I lived at Shingle Canyon and had to go through the picket lines to get to town where we would buy groceries and supplies for the mine. My father, Patrick Humble, leased a mine from the USSR & M company at Shingle Canyon. I was about 10-years-old. My father told me what was happening. As a kid I didn’t really understand. Hanover and Fierro had their own schools. I went to school at Santa Rita. I knew some of the kids whose parents were involved. When the movie first came out, it was not shown around here for many years. I didn’t really see the film until I was about 25-years-old. I give tours the second Tuesday of every month of the mining districts and have been doing so for about thirteen years now. The mining tour is about the underground mines. Because of my tours, we saved the head frames of the mine. Freeport was going to tear them down, but the tour group was against it. On my tours, I meet people, local and newcomers, who learn this history for the first time. It’s a new generation. We’ve discussed turning the Local 890 Union Hall into a museum, but you need money and volunteers, which we don’t have. The murals inside and outside are beautiful. The Las Cruces Union owns the land and the building and they pay the taxes.
In 2008, the symposium at Cobre High School, Clinton Jencks was honored. He was a controversial union leader because many people thought he was a communist. When you talk to him, you can feel his dynamic personality. When he walked up to the stage, it was super quiet. You could hear a pin drop. The first thing he said was, “Yo soy El Palomino.” It gives me chills when I think about it. The audience stood up and clapped for several minutes giving him a standing ovation. Clinton Jencks passed away a few years ago. When Jencks was a Union official in circa 1949, a guy had been fired from Empire Zinc for always been late. They reinstated him because Jencks “Palomino” had proved the watches in the room differed by as much as twenty minutes. How could you fire a man for being ten minutes late? This is an example of how smart he was.
My dad was sympathetic. My maternal grandparents were against the strike because my grandpa was a foreman at Santa Rita. I saw both sides of the story because my grandparents raised me. I lived with my dad in the summers and my grandparents the rest of the year. I would hear my grandparents’ conversations with other adults. They never spoke with me directly about it. It feels great to have all these memories now.
I’ve been a historian for some time. I’ve written several books. The Silver City Museum sells my books. There are three on Santa Rita and one about the mining district coming out next week. I’m the only one who gives tours today about once a month for the past thirteen years. I feel nostalgic when I’m giving the tour, but the landscape has definitely changed.
You gotta’ share the history or else it’ll get lost. When I went to work at Kennecott there were ten unions and now there are none. In the final years, the company Freeport would hire people who were against unions. As a result, we had union and non-union people working together. Non-union people got bonuses, but not the union workers. It was a divide and conquer tactic.
I worked at Kennecott in 1967 when I was 26-years-old. I was a diesel mechanic. I worked in the underground mine before that. In the underground mines it’s very dark and about 70 degrees. I worked under contract. We got paid for how much we produced. I lost the end of my toe on one foot in one accident and in another had my ankle badly broken. Mining was dangerous. The danger is still there, but everyone is aware of it now. Locally there is no more underground mining. Everything is open pit. I’ve been retired since 2001.