Everyday he went into the dark pits of the mines to earn what it took to care for us children

Posted by | January 8, 2014

“Everyone we knew worked in the mine or in the machine shop. Dad met Inez Thompson and at the encouragement of [his stepmother] Della, married. Then came us four children and later a divorce after a long separation (between 3rd and 4th year of school) from Inez. Later, Dad married Rose Mae Jackson at one of the Lively homes. Dad and Rose went to visit the Lively relatives on many occasions, but us children never went.

Della, Homer and Inez Thompson (background).

“My father is to be honored for his stick-to-itiveness. Everyday he went into the dark pits of the mines to earn what it took to care for us children. In the early days of coal mining the coal barons (who lived in other states) opened coal mines, built houses for the workers, built the company stores and entertainment centers for movies (bare rooms with wood benches and no back on them).

“They paid the men in scrip, with which the men bought clothes, food, and all they needed at the company store. Often the Post Office was in the company store; this leads to how my dad got into trouble. He went with a friend to get food for the family, the store was closed, and they broke into it – took nothing but milk. He was charged with a federal crime and sent to the “pen.”

“This is when Dovie was left with her great-grandma Janie Miller who lived in Kentucky. My mother was pregnant with me, destitute (1930’s). Mom went to the poor house in Stollings, West Virginia and that’s where I was born. I didn’t know this ’til I was in 10th grade. Della revealed it all. I don’t know what she was trying to do. We got on a bus to go home the very next day. I was not about to stay with her any longer!

“Dovie grew up believing Janie Miller was her mother until the fourth grade, which is when Janie became ill and Dovie was sent to live with us. My father tried to get Dovie back after he was out of the pen but Janie was too attached and wouldn’t let her go. It was a difficult adjustment for her to this new family she had only seen a couple of times.

“West Virginia was a beautiful place to grow up. Thank God for the beauty around us. My father went to work even when it was almost impossible to get through the snow. Ashes from burnt coal were often put in front and back of the tires to help get traction to get to the road.

“One early morning I recall vividly when dad left for work, it was still very dark. It had snowed and Rose woke us up to look out the window. The snow was deep, and so white, with no tracks at all. The moon was bright, shining onto the snow. It looked as though diamonds had been spread over the entire area, and the whole field was sparkling. I know dad enjoyed the view on the way from Mabscott to Mac Alpine Coal Mine that morning.

“The coal miners rarely saw the sun. They went into the shaft early and came out late, went to the bathhouse, then home. Carbide lamps were their source of light. I remember helping to fill the lamp with the dry carbide, and that smell when it was moistened and lit.

“Many miners ended up with poor vision and black lung disease, and until John L. Lewis fought for the miners to get better pay and health benefits, many men died with nothing for their families.

“After I graduated high school the folks bought a combination grocery store/restaurant in Piney View. We lived there for a short time. I joined the Navy and was to be gone except a short visit after Corps school. I did not see my dad until he came to California in 1957 when Glenda was a baby. That’s when he went to visit his father John Lively and Uncle Edgar.

Homer Leo Tate and daughter Bobbie (Barbara).

“My brother, Homer Gene, was killed in a truck accident. He had ridden his bike up the road on Piney View to visit some friends. He got into the middle of the seat (three persons). Somewhere they hit a bridge abutment.

“He didn’t get permission to go with these young boys. He was thrown through the windshield and was hospitalized. Folks did not find out for 2 days or more. Finally the boy up the road came and told Dad. He and Rose went to the hospital, but with the head injury and other injuries as well, my brother was hardly recognizable, too much swelling.

“He died I think, two weeks after Vanessa was born. I was alone, my husband, Don, was overseas, so the folks didn’t inform me of this. They sent a notice to Don; he in turn sent it to me. What a shock, I thought at first it must be my dad! It wouldn’t be ’til after the folks moved to Florida, 30 years later, that I could go home. West Virginia was not home without my brother!”

Excerpt from a letter from Barbara Lee Tate to her cousin Gerald Lively, July 2001. Online at www.livelyroots.com/things/homer.htm

Leave a Reply


9 + 3 =

↑ Back to top

This collection is copyright ©2006-2014 by Dave Tabler. All visuals are used in accordance with the Fair Use Law (Per Title 17—United States Code—Section 107) and remain the property of copyright owners. Site Design by Amaru Interactive