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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remembering Dawson
"Coal Town, the Life and Times of Dawson, New Mexico"
Toby Smith
ISBN 0-941270-82-3
My wife and I discovered Dawson on a vacation to northern New Mexico. A picture on a historical marker showed a once relatively large town that had had many houses and facilities. We were both struck by there being a cemetery with no surviving town. Later, when, during a web...
Published on July 18, 2002 by Ron Hunka

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Correction
on page 66 there is an article written by The Dawson News. In that article it has a list of bodies recovered from the 1923 explosion. But there is one George Makris, my great uncle, that was killed in the 1913 explosion not the 1923 one.
Published on February 17, 2000 by maria_caputo@millenniumtvsales.com


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remembering Dawson, July 18, 2002
By 
Ron Hunka (Austin, TX United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Coal Town: The Life and Times of Dawson, New Mexico (Paperback)
"Coal Town, the Life and Times of Dawson, New Mexico"
Toby Smith
ISBN 0-941270-82-3
My wife and I discovered Dawson on a vacation to northern New Mexico. A picture on a historical marker showed a once relatively large town that had had many houses and facilities. We were both struck by there being a cemetery with no surviving town. Later, when, during a web search, I came across Toby Smith's book about Dawson. I ordered it.
With a relatively obscure subject, this is a book not likely to be widely read, and that is a shame. Because the book that Toby Smith has written is a remarkable one. Through extensive interviewing, he has reconstructed the vanished homes and buildings of Dawson, re-populated them with departed generations of citizens, and breathed life back into what was once a dynamic coal mining community.
There are photos in the book that depict, among other things, the bodies of miners in caskets after a 1923 mining explosion, the proud 1937 football team that shared the state championship, and a 1941 photo of a smiling GI on furlough with his brother and sisters. Apart from the pictures, Mr. Smith tells stories about and gives impressions of many of the townsfolk. What Edgar Lee Masters did for the people in the fictional Spoon River cemetery, Smith has done for the former inhabitants of Dawson.
Our vacation walk through the Dawson cemetery revealed that many of the coalminers were from other countries. One section contains graves of over two hundred men, mostly Italians, who were killed in a disastrous mine explosion in 1913. Other nationalities represented in Dawson were Yugoslavs, Japanese, Finns, French, Swedes, and Mexicans.
The Phelps Dodge Company that owned the mines and the entire town, in many regards, engaged in enlightened management. For example, it had an anti-discrimination policy for employees of all nationalities and races, including blacks. After the 1913 tragedy, Smith writes that the company "did not look at the tragedy in terms of lost earnings." To its credit, each widow was given $1000, each miner's child $200, and the family of each bachelor $500, large amounts for that time. On the other hand, the company remained a staunch holdout for years in recognizing the miners' union.
In 1950, with coal demand having steadily declined from the heyday of the coal-burning, steam engine, Phelps Dodge closed Dawson's last mine. As it owned all the buildings and houses, the town was simply shut down. Everyone left, and the buildings and equipment were sold off. Dawson, unlike other defunct mining towns, though, for over fifty years has refused to die. A visitor to the cemetery can see that it is still kept up, and every other year, former residents gather on the town site to have a picnic and to reminisce.
There is something about the universal human struggle in this story of Dawson, and Toby Smith has written a fine book about it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Unique Mining Town Remembered, August 28, 2003
By A Customer
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This review is from: Coal Town: The Life and Times of Dawson, New Mexico (Paperback)
I spent some of the happiest years of my life growing up in Dawson and Toby Smith has done an excellent job of capturing the unique character of this town, whose residents loved it and, as the bi-annual Dawson Picnic indicates, love it still, even though it has been closed (virtually eradicated) since 1950. It was a vibrant town even in its declining days and even more remarkable during its heyday. A town that was its own melting pot, it was uniquely free of prejudice. Multiple nationalities, races and creeds lived in relative harmony and contributed to the unusual cohesion that was its trademark, probably due in large part to the danger inherent in the work done by the miners. Every family lived with the fear of a catastrophic mine disaster (there were two big ones during Dawson's lifespan)and it tended to draw all its inhabitants together.
Smith has captured the essence of this wonderful little town and his interviews of ex-residents add to the immediacy of the events he recounts. It is a fascinating account of a fascinating place.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dawson's -A Great Place To Grow Up, May 10, 2001
By 
Lucy Ann Wines (Beverly Hills, FL United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Coal Town: The Life and Times of Dawson, New Mexico (Paperback)
One of the pleasures I was able to provide for my father, shortly before his death at 89, was the gift of this book. Toby Smith has done a wonderful job of resurrecting and bringing back to life the "ghosts" of this coal mining camp, known now only for its cemetary. My parents and I read the book together, reliving our personal memories of the people and the environment which not only shaped our lives but was forever etched on our consiousness. There was so much he could have written about Dawson but his excellent culling and synthesizing of the countless interviews brings to life the essence of the "company town" and the lives of the resident. He was able to show that in this community of immigrants, ethnicity meant sharing your cusine and your culture rather than an emphasis on differences, a phenomena no doubt influnced by the impact of thedangerous unpredictable occupation of mining coal that united us all. My second reading left me with the impression of "a story well told", one which could be enjoyed not only by former "Dawsonians" and current New Mexicans but by anyone who enjoys a glimpse of what life was like in those times in a place where "everyone knew your name". Those whose lives have been disrupted by the closing of plant or industry might also enjoy it. Mr. Smith should do a sequel focusing on my generation and their view of how growing up in Dawson influenced their live.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Correction, February 17, 2000
on page 66 there is an article written by The Dawson News. In that article it has a list of bodies recovered from the 1923 explosion. But there is one George Makris, my great uncle, that was killed in the 1913 explosion not the 1923 one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book, September 20, 2014
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I loved this book...and so did my brother and husband. The book was extremely well written and provided an in-depth as to the people living in this town. The pictures were amazing. Very well done!!!!
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Coal Town: The Life and Times of Dawson, New Mexico
Coal Town: The Life and Times of Dawson, New Mexico by Toby Smith (Paperback - Jan. 1995)
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