Eugene Johnson, Coal Miner, Drummond Collliery, Westville

We are the Westville miners so tall and so proud
I'll say it again and we'll say it out loud
We are the Westville miners so tall and so proud
And that's what I think and I'll tell you right now
written by Eugene Johnson

After school, I went to work in Halifax and I didn't like the city life. So my friend Huck got me a job at the Drummond. I was 18 when I started.

Before I first went underground, I was told what it was like but I couldn't imagine it being like that. The slope is the dangerous part. The roof of the slope is so low that you have to lean back in the cars. I couldn't get over that idea - men wanting to go up and down that slope every day. I said, Whatever makes a guy want to do that? But once you get out of the slope, it's a piece of cake.

I've had every job in the Drummond Mine - you name it and I've done it. And I have worked continuously since I started. I've even worked part of my summer vacation so I could take a week off in November to go hunting.

I've never been in another mine except for this one here. I wouldn't know what to do in a mechanized mine, but I'd love to see one. I'm more than willing to learn something new. You know, you should get a picture of us with our shovels - that's all we got in this day and age, no mechanical loaders. All the mine cars at the Drummond are loaded by hand shovel: three boxes to the ton. The coal is a lot heavier than it used to be 'cause we're close to faults and the coal has more ash in it. But we carry on all day, laughing and making jokes and making the day go good.

I know there is nothing here. But there's talk of a new mine. After I got my shot-firer's papers, my friend said I could get a half-decent job at Grande Cache. But I said, No, the money may be good but it's not my type of living.

My father and both grandfathers were coal miners. My father hurt his back in the mine and the doctor told him he'd never work again. Me, I don't know why I do it half the time. I guess it's bred in you or something. I've been told more than once that I was crazy for doing it, but I'd sooner be mining than anything else. My wife Donna says she tries not to think about me being a coal miner. She says if she thought about it all day, it would drive her crazy.

The Drummond Mine close the year after this interview was conducted. Eugene Johnson died on May 9, 1992 in the Westray Coal Mine, not far from his home.