POTTSVILLE, Pa. -- The city of Pottsville is known for its proud coal history, but in the early 1900s, it was also home to one of the nation's best writers.
"John O'Hara was an author from the early 20th century. He was born and raised right here in Pottsville. His place in the lexicon of early 20th-century American writers is often overlooked because of giants like Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck who were in the field," said James Haluska of the Schuylkill County Historical Society.
O'Hara was born in Pottsville in 1905. Throughout his storied and award-winning writing career, he authored hundreds of short stories and more than a dozen novels. He didn't often look back at his upbringing in Schuylkill County in the most positive light. He grew up Irish-Catholic, a group that back then was often discriminated against. But still, O'Hara is revered in this area, and because of that, there will be events held to celebrate his 115th birthday.
"On January 29, we will be doing a dramatic reading of 'The Pioneer Hep-Cat' here at the Schuylkill County Historical Society. Also, that Saturday, we will have the John O'Hara trolley tour, which will explore the world of John O'Hara when he was growing up here in Pottsville and talk about how his life experiences here influenced his writing," Haluska said.
According to the historical society, O'Hara had two childhood homes growing up, including on the 100 block of Mahantongo Street, where Pressed Coffee and Books is right now, and on the 600 block of Mahantongo Street. He lived there from 1916 to 1928.
"History is more than just wars and politics. It's how people lived, and John O'Hara did a great job of chronicling that. It gives us a great deal of insight on how our parents, our grandparents lived, thought, and felt," said Lisa Von Ahn of the historical society.