When my father was a child, he worked at the coal mines in Scranton, PA. He was born in 1902. He told me of seeing one of his little friends killed by a fall into the crushing machine. His older brothers worked down inside the coal mine. My father said he would hand his paycheck over to his father and fall asleep in his coal dust covered clothes.
It’s hard to believe now that child labor was not outlawed until 1938. My father had older relatives in Montana, who had moved there to work for the Great Northern Railway. Some of his older siblings left the mines to work on the railroad in Montana, and when he was 14, my father left Scranton to work in Montana for the Great Northern.
When he returned to visit Scranton a year or two later, he said all his friends looked pale and sickly. His father did not want him to stay in Montana, “I hear you are too wild out there”, he said. But there was no way my dad would be kept at the mines, seeing the way his friends had all suffered with that work. He returned to Montana and worked for 50 years for the Great Northern, retiring when he was 65. Below is a painting of my father, standing by the depot, when he was a young telegrapher.