BY JOHN E. USALIS
POTTSVILLE — The life and literary contributions of author John O’Hara are being celebrated this week in his hometown of Pottsville to mark the 115th anniversary of his birth.
The Pottsville Free Public Library took the lead in putting together the birthday party, working with other organizations to properly mark one of the city’s most famous residents.
Born Jan. 31, 1905, O’Hara went on to author 14 novels and 374 short stories, with movies made of two novels that starred Frank Sinatra (“Pal Joey”) and Elizabeth Taylor (“Butterfield 8”).
Head Reference Librarian Becki White said the library got the ball rolling.
“The library basically started this and is coordinating with several other groups,” White said.
The other groups involved are the Schuylkill County Historical Society, Pressed Coffee & Books, Theatre Junction, Schuylkill County Visitors Bureau and the Majestic Theater.
“We realized that this is not only the 115th anniversary of the day of his birth, but it is also the 50th anniversary of the year he died, which was on April 11, 1970.”
White said the planning began in the middle of 2019.
“We decided to invite others who might be interested in planning a John O’Hara celebration that would be more of a city celebration and county celebration rather than just a library celebration. That was really our goal from the beginning to have things happening at other places run by other people. Everybody has different specialties and knowledge bases and skill sets to really work together to create this whole array of events.”
White said the events cover many age groups, including children, even though O’Hara did not write any children’s books.
White said the trolley tour scheduled for Saturday is sold out. While the deadline for the cabaret celebration was last Friday, White said to contact the library today about availability.
“We have to get the head count to the caterer,” White said.
Cathy Repp of Beauregard Catering is planning a wide variety of foods from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s on the menu for the Saturday evening cabaret event.
Call the library at 570-622-8880 for more information.
“We are encouraging anybody coming to the cabaret to dress up like in the 1920s and 1930s so they have fun with the jazz music and other performance,” White said
The week’s schedule for the celebration is:
- 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29 — “The Pioneer Hep-Cat” dramatic reading and discussion at Schuylkill County Historical Society
- 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30 — “Appointment in Samarra” discussion, Pottsville Free Public Library Page Turners group
- 1 to 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31 — John O’Hara birthday party at Pottsville Free Public Library, announcement of bookmark and short story contest winners
- 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31 — Party/dramatic reading at Pressed Coffee & Books, Pottsville
Saturday, the grand finale of the birthday celebration, includes three events:
- 10 a.m. to noon — John O’Hara Trolley Tour with Schuylkill County Visitors Bureau and Schuylkill County Historical Society. The tour is sold out.
- 2 p.m. — “Pal Joey” film and discussion at the Majestic Theater, with moderator Cynthia Lucia.
- 6 p.m. — Cabaret celebration of John O’Hara and his time period at the Pottsville Free Public Library. Cost is $25/person.
In addition to the Pottsville library events, the Orwigsburg Book Club will discuss “Gibbsville, PA” at 6 p.m. today at the Orwigsburg Area Free Public Library.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-628-6023