Albert Morris Memoir - Part 1
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University of Illinois at Springfield Norris L. Brookens Library Archives/Special Collections Albert Morris Memoir M831. Morris, Albert (1911-1992) Interview and memoir 2 tapes, 120 mins., 60 pp. ILLINOIS COAL: THE LEGACY OF AN INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY Morris, coal miner, discusses experiences as a miner and state mining inspector; origin of the Progressive Miners of America his service as vice-president of the local union; Christmas disaster at Orient #2 at West Frankfort in 1951; and gangster activities during the 1930's. Interview by Kevin Corley, 1985 OPEN See collateral file: photocopy of book Our Christmas Disaster by C. Edwin Hair Archives/Special Collections LIB 144 University of Illinois at Springfield One University Plaza, MS BRK 140 Springfield IL 62703-5407 © 1985, University of Illinois Board of Trustees Preface This manuscript is the product of a tape recorded interview conducted by Kevin Corley for a special project, "Illinois Coal: The Legacy of an Industrial Society." The project was sponsored by the Illinois State Historical Society and funded in part by the Illinois lhlma.nities Council and the National Endovment for the Humanities. Mditional support cane fran the Oral History Office of Sangarron State University. Joyce Fisher transcribed the tapes and SUsan Jones edited the transcript. Mr. Albert Howard M:>rris was bom near Muchakinock, Iowa on July 2, 1911. He grew up near Buxton, Iowa until his family IIDV'ed to Sawyerville. He began 'WOrk in Number Two Sawyei.Ville SUperior Coal Company on September 6, 1928 delivering materials on the nightshift. From 1939 to 1946 he v.JOrked as tracklayer, timbering, coupling cars and haulage. He was also vice-president of the local. In 1946 he became foreman of the mine until 1948 when be became state mine inspector and also sei.Ved on the mine rescue team until his retirenent in 1975. Rea::lers of the oral history manoir should bear in mind that it is a transcript of the spoken lM>rd, and that the interviewer, narrator and editor sought to presei.Ve the informal, conversational style that is inherent in such historical sources. Sangaaon State University and the Illinois State Historical Library are not responsible for the factual accuracy of the me:ooir, nor for views expressed therein; these are for the reader to judge. The manuscript may be read , quoted and cited freely. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part by any neans, electronic or rrechanical, without permission in writing fran the Oral History Office, Sangamon State University, Springfield, Illinois, 62708. Family History • Mr. M:>rris Enters the Mine Union Problems 'lhe Conmmists Al Capone. Table of Contents Early Days of the Progressives The M.llkeytow:1 caravan • M:>re Family History. 'Ihe &>ard of &lucation • Mr. Battuello. Bootlegging. Benld in the 1930s Forming the Progressives Mr. M:>rris • V«>rk Record. The Groundhog. 'lhe Mine Wars. Wilsonville Sit-Do~ Strike. John L. Lewis. Christmas Disaster, 1951 1 7 .12 .15 .16 .21 .22 .23 .32 .33 .35 .36 .39 .44 .45 .47 .49 .50 .51 --------------------- -----------~-- Albert Morris, July 23, 1985, Taylorville, Illinois. Kevin Cor ley, Intervie~r. Q: Mr. M:>rris, ~ld you please state your full name? A: Albert H. M:>rris. Q: W:lat 1s the "H" stand for? A: Howard. Q: W:t.at was the time and place of your birth? A: I 'WaS bom on July the second, 1911 in M.lchakinock, Iowa. Q: All right. A: After that coal camp was closed down, the mine closed there, we DXJ\Ted to Buxton, Iowa. Q: Okay. A: B-U-X-T-0-N, Buxton, Iowa. Q: How old vere you \\hen you troVed to Buxton? A: I was about, I v.uuld say, six years old. Q: Vbat do you renanber about M.Jchakinock? A: I don 1 t remember anything about MJchakinock but I do Buxton, Iowa because there was a whole bunch of mines around there and there was about 10,000 IXJpulation. I Y.Uuld say about 90 percent of them -were colored people. Old man Buxton, he imported than fran dom south and everything for those coal mines. They v.urked in those coal mines all those around there. At one tin:e it was dangerous to be dom there, sooebody was getting killed e~ery night down there. (laughter) Q: Vby did he import than, cheaper labor or .•• A: Yes, that was it. They had a canpany store there, that was the old tine. With the canpany store there, they di.dn 1 t get any m:mey. I can ranember later when my dad Y.Urked right with than. They ~re all good w:>rkers and everything. My dad said they were good people, but he said they just didn 1 t get nothing. He said he felt sorry for them a lot of tines. One tin:e there one of those colored he was v.urking with, he said Albert Morris 2 he \\Ullld like to have about $10 for Christmas cash. My dad said, ''You go dolAn to that ccmpany store." He said, ''You see that shotgun 011er there?" Mold W:inchester p.mp gun. He said, ''You get that gun. I'll pay." I think it cost about oventy BODE dollars at that time, and he give him ten dollars. My sister still has that gun. Q: Oh, really. A: He paid $10 for that gun. Right now it's \<\Urth some IIDney. Q: I bet it is. A: It's one of those solid barrels. It's not wen a take dam. Q: Did you live in a canpany house back then? A: <11, yes. All the way in Muchakincock. And in Buxton, Iowa, that was the last place. 'llien in Buxton, Iowa my dad got a little farm, about 80 acres, and then 'iNe IOOiled out. It wasn't wer a mile and a half fran Buxton on the farm. He farn:al and also \<lUrked in the mine. Q: How old tNOUld you have been then? A: VJhen 'iNe tlDVed there, I was about swen years old. ve wasn't in Buxton only for about a year and then fran there we tlDVed out there on the farm, and I was about seven years old. Q: Vhs he still coal mining at that time? A: Oh, yes, he was still coal mining. Q: He also farr:ce:l? A: He also farr:ce:l , yes. That was during the war time, that was the first W:>rld war. Q: I see. What was your father's full name? A: Steve M:>rris. let's see, I don't rem:mber his middle name. (laughter) Q: That Is okay. ve might get it later. You might have it written down someWhere. A: Yes. I don't remember his middle name. Q: Vbat was your nnther 's name? A: Anna. Q: \mat was her maiden name? A: Bugas, B-U-G-A-S. Albert t-brris 3 Q: Okay. A: That Bugas family was something. Her first cousin, John Bugas, at one tinE he was the president of the Ford t-btor Cc:mpany. It was the t:i.ne when Ford had the second runoff with that Italian lady. Q: Oh, really! A: Yes. He was gone there for a Wri.le and then Jack took aver. His l.1aiiE was Jack Bugas. He just die::l a couple years ago. That was my mther' s maiden na:ne. Q: Okay. A: Yes. He got there through a good way, too. First he ~nt to college, then he ~t to Stanford University. I guess as a lawyer or something. I don't know ~the went through, rut anyway, he was at Nome, Alaska. He was head of the FBI there, and then he IIDVe::l to Detroit. Old Henry Ford v;as losing about a nd.llion dollars in parts mney. They didn't know where it was going and Bennett 'WaS his partsman at that tine aver there and Jack exposed him. He finally got a job at the Ford M:>tor Company. (laughter) Q: l:bw many brothers and sisters do you have? A: Had four brothers and one sister. Six of us, and one sister that died when an infant at birth. Q: All right. Where ~re you locate:i in your family? Were you oldest, youngest? A: ~11, I'm the oldest ooy of the family. My sister is older than I. She lives in Staunton, and my t~ youngest brothers, walter and Carl, die::l. walter was w:>rking in Number Ten. Cb the way going to v.urk one rrorning, he got killed going to the mine. He lived in Springfield. Q: l:bw many of your brothers were in coal mining also? A: ~of than. Q: '00 of than. A: wa.l ter and Elmr. EliiEr v.urked out in a mine in Wyoming. Q: You say your father v;as in coal mining, was your grandfather by any chance? A: Well, no, my grandfather wasn't in mining, rut back in the old country, my dad told IIE a lot of tines, he used to be one of those. He used to drive coaches. Coachmen I guesss they called than. Q: Yes. Albert M:>rris 4 A: He used to for sane big shots over there, you know, that's mat he did practically all of his life. Of course, that little farm, they always had a little bit of ground. o.rer there, they had opal mines and he w::>rked in the mine over there in Slovakia one time. He told me that. Q: Okay. So your ancestors are fran Sl011akia? A: Yes, Slovakia. Q: Okay. Vba.t did your parents or grandparents tell you about back in Europe, 'What it was like? lmy stories handed dam to you about your grandfather? A: Ch, there was a lot of stories, rut I just don't rerxenber too trueh, you know, they was different. 'lhey talk about a lot of things. Q: So did your father conE eNer here fran Slovakia? A: Yes. Q: What age was he do you think? A: Seventeen years old. He left there because he was going to have to go into the army over there. So they all left, you know. Q: Yes. A: He had a trade, he was a shoemaker IlDre or less. He knew how to sew, in the later years, he used to sole all our shoes. Q: Yes. So did he come OV"er by himself then, your father? A: No. He caiE over with another fellow, he and another fellow. This other fellow, they T.Ere neighbors and they both IlDre or less got away fran there, so they canE over here. Q: Yes. A: He E!ITentually lived not too far fran, T.Ell, he died there in Benld, Illinois. Q: Yes. A: This fellow he CCJl'Ce over with. Q: \by did they come to this area? A: Vhen they first came here, they came to Pennsy 1 vania. Seems like everybody cao:e to Pennsylvania, that's where the coal mines T.Ere. Q: Yes. A: Then fran Pennsylvania, he came to Hamilton, Iowa. 'lhat coal mining over there, that low coal and everything that wasn't too good of a coal Albert M:Jrris 5 0\/er there. Of course, the Northwestem Railroad was the one vho had the coal mines CNer there, and that's where he "WJrke:i, for the North~stem Railroad . Th.en men the coal mines went down CATer there, these four mines here around Benld, they're in Benld, Gillespie, Wilsonville, and Ea.gerville J they ~re NortllweStem mineS tOO • So that IS mere he COIIJe tO those mines there. He w:>rke:i at Number '00 in Sawyerville for SUperior Coal Company. Q: Yes. A: N.miber Two mine in Sawyerville. Q: All right. \-by did your father COllE over here to get into coal mining? Was there a reason for it, or did he ... A: Mines ~t down CNer there and then he COllE over here to get a job, and he got a job. Q: He just had some skill in coal mining? A: Oh, yes. He ~ a coal miner for fifty years or n:ore. Yes, I know he was. Q: Yes. A: He's been in coal mining for fifty years. Q: Tell ne mre about your father. A: He always liked to lumt a lot, that's one thing I rema:nber. He wasn't IIUCh of an athlete or anything. He didn't play any baseball or anything that I can remember. Th.e only thing he did, he did a lot of gardening. I don't know what they do there, they graft fruit trees. On this one tree there was three different ld..nds of fruit on one tree, and he was good at that. I don't know how he did it, but just one branch CATer here and one branch CATer there. (laughter) Q: Yes. A: And he was good at gardening. 'Ihat was his hobby more or less. Even just before he died, he always had a good garden. Q: Yes. Tell IE about your mther. A: My n:other c~ here from SlCNakia. She had an uncle, Andy Ba.gas, my great uncle, that's this Jack Bugas' father, he was in Wyoming. 'Ihat is where my n:other came frcm, she was only about sixteen years old when she came here. She came to Wyoming and my great uncle at that time was ruming a hotel in Rock Springs, Wyoming. She c~ there and helped out. She learned to talk, write, read and everything. He wante:i to send her to school, but she didn't go. She was very IIDJSically inclined, she could listen to nusic and tell you vhether the rhytlm was right or not. \-ben my sister was taking lessons in piano and I can ranember if she didn't Albert furris 6 hit a certain note, she ~ld notice that right now, you know, she herself didn't play it but she could tell. Q: Yes. A: ~e could read, write and everything, you know. Vkll, my dad never could read. He could write 'but he never could read very m.JCh. He never went to school, but my roother could. She was pretty go<xi. Q: W:tat nationality was your roother? A: Same, Sl01J ak. Q: lbw did they come together, like coming frcm the same area? A: They knew each other OIJer there in the old country. Q: Yes. A: In Kosice, SlOIJakia. Q: I see. A: Yes. Then he was going with some other lady in Iowa and he came to his brother's place in Iowa. His brother was here before him. The brother's wife, she didn't like this WJIDail he was going with, so she kind of separated them. So he left Iowa and ~t to Wyoming. He YlJrk.ed out there in the mines in Wyoming for a couple of years or so. That's v.here he got married, but he came on back to Iowa after he got married. Just out of spite roore or less. Yes. Q: (laughter) Sounds like you know a lot about your family. Is there a certain reason for that? Did your family sit around and tell you stories about ... A: \Ell, I didn't so mJ.Ch hear them frcm my family, but v.hen I went to visit sane of the friends and everything, they Yl:nlld tell me all about, you know, I still go to Iowa now and then. This lady that my dad was going with later years she married, of course. Her husband, he went berserk and he finally died, then she was left with three kids. There was a boarder that used to board--he got than together again. So then she married again. His name was Popson. She married, and then she had children with him. Q: lbw do you spell that, Popson? A: P-0-P-S-Q-N. They got together and they married. Then in later years he died, this Popson died, and then my roother died early. She was only forty sare years old. She died in 1933. I rene:nber I was only nineteen years old. Q: How did she die? Albert MJrris 7 A: vell , she had a ti..JI:OOr and those days, they di.dn' t know \\b.ether it was cancer or what it was. Litchfield Hospital, the Seiler brothers, they were the surgeons there and they were good surgeons. Th.ey operated on her ani a year later, I guess it IWSt have been malignant, ani she died. Q: I see. A: ::he died in 1933. I can reuenber my dad going back to Iowa once in a while. His old girlfriend was a widow over there, I know they got together one time, but it was just too late. (laughter) Q: Yes. VJbo were you closer to, your nother or your father? A: Ch, I was always closer to my nx>ther v.hen she was living. Of course, when my nother died , my dad and I were together. He got me a job at the coal mine. See, I started w:>rl<ing in the coal mine 'When I was sixteen years old. Q: Ch. A: I started in the mine when I was sixteen years old. Q: \-hat mine was that? A: N..mlber '1\\u , Sawyerville, Superior Coal Company. Q: Okay. A: '!hat was at Sawyerville, Illinois. Q: W:lat was your job 'When you first started there? A: vell, I got a job on the night shift delivering material. At that time, they were still hand loading and black powier and everything. I used to deliver PJW)er and drive a lillle. I used to drive that old lillle out, the fastest mJle in the mine. I drove a lot of rrules, yes. Q: What year ~d that have been v.hen you started? A: In 1928. September the 26th. Q: Okay. A: Or September 6. My sister starta:i teaching school. She was alrea.:iy out of high school in 1928, and she started teaching school right out of high school. She started teaching grade school in Wilsonville, Illinois, and I can remember that year. I know exa.c tly ~t she got, she got $728 for teaching school. At that time, that -was the salary for the v.hole year. Q: Yes. A: I made nore than that in the coal mine, of course. Not mJCh nx>re, but I did beat her in salary. I renanber that because I started on the Albert M:>rris 8 old Jacksomille scale. Salary was $7.50 a day for canpany ~rk. Of course, hand loading, I think they got about ninety-three cents a ton. Q: Yes. A: They buy all their own equipn:mt and everything, pow.ier, all the tools arx:l everything. Th.ey furnished all their OYn for themselves. Q: Yes. A: Of course, if you ~rked hard and e~erything and you loade::l a lot of coal, you could make yourself fran belve to fifteen dollars a day, and that was pretty goo:i wages. Q: Yes. A: 'lhat was above the $7.50 the company men got. Of course, you had all that expense that you • • • Q: Yes. Did you have to buy your stuff fran the company store? A: No, no. There was no company store here. The company store was left back there in Iowa. I ren:ember that old company store back there. Q: Yes. A: Just the colored people had the company store, they had to buy everything there. 'lbe Wi.tes didn't though. Q: <h, they didn't? A: N:>, no. That was the funny thing about it, because I know my dad bought all of his • . . 'That was the cheapest place to get everything was to go to the company store. I can ranember him going there during the First W:>rld War and getting a lrundre::l pound sack of sugar. You know, on the sly. (laughter) (tape stopped) Q: Before I turne:i off the recorder, you ware talking about your first mining experiences. You said you \\'ere in hand loading? A: They TNere harxi loading at that tirre. Of course, I wasn't hand loading. Q: You handle:i the Dllle a little bit though, right? A: Well, I delivere:i material on the second shift. I 'WaS on the second shift. They mine only hoisted coal one shift at that time, then the other shift, all they did was deliver material and get everything ready for the next day. Q: Yes. A: Bu.t later then, this nultiple shift came in . ..... -···-·------------- Albert tvbrris 9 Q: So describe to me exactly v.hat you did. A: \E delivered material, it'd be loaded on top during the day. Day shift w.mld load all the material, everybody li<Uuld order their props and ties and all their material they needed, then that night Y.e hoisted it down below. We v.uuld take it fran the bottan with a IIDtor. 'Ihe only place you had a mtor was fran the bottan to a certain place inside the mine. You could only go so far and then fran there on, Y.e used to have to take a mule and deliver the material with the mule. That was pretty rough, especially vben you had rails to deliver. You had a chain there and you had to do all that spragging yourself, throwing sprags in the wheels and e.rerything. It was dangerous w:>rk. Q: Yes. Vbat was the danger to it? A: There ....ere so many mules, they got killed just from these cars getting away fran the rails. One tine the rail ran through the mule and killed him. Q: So the rail was on the car and it just slid dovn the track? A: Well, yes, because the mule didn't get out of the way. 'Ihey '>\etlt on through. Didn't get there in time to sprag the car or anything, to put it on you y,ere pulling, you didn't have anything solid. Just a chain there, they called the tail chain. Q: Did many tren get killed doing that? A: Oh, yes. 'lhere were a lot of accidents. That see:ned like at that tinE they were IIDre interested about Whether you killed a ID.lle or not, because they couldn't replace a mule so wall. Q: Oh, reallyl A: Yes. Anytime there w:~.s an accident sane man or something, if there was a mule driver in with than, they v.uuld always holler first and say, "How's the mule?" (laughter) They ware mre interested in the mule than they ~re the na1. (laughter) Q: How did the men react to that? Did they strike at all, have wildcat strikes over that time? A: They had wildcat strikes and e.rerything, but I mean they had their place. I just can't describe it. 'Ihey had good unions at that tinE because I know my dad was telling me those colored people Y.ere pretty good union IIEll. He rem:mbers the president of the local there said When they v.uuld start the meeting, they w:ruld have their old . 38. That's the first thing they WJUld put do~ on the desk there. He said, ''Now the meeting will ccme to order.'' (laughter) Q: The union m;m said that. A: Yes. The president of the local , he'd have the • 38 there and that \'\U'Uld be his gavel, said the meeting w:>uld cooe to order. I guess it would too. (laughter) Albert tvbrris 10 Q: I'll bet it t<J)Uld. NJw, did that happen in Iowa? A: In Iowa, yes. I remember my dad telling me. I can remember later years , after we was in Illinois I VJent back there to visit and this fellow's nane was Dave Yancey. He stayed there, he had a little faiiil and I Yleilt to visit him. He was the president of the local. He was one of those colored boys that was pretty well educated. Q: Yes. Tell me IIDre about your early experiences. How long were you in this job, the transportation of the materials? A: Cb. the night shift for I ~uld say aliiDst eleven years, during that time, I was on the second shift. I w::>rked for a year or so, because I just had a little CNer a year of high school, I quit high school. In fact, I got sick there for about a year and then I finally just got out of high school altogether. Then, after I was \IVQrking on the second shift in the mine, I went back to high school and I did finally get my high school diploma frcm Benld High School years later. But I went back and 'it.Urked in the mine on night shift and went to school and played on the Coalminer' s Team. Q: Oh, really? A: Yes. Same thing at likstville that we used to play. I thought we had a good team that one year, the year of 1930-1931. Q: Vhat sport was that? A: Football. Q: Football. A: And we had a team. We never lost a game tmtil we went to Westville, and they beat us twenty-eight to nothing. Q: Yes. A: There '!Na.S a lot of coal miners CNer there too, in Westville, Illinois. Q: (laughter) Yes. How old ....vere you when you went back to high school again? A: Well, let's see, vhen I ....vent back to school, I was 19 years old. Nineteen years old and I played that one year. The next year, you could still play men you was 20, but vhen you was 21, you couldn't play it then. 'Ihey finally got that age dom to 18. Q: All right. So you played high school football tmtil you were 20 or 21. A: lhtil I was 20, yes. Q: Yes. Albert M:>rris 11 A: Then I finally got into it, I wanted to take typing and shorthand, ani IIE and the principal got into it so I quit again. I didn't finish high school. I quit and had some rore high school to go. So in later years I finally graduated. But I va1t back and took the GED test and got my diploma. Q: Yes. Okay, what year v.ere you when you quit the second time? You know, when you had the trouble with the principal an:l you quit. A: I was about 20 years old then. Q: VJhat grade ~d you have been, about a junior? A: Junior, yes. I ~uld have been a junior in high school. Q: Okay. A: Vbuld have been a junior that year he said, ''You got to wait until your senior year" Q: Okay. A: in order to take those subjects that I wanted to take. Q: Yes. All right, let IIE go back real quick and just get a track of were you ~re. You started your mining experience, you said, in Sawyerville? A: Sawyerville, yes. Q: Okay, and you ~re eleven years doing this one night shift? A: Night shift. Q: Okay. Sawyerville is locatai where now? A: Sawyerville is just about a mile south of Benld. Q: Okay, and that' s Yhen you ~re going to Benld High School? A: Yes. Q: And where \<ere you living then? A: In Sawyerville. Q: Okay. A: We W>Uld '\\tilk to school and walk back a lot of times. Vben the ~ther was good, W>Uldn't even take your lunch. Just run back during the dinner hour, eat and run back. See, that was a mile there and a mile back. You got good exercise all the time. (laughter) Q: About this time in the 1930's they started having union problans. Albert M:>rris 12 A: Yes. The first one ~y called it the save the union. I guess ....tlen they went on strike then, we 'iNere nine mnths, at least nine mnths. That was in 1929, that was just a year after I started in the mine. So I left there and va1t to Chicago, I got a job in Chicago. I stayed there in Chicago and ~rked several places. I enled up on State Street. There was an Orange Crush Canpany on Blackhawk and State Street there and I worked there until my dad said they were going to start '0\Urking again. So I left and c~ on back home, sanathing about coal mining so I came back. I was in Chicago and went right by that garage vhere the night before ••.. (tape stopped) At that tine car wheels w:ruld go over, the top doors w:ruld open up and you go into the garage (tape stopped) and we wuld just jump up see these doors fly open. The next day is when they had that St. Valentine's Day Massacre. I was there. Q: Is that right? A: I was in Chicago at the time, only lived about a little over a block fran there. Q: Yes . Did you hear the shots or . • . A: I heard a lot of cODJIOtion, aml:lllances and everything else, and sirens going on. I didn't know until after I found out ~t it was all about. lht I lived in an apar'I:IIent not very far away fran there at the time. Q: lbw old 'iNere you vhen you 'iNere in iliicago? A: In Chicago, let's see, I was only about 17 years old. Q: Yes. A: Seventeen years old, because I can remember in that same apartment there was a policeman that ~rked on the night shift and he said, "I' 11 get you a job on the police force." I was just young at that time. He used to tell IIE his experiences, you know, when sonebody wuld have a shootout with SCJ~Iebody (laughter) and I said, ''No, I don't want a job on the police force." Q: Yes. A: Yes. Then he told IIE, ''You know, I '11 get you a good job." He said, ''There's a hotel"--! don't ra:nember the naiiE of the hotel \ottere all the stars usei to cana there in Chicago--he said, "I '11 get you a job as a bellhop. They don't pay very IlllCh, $15 a 'iNeek, but you can make yourself $100 a week. You have your own place, they give you a roan and you have all the things, whatever you want, that you can sell, you know." He said, '~t' s where you make your mney," but I went over there to get the job and I just missei it by fifteen rrdnutes, or I would've probably stayed in Chicago. Q: Yes. Vhat made you go to Chicago in the first place? Albert M:>rris 13 A: \Ell; there was no w:>rk arOlllrl Sawyerville. They ~re on strike, so I ~t ••• Q: Why QU.cago though, ~y not sorrewhere else? A: 'lhere ware a lot of people, there ware sone friends I knew up there, they ware fran Benld and want 011er there too. 'Ihere was this ld.d fran Gillespie, him and I ~t up there together, wa ware friends. Q: W:tat was your friend's name, do you remember? A: Hughes. Yes. He was a little Scotch kid, you knO'iN. Q: Yes. A: Huey Hughes they called him. That's all I can remember. Q: Ani how long did you stay in Clri.cago then? A: I guess I was there only about six or seven nonths, that's about all. Q: 'Ihat' s when you came back? A: 'Ihen I came back, yes. Q: Okay. Vhen you said something about save the tm.ion a vbile ago, W.t ~re they trying to do, save the lMW? A: Yes. They said, "Save the tm.ion" because at that time there was sonething going on, non-tm.ion and everything else, and that's vtlat it's all about. Just like now, you got sane non-tm.ion mines now. At that time, they was just going to do away with the tm.ion. That's vtlat that slogan "Save the Union" see, and then later years that was just another couple mre years, that's when the Progressives started. Q: Okay. A: I don't know what it was all about that, but I remember that's the one that you get away fran the United Mine W:>rker because they said they was no good or everything like that. But that's when the Progressives starte:l there. Q: Yes . Ckay, go ahead • A: I can ranember that because I ha:l a lot to do with that, I helped on that. I was in on quite a bit of that. Q: Tell ne about it. A: Well, it was all right, the intention, it was really good, been all right. W:len I started, the intent \<11aS really good but later on, there was some got in there. In fact, there was just a lot of conm.mists down there. 'lhey got into it, especially one guy I ranember is Jack Battuelo. He's dead now. I w;,rked with him down in the mine. In fact, I rode Albert 11:>rris 14 trips for hlm in later years, and I happened to be w::>rking for him when that Spanish Revolution was going on. There was sane fran right in the mine \\etlt c:»er there to help them Q: Yes. A: to fight with the Comrunists. And he used to read that Coo:nunist and I said, "Jack, ~t are you reading?" I said, ''Vk got Amarican books here," and I said, ''how are you going to get people together." He said , "Starve them." 'Ibat was their idea. He said, "If you starve them you can control than." That was his idea, and I 'm telling you, I can remember that's 'When he was president of that local. The whole thing, I n:raan the Progressive miners at one time, then they f:inally got him out. They could see what he was doing, you know. Actually, that Progressive, the intent was good but then it is actually controlled by the Conmmist for av.hile there. And then they finally got them all out of there aga:in and it just wasn't right then. Q: Yes. A: In the first place, the nama the Progressives if they t~Uuld have had it the United Mine W:>rkers of Illinois, and got away fran the big one they ~ld have probably made it, but they didn't. Q: Well, originally they v.Jere the reorganized United Mine W:>rkers? A: Yes. It was just reorganized . They had a different nama, they v.Jere just United Mine Vk>rkers. 'Ibat's what startoo than, the United Mine W:Jrkers under the old Jacksorwille scale, and then later years after that one local. There was four mines and there was about 1600 n:ran that \<\Orke:l in all four mines at that one time. And they had the amalgamated local , where they was all in one local and then later I could see ~t was going on. In fact, I was vice-president of the local under a guy and this guy couldn't e~er handle them. So I had to take over and act as president. I was ready to fight him. I was young then. It didn't make any difference, rut I could see what was going on. 'lhose guys w:ruld sit there and filibuster and eTerything else until late in the night and the old fellows that used to w::>rk in the mine ~ld go ~. Th.ey w:ruld look around and if they had their a:nount of men, then they w:>uld have a trotion on the table. And boy, they could get it right. That's Wen. later years I would tell them, say, "Boys , TAe ain't doing no good. ve should go back and get gack in the United Mine W:>rkers." I thought they ware going to hang n:ra. Q: Vllat year was that you said that? A: 'Ibat was later years. That was, oh, let's see. I would say that in the 1940's, during the war in the 1940's you see. I said, ''We're not going to do any good.'' I said, ''My dad has w:>rked in the mines now for so many years . " I said , "He '11 neTer get a pension" , and he never did get a pension either. After they w:>rke.d in the mine for fifty years and no pension. Q: Because he joined the Progressives? Albert Morris 15 A: Well, they didn't have a pension. Now, if he ~uld have been with the United Mine Vbrkers. They didn't have any IIDney, just a srmll union. They just couldn't have a pension. You had to have your own pension, like you do anywhere else. Q: You had to fix it yourself? A: Yes. Set it up yourself with sane insurance company. Q: Well, tell liE IIDre about the Comrunists at that time, vhat evidence was there that they vere active? A: Well, I know one evidence there for sure, because one night they care through our toWl. We'd be setting up here a bunch of us kids, ve vere just young, in our early 'bNenties. You'd see a car cane through there, throw out a bunch of leaflets and ve used to l<now just about who they "Were, see, and then you could pick up the leaflets and see what they was talking about. That's ~t they userl to do. At one t:i.ne 011er there, the clnlrch, the catholic priest CNer there in Benld, Father Goff, I never will forget him. He was in church talking about, you l<now, they were against religion. Jack Ba.ttuello one time had a liEeting in Gillespie. I never will forget this 'IIEeting, didn't have no liEeting hall. He said, "We got a srmll place here and there isn't no big place around here." He said, "We'll get one down there" and he pointerl to the church, then I knew he was no good right then. In Benld there Father used to talk about the Coommists \\ere taking hold and they threw a banb under where he was sleeping one night. Knocked him out, it didn't lru.rt him, but it just tore the wall up and knocked him out. Q: Yes. A: They did that in Benld. Right now there's a lot of Russian people in Benld. Russian, lots of Russian people in Benld. Q: Is that what those people were back then? Were they from Russia? A: Yes. There were a lot of Russian people there. Well, they veren' t all Russian, there 'INa.S some Italians just as bad. Jack Battuello was Italian, he was the leader. (laughs) Q: And they were p.1shing for ccmn.mism? A: Oh, yes. That's all I heard when I was younger. Q: Were IIDst of these people foreigners then? A: Yes. There were a lot of foreigners. Q: That were pushing it? A: Yes. Benld 'INa.S nothing but foreigners, IIDstly foreigners. Q: Were there many foreigners that were against the ccmn.mist IIOVement there? Albert Morris 16 A: Ch, there ~re a lot, there ~re just as many against it. In fact, roore than there was for it. Oh, yes. That was son:e place there. Then finally in later years, Al Capone got his hold in Benld. 'lhat was the place ~ used to have the four mines then. ve used to hunt around there quite a bit and different places off in the country there. Then pretty soon, they set out a bunch of signs and ~didn't know why~ couldn't go in there hunting, you know. We ~re just kids. Then later 'iNe found out they put a Whole bunch of vats in there, it just looked like a big tipple like another coal mine, they made alcohol. Q: Oh, yes? A: Ch, yes. 'Ihey had bootleg alcohol there. I '11 never forget a little guy there from Sawyerville. He ran the tavem there, his narre was Barney iliilero. He ran the tavem and they had him aver there. He was the head guy, ~ calle:l it Number Five. There were four min.es and that was Number Five Mine, he was the head g}JJ aver there. He took the rap for the vhole thing, and I' 11 never forget when he took the rap they put him in the county jail. I don't know how long he served there, it was a year or tw:>. I don't know what he said in the jail, but he used to have his ovn key, open up and go to the show and con:e back. (laughter) Q: Get in and out? A: Yes. He used to have his own key at the jail, they used to kid him about that. 'That vas Al Gapone' s gang, because I can remember they used to call it the Terrace Hall. It's the Colliseum Ballroom down there now, but it used to be the Terrace Hall, and during the dances and everything, trose guys w:>uld come aver. If you had a tie on, somebody ~mld come aver there and cut it off. You didn't dare than. Oh, those Italian guys . (laughs) Q: Vby ¥.0Uld they cut your tie off, just to be onery? A: Just to be onery, that's all. See 'I'Aihat you're going to say. Q: And that was his gunmen. A: His henchmen around there they knew they just about controlled Benld for a year or so there. Q: Did Capone himself ever cane to the town? A: Well, I don't know 'Whether he ever cane over there or not, but I knew a fellow there that had a lot to do with him. In fact, you know, the Godfather, I 'kn.c:Y.N he was the Godfather there in Benld. His nama was Sam O:tober and he didn't e.ren have his citizenship papers. I went hunting with him and another fellow from Sawyerville there and they took him out hunting. Sam was with us at this time, this Sam <ktober was with us out hunting, and a guy con:e aver there, he was wanting to chase us out and 'iNe had permission. But all he wanted was some mney. He said, "Give me a dollar a piece and you guys can go ahead and hunt." This other guy said, ''No, we're not going to give you anything." He got rough. 'Ihis other guy was going to take him to Garlinville to jail. 'Ihis little Italian Albert Morris 17 said, "If I'm going to be taken to jail you go in my car." Pretty soon they got into it ani this guy took his hat off and threw it. He said, ''You care across that line," he said , that 'i!}lY left because he wasn't about to expose this. He was with Sam, you know, if they took him there, he didn't have no citizenship papers, didn't have a license or anything. Q: Yes. A: So that was the end of that, buddy. Q: Yes. A: By that time I was gone. I was ... (laughter) Q: Yes. A: I saw vh.at was going on and I took off. Q: W:la.t 'WB.S the Il.BI.1E of that bar that the guy had? You said he had a t~ern down there. A: In Sawyerville, ~ used to call it the Comer Tavern. Q: Corner Tavern. A: Corner Tavern, yes. ~ used to call that, yes. Q: An:i that was Capone's? A: N:>. 'lhe guy that run that t~ern there 'iiiRS a guy Q: Vbo took the fall for Capone? A: Well, he just happened to run that tavern. Q: Yes. A: Of course, his wife was xoore the tavern runner than anything else. Q: Yes. A: Yes. Well, there was sane times there. Q: Tell n:e xoore about it. A: Ch, I could just sit here the rest of the day and tell you about . because that ~ our hangout. That's where ~ used to play cards because~ had a lot of time. The mines didn't ~rk too nuch, you know. We had a lot of time, ~ just lrung out an:i played cards there and just had a lot of fun in our younger days. Ch, yes, that 'WB.S some place there, ani of course, he had a son that \\aS a pretty goa:l boxer. Kid Irish he was. Albert M:>rris 18 Q: N:::>w, who's he? A: Kid Irish. Q: Or \lho had the son. A: This Barney Chilero, and the reason his name was Kid Irish, there -was an old Barney Flaherty just lived across the street over there. He said, ''We just name you Kid Irish" because he was Irish. (laughs) Q: Yes. A: And he was a pretty good ooxer. He had a b.mch of sons and daughters too this tavernkeeper. In fact, I don't think they ever got marriei. I know they didn't get marriei 'because, his wife's name was Mary and after they had about six or seven kids, he said, ''Mary, don't you think we better get married?" (laughter) I '11 never forget that. Yes, he said to her, "D:m' t you think we better get married?" Q: After six or seven kids. A: After six or seven kids, yes. Yes, he was sane thing. He was just a little bitty Italian, but he was soo:ething, I tell you. Oh, yes, and then in that little town, we had a baseball team. I can remember the team. Wa had soo:e good baseball teams in there and everything. There was some pretty good ball players. In fact, I myself went out and played. I later played out with minor leagues and everything, different places. Then in 1936 I went down with the Giants in training camp in Pensacola [Florida], see. I used to take layoffs during the SUliiOOrtime, that's the reason I di.dn' t v.ork in the mine in the Slliliier . I was always taking layoffs but that was the last year. 'Ihe mine manager told ma, said, ''Now, this year either you're going one way or another." He said, ''We're not going to give you any rrore layoffs." So I r.Nellt do'\<111 there with the Giants and they told ne that I w:>uld never make a big leaguer. So then I cane back and stayed right at the coal mine, fran there on, I was in the coal mines. Q: VJhy did you stay in coal mining all that time? A: I don't know. The coal mining was pretty 'iNell paid then. That didn't pay anyrrore than anyvtlere else it was pretty good wages. And the reason, too, I \<llrked aver there before I went in the mine. I was just young. I w:>rked on that hard road and that's hard v.ork, you know. In the sunshine, ~ther, different things. Now, in the mine, you just got that one kind of T.Neather, you know. That old tanperature between 65 and 70 degrees. It's air conditioned just about like it is right here. Q: Yes. A: And that's W:J.y your coal miners are so efficient in \\tlrking because, you know, that tanperature, at that t:i.ma, really do good w:>rk at that temperature and that IS WY COal minerS US00 to WJrk hard • But they had the temperatures right there to do it with. Albert furris 19 Q: Yes. A: Of course, scmatimes the air wasn't quite so good back in the other days. But today, they got good air . Q: Ckay. All right, tell ne sorre mre. I think there's a lot of stories there. (laughter) A: 'Ihere's so many I can't think of all of them. 'Ihere's so many that I can tell you about and before I talk about this, on these different disasters of fires and everything that I have been on and of course, during my coal mining days I was on the rescue team for 30 years, on the mine rescue team. So I ~nt through a lot of, you know, different things. I can tell you on all these, but this is the one disaster that I want you to take this with you, and later on \e 1ll talk on this. Q: All right. A: 'Ihis is during the ChristJ:nastime. I was down in the mine that time, during ..• Q: This says "OUr ChristJ:nas Disaster." A: I was dov.n Clrristma.s .Eve, I was in the mine. I was there for 36 hours before I got out of the mine during this disaster. Q: Is this a pamphlet on the explanation of Y.hat happened? A: It tells the vbole thing. Q: \h> was killed and • • • A: .Everything. It tells the Yhole thing. This is the disaster right there, yes. Q: Okay. \hat year was the disaster? A: In 1951. Q: Okay. In W:lat coal mine? A: In Orient Number Two at \Est Frankfort, Illinois. It's all in there, you' 11 see there. There's IIDre there than I can talk about, there's Yhere you '11 see my name in there and Jolm L. lewis and all. Q: Yes. A: It's all in there. Q: All right. Did you help to write this or A: No, no. Albert furris 20 Q: Okay. A: N:> • The guy 1 s name is on there. He • • • Q: All right. A: Then my boy got this one. I 1 11 let you have this one here. He got this out of the Peabody People, this was in the Peabody People. '!here 1 s some things in there he wanted . He happened to read it because he 1 s down there with Peabody, anyhow, he happened to see this and he saw my name, so he wrote this off. Q: I see. A: Peabody feople used to have a magazine that said "Peabody People." That's another one. Q: All right. A: I 1ID going to let you have those and you can Q: I might even make a copy of them and give them back to you. Okay. All right, ~ 1 11 look those over. A: Yes. Q: All right. A: You can do that. You can have those and • • • Q: let's stop here just a second. (tape stopped) All right, before~ turned the tape off, you ha:l been talking a little about Capone's gurnnen in Benld. Did they play any role at all in mining? A: N:>. They didn't play no role in mining at all, except that they had those taverns that was run there and everything. 1here was a lot of these wxnen in there they had. Q: Prostitution? A: Ch, yes . There was a lot of it in Benld at that time. They ~re there all the ti.ma. That ves sooething at that ti.n:e over there . (laughs) Q: Yes. A: And, of course, those people that ~re running those taverns, there was sooe kickback there too, you know. Q: Yes. A: Of course, at that time, it was bootlegging days and they bought everything right fran there and so that's litbere they was making their m::>ney. '!hat 1 s the reason they ~re there, they ~re kind of protecting. (laughs) Albert t-brris 21 Q: Wl.at about the sheriff? A: I rananber them saying about the sheriff and this is the truth. The sheriff said, "All I wmt is four years of being sheriff in Macoupin County," he said . '!hen he had enough rooney for the rest of his days. (laughs) You know, there was a lot of kickback. Q: Vbat was his name, do you remember? A: Henry was one I can remanber. Q: Yes. A: Yes. I think he was frcm Virden at that time. Oh, there was roore because about every four years they ~re changing because they'd only be in there four years. I don't remember all the ones during that time. Q: I might be wrong, but \VaS Frank Fries a sheriff? A: Frank Fries was one of them, correct, yes. He \VaS also in coal mining, you know. He had a brother that was a foreman there. In fact, he was the wle boss v.hat they called there at that time at Sawyerville mine. That was his brother then, Frankie Fries was. He was the sheriff and he -was al-ways in politics. Yes, he was. Q: Vhs he there during the Capone days? A: Yes • He was right there. 'lha.t was right. 'lhat' s v.here he Q: Was he on the take or was he against than, do you know? A: He was on the take with them. (laughs) Q: Yes. A: At that time, you had to be with those boys. If you ~ren't on the take, you wouldn't last long, I'll tell you. (laughs) Q: Okay. All right, tell ne about the early days with the Progressives, how they got started. A: Well, it was during that first strike. I was telling you about "Save the Union". There was sanething going on, so they just figured there was some "Way. 'Ihey ~re against John L. lewis, he had a lot of henclmen. In other Vl:>rds, they figured John L. Lewis just like Al Capone, you know. I mean, they figured he was the same way, and then they ~re wanting to make their ovn union. That 1 s v.here it all started. Q: Yes. A: Because frcm John L. lewis, once he was president, they ne\Ter did elect anybody else. Everytine they had an election, he was elected, to ne it was just like die tatorshiJ?. That 1 s v.hat they said. 'lhey couldn't get nobody else in there. That s What caused the Progressives to organize, you see. Albert 1-brris Q: Yes. A: They wanterl to get away fran the tmion that way. Q: I see. A: And that's vb.ere it all starterl. That was it. Q: All right. Were you in the Mulkeyto\\11. Caravan? 22 A: Yes. I was in that Mulkeytown caravan all the way down through there tm.til they stopped us. Q: Yes. A: And I '11 never forget that because I happened to be in the car, driving the car, and this 'i!PY cane up and had that gun right in my head. It looked like one of these stav'e pipes, I'll tell you! (laughs) Q: Yes. A: He said, 'tn.lrn around and go back." I'll never forget that because it TNaS already late in the evening. We had to stop someWhere, so ~ stopped at Tilden, Illinois. I narer forgot. I go through there now with my boys, doW!. there I have to go through Tilden all of the tine. I think about that. There was a baseball dian:ond there and -w= all stopped there, cars and everything. Stayed over night, everybody slept mere they wanterl to. We -w=nt arourrl and bought chickens and arerything else, had a big nul ligan there in that ballpark. Everybody, you know, was quite a ways fran mere that Mllkeytown was. It was on the way back hane when everybody stopped there and stayerl all night. Then ~ can:e on back the next day. Q: So that was on the way back home? A: lli the way back hOIIE, yes. Oh, yes. Q: Were you there men they ambushed the cars? A: I wa.sn' t in the front line. There was just, oh, I \\UUld say they -w=ren' t aren a half a mile ahead of ne. Q: Yes. A: I wasn't in the front line, you knQiil. Everybody was trying to get out, I was glad I was back there because I w:ruld have got in right on all of it. I could hear the shooting and everything. Yes, they stopperl everybody and turned than around and away ~ ve1t. Q: Is that vb.ere you got turned arourrl? A: Yes. Albert M::lrris 23 Q: Okay, and the guy just came up and p.1t a gun to your head? A: Yes and said, ''You turn aroun:l and go back." VJhat else vvere you going to do? (laughs) Q: Yes. Right. You voere driving your car? A: Yes, I was driving my car. Q: How many people ~re with you in a car? A: Well, vve had four, there ~re three other people. I don't remember their names or anything, but I know there were four. My dad was with ne. Q: Oh. A: He was on the front seat and ~ had o..n other guys. I can't ranember who they \\ere. That's been too long ago. Q: Yes. About how many cars \\ere in that caravan? A: Oh, gee, I don't know. There was a line. I couldn't say. I VlJUldn' t know exactly, but there was an awful line, I'll tell you that. Q: How many miles? A: Oh, I VK>uld say, talking about miles, I'd say almst ~ miles of cars just about. That's a pretty good caravan. Q: Yes. A: About t\\U miles of cars. Of course, they're apart you know. Q: Right. Okay. A: Because a lot of than didn't ever stop at that ballpark there voouldn' t have been enough roan for than. Vh>ever wante:l to stay overnight was having m:>re or less fun. We ~re all young and everything. End of Side One, Tape Cbe Q: Mr. M::lrris, the last time \\e talked, ~ talked a little bit about your family. \ollat do you know about your family's surname? A: My dad's nane was Maras, M-A-R-A-8, and 'When he came here from Europe and got his citizen papers, they asked him his n.anra. He said Maras, and they just spelled it M::lrris, that's the way it's been fran there on. M::lrris, M-Q-R-R-I-S. Actually, it's M-A-R-A-S. Q: Did they ask him then to Americanize it, or did he just decide to do it on his own?
|Title||Morris, Albert - Interview and Memoir|
Coal Mines and Mining
Coal Mines and Mining--Accidents
Progressive Miners of America (PMA)
|Description||Morris, coal miner, discusses experiences as a miner and state mining inspector; origin of the Progressive Miners of America his service as vice-president of the local union; Christmas disaster at Orient #2 at West Frankfort in 1951; and gangster activities during the 1930's.|
|Creator||Morris, Albert (1911-1992)|
|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|
|Collection Name||Oral History Collection of the University of Illinois at Springfield|
|Title||Albert Morris Memoir - Part 1|
|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
Albert Morris Memoir
M831. Morris, Albert (1911-1992)
Interview and memoir
2 tapes, 120 mins., 60 pp.
ILLINOIS COAL: THE LEGACY OF AN INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY
Morris, coal miner, discusses experiences as a miner and state mining inspector;
origin of the Progressive Miners of America his service as vice-president of the local
union; Christmas disaster at Orient #2 at West Frankfort in 1951; and gangster
activities during the 1930's.
Interview by Kevin Corley, 1985
See collateral file: photocopy of book Our Christmas Disaster by C. Edwin Hair
Archives/Special Collections LIB 144
University of Illinois at Springfield
One University Plaza, MS BRK 140
Springfield IL 62703-5407
© 1985, University of Illinois Board of Trustees
This manuscript is the product of a tape recorded interview conducted by
Kevin Corley for a special project, "Illinois Coal: The Legacy of an
Industrial Society." The project was sponsored by the Illinois State
Historical Society and funded in part by the Illinois lhlma.nities Council
and the National Endovment for the Humanities. Mditional support cane
fran the Oral History Office of Sangarron State University. Joyce Fisher
transcribed the tapes and SUsan Jones edited the transcript.
Mr. Albert Howard M:>rris was bom near Muchakinock, Iowa on July 2, 1911.
He grew up near Buxton, Iowa until his family IIDV'ed to Sawyerville. He
began 'WOrk in Number Two Sawyei.Ville SUperior Coal Company on September
6, 1928 delivering materials on the nightshift. From 1939 to 1946 he
v.JOrked as tracklayer, timbering, coupling cars and haulage. He was also
vice-president of the local. In 1946 he became foreman of the mine until
1948 when be became state mine inspector and also sei.Ved on the mine
rescue team until his retirenent in 1975.
Rea::lers of the oral history manoir should bear in mind that it is a
transcript of the spoken lM>rd, and that the interviewer, narrator and
editor sought to presei.Ve the informal, conversational style that is
inherent in such historical sources. Sangaaon State University and the
Illinois State Historical Library are not responsible for the factual
accuracy of the me:ooir, nor for views expressed therein; these are for
the reader to judge.
The manuscript may be read , quoted and cited freely. It may not be
reproduced in whole or in part by any neans, electronic or rrechanical,
without permission in writing fran the Oral History Office, Sangamon
State University, Springfield, Illinois, 62708.
Family History •
Mr. M:>rris Enters the Mine
Table of Contents
Early Days of the Progressives
The M.llkeytow:1 caravan •
M:>re Family History.
'Ihe &>ard of &lucation •
Benld in the 1930s
Forming the Progressives
Mr. M:>rris • V«>rk Record.
'lhe Mine Wars.
Wilsonville Sit-Do~ Strike.
John L. Lewis.
Christmas Disaster, 1951
Albert Morris, July 23, 1985, Taylorville, Illinois.
Kevin Cor ley, Intervie~r.
Q: Mr. M:>rris, ~ld you please state your full name?
A: Albert H. M:>rris.
Q: W:lat 1s the "H" stand for?
Q: W:t.at was the time and place of your birth?
A: I 'WaS bom on July the second, 1911 in M.lchakinock, Iowa.
Q: All right.
A: After that coal camp was closed down, the mine closed there, we DXJ\Ted
to Buxton, Iowa.
A: B-U-X-T-0-N, Buxton, Iowa.
Q: How old vere you \\hen you troVed to Buxton?
A: I was about, I v.uuld say, six years old.
Q: Vbat do you renanber about M.Jchakinock?
A: I don 1 t remember anything about MJchakinock but I do Buxton, Iowa
because there was a whole bunch of mines around there and there was about
10,000 IXJpulation. I Y.Uuld say about 90 percent of them -were colored
people. Old man Buxton, he imported than fran dom south and everything
for those coal mines. They v.urked in those coal mines all those around
there. At one tin:e it was dangerous to be dom there, sooebody was
getting killed e~ery night down there. (laughter)
Q: Vby did he import than, cheaper labor or .••
A: Yes, that was it. They had a canpany store there, that was the old
tine. With the canpany store there, they di.dn 1 t get any m:mey. I can
ranember later when my dad Y.Urked right with than. They ~re all good
w:>rkers and everything. My dad said they were good people, but he said
they just didn 1 t get nothing. He said he felt sorry for them a lot of
tines. One tin:e there one of those colored he was v.urking with, he said
Albert Morris 2
he \\Ullld like to have about $10 for Christmas cash. My dad said, ''You go
dolAn to that ccmpany store." He said, ''You see that shotgun 011er there?"
Mold W:inchester p.mp gun. He said, ''You get that gun. I'll pay." I
think it cost about oventy BODE dollars at that time, and he give him ten
dollars. My sister still has that gun.
Q: Oh, really.
A: He paid $10 for that gun. Right now it's \<\Urth some IIDney.
Q: I bet it is.
A: It's one of those solid barrels. It's not wen a take dam.
Q: Did you live in a canpany house back then?
A: <11, yes. All the way in Muchakincock. And in Buxton, Iowa, that was
the last place. 'llien in Buxton, Iowa my dad got a little farm, about 80
acres, and then 'iNe IOOiled out. It wasn't wer a mile and a half fran
Buxton on the farm. He farn:al and also \
|Collection Name||Oral History Collection of the University of Illinois at Springfield|