I wrote this book to provide
a keyhole view of the daily life of a coal-mining family struggling
for ten years during the Great Depression, beginning in 1929,
in and near Dora, Alabama, in eastern Walker County. Millions
of Americans grew up during the Great Depression with its punishing
torment, hunger, and pain. Many of those hardy Americans are
living today with a memory bank of valuable historical knowledge,
but their number is rapidly diminishing. I have talked to many
of these people who are proud of their childhood days and are
eager to discuss them, but very few are inclined to document
their stories. Even more rare are eyewitnesses who grew up in
coal-mining camps during the Great Depression and are willing
to write about their experiences.
Confronted with these
unfortunate realities, I considered my alternatives and made
an easy decision: I would tell their stories. I have gathered
the stories of people from a poor class of coal-mining families
whose primary struggle during the 1930s was to grub out a living
day by day rather than to create history. But their daily struggles
did make history, and perhaps this book, in a small way, will
contribute to the preservation of authentic rural Southern culture
in the state of Alabama during the Great Depression.
With great pleasure I
am sharing this piece of history with you on the following pages.
I based several of the events described in this book on stories
I have heard repeatedly from members of my family and from friends.
Since most of the vignettes are based on my memories from boyhood
with their inherent flaws, I neither claim nor imply that the
names, times, or dialogue are absolutely accurate. But the names
of the people in these stories are genuine with a few exceptions
to save embarrassment for certain families.
Memory flaws aside, I
made a strong commitment to present the events as they occurred
in detail with minimal alterations and fabrications. I was also
committed to present authentic traditions, customs, routines,
beliefs, and lifestyles of coal-mining families living in this
Southern locality during the 1930s. I wrote in simple language
utilizing numerous colloquial words and expressions for the purpose
of preserving rural style and the dialect of priceless moments.
I had no words of my own to credibly describe the depth of hollow-eyed
stares and crushed spirits of proud, strong men and women who
endured ten years of unfathomable hardships.
I have included several
national and state news events that occurred during the ten years
covered by this book. Most of them were factual lightning bolts
that directly impacted the lives of most people in this country,
while others sent shock waves worldwide.