Interview with Lester Abel.
What did the people think when the company started selling the houses?
There was different opinions, see the union was here at that time. Some of the head officials of the union thought the company was trying to put something on them. They advised the men not to buy the houses. The president of the local, he advised a bunch of us not to buy our house and by the very next morning, he had bought his.
Have you lived here most of your life?
No, we lived here 33 years the 14th day of March.
Was Consol a pretty good company to work for?
I never did have too much trouble with them. Some of the foremen, they tried to run things.
I worked here before I retired 49 1/2 years.
The company owned everything — the hospitals, doctors, the town. They were in charge of everything. They took so much out of your pay check for these services.
Do you remember how much your rent was?
I think the most house rent we paid was $7.50 a half, they was $14 a month. Course, you had to buy your coal. They furnished the electric at that time and water.
Do you remember when the first telephone was put in here?
I can’t remember when the first telephone was put in; service wasn’t put out to the individual until after the union.
Did you help organize the union?
No, I didn’t help organize it, but I was one of the first to join it and was elected to office and remained an officer as long as I worked.
Where was the first union meeting held?
The first meeting place we had was up here in the school building. Then eventually we moved up into the auditorium. Then we bought that place out — straight across from where your house is now used to be a cottage house. We rented that out to Dr. Perry for an office, then eventually we bought this place over here.
What changes have you seen in Jenkins?
Maybe the biggest change that hurt Jenkins back in the depression, the company changed their method of mining. We mined all the coal up to that time, and then they decided they had to have coal faster and they went to what they call “wide room”. Most of these mines that have shut down would still be in operation if they had mined the method they started. The big change come when they went to mechanical mining. That took a lot of jobs. At one time the population here was 9,000.
Did the store have a good line of groceries?
Consol had the best line of groceries that has ever been here. They had the best line of flour that has ever been here — “Queen Quality”; it was real good flour.
Did they have other things like clothing?
Yes, they did. When you come here you just took a lease out and buy any kinds of furniture or clothing. In fact, when Consol first set up here you had to trade with them, you didn’t trade with anyone else. I remember one time I went over to Potter’s Fork and got something and the company got all over me. They said they figured on getting 60% out of every dollar that you made back through the company store. At one time if you worked here, you had to rent a house. They was fellows out of Virginia that never did rent a house, but they had to pay rent.
This article first appeared in “History of Jenkins Kentucky” Compiled In Honor Of The Sixtieth Anniversary Homecoming Celebration 1912‑1973 by the Jenkins Area Jaycees.
The authors and publishers of the 1973 printing failed to include a copyright notice and according to our understanding of copyright law it is now in the public domain.
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