Former Record-Express editor authors book

By on October 25, 2017

Peggy Frailey, former Record-Express editor, will be signing copies of her collection of short stories, “Old Blue: Stories from the Heart,” on Oct. 28, at Dogstar Books in Lancaster. The book currently has a five-star rating on Amazon.

Peggy Frailey has always been curious about what makes people tick.

In her years as an editor for the Lititz Record and Lancaster New Era, followed by her later-in-life career as a counselor, she has worked with many different people, many of whom might be considered characters.

So, when she decided, in her early 80s, to publish her first book, she filled it with characters drawn from her imagination. She admits that a few might have been hinted at by some of the interesting people she has met over the years.

In Frailey’s first book of short stories, “Old Blue: Stories from the Heart,” the title character isn’t even a person. It’s a great blue heron roaming the Chesapeake Bay area, that has managed to bond with a curmudgeonly fisherman who struggles with the loss of his teenage son.

There are many other characters in Frailey’s book of eight short stories. There is Maura, a woman suffering from depression who seeks solace in ridding her refrigerator of leftover macaroni and cheese. There is Conrad, the troubled shoplifter who counts everything, from pinstripes on a suit to freckles on a face. Then there is Arthur, who can’t stop eating, and is growing steadily in girth with every cupcake, every coffee cake, every bite of buttery mashed potatoes, and every gravy laden pork chop.

“These are all people drawn from my imagination over the years. They were inspired by a few of my own experiences,” she says, noting that she dreamed up Maura when she herself was cleaning out her refrigerator.

Unlike most writers who have always wanted to write a book, Frailey never thought much about that. Her purpose was simply to preserve a collection of short stories she had written in the past 30 years.

Several of the stories dated back to her days when she joined Duncan Alderson’s Rabbit Hill Writers Studio in the Lititz area. After working on each story, she had tucked them away; for “Old Blue,” she dusted them off and gathered them in one place.

The idea of self-publishing the book came from her nephew, Bill McClain, who had published several books himself through Amazon. He guided her through the process, and her editor, Ann Stewart, helped to polish the words on the printed page. The cover art was done by friend and photographer, Cynthia Zollman.

Frailey will be officially debuting and reading from her book of short stories, “Old Blue: Stories from the Heart,” on Saturday, Oct. 28, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Dogstar Books, 401 W. Lemon St., Lancaster.

“The eight stories in the collection are meant to give glimpses of meaningful moments in everyday life, and include themes such as losing but winning, relationships, aging, and wisdom,” says Frailey. “I’m still deciding which stories I will read.”

Two of her stories won awards in the Central Pennsylvania Writing Contest and the title story, “Old Blue,” appeared in PHASE literary magazine. It is the first time all her characters have been gathered together in one book. Fittingly, Frailey decided to donate any royalties from the book to Doctors without Borders, because she has always been impressed with the work that charity does.

Some of her stories came from things going on in her life at the time. She wrote “The Four Poster” when some older relatives were moving into nursing homes. Another story, “Drumbeat Heartbeat,” was inspired after she and her husband, Gere, look a trip out west and visited Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. “Breakthrough” was a story developed from a writing exercise at Rabbit Hill studio, while “The Contest Winner” was spurred one evening while she watched Gere working a crossword puzzle. She changed the character to a young woman.

“I wanted to write about a young woman who no one noticed, a poor soul, who didn’t seem to have any importance in the world. So I gave her a talent for being able to solve crossword puzzles,” says Frailey.

There are stories that are close to her heart, like Trevor in “Old Blue” who feels the burden of great sadness and guilt, with his only friend perceived as being a great blue heron. In at least two of her stories, she got to delve into characters who use less-than-acceptable language that she herself would never utter.

“I love the spunky old woman in ‘Four Poster’ who has to face such drastic changes in her life. And I get a kick out of Arthur in ‘Breakthrough,’ a nice easy-going guy who can’t stop eating and lose excess weight, but knows just how to handle a trash-mouthed juvenile delinquent,” says Frailey.

Frailey has always been fascinated by people, which might explain her career as a journalist and then a counselor.

She graduated from Penn State in 1955 with journalism degree, taking her first newspaper job in Springfield, Mass. In 1958 she came to Lancaster to work on the New Era. She took on her biggest job in 1959, when she married Gere Frailey, a widower with five young children. The couple had three more children, which kept Frailey pretty busy until her youngest was in school.

In 1972, she joined the Lititz Record Express as a feature writer, then became editor until 1979, when she started a writing business, Rent A Writer, with former associate editor Bonnie Dorsey. In 1980, after a year in Florida, Frailey wrote for the Sunday News. She started graduate school at Millersville University, receiving her M.S. in clinical psychology in 1986. Switching gears in her career, she worked as a family therapist at The Terraces in Ephrata, for Catholic Charities in Lancaster, and then with Watson & Hogg Counseling in Lancaster.

She has fond memories of her days at the Lititz Record, where Bob Campbell was the owner and publisher. She remembers the old heavy typewriter that sat on her corner desk at the Lititz Record building in Zum Anker Alley off East Main Street.

She covered Lititz Borough Council, Warwick School Board, zoning and planning in Lititz and Warwick Township, writing editorials and feature stories about local people that might be considered Lititz characters.

“There was George Steedle, the borough manager, who taught me everything I ever needed to know about tertiary sewer treatment plants,” says Frailey with a smile.

George Hicks was the borough police chief then, a figure who strolled the Lititz streets keeping law and order. Howard Mowrer was Lititz Fire Company chief and Jerry Kiralfy headed the Lititz Rec Center. Roy and Gene Clair of Clair Brothers and Michael Tait of Tait Towers were just getting started and the Lititz Record traced their growing success. Lester Bingeman owned Bingey’s Restaurant, where local people gathered to catch up on the latest news…and gossip.

“Gene Steffy, who owned Steffy’s Garage, and his wife, Cookie, were always great to work with. Cookie was a wonderful lady who was very involved with the library. And there was also Don Showers at Farmers Bank, who was always very helpful,” recalls Frailey.

Back in the 1970s, the big stories in Lititz were the flooding from Hurricane Agnes in 1972, which put much of the downtown area under water and provided striking photographs that ran in the Lititz Record. There was strife with the school district, with a superintendent who was replaced with the beloved John R. Bonfield. In 1977, Frailey headed up a project to put together a 40-page special edition marking the 100th anniversary of the paper, 1877-1977.

“My most memorable work was when we ran features and articles on the Gate House for Men in Lititz back in 1978,” says Frailey, noting that county government wanted to shut it down and the Record wrote many stories and editorials urging the county to continue its funding and support the home for addiction recovery. Their efforts were successful.

Since Frailey published her book, she has had overwhelming support from longtime friends through emails, texts, and Facebook comments. Her family, including eight grown children, 14 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren, has cheered her on.

She was invited by another nephew, Brian Frailey, to hold the book signing and reading at his downtown Lancaster bookstore, Dogstar Books, on Oct. 28. She’s hoping a few of her favorite Lititz friends will be stopping by.

“Old Blue: Stories from the Heart” is available in paperback and on Kindle at Amazon, and in paperback at Dogstar Books.

Laura Knowles is a freelance feature writer and regular contributor to the pages of the Record Express. She welcomes feedback and story tips at lknowles21@gmail.com.

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