The Huber Coal Breaker

“We’re talking about a structure and a place that is tied to the condition and to the aspirations of a community.” It’s quote from an interview with Joseph Robertson, one of many we’ve interviewed for this film. This exploration of the human condition that inspired this film started with an accidental visit to see the Huber Breaker in 2012. Robertson’s words address the relationship the breaker shared with a once prosperous community that now struggles like many of the coal towns in Pennsylvania. Until the 1970’s, The Huber Breaker prepared Anthracite coal for market by breaking large pieces into stove-friendly smaller ones. The Huber Breaker, like the Anthracite coal market, represented industry & economy, but over time took on a second more powerful meaning: community identity.

Those who live in the Anthracite coal fields of Northeastern Pennsylvania have pride in their heritage. While that legacy is often one of oppression and the involves the cycle of profits over people, it’s a legacy that is held as sacred truth. Malcolm X spoke words that reflect this directly, “Truth is on the side of the oppressed.”

This quote by Malcolm X is not sublime. And it may seem out of place culturally when thinking of Northeast Pennsylvania. But it’s a simple, workman-like quote. And it’s powerful — just like the stories from the mines that need to be told. The idea that history is written by the winners is equally met those willing to tell of hardship and suffering.

Behind the nostalgia lies a dark history. The ruling class abusing its underclass isn’t just a politically-charged idea. It’s a well-honed, universal practice. The damage done is not only to individuals, but to entire cultures, the environment and if Karma exists, that too.

But it’s not all grim and full of darkness. There is a deserved pride emanating from those who worked and live in the Anthracite Region, and despite their struggles, hope and ambition existed within them and that is what the Huber Breaker also symbolizes.

For some the Huber Breaker is sacred, for others it’s symbolic of a destructive past. But regardless of the positive or negative views attached to it, the breaker was an icon of the Wyoming Valley and the Anthracite Region. We are here to tell these stories – stories that need to be remembered and shared because the most tragic & dangerous kind of past is one that’s forgotten.