By Helen Piros (Tarkany), 2003
Helen Tarkany was born November 16, 1912 in Whitman, WV. She died December 8, 2006 in Santa Paula, CA.
She was the daughter of Gabor Sr. and Susan Tarkany. They came from Cseszek, Hungary in 1902 to the USA. Helen had three brothers, Gabor Jr. born in 1902, Steve and Paul born in 1905 and a sister Mary born in 1920.
The family moved to Monahill and they lived there from 1919-1922. As a coal miner, Gabor moved the family around a lot always looking for better pay. Gabor worked in the Mona Mine owned by the Logan Mining Company. The community of Monahill no longer exists.
The road where they lived was compacted dirt which was used to pull wagons on. About 1921, a large grader and steam shovel scooped up the dirt and the road was graded off and gravel was compacted. Straw was put down on the top. The road was smooth and made of concrete.
At one time, there were houses on the left and right hills and a valley in between. There was a playground at the top of the right hill. It was close to a house. It had four swings, teeter-totter and one long slide. Kids would put sand on the slide so that they could go down faster.
The people who lived on the left hill were all Hungarian families. Those living on the right hill were a mixed group of families, Polish, Italians and Americans. They all worked together in the Mona Mine.
There were also two boarding houses below the houses where other coal miners lived. Somogyi a Hungarian family ran them.
The Hungarian families who lived on the left hill were, Kish who lived in a two story house. Kuber who lived in a two story house, Tarkany, Vespremi, Bahus and Bachlar all lived in four room houses. McCalvin was one of the families living on the right hill.
The Hungarian men built an oven of grayish white concrete about 5′ tall and 4′ round. There was a metal door with a handle that was inserted when something was baked. The women did the baking during the week. It took about an hour to bake whatever they wanted. Most times it was different types of bread. Each family had their own assigned day when they could use the oven.
The community had its own hand water pump. It had a long metal pipe driven down about a 100′. Concrete was put around the top of the ground where the pump was located. The women and children spent many hours during the morning hauling the water to their homes to use for the washing of clothes and their bathes and for drinking.
The clothes were washed on boards. The clothes were hung outside on clothes lines to dry. If it was wintertime, they would let the clothes freeze and then take them inside to dry out. They would heat the iron on the cook stove. They used coal for the stove. All houses had electricity. Drop cords were used to run the lights on. Each room of the house had its own fireplace, coal and wood was burned to heat the house.
The Tarkany family had one milk cow, which they tied close to the house. They had a few fat black-speckled chickens for eggs. They had three ducks, six chicks, two roosters and two pigs. They had a garden where they grew tomatoes, carrots, parsley, green onions and hot peppers.
If the milk cow went dry they would buy two quarts of milk from one of their neighbors in the morning and evening. One could usually taste the grass in all of the cow’s milk.
Once a year at Christmas time, the Hungarian men would help Gabor kill a pig. It usually would weigh about 200 lbs. After killing it, they would clean and cut it up. The Hungarian women would fry the meat and make three kinds of sausage:
1. Kolbasz – Brownish
2. Hurka with rice -White
3. Hurka with blood and rice – Dark
Gabor’s daily activities, he was up at 5am and he would milk the cow first, then have his breakfast and then walk down the hill to the Mona Mine. he would load the coal in a horse drawn wagon by getting down on his hands and knees. He used a pick axe to chop the coal out. He used a carbide lamp to see with. Sometimes he worked operating the chute at the coal tipple. He got paid every two weeks. Work started at 6am and he would finish at 1pm.
The family’s meals usually consisted of bacon and eggs for breakfast and Kellogg’s cornflakes with bananas. For lunch they would have goose liver square loaf and minced boiled ham. For dinner they had a pot of stew, chicken soup and beans cooked different ways. With all of their meals they had fresh fruits and green salads. They would drink lots of water, milk, tea and coffee.
Susan’s daily activities would be to prepare all of the meals. She used old shirts to clean the floors with, she didn’t have a mop. When her sons weren’t working in the coal mine, they would help her haul the water for washing the clothes. Some days she would go and help her neighbors out with things.
Gabor bought a 1920 Model T Ford for himself and his three sons. The windows were black canvas with snaps on each window. The car was black and had front and back seats. It had to be cranked up. They had no training in driving the car. They just learned by practicing.
While the family did trade at the Mona store, Gabor felt it was better to seek out other stores. He would drive all the way to the Mercantile store in the City of Logan to buy clothes for his family. Those were enjoyable rides.
Helen loved living on Monahill where in the summer she use to catch June bugs and tie a string to them. Put lighting bugs in a jar. When it rained or snowed, she would make fig and apple cookies. She helped her Mom make the Hungarian breads.
She attended Monaville Grade School, a short walk down Monahill. She would carry her lunch in a round metal pail with a handle on it. This pail had contained rock candy in it, which one could purchase at the Y.M.C.A. store. Helen’s mom Susan would put in home made bread, fresh fruits and canned fruit of blackberries that were picked in the local hills. The fruits were purchased from local farmers.
While at school, the girls would play tag, hop scotch and jump rope. The boys would shoot marbles with in a round circle. Sometimes Helen and her classmates would go by train to other schools in the area and have running races. These were considered Field Meets. Monaville’s school colors were green and white.
Movies were shown at the Y. Helen saw Ruth Roland and Pearl White in some westerns and comedies. Dances were held at the Y and Gabor played the accordion which he taught himself to play. The favorite dance was a Hungarian two step called the Csardas. The mail was picked up at the Y post office. Stamps were two cents.
The Monahill Bowling Alley was built about 1918. Helen Piros (Tarkany) worked in it one day in 1922 when she was 10 years old. It was in the summer and on a Saturday. Helen earned $4.20 for working from 10am to 6pm. She worked only the one day setting up the pins. Her father Gabor wouldn’t allow her to work there anymore. There was a problem with the labor laws regarding children.
The building was built by the Hungarian coal miners and the Mona Mine Company supplied the materials.
Helen states that the building that the bowling alley was in was about 50′ wide and 100′ long. It had large timbers at the ends and black tar paper tacked on the top. The roof was slanted. The two sides were open. The area where the pins were placed and the area where the men stood to throw the ball was boxed in. There was a door on the end where the men stood to throw the ball. There were benches where they could sit to watch the game and wait for their turn. Due to the open sides, the game was played only on warm dry days. There were numbers on the pins and on the floor where she was to place them. The floor was slanted so the balls would roll back when Helen placed them in the side slot.
The bowling lane was about 4′ wide and 50′ long. The one wood floor was made of oak. It was put together real good and it had a shiny glowing look. There was only one lane. Helen had to roll the ball to the slot area about the size of the ones today. The pins were made of wood and they had a metal ring in the middle.
While life was wonderful for the Tarkany family on Monahill, they moved on to a better one when they moved to Beauty, KY.
You may also enjoy:
- www.himlerhouse.org – Beauty, KY coal camp The Helen Piros (Tarkany) Collection