JUNE 1, 1942
WASHINGTON, Sunday—The commencement at Arthurdale, W. Va., on Friday morning was really quite impressive. As I look back over the years and remember that the first class had three high school graduates, the 20 fine looking young people who received their diplomas yesterday show great progress. In order to buy War Savings Stamps, they gave up their annual spring visit to Washington, for which all high school students save their pennies throughout the year. One felt that here was a group of young people who already understood many of the responsibilities which come with maturity.
The hazards of industry are brought home to all of them rather frequently, so the hazards of war are nothing new. They all felt very close to the mine disaster at Osage, for one of our Arthurdale homesteaders lost his life in that accident. For ten days his body was not found, and those ten days were days of uncertainty and agony to the young wife, her six and eight-year-old daughters and her neighbors.
Visiting her, however, gave me a renewed respect for the courage of human beings. Another baby is coming in December and instead of bewailing the extra burden, she said she was so happy that this is the case, for it gave her something more to live for. Social Security and Workmen's Compensation take on real meaning when you see a little family of this kind facing the future.
From Workmen's Compensation, this woman will receive $30 a month, and $5 a month for each child. Her Social Security payment will be $17 a month—a total of $57. She and her husband had just decided since he had a steady job in the mine, they could take over the contract and buy their little place. She still hopes to be able to make her monthly payments and eventually own her house and land, on which she can grow much food for her family.
I visited the community house in Scotts Run and saw the nursery school. They need a little more equipment in their outdoor playground, but otherwise the arrangements for the little children seem very adequate.
I went to the Osage Mine and saw the men going on their afternoon shift and talked with a man who is nicknamed "Happy." He, with about thirty others, came out alive at the time of the accident. I asked him how it had been possible and he said: "Well, I don't really know, but I always joke a lot, so I thought it was better to go on joking until we died, if we had to die, but instead we got out."
Like the sailors who go back on our merchant ships after they have been torpedoed, these men go back into the mines because they know their work is needed for the war effort. They must go on, not only to earn a living, but to help the war effort.