Woman Sweeping Coal Off Path

This woman was in her late Eighties when I photographed her in 1973. Her address was Route 6, Sevierville, Tennessee. She was sweeping coal off the dirt path that led to her house. She had just gotten a fresh load for heating. She used wood for cooking. Her son and grandchildren helped her tend the property. Note the electric meter on the side of the house in the background. By the standards of Appalachia in the 1970s, this family was far from poor. My father grew up in a home that burned coal for heat. In his family, it was his job to shovel the coal into the basement, stoke the furnace with a fresh chunk every morning, and empty out the cinders periodically. Coal was cheap and plentiful in Appalachia. Coal mining was one of the main occupations. However, the widespread burning of coal without emissions control equipment created smog. Coal for home heating dwindled until it practically disappeared in 1990, but started making a comeback in the recession that started in 2007/8.

Related Entries