Enjoy this book excerpt from Jubilee’s Journey
On an icy cold November morning in 1956, Bartholomew Jones died in the Poynter Coal Mine. His death came as no surprise to anyone. He was only one of the countless men forever lost to the mine. They were men loved and mourned by their families, but to the world they were faceless, nameless people, not worthy of mention in the Charleston Times.
Morning after morning those men descended into the belly of the mountain, into a world of black dust that clung to their skin with a fierceness that no amount of scrubbing could wash away. In the winter the sky was still black when they climbed into the trolley cart that carried them into the mountain. And when they returned twelve hours later, daylight had already come and gone.
None of the men complained. They were the lucky ones, they told one another. They were the ones who slept easy. Their family had food on the table and coal for the stove when winter blasted its way across the ridge of the mountain.
At one time Bartholomew thought he could beat the odds, break the chain of events that carried itself through generation after generation. His daddy had grown up in the mines, starting when he was barely big enough to carry a bucket of scrap coal from the chute to the hopper. His granddaddy had done the same. It was the way of life, a dirty, lung-polluting job handed down from grandfather to father and ultimately to son.
But Bartholomew had different plans.
In 1932 he left home to join the navy. “Go,” his daddy said happily. “Go and don’t ever look back.” A life built on a hunched back and blackened skin was not something any man wished for his son, and even though it meant he might never see the boy again he was glad.
After two months of basic training Bartholomew was assigned to the Norfolk Navy Yard and for the next six years he loaded and unloaded machine parts on the ships that sailed in and out of the port.
Norfolk was where he met and married Ruth.
It was love at first sight. Ruth was in town visiting her sister, and as fate would have it he happened to be standing in back of them while the girls waited to buy tickets to see “The Big Broadcast” with Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour. To Bartholomew’s eye Ruth was far prettier than Dorothy Lamour, and he said so ten minutes after they’d struck up a conversation.
“Aw, go on,” she’d said with a smile.
As they eventually made their way down the aisle of the strand, Bartholomew followed the girls. Before they’d gone nine rows in Ruth pointed to a spot with three empty seats together. “Let’s sit here,” she said. She looked back at Bartholomew, an invitation in her smile.
After the movie Bartholomew took Ruth and her sister, Anita, for ice cream sodas. Before it came time to pay the check, he was in love. Forever, eternally, and deeply in love. With her soft brown eyes and lips that fairly begged Ruth was as warm as a wool coat on a blustery day.