Charlie Reyes Sr.
Circa 1960 – 2019
Size: Video recording: 1 MP4 file (52 min., 13 sec.); digital
Transcript: 20 pages
Photographs: 2 interview digital photographs, 1 personal photograph converted to digital format, and 4 digital photographs of artifacts.
Format: Originally recorded on a DSLR camera as an MOV file and a portable audio digital recorder as an MP3 file.
Summary: Interview materials of Prescott, Arizona community member and Iron King Mine underground mine worker Charlie Reyes Sr. The collection consists of biographical materials, including an interview transcript, interview photographs, personal photograph, artifact photographs, and interview video. The photographs of the artifacts document his miner belt and miner helmet that was used at Iron King Mine. In addition, a photograph of a miner belt used by Charlie Reyes Jr. is included. The personal photograph focuses on Charlie Reyes Sr. working inside the Iron King Mine on square set and horizontal cut-and-fill stoping.
Charlie Reyes Sr. (1938- ) was born in Prescott, Arizona to Augustine Reyes and Margarita Hernandez Reyes. His father walked from Aguascalientes, Mexico to the Texas border where he crossed the Rio Grande, while his mother’s origin is not known but it is guessed that she was born in the Prescott area. Charlie grew up in Prescott and lived in Granite Creek Park which was the predominately Mexican barrio. He has a total of nine siblings that included Sarah, Delfino, Sylvester, Cipriano, Patsy, Terry, Eddie, Paul, and Raul. Charlie attended Washington School and afterwards he joined the Navy where he primarily patrolled the Pacific Ocean in the end of the Korean War. In 1960, he met his wife Ruth “Cuca” Reyes, who he had four children with that included Jovita, Charlie Jr., Johnny, and Ana Marie. He worked as an underground miner for the Iron King Mine for about 16 years beginning in the 1950s. After the Iron King Mine closed, he moved to different towns in Arizona where he continued working as an underground miner (e.g., Christmas Mine, Bagdad Mine, and Superior Mine). Currently, Charlie lives in Prescott.
The personal photograph and artifact photographs were donated to the Voices Unheard: Arizona’s Environmental History archives in 2019 by Charlie Reyes Sr. In this same year, the oral history and photovoice interviews were conducted and recorded by Denise Moreno Ramírez. The audio recording of these interviews was later mixed by Robert Campbell and the video recording was edited by Ramani Menjugas.
Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Charlie Reyes Sr., 2019 January 21. Archives of Voice Unheard: Arizona’s Environmental History, The University of Arizona.
The following oral history is the result of a recorded interview with Charlie Reyes Sr. conducted by Denise Moreno Ramírez on January 21, 2019. Reyes’s son, Charlie Reyes Jr., was present during the recording. This interview is part of Moreno Ramírez’s dissertation research at the University of Arizona.
Readers are asked to bear in mind that they are reading a transcript of the spoken word, rather than written prose. The interview focuses on Reyes’ recollections about his life in Arizona and his experience as a miner at the Iron King Mine located in Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona.
Oral History Interview
Q1: Okay, so we're gonna start from the beginning. I was wondering, what are your parents' names?
Reyes: My father's name was Augustine Reyes.
Q1: And your mother's name?
Reyes: Margarita Reyes.
Q1: Where were they born?
Reyes: My father was born in uh Mexico Cit-Mexico City, in Aguas Calientes, Mexico.
Q1: And how did they get to Arizona?
Reyes: My father walk-walked across, uh, Texas. Um, where they're having that big controversy right now in Texas, and he crossed the Rio Grande, and he crossed with my aunt, but he claimed it was his wife. So, they both crossed, walked across, both of them crossed walking. And then, my dad came to, uh, Arizona. He became, he became – worked for the railroad, and uh, he was a carpenter. He built houses, helped built houses until he got hurt, and then he couldn't work no more. He had to retire very, at a young age.
So, that was my dad. My mother, they said she was born in, uh, Chino Valley first, Chino Valley, Arizona. But then they told me, "No, she wasn't born in Chino Valley. She was born in Humboldt, Arizona." So, I never really, really knew where my mother was born. I just go by Humboldt now.
And she was a Mexican cook. She worked for that El Charros Restaurant 30 years until she fell sick.
Q2: She worked for Canarios.
Reyes: I mean- Canarios Cafe. She hated Mexican food, because that's what she made, so she wouldn't eat all day. All she did was drink Coke, Coke, Coke. And she got sick, and they said, well, she died of cirrhosis of the liver, and they said it was – did she drink? No. Did she smoke? No. It was just the Coke that she got her liver messed up with Coke, and then she died.
I did not see her, either, before she died. My father I was in China, and China to Prescott, Arizona, it's a long, long ways. So, they didn't even want to send me back to the funeral. The Red Cross said, "Yes, you are, you're gonna send him back."
So, they flew me back from China, San Francisco, Phoenix, and then I got a ride from Phoenix to Prescott to – they were burying my dad that day. I barely got to see the funeral, his coffin, but I never saw my father again.
Q1: And what war did you serve in?
Reyes: What's that?
Q1: What war were you in, the Viet- Korean?
Reyes: No, I was not in a war. I was right at the end of the Korean War, that's all I did. Uh, but I was on a ship, and we patrolled the whole Pacific Ocean, all the way from Pearl Harbor, all the way to China, back and forth, back and forth. So, that's, uh, what I did. But well, it was – I enjoyed being in the Navy. That was nice, I saw a lot, a lot of countries, Japan, um the Philippines, I saw all those countries, real nice.
What I liked about the Philippines was the Philippines, when we go there, it was just like being in Mexico. Mexican food, Mariachis, music, you know, and it was just nice. You know, we had to eat mostly American food aboard ship. So, we could not go into a restaurant, like especially in, in Japan, China. They'll tell you, "You are off limits when you go in China to eat in a restaurant."
Q1: And so, when and where were you born?
Reyes: I was born here in Prescott, Arizona.
Q1: And what's the year?
Reyes: I was born in January the 1st, 1938. I was – yesterday was my birthday.
Q1: Oh, wow.
Reyes: So, I grew up here, and I went to uh kindergarten at this school they closed down on, uh, Gurley's Washington School, and I stayed there till, I guess, about second grade, or towards the end of second grade, and then they moved us to, uh, they were building our school, which is called Mata E. Dexter School, but while they were building Mata E. Dexter School, we had, they had to send us to the, the rodeo grounds, which is called now. But it was called the foreground, that's when we went up there, and where they have the rodeos, horse races, and everything.
And uh, then they had the seventh Yavapai County fair. So, they'd send us over there in one of them buildings for our schooling until they built us our school. So, they finish, and then they send us back to Dexter School at third grade, and I stayed there until the sixth grade, and then they sent us to uh Prescott Junior High, which is called Prescott Unified.
Now, it's called, uh, the Sheriff's Department on Gurley Street, and uh, and I when to Phoenix three different times. Back then I had a little cross here. And that they use to say that was a mark of Pachucos, especially in California.
Back then, the Pachucos and the service guys did not get along with each other. So, they told me, “You can’t you didn't make it.” On the third, before the third time, this officer told me, he said, "You really want to join the service?" "Yes, sir." He said, "I'll tell you what, you go back and tattoo over that cross, and then come back, and then you'll pass." So, I did.
So, I went back, and I passed it right away. So, they sent me to Los Angeles to a final test over there. So, I went over there, there was Army, Marines, Air Force, and all that doors. And they said, Navy door was locked. I kept – you had to be there at 0700. I go over there, it was locked. 8:00 a.m. locked, 9:00 a.m. is locked. Finally, I said, "Why is everybody going into the Marines? I'm not going into the Marines."
So, I went in there, and from then on, they yell at you, yell at you, cuss at you. They say, "You idiot, you should have known better that you saw everybody coming in here. Why didn't you come in here and ask them?" I said, "Well, I'm going into the Navy. I didn't know I had to go through the Marines."
They told me to go in there, that room. I sat down, they said, "Okay, that's it." Go to another room, they took all of us in there. "Raise your right hand." They started swearing us in. "Okay, now," what they call us swabbies, "Say, swabbie, you're a swabbie. Okay. You are now a swabbie. You are now in the hands of the United States government. You are a Navy man." Oh, I was happy, I'm glad, I'm happy.
So, then they send us, uh, in a train to San Diego over there for my basic training. So, I spent there, I believe 16 weeks, they train you, all kinds of things. So, finally, we graduated, and they said, gave me 15 days to go, come to Prescott. Well, when I came back, my mother, my father, of course, were heartbroken because I had gotten into the Navy.
Said, "Oh, yeah, it'll be all right, Mom. It'll be all right, Dad." My mother was younger than my dad. "I'll be all right, don't worry about it." So, said, “Well I hope so.” Where are you going to? "I don't know, I don't know where my ship's at. It's out at sea somewhere.
So, my dad was older. He said, "Come here, mijo, come here. You kneel right here in front of me." I said, "Well, what for, Dad?" And I don't know if you know anything about, uh, la bendición, that's what I'm going to do. “Te voy a decir la bendición,” made the cross. He said, in Spanish, "Son, you'll never see me alive again."
"Oh, Dad, don't say that. Don't say that." "No, you'll never see me again." I said, "Oh, yes, I will." So, then, I took off, and I never did see him again. He died, uh, before they even brought me back. But uh, I had a big deal four years in the Navy that I really enjoyed, saw a lot of beautiful country. So, I liked it.
Q1: And when did you meet your wife?
Reyes: My wife was from Clarkdale. So, they were sitting in the living room, and uh, my mother had my picture of my Navy uniform, and she told um my sister, "Who's that guy in the Navy uniform?" She said, "Oh, you don't know him?" "No." "Well, that's my brother. That's my brother, Charlie." And uh, she said, uh, uh, her name was Ruth, they called her Cuca. She said, uh, "You know what, Terry?" My sister's named Terry. Said, "You know what, Terry? I'm gonna tell you something. You see your brother there. I'm gonna marry him."
"Oh, you are? You really think you are?" "Yes, I do." Well, she grew up, she started growing up, and uh, by that time, I was already a civilian, and I started working at the Iron King Mine. So, I really, really met her. I went, uh, Easter Sunday to Cottonwood, Clarkdale. And they had a big Easter barbecue over there, so that's where I really met her, and she kept eyeing on me, and I knew she kept eyeing me, but I pretend I wasn't even looking at her. So, finally, she got the nerve to come and talk to me, and shook my hand, and she said, "You know who I am?" I said, "Well, yeah, I think I do." She says, "Well, I'm Cuca." Oh, I said, "Well, I'm Charlie."
So then, we kept going around, I kept working at the mine, having a big ball, making good money. And I kept going down there. And she asked me, we started going around with each other, dating more and more. Went to the drive-in, and my brother and his wife, me and Cuca.
So, then we started making plans to get married. And we had a big, big wedding. And we, uh, after we got married, I brought her to Prescott to live with me, because I was working at the Iron King Mine. So, she wasn't pregnant. So, a year later, my oldest daughter was born. And then after that, one after another, four kids, I had.
Charlie was the second, and then it was, uh, his brother, Johnny, and then my youngest daughter, Anna. So, she started working at the hospital, yeah,
Yavapai Regional Hospital, as a nurse there, and she started as an aid, and then she worked her way up. And uh, she worked there 30 years, I believe, until she got stomach cancer, and she cared more for her patients than she did for herself, until I realized she was real sick. "You're going to see the doctor now. I'm taking, I'm forcing you."
So, I took her to this surgeon, and he told me, "You know, Mr. Reyes, I'm gonna tell you right now, it doesn't look good what she's been telling us." She kept saying that whatever she ate, whatever she drank, it felt like it was floating in her stomach. And that's why the doctor said, "It doesn't look good." He said, "I'm gonna open her up, and uh, see what I find. But you better have your family ready there, because, uh, it doesn't look good. You better bring your priest." Okay. So, she told me, "Honey, you better tell me the truth. If they see that I have cancer, you better tell me I have cancer." And she told the doctor the same thing. He said, "Okay, I'll tell her."
So, they opened it up. As soon as they rolled her out of the surgery, she was awake already. I said, "How can she be awake already when she's just coming out of surgery?" I thought she still would be asleep, from that anesthesia, whatever they give her. By the way, soon as she saw me, she said, "Honey, what they find in me?" I already knew, I was just being tough. Not to cry or anything.
So I said, "You know, the doctor and I haven't really got together. And he said he'll get with me in about ten minutes." She said, "You better tell me the truth." "I will." So, I went downstairs where my do – uh, my da- my kids were. And we took them up there, and right away, I told them. Well, they all started crying. I said, "You know, you got to be tough. Don't be crying, yelling, you know. Just, “Oh we won’t.”
So, we went up there to the room where she was at, and recovery room, and she asked the doctor right away, "Doc, what did you find?" He said, "Ruth, I'm gonna tell you the truth. It doesn't look good. You have cancer." And uh, so I asked the doctor, "How long does she have to live?" He said, "Six months."
I said, "Oh, yeah, six months?" "Yes." I said, "Not anymore?" "Well, maybe, but six months, I give her six months to live." She lived nine months, and I had to treat her. So, she lived, uh, 19, 9 months, and she asked me, she said, uh, she was in the hospital before. She said, "Honey, if it's okay with you, can I go home and die at home?" I said, "You can do whatever you want. It's your house, too." She said, "Okay, I want to go home and die." "Okay."
So, we took her home. And she died there in bed, I was in bed with her, about 5:00 in the morning, and she did at about 5:30 in the morning, and I called my daughters, were still in the other bedrooms. I said, "You better come in here, because I think it's time for your mother to go."
So, they came in, and well, they knew that she was going. And two minutes, she was gone. And you know, from the time they told her that she had cancer, nine months, she never cried, not a tear, never, never cried. She'd tell everybody, "If I'm ready to go, the dear Lord wants me, I am ready to go." So, she, uh, worked at the hospital for 35 years, and uh, everybody loved her.
Q1: All right. Charlie, can you tell me when you started working for the Iron King Mine?
Reyes: I believe it was 1967, because I got married in 1960, so I was already working at the Iron King. And I worked there, I don't remember the dates we went on strike. Anyway, when we went on strike, they fired us, so many of us, they fired us. And uh, that is when I have to leave Prescott, I went South, because I had a family, I had bills to pay.
So, I went South, and then they called us back. "Okay they’ve settled the strike." And it was a while. It was a couple of months, maybe four or five months. We, uh, they called us back, and I think it was everybody, so I went back, and it wasn't the same thing. It wasn't the same Iron King I used to work for. They were really upset with us, and they had hired different guys, what they call scabs, they cross the line, and that's what we really hated.
So, then, uh, they started shutting it down again, uh lack of ore, uh, and all that. Copper, lead, zinc. They started laying us off. They said, "Okay, I got laid off." I said, "I ain't coming back here no more. Anyway, I don't like it anymore here." So, that's when I went South.
And then, my first stop was in Superior. I had a brother, my, uh, an older brother than me, and he was a boss at Superior. He said, "Well, why don't you come over here, and I'll get you the job?" Said, "Okay." So, I went down, over there, and uh, I had already put applications, different places.
So, this friend of mine, compadre of mine, he told me, "Charlie, you put in an application here. They're gonna hire you. Come over here right away." So, then from Superior, I went to Miami. I was living in Miami, and then I went, moved from Miami, I went to Globe, and there was a boss, that takes us from Globe to Christmas, called the Christmas Mine. There wasn't hardly any, any town, maybe they have a convenience store.
So, I went to work there. And uh, it was so hot and dangerous, oh my god, it was hot and dangerous, very hot and dangerous. And that's when I was telling you earlier that they told me to go in there and bolt. I’ll quit. Quit, I am not gonna go there and bolt.
And my partner that told me to go over there, told me, "Charlie, I'll go drill, you're crazy." His name was Zeke. "You're crazy. That thing's gonna cave in, soon as you start drilling it, gonna cave in." "No, it's not." "I'm telling you, you're crazy." So, anyway, at lunch time, you had a tag, you pick it up, and hang it over here.
So, we came in, and they asked me, uh, "Well, where's your partner?" "Oh, he's in there drilling." Well, it used to be, when somebody's drilling, you can hear the vibration in the walls. Said, "We don't hear him drilling. So, can you take us to where he's at?" "Yeah." So, I took them over there, took, I don't know, five or six guys, and as soon as you got close to it, I said, "Oh my god, no. No."
He was under, the thing caved down and killed him. It was a big, big boulder. What they did was they climbed on top of it, and they punched holes, like this, and blasted to break that big boulder, to be able to get him out of there. And then after that, I said, "I'm quitting here."
So, then, I didn't quit right away. I started working there, and then I start, uh, uh, drilling, and I broke this hand, right here, this bone. And I said, "That's it. I'm quitting." So, then, that's when I went uh to Miami, where my wife was, and my son, Charlie, he cried, and cried, because he was so sick.
So, I told her, "You know what? Pack up, we're moving." Because they told us that he wouldn't live another month." So, she did, we didn't have very much there, but so, we – she packed, and I helped her, and we moved back to Prescott. And I bet it was maybe two months, he started feeling better. He started eating, started eating. He still was a little baby.
And before you know it, he was really getting, figuring out there – so, I said, "Well he made it." So, then I put my application in Baghdad. I never worked under, uh, open pits, never. All underground. And uh, I, uh, worked twice there. And I didn't like it there, it was too dangerous.
So, anyway, I quit there. I don't think I was there six months. I quit. I quit, and I went to my wife, she was staying with her mother, and with my kids, and I stayed there, I don't know, maybe a month, two months. And I said, "I can't make no money here. I'm going back to mining. I'm going back to Baghdad."
"Well, if that's what you want, we wish you luck." So, I went back there, and I stayed seven years, and I drive from Prescott to Baghdad. What was, 75 miles, one way. And then I had to go over there and back. And we worked three shifts. Days, night what we call, and then grave yard.
And I used to drive by myself. It was a long ways, and I worked very hard in there, very hard. And that's when me and my brother along were drillers there, the main drillers. And uh, we were on a big drill machine, and we could drill probably from here where your car's at, long steel.
I could see, like in the back of your car back there, boulders caving in, boulders caving in. I said, "Oh my god," I said, "I hope it doesn't cave in, and it blocks." I said, "There's one way in, and one way out." I said, "I hope we don't get caved in, because how are they gonna find us here?" Anyway, it finally stopped caving in, and it's a small little hole, and my brother-in-law was a big man. And he said, "Well, I won't fit through that hole." I said, "You go first, you make it go get help."
I said, "Okay," I was afraid, because it would cave in, and it trapped me there. So, I ran up the hill where all that boulders were, and I made it through there, and I yelled at him, "Lupe, come on, you can make it. I know you can make it. Come on." So, like I said, he was fat, and he did, and we both made it out of there.
And that machine must have stayed there three weeks before they got it out of there. So, that place started getting really, really bad. What happens is from one level, 100 foot, as you're coming up to the next level, that's when it really, your walls, just like you get at crackers, smash them, that's the way the walls move, that's what's holding up that ore vain. I said, "Oh my god, I should, it, it is really getting bad."
So, I told him, I said, "You know what? I hope they shut this place down, because it's gonna kill somebody, and it's gonna be somebody drilling." I said, "And I hope it's not us, I hope it's nobody. So, they finally shut it down, and they were sending miners all over the country, Chile, Bolivia, California, Utah, New Mexico, all over.
And that's when they asked me, he said, "They've got openings in Death Valley." I said, "I ain't going to no Death Valley. I, uh, I'm quitting. Mining is over for me. I'm coming back to Prescott." So, I came back to Prescott, and uh, this is where I retired. I said, "No more mining for me." So, I said, "I'm glad I made it," but like I said, I saw some guys get killed, and it was awful. Awful to see these guys that got killed, friends of mine.
So, what can you do? You know, you love mining, you want to go mine, and they're asking you, aren’t you afraid to go down there, you know what, from the time, we call it, the, the cage. It's like an elevator. You get in there, and you get so many men in this cage, and then they drop you down to each level, and then you go back to work.
So, us, we used to eat our lunch before we go back there, because it's no time. You have drilling to do, you have loading to do, to be able to blast. So, uh, that's what I did, and I said to myself, “Well, it's hard work, hard work.” You can step in that cage from the time you step in that cage, that cable that's hoisting you up and down can bust, and there goes that cage. It’ll be like an accordion, it'll break.
Q1: And what is the work that you did on Iron King?
Reyes: Uh, what?
Q1: What is the work that you did on Iron King? Were you a driller?
Reyes: What was the work, a driller.
Reyes: Yeah, drilling. I was drilling that Richard Alvarado my compadre, he was my boss, and he told me, "Charlie, I want you go to back there." I think it was, like, a 1900, and they were trying to start a new stope. And he said it, it was a lot more narrow than here. He said, "You got to go over there, and, and widen out so we can get in there."
So, I was drilling the, the football, what they call a football is the wall that comes down. The hanging wall is like this. And I'll tell you, I don't know how I was looking over here while I was drilling, and by the corner of my eye, I see something, like, dark. And I did not wait for nothing. I just let go of the machine, I started running back when I heard, bang, bang. The walls came down.
And if I wouldn't have seen that, I wouldn't be here today. It would have killed me, so that was one of the worstest places that, uh, I had to work. And they told me, him and this, they were putting up, uh, lumber, timber, and he, he told me, "Compadre," said, "You look out back there before you're gonna be drill.
We heard voices. We go back there, there's nobody there. But we heard these voices. And this guy that he was working was an older guy. He was Italian guy, and he never messed around with nobody or kid around with nobody, and his name is Tony Depetrice. I said, "Tony," I said, "Tell me the truth. Did you guys hear somebody back there?"
"Charlie, I'm gonna tell you the truth, yes. We heard somebody yelling for help, and we go back there, Richard and I went back there, there's nobody. So, you be careful." I said, "Okay, thanks."
So, finally, they got everything widened out, and they start putting in their timber, which is 10 x 10s like this, and up here, down here. So, we start working there, mining, and we had finally start filling in to be able to be close to the top to drill. So, this friend of mine, he was a real good friend of mine. His name was, uh, we called each other Marine, he was an ex-Marine, and I was an ex-sailor.
And we were eating lunch from here to the helmet, and he asked me, "Charlie," he said, "Where are you gonna be for Thanksgiving dinner?" And he talked real, uh, funny voice, you know. I said, uh, "Marine," I said, "I know where I'm gonna eat. Do you know where you're gonna eat?" "Oh, yeah, I know where I'm gonna eat, Charlie." I said, "Okay, well, I hope so."
So, we finish our lunch, we go back there, and uh, about quitting time, we're ready to light about 50 holes. And we live by, uh, splinters, and once you start those other parts that you're filling, it gets so god darn smoky, you can't see your hand in front of you. So, he said, "Okay, it's time to light up." I said, "Okay."
He said, "I'm going over this way, and you go this other way, and then we work together." So, we started working. We hadn't even lit up yet. We – good thing we did. So, then I heard a bang. I turned around and, "Well, where is he? He was standing right here by me. Where is he?"
So, I started walking back then, I started yelling at him. And I looked down, there were these straws like this, and uh, I looked down there, and there, he was, laying on his back. And what happened, that boulder that came down killed him instantly. So, I started yelling for help down below, the guys started running up there to see what was – as soon as they saw him, turned around, and took off running. "No, we can't see this. We can't see."
I said, "We got to get this guy out, we got to help, you guys got to help me." "No, I can't do it." So, this friend of mine told me, "I'll get him from the legs, and you can get him from his arm, and pull him to get him." We still have to get the rock off him. One of his arms looked like it had gone through a meat grinder. Oh, it looked awful.
So, I pulled him from the arm, and it looked like a nerve, about as thickness as a cigarette, and it just stretched out. Said, "Oh my god," so I told him, "I can't." So, he said, "Well, get him, get him from underneath his shoulders." And that's how we picked him up. As soon as I saw him down there, I knew what had happened. He was bleeding through his mouth, nose, and ears.
So, I said, "I know." And then his color changed. He was white guy, but like, like a sheet. Bled to death already. So, we got him out, and he had a cut from his neck up here, from the skull all the way down to the bottom, and it looked like he had just got a sharp knife and just cut it. And he was open like this.
You could see all of his insides. "Oh my god," I said, "Oh my god," I said, "I hope I never, never see this again." So, anyway, we got him out. And by that time, the boss had already come down, and we'd been telling them, "This place is too dangerous. Put timber in there instead of opening it." "No, we can't, we can't." I said, "You have to. Somebody's gonna end up getting killed," and sure enough.
Then he saw him there, and he got a hold in his shoulder, he started crying, the boss. He was an old guy and he started crying. "Oh my god, I wished we would have put timber." Yeah, now it's too late. So, we had him in a basket, we took him down, and took him, hoisted him outside. So, I tell you, and when we were going up the cage, I told him, "You know what? Don't ever ask me to go back down there. I won't go back." I was scared, afraid to go down there. I said, "I won't."
So, he tried to one time, I said, "No, remember what I told you. I'm not going down there." "Oh, okay." So, that was the end of that. Then I saw that Olvera that got killed there, too. Being just be, how shall I say it, just to go see. He was sitting down like this with a machine. And this big boulder, it must have been about nine feet wide, probably as high as this ceiling, just come down, fell right on top of him, and killed him instantly, also. And that's how Olvera was.
So, those were the most awfulest things that I had ever seen.
Q1: Was there a lot of Mexican mine workers then at the Iron King Mine?
Reyes: Did I what?
Q1: Was there a lot of Mexicans that worked at the Iron King?
Reyes: Yes. I'll bet there was mostly 85 percent Mexicans. They were coming from Mexico. Back then, they could, they'd hire all these Mexicans from Mexico. And they needed miners. They weren't even miners, but they hired, so it was a lot of Mexicans, yes. And then, there was ones from here, from Prescott. Of course, it was working there, also.
So, they, uh, there was a lot of Mexicans, and they lived all around Prescott, Mayer, Humboldt, they lived in around there. Didn't matter where, as long as you could find a house to live.
Q1: And um, how – I guess what – you were then a driller at the Iron King, and uh, you told me that there, uh, I've heard from other miners that there locks, a coin system.
Reyes: That there was what?
Q1: A coin system?
Q2: Your tag.
Reyes: The tag?
Reyes: As soon as you went in through the, through the shifters' officers, they had a board, like this wide, and they had these, uh, rings, and when you went in there, you got your number, and walked a bit further, the ones that underground, and then you put your, your tag when you was underground.
When you come out of the underground, you get that pin again, and put it that you're going up, so that way that you're, they know that you're out. They know that you're underground. So, that's what they did. I, I had my, my pin, but I don't know what I ever did to it.
Q1: And do you have all, uh, you had a lot of friends then at the Iron King?
Q1: Uh-huh. [Laugh]
Reyes: [Laugh] They were all my friends. They were, we were all friends.
Q1: And what did you guys do for fun?
Reyes: Uh, mostly, once we get out of work, you know, you go home. But once you – first, first guy out, out, of course, you go to that Chemas bar, or the Salby's Bar, and we'd have maybe four or five beers there, and then everybody would get a six pack, 12 pack, and then we'd go head towards Prescott, through Prescott Valley.
And there was, uh, three, two or three garbage cans where you could throw the empty ones in it. And then, uh, by that time, well, it's time for us to go home. So, then we go home. And most of the time, we, for really enter-entertainment, we really didn't have much entertainment. You know, you just want to stay home.
My wife, she worked, my kids were in school, so I didn't see them, uh, say that I was working day shift, I didn't see, uh, them when I got off of work, and see them, and they were too young, too little, too little kids, they were kids. So, but on my days off, we'd always do something, and, and uh, we – as they started growing up, older, I was making a lot of money, and so was my wife.
We'd take off to Phoenix and go shopping. So, that's what we used to do a lot.
Q1: And did you ever attend the picnic, the Iron King picnic?
Reyes: The Iron King what?
Q2: The Iron King picnic, picnic.
Reyes: The picnic? Oh, yes. Yes.
Q1: How was that?
Reyes: Oh, that was really, really nice. There, it didn't matter whether it was the Iron King, or it was Baghdad, Baghdad was a better one. But they'd go from Baghdad, they'd go up that Myrtles Creek, and they'd go and kill a burro, a donkey. And they'd bring him back, and they had a pit, a big pit, of course, they'd peel him, gut him out, and everything. They'd put that burro down in that pit and barbecue him. I know that you've never ate a burro before. You could not even tell it was a donkey or a burro. Oh, it was good.
And then, there were Mexicans there, oh, from Mexico, you know? Oh, the salsas they'd make and everything, oh, and the burritos with corn tortillas, oh my god, they were just delicious. Yes, so, at the Iron King, mostly they had beef. Big chunks of beef, and they put it in the pit also. And uh, they'd make it, and all the families were there. Mexican, mostly Mexicans and white people were there. We'd have together.
And then, they'd have a lot of beer, a lot of beer to drink, kegs of beer. So, yeah, they were nice having those barbecues, mostly for Labor Day, Labor Day weekend, that's when they had those big barbecue things.
Q1: And did you bring your whole family?
Q1: Yes. And, um, I guess one of the last things that I want to ask you is, um, uh, what was it? Where was I. Oh, yeah. Um, I guess in Prescott, where you lived here in Prescott, were there a lot of Mexican families, like Mexican-American families?
Q2: Yeah, she wants to know if there was a lot of people that lived in Prescott, Mexican people, your families.
Q1: Yeah, and then, what were some of the places where people ate, what were some of the things that they did for fun, I don't know if you remember?
Reyes: Oh, like I said, I don't remember, oh well, they had softball teams. Softball teams, and all the families would get together, and at the end, they'd maybe have three games, you know, and then they'd have a place where you could barbecue at, and then everybody would bring something, you know. Uh, of course, and then what they used to barbecue –
Q2: Dancing, dances?
Reyes: Oh, dancing. Yeah we had dances.
Q2: Spook Night, Spook Night.
Q2: Spook Night, in Jerome.
Reyes: Oh, in Jerome, we go to Jerome, they call it Spook – they still have it – Spook Night. And a lot of people from Jerome go there every, uh, Spook Night, which is in, uh, January, February, October.
Q2: It's for Halloween, uh, for Halloween.
Reyes: I think it's in October. And we had big dances over there, and we'd always get together, and you're seeing your old friends. Mostly, they've all gone, too, because they, the real old, old ones are dead, like my first wife, uh, Cuca, her father worked at the Jerome. So, I knew him, uh, when I start, uh, date – him and her father and her mother used to go to Prescott and they had an old truck with an old camper on the back, and he'd go all over, uh, Sedona and he'd pick up, uh, fruits, chilies, watermelons, cantaloupe, and they'd go to Prescott and sell it.
So, I tell my kids when they were already grown up, I said, "You know what? They like to come over here with Mom and Dad, and they see all your toys, their playing with your toys, this, playing with that." I said, "And I'll stick my head into that little windshield from that camper shell, and I'll grab something, and I'll give it to you, and I'll grab something, and I'll give it to you." And uh, so that's what I did.
[End of Interview Session]
Photograph and Artifact Interview
Q: Do you want to show us the photograph and talk a little bit about what you were doing there? What were you doing in that photograph?
Reyes: This is what we're doing is we're filling. Like, say, you went, uh, uh, 100 feet that way, and you already took this ore body off, and you got to start it again another one, so you got to fill it from down here, up almost to about, uh, two feet from the surface so that you can start drilling again, and blasting.
You go another 100 feet, and you go over and do the same. Now, this here, where you see all that lumber, and all that, that I'm looking at, at, uh, there has to be two guys all the time. And then you got these boards that are about half inch thick, and I don't know, they're about nine feet long, and you got to stretch them out.
One here, the next one, the next one, until you get 100 feet towards the end. They got to have two people with you. You got a lifeline, with those hooks, that hook there, this here, they put a lifeline on you, because if you, if you go, you're crawling over there, and if you're almost to the two feet like this, you get him to keep going and pouring, it's just like quicksand, water's real fine, fine. It's just like quicksand.
So, you got to keep making sure that that, it's just like a little creek, that the water's running all the way back there to make sure that you're filling up the whole thing, see? So, you, there's got to be two guys there, and this lifeline, so if something happens, he'll pull you back. If you was to fall in there, they'd probably never find you. You'd never find him. So that's why they got this lifeline, and they'll pull you.
When they, you're finished at the end, then you say, "Okay, pull me back." You can't turn around, you got to pull your back out like this. So, that's what we were doing here. And uh, it's scary. You know, they, my daughters then, they asked me, "Did you get kind of, of?" Being so close to the top, and you can't stand up, you can't kneel down. Uh, yeah, you kind of worry about it, but you know you have a safety belt for them to pull you back.
So, that's what this is – that picture and all that is.
Q: And what did you use that wrench for?
Reyes: The wrench?
Reyes: That's what we used, uh, uh, a hammer. See this up here? It's already kind of wore out. Small stuff, like say if you're nailing stuff like here, then you can use it, for a hammer. You don't wear no; you don't use hammers down there. You either use an axe about that long. And then you could really pound on it, pound on it. But this one here, when you're drilling, whatever you're doing, you need uh, you put in the air holes, water holes, you got to put them together, you got to get, make sure that when you put them together, that you hit them hard, that they're not gonna come off.
Because if you're on a big machine like I was, a big, huge machine, those air lines were like this. And they got a safety chain you put on them, because if that thing were to ever come apart, you would never be able to stop it, unless you go and turn the air off, because that thing is whipping, man. And it would hit you, it'd kill you. The pressure of air that's in there.
So, that's what we did, used to use this, you could use this for a lot of things, and this one here, you probably use a little crescent wrench if you got nuts, you're tightening, that's what you use.
Q: And is that your helmet? Can you show us your helmet?
Reyes: This is my helmet. I tell you that I used to wear, this is my ear plugs, uh, and you can see my name, Charlie Reyes, and then I had Charlie Brown, what everybody called me, Charlie Brown. And you put your light like you see there, your light there, you hook it on there, and then the cord, it comes back from here, and then you tie it down here, so it doesn't swing all over. So, that's what that is for.
And a lot of times, that light would go off before your eight hours were over. Sometimes, it could go out, like, two hours after you went underground. So, your partner would always tell you, "Uh-oh, better go home." "Why?" That was an old saying, why? They said when your light goes out, your wife is messing around. [Laughter] So, everybody would just, you know, kid around. And say, "You better get home, because light is going. It's trying to tell you something."
And sometimes, they would blink, blink, blink, oh. Message, Charlie, you better go home. I said, "I don't have to worry about that." But if you're around wherever, you don't have this light, you can't see nothing, nothing. Not your hand in front of you, because it's so dark. I mean it's so dark underground, I mean dark, dark.
So, uh, you better hope that somebody's around. And there's always somebody else that's working, like putting track for your ore cards, and stuff like that. Ventilation pipes, water lines, so there's always somebody around to help you. But like where that Olvera got killed, way, way back there.
Uh, I went over there, because it called it a loading stick, blasting stick. It could be, like, nine feet long. It's only about that wide. And what you do is go find one, and get ready two, three sticks of dynamite, and tie it up. And then, what you do, you light it up, and you stick it up these chutes, where it was hung up by the rocks, they come together and hung it up.
And what you was trying to do, bring it down, so that's what you do. So, I went back there, and I saw where he had gotten killed, my hair in the back, just like stuck up, and I said, "Oh my god." I couldn't even turn around and walk back down. I had to try it backwards. And I said, "Oh my god."
And uh, finally, I got back, and uh, I got to go a, a long ways to where my partner was. And I kept looking back, kept looking back to see if I'd see somebody coming from behind me. I said, "Maybe it was his spirit or something." But it wasn't.
I heard a lot of guys say that they saw lights, like way back there, not just there, different places. And you got your, your light, you make a signal, round and round, “Come here." And if you're shaking your head, “Get back, stay away, gonna blast. Stay back.” So, I knew this one guy, and he go over there, saw this guy way back, and he kept getting closer, closer, closer, and before you know it, there was a cross, what they call a cross.
If you go in there when the train's moving there, and he was back here, and he come back down, and he go in there, why didn't he come to me, and talk to me? One of them spirits of the people that got killed. Spooky things had happened, spooky things. Sometimes, they tell you, "I want you to go down to a certain level by yourself, check those pumps." Oh my god, "Please don't send me down there, I don't want to go down there, it's too far down there. Then have to go by myself." I'm always turning around, conscious. Well anyway, I think he wants to go.
Q: [Laughter] Okay. Thank you very much.
[End of Interview Session]