by Polla Horn
for The Frostburg Express
Helen Drummond Skidmore
The Coal Miner Memorial Statue Committee would like to thank Helen Drummond Skidmore, age 92, the aunt of researcher Polla Drummond Horn, for sharing her memories of growing up in a coal-mining family.
My daddy (James Turner Drummond) was a coal miner. As far as I know, that’s the only job he ever had. We lived in Borden Mines in a small company house. There was Mom (Dora Dickey Drummond) and Daddy, and five children: Margaret, Alice, John, Bill and me. A brother and sister died before I was born. Daddy worked in Frost Mine, Broken Hart Mine, and he and Mr. Shriver had a small mine of their own. I guess our life was not much different than anyone else’s; we were poor but we didn’t know it. Daddy always had a beautiful garden and Mom canned all the vegetables. My brothers, John and Bill, picked all kinds of berries in the summer and Mom would can those also. My brothers would take buckets of berries to town and sell them to shop keepers for a little extra money. Mom kept a few chickens so we had eggs. We had a spring which ran under the house and it kept butter, milk and other things very cold.
We had the best cherry trees in the yard; they were dessert cherries, not pie cherries. They were yellow and Mom kept an eagle eye on them because as soon as they got a little pink blush they had to be picked. She canned them and we enjoyed cherries all winter. When berry picking time was over and winter was upon us John and Bill would go to the coal tipple and pick coal; they could sell the coal in town.
My mom took in sewing for a little extra money. She charged 50 cents to make a church dress and 25 cents to make an everyday dress. She was always baking or making candy on our old wood stove. She made the best fruit cakes with fruit we grew, not like the ones you buy today. She made so many of them that the batter had to be mixed in a wash tub.
Christmas was always fun; Daddy, John and Bill went to the woods to cut down the Christmas tree and we made decorations for it. We didn’t get many gifts but I remember getting a doll dressed in a pink taffeta dress and bonnet; I had her for years.
Mom would prepare all kinds of goodies for New Year’s Eve when the first-footers came. We celebrated the Scottish tradition of Hogmanay which could last for several days. (In Scotland the typical meal consists of haggis, neeps and tatties, cock-a-leekie soup, venison pie and shortbread.) Mom made haggis and shortbread but not the other foods. After dinner, at the strike of mid-night “Auld Lang Syne” was sung followed by a toast to health, wealth and happiness for the coming year. That was followed by the first-footers; we waited with anticipation to see who the first tall, dark, handsome man would be to cross our threshold. Traditionally, the “First-Foot” in the house was to bring a coin for good fortune, bread for food, a pinch salt for flavor, a small lump of coal for warmth and a sprig of evergreen for long life.
Mom died in 1940 when I was 14, Daddy died four years later from miner’s asthma. Christmas and News Years were never quite the same after that; but even today, when I think of those childhood celebrations, I remember the fun we had and the joy that lasted for a life time.
The Coal Miner Memorial Statue Fund is accepting contributions for the placement of a bronze statue to honor all of our Georges Creek miners and name those who perished while mining.
Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to
Foundation for Frostburg CMMSF
Frostburg, MD 21532.
We welcome updated information and encourage your participation.
Contact Polla Horn at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bucky Schriver at email@example.com
to share your thoughts and stories. Be on the lookout for future “Miner Recollections”.