Wednesday, December 30, 2015

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Debating the cost of police presence

"Clarkie" has gotten a reprieve, at least a temporary one, from the West Marlborough supervisors.
In their proposed budget, the township board had budgeted $0 for police protection. But after hearing from several township residents who wanted the township's part-time officer to stay on, the board tweaked the numbers and budgeted $6,400 to keep him on the job for two more months. (They did that by cutting the budgeted amount for the township engineer from $12,000 to $7,000 and the budgeted amount for the codes enforcement officer from $5,000 to $4,000).
Robert Clarke is the chief of police in East Marlborough but works 40 hours a month in West Marlborough.
During those two months, Supervisor Bill Wylie said, the supervisors from the two townships will try to reach an affordable solution in which Clarkie can still be "on call" to respond to problems in West Marlborough. The board paid $50 an hour for his services when the agreement between the townships started in 2008; it is now $80 an hour. The supervisors hired him for two reasons (to cut down on speeding and to reduce illegal parking at The Whip tavern in Springdell) but he has apparently endeared himself to residents.
Five West Marlborough residents (Kathleen Crompton, Clipper LaMotte, Melissa Marino, Anna Myers, and Nita Greer) attended the normally perfunctory budget approval meeting on Dec. 29 to express their support for Clarkie, saying he provides a quicker response than the state police, knows the township roads and people, serves as a proactive presence to deter crime, and helps out at special events like the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup. They said they like having a familiar face to contact.
"Clarkie is there for us even when he's not on duty," said Nita Greer. "He responds and he cares and he's there."
Clipper LaMotte said Clarkie is a bargain "in terms of bang for the buck," is also a trained nurse, and "knows the territory inside and out." He said his service is "unique and valuable for the amount of money we spend ... he's meant a lot to us."
Kathleen Crompton said just the day before Clarkie had helped out at the Buck & Doe Trust's road cleanup, driving along Route 82 with his lights flashing to slow traffic. "I was delighted to see him," she said. 
The residents said they understood the township's financial constraints, however, and would be satisfied if Clarkie could be kept "on call" rather than working a full 40 hours a month. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

NOT PALM BEACH: Fraudster has a new address

Convicted Ponzi schemer Tony Young, late of West Marlborough, Palm Beach and Maine, has been transferred to the minimum-security Federal Prison Camp in Pensacola, Florida, which Forbes magazine dubbed the second-cushiest prison in America.

Tony Young's new home: the Federal Prison Camp in Pensacola, Florida.

When he was sentenced back in 2011, his wife Neely asked the judge to commit him to a Florida prison so she could visit. But Young, now 44, was first sent to the Federal Correctional Institution at Jesup, Georgia, and then was transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Worth, Texas, before moving to Pensacola.
Other Pennsylvania white-collar criminals who spent time at Pensacola include former NBA referee Tim Donaghy of Delaware County, who was involved in a gambling scandal, and Robert Powell, a key figure in the Luzerne County "Kids for Cash" scandal.
Young's projected release date is July 7, 2023.

USPS: A Christmas card from Jim

I'm sure many of you remember with fondness our former Unionville Postmaster, Jim Robinson. He reported in this year's Christmas card that he and his partner Chad have decided to sell their Denver high-rise and by 2020 hope to become "full-time RV people." The two of them are in Phoenix until Jan. 20 for a temporary break from the Denver snow.

Our former Postmaster Jim (right) and his partner Chad.
Jim and Chad's RV.

LOOKING FORWARD: More will be revealed

There are going to be some exciting stories developing in 2016.
1. Who will win Chris Ross' seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives? Three Republicans have already declared their candidacy. Because of his moderate stances and personal charisma, Chris appealed to many voters who otherwise would have supported a Democrat. But what will happen now?
2. Who will win Joe Pitts's seat in the U.S. House of Representatives? The always-conservative voters in Lancaster County will have a heavy influence on that race.
3. How will the controversy over the Newlin Township equestrian ordinance play out? The Pennsylvania Attorney General's office has ruled that the township's new ordinance is too strict and violates state regulations for agricultural uses. The township supervisors are supposed to meet with a representative from the AG's office next week. Residents are following the issue closely.
4. Will the library manage to turn itself around? East Marlborough Township has just named Tom Swett to the misstep-prone library board. Tom is a well-known and popular citizen with influence, smarts and fundraising experience, and he and the other new members might just have a shot at starting to restore public faith in the library after a truly awful year of controversy. First step: Swallow your pride and dump the "Kennett Public Library" name change. It has brought you nothing but grief and criticism.
5. Who will take over the Unionville Community Fair? The current president is stepping down and so far no one is stepping up to replace her. It's a huge job, but I would hate to see this wonderful tradition go by the wayside.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

SADSBURY: More than a candlelight service

We thought it might be interesting to attend the Christmas Eve contemplative service at Sadsbury Friends Meeting, a Lancaster County meetinghouse built in 1747. We certainly got more than we bargained for: as we arrived, firefighters from Station 52 (Christiana) in full bunker gear were already there. It seems someone had started lighting a fire in a fireplace but had a spot of bother with the damper and (wisely) decided to call the fire company before things got out of hand.
The firefighters removed the offending log and aired the place out. Fortunately it was warm enough that the windows could be left open throughout the service so that the smoke could further dissipate. The service, with candle lighting, readings and silence, was quite nice, and  I especially liked the music, provided by violinist Christopher Ritchie and flautist Hannah Bentz.
Christiana firefighters finish up their work at Sadsbury Meetinghouse.

Two guests bearing plates of cookies for the service chat with the firefighters.

WISDOM: It's not always small talk

So I learned four important things at Christmas parties this year.
1. You can prevent your eyeglasses from fogging up if you walk into a room backwards. At least, this is what I was told; given the unseasonably warm weather this Christmas, the temperature differential wasn't large enough to try this out.
2. In the Christmas song "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," Santa Claus is actually Daddy! I completely missed this joke and had always suspected some unsavory family pathology. When I mentioned this at dinner, I was roundly derided by everyone at the table.
3. The TV screen at one host's house was bigger than any I've ever seen, outside of a sports bar. A guest told me he wanted an equally huge one but his wife had forbidden him from buying one larger than she is. She confirmed this: "There's just no need for him to have a TV bigger than his wife!" He conceded and bought a 60-inch one.
4. A preternaturally disciplined friend makes a point of losing five pounds in preparation for the holiday season because he knows he's going to gain it back at dinner parties (he gets invited to a lot of them, because he is a pleasant and entertaining raconteur). Just tonight I saw him sample a German chocolate cake, a delectable spinach-and-Brie concoction and a red velvet rose cake from Neiman Marcus.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

DEATHS: Some of this year's obituaries

This year we said goodbye to Seema Sonnad; Beau Biden; Ralph Roberts, Rob Lukens; Patrick Chase; Brian Shultz; Steven Tingley; Mark Froehlich; Father Denny; the Wickershams; Robert Delaney; Barbara "Babs" Lucas Cocks; Aunt Janie; FM Mooberry; the Longwood Gardens feline Belin; and the ancient collie Kevin. May they rest in peace.

LOOKING BACK: Tilda's top 10 for 2015

I just looked back through my 2015 blog summary and want to share the ten stories that got the most hits.
1. The top story by far was about how Stephanie Boyer found an envelope containing $2,500 in cash on the floor at the Unionville post office and immediately turned it in. Postmaster Bill traced the owner, an elderly veteran, and returned it to him. This heartwarming story, from Sept. 2, was shared far and wide on social media, and a lot of people told me it restored their faith in humanity.

Stephanie Boyer (in the blue coat) leads in the "Cheshire Beauties."

2.  In second place was the unexpected death in November of the beloved "Father Denny" (Dennis Van Thuyne), a gentle, genial former priest who ran a resale shop on State Street to raise money for head injury victims like himself.
3. Belin, the cat who served as Longwood Gardens' ambassador, died in September after a short illness. Readers are still sending me comments about how much they miss Belin, who lived in the Peirce-du Pont house.
Belin, the beloved Longwood Gardens cat, died in September.

4. In November, Doug Harris, owner of the State & Union shop, noticed that a customer had gotten a parking ticket and insisted on paying it. The customer wrote to me about his good deed. The story elicited much praise for Doug, who is a popular fixture in downtown Kennett.
5. My story announcing the grand marshals of Kennett Square's annual Memorial Day parade-- World War II veterans Michael B. Pratola, Jr., Fred Patrola, Sr., and Robert Hopkins, Sr.--drew lots of readers.
6. A story I'd forgotten about was courtesy of East Marlborough Township police chief Robert Clarke, who told me that on Sept. 30 he got a call that marijuana was growing in a cornfield on the west side of Newark Road, across from Archie's restaurant. "Clarkie" uprooted the pot plants, bundled them into garbage bags, took them back to the East Marlborough Township building and had township roadmaster Dennis Mellinger destroy them with a Kubota lawn mower.
7. This spring's musical at Unionville High School was "West Side Story," and the kids did an amazing job in every respect. Our reaction at the end of the evening was, "THAT was a high-school production?!"
8. Remember snow? The West Marlborough road crew does. In March, one of the tires on the township's loader blew out with the worst snowstorm of the season bearing down. That meant there was no way to load salt into the township's trucks. Road crew boss Hugh Lofting Jr. called all the farmers he could think of, but no one had the right tire. Finally he found out that the borough of Kennett Square had a spare they were willing to lend. Hugh asked me to publicly thank the borough: "They have no concept how much they saved my life."

Tilda will continue to use her BTML card.

9 and 10. The final two on my top ten list were, appropriately enough, the self-inflicted woes of the library board, which started in February with their surprise announcement (they hung a banner across State Street) that the library was no longer the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library but was now the Kennett Public Library. A firestorm ensued, which anyone with any knowledge of Kennett Square residents or history could have predicted. As a reporter it was a great controversy to cover, but as a library lover, donor, and longtime volunteer it was extremely distressing. Some readers have complained that I've been too tough on the board, that after all they're "just volunteers." Others say I've been too diplomatic. I'm just hoping a much-needed change in leadership and new members will give the board a fresh start.

HIBACHI: Dinner and a show

We had a blast last night at Sakura Hibachi & Sushi in the Jennersville shopping center. I was surprised to find that the restaurant is much bigger than it looks from the outside. You get your choice of where to sit: at a regular table or around a hibachi grill. We picked the latter, and after we ordered, the hibachi chef, Stanley, wheeled out a cart with chicken, shrimp, salmon, rice, vegetables and other the ingredients for our dinner and cooked them on the spot, doing all kinds of entertaining antics in the process. He juggled and clanged his utensils, balanced an egg on his spatula and then flipped it up into his chef's hat, stacked onion slices and lit them on fire, and tossed squares of squash toward diners' mouths. (We did not catch any, but the couple next to us did, hugely impressing their three children.)
It was quite a show to behold, and I think the two of us had as much fun as any of the kids. And after all the showmanship, the food was very good. The place is a BYOB, and I saw several diners bringing in beer and wine. This might be a place to consider visiting if you have out-of-town guests over the holiday, or if the kids are bored during winter break.

Monday, December 21, 2015

WATERGLEN: The Age of Darkness

A friend reports that her parents' Christmas lights stopped working, so she went over to their home in the Waterglen neighborhood off Route 52 this past weekend to put up a fresh set.
"Found a mysterious thing in the process: a light that looked like it had been cut off with wire cutters, which would explain the old lights suddenly not working. Just hours later Mom received an e-mail that multiple neighbors had a similar thing happen and that one even had outdoor security video they had seen the culprit on. Apparently someone had gone through the neighborhood cutting light strands randomly."
So first we have false reports of candy tampering at Halloween that put Kennett Square in the news internationally; now some idiots are going around vandalizing Christmas lights. Honestly, what is wrong with people!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

CHRISTMAS: Delighted by the lights

We've been traveling all over the area in the past few weeks, and looking at Christmas lights has become the source of much entertainment. Near Fair Hill, Maryland, the decorations at one house were absolutely over the top; in protest, I'm sure, the next-door neighbors put up only a single strand of lights spelling out "MEH." One family near Ambler, Montgomery County, crammed its entire large front yard full of lights, displays, candy canes, gingerbread houses, inflatables, absolutely dozens of them. Apparently the display is so well known that it attracts tourists, because two portable toilets had also been installed in the yard.
Closer to home, along the Route 1 bypass south of the Toughkenamon exit, a family whose house backs up to the bypass erected a giant blow-up Santa with its arms raised, apparently offering a benediction to the motorists. At a house along Route 926 green lights snaked up the branches of a tree, making it look like a huge Gumby. And a family in the Willowdale Crossing development turned its shrubbery into the semblance of candy canes, with swirls of parallel red and white lights. Such creativity! Such electric bills!

MARSHALLTON: Sing we joyous all together

This year's Carol Sing at Bradford Friends Meeting was a lovely event. The cozy stone meetinghouse, tucked away in Marshallton, was built in 1765 and doesn't have electricity. Heat was provided by two wood stoves, and the bright morning sun streaming through the windows offered ample light. After the crowd settled in and spent a few minutes in silence, the singing started with the Quaker favorite "Simple Gifts." A splendid group of musicians accompanied us: a violinist, a flautist, a guitarist, and two dulcimer players, led by keyboard player and vocalist Noreen Davish.
After maybe 45 minutes, we closed with "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" (including the "figgy pudding" verse!), people literally wished "Merry Christmas" to the people sitting near them, and we got to sample the apple cider that had been simmering in big vats atop the wood stoves. Singing is hungry work, so fortunately there were excellent cookies, pound cake, brownies and other goodies on the refreshment table. I got to say hello to my dear friend Cathy Quillman and Unionville's Lou Mandich.
The Carol Sing is one of two Sundays in the year when Bradford's usual meeting for worship isn't held (the other is the Marshallton Triathlon). All ages attended, from infants to senior citizens. I heard the toddler behind me ask his parents in wonder, "Is this a church?" Apparently he wasn't used to meetinghouses!
While driving home on Strasburg Road I noticed that earth was being moved for a subdivision just west of Marshallton. Called "Marshallton Walk," it comprises one single-family house and 12 twin homes and is being built by Ryland Homes (now CalAtlantic).

Saturday, December 19, 2015

SUPERMARKET: What's going in there?

A reader asked me if I've heard anything about a new store at the former Superfresh in the Shoppes at Longwood Village shopping center on Baltimore Pike. No, I haven't heard a word, although I know that a lot of locals wish a Trader Joe's would move in. I looked on Trader Joe's website and they actually have a form you can fill out to request a store in your location. 

PARTY: Warming things up

Things got a little heated at a Christmas party I attended last Tuesday in East Marlborough, and I'm not talking about the discussions of local politics. Everything was going great (even though the hostess had a concussion); the refreshments were tasty and plentiful and the guests were amusing and well informed.
Toward the end of the evening, the juices from a dish of homemade meatballs dripped into the tea light underneath that was keeping them warm. The warmer started smoking, and the hostess' daughter carefully removed the meatballs and deposited the warmer base into the kitchen sink. So far, so good, until the man-of-action host splashed water on the still-burning candle: because of the grease, it flared up all the way to the ceiling with a loud "whoosh." We all thought the kitchen curtains were history!
After that near-calamity, he left it to burn itself out.

SPEAKMAN: A long-awaited project begins

Can you believe it? After years of delay and controversy, repair work has FINALLY started on the Speakman #1 covered bridge on Frog Hollow Road! (It has been closed to traffic for seven years after an oversized truck severely damaged it.)
I drove over there to witness this Christmas miracle and watched as a guy on a scissors lift was dismantling the bridge from the inside while other Eastern Highway Specialists workers were busy clearing trees and brush from around the site. The project should be finished, and the long-closed Frog Hollow Road reopened, by September 2016.
One worker came over to say hello and told me he loves working in such beautiful surroundings. "I could listen to this all day," he said, gesturing toward the babbling Doe Run. (Of course, it was in the 50s and sunny; he may change his tune when it gets chillier.) He said it's hard to believe that such unspoiled areas still exist.
Here are the details of the project, according to the contractor:
"We plan to start on December 14th. The beginning work will be the erosion control, clearing etc. Then, within a couple of weeks, we will begin the removal work on the wooden bridge structure.
 ·        The wood portion of the covered bridge will be dismantled. It will be removed from the site and taken to the warehouse of Lancaster County Timber Frame (LCTF) who will do the rehabilitation work on the timber trusses and associated structural timber. In conjunction with this we have hired Rettew Associates, an experienced engineering firm, to inspect the timber and determine if any additional replacement is necessary.
 ·        During the winter months LCTF will be doing the timber rehabilitation. During this time we (EHS) will remove the remaining structure and the two abutments. We will then begin the reconstruction of the abutments. The new abutments will be modern cast in place and reinforced concrete but will have stone masonry veneer or stone walls on the exterior. In the end, the new structure will be encased in true stone masonry. One of the local masons, Dan Gallagher, will be doing the stone masonry work.
Men at work on the Speakman #1 covered bridge.
 ·        The new covered bridge structure will be supported by new steel beams which will be erected on the new abutments. This work is expected to take place in late spring of 2016. After this the covered  bridge will re-erected on the site."

TREE: A Chatham character

As we have for many years, last week my neighbor and I piled into the pickup and headed over to Bob Brooks' place in Chatham to buy a Christmas tree. We always try to dicker with him over the price by pointing out that it's near the end of the season, or the tree I've selected is the smallest on the lot and should really be discounted.
He never, ever budges.
"Thirty-five dollars," he'll state.
Alas, Mr. Brooks was in the hospital this year, so even though I got an excellent, fragrant tree as always, it just wasn't the same. Best wishes for a quick recovery, Mr. B!

Friday, December 18, 2015

FM: A distinctive friend of gardens

Every time I write about my gardening adventures, I think of FM Mooberry, who died on Dec. 11 at age 85. A very smart woman and an immensely talented gardener, for years she wrote an inspiring, informative horticulture column for The Kennett Paper. She was a pioneer in the native plant movement and would often discuss the importance of protecting and propagating them. Phlox "David," which she discovered and named after her husband, is still sold every year at the London Grove Friends Meeting plant sale in May.
FM's memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, January 23, at the Kendal at Longwood Auditorium, 1109 East Baltimore Pike. Deepest sympathies to her family. She will be missed by many.

MIGRAINE: A young woman's recovery

In the summer of 2013 I wrote about a very pleasant and educational early-morning walk I took with local birder Kelley Nunn. Kelley has been through some rough times since then: she started having mysterious and debilitating symptoms, including extreme dizziness, to the point that she was bedridden through most of 2014. She was finally diagnosed with vestibular migraines (a migraine is not always a headache, it seems), started adhering to a special strict diet and has recovered dramatically.
Kelley has started a website ( "to help others who are struggling to reach the vestibular migraine diagnosis, seeking more information about vestibular migraine treatment, or coping with chronic illness." It's quite well written and interesting. In a blog post from Dec. 15, she describes a momentous birding trip to Indian River Inlet:
"At the end of the day, I was elated to look down at my pedometer and see that I had taken over 6,000 steps on top of traveling for nearly 4 12 hours. And to make things even better, I still felt ok! ... On our way home, I started to think about my goals for next year’s recovery big year, and what sort of physical milestones I could accomplish in another year’s time. To go from bedridden to birding over two hours from home in a matter of months is mind-blowing. I feel so lucky and thankful to be improving, and am so endlessly grateful for days like these, spent adventuring outdoors."

U TURN: A busy stretch of highway

A friend reports that when she and her husband were en route to the Longwood Family Restaurant for dinner the other evening, they made a U-turn on Baltimore Pike at Bayard Road and were promptly pulled over by an East Marlborough Township police officer, who explained to them that U-turns are forbidden at that intersection. My friend's husband said he wasn't aware of the restriction, and the officer let him off with a warning. My friend said that her husband, as a former Navy officer, has a deep respect for "the rules" and now makes turns using the jughandle by the Wawa every single time.

TRAVEL: Garmin, my new best friend

I love my new GPS, but I wish I could somehow fix its jarring mispronunciations. I don't expect it to know that Newark, Del., and Newark, N.J., are pronounced differently, but why does it say "Code-is-ville" for "Coatesville"? It swallows the "double-l" sounds in "Wollaston" and "Powell." It slurs "Clonmell-Upland Road." "Lenape" is truncated into two syllables ("Le-nape"). And "Toughkenamon" (admittedly a doozy for many humans, much less a disembodied voice) is rendered "Tall-ken-a-mon."
The GPS also took some time to get used to our back roads. "Driving on unpaved road!" it alerted me at first when I turned onto a gravel road I often use (like the robot on the old "Lost in Space" TV show: "Warning! Warning!").
I discovered to my dismay that my favorite traveling partner does not like using a GPS. He and I were in Montgomery County on Monday and instead of using the GPS's clear and accurate directions, he said things like "Oh! Butler Pike. I've heard of that; it must be the right road."
It was. Eventually.
By the way, it's so easy to get used to the special beauty of our corner of the world. Spend a day traveling through the endless corporate parks and shopping centers of Montgomery and Bucks counties and you'll get a crash course in how important it is to protect our precious, quiet open space.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

NEWLIN: A closed-door discussion about the ordinance

At their Dec. 14 meeting, the Newlin Township supervisors declined to discuss the topic that is on the mind of so many residents: the controversial equestrian ordinance, which was recently criticized in a lengthy letter from the Pennsylvania attorney general's office. (A group of upset township residents forwarded the ordinance to the AG's office.) The AG found that on a number of counts the equestrian ordinance violated the state's ACRE regulations by placing undue restrictions on the owners of horse farms.
Supervisor Janie Baird said at the outset of the meeting that the board members would be discussing the letter with their solicitor in an executive session after the regular meeting and thus would not comment on its contents or "the way forward."
Two township residents in the audience (which was a healthy one for a rainy Monday night) spoke up during the public comment session to express their strong support for the AG's comments.
Some Newlin residents aren't feeling the love from the supervisors.

The next controversial subject in the township might be an open-space tax that the supervisors are proposing to put on in the ballot in November 2016. "The referendum will show your support for our open countryside," the supervisors said in a letter to residents.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

NEW YEAR'S: The rise and fall of the Mushroom

Dec. 22 is the first day of winter, which means the days are going to start getting longer!
For the third year in a row, the huge lighted mushroom will descend in downtown Kennett Square to ring in the New Year. This year's "Midnight in the Square" celebration will also feature the raising of the mushroom at 8 p.m. There's also going to be a heated tent in the parking lot on South Union Street, opening at 9 p.m., where food, beer and wine will be served, with a $5 cover charge.
The Funsters band will start playing on South Union Street at 10 p.m. Food vendors will set up at 7 p.m. on State Street.
The event is free but you do have to bring a nonperishable food item for the community food cupboard; last year more than 1.5 tons of food was collected. There are details about parking, sponsors and shuttle buses on the event's website,

CHRISTMAS: Though the weather outside is delightful

Although the spring-like temperatures have made for a certain amount of cognitive dissonance, Christmas events are in full swing. On Friday we went to local balladeer Charlie Zahm's annual Christmas concert at Oxford Friends Meeting, and his loyal fans showed up in droves; the pews were packed.
On Saturday we went to the Hockessin Business Association's audience-participation version of "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" at the Hockessin Library, which was great fun. While the classic Dr. Seuss cartoon played on a screen, there was also a live version being enacted in front of the audience. The evil green Grinch was portrayed by Charles Shattuck of the Wild Birds Unlimited store (casting totally against type; he is a very nice and public-spirited guy and runs a delightful store). This year's show included a seasick crocodile (actually an oversized pool raft) and a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole. The kids in the audience got to sit on the floor up front for a better view.
When I mentioned to a friend that I had spent the afternoon at a Grinch sing-along, she got a nostalgic grin on her face and recalled using the Whos' "Welcome Christmas!" as a drinking song in college, imbibing at each repetition of the word "Who." (Now, she said ruefully, she and her husband can't even finish a bottle of wine between them.)
We spent Wednesday evening driving around looking at Christmas decorations. Some of the developments take their decorating seriously, with yards full of inflatable Santas, lighted deer, and giant snow globes. This year's lighting trend seems to be a sort of "wall of lights." At first I thought it was a net of lights that people attach to the side of their houses, but no: it turns out the lights are actually projected onto the wall.
To my mind, though, the most impressive holiday display is along Church Hill Road in Franklin Township, where an ambitious family has suspended a dozen or more giant lighted stars from the treetops. How on earth did they get them up there?! An industrial-sized cherry-picker or lift must have been involved, and I don't want to think about the extension cords.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: A sighting of a rare deer

Two West Marlborough residents spotted a six-point buck and a four-point piebald deer near their home on Saturday afternoon and were kind enough to share this photograph. One of them did some research on the Pennsylvania Game Commission website and learned that piebalds represent less than 1% of the white-tail deer population.

This piebald white-tailed deer is a sight to behold.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

FOXY LOXY: A literary forum in Unionville?

My faithful reader Joe ("friend of Doug's") offered what I think is an awesome suggestion for a program that Foxy Loxy could host on winter evenings. This would be so cozy and fun!
"Why not have classic short story night? You know, the ones we all remember from high school but didn't appreciate until we grew to understand them. We could start one night and pick the authors for the next session. People could take turns reading while others listen as they sip hot chocolate or drink coffee and gaze into the fire. We could even do poem night, but only the familiar classics such as Poe, Service, or Kipling."

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Seeking the fountain of age

Back in September I wrote about the new stone wall that some West Marlborough neighbors had installed. Restoration specialist Chuck Ginty of Unionville modeled it after the brick wall at a nearby estate that had been designed by the same architect, Arthur Ingersoll Meigs of Philadelphia.
The other day as I drove by, I saw Chuck examining the wall and stopped to ask him for an update. He said it's finished, and the owners are now trying to make it look older by pouring a greenish mixture of buttermilk, moss and manure over it. The hope is that moss will start to sprout come spring.

WENDY'S: Closed for renovations

The Wendy's restaurant on East Baltimore Pike in the Shoppes at Longwood Village is closed for renovations. Perhaps when the work is complete (I couldn't track down the anticipated re-opening date), it will look as spiffy as the updated version of a Wendy's, housed in a former bank, on Route 10 north of Oxford.
A recent Wall Street Journal article reported that Wendy's "4 for $4" deal, and the fact that it's selling off company-owned restaurants to franchisees, are helping the bottom line of the Dublin, Ohio-based firm.
(For the record: I eat the reasonably healthy salads at Wendy's. But when I'm in a burger mood, nothing beats the ones at Buddy's in Kennett.)
Also undergoing renovations is the Sunoco gas station/mini-mart at Route 41 and Newark Road -- but the fuel pumps are still open.

EAST MARLBOROUGH: Keep using your turn signals

At the Kennett Y on Monday morning I saw an observant East Marlborough woman who often makes useful contributions to this column.
"Any news?" I asked her as she was trying to leave after her class (honestly, people are going to start avoiding me).
She said that after I wrote my item a few weeks ago urging motorists to use their turn signals while traversing the Unionville roundabout, she noticed people actually doing so! For the next day, at least; then they went back to not using them. She said the turn-signal usage was a definite improvement, while it lasted.
"It's not world peace, but it's helpful," she said.

DRUGSTORE: The kindness of strangers

Just because it happened to be on my way home, I stopped in at a drugstore I don't often use and made a few purchases. The cashier asked me if I had a loyalty card, and I said I didn't. The customer next to me, a retirement-age gentleman, overheard and volunteered the use of his card (I noticed that he had an entire key ring full of them). His kindness saved me $1.28!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

NEWLIN: The state attorney general gets involved

From what I hear, the Monday, Dec. 14, meeting of the Newlin Township supervisors is going to be packed with angry residents.
As I reported a few weeks ago, the state Attorney General's office has found that Newlin Township's controversial zoning ordinance places excessive regulations on farms and other agricultural businesses, thus violating the state's Agricultural Communities and Rural Environment (ACRE) law.
You may recall the issue: the new ordinance raised the ire of many township residents because it required the owners of many horse boarding facilities to seek an expensive special exception from the township's zoning hearing board if they wanted to continue the operations they'd been running for years. 
The state Attorney General's office suggested numerous and substantive wording changes that the township supervisors need to make to bring the ordinance into compliance and warned that a lawsuit could follow if the supervisors don't amend the ordinance.
The meeting of the supervisors (Janie Baird, Rob Pearson and Bill Kelsall) will start at 8 p.m. at the Lenfest Center, 1199 Cannery Road.

THE LIBRARY: A new executive committee?

This month's meeting of the Library Board is at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 15, and I'm told there is a great deal of behind-the-scenes jockeying over who will be running the board in the coming year. It's an important question because the public has given the current board leadership a thumbs down in the wake of numerous controversial actions, like trying to change the library's name (from the traditional Bayard Taylor Memorial Library to "Kennett Public Library"). A feasibility study done to assess the library's chances of raising funds for a new building even suggested that the president and vice president resign on the spot.
The president, Susan Mackey-Kallis, has not resigned but will be spending the first half of 2016 teaching in Japan. The (then) vice president did resign and was replaced by Karen Ammon. Many new members have joined the board in the past few months, and I'm hopeful they'll turn the board in a positive direction.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: A story of incredible generosity

Anne Snipes Moss, who lives near Blow Horn in West Marlborough, is donating one of her kidneys on Dec. 8 to Shauna Bishop, a woman who works as a veterinary assistant at her husband Dr. John Moss's veterinary clinic, Brandywine Valley Veterinary Hospital. The kidney transplant surgery will take place at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
According to the BVVH Facebook page: "They will be out of the office for several weeks, and hope to be back to work in the New Year. We are grateful for the support for them from the BVVH community, and hope you will send good vibes and prayers to them on the 8th."
Shauna Bishop is getting a new kidney.

Shauna needs to undergo the transplant because of polycystic kidney disease. You can contribute toward her uninsured expenses via a fundraising campaign on the HelpHOPELive website. As Anne Moss writes: "Your support is literally lifesaving, and will enable Shauna to regain her health for a lifetime. On behalf of Shauna and those who know and love her, I thank you in advance for your kindness."

FATHER DENNY: Memorial service plans pending

The funeral Mass for Dennis Van Thuyne ("Father Denny") was said on Dec. 4 at St. Helena Church in Philadelphia, but I'm told his family wants to hold a memorial service closer to Kennett. I will let you know as soon as I hear anything. I know a great many people want to pay their respects and share with the family how much Father Denny will be missed.
Contributions in his memory can be sent to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary or the Brain Injury Association of PA,
Formerly a priest at St. Patrick's Chuch in Kennett, Father Denny suffered a traumatic brain injury during an assault in Philadelphia and started the "General Store" on State Street in Kennett to raise money for fellow victims.

LASAGNE: A West Grove woman's recipe

The other day the "Taste of Home" website featured a delicious-sounding recipe for a classic hearty lasagne from Kim Orr of West Grove. She writes: "This recipe is one of my mom's specialties. It's a hearty main dish that gets requested time and time again. The from-scratch sauce makes each cheesy slice extra flavorful and softer-textured than other versions."
The recipe makes 12 servings:
1. Cook 1 lb ground beef over medium heat until no longer pink. Add 2 minced garlic cloves and cook 1 more minute. Drain. Add 1.5 C water, 15 oz tomato sauce, 6 oz tomato paste, 0.5 to 1 envelope of onion soup mix, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp sugar, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 min.
2. Spoon a half-cup of the meat sauce into a greased 13-by-9 baking dish. Layers with 3 cooked lasagna noodles and 2/3 C 4% cottage cheese, 1.25 C shredded part-skim mozzarella and 2/3 C grated Parmesan. Repeat the layers twice more for a total of 3 layers.
3. Cover. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake 5-10 minutes more. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
(Or you could just go to Giordano's and have their lasagna for dinner, like we did this evening.)

Saturday, December 5, 2015

PASTELS: Vineyard Vines is what's hot

If you have a Unionville teenager in your life as I do, I am sure you know ALL ABOUT Vineyard Vines. It's this Christmas season's red-hot preppy clothing line, kind of like "Hang Ten" or Ralph Lauren Polo shirts were back in my day. There are shirts, hats, jackets, ties, iPhone covers, stickers and even pencils emblazoned with the fanciful whale logo. (Without realizing it, I've seen numerous Vineyard Vine car magnets at the Kennett Y.)
The prices are what you'd expect. You get free shipping if you order $125 worth of merchandise, and it's incredibly easy to do so: even simple T-shirts will set you back $40 or more. (My engineer brother immediately started calculating what the company's profit margin must be.)

Naturally, there are subtle gradations in the items that are evident only to adolescents. The Young Relative and I were scrolling through the site looking at potential Christmas presents for him.
"Oh, I like that color!" I said, pointing to a T-shirt where the whale logo was done in a blue tropical print.
"It's not about the color of the whale!" protested the Young Relative. Apparently, in some complex youth calculus, sleeve length and the pocket placement have far more to do with the item's cachet.
I suggest you order now. The "Clean Catch" T-shirt (an unfortunate name indeed) that we finally settled on was sold out in all sizes except XS. I told him to text me his second choice.

UNIONVILLE: Fed up with speeders

Baby Meow, Tammy Hartzell's beloved pet cat, was killed by a speeding car in the Buffington Street neighborhood in Unionville last week. I've written before about how absurdly fast people travel in that area, which is full of kids. The speed limit is 25 mph on that stretch of Wollaston Road, and there's no way people should be going anywhere near that fast on Buffington Street, which is essentially a one-way alley.

Little Meow was hit by a speeding car.

A Buffington Road resident put this sign up on his fence.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

WEST MARLBOROUGH: State police report on activity

Lieut. Rich D'Ambrosio, the Avondale station commander for the Pennsylvania State Police, attended the West Marlborough Township supervisors meeting on Dec. 1, as he does every quarter, to give an update on the state police activity in the township. He said there had been a total of 60 incidents in the township in September, October, and November, exactly the same as in the same period in 2014. There was not a single criminal incident, he said, and of the 14 car crashes only four were serious.
He suggested that given the increasing popularity of online shopping, residents ask delivery-people to drop off packages around back so they're not visible to potential thieves driving by. He also advised against leaving Christmas tips in the mailbox for postal employees: "Just run it out to them," he suggested. He also encouraged residents to call police if they see anything unusual going on in their neighborhoods. "You know what cars are supposed to be there," he said.
In other business at the township meeting, the township engineer reported that two zoning permits had been issued in November: one for a 20-by-30-foot pole barn at the Dupreys' farm on Wilson Road and one for a 16-by-10-foot run-in shed at the Myers' farm on Newark Road.

LOCAL AUTHOR: Clipper LaMotte's new book

Unionville resident, foxhunter and attorney Clipper LaMotte has written his first novel, "Necessary Vengeance," a crime thriller that's partially set in our own backyard.
One of the characters is "Thaddeus Pennock," perhaps a nod to one of the earliest families who settled here in West Marlborough Township.
Thad is an FBI agent as well as an equestrian. As we learn in Chapter 2: “Then Thad did what he always did to pull himself together. He reached within for the lesson he started learning by foxhunting at the age of twelve alongside his parents. ... If he fell, he was expected to get right up, remount, and carry on without so much as a whimper no matter how frightened he was or how much he hurt unless he broke a bone and couldn’t. Over the years of his youth he did fall, but just as many times he made himself get up and thus came to believe he always could.”  
According to the book's blurb: "The plot races from the sinister world of organized crime in Philadelphia to dirty DC politics and from deadly deception in Buenos Aires to a murderous ambush in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania horse country, with provocative characters and unexpected twists at every turn."
You can download the first chapter for a preview ( or purchase the book online (the e-book is available starting Dec. 8). I'll bet Clipper would even autograph it for you!

The cover to Clipper LaMotte's first novel, "Necessary Vengeance."

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Future of police coverage in the township

No more Clarkie??
The West Marlborough Township supervisors are proposing eliminating local police coverage from the township budget in 2016. The move would save $35,000 per year.
Since 2008 West Marlborough has contracted with neighboring East Marlborough to have its police officer (now chief) Robert Clarke patrol West Marlborough for 40 hours per month. The original goal was to ease parking problems at the Whip tavern in Springdell and cut down on speeding.
At their December board meeting, the West Marlborough supervisors said although they have been pleased with Clarkie's service, the move was a matter of fiscal priorities.
"This indicates no level of dissatisfaction," said Supervisor Bill Wylie. "We've had a very, very good relationship."
He said although the township's income is predictable, its expenses are not, especially when zoning hearings require the township to pay for engineers and attorneys. He said the fee that the applicant pays does not cover the township's expenses.
The supervisors (Wylie, Jake Chalfin and Hugh Lofting Sr.) said they welcome township residents' input into the decision (and I understand they have received some already). The budget will be posted on the bulletin board outside the township building in Doe Run and will be voted on at a Dec. 29 meeting.
Pennsylvania State Police at the Avondale barracks would still patrol the township if the contract with East Marlborough were ended.