Christmas at Dante – 1989

© Jerry F. Couch

THE YEAR 1989 HAD BEEN TOUGH in Southwest Virginia.  In April of that year, miners employed by Pittston had gone on strike because of the company’s continued refusal to negotiate a new labor contract.  An agreement was finally reached at the end of the year.

During a prolonged strick, the entire community felt the economic pinch when miners weren’t working.  Other unions, recognizing the need for solidarity, sent loads of food and gifts for Thanksgiving and Christmas distribution to UMWA members.

Despite the stalemate between the union and the Pittston, Dante’s traditional Christmas celebration continued without interruption.  On a very cold and snowy day, gifts and treats were distributed to youngsters at the old bank building in Dante’s downtown area. 

At that time these photos were taken, the old bank building had not yet been renovated as the Dante Coal Mining and Railroad Museum.  The lady standing in front of the building in the fourth picture is Elaine Steele.  She was the organizer of the event, which was funded by Clinchfield.  Elaine’s family told me she loved making this special day a reality – and it shows.

Were you there to take part in this celebration of Christmas thirty years ago? 

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