Sunday, December 13, 2009

A New Baby and a Dear Sister

Life was not often pleasant for the miners and their families. The work was back-breaking, dirty and depressing for the men; women’s lives were endless cycles of washing and mending miners’ clothing. Grandpap came home filthy from each shift--even his face was as black as the coal he dug. Electricity was not yet supplied in the company houses so Baba heated hot water on the stove to fill a large tub on the kitchen floor.*  Grandpap leaned over the tub to wash off as much of the black as he could. Then the water was changed so he could wash a second time to feel clean. Every few days Grandpap wore a hole in the knee of his pants while kneeling to chip out coal with his pick. Those pants were patched and repatched repeatedly.

On June 21, 1913, one month short of their first anniversary, Baba gave birth to their daughter, Mary in a house near Crescent Mine #2 in Snowden. The baby was not moving, a ‘blue-baby’, and as Baba describes it, “She was all black-like.” When it had appeared doubtful the baby could survive the difficult birth, Michael Maczko had gone to Clairton to bring back the priest to baptize the newborn at the house. In the meantime a neighbor woman came in and proceeded to wrap Mary up in layers of blankets which Baba was afraid would smother the baby, but instead warmed and brought life to her. After the baptism she was all right except for being very colicky for many months after. Baba moved the baby’s cradle around the house as she did her daily chores and cooking, trying to keep it rocking to soothe the baby. Less than three years later, on March 27, 1916, son John was born in a company house in Snowden.

There was little to look forward to in a mining community except dancing and drinking after hours and during religious festivals when immigrants with a common cultural background could occasionally forget the daily drudgery and have some fun. One joy in Baba's life was that when Mary was an infant Baba’s sister, Anna Kovacs, brought her little family to live in the Bubnash's company house in Snowden until they found their own dwelling nearby. Daily life seemed a little less bleak for both women as they were able to share in caring for each other's children and cook and clean together. Both of their husbands worked 6 days a week in the Crescent coal mines near Snowden and later back at the steel mill in Clairton. Job security was non-existent as the mining companies laid off workers without warning the instant a mine became unprofitable or from the steel mill if there were mechanical problems or a shortage of raw materials. A laborer and his family moved often to be close to wherever his current job was located as they usually had no transportation to work besides walking. The Bubnash and Kovac families did their share of moving in the mid 19-teens, sometimes moving only a mile away which was then one mile less the men had to walk to work.

*Many collieries were equipped with a bath house for the coal miners; Crescent Mine may not have been set up this way.

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