Home Lifestyle RAMBLINGS: The daughter of a ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’

RAMBLINGS: The daughter of a ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’

While watching the Loretta Lynn tribute show from the Grand Ole Opry House and the movie, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” over the weekend, I thought much about my mom and grandmother. My mom was a huge fan of Loretta Lynn. Besides enjoying her music, she strongly identified with Loretta Lynn being a coal miner’s daughter because she too was a coal miner’s daughter.

My mom lost her father at the age of 3 in the most disastrous industrial accident in the state in 1925 when an explosion in the Coal Glen Mine in Chatham County killed 53 men. This accident virtually ended coal mining as a profitable endeavor in the state. The only other industrial accident in the state to come anywhere near the Coal Glen disaster was the Imperial chicken plant fire in Hamlet in 1991 when 25 people were killed.

I can remember my mom telling me the only memory she had of her father was when a man picked her up and held her so she could see her “sleeping” father in a coffin and telling her to tell him goodbye. I always thought this was a bit morbid but in those days, it was common for bodies to be taken to the family home for viewing until burial.

Perhaps even sadder than this memory was my mom and grandmother telling me how much pressure was placed on my grandmother to put my mom into an orphanage because she had no means to support her daughter. Of course, for my grandmother this was totally out of the question. After losing her young husband, was she now expected to lose her daughter? But this was the times they lived in — few work opportunities for women and little or no public assistance.

Thankfully, my grandmother’s older sister offered a solution. She was also a single mother with a young daughter and proposed that she and my grandmother live together and work alternate shifts at a nearby hosiery mill. This was indeed a needed solution for both sisters.

Years later, my grandmother eventually got her LPN certification and enjoyed a long career in nursing and my own mother went to the McCain TB Hospital Nursing School and received her RN certification and spent her nursing career in public health. I owe a lot to these two strong women for being wonderful role models.

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My mom enjoyed “A Coal Miner’s Daughter” so much when it premiered in 1980 that my husband and I surprised her with a tape of the movie so she could watch it as much as she wanted.

Watching this iconic movie over the weekend made me more aware of Sissy Spacek’s brilliant portrayal of the country music legend. She won the Academy Award for best actress that year. I have read that Sissy was Loretta’s Lynn’s first choice to play her in the movie adaptation of her autobiography, but Sissy lacked the confidence to accept the role until she personally met Loretta Lynn who assured her that she knew she was the one who would do the best job.

Like Austin Butler who superbly portrayed Elvis Presley in the movie released this summer, Sissy Spacek channeled Loretta Lynn in “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” I am almost positive Austin Butler, like Sissy Spacek, will receive a best actor award in the Academy Awards ceremony in the coming year for his Elvis portrayal. These two movies of two music legends are among the best biopics I have ever seen.

When my late husband discovered that Sissy Spacek and I shared the same birthday, Dec. 25, 1949, he surprised me with an autographed photo of her for our birthday. I truly treasure this gift for all the memories it brings back and the “Loretta Lynn” past weekend honoring one of the queens of country music.

Helen Cox is a former journalist and educator in Richmond County.

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