Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

We Moved Past Coal, and So Will W.Va

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

We Moved Past Coal, and So Will W.Va

Article excerpt

I grew up in Norvelt, Pa., (an "Arthurdale" town named after Eleanor Roosevelt) in the 1950's. Norvelt is in Westmoreland County, up U.S. 119, about 60 miles from Morgantown. This area was known for the Connellsville seam of coal that fed the area coke ovens and Pittsburgh steel mills. Both of my grandfathers were coal miners, and both of my parents were born in "the patch" which is the name used locally for coal company towns. We were surrounded by these towns with names like United, Mammoth (where a great uncle and cousin lost their lives in 1891), Calumet (where my great grandfather died in a roof cave in) and Standard (where my dad's dad nearly lost his in 1952 shortly after I was born). The coal economy in Westmoreland County was booming for decades. The coal seam was rich and thick.

But then the coal ran out. By 1960, all of those mines were shut down. Technically, the coal didn't really run out. While speaking with a geology professor while attending WVU in the early 1970's, he said with modern methods, there was more coal to get. But re- opening those mines was never an option.

After being stuck in the Standard mine for three days by the explosion, grandfather Steve Sofranko never worked in the mines again. Yes, he was 57 years old, and mining is a young man's job. But it also put a fear in him of going back underground. He and my grandmother Theresa survived as best they could until he received his UMWA pension. He showed me his pension check once in the late 1960's: a whopping $100 a month. And he thanked John L. Lewis every month when it came in. That plus another $100 from Social Security was all they had. But they weren't poor.

My mom's dad Steve Bizub, worked in the Mutual mine which ceased operation shortly after World War II. To survive until his pension came in he worked in a hospital laundry. With my grandmother Ann, they were a proud family. I clearly recall when he traded in his 1936 Ford for a 1959 Ford Fairlane. It was always sparkling clean. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.