Dad and his three kids on the porch of their farmhouse on the side of the Appalachian Mountain. I was born in that house. Gail - me - Dad - Judy.
My Dad lived in a small company patch town called Seek - he liked to call it the capital of Coaldale, Pennsylvania. He had a tough life there - maybe even tougher than most folks that went through the Depression. According to the 1920 census - it was Roy - Bertha - Carl - Harry - Kathryn and Grace. But in 1924 - when my Dad was 7 years old - for reasons uncertain - his father left the family.
Dad was just 7 years old when his father left 4 kids and a wife behind in a coal patch town.
Bertha Brouse Everhart was left in a company house with 4 very small kids and no means of support. The company officials came to the house and told her they had to leave - the houses were for miners. After much hand wringing - it was a agree they could stay if Harry - my Dad - would work in the mine when he was older. It was like he was an indentured servant.
The family struggled through the next 10 years - Dad only ever saw his father - Roy - one more time when he returned home for a funeral. Supposedly Roy wanted to reunite - but Bertha wanted none of it. My Dad refused to talk to him - and my Dad refused to talk to anyone about his father. Dad held most of that in until his death in 1982. His father eventually died when his ship was sunk by a submarine off the coast of Haiti in 1942 - a fact I uncovered just a couple year ago.
In 1934 - Dad graduated from Coaldale High School. Since he was officially an "orphan" - he had the chance to go to Girard College for free. But when the car left town with the kids going to the Philadelphia college - Dad stayed on the porch. Dad kept his end of the bargain and went into the Number 8 Mine - and for 25 years he sold his soul to the company store.
Dad with his Mom - Bertha - on graduation day in 1934. From Coaldale High School up on the hill to Number 8 Coal mine a few blocks down the street. For 25 years Dad hummed, "16 Tons What Do You Get - Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt."
In 1959 - the mine closed and they let it fill with water. Dad was out on the street at 43 with no skills and no jobs in sight for miles. Almost like history repeating itself - he left the Valley to work in an assembly plant near Philadelphia. Since my Mom refused to move the kids to Philadelphia or anywhere else - for the next 15 years - Dad returned home on Friday nights with a paycheck and a couple of days to spend with the family. He seldom got to school events - but made up for it the best he could as my Boy Scout master.
In 1974 - the mill closed down- and Dad returned home - 58 years old - and a part-time night watchman job to make ends meet. During all this - Mom worked in the local dress factory for 35 years - and served as the cornerstone of our family.
My Mom - Lillian Quick Everhart - holding her first born - my sister Gail - in front of their company house in the Seek section of Coaldale PA.
Dad died in 1982 of black lung disease. All his life he had a terrible cough - and the Camels he chain-smoked did not help. Near the end - even steps were a chore - a time to catch his breath.
Dad never talked about his tough deal of the cards. He worked hard in the mines - and for 10 years tried to moonlight as a farmer and raise his family on 10 acres on the north side of Blue Mountain - within sight of the Appalachian Trail.
One wonders what would have happened if his father stuck around - if he would have got in that car and went to Girard College - if the mines would have stayed open - if the family had followed him to Philadelphia. But none of that happened. He died a happy man - with his family - debt free. He met all of his grandkids. He seldom complained - and was a good example to me on how to be a man and a father.
A special thank you to Bob Olary - who spent hours doctoring the old pictures