Pacific does not have a movie theater, bowling alley or art museum, but thanks to an adult library program coordinator with a wide-ranging curiosity, cultural activities are on the rise here.
Since Barb Schweissguth accepted the role of adult programmer at Pacific Scenic Regional two years ago, the local senior center has been filled to capacity to meet a Holocaust survivor, view Civil War art and witness a harmonica concert of vintage music.
The library at 119 W. St. Louis St. has hosted astronomers, the descendant of a local convicted serial killer, a medium who talks to spirits, authors, musicians and experts on gardening, butterflies and bees.
A popular barbershop quarter is coming soon.
Schweissguth admits that she did not know what programs she would organize or what size audiences to expect when she accepted the job, but that changed quickly.
It was standing room only when Schweissguth brought Holocaust survivor Ben Fainer, age 84, to the senior center June 25, 2015. This was her first organized event and she had to turn people away when more called to make reservations than the senior center could accommodate.
Fainer was incarcerated in a German forced labor camp at age nine, and a series of concentration camps, including the notorious Buchenwald. He was liberated by American forces at age 15. He did not make his first public appearance to talk about the Holocaust until the year 2000, some 55 years after he was released.
Schweissguth first saw Fainer speak in Warrenton and invited him to Pacific.
“I thought he was good, but didn’t realize he was that good,” she said.
After his half-hour talk, patrons stayed in the building and plied him with questions to keep the conversation going and Schweissguth knew she was onto something.
Patrons were equally curious the following month when Kay Murphy, great granddaughter of accused serial killer Bertha Gifford, came to the Pacific branch July 20, 2015, to talk about her book, “Tainted Legacy.”
Gifford lived in the two-story white frame house one mile south of the Bend Bridge at the time her last victims died and purchased the arsenic she used to treat her victims in Pacific. She was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in an asylum for the criminally insane. Her 1928 trial in Union drew an estimated 1,000 spectators.
This story never fails to attract audiences as many local residents knew Gifford, or one or more of her victims and her other neighbors.
Murphy is scheduled to return to the library in September.
Civil War buffs, history aficionados and art lovers were treated to a surprise salute to the town’s history when they filled the senior center to learn how one artist created a body of work to illustrate a great historic event.
Dan Woodward, Civil War artist, displayed about 100 of his paintings and sketches and talked about his artwork at the senior center May 25. A highlight of the show was the piece he completed for Pacific — an oil painting depicting the cannon on the bluff at Blackburn Park at Pacific Oct. 1, 1864.
If Schweissguth has a favorite event topic it is her music performances, which have included an appearance by a St. Louis Symphony quartet at Pacific High School, the Queens of Swing, a local teen concertina champion, and Mike Rufkahr, a guitarist and singer who was invited back by popular demand.
It also was standing room only at the senior center June 19, 2017, when the St. Louis Harmonica Club’s performed a repertoire of Irish tunes, military themed songs and others.
By the closing number, “When the Saints Go Marching In,” the entire audience clapped in time. The show was so well received the group is coming back for a Christmas performance in December.
“I love the music programs,” said Schweissguth, a Washington resident.
She said planning programs for adults has turned out to be more rewarding than she anticipated.
“I love it,” she said.
Schweissguth gets her ideas from a variety of sources, including the newspaper, other Scenic Regional branches and above all library patrons.
In addition to adult programs, Schweissguth coordinates weekly mahjong games, a sit-and-stitch group and a monthly book club. This month, the club will read and discuss “Kill Me If You Can,” by James Patterson.
“I’m always looking for ideas on what the community would like to learn about,” she said.
To offer ideas for future library adult programs, contact Schweissguth at 636-257-2712, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.