Five years ago, I was invited to a Sayreton Mining Camp Reunion.
Sayreton was a bustling mining camp town just outside of Birmingham, Al. in the 1930s until the late 1940s. We lived with my cousin for a couple of weeks during WWII until we found an apartment in Birmingham.
There were approximately 45 houses in Sayreton hanging on the sides of Cat Mountain and on down into the level area of Sayreton.
Once a year, these former residents meet to relive old memories.
More than 100 came and most had attended Sayreton Elementary School.
The mines played out just at the end of WWII, and the people began moving awy. The house, commissary and mining building are gone. Even part of the mountain was cut down for the new highway I-65 North.
However, the people and memories live on. I sat there mesmerized listening to a couple of fellows talking about Big Mama, her cooking and sharing with neighborhood kids.
One fellow said, “I remember standing on the porch as they came up the lane to tell her that her husband, Mr. Leder, had just been killed in the mines.”
The scream could be heard all over the village.
Another fellow said, “Mr. Leder was my dad’s partner in the mine, and he lost his fingers trying to pull the rocks off Mr. Leder.” “Do you know, he mourned his partner for years?” Another stated that he remembered when the Smith’s little girl died. One spoke up, “I was only 3, but I remember when your Mother died.” Those were just a few of the happy, sad, poignant stories told by those gray-haired men as they relived their pre-teen years.
One man started telling about letters from 1916 and records about the Sayreton Mines he had in his possession and no one was interested in them.
I slammed my hand on the table and told him, “Take those jewels to the Birmingham Public Library. They would archive them for posterity.”
He cherished those papers but had not thought about the library wanting them.
That is only a small segment of what I heard, and I only talked with six people. Can you imagine how many stories were in that room of 100 people?
Readers, do you realize how many such stories are in this county are waiting to be told by you, the citizens of Walker County.?
If you have a story, write or type it up and send it to Walker County Genealogical Society, Inc. or email me at HjwWilson@aol.com. If you have old scrapbooks, Bible, picture postcards, picture of any memorabilia, please give it or copies of it to the Society before it is lost or destroyed.
I beg you, please write those stories down. Send them to me and if you like, I will publish them in the Daily Mountain Eagle or archive them for the Society. Please, please, please save our oral history of coal mining families in Walker County.
Correction: Last week in Gutterys early settlers, I inadvertently wrote the name of Ronnie Guthrie as Ronnie Glover. Sorry, Mr. Guthrie, Floyd called my hand on it.