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Rescue — Epilogue
by Tom Nichol

Based on the episode of the same name
in the
Adventures of Superman, 1952.

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: At the time this episode was filmed, Tennessee Ernie Ford had not yet recorded his hit song, “Sixteen Tons,” a musical description of the wretched working and economic conditions which the vast majority of coal miners and their families were compelled to endure. Not until the miners formed labor unions and began to strike for better conditions did the situation even begin to improve. There are some, in fact, who say that such unfair labor practices helped to bring about the Stock Market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Whether that is true or not, however, the topic was clearly “in the air,” so to speak, at the time this episode was written and produced.]

A week had passed since Lois Lane had nearly perished in the collapse of a small coal mine in Carbide, Pennsylvania. Pop Polgase, the elderly owner of the mine, had only that day been confronted by a Federal Mine Inspector who had found the mine to be dangerously unsafe, and had condemned it as a result.

Polgase, in turn, had angrily declared the Inspector’s action as an illegal confiscation of private property. He had then torn up the condemnation notice and had gone right back to work in the mine, although a young assistant, Stan Hacker, had refused to do so. Shortly thereafter, the mine had collapsed, just as the Inspector had predicted, trapping Polgase inside.

Rescue operations had gotten underway immediately, but Lois, impatient at the unavoidable delay before the mine rescue squad arrived, had unwisely gone into the mine herself to try to rescue Polgase, and obtain a major scoop in the bargain. Her efforts, however, had proven worse than useless, as a further collapse had trapped Lois in the mine as well. To make matters still worse, methane gas had begun seeping into the mine, setting up conditions for a possible explosion which would surely kill them both. The gas, in turn, was ignited by a piece of paper which had been set on fire by a miner’s lantern, and exploded. Only Superman’s timely appearance on the scene had prevented the mine from collapsing altogether until after she and Pop Polgase had escaped.

Remarkably, the two of them had managed to escape without serious injury, although the Inspector had understandably given the old man a thorough chewing out while Lois was changing clothes prior to Clark Kent’s driving her back to Metropolis. Badly shaken, Polgase had apologized to Lois for causing the ordeal she had been put through, as well as to the Inspector and the other miners for his reckless behavior. Although he could have been prosecuted for violating the condemnation order, as well as endangering both himself and Lois by so doing, the Inspector agreed not to press charges in return for Polgase’s promise to retire from mining altogether.

Upon her return to Metropolis, her boss, Perry White, had insisted that Lois be given a complete physical examination by her doctor to insure that there would be no long-term ill effects. To their mutual relief, Lois’s doctor had given her a clean bill of health. Even so, out of an abundance of caution, Perry had insisted that Lois take the rest of the week off and rest. Now, she was back at work, discussing what had happened with Perry and her younger colleague, Jimmy Olsen, in an attempt to determine the most effective way to follow up on the story in the pages of the Daily Planet.

What’s going to happen to Mr. Polgase himself, Miss Lane?” the young redhead asked.

I can answer that,” Clark replied, as he came into the office to join the discussion. “I just got off the phone with Inspector Sims. He assured me that Pop has plenty of family living in the greater Carbide area, and they’ve already promised to make sure that he receives the very best of care!”

Thank God!” Lois responded fervently, her face clearly showing the relief she felt.

Amen!” her three male colleagues replied just as fervently.

It seems to me, Chief,” Lois observed thoughtfully, “that the issue of mine safety is a lot more complex than I first thought when we began work on this story.”

Not just safety, Miss Lane,” Jimmy pointed out. “There are a lot of other issues as well!”

You’ve got a good point there son,” Perry responded, nodding his head in agreement. “For example, since the end of World War II, the nation’s reliance on coal as a primary fuel for home heating has been declining quite sharply, largely due to the growing availability of oil and natural gas, as well as hydroelectric dams for power.”

Yes,” Clark added, “and there’s also research going on into the use of nuclear reactors to generate electric power, as well as solar energy. Even wind turbines may be developed to the point where they can make a significant contribution.”

What this all adds up to, it seems to me,” Perry observed, “is that the choice of a specific energy source in any given area of the country will more than likely turn out to be an almost constant balancing act. No one source of energy will ever turn out to be a ‘be-all’ and ‘end-all’ in itself—and to declare otherwise, let alone try to force such a choice on the American people, is the height of irresponsibility! There are simply too many other issues involved—economic, environmental, and, let’s face it, political issues as well! There’s also the fact that, as research continues, different sources of energy may well produce side benefits we’ve never considered! For example, both coal and oil have been proven to be sources of chemicals that have made valuable contributions to our way of life in this country!”

In that case, Mr. White,” Jimmy piped up, “maybe we ought to consider trying to use this story about the coal mines in Carbide as a springboard to explore some of those issues you just mentioned! Who knows, we might even be able to make a regular weekly or monthly column on the subject!”

Jimmy, that’s a fine idea!” Clark responded, as Lois and Perry both nodded their heads in agreement.

Tell you what then, Olsen,” Perry added, “once Lois’s original story is published, why don’t you and I work together and see what we can come up with as far as a follow-up series is concerned? We might even invite comments or questions from the Planet’s own readers along these lines!” With that, the meeting broke up, and Lois returned to her office to put her story into its final form for publication.

Posted: November 20, 2020

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