Mike Casino's life span of 100 years was uniquely positioned within the 20th century.
Casino was a Tamaqua native, an employee of the Tamaqua Evening Courier, who rose through the ranks of journalism to become an editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer. The job gave him a special perspective on society.
But just about every element of Casino's life was uniquely positioned as well. In fact, his life was a microcosm of the major events of the century.
Casino was a devout Roman Catholic who married Harriet Schuler, a devout Protestant. He was a conservative Italian-American immigrant introduced to the indigenous culture of his wife's Pennsylvania Dutch family.
He was instilled with faith-based, small-town values which provided a solid foundation to carry him through major events of his day, including world wars, Pearl Harbor, the civil rights movement, interracial marriages and questions surrounding the role of theology in everyday life.
Casino was in a unique position to record details of those events and his thoughts about them. At age 93, Casino began writing his memoirs after the death of his wife. He died before the work could be published.
But thanks to Tamaqua native R. Thomas Berner, a retired Penn State Journalism professor, and Francis Clifford, of Falls Church, Va., a friend of Casino and his family, those memoirs have been published and are now available.
'Harriet and Mr. Nobody, and Their 20th Century' has been released by Berner's Coal Cracker Press as a 236-page hardcover.
Berner, who lives in Santa Fe, NM, with his wife, the former Paulette Vetter of West Hazleton, calls Casino's writings "a great Tamaqua story and a great American story."
Casino was born in Palermo, Italy, and was just five when he, his sister and mother crossed the Atlantic. He was a skilled wordsmith who retained his mental acumen throughout his life, right up until his death just 30 days after turning 100.
The book showcases his talent. His writings reach beyond typical parameters by providing fascinating commentary and interpretation of major national and world events.
In the forward, Casino explains to readers why he embarked on the project: "Why did I write this book the way I did? Why should you, especially those of you who were born since the Second World War, read it? Because you need to read it if you want to know and understand what really happened in the Twentieth Century and the enormous changes for good and evil it wrought upon American life, society, and government."
What makes the writing special is that Casino adds personal comments liberally and offers advice and opinions based on his own sense of values combined with prevailing sentiment of his day. The book also includes insight into public opinion, written with shades of humor and, at certain times, an honest sense of disillusionment
Casino particularly takes aim at those who challenged conventional belief systems, citing the development as an early sign of moral and political decadence.
"The decline began in the Roaring Twenties, gained momentum before the Second World War, and went lurching toward self-destruction from the Sixties onward. The decline was aided by a Supreme Court that broke the constitutional chains that, in Thomas Jefferson's words, bound its hands from mischief.
"In 1933, a small but influential group of intellectuals and educators published what they called a Humanist Manifesto. Its creed: there is no god and therefore no life hereafter; man is the sole arbiter of his fate and so is free to do whatever he thinks is best for himself without guilt or sense of accountability."
Casino's book discusses growing old with his wife, and ultimately, continuing without her, and how the two lived long enough to become "the last leaves on their family trees."
In the end, Casino makes it clear that he had found his pot of gold, not in his career, but in his wife Harriet.
"They overcame bigotry, prejudice, and personal tragedies. They endured poverty and the Great Depression and learned the value of thrift and self-control. Their marriage was blissful and inspiring. Not once in 64 years did their love for each other, their devotion, loyalty, and fidelity ever fail or falter. Mike was sure Harriet would have died for him."
Proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit Marian Catholic High School scholarship fund. There, Sister Bernard Agnes calls the work "a compelling journey by a generous and deeply Christian man."
Francis J. Clifford, Esq., Department of the Navy, Washington, D. C., says of Casino: "A keen intellect walks us through 93 years of 20th century life."
'Harriet and Mr. Nobody' is available to the public via the Internet at lulu.com.