Boyhood Memories

My father, Jacob Matuszewski, left his native land Poland in the year of 1890, to begin a sea journey to America. He sailed from Hamburg, Germany to Ellis Island, New York.

Passing his physical, and indoctrination as a new citizen of the U.S.A.. His land journey took him to Priceburgh, PA, (which in later years was incorporated as Dickson City, PA).

This region of Pennsylvania was a coal mine area (Anthracite). The main employment for this area was the mining of coal. Father worked all of his life in the mines. When I was born in 1916, my father worked for the Pancoast Coal Company. He traveled to his job by foot, which was a distance of two (2) miles from home; of course his return was to walk back home after his day of hard labor. When I was between the age of 4 and 5 many was the time I would greet him at the backyard gate and help carry his "metal square" dinner pail to the house. There was a reason for this chore. Father always surprised me when, upon opening the dinner pail, he managed to save me the prize of an apple or cake.

Father's clothing, and face was black with coal dust which made his eyes appear to me like a face mask. Mother had a large cooper container on the kitchen range to heat water for his bath, which as taken in a large wooden tub. We had no central heating in our home. As children, Saturday, was our time for a bath, the eldest was the fortunate one to be first to bathe, since it took hours to heat fresh water, we followed one another into the tub. Oh, yes, many times I felt like the runt of the litter, being tail-end Charley!

In the year of 1921, Father's health changed rapidly, the effects of Black Lung ravished his once strong body. In this time frame, 1921, many coal-miners suffered with the same disease, as a result, hospitalization was not recognized. He was contained in this bedroom. Came the month of November, I recall a moment alone with Mother in the kitchen as we sat at the table while she prepared some food for the evening meal. Ma, tried to inform my childhood mind, that Father's end was near. Mother spoke in Polish, describing to me that the "DUCHA" was near and would soon take Papa away. I inquired what do you mean? She explained in her native tongue, it as a ghost that signified Death. My young mind still did not grasp the situation. I told her I wouldn't let that happen. She replied what would I do to the "DUCHA"? I motioned to a bread knife lying on the kitchen table, and said I would stab this ghost if he came near Father. This brought an amusing smile to her once long saddened face.

Father passed away on November 21, 1921. It was the custom to have a wake in one's own house. Also, a photographer took a picture of the corpse. The funeral, came with the casket in a horse-drawn hearse and family members and neighbors following the hearse by foot to the church three (3) blocks from our home. After church services, we lined-up behind the horse-drawn hearse, for the procession to the cemetery, a distance of 1/2 mile. It was a cold freeze of a day, and 'twas a sharp incline in the road, just before the iron rustic entry gate to the cemetery - The ground was frozen - the team of horse strained to get traction to over come this rise in the road. There was a rare occurrence as a result of this weather; the harness traces broke away from the hearse. The Director of the funeral solved the problem; the main pall-bearers removed the casket from the hearse and bodily carried it up the incline, into the cemetery and to the open grave.

Father gave to me this moment that will forever remain in my memory....

Eternal Peace be with you Father!

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