Last night — March 10, 2011 — nearly a year after we began, I finished the manuscript for the Images book. Now Betty Lou reads it over. A few tweaks happen and then it is off to Arcadia Press. We should know a publication date soon!
Even to the last minute, there were stories being added. The most fascinating, particularly given current events with union busting in Wisconsin, was the story of the strike that ended Berkeley Springs’ period as a company town. I heard it first from Connie Perry. I called her to get dates and background for a photo of the strike we were including in the book. When I tolkd Connie’s amazing story to County Commissioner Stacy Dugan, whose father and husband both work/ed at the sand mine, she decided she wanted to hear more. She assembled a group of about a dozen men, past and present sand company employees and we heard their stories too.
The time was 1967-70. The situation was unionization of Pennsylvania Glass Sand workers by the Teamsters. It resulted in the lock-out of 38 men and a three year ordeal eventually ended in the workers’ favor by a Federal trial in Berkeley Springs — with a female judge no less. “She was realy tough,” remembered one man who also had words of praise for the National Labor Relations Board lawyer who persisted and won the case. The men returned to their jobs. The family -owned PGS was soon sold to mega-corporation ITT and the company town attitude — with both its many benefits, and its limitations — existed no longer.
Memories last long in situations like this even with many of the players no longer with us. Some folks still shop at Pittman’s in Hancock because they supported the strikers. Some remember hassles among the kids in school. Whichever side one was on, the PGS strike was an important piece of local history and I was glad to hear it.