Past Life: After retiring, John Maietta began a busy second career as a history lecturer

John Mayetta

John Mayetta is a rock star in history.

He has groupies like Nancy Bayuk. She has come to see him probably 70 times in the last decade, every time he gives a talk at the Jewish Community Center in Harrisburg.

It’s a well-worn cliché, but Maietta brings history to life. Instead of focusing on dates and names that made history boring in high school classrooms, he makes it fun by relating it to your own experiences in an entertaining and educational way.

The success of this attempt surprised Mayetta himself.

After a civilian career in public relations and a promotion to colonel in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, Mayetta decided at age 60 to reinvent himself and return to his first love: history.

After being deployed to Iraq, his last stop before retiring from the military, he handed out census papers and conducted polls ahead of the 2010 elections.

“I thought, ‘I need to do something more meaningful with my life,'” Maietta, now 72, mused during an interview at Camp Hill’s Cornerstone Coffeehouse.

So, at a time when most of us are nearing the end of our professional careers, Mayetta decided to take advantage of her GI Bill and enroll in graduate school at Shippensburg University for a degree in Applied History.

He embarked on this journey with some apprehension.

“I never studied history professionally or academically,” said Mayetta, who lives in Upper Allen Township with his wife, Judy. “Actually, in college I got two ‘B’s. One was the gymnasium and the other he was Chinese history. So even though I didn’t have a lot of history experience in college, I came to enjoy it. ”

His professor at Shippensburg was young enough to be his child. his fellow student, his grandson.

“It’s always been fun,” Mayetta said, to go back to school as a senior. “When I did a group project with these young people, I did most of the work, but that’s who I am anyway.”

Instead of a thesis, Mayetta chose an internship and explored the idea of ​​giving public lectures on history.

A Messiah Lifeways rep told him about a series of lectures called “Pathways” that the retiree village offers to its residents.

The contact suggested Mayetta dip her toes in the water by presenting a program about her experiences in Iraq.

The other was from a history professor I mentored at Shippensburg. As a result, Mayetta began telling history to residents of his Valley, Willow, Lancaster’s retirement community.

Mayetta spent several years as an adjunct professor of history, first at Shippensburg and then at York University, slowly building a resume as a guest lecturer in retirement communities, public libraries, and various luncheon groups.

But in contrast to the 18- and 19-year-old college students who had just been punched a ticket to a history course, he was found to be “very intellectually involved” in the subjects he was presenting. I enjoyed talking to my fellow senior citizens more. Road to irrelevant degree.

Most of the audience for Mayetta’s history lectures are his own peers in the sixties and seventies. He often begins by saying, “We are historical figures.”

“When I talk to older people, they can relate to what I mention,” Mayetta said. “When you talk about the Cold War with older people, when you mention Monty Python skits, when you tell jokes, when you mention 1950s music singers, all these things connect with older people. I don’t know why someone came to me and said, “If history was taught this way at school, I might have enjoyed it.”

Since the reopening after the pandemic, the talks have skyrocketed in popularity. Mayetta estimates that in his first six months of 2022 alone, he gave well over 60 talks.

He has about 10 regular customers, including retirement communities and libraries, but offers programs to over 50 different organizations and groups.

One at the Jewish Community Center in Harrisburg, where he recently gave a talk on the history of automobiles in the United States.

“He’s a really nice guy,” said Bayuk, who never misses Mayetta’s talks. “He’s very interesting. He talks about different things all the time.”

Mayetta’s lectures cover a wide range of topics, from trivial matters such as the origin of state names and the origin of Christmas carols, to deep dives into the nature of Islamic art and architecture, and the faith itself.

“I’ve had three deployments in predominantly Muslim countries, so it’s kind of interesting,” Mayetta said. “There is a very active Muslim community in the area.”

As a personal interest, Mayetta is interested in the history of ancient civilizations. He is also drawn to American history from the late 19th century to his early 20th century.

His lectures from that period included the history of immigration to the United States, the impact of World War I on families, and the stories of African Americans for whom Mayetta excelled socially, legally, and politically. Includes the Jim Crow era to introduce. Obstacle.

What are his most popular and in-demand topics?

“The amazing history of mundane things, from aspirin to zippers, is exactly where these mundane things in our everyday lives come from,” Maietta said. “I gave that program 27 times.”

To contact John Mietta, email

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