Grandpa wrote this short biography in 1976 for Susan. Again, I assume it was a class assignment. Mom must have digitally transcribed the original letter; or maybe one of the kids:
When my mother came to this country she was 15 years old. She went to work as a cook for a boarding house in a place called Rock Lake. That’s when she met my father. He was hauling timber to a place called Forest City and it took him 12 to 15 hours to make a trip with horses; that’s all the power they had them days. So he would always be telling tales. I remember a couple of them. There was a barber that committed suicide so when he passed this place he wanted to hear some one say “do you want a shave.” Another one was he had to drive through a woods and he seen something cross the road as big as a telephone pole. The horses were so scared they ran until they got home. In the Depression of 1930 It was very hard you see at that time there was no welfare, no unemployment compensation, no Social Security. Not until President Roosevelt was elected. But the people shared what they had. The people then were much closer together than they are today.
People who could picked coal. They had gardens and then they put all men who were able to work on what they called the W.P.A working on high wage and also working around hospitals or other public buildings and they done very good work. You can still see some of their work along secondary highways. There were no crimes those days like there are today, the people of today don’t have what it takes they are used to soft living. We have progressed too fast for the good of our own people. We should never have to be dependent on other nations for oil or gas. We have thousands of acres of coal in Pennsylvania and in other states.
The influenza broke out in 1918. All of our family on both sides survived it, but others did not.They could not bury them fast enough so they piled the dead bodies in the morgues and the only thing seemed to help the people that had it was whiskey. I was in the army at this time.
My father was a deputy sheriff of Wayne County. He caught the first man who was hung in that county. This man was wanted for murder. Them days they worked in the woods cutting timber and taking bark off hemlock trees. These two men were friends so they got drinking very heavy and they got quarreling and one of them hit the other one over the head with the axe. They were also a friend of my father’s. He hid in a cave for a week. My father knew where he was, so he told him if he would give himself he would do what he could for him because they were both chums. So he took him in. But at the trial he was convicted of first-degree murder and was hanged. My father turned in his badge because he thought he didn’t get a fair trial.
My Grandfather on my mother’s side came from Gloucestershire, England also my Grandmother. My father’s parents came from Germany. When my grandparents on my mother’s side came here, my grandfather worked in the coal mines. In them days they worked long hours. They lived in a company house and traded in a company store and no matter how much they made they still owed the company store.
A typical day: Back them days going too school and remember the old hickory stick that was in the corner of the schoolrooms. And that’s what we need now. After school we picked coal. On vacation days we would pick berries and work in the garden. I also sold papers after school. My father died when I was 7 years old. I got as far as 5th grade when I was 11 years old and then I went to work in the coal mine. I went to 9 o’clock mass on Sunday morning, went to Sunday school in the afternoon, and came home and played baseball. My big day was on a Sunday when I played ball. I was not the only one who went to work so young. Not very many boys or girls went through high school them days. The boys got jobs in the coal breakers picking slate out of the coal or working in silk mills. Those were the days of child labor. I worked in the mines tending door for 90 cents a day. I worked in the silk mill at night 11 hours a night for 10 cents an hour.
They were a lot of contagious diseases those days. It was just a matter of the strong lived and the weak died. I remember they had what they called the Black Maria. It was a black ambulance pulled by a pair of mules they used for mine accidents and there were a lot of them those days and we only had one hospital and if a man got killed in the mines before they took him out,if his shoes were any good some one would take them off him. And also his lamp and his water bottle. I remember a story one poor fellow was taken to his home on Electric Ave. He had a wife and 4 children and when they took him home his wife met them at the door and told them to take him out of their a dead was no good. The Coal Co. was very ruthless them days they thought more of the mules than they of the men. Mules cost 300.00 a piece the men didn’t cost them anything. Those were the days when they used mules in the mines for power. I worked in them before it was electrified, but we had some good days.
We would save a 1.50 a month and get a horse and buggy from the livery stable and go on picnics out to Crystal Lake for the day and my mother in the evenings would put her shawl on and go visit the neighbors. I can remember my father and mother was in big demand at house parties. My father was one man band. He played a mouth organ and a violin. He had both around his neck so he played the mouth organ and violin at the same time and my mother would call off the square dances. She would also sing. So you see they had good times in the good old days. There were no cars them days so they made use of their legs which God gave them.
Dear Susan I hope you can read this letter, and get something out of it, your mother and your Dad will help you, they are the last of the old generation. You must be a big girl now, looking forward to see you in the Summer. Please excuse this writing I am getting a little shaky.
God Bless You,
Written in January, 1976, Arthur Myers, age 79, DOB 1896