Thursday, May 29, 2014

Too many calls

I'm a regular blood donor, and I've urged readers of this column to donate as well. It's the right thing to do if you're able.
But after American Red Cross blood solicitors phoned me on May 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 25 and 27 (they took Memorial Day off), I started blocking their phone calls and posted a polite complaint on the ARC blood donors Facebook page.
To their credit, they got back to me promptly and promised to take me off the list -- but explained that in the warmer weather donations decline, so they really need to encourage people to donate. Hmmm ... I would argue that pestering donors with multiple phone calls is actually squandering the goodwill that the donation program relies upon for its very existence. A losing strategy.
So far, they've been as good as their word about removing my phone number: to date I haven't received another call from 1-800-733-2767. If you have the same problem, you might want to try my squeaky-wheel strategy as well.
(One "Unionville in the News" reader reports that he has had the same experience that I did. He wrote: "I donate regularly, almost as often as they call our house. It's a good cause, but their near-daily calls are maddening.")

Downton Abbey

I'll be direct here: Go see the "Costumes of Downton Abbey" exhibit at Wintherthur. It is absolutely marvelous.
You get to see, close up, a large selection of the costumes worn in the show. From the upstairs crowd, there are exquisitely beaded and embroidered evening dresses and wraps, perfectly tailored suits, walking outfits, gauzy summer frocks, impeccably correct cricketing togs, the American tycoon Carlisle's ill-chosen weekend wear (he wore shooting clothes instead of walking clothes, WHAT a faux pas!), Lady Edith's wedding dress (it had to be strong enough to weather the drama of that day), mauve mourning dresses, Lady Sybil's daring harem pants outfit -- and oh my, the beautiful hats! You also get to see one of O'Brien's lady's maid outfits, Mr. Carson's suit, Anna's crisp white aprons, trimmed with lace, and Mrs. Patmore's practical purple kitchen dress.

The show also compares and contrasts the Granthams and the Crawleys with the Duponts, who led an upper-class American lifestyle at Winterthur during the same time period. The exhibit gives details about the Duponts' servants and shows Mr. Dupont's capacious traveling trunk and Mrs. Dupont's custom-made fitted cosmetic case (with an early version of a curling iron).
The tour guides were wonderful, sharing interesting nuggets of information over and above the ample material given in the displays. There are also video clips from the show, lines from the script, a box of smoky tea to smell, a swatch of super-luxury vicuna fabric to feel, and behind-the-scenes explanations from the show's costume designer about how her department used vintage embroidery and fabric to create some of the clothes.
Of course there's a gift shop of souvenirs as you leave the exhibit. You can buy books about the fashions and customs of the era, tea with photos of DA characters on the canister label, fancy hats, lace gloves, T-shirts, barrettes, costume jewelry and tiaras, napkins, tea towels, pillows, jigsaw puzzles, toiletries, CDs, videos and even cleaning products (for your staff at home to use). I would've bought a knockoff of one of Anna's aprons, but I didn't see one.
To get to the exhibit from the visitors' center you can take a shuttle bus or walk; the trips take about the same amount of time. I enjoyed the well-marked walk very much: I got to see the old greenhouses and the peony garden, which was in full bloom.
You need to buy a timed ticket for the Downton Abbey exhibit. You can buy it online, but once you're at the museum you have to check in and exchange your receipt for an actual physical ticket -- which I found out only after waiting for 10 minutes in what turned out to be the wrong line anyway. Also, watch where you park in the visitors' center lot: not all the handicapped spots are marked individually, so I accidentally parked in one, which I hate doing; I feel like going around apologizing to anyone who might have seen me.
And just a warning for visitors who haven't seen all four seasons: there are spoilers in the exhibit.

An oversight

In a conversation I overheard yesterday between two teenage girls, Girl #1 was telling Girl #2, ruefully, that she'd forgotten she had a pineapple in her backpack until it started to rot and stink.
Girl #2 stopped what she was doing and stared at her.
"How," she asked incredulously, "does somebody forget they have a pineapple?"
Don't be surprised if, in 20 years, we see Girl #2 demolishing a less-than-credible witness in a courtroom or grilling a malefactor on the evening news. She homed in on the salient issue immediately and already has an impressive way about her when it comes to asking an outraged question.

Lunchtime favorite

My regular readers know that I'm not much of a shopper: For me, buying stuff isn't the avocation, stress-reliever and conversation starter that it is for some. But I have to put in a good word for this product: Dr. McDougall's "Right Foods" soups, which have become a lunchtime staple for me (when I'm not eating out). They cost between $1.49 and $1.99 in the health food section of the Giant, and every flavor I've had is delicious -- things like tortilla soup and Chinese noodle soup (all vegan) and their Asian entrees like Thai peanut noodle. All you do is add water to the little cardboard cup, nuke them for about 2 minutes and then let them sit for a few minutes to cook. They're about 200 calories per container (I ignore the "per serving" data), with minimum fat (but watch the sodium if you need to).

Monday, May 26, 2014

I love this parade

Kennett Square's Memorial Day parade was everything a small-town parade should be, full of veterans, military vehicles, historical re-enactors with loud guns, antique cars, marching bands, gleaming fire trucks, motorcycles, and lots of kids.
What sets Kennett's parade apart, as far as I'm concerned, is the addition of things like the Ferko String Band, a calliope, men riding penny-farthing bikes, dragon dancers, a lavishly costumed Mexican dance troupe, a group of Native Americans, gymnasts (two boys performed back flips right in front of us!), martial arts masters, the gang from Hood's BBQ in Unionville, the Godzilla-sized Turkey Hill cow statue, and -- this year -- Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who was walking along North Union Street shaking hands, accompanied by his security people and Kennett Square Mayor Matt Fetick. I'm told that Kathi Lafferty of The Mushroom Cap presented the governor with a box of mushrooms!
Among our merry group of spectators was a friend's Mom who just recently moved to our area. Her husband, a WWII veteran, was riding in the parade for the first time, and it was great to see the huge grin on his face as he went past us.
Organizer Bill Taylor did another great job this year of organizing the parade, and the weather couldn't have been nicer.
After the parade a few of us went out to lunch and saw some of the motorcyclists. I thanked them for taking part, and they said the downside of participating is that you don't get to actually see the parade! They said they hoped somebody would post a video.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Something in the air

For me Saturday was a glorious day of yard work, hauling two dozen bags of Lowe's mulch around, planting flowers in a newly reclaimed hillside and continuing my perpetual assault on the grapevines and multiflora rose that used to cover it.
In the evening my fellow laborer and I hobbled out to a late dinner at Wendy's (salad for me, some hearty combination of bacon, beef and cheese for him) and then went food shopping at the Walmart. As we were checking out (love how the recorded voice at the self-checkout drawls "ahh-tem" for "item") we heard loud booms from outside the store.
What could it be but Longwood Gardens fireworks!
Out in the parking lot we could see the really high fireworks but saw just flashes from the lower-altitude ones, so we drove down to the SuperFresh shopping center to get a better view. We weren't the only ones: a few dozen people were sitting out in lawn chairs enjoying the show. We learned from a woman who works in the shopping center that whenever Longwood has fireworks, experienced fireworks fans start showing up in the lot at around 9 p.m.
The 45-minute display (with a few breaks, we assumed for musical interludes and the fountain show) was fantastic, with some types of pyrotechnics I'd never seen before: cascading ones; ones that just hover in the air as if they have parachutes; and a multicolored burst that looked like the blue, green and red lights on a Christmas tree. My favorites, of course, were the loud ones, of which there were many; friends in downtown Kennett and in Embreeville heard them, and family members who live near Longwood said their house shook.
The view wasn't perfect, of course; you need to be a paying customer at Longwood for that, understandably enough. But what an unexpected end to a very happy and productive day!

Party barn

Sunday's edition of the "Philadelphia Inquirer" had a nice story about the new "party barn" at the Buchanans' Mercer Hill Farm here in West Marlborough Township. Owner Richard Buchanan, of Archer & Buchanan Architecture, described the stone barn to reporter Erin Arvedlund as his "man-cave garage Mahal" and told her about how he designed it, the materials he used and other party barns he has worked on. The article includes a splendid portrait of Richard shot by Jim Graham; the caption describes Richard as a "farmer-architect."
(Thank you to "Unionville in the News" reader Bonnie M. for letting me know about this story.)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Mayor of Unionville

Unionville has lost another priceless, one-of-a-kind old-timer: Sam Barnard, of Barnard's Orchards, died on Friday, May 16, at age 97. Sam was a cheerful, friendly gentleman, and I always looked forward to seeing him when I'd stop by the orchards for cider, vegetables or the magnificent flowers he grew. I knew that Sam was a lifelong Unionville resident (UHS class of 1934) and a member of Marlborough Friends Meeting, but I didn't realize until I read his obituary that he was also a founder of the Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company and was active in the East Lynn Grange, the Unionville Cemetery Association, and the Kennett Masonic Lodge.
Condolences to his large family, and especially to his business partner in the orchard business, his nephew Lewis Barnard.
Rest in peace, Sam. A life well lived.


The schedule for this summer's county-sponsored Town Tours and Village Walks has been set, and although there's nothing in the immediate Kennett/Unionville area this year, you might want to head to the nearby tours in Oxford (Aug. 14) or Romansville (Aug. 21). The schedule is available online (but if you're Googling, make sure you get the 2014 schedule!). Other sites are the southwest quadrant of West Chester, East Pikeland, Historic Yellow Springs, Birchrunville, Fricks Locks, Phoenixville, Nantmeal Village and Malvern. It's the twentieth year for these free tours.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Permit parking only

Last week I wrote about how the borough of Kennett Square made Center Street a one-way (southbound) road from State to Cypress Streets (next to the Market at Liberty Place), effective May 19. A few days later I drove down that block and noticed that they had already converted what used to be the northbound lane into diagonal, permit-only parking spaces. Not only do you need a permit to park there (during weekday business hours), but you also have to back your vehicle into the spot.

Cafe society

Wow, what a hopping place the Longwood Starbucks is on an early weekday morning! There were few cars elsewhere in the shopping center on Friday, but at the coffee shop students were intently tapping away on their laptops, businesspeople were talking to colleagues and clients, commuters were picking up some fuel, and equestrians in riding clothes were already halfway through their barn chores. A little later on, groups of slim women in tennis clothes and yoga clothes showed up for what I'm assuming was a post-workout break.
And I was delighted to see a friend/role model of mine who was on her way to get her toes done: she pointed out, with a strong sense of self-mocking, that it is simply de rigueur, isn't it, for one to take a Starbucks drink along to a pedicure appointment.

Back to the Garden

I made my first trip to my favorite garden center on Thursday, and while I was there texted a pal telling him that I was buying plants. I think I must have typed quite a few exclamation points and capital letters, because he later remarked what a happy and upbeat message it was.
Well, I mean, how could it not be. The garden center is such a wonderful place, full of great sights and smells (the peonies! the heliotrope!) and nice people. I bought some unusual hostas for a newly shady area, annuals to fill up my deck containers, Thai basil and parsley for the kitchen pots, and sweet-potato vines to fill in some empty, less-than-sunny spaces (and, one hopes, to hide fading daffodil and tulip leaves). I had trouble fitting my purchases into the back of my vehicle; the thunbergia rode up front with me.
And it's not only the pleasure of seeing these nice plants; it's also the anticipation of nurturing them so they'll thrive (again, one hopes) and improve your outside environment all summer long. I call that an excellent deal!
(Oh, and for those readers who urged me to thank the deer for destroying my English ivy over the winter? I don't really miss it; ferns have taken over.)

Back to the Future

When I picked up last week's "Kennett Paper" and saw the front-page headline "Library moving out of town," I felt like I was in one of those time-travel shows like "Life on Mars."
All of a sudden it was the summer of 2000 again, and the library board had just voted to build a new Bayard Taylor Library "out of town" at the Ways Lane site it had bought. That decision stirred up a vitriolic controversy that ultimately scuttled the board's plans. Perhaps you recall it: I was deeply involved in the debate, and the unpleasant memories still make me a little queasy.
But in last week's article, library board members talked optimistically about how the world has changed since the firestorm of 2000: the borough of Kennett Square is thriving, the economy has improved, libraries have largely gone digital, some former opponents to the move have "come round," the in-town parking situation has worsened, and so forth.
All those are perfectly good arguments, and I wish the board members the best of luck. They are good, smart, community-minded people; now they just need to find three vital puzzle pieces: (1) benefactors with very deep pockets, (2) dynamic leadership with the sophistication, experience, connections, dedication, and time it will take to run such an ambitious capital campaign, and (2) the increased funding that it will take to run an expanded facility.

One less turtle

What a sad sight. I was on my way to meet friends for coffee on Friday morning and saw a bloody squished snapping turtle in the eastbound lane of Route 926 near New Bolton Center. I suppose the slow-moving creatures don't really have a chance against motorists -- although I could see the poor thing from quite a distance away. A friend pointed out, however, that the turtle's death probably saved the lives of the ducklings in a nearby pond!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Conflicting duties

I'm one of those "super-voters" you hear about: I vote in every election and always have. For one thing, it's nice to catch up with neighbors and friends and the patriotic folks who work at the polls. For another, it's a lovely walk to our polling place at the West Marlborough Township garage. At lunchtime on Tuesday I took a break from the computer (I'm editing a challenging book on epistemology, a branch of logic) and set off down the road. I was enjoying the vocal catbirds and the red-winged blackbirds and was just about to photograph a healthy clump of wild ginger on the road bank when my phone rang: Some delivery people were requesting my presence to unlock a door for them in 25 minutes.
I did some quick time-vs.-distance calculations (Do I return or keep going?), told them I'd do my best to be there, and then seriously picked up the pace. I hurriedly voted, barely stopping to chat (that alone should tell you how rushed I was), and then hustled back, keeping the delivery guys apprised with a series of text messages ("ETA 10 mins"). I was probably 20 minutes late, but they didn't seem to mind too much.

Way out

On Monday morning workers were paving the road that runs behind the Unionville post office and the Po-Mar-Lin fire hall as part of ongoing work on the new Unionville Park. While the paving was going on, post office patrons had to use the normally one-way driveway to both enter and exit the lot.
As I pulled in, I spotted a neighbor leaving the lot. She rolled down her window and told me that she was going the wrong way ONLY because the back driveway was closed. She said she felt obliged to explain herself because, as she put it, "I don't want you writing about me!"
Gosh. What a reputation I have!

Monday, May 19, 2014

What was the question?

In the Y parking lot today I saw a Mom unloading her kids from the car. One of them apparently posed a question to his Mom, and unfortunately I heard only her amused reply: "Well, a Wookie is from `Star Wars,' which came out in the Seventies, so in theory you're correct."
What might the child's question have been? Perhaps something like, "Mommy, are you older than a Wookie?"


A celebration involving strawberries? I am THERE!
Marcia W. asked me to publicize the Presbyterian Church of Kennett Square's upcoming Strawberry Festival, which will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, June 6. She writes:
"Broad Street in front of the church will be closed as there will be an old-fashioned calliope playing, kids' games and strawberry shortcake and desserts.  Fresh strawberries will be for sale, too."
The church is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, she said, and the first Strawberry Festival was held June 10, 1865.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Chuckwagon Breakfast

A few months ago, it would have been covered by snow and ice.
A few weeks ago, it would have been underwater.
But on Sunday morning the meadow at The Laurels was covered with grass -- and drying out in the bright sun.
That's where the Buck and Doe Trust had its annual Spring Fling brunch, which drew a crowd of hungry Unionville-ites, eager to eat, socialize and celebrate the work of the local conservation group.
The food was fantastic: pancakes, sausage, apple-cider doughnuts and strawberries and lots of coffee.
As always, it was great to watch all the dogs and kids running around, and this year it was a special treat to see the progress on the Hayes Clark and Mary Ann Pyle covered bridges, which are being restored. The roof of the Hayes Clark bridge is being redone, and the sunlight was filtering down on the guests.
We also got to meet some new Brandywine Conservancy staff members and heard a summary of the restoration work from contractor Frank Stroik.

Scottish for the Day

A Scottish terrier, wearing a plaid coat and a tam o'shanter, wasn't the first sign that we weren't in Unionville anymore: We spent Saturday in Fair Hill, Md., at the Colonial Highland Gathering (the Scottish Games, for short), where we were surrounded by kilts, Celtic tattoos and pipers from near and far.
In the vendors' area, you could buy clothing, jewelry, plaques, swords and shields emblazoned with your clan's tartan or emblem. Food vendors were offering Scottish meat pies, Scotch eggs, sausage rolls, real British chips, turkey legs and massive neon-colored snow-cones (I'm not sure how authentic those were).

Our first stop was the caber tossing competition, in which muscular men and women were required to lift the equivalent of a telephone pole (a top-heavy telephone pole to boot) and hurl it end-over-end, a nearly impossible feat. In a later competition, they had to toss a 56-pound weight over a horizontal pole 15 feet up. Backward. These were some of the least ergonomic moves I've ever seen. Some of the spectators were real fans: I heard one boy rattling off statistics about one of the burly competitors as if he were an American football celebrity.

As we walked through the fairgrounds, we started hearing the sound of bagpipe bands. The pipers and drummers took the competition quite seriously, with their scores carefully marked at each competition site. I enjoyed watching the drummers doing these cool little flourishes with their drumsticks between beats. One fellow was even practicing on a fence rail.
At the far end of the fairgrounds we saw a sheepdog demonstration, in which a very well trained Border Collie, Jip, herded five sheep around an enclosure, through a chute and into a pen. Her focus, efficiency and concentration were remarkable. Barely audible voice commands were all her master needed to get her to accomplish her tasks.

I think my favorite part of the day was people-watching. Most of the visitors wore some kind of plaid, either a kilt or T-shirt or dress or scarf. We saw two elderly nuns, in traditional brown habits, riding on a golf cart. Many of the girls and women were wearing headbands, either flowers or sparkly foil. One friend we ran into was wearing a kilt that he admitted wasn't quite his clan's, but close; leather gauntlets; a loose white shirt; and a black leather sporran (belt pouch) of distinctly non-Scottish origin: he told us he bought it years ago at Ozzfest.
There was a Highland dancing competition that unfortunately we didn't get to see. We only saw the girls practicing on little portable dance floors and heard the winners' names being announced for dances like "the reel" and "the Highland fling." We also wanted to see the "Entrance of the Haggis and Robert Burns' Address to the Haggis" (surely a highlight of the day) but there was so much going on that we missed it, too.
I was astonished at how many people attended. As we were leaving, we saw horse vans on Telegraph Road leaving the Fair Hill Training Center and the drivers looked surprised at all the costumed people crossing the road. Actually, there was such a crowd that the Border Collie would've come in handy.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

"My horse people"

In one of my gym classes the other day we were doing an exercise aimed at the inner thigh muscles, the adductors. Half the class was grimacing and complaining; the other half was confused and said they must be doing it wrong because they felt nothing. The contrast, which persisted even when controlling for age, size and overall fitness level, was striking. Our instructor supplied the ready explanation: those who weren't feeling it were, not coincidentally, the equestrians in the class, who already have phenomenally strong adductor muscles.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A non-starter

The first time I wrote about the wine bar and tapas restaurant that was supposed to move in to the old Kennett Café on East State Street in Kennett was way back in December 2010, when restaurateur Jack McFadden hung a sign on the building claiming that it would be open in the spring of 2011. Historic Kennett Square's January 2011 newsletter said, "Jack McFadden has begun to earnestly work on his property. He is hoping to have renovations completed by June but admits that it may take a bit longer."
Renovations were indeed done in fits and starts over the ensuing years, but the place never opened. People occasionally ask me what's going on with the place, and when I walked by this evening there was a sign on the front window: "Property Available." I guess that's your answer.

Beer for sale

A sharp-eyed "Unionville in the News" reader spotted a liquor license application in the window of one of the shops underneath the Kennett Square Inn and asked me to find out what was going on. I discovered that Steve Warner, the Inn's owner, is opening a retail craft-beer store! The little shop is being painted and renovated, and I'm told it should be open by the end of May. It will sell singles and six-packs of a wide variety of beers for takeout.

One way

Wow, starting Monday, May 19, there will be no more northbound traffic on Center Street between Cypress and Union Streets in downtown Kennett; it'll be southbound only in that block. "The change is intended to increase available parking and make the intersection of State and Center Streets safer for pedestrians and motorists," said the borough in its announcement.

From a motorist's point of view, I have to agree that it was difficult pulling out from Center Street onto State Street. An intersection that seems to me to have even more limited visibility, though, is just a few blocks west, at Washington and State, where a hedge blocks your view as you're pulling out on to State Street. Unless you're sitting way up high in a pickup truck, you have to pull far enough out into the lane of travel that you get (justified) glares from oncoming motorists. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Which way?

"Unionville in the News" reader Joe F. sent me this photo of the Route 52/926 intersection, which could go a long way toward explaining why there are so many lost-looking motorists trying to navigate the detour in Pocopson Township.

An honor for The Honorable!

Congratulations to West Marlborough Township resident Walter K. Stapleton, who on May 7 received the 2014 American Inns of Court Professionalism Award for the Third Circuit.    
Judge Stapleton, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, was presented with the award at the Third Circuit’s Annual Judicial Conference in Harrisburg by the Honorable Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, and by the Honorable Thomas L. Ambro of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
The judge has had a truly impressive legal career. After graduating from Princeton, he earned his law degree from Harvard (he later obtained a masters in law from the University of Virginia). He went into private practice and served as assistant attorney general for Delaware in 1963 and 1964 before being appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware in 1970 by President Nixon. He served as chief judge from 1983 to 1985. In 1985, President Reagan nominated him to the U.S. Court of Appeals; he took senior status in 1999. 
In addition to all this, Walter is a charming, witty and self-effacing gentleman and a first-class host and raconteur. The honor is well deserved; we need more people like him in public service.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Hummers (the little kind)

If you haven't put out your hummingbird feeder, it's high time to do so. I've already seen both a male and a female ruby-throated hummingbird at mine, only a few days after I put the feeder out.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


What a fun afternoon my friends and I had at the Willowdale Steeplechase on Sunday!
The weather was perfect and the races were fun to watch, especially when we got to cheer for jockeys we knew. We had an excellent vantage point, standing in the back of a Jeep a little ways up the slope near the finish line. Between races we wandered around, greeting friends (one fellow assured us there's going to be a Triple Crown winner this year), looking at the antique cars, browsing through the shops, admiring Hood's new BBQ trailer and then heading to the paddock to check out the horses for the next race. (Toward the end of the afternoon, we basically lolled around in the sun, moving only to get another brownie or pretzel.)
Some people made tailgating their priority, setting up entire bars and lavish buffets and bringing in kegs, porch furniture with cushions, and topiaries. While the adults ate, drank and socialized, the kids ran around, tossing lacrosse balls, baseballs or footballs, blowing soap bubbles and splashing in the little creek. There were plenty of dogs.
This steeplechase tends to be a little dressier than others, and there were lots of fancy hats and sundresses. I couldn't help but notice that bright orange seems to be the "in" color this year.
This was my last steeplechase for the season. Though the spring started out with the freezing mud and sleet of the Cheshire Point-to-Point, the rest of the races I went to -- Willowdale, Brandywine Hills and Fair Hill -- had marvelous weather. And even Cheshire was a memorable experience ... in its own way.

Plant Sale

This was at least the twentieth year that I've attended the Plant Sale at London Grove Friends Meeting, and it was as wonderful as ever. Even though we arrived before 8 a.m. on Saturday, the parking lot was already full of cars. In fact, the early-birds were just leaving, laden down with boxes full of green things. I made a beeline for the geraniums: the Plant Sale always has such beautiful, big, healthy bright-red ones, and in my experience they tend to sell out early. After I had purchased enough to fill the window boxes, I could relax, get a cup of coffee and wander around.
Pat Mooberry made some excellent suggestions for some low-maintenance perennials, and we took her up on them. Margaret Walton helped me pick out a perfect hanging basket for Mother's Day. And if I listed everyone else I saw, either volunteering or shopping, I'd have no room for anything else. I'll just say that it was, as always, a great community event, full of hugs and fellowship and presided over by the magnificent London Grove Oak.
Happily for everyone, the weather was warm and sunny, and I'm told that the afternoon's thunderstorm held off until just after everything had been cleaned up and put away.

Friday, May 9, 2014

An oxymoron

A friend reports that he was in line at a local convenience store when he overheard a woman asking for "organic cigarettes." He is a jaded and world-weary fellow, but the idea of organic tobacco surprised even him: "Organic cigarettes! I ask you!" I suppose these cigarettes are being marketed as a way to minimize a smoker's ingestion of unwholesome chemicals.


You probably don't need me to remind you that there's an election coming up: it's hard to miss the dueling campaign signs at every intersection, and I've been receiving political literature for weeks. The primary election is Tuesday, May 20.

Fill 'er up

Racking up discount gas points at the Giant grocery store has now become a competitive sport. I filled up my gas tank today, the day before this discount period expired, and felt pretty pleased with myself that I'd saved 80 cents per gallon. But then a Facebook friend chimed in: she was saving a whopping $3.50 a gallon! She must buy a lot of groceries and take advantage of every "5x gas points" special deal.
The gas station was hopping, as it always is toward the end of the discount period. They even had employees in yellow safety vests stationed at the exit and entrance to direct traffic.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sharing the road

Lew and Terry Kinter of Unionville were kind enough to remind me of Pennsylvania's "Four-Foot Passing Law": when passing bicyclists, motorists must slow down to "a prudent reduced speed" and must stay at least four feet away from the bike.
"Spring and summer are prime cycling seasons," the Kinters wrote. "Accidents between car and bicycles generally leave cyclists with serious injuries. Please slow down, be patient and give us at least the 4 feet required by law. We can all share the road."
I wholeheartedly agree.


Pity the Young Relative: at tonight's URA baseball game, his parents, his aunt, two grandmothers and a grandfather were all sitting in the bleachers waving and cheering for him. (Then again, by now he really should be used to a large and vocal family turnout at any activity.)
And it was a perfect spring evening to be a fan in the stands: it was 70 degrees, the sun was just setting and a slight breeze was wafting over the smell of BBQ from Hood's.


My Cranky Friend has one less reason to be cranky: he had an infected tooth removed. The persistent infection had been waxing and waning for months, kind of like the underground fire in Centralia, but being strapped for funds and lacking dental insurance, he just put up with it.
Finally he made an appointment at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Dental Medicine in Philadelphia. At the dental school's teaching clinics, students learn their craft under the watchful eye of faculty, and fees are correspondingly much reduced.
I volunteered to drive him into town and dropped him off at the Robert Schattner Center in the middle of Penn's campus at 240 South 40th Street. I found a place to park on the street just a few minutes away and then returned to the oral surgery clinic. While I waited, I knitted and enjoyed watching the earnest, enthusiastic and very young-looking dental students bustling around the place, their clinic coats flapping.
After only an hour, the Cranky Friend emerged, with a mouthful of gauze and minus the offending molar. Almost immediately, he claimed to feel globally better than he had in  months; let's hope that cheerfulness lasts.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Defining "logging"

A West Marlborough resident was within his rights to fell about a dozen tulip poplars on his property -- but he does need a permit for his chicken coop.
At the May 6 township meeting, township zoning officer Al Giannantonio said that he checked into a report of "a logging operation" on Willem Ebersöhn's property at 947 North Chatham Road (Route 841). Mr. Giannantonio learned that before felling the trees, Mr. Ebersöhn had gotten advice from a Longwood Gardens arborist that they were unhealthy, and he was having a sawyer come in to cut up the trees, which he planned to use for building purposes. Because he wasn't removing the trees from the property or selling the lumber, Mr. Giannantonio concluded that the activity didn't fall under the township's definition of "logging" and wouldn't need a permit.
The chicken coop that Mr. Ebersöhn installed does, however, need a permit.
Mr. Giannantonio also reported that he is looking into a farm lane that Richard Hayne has built across from The Whip tavern on his Doe Run Farm. He said Mr. Hayne did not get township permission to do so.
He also reported that two building permits were issued in April: one for repairing the stone mill at Blow Horn corner, which was damaged by a truck, and one for reroofing the tenant house at Rokeby Hollow.
In other business, township resident Don Silknitter praised township secretary-treasurer Shirley Walton for her hard work, saying that when he was in the township office recently he saw her simultaneously cleaning the bathroom and answering the phone.
"You'll get no argument from us," agreed Bill Wylie, who chairs the board of supervisors.
Only two supervisors, Mr. Wylie and Josh Taylor, were present at the monthly meeting. The third supervisor, Hugh Lofting and his son, Hugh Lofting Jr., who is in charge of the township's road crew, were in Wilkes-Barre attending a program about maintaining dirt and gravel roads, which are dear to the hearts of many of us who  live in this rural township.

Quaker architecture

On Saturday, June 14, architectural historian Seth Hinshaw will be discussing the architecture of Quaker meetinghouses in our area. The talk will be at 7:30 p.m. at one of those historic meetinghouses, London Grove, as part of its 300th anniversary celebration.
Last year I saw Mr. Hinshaw speak about the old barns of Kennett Township (it was a standing-room-only audience) and found him to be very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He is an historic preservation planner with Wise Preservation Planning of Chester Springs.
(Thanks to Sandy Reber and Anna Myers for passing along this information.)

At age 57!

Proud mother Baz Powell of West Marlborough reports that her daughter, Flere Powell Bomba (UHS class of 1974), ran in the Boston Marathon and "had a ball." Her ankles started bothering her at Mile 18, so after that she ran a bit and then walked a bit, completing the 26-mile race in 4 hours and 42 minutes. "The family was very proud," said her mother.
Baz says that although Flere will still complete in shorter races, it's her last marathon because "really, where are you going to run after Boston?" Flere, a mother of two, lives in eastern Lebanon County.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Change of date

Astute West Marlborough neighbor and "Unionville in the News" reader Tom H. notes that the actual year George Washington was born was 1732; another contributor to this column stated last week that our first president was born in 1729, the same year as the Steelville Mill in West Fallowfield Township was built.
Writes Tom, "Why do I know this mindless piece of trivia? Well I am a math geek and the square root of 3 is 1.732.....Washington's year of birth."
According to the website of the National Archives, "George Washington was born in Virginia on February 11, 1731, according to the then-used Julian calendar. In 1752, however, Britain and all its colonies adopted the Gregorian calendar which moved Washington's birthday a year and 11 days to February 22, 1732."

Plant Sale this Saturday

"Unionville in the News" reader Chris Manning was kind enough to share this photo as a reminder of the annual London Grove Friends Plant Sale, which is coming up on Saturday, May 10. Chris placed the sign "smack in the middle of my daffodil display" at Schoff and Steelville Rd. in West Fallowfield Township, near the Lancaster County border. "In the background is the Steelville Mill, built in 1729, the year George Washington was born!"

Sunday, May 4, 2014


FishCastle--the folk duo Catherine Braik Selin and Cyril Everett Caster--gave a 90-minute family concert on a cloudy Sunday afternoon at West Grove Meeting House that kept both adults and kids entertained. The performers played guitars, a ukulele ("my snack-size guitar," Catherine quipped), a banjo, a trumpet, and a recorder and brought along a "treasure chest" full of instruments -- chimes, drums, a squeezebox and such -- so the kids could join in as they liked throughout the show. During one maritime-themed song we all waved scarves to simulate swaying seaweed, and one man shimmied around doing a truly inspired fish imitation.
The songs included old favorites like Peter, Paul & Mary's "Puff the Magic Dragon" and Pete Seeger's "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream," plus Leonard Cohen's "Bird on a Wire" and a beautiful Stephen Foster song, "Hard Times Come Again No More" (BTW did you know that Stephen Foster also wrote "My Old Kentucky Home"? I didn't.)
FishCastle seems to perform a fair amount around our area, including at supermarkets; they said their next show is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 10, at the Darlington Arts Center in Garnet Valley.

A treasure here on Earth

I found this barely legible old street sign still standing in Chatham and had to admire its tenacity.

Today the block-long street is known as Church Alley rather than Church Road. According to U.S. Census Date, "Church" is the 27th most common street name in the United States, with 4,031 instances. In case you're interested, the ten most common street names are Second, Third, First, Fourth, Park, Fifth, Main, Sixth, Oak and Seventh.

A stone's throw

A few weeks ago I wrote that Kyoto, the sushi restaurant in the strip mall behind Applebee's, was closing. The new tenant, as of June 1, will be the dry cleaner that's currently located between Sears Hardware and Pet Valu. It won't be a very long move for them!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Pocopson Circus

The detour around the forthcoming "roundabout" (a kinder, gentler traffic circle) on Route 52 in Pocopson is wreaking havoc with some residents' driving habits. Fortunately my favorite co-pilot grew up in the township and is thoroughly familiar with all the back roads and shortcuts, but other motorists are frustrated and confused by the detour.
One loyal reader writes:
"We returned from a trip over the weekend and found ... that we had to take sightseeing tours of our township and the 2 neighboring ones just to go 2 miles to Baily's Farm for ice cream and the other great things they have - 20 minutes to go maybe 5.  Can you believe gridlock and traffic jams have reached Pocopson where there is only one traffic light in the entire township? Every back road is a raceway, and at the light[s] at the Elementary school and 926 & 52 there are long lines and lost souls. That's why I an calling the situation and new roundabout "Pocopson Circus" from the English vernacular : "A public scene of frenetic and intrusive activity" & "as a place name a roundabout open space where several streets converge: Piccadilly Circus."
On Saturday morning I saw a friend who lives very close to the detour and asked how it has affected her. She said she too has seen a lot of lost-looking motorists looking for detour signs and a distinct increase in traffic on her little street and narrow Parkersville Road.


School board

Plenty of Unionville-Chadds Ford residents grumble about school taxes and teachers' and administrators' salaries -- and then boast about living in such a high-rated school district and reap the benefits of its salutary impact on property values. Have you ever thought of getting involved and joining the school board? Due to a resignation, the Unionville-Chadds Ford school board has a vacancy for someone living in Newlin, Pocopson, or Birmingham Township. See the district's website for more information. From what I've seen, true dedication to quality education, a tolerance for long agendas, ambassador-level diplomacy and tact, and a thick skin are prerequisites.

The aftermath

I heard miserable stories of protracted, frustrating commutes the morning after the rain storm, when the Brandywine Creek had flooded major roads. One family member who never, ever misses a day of work (it's genetic) detoured south into Delaware and then northeast to his job in Delco. Another friend, headed from West Grove to Berwyn, found either flooding or impossibly snarled traffic at Routes 1, 926, 52, 162, and 842. He finally ended up going all the way up to Coatesville and taking the Route 30 bypass  -- which, as luck would have it, was at a crawl due to a crash.
The Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, being divided by the Brandywine, was forced to close for the day, pushing the last day of school even farther back -- to Monday, June 16.
Some horse owners whose pastures abut the normally bucolic Brandywine faced difficulties as well. Some fences were swept away by the water, or if they were still there they were festooned with mounds of debris. You could tell how high the water had risen by observing the collection of branches and junk that was left behind.
At least it was warm and sunny most of the day after the storm: at one farm I saw perhaps a dozen sodden horse blankets draped over fences, drying in the sun.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

After the deluge

I took a drive around the area to see the flood's aftermath on Thursday, May 1, and found an especially dramatic scene on Laurel Road, south of Strasburg Road, in Newlin Township.
The raging waters of the Brandywine Creek had undermined some large beech and sycamore trees, and they toppled over, their root systems bringing a considerable amount of pavement down with them. A good portion of the road was washed down the steep slope to the  creek, and at one point the roadside guardrail is just hanging there in mid-air.

Township supervisor Rob Pearson was on the scene assessing the road damage with a township road-crew member and two engineers with clipboards.

I told him how amazed I was at the extent of the damage.
"This is what water can do," he explained. He said there was also some storm damage a little farther south at Harvey's Bridge.


The evening of the rain storm, I was in the locker room of the Jennersville Y, and a fellow athlete, about to shower, was vexed to discover that she had left her bath towel at home.
"Why bother to dry off?" said another woman. "You'll get just soaked again as soon as you go outside."
Indeed. A few minutes later, I was southbound on Guernsey Road in West Grove when I saw a man walking north along the side of the road, with what at first I thought was a large white bandage on his head. As I got close I realized he was wearing a full horse-head mask. In the teeming rain. In the dark. In West Grove.
Of course, as soon as I got home I looked this up online and discovered that a whole subculture has sprung up around the wearing of these masks. It was certainly news to me.

The Deluge

I was talking on the phone to a friend the afternoon of the heavy rain storm, and she idly speculated about how high the Brandywine Creek was getting. We are both former reporters, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that the next thing you know we were in her huge pickup driving through Unionville, Brandywine Creek Road, Mortonville, Harvey's Bridge and Embreeville. We gawked in amazement at how high the water was, how fast it was going and how much debris it was carrying -- mostly tree trunks, but at one point I spotted someone's backyard BBQ zipping by.
All the usual spots were flooded out by the end of the day -- including of course Springdell and the bridges over the Brandywine at Pocopson and Route 1 -- plus some unexpected ones: I've never seen Apple Grove Road flooded before, but it was across the road near the Laurels. I saw some baffled-looking motorists driving very hesitantly on some of our gravel roads; they'd been detoured off Route 841 in Springdell. People have told me that their commutes home were the worst ever because of all the road closures.
All over social media, emergency services, police stations and municipalities were urging residents to avoid driving through standing water -- to no avail for some. Emergency personnel had to go out all over the place for "water rescues," including one at Harvey's Bridge in Newlin just minutes after we crossed it. Residents who live near the Embreeville bridge on Route 162 reported that foolhardy motorists persisted in trying to drive through the high water. Predictably, their cars stalled out.
Because the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District spans the Brandywine, schools were closed on Thursday, May 1, pushing the last school day back to June 16.