Yesteryear’s Memories: Goodbye Centralia
It was 1947. World War II was over and people were getting back to work. Times were good and the Unites States was beginning to see a prosperity like had never been seen before. Factories were churning out products and people were rebuilding their lives after the hardships of the war. Coal was being mined to fuel these boom times; and the coal deposits of Centralia were in great demand. The Number 5 mine was operating at full swing and mine workers were busy providing a living for their families by going deep down under the town and bringing up ton after ton of this black treasure.
It was hard work and there was always danger. The investigation afterward determined that blasting had ignited coal dust in the air and the explosion was horrific.
One hundred and eleven men died that day. They were burned or injured or suffocated from the fumes produced by the fire and many died a slow death – desperate to get a message to their wives and children and families they scratched out notes any way they could. On paper or the wall, they told their loved ones goodbye. Only eight were rescued.
Woody Guthrie, a folk singer and by many considered a national treasure, wrote a song, “The Dying Miner” also known as “Goodbye Centralia” and it has been preserved by the “Smithsonian Folkways” record label in Washington D.C. It can be easily found online.
By the way, his son Arlo Guthrie recorded a song written by Steve Goodman, “The City of New Orleans” about the train that goes through Centralia every day.