John Henry O’Hara was born on January 31, 1905, in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. The town of Pottsville became the “Gibbsville” of his fiction, and the surrounding eastern Pennsylvania anthracite coal-mining area, known to residents as the “Region,” was the locale of his major novels and stories. The author’s father, Patrick O’Hara, was a respected surgeon whose father had settled in the area during the American Civil War, and his mother, Katharine Delaney O’Hara, was the daughter of a prosperous businessman in nearby Lykens, which became O’Hara’s fictional “Lyons.” Patrick O’Hara, who necessarily specialized in injuries resulting from mining accidents, was seriously disappointed at his firstborn son’s refusal to study medicine. Rather than inspiring a dedication to the medical profession, O’Hara’s travels with his father to the scenes of medical emergencies provided him with regional lore that found its way into his writing.
Living on Pottsville’s “best” street, Mahantongo (“Lantenengo” in the fictional Gibbsville), was a sign of the O’Hara family’s relative affluence and provided O’Hara with an awareness of the rigid economic and ethnic stratification of the town. Until his father’s early death in 1925, O’Hara led a fairly privileged existence, and his dream of attending Yale was thwarted less by lack of funds than by O’Hara’s dismissals from three preparatory schools for low grades and disregard of discipline. The alternative to college was a job as a reporter with the Pottsville Journal in 1924,...
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