Barbara Angle - the men in the mines
Carol Jean Niland: All the time you were in the mines, did you have any favorite character that stands out in your mind?
Barbara Angle: Character is the right word to use because these guys, you gotta say they were all characters. And you usually found one...for me it was Lloyd. He would give me more shit than anyone under there and he would always grin and say, "Barbie, we oughta go off into the sunset together”. He’d say, “If I got as much crap as you did down here, I’d throw my hat in one corner, my belt in the other and I’d be down the road.” Then he’d say, “But I’d given you the most crap.” And he had. Lloyd was a case of a man who was just too smart. Lloyd shoulda had a college education. He was just an extremely intelligent man caught in unfortunate economic circumstances. He had the quickest wit, the brightest personality I ever met. No, there was never anything sexual or anything like that. I had a lot of admiration for the guy and he was a powerful personality. I miss him.
CJ: Do you feel that...a lot of men in there didn’t have a college education, did you feel that they were smart.
BA: Yeah. These guys had native instinct. I don’t know how to put it. They would come up with quips so quick and not educated. Sometimes on lunch break, I’d bring a book down and they’d say, “What ya gotta read that for?” They didn’t think of reading as recreation. It was something you did for necessity. Most of them were high school drop-outs. And they were suspicious of people who are educated.
I remember one time there was this kid. He was just 16 and he kept sayin’ he was the youngest fuckin’ kid in the whole coal mines. And he was afraid he was gonna get raped by a friend of yours, Carol.... This 16-year old wouldn’t even dress in the bathhouse because he was tryin’ to protect his virtue. And he was braggin’ he had his own woman and all this.
But natural instinct, they got a lot of it. And it’s a shame it can’t be channeled in another direction. And there’s these people, like myself, who are technically educated for what that’s worth. I mean I have a college degree. But they didn’t trust that. People who had education were branded as pinkos. The thing you had, I mean, it’s a shame mining has gone downhill at this point in time because you have women in there, you were having college guys who couldn’t get decent paying jobs anywhere else. The whole workforce, its personality was changing and about the time it was gettin’ to where these educated, these really assertive guys could speak up for the Union and such, the mining industry’s being phased out and these are guys who would really have been at the forefront.
CJ: Did the men come to you with any of their problems?
BA: Yeah. But I couldn’t solve them. Yeah. We’ve talked about this. At first they tried to hustle you. That was an obligation. They ethically had to hustle you. Once they got that out of their system, they’d relax and they’d tell you, “Oh this daughter of mine... the old lady...” You name it. They hit them all. I don’t think they had that many women in the outside world they could connect with. These were guys who weren’t very comfortable with “functions” or such. They were really basic people and they related on that level and you put them in a formal situation, they couldn’t do it. But put them with a woman in the mines who was doing the same kind of work they were and who wasn’t put off by their talk and could appreciate them as individuals. And you came to feel really close to the men.
Barbara Angle and Carol Jean Niland
Barbara Angle died in 2011. More on her life and writings can be found at Barbara Angle, Allegany County Women.
Gary Angle, Barbara's brother, gave permission for this interview to be made available.
The photograph is from a 1971 Environmental Protection Agency photo documentary project, called DOCUMERICA. The photograph is of Virginia-Pocahontas Coal Company Mine #3, and was taken by Jack Corn of NARA
Garrett College, McHenry.
Coal miners--Maryland--History; Coal miners--West Virginia--History; Garrett County (Md.)--History; Allegany County (Md.)--History.
Western Maryland, 1930-1980