|5 pm was sunset and quitting time on the main street.|
We were alone.
|Eckley Village - |
A state historic site.
|The company store.|
The replica colliery.
|The original homes were covered |
with bare wood clapboards.
Today after the FSU football game - we drove over to Eckley from our hotel explore the old coal company town. Both of my parents grew up in "patch towns." Simple - a patch town was a community owned by the coal company to house the miners and their families. Your worked in the mine - you paid the rent back to the company. You shopped at the company store - and at the end of the week you were lucky on payday if you had any money left over.
My Mom lived in "The Vulcan." Several of the houses are still there and can be seen when zooming by on Interstate 81 near Mahanoy City. He Dad was the timekeeper for the miners. He was part of management - his family came to America from Wales to work in the mines. Believe it or not - they were mining the same coal seams that were mined over in Wales.
My Father lived in "Seek." He worked in the Number 8 mine in Coaldale PA. He was born in 1916 - lived in Seek until he was 25 years old - when he got married in 1941. They moved to a farm near Andreas and later Tamaqua to raise the family. Many of the the company homes are still being used in Seek - although they have been sold by the company to families. The kids from Seek still go to the school district where I taught.
In 1969 - the Eckley Miners Village was chosen to be the movie set for the movie "The Molly Maguires." It starred Sean Connery and Richard Harris as organizers of one of the first labor unions. Although people still lived in the homes in Eckley - the state decided to preserve it as a living museum. The residents were allowed to live in the homes - which were renovated on the inside - and redesigned on the outside to hide and modern utilities. 50 years later there are a few home still occupied there. Outside the homes are covered with unpainted wood clapboards. Inside they have Internet - Cable TV - electricity - modern plumbing. Outside they have replica outhouses.
Other buildings include a replica coal breaker - a company store - a pub - and a doctors office and home. the Superintendent of the Mine lived in a mansion far down the Main Street - away form the workers. There was a Protestant Church for the English and Welsh and a Catholic Church for the Irish - Eastern Europeans - and the Italians.
Today there is an indoor museum with artifacts. It has regular hours and a $7 admission. The outside museum is free and walkable most anytime. Cars are kept outside the historic streets.
The town was name after Eckley Cox by his father. Cox eventually became active in the community and founded the MMI School. At the time it meant Mining and Mechanical Institute. My wife Lulu was the school librarian and computer science teacher there for several years. Today it is called MMI Prep School.
Walking around the patch brings back memories of a simpler time but not necessarily a better time. They worked 6 days a week and 10-12 hours a day. It was isolated - no personal transportation - and few labor laws to protect the workers. If they didn't get killed in mining accidents - they died of black lung from breathing air full of coal dust. If the miner quit or died - the family was expelled from the community.
Later working conditions improved thanks to labor unions.
|A later electric engine|
to haul coal cars.
|The Catholic Church and Rectory.|
|Found in 1854 - |
people still live here.
|Sunset in the west over museum.|
|I sold my soul to the company store.|
|Paint peels from back of |
|The boss's big house.|
|The doctor's office.|
|The Protestant Church|
|Note the brick tar paper -|
covered by clapboards.
|A nice addition on the house.|
|Hidden underground |
|Little pink houses for you and me|
|Coal chunks were put in the tops - |
the breaker broke it to different sizes.
|Peeking in the windows.|
|Kitchen and coal stove.|
|The were original red with |
|Miners' doubles - |
2 houses - full upstairs.
|Atlas Powder Company had a plant |
south of Tamaqua.