Wednesday, 12 September 2012. Tamaqua (PA) Public Library.
We have driven over to Tamaqua, about sixteen miles northeast of Pottsville, where we will pursue the John O'Hara story that's been obsessing me for more than a year now. In the early months of 1927, when he would turn 23 years old, O'Hara took a reporter's job on the Tamaqua Evening Courier. He didn't last long. His old enemy alcohol and his inability to get to work within a few hours of when he was supposed to be there combined to terminate his tenure. As Matthew J. Bruccoli puts it in his biography The O'Hara Concern (1975), "John's work was good--when he did it--but for part of the time he was commuting to Tamaqua by trolley and arriving late, hung over, or both" (45).
|Current newspaper offices|
Inside, we discover it's lunch time and that the editor has gone. The secretary takes our names and questions. They'll get back to us. (And the editor does, within an hour!)
|Tamaqua Public Library|
But the library doesn't have the sort of directory we need, so I ask if they have the old Courier on microfilm. They do. She finds a spool from 1925 and sets it up for us on the reader. I'm guessing that the paper's address will appear in each issue.
I am right. The film is smeary, though, so I look at several issues of the paper before I'm sure. 18 Hunter Street. Just a few blocks away!
(Do you see why I love librarians? And libraries?)
We thank Ms. Heath profusely and dash for the car and fire up the GPS. Yes! It finds 18 Hunter. Our GPS narrator takes us there ...
It's an empty lot.
|18 Hunter St.|
Where it used to be ...
But then I get an email from the current editor of the Tamaqua Times News, which merged earlier with the old Courier. She suggests I try a Facebook page--Tamaqua Then and Now. I join the page, post a query: Does anyone have a photo of the old Courier building?
Not long afterwards--some email from a former writer (he sends me some .pdf files of some pieces he wrote about O'Hara) and from a woman who does have a photo and is sending it to me for scanning.
And, once again, I'm in Nerd Heaven.