Alex Ronyk, Retired Coal Miner, Bienfait

We came here from Poland in 1910, when I was four years old. My old man worked at the M&S mine and we lived at the mine camp.

I started at the old M&S in 1921. I was only about 14 years old and I got a job trapping - opening the doors for the horse drivers. I worked at that for about six months, then I went driving a horse. Then I came up here and got a job at a small mine near Bienfait called the Bienfait Coal Company.

In 1935, I bought the pool hall in Bienfait. I picked up pool tables in North Dakota and fixed them up. And I started cutting hair in the pool hall. I got my barber's license in Regina and I'd practice on farmers. I got so I could cut a head of hair in 10 minutes.

In 1950, I sold the pool hall and worked on the tunnels in Kimano, British Columbia. There were 5,000 men working on that project. In my spare time, I cut hair.

After Kimano, I got back into coal mining. I worked at the surface mine at Taber, Alberta and then went to Hillcrest where we spent the winter. My wife didn't like it so we came back to Bienfait and I bought the pool hall again.

By cutting hair, I got in very good with the miners. I made a lot of money off them from cutting hair and playing poker. Lots of times, I would have four poker games going on in the pool hall. I was raking off 25 cents from each pot and that sometimes amounted to almost $10 an hour.

Bienfait used to be a gambling, booze-running town. I'll tell you the honest-to-god truth: I used to be about the best pool player around. I used to take on anybody. I would beat everybody in Estevan. I can't play anymore since I had an operation on my eyes for cataracts. Oh hell, I used to play guys for $50 a game.

Some awful queer guys worked in the coal mines. One time, I got a guy in here: he'd been in a German concentration camp. The Germans had beat him over the head and he was a bit off. I used to give him a nice brushcut. This one day, he gets out of the chair, looks in the mirror and says, Son-of-a-bitch, that's an awful fine haircut! He gets back in the chair and says, Let's have another.

Oh Christ, my wife left in 1967. We had four kids.

I still cut hair - I got a barber chair in the front room of my house. One winter three years ago, 17 of my haircuts died. You know, at $3 a haircut, that's $51 a month. Now I have only about 16 customers left. They're all pretty well dead.

I am 75 years old. I am rich. I don't need any more money. I've got enough money to do a lot of things. I drive a good car. I'm going to stay here. What the hell else can I do? I am 75 years old. Where in the hell am I going to go?