Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Just some stuff that fascinates me a great deal

The documentary "Harlan County USA" is one film that I am totally enthralled with every time I see it. Films about real people, with real people, and real events unfolding as filming is in progress, it doesn't get any better than that. I am utterly fascinated with the struggles of the coal miners, both their job and trying to unionize. So much bloodshed and oppression has gone on, yet you never really hear much about it anymore. We just flip on our light switch and go about our business like everything is just fine.

"Matewan" is another film, not a documentary, that deals with this subject. It is one of my favorite films. It goes into great detail about the start of all the bloodshed that went through the coal belt in the '30s, where the power companies that ran the coal mines hired gun thugs to terrorize the miners and their families.

My grandfather Vern (read about him here and a bit more here) worked the coal mines starting at an age where kids today would not even be thinking about sprouting short hairs. He was a part of a coal miner strike where they were trying to unionize. The miners, including my grandfather, had brought their guns and lined both sides of the canyon entrance to the mine to try and block scabs from getting through. The town sheriff came up to break things up and was shot dead by one of the miners. It got out of hand after that.

My grandfather gave us a couple of the guns he used to have on him during that time. They are too old and worn out for any safe use now. I'm glad my grandfather decided not to join in the violence that day, and in fact, he recalled that most of the men he knew didn't try to hurt anyone that day. It was just a crazy situation and many ethnic groups were involved. Communication problems between Greeks, Italians, Irish, Welsh, and many other seemed to only exasperate the problem. Thank goodness that things didn't get way out of control.

If you get the chance, put these two films on your DVD (which ever one you have) waiting list. If this stuff interests you it will be worth your time.


goldennib said...

Coal miners everywhere did and do have it so hard: between heath and safety issues, working conditions and poor wages.

Scott said...

Sounds very interesting. i will see how available that stuff is in these parts.


Jules said...

Never seen any of those mentions... not too sure if I'd run out to find them, but if you wanna bring them by I'd watch them with you!

Scary Monster said...

Me could never be a coal miner.
The very thought of working in a deep dark hole makes me shiver and sweat.
Gee. Now that Me thinks of it, me could never be a gynecologist either.

Outdoorsy Girl said...

Cool history about your Grandpa Vern.

That is certainly a dangerous job that I would never want. Saw some exhibits once in a coalminer museum in West Virginia once. It was very interesting and gave me a new appreciation for the men who are brave enough to do that work.

The Grunt said...

Nessa~ I wouldn't want to be one, that's for sure.

Scott~ Yeah, I was a Sociology minor, and though I don't always reveal it, my interests in the working class are where most of my politics side. Of course, my little red icon is a symbol of the worker. That was no accident and neither was my moniker.

Jules~ Yes, I need to come and edumucate you something fierce, dahlin'.

SM~ HAHAHAHA! You are why I keep blogging.

O-Girl~ Thanks! I want to visit Matewan and other historical mining towns in that area.