April, 1932 MOUNTAIN LIFE AND WORK
of miners' children. The American Friends Service Committee-the same Quaker organization which fed German, Polish, Austrian, and Russian children after the World War-was asked to administer this fund. Field stations were established in various county seats in Kentucky and West Virginia. Over the course of the past six months the relief work has expanded until-at the time this is being written-there arc forty-eight Quaker workers in the coal regions, thirty-five tons of clothes and twenty thousand pairs of shoes have been distributed, and each school day there arc twenty-four thousand children getting substantial lunches and four thousand younger children and expectant mothers getting fresh milk. It can be assumed that this program has been augmented by the time this sees print, for the Quakers are face to face with a need which brooks no stinting of relief.
Important as is this temporary relief of distress we are more concerned here with permanent means of putting these miner people back into the stream of twentieth century life. How can we face with equanimity the prospect of giving the same sort of relief to these people next winter, and the winter after? Of what use is it to strive for their economic betterment if they are to remain on standards of living and ignorance so low that they cannot stand on their own feet? These are the questions back of the current thought on rehabilitation of the miner people. Probably no one agency has the financial backing to do the job. But some one must make a start, and the experience of the Quaker field workers this winter has fired them with an ambition to make some contribution of thought and energy. Their plans are simple. It is hoped to establish workers permanently in key towns. From here various backyard gardening, cobbling, woodworking, sewing, and canning projects will be directed. The immediate need is to give these people work for their idle hands, providing them at once with mental stimulus and with some of the simple food, clothing, and furniture products which they desperately require.
Cooperation in these plans has already been obtained from many mine owners and operators. Empty houses are being set aside as workshops. Here are the crude beginnings of a system of
vocational training units. It is hoped that the permanent directors of the work may have a model garden and workshop to which mining men and women can come for instruction, and that teachers may be sent out to the workshops in the mine
Nillages for regular supervision of what is going
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on there. Especial care would be given to the training of boys and girls now growing up in these communities without opportunities of learning, or even visualizing, any trade beyond that of their miner fathers.
Thought is also being given to the feasibility of establishing a number of miner families on fertile soil in the Mississippi valley. This is far too expensive a project to do on any large scale, yet it might serve as a demonstration that miners are capable of such transplanting.
Even at this early date it might be possible to present in greater detail these lines of thought on rehabilitation; yet the main object at this time is to inform readers of Mountain Life and Work concerning the main problem and possible ways of attacking it. To those interested in the well-being of the mountain people the plight of the miners has a direct significance. For the majority of the miners were originally mountaineers, and a backwash of the surplus ones will probably return to hill life. More than that, the experience of those men and women who know the mountain people can be of enormous benefit to those who shall accept the task of trying to make the miners into self-supporting, selfrespecting people.
What, in the large, is the answer for these unwanted workers? Shall they be helped to return to a simple subsistence life, making them into the lusty, independent people for whom Walt Whitman had dreams; or must they be keyed into the complex structure of modern mass production? Or shall some of them turn back to simplicity while others stake their lives on the machine age?
The answers to these questions are in the making. The more wise and experienced heads there are to apply themselves in finding answers, the sooner will this important social project take shape. It is to be hoped that the mountain work agencies will look across the hills into the smoky valleys of the coal regions, and extend a hand.