Carol Quaintance, a freelance writer for MediaNews Group publications for the past 15 years, recently released a collection of her “On the Record with Carol” columns that chronicle community stories prior to the pandemic.
Wanting to help nonprofits struggling because of COVID-19, she formed partnerships with some to sell her book as a fundraiser.
Quaintance is best known for her work published in the Tri County Record but her stories have also appeared in The Mercury and the Daily Local News.
“My ‘On the Record’ column was the people’s voice for the community; I developed relationships and published their replies. A community paper is the heartbeat of the people,” said Quaintance.
Masthof Press of Morgantown published her book, titled “On the Record with Carol” this fall. The book is now available for sale at local businesses in the Morgantown and Honey Brook areas, as well as via Masthofpress.com.
She started writing for Tri County Record in 2004. Joseph Szabo, editor of Tri County Record at the time, hired her to write a column to reach out to the people. Her column was printed on page 3 every Tuesday. She was also hired to write feature stories in the centerfold Crossing Borders every Friday which ran like a series.
“I was supposed to connect with the community,” she said.
And connect with the community she did.
“I ran a contest about Poole Forge Christmas decorating the old mansion for people to submit stories and we had Joe judge the winner and hung the stories up in the mansion for people to read and we published them,” Quaintance said. “The winner got a local cookbook from the Churchtown Firehouse. We used to do a lot of that to get interaction with the community. It was my job to promote that from potholes to a school teacher picking my story ‘Are we fighting the Third World War’ when Isis was happening and a whole class of students submitted their thoughts and we published three pages of them. Kids and parents loved that.”
Quaintance continued writing for Tri County Record, more recently monthly writing her “On the Record with Carol” column, followed by the responses from the community in her “Sound Off” columns. These columns expanded her connection with the community, with stories of the local people, happenings and news, as well as giving the people a place to voice their concerns, opinions and joys.
When the The Morgan, Hudson, Plank historical building was demolished in 2017, community members responded via her “On the Record with Carol.”
“People kept writing in. I recorded over 3,000 hits on the story and over 100 replies between Jere Brady (author of the submitted news story), Sound Off, Facebook, and berksmontnews.”
Her biggest column was about the casino proposed in Morgantown in February and March 2019.
“People were writing full letters. I had to ask people to start writing letters to the editor; they all wanted them published.”
Letters regarding the casino published for several issues.
“The story ran in All-Around Philly papers and our local people from out of the area wanted to have their say for weeks.”
Writing a Book for the Community
The idea for compiling a book of her columns stemmed from a desire to share her 15 years of sharing the community’s stories.
“When I heard Morgantown would be celebrating their 250th anniversary in 2020, I was excited thinking this would be an opportunity for me to share my 15 years of newspaper stories about the community. After I attended a meeting, I realized my writings geographically encompassed all of the Tri County area not just Morgantown,” said Quaintance.
“Putting that idea to the side, I began combing through my articles, finding a treasure trove. Over the years I had embraced the history of the area all the way back to the Colonists, stories of the Amish and Mennonites, the 275th anniversary of the Episcopalian church on Main Street founded when the Mass included ‘God save the Queen / King;’ stories of the French and Indian War; the casino debates, the Morgantown tornado and parades and carnivals marching and flying across pages,” she continued.
Quaintance came to know Lois Ann Mast, publisher of Masthof Press in Morgantown and the organizer of the international and local genealogy conferences Quaintance covered for Tri County Record. She describes Mast as “a friendly guide helping me to understand information, sharing photos and reviewing my stories for factual accuracy. As I walked into this new world of language and culture, she encouraged me to proceed with my own book.”
She began compiling her book in 2019 and 2020.
“I was writing articles about the 1776 Stoltzfus Homestead. I met Nic and Elam Stoltzfus, writers, photographers, PBS documentarians, and also Paul Kurtz who at age 90 had just completed his book about his father’s life, a farmer, minister, and integral part of the Old Order Amish,” said Quaintance. “Then the global pandemic struck!”
In February 2020, Quaintance wrote a story about Chinese students participating in an exchange program, living with host families and studying at High Point Academy in Geigertown.
“They were frantically waiting to see if they would be allowed to fly home due to travel bans to China. Never realizing what was truly unfolding on the world stage, they left the last day for home,” she said.
After that, the book began to write itself as she developed sections, speaking with her local contacts and asking for their support to place ads that would feature their areas of interest and introduce them to the community.
“Over the years, you become very close to the stories and the people. You feel their hearts,” said Quaintance. “The Honey Brook Food Pantry stories were those that would make me cry as I wrote them, the struggle of the people and the godly dedication of Ken Ross and Donna Horvath to feed their people.”
“In that process, they created Honey Brook Music Fest and a 15-year-old singing star evolved year after year, in 2019 Sam Schmidthuber emerged with a Nashville Singing Contract,” she continued. “The book is filled with stories like this.”
“My challenge was to bring these stories back to life. As fear and lack of freedom grew because of the pandemic, it became important to me to capture these stories,” she said. “Here, people could read and remember what life was like before the world as we knew it was changed swiftly. Little things we took for granted, photos of the past. A new rule of law was touching our freedom!”
Community Becomes Part of the Book
Quaintance was humbled by the support from the community and how they wanted to be a part of the book.
“It was quickly becoming their book as well. Though some never knew the time and thought that goes into writing their stories year after year, most did and were eager to become a part of this keepsake book,” she said. “It became important to me to help the non-profits who were struggling because of COVID.”
Wanting to help, she formed partnerships with some to sell her book as a fundraiser.
“Thoughts took me back to Anne Frank writing in the attic as innocence dissolved to an outside world of pain where a deadly virus and a presidential election reared its ugly head, tearing statues down and burning riots. Even the Amish buggies were sporting flags and joining in the protest, unemployment grew as businesses and restaurants were forced to close, children sequestered at home, people living on the public dole, people dying and struggling for food.”
Her goal was to connect to the social distanced community through their own stories.
“Open and shut, it was a rocky American road. But inside the book, the locals could take off their masks, cuddle up with no social distancing and get lost in the old world we knew. Friends, family, and neighbors were popping off the pages,” said Quaintance.
She feels fortunate that Lois Ann Mast at Masthof Press designed the layout of the book.
“What a blessing. I had 100 books presold and after publication around Thanksgiving I had sold them all including those I bought for gifts. I ordered more,” said Quaintance.
“The first book off the press was bought by Roseann Tomas of Elverson. She was the first person I met in 2004 when I joined the staff of The Tri County Record in the old Morgantown office. Joe Szabo, the editor, had formed a community committee to gain input about what the community expected from newspaper,” she said. “Roseann was the prominent member and over the years worked with me sending ideas, stories and photos to me.”
Book signings were scheduled, then soon cancelled.
“The spring will bring a new awakening of life and freedom for people,” she said. “The Stoltzfus Homestead in Wyomissing, The Zerbe Sisters in Narvon, and Honey Brook are preplanned along with a Virtual Winter Author program at the Morgantown Village Library.”
Donna Horvath, as co-founder of the Honey Brook Food Pantry and co-owner of the Honeybrook Golf Club, helped her roll out the book in Honey Brook. Books are available for sale at the golf club to support the Food Pantry.
Verna Emery, president of the Honey Brook Community Partnership, has been busy selling books throughout the village fundraising for the Partnership events. To purchase a book to be delivered, email Emery at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emery shared responses from the community, “It is amazing to read some of Carol's stories; seems like that happened yesterday,” said one community member. Another said, “It is wonderful that Carol covered stories that matter to us locally, but also nationally.”
“It's wonderful that Carol cares so much about our communities that she took the time to write her book. It is a keepsake of our history,” said Greg Knies of Knies Insurance Group.
Some wished they had the opportunity to ask her to sign their book. Quaintance hopes to make book signing arrangements available in the future. Signed books are also available via her Facebook page On The Record with Carol.