They Came From Pennsylvania
Fred J. Lauver
Have you ever dreamed of performing on the same stage with a favorite former TV star? That's how it happened with Altoona native author and actor Fred J. Lauver. He tells the story of being featured with All in the Family's Jean Stapleton on the stage at The Totem Pole Playhouse in Fayetteville, PA. He adds that Jean and her husband had a summer home nearby, close to Chambersburg and lived there when not filming in Los Angeles for many years.
Fred, though not actually born in Altoona, due to his mother's brief visit to Camden, New Jersey, grew up in the Garden Heights section of town. One of the things he liked about Altoona was that it is a big enough city but to travel anywhere in the city, you were only about ten minutes away by car.
He remembers back in high school that one of his biggest interests was music. He said that he was really into music and he wanted to become a recording artist. Then, when The Beatles came along, that was the catalyst that threw him over the edge. "I was really obsessed with it for awhile. So, I started a band around the time that I graduated from high school. We were managed by John D'Andrea." However, at the same time, Vietnam was happening. "So, Uncle Sam started breathing down my neck." That is when he decided, since he was a healthy young draft age person, he thought it best to think about enlisting. So, he joined the U.S . Air Force. He adds that the day after he enlisted, he received his draft notice in the mail. Needless to say, that was the end of the band and his musical career was cut short.
Lauver recalls that during his time in the Air Force, he was stationed in Southeast Asia as well as South Carolina, Denver and California. He spent a year in Northeast Thailand. He says that he loved Thailand. "It is a beautiful country." He adds, "At the same time, I was in a beautiful place but dealing with the war effort, including classified military operations in Laos and Cambodia. It was kind of a mixed bag of stress and being fortunate enough to see that part of the world." He remembers, ":That experience opened my eyes a lot. There was more to the world outside of Altoona."
After leaving the Air Force, he went on to college. His uncle, who was originally from Altoona and was the chief legal counsel to the Speaker of the State House, was trying to get him interested in law school. He says that he thought about both law school and politics. At the time he remembers that his inspiration was John Kennedy. "I thought he was a shining example of what a president should be." He adds, "Of course, I didn't see all the seedier sides of politics at that time. It was a very rose-colored glasses look. After deciding that neither was for him, he changed his major to journalism.
To read the complete interview, please check out our upcoming book release They Came From Blair County due out by the end of the year.
**Information for this article was obtained through a phone interview with Fred J. Lauver.
**Pictures were provided by Fred J. Lauver.