This Week's Spotlight is on August First Friday

Yeah Williamsport!  You’re Our Town!

Williamsport, a new book on our fair city by Dana Borick Brigandi

A review by Betsy Rider

          In 2011, “Money” magazine listed Williamsport as the second most desirable “shrinking place” to live in the USA.  That was before Dana Borick Brigandi gathered up our local assets and put them in a book called “Williamsport” one of the “Images of Modern America” series, published by Arcadia Press.       

          Nearly thirty thousand people live here.  Many more live just outside the city but consider Williamsport home.  How did the city of millionaires (more of them per capita in any one town in the nation) become today’s banking, legal and cultural hub of central Pennsylvania?  Dana’s book tracks our transformation with color photos and captions showing a vibrant Downtown, Arts Scene, Education, Sports, Non-profits/Community Organizations, and Industry/Environment—those are the chapter heads.  Infused throughout the book is unrestrained enthusiasm for what we have become since the glory days of the Lumber Era.

          I see this book as a must-read for the huge number of former residents, for the loyal citizens who want to “crow” about our progress and for the aging populace who want reminders of the happy times of our recent past.

          Dana is a comparatively recent immigrant to Williamsport.  She moved here in 2001 and worked for the Sun Gazette for ten years.  As such, she sees this city for what it is, not for what it used to be in the distant past.  Readers will soon note that she likes what she sees.

          Dana will be signing her new book from 5 to 8 PM, August 7 (First Friday) at Otto’s Book Store, 107 W. 4th St.  (She will be bringing some photos that didn’t fit in the book.)  


Letters to a Lifer, ‘the Boy Never to Be Released’

A review by Betsy Rider

          Cindy Sanford of Bloomsburg was as cautious as anyone else about being “used” by convicts.  She had heard about inmates manipulating soft-hearted “do-gooders” for their own gain.

          But then she got a Christmas card from Ken, a convicted murderer, serving life without parole.  She had sold some of his paintings on leaves in her art store.  She closed her store when the recession hit.  She sent him the money for the paintings.  She was surprised to get his card and, inspired by the spirit of the season, she sent him one.  His profuse gratitude for the card moved her to answer his thank you letter.  And thus began their correspondence.

          Abandoned by his mother when he was five, beaten repeatedly by a drunken and abusing father, at the age of nine, Ken was put in a series of foster homes.  He ran away when his sister, who had been in the same foster home, snuck out.  He eventually landed a job with a travelling carnival.  Now his companions were mostly drunk and doped.  When he was hitchhiking with an older boy, they were picked up by a couple who were on the way to their campsite. After spending the night there, the older boy he was with shot and killed the couple.  Ken witnessed the killing and drove their getaway car.  In the eyes of the law, he was guilty of murder.  He was convicted and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.  He was fifteen.   

          Cindy was a part time nurse, married, mother of two grown sons who had just left home for two years to work in faraway missions.  She had a tenuous relationship with God—challenging Him whenever she witnessed the suffering of innocent people.  Her grandfather had been a cop, her husband a conservation officer.  She was a strict law and order citizen.  The last thing she expected to be doing was writing, then visiting, a convicted killer.  The love in those letters blossomed into a mother/son relationship and she asked him to consider himself their third son.  And then she wrote a book, Letters to a Lifer, the Boy ‘Never to Be Released’—using her letters to him and his letters to her as the basis of her text.  She is now an advocate for the USA’s National Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth.

          Cindy will be signing her book Friday, August 7, from 5 to 8 at Otto’s Book Store, 107 West 4th St.  (She will also bring some of Ken’s paintings on leaves.)


The World of Little League (the book)

a review by Betsy Rider

           For those who have never visited the World of Little League® Museum and Official Store, Janice Ogurcak has written a book that introduces readers to the treasures found there.  She has organized the pictures and captions into five chapters:  The Little League Overcomes Adversity; The Big League and Highlights; Little League Promotes Safety; Little League Holds International Appeal and Little League Hall of Excellence.

          Chapter One deals with racial segregation (in the deep South as early as 1940).  Girls were not allowed to play in the earlier years—in 1974, girls were no longer in need of a masculine disguise. In 1989, the Challenger Division gave physically and mentally handicapped kids an opportunity to play in our nation’s favorite sport.  And in 1999, the Urban Initiative brought Little League to underprivileged inner cities.  All of these transitions are illustrated with pictures of items relating to them in the museum.

          Chapter Two describes the future achievements of Little League alums, from major sports figures to the President of the United States.

          Chapter Three shows the efforts of organizers to adapt the rules and equipment to enhance the safety of both players and spectators.  Dr. Creighton Hale was recruited originally to make Little League safer for the players.  He designed safer face masks, head gear and other equipment and he stayed on as president and director for almost the next sixty years. 

Chapter Four shows pictures of memorabilia from the foreign countries that have participated in the program.  Little League is played on seven of the eight continents.  The only continent without a Little League program is Antarctica. Pictures include the Little League patch that was sent into space and a piece of the Berlin Wall. 

The last chapter gives the reader the photographs of famous people who have been honored by the League by being inducted into the Hall of Excellence.  These choices were made based on character, courage and loyalty—the three premises of the Little League motto.  They didn’t all make it to the Little League World Series, but they are role models for future Little Leaguers to follow.

Janice Ogurcak is a resident of Williamsport and is the Director of Public Programming and Outreach at the Museum, where she has been employed for ten years.  She will be signing her book August First Friday, August 7, from 5 to 8 at Otto’s Book Store, 107 W. 4th St.

ISBN: 9781467123600
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Arcadia Publishing (SC) - July 20th, 2015

By Cindy Sanford, Jeanne Bishop (Foreword by)
ISBN: 9781909976153
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Waterside Press - January 21st, 2015

ISBN: 9781467123617
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Arcadia Publishing (SC) - July 20th, 2015

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