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By rebeccapricejanney, May 17 2017 12:33PM

Last week I had the pleasure of addressing two large groups of English class students at my alma mater, Phillipsburg High School in, you guessed it, Phillipsburg, New Jersey. Several people have asked me what it was like to return to the place of such formative years, which holds so many memories. Actually, I have no memories of the place at all! You see, last September a brand new high school opened on a hill overlooking the Forks of the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers, an impressive, sprawling place looking more like a community college than a high school.


The old P’burg High, the one I attended down the road, now serves as a middle school, and that building is the repository of my remembrances, of friendships and classes loved (history and current events) and loathed (biology and geometry), of school plays, the newspaper and literary magazine, dances, proms, and football games. The classic red brick building with the elegant clock tower and iconic football stadium is where I went and where three generations of my family once stood on the front lawn for my mother’s graduation photo.


Nevertheless, I joyfully went to last week to see the new high school and forge fresh memories with librarian Kathleen Servielo, who arranged my appearance, several staff and teachers, and about 200 students. I spoke about how I became a writer, some of the joys and challenges I’ve faced over the years, and how I was inspired to write Easton at the Forks. After each session, the students asked some really good questions. A few were serious, like what do I consider to be an ideal relationship between an editor and an author, and how did I balance my school work with all the writing I was doing as a teenager? Other questions were funny – how did I handle the intense rivalry between Easton and Phillipsburg High Schools while growing up in a family claiming both sides of the river as home? Did I participate in the rivalry? (You bet! Think bonfires and walking over the bridge to games.) I loved seeing their fresh faces and hearing about some of their dreams to become writers.


I so enjoyed being back in P’burg and part of the high school scene if only for a few hours. To paraphrase some of the theme song from the old TV show “Welcome Back Kotter,” although my dreams were my ticket out, the Easton – P’burg area will always be “home” for me.



By rebeccapricejanney, May 11 2017 12:47PM

The story I’m about to relate to you is one I hadn’t thought of for a long time, not until last night while reviewing my son’s homework. His social studies class is learning about the Civil War, or as my Southern-background husband likes to call it “the war of defense against northern aggression.” He always gets a big harrumph from me and a smile from David when he says that! One of the aspects of that time period was, of course, abolitionism, and a leading personality David’s class is looking at is none other than John Brown. I told David a story about him that most people have never heard, unless they’re history geeks or happen to have read my books, Harriet Tubman or Great Women in American History.


Tubman is famous for having rescued more than 300 people after escaping from slavery in Maryland. She made some nineteen trips back to the land of her captivity to guide others to the freedom she now enjoyed in spite of being illiterate and penniless; the money she made as a domestic in Philadelphia was mainly to fund her rescue missions. Harriet had another infirmity that would’ve kept most people in their Lazy Boys.


When she was a girl, she witnessed a slave trying to run away from the plantation they lived on. She ran ahead to warn him the overseer was hot on the trail, and the three of them ended up in a confrontation at a store in the village. The overseer told Harriet to help him tie up the runaway, but she refused. The runaway used the distraction to bolt, and the enraged overseer picked up a two-pound iron weight and flung the object toward the slave. The weight missed its target, but struck Harriet on the head. For weeks she hovered between life and death. She did recover eventually, but throughout the rest of her life she had a tendency to fall asleep suddenly, anytime and anywhere. When Harriet became an in-demand abolitionist speaker, she was known to nod off on the platform making her perhaps the only speaker in American history who ever put herself to sleep!


As a public figure, Harriet became well acquainted with some of that era’s leading celebrities, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Frederick Douglass. Even the radical abolitionist John Brown consulted her about his proposed raid through the South, and this is where David’s social studies lesson comes in.


Brown had a high regard for Harriet, referring to her as “General Tubman,” and he secured her promise of recruiting men for his effort to start a slave revolt. When Brown made his famous attack on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia to secure weapons, however, Harriet was so ill with one of her sleeping spells she didn’t even know where she was. On the night of October 16, 1859, Brown, five black men, and thirteen whites seized the arsenal, killing the mayor and taking some townspeople as prisoners. Two days later the state militia, led by Colonel Robert E. Lee, closed in, and only five of Brown’s conspirators escaped. One of his sons died in the conflict, a second went to the gallows, like his father who was hanged on December 2, content as he said, “to die for God’s eternal truth.”


Once Harriet had recovered, she was too late to send her volunteers, and John Brown was dead. She decided to drop out of sight for a while because her name was mentioned in the Senate committee investigating the touchy incident that led the nation even closer to war. In fact, not until much later was the full extent of her involvement with Brown and his campaign known publicly. She revered the militant Brown for the rest of her life, though, considering him a courageous man of God and a true liberator of her people.


Incidentally, Brown’s raid inspired not only a popular song, “John Brown’s Body Lies A-Mouldering in the Grave,” but one of our nation’s most beloved tunes. I’ll save that story for another time!



Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman

By rebeccapricejanney, May 3 2017 01:19PM

We tend to think of ours as an enlightened age and that all, or at least most, who came before us were pretty narrow-minded. Although I don’t necessarily buy into that train of thought, I’m always pleased whenever I find instances to the contrary, which happened several days ago.


My family and I were watching a bio-pic of the great Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe, who was a Native American who led a turbulent life after winning the world’s attention in the 1912 Stockholm games. In one scene, years later a beaten-down Thorpe has gone to the Los Angeles Olympics at the invitation of his former coach, Pop Warner. During the parade of nations in the opening ceremony, the stadium announcer introduces the Vice President of the United States, Charles Curtis. In the movie, Pop Warner leans closer to Thorpe and says, “The announcer forgot to add just one thing.” “What’s that?” Thorpe asks. Warner responds, “Indian.”


I was fascinated by how a Native American had risen to such prominence in the early 20th century and, like a good 21st century historian, I immediately conducted an internet search. I discovered Curtis served as Vice President under Herbert Hoover from 1929-1933, and before that, he’d been a prominent Republican leader in the Senate, and in the House of Representatives before that. His modest beginnings and rise to power are the stuff of American legend.


Curtis’s great great (maternal) grandfather was the Kansa-Kaw chief, White Plume, who assisted Lewis and Clarke on their historic journey in 1804. After an 1825 treaty, the Kaw Indians were allotted a two million acre reservation around Topeka, Kansas with another series of fee simple land grants set aside for “half-breeds.” White Plume’s daughter had married a French-Canadian trapper, and their daughter also married a white man. Together they established a successful ferry business at the Kansas River on some of those allotted lands.


Charles Curtis was born on January 25, 1860 in Topeka, and he learned to speak French and Kansa from his mother. She died when he was just three years old, and initially he lived with his father’s parents while Orren Curtis was serving in the Civil War. (His father’s story is pretty fascinating in itself!) At the age of five, Charles went to live with his maternal; grandparents on the Kaw Reservation, learning how to ride Indian ponies bareback and even becoming a prairie horse jockey for a short time. His nickname? Indian Charley.


Alas, Curtis was not to earn his living as an athlete. With the encouragement of both his grandmothers, he went to high school in Topeka and afterward studied to become a lawyer. He was admitted to the bar at the age of 21. From that place of responsibility and honor, Curtis began his rise to become an influential political leader, culminating with his election as Vice President in 1928, the first (and only) Native American to hold that office. His wife, Annie Elizabeth Baird, had died five years before he became VP making him the last Vice President to have remained unmarried during his entire time in that position.


After relinquishing the White House to FDR and John Nance Garner in 1933, Curtis remained in Washington, D.C. where he once again practiced law. Three years later, on February 8, 1936, Curtis died of a heart attack and was buried next to his wife back in Topeka.


Incidentally, Hiram Revels was the first Native American to serve in the Senate (1870-1871), and there have been four others, including Curtis. Fourteen have served in the House, beginning with John Floyd of Virginia in 1817; presently, Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma is the only one in the House – the last Senator with Native American ancestry was Ben Campbell of Colorado.




Vice President Charles Curtis
Vice President Charles Curtis

By rebeccapricejanney, Apr 26 2017 03:05PM

I’m very much looking forward to delivering a talk, along with two other authors, this Saturday for the Easton Branch of the American Association of University Women. The event will be their Fourth Annual Authors’ Luncheon, and I’m honored the leaders chose me to be one of the presenters. The other two authors will be Larry Diebert and Chris Redding.


The luncheon will be at the historic Pomfret Club in Easton, a place I visited last fall when I spoke to the Kiwanis organization. I’m excited to have this opportunity to talk about my path as a writer, how the journey began and where I’m at along the way at this point.



AMERICAN ASSOCIATION of UNIVERSITY WOMEN

Easton Branch


April 29, 2017

*************************

Fourth Annual Authors Luncheon

The Easton Branch was founded in 1926 with the aim of encouraging local young women to attend college. Then and now the continued goal of the or-ganization is to promote education and equity to create a better tomorrow for all. With fundraising efforts, we are able to maintain this goal year after year.

A conversation with three authors on their works and their lives.


AUTHORS


Larry Deibert

Larry Deibert has written eight books. He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired from the U.S. Postal Service . Larry and his wife, Peggy, live in Hellertown, Pa. He has two grown children, Laura and Matthew. He is currently working on several projects, including his first werewolf novel, Were- wolves In The Christmas City.


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Chris Redding

Chris graduated from Penn State with a degree in Journal- ism and is still a diehard Nittany Lions fan. In fact, she bleeds Penn State Blue! Her dream is to get her Master’s degree in education and teach creative writing at Penn State. Her books are filled with romance, suspense and thrills. She also dabbles in copywriting, including web content and product descriptions. When she isn’t writing, she works for a local winery. Chris Redding lives in New Jersey with her husband, two kids, one dog and one show rabbit.


Rebecca Price Janney


Rebecca Price Janney is the award-winning author of 19 books including her latest, Easton at the Forks: A Novel. A graduate of Lafayette College and Princeton Theological Seminary, Rebecca received her doctorate from Bibli- cal Seminary in April 2000. She grew up in the Lehigh Valley, where her grandparents lived across the street from each other, and the Delaware River ran down the middle of the towns she calls home, Phillipsburg and Easton. She now lives in suburban Philadelphia with her husband, 12 year-old son, and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.


By rebeccapricejanney, Apr 19 2017 06:44PM

White House Memories.


When I was a college sophomore, I received an invitation to a picnic on the South Lawn of the White House. My memories of that golden night include dancing with a reporter, who had no idea I was one myself, while my ROTC friend danced with a man in uniform, who also didn’t know about her background! I also recall the red and white checked cloth napkins (I still have mine), the beautiful view of the Washington Monument at night, and standing in a receiving line to shake the President and First Lady’s hands. I haven’t been back until two days ago when I went with my husband and son to the White House Easter Egg Roll, thanks to a good friend who was able to secure three tickets for us.


This tradition is one of the oldest annual celebrations held at the White House. Some say Dolly Madison hosted the first one. Most historians of the event believe by the 1870s, children regularly gathered at the Capitol’s West Grounds on Easter Monday to roll eggs, and themselves, down the hill. Concern for the landscape led to a banishment of the practice in 1876, and no one showed up the following year anyway because of rain. In 1877 local kids again went to the Capitol, but police escorted them off the premises. Undaunted, the little ones headed up the road to the White House, and President Rutherford B. Hayes told the guards to let them come through the gates to roll their eggs. What a nice thing to be remembered for!


The first time I was on the South Lawn, I was brought through the White House and after passing through security, went on outside. On Monday, however, along with some 5,000 other people slated for the 12:15-2:15 time slot, we wound around the sidewalks flanking the lower grounds, then serpentined through a few checkpoints before being allowed inside. My son was fascinated by the presence of sober-looking Secret Service agents dressed in no-nonsense black uniforms and policemen on horseback. We were told in advance to be prepared to wait for an hour before we could be escorted onto the South Lawn, so I was ready for standing that long. What caught me somewhat off guard, however, was the rain. Yes, I had checked the weather forecast several times before and during the event, but the percentages were low, especially for our time slot. When the heavens opened up in spite of the weather people, I huddled under an umbrella with Scott while David hunkered down under the other one we’d brought. Before many minutes, my right arm and backpack were soaked, and my hair had begun to “explode.” Far worse off was the family in front of us, with just one umbrella and two little kids, both in summer clothes, the mom in a sleeveless sun dress sporting goose bumps. No one was in a bad mood, though. In spite of our drowned rat appearances, our group was far too excited to complain.


By the time we got inside, the rain had slowed to a drizzle, and smiling greeters handed us map/schedules and “egg pops,” hard boiled eggs on sticks. Yum! I once again, as I did as a college student, felt the awe of being at the White House, this place of so much of our nation’s treasured history and countless stories of courage and freedom. I also smelled something like the fragrance of being outside when a neighbor is using the clothes dryer. I joked to Scott, “Melania must be doing the laundry.” He just grinned and shook his head. “Melania does not do laundry.”


We walked up the paved road to the right, past the gleaming Presidential Limousine, toward the South Portico and a striking wisteria next to the door. Children were lining up for the egg roll, so David fell in waited a short time for his turn. I was struck by how short a course it really was, less than the length of a bowling “alley.” I snapped several photos as my son rolled his hard-boiled, colored egg with a spoon-like paddle, and won his race!


We spent the rest of the time listening to music at the concert area, in a Minecraft exhibit, talking to other parents and White House volunteers. A couple of highlights included listening to Dr. Ben Carson and his wife tell a story at the “reading nook,” and then bumping into national security advisor Sebastian Gorka, who graciously got into a selfie with us.


We didn’t get to see the President, First Lady, and Barron, who had come out for an earlier group, but just being at the White House was a huge treat for us. As we left the South Lawn with our newly minted memories, David was handed a poster and a bag of goodies, along with a commemorative wooden egg. I hope when he’s a dad, he’ll be able to recount the wonder and joy of this day for his children.


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