Peter A. Bybel

He Helped Unionize the Breaker Boys at No. 8

He Helped Unionize the Breaker Boys at No. 8

(by Ed Gildea, The Valley Gazette, January 1990)

Peter A. Bybel, formerly of Coaldale and now living in Reading, is one of the last of the former residents of the small settlement on the southeastern fringe of Coaldale officially known as Centreville. (We weren’t sure if the spelling was Centreville or Centerville, so we checked the 1869 map that appeared in our second issue—August, 1972—and we found that it’s Centreville).

The map shows that the small “patch” contained 10 homes. Its unofficial name was Skintown, which, according to one former resident originated from the practice among the residents there of putting goat skins in their windows to help keep out the cold in winter.

For some reason it took us almost a year to do anything with the letter Peter Bybel wrote on January 7, 1989, which he noted was "Russian Christmas."

“I'm one of the old-timers that went to work World War One—from Skintown or over the hill from Frank Burns Hotel to Centerville and #3,” Bybel wrote.

He will note his 85th birthday on January 14 and is the oldest of seven brothers and a sister whose parents were Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Bybel. The others are John “Knobb,” Stephen, Andrew, Gregory “Clarky,” William, Paul and Eva, who, Peter noted, is with the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, D.C., and “is married to my godmother’s youngest son…Peter Dempsher is our crew.” Andrew, of St. Louis, Mo., Paul, of Dallas, Texas, are chemists. Gregory and William are both of Coaldale.

“We lived in Skintown from 1908 to 1919 and later bought our home across from Foag Gallagher’s hotel at 2 W. High St.,” he wrote.

He said his brothers showed him the picture of breaker boys at Coaldale’s No. 8 Breaker which appeared on the front page of our December, 1988, issue but he couldn't find himself on it.

“I helped unionize breaker boys,” Bybel wrote. “Look at their caps with 25c and 50c union buttons…Ask somebody about Pete Bybel and Fignars at Phillips St. School.”

As a schoolboy Bybel was injured in a blasting cap explosion.

“I was just starting school,” he wrote. ȁIt happened when I and several others were at play at recess. I found something shiny in the snow. I did not know that it was from Mr. Fignar's lost box of blasting caps until I was cleaning the snow from inside with them slate pencils. Off it blew in my small gloved hand. Busted so bad that they—Schmauch’s Butcher Shop was on Phillips St. between 1st and 2nd streets, next to Puschak's, same side—they threw me into the meat wagon and galloped to then Coaldale Panther Valley Miners Hospital and Dr. Shifferstine patched me all up, so I’m still an 8 ½ finger man and still remember.”

Bybel worked at No. 8 for over 20 years and "also at Ashton Washery across from #9 Tunnel entrance and across L. & N. E. and Jersey Central tracks near the Mammoth Mountain coal vein. "I left when the mines started to go back in 1938.”