In defense of the O'Donnell family
In Jim Castagnera's article on July 20th in his Generation Gap editorial, he described the O'Donnell family, who lived together quietly on Oak Street in Jim Thorpe as being "a few cards short of a full deck" in a decrepit house, and who kept chickens in the backyard.
I don't understand why Jim would choose the O'Donnell's as the object of tastleless ridicule, but he has gone too far, and Francis is obviously upset. Jim's stepped on the toes of a well-liked and well-respected family. Francis was the grandson who lived on Oak Street with his grandmother, father and uncle. She raised him from the age of 4 after his mother died, and she raised him to be a stable, well-loved member of the community.
During those times, it was normal to house goats, chickens, and other animals in the backyards of many neighbors in Jim Thorpe, Nesquehoning, New Columbus, and all over Carbon County. People even slaughter their own animals. Many even had big ovens in their backyard to make bread to feed their families.
Francis still lives on Oak Street with his family and has been an active member of the American Legion for 62 years, a Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus for 20 years, a Grand Marshall in local parades, and a public servant in a small town, who aids those who need help; even driving them to doctor's appointments and changing flat tires for those in distress.
So, it bothers Francis and others that Jim tastelessly used his family's name in the article. Francis's father (one of the trio) was instrumental in designing part of the Jersey/Allentown line of the railroad. Francis was himself an engineer on the railroad and a Korean veteran. Francis's mother's home was marked as the spot where those who were down on their luck could go to get a meal, anytime, at no charge, and he also knows Jim, because he grew up on Oak Street. He says of Jim that he was "no prize."
Many of the readers of this article feel that Jim owes the O'Donnell family an apology. Maybe Jim could have used his own family as an example of a small town family. I'm sure that he wasn't raised any differently on Oak Street. Relatively speaking, this was a very bad use of biased journalism.