by Mya K. Douglas and Len Lear
Stan Cutler, 71, a former educator-turned novelist, Chestnut Hill resident and now a political columnist for the Local, makes it clear that he loves his city while insisting that the media exaggerate something that exists in every city and every part of the world — violence. “But it doesn’t take away from the beauty of Philadelphia,” Stan insists. “I grew up in Southwest Philadelphia, and I’ve travelled all over and even lived in another country, but Philadelphia is one of the finest cities to me.”
Stan’s family moved from Southwest Philly when he was 15, and he attended Northeast and Central High Schools. After graduating from Penn State University (undergrad in 1965 and master’s degree in 1970), Stan taught at Ferguson Elementary School in North Philadelphia when one might have seen an immediate change in the positive influence that teachers had. There was no competition with most of what we call entertainment today. But for the then-20 something-year-old who was a History major with a Social Studies teaching certificate, it was still quite challenging.
“I had to learn to like the people I was teaching, whether I did or I didn’t,” he said, “but I enjoyed it. Teaching is about learning just as much as it is about teaching. And I learned from my students.”
As a long-time educator, Stan, who has lived in Chestnut Hill for 15 years and in Germantown for 20 years before that, also taught in Norway in the ’70s and public speaking at Penn State, so he definitely has strong opinions about the firing of Joe Paterno: “Joe Paterno’s firing was done in haste in what was misperceived to be a crisis. There was no crisis other than to the university’s reputation. Sandusky had been exposed and was in jail. Paterno, who ought to have been more aggressive in dealing with what one of his coaches had witnessed, was culpable. But he certainly was not guilty. His firing was unfair. He could have been asked to resign; it was time for him to leave anyway.”
Although teaching was his first career, Stan has found himself with several other careers since he began working. He is the author of a novel, “Low Light: Birth of Organized Crime in Jazz Age Atlantic City,” which is based on the true story of a historic meeting in Atlantic City when the American Mafia was born. The riveting story involves bootleggers, gamblers, gun molls, flappers, IRA gunmen and anti-Semitic sea captains.
Stan has also penned a feature-length screenplay, “The Other Side of The Wall;” a pilot episode for The Homefront TV series and many short stories. He has worked as a computer programmer, a teacher, a technical writer and as a management consultant for major corporations and government agencies. After 45 years of clocking in, though, he is now a full-time writer of 20th century historical fiction.
Stan currently commits to writing four hours a day and has released his titles through Kindle. Much of his love for politics and history is showcased in his detective fiction, and he is currently halfway through writing a murder mystery set during the 1948 Democratic Convention. “My hardest writing challenge,” he said, “is to sustain interest in the mystery without it being supplanted in the reader’s mind by the incredible drama being played out on the floor of the old Philadelphia Convention Hall.”
Cutler believes a “new” civil rights movement is very much needed in contemporary America. You can tell from his recent history/opinion pieces in the Local that he has strong feelings about democratic procedures. In fact, one book he’s working on is a collection of essays that touch on the two local conventions, the Democratic Party’s convention in 1948 and the one from the Democrats that will take place in Philadelphia in 2016.
“I’ve gotten very upset about the condition of our politics today,” he said. “I was schooled about the romance of politics where democracy was a very important thing. It was unique in the world. Nobody else had democracy like America had, but there were still people being discriminated against. It was much more pure than it is today, though. I feel we’ve pretty much lost the working democracy that we were a part of…
“We need the Democratic Party to really, really come out with reference to the incarceration of black people on so-called drug charges, which is a huge civil rights issue, and with all these shootings (of unarmed black males). We need leadership from the Democratic Party to point out that these issues are every bit as real today as they were 50 years ago when people were marching.”
A website for Stan Cutler is currently under development. Mya K. Douglas is a journalist, Temple University alumna and author from North Philadelphia who resides in Cheltenham. More of Mya’s writing can be found at www.writermya.wordpress.com.