Early 1900’s: Gypsies at Ingle #7 Mine

It’s been awhile since I shared a Kitty Keeton story.

Here’s a good one for spring and summer, about a day when the Gypsies came calling in the early 1900’s at the  Ingle #7 Mine.

We call them Traveler’s now rather than Gypsies.  But I do still hear people calling them Gypsies every now and then.  Whatever you call them, they will try to trick you out of some of your hard earned money.

“It was 3 1/2 miles to walk to the mine. Had to be in mine to “face” meaning back to our loading working place inside the mines possibly a mile. At 5  I was eating breakfast and listening for the loud steam whistle. Every mine had a different sound. No. 7 was a loud full sounding — some were more shrill.  If the whistle at 5:15 AM, blew one long whistle, go back to bed — no work at the mine today. But when the second whistle came, we know that another or three whistles meant grab that filled dinner bucket and start coming to work. Rain or shine.

We were supposed to be out of the mine at 3 P.M. A loader sometimes got his cars that was allowed him filled and could get out before 3:00 and go to the wash house, pull off the coal mine clothing, take a shower, and change clothes and vamoose for your home. Men went all directions. We used boots and slicker water repellant coats when it was raining or snowing to make the trip. Also Gum shoes in the mine to make it safer deal about the electric shock.

The above made me think of a deal of Gypsies. Always a conniving, stealing bunch of transients. Even now the same thing happens in the Spring, but now they use cars, vans, trucks — then wagons covered and drawn with horses. The women are the thieves, always taking someones hand saying they will tell your fortune. Possibly another slapping him on the back while maybe a 3rd one was lifting his Billfold.

But that day, I had got turn loaded and out about 2:00, washed and changed clothes & standing in front of the commissary — a store that was there where we ordered powder, bought carbide, gloves, carbide lights, cookies, cigars, tobacco, and this little weiner cans then at 10 cents a can, cigars 2 for 5 cents, called Stogies. I had my rabbit fur hat on and clean clothes smoking my Stogies and about 3 of these gypsy women came to me trying to tell my fortune.  

I told them I was charged to come from my Pay things I bought at the mine store, and I told them that the foreman was in that brick building to the south about 100 feet and they had the money. I let them to the door and opened the first door, the second went in the General Shower wash house for the 200 to 250 that worked there. The second door was there to keep the cold air from coming in from the north side while men were taking a shower. When we entered the first door I pointed to the second door and said, “Go in there. There is where the Boss’s are”.

They were all duck fashion falling over one and another and when they opened the door, some of the men yelled out, “Keep out, this is a man’s wash house”. Some hid behind the locker and others just laughed. The three women almost knocked me down trying to pass me and the language they were yapping I’ll never know. And I presume if I would have known what they were saying I would have wanted to slap them down. They went to their wagons where men were waiting for them and left at once.

One time at Uncle Charlie’s, on the Winslow and Arthur road, Uncle lived in a nice country frame home-had a nice garage-where he worked on his own cars. He knows just the thing to do and they run fine. I was there and he looked out the front of garage and said, “Look, gypsies”. Three women jumped out of a covered wagon and came to the garage saying, “Tell your fortunes, tell your fortune, you are lucky”. Uncle’s hands were greasy and black since he was working on his car, he made a little run for them and he said “I fix cars and usually have to fix a few women every time I get a chance and here is where I am going to fix 3 right now”. It was funny to see them run for their wagons. He was rubbing his greasy hands together when he started after them and it worked.”