew them.
To illustrate the loyalty to their coal town homes, and to meet again with old friends and neighbors, there was a Wyco reunion at Twin Falls Park a couple of weeks ago.
Renewing old friendships and rekindling old memories made it a memorable time recalling another memorable time.
E-mail [email protected]