Retired educator pens novel

‘The Apprentice’ features modern-day themes


Author Bill Allison came up with the idea for his most recent book while learning about his grandfather’s experience as a young man who grew up in the coal region in the early century.

Along the way, he realized it would make a good read for young people who face some of the issues his grandfather did, albeit more than a century later.

“I thought, this would make a good young adult novel — it has a lot of diversity, and it set up conflicts, trying to please his master. So I built a story on that,” he said.

Allison’s novel, “The Apprentice” is now available at the Mauch Chunk 5 and Dime, as well as online at

Allison retired to Penn Forest Township after a long career as an educator in the Philadelphia area. For the last four years he served on the school board in Jim Thorpe.

As a youth, he would listen to his grandfather talk about life as a shopkeeper’s apprentice in Lewistown, an industrial town not far from Penn State. It was hard work, but actually one of the less back-breaking jobs available to young people at that point.

“Most young people didn’t go to high school — most people went to work, like breaker boys in the collieries in this area. Or, if they were lucky, they were given an apprenticeship in a store — that was kind of a privilege,” he said.

The main character, Enoch, also has a surprisingly diverse set of peers. His ‘master’ is a Jewish shopkeeper who needs an apprentice because for religious reasons he can’t handle money on the shop’s busiest day. One of his close friends is black — Allison learned along the way that Lewistown had a large black community at the turn of the century.

Learning new technology is another theme in the book. Enoch learns to become a telegraph operator, which was really like the computer programmer of the day.

When Allison wanted to create a cover for the book, he found his own “apprentice.” Jae Rehm, a senior at CCTI, drew five images for the book, including the cover. Rehm’s detailed style is what got Allison interested.

“If you’re writing a book appealing to teenagers, you should have a teenage illustrator,” he said.

Allison has planned a book singing at the Dimmick Library Saturday from noon to 2 p.m.

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