Caperglass's Weblog

My glass Cape Breton and Me

Hot Out of The Kiln

It’s been awhile but life got in the way and I didn’t have time to play.

I decided to cast jewelry for next season so here are the first experiments, not cleaned up or fire polished yet but they look good if I do say so myself.

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Notice there are 2 belt buckles that came out particularly nice. I’ll take some individual photos later.

Also out of that firing several pieces of Our Town and Company Houses and the head of the pit.

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Here is a picture of a typical Company House

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Here’s a picture of the pit head from many years ago. The rail line carried men to and from the Deeps and hauled the coal out. Some of our mines were 7 miles out under the Atlantic Ocean.

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In my grandparents time and before they used horses under ground.

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Both men and horses didn’t manage to grow tall and strong. The men usually went under as boys and worked until they retired. While searching for these pictures I was once again reminded of the tough life a miner’s life was and how true the song “Owe my Soul to the Company Store” was.

This piece comes from the Miner’s Museum in Glace Bay, NS

“In March of 1925, Cape Breton coal miners were receiving $3.65 in daily wages and had been working part-time for more than three years. They burned company coal to heat company houses illuminated by company electricity. Their families drank company water, were indebted to the company store and were financially destitute. Local clergy spoke of children clothed in flour sacks and dying of starvation from the infamous “four cent meal”….

In the early days of 1925, “The Company”added insult to injury by eliminating credit for miners at the company store and further reducing days of work at the collieries…

The next two months were filled with grief and hardship; Besco cut off the sale of coal to miners houses and mounted a vigorous public relations campaign to blame the miners for their own predicament. The UMWA lobbied for intervention from the Liberal Provincial and Federal governments to no avail; this prompted the union’s most difficult decision to date. On June 3, 1925, the UMWA withdrew the last maintenance men from Besco’s power plant at Waterford Lake. (Doing this would have resulted in the mines filling with water) In retaliation, the company cut off electricity and water to the Town of New Waterford, which included the hospital filled with extremely sick children…

On June 11, 1925, drunken company police charged down Plummer Avenue on horseback, beating all who stood in their path. They rode through the schoolyards, knocking down innocent children while joking that the miners were at home hiding under their beds. It was the last straw…

Riots resulted with one miner William Davis being shot and killed

The miners’ reaction was swift and decisive. They swarmed the power plant, overpowered the company police and marched them off to the town jail. For several nights afterward, the coal towns were under a state of siege by the miners. They raided the company stores to feed their starving families and then burned the stores to the ground to eliminate the last symbol of corporate greed and servitude in the Cape Breton coalfields. The company stores never re-opened after the coal wars of 1925.

The history of mine workers is filled with memories of class struggle and of brotherhood. It is summed up in the words of former District 26 President Stephen J. Drake – “There is no finer person on this planet than the working man who carries his lunch can deep into the bowels of the earth. Far beneath the ocean he works the black seam an endless ribbon of steel his only link to fresh air and blue skies. The steel rails symbolize a miners’ life, half buried underground, half reaching toward his final reward…”

Long story maybe for a blog but sometimes needs to be said again.

Other Our Town pieces

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