The year was 1929, and a fourteen year old kid from Joplin ,Missouri arrived with his six brothers, father, and mother. Their destination?The infamous Burke,Idaho.That fourteen year old boy would may years later become the man I call "Dad".
Their route would carry them many miles from their home in Misssouri,first LosAngeles, then Portland,on to Seattle, and finally the fabulously wealthy mining district called Burke.They came for the same reason many families were making cross country treks.Survival! My Grandfather,although a very young man by today's standards, was disabled from years of working in the mines of Missouri,Oklahoma, and Kansas. His lungs were shot, and money was non-existent.
It was up to the boys in the family to carry the load and provide food for everyone.My Dad was a big farm boy, and had no problem looking older than his actual age, so, he lied about his age and was hired at the Austin Leasing Company, a large mine in those early years located about a mile this side of Burke,high up in the hills.The camp had its own boarding house, and the young miners made the trek up the mountain every week, and then went home on the weekends.
The pay?A whopping $4.00 per day.The veins of silver were so rich that the mine made a handsome profit by pulling out one large ore car a day of the fine silver.
Yes, Burke, Idaho,is now mostly only a faded memory in the minds of a few old timers, like my father, who although 93 years old, can still spin out the details of those wld west years.The town of Burke had Barber shops, hotels,grocery stores,a clothing store,a doctor, dentist, and of course bar after bar,after bar.Life was very tough in Burke, and the people were even tougher.
Several years ago, I had a guest in the hotel I was managing, who had his first teaching and and assistant coaching job at old Wallace High School.He later coached at Kellogg,and some of you will remember him as the coach who won the state baskeball championship in 1964.Anyway,the coach at Wallace was then a young tough man from Alabama named Bud Riley.Riley later had a successful pro coaching career in the Canadian Football League.
Riley was taking role call, and had told his class to answer "present". Any answer except for "present" was not acceptable.A tough young kid answered a differnt way,infuriating Riley.Riley went over to the kid, picked him up and threw him against the wall. Later, Riley was telliing his assistant coach about it and said in his rich Alabama drawl,"I shouldn't have done that". The assistant asked Riley if he was worried about getting in trouble?"Hell no"said Riley. 'That kid was from Burke, he might have kicked the sh-- out of me".
Such was the once mighty reputation of the people who inhabited the town of Burke,Idaho.
Next-a typical Bronx day.