Robert Perry Memoir
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University of Illinois at Springfield Norris L Brookens Library Archives/Special Collections Robert Perry Memoir P429. Perry, Robert b. 1919 Interview and memoir 1 tape, 70 mins., 28 pp. ILLINOIS COAL: THE LEGACY OF AN INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY Robert Perry, coal miner, discusses mining in central Illinois and Indiana: mechanization of mines, benefits, unions, the seniority system, check-off system and grievance procedures in the industry today. Interview by Kevin Corley, 1986 OPEN See collateral file Archives/Special Collections LIB 144 University of Illinois at Springfield One University Plaza, MS BRK 140 Springfield IL 62703-5407 © 1986, University of Illinois Board of Trustees Preface This manuscript is the product of a tape recorded interview corrlu.cted by Kevin OJrley for a special project, 11Illinois Coal: Th.e legacy of an Industrial Society." Th.e project lABS sponsored by the Illinois State Historical Society ard furxled in part by the Illinois Humanities OJuncil and the National Erdovment for the lh:Jmani.ties. lldditional support came fran the Oral History Office of Sangaoon State University. Elsebeth Buckley transcribed the tapes and Susan Jones ed.ited the transcript. Robert Marion Perry was born May 23, 1919 in Shelby County. He entered. the mines at the age of eighteen. In this 1IalDir Mr. Perry discusses the various jobs he had in the mines and the uechanization of the mines. He also discusses seniority in the mines ani the bidding systan. Reaiers of the oral history meDX>ir should bear in mind that it is a transcript of the spoken w:»rd, ard. that the intervievoer, narrator arrl. editor sought to preserve the informal, conversational style that is inherent in such historical sources. Sangannn State University ard. the Illinois State Historical Library are not responsible for the factual accuracy of the ma.n:>ir, nor for views expressEd therein; these are for the rea:ier to judge. The manuscript may be real, quoted and cited freely. It may not be reproducal in mole or in part by any rreans, electronic or mechanical, without penuission in writing fran the Oral History Office, Sangaroon State University, Springfield, Illinois, 62708. Table of O:>ntents Family History . . 1 • • il • Johnny Abrell.. . . 4 Seniority in the Mines . 6 Progressive Miners Return to W::>rk. • 8 Mechanization of the Mines . . . . . . 9 The Belt Man's Duties. . . . . . . .11 Mine Managers. . . . . . . . .14 Wildcat Strikes. .15 Company Spies. . . .16 Griwance Proce:iure. .18 futies of the Financial Secretary. . .19 The Pension and Hospitalization Plans. .22 The Bidding System . • . • • . • . • . • .24 Robert Perry, Pana, Illinois, June 26, 1986. Ke\7in Corley, Intervie\t.Er. Mr. Perry, \\Ollld you please state your full l'l.allle? Q: A: Robert Marion Perry. Q: Robert Marion Perry. A: Yes. Q: W'la.t WiS the time and place of your birth1 A: May 23, 1919, in Shelby Coonty. Q: Okay. A: Cole Spring Tot«tship. Q: Cole Spring, \>.Ere you born in a house or A: Yes, right CNer east of here. Q: Yes. Was there a doctor present 1itlen you \>.Ere born? A: Yes. Q: Did your tmther ever tell you anything about your birth? Did they have midwives or anything? A: N:>. l'b, I ha:i Ibctor Littlejohn, I beliere, fran Pana at the time. Likely h.ai a horse ani bJggy. Q: Wi'!re your parents inmigrants fran another country? A: No. '!bey \."ere born an::l raistrl here. Q: Okay. Wla.t 1 s your nationality? Wall, it's SUpJX>sed to be Scotch, Irish, and Permsylvania lhtch. I A: think my da:i is probably Irish and Scotch, and I don't know, my mther was an Abrell. I don't know W::l.at nationality they 'Were. Q: Her maiden tl.al:lla ~Abrell? -·· ---·--·----··· Robert Perry 2 A: Yes. Q: 'lhere's a mine manager named Johrmy Abrell. A: 'lba.t was my uncle. Q: Ch, was he? A: Yes. Q: \bat was your father's occupation7 A: Construction ~rk ani farming. Q: Okay. A: re was road ca:mrri..ssioner and vhen they put Route 16 in with horses, he had several teams that ware on that job there. Q: All right. A: Then they dug drainage ditches out north of Pana there, than big drainage ditches back in than days with horses. Q: Wlat was your father's full nane? A: Charles ~ideth. Q: Charles ~rideth? A: Yes. Q: All right, wen you were growing up did your m:>ther e~er w:>rk? A: Nc>, never did. Q: Okay, just stayed h:xne? A: ve was always famers. Q: Yes. lbw many brothers an:l sisters did you have? A: I had four sisters and tw:> brothers. Can you say what their Q: How far apart were they wen ware they born? name ani what year they ware born approximately? A: \ell, ~ideth was the oldest. He'd be al:xmt 80 tcxiay. 1ben sister She was 73 W:ten Florence, ani she's been dead about three or four years. she died. I've got one sister lives in Pana, she's 69, I guess. I've got twin sisters live in Riverside, California. They're 61. Q: TWin sisters. Robert Perry 3 A: Yes. Then 1 had a brother that got ki.lle:l \-hen he was about sixteenyears old, hunting. < Q: In a b.mting accident? A: Yes. Q: All right. Vbat age \<ere you vhen you \<ere marrie:i? A: Thirty-tVD. Q: <kay. A: I nE!ITer did to go to high school and I always fa.rtred with my dad. 'Ihen I got a job when I V6S about eighteen, seventeen or eighteen years old. I worked for Carl Price down on the farm taking care of race horses. I think I got a dollar a day ani my board. Q: <h, really? A: Of course, that was pretty good mney in than days. Q: Was that your first job? A: That was my first job, yes. I hal a brother-in-law that VDrked aver in K:i.ncaid, they ~re do~ there one tim:! an:l he said, ''How'd you like to work at the mine?" I said, ''Well, I w:ruldn't mind it." So I ~nt to work over there When I was eighteen years old. Q: W:tat was your brother-in-law's t'la(OO? A: Harry Potts. Q: Harry Potts. So he got you the job in the mine? A: Yes, him arrl my uncle. My uncle was the superintendent at that time. Q: Right, Johnny Abrell. A: Yes. So they got ne the job. Making $3.65 a day. Q: All right, \\bat did you do? A: Pick rock. Q: How long did you do that job? A: I guess for alx>ut a couple of years, three, ani then they built a new washer there. '!hen I ~t over in the washer an:l did a job, VDrka:l there in the processing plant. Q: Vbat did you do in the washer? A: Well, we ha:l clean up jobs, you know. 'Ihere was three or four sections there ani you ha:l to go arourxl arrl \~Btch all the conveyers arrl stuff that they still nee:ied cleaning up before going back in. I was on that job fran the time I care back fran the service, that WiB in 1945. I stayed on that job then ootil 1947 and I had a leave of absence of seven mnths. I had malaria again after W:>rld War II. 'llien I cama to Pana, Mine Seventeen, I was lamp man there for nine years until they slru.t down. Q: Okay. A: Then fran there I went to Fa~rsville, that's the old Fa~rsville Mine Cbe arrl I groun:l bits over there. Then a new mine starterl in Indiana, and I went CNer there. I liverl in Sullivan and the mine ~s up around Fa.t:m:!rsville there on 41. I ~the belt man there for six years. Q: Ckay. A: 'Ihen I cane back to Coffeen and finished my time there. Q: Johnny Abrell, I've heard quite a few things about him, wt type of man \IBS he? A: He \£8 a mining man and' he drank a lot, but he knew his sb.lff. If he bawle:i you out for sanething, he'd give you a gocd reason why he did. Or if he told you to do something, he wanted you to do it then. He vas a very funny guy. Q: ~re you very close to him? A: Yes, pretty close, yes. Q: W:lat did he think alx:rut all this trouble between the Progressives and the T.l1W? A: \-ell, he didn't care too IWCh. I think he leaned for the United Mine Vk>rkers quite a bit. But he always belie~ed in unions. Q: Yes. Okay. ~re there many of his relatives that were w:>rldng in the mines at that time? A: Not too many. He had two brothers--that was my l.m.Cles--and his boy, ani one of my cousins that w:>rked over there. But that's about all of my family that did. He YBS a miner all his life, and he al"Ways wanted to make sooething out of ne. He said that I w::ruld take a bossing job and I did erxi up .•. Q: He vanted you to take a bossing job? A: Yes. He said, ''I'll make sOil'ething out of you." But hell, I'd luwe probably got fired. Q: Vby do you think you'd have got fired? ' Robert Perry A: NJ, I said I'd probably have got fired. Q: Vhy? A: \ell, now back then it ~uldn't have been so bad . But as the years got longer, I don't know, it seem:d to be kind of a deal, that like soroo superintendent, they changed hands too many times. like division supers and stuff, they'd always IID\Te them. If you 'liaS on the canpany's side, the guy that you was in good with, they'd let him go and get another ~Y. Well, he's got friends he's going to p.lt in there, and by God, if you re not careful, you're out. Q: I see. A: I figura:l I'd stay in the union and be secure, Which I was. I got 41 , 42 years in. Q: Yes. WJ.y did the division superinetendents leave quite often? A: Oh, I don't know. Just your big canpanies, they v.m1ted to ship them arourxl. 'Ihey do that nnre now than they did W:len I started over there. Of course, he W3.S over there for years and Mr. Argust 1iBB division superinteroent there. 'Ihen he died ani old man Starks 'liaS for a long t:ime. I Yl.)rked doWl. at Coffeen there ani in the se11enteen or eighteen years, they hal an awful turnorer of manageroent. 'Ihey'd change hands and I don't know, the stockholders or toilat, but they always ha:l a lot of different superintenients and mine nmtagers. Q: Vblld you say they're still doing that then? A: I'd say they are, yes. Of course I haven't ~rked in five years. Q: Well, that's interesting. I w:>nder why they keep changing the managarent. A: Well, I don' t know. llke I tell you, I guess each group of What I 'd call officers, they'd be canpany n:en. 'lhey'd get in control arxl they'd have people that they wanted to get in of their ideas, see, or train than that way. That's the only thing I can figure out. Q: Yes. Are those the same tren then that were in management that dealt with layoffs whenever there 1iBB a slow doWl. period? A: <h yes, they was all • . . Q: And so ~ld they also do the sane thing and lay off the people that they ... A: Yes. If they had to, yes. Q: Okay. So they ~ld keep the people pretty much that they ware frieros with, ani family . . • A: Well, not too IWCh that way. fut I mean in the m:maganent part is Where they shippai than around, you know, changing bosses ani shift them different places. ' j Q: Yes. A: No, they didn't do that. They might if it wasn't for the union, but don't know. At one ti..ma, they had seniority in classification like Gaterpiller' s got now. Uke if I started at a mine tw:> years ago that W3.S on a belt or miner operator, and they had guys that worke:l there for ten or fifteen years as timber man. Wall, maybe they'd layoff so manytimber men but they'd keep the miner operators, see. Vbere now it's seniority by the top man down, and you have to get laid off that way. Q: Right. A: Vhere I 've seen guys that have w::>rked the mine for fifteen to ~ty years arrl got laid off arrl a guy just started work a year, they kept him, see. Because he vas in the right classification. Q: Right. A: W1en I came to Pana, I was the lanp man and I always wanted to be a repairtn311. So I ....as the oldest man there, just alx>ut on top for the coal canpany, and I was the lamp man. I was the only one on that, they'd have to slru.t the mine dovn if they got rid of rre. There was sCXIe openings in the srop then, after they was there for six months or a year, and I thought, "Boy, I believe I'11 tackle that." I'd been the new man on that job, see, and by G:xi, it wasn't five IIDnths until they had a layoff. I'd have been the first one that got 1::umpe:i, so I learnei then to stay with one job and stay with it. Q: Yes, I see. Okay. You ~re talking about W.C. Argust. was he friends with Johnny Abrell? A: Ch yes. Q: How close \\ere they? A: I guess they'd been raised or w:>rked together for years over there. Q: What kirrl of man \'InS Argust? A: I don't know. That was a little bit ahea:i of my time. Q: Yes. A: I never seen the man, but I heard a little about him. But I never did know him. Q: Yes. A: But Mr. Starks ms a great old man. I liked him. Q: Was Starks also friends with Abrell? A: Ch yes. Q: Did they socialize together and do things together? A: Ch yes. Q: Did they also socialize with the coal miners? A: A little bit, not too DllCh. Usually the canpany has a club house or parties an:i the union had their ovn parties. Q: Yes. Okay. A: Put their relations are usually pretty good. Q: Yes. A: Put I 've W>rked for some real good oosses. I'd say they were SOliE of the best. Q: Yes. \ho were they? A: It 'WaS Bill Hatfield for one. When I knew him in Taylorville, he was the face ooss, and then he cooe to Pana as a mine manager. 'n1en he ~t to Indiana as a mine manager and I \'Elt c:»er there with him. Q: Yes. A: Then I ccme to Coffeen and he \~lent to Pealxxly mine dovn south here. I can't think what the hell the naJie of it 'WaS. 'lhen he retirerl dov.n there, he dierl here about a couple of years ago. Q: Okay. A: Put he \<aS a great mine manager. He w:LS the ooss' he knew mat he was doing. If he explaina:i sooething to you that's the way he wanted it done. If it was wrong, he took the bl~ for it. Q: Ware you familiar with the going ons in the Pana mines during the mine wars? A: N:>, that was before my time. Q: All right. I just ~rrlererl my the Pana mines v.eren't quite as radical as the mines over near Taylorville. A: Well, I don't know. 'Ihere was acme of than pretty radical. Q: Here in Pana? A: Yes. Q: Like certain mines or just the rren? A: Well, no, just different ones. , Robert Perry 8 Q: Did m:my of than turn Progressive? A: Sate did, yes. I think Fred Trimble turned Progressive once ani then came back to the United Mine W:>rkers. I don't know, that vas before my ti.ne. Q: Yes. Okay. A lot of the Progressives m.J.St've been caning back to the T.M1 about the tine you startoo w:>rk.ing in 1933. A: Yes , they "Y~Ere, yes . Q: Did they give their reasons for that? A: N:>, they never did discuss it. \ell, each side thinks they got the best, yo.1 know, ani I guess that's the way it w:>rked. I don't know. Q: How did the loyal l.MW w:>rkers feel about the Progressives coning back? \ere there any Y.lOrds said? A: \ell, now I've w:>rked with some guys that "Y~Ere in Progressive mines, but it's an altogether different union. Progressives has got things that ~haven't got, but 'VIE 've got things that they nwer did have ani never will have. Q: Yes. VJhat type of things do they have that you hav'en' t got? A: Well, I've heard the guys that I VDrked with say that . • . you go back to ~en they got the eight hour day, they hai to pay you eight hours W:ten yo.1 ~t dowt.. Q: Yes. A: Okay, you w:>rked on a machine that broke down, they hai to find you SCJ~Dathing to do. Back in the Progressive days, S()[IE of than, \'hen the thing shut down, they sent them guys h:xne. So maybe you VDUldn' t get but about ~or three days a week. Well, I know one guy canplainoo about this. He said, "I got a note frcm so and so, and he said we've have to do this." Well, if they v.m1t to leave than sit there, they can, but then they w:m' t, these big canpanies, they aren't going to do that. But anyway, they kept giving you SC112thing to do. And you got the same pay \'lhatE!ITer you was on. If you was a roof holder ani had to go timber or shov"el, they had to pay your wages and stuff. Q: tt>w that's with the Progressives or with the UMW? A: That's with the t.MW that you get that pay. Q: Right. So the Progressives didn't have anything like that. A: Well, they didn't have to go on another job I guess. The way these guys canplained to ne that they didn't. And then they ha:i a lot of different things. I never did \'Drk for than l:ut the way they ccmplained Q: Vbat type of things did the Progressives have A: But they didn't have no pension either. Q: Yes. A: Th.ey had their pension plan I urrlerstand, was like if I was w::>rking at the mines, well, you paid in on it right there \~here you was at that mine, but then it didn't go anyplace else. ~ had several guys that came into our place that had w:>rkal for the Progressives. Then they didn't have the hospitalization that we had. Q: Well, vbat type of things did the Progressives like about their union? A: Well, I don't know. Q: <he of the big issues back in those days men the Progressives gQt started was they Ve"ere trying to achieve a thing called job sharing, nre they could cut down the hours but everybody w:>uld still be ~rldng. Did you ever hear anything about that? A: Yes. \-here they divided equalization of w::>rk or something like that. But that didn't pan out. 'lhey wasn't strong enough I guess. I don't know my they neller did do it. 'lhere's a few Progressive mines here. Q: Yes. Vben you say here, you mean dovn in southern Illinois? A: Yes. Arourrl mid-state, am there may be other places too, I don't know. Q: I know in 1938, v.hen you started working in the mine, there were a lot of machlnes that were starting to replace w:>rkers. That'd been going on for about ten years. W:l.at happene:i men a new machine cane in, did a lot of workers get laid off? A: Sooletimes they did, but that was still going on \\ben there was a coiNention in 1956 and Jolm L. Lewis was there. He said that you've got to keep up with progress to keep prcxiucing this coal. He said you can't be like they are over in Englanl, not prcxiucing enough to meet your om demands. He said coal is a big thing and you've got to keep up. 'nlere was canplaints I guess, \~here the machines hai laid off a lot of guys. But they usually got jobs saneWhere else at that tUne. Q: Like lilere? A: \ell . . . Q: In other mines? A: . . . other mines, or they even some of than got jobs in factories where they were making these machines. Q: Okay. Can you describe sane of the machines that came in alx>ut the t:i.rre you started ~rking in the 1930s and early '40s? A: Yes. It vuuld be the cutting machines. I forget Yhether they ~re old ones or old type. Ani the Joy loading machines 'f~Ere, they called them IUDber ele~ens. 'lben men the roof loaders came in, I belie'Ve that was about along in the 1950s ~they got starte:i with that. In other ~rds they -were mre or less b:menade drills and stuff, they ~sn't a.s safe. But these new roof holders has got the hollon augers and they've got the vactn.m on each drill and stuff, just like a vacl.DJill cleaner. 'lhe old ones, you had to run than in water or else the dust would kill you. It was, you know, foggy an:l that. Q: Okay. They ran in water. Was that water coole:i or just, you say to keep the dust dow:t? A: vell, they was running than -wet. But the cutting machines, now they had the water on than. But now these bolters -we've got tc:xlay, they've got than vac1D..tll hydraulic things that just suck that dust right down that pipe ani there's a box and they take that ani dump that just like a dust bag. Q: W:J.y did the continuous miners have ~ter on than? A: To keep the dust do'Wl. Q: <ltay. 'lhe ~ter ~uld sit on the machines? A: Yes. 'lhey had sprays on than, and each nrlner's got a hose, a water hose, that runs to it with lots of pressure on it and that sprinkles as it cuts. Q: Ch, I see. And it just kind of catches the dust in the air and makes it settle? A: Yes. As long as your water sprayer w:>rks good, 'Nell it gets pretty clean. Q: Yes. A: Of course, they have problems keeping than v.nrking. Q: Vby is that? A: vell, you know, they get broke off and they've got iron pipes VJelded on them with the water hooked up to than. Q: You wanted to be a repairman you said . A: Yes, I always wante:i to be a repainnan. Q: Better pay? A: Ch, yes, better pay and you could learn a little rrore. Q: Yes. A: And then I started aver in Indiana as a belt man, and I liked that pretty ~11. Q: \hat's a belt man do? A: ~11, see, instea:l of hauling coal in the mine on cars now, they'd belt it in. They've probably got about a 42 or 60 inch belt there, and they've got 36 belts or 42s onto that that takes it to the bottcxn. ~ had I expect about five or six miles of belts at Coffeen. There 'WaS the big belt and then the others cane in on it an:l take it to the bottan. Q: Yes. Now, I've seen those belts you're talking about, they're like thick rubber mats? A: Yes. They're about that thick. Q: Yes. I was always amazed that those things w:>uldn' t break. Could they get too Dl.lCh coal on than, too IIUCh ~ight? A: Ch, they have, they've broke, they break. I've got some out here, pieces of a thirty-six inch belt. Q: Fran the mine? A: Yes. fu.t it's really something though. I thought it was interesting to put in a belt an:l get the coal running out because we'd say we'd go into a new nm and then start a belt. vell, you'd put the belt in and then there's a feeder sits out here they hJggy dom the coal on. 1b.en as they go in, you keep extending that belt, see. But this one belt dumps out here on this main belt that goes to the bottan. 'Ihey've got a big clulte out there and she canes out, dumps that, goes to the bottan. Now, SOOE of the older mines ha:l skip shafts, ~hare sitting doWl there. But now some of the new mines belts it right out of the mine on top. Q: They ride it right up to the top? A: Yes. Orer at nru.nderbird, that big belt c<XIE right to the bottan. It \<~XiS a big belt that came fran the bottcxn to the top. I think MX dow:1 here is the sane way. Q: So w:ruld that be a slope mine? A: \Ell, yes, it ~d, in a way. Q: Okay. A: N:lw, Coffeen hal a skip shaft, see, that they'd belt coal in c:Ner at that hopper and into the skip. Then they belted it c:Ner to the power plant. Q: Yes. N:>w, 'IAhen you talk about the belts, w:>uld they be in like sections? How long 'WJU.ld one rabble be? A: I'd say that Q: Cbe section. A: . . • one section usually goes in a.l:x:>Ut oh, probably a mile. Q: Cbe belt a mile long? A: Yes. That's the one in the roan, see, maybe not quite that far. But "CNe 've walked in, \<Ellt in quite a few of than that ~pretty long. 'lhen that canes out on the big belt, see, and that big belt, it's a long ways. Goes clear through the mine. Q: Now, unlerneath the belt is there rollers so it can roll on? A: Yes. You've got Q: I can see that. A: • • • you've got stands that sits a.l:x:>Ut this high, and they stretch a big cable dovn on each side of them starrls, and then you hang your rollers on, see. Q: Yes. A: N::>w, some of the older belts hai pan sections, solid with side boards on than. But they ~re a lot harder to put up, a lot heavier v.nrk. But these belt cable ones, they were easy to string. That's how I got my tlu.nb cut off, putting up sooe plates. Q: <ll, really? A: See, they hai plates they p.1t up, then they bolted shoes up, hooked the cable on there and bring it aroun:i and stretch it dovn. We'd always put in a belt about 150 feet at a time. Sometimes we'd put in a little mre. But each set up, we'd uove up a belt, see, and then they'd put on 150 feet. 'Ibat would be a 300 foot belt all the way aroun:l. It'd be 150 feet one way. Q: How did they connect the belts together? A: Splice them, you'd cut it right in the middle, you know, cut your belt. 'lhen they hal things like hinges p.1t on each side and then you'd run a pin through it. That was my job part there for a long time, cutting and splicing the belts and booking than together. Q: Ani that held it together, even with all that weight pulling on it? A: <l1 yes. 'lhey were just little hinges that cane in on your belt about like that, ani rivetei than clear across, yoo bolte::l them. Then go on the other side and hold them down ani you p.lt a pin in there and pull Robert Perry her. Ch, once in m-hile a belt pulle:i in tw:> men they'd get old or get caught en sanething. \Om I first starte:i at Coffeen, they put in a new belt there and it was about, I imagine, a thousand foot piece of belt at one t:i.ma in that roan. They put it in ani they v.ere fixing the chut~ for the other belts to dump on it, you know. Instead of putting the regular chute up, this guy said just hang a piece of matal up there for it to break and so it 't\Ullld fall dCfNI:l. Hmg it up there just like this, with a couple of shings, little old crevices on it. The crevice cane do~ and that rretal cane down, just split that new belt all the way around, just completely ruined it. 'Ihen ~hai to shut do~ and take that belt out, seo:l out and get another one. That's one of the expensive mistakes. Q: Yes, it WJUld be. 'Ware IIDst of the accidents in the mine, were they the result of negligence on the part of management or they just the miner not thinking? A: Ch, it's just ... I always say one of them things. Q: Yes. A: NJw, Wen I got my t:lrumb cut off, ~ ~re putting up them plates and the other guy vas rurming the machine. I \tiS lereling, see, had to le.rel up there. Vhen you got it le~el , he had this machine with this wren::h to tighten than up. I had it up there, I said, "She's right on the noney. Go ahead ani pin heroII We had some header boardS laying be~en it a00 the roof, arrl you know one of than header boards spin ani cut that thumb off. Q: Did you get canpensation for that? A: Cb yes. I don't know how it fiNer cut that tlrumb off without cutting all my fingers off because I h.:U leather glOV"es on. It just felt like you hit your finger with a ha:mer. It stung and I pulled my glove off, I said, 'Well, l:uldy, my tlrumb's gone." It was still inside my gl011el So he nm around the machine a couple of t:i.nes and shut it off and tied. a red. handkerchief around my finger, then they took rre out. That was wer in Indiana. Q: Yes. A: .&.lt it's a great life though. Q: Coal mining is? A: Yes. Q: You've enjoyed it? A: I've enjoyed every bit of it. Q: \bat was there about it that you enjoyed so IIJJCh? A: Oh, people I guess. Q: 'lhe coal miners? A: Yes. Ani it's interesting. Q: W:tat type of people do you have in coal mining that makes it interesting? A: Well, you've got all types of Eple. You got goo:i ~rkers ani you got some brilliant people, and you ve got some that isn't too brilliant. You've just got a gocxl group of people. Q: How do they all get along? A: Real gocxi. Sanetimes they don't ani as a rule they will. But I 've 'W:>rka:i with than all these years ani guys I starta:i with wer at Kincaid , we WJUld go to different mines and then end up at the same mine again. I've ~rkai with guys at Kincaid that c<:ma to Pana. Went to Indiana and hal guys fran here ~rldng CNer there. And people from. southem Illinois, they CCIIE to Pana, ran into than 011er in Indiana, and the SanE way with CNer at Coffeen. People that I worked with ten or fifteen years ago, c<:ma back to vmere I \'IRS at, \Jlere the jobs are. They say birds of a feather flock together I guess. I don't know. But it's pretty interesting. Q: Yes, sounds like it. A: I was mre ~rria:i driving back and forth to \iOrk than I was after I got in that mine. The reason I felt that way, if you get a gocxi mining crew, mine manager and smff, if they know W:t.a.t they're doing, like their air and stuff, well, you're pretty secure. Q: Did you e\Ter have a mine manager you felt didn't do that? A: Ch, a few. I lika:i an older guy for a mine manager that knows. Now, you take a kid that canes out of college and say that he's w:>rked in the mine about five years. 'lbere's no way in the ~rld he could know all the things. He might have a gocxi a:iucation rut e:iucation and the practical thing is different. I ha:l a mine manager 011er at Indiana ani he was real gocxl and honest. He w:>rked in than gasy mines all his life, and he showed n:e lots of times places ~re it was gasse:l out ani cleare:i out. 'lhe sane way with bad tops. We was on the third shift and we went in there an:l he said, ''Now, they've ha:l a big fall ani there's sOOE jacks CNer beh:irxl the fall.II He said' ''Now, I've been wer there, rut,II he said, "don't you guys go get that jack." He said , ''lie can get it scoe other time." He said it was bad ani it might cane in at any time. Q: That's gocxi manager. A: That's the kind of a guy you like. I 've seen hlm, before we'd leave at quitting time, he'd go in and check all those places for gas, see if the curtams were up. 'lhe same way ~en we went in, he'd go in and check them. Now, if you get a ooss or mine manager like that, you don't have to \lOrry too uuch about it. Q: How did the w:>rkers react to a ba:l boss? A: They gave them a hard time sometimes. Q: How could they give him a hard time? A: Ch, there's lots of tricks to fix than. Q: Like ...tlat? A: vell, I don't know. (laughs) Q: They'd slow dow:1 production? A: They could slow dQlNn production, there's just a lot of things that can happen. Q: Did they wer have like wildcat strikes because of a poor boss? Were you ever involved in a wildcat strike? A: Ch yes, several of than. Q: Okay, what \Ere they usually CNer? A: vell, usually aver some guy getting mistreata:l or they thought he got a raw deal on his job or sc:mathing. Q: &> usually one individual ~uld have a problem and then the other udners would band together? A: Yes. Q: W:ruldn't that usually have reflected that the boss wasn't doing his job very ~11? A: Yes. Q: That the ~rkers ~ren 1t satisfied with him? A: Well, that1 s right. Soneti.t:Ies the canpany will protect the boss and sometimes they ~n't. Q: Yes. W:ty didn1 t they go through the union with that type of problem? A: W:la.t do you DEail? Q: vell, wasn't there a grierance procedure that you could go througtl to handle the situation? A: Ch yes. Q: Well, Tthy did that result in a wildcat strike? A: Well, that's sp..n: of the m::mmt stuff. Q: Yes. was there usually one person that lead them? A: N:>t usually. It ~ the Yhole group usually. Q: Spontaneous? A: Yes. 'lhere's a lot of things that they can do. ENery coal canpany has got to have eo:ergency powar, you know, like if your powar goes off, you've got to have an auxiliary generator for po'ililer. \ell now if that canpany knows that that's the state law that you've got to have auxiliary po'ililer, if they're 'W:>rking them people down there without that, by God, they're violating the law. Ani that's the reason why the people has to cane oo.t. Q: Could the boss fire you CNer the way you handle a situation, like with your grievance procEdure or a wildcat strikes? A: Ch yes, you could get fired if you didn't watch Yhat you ~re doing. Q: Did the union protect you? A: \ell, if you did it in the right way you could, but if you violated the union regulations and the canpany both, you couldn't. Q: So Wl.en you guys went out on wildcat strikes you ~re kind of taking a chance. A: If you thought you ware right, or knew you \ere right, you was all right. But the biggest problan with the guys that go out on strike, the canpany \<\On' t talk to you as long as you're on strike. W:lich it's wrong to wildcat, if you've got a grievance cane along, the best thing to do is take that up. If it don't ~rk out with the local agreement, take it on up higher, and there1 s a possibility that you'11 get paid for the tine you ware off and if you got fired , get your job back. But if you wildcat, stop production of that mine, you've violatEd everything right there. Q: Yes. W:ruld one group in the mine say wildcat and the other group be mad that they had? A: Yes, they could, and one ?:oup wildcats and. the others keeps w:>rking, it makes them mad. So it don t w:>rk that gocx:l. You1 re better off trying to stay in. But you can usually w:>rk your problems out. \ell, ~ ha:i a president dom here get firEd one tinE and he WlS off for hell, three or four IIDnths. By God, he got paid for back time, paid eTery day, and got his job back. But they didn't strike. Arrl a lot of guys, they get mad, ''Oh, got a man fired," and there wasn't. \ell, it paid off. But it's hard to talk to people to keep than fran doing that, if they don't uoderstand vhat your book says. 'lhey think you're a canpany man, see. But if you know your union and go by that book, then you ain1 t going to get lurt too bad. Q: \ere there canpany spies? A: <ll yes. Q: Did you e~er catch then? A: Well, it's pretty hard to catch then just right off, but hell, you'll be able to tell what they're doing. Q: How did the rren react menever they suspected someone of being a canpany spy? A: Well, it got arouni and they didn't have too IlJ.l.Ch to do with him. Q: What WJUld a canpany spy be looking for? A: If they think a guy's caning out, quitting too early, or if they think he's not taking care of his machine, or if they think he's not ~rld.ng hard enough. 'lliey slip arouni, ca:oo in with their light off. 'lliat's the IIDSt dirtiest thing that's ever been. Q: They'd do mat, they'd ca:oo in with their light off? A: Yes. Q: Into the I'lrlne arrl check on you? A: Yes. You know, if there's a b..treh of guys YDrking along the belt or sorrething, this guy'd slip along there with his light off, "*rl.ch ain't too good. Q: Yes. And e~erybcxiy w:>uld be nal because he did that? A: Yes. Q: Vbat would he catch them doing, playing cards or ... A: Well, no, if they ~sitting dow-1 or hell, a lot of these bosses don't know ~t a day's w:>rk is. 'lliese kids that just worked about a year or tw:> in the mine arrl take a bossing job, he don't know what a day's w:>rk is. Q: Yes. A: I worked for a kid one time. I think he w:>rked for about a year and a half. They put him in as a boss. Well, he sent me ani my b.xldy in one t:ime to get sane pipe, tw:> inch water pipe, thirty feet long, and it was quite a ways. About a mile I guess, to go inside to get it. He said it was all taken down and tie it up is all you got to do. Well, vben V2 got in there, it \<iiEI.Sn't, it hal to be taken apart ani TNe had to carry it as far as fran here to that trailer down there to bring it out to the rootor. Well, ~ only got I think eight or nine pieces 30 feet long. ''How IMI1Y did you get?" "About eight or ten." "Is that all you got?" I said , "Well , goddam you," I said, "you ain1t w:>rked in the mine long enough to be a boss." I said, ''You don 1t know W:t.a.t a day's YDrk is." I said, ''You ain1 t really been hooked onto that." Q: Vbat do you mean, been hooked? A: \Ell, if heI d sent us in there and ¥2 'd have got about ~, rut he didn't lmow see. Q: He didn't know Yh.at a real day's ~rk was like that? A: No, that's ~t I say. He used to run a scoop am it was a big battery thing that you clean roa:ls with. \Ell, he'd run it about an hour ani half am he'd be across it. Well, the battery die:i ani he'd set there. He'd set there half a day before somebody'd cane. Q: Well, how did he get a job as a boss then? A: His father-in-law was mine manager. Q: Oh, I see. A: See, things like that's Yh.at creates ... Q: Okay. Well, that's interesting if that's the way things 'W:>rk. How about your grie.rance proce:iure, can you describe the grie.rance procedure to me, ani maybe the difference betT.een the way it was in 1938 and now? A: Vben I first starte:i, 'i.e hal one camritteanan in the mine and he stayed on top. Well, if you hal a problem, go see him tonight or that e.rening, and tell him and he'd take it up. Now then I un:lerstand, it was before I left, that they have a grie.rance l::x>ok. You've got to write it dow ani give it to your boss. Then he takes it to the mine manager, he takes it to the super, then the ccmnittee goes in. Q: W:lo makes up the camrl.ttee? A: \ell, 'i.e elect our O'Wil local camrl..ttee, w:>rk camrl.ttee, pit camrl.tteanan is Wla.t he's callei. Q: Okay. Are they also just the ~rkers? A: Yes, they're the ~rkers. See, we've got three pit ccmnitteeman, three safety mm and the president. Th.e safety camrittee usually takes care of the safety probla:ns, see, and the pit ccmnittee takes care of the working problems. And of course, the president, he's chairman of all ccm:ni..ttees. 1ben the first day they go to bat, first you've got to go to your il.meiiate foranan, then they go to the mine manager, then they take it to the superintendent. If he can't do it, they write up the case and have an arbritrator cane in. Q: Okay. How W3S that different than say, 1938? A: tell, I ne.rer did have too many cases. I ne11er did have any trouble then. Q: W:ruld the pit ccmnitteanan, were they good back in 1938, did they do their job? l A: \ell, sane of them -were gocxi and some of than I guess, I don't know. But then maybe I 'd like the guy maybe scmalxxiy else w:ruldn't. 'Ihem jobs is hard to cane by, or you know, hard to please e..rerylxxiy. Q: Yes. lb the pit camrl.tteernan get paid extra? A: Yes. Q: And it's an elected job? A: Yes. Q: Ib the mm just elect then out of the blue or do they have to sign a petition to run for it? A: \ell, yes. We had our election every ~years until the last few years, they had three years. Everylxxiy cams to the rreetings. You've got to atterrl the 1.1Eetings , one meeting a lll)nth for six months prior to the nominations. 'lhen you get naninated and maybe there'd be three or four guys running for the same job. Wl.oe..rer gets the rrost votes gets it. Q: Okay, I see. A: I've had this job of mine for about 32 years. I had it CNer in Indiana and had it here too. Still got it. I -want to get rid of it. Q: Now, you're talking about the job as A: Financial secretary. Q: • • • financial secretary. A: You IIEet a lot of people that way. Q: Yes. W:tat exactly do you do? A: Well, everything. There's no errl to it. Q: You keep track of the union dues and things? A: Yes. Fn:i of Side One, Tape One A: Yes. See, I have to keep the records of all those people and the dues that they pay. Q: I see. A: N:>w, ~I was "WJrking, I just turned in a list and the canpany w:::ruld check it off, see. Then When I got the check off sheet back, I had to go through this book and see if e..rerylxxiy made it. Then if you missed , I had to mark that dow:t and pick it up the next time. Robert Perry Q: All right now, you're talking about you ha:i a check off system? A: Yes. Q: You don't have a check off system now? A: Well, see, we're not w:>rking. We've got a dead local, an::l those guys just have to take it on themselves to send rre their dues. Q: Okay, I see. A: And if he don't serrl his dues in four moths, he's dropped. Q: So when the mine's closed or sanething, then they have to send in their dues. A: Yes. 'Ihey have to sero it in cash dues. Q: I see. A: fut you've always got a few cash dues because you've got guys off sick or hurt, see. Arxi then pensioners an::l stuff like that. Q: \ell, during a strike then, the check off system is not in operation. A: Not in operation, but then you've got Q: Of course, they're not getting paid . A: Not getting paid, but then they have to pay $1. 25 a IIDnth v.hether they1re w:>rking or not. Q: I see. A: 'Ihen, Wl.en you go back to w:>rk, you get to pick than people all up again, see. But mst of than keep their dues up pretty goo:l. Q: Okay. Has the check off systan always w:>rked pretty nn.tCh that way? A: Yes. Well now, it's different. CNer in Indiana, I hai a copy, four sheets, and ha:i to put all these rren' s nanes down every m:mth and send it in. Then they checked the dues off and give rre a copy back, an:l they had marked the ones that didn't get it in. Now then, it's auta:natically canp.1ter checked off. 'Ihey just aero it and they just check it every roonth for everybody. It1 s lots better. Q: As financial secretary, do you also deal with the strike fund? A: Yes, if you have a strike fund, but we've never hal any. Q: You've never had one. A: ~. Q: Have you e~er been any place W:tere they had a strike fund? A: No. Now, the real strike furd is in effect now since this last contract in W:tich they handle that through the district. Not as long as I w:>rkerl, ~ never hai a strike furd, not like Caterpillar ani them people did. Q: I see. Okay. A: Tony Boyle gave us all a l"rundred dollars one time. Q: \ob:> was Tony Boyle? A: He was one of the international presidents . Q: Vby did he give everybody a l"rundred dollars? A: Because ..e ..ere on strike. You know, canpensate us. Q: I see. Ani the mney can:e out of the A: International treasury. Q: All right. ~11, that's interesting. Vbat other jobs do you have as financial secretary? Is that pretty m.JCh it, the check off, handling the check off system? A: ~11, then you get the treasurer, you've got a hell of a job. You have to make out all the checks ani the way it is now, you've got to sen::l a quarterly report in every three m:mths, taxes, social security, and unemploynent taxes. '!hen your recording secretary, he kept a record of everybody that was hired ani discharged. Cll, he just hai a lot of paperv.urk to do. Q: Tell me, ltlat do you do if sanebody doesn't pay their union dues, like during a layoff or \obatever? A: If you notify him and he don't pay it, you just drop him. 'lhen if he goes back to \-Drk again, he'11 have to buy a new card . Q: l:bw do the \-Drkers treat him, do they A: Oh, all right. 'lhey don't care. Q: '!hey don't care if he doesn't pay his union dues? A: Well, if he's WJrking, he's got to pay than because ~ can check him off for it. Of course, I don't bl~ these young guys that hasn't got no pension, no insurance. It might be three or four years before they e~er get jobs, and hell, if they get a job they can b.ly a new card. Q: All right, another thing, talking about pension. 'lhe pension didn't cCJDe aroun:i until v.hat, alx>ut the 1960s? The pension plan? A: Ch, wall, aoout 1950 I think. Q: Oh, is it 1950s? A: Yes. Q: Okay. Are the YX>rkers satisfied with their pension plan right now? A: Well, no, a lot of than aren't. Q: W:lat' s their canplaints about it? A: I haven't got no ccmplaints but of course, I've got my ti.Im in. But some g}Jy mo w:>rked ten years, vell, he gets a prorated pension. He don't get as nuch as I get because I Y.JOrked my full t"lietlty years. See, you're supposed to have tventy years in the mine and 55 years old. \Ell, I was 62 ani had 42 years in, I got the v.hole w:>rks, see. You've got to -work scmeplace to earn the pension before you can get it. Now, I don't know of any other pension any other place that will pay you a pension 'iliilen you haven't got in enough time. Q: Yes. They pay you a pension just prorated, based on how many years you did YX>rk. A: Right. Q: W:l.at' s the mi..ninn.m nunber you could w:>rk an:l still get a pension? A: Now under this new one ve got, if you YX>rk ten years ani you're 55, then you'd get about $150 or $160, ~thing like that, ani your hospital card. Yru can't make a living on $150 a m:mth. '!hen if you make over $500 a m::nth, you lose your hospital card. \Ell, if you've got a goo:l job that's got insurarce sooeplace, my, it'd pay you to take it and just take your pension and drop your hospital card. You can get your pension ani keep it but you can't keep your hospitalization, see. They figure mereller you're "W:>rking should have a hospital plan. That's vhere the Progressives fell dowt, because they erne into our place ani a lot of than were mad because they couldn't pick up Progressive time and tack it on our pension. Now", we've got fellows that w:>rked Progressive and they hal ten or fifteen years in the mine. Wall, if they vere "W:>rking for our people, ani say he hal ten years in our union, he could go back arrl pick up enough time of that Progressive time to make him his tventy years. < it didn't pay as nuch for than ten years, mi.ch vasn't bad. That gave than a fair break to cane in on ours. Q: So they aren't penalized too nuch for having been Progressives, is that right? A: N:>, no. N:>w see, the Progressives have got a pension--! understand, I don't know too nuch about it--but it's just with their ow:1 nvney, and Well that mine Slru.tS down, theyIre done • Q: Okay. All right, what about your hospitalization, say, how has it imprwed 01er the years? A: Ch, it's great. then I first starte:l, you didn't have IlllCh hospitalization. You ha:i a canpany doctor, they hai a doctor that would check off so IlllCh for and paid this doctor. If you hai proble:ns, you'd go to him. Now then, ~'ve got a hospital plan that you can't hardly beat. Vben I go buy drugs, I pay $5 for each prescription nntil I spend $50, then they buy it for the rest of the year. Go to the doctor, I pay $5 an office call until I've spent $100 and then they pay it the rest of the year. Now, the YXJrki.ng people pays $7 .50. Q: Vbat do you mean, the w::>rking people? A: Well, like the guys wh:> aren't retire:l, see. Q: All right, I see. A: 'Ihey pay $7.50 for each deal nntil they've paid the $100 and the $50. But it's great. Q: ~re you satisfied with the compensation you received men you lost your tlumlb? A: Yes. See, different states is different price. I got $2, 250 out of that wer in Indiana. But if I'd been here in Illinois, I'd have got $3,400. Q: Yes. Now mat year was that you lost it? A: 1960. Q: I:bw IIDJCh w:ruld you get now if you lost it? A: Oh, my. I ha:i a buddy that I YXJrkei with dow:1 in our mine, and he lost his thunb right about there. Q: Right below the tlrumb nail? A: Yes. Ie got $5,000 out of it. Below your second joint see is mere I got for the mole tlrumb--and that paid for it. Q: ~11, I don't suppose anybody YXJuld e~er lose part of a finger or sOJIEthing to get sOOE m:>ney for it, v.uuld they? A: No, I ~dn't think so. Q: I YXJU!dn' t think so. A: I've heard than old stories, you know, about that, but I don't know. Q: Yes, I've heard than too. A: N:l, I don't think I'd want to do that. Q: I don't think it's w::>rth it. A: .lht ooy, you miss that. Q: Ch yes. Wlat else is there happened in the last few years with the union? Have the people seemed pretty satisfied with it now? A: liell, acme are and some isn't. I think the seniority deal is great for the coal miners, ani the bidding systan. Q: W:tat' s the bidding systan? A: \ell, like if there's ten people out here and there's a job comes up, you can bid on that, ani the oldest of the qualified men is supposed to get it. N:Jw, I reoomber W"ten I first startEd, if you was on the third shift ani didn't ca:rb your hair just right, hell, you loaded on that shift for twenty years, nwer get off. 'lhis way, if you're old enough arrl can do the job that's caning up on days, ani you bid on it I guess you can get it. If you're qualified to do it. I was amazed at a young man that started dowt there one time. I was ruming a llDtor and he was just helping me, we ~re loading pipe. I said, ''Well, twenty years and 55 here ani you can get a pension out of this." I said, ''That's how I got IrrJ start." He said, ''Well, you had a da!m poor start." Q: W:Jat I 8 that IlEBil? A: vell, he didn't care mJCh alxmt it. He said, "You mean I'll have to do this w::>rk for t~ty years before I can get a job like that?" I said, ''Oh, no." I said, "As you go along, you can get seniority ani bid on a job an:l get it." But now a lot of these guys, they thought they could just caoo in and take your job, like a family affair or frieniship affair. Q: VJhat if they felt they could do the job better than an older person? A: Yes, well •.. Q: Sometimes I imagine that could happen. A: Samti.nes it could, yes. But you can't hardly 1unp a guy off of one now. Q: Yes. A: fut if he's been on the job that long, you know he's been able to do it or he w::>Uldn't have it that long. Now, you run into things like that, but you think the ccmpany might be responsible for it. I know one time they hired a h.mch of people--! don't know v.tlere they even got than--and we ha:i qualifiei people, like roof loaders and stuff, that they didn't want to hire because they thought they wa.s too strong union. 'lhe mine manager one time said, "By God, you guys ought to do something about it." He said, "We've got s<::m:! guys supposed to be roof loading ani they ~n't do nothing." So I said, "Well, Yho hired than guys?" ''Oh," he said, "super did." ''Well," I said, "let him take care of it." I said, ''He's the one that hired them. I know sane gocxl guys with real experience," and I said, "they didn't want than." So that's Yklat you run into, see. Q: Okay. A: Or you take sane lawyer, some doctor, he has all kinds of tricks that make DDre 'WOrk for people. Q: Did you ever see any blacklisting in your years? A: .tb. Q: O:mpanies always been pretty honest in their dealings with their w:>rkers? A: Yes, to my knowledge. Th.ey might've been sneaky with it. Q: Well, you rananber W. C. Argust, ~ ~re talking about him. He was noted for having sane hencbnen, sane gurmm, that w:>rked for him. A: Oh, well hell, back in them days, they all did. Q: Yes. A: 'Ihey all did. Q: Well, they llllSt've been pretty tough characters back in those days. A: They ~e. They all carried guns ani gangsters ani every other goidann thing. W:ly, at Number Nine, I think they hai a 'Wlole crew of people that was out of the penitentiary. They was paroled out there. 'lhat was before my time, but I heard that. Q: Okay. Well, I appreciate you talking to 100. I think we've learned quite a few things here. 'lhank you. Errl of Side Tw:>, Tape Che
|Title||Perry, Robert - Interview and Memoir|
Coal Mines and Mining
Coal Mines and Mining--Indiana
|Description||Robert Perry, coal miner, discusses mining in central Illinois and Indiana: mechanization of mines, benefits, unions, the seniority system, check-off system and grievance procedures in the industry today.|
|Creator||Perry, Robert b. 1919|
|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||Robert Perry Memoir|
|Source||Robert Perry Memoir.pdf|
|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
Robert Perry Memoir
P429. Perry, Robert b. 1919 Interview and memoir 1 tape, 70 mins., 28 pp.
ILLINOIS COAL: THE LEGACY OF AN INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY
Robert Perry, coal miner, discusses mining in central Illinois and Indiana: mechanization of mines, benefits, unions, the seniority system, check-off system and grievance procedures in the industry today.
Interview by Kevin Corley, 1986 OPEN See collateral file
Archives/Special Collections LIB 144
University of Illinois at Springfield
One University Plaza, MS BRK 140
Springfield IL 62703-5407
© 1986, University of Illinois Board of Trustees
This manuscript is the product of a tape recorded interview corrlu.cted by Kevin OJrley for a special project, 11Illinois Coal: Th.e legacy of an
Industrial Society." Th.e project lABS sponsored by the Illinois State Historical Society ard furxled in part by the Illinois Humanities OJuncil and the National Erdovment for the lh:Jmani.ties. lldditional support came fran the Oral History Office of Sangaoon State University. Elsebeth
Buckley transcribed the tapes and Susan Jones ed.ited the transcript.
Robert Marion Perry was born May 23, 1919 in Shelby County. He entered.
the mines at the age of eighteen. In this 1IalDir Mr. Perry discusses the various jobs he had in the mines and the uechanization of the mines. He also discusses seniority in the mines ani the bidding systan.
Reaiers of the oral history meDX>ir should bear in mind that it is a
transcript of the spoken w:»rd, ard. that the intervievoer, narrator arrl. editor sought to preserve the informal, conversational style that is inherent in such historical sources. Sangannn State University ard. the Illinois State Historical Library are not responsible for the factual accuracy of the ma.n:>ir, nor for views expressEd therein; these are for
the rea:ier to judge.
The manuscript may be real, quoted and cited freely. It may not be reproducal in mole or in part by any rreans, electronic or mechanical, without penuission in writing fran the Oral History Office, Sangaroon State University, Springfield, Illinois, 62708.
Table of O:>ntents
Family History . . 1
• • il •
Johnny Abrell.. . . 4 Seniority in the Mines . 6 Progressive Miners Return to W::>rk. • 8 Mechanization of the Mines . . . . . . 9 The Belt Man's Duties. . . . . . . .11 Mine Managers. . . . . . . . .14 Wildcat Strikes. .15 Company Spies. . . .16 Griwance Proce:iure. .18 futies of the Financial Secretary. . .19 The Pension and Hospitalization Plans. .22 The Bidding System . • . • • . • . • . • .24
Robert Perry, Pana, Illinois, June 26, 1986. Ke\7in Corley, Intervie\t.Er.
Mr. Perry, \\Ollld you please state your full l'l.allle?
A: Robert Marion Perry.
Q: Robert Marion Perry.
Q: W'la.t WiS the time and place of your birth1
A: May 23, 1919, in Shelby Coonty.
A: Cole Spring Tot«tship.
Q: Cole Spring, \>.Ere you born in a house or
A: Yes, right CNer east of here.
Q: Yes. Was there a doctor present 1itlen you \>.Ere born?
Q: Did your tmther ever tell you anything about your birth? Did they have midwives or anything?
A: N:>. l'b, I ha:i Ibctor Littlejohn, I beliere, fran Pana at the time. Likely h.ai a horse ani bJggy.
Q: Wi'!re your parents inmigrants fran another country?
A: No. '!bey \."ere born an::l raistrl here.
Q: Okay. Wla.t 1 s your nationality? Wall, it's SUpJX>sed to be Scotch, Irish, and Permsylvania lhtch. I
think my da:i is probably Irish and Scotch, and I don't know, my mther
was an Abrell. I don't know W::l.at nationality they 'Were.
Q: Her maiden tl.al:lla ~Abrell?
Robert Perry 2
Q: 'lhere's a mine manager named Johrmy Abrell.
A: 'lba.t was my uncle.
Q: Ch, was he?
Q: \bat was your father's occupation7
A: Construction ~rk ani farming.
A: re was road ca:mrri..ssioner and vhen they put Route 16 in with horses, he had several teams that ware on that job there.
Q: All right.
A: Then they dug drainage ditches out north of Pana there, than big drainage ditches back in than days with horses.
Q: Wlat was your father's full nane?
A: Charles ~ideth.
Q: Charles ~rideth?
Q: All right, wen you were growing up did your m:>ther e~er w:>rk?
A: Nc>, never did.
Q: Okay, just stayed h:xne?
A: ve was always famers.
Q: Yes. lbw many brothers an:l sisters did you have?
A: I had four sisters and tw:> brothers. Can you say what their
Q: How far apart were they wen ware they born?
name ani what year they ware born approximately?
A: \ell, ~ideth was the oldest. He'd be al:xmt 80 tcxiay. 1ben sister
She was 73 W:ten
Florence, ani she's been dead about three or four years.
she died. I've got one sister lives in Pana, she's 69, I guess. I've
got twin sisters live in Riverside, California. They're 61.
Q: TWin sisters.
Robert Perry 3
A: Yes. Then 1 had a brother that got ki.lle:l \-hen he was about sixteenyears old, hunting.
Q: In a b.mting accident?
Q: All right. Vbat age \
|Collection Name||Oral History Collection of the University of Illinois at Springfield|