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