The following miner’s name was submitted to Miners’ Memorial by daughter Eda R. Hobson. Her brothers Edo (Ed) and James (Jim) Reda provided the information for the story.
Antonio Reda was born on November 15, 1887 in Paterno, Calabria, Italy. At an early age, Pa had heard of the mines in Kansas. He came to the area at the age of 18. He always believed one should be compensated for the work accomplished and that is what attracted him to the mines. Despite the fact that he realized how dangerous this work was, he had no choice, for he neither spoke nor understood English when he arrived in America.
He married Carmella M. Filosa who was born in 1896. Their five children, Judy (Marrazzo), James (Jim), Edo (Ed), Eda (Edie) (Hobson) and Mary (Pones) Reda, are still living. Edo and Eda are twins.
Pa became one of the best miners in the area. Due to the seasonal nature of work in the mines, he bought a small farm in the Cherokee area. Pa kept us well fed and very happy. He always said to give thanks to the Lord and count our blessings. We can truthfully say we never heard him complain. He was a proud man and would never ask for credit. If he didn’t have the cash, he didn’t buy.
There is always more to a job than one realizes. We remember Pa saying that one had to be aware of the dangerous surroundings in a mine because there were no fringe benefits. If a miner was hurt, there was no insurance and no union, so one was never compensated for injuries.
The deep mines in the area were approximately 100-250 feet deep, and the coal veins were two and a half to four feet thick. The average work force was approximately 200 men per mine. Southeast Kansas was known for the best coal in the state. Each mine had its own labor camp (living quarters) and general store. In essence, “you owed your soul to the company store”.
Son Jim Reda, now age 88, said “I went to work in the mines at the age of 18 for three years under the watchful eye of Pa.” He did not want me to work in the mine, however, there was no other work available during the Depression. He told me the first thing a miner needed was coal miner’s trousers; then, a carbide lamp, cap and a lunch pail. The lunch pail was designed to hold approximately one-half gallon drinking water in the bottom and sandwiches in the upper half. The carbide lamp was placed on the front of the miner’s cap so that it would provide light whichever direction the miner turned his head.
The first day I went down into the mine, I was mystified. It was an experience I have never forgotten. If there was a good vein of coal to mine, a person could earn almost $2.50 per day!
An air shaft gave the miners fresh air and was sunk at the same depth as the working mine. The workday was eight hours. Mules were also lowered into the mine to pull the coal cars and rock (slack) to the main shaft cage. Once the workday was over, the miners had to prepare for the following day. This preparation consisted of drilling four holes, one and a half inches in diameter and six feet in length, and packing the holes with black powder and a fuse.
The shot firers would go down and light the fuse which would ignite the powder to loosen the coal and debris for the next day’s loading. The shot firers also “gas tested” the area and marked it with crosses. One cross meant the area was workable and safe, two crosses indicated the area could be worked, but the coal lamp had to be placed at ground level. Three crosses were a signal to stay out of the dangerous area until the ventilation was adequate.
Two mules named Joe and Jack were the pets of all the miners. Jack became a special mule after coming into contact with a high voltage line. It burned off half his tongue and half of one ear. Surprisingly, when the mine closed the mules were still there. They were put up for sale. Pa bought both of them and we used them on the farm. They lived comfortably to a ripe old age.
We are a happy family and most proud of our father who mined coal in the Pittsburg area for 44 years for the Simon Mines No. 7, 42, 50 and 9. He ended his mining career working for the Kruger Coal Company in Cherokee. Pa died at the age of 85 and Ma died at the age of 83.
Our parents loved their new country and were proud to be American citizens.