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First Interview, May 29, 1997:
Childood, Youth and Family, 1921-1941

Harvan Home | Photo Exhibition | Oral History | Historical Essay | Credits
Interview 1 | Interview 2 | Interview 3 | Interview 4 | Interview 5 
Dublin: This is Tom Dublin and it's the twenty-ninth of May, and I'm with George Harvan at 307 West Patterson Street in Lansford, [Pennsylvania] beginning a series of interviews about his growing up, his coming to photography, and his photographic career over the years. So, George, why don't you tell me when you were born?

Harvan: Tom, I was born on February the twenty-fifth, 1921, right here in Lansford, on East Kline Avenue. At a place called Porvaznik's. My mother and father came from Europe. They had nowhere to go, they knew about the Porvaznik family on East Kline Avenue, and they rented a place up there. In the meantime, I had three sisters—Julia, Margaret, and Rose. So I was the fourth in the family.

Wedding picture of George Harvan's parents, Andrew and Anna Sabol Harvan.
 Wedding picture of George
Harvan's parents, Andrew and
Anna Sabol Harvan
George Harvan's older sisters, Rose, Julia and Margaret.
 George Harvan's older sisters,
Rose, Julia and Margaret
(from the left)
Dublin: You were the young one.

Harvan: At that time.

Dublin: Tell me a little bit about your father.

Harvan: My father's name was Andrew. He came to this country right after World War I. He was married at the time. He came with my mother, and my three older sisters who were born in Czechoslovakia. When they came to this country, a lot of the immigrants migrated to the coal fields to find work. He came to Lansford and started to work in the coal mines. He worked at the Greenwood Colliery right from the beginning, Number Ten Colliery.

Dublin:And where in Czechoslovakia had he come from?

Harvan:There was a small town call Kudloce, K-u-d-l-o-c-e, something like that. It's near Bratislava. It's close to the Austria-Hungary border. They had more ties to that region than to the East Czechs, you know, to the Moravians or the Bohemians. In fact, a lot of the people in Lansford came from that village. I guess it was familiarity, so that when they came here they came from that village, almost to another village.

The Harvan family, 1922. Anna Harvan holds George in her lap.
The Harvan family, 1922. Anna Harvan holds
George in her lap.
Dublin: Now when your father came, did he come the very first time with his wife and daughters?

Harvan: Oh yes, the first time.

Dublin: The whole group of five.

Harvan: No, no, I wasn't born yet.

Dublin: The rest of the family.

Harvan: Oh, I'm sorry. The five, yeah, the five. When they came here, my father started to work in the mines. In 1920, he was in a very violent explosion. His buddy was killed. They were firing a shot, I guess it was the manway they were firing from, and his buddy was out in the chute, exposed more to the blast, and my father was behind some timbers. His buddy was just blown away. My father was so badly injured, they never thought he would live. He had thousands and thousands of black and blue marks all through his body, just from the force of the blast. It was like a tattoo, where the coal dirt had blown into his skin. He never liked the mines after that. He didn't feel comfortable in there. The accident happened in '20. And in 1921 I was born, and the following year he decided he didn't want to mine anymore, so he packed up the whole family—wife, four kids, I was one year old—and went back to Czechoslovakia. He had saved a few bucks from mining and through compensation from being injured, with the little bit he had, he always wanted to own a little inn. So we went back to Czechoslovakia, and he had a chance to buy a little inn, and he bought it.

Dublin: He bought the inn in the town that you had mentioned, where he had come from?

Harvan: Yes, in that area. It was in that same area. And he was having a grand time. They would have dances there, and my mother was doing all the work, cooking, and the kids were helping. Julia, at the time, was probably about ten, eleven. Margaret was about eight. Now Rose was about four. There was about three years difference between the three girls. They remembered the time very well. They remembered Czechoslovakia and they often commented that I was a big kid. I was pretty big when I was born, and they said I would plonk down in the middle of one of those dirt streets in Czechoslovakia and they couldn't get me up. So, after being there about a year, my mother didn't like it. My mother didn't like it at all. She probably didn't like all that was going on in the inn and all the work.

Dublin: What was your mother's name again?

Harvan: My mother's name was Anna Sabol. Her father had come to this country and he worked down south somewhere. It was in North Carolina, and he earned a lot of money. With the money saved, he decided to go back to Czechoslovakia and buy a house and start a business. But when he got off the train and was walking down a road, he was waylaid and was murdered—when he still had the money on his person.
      [Portion deleted--one question] My mother was a young woman at the time, and she was in Czechoslovakia at the time, and of course, when she found out about the killing, well, this really turned her off—living in Czechoslovakia, having your father murdered there and everything. She wanted to come back to Lansford. Margaret wanted to come back real bad—she was the second oldest. Julia didn't particularly care. Rose was a darling little girl who everybody liked. The people in town liked her. But I think all they wanted was to come back, so finally my father reluctantly sold the place, and came back to Lansford. I was a little over one year old, and my parents packed up the whole family again and put them back on a train and boat and came back to Lansford.

Dublin: So you went back and forth across the Atlantic twice before you were about one and a half.

Harvan: Two years old, yeah. In fact, we still have the trunk up in the attic that they used to move all their clothes from Czechoslovakia to here. It was a big steamer trunk. But you can imagine, not having that much money and all that, and then the passage must have been kind of difficult in those days, with four kids, six people.

Dublin: So he must have saved a fair amount of money to be able to afford the return passage and then to buy this inn?

Harvan: Yeah, sure, he must have. But, a lot of those people were very thrifty. They did save money and they lived simply—how they did it, I don't know. But they did make two passages across the Atlantic. I don't know much about it because I was too young. But my sisters did—Rose—who became a photographer —often mentioned how the Captain liked her, and they'd get a lot of favors. She got extra food.

Dublin: Do you think the family went over and back in steerage or do you think you went in a cabin?

Harvan: I don't know. It's hard to say.

Dublin: One thing that's interesting about this story is that it sounds like, from your description of your father's accident, that he was already a miner, which would seem to me to be unusual.

Harvan: No, he wasn't a miner. The fellow who was killed was a miner—he was his buddy. He was his helper. And I guess the miners took more chances. Not more chances, but they expose themselves to more dangers, than his buddy, he was probably an older man. My father was able to get behind a timber. It probably saved his life. He didn't get the full force of the blast.

Dublin: Do you sense that he was recovering for quite a while after that accident?

Harvan: Yes, he did recover a long time. I imagine, in those days, they didn't have that much unemployment money coming in, you did it all on your own.

Dublin: It sounds like you think the company made some sort of payment to him as compensation.

Harvan: I think so. They did.

Dublin: Now when the family came back to Lansford, did he return to the mines?

Harvan: Yes, he did. He came back and started to work in Number 10, and eventually became a contract miner, too. He worked there until he retired when he was sixty-five. Of course he had black lung real bad then, too. But he worked through the years, through all the good and bad times. He never did anything else. That's all he did was contract mining. My father had two other brothers in Czechoslovakia at the time—Mike and John—Mike was next to him, and John was the youngest in the family. He brought both of them over to this country. They married here. They lived with my parents until they got married. My mother took care of them—they boarded with her. They also worked in the mines, and raised families here in Lansford. Mike had about five or six kids, and John had four boys—no girls.

Dublin: Do you have memories of yourself with these uncles when you were young?

Harvan: Oh, sure. In fact, John used to always cut my hair. Well, when you visit from one mining family to another, the first thing they do when you come into a house is they give you a shot, a shot of whiskey. Also, my father made wine, and he'd bring some wine for guests. This one particular time I remember my father gave John a little bit too much to drink, and then he started cutting my hair. Well, he made a mess of it. The next day, he remembered he had to cut my hair, and he come down. My mother said, "Why are you here John"" He said, "Well, I have to cut George's hair." "You cut it yesterday." Well, in the meantime, after he cut my hair, my mother had to recut it and had to take it all off! John was the family barber. Mike was a little different than my father or John. He was very quiet, never spoke very much. He almost always seemed like he was mad at somebody. But it was just his way—he was all right.

Dublin: So what was your father like as you were growing up?

Harvan: Well, he never much bothered with the rest of us. He stayed more or less to himself. He did try to educate himself. He read a lot, and he would buy different periodicals. Of course, they also had the Slovak books. He did learn how to speak English. In time, he also learned how to write. All on his own. My mother never really learned how to write. Toward the latter part of her life, she would try to read the daily paper, but she never really learned how to write. But in time she could pick out things in the newspaper. When I was growing up, my parents only spoke Slovak among themselves. Margaret was more of the home type of person—she spoke Slovak very well. Julia never did. When she got out of high school, she went to New York and she never came back to live in Lansford. My parents never encouraged us to speak Slovak at home. They felt we should speak English and learn the customs here—and get an education here. So they encouraged us to speak English in home. But when they talked among themselves, it was always in Slovak.

Dublin: And what church did they and you attend?

Anna and Andrew Harvan, in front of
St. Michael's Church, Lansford, mid-1950s.
Harvan: St. Michael's church. My father wasn't much of a churchgoer back then. He had a little rebellious streak in him, too. I mentioned this just recently —when I talked with Rose a few years ago, just before she died, and I said,
"Rose, what would have happened to us if we would have stayed in Europe and never came back to the United States?" She said, "George, Hitler would have killed your father, or somebody would have killed him because he was always finding something to rebel about."
So when it came time to—the church had the practice then to take money off your pay-check for church dues—and my father didn't like that. He didn't like that at all. He thought that was something that they shouldn't do. So he had it out with the priest, and the priest insisted on taking it out, so my father said, well, I'm not going to go to church. So what the priest was saying was that if you're a member of the congregation, we're going to do this. We're going to take this out of your pay.

Dublin: And so he said, "You're not."

Harvan: That's right. This kind of devastated my mother, because she wanted to go to church. And she would go. After a while, I don't think he paid dues into the church.

Dublin: So in some ways, she might have felt not welcome there because he was making this stand.

George Harvan (second from left in front row)
and his first grade class, West End School, Lansford, 1927.
Harvan: That's right. She felt a little more strongly about being a Catholic than my father did, and she made us go. We never went to parochial school. We always went to public school. And she made us go after school to get instructions for communion and confirmation and all that.

Dublin: And were you confirmed?

Harvan: Yes, we had to go after school. In fact, Sister Methodia—remember her? She was the one that taught me. She taught everybody in town.

Dublin: Was she the principal of this school, or just a teacher there?

Harvan: She was just a teacher. But it seemed everybody my age, who went to St. Michael's, was taught by her. She lived to be almost a hundred.

Dublin: But she just taught you in the after-school program?

Harvan: Right, yeah, it was after school. And that's why we were never really—like some Catholic families who observed a lot of things, the ceremonies of the church and things like that. My father—he just broke away. I don't know if he ever went to church again. I don't remember him ever going to church.

Dublin: So when you were confirmed, your mother would have been there.

Harvan: Yeah, she was there. They had a priest by the name of Father Lisitsky—who was very strict, he was almost dictatorial in his dealings with the people, and my father didn't get along, that's all.

Dublin: So your father resented that kind of authority.

Harvan: That's right. And that's just the type of a person he was.

Dublin: He probably felt he had enough of that kind of authority from the mine already.

Harvan: Yeah, either that, or maybe just his make-up, too. He was a strong union man. He believed in the union very strongly, but other than that, he never went out... trying to organize people or things like that. But I think he realized that the union was a good thing for the miners—in those days, it was a good thing.

Dublin: So did you ever go into a mine when you were very young? Did he take you in? What's your first memory of being in a mine?

Harvan: Actually, the first memory of me being in a mine was after I come out of the service, and I went down into the mines to take pictures for the coal company. The only other experience I had in the mine was when I was growing up —ten, eleven years old—I did have to pick coal and fill the coal bin up. We would go up Courtwright Street, all the way up to the top of the mountain, practically where Philip Ginter discovered coal, where the vein outcropped on Sharp Mountain.

Dublin: Now is that actually in Summit Hill?

Harvan: Well, I don't think it was in Summit Hill. It was just here southeast of Lansford— Sharp Mountain. There was places where a small vein would outcrop, and if you could find these veins, you could mine the coal. Pig it out, crack it, put it in bags, put it in a wheelbarrow, haul it down Courtwright Street, and dump it into the coal bin of this house, right here where we're sitting now—right underneath us.

Dublin: So how old would you have been when you did that?

Harvan: Well, I was in high school. I was twelve years old, thirteen maybe. My job was to fill the coal bin every summer. I mean, it had to be filled right up the rafters. I couldn't get another piece of coal in there.

Dublin: And did your family basically get all of its coal that way?

Harvan: Yeah, that's how we heated our house, and I had to make sure there was no slate along with the coal—it had to be all coal. If ever a piece of slate got caught in the grates and they couldn't rake the stove, I would get it! But I was pretty good at that. I knew what slate was, and what coal was.

Dublin: Did your sisters ever do that, too, or just you, as the boy?

Harvan: They picked coal, but they didn't go up to the veins. They went down to the R.R. track, where the coal would spill off the trains, and they would pick it up there. My buddy was a fellow by the name of Bill "Bozo" Krycirik, from down here on Snyder Avenue, about four years older than I was. He was kind of a physical specimen. He had big muscles—a health nut. The first thing he did in the morning, in the summer, was to take his shirt off. He had this coal hole up on the mountain, and he would let me work along the fringes of it. We were down about twelve or fifteen feet on the pitch. He would carry the coal up for me, and I would crack it and put it in bins. He kinda took me under his wing, and I was his buddy. He would get two or three times more coal than I would, since he was bigger, strong, and knew more about it. He would also sell coal. After he would fill his coal bin, then he would contact the people in the neighborhood. Some of the widows—he would sell a bag of coal for a quarter.

Dublin: So would you normally take burlap bags up there?

Harvan: Yes, we used burlap bags to hold the coal. We would have screens, hammers, picks, etc.— and everything else—to crack and screen the coal. We would never take the real small coal, it would go through the screens. We only took what mostly was the size of a chestnut type, or an egg coal. That's all we would take—the rest we would leave up there.

Dublin: And you had some sort of a hammer? A sledge?

Harvan: Oh yeah, we had big hammers for the big lumps. And then the smaller hammer to break it down to the smaller pieces. There was no sense in taking the fine coal —you couldn't burn it—so we left it up there. We only took what we could use. It was good coal because it came right out of a vein—solid vein.

Dublin: So you did this in the summer?

Harvan: Yes.

Dublin: And about how much time in the summer would it take to eventually do this?

Harvan: It was every morning —all through high school. My father—he was kinda strict. If it was raining and I couldn't get up to screen the coal, when it was too bad —he would have other things for you to do. When huckleberry season came in, and the blackberry season come in—he handed you the can and he said, "Look, go pick huckleberries." So, all summer, every morning was taken up, either with coal, huckleberries, or blackberries, or later on, mushrooms, or whatever it was. But you had to go out. You couldn't sit around. You couldn't sleep until ten or eleven o'clock, that's for sure.

Dublin: And would you say that was probably common for other kids your age? Other families?

Harvan: I would say so. As I think about it, though, some of the other kids didn't have it quite so tough. I think there was a little more leeway in certain things they did. But, I guess it didn't hurt.

Dublin: It certainly got you a bit familiar with mining, in a way.

Harvan: Yeah, and the discipline, too. As far as you had to do certain things, and that was it. But then my afternoons were my own. I would come home after dumping the coal, and my mother would pour water into an old wooden tub where I would wash. We had a bathroom at the time, she would still pour water into the old tub. I was about ten or eleven when we had a bathroom put in upstairs. Up until that time we had an outhouse in the back, we had running water but we didn't have a bathroom—when my father remodeled the house and he put in the bathroom.

Dublin: Now this is a two-family house?

Harvan: Yes, it is. We lived here, right where we're sitting. This home, at one time, was a single house. And it's a very old house, because all of the beams underneath, there's no nails in them. They're all mortised. It belonged to a Frederick Evans, who was an engineer for the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company. And at that time, on the 1870 map, there's only one house in this block, and that's this house. Later on, it was made into two houses. When my father bought the property, he made it into two houses and then when he was remodeling and all that, he put a bathroom in the other side, and they rented the other side out. That's where I live now—on the other side.

Dublin: And this half-house has how many bedrooms upstairs?

Harvan: Three bedrooms and a bath. Three small bedrooms and a bath, and an attic. And, of course, the basement. And the same thing on the other side. The three girls shared one bedroom and my mother and father shared one, and I had—being the boy—had the other. I knew a lot of times, if my mother would be sick or something like that, my father would use a bed next to me, we had two beds there—in the same bedroom. Julia graduated from Lansford High —Margaret also graduated, and so did Rose, and I graduated. And just as soon as Julia graduated, she went off to New York—went to Greenwich Village and never came back—stayed there until she died.

Dublin: What kind of work did she do in New York when she first went there?

Harvan: Oh, she was a pretty good artist. She had an artistic bent—there was something there—she worked in factories and places where she hand-painted ties and scarves. She did some design work. Then she married a fellow by the name of Marvel, Frankie Marvel, and they had three children. He practically drank himself to death—died an alcoholic. She lived alone, and when she was sixty-seven, one of her friends found her, she had died in her little apartment in Greenwich village. It wasn't much. One summer I went down to see her, and I couldn't believe the small place she was living in. I tried to get her to come back to Lansford, but there was no way she was going to come back here. She got so used to the city and the way people lived and she was not ready to come back here—never did. The only time she came back was when I buried her here.

* * * * * * * * * *

Dublin: What about your second sister?

Harvan: Margaret, like I said, was more of the home type girl. She went to New York for a while, didn't like it, and came home. She was close to my mother. They would bake together, would wash clothes together, and everything else. She stayed around here, worked in the factory, met a fellow down the street here called Frankie Sulek, who worked in Number Six. He was a pretty good musician and always felt that he should be leading a band or something like that, writing music. He did start up a little band, and he called it the Frankie Shaw Orchestra. Where I live now—that's
Margaret and her family.
where they lived—my mother and father lived here and Margaret lived next door. He would bring in about five or six people and they would start playing, and he would sit up at night after work, making arrangements. He had the orchestra for a while, up until the war broke out. He wasn't a young man anymore, but he wanted to get into the Service and stayed for two years, and then following the Service, they went to Levittown, New York [and then] they moved to North Carolina; he was writing technical manuals and instructional books. They bought a plot of ground and built a home on it. Frank died a young man—he was only sixty-one. He was out in the yard, out in the back yard one Saturday afternoon, raking the leaves, and just dropped over. That was it. Margaret was a widow from then on.

* * * * * * * * * *
Dublin: Now, were you closest to Rose?

Harvan: I would say so, yeah, because she was three years older than me, and especially toward the latter part of her life when I was retired I had more time myself. I didn't have to spend as much time with my children—they were gone—so I could readily drive up to Connecticut where she had a home, a nice place. I enjoyed going up there. It was great—I miss it now—even today I miss it. We were very close toward the end.
. . . When Rose was in high school, she also had to work. So, during the evenings and during her vacations— junior and senior year—she got a job with Dr. Breslin here—at Lansford with our dentist. He kind of liked her, so he said, "You can be my assistant. If I need something, you can hand it to me." Things of that nature. She did that for a couple years, but as soon as she got out of high school, she also wasn't going to stay in town, and left.
Depression-era Lansford. Courtesy Library of Congress.
There was nothing here during the Depression. My father wasn't working—most of the time. I could remember the Depression was . . . taking a pot and getting it filled with soup. Even shoes, there was a bunch of shoes thrown on a pile, and someone would say, "Go pick out a pair." You'd try to find a pair that fit you. And going up to the grocery stores like the A&P, they would throw lettuce out, and oranges and apples, you cut out some of the bad parts. I remember doing all that, and bringing home some of the good. We had chickens in the back. And what we couldn't eat—the bad lettuce and all that —we gave to the chickens. My mother would kill the chickens and that's how we survived. We had a garden in the back, too. We had carrots, tomatoes, and things like that. My mother was a good cook. Well, most of the people that came from the old country were good cooks. She could make a meal out of just potatoes or something like lettuce. She'd get a bunch of lettuce out of the back yard and make a sauce with milk and butter and browned it. That was your meal in the evening. Or you'd get a dish of buttermilk. And she'd make a big bowl of mashed potatoes and put it in the middle of the table, and there'd be browned onions in it. You'd scoop the potatoes with a spoon and dip it into the buttermilk, and that was your evening meal. But we always had apples and things like that in the basement. You could always go down there and get an apple. The farmers came to the front of the house here, selling apples and other fruit. So we did eat well. It wasn't expensive—the food— but we never went hungry, that's for sure.
Rose Harvan in Spain.
Oh, getting back to Rose. She got this job as a dental assistant with Dr. Breslin, and when she got out of high school, she headed for New York City also. When she got to New York, I don't know how it came about— she never talked about it too much—but someone talked her into going to Spain with the Lincoln Brigade, as an ambulance driver/helper. So she packs up, no one knew it. My parents didn't know it. My mother would have been devastated. She winds up in Spain, in the Civil War between Franco and the loyalists. In order to hide her identity where she was, she would send letters to a friend in New York City, who would mail the letter from New York City to Lansford.
      She didn't want . . . my parents to know where she was—she was just nineteen or twenty years old. She would write a personal letter like she was writing it from New York City, and send it to somebody in New York. She would say, "I'm doing this in New York." It wasn't very often, but every now and then, my mother would mention getting a letter from Rose.

* * * * * * * * * *

Rose got involved in this Civil War in Spain as a very, very young girl. When she was in Spain she met people like Hemingway and Robert Capa— people who were involved in that effort. While she was there, she met Herbert Kline, a young filmmaker from Iowa, who was making a documentary film. She got to helping him. And after a while they married. When they finished the film in Spain, they came back to the United States, and when Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939, they had decided to make a documentary film there called "The Crisis." They spent a year in the Sudetenland, making this film. And they had a lot of good experiences. It was, at this time, that she decided she was going to start doing some still photography also. When she decided to do this, she used an old Rolleicord. They didn't have too much trouble in the Sudetenland until the latter part of the film, because the Germans at that time were kind of looking for publicity for their cause. Hitler was trying to get his message across all over the world, and [the Nazis] were receptive to a filmmaker making a documentary. They could only do certain things, shoot certain places, rallies, and things like that—group meetings. But toward the end of the year, when they started to get into the meat of the film, then it started to get a little bad for them. But by that time, the shooting was finished, and they came back to New York City, edited it, and it showed as a documentary called "The Crisis." Well, they weren't satisfied with that, so they decided the next year to go to Poland in 1940. And you know what happened in Poland. That was the start of the World War II. It was much different in Poland. They were under attack by the Germans, and different counter-people in Poland. The most vivid story she told me was when they had all the shot film in cans, and couldn't get out across the border—didn't know how they were going to get this film out.
Rose Harvan in Czechoslovakia.
They finally found somebody sympathetic to what they were doing, and he decided one night that he would put them in a hay wagon and cover them up with hay along with their film, find a remote crossing across the border into, I think it was Lithuania. . . . one of those little roads. And when they were stopped, and I guess whoever stopped them just thought it was a load of hay—they never did search the wagon. They got across the border, and that's how they got their film out of Poland after Hitler invaded Poland and started World War II.
      Then they came back, and that documentary was called "Lights Out in Europe." It's still available, I imagine, someplace. Then the following year, that was 1941, just before we got into the war, they decided to do a movie in Mexico, and I think you saw some of those pictures. That film was called "A Forgotten Village," written by John Steinbeck. John Steinbeck also wrote the script. Rose did the still pictures, and Herbert and his crew did the documentary film, which is still available. I have a couple books here.

* * * * * * * * * *

The story of "The Forgotten Village" was a story about a little boy who was kind of torn between—he wasn't a young boy, he was a young man —about eighteen. Torn between the old customs of a village and how they treated diseases like you could get from drinking water or eating bad food or exposed to bad sewage or something like that. Through a teacher he found out that there were a lot of these elements that were causing the various diseases, and he tried to impress on his father and on the other people in the village that they were treating these illnesses the wrong way, and that they should adopt modern medicines and all that, instead of listening to witch doctors, putting eggs on your stomach or snake skins on your skin, or something—to draw out the pain. So he was torn between thism . . . And in the final scenes, the people reject all his findings, and his father turns his back on him, and the boy has to leave the village. The people went back to what they had been doing. They rejected the modern medicine. And that was the basic message of the story. [deletion]

[Later in her life Rose Harvan wrote a novel based on the story of the Molly Maguires, a secret Irish American group that emerged in the anthracite region in the 1860s and '70s. George did some research at area libraries to help his sister learn more about their history. In the process he learned about the Mollies' trials. Several came from Lansford and lived just up the hill from George's home.]

      When we were growing up, we had a lot of big families around here —a lot of ethnic families, mostly Slovak, Polish. And I would go up on Ridge Street and we'd play. At night we'd play all kinds of games or just hang out. And we used to play right in front of the house where Alexander Campbell lived and John Jones lived. Alexander Campbell was the one who was hanged for the murder of John Jones, and we actually played right in front of their homes, because they lived across the street from each other. We were living in this kind of historical place, as far as the Molly Maguires were concerned, and we never even knew it. Like I said, we had a lot of big families around here. And we all had nicknames. Everybody had a nickname. I was called Joe-Joe, I was called Sheriff. And we had Dula, and Moony, and Tilly, and Bunser. They're practically all gone now.

Dublin: Did a lot of those kids go into the mines?

Harvan: No, because we were about the age when—we got out of high school—the mines were not hiring—but then the war broke out, and you went into the service. If you were in the mines and were drafted, you got your job when you came back. They gave your job back. I never went into the mines because when I got out of high school, I couldn't get a job in the mines. I couldn't get a job anywhere. Every week I would go down—Roosevelt had initiated the Civilian Conservation Corps—a program set up for youth to get them off the streets and put them into camps to do some good—planting trees or building roads or whatever. Every week we had to go down to Jim Thorpe, which was Mauch Chunk at the time, and sign up. If you missed a week, they would take you off the list. So you had to bum a ride down there, or get a ride somehow, and sign up every week.

Dublin: And this was just a waiting list?

Harvan: A waiting list, yeah. They would try to take the people who they felt were more deserving, so when your turn came up, they called you and I signed up for a six month period. I spent two years in the Civilian Conservation Corps, that was my employment. We got a dollar a day, thirty dollars a month. You kept eight dollars and twenty-two dollars went home. And that twenty-two dollars was a big help to my parents at home. You're talking '38, '39—well, '39 . . .

Dublin: Your father wasn't working much in the mines?

Harvan: No. No one was. They were just making it. The mines at that time were pretty well finished. The only thing that really rejuvenated mining was the second World War. That was just an interlude, and the rest was just a carry-over from the '39s and '40s into the '47s, or '55s or '56s, and '57s. But that's how I got into the CC's.

Dublin: Where did you do your work? Were you living at home and doing it around here?

Harvan: Oh, no. They packed you off and they put you on a train and they send you to a camp. They sent me down to Waynesboro, PA. It's west of Gettysburg, but more on the border of Maryland and Pennsylvania. There was two camps there. There was a forestry camp, and a SCS camp, which was a soil conservation camp. I was in the soil conservation camp. We went out to different farmers who needed terraces made, or maybe they had blocked off a pasture for cattle—and we'd put up a fence. It was real hard work,
George Harvan at
a CCC Camp, 1941.
but you were young then. You'd get out there in the summertime, with all that heat. They fed you, gave you clothes. We had three good meals. We had breakfast, and then we'd get in the truck, and they'd move us out to a farm or wherever we were going to work—and then during the day's work . . . . At lunch time, they'd have a truck come out with huge vats of food. You had a regular mess kit, and they would scoop the food into it, and you'd eat it. They had coffee and bread. I did that for a year and half. I worked my way up. After a year, I became an assistant leader, and I got $36 a month, and I was able to keep $12, or $14. And then the last six months I was in the CC camps I became a leader. They sent me to New Cumberland. It's a small town south of Harrisburg. It was kind of a replacement center for new CC recruits. But by that time, people were losing interest in the CCs. I'm talking '41—the latter part of '40, '41. My job there was to take rookies to various camps—I was just a young man at the time. I was only twenty years old. So here I was taking young men to other camps. I remember going down to Camp David now, the CCs were building that camp—where the President now retreats—and Front Royal and down into Kentucky and Maryland. I picked them up in New Cumberland, put them on the train, and go to a camp, and I would drop them off, and then come back. It was quite an experience for a young man—to see the country and meet all kinds of people. And you would meet all kinds. One time we got this bunch of kids in from South Philadelphia. Most of them were Italians, you know, really rough. Oh brother, it was tough. But I was fortunate. The leader of the group and I became good friends. He could have clobbered me because he was so much bigger and tougher—but I became good friends with him, and that way I survived, I think. I think that you have to be a little diplomatic. That's another thing I learned. Another interesting thing that happened in the CC camps. There was another fellow from Philadelphia, an Italian boy also, who—he was a leader at the time when I was an assistant leader. He said, "You know, we could make some extra money." And I said, "How's that?" And he said, "I'm going to buy two small pigs. We're going to make a pen back in the woods and feed them all the slop out of the mess hall. We're going to take the slop up there and feed them, then we're going to have these two big pigs. We could take them into town and sell them and make some money." After a while, we had the two biggest pigs you'd ever want to see, because they had all this food that was leftover from the mess hall. And they were huge! They were so big—we got a truck and took them into town. The people in Waynesboro never really liked us, because we were so close to town. It was kind of—I can now understand almost—not quite how the Blacks feel, being an outcast in a town— they wouldn't have nothing to do with us. On Saturday night, we would never head for Waynesboro. We'd go to Hagerstown, which was further away. It was a little bigger town; they had dances and accepted us. After we had our bottle of wine, we didn't care where we were. [laughs] Well, we took these two pigs into town, to a butcher in Waynesboro, but we couldn't get anything for them. They knew we were CC boys—we couldn't get much for the pigs, so they practically stole the pigs from us. [laughs] We didn't make any money anyway. 

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Miner's Son, Miners' Photographer: The Life and Work of George Harvan
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