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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Steve Mramor and Friends will cap off exhibit with concert

  • Steve Mramor never lived in Franklin, but the community has been a big part of his life and inspires his music.

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  • Steve Mramor never lived in Franklin, but the community has been a big part of his life and inspires his music.
    The Cleveland, Ohio singer/songwriter and his band, Steve Mramor and Friends, will be featured in “A Celebration of American  Music” from 7 to 9 p.m. today and Saturday in a tent set up on the grounds of the  Miners Hall Museum, Franklin. There will be no admission charge, but seating will be limited and reservations may be made through the Miners Hall Museum. Those attending may also bring lawn chairs.
    The concert will cap off  “The Way We Worked,” a traveling Smithsonian Institution exhibit that opened May 11 at the museum. Last day of the exhibit will be from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
    Mramor’s grandparents, Anton and Paula Yanesh Femec, lived in Franklin for a time and his mother, Jennie Mramor, grew up there.
    “I came here as a kid with my parents, and my mother took me to the old school house,” Mramor said. “We had relatives, the Oplotniks, in Girard that we stayed with. The last time I was here I was about 10. I’m 61 now.”
    He heard many family stories from both his mother and his grandmother, especially while he was attending Kent State University and his grandmother operated a boarding house near the school.
    “I would sit with my grandmother for hours to hear all the stories,” Mramor said.
    Paula Yanesh and Anton Femec had a whirlwind courtship, he said.
    “She married him in July, and somebody said she should have gotten married in June because everybody loves a June bride,” Mramor said. “My grandmother said, ‘But I didn’t know Tony in June’.”
    His grandfather had briefly been engaged to another woman in the Franklin area, but she jilted him.
    “He  had already bought her a wedding dress, so he took the dress, nailed it to the top of a pole and set the pole on fire,” Mramor said.
    Other stories involved how hard life was in Franklin for the miners.
    “They would wash clothes in the winter and let them freeze outside, then bring them inside,” Mramor said. “The clothes dried better because they had been frozen.”
    His grandfather worked in Mine 22 and was paid in script, which could only be spent in the coal company store.
    “They had no money,” Mramor said. “It’s a miracle we’re even here now because those people lived on the edge.”
    He said that his grandfather was only 52 or 53 when he died.
    “My grandmother collected black lung benefits from that for years,” Mramor said.
    But Anton Femec had better luck than younger brother Johnnie Femec, who died in 1936 in Mine 24 at Franklin. One of the songs Mramor will sing today and Saturday is “Uncle Johnny,” about the tragic death.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I wrote the song three years ago in winter, and it was hard to write because it was so emotional,” Mramor said. “From what I’ve heard, Uncle Johnnie was very attractive, courteous and kind.”
    Helping him with the musical arrangement for “Uncle Johnny” was band member Cathy Finegan, Cleveland, who said that it was an emotional experience for her as well.
    “When I was learning the song, I told Steve that I felt his mother was channeling through me,” Finegan said. “It wasn’t just the two of us.”
    Others performing with Mramor in Franklin will be his first cousin Steven Kacsmar, San Francisco, and another cousin, Jessie Settle, Weirton, W.Va. Band members Charles James Brown and Troy Seymour did not make the trip, and their places will be taken by Paul Pennfield and Pandora Dana.
    Phyllis Bitner, Miners Hall Museum board bookkeeper, said that she became aware of Mramor and his Franklin ties through his twin sister, Vicki Mramor.
    “Vicki didn’t know the Miners Hall Museum existed, she was just searching  online for Franklin, Kansas,” Bitner said. “She said, ‘My brother wrote this song and you might like it’.”
    She did, and so did a lot of others. Mramor said he was deeply honored to be invited to perform at Franklin. In his searches about the area, he found discovered a cousin he didn’t know he had, Linda Knoll, whose husband, J.T. Knoll, is also a singer/songwriter with a family heritage of coal mining.
    “I’m also going to be performing J.T.’s song about his grandfather, ‘The Ballad of Matt Knoll’,” Mramor said.
    Mramor said he grew up in a musical family.
    “My father, Frank Mramor was a gifted musician who played in a polka band, and my mother could harmonize with anybody,” he said.
    Mramor had a band in high school, but drifted away from music and worked as a roofer. He was away from music for 40 years before returning to it and forming a band, Witch and Toad, with Raven Dana. Their original music is played on Cleveland area radio stations and on Celtica Radio’s Underground Edition in Wales and Radio Seagull, the Netherlands. Mramor also performs solo and plays in other venues with Charles James Brown.
    Mramor is currently working on a new CD, but said he had not brought anything to sell at Franklin.
    “It didn’t want to make money from performing here,” he said.
    Mramor said he never sits down with the intention of writing a song.
    “The song says when it has time,” he said. “I think it comes from the universe. I think every one of us has a song inside himself, and if we can get a large enough song, we can get everyone on Planet Earth singing it and maybe then we’ll have world peace.”
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