“Pouring the Sun: An Immigrant’s Journey”
review by Mary & Michael Leppert
Of all of the storytellers I have heard who would be capable of the monumental task of writing and recording an oral history of the United States, Jay O’Callahan would be my choice. His newest cassette, “Pouring the Sun” is a stunning installment in such an effort. Not that Mr. O”Callahan has made known any plans to perform such an undertaking as an oral history, but once you have heard his earlier cassette “Father Joe” and then “Pouring the Sun” you have a vivid, living mental picture of how it was to be in two of the other times in “other” Americas. Through his heart, his voice, and his writing, Jay O’Callahan has some inexplicable but tangible and powerful tap into the racial unconscious giving his storytelling a primal force that can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, even when he is recounting something apparently commonplace. (I would NOT want to hear him tell a ghost story around a campfire on Halloween!)
“Pouring the Sun” tells the story of an immigrant family whose lives are centered around work in the steel mills of Bethlehem, PA in the 30s and 40s, centering on one Ludvika Moskal, who emigrated here from Poland when she was 18. She marries a man who works “in the steel” and her sons after him do the same - some try to leave, others would never dream of it. The story of Ludvika’s family serves as an archetype for many, many such families who built this country one girder or brick or car of coal at a time . . . railroad men, iron workers, sky-walkers, forgemen, fabricators . . . anyone who labored and sweated to create these things of permanence that we use today, though the men and their wives are long gone.
This cassette brings home the fact that after arriving in the U.S., many of the immigrants like Ludvika never saw their birth lands again. The more one medicates on this sobering concept, the more one realizes the powerful sacrifice all of the Ludvikas made for their children and grandchildren. One’s love of country is not based upon how prosperous a living can be earned or how spendid the weather, but much deeper and more personally intertwined. Imagine then, going to a foreign world, leaving behind all that is familiar and comfortable to forge a new future in the gleaming New World! Ludvika Moskal carried within her Poland to this New World, and made it part of her children’s birthright, their heritage. Our country today is powerful because so many great pioneer people braved the Great Unknown, and often a dangerous journey, and brought their vision and courage here.
Jay O’Callahan is a master of dialect and drama and he puts both to strong use here, as he becomes the “Voice” of Ludvika. Lennon and I listened to “Pouring the Sun” in the car on a long ride and were spellbound the entire time. I want Lennon to understand firsthand the living history of the U.S., of all the incredible souls who have come before us - for Ludvika becomes a bright symbol of ALL of our ancestors, named Leppert, Carey, Kumbalik - or O’Callahan. After hearing “Pouring” Lennon has a clearer vision of the struggles, trials, sorrows, joys and triumphs of his forebears and everyone else’s, and I hope he sees his place as the next in this long line of great men and women. I strongly recommend “Pouring the Sun” as a supplement to your American history curriculum for your child 12 1/2 to adult. For the same age group, I also recommend the aforementioned tape by Jay - “Father Joe.” ($10 audiocassette only) It recounts the true story of Jay’s uncle, a Catholic priest who was a Navy chaplain in WWII. It is powerful, riveting and expands one’s vision of life. It is a must hear. Jay O’Callahan has 22 different story cassettes in all. Be sure to visit his website to see the complete line. We will be reviewing another of his excellent tapes in the next issue of The Link, too!