Charles Bronson
Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
August 24, 2023 ·  4 min read

Charles Bronson Felt like ‘Lowliest of All Forms of Man’ When He Worked at Coal Mines as a Kid

We’ve commonly heard the phrase, “born with a silver spoon in their mouths.” However, Charles Bronson, born Charles Dennis Buchinsky, once said of his life that he was “born with a number two shovel in (my) mouth instead of a spoon.” He underwent major transformations through his life, eventually making his way to stardom.

Humble Pennsylvania Beginnings

Despite his fame and success, Charles Bronson’s life was actually pretty tumultuous and full of hardships. He was born on November 3, 1921, to a Lithuanian family in Croyle Township, Pennsylvania. He was raised Roman Catholic, and although they had a deep faith, the family still struggled immensely.

The small town of Croyle Township consisted only of mining personnel and their families. Therefore, there was little else to bring income to the families and residents, with no clean water, trees, or sidewalk. As a result, the small town, located about 60 miles from the larger city of Pittsburgh, saw great poverty. He once disclosed that his family was so poor that he wore his older sister’s old clothes. This sometimes included dresses.

Charles Bronson, the 11th of 15 children, lived in a company-built shack with his family. The home was so small that family members took turns sleeping in shifts to accommodate everyone. Even worse were the home conditions, it was set only a few yards from the railway tracks, and the shack was constantly exposed to toxic fumes and dust.

Charles Bronson Carries His Family

When Bronson was a teenager, his father passed away. Consequently, he quit school to support his family, working at the coal mine. The job was physically draining, and he was prone to headaches. Meanwhile, the coal powder would be caked into his nose by the end of the workday. “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 shared. He, and the rest of the town, developed a severe inferiority complex, with everyone regarding the railroad workers and steelworkers as the elite.

Charles Bronson worked so hard to support his family that he also had severely rough and “unsightly” hands. Recalling one event in which he was dancing with a girl and got his hand caught on her dress but it 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.” Charles Bronson exclaimed.

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Eventually, he was drafted into the Army and contrary to most people, incredibly thankful for it. He was well-dressed, well-fed, and had the opportunity to improve his speaking skills. Upon returning home from war, he went on to attend the Pasadena Playhouse. He made such a great impression that one teacher recommended him to Henry Hathaway and shortly after, Bronson went on to make his debut into Hollywood. His first film, “You’re in the Navy Now“, premiered in 1951, and only a few short years later, he would go on to perform in “Vera Cruz” earning him a lead role in “Machine-Gun Kelly” (1958).

Charles Bronson Discovers His Passion

Charles Bronson was largely uncredited for many of his early roles. Eventually, changing his last name to Bronson because his, “Russian-sounding name wouldn’t be well-received by the public during the anti-Communist era.”

Over the next 20 years, Charles Bronson worked as a bricklayer, a short-order cook, an onion-picker, a painter, and rented benches on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. However, he found he most enjoyed acting and, in 1974, performed in “Death Wish.” The film did so well that four sequels have since been directed.

Although his fame took him to new heights, Charles Bronson never was much for interacting with people often, and according to his co-star Andrew Stevens, he “avoided people who seemed intrusive and threatening.”

Charles Bronson Found Many Loves

In contrast, he eventually went on to marry three times. He would father four children in total. Additionally, he would become stepfather to two boys and go on to have a couple of grandchildren.

Sadly, Charles Bronson would combat difficulties with Alzheimer’s in his remaining years. “The family has known for almost a year that something was wrong because Charles just hasn’t been himself.” Catherine Pidgeon, his sister disclosed. She explained of his condition that Bronson, “spoke slowly, and sometimes his words were slurred.” However, he still recognized his family in 2001, wanting to spend time and holidays with them. But he still recognized his family and wanted to spend Christmas 2001 with them.

Alternatively, in 2003, he would actually die from pneumonia on August 20th, leaving behind his wife, who’d lovingly vowed to care for him until his final breath. He passed away at 81 years old at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.

Charles Bronson was an example of how following your dreams and working through a difficult childhood reap undeniable rewards.

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Sources

  1. “Charles Bronson.” Biography.com
  2. “Menacing Face Worth Millions.Books.google.com
  3. “Bronson battles Alzheimer’s disease.Daily Mail.
  4. “Charles Bronson Biography. Imbd.