Beaver County native Prence takes novel view of boyhood
His scone lies virtually uneaten on the plate as he takes an occasional sip from his paper coffee cup. Local author Ed Prence is too engaged in conversation to worry too much about his coffeehouse breakfast.
With intense eyes and a relaxed smile, Prence speaks passionately about his book “The Last Perfect Summer.” But it's more than a published writer's pride in having his novel grace bookshelves. Prence loves the story behind “The Last Perfect Summer” because it's his story — a story of growing up in the 60s, of friends, and of Little League. It's a story about the importance of roots and about drawing from our childhood experiences to become the adults we were born to be.
Prence grew up in the tiny Western Pennsylvania town of Koppel in Beaver County during the 1960s. He graduated from Duquesne University with a journalism degree and, after kicking around awhile as a reporter, he landed a job as a sales executive. Finding his niche, Prence made a career in sales and advertising. But he always had this story of his childhood days in the back of his head. It wasn't until he visited a friend from his boyhood that he realized how the story was going to take shape.
“I always had this (idea of a story) about our wonderful childhood. Then when I visited ‘Harry,' I realized this is the format this (story) has to take.”
His friend (“Harry” in the novel) lived in a mental institution after he contracted encephalitis, which left him with severe mental disabilities. When Prence spent a day with him, he regaled him with stories of their time together in Koppel and their summers in Little League, which Harry had forgotten.
“The Last Perfect Summer” shifts from the visit that the main character, Ted, has with Harry in 1997 to summer 1964, when Harry and Ted were teammates on the all-star Little League team.
According to Prence, Little League and life in small-town America during the '60s were everything a kid could want.
“There was once a way of life where everyone cared about each other. There were things worth sacrificing for. It was a way of life that deserves to be looked at again.”
Prence will give Armstrong County residents a chance at that look back at noon on Saturday when he presents his program, “All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Little League,” in the Ford City Public Library.
The author will talk about how his experience in Little League shaped who he became as an adult and how the lessons learned in the game of ball and bat can transfer into adulthood.
For Prence, Little League was more than just a game.
“It taught us values,” said Prence. “Hard work was more important than talent — that getting hit with the ball was not as bad as the fear. The values you learn as a kid translate into the values you need to succeed in life.”
Prence's appearance in the library is part of the Armstrong County Hall of Fame week and will include a book signing by the author.
Kathleen Edwards is a correspondent for the Leader Times.