A Tribute to
Richard O. Cole, Superintendent

American Coal Company Crane Creek Facility
McComas, WV 1947 - 1960
 


Richard Cole  during his interview with  'Coal Age Magazine' during the 1950s.

Memories of
Crane Creek, McComas, Thornhill and Pinnacle
November 2001
Presented to you by Judy "Jukie" (Cole) Dodd


My name is Judy (Cole) Dodd, youngest daughter of Richard and Kathleen Cole. Our family lived in the McComas area from the fall of 1947 until the summer of 1960. My father Richard O. Cole was Superintendent at the American Coal Company, Crane Creek mines from 1947 until 1960. Our family moved to Crane Creek in the fall of 1947 in the house across the road and down over the hill from Mariotti's store and house right off the road as you start up the mountain to Windmill Gap. The Crane Creek Elementary School was also directly across the road..
 (Click here to see a picture of Susie Cole and James Sutherland with the Crane Creek Church and Elementary School in the background)

(Click here to see the house with my sister Sue sitting on the porch w/ our dog Blackie).

Click here to view the site where the Cole house once was - November 2001

I have two sisters, Sue and Twinkle. Twinkle graduated from McComas High School in 1957. Sue completed the 10th grade at McComas H.S. and I the 6th at Mora Grade School, prior to our moving in 1960. While I attended Mora, the PTA ladies had a basketball team and played the PTA mothers of other schools in the area. I was a cheerleader and my mother played on the team and could really shoot the basketball. She had been quite a basketball player when she was in high school. Both of my sisters were cheerleaders while attending both McComas High School and Concord College. Mr. Bailey was the principal at Mora Grade School but died the last year I attended Mora in 1960. Some of my other teachers were Ms. Vawter, Ms. Bishop, Ms. Collins, Ms. Mockey and of course Mr. Bailey. I remember our janitor, Mr. Thorn, very vividly and he always wore bib overalls.

We lived at Crane Creek from 1947 until 1956, then moved to Pinnacle into Henry Warden (who was General Manager of the American Coal Company) house. It sat on the hillside behind the American Coal Company Pinnacle Store and Coal Laboratory Facility (to the left of the store) until the summer of 1960 when we moved from the area. It was a beautiful large white house with eighteen rooms in it. It was so big that we used to play hide and go seek in it. I had my own bedroom plus a play room. The stairway and fireplaces were absolutely beautiful.

My grandmother and grandfather Cole (Edward and Susan) lived in Raleigh County, WV the majority of their lives. They moved to Crane Creek in the late 1940s when my grandfather Cole began working as Fire Boss (click here to read a little song about what a Fire Boss does) at the Crane Creek mines for my father until he retired. He had previously worked for the War Production Board during World War II. He and my grandmother lived in Crane Creek, in front of the Crane Creek Company Store until they moved to Rock, WV after his retirement. They moved in with us at Pinnacle (aerial view of the house and Pinnacle company store) when their house at Rock was destroyed by fire in the late 1950's. My mother's parents, Jesse Brian and Carrie Lee Burton also lived in Raleigh County for most of their lives. My grandfather Burton worked in the coal mines in Raleigh County.

My mother served as Post Mistress at the McComas Post Office from 1956 to 1958 and worked with Ms. Farrington, whose husband Ted managed the Community Center. Mom belonged to the Rock Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star and was a past Worthy Matron, the highest honor with the Eastern Star. Many of her friends also belonged: Mable Sanders, Myrtle Robbins and Ruth Elmore.

Our family attended the Methodist church at McComas and I have my Cradle Roll Certificate when I was dedicated as a baby at the church in May 1948. My sister, Twinkle, had it framed for me as a Christmas gift a few years ago and it is now hanging in the hallway of my home.

Many memories and good friends will never be forgotten during the years we lived in the McComas area. Hilda and Oscar Hurst (Click here to view a picture of "Doc" Hurst who was Crane Creek Tipple Boss in this 1937 photo) who lived down below us at Pinnacle will always be cherished. Hilda would always make homemade bread on Saturday and Oscar wore at least two pairs of socks - summer or winter, because his feet stayed cold. Oscar would sometimes take my sister, Sue and me and his grandchildren, Carol, Rita, Nita and Johnny (the Sylvesters) in his Hudson car to the Skyway Drive-In Theatre to see the movies on Saturday night. We would always get into fights and most of the time I started them. My good friend, Sandy Bird (click here to view Sandy Bird Porterfield and her family today) and I shared a lot of good times together. Her grandmother, Viola Bird, was a good friend of my mother's and could make a good pecan pie. Many of my mom and dad's friends included Ruth and Bob Fulford, Jim and Shields Cline, Hilda and Oscar Hurst, Sylvia and Luke Nichols, the Shockey's (Ann, Bertha and Bill), Ben and Ruth Elmore, Tony and Nana Vecellio, Jean and John Sylvester, Helena and Howard Wellman, Charlie and Viola Bird, John and Mable Sanders, Lola Ramsey(our maid), Red and Elva Hutchinson and Glenna Fowler who all lived in the McComas area. And in Thornhill, Enis and Elo Basconi and Carl and Josephine Pietrantozzi. We also were very good friends with the company nurse and her husband, Harry and Susie Cooper, who lived on the Lorten Lick Road and Agnes and Louie Pietrantozzi who lived in Bluefield.

My father grew up at Amigo and my mother at Lilly Brook in Raleigh County where they attended Stoco High School at Lego, WV. This is where they met and married before mother finished high school. Amigo and Lilly Brook were both coal camps. My father began working in the coal mines at about the age of eighteen. He was working as mine foreman at the East Gulf mines in Raleigh County in 1947 when he was hired as the Superintendent for Crane Creek. He received his mine foreman (boss' papers) when was twenty-one years old. He was about 25 years old when he became the Superintendent at Crane Creek. He worked very hard and the coal miners and bosses who worked for him respected him very much. He was a man of very few words, but when he spoke it was something worth listening to. He was exceptionally bright and especially knowledgeable about coal mining and how to move the coal out of the mines. In the 1950s he was recognized by the Coal Age Magazine as the youngest superintendent who had mined more coal in a specified period of time within the State of West Virginia. Leo Vecellio a respectable coal operator in the Raleigh County area once said that "Dick (nickname for dad) could sit behind the desk and never go into the mines and run more coal than any superintendent he had ever seen". In the late 1950's, the Crane Creek Tipple burned and this was extremely hard for dad because it caused several of the coal miners to be out of work for quite some time until it could be rebuilt. When layoffs occurred at the mine, dad lost many nights of sleep while trying to decide who would have to be laid off. Dad set an example for his daughters to always respect others for what they do and who they are, always be dependable, strive to accomplish good work ethics and above all when things get tough, get tough with it.
click here to view the restoration of the old Crane Creek Tipple area today
click here to view the Crane Creek Tipple in 1940s
click here to see an aerial view of Crane Creek circa 1940s
       
photo supplied by Robert Saddler
click here to view the Crane Creek Store/Commissary
click here to view inside the Crane Creek Store/Commissary
click here to view a 5 cent script for the Crane Creek Store
       
photo by Jim Smith - script supplied by Elsie Bailey


Our father Richard O. Cole passed away in April 1968 at the age of 48 from a sudden illness. He had been Superintendent for Ranger Fuel Company at their Bolt, WV mines (which is located near the Wyoming/Raleigh County line) prior to his death.


About once a year I visit what is left of McComas, Crane Creek, Pinnacle, Thomas and Thornhill and reminise about all the friendships and memories that I acquired while living in the McComas area. I am so proud of my heritage and being brought up in the coal fields, and above all, the friends and memories that will always be cherished and never forgotten.

Judy (Cole) Dodd

Click here to view the site where the Warden House sat in 2001
Click here to view the old Oscar Hurst House in 2001
 

PostScript by the Webmaster Pat Smith
Click to view The Cole Family
Following is a brief synopsis of the Cole Family Today!
Kathleen Cole the wife of Richard Cole, has lived in the Sophia, WV area (near Beckley) for the past 30 years. She worked at the Sophia Carolina Supermarket for several years until her retirement in the early 1980s.
Mary (Twinkle) Cole the oldest Cole daughter, graduated from Concord College and moved to the Washington, DC area. She married Charles Livingston and had three sons Michael, Dirk and Chris. She is now married to Zane Burgess living in Gaithersburg, MD. She has three grandchildren. She has worked for attorneys in the Gaithersburg area over the years.
Sue (Susie) the middle Cole daughter, met and married Steve Libicer while attending Concord College. They moved to New Castle, PA shortly after graduation. Sue and Steve had three children Stephanie, Richie and Rene (twins). Sue is now married to Jeff Britton and has lived in the Beckley, WV area since 1976 where she has taught in the Raleigh County school system (she is currently at Woodrow Wilson). She has six grandchildren.
Judy (Jukie) the youngest Cole daughter and author of this page, attended Beckley College(now called Mountain State University) in Beckley, WV for two years receiving an Associate's Degree in Medical Secretarial Science. She married Olen Dodd in 1975, lives in Crab Orchard (near Beckley). They have no children. She tells me she has a dog name "Misty". Judy has worked for FMRS Health Systems, Inc (a behavioral health facility) for the past 33 years since graduating from college and holds the position of Administrative Assistant.