Headless Ghosts: Jerome, AZ Mining Days

Papa Lozano’s father came to Jerome in the early 1900’s from a village in Sonora, Mexico where he worked on the assembly line in a sewing machine factory. His boss regularly beat him for minor infractions. After his boss slit off a corner of his ear, Lozano ran away, came to Arizona and signed on as a mucker for the United Verde Copper Company, owned by Williams Andrews Clark.

Deep under the ground, six days a week, Papa Lozano stood ankle deep in an oozy muck and shoveled newly blasted ore into carts. The drilling and blasting around him would produce a layer of fine dust that slowly infected his lungs and caused pneumoconiosis.

Life was hard, but there was no anxiety. The bosses were strict but not cruel. They allowed the muckers an after shift shower on company time in the building on the 500-level that was known as “The Dry.”

After his shift, Lozano would trudge with 400 other miners out of the belly of the mountain, blackened with muck and dust and climb the steps of the building known as “The “Dry.” He pissed shoulder-to-shoulder with his compadres in the long rows of urinals, set up like horse troughs along the building’s insides walls.

Photo by Bob Swanson (www.Swanson Images.com. The urinals in the Dry. The building has been razed.

Photo by Bob Swanson (www.Swanson Images.com. The urinals in the Dry.

He pulled off his steel toed boots, placed them in lockers, and stood shoulder to shoulder with his compadres under the long rods with the shower heads, still fully dressed, to rinse off the muck and the dust. He undressed and hitched his clothes to pulleys and hoisted them high up into the rafters to dry for the next day’s shift. Then he showered again, the steam smelling of sweat, urine and rock. Above, suspended clothing swayed slightly in the rafters, vaporous headless ghosts of the 400 men underneath.

Photos of the Dry by Bob Swanson (www.SwansonImages.com).

Photos of the Dry by Bob Swanson (www.SwansonImages.com).

Lozano was paid $2.00 a day for a 12-hour shift.

Perhaps only in comparison could you say that a life like that was sweeter or better.

(Diane Rapaport interviews with Papa Lozano and Andy Peterson (1981-1991)