A grandfather was an enigma to me as a young child. It wasn't a part of my vocabulary and certainly not a part of my life. While my kids today have three grandmothers and two grandfathers, I only had one grandparent due to some tragic circumstances in my parents' lives. My mother had lost both her mom and dad when she was only 8. They died of separate health issues within months of each other, leaving her in the custody of her sister who was 12 years older. There could be a book written about that heartbreaking story, rather than a blog. I'll deal with that on another day.
My father was 19 years old working in the kitchen at the Scranton Dry Goods when his father was killed in the mine. The story surrounding his death has always been hazy. There was talk about another miner to blame, not able to operate the equipment properly. It just wasn't something the family talked about. How hard it must have been for my grandmother, and my Dad, the oldest of 5 children who soon became the man of the family. I remember sitting with my beloved grandmother shortly before her death in 1980. We were having tea, and I broached the subject of the grandpa I didn't know. I didn't have the heart to ask her about his death, but she smiled and laughed as she talked about his life. When my grandma laughed, her cherub cheeks would turn bright red. That day when she turned her head, the light reflected the streak of tears on her face. How she must have loved and missed him.
In recent years, I have become much more curious about the grandparents I didn't know. Just the other day I thought of my Grandpa Kman, and how dangerous it was to work in the mines. I have often thought of searching through newspaper archives to read about what happened. All I had heard was that my dad felt compelled to talk to his Dad that morning, and that his father was nervous about working with a miner who he didn't feel was experienced enough.
Later that day the call came in that my grandfather was killed on the job.
Last week, someone out of the blue sent a link to Pa. anthracite coal records on the injuries and fatalities in the mines. I knew that my grandfather Stanley Kman had been killed in 1951, one of the last fatalities from Pa's scarred mining history. I searched and quickly found the curt details. Stanley Kman was a laborer in the mines, having worked there 21 years. He was an American citizen who struggled everyday in a dangerous job to raise his 5 kids. The details confirmed that the fault was laid at a miner. Here is the one line sentence included to describe the incident surrounding his tragic death:
fall roof shoveling coal face chamber
That's it. More than two decades of back breaking, dirty, dangerous work, gone in a flash, described in 6 words. 60 plus years later I thought something more should be said about him.