CLEARFIELD – Pat Bishop entertained book lovers at the recent Books-Sandwiched-In event held at Shaw Library.
Her review of Playing St. Barbara by Marian Szczepanski was the first of four book discussions held weekly through April 20 and sponsored by the Clearfield Branch of AAUW.
Bishop selected this book for a number of reasons. First and foremost, “I chose this book because it takes place close to where I grew up in a town exactly like the town where my grandfather lived (Keisterville in Fayette County). My grandfather was superintendent of a coal and coke company.”
The towns of Fayette County appear in the story, only the main setting “Bee Town” does not exist. For clarification she distributed a map with the area highlighted.
Years previously Bishop wrote and self-published a family history of the area with photos and descriptions of what the mining towns were like. Copies were given to local libraries.
“My brother and I could not believe when we found this book. We thought the author might have written about our town,” Bishop shared her book and read some passages from both her book and Playing St. Barbara.
Bishop also chose this book as it chronicles four women finding their voices. “The book follows the Sweeney family of girls, their mother, Clare and a very mean father Fin who wanted sons. Several sons were buried in the back yard.”
The title of the book comes from the annual pageant for St. Barbara, the patron saint of miners. Each year one lucky girl, whether she lived on “Millionaire’s Row,” was an “uphiller“ or “downhiller” or unlucky enough to live in “the patch,” had an opportunity to play that role and escape into theatre.
As Bishop noted, “Fathers were terribly strict with daughters. Girls didn’t tell they had a boyfriend and the couples often hid in old unused ovens.”
Her third reason for choosing this book is the history. “The time of the story is from 1929 – 1937 during the depression, before my time. I didn’t know about the Ku Klux Klan, the Coal and Iron Police or ‘Cossacks,’” or the attempts to unionize the miners, she said.
A lively discussion followed her talk.
Next week’s Books-Sandwiched-In review features Gayle Gearhart discussing Girls of the Atomic City by Denise Kiernan. Lunch is served at 12 p.m. with the review immediately after. A $4 donation funds the AAUW scholarship program.
Call Shaw Library 814-765-3271 for reservations and more information. Please make your reservation by Monday, at 5 p.m., so volunteers will have time for food preparation.