Charles McIntyre - Shallmar Company store
Andrea Hammer: You were mentioning the union. What was your earliest memory of the union and its role in the town?
Charles McIntyre: When they first tried to organize the union, I remember all the women in the town from up in Dodson they marched down through Shallmar. They had their pans and plates, they was beating on them. Their men weren’t going to work, they would join the union. We were sitting on the front porch and my mother said “Your father’s the boss so you better stay out of that.” I said yes but … my brother was still in high school, and I said he’s messing around with the union too. I said he'd be graduating and he’ll be going up to the mines and he’ll be doing something in the mines, because where else are you going to go?
They brought in a bunch of strike breakers, Coal and Iron Police is what they called them. They brought them in to try and break up the strike they were going to have. They had all these women marched all down the street and past the company store and all that. People wouldn't buy anything at the company store. They picketed the mines. They shut the whole place down. Finally, W.A. Marshall the owner came in from New York and he got with them and he signed the contract with the union. That was the first union that they had, it was in Shallmar. My brother was the recording secretary.
AH: What year was this, Charles?
CM: Oh, I'd say 1931 or 1932, somewhere around in there.
AH: You mentioned that people wouldn't trade at the company store?
CM: They said they wouldn't buy nothing from the company or anything. They would make sure that nobody else would buy anything either.
AH: Can you explain to somebody who has no idea how this worked, what the role of the company store was in the town?
CM: The company store was the life line of everybody that was living in the town. If you didn't buy at the company store, you didn't have a job.
AH: How was that?
CM: They had a law in Maryland that the coal company couldn't own the store. So the coal company was called Wolf Den Coal Company and the store was called Shallmar Supply Company. But it was still owned by the same people. So, that's where they got away with it.
AH: Simply by having two different names?
CM: Simply by having two separate names. Yes. Having it registered in the county in two different names. Then they would, different times, my uncle and them had a store in Cumberland, and my Dad would get some things from down there. Then the superintendent would tell my father that he noticed we had not been buying much from the company store. They checked. You have not been buying much from the company store. What is going on? So my mother would have to make an order up and we’d go down and buy stuff. They were higher. Of course, they handled Star Brand Shoes, they handled good stuff, but they wanted you to buy everything from the company store. We give you your job, we want you to buy from us, and they made the big profit out of it.
AH: How did you feel about working for the company store?
CM: When I first started, when Baxter Kimmel put me in there, I liked it. I thought it was a lot of fun. Here I was, just a young buck and had a job. And see, the post office, we had the post office too. People would come up to the counter, it wasn't any self serve, they would come up to the counter and say I want two cans of milk, I want five pounds of sugar. You had to weigh the sugar up. We had two pounds boxes of sugar. Potatoes, you had to sack them. Everything came in in bulk, most of the stuff come in in bulk. Of course we tried to get most of that stuff ready before the rush in the evening though and we’d get some of it up and setting around so it would make it faster to wait on people. Lard, we got lard in in 50 lb. tubs, we would get some of that out and weigh it. We tried to keep some of that ahead. You couldn’t wrap it too much, because we didn't have that parchment paper like they have now. We had a lot of people that would bring a 5 lb. bucket, and we wouldn't weigh it, we'd just fill it. You said it was 5 lb. We’d just fill it and charge you for 5 lbs of lard. Our margarine, the oleo, wasn’t colored. You had those little capsules. It didn’t have any color. Everything was white. Back then, there was a law that you couldn't color margarine. They changed the law back not too many years ago that you could color margarine. That was foolish, and silly.
The people would come in the store and buy. We had one lady, Mrs. Crouse, she'd come in and buy. She’d get the flicker for her husband’s pay, what her husband had earned that day. They'd wait until the sheet came down from the mines, how many cars he loaded, and how much money was there. Then she'd draw almost all he had for that day, and she would buy things out of the store. They would write her a coupon slip and she'd go through the store with it and tell them what she wanted. She'd get down to the end, I can still see her, and she’d look around after she was about through, then she'd say, "Well, I guess that's about it, just give me the rest of it in candy for Little John." Sometimes it was a dollar or two dollars worth. Some of those people were something else, I'll tell you.
That flicker. We had dollars, fifty cents, twenty five cents, ten, five, and finally they started making the pennies because we had to make change. First they used United States pennies. But then the coal company decided they would make pennies, but that was the saddest mistake they ever did. When we would go out to the juke boxes, we could take them little pennies and they would fit like a dime. Man oh man we could dance all night. Until they'd closed everything up, all up and down the Creek. They closed all the dime slots so we couldn't use any more pennies.
Photograph - Chris DellaMea
The photograph of the Shallmar store is used with permission of Chris DellaMea. It is part of his website Coal Camp USA . George Brady is the person in front of the store.
Flicker or scrip is the currency that many mines used to pay their employees. It could only be spent at the company store.
interview 1991, photograph July 2003
Garrett College, McHenry.
Coal miners--Maryland--History; Coal miners--West Virginia--History; Garrett County (Md.)--History; Allegany County (Md.)--History.
Western Maryland, 1930-1980