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Ray Clarke; A voice for the Huber Breaker, and Ashley’s rich mining history | Arts & Living

Written by on October 18, 2020

Ray Clarke’s title will probably be ever synonymous with the Huber Breaker.

Generations to return will embody fathers telling their youngsters, “He’s the man who got here near saving the breaker.’’

Ray humbly sidesteps the accolades, citing the workforce effort over 24 years to protect and shield the historic anthracite processing facility.

“We tried, oh Lord how we tried,’’ Clarke mentioned in an interview that explored his gut-wrenching efforts, from pulling weeds on the walkway to the anthracite miners’ monument to packaging barbecued chickens, offered to pay the electrical invoice on the park.

Clarke confirmed his dedication to the trigger and the park by pulling weeds (alongside his spouse, Jane) however he was a dreamer, too. The desires have been giant scale, too.

Of Ray Clarke’s many concepts for a Huber Breaker historic website, probably the most distinctive would have been set up of a plexiglass walkway immediately over the shaft on the Huber Colliery.

The shaft was greater than 200 ft in depth. A cage, lowered and raised by cables, carried miners and gear to the decrease ranges of the mine. Miners and laborers would then stroll underground to the faces of the workings. Holes could be drilled, dynamite sticks inserted and coal could be blasted. Anthracite was then shoveled into small coal vehicles.

Within the pre-locomotive days, mules pulled loaded vehicles to both slopes or shafts. The Huber Colliery had each.

Clarke thought it could be fantastic for individuals to look down the shaft, lighted to no matter depth the water degree would enable.

“Think about youngsters having the chance to look down a mine shaft,’’ Clarke beamed.

Ray’s glass bridge concept has advantage. A 10-foot extensive glass bridge referred to as Skywalk extends 70 ft out over the rim of the Grand Canyon in Colorado. Guests can peer via the glass platform 4,000 ft to the ground of the canyon. It’s a nice view of one of many world’s Seven Pure Wonders.

“I used to be there,’’ Clarke mentioned, “in my stocking ft!’’ He nonetheless sees buses loaded with faculty youngsters, coming to the Huber Skywalk to look down right into a coal mine.

Ray’s “huge image’’ view, one shared by Huber Breaker Society colleagues through the years, included a preserved breaker, the miners’ park and monument, strolling trails, kiosks telling the anthracite mining story, the still-emerging coal and railroad period artifacts, a museum, schooling heart, Steamtown prepare excursions to Ashley from Scranton, the Ashley Planes heritage park and the Delaware & Lehigh Hall mountaineering path via Ashley.

Even when the price issue precluded restoring the breaker inside, Clarke mentioned, the breaker itself may have been preserved. A former Iron Staff union member (Native 489), Clarke had lined up iron employees to restore the breaker’s facade, “the roof, the (metallic) pores and skin and the home windows,’’ he mentioned.

The important thing downside: The Huber Society couldn’t safe possession. The society did personal 3.1 acres donated by Earth Conservancy which took over some 14,000 acres of Blue Coal Company land in 1992, however the breaker and 26 acres of land in Ashley have been owned by No. 1 Contracting Co., or Al Roman.

For years, Roman promised he would donate the breaker to the society. Clarke now reveals that Roman, who died in December 2015, needed to do a land swap with Luzerne County That didn’t materialize and Roman went bankrupt, finally dropping the breaker and land in a U.S. Chapter Court docket sale to Paselo Logistics, Philadelphia.

The tragic consequence of that sale, to anthracite historians, was the razing of the breaker in 2014 and sale of its metal for scrap worth.

The breaker is gone, however the Anthracite Miners’ Memorial Park lives on, albeit now owned by Ashley Borough because the Huber Breaker Preservation Society ponders its future, from its title to its mission.

A lokie that after hauled mine vehicles at Wanamie and elsewhere has been saved and it sits on a bit of monitor within the park, awaiting a protecting pavilion and a coal-laden mine automobile. Children can have the chance to see one thing of the mining period, if not a breaker.

Ray Clarke was born Feb. 28, 1934, in Ashley, one in every of eight youngsters of Patrick and Ellen Nealon Clarke. His father labored at Sugar Notch’s No. 9 colliery till breaking a leg in an accident; thereafter he served as custodian at Ashley Excessive Faculty from which Ray graduated.

Ray helped his brother, Joe, ship newspapers within the breaker neighborhood. As a result of Joe had a bicycle, he did South Predominant Road, leaving Ray to climb steps in miners’ boarding homes, and ship to shops and barrooms.

Following a two-year stint within the Military, as a paratrooper within the 11th Airborne, Ray married Jane in 1956. They’d eight youngsters additionally, 4 of whom have handed away.

A visit by Ray and Jane to Eire in 1979 led to the choice to open the present store, and flowers have been added to the stock and have become the store’s centerpiece merchandise. Ray mentioned he had “walked the beams’’ as an iron employee and “heights didn’t trouble me,’’ however he loved the Clarke’s Imported Items & Floral years.

The Huber society was shaped in 1990. Early leaders included John Jablowski, a councilman and later mayor of Ashley; the late Paul Zavada, an accountant, and George Lehman, who operated the Newtown Cafe together with his spouse, Nancy.

Clarke mentioned many individuals deserve credit score for launching the society and making an attempt to save lots of the breaker. A feasibility examine was performed and society members, together with faculty professor Dr. Anthony Mussari, tried vainly to get Roman to donate and even promote the breaker.

The late Bob Janosov, a historical past professor at Luzerne County Group School and a member of the Pennsylvania Historic Fee, helped safe a $90,000 grant towards preserving the breaker, however Roman remained a problem. The funding was misplaced.

Clarke grew to become chairman of the society board and treasurer in 2006. He stepped down in February 2019, after 13-plus years, he mentioned. George Lehman is chairman pending selections on the way forward for the group.

Clarke offers excessive marks to state Sen. John Yudichak, state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski and former state Rep. Kevin Blaum as sturdy supporters of the breaker trigger.

“I used to be the one man with free time. Nobody else needed it,’’ Clarke mentioned of the chairmanship. However, he persevered, with assistance from new board members and volunteers, together with Steve Biernacki, Pat Kennedy, Invoice Landmesser, Don Kane and Leo Czereck. Invoice Greatest served as society president for many of Clarke’s tenure. Greatest organized many mining and railroad-related audio system to spark public curiosity within the society’s work.

However Ray Clarke will probably be remembered because the man who sat outdoors the financial institution promoting T-shirts and hen dinner tickets, striving to maintain the preservation society afloat as many hoped the desires would in the future turn into actuality.

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