Friday, June 29, 2012
*Blozovich, Messa recall days in county's mines
Ad-Express/Iowegian, 20 February 1998
Annual Progress Edition - Heritage Section
By Julie McClure, Staff Writer
"I finished school after the eighth grade and began working with my father in 1929 in a coal mine. Back then most 14 year olds were finishing school and would then go to work with their fathers in the mine," said Rudy Blozovich, who worked in coal mines during 1929-1956. He graduated from eight grade at Rathbun school. There wasn't a high school when he was going to school.
Blozovich worked in several mines including Empire mine, Sunshine Coal Co.'s No. 3 and 4, and out west in New Mexico.
He performed several jobs while working in the mines. He loaded coal adn ran a mining machine. It took three peope to run the machine so they worked as a team. The machine that they used is on display at the old post office museum in Centerville.
The miners worked eight hour days when he first started mining, but later they switched to seven-hour days. "We did just as much work in seven hours as we did in eight," said Blozovich.
During the winter months when a large amount of coal was needed they sometimes worked six days per week. The sixth day was on Saturday. During the regular season they cut back to five days per week.
It was not always a day job; sometimes Blozovich worked from 4 p.m. to midnight or the swing shift. During the swing shift the miners would have to cut coal so the next day the miners would have coal to load.
Safety equipment was not invented for the mines so there were minor injuries.
Pit lamps and hard hats were about the only pieces of equipment that miners wore in the mines. When Blozovich worked in the mine out west, he wore hard hats and used a battery light.
Around 130-150 men at one time worked at Sunshine No. 3 mine.
"Most of the old timers are all gone now, most of by buddies anyway," said Blozovich. "I didn't make much money as a coal miner, but we made a living out of it."
Blozovich enjoys to hunt and fish and cultivates a property in Rathbun to raise a pretty good sized garden each year.
In 1921 Frank Messa began his career in the coal mines. He worked in the mines from the time that he turned 16 years old until 1971 when the mines shut down due to the railroads switching to diesel engines.
"The coal mines went to the dogs when the railways began using diesel. We were about finished when they shut down," said Messa.
"I've just about done everything there is to do in a mine," said Messa. Messa began working in the Walnut Creek mine and trucked for the mine. The miners at this particular mine shipped coal up to 100 mines to the west.
Messa also dug goal by hand, ran a mining machine, drove ponies and mules, trucked and loaded the coal while working in the mines.
The machine that he ran is now at the museum in Centerville. "The machine ran real good at the time and it was still working when we shut the mine down," said Messa.
When Messa started working in the mines he father, Dominick Messa, was on strike. He along with many other miners were out of work for two years due to the strike. After the strike the miners were represented by a union. Messa also had three brothers that all mined.
When he graduated from school after the eighth grade, he began working in the mine. He attended school in Jerome. At that time there was a two-year high school, but he didn't attend.
Messa worked five days per week during the winter months from about August through April and then when ever there was work to be done. The work days covered eight hours. "When I was younger the eight-hour days seemed to drag on, but as I got older they were hardly long enough," said Messa.
One time when he ws trying to pump some water to get a drink the water wouldn't come on so he turned the air shaft[s fan on and the stairs fell out. This was an escape route which had been rotted by the ice from the winter. They had to repair the stairs before returning to work so that if the mine fell in they would have a way to escape.
Messa recalled a close call once when he had his head between the roof on a coal car. Another near accident was when a 10-foot rock of coal fell and covered the hole the he was in. The tunnels that the miners worked in were 28 inches deep. Eighteen inches were known as the top coal and the other 10 inches were called the bottom coal. "We worked on our hands and knees all the time, so we had really rough hands after working in the mine," commented Messa.
In 1971 when Mess was forced to end his job in the mine, he went to work at the lake for Earl Simmons and Bill Webb at the hatchery. In his free time now he enjoys playing cards, especially pitch.
"I was just a hard working coal miner in those days," laughed Messa.
Editor's Note: *Blozevich and Massa are the correct spelling of the names of these miners.