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A great success story: Pat Farabaugh loved books as a child, and now his photo is on the cover

Pat signing books at the Johnstown Library

… Coming from a small town or small school is never a hindrance

Part 1

Today, Pat Farabaugh vividly recalls how as a child, he loved going to the Ebensburg library with his mother. At that point, he developed a love affair with words, and he has been using them in his professional life for decades.

However, until the past decade, he did not have an opportunity to write like he had wanted in his younger years. In October, his third book was released, and this one focuses some key historical information about his home area.

The communications professor at Saint Francis University saw this work evolve from what it was supposed to be in the early drafts. Now, “Disastrous Floods and the Demise of Steel in Johns­town” weaves an interesting narrative of a city that has relied on its resilience to overcome a variety of challenges.

The joy of writing and reading started decades ago for the Cambria Heights High School alumnus, and his success should serve as an inspiration for those who attend smaller high schools or come from small communities and do not believe that they can pursue their dreams.


The old adage that every prospective writer should follow is this:

If you want to write, read, read, read.

Tina Thoburn, Ligonier Valley Writers Conference, 1992

Pat relied on his love of sports for some of his early reading, but his selections as a youngster went beyond that, and they ultimately inspired him to write,

I used to go into the Ebensburg library with mom when I was a kid, and I fell in love with words. I read a lot of different genres, such as westerns by Zane Grey, the Hardy Boys mysteries and books about my sports heroes growing up.

Pat Farabaugh, interview, December 29, 2021

Those books enthralled him so much that he later yearned to be a writer himself. That became reality at a young age, and his capturing a major prize provided by an accomplished writer provided some vital impetus for him.

The first step, then emerging first in a competition

Pat decided to take the first step as a young teenager. He enticed a local newspaper to give him a chance, and consequently, he was able to finally see his own words in print, the first step in his writing odyssey,

I loved writing, too, and started working for the Union Press-Courier when I was in high school. I covered the Patton Redmen American Legion baseball team as my first beat when I was a sophomore or junior in high school. I wrote a column, too, on local topics as well as national ones.

Pat Farabaugh, interview December 29, 2021

Something else provided him with confidence, along with some helpful remuneration, While in high school, he learned of an opportunity to compete in a writing contest that was being sponsored from a best-selling native of the Cambria Heights area,

Fern Michaels, who was born Mary Ruth Kuczkir and was from Hastings, offered a competition for writers when I was in high school, and I won that and received $6,000. I wrote a short story about a Native American and won that prize, and that was sort of the start that I had in the direction of my career as a Sports Information Director, writing about college athletes. SIDs then were writing-centric. So, when I went to IUP, that was what I pursued.

Not sure if Bill Shortencarrier, who was one of the guidance counselors at Cambria Heights, or someone else made me aware of the scholarship, but I procrastinated and had to burn the midnight oil to get the story submitted.

So, I received $1,500 each year at IUP.

Pat Farabaugh interview, December 29, 2021

Career in sports information

Pat matriculated at Indiana University of Pennsylvania where he received a B.S. degree in Communications Media in 1993. From there, he continued his education at Slippery Rock University where he received his master’s while focusing on Athletic, Sport, and Physical Education Administration.

That eventually allowed him to return to Cambria County when he was hired as Sports Information Director at Saint Francis in May 1999. That experience provided him with his first major book idea.

However, the problem with writing outside of his professional responsibilities was simple: Lack of time.

I began to seriously consider writing books when I was an SID, and that was where I was introduced to the Stokes/Twyman story as an SID at SFU. I knew some of the story piecemeal before I got to Saint Francis, but then when Stokes was selected for induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame then our Saint Francis Hall of Fame, then with the movie and documentary, I realized that with all of this, there had been no book.

When I left Saint Francis in 2005 to start my doctorate, I did not have time to pursue writing a book on Stokes and Twyman. I told myself that when I finished grad school, that I was going to pursue the Stokes/Twyman book. Then I had to finish my book on the fairness doctrine first, but once I did that in 2010 and it was published, I started tackling the Stokes-Twyman project. I was thankful I started that project when I did because it wasn’t long after that Twyman died, as well as several others who I also interviewed for the book.

Pat Farabaugh interview, December 29, 2021

First two books

The first book that he wrote was an outgrowth of his dissertation for his Ph.D. at Penn State. It was called “Carl McIntire’s Crusade Against the Fairness Doctrine.” The second that was well-received was the book that he had envisioned during his work at Saint Francis, “An Unbreakable Bond: The Brotherhood of Maurice Stokes and Jack Twyman.”

That work focused on the heart-warming personal relationship between Maurice Stokes, the legendary basketball player from Saint Francis in the 1950s, and Jack Twyman, his professional teammate who took care of Stokes after his tragic accident while in the NBA.

That book is worth a read if you have never done so. That success led Pat to his next venture, which started out as one narrative but evolved into something much more extensive.

Pat has spoken to many groups about his latest work

“Disastrous Floods and the Demise of Steel in Johns­town”

While the floods that devastated the city are one aspect of Johnstown’s existence, its location on rivers and in areas in which coal was abundant led it down a path that allowed it to become very successful — before it died.

[A proviso here: I purchased Pat’s book in October, but I have just started reading it. Part 2 of this will be a review of that book. What I provide here is some of the background of it to entice you to read it.]

Pat became interested in writing about the floods that have devastated Johnstown after reading David McCullough’s excellent work, “The Johnstown Flood,” one that served as the initial success in the Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s illustrious career.

I originally planned to write a book on only the 1977 Johnstown Flood, but I realized that while there had been one on the 1889 flood by McCullough, nothing had been written in book form about the 1936 and the 1977 floods.

After presenting a paper on the 1977 flood at a conference hosted by the Pennsylvania Historical Association and writing a paper on this flood for the journal “Pennsylvania History,” I decided to expand my project to cover all of Johnstown’s flooding and steel history.

Pat Farabaugh interview, December 29, 2021

Narrative of the city

However, once Pat started his work about the floods, he realized that the story of Johnstown would never be complete without delving into it raison d’être: It would not exist without the story of coal and steel,

After reading the McCullough book, I decided I wanted to tell the story of Johnstown from its infancy. At one point I thought I was going to write only about all the three major floods, but then I decided that the story would be incomplete without the history of steel and coal because the two are so intertwined in this region.

Pat Farabaugh interview, December 29, 2021

The success that Pat Farabaugh has enjoyed should indeed provide confidence to young people who are somewhat reluctant to pursue their dreams because they come from small, rural communities — or from large communities.

In Part 2, I will delve further into the book itself and focus on the demise of the steel industry and how that has devastated Johnstown.

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