When Coal Was King
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Robert and Roland Crisafio, Aurora Berto

August 26th, 1998


  • Leslie Robertson and Mary Giuliano

(R denotes Robert and or Roland (italics is brother speaking); A denotes Aurora; P Patsy Caravetta; I denotes Interviewers; and, I words in Italics are Leslie Robertson)

It is August 26th, 1998 Wednesday and were in the home of Robert Crisafio with his brother Rolly Crisafio and his sister Aurora Berto. Robert Crisafio talks about his experiences in the mines.

I: Oh you worked in the mine?

R: Yeah I worked in the mine.

I: Where abouts?

R: Up Coal Creek.

Roma Hotel, Fernie. Circa 1918. "[My father Cosmo] got into the hotel business. He ran the Roma Hotel - or he was bartender - I don't know what the distinctions were. ... It's the Fernie now. They used to serve hard liquor in those days - and of course, beer. The sign says: 'Rooms a dollar and up' - so when they say 'up' it probably meant to a dollar and a quarter. I don't even know if they served meals there. They had the card room and that kind of thing. You know we had the Italian Band in those days eh? My Dad was in that, he played the drums."I: Were you ever in that dreaded One east?

R: Yeah I was in One east, I was in number three, number nine, one east, a couple blow outs - a couple cave ins.

I: Really can you tell us about any of those experiences or?

R: Well no more than anybody else would be able to tell you about them. Typical cave-in is where or course too much pressure from above and it comes down. And a blow-out is when a gas pocket behind the face as you go in of course it (inaudible) of course - and it blows out at you.

I: Were you caught in any of those did you say?

R: Yeah. Yeah.

I: What was that like?

R: Well the thing was that you get a warning because you can hear this pup, pup, pup, sort of you know burping sound you know coming out - so everybody starts running uh towards the air the air tunnels they had what they called radishes along that they hung Cosmo Crisafio Outside Minifie's. Circa 1930.down and air come down one side and the other and youd run along there and work your way up through the various - faces. Work your way up to where the heck you can get out. Usually - and often times because the fire boss who would go through the mine you know and check - he knew all of the various passages more than we did so wed all chase after him and go up. That was in number three that was the worst one for that kind of thing.

I: Was it? Ive heard a lot of the One East as well.

R: Yeah. One East year earlier one but Number Three had a lot of that kind of thing.

I: That must have been pretty frightening. So how did you get courage to go back in again when you experienced?

R: Because thats where you worked. Thats what you did and youre a lot younger and less fearful.

This oral history transcript is extracted from the Elk Valley Italian Oral History Project undertaken for the Fernie and District Historical Society in 1998-99. The Heritage Community Foundation and the Year of the Coal Miner Consortium would like to thank Leslie Robertson and the interview team and the Fernie and District Historical Society, which is a member of the consortium, for permission to reprint this material.

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