“And I Walked to the Mine”

[Wally] had a room on the third floor. It was like this room here. It was a good size room. But what did he do—it wasn’t big enough—he broke through the wall into the attic itself, so he’d have a larger one. So he decided that he would put his bed in that extra room, so he’d have a bigger room out here.

Because he was always experimenting with something, always making up sketches and making something on his own, see? He was very clever about having new inventions of his own making. That was what happened there.

Entrance to an Anthracite Coal Mine Showing Elevators 1943I would sometimes think that he was working, and instead of that I’d come home and find him in bed where he wouldn’t go to work today.

He decided to get a special job. They were opening up a new tract of land in which they were going to have some kind of industry or something. Wally got a job with them, unknown to me. I thought he was at school all this time, but here he was working on this job. When I found out, I felt pretty bad because I was anxious for him to graduate.

He really didn’t have time to wait to graduate. He had to do his own thing. So anyway he started to work for this organization. He was getting along fine. It was like a mine because they had like mine cars underneath. He was on these. All at once, another car somewhere else had a wreck and the fellow was killed that was driving it. Whenever anybody got hurt, everybody was laid off for that day.

Wally came home, unknown to me, and I went up to his room for something and there he was lying down on the bed. Of course, he used to get up real, real early if he had that shift and fix his own breakfast that he wanted. I never knew when he was going to get a change of shift. And anyway, I went up there and he was in bed. I was scared to death because I thought he was hurt. Instead of that, this other man who was known to him was killed. That meant they didn’t have any more work that day. He was quite upset about it. It was doing the same kind of work that he was doing.

[Barbara]: I think that he told me later on he took that man’s place and he was promoted to his job.

I don’t remember that part, but I do remember that he was very upset about this fellow. He knew him.

[Barbara]: Maybe I should ask Wally to make a tape about all his stories.

Ask him about that because he could tell you more about it. He never explained very much to me about what happened, except I knew that he was running these little cars in the mine. See, they called it a mine. That particular operation is still in existence as far as I know.

partial transcription of Virginia’s life story as told to Barbara Duncan (Wally’s wife) in the summer of 1987, courtesy of Barbara Duncan

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.).

  • Do you recall the name of the mine in which Wally was working?
  • Do you remember any other stories from the mine?
  • Can you share any memories of Wally inventing up in his third-floor bedroom?
  • Did he re-finish the attic portion or just shove the bed over there?
  • I would guess this even happened while his father was away at war. The dates that his father was around during the war and that he was gone are unclear. If this happened after the Merchant Marines incident, it would be about 1943. What do you think?
  • Lee, Betty, Steve, what do you recall about your own lives in 1943?
  • Neither is it clear whether they were living in Newton or in Drexel Hill at this point? What do you guess?
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One thought on ““And I Walked to the Mine”

  1. Steve Duncan

    Wally was working in a tunnel below Newton Center, I believe, and was being built to carry water or be a reservoir and indeed it was quite a way down below Newton. Yes, a guy got killed and that was because his head got between two mining carts which were heavy and in tow were close together.
    As for the room he made in the Auburndale house (16 Washburn Ave), it was through the atic wall but under the roof. The plaster walls were put up but no insulation was between the roof and the newly arranged wallboards. It was hot in there in the summer and cold in the winter but it was his doing and he was pleased with the result. It was also “private”. All this occured in the years ( perhaps 1950 +/_ ) after the Second World War while Dad was teaching at Bently School in Boston.
    In 1943 we were living in Drexil Hill and Wally had his own adventures there but I was only three and can’t remember much if anything of those years…until 1944 or 45 when the war ended.

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