Friday, December 30, 2016

KING OF PRUSSIA: Indoor skydiving

On Thanksgiving we were on the Pennsylvania Turnpike passing King of Prussia and saw what looked like a completely out-of-place grain silo. Turns out it's a an indoor skydiving place called iFly, and the "silo" is a vertical wind tunnel.
An adventurous young couple I know tried it out and happened to be talking about it at a Christmas party. For $140, the two of them got instructions, flight gear (helmet, goggles, and a flight suit), and two flights apiece. Tom said the instructor taught them that the key is to maximize your body surface (for instance, by spreading out your hands) so that the air can hold you up.
He and his wife enjoyed watching the instructors show off their skills, flipping around and soaring to the top of the "flight chamber."
iFly has facilities around the country; this one is at 290 Goddard Boulevard.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

INQUIRING MINDS: He's inspecting trees

Some might use the word "nosy"; I prefer "curious" or even "community-minded."
Twice in the past week or so I've noticed a man in a white "Davey Resource Group" vehicle parked along my quiet rural road. Given how unusual it is to see strangers in our neighborhood, it's something you remember.
Well, this morning I spotted him again and was just about to roll down the car window and ask him what he was doing when I noticed he was talking on his phone. So instead I took to social media and asked if anyone knew what was going on.
I quickly learned that others in the Unionville area have noticed him in recent days on Route 926, Route 842 and Lamborntown Road (we ARE an observant bunch!). One fellow saw him walking along Springdell Road writing down utility pole numbers.
And that appears to be the answer. According to Mike Wells, Asplundh has hired the Davey Group to make sure that they cut back the proper trees so falling branches won't take down wires.

KENETT TOWNSHIP: Protecting an 18th-century cottage

The Kennett Township Historical Commission is trying to save from demolition an 18th-century cottage on McFarlan Road that is one of the oldest houses in the township. The owner, Chatham Financial, wants to tear it down and has applied to the township for a demolition permit.
The original part of the Isaac Allen House measures only 17 feet by 18 feet, with 18-inch-thick walls, and the Commission believes it is especially valuable just because of its modest size: "It was an ordinary house for an ordinary family who were the early settlers in Kennett Township."
It was constructed no later than 1751, which means it was here during the Battle of the Brandywine -- and on the very road that the British and Hessians marched along to the Battle.
The Commission is asking Chatham Financial to rethink its plans: "We can imagine this tiny house as a welcoming gateway structure for Chatham Financial, conveying the message of respect and commitment that this firm has for the Township, its residents and our history."
The Commission wants the financial services firm to put the demolition permit on hold for a year, during which time the two groups can develop a mutually agreeable plan to preserve and manage the building, possibly with a new owner or tenant. 
The two-story, ivy-covered structure, which has a modern addition, was last used in 2012 as an office but has since been vacant. A detailed November 2016 study by Cultural Resource Consultants, requested by Kennett Township and paid for by Chatham, traced the history of the structure, documented its condition, spelled out the pros and cons of preserving it and offered six possible scenarios for its future. 

Front and rear views of the Isaac Allen cottage. Photos were taken on Oct. 16, 2016, by Robert Wise, and are from the Historic Structures Report.

NONPROFITS: A big benefactor

Here is an encouraging story for anyone who volunteers for a nonprofit group or does fundraising for a community organization. The director of one local not-for-profit said that a rep from a charitable foundation called her a few months ago, out of the blue, and asked a few questions about the group's work. They chatted for maybe five minutes, and then she forgot about the whole matter.
Until a check for $20,000 arrived. The director said "surprised" would be an understatement.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

CHRISTMAS: Wonderful parties

A few memorable Christmas quotes I heard:
1. "My sister-in-law asked for my scalloped potatoes recipe and I had to 'fess up: they came from Costco. She couldn't believe it!" A friend who brought fabulous chicken teriyaki meatballs to a Dec. 23 party. They were from, you guessed it, Costco.
2. My companion, as we're driving along Cherry Lane, off Schoolhouse Road, on our way to a Christmas Eve dinner, suddenly bursts out, "Oooo, baby, light my fire!"
"What? WHAT??" I ask in confusion.
"Those women, setting out luminaries along the curb," he said. "What did you think I meant?"
3. "That's the sign of a good party, when people are sitting on the steps." The host, at a Christmas Eve party.
4. "You haven't seen 'Frozen'?" Addressed to me, with utter wonderment and disbelief, by an adorable preschooler after Christmas dinner.
5. "But I have student loans!" A recent college graduate, losing a box full of possibly-winning lottery tickets to his cousin in a cut-throat game of Greedy Santa after Christmas dinner.
6. "I'm actually really looking forward to getting back into the routine." A partied-out friend at the gym, on Dec. 27.

SAFETY: A Christmas miracle

A young couple I know were driving home from Christmas dinner when they were hit by another car on Route 926 at the Conservatory Road intersection (the Red Lion intersection). Their car flipped and rolled over a few times. The husband and wife are sore and have a few cuts and bruises, but their two young children didn't even have a small scrape.
She writes: "All the emergency responders couldn't believe we were all fine; they expected a different outcome upon seeing the accident site. It was a Christmas miracle for sure."
She absolutely believes the car seats saved her children's lives and writes: "There is no price you can put on the safety of yourself or your children. Here are some of the rules we follow and I beg you to follow them too.
"1. Invest in an awesome safety-rated car seat. It will be more expensive, but completely worth it. We have a high-back booster for our son. For our daughter we have the Advocate convertible car seat.
2. Practice extended rear facing. The new law in PA says children must stay rear-facing until 2 years old. Even though [their daughter] is almost 2.5, we will continue to have her rear-facing until at least 3. It is the SAFEST position for your baby/young child. I would rather her end up with a broken leg than a broken neck.
3. Just because your child seems old enough for a booster does not mean you need to switch him/her. Car seats have weight and height limits; look at those before switching. And when you do, please consider a high back booster with a 5-point harness. This is what [their son] was in and I guarantee it is why he did not suffer whiplash like we did, or anything worse.
4. PULL THOSE CAR SEAT STRAPS TIGHT, to the point where you feel like it is too tight. We have the click-tight straps in our car seats, and we still pull it tighter. I want to know my children are completely secure. And, make sure the clip is at armpit level.
5. Do not keep winter coats on your children in the car. Neither of our children had coats on during our car accident. Because of this, their straps were able to be pulled tightly to keep them secure.
Hug your family and babies a little tighter and remember they are the most important thing in the world. Nothing else matters. Do whatever you can to make sure they are as safe as possible."

Friday, December 23, 2016

PUMPKINS: Not just for Halloween

In the suburban neighborhood where I grew up, there was no question about what happened to your jack-o'-lantern after it had served its holiday function: it went in the trash and the trash truck took it away.
Not so here in Unionville.
I grew a good crop of pumpkins this year, thanks to Burpee's Halloween Blend, and friends were vying for them for a variety of reasons. My brother wanted them for the seeds, which he roasts and eats. (I used to give him just the seeds; now I just dump off the entire pumpkin in his yard and let him do the work.)
Friends who raise chickens also clamored for them, as apparently rotting pumpkins are a favorite for hens and roosters. A friend and I worked out a swap: she bought lunch and in return I loaded up a few dozen pumpkins in her pickup.
While driving around West Marlborough the other day, I passed a North Chatham Road farm where an adorable pig, three or four goats, and a rooster were chowing down on a huge pumpkin. There was a large pile of gourds and pumpkins stored behind the pen still to be eaten. I'm told that pumpkins were a mainstay of agriculture in Colonial days because they were great food for hogs. Nothing is wasted on a well-run farm!

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This West Marlborough pig is enjoying a pumpkin.

DEVICES: A stereotype revealed

We tend to think of younger people as the natural experts on electronic devices, whereas those of us who grew up in those dark days before cell phones and the Internet sometimes struggle.
But that, of course, is not always the case.
Yesterday afternoon I was at Foxy Loxy in Unionville drinking hot chocolate and catching up with a friend (and laughing, I am sure, far too loudly) when an older woman came in with a middle-aged man and woman (I'm assuming son and daughter, or son-in-law, or daughter-in-law).
They were talking about current movies, and the older woman pulled out her phone and spoke to it, asking for information about what was playing in the cinemas near Bryn Mawr. I looked over at her daughter or daughter-in-law in amazement.
"I know," she said. "I still have a flip phone."


One of my network of correspondents called to my attention a newspaper ad for Good's Store, a chain of Lancaster County department stores, which was advertising a Dec. 23 "Midnight Gladness" sale from 6 p.m. to midnight.
"Sounds much nicer than Midnight Madness," he wrote. "Props to them."

Thursday, December 22, 2016

BIRTHDAY: Excellent customer service

By accident, a birthday card to a friend of mine from his sister was delivered to the Republic Services trash-collection company in West Grove, which has a street address similar to his.
Michele, who works in customer service at Republic, forwarded it on to him, apologizing for the delay and explaining that she had opened the card in error because the company receives so many Christmas cards this time of year.
She also wrote on her sticky note, "You are double blessed to celebrate the Savior's birth month with yours." She said she was determined to get the card to him because "No Birthday would be complete without a card from your best sister!"
She wished him a Happy Birthday, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and noted that like the Hallmark slogan, "Your sister cared to send the best for her Best Brother Ever!") (Which is true, given that he is also her ONLY brother.)
As if that wasn't enough, Michele even went out and got a fresh envelope for the card: "Hallmark provided the tan envelope -- they apologize for not having lavender."

FOOD BANK: Hunt Cup helps out

On Dec. 20, the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup Committee contributed a check for $50,000 to the Chester County Food Bank, Kathleen Rengert, the Hunt Cup's executive director, told me. The money was raised at the annual equestrian event held in West Marlborough Township. The Food Bank, headquartered in Exton, provides food through a network of food cupboards, hot meal sites, shelters, and other social service organizations.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

RIP: Some local people who left us

At the end of each year I like to look back and remember those who have left us. Here is the list I came up with for 2016:
-- Milton Lowe, a resident of Brandywine Senior Living and the father of a friend of mine. A U.S. Navy veteran and an active member of the Jewish War Veterans, he participated in the 2015 Kennett Square Memorial Day parade, and when the car he was riding in broke down, he hitched a ride on the Native American float and had the time of his life singing and dancing with them.
-- Bob Brooks, who lived in Chatham and sold the best Christmas trees ever
-- Thomas Cummings, a local history buff, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and a two-time Purple Heart recipient who fought at Iwo Jima. He lived in Mortonville and showed me the spot where in 1928 the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh made an emergency landing, off what is now Lone Eagle Road ("Lone Eagle" was the name of Lindbergh's plane).
-- Frito, a faithful donkey, and Brandy, a much-loved rescue dog
-- Connie Nichols, one of the founders of the Tick-Tock Day Care Center in Toughkenamon and a longtime member of Kennett Friends Meeting. She restored the Bayard Taylor house in Cedarcroft, the Gregg house on Chandler Mill Road, a couple of South Broad Street houses, and two West Grove historic properties. The obituary for this Kendal resident read: "In lieu of flowers or donations, please save an old house."
-- George Zacharkiw, a beloved husband, father, and grandfather who fought multiple myeloma and had so many people rooting for him to win
-- Marjorie Kaskey, a local historian and fellow Dorothy Sayers fan
-- George A. "Frolic" Weymouth, the larger-than-life Chadds Ford conservationist, artist, fundraiser, carriage driver and bon vivant
-- Philip Fanning, a Unionville fixture; a father and grandfather, a horse breeder and foxhunter. I didn't know until I read his obituary that this gentleman won the Maryland Hunt Cup in 1958 aboard Ned's Flying.
-- Elsie Johnson, a matriarch of the Longwood Fire Co. At her funeral in Wilmington, her hearse was escorted by three fire trucks, along with many Kennett-area firefighters.
-- Leon Rowe of Kennett Square, who taught social studies at Avon Grove High School for 30 years and, with his wife Dolores, collected old postcards and political campaign memorabilia.
-- Tom Musser, a 1952 UHS graduate (and a Wall of Fame honoree), who was chairman and founder of The Tri-M Group. He put his business savvy, community connections, and personal energy and charm to work for the benefit of a whole host of local organizations, including the capital campaign to build the YMCA on Race Street.
-- Denise F. Miller of Lincoln University, who worked for 33 years for the Unionville Chadds Ford School District, most recently as administrative secretary to the superintendent. As her former colleague Don Silknitter said, "Denise had been the rock that held the district together since she was hired by Dr. Charles Garris decades ago."
-- John W. Singer Jr., a 1969 UHS graduate. A line from his obituary explains part of the reason his death is such a loss to so many: "John was a small engine mechanic his entire life. There was virtually no engine he couldn’t diagnose or fix. He also enjoyed cutting grass, snow plowing and wood splitting. He was always working on something." A friend whose steep and winding driveway John plowed said he would never send her and her husband a bill; at the end of the winter, they'd try to figure out how many times he had plowed and then write him a check what they thought would be a fair amount.
-- Thomas G. Gaspar of Kennett Square, a native of Budapest. Again, I quote from his obituary: "As a young man, he was a proud Scout Master and was one of the Freedom Fighters who sought to resist the Soviet occupation of Hungary. Like many others, he was captured and jailed. He spent four years in a political prison. Upon his release he was able to escape to the West." I had met this gentleman socially -- he was the president of Morning Star Coffee, which donated coffee to some event I was involved with -- but had no idea of his heroic background. Amazing!And back in 2015, I can't believe I forgot to mention Don Pusey (a fact of which his widow, Barbara, reminded me with some spirit!). Our bucolic West Marlborough Township would not be the same without the foresight he displayed as a township supervisor and the emphasis he placed on open space preservation.

YMCA: Hooray for this Mom!

Overheard in the locker room at the Jennersville Y, Monday, Dec. 19:
Swim-team girl hands her bathing suit to her mother to rinse: "That's YOUR job."
Mom: "My job? My JOB?? My job is to keep you fed and clothed; the rest are luxuries."

WXPN: An A-to-Z marathon

On our jaunts around town in the Jeep we usually tune in to 88.5 FM WXPN, the University of Pennsylvania-based radio station, which plays a great mix of music old and new. For the past few weeks the station has replaced its normal programming with an A-to-Z lineup of some 6,000 songs, starting with the Jackson 5's "ABC" and ending with "ZZ Top Goes To Egypt" by Camper Van Beethoven.
It was fun hearing the first few notes of the song and trying to "name that tune" based on where in the alphabet they'd gotten to.
There were some genuine surprises, like when we were listening to the "D's" and the Rolling Stones' classic "Heartbreaker" (from the 1973 "Goats Head Soup" album) came on.
What?? Could an ABC-challenged person at the station have made a mistake? No, some quick Googling showed that the song's real name is actually "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo"!
Now that the A-to-Z is over, it's back to our favorites "Sleepy Hollow," "The Many Moods of Ben Vaughn," "The Blues Show," and "Mountain Stage."

Monday, December 19, 2016

CHRISTMAS: Carol sing at Marlborough Friends

On Sunday evening we went to Marlborough Friends Meeting's annual Christmas carol sing and greatly enjoyed both the singing and the fellowship.
After a brief period of silent worship, a guitarist and harp player led us in singing  more than a dozen songs, both traditional and secular ones, including a complete version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." We ended with "Silent Night."
Our hosts at Marlborough had set out a table full of home-made cookies, breads and other delicious snacks, along with cider from Barnard's Orchards. I saw several women I know from the Unionville Community Fair, and we laughed about how difficult it is to recognize someone "out of context."
I also had an interesting discussion with one of the Marlborough members about how different the local Quaker meetings are from each other. Marlborough is one of the smaller meetings but has a core of dedicated members and a charming, nicely preserved meetinghouse.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

MEANING OF LIFE: Gratitude from a mother

Lisa Moore, the manager of Kennett Township, wrote the following post on Facebook on Dec. 17 after her son and his friends survived a late-night 30-car pileup in which two people died. I found her thoughts to be both true and relevant. She kindly gave me permission to share it:
"I must say how thankful I am this morning that my son and his friends are home safe. . . . How tragic for those families that are grieving this morning. I pray and pray for them.
"I am writing this because I read through many Facebook posts and see people attacking and degrading each other over things that truly don't matter.
What matters in this world are our loved ones, being nice and helpful to each other and thankful to be on this earth. I hope going through this holiday season everyone realizes how fortunate they are and tell the ones you love how much you appreciate them each and every day."

LIBRARY: A new director is hired

Congratulations to Megan Walters, the new director of the Kennett Library (aka the Bayard Taylor Memorial Library). She will begin her job on Jan. 9. 
According to a Dec. 18 press release from the library board, "Walters comes to Kennett from the Denver Public Library system where she managed the Smiley Branch Library. Before her tenure in Denver, Megan was the Interim Director of the Cooper Memorial Library in Opelika, Alabama."
She has a master's degree in library and information sciences from the University of Alabama and a B.A. from Auburn University with a major in anthropology.  
The library plans to hold a series of “Mondays with Megan” in February so she can meet the community.
Megan Walters is the new Library Director.

CHALFANT: An update on the renovation project

Jayne Bair, who owns the Chalfant Mansion in downtown Kennett, texted me the other day: Would I like to see the progress being made on renovating the historic house, which was heavily damaged by fire in November 2014?
Of course I said yes, and what a difference from the last time I was inside the fire-damaged treasure back in March! New windows have been installed, allowing much more light inside. Workers from MOBAC are busy rebuilding the back part of the house from the ground up. The elaborate fireplaces, which were heavily damaged by smoke, are being cleaned. Some of the woodwork was burned beyond repair; the banister on one part of the staircase is being replicated, for example.
The 1884 mansion, designed by noted Philadelphia architect Frank Furness, will serve as the headquarters for Jayne's real-estate business (Century 21 Pierce & Bair), and she hopes she and her agents will be able to move in next March.
This stylized carving of a dog's head decorates one of the fireplaces.

This part of the staircase is being replaced.

CHRISTMAS: A Boy Scout tree

Thanks to Boy Scout Troop 53 of Kennett Square, we have possibly the largest, fullest Christmas tree that has ever graced this home. We were late in our tree-shopping, waiting until Dec. 18, and by that time all of the smaller trees at the Scouts' sale in the Giant parking lot were long gone and only the $55 and $65 ones remained. 
The boys were helpful salesmen, pointing out several trees they thought we might like. When one youth lifted a tree off the rack for our inspection, we could see it was a winner and the sale was made. The boys made a fresh cut in the trunk, trimmed off some bottom branches and then wrangled the tree to our car.
The fathers who were supervising said ordering a sufficient number of trees of various sizes (they buy theirs from a tree farm in Gettysburg) is always a balancing act. It seems that if they order smaller trees, people want larger ones, and vice versa.
Anyway, it's a lovely tree, and I'm happy that our money went to the Scouts, always a very good cause. Time to start stringing popcorn and cranberries, a Tally-ho tradition!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

HILLENDALE: PTO election lawsuit is refiled

Hillendale Elementary School parent Kathleen Carmody has refiled her lawsuit against school principal Steve Dissinger and PTO co-president Jennifer Scattolino, accusing them of rigging a PTO election that she lost.
In late November, Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark Tunnell dismissed the original suit, telling Mrs. Carmody that any amended complaint would have to be in the form of a derivative suit as a member of the PTO. In her new suit, Mrs. Carmody (who is an attorney) states that she represents all members of the PTO.
She wants a new election to be held.
Hillendale parents, already outraged by the original lawsuit, are circulating a petition at the school saying that Mrs. Carmody's actions "in no way represent our interests."
"I am not with her. I do not agree with her at all. And I will not let her speak for me or my family," said Hillendale parent Janette Hartney Grieb in an accompanying letter.
Al Iacocca, the attorney representing the PTO and Mrs. Scattolino, said when the lawsuit was first dismissed that Mrs. Carmody was trying to "bully her way back onto" the PTO board and said her motivation was "sour grapes."  
After she refiled, the school board's reaction was: "The Board maintains its position that this is, and continues to be, a frivolous and meritless lawsuit, as well as a huge waste of time and resources."

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FELINE: An update on Clarence

One of the highlights of this year in my household has been watching Clarence, our rescue cat, come out his shell.
When Clarence arrived at the SPCA in West Chester, he was a starving and filthy stray. We adopted him on Oct. 23, and for the first several weeks he focused on getting his strength back: eating, drinking and sleeping. Now that the nine-year-old tabby is up to 11 lbs, he is starting to behave more like a typical cat.
He's gotten fussy about what he eats, ignoring any flavor of canned food except for Purina Classic Seafood Entrée (pate style, thank you) -- for this week, at least. He ignores the expensive organic treats I bought him from Wegman's.
Initially he showed no interest in cat toys. Then, a few weeks ago, I put a stuffed mouse next to him on the easy chair in my office where he likes to sleep. A moment later I heard a thump: he had knocked it to the floor. I returned it to the chair, and not only did he knock it off again but he jumped down after it and started batting it around with his paws. I was beyond thrilled.
One thing has not changed, though, and that is his sweet, affectionate nature. He purrs pretty much nonstop and loves to cuddle with his minders.

WINTER: On the bright side

It's one of those glass-half-empty or glass-half-full situations. Yes, the first day of winter (Dec. 22) means we have months of cold, soaring heating bills, over-hyped "winter weather events" and storm-related cancellations ahead of us.
But it also means that sunset will be advancing a few minutes later each day. It's depressing when it gets dark by 5 p.m.

NOTTINGHAM: A trip to the Herr's lights

On Dec. 14 we enjoyed an early dinner at the Nottingham Inn (once again forgetting to save room for ice cream) and then visited the drive-though Christmas lights display at Herr Foods. The lights are really beautiful, and the display (which runs through the end of December) is free and well worth the drive down the Route 1 bypass to Nottingham.
At the end of the tour is a sign remembering Miriam Hershey Herr, who died on Sept. 4 at age 89. She was the widow of James Herr, the founder of the company.


SURGERY: A white-bandage Christmas

A fellow I know had Mohs surgery the other day to remove a skin cancer on his neck, followed the next day by a skin graft to cover the wound. When I saw him, he had a thick white bandage covering the side and back of his neck. He admitted that the area was more than a little sore, but displaying his usual stoicism he downplayed the entire event as "a minor skirmish." His main concern was that the large bandage would frighten his grandchildren on Christmas Day.

Monday, December 12, 2016

UNIONVILLE: An after-dinner surprise

On Sunday afternoon I was chatting on the phone to the senior Tally-hos, who (wisely) have retreated to their southern quarters for the winter. I mentioned that we'd be having dinner that evening with some family members at Hood's, a family favorite. 
So the five of us had a delicious dinner, and after the plates were cleared, our waiter came over and announced that there was no bill; our meals (and his tip) had already been paid for! We were astonished and delighted.
Of course, Mum and Dad were our benefactors. They had phoned Larry Hood Sr. from down south and arranged to pick up our dinner tab! (Larry kept an admirable poker face throughout dinner so as not to spoil the surprise.)
Thank you from all of us to these kind and most generous parents. 

UHS: Age of wisdom, age of foolishness

Those concerned that American high-school curricula are being "dumbed down" can be reassured that the academics at Unionville High School are as rigorous as ever.
The Young Relative and his classmates are in the midst of a thorough study of Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities." For each chapter, the YR reports (his shoulders sagging with effort), he is required to write a summary that includes not only the plot developments but also how each character has changed and the various literary devices that Dickens uses.
I couldn't help but contrast this close analysis to a Dickens seminar I took my senior year in college, where we read a novel a week and simply had to discuss a favorite passage.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

DELAWARE: A Christmas lights road trip

For the first half-hour we thought we were on a wild-goose chase: the "must-see!" displays promised by the online itinerary of Delaware Christmas lights were pretty much duds.
But then we arrived at 1054 Red Lion Road in Bear. The Faucher family have transformed their property into an over-the-top facsimile of Who-ville from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." The garage is Santa's living room, with a mechanical Santa in an easy chair. Cars were parked along the road and despite the sub-freezing temperatures, families got out to see the dazzling display. We were glad there was a donation box to help defray the homeowner's electric bill.

The Christmas display at the Fauchers' house in Bear, Del.

A Dr. Seuss-like Christmas tree at the Fauchers' house in Bear, Del.

The Who-ville display at the Fauchers' house in Bear, Del.

Our next stop was Odessa, where the historic houses were tastefully and conservatively decorated. Think Colonial Williamsburg style, with traditional evergreen wreaths highlighted with pineapples and citrus, and subtle lights in the windows.
Just east of Odessa -- and this was not on the itinerary -- we happened upon Ruddy Duck Court, a cul-de-sac where a homeowner has set up in the yard a lavish computer-controlled light display with a low-power FM soundtrack that you could tune in to on your car radio. The spectacular display started with "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas," went through "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," the Flintstones Christmas song, and several others before finishing on a more somber note with Pachelbel's ethereal Canon.
Most of the animation appeared on a Christmas tree-shaped screen, but the green lights that outlined the house's roof joined in on several of the songs. It was just amazing. After watching the whole cycle, we pulled out to make room for another car of spectators.
On the way home, my driver remembered that we needed light bulbs, so we made a stop at the Newark Lowe's before heading back to Pennsylvania. What on earth could have made him think of light bulbs?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

DINNER: A clear explanation

I had to laugh when a friend asked me to attend a potluck supper later this month.
"Bring a covered dish," she said, "with food in it."
She spends a lot of time with her grandchildren (and great-grandchildren!), so perhaps she is used to giving literal instructions.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

DOE RUN: On location in West Marlborough

Isabella Sutton, a Temple University film student, drove out in a rainstorm from Philadelphia to the West Marlborough township meeting on Dec. 6 to ask the supervisors' permission to shoot part of a film in the township.
Ms. Sutton is producing the short film, called "The Bandaged Heart," and told the supervisors she was searching for a "beautiful country road" for the two main characters to walk along, ideally with a sunset view. She found the perfect spot along Wilson Road near Doe Run village. She said the film crew will comprise 15 to 20 students, and they will be covered by insurance.
Wilson Road will be closed for the filming from 2 to 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 13. The supervisors asked Ms. Sutton to coordinate with township road crew supervisor Hugh Lofting to make sure signage is in place to alert motorists. Rain, but not snow, may change the crew's schedule, she said.
Ms. Sutton has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise $3,000 for production costs. She writes that the crew members "are seniors on different tracks in the film program and are putting one film together combining all skill sets . . . Making a short film requires a lot of dedication, time, and funding. From paying for locations to gas, it can add up quickly."
She summarized the project as "a narrative short film that all can relate to. The film portrays themes of isolation, abandonment, harassment, and how these relate to the LGBTQ community. Our primary focus in this narrative is to, through symbolism and careful storytelling, bring attention and awareness to persecution of LGBTQ youth in rural America."


WEST MARLBOROUGH: No tax increase

West Marlborough residents will see no increase in their millage rate or their 0.5 percent earned income tax under the 2017 budget proposed by the township supervisors on Dec. 6. Bill Wylie, chairman of the board of supervisors, said the 2017 budget is similar to the 2016 one. It will be posted on the bulletin board outside of the township building in Doe Run for public review, and the supervisors will take an official vote on the budget at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 29.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Goodbye to a familiar face

The Dec. 6 township meeting marked the last official West Marlborough meeting for township engineer Al Giannantonio, who is retiring from his position at Yerkes Associates.
Both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors passed resolutions thanking Al for his years of service.
Planning Commission member Roy Jackson took the opportunity to ask Al whether the planners should be doing anything differently. He thought for a moment and responded, "I've been to a lot of planning commission meetings, on both sides of the fence, for 46 years, and I think you've got a pretty astute group of people here." He said meetings in some other townships last into the wee hours and degenerate into "arguing and confrontation," but "I've never seen that here."
Al also noted the township's "efficient, low-cost township building" (the township hall is rented and also serves as the township garage and the local polling place). 
Al said he would not be idle in his retirement: he has a long list of household projects to complete and also plans to spend time working on his antique cars.
Replacing Al as the township engineer will be Fran Greene, who also works for Yerkes. He lives in West Chester and has bachelor's and master's degrees in civil engineering from Villanova.

KENNETT SQUARE: Mary Dugan remembered

On Wednesday, Dec. 7, I had the honor of attending a lovely gathering at the Sunrise Café in downtown Kennett to dedicate a bench to the memory of local historian Mary Dugan. A longtime English teacher at Patton Middle School, Mary would regularly gather her friends and colleagues at the restaurant for meetings, so owner Lynn Sinclair thought it was a fitting tribute.
The plaque on the back of the wooden bench reads "In memory of local historian and founder of the Kennett Underground Railroad Center Mary Larkin Dugan 1935-2013" and has a North Star on it. The star has come to symbolize the Underground Railroad because the slaves fleeing from the South used it to guide their nighttime travels.
Gathered for the ceremony were two of Mary's sons -- one who traveled all the way from Maine for the event -- and one of her grandsons; two 90-year-old friends of Mary's, Ella Sestrich (who used to own Sestrich's Market in Unionville) and Mary Anderson; and several of Mary's other friends, including Marlene Drewes, Nancy Pennock Sager (Herb Pennock's granddaughter), and Janet Deckman. Lynn served coffee ice cream (Mary's favorite) and chocolate-chip biscotti as everyone reminisced about historical sites near and far that Mary took them to, the impact she had on our community, and how much she is missed by people in so many different circles.
Stop by the Sunrise Café for breakfast or lunch and take a look at the bench and the photographs of Mary and Underground Railroad materials that Lynn has gathered.

EAST MARLBOROUGH: Functional fitness

My pal Krysta, who organizes group exercise classes at the Kennett YMCA and teaches many of them herself, had the chance on Dec. 7 to put her impressive musculature to work outside of the gym. Here is her account:
"Heading into the [Longwood] Wawa I spot a young man (30s) and a medium young man (50s?) pushing a car up the hill to turn into the parking lot. As cars made their way around them and zipped by, I sat watching for a moment at the stop sign as they struggled to push and steer around the turn and up the hill. No one jumped out to help but kept passing them awkwardly.
"Suddenly I thought: Hey, I am as able-bodied and BodyPump strong as any dude that could help. So I zip into parking spot, run down the hill and begin to help.
"Their responses made me laugh as they originally questioned my strength but were quickly impressed. We pushed it right into place at the gas pump and I felt good about a good deed and a purpose for my muscles.
"Also secretly always wanted to try to push a car."
Strength, by the way, runs in her family: her brother Jon Zacharkiw still holds the UHS shot put record, which he set in 2003.

This plaque hangs in the UHS lobby. Recognize any names?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

PHOENIXVILLE: The Firebird Festival

On Saturday we visited Phoenixville, which was hosting its annual Firebird Festival, the climax of which is the burning of a huge wooden phoenix at Friendship Field on the north side of the borough. All afternoon there were musical performances in the shops on Bridge Street and Church Street, and we had a great time wandering around being tourists and stopping in here and there to warm ourselves up. We especially liked the Barn Swallows, a guitar-and-dobro duo who played at the Soltane Bridges Café and Bakery.
Later in the afternoon Morris dancers, cloggers, and hobby-horse dancers performed outside the Colonial Theater -- it was like we were in an English village! -- and while we were eating our dinner at XPress Pizza we could see fire jugglers spinning their blazing batons across the street.
Up at Friendship Field medieval warriors from a group called Barenheim were staging mock battles. We noticed that some of them quickly put down their weapons and went AWOL when the pizza delivery guy arrived with his white boxes.
Judging from the number of businesses and restaurants in town and the big apartment complex that is being built, Phoenixville seems to be a thriving town. It was also a remarkably friendly one. While we were at the coffee shop we asked where the phoenix bonfire was going to be held, and several helpful customers chimed in, giving us good directions and informing us about the shuttle bus (we walked instead). Random people we encountered on the street smiled and said hello, and even the folks who were asking us about parking (right, like we knew!) were polite.

PETITIONS: Just a way to collect email addresses

It seems like I'm always being asked to sign petitions for this, that, or the other cause on social media. I always refuse, and in a Dec. 3 posting the political website The Daily Kos provided an excellent explanation of why: "Petitions are sign-up forms for your organization. They are a way to build a contact list of like-minded people, so that you can send those people emails with more impactful actions on related topics at a later date."
In other words, you might think you're just lending support to a single good cause championed by a friend, but what you're really doing is adding your name to a mailing list and asking for an avalanche of emails. No thanks!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

UNIONVILLE: Social hour before the hunt

Lydia Bartholomew hosted a splendid "tea" in the barn at her Plumsted Farm on Saturday morning to thank the local landowners who let the Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds hunt on their properties.
I got to say hello to lots of friends and neighbors, enjoyed cider, chili and a pastry, and watched the hounds and foxhunters set off for their day's adventure. Lydia told me that the Cheshire club has grown to the point that there are now three "fields" (meaning groups) of foxhunters, each with its own fieldmaster. There's also an athletic fellow named John who follows the hunt on foot and, I'm told, actually manages to keep up with them!
I ran into Clipper LaMotte at the brunch table and pestered him about when he is going to finish up his second Thaddeus Pennock crime novel for our reading pleasure. He compared the writing process to pulling teeth.

BLUEGRASS: The sunny side of life

On Dec. 2 we went to a concert by the bluegrass band the Red Squirrel Chasers down in Newark. (Hint: you know you're in the right place for a old-time music show when you see a license plate that says "Fiddler.")
The four musicians were a cheery bunch, but the songs they played represented a catalogue of abject misery: a double-fatal house fire, a woman who dies after visiting her son ("I'm Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail"), a suicidal fellow suffering from unrequited love ("No Letter in the Mail Today"), and years of marital stress ("Cold Rain and Snow").
At one point, after playing yet another grim song ("Short Life of Trouble"), the mandolin player (Jim Collier) turned to the guitarist (Jim Nelson) and said, "How did we come up with this set list?!"
On a brighter, and, they insisted, more characteristic, note, they finished with a rousing singalong version of "She'll Be Comin' Around the Mountain." 

ART: A show and sale at The Gables

My artist friend Patsy Keller asked me to mention an art show and sale on Sunday, Dec. 11, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. upstairs at The Gables restaurant in Chadds Ford. Patsy will be displaying her fused art glass and jewelry. Jack Marshall will bring his oil paintings (yes, THAT Jack Marshall; he is an artist as well as a musician and music teacher). Other participants are jewelry maker Philice Ray (“Philices’ Pieces”), photographer Daphne Longo-Okcuoglu, and Mindy Blackman (drawings and paintings).
Patsy writes: "The goal is to showcase local artists, while offering the community a relaxed setting where they can enjoy the creative surroundings, and find unique gifts for their family and friends."


RELIGION: Revisiting Quakerism 101

Kevin Arnold, former Clerk of London Grove Friends Meeting, gave an excellent talk about Quakerism on Nov. 29 at West Grove meeting as part of their ongoing "Faiths of Our Neighbors" series. As he observed, though, he was "preaching to the choir"; I recognized almost everyone as active members of the local Quaker community.
Kevin was an exceptionally interesting speaker and gave an overview of Quaker history in England and America. He talked about the basic tenets of the religion (summarized using the acronym SPICES: simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship); Quaker worship and decision-making methods; and the current problems facing the faith.
I had an interesting conversation after the lecture about the balance in Quakerism between politics and civil activism versus God and traditional spirituality -- an old, old debate.

CARLISLE: Another voice heard from

I still follow the news from Carlisle, the central Pennsylvania town where I went to college and walked my first newspaper beat. It seems a lone protestor named Ernest Perce showed up in the center of town the other day and attracted much attention for his anti-Israel sign (misspelled) and the fact that he was dragging an American flag on the pavement behind him. 
In a sentence every reporter would love to write, "Perce wound up on the hood of a vehicle and was carried down Hanover Street, police said."
The protestor said he was from the Flat Earth Ministries. Of course I had to check out their website, which contains all manner of way-out-there arguments, including the "Moon Landing Hoax." And who knew that Stanley Kubrick's movie "Eyes Wide Shut" is chock-full of coded evidence for Globe Earth propaganda? But I have to admit, they managed to get a pretty good pun in their slogan: "The Plane Truth About the Flat Earth."

EAST MARLBOROUGH: The fall of a Bread Lady

Here's hoping that Bread Lady Barbara is feeling better soon. It seems she took a bad tumble on some pavement and was feeling so battered that she just couldn't handle any bread making, so the Bakers at Red Lion shop was closed this past weekend.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

UNIONVILLE: With one fell swoop

What happened to the traffic signs at the intersection of Routes 82 and 162/Wollaston Road in the middle of Unionville? A tractor-trailer knocked them down the morning of Monday, Nov. 28, and then just kept heading north on Route 82. The stop signs are back in place at the busy intersection; not so much the street signs.

TRADER JOE'S: Why not here?

A Unionville friend (need I add that she is a huge Trader Joe's fan?) asked me to mention to my readers that on the Trader Joe's website, there's a place where you can ask them to consider opening a branch near you. (It's under FAQs, "What can I do to bring a Trader Joe's to my neighborhood?") She personally thinks the vacant Superfresh store in the Longwood shops on Baltimore Pike would be a great spot for the fun, laid-back, high-quality store to move into.

PATTON: Celtic Christmas Concert

The Hadley Fund is presenting a Celtic Christmas Concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, in the freshly renovated auditorium at Charles Patton Middle School. Performers will be the Seasons Family Band, Two Pipers Piping, the Washington Memorial Pipe Band, and the Campbell Scottish Dancers. Admission (as for all Hadley Fund programs) is free.

FAMILIES: Imagine, dinner table conversation!

A Kennett Square friend reports that she recently got tired of her family taking the path of least resistance and eating dinner while watching television, so she insisted that they start weaning themselves from the tube. We will sit at the table and actually talk to each other, she declared.
She and her husband started out this bold initiative by playing trivia games like naming state capitols and having mini-spelling bees. Much to their surprise, their teenage son, after a few days of sulking, starting joining in the conversation. My friend said she is delighted at the increase in "family time" they are enjoying merely by turning off the TV. 

A.I. DUPONT: True gratitude

The teenage son of a gym friend developed appendicitis on Thanksgiving eve and underwent emergency surgery.
"Wow!" I said. "So much for Thanksgiving!"
"No, not at all," she replied quickly. "We were just SO grateful we were at such a wonderful hospital."
She said the surgeons at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington took her son to the operating room as soon as he was diagnosed. He is recovering so well that he can't wait to get back into the pool for swim practice.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

MOVIES: "Fabulous Beasts"

Another Harry Potter fan and I headed over to the Painters Crossing AMC movie theater on Saturday to see "Fabulous Beasts and Where to Find Them," the "prequel" to the Harry Potter saga that is based on one of Harry's Hogwarts schoolbooks. The movie, written by J.K. Rowling, is about an English wizard, Newt Scamander, who comes to New York in 1926 in search of magical creatures.
The beasts were wonderfully imagined. There was a kleptomaniac little platypus (the Niffler), a snake that expanded to fill whatever space it was in (whether a teapot or the whole of Manhattan), a rhinoceros with a crush on an unfortunate Non-Maj (what Americans call Muggles), and a temperamental green plant-like pet prone to picking locks and pouting.
The sometimes dizzying visual effects were over the top for me, but probably most moviegoers would expect nothing less. Despite the enchanting mythical creatures, there are some distinctly dark themes and violent scenes, so I wouldn't think it would be appropriate for young elementary-age kids.

CABELA'S: The outdoor life

I am probably preaching to the choir here, as most of my readers already are well aware of this, but I want to say what an impressive store Cabela's is. We visited the Newark branch after breakfast on Sunday morning (it's next to the Christiana Mall) and we had a great time browsing through the vast array of hunting, camping and fishing paraphernalia. They stock everything from crossbows and ice-fishing huts to dehydrated meals and fleece nightshirts. 
As you walk in the main entrance there's a display of life-size stuffed wildlife on a mountainside, with a real waterfall cascading past them, and you can watch seriously large fish swimming around in the huge tank. They even have a kennel where your dog can hang out while you are shopping.
The store employees were wonderful: friendly and knowledgeable but not intrusive. One even took our photo in front of the moose!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

ELECTION: The local statistics

I finally got a chance to check the local statistics from the Nov. 8 general election and it was no surprise that the turnout numbers were much higher than usual, in the high seventies and low eighties. My own township had 75 percent turnout, and the highest turnout in our area was 85 percent in Kennett Township's Third Precinct, home of the Kendal at Longwood retirement community.
Hillary Clinton outpolled President-elect Donald Trump almost everywhere. The largest margin was 66 to 29 percent at the Kendal polling place. Mrs. Clinton beat Mr. Trump by only one vote in Newlin Township (396 to 395 votes). In Londonderry and Highland Townships, Mr. Trump won handily.
County-wide, turnout was 80%, and Mrs. Clinton received 52 percent of the vote vs. Mr. Trump's 43 percent. But Mr. Trump took the state of Pennsylvania by some 130,000 votes, 48.8 percent versus 47.63 percent.
Newlin Township's open space referendum passed by a vote of 492 to 332 (60 percent to 40 percent).
And by the way, as of Nov. 24 there were still several Susan Rzucidlo campaign signs on Route 162 near Harveys Bridge Road in Embreeville, and some Andy Dinniman signs at Newark Road and Route 41.

FOXHUNTERS: The annual Thanksgiving meet

A traditional part of the holiday for many people in Unionville is going to watch Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds meet at the Kennels on Thanksgiving morning. There was a big and sociable crowd this year, many carrying cups of coffee, bottles of beer, or Bloody Marys. Kids were tossing around footballs, and I saw several college kids home on break catching up.
I was offered food and drink but had to turn it down, as I was saving room for our early Thanksgiving dinner. Saying "no" to a cinnamon-scented apple strudel was especially tough.
As usual, the volunteers from the Po-Mar-Lin fire company were directing traffic, and I was careful this year to avoid getting my vehicle stuck while taking a shortcut (try living that one down when photos appeared on social media within minutes).
It was great to see everyone out enjoying the countryside. It was pretty easy to tell the "city folks," though. "Dad! I petted the horse!" said one thrilled kid (the rider advised him to keep his bagel well away from the horse's mouth). And  I heard two boys expressing shock as they watched a horse answering a call of nature.

THANKSGIVING: A diversity of celebrations

What a variety of Thanksgiving celebrations I heard about! Some people left the cooking to others: one family I know bought everything premade from Wegman's and another had their feast at the Mendenhall Inn (they gave it rave reviews).
One fellow spent his Thanksgiving eating with friends instead of family. Another said the highlight of his Thanksgiving dinner was reminiscing about the 1970 Avon Grove High School basketball team, which won the state championship (his brother was on the team). He said that after graduating, the alumni stayed in shape  and went on to beat the high school team at homecoming for the next several years.
I spent Thanksgiving in Perkasie, Bucks County. A couple there have family members over for Thanksgiving every year and then shut up the house and head to their place in Vermont for the skiing season. There were 20 people at the table (and two happy dogs wandering around underfoot) and endless platters of food; my strategy this year was to take a tiny portion of everything being offered. 
On the way up we took the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which is in the process of being widened to three lanes (a $189 million project funded using tolls), but for variety and amusement we took the long way home (without GPS assistance) and spotted such oddities as a typewriter sales and repair shop and a café named The Abyss. Highly entertaining!
The road trip also taught us something about religion: we saw a sign in front of Lutheran church giving its times for Mass. I thought only Roman Catholic churches used that name for their divine services, but a little Internet research showed us that certain Protestant churches do as well.

SAWMILL: Now in Kennett Square

The Sawmill Grill, which has been so successful in downtown Oxford, has opened a branch at the corner of Birch and Broad Streets in Kennett Square (the former site of the Birch Inn, Kennett Steak & Mushroom, and A Taste of Puebla). We stopped in for dinner on Thanksgiving eve and found the place to be very laid-back and welcoming. There were colleagues enjoying a beer after work at the bar and friends, families and couples having dinner. My best dinner pal ordered the Irish chicken and I had the Caesar salad with shrimp.

FROLIC: A tribute in print

What a lovely booklet the Brandywine Conservancy put together to honor George A. "Frolic" Weymouth, who died April 24. It's full of photographs, paintings and stories about the larger-than-life conservationist, artist, fundraiser, carriage driver and bon vivant who is fondly remembered by so many. The front cover shows his 1963 painting "The Way Back," which depicts a horse-drawn cart from the driver's perspective, and in a nice piece of symmetry the back cover shows a Jim Graham photograph of Frolic driving a four-in-hand carriage.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

UNIONVILLE: Another lunch option

Earlier this fall I wrote about my friend Bob, who was unhappy that both Hood's BBQ and Foxy Loxy are shut on Mondays, severely limiting his lunch choices in Unionville. 
Perhaps it's just coincidence (although I know for a fact that Bob is a good customer of theirs), but Foxy Loxy will now be open on Mondays starting Nov. 28.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: A postponed hearing

The Nov. 22 hearing for the couple who want to add a second floor to the garage on their Springdell Road property was postponed because a sign announcing the hearing wasn't posted on the property, as required by law. 
Because of the glitch, the members of the West Marlborough Township Zoning Hearing Board and Dr. Frances Koblenzer, one of the applicants, agreed to move the hearing to Thursday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m. at the township garage.
Dr. Koblenzer and Dr. Joshua Farber will need a variance because the height of the garage would be about 26 feet, higher than the zoning code's 15-foot limit for accessory buildings. The property is at 175 Springdell Road, which is on the west side of Springdell Road between Runnymede and Chapel Roads.
Even though the hearing couldn't be held as scheduled, the zoning board members took advantage of the fact that they were together and approved the appointment of the board's new solicitor, Fronefield Crawford Jr., of West Chester.

KENNETT: A century of life

One of my gym instructors could hardly contain his excitement when I saw him at the Y on Nov. 20. He leads a fitness class at the Friends Home in downtown Kennett Square and had a new participant in a recent class. She did really well, he said, but what really floored him was when she came up to him after class and told him that she was 100 years old.
"Wow!" he said, recalling the moment. "Can you imagine what she's seen in her life?"
Two world wars, the women's movement, the civil rights movement, the rise and fall of communism, the invention of computers ... he went through a whole list of 20th-century historic moments, amazed that one person's lifespan could encompass so much.
He said having the woman in his class was an honor and "it really made my year."

EAST MARLBOROUGH: Now a vacant lot

If you often travel on Doe Run Road, perhaps you've noticed the white cottage across the street from the Unionville bus parking lot, near the cemetery of the old Ebenezer AME Church. The long-vacant structure always intrigued me because of its odd proportions: it appeared to be taller than it was wide. I'm told that the last occupant was Florence Highfield.
Well, it is no more: it has been torn down. I drove past on Nov. 22 and workers were clearing away the rubble.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

BONFIRE: A fiery celebration

We had a great time at a giant bonfire in Unionville the other night. The hosts had started the fire mid-afternoon, so by 6:30 p.m. it was red-hot and visible all the way from the road. A strong cold front was blowing in, so we huddled next to the fire under quilts and drank hot chocolate. Being outside next to a fire creates a certain camaraderie, so even though we were among the older members of the group, it was heartwarming to meet so many welcoming and articulate young people.
At one point my hat blew off and I threw off my quilt and chased after it. It got caught in the wire fence and for a second I thought all was well, until another gust caught it and it blew right through! I raced along the fence line looking for the next break, which was a few hundred yards away, then backtracked as fast as I could, but with steadily diminishing hopes of ever seeing my hat again. Unbelievably, I found it not even too far away. It stayed tied securely to my head with a scarf the rest of the evening, no matter how silly it looked.

POLITICS: Nothing new under the sun

I believe in the next political campaign I will take the advice that I came across the other day -- too late -- in a 1937 etiquette book:
"If you care too intensely about a subject, it is dangerous to allow yourself to say anything. That is, if you can only lecture about your fixed point of view, then you should never mention it, except as a platform speaker. But if, no the other hand, you are able to listen with an open mind, the chances are that you need put no barriers whatever on any subject. At the present moment Mrs. Oldname and Mrs. Kindheart, really the most devoted of neighbors, are so violently opposed to each other on a certain political question of today, that the first person who mentions the taboo topic must pay a fine."
Sounds like an excellent idea to me!

NEW GARDEN: 19th-century Toughkenamon

A friend from Massachusetts visited our area this summer to do some Owens genealogy research and sent me these wonderful old photos of the Toughkenamon crossroads. Her great-grandparents owned the Toughkenamon general store (now replaced by Deanna's Market) and lived just across Newark Road in a house that is still standing.

The family home, at the southeast corner of Newark Road and Baltimore Pike.

The home as it appears today.

The Toughkenamon General Store, which stood at the southwest corner of Newark Road and Baltimore Pike.

Friday, November 18, 2016

GARDEN: Better later than never

This autumn's unseasonably warm weather has been a boon to those of us who have slacked off shamefully on our gardening responsibilities. Here it is mid-November and I'm just cutting down phlox and monkshood stalks and clearing lamium!
The upside of being a Garden Sluggard is that tulip bulbs were 25% off at Lowe's, and there was still a good selection. I can't say I've ever seen parrot tulips in the Lowe's gardening section before. And planting 165 bulbs in this afternoon's warm sun was a delight instead of the chilly, unpleasant task it usually is.
Similarly, some folks decided to take advantage of the warm weather to put their Christmas decorations up early. One took to social media to explain that she wasn't "rushing" the holiday, and promised not to turn on her lights until closer to Christmas, but just wanted to decorate in comfort. Understandable!

HIGHER EDUCATION: Doug goes back to school

My energetic friend Doug Stirling is a man who wears many hats-- family man, WCHE radio broadcaster, Kennett High School football announcer, pastor of the Bible Evangelical Church of Kennett Square, and former Kennett school board member among them. Now he's taking on one more responsibility: He has started an online doctoral program with an emphasis in Christian Ministry at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. Doug, who recently moved from Kennett to the Oxford area, said he expects it will take him four years to complete his degree.
Doug, I'll be happy to proofread your papers. For a fee!

ELECTION: Time to take down those signs

Given the over-abundance of political signs along the roadsides during the campaign, the candidates, or their staffers, did a pretty good job of removing them promptly, but stragglers remain:
 -- Two Susan Rzucidlo signs and one Andy Dinniman sign at the intersection of Newark Road and Route 926 in West Marlborough Township
-- A Gary Johnson sign on Race Street near Cypress Street, and a Marty Molloy sign on North Union Street near Fairthorne Drive in Kennett Square borough
-- A Josh Shapiro sign and another Molloy sign on Baltimore Pike at McFarlan Road in Kennett Township
-- A David Cleary sign at the intersection of Baltimore Pike and the Route 1 bypass in Kennett Township
-- Three Jack London signs at the Chatham intersection in London Grove Township
-- Four Dinniman signs on Route 41 and Newark Road in New Garden Township
-- At least 20 Dinniman signs on Route 41 between the Wawa and Lowe's in London Grove Township
-- Orphan Rzucidlo signs on Route 842 near Oak Tree Road and on Route 162 by Scott Road, both in Newlin Township
One friend reports that she made it from Route 796 to Route 82 on the Route 1 bypass without seeing any political signs until she spotted several just before the Route 82 exit: "Roe, London, Rzucidlo and 'College Hunks.' Pretty sure they weren't running for office!"
Of course, some people are keeping signs posted in their own yards to indicate how they voted, and that's completely their right.

RUNNERS: It's important to hydrate

A running club has started, based at the Kennett Brewing Company, 109 S. Broad Street in Kennett Square. They meet at 6 p.m. Thursdays for a three- to-four mile run through Anson B. Nixon Park, followed by a free five-ounce beer (for runners only)! All paces are welcome and, according to their flier, they run "rain, snow, or shine."

LOCKER ROOM: Parents and kids

Overheard in the Kennett Y locker room, as two swim-team kids were getting dressed:
Girl 1: "Do you ever come here to swim?"
Girl 2 (sounding confused): "You mean, swim? Like for fun?"
The mother of one girl then briefly stuck her head around the corner of the lockers and proclaimed, "This train is leaving in two minutes."
Girl 1 (exasperated): "She ALWAYS says that, `this train is leaving'! "
The woman next to me and I shared a knowing glance. We've reached the age when our parents' stock phrases become precious and endearing memories, like my father's "Four on the floor!" when we kids were wrecking chairs by balancing on the back legs, and my mother's timeless wisdom, "When you're 18 and paying the bills, you can do whatever you want. But until then ..."

Monday, November 14, 2016

PARK: New entrance being built

Motorists, don't use the main entrance to Anson B. Nixon Park off North Walnut Road anymore. The awkward, potholed entrance is going to be closed permanently the week of Nov. 21 and will be replaced by a new entrance farther north on North Walnut Road, where there is currently a hiking trail. Construction of the new entrance should take six to eight weeks, and during construction, you can park at the Tino Leto soccer fields.

SPORTS: Friends Not Foes

The Young Relative and his father ran in Sunday's "Friends Not Foes" post-season race through Anson Nixon Park (the "friends" in the race name are the cross-country teams from neighboring Kennett and Unionville high schools).
At a delicious post-race meal at La Pena Mexicana, the elder Tally-ho admitted sheepishly that as he was really pushing himself and running hard, his son and some teammates easily breezed past him while joking around and carrying on a conversation.
"They should have a father/son competition," he suggested. "We would have won!"
The YR explained that the team's training regimen includes twice-a-week hydro workouts in the deep end of the Kennett Y pool, not just treading water but actually running in the water, half of the time with their arms raised above their heads. Serious pain!

FAITH: A talk about Quakerism

If you're interested in learning more about Quakerism, the faith that has played such a major role in our area all the way back to Colonial days, my friend Kevin Arnold is giving a talk about Friends and their beliefs at 7 p.m. Tuesday, November 29, at West Grove Friends Meeting. His talk will cover "the early history, the range of beliefs of Quakers today; the Quaker understanding of civil activism; how the ‘Quaker process’ works: threshing sessions, discernment, gaining the sense of the Meeting; and the different types of worship… mostly touching on the non-programmed service since that is most common in this area." 
We've attended several of the talks that West Grove Meeting has held about different religions, and they always produce an interesting, intelligent and spirited discussion.
West Grove Meeting is at 153 East Harmony Road in West Grove.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

NEW BAND: Meryl and the Magnetics

It was a very musical week for your columnist. All three concerts I went to were so good, in their own way, that I'm writing about all of them; please humor me.
Any bookers who are looking for fresh musical talent should check out the trio Meryl and the Magnetics. We saw online that they were performing on Saturday, Nov. 12, at the Lower Brandywine Presbyterian Church on Route 52 across from Winterthur and decided, on a whim, to go.
Wow, I am so glad we did! It turns out it was their very first full concert together, and they were astonishingly talented. Their repertoire was all over the map: ballads, rock, jazz, instrumentals, solos, and a trio of original art songs honoring Josephine Baker, and hymns.  
Just when I thought, "I would love to hear her do a standard," Meryl sang the beautiful classic "Autumn Leaves." I was entranced with her voice.
The band comprises Meryl Joan Lammers (vocals, flute, guitar, maracas; she's also a music therapist), Chris Braddock (bass guitar, guitar and dobro), and Paul Boris (keyboards). I could easily see them being a big hit at the summer concert series at the Myrick Center or Anson B. Nixon Park.
At intermission the church pastor, the Rev. David Lovelace, graciously gave us a little behind-the-scenes tour of the beautiful church after we went up to him and asked him why there was a mirror hanging on one side of the choir area. (It seems the organist also directs the singers and hence needs a good sightline.)
After the show I was delighted to run into my friends of many years Mary Nell and Brownell Ferry from Kennett Square. How nice it was to see them and hear they are doing well!

BLUEGRASS: Seneca Rocks! rocked

On Nov. 11 we drove down to Newark to see a terrific show by the country-infused bluegrass band Seneca Rocks! as part of the Brandywine Friends of Old-Time Music's autumn concert series.
"Happy" was the operative word for the evening: there was a great turnout, the musicians were clearly having fun playing together, and the audience members had big smiles. The band comprised Dudley Connell on guitar, Sally Love on guitar, Tom Adams on banjo, David McLaughlin on mandolin (he was especially amazing), and Marshall Wilborn on bass; everybody took their turn with the vocals.
At one point the band performed a Kitty Wells song in which Sally was singing about visiting every bar and honky-tonk just to see who was there. My companion leaned over to me and said, "Hey! Just like Tilda!"
The next Brandywine Friends show will be by the Red Squirrel Chasers at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall, 420 Willa Rd., Newark.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Raising the roof

A West Marlborough couple wants to add a second story to the garage on their Springdell Road property but will need permission from the township's zoning hearing board to do so.
The owners, Drs. Joshua Farber and Frances Koblenzer, will need a variance because the height of the garage would be about 26 feet, higher than the zoning code's 15-foot limit for accessory buildings. The property is at 175 Springdell Road, which is on the west side of Springdell Road between Runnymede and Chapel Roads.
The zoning board will hold its hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 22, at the township garage. I will be there.

UNIONVILLE: A new sign at Station 36

In last week's column I wrote that the Po-Mar-Lin firehouse in the middle of Unionville was finally getting a sign. I thought it was going to be a sign out by the street, but instead it's a very handsome medallion on the front of the building.

The new sign at Station 36.