Albert Clark – Retired Coal Miner, North Sydney, Cape Breton

My father worked in the mine, I can’t tell you how many years. During the 1925 strike, he got out of the mine and went into business. Then he went back into the mine for a short while before he died. He didn’t like to see us going in the mine but there was nothing else around here at the time. I wore out about four pairs of shoes going to see the manager. He had an office with a window that had a shutter. When you went to see him, he would open the shutter to see what you wanted.
I worked in Florence Colliery (No. 3) for 22 years and I worked in the Princess for 21 years. Then I went on pension in 1969.
I was 17 when I started. I did practically everything: I shifted pans, I loaded coal, I filled in for brushers, I trapped doors. Before I retired, I ran a donkey.
If I told you what some of the men had in their lunchpails during the Hungry ’30s, you wouldn’t believe me. Mickey Higgins, he was secretary-treasurer of the union, he was in the Princess one time, looking at the condition of the roof. He told me he saw people who went to bed after a supper of bread and turnips.
That’s what happens when a miner works only one, two or three days a week.
Coal mining was good. If you could get top management who were sincere and didn’t take all the cream and leave you the skim milk – then coal mining was good. The worst thing about it was the coal dust. That was unhealthy and, in those days, there were no masks to wear. When they finally got masks, it was too late for us old people.
But you’d never meet a crowd like the coal miners. New fellas who might have heard me and another old-timer scrapping in the pit would say, I wouldn’t like to see those guys drinking on Saturday night, it’d be awful. But then another fella would say, You should see them in the parlour – they’re bosom buddies.