Monthly Archives: September 2016

Of Labor Days Past

Your life isn’t behind you;
your memories are behind you.
Your life is ALWAYS ahead of you.
~ Steve Maraboli

Garrett Elementary School (center) Floyd County, Kentucky

Garrett Elementary School (center) Floyd County, Kentucky

On this Labor Day holiday, it is with somewhat mixed emotions that I contemplate returning to work tomorrow. I recently decided that this school year will be my final one, and I look forward to full retirement next June.

So, it seems today is my last Labor Day holiday. I imagine I’ll be seeing and experiencing any number of “last time” things before leaving school for the final time next June. It has also occurred to me that, as student or teacher, I have returned to school after each Labor Day for the last 65 years.

When researching family history, I’ve often wondered what sort of jobs or work my ancestors were involved in to support their families. Except for some census and employment records, that sort of information was not documented very often. When asked, many of my ancestors simply said they were farmers and their wives were house keepers. In more recent times, coal mining became a common occupation.

John Wesley Baldridge

John Wesley Baldridge

There were some notable exceptions, however. My great grandfather John Wesley Baldridge was a farmer, but I know that he also served as a magistrate in Knott County, Kentucky, for a time. A magistrate, sometimes called a justice of the peace, was an elective office and their main duty involved serving on the county fiscal court, but in Kentucky, all justices of the peace could perform and legalize marriages as well.

Five Cent Scrip, Elk Horn Coal

5 cent scrip, Elk Horn Coal

After John Wes moved his family to Lackey in Floyd County, he owned and ran what was known as a scrip store at that time. Scrip were tokens or paper issued as wages to workers by coal companies which could be used for purchases in scrip stores. Later, they lived in Hueysville and he operated a general store and a corn mill.

Of his nine sons, eight were either farmers or coal miners. Pearl, the eldest, worked as a bookkeeper and attended seminary to become a minister. Two daughters were married and did not work outside the home. Minta, the youngest child, went to college and became a teacher.

Seco, Kentucky, coal mine

Seco, Kentucky, coal mine

My grandfather Fair was a coal miner for over 20 years until he moved to Ohio to find employment. I will tell more about his work life in a future story. His only son Rudolph, my father, also worked in the mines for a time, as did both of my brothers, Eddie and Bobby.

On my mother’s side, my grandfather Henry Workman was a coal miner for many years, and so was his father William, and all three of his sons. I plan to tell more about his work in mining in another story, too.

I began college the fall after graduating from high school in 1965 and finished graduate school six years later in 1971. I began teaching that same year until I retired in 2002. I have continued working each year in one school or another since then.

Apparently, it’s difficult for some people to adjust to retirement, the getting up every morning with nothing to do and nowhere to go. I don’t understand that. I won’t have nearly enough time to do everything I want to do then.
I have enjoyed my work life, but I can’t say I’ll miss it.
It is my past — my memories. My life is still ahead.

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Categories: Baldridge Tree, Coal Mining | 2 Comments

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