Sliding Down The Coal Banks Was Fun


The coal removed from the mines and fed to the breakers was not pure lump coal, but a mixture of coal, pulverized pieces of coal, rock and slate. Once the coal was processed, the waste (cu1m) was deposited in ever growing mounds. Some of these approached the size of small mountains.

While an eye sore to mos, the black hilts were frequented daily by poor families who retrieved errant pieces of coal for their personal use.

In winter the smooth, black hills were covered with snow and a constant challenge to children with sleighs. They were devoid of trees. The hidden rock and slake that jolted our make-shift crafts added to the joy of the winter sport.

In summer, clutching card board boxes, we again ascended the black hills for the ride down. I was always careful to tuck my dress and petticoat inside the box. The spinning and protruding rocks, however, caused many spills.

Unfortunately we would return home with the bottoms of britches and petticoats blackened. I received a good many spankings but never enough to squelch the urge to do it again. Even though I was usually obedient and even bashful, I dearly loved to slide down those coal banks-- enough to go by myself or with Margaret. We usually found the boxes around the house or neighborhood. Ma couldn't keep track of all of us. Box in hand 1 would sneak out the back door and head to Brooklyn, a small patch 1 1/2 miles from Morea. The coal bank has located near the colliery and the R.R. Tracks.

With each whipping Ma would remind me of how my poor grandmother had to slave over a washboard, washing and then ironing all our clothes. I guess I expected my Grandmother to say something but she never did -she was so kind and loving. I guess she was waiting for that special moment of enlightenment! This made me feel doubly guilty.-but not enough to keep me from doing it just one more time.

One day after such an adventure I was saddened to find my grandmother sick, and looking very weak and frail with the flue. Ma was doing what wash she could along with her usual hectic chores. There would be no spanking. Instead Ma said I would have to do my own laundry from then on. My moment of enlightenment had arrived and it was a just punishment. I learned just how hard my Grandmother had to work scrubbing our dirty clothes.

As an adult I visited the Black Sands Beach of Hawaii-- a beach formed by volcanic ash. As I sat there my shores blackened as did my petticoats - when as a child, I joyously slid down the coal banks on my make-shift cardboard sleigh. I watched the children play in the black sand. I had traveled thousands of miles to see this and the barren, irregular, crevice marked landscape of Hawaiian Volcanic national Park-- whose blackness again reminded me of the black hills of Pennsylvania.