If we sang it once, we sang it a thousand times. “Sixteen Tons” was No. 1 on my elementary school’s hit parade, holding the record as the most-requested song in fourth grade music class.
To be perfectly candid, until a couple of years ago, I hadn’t thought much about the old miner and his doleful lament. We were dining with friends when the subject of the “company store” came up. I knew I’d heard that phrase somewhere. In a flash I was back in class belting out that old familiar chorus:
You haul 16 tons, whaddya get?
Another day older and a deeper in debt.
Saint Peter don’t cha’ call me cause I can’t go—
I owe my soul to the company store.
What was this company store and, more importantly, why did this guy owe his soul to it? Must be serious if his debt could forestall his death. As I’ve always said, if you need an answer, find a teacher. Read more