The Place: Glace Bay
The Treasure: Miner’s Museum, Abbie Michalik
Some days we plan to go places, some days we just get up and go.
The day we went to the Miner’s Museum in Glace Bay we were supposed to go to another event in Sydney but got delayed along the way and missed it.
We decided to hit Glace Bay since we’d never been there, beautiful town, a nice mixture of new and old buildings though the city.
While cruising Glace Bay we saw signs for the Miner’s Museum. Having gone to the one in Spring Hill we were eager to see this one.
Some days you end up a place you didn’t intend, but intend to do an article about that place – but then it changes. Meet Abbie:
We arrived just in time for the last mine tour of the day with Abbie Michalik.
Now it’s not often you run in to someone that can relate their life experiences in a way that really impacts you but Abbie does just that.
Abbie told stories about travelling an hour and a half down to the spot you were assigned and an hour and a half back, all unpaid. How you had to buy the shovel you needed to work in the mines. The dangers of cave ins or lost and stolen tags meaning you didn’t get your 68 cents for the cart of coal.
But where it really starts to captivate is when Abbie talks about family life. His father building their house of of scrap wood he bought from the company when the company put indoor plumbing in and tore down the outhouses. The trapper boys – eight, nine or ten years old – alone in the dark, who’s job it was to keep the doors shut so the air flowed properly.
Abbie tells about stealing food during the strike for better working conditions – a strike his father was present in when William Davis was fatally shot. Workers were on strike for better conditions in the mine. The company tried shutting off the water. Then they shut off the electricity. The company owned everything. Finally the company police started shooting at a protest and Mr Davis was killed. Mining towns throughout the area close down on June 11th in recognition of William Davis Miner’s Day
Abbie talked about the pit ponies, small draft horses used to move things around in the mine.
Mr. Michalik demonstrated what was involved in cutting in to the coal before they would drill holes for the charges.
The last stop was an underground garden, hey you gotta do something with that horse manure, right?
It was here Abbie told several touching stories, including that he’s going to be 77 soon and doesn’t know how much longer he’ll do the tours. It’s then that you realize you’ve been underground for close to an hour.
Abbie’s ability to tell stories draws you in when he talks about life in the mine he’s inviting you in to what’s been his home his entire life, as a child, a worker and a retiree.
No matter which tour guide you get, if they’ve worked the mines or had family that did, ask them to publish their stories. Once they go those stories, first hand accounts and family stories, are gone. We’re really hoping we can pick up Abbie’s book some time soon – once he writes it. 🙂
Here is the current weather and a map to help you plan your trip: