The Bath House
National Park Service
Having a public bathhouse would seem a strange idea to any who were not familiar with life in a mining camp, particularly a coal camp. The miner's public bathhouse was not only a convenience but also essential to the sense of well-being to both miners and their families.
Coal dust, wet and mud are all normal conditions of mining, but they impose hardship on the household if the miners have to travel home before cleaning up at the end of the shift. Changing in and out of work clothes and showering before going home kept up a man's morale and kept some of the coal dust out of the house.
The Blue Heron bathhouse was hard won by the miners. The first bathhouse was much smaller and wholly inadequate for a camp that often worked over 200 men. To get the company to build a better bathhouse, the miners went on a two-day protest strike. The men got their new bathhouse. They later found out that their pay was deducted for the time "out on strike".
The coal mine bathhouse was not only a place where one got respectably clean on leaving work, however, it was a place where men talked and gossiped, told tales and played pranks on one another to lighten the load of hard daily work. The men still remember a good bathhouse with pride and the pranks played there with humor.
Some said the miners were too dangerous to "pull pranks" while working, and the bathhouse was a welcome relief.
To continue your visit through the Blue Heron Mining Community, choose the next "ghost structure" you wish to visit.
They had a little-bitty old bathhouse just round there from the repair shop. I just went on home. I just come out and go up cross the mountain at home to take a bath at home. In a washtub or something. We didn't have no showers, no tubs back then.
My bathtub was, in the summer time especially, an eight pound lard bucket. I'd punch the bottom full of holes and take me some warm water, you know, of whatever kind of water I needed. I'd hang the bucket over a limb out there in the woods and take me a shower bath.
I use to starch my husband's bank clothes. We call them bank clothes. There's a joke I reckon. I use to starch and iron his bank clothes. A lot of the men would wear them to they fell off them. And then they did get a nice bathhouse.
They build this big one. Boy, it was nice. We took a wildcat strike and they promised they would build it. We went back to work just two days I think. We had to pay for it. They charged us for it. I forget what they charged us a day. But they charged us so much for being out of work. But we go our bathhouse built.
They had big long benches in there. And we had chains and a basket and hooks to hang our clothes on. We pulled that up to the ceiling. You see and we could lock it. Everybody could lock their own clothes up there. There ain't nobody go on up there and get them because they were too far up. We had a big shower room in there. Oh possibly thirty feet long. We just all get in there and take our bath you see.
At the entrance they had these battery lights they use and they stayed on charge. As you start in there you give that man your light and he put it on charge. The next morning you change clothes. You put your dirty clothes on come out of there and you pick up your light.
They were very strict about seeing the bathhouse and showers were kept clean. Every day they put chlorine in a place for you to step into when you come out of the showers. I never knew one of the miners to ever get athlete's feet there.
Charlie Davis ran the bathhouse. He kept the bathhouse clean. He had to scrub it, keep up the mine lights, and all the stuff like that. So he took it easy.
He did forty-eight flues that had to be cleaned out with a long rod. That's where the smoke went out. The water circulated through them. It took about a car of coal a day in the winter time. You had to shovel (it) out of car and throw it through a little door to get into the boiler room. But the boiler had to be cleaned daily. Every day the flue(s) sit in the boiler because it would run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A lot of them wouldn't take their old clothes home for wives' to wash. Some of them, when they just got there, they just changed. So they threw them up on the floor; shoes everything. It was your job to clean them up because that was their privilege.
I guess I was about the worst there was in there you know. I (was) kind of a young 'un. I had my fun. I liked to have folly. We had one old feller there and he was a wonderful man. One of the finest I ever met. But he was a slow-natured fella. When he started to change clothes of a morning he was just like an old slow mule. He just couldn't get started. If he turned his head, I would have his overalls tied in a knot before he could get them on.
One old fella, when he was in the bathhouse he never turned the shower on in the shower room. He would find somebody and tell him some big joke. A lot of laughing going on. He was a jolly feller. I just slipped in there beside of him and opened this cold water up on him. It had quite a bit of pressure. And it was cold in the winter time. It was ice water, like ice. The old feller hit the wall on the other side. I can almost see him now.
On the job we had no horseplay because everybody must be concerned about the other feller's welfare and his safety.