Francis Wilhelm

I was six years old when my mother died, so there was just me, my brother Roy and my dad. Daddy was a coal miner. That was a dangerous job for a man whose children did not have a mother. I guess one of my best memories is Daddy coming in to our bedroom early in the morning. He always gave us a kiss before he left for work because he didn’t know if it would be the last kiss. I can’t remember all the mines he worked in, there were a few. I recall the Koontz mine and he worked for Consolidated for awhile but I don’t know where they were. He left early, always walking and carrying a lunch bucket. The bucket was round and had three compartments. The bottom was for his drink, the middle for his sandwich and the top for dessert. His sandwich was made with homemade bread (he wouldn’t eat store bought bread), and he didn’t take a piece of pie, he took half a pie every day. I was just a young girl when my aunt taught me how to bake bread and pies to keep his bucket full. He usually got home around 3:30 to 4:00 in the afternoon, just when we would be getting out of school. We could hardly wait to look in his bucket to see if he saved us a piece of that pie. He came in the house, got a home brewed beer and sat at the end of the table. He was as black as the coal mine but had to have the beer before his bath. The old wooden tub sat in the kitchen and he’d fill it with water and soak the day away.

Daddy never had a lot of time to play with us but we were always with him. He worked on Grandma’s farm when he wasn’t mining. He did what needed to be done for her and she repaid him with milk. He also grew a nice vegetable garden so we had plenty to eat.

On weekends he gave my brother and me a quarter a piece to go to the theater and then to Bob Marshall’s for a treat. Daddy was always waiting on the corner to walk us to our home on Douglas Avenue. One time he walked some of us up the mountain to Koontz Mine. He took us in to the first gate. That was far enough for me— it was dark in there! There was a brick yard up near Koontz Mine where we would walk when we were kids. Teddy Watson was a guard there after the brick yard closed. He would take us for rides in the cars which looked like coal cars. Daddy said the cars were pulled by ponies which were in the mines all the time. He said the ponies would go blind from working in the dark. It was a hard life back then but it was a good life and the best part was those early morning kisses.

Our committee would like to thank Wilda Wilhelm Walker of Frostburg for her recollections. 

Authored By: Wilda Wilhelm Walker

How can you help?

The Coal Miner Memorial Statue Fund is accepting contributions for the placement of an educational memorial near the crossroads of the state Route 36 and the national Road in Frostburg. A bronze statue will honor our Georges Creek Valley miners and name those who perished while mining. Tax-deductible donantions can be mailed to the Foundation for Frostburg CMMSF, P.O. Box 765, Frostburg, MD 21532.

Please email: Polla Horn or Bucky Schriver to share your thoughts and stories.

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