A West Virginia woman remembers growing up in a tough coal mining community in this memoir.
“Current day Minden is a small and economically depressed community of homes,” remarks Frazer. Yet during her childhood, this small mining town, some 50 miles southeast of Charleston, West Virginia, was a hive of activity. The author captures Minden in the 1940s and ’50s, the end of the boomtown era, a time when she was still in school. Frazer, youngest of seven brothers and sisters—after Squeaky, Charles, Robert, John, Sue, and Ann—is known as “Sissy Crone.” She writes of growing up in Minden: “The vibrant wildflowers gave us beauty, the church gave us faith, and the miners represented work ethics.” This ability to find beauty and positivity in a place that others referred to as a “hole” permeates the book. This is a record of a bygone way of life, a time when the boys beat the girls at marbles, but the girls outplayed them at jacks. Frazer effortlessly captures the naïveté of childhood. Instances such as when she innocently asks her mother why their neighbor Maggie has a red light in the window should make readers’ hearts melt. Reverence of the hardworking, blue-collar father figure is palpable: “He always has a tidy appearance. He is not a big frame man, but his body is tough as a rock from the years of mining coal.” Yet this is a broader celebration of the love and tenacity of the American working-class family and the tightly knit community in which it is housed. Frazer’s (A Walk Through Minden, 2016) writing style is uncomplicated, matter-of-fact, and laden with aphorisms: “Daddy says that you can’t live in fear because it can eat away at you. He and Mama say we should be grateful for what we have.” This is by no means a criticism, as the author’s plain language mirrors her subject faithfully. This is an important book, as it forms a record of everyday life that would otherwise be lost with the passage of generations. Illustrated with photographs throughout, the account offers stories that have a cumulative emotional power, vividly evoking mid-20th-century life in a remote mining town.
Heartfelt, endearing and, most significantly, a vital historical record of a Southern town.