Extraordinary Stories

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

The "The Story Of A Fine Young Man!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just pulled out my copy of the 2013 Manheim Township Middle School Yearbook to see if I could find the class photograph of a young man who was the center of a story in the morning newspaper (LNP).  Nicholas Vicidomini was a graduating 8th grader when I placed his class photo in the yearbook that year.  As I searched the rest of the book I found him in a photo of the 8th grade basketball team.  Nothing very special about the boy in the yearbook, but the LNP changed all that when they told the story about Nick and his travails through early life with lymphoblastic lymphoma, an aggressive form of cancer.  
Nick's photo from his 2013 yearbook.
When Nick was a 7 year-old he underwent three surgeries as well as eight months of chemotherapy.  It was back in 2007 that Nick and his family first went to THON.  For those not familiar with the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, commonly referred to as THON, it is a 46-hour dance marathon that takes place every February at the Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pennsylvania with the purpose of raising money and providing emotional support to children and families in order to combat pediatric cancer.  It was started in 1973 by Penn State University's Interfraternity Council.  That year they raised more than $2,000 with 39 couples dancing for 30 straight hours.  Today it is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world with millions raised every year.
The official logo of THON.
 The money is donated to The Four Diamonds Fund which is a charity devoted to defeating pediatric cancer through research and caring for patients and their families at the Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital.  About three-quarters of the money raised is used by The Four Diamonds Experimental Therapeutics Endowment for research while much of the rest of the money is used for the young cancer patients family support.  
In 2005 Carol and I visited with our friends Jere and
Sue who live in State College.  We made a trip to Bryce
Jordan Center to see the dancers at THON.  An exciting
evening with dancing in our seats since the gym floor was
filled by thousands of students dancing the night away.
This year's event began yesterday with more than 16,000 people at the Bryce Jordan Center dancing their hearts away for the young children.  It was back in 2007 that Nick became involved in THON.  In the LNP story he is quoted as saying, "I like to think THON saved my life."  Nick has been cancer free since 2009.  But, he hasn't forgotten how he became that way.  This young man decided years ago that he wanted to continue with THON by entering Penn State University after graduating from Manheim Township HIgh School, which he did in 2017.  This guy was such a great basketball player that he was recruited by colleges who wanted his basketball services at their schools, but his loyalty to THON was so great that he turned them all down to enter Penn State so he could continue to be part of the school's THON program.  And, yesterday and today he will be one of the 16,000 people who will help raise money to continue  the program that at one time helped to save Nick's life.  I'm hoping that Nick's story might inspire you to give to The Four Diamonds Fund.  As I looked at his photo from the yearbook it never struck me that he would one day be one of the student's so inspired by what had happened in his life to feel compelled to lend his support for this worthy cause.  Our country is in good hands knowing that we have young men such as Nick Vicidomini leading the way.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

The "Case Palmier Plage" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Finally was able to pay for the piece of artwork that Carol and I had purchased from Paul Elliott Thuleau at the Galerie Tropismes in Grand Case, St. Martin.  For years Carol and I had been visiting the Caribbean island of St. Martin/Sint Maarten.  One of our favorite places to eat during our visits was the little town of Grand Case which is known as the gourmet capital of the Caribbean.  But, spread amongst the many fabulous restaurants on the beachfront street are clothing stores, jewelry stores and art galleries.  During our first visit we found the gallery named Galerie Tropismes which featured the work of French artist Paul Elliot Thuleau.  
Paul Elliott Thuleau
He happened to be in the gallery the first time we entered to view the artwork and Carol fell in love with both his work and his good looks.  Paul began his career as an artist in 1979 after finishing high school and spending two years in architecture school in Paris.  It was at that point that he left France and traveled to Rome, Athens and Crete.  Two years later he returned to Paris to attend the Goetz academy to study drawing, painting and engraving.  Over the next few years he did engraving in Paris, was a set designer for a dance company in Paris, assisted in making commercial movies and working as an assistant for a sculptor in New York City, was a set designer for french movies, got married to French movie producer Sophie Revil and had two daughters.  In
Paul holds the print we purchased from him.
1998 he left Paris for St. Martin, changed his name to Paul Elliot and returned to figurative art.  During the years from 2001-2005 he was an art professor for St. Martin High School as well as creating the Art Lovers Association.  It was in 2005 that he opened gallery Tropismes in Grand Case where we got to meet him.  He now has his work in islands such as Anguilla, St. Barts, St. Kitts, Curacao, Saba, St. Thomas and St. Martin.  He has had exhibitions in most of the previous islands listed as well as Paris, Antigua, Nevis, Luxenbourg, Japan, Montreal, Dusseldorf, New York and Bulgaria.  
Hanging on our wall at home.
As you can see he is an exceptionally accomplished artist.  During our visits to St. Martin in 2008, we decided to purchase one of his Giclees on paper.  Carol and I love his artwork, mainly his simplicity, brilliant colors and shadows/highlights that he expresses in his Carribean "Cases", or houses which he paints.  He possesses a calmness which is expressed in his paintings.  Its this simplicity that he favors in his painting of his "Cases Creoles".  We narrowed our choices to about half a dozen and then spent another half hour making our final decision.  Our final choice was a Giclee titled "Case Palmier Plage".  We just love the brilliant blues, aquas and oranges as well as the pastel greens, tans and off-whites.  Now, it was time to pay for the Giclee.  I gave him my credit card and after a few minutes he told me it didn't work.  Funny since I had used it the day before.  Finally gave him a different card and this one worked.  Found out later the Credit card company was suspicious of the charge and wouldn't allow it.  Paul also gave us a signed soft cover book of his work.  I look through it often, wishing we could afford a few more of his prints.  We did buy a smaller print a few years ago titled "Grand Case Bleue".  It was part of poster, but it still looks great on the wall in our home.  I have included a few samples for you, but if you would like to see more of his work, check out the site: https://www.tropismesgallery.com/paul-elliott-thuleau-giclees.html.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

La Liseuse 
Case Politician
Rideau Rose Et Vert

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The "Rev. Twombley Fights For Law & Order In Lancaster " Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading a bit more about the history of my church in the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, St. James Episcopal.  Came upon an era that seemed to be rather disturbing in the history of the United States as well as in the history of my church.  Dates were roughly 1920 to 1933; a time known as Prohibition in the United States.  For those not knowing what prohibition did, it banned alcohol and for those living in Lancaster County, they didn't take it lightly.  Rev. Clifford Twombley arrived in Lancaster in 1907 to become the pastor of St. James Church.  The church was located at the corner of Duke and Orange Streets in downtown Lancaster.  When he arrived he was shocked at what he saw.  In the years following his arrival in Lancaster he began a study that in 1914 he published.  Not quite sure where it was published, but it evidently didn't sit well with many in the city of Lancaster.  
Rev. Twombley, fighter for good over evil
in Lancaster during Prohibition and beyond.
He told of the 44 houses of prostitution that he had observed within six blocks of Lancaster's city center known as Penn Square.  He also noted that beer was being sold to minors in dance halls around the city and that drunkenness and carousing was dominant.  One of Lancaster's business leaders was seen visiting a brothel on a regular basis on nearby Water Street and the local Fulton Theatre had burlesque shows open on Saturday mornings for both men and boys.  Rev. Twombley initiated a Law and Order Society that lasted into the early 1920s.  It seems that Lancaster was a wild place even before prohibition.  Then on January 29, 1919 Congress ratified the 18th Amendment to our Nation's Constitution which prohibited the sale and distribution of beverages that contained more than 0.5 percent alcohol. Later that year the Volstead Act, or National Prohibition Act, was passed which gave the government the power to enforce the amendment.   The amendment went into effect the following January.  The law was enacted to reduce drunkenness and crime.  But, in Lancaster, it was widely disregarded, thus increasing crime rates in the city.  Cereal beers began to be made which were legal.  They had one-half of one percent which was possible by stopping the fermentation process earlier than usual.  Two local breweries made this beer, but most just disregarded the law and kept to their old ways.  Most local police turned their heads, except one city officer who couldn't be bought.  One night he entered a strange car in Lancaster and his bullet-ridden body was found the next day in Philadelphia.  One local brewery piped their beer using underground pipelines that at one time carried well water.  Another brewery used a heavy-walled rubber hose that was run through the city's sewer system to a local furniture store.  At first the beer came out hot due to steam in the sewer line, but that was solved when a pump forced the beer through at a faster rate.  One city worker reported to authorities that he saw the hose, but was told he never saw it.  As you see, the 18th Amendment did everything but stop the flow of beer.  It led to bootleggers, speakeasies, government corruption and a disregard for law enforcement.  Eventually it was repealed on December 5, 1933 when the 21st Amendment was ratified. As for Rev. Twombley, he was a true gem in Lancaster's history.  He saw the folly of training young people in right and wrong in a church setting and then going into the streets of Lancaster to see the evil that existed at the time.  His Law and Order Society meant business and when he encountered stiff opposition from law breakers, he stuck to his principles.  Lancaster was better for having this man in the community as a driving force to enforce the rules of decency.  His Law and Order Society existed until 1972 even thought he died in 1939.   Today, with the recent law passed to be able to open a local casino in the Lancaster area, many say, "I wonder what Twombley's Law and Order Society would have thought about that."  I don't think they, or he, would approve of it.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The "Age Old Tradition Of Love": Story

It was an ordinary day. Except for the fact that it's Valentine's Day, at least on Harrington Drive where I live with my beautiful wife, Carol.  We have been celebrating Valentine's day as a married couple for 50 years now having celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in 2017.  It was June 17, 1967 that we said, "I Do!" in front of a packed crowd at St. James Episcopal Church in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  
50 years ago.
Celebrated our first married Valentine's Day the following February 14th.  I did remember to buy my lovely wife a card this year, but as for a Valentine's Day gift, she suggested we stop a few days ago and buy a box of our favorite Meise's sea salt chocolate caramels for each other instead of something we will more than likely never use.  So tonight after supper we will celebrate with a sea salt chocolate caramel and a glass of Nissley's Grapeful Red wine.  And, then we might have...another piece of candy.  My parents stopped buying cards for each other when they reached their 50th anniversary.  
John and Ann Betar 83 years ago.
Instead, they had a box of cards they had collected over their wedded lifetime and each year after 50 they would go to the box and find one that they would re-give for Valentine's Day.  Now, that may sound cheap, but it really was very romantic seeing how much they were in love with each other over their first 50 years; plus it was frugal, not cheap!  But, 50 years really isn't that big a deal for quite a few married couples.  I read about John and Ann Betar who have been celebrating Valentine's Day, as well as marriage, for 83 years now.  John was 21 and Ann was 17 when they eloped in 1932.  Seems Ann's father wanted her to marry a much older man and she decided to marry the man whom she loved before her father could arrange something different.  
The Betar's celebrating Valentine's Day.
Today they celebrate their 83rd Valentine's Day together.  John is now 106 and Ann is 102.  They have the distinction of being America's longest-married couple.  They had five children, 15 grandkids and just about as many great-grandkids.  For Valentine's Day they will take a ride in the same model Ford Roadster that they did on their first date.  Ann's advice for married couples is to listen to one another no matter what the situation may be.  Seems to have worked for them.  Anyway, Happy Valentine's Day to all sweethearts today.  Just don't stop by for any chocolate caramels since I'm going to hide them.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The "Books Lost...Books Found" Story

My old book press from my teaching years.
It was an ordinary day.  Helping my wife with the house cleaning.  Ran the vacuum on the first floor and grabbed a cloth to do some dusting.  For years I have been dusting the antique book press which sits next to an old desk we found at an antique dealer many years ago.  The book press was used for years in my classroom when we made hand-bound books, but when I retired and the new teacher didn't want it, the principal told me to take it with me.  I claimed the press plus the old floor model guillotine paper-cutter, wooden teacher's desk, a few dozen wooden California job cases and drawer after drawer of old wooden and metal type pieces plus metal engravings that were of no use to anyone.  As I dusted the book press I checked out the three books that have been a part of our home since we moved into our Beach House over 20 years ago.  As I looked at the small bound books I was stumped as to how we acquired them.  Carol and I found that one book came from the Martic Elementary School where she went to school as a child while the other two came from the Pequea Township School District.  All three have the little "Date Due" flyer in the back of them showing how many times the book had been read and in one case, what year it was placed in circulation in the library.  Somehow over the years we acquired the three children's books and placed them in our book press when we moved to our current location.  And, today for the first time in my life I opened them and examined them. The following information describes the really neat children's books what I re-discovered: 

  • Far from Marlborough Street by Elizabeth Philbrook.  

    This book was published in 1944 and is listed as a book for juvenile audiences.  The book tells the story of Nancy Wadsworth who could hardly believe her ears when her grandfather suggested she, ten year old girl that she was, go along on a stagecoach journey from Boston to Springfield.  It was in the year of 1793 and the roads were rutty.  But, who else could go?  Someone had to take the mysteriously valuable box to Uncle Jonathan to get him out of trouble.  The adventures she goes through from catching a horse thief to buying a moose are all explored in this book.  This book was actually one in Oprah's Bookclub.
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.  
    This is book 1 on the Chronicles of Narnia and tells how Aslan, the noble lion, freed Narnia from the spell of the White Witch.  The novel is set in Narnia, a land of talking animals and mythical creatures that one White Witch has ruled for 100 years of deep winter.  Four English children are relocated to a large country house following a wartime evacuation.  They are sent to the countryside to live with professor Digory Kirke.  The youngest visits Narnia three times via the magic of a wardrobe found in a spare room.  All four children are together on her third visit, which proves that the youngest was telling the truth.  You must read the book to find what happens to the children.  The book all began with a picture in the author's mind of a faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood, but it wasn't until he was about 40 that he made a story about it.  After reading some online notes about the book, I fell compelled to read it myself, being a child at times in my mind.
  • A Horse Named Summer by Karen Bendick.  
    The book is based on a diary kept by the author when she was 14, therefore the style of the book is very simple.  The sentences are short and declarative and the illustrations, also by the author, are clear and unadorned line drawings.  The devotion the author had for her horse, which her family had rented for her over the summer, is quite evident.  Miss Bendick called her horse Sil Summer Salt and tells details about his care and comfort as well as the pleasure she took in riding him.  As the entries in the diary near the end of the summer, they indicate her transition to a more mature view of her relationship to the animal, which she began to liken to that of a parent and child.  Young girls will love the book it is said.  As I leafed through the book, reading passages, it reminded me of my wife as a young girl who too had a horse that she cared for during her high school years.  
All three books are now back in the book press, but can be removed if anyone would like to read them.  Just type me a comment and we may be able to arrange for you to borrow the books.  All three books have probably entertained quite a few children in the past half-century.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

A popular book titled "A Horse Named Summer" which was borrowed close to 60 times.  On the back of it, but not pictured, was printed in all capital letters: I LOVE JOHN. 
Inside the book, "Far from Marlborough Street", can be seen dates as early as 1963.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The "Good Ole' Fashioned Shoo-Fly Pie" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Looking through the cookbook that my wife and I composed and printed 38 years ago.  Made the cookbook to sell in order to make a few extra dollars since we had three young children and with my salary as a high school teacher it was tough at times to make ends meet.  Carol rounded up all her family's and my family's recipes and added a few that she had developed since our marriage 13 years before and came up with 49 great recipes.  Being that we live in Lancaster County, long known for the Amish, Moravians, Mennonites and Pennsylvania Dutch, we figured the cookbook would sell.  
Our world-famous cookbook.
Carol typed all the recipes, laid out the book with some artwork and I printed it on the offset press located in my classroom at Manheim Township High School.  The book had 24 pages (6 sheets of paper folded) and a cover of index weight paper.  Title for the book was 49 Lancaster County Recipes.  We had no idea how many books we would sell so I printed close to 500 of them.  Someone warned us not to have orders sent to our home so we had to get a post office box at the nearby Neffsville, Pennsylvania.  We advertised in The National Enquirer and in no time we had an order for the book.  And, a day later we had another order.  Looked like maybe I would have to print more.  But, after selling 7 cookbooks, the project died.  Made a great Christmas gift that year for friends and relatives.  Well, today I sat in my lounge chair and began telling Carol she should make this again and make that again.  Wasn't sure if I wanted Rhubarb Crunch, Aunt Lillian's Cherry Cake, Carol's Apple Dumplings or Bread Pudding until I turned to the next page of the cookbook and found "Shoo-Fly Pie (wet bottom)".  I hadn't eaten a piece of Shoo-Fly pie for years.  "How about making a wet-bottom shoo-fly pie for us," I said.  Now, there is the "dry-bottom" and the "wet-bottom" varieties.  The dry-bottom version resembles a soft gingerbread while the wet-bottom is a tender molasses custard topped with crumbs.  The origin of the pie dates back to William Penn who was the founder of Pennsylvania.  He was seeking colonists to settle in the new world as part of his "Holy Experiment."  Encouraged by his invitation to persecuted religious groups, various sects of Christian Anabaptists-Mennonites and offshoots such as the Amish and the Brethren, emigrated from Germany and Switzerland with the first settlers arriving in America around 1730 and settled in Lancaster County.  Happens that these settlers were addicted to pies of all types and they ate them all day at any time of the day.  
Wet bottom shoo-fly pie
Wow, I really must be related to these people!  The most famous of their pies was known as the shoofly pie.  Those that settled here came to North America by boat and brought with them the staples of their diet which happened to be nonperishable that would survive a long boat trip;  flour, brown sugar, molasses, lard, salt and spices.  The women in the families, having to "make do", concocted a pie which became known as a shoo-fly pie.  The shoo-fly pie seems to be a variation of the Treacle Tart which was a British name for any syrup made during the refining of sugar cane.  As to the two versions of the pie, the dry-bottom is baked until the molasses is fully set which makes for a cake-like consistency.  The wet-bottom isn't baked quite as long, thus the stickier or gooier bottom. So, why is it called shoo-fly pie?  Seems the pools of sweet, sticky molasses sometimes formed on the surface of the pie while it cooled, invariably attracting flies.  As far as the recipe, I scanned the recipe from our cookbook and this is the same recipe that Carol will be using to make me a good old-fashioned wet bottom shoo-fly pie! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

The "Fly Eagles Fly" Story

Rev. Andrea Brown
It was an ordinary day.  Reading what one of my former students and yearbook editors at Manheim Township HIgh School had to say about the latest Super Bowl win by the Philadelphia Eagles.  For most that might not be a big deal, but for me it was because Andrea Brown is now a Methodist minister.  I'm not quite sure how many years ago she might have graduated from high school, but I'm sure that doesn't make a difference as to the gist of this story.  Rev. Andrea Brown, pastor at nearby Grandview United Methodist Church, happened to be interviewed by the local newspaper for a story the paper was doing in their Faith & Values section.  Seems that the Revised Common Lectionary, a guide which was published in 1983 for weekly church themes, hymns and readings, which are used by many Protestant and Catholic churches, suggested the passage from Isaiah 40:31 be used this past Sunday, Superbowl Sunday.  
Isaiah 40:31
The passage can be read in my photograph and you see why so many feel that God was on the winning team during the game.  Hey, how could the Eagles go wrong with renewed strength on their wings.  Even the hymns mentioned were favorable to the Eagles being they were "On Eagles Wings," "Arise, Your Light Has come" and "Praise to the Lord Almighty," all of which reference eagles' wings.  Not only that, but the color for this past Sunday for the drapings hung on the altar and pulpit were none other than green.  More than likely Eagles Green!  Bet'cha many churches even had green flowers on the altar on Sunday.  Brady didn't stand a chance against God and his crew.  But, what really sealed the deal for the Eagles was the fact that Rabbi Paskoff of the Congregation Shaarai Shomayim in Lancaster, Pennsylvania pointed out that the passage read all over the world two weeks before the Super Bowl was Exodus 19:4 which reads: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians (maybe he meant the Vikings), and now I bore you on eagle's wings and brought you to myself.  And the icing on the cake was the fact that last Sunday was Scout Sunday and many Eagle Scouts were in attendance.  I'll bet many of those scouts were wearing their green underwear under their uniforms.  So, do I think there might have been divine intervention that helped the Eagles win their First Super Bowl? You bet'cha!!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The "The Demise Of Lancaster County Milk Farms" Story

It was an ordinary day.  About three months ago I wrote a story about the Amish and Mennonite milk producing farmers in Lancaster County having trouble making ends meet.  
At the time they were worried they may have to sell off their herds of milk-producing cows to begin raising a more profitable crop.  They blamed a multi-year downward spiral in milk prices as the reason.  Government control in setting low prices has caused huge losses for the dairy farmers.  Many farmers are planning to use the forage they produced last growing season and then sell their herds of dairy cows.  
Amish farmer feeding his herd.
Being that no other farmers may be interested in buying them due to the low milk prices, they may have to sell them for beef cattle prices which is much lower than milk producing cows.  One of the main problems for Lancaster County farmers is the lack of a milk processing plant in the state.  Farmers must now truck their milk to other states for processing.  That cost is very high, making their profit very low.  And, the younger farmers can't take the loss.  
Amish farmer preparing to milk his cows.
Pennsylvania is one of the largest milk-producing states in the country and losing an entire generation of milk farmers could be catastrop- hic.  Lancaster County farmers will meet soon with the Pennsylvania Agricultural Secretary and the processing plant will be on the top of the list for the farmers.  One of the big reasons the farmers are having problems is the excess amount of milk there is.  More and more people are switching to almond and soy milk than ever before.  But, do they realize that those products are actually juice and don't have the same nutritional value that whole, 2% or non-fat milk does.  
The dairy herd in Lancaster County may disappear.
Low milk prices,  scant profits and less expensive foreign milk production are really hurting the farmers.  When spring arrives will there be a big sell off of their dairy cows?  As I drive the miles and miles of roads in Lancaster County farmland I fear they may no longer look as they do in the near future.  Those farming the land may have to leave farming and enter other trades.  The small individual farmer is losing ground to the large milk cooperatives which act as unions.  Will the Amish and Mennonite farms survive all the problems that face them at present?  I'm hoping so, but it doesn't look good.  The famous saying "Got Milk" may be a thing of the past soon in Lancaster County.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

The "An Individual Can Make A Difference, But A Team Makes A Miracle-Coach Doug Pederson" Story

It was an ordinary day.  The hoopla is just about over, but the memories of the Eagles winning the LII Super Bowl will be with me forever.  My Philadelphia Eagles have finally won the big one. Watched the parade and celebration yesterday and realize I'm not the only one who loves the Eagles.  Tried to spot my nephew in the crowd, but couldn't find him amongst the two million other people. Its been 58 years since the Philadelphia Eagles last won a football championship.  Back in 1960, before there was a Super Bowl, the Eagles were champions of the National Football League when they beat the Green Bay Packers 17-13.  I was a young boy in 10th grade whose only dream was to turn 16, get his driver's license and have a neat car.  But, early that year my favorite professional football team, the Philadelphia Eagles, won the National Football League.  I was so excited...until I saw the next neat car and my mind changed from football to cars.  The Philadelphia franchise was established in 1933 as a replacement for the Frankford Yellow Jackets which went bankrupt.  
The Eagles early logo.
The early edition of the Eagles won champion- ships in 1948 when the beat the Chicago Cardinals 7-0, again the following year when they beat the Los Angeles Rams 14-0 and then a 17-13 win over the Packers in 1960.  So its been almost 60 years since they are champions once again.  Since that time there have been a number of Eagles who have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame; Chuck Bednarik, Bob Brown, Brian Dawkins, Reggie White, Steve Van Buren, Tommy McDonald, "Greasy" Neale, Pete Pihos, Sonny Jurgensen and Norm Van Brocklin.  Philadelphia has always been a very passionate football hotbed and consistently ranks in the top in attendance.  They have sold out their stadium every game since 1999 and rank as having some of the most intimidating fans in the NFL.  The team first played at Baker Bowl until moving to Philadelphia Municipal Stadium, now called John F. Kennedy Stadium, and then moved to Shibe Park which was later named Connie Mack Stadium.  
Lincoln Financial Field logo.
In 1957 the team moved to Franklin Field at the University of Pennsyl- vania which held 60,000 fans rather than the 39,000 at Connie Mack.  In 1969 Franklin Field became the first NFL stadium to install AstroTurf.  Finally, the team moved to Lincoln Financial Field and played their first game there on September 8, 2003.  The "Linc" can holds 68,532 screaming Philadelphia Eagles fans!  The current owner of the team is Jeffrey Laurie who bought the team from Norman Braman on May 6, 1994 for $184 million.  Today the Eagles are valued at $1.314 billion, the 17th most valuable sports team and according to me, the most spirited and obnoxious at times team.  I have watched the Eagles play under coaches Earle "Greasy" Neale, Buck Shaw, Joe Kuharich and  Jerry Williams.  Then Dick Vermeil took over and led them to the 1981 Super Bowl against the Oakland Raiders which they lost.  Buddy Ryan added a fiery attitude to the mix of coaches and was followed by Rich Kotite.  
The latest Eagle's logo.
One of my favorites was Andy Reid who became head coach in 1999 and took the Eagles to the playoffs the following year.  He eventually took them to the Super Bowl in 2008 where they lost to the Patriots as Carol and I watched while sitting in a sports bar on the island of St. Martin.  Andy became the 5th coach in NFL history to win 100 or more games with a single team in a single decade.  But, he couldn't win the big one.  Chip Kelly took over and he too couldn't win.  Then in 2016 a guy by the name of Doug Pederson was hired.  Not too long ago he was a high school coach.  He became Reid's offensive coordinator at Kansas City.  Took him two years to do what no other coach in Eagles history could do...win the Super Bowl.  The Philadephia Eagles have a storied history with many great players and a few good coaches, but this year's team will stand out in everyone's mind as perhaps the best ever since they won it all!  What's next?  A repeat!  We will see.  One thing for sure, the fans will fill the stands just as they have for years and years.  As for me, I'm thinking Super Bowl again!!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of a ordinary guy.   

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The "America's Refugee Capital" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Making a visit to one of the schools in the Manheim Township School District in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  My mission today is to take a few more candid photographs for one of the two yearbooks I produce for the school district that borders the city of Lancaster.  Made a visit to one of my favorite classrooms in the Intermediate School, the 5th grade artroom.  Asked the teacher if she would mind if I walked around the room to take a few candid photos.  In no time I was snapping away as they worked of a variety of projects.  I came upon one young boy and asked if he would mind if I took his photo and he looked at me with a puzzled frown.  Another student said he just came to the school from Puerto Rico and didn't speak English very well yet.  Snapped a photo as he wrote his name on a sheet of paper for me and then I thanked him for the photo.  Gave me a big smile as he went back to work on his art project.  Then it struck me.  This young boy has been displaced from his home in Puerto Rico due to the devastation of Hurricane Maria this past fall.  After arriving home from my photo shoot, I pulled out my yearbook from when I graduated from Manheim Township High School in the early 1960s and began leafing through it.  I found TWO faces that weren't Caucasian in the entire high school.  What a difference 50 or so years make.  The names in the school yearbook now reflect the many refugees that now call Lancaster County home.  Two months ago the BBC News Network titled Lancaster, Pennsylvania as "America's Refugee Capital."  Since 2013, Lancaster has resettled 20 times more refugees than the rest of the country.  I had to read and reread the story to take in all the information that I just didn't realize even though I live in the county.  The story that was in Newsweek told the tale of our small, historic city surrounded by fertile farmland that most people think of as home to the Amish, Conestoga wagons, farmer's markets and former President James Buchanan.  Within the city's borders there are now 18,000 U.S. citizens from Puerto Rico that make up 30% of the city population.  For the past 12 years the Mayor of our city has been J. Richard Gray who is a heck of a nice guy and a friend of mine from church.  The city has recently welcomed displaced people from the Caribbean who now call Lancaster home along with 1,300 people from Somalia, Burma, Bhutan, Congo, Iraq, Cuba, Syria and Ukraine.  Most are here as climate-displaced families that are creating economic and social struggles for the city of Lancaster.  The city school district is facing a population crisis. Since Lancaster is close to Philadelphia, New York City, Baltimore and Washington D.C., Lancaster has become a receiving zone for those areas.  And, with sea levels rising due to climate threats such as drought, hurricanes and sea level rise, Lancaster will see many more refugees heading to our town.  We are being touched tremendously by our climate. Are we ready for it.  So far Mayor Gray has handled it well.  But his term recently ended and he chose not to run again.  I'm hoping our new city Major will be up to the task that she will certainly inherit.  Things such as lack of clean water, food scarcity, and even crowded hospitals will be with us soon.  And, I guess I should prepare to type many more names in the two yearbooks that I produce that don't end with Smith or Jones.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The "The First 5&10 Cent Store In The World" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Clicked on my e-file labeled "Woolworth" which I have been collecting for the past three years.  In 2015 I wrote a very brief story telling about Frank Woolworth and his first successful 5 & 10 cent store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Over the past couple of years I have been able to collect over twenty-five photographs of that building that was located at 19-21 North Queen Street.  Mr. Woolworth began his career in retail sales when he opened a small store in New York.  Wasn't long before it failed.  He then opened a store in Lancaster at 170 North Queen Street.  His idea was to open a store where the customers could pick up his merchandise and examine it before buying it rather than the retail model at the time of handing a clerk a list of items and having them gather the items for you.  His store in the second block of N. Queen was so successful that he decided to build what he called the Lancaster Skyscraper.  He hired C. Emlen Urban who designed it in 1900.  The building was constructed of steel, iron, stone and brick.  It was five stories high with a roof garden and two gold-domed towers that rose 45 feet into the sky.  The store closed in 1949 and was demolished, making room for what was said to be a bulk-standard concrete and glass superstore that stood at 19-21 North Queen Street until the late 1990s when it too was demolished, making room for an extension of a neighboring bank.  Follow the photos and advertisements I have been able to locate and see for yourself the rise and fall of one of the greatest stores in downtown Lancaster.
This store was located at 170 North Queen Street in downtown Lancaster.
An enlargement of the front of the store.
A postcard of the Woolworth Building at 19-21 N. Queen Street .  This building was designed by C. Emlen Urban and has five stories with the roof garden and gold domes on either side of the garden.
Another view of Woolworth's skyscraper with the 1st floor awnings extended.
Red Cross flags fly in front of the store. To the right is the McCrory's Department Store.
Interior of the store with customers shopping.
A dispenser for your choice of cologne.
A black and white of the counters in the department store.
Another view of the interior of the store.  
A postcard sent to a friend telling where their office is located in the building.
The Woolworth building is to the rear of this postcard.  It shows the east side of the first block of North Queen Street as you look south towards Lancaster's square and the Soldiers & Sailor's monument.
This shows the building from the opposite end of North Queen Street looking north.
The rooftop terrace can be seen in this old black and white photograph.
I believe this is a painting rather than a photograph.
This may be an advertisement for the Everts & Overdeer Plumbing and Heating contractors.  They picture the Woolworth Building Roof Garden. 
An advertisement for Woolworth's telling all the locations of the store.
Another ad for F.W. Woolworth
This color ad shows the variety of Hubley Toys they have for sale.  Hubley Toys were cast iron toys made in Lancaster, PA.
A Christmas advertisement showing greeting cards for sale.
This photograph would be from 1949 when the store was demolished to build a concrete and glass superstore.  What a shame someone didn't have the foresight to stop the demolition of one of Lancaster's finest buildings in its history.
This is what was built!  What a shame!!

This photograph and the following one show the demolition of the concrete and glass superstore to make room for an expansion of the bank that stood nearby.
History being destroyed.
A collage of photos telling the history of F.W. Woolworth 5 &10 Store.
Mr. F.W. Woolworth.
The obituary of one of America's premier salesman and entrepreneurs.