COAL PATCH LIVING CONDITIONS
Coal company owned housing ran the gamut from well maintained bungalows to little more than tarpaper covered shacks. These 1935-1946 photos demonstrate the varying quality of the company housing provided for miners and their families.
A miner and his family eating dinner - Kentucky Straight Creek Coal Co. Four Mile, Bell County 1945.
A miner and his family 1938.
Miner bathing after work without indoor plumbing.
Miner's children playing on a coal tipple.
Miner's daughter washing clothes on a wash board without indoor plumbing.
A community well, the only source of drinking water in many coal patches.
Waiting for her father to come home from the mine
Hills, hollows, and a lack of improved roads meant isolation for the mines and coal patch towns of Kentucky well into the 20th century. For those miners not living in company housing, getting to work could mean walking miles to the mine where they worked and then home again after a long day of physically exhausting work underground. Early on the rivers, and later the railroads, were the main means of travel between towns, other than by horse or walking, until the mid-twentieth century when improved roads became common.
Not only were the wages for coal miners low, the wages could also be irregular. In times of decreased demand, or when stockpiled coal exceeded immediate demand, coal companies cut the number of days the miners worked. Three, two or even one day of work per week was not unheard of in these periods of decreased demand, especially during the hard times of the 1930s. The miners in this photo are reading the notice of NO WORK TOMORROW, an all too often occurrence. When this occurred, the miners and their families still had to eat and pay for housing so they went into debt to the company against future wages.
Clover Gap Mine PV&K Coal Company Store
Black Diamond Coal Co. Store Drakesboro, KY
Miners buying at a coal company store.
Miner's children in a company house that had no window panes and no door in the door frame, no electricty and no running water. KY
Straight Creek Coal Company Belva Mine, Four Mile, Bell County.
Another company house at the Kentucky Straight Creek Coal Co. Belva Mine at Four Mile in Bell County. This would hardly qualify as housing in Third World Countries.
School at Storm King Coal Co. Camp near Hazard, KY 1920. Notice that none of the students are wearing shoes.
Unidentified Kentucky coal camp school