I started working for the Dominion Coal Company in the 1A Colliery here in Dominion - that was just after my 17th birthday. One day, I remember, I was loading the wooden hoppers and cleaning up under the bank with a long-handle shovel. Mr. Munroe, he was manager of the mine, he came over and said, Eric, how old are you? I've been watching you from the office and you're doing a man's work. Well, I said, I'm 17 years old.
I was too honest. I should have said I was 18 because at the time, you had to be 18 to get a man's wages. I ended up working 30 years in the mine - 18 years of those as a watchman.
Often when I hear the song "Sixteen Tons" - you remember that song? - I remember Murdock Sampson and I working together to load 16 tons. We cut the coal, bored it and shot it down. But to tell you the truth, I never liked the pit. I decided to get on the watchman's staff.
In the days I was watchman, it was all open - everything was open. Now they have gates, fences and little houses. There used to be fellows going around with trucks and carts, stealing coal and timber.
Sometimes there was a family with little children and the father was dead. They used to come up on the railroad to pick coal. I'd never say anything to them. I'd always let them come and pick coal but if they were stealing it - that was a different thing. A lot of people would steal the coal and sell it.
I remember one day - it was on a Saturday after dinner - and the boss came up. We were in the manager's garage. He said, Look at the young fellows down on the track, gathering up coal. I said, Yes, their father is dead and they're a young family growing up. I said, I always let them pick coal on Saturdays. He said, You done right. You do right.
I boxed. The first time I was in a boxing ring was in 1918. I'll tell you, when I was 70 years old, I went over to the New Waterford one Sunday and I lifted 420 pounds. I lifted 160 pounds with my right arm. I believe I was the strongest man in the Dominion Coal Company.