Playing ‘Pinball’ In Center Wheeling

Historic preservation and restoration projects continue to unfold in the Friendly City, with that work perhaps being no more evident right now than in the 2100 block of Market Street in Center Wheeling.

The ongoing effort to replace the roof of the old Second Presbyterian Church, coupled with recently completed work at the Bennett Center on the opposite (east) side of the street and the newly launched project affecting the sidewalk and bell tower of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church on the west side of the street exemplified the present busy scene.

With a tri-fold series of sidewalk closings necessitated by those projects, pedestrians might have thought they were participants in a human pinball game as they zigzagged back and forth across the street from one construction zone to the next.

Fortunately, the sidewalk barriers have been removed from the front of the Bennett Center, reducing the number of times that pedestrians have to cross the street to avoid a closed section.

This past week, I happened to hear a portion of an interview with Jeff Guinn, author of the new biography, “Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson,” that aired on National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” with host Terry Gross.

While the details of Charles Manson’s life of crime and the horrific murders committed by his “family” were, of course, horrid, some of Guinn’s comments about the convicted mastermind’s early life in the Northern Panhandle were simply cringe-worthy for local ears.

For instance, Guinn seemed to marvel that Manson, in the author’s words, “an uneducated hick from West Virginia,” was able to use Dale Carnegie’s principles for influencing people in his successful efforts to attract followers.

Guinn also suggested that Manson arrived in San Francisco at the “right” time, in 1967, to draw vulnerable people to him as part of his alternative “family.”

Discussing religious influences on Manson’s thinking, the author related that Manson’s grandmother took him into her home, after his release from reform school, on the conditions that he attend church with her in McMechen and that he join “the Nazarene youth” group.

Turning our attention to telling stories of an entirely different nature, three names familiar to area residents will be sharing stories or perhaps telling tall tales when the West Virginia Storytelling Guild presents the second Pricketts Fort Storytelling Festival at the fort in Fairmont Thursday and Friday, Sept. 26-27.

Eight members of the guild are scheduled to participate in the festival. The tellers who are slated to perform include Wheeling native Mikalena Zuckett, Rich Knoblich of Sherrard and Judi Tarowsky of St. Clairsville.

Guild officials said Zuckett shares stories about the early days of Wheeling and Ohio County that she heard growing up. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Bethany College and a master’s degree in counseling psychology from West Virginia University.

Knoblich, author of “Talking ’bout the Relatives,” participates frequently in the state liar’s contest.

Tarowsky tells original tall tales and stories of historic events, folk tales and Appalachian ghost tales. Knoblich and Tarowsky are co-chairs of the festival.

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: