Travel with Sal Graziano-from the coal town of Girardville, Pa., to World War II Germany, to a life working construction in Pennsylvania. And delight in his reminiscences of growing up in the Great Depression, and in the sense of humor that permeates not only his memoir but the short stories that form the last portion of this unique book.
Pop was small but a man of iron. When he left Italy in 1901 he thought he was coming to the land of gold, instead to the land of coal, Pennsylvania anthracite, the best in the world. My pop had many coal holes that he dug by hand pick and shovel. One mine was so deep that he had fresh air pumped in.
We were all sons of coal cracker dads. All our dads worked in the coal mines. Half of the men in town worked for the breakers and mine companies; the other half went on their own. WHY? They made better money. The coal company was mean. If you broke a shovel handle it was taken out of your pay. When you used four sticks of dynamite even though you worked for the company, it was docked from your pay. The blasting caps and fuse, the carbide, they took from your pay. Because the mountains belonged to the Reading Coal Company, any man who dug his own coal hole was actually a bootlegger. When the coal and iron cops found your coal hole they would throw sticks of dynamite down and blast them shut.
We all enlisted in the U.S. Air Force not the infantry. Right? BUT where are we now? Dynamite?? Yeah we are all sons of Pennsylvania bootleggers. You have to believe this - as kids we had more experience with dynamite blasting caps and gunpowder. Now you know why all of us Pennsylvania guys wound up in mine sweeping, etc.
Since there were no jobs in the coal region the government set up schools for the returning G.I.'s to get an education. I chose carpentry school. It paid $120 a month to me while I was learning the trade. I spent two years learning to operate every type of tool related to building, also plumbing and electric too. I must have worked for 20 different contractors, never got fired, just quit and jumped up the working scale for more money. Even had my own carpentry business while working for others. Carpentry was and still is an obsession with me and my life.