Federal Emergency Relief Administration
Dear Mr. Hopkins:
Entering West Virginia a week ago, I have been for eight days in Monongalia, Preston and Harrison Counties, a region which constitutes the heart of the Upper Monongahela Valley and contains, according to the Bureau of Mines, the richest soft coal region in the world and also, according to Lowell Thomas, the "foulest cesspool of human misery this side of hell--Scott's Run." Remembering the Thomas dictum, I crossed the state line from Western Pennsylvania, apprehension in the heart and nostrils. Isabella, Alicia, Bertha had been pretty cesspoolish. Could Scott's Run possibly be worse? Supposing that it really could smell worse, look worse--could its people possibly feel worse? Were there still greater depths of human hopelessness than the aimless, plan-less profundities of Poland patch or Dunlap?
I went to see. Driving up the "Run" I looked for misery. The signs of it easily are found; silence and lack of movement are sure indications of pain on these mining patches. I looked vainly for them. On every hand I saw mines at work. Pursglove, Valley Camp, Sunrise, Continental--all working. At Osage Dan Campbell, secretary of the U.M.W. local, said "all along the Run things was fair--working two or three days, sometimes four." At Rosedale 284 men were operating seventy-eight per cent of the time since last June, said a statistically-minded pay clerk. Men, coming off from their shift, nodded assent. They were "doing pretty fair," they said and they actually laughed--something I hadn't seen once across the line. At the Jere mine of the Sunrise Coal Co. 150 loaders were drawing about $20 a pay and day men doing a little better. These were the men's figures; the company's were better. William Taylor, a track layer at Brock 4, showed his envelope. He had made $28.18 in the two weeks covered by his last pay. He had paid $6.12 for a pair of shoes, bought from the Company store. "Too damned high," he said but even he smiled. John Jaeger, tipple foreman at this mine which is operated by the Continental Coal Co., (Hines' interests, Chicago) said 485 men employed there had been getting three days a week right along and expected this to last for another pay. After that time might be cut to two days. But this would keep the men off relief because, thanks to their gardens last summer, most of them were well stocked up with canned vegetables. Yes, sir; they'd had a dandy Garden Club and fine gardens for the first year. But next year they'd be better. Yes, sir; they were having a meeting on the evening of the first non-working day to talk over 1935 garden plans and also to take up the question of the rehabilitation scheme the "Relief had been talking about." They had found a certain suitable acreage with this and that which could be bought cheaply. Then there was another site whi
So from Jaeger's I went on to see nurseries and playgrounds. In a tastefully decorated hut children were quiet-timing on mattresses made by miners' wives on work relief. In an adjoining room older children were getting lunch. Still others were taking shower baths using clever homemade plumbing which recalled the Aisne in 1924. The children were clean, healthy and happy. In another building of rough, unplanned boards which had been made cheerful with gay curtains and a spotless linoleum floor covering were women and older children sewing by hand and "community" machine. Outside, in a green-flecked playground, sand boxes, games and a variety of "exercisers" occupied other children. The whole place was an oasis, not so much of peace as of promise, amidst the gray dreariness of the unpainted company town--a spot redeemed and radiant, standing out against the forbidding blackness of the tipple. Laughter from this spot echoed through the camp. World weary women, from the dark holes of suspect doorways, watched the children and smiled. I smiled, too, for the ten-foot length of stainless steel on which Mollie Kamitza was sliding earthwards in a fit of giggles was "a donation from the United States Steel Corporation."
So I talked with Mollie and her playmates and it was clear that they did not share Mr. Thomas's opinion as to the cloacemic character of Scott's Run. They felt that they lived in a pretty nice place. Certainly they were more conscious of the clean playroom than of the dirty houses. The sweet smell of milk and fresh bread impressed them more than did the sour odor from the creek. The air was a bit thick about the bridge but, in spite of that, it carried the intangible chemistry of happiness and hope and, breathing that, the children felt no need to use their pretty clean handkerchiefs as they crossed the creek on the way "home." I felt like waving mine.
I feel that way still. Scott's Run has work and vision. It is doing immeasurably better than it ever did. It may not be making the money it did during the boom times but the starvation wages of last years are but a memory. Today men do not work ten and twelve and even fourteen hours a day for less than it takes to sustain life. Their homes, cited for years as horrible examples, have been partly cleaned up. Toilets have been removed from the creek and a condition which offered "unique" possibilities for verbal and photographic picturization of "unthinkable living conditions" no longer exists so far as Monongalia County is concerned. But similarly "unique" conditions may be found in fifty mining camps and shack and coke oven settlements in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. In fact conditions at Scott's Run at their worst have been no less unsanitary than those existing right now in the heart of Uniontown where sewage, including toilet refuse, still empties into the slow-flowing creek which bisects the town. Mr. Thomas's descriptive phrase could more accurately be applied to-day to such Pennsylvania communities where not only are housing conditions unspeakable but where work and work prospects entirely are lacking--communities of relief addicts who have nothing to hope for except their weekly "shot" from the visitor's order book--communities which never have heard of a nursery school, of a weaving, stocking-knitting or sewing class, of anything to help physical or mental hygiene, of a community workshop or a garden club. Scott's Run knows about such things and is benefitting from them. Scott's Run is being helped; not just "relieved."
That's true of Monongalia and Marion Counties as a whole, I think. There is vastly more work relief than direct relief; ingenuity and resourcefulness is shown in devising work projects of a useful nature. Some of them have the air of being highly experimental and probably costly but despite this, I was told, the relief dollar, both work and direct, was being administered for 9 1/2 cents in Monongalia. Few, approved for work relief, are being denied it; in Monongalia last week there were but two men and seven women unassigned to projects. In Marion the number was almost equally low. In this county a decrease in the relief load is expected in December. More than that, here one actually can envisage the end of the emergency relief program. People are not shocked by the thought that Uncle Sam may soon have to abandon the motto of "Largesse Oblige." I have asked a number of people this question: "What do you think would happen here if Federal Relief funds were withdrawn from this district next Spring, let us say?" The answers have been most interesting; we will come to them later. What seems to me to be even more interesting is the fact that everyone took the question seriously. This, I submit, is news. Here are people of ordinary penetration who now are able to face the question. In Pennsylvania it would have been churlish to ask it; it would have been like asking a dying man whether he still needed the doctor. The great need, of course, in this region is for a doctor who can isolate and dispel the particular bugs responsible for the sleeping sickness which is paralyzing initiative in one of the richest storehouses of natural wealth known to man. Perhaps the worst bug is man himself.
He came in here from the East years ago and "hogged" all the hardwood that covered the hillsides and left an erosion problem that must be faced to-day. Then this outsider, Man, piped the gas and oil out of the State. He minded the coal and for every hundred cars he took out he left half an acre of desiccated, spoiled land on the surface. He paid starvation wages and kept costs down so low that a train of 100 cars worth from $8,000 to $10,000 at the market outside the state cost him less than $3,00 to produce, overhead and selling costs included. When the boom came and coal prices rose he multiplied his depredations. More than 500 mines were opened in the twelve and one-half counties which comprise the 31 District of the U.M.W.A. Flimsy company "shack towns" grew up around poorly equipped, poorly protected shafts, slopes and drifts. Men were brought in from Alabama, and small farmers from the mills were lured into the mines by "high" wages which had to be defended by fire and blood. More than two-thirds of these mines now are down or abandoned. In Monongalia, Preston, Marion, Harrison and Taylor counties only a total of 140 mines or less are working today. According to the N.W.Va. Coal Ass'n, these mines are employing "about 20,000 men" on part time. Mr. C.F. Davis, Secretary of the U.M.W.A., Dist. 31, puts the number at "less than 18,000." But both operators and miners agree that owing to the companies' policy of abandoning small mines and concentrating efforts at the largest where greater efficiency is possible, production last year was only relatively little less than it was in 1924, for example, when hundreds of more mines were operating and thousands of more men were at work.
The mines this year, it is assured, will produce at least 95 per cent of the yardstick or quota established for the region. They are doing this with less than four-fifths of the available mining labor supply and these four-fifths are working only part time. It is therefore evident that thousands of men in the U.M.W.A. membership must face the fact that, even with the depression over, they never will be able to work again in the mines. The U.M.W.A. estimates that the number of these unwanted workers at about 5,000. Last year, I was told, the number was nearer 7,000 but that 1,500 or more had left the region and were looking for work elsewhere. Many had found it in glass plants in Washington County, Pa. and in the automobile factories in Michigan. They were the better class; those remaining are older men with larger families and, living on abandoned patches, some of them pay no rent and having little gardens and perhaps a child working manage to keep off relief. Many of these men are above the 45-year age limit set by the companies; many have lost fingers or toes or suffered other minor mutilations which prevent them from passing the rigid physical tests to which applicants are subjected; many are known as poor miners or are branded as trouble-makers as a result of previous strike activity. In any case they are not wanted; nor will they be wanted. This has been shown conclusively on several occasions when the Consolidation and other large companies, requiring men, have advertised in Western newspapers for them and have imported workers from as far as Utah in preference to employing men of the class referred to.
In addition to these unwanted miners there is also a thousand or more--no one seems able to give definite figures although I understand a survey has been made by the State Board at Charleston--of unemployed drawn from other industries or living on poor, undermined, unworkable farms. This undermining of farm lands is a serious problem. From 2,000 to 3,000 acres of such land is permanently removed from the tax books each year in the five counties previously mentioned because, with coal removed, it is valueless waste, being so drained that vegetation cannot live on it. Thus more and more people who otherwise might become self-supporting are being pauperized. Today such people, added to the army of unwanted miners, bring the total of unemployed or unemployable to somewhere around 7,000, let us say. Mr. Gow, Acting Relief Director in Marion County, thinks this figure conservative. Even if good times came to the coal industry these people would still be a problem. A pick-up in existing industry would only partially solve it. A new "out" for these people must be found. With them out of the picture relief could be stopped in Marion and Monongalia Counties. Commodities distribution would have to continue.
Monongalia and Marion Counties each have about 60,000 population. Caseloads in both counties show a decrease in November as compared with October, the reason being that, with the reopening of schools and the approach of winter, clothing needs were acute. In Marion some work relief had to be given to hundreds of marginal farmers who had had good gardens and whose larders, as a consequence, were well-stocked but who needed things which they could not grow. Having worked to supply themselves with these things they went off relief. A similar condition obtained in Monongalia. These figures follow:
Caseload Nov. 15
Caseload Nov. 21:
PURSGLOVE operations. Owned by Pursglove Brothers, Cleveland. O., Commercial company operating three mines in Scott's Run. Employing about 790 men in the three mines. Ship by rail and Lakes to Cleveland and Duluth. Working 3 days a week at all mines. Have been doing slightly better and may do "a little worse."
EDNA GAS COAL CO., mine near Brady. 151 men employed. 2 days last week. Expect to do as well or better. This mine was described as "one of the worst in the country." Bad housing conditions and worst of slavery conditions until code came in. I was not able to get to see it but Union officials said things were "alright at Edna."
EVERITTSVILLE. Mines 1 & 2. Owned by Kopperas Coal and Transportation Co. (Mellon interests) 480 men have been working 1 day a week for the last three weeks. Expect to maintain but not to improve this schedule in near future.
American Sheet & Tin Plate Co., plant near Morgantown closed down since 1932. 700 men were employed. No greater number of them are on relief. The company has given space and donated tools to Relief organization which has set up a workshop for the making of stove pipe. Four men are at present employed there on work relief project but lack material. Stove pipe is greatly needed and many more men could be put to work were material available. Company also has given two buildings, or rather lent them, to the Relief organization which maintains a nursery school, sewing class, etc., in the premises. The machinery in this plant is out of date and could not operate economically. Buildings are first class and are kept up. But there is no hope of resumption.
This brings to mind a similar condition at Everson, Fayette Co., Pennsylvania, not hitherto reported. At this place another plant of the American Sheet & Tinplate Company, which is a subsidiary of the U.S. Steel Corp., shut down in 1929 and put more than 1,000 men out of work. The total population of Everson is 1.900 and with the car shops of the H.C. Frick Co., closed since June, 1931, practically the entire community is on relief. Another industrial tragedy occurred in the neighborhood of Everson when the U.S. Cast Iron Pipe and Foundry plant closed down in 1929, throwing 1,200 men out of work. But to get back to Marion County:
MORGANTOWN GLASS COMPANY. 203 employed. Prospects good.
PRESSED PRISM GLASS CO. Closed. Employed about fifty.
MISSISSIPPI GLASS COMPANY. 150 men on staggered payroll. Prospects fair.
GREENBERG SHIRT FACTORY. 10 men and 250 women employed. May shut down. Average wage for women $35 monthly. Was $13 before the code.
WEST PENN ELECTRIC POWER CO. 110 employees.
MORGANTOWN LUMBER CO. Formerly employed 200 men. Now gives work to about 20.
A.W. Hawley, secretary Preston Co. Coke Co., and member of the N.W. Virginia Code Authority....... Mr. Hawley felt that the coal business in Monongalia County was in a fair was of picking up. Retail business also was going ahead a little. Relief had been well administered in the County. Work relief had been given to those who could work; only those who could not had been put on direct relief. Relief had not been too lightly bestowed. A good many farmers were chiseling. The general relief situation in Monongalia was well in hand and reduction in the expenditure might be well looked for.
Not so in Preston County. That was a poor farming community. No timber operations to which they could turn. They would have to be kept on work relief for the present, certainly until Spring. The coal industry in Preston County was suffering from too high a code price. The Eastern Sub-Division of Pennsylvania Code Authority had been trying right along to force Preston up. The Preston mines did raise prices ten cents a ton as a result of the ruling of Deputy Administrator W.P. Ellis. Then they dropped back but now are afraid they will be forced up again. If so it would ruin their chances to expand. Preston Co. coal is high ash, very friable, unscreenable for domestic purposes. All they can sell are the larger steam plants, buildings, etc. for heating purposes. Cannot get into N.Y., Phila., or Baltimore because coal produces too much smoke. Have difficulty in selling it at all and consequently mines are working only 2 days a week and one-third of Preston County population is on relief. Mr. Hawley felt that the F.E.R.A. should take an interest in "a matter which is putting a heavy burden on relief."
Bill Simpkins, foreman at the furniture making plant of the Mountaineer Craftsmen's Association, Morgantown. The furniture cooperative gave work to from 15 to 20 men on a permanent basis. In addition it provided work for 100 men on W.D. rolls. Most of the furniture made went to Arthurdale. It was "lent" to the folks there and "remained the property of the F.E.R.A." A good deal of furniture was sold. Exhibit room at the Hotel Morgan. Another outlet was provided by a "traveling wagon" which visited summer resorts, etc., and got rid of a good deal. The plant could not be considered to be on a commercial basis. Costs were too high for that. But men were being reclaimed and that was "worth something."
Steve Deak, former loader at Sunrise mine, Scott's Run. Now working on lathe turning out chair legs and doing it expertly. "I wouldn't go back in a mine for ten dollars a day. I worked underground for 17 years. Loaded coal at Poland, in Fayette Co., Frick No. 2, Sunrise, Scott's Run--worked everywhere I could get work. Never got hurt in the mine but saw buddies killed. Never drove a nail until I came to work here. How'm I doin?"
The measure of relief being accorded here is totally inadequate. It I nit equal to fifty per cent of the standard budget. We are going to do something about it. Thousands on relief still starve. We have more than 3,000 members of the U.C. in my district which takes in Monongalia, Marion and a part of Harrison Counties and we are growing very fast. Conditions here, as you know, still remain intolerable. We are pledged to reveal the facts to the proper authorities. We are entirely out of sympathy with those who favor direct action but we are determined to unmask injustice and demand that it be righted. I am a member of the Communist Party but the membership of the U.C. is not Communist.
Note: A group of twenty-odd members of the U.C. entered the Monongalia Relief headquarters at Morgantown on Election night and refused to leave until their demands had been satisfied. The office was closed and they were told to return the next day. They announced their intention of remaining in the office all night and as long as "justice was denied them." They did remain in the hall outside the director's office until 3AM. Mr. Watson was not a member of this party and said that he could not say anything about it.
Rowell Reed, editor and principal owner of the two Morgantown newspapers: I do not think you have much to worry about in this county. The coal trade is doing better. The mines actually are operating on a fair margin of profit. They are "out of the red" right now and prospects are fair. Lack of credit is what is holding general business back. I am a member of the Board of one bank here. We cannot make any money. People have not listed collateral for loans. Our real estate is in bad shape. Something is wrong when a reputable citizen with a first class record cannot borrow to the extent of fifty per cent of the assessed valuation of desirable real estate. We cannot lend to such a person because real estate loans cannot be rediscounted. That is holding up business in this community. If legislation did not press down so hard upon us I feel sure that we could and would go ahead. As to relief I know a great deal about the way things have been handled here and I am convinced that it has been done as efficiently as possible. It has been divorced entirely from politics but it now seems that a marriage is to take place. Everything possible should be done to prevent it. The morale of our people is good; hopes are high. The radical element in this section of West Virginia is powerless and insignificant.
This chance to work has helped me and I thank God for Miss Davis. I am a widow with three children. I work six days now and also I get butter and flour. My children are going to school--they got clothes, too--and we all are so happy. Now I pay a little rent when I can.
The coal mining industry in the North West Virginia field is now, I feel, on a sound basis. It will have to iron out a few sore spots in the matter of freight differentials and when that is done, as I am sure it will be, there will be nothing to hold it back. Business already is picking up in the steel industry and things are looking brighter. Right now the mines in this field are working enough to show a profit. The relief picture is brighter--as a matter of fact I think relatively few miners are getting relief--I mean those other than the small army of unemployables of who we have been speaking--of course they cannot depend on the mining industry.
Mr. Hu Vandervort, President of the Morgantown Business Men's Ass'n and head of the Monongalia Dairymen's Association: Until about ten years ago there was no pasteurized milk in the rural communities of West Virginia. The children drank coffee--even infants--as well as tea and beer. That is one reason for much of the ill health in mining camps to-day. Four years ago the company stores began to stock fresh loose milk but instead of helping the situation so far as children's health was concerned this new departure brought more sickness into the camps than ever. The reason that the milk was contaminated by flies and from other sources after the miner brought it. He had and still has no means of protection food and many of our other epidemics are directly traceable to contaminated milk. The decrease in the use of horses has lessened the menace from flies and in this region adult education programs have made for cleaner milk. Milk still is not what it should be in many counties of W. Virginia. The U.S. Standard Milk Ordinance is observed only in four or five counties of W. Virginia. This is one of them. Mr. Vandervort had observed the improvement in the general health of mine children as a result of the distribution of clean milk by the Relief organization.
In his capacity as the head of the Business Men's Ass'n, Mr. Vandervort recently had been active in an attempt to bring industry to the county. He had approached a concern which makes metal spools used in the rayon industry in an endeavor to interest it in a plan to establish a plant for the manufacture of these spools in the vicinity of he abandoned plant of the American Sheet & Tin Plate Company. I should have said "closed" plant but if Mr. Vandervort's information is correct, the factory is "about to be dismantled." Had his attempt to interest the spool people been successful, part of the output of the tin mill could have been absorbed by the spool works which also would have absorbed 200 idle men. The spool plant would have been well situated to supply the Celanese Co., at Cumberland, Md., and also the Industrial Rayon at Cleveland. The plan was not completely abandoned; financial difficulties stood in the way. Mr. Vandervort said that the Continental Can Co., of Canonsburg, Pa., formerly had taken forty per cent of the tin mill's output, that it favored the particular sheet tin turned out at the mill and that it would again be a large customer for the material provided the plant should reopen and revamp production methods so that price of tin plate could not be reduced.
Mr. Vandervort, reverting to the question of relief, said that every indication was such as to point to a gradually reducible case-load. Everything, of course, depended upon the steel business and the railroads. But on the whole the coal situation was not only brighter but actually better. He firmly believes that "big business" now would cooperate and pull together for better production in all lines.
I find that the relief program in interfering not at all with trade or industry. The scale of pay on work relief and the amount of work given the needy is so small in comparison with the amount to be gained in any kind of a real job that no one hesitates to go off relief if other work can be obtained. We have no difficulty, for instance, in finding domestic help or part time cleaning women. The shirt factory pays little but it can get all the women it can use. We have a great surplus of female workers in this region. The relief organization is taking care of them in a sane way--giving them enough to keep them from dire want but not enough to make other jobs unattractive. I think our people would have done all they could locally to help in charity work. I do not believe we have let down at all because the Federal Government came in. I know our Club is raising just as much for charity as it ever did even in prosperous times. Our Community Chest drive brings in just as much as it did when things were better. We are all doing our best and I do believe that we are getting somewhere. Conditions of living which were so terrible in some of the camps of this region have been changed. People are happier--yes, I mean it--I really think they are much more contented now than they ever have been--they have an outlook on life which they have never had before.
Six business men in various retail lines agreed that the production for use program in the state had not hurt private initiative in the County. The beef canning project, the mattress making plant and, in fact, all production for use had encountered stiff opposition at Clarksburg and indignation at the canning project had penetrated even to Chicago from the packing plants of which the city canned meat for State relief formerly had come. All agreed that relief funds had helped retail business a great deal.
I don't want to move, I tell you. Why should I? It's all very well talking about good housing an' all that but what you goin' to do when you can't pay the price? The Relief lady comes up here and she says: 'Sam, you can't go on living like this.' Can't I? I says. We'll see about that. I'll live where I damn well please, I says. I'm doin' alright an' there's lots of places worser 'an this. I ain't agoin' to let 'em move me out into some dump that's painted up and costs five bucks a month. I pay nothin' here and it's worth it. I seen some of 'em as moved out of North America into eight buck places an' now where are they? They thought as if the Relief would pay the rent. Not me; I know what the Relief'll do. They'll get you hooked up for somethin' you can't pay for and then tell you to come around next week for a hand-out. Well, I never took none o' their hand-outs and I don't need none o' their damned advice about where to live.
Note: Jew Hill is an abandoned mining camp. Small mine hasn't worked for years and never will. There are 12 occupied shacks on the hill which is beautifully situated and logically destined by the Creator for a millionaire's home site. But now the place is unspeakably filthy. A report on conditions there says: "None of the houses are fit to live in, hardly fit for animals. There are 16 families in these houses. They all report to the place overrun with rats and mice at times. Coal is carried from the railroad or dug from the old mine. Water has to be carried up a steep hill, half a mile or more. Most of them have rain barrels. There are six toilets in the group. . . . Drinking was reported by the families themselves in all families but two. Most of them have gardens--some very good. Ten of the families have had one or more members in jail. There are 26 jail records in all. The health is poor. The Doctor warned the nurses. . . to take great care for almost everyone has some sort of social disease. Moral standards are very low. Eleven women are not living with lawful husbands."
One of the "unlawful wives" said to me: We get rent, coal and water free. We have good gardens which we can't move with us. My man's on work relief and works hard for what he gets. He doesn't get enough to pay rent. What's the sense of moving us out? We'd clean up the place if we had some help and it wouldn't be bad. We'd even get married if we had the money.
The plan is to move these people out and tear down the houses. They are admittedly bad. But again I say they're all working and hoping--these people--and immeasurably better off than the direct relief addicts housed in coke ovens and similar shacks a few miles out of Uniontown, Pa. I also visited North America, another abandoned mine camp where a demolition project is scheduled. Conditions are better than at Jew Hill and all the inhabitants feel, and I agree, that the houses could be fixed up.
We were able to maintain a fairly even line in employment during May, June and July. In August & September coal production was down. It gained appreciably in October and November to date. It now equals 97 per cent of the code allotment in the 12 1/2 counties embracing the Northern West Virginia field. With the coal situation improved there also has been a small pickup in other industry as well as a more appreciable retail merchandizing pick-up. People are slowly being absorbed back into industry--a few in coal--a few in factories. The F.H.A. has been responsible for the withdrawal of forty families from the relief rolls. Their office here has been very active and more than $100,000 in loans have been approved.
We have no white collar project here as yet. We have 117 white collar applications. A real estate survey is projected. It would give a picture of valuations and lead up to a demolition program. We have two sections along the river where a bonfire would be a blessing. But the project remains tentative. In the meantime twelve or fifteen white collar applicants have been placed this last fortnight in retail establishments. What we need also is something to take care of a surplus of 100 female workers. Many of them are people who never have worked before. This used to be one of the richest communities in the country. Robinson, our doorman downstairs, could have signed his check for $500,000 two years ago before the deal collapse. Now everything has gone. The City and County are unable to do their part. The bonded indebtedness is so great that the State Tax Commissioners will not approve any tax levy which would permit them to pay their share. There has been a $1,250,000 drop in assessment values within the last twelve months. The banks are doing nothing. They are turning down good risks. The building contractors have cooperated by taking H.O.L.C. loans. The people of the community are cooperating to help the needy. We have been able to get our case before them for the following reasons.
Mr. Sharp, of the Housing Administration, formerly was a newspaperman on the Fairmont Times. He has put over a publicity program in the press. I happen to be connected with the radio station WMMN, here in Fairmont. We broadcast F.H.A. facts and Consumers' Council facts as sent in by Dr. Howe and also we made known the situation regarding relief. We appealed for clothing and in our last appeal a few weeks ago got more than 100 useable garments and thirty pounds of piece goods. These were sterilized and cleaned. That is just an example. We have been doing this for years. Three years ago we got 29 truck loads of preservable foodstuffs from our radio appeals. Then State Relief came in and dampened the ardor but did not exterminate it. All private social agencies are helping to the limit; the newspapers have not only given publicity but also have raised Christmas funds each year. But people have to be jacked up. I heard last week that the Community Chest Committee was going to reduce the quota this year. I went over there and had it out with them. The attitude was that being that the Federal Government was taking the load, a private easing-up was in order. They were going to set the figures at $28,000. I talked to the Committee and as a result they put it at $34,500, the same as last year. They have $29,000 in hand to-day and there are still three days to go. They will reach the quota easily.
"There still would be funds available under the sales tax law. In Marion County we still should have upwards of 2,000 families which we should have to feed. That's being conservative--too conservative, perhaps."
"The answer to the whole thing is unemployment insurance. If this next Legislature passes an unemployment insurance bill we'd be alright. Otherwise the only way would be for the city and county to be allowed to increase taxation and so supply funds. We could get along then--a moderate increase would do it. But it would have to be a very, very economical administration. As it is we don't average $10,000 of State funds in this county while our average monthly expenditure is between $63,000 and $65,000."
"By no means. We must miss details as at present organized. I feel that it is a mistake to figure staffs on the basis of the number of active cases. We have 3,000 cases which are active but we examine 12,000. We do it as well as we can with the staff available but I am sure that a $12 a week employee could stop leaks which amount to losses of $100. We have stopped leaks, of course. Some of them. In January we had 7200 cases on the relief load, representing 28,000 people out of around 60,000. Investigation cut the load fifty per cent.
"We have three classes of client: the "gimme" class; the "trying" class and the dependent class. The "trying" class, I should say, numbers 85 per cent of the load. The "gimme" class principally is made up of farmers who don't farm for one reason or another and sit around hoping that someone someday will buy their coal rights. Some of them do spoof us."
"None whatever. The Unemployed Councils kicked up a rumpus here some time ago. There were organizers here from out of the state. We raided them and put several of them in jail on immorality charges--a bit of unhallowed miscegenation, I think. Since then they have not bothered us much. They make demands from time to time. We put on a special investigator to report to us. He keeps us informed."
CONSOLIDATION COAL CO. Rockefeller interests. Operating six mines in this county and 30 in Harrison County. The six here are: Carolina, 86; employing 814 men; Mononga, 63; employing 650 men; New England, 26; employing 140 men; Rivesville, 97; employing 412; Shaft, 38; employing 138; Jordan No. 93, employing 308. These mines worked 15 days in October and the average pay for loaders was $6,37 a day; cutters averaged $9.29. These figures supplied by the company but checked and found correct by the secretary U.M.W.A., Dist. 31. The mines will work 15 days this month and will average 12 to 15 days per month during December, January, February and March, according to Fred Krafft, assistant to the President.
"If this union organization continues to function as it is at present," Mr. Krafft added, "we shall have nothing to worry about. At present everything is running smoothly and business is getting better."
Mr. Krafft explained that the present relative success of the company was due to relationships, reciprocities, perfected selling organization, mechanization of the mines, new rolling stock, track, etc. The expected freight rate rise on January 1st would add 5 or 6 cents a ton to coal but that was not expected to decrease sales. They have a large variety of different kinds of coal to sell. More than 1,500,000 tons annually goes to its own subsidiaries. Coal is shipped to the Lakes, Duluth, Superior, Milwaukee and the company's yards at Cincinnati. A big domestic business also is done with Chicago, Toledo and Cleveland. Not one employee of the company was on relief nor would one be as long as there was a little money in Mr. Rockefeller's till. The company took care of its men. It even took care of people who were not employed by it. It had a social work program all its own. It employed doctors, nurses, dieticians. The Rockefeller Foundation had contributed $15,000 to its social welfare work. The houses were all kept up. There were gardens, playgrounds and what not. In short next to a plot in Paradise the best residential layout was a Consolidation Company house.
BETHLEHEM MINES CORPORATION, subsidiary Bethlehem Steel Corporation. Operating mines at Barrettsville and Dakota. Six hundred men employed at each mine. Worked 10 days in October and 9 in November to date. Expect 9 days in December. Mines have worked a total of 149 days to date this year. They worked 178 days last year.
Note: I omitted to mention under the heading Monongalia County that the Bethlehem Company has 3 mines in that county which have been down since 1931 or before. They are located at Richards, Bretz and Burke. This is Freeport vein coal for which demand is said to be lacking on account of its poor quality. One hundred and sixty families live in company houses in these three places and half of them are on work relief and a few on direct relief.
This company also owns three mining properties in Preston Division which have been closed down for years. At Masontown fifty families living in company houses are mostly on some sort of relief. At Kingwood, closed down since 1926, a dozen or so families live; at Sabraton mine, closed since 1929, another dozen families live. The others have moved and been absorbed partly at other mining operations. The company is collecting $5 a month rent for each house at these abandoned places.
Mr. N.A. Emslie, general superintendent at Barretsville, said that there were faint hopes for Richard mine. It might possibly be put to work on a short work schedule. No orders had come through on the matter but there had been some talk. The mine at Sabraton, he said, had been leased to the Sutherland Coal Co., and had worked until the American Sheet & Tinplate Co. mill had closed. Then the Sabraton mine had given up the ghost. If the tin mill started up Sabraton would possible "get a break."
At Barretsville and Dakota the men were drawing average pays of from $6 to $7 a day. In spite of that they still were getting "empty envelopes." Store bills ate up their earnings. They were improvident. None was on relief.
Mr. Emslie felt that the Federal Government could easily step out of the Northern West Virginia picture next Spring. Commodities might be given out, but work and direct relief could be done away with. A rehabilitation program which would take care of those who could fit into it would be in order. Coal miners never would fit into anything but coal mining. Coal miners at Arthurdale workshop were being coddled. Under other conditions they could not make a living in furniture making or other lines. Perhaps the exceptional man could do so but as a class miners could not and should not be put into anything but a mine. If business in the steel trade became good there would be very few surplus miners in this part of West Virginia.
Mr. Krafft, of Consolidation Mines, agreed with Mr. Emslie in substance.
CONTINENETAL COAL CO. Operating Brock 5, at Rivesville. 300 men employed. Worked 10 days in Sept.; 14 on October and 15 to date in November with 5 more expected. Dean Showalter, assistant to the President, Howard Showalter, said:
"We expect an increase in the coal business from now on and we expect March to be our banner month. We figure that orders will be good then in anticipation of a strike on the part of labor at the termination of the present wage agreement on April 1st, 1935. Our men already are talking about a 6-hour day at a dollar an hour. John Lewis, I am afraid, will find himself in a box and unable to stem the demand.
Asked about Bertha Consumers' mine at Eureka, Monongalia County, Mr. Showalter said that it was true that the Continental had bought the property. It would operate under the name of the Monongalia Rail and River Coal Corporation and Continental would be selling agent. The mine would be thoroughly modernized and new equipment installed. For that reason it would employ a reduced number of men--perhaps not more than 75 to 80.
VIRGINIA-PITTSBURGH COAL CO. (Hite interests) Morgan mine. 253 employed. Been working 2 and 3 days. Expect to continue at 2 days a week during the winter. Kingmont mine. 275 men employed. Have been working 5 days a week. Expect to continue for a week at this rate and then reduce, possibly, to 3 days weekly.
JAMISON COAL CO. Operating Jamison No. 8 and No. 9. Total of 400 men employed. Have been working three days a week and expect to continue for awhile. Mr. W.C. Dobbie, general superintendent, said: "The new wage scale forced us out of the Lake business. The Consolidation of the only company which can ship to the Lakes at this price scale. They own their own docks and their own ships but even at that they took a chance this summer and got away with it. We can't afford to speculate that way. Wages are too high for this field. But we're doing the best we can."
KOPPERAS COAL & IRON CO. Grant Town. 1,100 men working. Three days a week. Expect to continue. This company a Mellon concern. It is described as "having more outlets than any other concern except the Consolidation. Produces a good grade of Pittsburgh fuel and is working wee and developing the property.
"Let me tell you first what our industries here are. We have the Owens-Illinois Glass Company which employs 1,100 people. It ran well all summer but it's down to 75 per cent of capacity now. The company owns its own natural gas here so closed down its plant in Newark, O., and concentrated here. It makes all kinds of bottles and containers and at present it is hoping for more business as a result of the state going wet next March.
"Then we have the Aluminum Company of America's subsidiary known as the Fairmont Aluminum Company. It has been running two-thirds' capacity. The company is preparing to expand but the expansion program may not be fully realized for a year. In the meantime an immediate betterment in production is expected.
"Next in line comes the Domestic Coke Corporation, a Standard Oil organization, which makes coke and its by-products. It mixes local coal with coal brought in from Southern West Virginia and makes, I understand, tar from which by-products are extracted elsewhere. It employs 300 men and has been running to capacity for the last two years. It sells fuel coke.
"The Fairmont Mining Machinery Company makes mining equipment, runways, tipples, etc. It employs from 250 to 300 men and is quite spasmodic in its operations. At present it is in the receiver's hands. For the last few weeks it has been working fairly well, about 4 days a week. But a lay-off is due.
"The Helnick Foundry and Machine Company makes castings for mine cars and mining equipment. It employs 300 men when running full but it has not done so for several months. At present only 50 men are employed. The prospects for them depend upon orders from the coal companies.
"That ends the list of important activities outside of the coal industry, the power industry and the railroads. There is nothing much else of importance in the county not now. But four years ago we had here the Mononga Glass Company which produced both blown and machine glass. It employed as high as 1,000 men and was operated largely with local capital. It closed down in 1931 and the General Glass Company, of Lancaster, Ohio, acting with other glass companies, has assumed the interest payments on the bonds for the sole purpose of keeping this plant closed. It represents an investment of more than $2,000,000 and the machinery is in good condition and ready to operate.
"Now I do not know about the machine glass but I do believe that there is a wonderful opportunity for someone to come in here and take over the part of the factory which made blown glass. This part would be released, I am sure, by the General Glass Co., and it could be put back to work with $100,000 capital. Getting this blown glass works back again is the most crying need we have. We have lots of fine, experienced glass blowers on the relief rolls. The glass made here was famous. Founded here in 1910 by Mr. H.L. Heintzelman, a practical glass blower himself, this blown glass works produced what is known as "lead" glass of high quality and suitable for the highest grade of table glasswares. It now is much in demand by big hotels, restaurants, etc. and there is a good market for it. We see once chance of reviving an industry in connection with this plant. Something should easily be done with this--the glass-blowers are here--materials are here--everything is here except the initiative and the capital.
"Our greatest hope here for the future lies in the by-products which can be drawn from our coal. The success of the Domestic Coke Co., here is proof of the soundness of this idea. Of course there must be a market for the coke. These people have capital and can store it until the price is right to sell. We must have industrial development of some kind elsewhere to take this coke and gas produced. Then we could set up by-products extraction plants right on the ground here above the very best by-product coal which the world affords. Oh, it'll all come out right someday.
"In the meantime we are exporting about eighty-five per cent of the vegetables used in the county. They come from Pittsburgh and the south. Why can't we get people to work next spring growing vegetables on a larger scale and so help feed and employ our people?"
"We started remodelling this store on August 15th last. The plans called for a $50,000 expenditure and we had work for all the carpenters we could find. We couldn't find any. They were all working at Arthurdale. We were paying $1 an hour, regular union scale. We went to relief headquarters and begged them to help us. But the men of the carpenters' union preferred relief work at Arthurdale to working for us. They said they were sure of work all summer at eighty cents an hour and furthermore that Arthurdale was a "snap" job. They did not have to work as hard as they would have to under a contractor here. So they turned us down and we had to bring in men from as far as Pittsburgh. We went to the union and found that the secretary himself was working at Arthurdale. He was getting 30 hours a week at 80 cents an hour. He said that he would not come here, nor could he advise the union members to come here, as the job was not a permanent one. The foreman pointed out to him that the mileage on his car built up by daily return trips from here to Arthurdale was accounting for at least half of his pay there and, ceding to this argument, he finally came to work for us, fell off a ladder the second day and went on compensation.
"This situation regarding carpenters is chronic. Our job ended here on November 15th. We had difficulty in finding labor right along. If a mining company will furnish lumber the relief organization will supply union labor on relief to put up toilets, etc., free. Two of my best inside men are building toilets. I took them on last winter on salary and gave them odds and ends of repair work to do, including a remodeling job on our second floor millinery department in the old store across the street. As soon as Spring came I discharged them as work ran out. In August I wanted them again--I still want them--but they're building toilets and they're sure of a long job, they tell me. If they came to work for me they would have to be assured of a winter's job. I am not complaining but there should be a way to get such men off public funds when jobs are going begging. If the government puts men on at 80 cents an hour under such conditions there is no incentive for the private individual to build. I do not know about other kinds of skilled labor--we had no trouble with electricians, plumbers, tilelayers, bricklayers and cement workers.
"Let me say again that I am not complaining. But I am a bit interested in building something else. But I hesitate--the situation at the store resulted in a great loss to us. We were a month late in opening; a month cut out of our yearly business. I do not see how the individual can compete with the government on a building program. I think that one would do better to buy distressed property--there's plenty of it--but that, of course, doesn't make work and that is what is needed most of all."
HENRY W. FRANCIS