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Joseph J. Stimack, with Mike Stimack
Scanned by Dick Chenault
Edited by Zale Nagler
Date of Interview - 10-31-1979
Interviewed by Elaine Baker
Joseph J. Stimack
Date of birth - 9-12-1892
Parents - Nick Stimack and Marie Umiljinovich
Maternal grandparents - Pete and Frances Umiljinovich
Family origin - Yugoslavia
Date of family arrival in county - 1912
Location of first family settlement - Walsenburg
Kinship ties - daughter Helen Ugolini; Frank and Bob Stimack;
EB: Well I'm really glad that you're so healthy and you're still with us there aren't too many people that go back that far and come from the old country and can tell us about the old days. So, what I'd like to find out when I'm here is something about your life, what it was like, starting from Yugoslavia.
MS: I come Yugoslavia in 1912. And I start working in steel work in Gary, Indiana. Then after moving so many different places, the railroad and all different jobs, then working in Minnesota in a mark over and outside in a big mine. Then move to Utah copper mine, coming to Colorado and working in coal mine in 1917. I worked at Lester mine and in Pryor mine and I worked in Radison Mine, Cameron Mine, Ideal Mine, in Turner Mine, Maitland Mine, so many mine, even I don't know if I mentioned every mine. Here are all the records of my traveling all over to make a living. Them days was small wages, can't make it, lots of times no work, lots of times strike, lots of times all kind of trouble over a job. Lots of friends trust one another. Never been hungry anyhow. That's all.
EB: How did people decide which mine? Did you just go from one to another when there was an opening?
MS: I go from Radison, from Turner, from Ideal, and then CF&I shut the mine down for the railroad loading coal. They shut the mine for the railroad.
JJ: Now you see, when he finished working at Cameron when they closed the mine, him and five other miners opened up their own mine, the Blackhawk Mine. Which is up above Pryor and there were six partners and they started their own mine and they produced coal for a long time until about 1941...
MS: We started 1932 and quit 1942. Ten years. Then I go to Turner Mine from 1942 to 1951 I been hurt. Per' near got killed that time. Nobody never seen me that time.
JJ: He was covered up at Turner and Later on I was lucky I had those goggles.
MS: Then they were having that mining conflict. Dr. Chapman came and talk to me. “Jesus Christ, you look like you fight with the...I didn't think I would make it. My doctor didn't think I would make it. I been three times dead. Nobody never think I'm going to go. 1922 when I come in the Maitland Mine.
JJ: He got his back broken in the Maitland Mine, in 1922.
MS: Nobody, Julian Lamme, and James Lamme never figured I was going to walk. And now all my doctors passed away, and I'm still here.
EB: Well I've never heard of anybody going from being a worker to being an operator how did you manage that? How did you organize and how did you get the backing to start your own mine?
JJ: Well, let me explain it to you. There is no choice when they start closing the big mines. You take, material was cheap, rails were cheap, everything, so experienced miners, they needed domestic coal from the small, operators. They produced around 100 to 120 ton per day and it was the best coal in Huerfano County for stokers and for domestic use. It was that red ash coal, very low ash. So experienced miners got together and they start producing coal. They had to do something to have a job. So that's the reason. In other words, at one time Huerfano County had (6,000 coal miners) believe it or not. In these 32 mines. And now we don't have any.
MS: No mines, no miners, no coal.
JJ: But that's how come, and there was others up above, other miners. They formed partnerships. The Leader Mine was the same way up above. They had five or six. Leader mine had 5 or 6 miners that went together, my brother and Pee-Wee Judiscak worked together in a small operation and produced coal. And then out here the Morning Glory did the same thing later on. The Gordon Delcarbon Mine, Turner (see that was Abe Sudhar that opened up). Eventually when they got real strict regulations in 1972 they wanted than to change all their equipment and stuff so they got mad and they quit. Same way at Maitland. The guys, they had six miners that were operators and they dug the coal and they had they hired 15 or 20 other people and they produced a lot of coal during the war.
EB: That's great! I never realized when it was that the Sudhar gave up the mine.
JJ: In '72 and Maitland the same way. The last two mines were closed. Then they tell you what they're going to do about it, all the congressmen and men from Washington, they tell you what they're going to do about the energy. Hell, they created the energy shortage, by closing down all these little mines. And here at Maitland mine operated one of the last ones to close, never had a major fatality in 25 years. And then the federal government is going to tell them about safety. What better safety can you have?
EB: Well, that's because they were miners themselves first...
JJ: Yes, they were miners but how come some guy out of college that's got a damned certificate is going to come over and tell them the experienced miners that have been in the mines for 40 years, what to do about safety. You don't think he's going to go in there if it's an unsafe place to work. They know safety. Hell, he was one of the best, but anytime he got hurt, he went when somebody didn't give up on account of the bad weather… He got hurt in somebody else's place. He told the guy this place wasn't safe he says the roof don't sound too good. And pretty soon they went to work and bingo he almost got covered up. It was a good thing be was next to a machine, or he'd have got covered up good.
MS: I was next to the machine vacant. 1 yelled back to another fellow to pull the cable out of the water, you know, full cut from the hay. So he said that to the jury. Everything was coming down. I was comp1etely covered.
JJ: His two eyes were like chunks of coal.
MS: When I hollered one time he was under it, you know. Everybody was just look for a timber to take (?) up. He was there.
JJ: I went through the snow that night to him. I run the rope to him..
MS: He said, let me down. He is my flesh and blood, you know. He never thought I was going to make it overnight. I have all kind of traveling all over the United States, just to work in them days. Small wages, sometimes got no job, every way you can.
JJ: Well, there was strikes, they go on strike and the guys lose their job and they go look for another job.
EB: Did you come here, did the Slovenian community keep touch with each other so they knew where the jobs were? Were many people miners who came from Yugoslavia?
JJ: Mostly friends from the old country. The friends were established and they went and they told them where to go and then they got together. Several of them left and they went together in a lot of places. And they went to look for work. It was hard. They worked on the railroads, they worked in the mines, they worked anywhere there was a job available. And the mine operators generally liked to hire, you take the Slavish workers and the Italians and the rest of them, because they were good workers. They wanted to work. They never had too much problem getting a job. Transportation was the hardest because they were on foot all the time. You see they had no automobiles. They walked for miles from place to place.
MS: We traveled from one placed to another with the train.
EB: You had to walk to the mines?
JJ: Oh yeah and look for work.
MS: I was young them days I was only not quite 20 years when I come to this country. If I have enough money to go, I go to the steel works. Everything in those days everything was done with muscle, hard work. $1.98 for 12 hours of work.
JJ: A dollar ninety-eight. They make 5 times that much every hour now.
EB: Did your dad go with you when you went back to Yugoslavia?
JJ: Yes he went back to Yugoslavia I went with him, my sis went and my brother went. And they got some beautiful land over there. I'll tell you, if they only had the government that would let them do things like we have here. But over there you don't talk against the government like you do over here.
EB: There's a reason we're all here and not back over there; isn't there?
JJ: Yeah, they listen buddy. Over there, under communism, it's a little different. Of course, you take Tito and Yugoslavia he's built that country up pretty good though. Roads, paved roads and everything and people are living a lot better, new homes and they let people over there now, now they a married couple or somebody who wants to build a new home over there, they don't have to pay taxes on it for 20 years. No taxes at all, that's to encourage the building of new homes.
EB: Well they deserve it, they've worked hard. Why did you decide to leave, what was going on when you left? In Yugoslavia?
MS: When I left the old country?
MS: He had never been born yet. I Left the old country in April, be born the 29 of August. I never seen him. He was 9 year old when he come to this country. After first World War, I never get letter for over 3 years. Every night some more
Newspapers, so many dead, so many dead, I never think anybody left alive. Traveling all over, work in lumber yard. I worked in the timber. Looking for better wages, you know. It was better than the old country. The country lost during war time. When I get the letter from my wife say what are you going to do, if I come back or not. Oh, my God, I never was citizen yet, you believe that? What I going do. I go right away from Portland, Oregon, to Canon City and brother of my wife he write me...
JJ: During the World War nobody traveled, nobody went back and forth. That was it, yeah he left in 1912, and the war was in 1914.
EB: So you grew up here?
JJ: No, I started, I was born in the old country. I went to school for 1 year and then second year when I started, 2 months then we come here to United States. I went to school, I can read and write in Slavish.
EB: That's wonderful.
JJ: Then I started school here.
MS: He was good in school here, he passed two grades when he came to this country.
JJ: Oh, right away I passed 4 grades, in two years, hell, as soon as I learned to talk a little bit.
MS: He learned better talk than me.
EB: But there's a big difference between your sisters much younger than you?
MS: Oh yes, you see, I'm, I was 8 ˝ years old when I come and my brother Mike he was born in 1922 so in other words I'm about 9 ˝ years older than my brother Mike. And then come my brother Bob, Frank, and then my sis Helen. So they they're all pretty close together, the other 4. I'm the oldest.
EB: Yeah, well, you act like, the oldest. So what did your wife, when she came, what did she think of this country?
MS: She like it, she like it pretty good when she come from old country. She like it really good. Her brother have a nice farm that was in Canon City and I work most the time in that mine in Canon City. Yeah we were really to be coming there but we change from one place to another place to make a living. From mine to mine. From place to place.
JJ: See, when he, when I come to Canon City, and then in 1921. When the strike broke out and the union they were out on strike and the boss come to him and says “Mike it 1ooks like you're going to lose the strike. You'd better come to work.” But he wouldn't go, he come down here to Maitland and got a job. He went to his partners place to help him get straightened out so he could go to Canon City he was figuring on moving and hell that's when he had his back broken he was in the hospital for 2 months.
MS: That's the time I got hurt.
JJ: Yeah. He come here 1922 to Maitland then I think 1925 we moved to Toltec, no 1926 we come here. And then I went to schools here I went to school at St. Mary's and he worked in all these different mines. He worked at Pryor Lester, Maitland, Walsen, Robinson, Cameron, Ideal and Blackhawk. And to start off with, I don't know how many names you have of these mines, but all of the mines starting with the two where the power plant is, there was Walsen and Robinson. They used to ship coal, you still see the slag piles back there. They used to put coal right into the power plant and right over there, right into the power plant, that was closed. And right on the side up above, they had Mutual, Solar, where the solar. There is still the Mutual camp out there. And that way towards La Veta, on the other side of the hill there was Oakview. And then this way going south, was Cameron. Then Ravenwood. Then Ideal, was a big mine. And all of these CF&I mines, they were big mines. They had their own grocery stores. They had bowling alleys and everything else. They had YMCAs, everyone of them had a YMCA. Cameron had a YMCA. You take Walsen, Cameron, Ideal, Rouse, Pictou, they all had a YMCA. They had theaters, shows, and they had, all us kids would go to the shows right at the YMCA. They had a bowling alley, and hell, they were just a lot of miners in the county in the 1920s, was 6,000 coal miners in Huerfano County.
EB: Did you have to work in that mine to live in the camp?
JJ: You lived in a camp. If you worked at a place, you lived in a camp. But of course Walsen and Robinson were right here close. Walsen camp was a big camp but the biggest part of the folks lived right here in town. Cameron was a big camp. They had lots of nice homes and a lot of people drove from being it was so close. They drove1 they walked, hell they walked.
MS: Now everybody that came in here, nobody drove. Some drove a team, then a Model A.
JJ: Ravenwood, Raven was, they had their own schools, Ravenwood had a grocery store and they had a lot of homes there at Ravenwood. Ideal was a CF&I mine. They had a big camp. They had a YMCA there, their own store and everything. Every camp had a baseball team in them days, every camp. Then up above Ideal was Pryor, Lester, Rouse, and they all had a lot of homes. There were a lot of homes out there. They had their own post offices, like I told you, the stores and the YMCAs and stuff. They had, then my dad when they went from Ravenwood to the Blackhawk mine right up in the Lester Canyon right up above Pryor. They had some good coal there. And the Leader Mine was way over the hill, they had red ash coal. They had, they produced about 100 ton a day, or so after that. They was a small mine. And the Blue Blaze Mine right in Rouse there, old Bert Amidei run it for a long time. Then this way going north, right over the hill, was Peanut Mine. Right down, when you go over hogback, right below. The railroad was there and they produced a lot of coa1, too they had the train used to go in there and come out with a couple loads, a day, a whole bunch of railroad cars, of coal from them mines. You see where the railroad used to go, where you cut through, where our road goes now, they used to have a lot of coal pulled out there. The Peanut Mine was right next to the Cadell Mine, then Toltec, right where that dump is where you go. Then Pictou, then they had a YMCA there and a big store. Then right over the hill was the Joe Ball. That was just before you get on the other side of Pictou, right on the other side. They had five there. On top of the hill was a mine, the Black Beauty Mine. Right on top of the hill.
MS: See that mine?
JJ: That's Gordon. Maitland was right down below, they had Maitland #1 Maitland#2, the new mine and the old mine, I just put #1 Maitland. Then right next to Maitland was Morning Glory. They, one of the latest mines that closed down. Then the Gordon. They were right up above the houses up there. .Then the Rocky Mountain was right up in the hills, right up back of Gordon back there. Then Calumet, that's Turner, Turner #1 and Turner #2.
MS: Turner #1 produced 16 railroad cars a day.
JJ: Yeah they produced a lot of coal. A lot of mines produced 1,000 tons a day.
MS: They had 50 miners, 16 railroad cars every day. What's there now? No miners, no coal mine, no nothing.
JJ: And then up above Calumet there was the Jackson, the Jackson mine then Sunnyside. That was in production as late as 1970 I think. Belottis had it. They produced coal for the power plant..... Now they used to call it Big Four, which is Tioga and then they named it Kebler, and that's a big mine of the CF&I, one they closed down I think in 1954. When they opened up the Allen Mine, they closed Pictou and Tioga.
MS: Every year a different one shut down. Shut down. Before very long.
JJ: Then two big mines way up above on the other side of the Tioga was Alamo and Barbara. The Dicks owned that. George Dick and family, and they was big mines. They had a big camp there. They had a big grocery store, it was a big camp. They really had a, there was a few little mines that weren't even mentioned, if you want a list of these you can just have it. I didn't list a few very small, 2 or 3 men operations, you know, I just, the little bigger mines that were in operation but. Since 1972 Maitland was the last mine that closed down and that's where I used to haul coal from. Maitland and Morning Glory and Gordon and Calumet, but them were closed before. Then in 1972 they closed all these mines I was still in the coal business and I started shipping coal in from Craig. There was the Pittsburgh & Midway Coal Co. owned by Exxon. So in another words, all the oil people are involved in the coal business. That's why we have the situation like we have today. Because God damn the oil companies got everything tied up. They got the coal, tied up. They don't care whether they produce or not. In Huerfano County the CF&I's got 75% of the coal land tied up. It's not for lease, it's not for sale, that's why they got us tied up. Pictou was one of the best mines, right now when they closed it down. CF&I don't want to lease it, don't want to sell it. They don't have to. Why shou1d they lease it? They get enough from grazing on the surface land. They lease it out for grazing and they can pay their taxes forever. Don't cost them a dime. They keep all them minerals, they're keeping it for themselves, what do they need? A lot of coal there.
MS: The small operator can't open it. Cost too much now. Before it was easy to small operator start the mines. Bigger company shut the mines. Sell the rails pretty cheap, you know. Before we even start Blackhawk, for $7 we buy a full load rail. No wonder it cost more than that now. Now 1 rail cost more than that.
JJ: Oh yeah; now a ton of rail is around $100 to $120. County buy them for cattle guards. And you used to get them for $10 to $15 a ton. There ain't no more, because they're all gone.
EB: You know, I think this is a very unusual area. I've never heard of anyplace where the miners got together and opened up little mines after a while.
JJ: Well, they had to because when the big ones closed & they were left without a job. And there was still a big demand for domestic coal. And they sold all the coal that they could produce. They worked every day. And people from Pueblo, Trinidad, and all over the area, Alamosa, all the trucks. They sold every pound of coal they pulled out.
EB: It was pretty much the government regulations that.....
JJ: Yeah, that closed a lot of these last small mines. Strict. Well, Maitland, there were 5 operators, and they had 6 miners, I think inside, plus the operators. And they used to produce 100 ton a coal a day. And Hell, they had about 5 or 6 operators every other day, I mean the inspectors, coming over there. They had electric inspectors, they had a air inspector, they had, you know, for everything, the mileage inspector, the gas inspector. They had a guy for everything in the mine and they want to make them put toilets in the mine and everything else. And you know in a mine, when you keep on moving ahead, you can't keep move the toilets with you. You know in a mine, heck, just like a cat you turn around, oh, hell, they just cover it up because they just keep moving ahead and there's nothing but dirt and rock so, they put restrictions on them, the guys, just got mad, and just quit. That's all. Hell.
EB: You were here for the '25 strike The Wobbly Strike, what they call around here the Wobbly strike?
EB: Yeah, what was that like? What I'm interested in is not so much what the strike was, is how the people of the county got along. You know, I'm more interested in our county's history than I am in labor history. I just wondered how the different groups of people got along. Were they divided, was there a lot of fighting or did people stood together?
JJ: When was that strike Pop? 1927 or....
MS: 1927 I think.
JJ: Yeah, 1927
MS: I remember that time when everybody tries to go and parade and was scared of the CF&I. There was lots of guards, scared them up. You know, some of them put them in jail too.
JJ: Hell, they killed three or four people.
MS: Not lettin' them march. And people, miners, wondered what we goin' do. We go out an, we go on a strike, that's all. Somebody don't want to go work, that's all, and those cops get them and put them in jail. They start marching, they grab them and put them in jail.
JJ: They killed 3 or 4 people down there by Wobbly Hall down south of Main. You know on the right side there just before you get to the corner that garage on the right side. That used to be it. Hell, they killed 2-3 people in there.
MS: Right in the hall, they got killed.
JJ: Yeah, right in the hall.
MS: Dr. Chapman was the doctor then, too. Yeah, I was there, and Mikey was, little boy.
EB: I didn't hear about that one.
JJ: Oh, yeah, they shot a couple persons in the hall, there was blood all over.
MS: The miners they, they didn't do nothin'.
JJ: The militia come in, and they marched down the street with a bunch of cops, and stuff and even one of the kids got wounded. I guess a stray bullet shot him, he was up in a tree.
MS: That machine gun.
JJ: Yeah, that darned gun.
MS: Mickey never was, nothing happened to him, no ammunition, no gun or anything. He got lucky, you know, but the company was pretty strong with those cops. Guards don't let them, you know.
JJ; I'll tell you one thing that developed, several businessmen in town went broke. They trusted the miners for pay for their food, and hell, he trusted these miners, and hell, it didn't work. They didn't have a job and he went broke. The guys couldn't pay, didn't have a damn job. So, hell, a lot of guys, you know, they were selling groceries and stuff on credit, and they were hurt. A lot of them went broke. Sad situation. Strikes are bad.
EB: It seems like things change but they never really change right away. It's like a slow progression. Did the organizers organize in the different ethnic groups? Was there somebody come in who would work up with the Slavs or someone?
JJ: No, no, miners were all together. All nationalities, were together. They were unions just like they are now. They were all together. They were all miners. And they were under one union. Before it was the IWW and now United Mine Workers, and ever since it's been the United Mine Workers. No, there's no ethnic groups. The ethnic groups, just like now, every nationality, has their own lodge or something. Insurance or stuff that they have. Like the Slavs have one and the Italians have their lodge and the Polacks have a lodge and the Mexicans, they have their own organizations and lodges. Like the Eagles, they have a lodge. They belong. Hell the Slavish people, they had lodges which are national. The headquarters were Pittsburg or somewhere, it's a lodge, it's an insurance. They have sick benefits, they have death benefits, and of course, things have changed a lot. You take in the 1922, I think I and my mother joined the Slavish Lodge and I think she had a policy for $500.00. A death benefit policy. And I did too, a sick benefit policy and everything else in case she got sick.
MS: That's why they organize the lodges you know, because never had no compensation never had nothing, you know. Somebody get killed, somebody die, how you going to bury him?
JJ: But to show you the difference from then, my mom when she passed away in '68 she belonged to the lodge, I think for 45-46 years. She got, she had two lodges and each one had a death benefit for $500 which is $1, 000. In them days when she took out the policies you could get buried first class for $200-$250. When she passed away it took both of her lodges plus an additional $700 of his own money to bury her.
MS: $1700. $1785.00.
JJ: Both lodges. She paid for 45 years. It wasn't enough to even bury her. When my wife died, just a little over a year ago, it cost me over $2700. You know, you can't afford to die anymore, you can't afford to get sick.
EB: You don't have to worry about it then.
MS: Times are different.
JJ; Times have changed Hell it's...
EB: I understand it better now then the lodges it was because the miners...
JJ: It was a protection. Of course in the mine they didn't have, like now, the miners pension, the miners hospitalization. In them days when you lost your job you went with nothing. Nothin'. You got sick, you paid yourself. The company never paid nothin'. If you got hurt, of course you had state compensation. If you got hurt and you was in the hospital, they paid you so much a month, but outside of that, hell, nothing'.
EB: What about the people like you mentioned the Dicks, they always had mines. I found them in an advertisement in 1895. Were the people who were always miners and worker, did they feel that the people who were the management people were kinda of like, on the other side, the enemy or....
JJ: Well, no, you wouldn't consider them enemies, but everything was, the wages were cheap, and of course they had to struggle. They had to bid for business. It isn't like now, the demand for energy and for coal. If you had a good product, you had a better market. Some mines work five days a week, some maybe work 1 or 2. All depends. And there was a lot of supply. The biggest part of our coal was shipped out by railroad all over the United States. And hell, there was a big production of coal in Huerfano County. Terrific amount of coal went out of here. Hell you see the railroads go through here now. Before in Huerfano county there was load after load, like I told you several train loads just from that one area north of town here, came into town from the mines.
MS: Them days in the switch yard you hear a whistle every hour. Coal yard. Railroad, coal you know. From each mine you know, so much, lots of coal. And now, nothing. Nothing around here. Just a couple from somewhere in Wyoming, I guess. Wyoming has lots of coal, too. By railroad, by truck now, too where it is closer. Now it is traveling every different way different places.
JJ: You know that's the reason I went into the coal business. I was working for Safeway. I put in 5 years with Safeway I was Assistant Manager over there. When I quit, I give them 2 weeks. I bought a truck because he started a coal mine. So I went bought a truck and went to haul coal from his mine and from some of the others. But when I quit Safeway I had an opportunity, they offered me three different Safeway Stores, I could have went to could have went to manage. I was so tired of looking at them walls of Safeway. I didn't want no part of it. Now I used to work go at 7 in the morning and come home 10-11 at night. Hell, only time I see my kid, when my wife bring him to the store. I come home for dinner, he was sleeping.
EB: I've heard lots of miners tell me it was dangerous, and they complained about it but if they could be working now, they'd be right back in there.
JJ: Oh, yeah.
EB: Does it get in your blood? It sounds to me like really hard work but when I'm talking they say that's what they'd rather do.
JJ: We1l, the biggest part of the miners, that is the good miners, like him, he'd rather work inside than outside. Inside the temperature is always the sane, there's no wind, there's no nothin'. If the guys timber their place properly and keep it in shape~ hell, it's nicer to work inside than outside.
EB: So then, these little mines that you were telling me about, like that your dad started, they had a good safety record?
JJ: They had a good safety record, absolutely, because they were good miners and they knew what to do.
EB: That's wonderful. How many of those little mines do you think were.....
JJ: The little mines that were left do you have that slip, I'll show you. The little mines. The ones that were left here were...
EB: Not the CF&I. The ones that were local.
JJ: CF&I was Walsen, Robinson. That was CF&I. The I'll put a of CF&I mines I'll put a check on the side of them. Cameron, that was CF&I, Ideal was CF&I, Rouse and Lester was CF&I, and Pictou was CF&I. Big Four, that was CF&I. Alright, the small mines, the last ones that remained in operation in this county were right here. I'll put just a little check, these are the small mines. They was in operation here. They were bigger mines at one time, but later on the miners took it over as small operations. Truck coal, instead of railroad coal, mostly truck coal. Let's see Morning Glory and Gordon and Calumet #2 the bigger one was #1 and that was the last one in operation, and Sunnyside. And that's the small ones. And the rest of them were at one time were pretty good-sized mines, and they produced a 1ot of coal. These are the mines right here that my dad worked in. If course he worked in mines, and he worked in labor camps. He worked in Oregon and Idaho. You worked all over.
EB: What was the law like? Did miners get into trouble? Did they settle their problems themse1ves?
JJ: Hell, no. The miners, outside of when the leaders call a strike, there wasn't too many strikes in them days. When they got their contract, one time $7.75, they figured that was the best contract ever. Now the $7.75 in them days is worth as much or more that $50 today is. Because you could buy more, purchasing power.
MS; I pay 75˘ for 100 pound of potatoes. Long time I buy for my own family 75˘ for a hundred. Now a little bit of potatoes in a sack costs a couple of dollars.
JJ: Hell, when we was living in Maitland, we had a couple of cows, He sold a little milk and he'd buy a little hog, butcher a hog. You'd buy a hog for $5.00. Now you go pay $10.00 for a pork roast. Now he says look at the difference. I used to go and butcher a little hog he had sausage, he had hams he had bacon he had everything you know. In them days you had a little smoke house. You' d smoke your own meat and you had all the butter, milk and cheese and you had hell, at Maitland we had a couple hundred chickens. People helped themselves. There was in the '20s and the '30s, there was no welfare, there was nothin'. If you made $5.00 you lived on it. That was it. And you done the best you could. My mom would buy potatoes, flour, she made bread, she made everything. You lived cheap. Hell, now, you go to the Safeway, and hell, all they have is TV dinners and...
MS: People used to take care of themselves. They only earned $60 in a month. Yeah.
EB: I notice that some of the people that came up and worked in the mines, some family members started ranching and farming, and they could help when somebody was out of work. They could go on the farm, but did the Slavish people? I didn't notice too many of the names of the ranchers.
JJ: He, well, the Slavish people generally they worked in the mines and they was in the sometimes they went to work maybe on the road for you know somewhere, and they generally managed to save a little money and they tried to get the best they can. But there were quite a few Slavish people out there that had ranches. They're still out there. The Mechisks, the Zubals, and all them are still out there. There used to he quite a few Slavish people but there on the ranches. There was quite a few Spanish people they raise beans. In the summer time they worked on the fields and in the winter time they go work in the mines. There was mines all around there. And in the winter time they worked in the mines.
EB: That's why I think people could strike more successfully out here, because the miners had relatives that could help them out.
JJ: You're talking about ranching. When I was first married, I and my wife both went to work on a ranch up above Gardner, up on the divide, up on the Upper Huerfano. Al Cordey had a potato ranch up there. They used to call him the potato king of the Upper Huerfano. Had some of the best potatoes you ever had. He had two or three great big collars and he had some good potatoes. You know, how much I got paid? I got $9.00 a week, my wife got $6.00 a week for helping with the cooking. Work from sun-up to sun-down. But let me tell you. I have never eaten any better before or since than I have at that ranch. That Mrs. Cordey and my wife, they'd spend all day preparing meals, everything they had was with, well they separated when they milked the cows. First thing in the morning, they milked the cows, and they separated, You had with cream. In the summertime she'd have fresh strawberries, pineapples, everything she'd have, homemade ice cream, and they had all kinds of meat. Everything, homemade, and I have never eaten better since. And when we'd come into town my wife would go to the store to buy a dress for $1.93. A nice one. You know, we got paid $15.00 but, in them days you got 15.00 you had some money.
EB: That's about what the school teachers were making a month, was about $60.00. That wasn't bad.
JJ: That wasn't much and for a long time hell, it was a long time before the (?) teachers got paid $100.00 a month. I remember 1ooking back, the county commissioners, I think Clyde Johnson, I think he was commissioner, his salary was $120.00 a month. I think a school teacher was gettin' around $100.00 a month. And now the teachers are getting twice as much as the commissioners.
EB: That's true. They have the union.
MS: Some people can't get jobs, and they can't live. That is what the trouble is, robbing and everything. People can't live. Some of them got nothing. They got to do something. Can't b1ame them. So many go stealing, try to make it that way. No good anyhow. But some of them don't got nothing.
JJ: I'll tell you one thing now when it started. Under the Roosevelt Administration they come out with the pension and everything else Social Security, now that was a blessing. Years before that when people retired, if they didn't have their kids to take care of them, they were in trouble. They had nothin' to look forward to. They had no savings, they had hell, some of the miners, they'd be working the times when they'd be 70 years old or more. Because they had nothing to live on. But since then kept going up and now Social Security and the pension are up there is pretty high. There was no such a thing in them days as ADC, AMD, There was nothin'. Of course you know what them mean, ADC, AMD. But now things are a lot different. And now, even ADC, when a young girl gets pregnant, she can go on ADC immediately. Now that's our government. They've gone too far on some of the things.
EB: I'm going to ask you about the government here. When you started in politics had it already switched from Republican to Democrat?
JJ: First, I didn't run, somebody put my name on the ticket, in fact they passed my petition, I didn't want to. I was hauling coal. I was too busy, I didn't want to be bothered. I served on the city council for three terms, and one term we changed the election from Apri1 to November. So, in other words, I served 6 ˝ years on the city council and I quit. I swore I'd never get involved in politics again. And then finally a couple of years after they talked me into running for County Commissioner. Of course, there was a Democratic Administration then, Clyde Johnson, Sabino Archuleta and I think, no it was Andy Shaffer. Of course he was appointed by the governor and then I beat Andy Shaffer. He was a nice fellow. I liked Andy. I wouldn't of cared even if I had lost cause he was a nice fellow. But I've been in there ever since. I've been there for 24 years. Then I quit. Of course the reason I quit was on account of my wife's health. If I'd a knowed it was going to happen the way it happened I'd a probably run again. But the way it happened. And now I'm doing as much work for nothin' spending my money as I did as when I was gettin' paid.
EB: Yeah~ I know.
JJ: I wasn't even in the Commissioner's office and they elected me president of the Chamber of Commerce.
MS: Truckers worked for him. They delivered coal in town, you know.
JJ: I had somebody working for me all the time, I was able any time I wanted to get off to go to meetings. Because I was my own boss. But anybody that's working for somebody else can't get involved in politics. They can't take a job like that because you, can't. You got to be your own boss and be able to get away. Sometimes you go to a meeting, two or three days at a time you know, and if you have somebody working for you, to keep your business going, it's alright. Of course, I was lucky. my wife was a top notch secretary for many years, she all the people in town, she never had an enemy in the world. Everybody loved her. She took care of the business the guy that .worked for me while I was gone never let things go like they do when the boss isn't on the job. You hire somebody and they don't accomplish too much as little as possible.
EB: That's why family businesses are good too, fathers and sons. Did, Were there a lot of businesses, family businesses?
JJ: Oh, yes lots of families. In mining?
EB: That came out of that period?
JJ: Oh yes. A lot of families got involved, and went into. And of course they hired a lot of people too. There were a lot of family operations, on a small scale. And there was a lot of them that worked together, were good friends. They formed partnerships and they went into business. They made a go of it, but later on, it got so tough a let of them got mad and quit. Too much red tape. Too much government interference.
EB: Who would you say, when you were commissioner, who were the people you felt you were representing, other than the whole town, who...
JJ: When I was commissioner I represented all the people. I didn't, let me tell you, they talk about Chicanos and the other nationalities I'm a Slav, but I've done more for the Chicanos, in fact in my business, I give them coal when I knew that they wouldn't even pay me, they couldn't, and I still delivered them coal. I lost enough in my business over 40 years in credit that today I could drive out two new Cadillacs. And I give them credit when a lot of these old pensioners, and one of them I think going to have a funeral, Amos Pacheco, that little ol' wife of his and him, they run the coal bill up to $1900.00 during the winter time. They pay $5.00 from Social Security, $5.00 from the old age pension and then turn around in the winter time, when the coal got, it was alright when the coal was cheap, when the coal was under $10.00 a ton, but when the coal got up to $30.00 a ton, well they used a ton a month, well they couldn't pay so they got behind. But let me tell you the old people they managed to pay she's coming with $5.00 from Social Security, $5.00 from old age, but she got her bill paid. And they never owed me a dime. But the young ones are the toughest ones to collect from. 0h, hell the young ones go to taverns they don't give a damn to pay their bills, all you got to do is give them credit and they forget about it. But them old people loyal, and when they passed away hell, there's one month I lost around $250.00 because three old pensioners passed away and I marked them off the books. Hell, I still got on the books people and I never turned in one person to the credit bureau, for collection.
EB: Not many people could say that.
JJ: And I've lost an awful lot of money. I've turned in, I take it back. I turned in one person when the women took over the city council here they turned around they was going to do a lot of things, Ida Sapada they was running that they was going to work for nothing'. So I thought hell, how in the hell can she work for nothing, she owes me $100.00, for coal and she is gong to work for nothin'. And them days$100.00 was a lot of money. Just like $300.00 today. So finally she got out, she went to Pueblo, she went to work for the Fashion Bar, and she refused to pay anything so I give it to Wallich, he went in, turned around and I got the 50 dollars. I was satisfied to get at least part of it because she was so damned smart, you know. And I thought, you can work for nothin' how you going to pay me. You can't afford it, you can't pay your bills, you can't afford to work for nothin' Right?
EB: Yeah. That's great. Well, I think I got a lot of good coal history a lot of good.
JJ: I'll tell you one thing, when I was a young man going to high school and after I got married, things in Walsenburg weren't like they are today. Walsenburg was one of the finest communities in the state of Colorado. People come to Walsenburg from all over from Pueblo, Trinidad, we had dances at the pavilion which burned down you know down over by the swimming pool, there used to be a big dance hall. We had dances there, we had dances at Cucharas, up at Mule shoe up at Rouse, their town. And everybody there had a crowd. People loved to come to Wa1senburg. And we had (?c le) you know there were productive people. But after all the mines c1osed all our productive left and then all the ones, well when they closed the mines, and the old people that were ready to retire they moved into town see. Of course they were able to take care of themselves. And the people from the mines, the people were out on the small ranches, they all moved into town. A lot of them have gone on welfare, but out productive people left, because there was no jobs. But in the '20s and the '30s Walsenburg was booming. They had all these mines, they had a lot of people working and even later, 1954 they still had 650 coal mines. See at the time, they had the drive to build the hospital first originally was on pledges you know where them homes are just before you get to the hospital, that's where our hospital would have been see right there and had a drive and we had a committee, we raised $80,000 and we were going to get $200.00 from the government from Hill Burton funds to build a 30 bed hospital for $300,000. For a lack of $20,000, our leaders at time didn't see fit to raise that money to build a hospital. At time the Lammes still had the hospital where the nursing home was. And some of the prominent business men they fought it. They fought it. So, they, and the Sisters was the Catholic nuns was going to take over the hospital so instead, CF&1, Cordvan, they turned the hospital over to them they give them the hospital in Pueblo. And so they refunded all the money that they had for the hospital, back to people, the miners made pledges, two-three hundred dollars to be taken out of their payrolls to build a hospital. At that time, for $300.00. They would have had a 30 bed hospital, so we lost it so 6 years later or so they build a 20 bed hospital for half a million they for the difference it cost them another 500,000, and they put it on the tax rolls for 4 mills where the other been built without any taxes just pledges. And they didn't do it for a lousey $20,000. And they would have had a better location, they wouldn't have had the problems on the side of the hill that they've got with the you know the foundation lifting and they had a better place and they've of never been, but I'm glad to see some of them guys that fought it they have to pay the 4 mills, on their taxes for 20 years. That's what happened in this community. Every time they got some of the before the vote of the people everything voted down. That's why we can never go ahead. And now they don't have a city sales tax in this election, to fix some of the streets, there is so much that's needed in repairs. And the state going to come up with a tax on food they're going to take it off well these people they're going to you know, be able to get a 2˘ tax on a dollar and they can vote that l˘ sales tax for the city for 2 years, so they can fix some of our streets, that don't qualify under urban renewal. Certain areas don't qualify. And I went down yesterday, made a talk down at the Community Center to the people, hell, they were even reluctant to sign the petition for the slurry pipe line. And that would be the greatest thing that has happened to Huerfano County if they built a 60 million dollar plant here employ 150 people, it would triple our evaluation. You know we don't have nothin'. We have railroad evaluation in the county because............end of tape.
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