The other day I heard about a Black Diamond memorial to Washington state’s coal mining past, so I drove across the river to check things out. I suspect this project has been in various stages of development for a number of years, but this whimsical storyteller just learned about it.
Indeed, the preliminary steps have been completed and ground is about to be broken just outside the entrance to the Black Diamond museum. Plans include a granite wall that will bear the names of Washington miners who have perished in this rather dangerous occupation. Mounted on a granite pedestal in front of the wall, there’ll be a life-sized, bronze statue of a miner swinging his pick. To help pay for the project, the town is accepting donations through the sale of “paver bricks” that will be laid around the base of the statue and will be inscribed with the names of deceased miners or the names of contributors. The bricks are $100 a pop.
And speaking of the museum, I hadn’t been in the place for 10 or 12 years and its collection of artifacts has grown extensively since then. It’s a delightful little repository, if you’re into that type of thing, housed in the former train depot that was built in 1886.
The train dispatcher’s old control desk is still there for your scrutiny. The coal mining process and business are explained in some detail with various models and displays – sticks of dynamite, blasting caps, detonators and a primitive gas mask and first aid kit used by rescue teams in case of an accident. There are antique radios, telephones and clothes, including Black Diamond High School sweaters and the gorgeous, old cash register from the Zumek brothers’ grocery store
There are many photographs of past coal-mining communities and operations within the mines. In particular, there are pictures of Bayne, a tiny town that vanished long ago. (I vaguely remember being there when I was no more than a toddler.) It was the quintessential “company town” in that one man, Jim Bolde – backed by the Enumclaw First National Bank – owned the entire hamlet; that is, he owned the coal mine, general store, hotel, all the homes and everything else, lock, stock and barrel. I recall the cloud of coal dust that was kicked up when you walked across the street. Alas, there was coal dust everywhere; on the streets, the buildings, the homes and, of course, the people themselves. It couldn’t have been an especially healthy environment.
Anyway, you might want to buy an engraved brick to preserve your name or a miner’s name for posterity. Or, if that’s a bit too grandiose, preserve it for at least a few generations.