Sunday, August 28, 2016

CAMPAIGN: Tips for political advocacy

As this political season swings into high gear ("high" meaning increased activity, not an increase in civil and intelligent debate), people who advertise their choice of candidate via campaign signs and bumper stickers really should be mindful of a few things.
If you put your candidate's sticker on a stop sign, that sends an ambiguous message.
If you're a rude or aggressive driver and your car sports a political bumper sticker, you're not doing your candidate any favors in the mind of the driver whom you cut off in traffic.
And if you're selling your house, it might not be such a good idea to put up a political yard sign. Emotions are running so high that you might well immediately turn off a buyer from the other party ("X supporters live there?! Just keep driving, Honey."). I actually saw such a situation in Chatham and could only feel sorry for the real-estate agent.

FRAUD: Only a friend can betray you!

The Chester County Controller's Office is putting on an excellent seminar to help nonprofit groups prevent fraudulent use of their hard-earned money.
I attended the presentation in Modena on Aug. 23 with Controller Norman MacQueen, Deputy Controller Carol Pollitz, and Internal Audit Manager Sharon Kay Jones, and found it to be so interesting and relevant that I didn't even remove my knitting from my workbag (I will never finish these socks!).
Ms. Jones started by giving alarming examples of fraud committed by Chester County residents. I was amazed by the amount of money stolen and the slipshod controls that were in place. She explained that the number-one reason why people steal from nonprofits is that they're living beyond their means. They get away with it because people trust them and don't want to believe that a friend could do such a thing.
Ms. Jones then outlined practical recommendations that can help prevent insider fraud, like having two people present and alert at all times when handling cash (say, when selling tickets at a high school football game). I was happy and relieved to note that almost all are in place in the nonprofit group I work with.
About a dozen people attended, representing an array of nonprofits, including churches, youth groups and fire companies. They were all nonprofit veterans and offered excellent examples of accounting lapses they'd witnessed. One woman said her church used to allow volunteers to write checks to themselves for reimbursement.
"No, that's not happening any more," she said she told them when she took over.
There was a lively debate about whether volunteers should be allowed to use credit or debit cards. Although it's traditionally frowned on, with today's technology, procurement cards (or "p-cards") can be set with a ceiling for purchases, and use can be limited to certain places.
I highly recommend this useful seminar for all treasurers and other officers. The folks from the Controller's Office said they planned to repeat it this fall, so keep an eye out for an announcement.

Friday, August 26, 2016

KFC: Herbs and spices and kindness

A local woman named Tracy shared this lovely story about "an unbelievably good experience" she had at the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant on West Cypress Street in Kennett on Aug. 21. She writes:
"I have had a long week...and with no food in the house and 3 guys at home trying to do a truck repair all day, nobody had time to grocery shop while I was out today. Empty cupboards, stressed-out men, and a 6-year-old child with a friend who needed to be driven home all culminated in a trip to the Kennett Square KFC for a bucket of fried chicken.
"Unfortunately, after placing my rather large order I realized I had NO form of payment. No credit/debit card or cash. I quickly drove to the pick-up window and told the employee that I would need to cancel my order and why.
"After a few minutes she came back and told me that the manager had paid for my order and to enjoy my night.
"Wait. What? Seriously...THAT. JUST. HAPPENED. KFC on West Cypress Street. Thank you!"

OLYMPIANS: Rails, ales and medals

The amazing Olympic gold medal winner Cierra Runge made a stop at The Whip here in West Marlborough the evening of Aug. 22 after visiting the Jennersville YMCA, where she started her swimming career.
I wasn't at The Whip that night, but the photographs are funny: the Cochranville native is six-foot-four and towers over everyone. I don't realize how tall she is because I usually see her next to her similarly tall teammates.
The following night I ran into Chester County Fire Marshal John Weer, who met her at The Whip, and he said she was great fun and happily posed for photos with her gold medal.
"What's funny is that Boyd Martin was having dinner there and just left before she showed up!" he said. (Boyd Martin, of course, is a local Olympian equestrian who was also on Team USA in Rio.)

NEW BOOK: "Mermaid in Rehoboth Bay"

My friend Nancy Sakaduski's new children's book is called "The Mermaid in Rehoboth Bay" and it looks adorable.
Here's a synopsis: "A storm has hit coastal Delaware and washed a young mermaid named Nibi across land and into Rehoboth Bay, separating her from her family, friends, and ocean home. Terra, a young girl who lives nearby, is afraid of the water, so she misses out on swimming with her friends and wading in the bay to collect shells. The two discover each other, become friends, and find a way to solve their problems together."
It's available at The Growing Tree, 114 W. State St., Kennett Square; the Hockessin Book Shelf, 7179 Lancaster Pike, Hockessin; Oranges & Lemons, 3856 Kennett Pike, Greenville; and Captain Blue Hen Comics, 280 E. Main St., Newark.

HOOD'S: Get your ribs while you can

Hood's BBQ in Unionville will be closed from Monday, Sept. 5, through Friday, Sept. 9. They'll be reopening on Saturday, Sept. 10. The nerve of the Hood clan: they are actually taking a family vacation! Like they don't spend enough family time together running the restaurant six days a week!

TRACK: UHS cross-country

The Young Relative started his UHS running career on Aug. 25 at the Bayard Rustin High School in West Chester. The brand-new cross-country course takes the runners all over the sprawling campus in a loop that they ran twice. The Tally-ho family support crew -- as usual, five strong -- got a great view of the competitors as they ran across a distant hilltop, emerged from the woods and scaled a steep, long bank that looked like it belonged in the Plantation Field equestrian competition.
"Wow, I want to try that hill," I remarked idly.
"So go ahead!" replied my brother, a certain note of challenge in his voice. 
At that point I was very glad I had chosen to wear sandals instead of sneakers.
"Some other time," I said. "Definitely. For sure."
The Y.R. is now competing against some very fast youths who are seniors, which means that all of us have to shift our attitudes a bit. For one thing, we got used to the locations of all the middle-school track sites; now we have to learn where the high-school competitions are!

BARNARD'S: Help save this farm!

I got the nicest hand-written thank-you note -- and a big refrigerator magnet -- in return for the check I sent to the Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County to support their efforts to preserve Barnard's Orchards in Newlin Township.
The conservancy is trying to raise $38,000 to cover the legal costs, filing fees and other expenses it is incurring in the process of establishing an agricultural easement to protect this beloved, iconic family farm against development.
Please join me if you can:
1. Send a check to The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County, 541 Chandler Mill Rd., Avondale PA 19311.
2. Donate online through the Land Conservancy's website.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

MENDENHALL: "Jesus Is My Prozak"

Tilda does not often wander into the minefield that is religion, but today she was sufficiently ticked off to do so.
On Aug. 25 Bethany Presbyterian Church in Mendenhall posted a sign, "Jesus Is My Prozak," in front of its Kennett Pike building.

Not only is that slogan morally offensive and theologically dubious, it's also misspelled (it's "Prozac"). Depression results from a problem with brain chemistry, not a lack of faith in Jesus Christ. Would they say "Jesus Is My Insulin" or "Jesus Is My Chemotherapy"? I don't think so.
All I could think of was how a person suffering from depression, already feeling miserable, exhausted, useless and guilty, would react upon seeing such an insensitive message. The church is the last place that should be perpetuating the myth that depression is some kind of a personal failing rather than a medical illness.
I was angry enough to send an email to the pastor, the Rev. Ann Dickey, and she responded promptly. Very much to her credit, she fully understood my concerns about equating Jesus Christ to an antidepressant and promised the sign, which had been put up by a church member, would be taken down immediately. She also assured me that future slogans would be vetted more carefully, apologized to those who were offended, and asked for my forgiveness.
I was extremely impressed by Rev. Ann's graceful, intelligent and honest response to this situation, and perhaps that's the lesson we all should take from this unfortunate episode.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

SUNFLOWERS: Where are they this year?

So where are the sunflower fields this year?
People keep asking me this, so I drove around yesterday looking and spotted two fields.
There's a border of sunflowers already in bloom around a cornfield on the east side of Route 841 just south of the village of Chatham. And there's a giant field of sunflowers on the south side of Route 842 at Byrd Road, west of Unionville, but it will be some weeks before they bloom.
If anyone spots any others, let me know and I'll pass along the word.

SPEAKMAN: The timbers return

It has been fascinating to watch the progress on the Speakman #1 Covered Bridge over the Buck Run near the West Marlborough/East Fallowfield Township border. As part of a state project, the bridge, closed for years after it was seriously damaged by a truck, was carefully dismantled in December. The timber trusses and other structural timbers were taken to the warehouse of Lancaster County Timber Frame (LCTF) for rehabilitation.
The old abutments were removed and new ones, concrete with stone on the exterior, were built. Steel beams were installed on top of them to serve as the base for the bridge.
The refurbished timbers are now being re-installed. You can see the original graffiti on the timbers and the small red tags that the craftsmen used to label the exact placement of each timber.
It's going to look beautiful, and I'm sure the long-inconvenienced residents of Frog Hollow Road will not miss their daily trips north to Strasburg Road.
The partially reconstructed Speakman #1 Bridge, looking north.

The temporary diagonal timbers are supporting the sides of the bridge. Note the steel beams that span the creek.

View from the west side of the bridge.

KENNETT: Housing Truck 24

Kennett Fire Company No. 1 will be officially welcoming its new piece of firefighting apparatus in a housing ceremony starting at noon Saturday, Aug. 27, at the Dalmatian Street fire house. The new "Truck 24" has a 95-foot-ladder that will enable firefighters to reach the top of any building in the area.
If you've never been to a housing, it's quite an event, and everybody is welcome. Sirens will blare, lights will flash, and if they're doing it the traditional way, the new truck will be ceremonially "pushed into" the garage by the firefighters. If your kids are of the age when they adore big trucks, you might want to put this on the schedule.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

CONCERT: Dukes of Destiny dance party

Over the winter I wrote about the Dukes of Destiny concert at West Grove Friends Meeting that had to be postponed due to a snowstorm. Georgia Delaney tells me that the concert, sponsored by West Grove and London Grove Quaker meetings, has been rescheduled for Saturday, Oct. 22, at the same venue, 153 East Harmony Road in West Grove. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the music is from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Recommended donation is $15 for each adult or older child (it's family friendly, with plenty of dancing!).
Proceeds support the London Grove Meeting kindergarten and the West Grove Meeting daycare.

UNIONVILLE: See our Olympians at work!

Our amazing local Olympic equestrians, Phillip Dutton and Boyd Martin, made page 1 of last week's Kennett Paper (what a nice photo by my friend Chris Barber of bronze medalist Phillip and his wife, Evie!), and you can see them "up close and personal" from Sept. 15 to 18 as they compete at the Plantation Field International Horse Trials here in Unionville.
This is a great event for competitors and spectators. It's a sublimely beautiful venue, you get a front-row view of the horses and riders, there's lots of shopping and food, and the people-watching is first-class. The theme of this year's event is "Septemberfest." Admission is free on Friday, Sept. 16; the other days admission is $20 per car. 
The website has full details and the schedule.

KENNETT: Who was Anson B. Nixon?

I frequently write in this column about the events going on at Anson
B. Nixon Park, but who exactly WAS Anson B. Nixon? For an answer I turned to my friend Eva Verplanck, who has been involved in running the park for many years. Her response:
"ABN was a long-time resident of Kennett Township and Chairman of Hercules. He was a Kennett Township Supervisor and then chair of the Regional Landfill Authority (forerunner of SECCRA), where the ball fields now are). His dream was to create a park on the landfill site and some adjacent properties. His daughter Nicky Ellis was on the original group planning the park and his children established the fund at the Community Foundation."
Thank you, Eva! I wonder if it might be a worthwhile project to install a plaque at the park giving some basic biographical information about him.

Friday, August 19, 2016

SUMMER: Climate change

The other day I remarked to a young friend that the recent heat wave was unpleasant, for sure, but at least my house has air conditioning.
She looked at me as if I had said "but at least I have indoor plumbing." 
The thing is, air conditioning is fairly recent. Look at the old photographs of streetscapes and you'll see signs advertising that this bar or that movie theater was air conditioned, like it was a novelty. A lot of us in the over-50 age bracket grew up without it and still regard it as something of a luxury that should be appreciated.
At dinner the other night my family members were recalling how my mother thought it was foolish to put in A/C when it was only really hot a few nights a year. I should add that my mother is now a huge fan (as it were) of A/C. People CAN change!

DYWIDAG: Now you know

Heading south on Newark Road toward Toughkenamon, there's a business whose name appears to be a bunch of initials. The company's identity has always been a mystery to me, but I decided to take advantage of a traffic jam the other day to memorize the initials -- DYWIDAG -- and look them up when I got home.
Turns out that DYWIDAG Systems International USA is part of an international company, DSI, that specializes in equipment for building bridges and tunnels: as they put it, "DSI's scope of business is the development and application of Post-Tensioning and Geotechnical Systems for the Construction industry." The Toughkenamon manufacturing plant is one of 10 in the United States and 28 worldwide.
Recent domestic projects that the company has worked on include the Harbor Drive pedestrian bridge in San Diego (2012), the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Washington, D.C. (2006) and the 2005 retrofitting of the Golden Gate Bridge.
DYWIDAG stands for the names of the two Germans who founded the company in 1869, Eugen Dyckerhoff and Gottlieb Widmann (plus AG, the German abbreviation for company).
The DSI website is packed with information and photos about their history and their projects around the world.


Each year a British friend sends me a pocket calendar, conveniently marked with the birthdays of Royal Family members and European celebrations. This year's version also includes obscure trivia for each day, like the fact on Aug. 13, 1982, the song at the top of the British charts was "Come on Eileen" by the one-hit-wonders Dexy's Midnight Runners.
Oddly enough, I was picking up subs at Landhope one evening during the recent heat wave and that song came on the PA system. Everyone in the store was tired and enervated after the hot day, but the cheerful tune, with its nonsense syllable chorus, seemed to put a spring in their step.

KENNETT: A Sawmill Grill branch

The Sawmill Grill, a hugely popular restaurant in downtown Oxford, is planning to open a branch in Kennett. I'm not sure where or when, but they're already looking for restaurant and bar help.
And at lunch today at Liberty Place in downtown Kennett, I noticed that Nourish, the juice bar, has closed and there's a vacancy sign on the window.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

BARNARD'S: Preserving a gem

I hope you'll join me in supporting the Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County's fund-raising efforts to preserve Barnard's Orchards in Newlin Township, which is a treasure in our increasingly built-up area and a key part of Unionville's agricultural heritage.
I've written about Barnard's iconic farm market many times in this column. Nearly 30 years ago I was introduced to their cider and sweet corn by a Unionville native, and I have been hooked ever since. 
I stopped by the orchard the other morning in hopes of buying blueberries (no luck; they'd sold the last of the season just hours earlier), and asked owner Lewis Barnard about his plans. He explained that the conservancy is trying to raise $38,000 to cover the legal costs, filing fees and other expenses it is incurring in the process of placing an agricultural easement on the farm to protect it against development.
You can help in several ways.
1. Send a check to The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County, 541 Chandler Mill Rd., Avondale PA 19311.
2. Donate online through the Land Conservancy's site: "Funds for Farms: Conserving Barnard's Orchard."
3. Buy tickets to the Saturday, Aug. 27, "Brandywine in White" event, where you bring your own picnic dinner and drinks and dress all in white (they're not kidding about that). The outdoor location is kept secret until Aug. 25. Tickets are available online at the Brown Paper Tickets website and more information is on the "Brandywine in White 2016" Facebook page. 

THE FAIR: The 92nd annual Fair is coming up!

Danielle Chamberlain, a Unionville Community Fair board member, asked me to pass along a few bits of news about this year's 92nd annual Fair. The dates are Friday, Sept. 30; Saturday, Oct. 1; and Sunday, Oct. 2. Start thinking about what garden produce, baked goods, photographs and crafts you want to enter!
Danielle tells me, "We have moved the horse show to Vince Dugan's to ensure we will be under cover and have great footing. The horse show will be on Saturday which will no longer conflict with other local equestrian events.  And we added a Hopeful Jumper division with fences set at 2’9”." 
The fair is on Facebook (Unionville Community Fair) and has a new (still under construction) website (

BLUEGRASS: A hot Fiddlers' Picnic

Attendance was visibly down at the 88th Old Fiddlers' Picnic in Hibernia Park on Saturday, for an obvious reason: it was extremely hot. Usually Dulcimer Grove is packed with bluegrass musicians jamming in the woods, but this year only the most dedicated showed up. The pavilion where there's usually a young people's workshop had just a table and empty folding chairs. And so few musicians signed up to perform on the main stage that the bands were able to take two 15-minute slots instead of one.
"It's really cool being up here," said one singer.
"No, it's not. It's HOT," said her mother, also a band member.
There are usually lots of cute little kids and dogs running around, but the heat was too much even for them.
Several EMT units were on the scene in case anyone got dangerously overheated and needed medical help. They had set up a folding cot with a fan blowing cool mist. Now that I look back on it, that might have been a good fund-raiser for the fire company.

GARDEN: Reaping the harvest

A friend of ours spent the sweltering Saturday afternoon "putting up" a half-bushel of peaches in her kitchen; fortunately she had the air conditioning in her old stone house set to "Arctic" level. We stopped by just as she had removed the glass jars from the vat of boiling water, and as the jars cooled on the counter we heard the lids making popping sounds to show they had sealed properly.
The peach halves were beautifully arranged in the jars, one nestled on top of the other, maximizing the number in each jar. She also made a dozen or so pots of peach jam.
This friend is an avid and talented gardener and was especially proud of a huge tomato she'd picked the day before: it weighed in at two pounds, and didn't break the stalk only because the plant was well staked up. As we left, she donned her straw gardening hat and went out to harvest some eggplants to make ratatouille for supper.

PROTEST: Is a murder-mystery insenstive?

"Murder is not entertainment," read the bumper sticker on a car I saw on Saturday.
Well, of course not! I thought, puzzled by what seemed like something that's starkly obvious. So I looked up the slogan and found that it is part of a campaign by the National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children to persuade people that "murder mystery" events are offensive and desensitize the public to the anguish that murder actually causes.
According to POMC's website, this past April the group protested a murder mystery dinner called "Murder at the Malt Shop" at St. Timothy's Lutheran Church in Aston, PA. POMC executive director Dan Levey wrote a protest letter to the church "requesting the dinner show be cancelled or at minimum an apology be issued to all those who have lost loved ones to murder."
The national group held its 30th annual conference in Orlando, Florida, on July 21- July 24, 2016. I couldn't tell if the venue was selected before or after the June 12 massacre.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

SCHOOL: Sold at auction

The former George Fox Friends School property on Route 41 sold at auction on July 28 for $460,000, according to the Beiler-Campbell Auction Services website. The 8,490-square-foot building in Cochranville, Londonderry Township, sits on 10.6 acres.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

FOOD: Kaboburritos has opened!

Two enthusiastic thumbs up for Kaboburritos, the new Mediterranean/Mexican restaurant in the Market at Liberty Place! My taste-testing buddy and I stopped by on one of the first days it was open and had a fantastic lunch.
I had three falafel tacos, the absolute best I have eaten this entire century, and my friend had a Mexican chicken dish with rice, beans, sour cream, guac, and cheese. They have burritos and bowls, tacos, salads, platters and a kids' menu; you choose whether you want the Mexican or Mediterranean version with your choice of chicken, falafel, pork, beef or shrimp.
The owner, Carlos Vargas, was bursting with pride as he chatted with customers and asked for feedback.
Kaboburritos is at 148 West State Street in downtown Kennett. It's open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The place is a welcome addition to the Kennett restaurant scene, and I can guarantee I'll be back often.

KENNETT: Anson B. Nixon concerts

"OH MY GOD! Karen! Were you here tonight?" shrieked a woman across the parking lot at Anson B. Nixon Park after the final concert of the summer series on Aug. 10.
Karen happened to be standing a few cars away from us.
"What?" she replied to her friend. Either she was mocking her friend's high-volume greeting or she'd been sitting WAY too close to the speakers.
The final show of the free Wednesday night concert series was by Shytown. I especially liked their covers of Beatles, Rolling Stones and Van Morrison songs, and they closed with an terrific version of David Bowie's "Jean Genie."
The concerts were great fun and well organized, as always -- a wonderful community event. Amazingly, none of them got rained out.
Several of us agreed that the most memorable moment of the series had to be when Kid Davis and the Bullets did a rockabilly version of Pink Floyd's "Brain Damage" from "Dark Side of the Moon." It was a completely unexpected and delightful twist on this 1970s classic.

WAWA: Avondale is a pilot store

While buying a peach mango smoothie the other day at the Avondale Wawa, I learned that the store is the test site for a new check-out system. Usually at Wawa you order your food using a touchscreen, take your receipt to the cashier, pay, and then present your slip with "paid" stamped on it when they call out your order number.
No more. With this new system, the fact that you paid is automatically transmitted to the person responsible for making your sub or smoothie before he or she even starts preparing it.
One of the clerks told me the new system is designed to prevent sandwiches from "walking out the door," as he put it. He was very proud his store was chosen to pilot the program.
Coincidentally, while I was waiting a clerk came around with a platter full of smoothie samples. The woman next to me tried one: "Needs rum," she commented.

CONCERT: Charlie Zahm & Tad Marks

Local favorites Charlie Zahm and Tad Marks will be performing an outdoor concert of traditional songs on Sunday, Aug. 28, in the walnut grove at Primitive Hall, 830 N. Chatham Rd. (Route 841), in West Marlborough Township. Bring your lawn chairs, blanket and picnic and visit the historic Pennock homestead, built in 1738. Admission is free but a donation of $20 is requested. Grounds will open at 3 p.m., and tours of the Hall will run from 3 to 5. The concert, rain or shine, will begin at 5 p.m.
Last summer's concert with Charlie and Tad at the Hall was delightful -- even though I am hardly objective, being a member of the Hall's board of directors! In fact at the end of last summer's concert we immediately booked them for this concert.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

SENIOR CENTER: Community Cuisine

My friend Bill Turner, who is on the board of directors of the Kennett Area Senior Center, asked me to get the word out about the center's 11th annual fundraising dinner and silent auction, which is called "Community Cuisine." It will be held Saturday, Aug. 27, at the Mendenhall Inn. Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres start at 5 p.m., with dinner and the silent auction from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $60. For information about the event and all the good work that the Senior Center does, you can visit their website.

WASPS: The kind that burrow in the yard

This is the time of year when you might see Eastern cicada-killing wasps (Sphecius speciosus) digging their unsightly burrows in the yard or next to steps or the driveway. I've seen about a dozen of these burrows in the front yard this past week, and I caught a glimpse of a wasp entering her burrow.
Burrow of an Eastern cicada-killing wasp.

They have an interesting life cycle. The female wasps first dig the burrows using their strong jaws and hind legs. They then hunt for cicadas, paralyze them with a sting, and haul them back to the burrow. Finally, they lay their eggs. Male eggs require only one cicada carcass, but the bigger females require two or three.
The grubs hatch in one or two days, use the cicadas as food, and spend the winter in the burrow as larvae before developing into pupae in the spring.
The adult wasps die off in September or October.
Although the male wasps don't sting and the females are not likely to, one friend said in her experience she had been stung and it was painful.


HOPEWELL: An historical iron forge

If you're looking for a late-summer family day trip, I highly recommend Hopewell Furnace in Elverson, just over the Chester County line into Berks County and near French Creek State Park. A village based around an iron forge thrived there in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, producing iron for cannons, ammunition and stoves. It's now a national historic site and they do a great job of interpreting the restored village and the iron-making process.
We especially liked the furnace demonstration, even though it was a hot, humid day already. The guides showed us how the stove plates were cast and asked for volunteers to help pack the sand around the molds using heavy wooden pounding devices. As my companion said with amusement, "You were out of your seat before they stopped talking." (It was a great bicep workout!)
The first floor of the ironmaster's house is open and furnished in Victorian style, and the ironmaster's garden is planted with culinary and medicinal plants (I noted that their nasturtiums were doing no better than mine this summer).
In the visitor's center there are interesting displays about the village and a short, professionally produced movie (as a tour guide at a historic house myself, I was beyond envious).
We rolled our eyes at the mandated safety signs warning us that the old stone steps around the site are irregular and not up to modern standards and that the crucible in the furnace is hot. Yes. Thank you.

HOSPITAL: Extraordinary people

One of the senior Tally-hos spent some time recuperating in Chester County Hospital this week, and without regard to pay grade, everyone we encountered there was kind, helpful, patient, professional, genuine, competent and compassionate.
The custodian discussed why she liked her particular dust mop. The physician's assistant scheduled appointments to accommodate my parents' travel plans. The nurses were so kind and -- how can I say this without sounding hokey? -- present and concerned with the patient as an individual, not just a diagnosis. The first person we encountered in the ER said, with immense compassion, "Let's get you a wheelchair." The people who wheeled our patient around to various parts of the hospital for tests (did I mention how thorough the workup was?) were soothing and incredibly strong but gentle as they helped the patient stand and sit. The physician answered my many questions patiently and clearly. And absolutely everyone knocked on the room door before entering and introduced themselves and their purpose for being there.
It seemed to be a team that functioned extraordinarily well. As I overheard one ER nurse say to another, "Can I help you with that, or are you OK?"  
By the way: that large structure they're building in the hospital parking lot is a parking garage. During construction, the hospital is running a shuttle bus for employees back and forth to the nearby Lasko Products parking lot.

VIETNAM: A visit from the Memorial Wall

On Sunday, July 31, we went to the East Brandywine Township Park, near Guthriesville, to see the Traveling Wall, a portable, smaller-scale replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, DC.
Walking past the thousands of names is a sobering, moving, thought-provoking experience and should provide a check on our unfortunate tendency toward Realpolitik, seeing war as an abstract, bloodless intellectual game -- remember that our country first got involved in Vietnam to prevent Southeast Asian countries from falling to communists "like dominoes."
At each stop the Wall makes around the country, the organizers highlight the local people who died in the war. It's utterly heart-rending to see the little tributes that their family members leave behind: letters giving news about the family, a baseball cap, a little Penn State toy car.
Screens show the faces of deceased members of the armed forces who had birthdays on the day that you're visiting, and another one shows photographs of local people who died later in life of the wounds or illnesses they suffered in Vietnam.
Almost all of the casualties are men, but there's also a list of the women who were killed during the war, mostly nurses who died in plane or helicopter accidents.
I overheard one man grumble that he hadn't heard that the Wall would be in our area until the last minute. I checked the schedule for the rest of the year and saw that the closest it will be is in Georgetown, Del., Sept. 1 through 4. I'm sure they will have the 2017 schedule posted soon online.
The Wall is well worth a visit, especially for people too young to remember the nightly news reports giving casualty counts.

KENNETT: Joe Hillman Band

A friend reports that she had a great time listening to local favorites the Joe Hillman Band at the Kennett Brewing Co. on July 29. She added, with justified pride, that she attended the show only after doing a tough evening exercise class at the Kennett Y. She also had praise for the KBC's crab mac-and-cheese.
We had planned to see the band outdoors at the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance (formerly the BVA) the previous night, but the show was rained out. We'll catch them sometime this autumn, I'm sure.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

AVONDALE: Mushroom Country

Check out the new brown-and-white billboard on Route 41 near Ellicott Road in Avondale. "Welcome to Mushroom Country!" it reads. "The Mighty Mushroom. Nutritional Powerhouse." At the bottom it gives the link for the Mushroom Council's website.

STARGAZER: Another roundabout is going in

There's been all kinds of excitement on Stargazer Road in Newlin Township.
The brief but intense storm that rolled through on July 28 seemed to focus on the road. The amount of damage was astonishing, with many large trees and limbs down, and the road was closed for several days while the crews cleaned up. Debris still littered yards, and we heard a resident's chainsaw in action when we drove through more than a week later on Aug. 6.
The road was scheduled to be closed for two months starting Aug. 15 for construction of a roundabout at the intersection with Strasburg Road. However, PennDOT realized at the eleventh hour that the detours it had lined up weren't going to work because of the roads' weight limitations. The signs warning of the pending closures have been covered up for now, and the project has been delayed, until a better detour can be worked out.
The roundabout, part of the forthcoming Stargazer Village housing development in West Bradford Township, will have five spokes: Stargazer (which will be slightly rerouted), Strasburg (two ways), Romansville, and Shadyside Roads.
Strasburg Road will also be closed during construction; it's going to be quite a challenge getting around.
Stargazer Village will comprise 95 single-family houses and 39 townhouses.

TEXAS: The Young Relative goes national

I didn't think I could be prouder of the Young Relative, who ran in the Junior Olympics in Houston this past week, until I heard that after the race he went up to the winner, shook his hand, and said, "Good race!"
"Good" being an understatement: the Missouri boy who won set a new national record and beat his nearest competitor by 12 seconds. He has not lost a race since age 10. His time would have beaten that of even the older boys.
Let's just hope he and the YR end up running on the same college team.
The YR's father reports that he was glad the race was scheduled for early in the morning, as the day was already almost unbearably hot and humid.

GYMS: Shutdown weeks at the Y

Every August our local YMCAs close for a week for cleaning, painting and refurbishing. Thoughtfully, they stagger the shutdown week so we can still take our exercise classes, just at a different facility. Check the group exercise schedules online or at the Y.
The Jennersville Y is shutting down from Aug. 22 through 28 and will re-open Monday, Aug. 29.
The Kennett Y is shutting down from Aug. 29 through Sept. 4. They'll be open from 7 a.m. to noon on Sept. 5 (Labor Day) and the normal schedule begins Sept. 6.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Still drying out

I have a great idea for a future entrepreneur -- or at least someone assigned to develop an app as part of a school project.
Come up with an app that tells Jeep owners when it's safe to remove the windows, doors and roof of their vehicles without fear of a rain storm and -- conversely -- alerts them when they really need to zip all of those parts back into place posthaste.
It would certainly have been helpful in this household during a recent sudden deluge.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Not much on the agenda

Not much happened at the August meeting of the West Marlborough Township supervisors.
Jake Chalfin was the only supervisor physically present. Bill Wylie was on speakerphone and the third supervisor, Hugh Lofting, was on vacation, far out of cell-phone reach.
Mr. Chalfin and Mr. Wylie conducted routine business like approving last month's minutes and reviewing the financial reports. Township engineer Al Giannantonio discussed a workshop he attended about the updated federal flood plain map, which will affect only two houses in the township.
Mr. Chalfin said that at September's meeting the board may discuss possible plans for the village of Doe Run, owned by the Truitt family, after the board has a chance to receive input from the township solicitor and land planner. At the June meeting Nancy Truitt told the supervisors that the family is doing some preliminary estate planning. She said they want to preserve the village, which they purchased in the late 1980s when the King Ranch was broken up. Doe Run, which is one 15-acre tax parcel, encompasses several rental houses along Route 82, a garage that the Truitts rent to the township, and a small office building used by the township and the Brandywine Conservancy. The Truitts also live in the village.