Emma Gardner

Interviewed by: Nick Ratliff
Date: November 18, 2006

Nick Ratliff reports:

"Mrs. Gardner was the daughter and wife of coal miners in Roda, Virginia. This interview addresses the years in which Mrs. Gardner was growing up in Roda."

Interviewer: Where were you born?

Gardner: I was born on Nigger Hill and grew up on Hunk Hill which are both in Roda, Virginia.

Interviewer: How long did you live there?

Gardner: All of my life, except for seven years. During those seven years I lived in Big Stone and Appalachia when I was first married.

Interviewer: Tell me about the house you grew up in.

Gardner: It was an average company house, owned by Stonega Coal & Coke Company.

Interviewer: Tell me about the town you grew up in.

Gardner: All of the people who lived in Roda were the coal miners and their families.

Interviewer: How many brothers and sisters did you have?

Gardner: 2 sisters, 1 brother, 1 step-brother, and 1 step-sister. My dad was married once before he married my mom.

Interviewer: What were their names?

Gardner: Edna Mae, Jacqueline, Lonnie, Roy, and Corrina.

Interviewer: What did your father do for a living?

Gardner: Sylvester Lowe worked as a coal miner for Stonega Coal & Coke.

Interviewer: What do you remember most about where you grew up?

Gardner: I enjoyed going to school with all of my friends. Everyone knew everyone else in the coal camp.

Interviewer: What type of school did you attend?

Gardner: I attended first through seventh in the Roda Schoolhouse. After seventh grade, I went to Appalachia High School.

Interviewer: How big were the school buildings?

Gardner: The school in Roda was two buildings. [Interviewer notes: First through third in one and fourth through seventh in the other.] The first Appalachia High School had two buildings. [Interviewer notes: One was four stories and the other had two stories.]

Interviewer: How did you travel between school and home?

Gardner: I walked to the school in Roda, and when I moved into the high school, I rode the bus to school.

Interviewer: How did most people make their living where you grew up?

Gardner: Most people worked in the coal mines.

Interviewer: How many mines were in the coal camp where you grew up?

Gardner: I believe there were three mines in Roda when my father worked in them.

Interviewer: Did you have church in the coal camps or were they all in town?

Gardner: Each company town had its own church which we attended every Sunday.

Interviewer: Where did you buy supplies?

Gardner: We bought all of our supplies at the company store or occasionally we traveled into town. The miners earned script to use at the company store.

Interviewer: What kinds of items were sold in the shop?

Gardner: It was a general store which sold everything we needed.

Interviewer: Did the coal camps have any hotels?

Gardner: Roda had a hotel. All of the miners, who didn't have families, stayed in the hotel. For a long time, the post office was in the hotel.

Interviewer: How did you communicate with family and friends?

Gardner: We would use the post office, or in case of emergency, we could call the hotel, and the sheriff would deliver the message.

Interviewer: Who had a telephone?

Gardner: The only telephones were at the mines and the hotel.

Interviewer: Where did you go for medical treatment?

Gardner: We would go to the company doctor who lived in Roda. He had an office and he made house calls to those who were too sick to come to his office.

Interviewer: Were there any nicknames for the area you grew up? If so, what were they?

Gardner: Several, Nigger Hill, Happy Holler, Hunk Hill, and Sawmill Holler.

Interviewer: What were the meanings of the nicknames?

Gardner: Nigger Hill was were all of the colored people lived, Hunk Hill was called this because it is where most of the families were Hungarian, I'm not sure why they named it Happy Holler, and the sawmill was in Sawmill Holler.

Interviewer: What did you do for fun?

Gardner: We would play with friends and visit our neighbors.

Interviewer: Tell me about someone who became famous from your neighborhood.

Gardner: Toddy was an immigrant from England who became famous for starting the church in Roda. Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke grew up in Appalachia.

Interviewer: What is left of the area that you grew up in?

Gardner: There is still a coal community with mostly miners who live there. However, where I was born and raised, they have begun mining.

Interviewer: If you had a choice to return to life as it was when you were a child, would you? Why or Why not?

Gardner: Of course. Those were the best days of my life when all of my family was together, and I enjoyed every day.