History in Person

Memorable Stories from the Oral History Project

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Rosie O'Beirne works the camera while Pamela Sterne King interviews Ike Matson as part of the oral history project.

O’Beirne: “Maggie Bristow is a 91-year-old African-American woman who grew up at the base of Red Mountain and helped build the house she lives in today. Her late husband worked in the mines, and she still sleeps in the bed that he bought at the company store. She talked about the days when everyone grew their own fresh food in their backyard gardens and had to walk to get anywhere. I found it ironic that she describes a lifestyle that public health officials say we need to return to today.”

King: “One surprising thing that the workers told us is that when someone broke the law—even when someone killed somebody—the local police weren’t called. The company was called and handled its own. They operated in so many ways outside regular society because they had their own society.”

O’Beirne: “Willie Cammack is an African-American ore miner who is one of the happiest individuals I’ve ever met and a natural storyteller. He tells a great one about how his dad used to make moonshine in the nearby woods. His moonshine was apparently the best around, and sometimes whites would come buy some. One time a group of men came by, and Willie’s dad wouldn’t sell them moonshine because he said he had no way of knowing if they were the police. They kept coming back, and eventually they became customers—and as it turned out, they were the police!

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