Charles Bronson experienced a difficult upbringing in a coal mining town outside Pittsburgh. When he reached Hollywood stardom, he couldn’t shake the pain of his past.
Charles Bronson was born on November 3, 1921, in a coal camp in Croyle Township, sixty miles from Pittsburgh. He was the ninth child of 15 children.
He was raised in a company-built shack that was so small that the family had to sleep in shifts. The home was only a few yards away from the coal car tracks.
BRONSON’S HOPELESS UPBRINGING
His hometown was hopeless, with no trees, drinkable water, and no sidewalks. The whole town consisted of miners and company officials. Its only purpose was to facilitate coal mining.
Bronson grew up as a loner, needing to haggle for pennies. His childhood was an unhappy one. Bronson remembered his family was so poor that sometimes he had to wear his older sister’s hand-me-downs to school, including dresses.
When Bronson was a teenager, his father died. He quit school to support his family, so he got a job as a coal miner. He reflected that he never forgot the backbreaking work or the feeling of coal inside his nostrils.
Charles Bronson posed in New York City. | Source: Getty Images
“During my years as a miner, I was just a kid, but I was conceived that I was the lowliest of all forms of man.”
He also remembered the headaches he got from work as an impressionable teenager. Even worse, he developed a terrible inferiority complex.
He said everybody working in a coal mining town had an inferiority complex. To them, the railroad workers and steelworkers were the elite.
Actor Charles Bronson and wife Kim Weeks arrive at The Carousel of Hope Ball benefiting The Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes October 28, 2000 at the Beverly Hills Hilton in Beverly Hills. | Source: Getty Images
Bronson also recalled how his hands were rough and unsightly from work. One day, he remembered dancing with a girl, and his hand snagged on her dress and wouldn’t come loose:
“Very few people know what it is like to live down there underneath the surface of the world, in that total blackness.”
He added that living on his knees and breathing in that dust, unable to shake it off, was terrible. Bronson spoke of being born with a number two shovel in his mouth instead of a spoon.
American actor Charles Bronson and Italian actress Claudia Cardinale during the filming of the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western ”Once Upon a Time in the West” Italy, April 1968. | Source: Getty Images
“During my years as a miner, I was just a kid, but I was convinced that I was the lowliest of all forms of man,” he said. He recalled that being drafted into the army was the best thing to happen to him. He was well-fed and well-dressed.
He even got the chance to improve his English skills. Being drafted into the army allowed him to become of the most iconic actors in cinema.
BRONSON’S CHANCE AT STARDOM