Sunday, September 7, 2014

My Grandparents: Oscar Wakefield and Sallie Maud (Minton) Beaman

For a little girl full of energy, with two younger siblings, Mom and Pop's house was my haven. I could, and did, run clothes through the wringer washer, take blankets and sheets outside and make huge "Arabian" tents over the clotheslines, frequently cause volcanoes to erupt in the kitchen, and play with snakes in the yard. They put up with it all, with kindness and patience.

Their house had a wrap-around porch lined with pots of flowers and a swing. I liked nothing better than to set on the swing in the midst of a thunderstorm. Mom would be calling out the window, "Judi Ann, get in this house before you get struck by lightening," or some such. I still love thunderstorms.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A true "Labor Day"

You can visit just about any long-operating city in this country and find a local monument to the rich capitalist who built the mansion during year whatever. But you have to look far and wide to find memorials to the people whose labor created those riches, to those who died in the battles for such modern-day givens as the eight-hour work day and weekends off, and to the organizers who brought the workers together into the unions that helped create the nation’s now-disappearing middle class.

Scott Martelle
Los Angeles Times
“Opinion: The new battle over Blair Mountain -- with lawyers instead of guns.”

Clyde Eastham
The crutches are due to a mine injury.
"On a hot summer day in 1921 Clyde Herbert Eastham slung his shotgun over his shoulder, kissed his young wife and babies goodbye, and marched out the door of his cramped coal camp cabin to join thousands of other West Virginia miners in a strike that had the attention of the entire country."

That is the beginning of a story I wrote about my grandfather, Clyde Herbert Eastham, and his participation in the struggle to unionize the coal mines of West Virginia. This particular attempt culminated in the Battle of Blair Mountain and ended in defeat. Thousands of miners marched in West Virginia tired of their working conditions, including the murder of many who tried to change the system.  They made a stand on Blair Mountain, against an army of “special deputies”, Baldwin-Felts thugs, state police, and eventually federal troops, accompanied by 14 armed bombers. My grandfather was blacklisted from the mines for years, but he continued the effort, even holding secret meetings at his home.