Last Man Out: The Story of the Springhill Mine Disaster

by Melissa Fay Greene | Nonfiction |
ISBN: 0151005591 Global Overview for this book
Registered by winghyphen8wing of Honolulu, Hawaii USA on 12/4/2012
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3 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by winghyphen8wing from Honolulu, Hawaii USA on Sunday, December 30, 2012
In October 1958, there was a "bump" at the Springhill Mine in Nova Scotia. Many of the 174 coal miners who were on shift were killed outright; some escaped, and a few were trapped thousands of feet underground. The mine, which had been the main industry of the town, never reopened.

This is the story of the town, the families, the 19 men who survived the initial collapse but were trapped...and what happened afterwards. Illustrations are after page 214.

Part of what makes the aftermath interesting is: the rescued men were invited to vacation with their families in the US South before the Georgia politicians realized that one of them was a "person of color". So then they had to scramble to figure out segregated accomodations for just the one family. :(

More info on the disaster here; there was even a song written by Peggy Seeger and Ewan McColl - here's a haunting version by Luke Kelly of the Dubliners.

Journal Entry 2 by winghyphen8wing at Honolulu, Hawaii USA on Saturday, January 26, 2013

Released 6 yrs ago (1/26/2013 UTC) at Honolulu, Hawaii USA

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Headed out to one of my fellow American participants in the Canadian reading challenge; happy reading!

(The great Minnesota mailing experiment is on again; the last time I mailed two books on the same day to MN, the St. Paul book arrived considerably before the one headed for Minneapolis; wonder which will get there first this time!)

I'll count this as a release for Secretariat's 2013 Never Judge a Book By Its Cover Challenge (week 4).

Journal Entry 3 by quietorchid at Saint Paul, Minnesota USA on Monday, February 11, 2013
Oh Boy! Goodies through the mail. I'll start this tonight in a blustery and bitter cold landscape! (But at least we didn't get 2-3 feet of snow! Sorry New England.)

Journal Entry 4 by quietorchid at Saint Paul, Minnesota USA on Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Sad book. Mining remains one of the most dangerous occupations. This is a recounting of the Springhill Mine 'Bump' of 1958 that involved 174 men, killing 74, with the last survivors were pulled out nine days after the accident. There's a larger story, that remains to be told. Greene follows some of the miners who were trapped, and like most people, she is sucked down into the tragi-comedy that was race relations in the North American Continent in the 1950s.

One of the trapped miners, Maurice Ruddick, was a 'colored' man. He seems to have been a cheerful fellow, carefully living his life. In the wake of the accident, Georgia, USA (deeply engaged in rabidly protecting race segregation) offered an all expenses paid week of R&R to the rescued miners and their families, little realizing that one of the miners was 'colored'. Here is where the story jumps the tracks. And continues to be missed. Ruddick was named a hero in the press, flown down to a Georgian resort with his fellow miners, and shoved in a trailer while his counterparts were feted at the resort. Back at home, he became caught up in Canada's race wars, and named man of the year by the Canadian government. An affable, good hearted sort, this was resented. and the story ends with him confused by the limelight, and it's sudden disappearance, and the coolness of the town towards him that lingered.

Unfortunately this is a difficult story, and the germs are there of a great story, but it is never looked at. Greene tries to go for dramatic tension by profiling 2 'natural'
leaders among the men that never panned out among the trapped miners. She portrays Ruddick as the man who suddenly at the end of the ordeal stepped into the breach and tried to raise morale, and was lionized for it. Perhaps. Yet just as obvious, this man who suddenly decided to lift morale at the end was far more complex than the author allowed to be. A decent man, he tended a gravely and horrifically injured miner, gruesomely trapped by the shifting mine supports, who painfully died by inches, moaning and screaming over 5 days in front of them all, apparently with Ruddick sitting by him and talking to him for days at a time when others wouldn't acknowledge his presence because of their own helplessness. The misperceptions continue as they are finally found.
Ruddick was known as the 'singing miner' as he would while away the 40 minute trip to the surface at the end of a shift by singing. So naturally that is how he was percieved. None of the other miners visited his house before the accident, although Greene points out how close they all were. He wasn't invited to gatherings, hunting, or other social outlets. he spent his social time singing at Black Churches he would drive to with his children. He wasn't seen as a real member of the closed white mining community, he was an oddity, the singing miner. So when he was lionized by accident, rather than accepting that hey, he did good, the town (with one exception, Doug Jewkes, who steadfastly reported him as a true hero until the end of his days) turned their backs and gave him a cold shoulder for the rest of his days.

I am not arguing here that he was THE hero of the Springhill Bump, the data isn't to be found in this book, but he certainly was one of the heros, and his continued use as a symbol is disturbing. Greene uses him as a semi-tragic figure who maybe tried to grab a little too much glory and was overly punished for it. The website above tries to paint him the other way, as they have him carrying on as a true hero despite 'his broken leg'. Well, that would have been another hero, Fred Hunter, who carried on as best he could with internal injuries and lost his leg. So poor Maurice Ruddick isn't allowed even after death to be what he was, an affable man, level headed, kind, stalwart, and defnitely seperated by a color line.

Journal Entry 5 by quietorchid at Saint Paul, Minnesota USA on Thursday, February 21, 2013

Released 6 yrs ago (2/21/2013 UTC) at Saint Paul, Minnesota USA

CONTROLLED RELEASE NOTES:

Sent off as part of informal ray for Canada Reading challenge.
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Journal Entry 6 by wingNancyNovawing at Lansdale, Pennsylvania USA on Friday, April 12, 2013
This book came in the mail today. Thanks! Adding to the TBR sooner stash.

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