Coal Mining Families
By: Arnold Wyrick
By: Arnold Wyrick
Jackson County, IL - "He raised a big family on a coal miners wages. And my father raised me that way," says Charlie Martin about his family tradition of working in coal mines for the past seventy five years.
As he follows his father into the mines. " Well my grandfather was a coal miner, my dad, my brothers. I started out construction and it worked right into the coal mining industry. And I've been there every since," says Bernard Martin.
And Bernard Martin followed his father and brothers into the mines. "I guess the good money. I've been coal mining since 1968. I started at Surry Mine and then I went to Captain awhile, then I went to Horse Creek awhile," says Johnny Martin.
Now Johnny Martin works at Knight Hawk mining in Jackson County with his brother, and nephews.
"Oh yeah fathers been in it, grandfather and all of them have been in it for years. It's a good job and everybody can stick together and work hard at it. And you know just be a family," says Daniel Martin.
But when you're working around family in such a dangerous job, you learn to take the good … "We sit around the table and talk about it. And laugh and carry on and joke about each other all day long." ….along with the bad. "Yeah that could happen too. That worry is also there."
Still his 21 year old son Joe Martin joined him at the coal mines.
"Well my families done it everybody I know in my families done it as long as I can remember, it seemed like a pretty good job. And every body makes a pretty good living. So I figured why not," says Joe Martin.
And so did Bernard's sons when he convinced them to follow their families tradition in coal mining. "Well he told me you had to be safe it's a real dangerous job especially in a prep plant where I started out. You know there's a lot of moving parts, belt lines, conveyor belts stuff like that, wear your hard hat and be safe," says Charlie Martin.
But there's a lot more to working in such a dirty job, when your digging for coal on a daily basis. You see none of the Martin family has ever worked underground, they've always worked in strip mining. "One of the people I admire most in life is my father. And following in his footsteps is a pretty good honor." "It goes back to a childhood dream when you're playing in the sandbox with heavy equipment, and we get to do it as adults. It's something else, it's a good experience," says Michael Martin.
And one they'd all gladly share with future family members.
"I hope so, I hope the grandsons, and all of them do it. It's in our blood, it's just a coal mining thing," Bernard said with a smile on his face.