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"I can't remember not knowing about "the company store" in coal country, so I must've learned early. It may have been in my high school history books, I may have read it in newspapers, magazines, books that my parents brought into the house, or maybe saw it in movies or tv shows. Or maybe someone explained 16 Tons to me!"

In coal mining towns, the workers were paid in script or coins only redeemable at 'the company store' for their necessities and a few other things. It was not accepted anywhere else. You had no choice but to buy your groceries, clothing, mining needs, soap, etc, at that store which the mine company ran.

Of course, many mines were complete little towns of company owned houses. You got to 'rent' a little house as long as you worked there. If you left the coal mine company, you'd leave the house and go elsewhere. You might have a 'rec center' for Saturday eve dances, and a tiny church, or the service held in the rec center. School usually up to 6th grade, sometimes up to 9th grade but often not beyond. You grew up and went to work in the mine.

I'd bet 99.9% of millennials are clueless on this.

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