What Is A Coal Cracker?
coal cracker (plural coal crackers)
(US, slang) A native or established resident of the traditional coal-mining area of north-eastern Pennsylvania; a worker in the mines of this region.
Often used with the connotation that the person so designated comes from a modest, blue-collar background.1
I am a “coal-cracker” and proud of it.
I grew up — and spent the first 40 years of my life — in Zerbe, Pennsylvania. (Known to the locals as “Newtown”). Located in the Western part of Schuylkill County, it is a town well accustomed to mining and coal-related jobs. It is a small town (population about 300ish) and although everyone knows everyone else’s business, they are usually the first ones to come to help others in their time of need.
My father and grandfathers were involved in mining almost all of their lives, and when not actually working deep inside the mine itself, they were involved in other jobs which were directly related to coal. One grandfather suffered a stroke at the mine one day. The mine owners refused to take him home so he walked to his house several miles away.
My other grandfather and my Dad contracted Black Lung. It’s a hideous disease that comes from the damage to your lungs after breathing in the coal dust for years. Almost everyone who ever worked in the mines contracts it to some degree. The miners or mine workers who have the disease are supposed to be entitled to a benefits program, but you have to pass several stringent “tests” before you are awarded benefits. Due to the tons of bureaucratic red tape and general “run around” that sometimes comes with dealing with the government and insurance companies (who now pay the benefits since the Social Security Administration stop accepting claims for disability due to the disease in 1973), many of them die before their cases are ever heard in court…
It’s a hard job, and one of the most dangerous, but Anthracite Miners were not afraid of hard work…it’s all they knew, and they did it to support their families. Many were immigrants who worked hard and suffered every day just because they wanted a better life for their families. Many were mere boys working 10 and 12 hours a day processing coal in the breakers. Some miners worked in “bootleg” mines, meaning they worked the land without the land owners or the government knowing about it. They were not trying to cheat anyone. They only wanted to make a living doing what they could with what was available to them…
This site focuses on more about my heritage in general, Anthracite mining and the Coal Region of Pennsylvania, and in particular, Schuylkill County specific information. I am proud to be a coal cracker, and I am very proud to be a coal miner’s daughter.