Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Black Diamond Mines

Maya's class had a fieldtrip today to the Black Diamond Mines, in Antioch, CA. (That's Maya's BEST friend, Jackie, in the picture to your left.) I had never been there before, so I was happy to volunteer to drive some of the kids, and go check it out. The mines were for coal in the mid-1800s, and many men who came to California looking for gold ended up working in the coal mines instead. Actually, though we found out that CA coal is inferior to coal from Washington State or China, so when that coal started coming into CA, the mines closed down, and the cities disappeared. I kind of expected to find little ghost towns, but they took the houses down and took the wood with them. Interesting. In the 1930s, they found silica in the mines, which they used for making glass. The mine shafts were modernized, and stayed in use for many years.

After we went into the mine, we came out and had some lunch. Then we hiked up to the Rose Hill cemetary, where the inhabitants of Somersville (one of the towns that supported the mines) buried their dead. It's a pretty small cemetary by today's standards, and a lot of the gravestones have been broken, but it was also pretty, with the oak trees and the rolling hills in the background. It was sad to see how many young children there were in the cemetary, and how many families lost several children.

Overall, it was a fun day, with some serious themes. The kids got to learn about child labor in the mines, black lung disease, terrible working conditions, etc. My main thought was, how desperate would people have to be to work in these conditions...to travel all of the way to California to work in mines so small that they couldn't even stand up straight? Amazing. Amazing the things that people have to do in order to have a better life. Like the people who come to America in container ships, hoping for something better.

No comments: