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Eva Kelly Betz (Mrs. Joseph P. Betz) (1897-)

Eva Betz

FALL RIVER, MASSACHUSETTS, WHERE I WAS BORN (ON A DATE preferably undisclosed) was a splendid place in which to grow up and my home there was a stimulating, warm, welcoming one, always full of life. I came from a family of readers and writers. Talk was good in our dining room where guests from all parts of the world and all walks of life were welcome if they brought interesting conversation. Irish Members of Parliament, bishops, boys and girls from school, authors, travelers,-the list was catholic, lengthy, and constant. My role was that of listener because my parents, brother, and sister were all intellectual, and I was not. I had a half-wild horse to ride and lovely Mount Hope Bay to swim in.

My first book, written when I was about nine, has fortunately been lost to posterity. It was about horses. They creep into everything I write.

I went to St. Mary's parochial school, the Dominican high school and then on to Kenwood in Albany.

I became a school teacher, first in various Rhode Island towns and then in Fall River. During that time I wrote a few things for teachers' magazines, some bits of verse and some one-act plays for children.

After my marriage in 1923 to Joseph P. Betz, City Attorney in Passaic, N. J., the writing slowed for a while but after our son, Peter, was born and needed a new story each night I began setting some of them down. They were later aired on radio station WOR where I had a program for a season.

Being an omniverous reader I was delighted when I discovered the world of book reviewing where you get all the new books free and are paid for saying what you think of them. I said-in the Providence Journal, two small Catholic magazines, on the lecture platform and on radio. Through this period, to my husband's amused amazement, I organized the Girl Scouts in the area and was the first Commissioner, was on the organizing board of the board of directors of the Community Chest, organized our parish unit of the National Council of Catholic Women, was president of the New Jersey Women's Press Club, housekeeper, family chauffeur, and mender of toys of increasing complexity as Peter grew.

In World War II, when Peter was on an LCT for the Normandy invasion (his father had been a mine layer in the North Sea in World War I), I added driving for the AWVS in New York to my schedule.

I stopped in our branch public library one day for some books and found the librarian disgruntled because teachers kept sending children for reading books about New Jersey during the Revolution and there were none. She suggested that I write some.

Having grown up in New England, I felt sure that the Revolution was a New England activity. Of course I was willing to give a nod to Patrick Henry in the Virginia House of Burgesses and a bow to Trenton-I remembered that bit because that was where, according to the painting, George Washington stood up in a rowboat, which had always seemed to be singularly unintelligent for the man who was to be the Father of his Country. But, on the whole, I felt that the Revolution belonged to New England.

I was interested, however, in trying the books because I was anxious to make a certain point that the Revolution was not the effort of one single religious or racial group but the work of many people of many backgrounds; people similar only in their love of liberty.

As soon as I dipped into research, I discovered that New Jersey, lying as it did between the prize cities of New York and Philadelphia, was the cockpit of the Revolution. I dove into books, old papers, diaries and records and came up with material for a dozen books. I fell in love with the four young people about whom my stories revolve and carried them through four volumes from 1774 to 1781.

During the years in which they were being written, Peter came home from war, went to college, married, and has two sons of his own. I became a member of the Authors' League, the National Women's Book Association, the Mark Twain Association (honorary), and was given an honorary life membership in the New Jersey Historical Society.

My patient husband remained amused but unsurprised when I went to the St. Anthony Guild Press in Paterson first to do sales promotion and then advertising. The first books of my Revolutionary series had been under another imprint but now they have joined the later ones and all bear the Guild imprint, as does my latest, a life of Father Damien of Molokai for young people.

I am eager to go on with these teenage books because children nowaday seem to be offered such shoddy "heroes" in too many cases.

My father, a doctor who wrote poetry for John Boyle O'Reilly's Boston Pilot, used to come upstairs after office hours were over, and read or tell us legends and stories of Irish saints and scholars. My mother, great-grand-niece of the famous Bishop Cantwell of Mullingar, had her own collection of tales. They were all dramatic and all, I realize now, inspirational. My tomboy youth cultivated in me a love of excitement and approval of people who get things done. Such people are fun to write about. I would like to help children realize that goodness and dullness are not necessarily synonymous.

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