Extraordinary Stories

Act of kindness (2) Acting (2) Adoption (3) Adventure (762) Advertisement (5) Aging (9) Agriculture (41) Airplanes (6) Alphabet (4) Americana (84) Amish (20) Ancestry (2) Ancesty (2) Animals (28) Antiques (5) Architecture (23) Art (149) Art? (5) Arts and Crafts (66) Athletics (4) Automobiles (28) Awards (1) Banking (2) Barn raising (1) Baseball (68) Basketball (2) Beaches (85) Bed & Breakfast (1) Bee Keeping (4) Beer & Breweries (1) Bikes (1) Birds (2) Birthdays (30) Bookbinding (4) Books (7) Boxing (1) Brother Steve (7) Buisiness (1) Business (3) Canals (1) Cancer (11) Candy (24) Caribbean Islands (2) Caribbean Villas (15) Cats (1) Chesapeake Bay (59) Children (20) Chocolate (2) Christmas (40) Church Adventures (113) Cigars (1) Circus (2) Civil Rights (4) Civil War (4) Classic Cars (6) Climate Change (3) Coin club (2) Coins (1) Collections (67) Comedy (2) Comic Books (2) Commercials (1) Comnservation (2) Conservation (33) Craftsmanship (9) Creamsicle the Cat (11) Crime (10) Crisis (277) Cruise Travel (6) Crying (1) Danger (12) Daughter Brynn (50) Daughter-In-Law Barb (7) Death (4) Death and Dying (39) Downsizing (2) Dunking (2) Easter (2) Education (35) Energy (13) Entertainment (156) Entrepreneurial (61) Etchings (1) Eternal Life (4) Facebook (5) Factories (3) Fads (6) Family (243) Farming (26) Father (40) Father Time (65) Favorites (59) Firefighting (1) Flora and Fauna (24) Fond Memories (457) Food and Cooking (148) Food and Drink (80) Football (10) Forgetfullness (3) Former Students (5) Framing (16) Friends (328) Fun (2) Fundraiser (6) Games (1) Gingerbread houses (1) Giving (5) Golf (3) Grandkids (121) Grandparents (2) Grandview Heights (28) Great service (2) Growing Old (5) Growing Up (176) Guns (1) Handwriting (3) Hat Making (2) Hawaii (45) Health and Well Being (18) Health Care (1) Health Hazards (83) Heartbreak (4) Heroes (13) High School (128) History (546) Hockey (1) Holidays (111) Home construction (7) Horses (2) Humorous (68) Hurricanes (1) Ice Cream (3) Inventions (27) Islands (3) Italy (12) Jewelry (3) Job Related (60) Just Bloggin' (54) Just Wondering (11) Juvenile Diabetes (5) Labor (3) Lancaster County (414) Law Breakers (3) LDubs In-Laws (3) Lefties (1) Life's Lessons (156) Lists (69) Lititz (16) Love (4) Magazines (1) Magic (1) Maps (1) Marching (1) Market (3) Medical (140) Memories (5) Middle School (3) Mother (49) Movies (3) Music (93) My Brother (16) My Wife (255) Neighbors (6) New Year's Day (2) Nuisance (3) Obsolescence (4) Occupations (1) Old Age (1) Pain and Suffering (8) Panama Canal Cruise (13) Parish Resource Center (14) Patriotism (2) Penmanship (1) Pets and Animals (97) Photography (198) Playing Trains (2) Poetry (2) Politics (27) Polution (1) Postal Service (2) Presidents (7) Pride (3) Printing (65) Protesting (2) Public Service (63) Questionnaire (1) Race relations (3) Reading (3) Religion (1) Revolutionary War (3) Rock & Roll (1) Rodents (2) Saints (1) Sand (1) Scouting (2) Shakespeare (1) Shelling (1) Shopping (20) Simple Pleasures (118) Slavery (4) Small Towns (3) Snow (1) Son Derek (26) Son Tad (30) Son-In-Law Dave (24) Soup (1) Sports (132) St. Martin/Sint Maarten (253) Stained Glass (1) Story-Telling (21) Stragers (2) Strangers (1) Stress (3) Stuff (3) Surfing (1) Tattoos (1) Teaching (43) Technology (79) The Arts (3) The Beach House (62) The Flag (1) The Future (4) The Shore (78) This and That (15) Timekeeping (3) Tools and Machines (23) Toys and Games (30) Track & Field (1) Tragedy (2) Trains (11) Transportation (10) Travel (3) Trending (2) TV Favorites (18) Underground Railroad (3) USA (1) Vacation and Travel (537) Vehicles (80) War (7) Watches and Watchmaking (4) Weather (47) Weddings (1) Wisdom (3) Yearbooks (9) York County (1)

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The "Memories from an Easter Past" Story

An artist rendering of what the
"Hotel Brunswick" would look like
upon completion in late 1914.  You
are looking at the East Chestnut St.
side of the building with the
main entrance showing on the left.
It was an ordinary day.  The day was a Saturday in early April and the year was 1955.  Mr. Frank McConnell, the organist and choir master of St. James Episcopal Church in downtown Lancaster, PA was taking a group of about a dozen young boys to the Hotel Brunswick Restaurant and Coffee Shop for "Chicken-In-The-Basket."  The meal was a favorite of just about every kid I knew and I was one of the group that was making the block and a half journey from the church to eat lunch and then head to the Grand Theatre for a movie.  Mr. McConnell did the same thing every year for the choir boys who helped him during lent as ushers for his Lenten Organ Recitals which were held Saturdays during lent.  Always made the trip for lunch and a movie on the Saturday after Easter.  It was one of the highlights for me for maybe four or five years when I was a member of the prestigious boy's choir of the church.  The Hotel Brunswick was a majestic old place that graced the corner of North Queen and East Chestnut Streets.  The Brunswick was located on the historic site of the longest continuous hotel operation in the United States.  In 1776 George Hofnagle built a 2 1/2 story stone building that was called the "Hofnagle Hotel."  54 years later it changed hands and was renamed the "Sheaf of Wheat" only to change hands and be renamed again in 1839 to the "North American."  One more change in 1944 saw the name change to "The American Hotel."  The original building began to decay over the years and in 1860 was demolished by a Mr. Jay Caldwell and replaced with an updated 3-story brick building that he called the "Caldwell House."  Shortly thereafter it was sold to the honorable Isaac E. Hiester and he renamed the building one more time to the "Hiester House."  In 1895 the building and business was purchased by Mrs. Lily Eshelman Bates and renamed the "Imperial Hotel."  It was operated under this name and ownership until 1914 when it was torn down and replace by the Hotel Brunswick.  What a history this grand old property had over the years, while still remained a hotel.  Across from the Hotel, looking north, was the Lancaster Railroad Station.  Over the years many famous people visited the hotel with Presidents Abraham Lincoln, James Buchanan and Franklin D. Roosevelt making speeches from balconies overlooking the streets below.  The Brunswick was designed by C. Emlen Urban, the famous Lancaster City architect from the late 1800s and early 1900s.  It featured the beautiful Beaux Arts style architecture and was well known for its Pennsylvania Dutch hospitality and great home cooked meals.  There were covered entrances on both city streets it fronted with Chestnut Street being the official front of the building.  It was on this side of the building that it was expanded in 1925 to include a ballroom.  This is the side of the building that we entered the restaurant for our "Chicken-In-The-Basket" meal in 1955.  The building was built by Paul Heine, a German immigrant, who ran the hotel for years and finally turned over the reigns to his son who then managed the place until the early 1960s.  After he died the building was mismanaged and eventually closed in 1964.  In 1966 I again stood on East Chestnut across from the once majestic Hotel Brunswick and watch as the wrecking ball demolished the building to make way for progress, which as of the posting of this story in 2013, never took place.  This I know is in my opinion, but I'm sure will be verified by many who are lifetime residents of Lancaster such as myself.  No matter what, I can still remember vividly that day in 1955 when a young boy of 11 years old journeyed to the Hotel Brunswick with his friends for a grand meal and a movie.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - the following photos will give you a timeline viewing of the hotel and final demolition. 

This is a view from the East Chestnut Street side showing the addition on the left that was added in 1925.  The building fronted North Christian Street on the left side of the photo. 
This is the corner of East Chestnut and North Queen Street.  On the right side of the photo you are looking south on Queen Street.
The Hotel Brunswick is on the far left of this photo.  In the foreground you can see the Grand Movie Theatre where I watched a movie after having my "Chicken-In-The-Basket" at the Brunswick Restaurant.
The beginning of the end of the Hotel Brunswick in 1966.
East Chestnut Street view of the demolition.  How sad!!
View from the south looking north at the demolition of the Hotel Brunswick.  Most of the other buildings in the entire block to the south of the hotel had already been torn down in the name of progress.  Too bad it didn't work.  We could still be viewing the majestic old property if it hadn't been for Mayor Monaghan.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The "Joyous Day in the Life of a Grandparent" Story

LDub, Courtney, Camille and Carol
It was an ordinary day.  Just finished cleaning off the supper table and putting the left-overs in the fridge.  A rather eventful day to say the least.  Carol and I have been in Maryland for the last couple of days taking care of our granddaughters while my daughter and son-in-law are visiting Lancaster County.  Not the same Lancaster County, PA where Carol and I are from, but the Lancaster County that is in the central part of the USA; specifically Nebraska.  Never knew that Lincoln, Nebraska was located in Lancaster County until I Googled it and found that Lincoln was founded in 1856 as the village of Lancaster, and became the county seat of the newly created Lancaster County in 1859.  Dave and Brynn are visiting with friends for a few days while Amah and Tampah hold down the fort back in Maryland.  Back in Maryland we are busy preparing school lunches, attempting to get the girls to bed on time and remembering to pick them up at school at the end of the day.  Today started at 7:15 am when our newly turned 11 year old granddaughter Courtney, who hates to get up and dressed in the morning, entered our bedroom dressed for school.  Seems I must take her to school early today because she has 5th grade chorus practice at 8:00 am.  Carol gets breakfast for her while our other granddaughter, Camille starts to get ready for school.  My first trip of the morning to Centerville Elementary leaves the house at 7:50 am.  Only took me a couple of minutes and Courtney shares a kiss and exits the car in plenty of time for her practice.  Back to the house and breakfast before Carol and I hop in the car together at 8:20 am to take Camille to school.  This time we encounter quite a few more cars as we get in line to drop off Camille in front of the school.  I was told the proper protocol of the "drop" the night before.  If you might be the first car in line to enter the drop-off lane, you have to pull to the far cone or others behind you will blow their horn at you.  You only have a very short period of time to get out of your car or again, horn-blowing will take place.  And finally, as soon as the door to the car is closed, get out of the driveway.  Hey, I aced it with no trouble.  Back at 12:10 pm for lunch with Camille.  Carol and I stopped for a burger, fries and a drink to take with us and we waited at the entrance to the cafeteria with our official "Visitor" badge in place.  Met Camille who ushered us to her table that was filled with at least another dozen third graders.  Sitting only about 18" off the ground on a bench that is maybe 8" wide is an experience I haven't had since ...... I can't remember when!  Did get to meet a variety of gracious young ladies who were more than glad to share my skinny fries.  Finally back one last time at 3:15 pm to park on a side street and wait for the 3:30 dismissal.  Girls told me not to get back in line again or we may not be home until bedtime.  After a quick trip to the grocery store for a treat, we headed home for a review of the day.  Supper included the traditional family "high of the day, low of the day and what you did to help someone today" go-around the dinner table.  Pretty neat way to start plenty of conversation and a lot of laughs.  Bedtime?  Whenever .... hey we're the grandparents and can set our own rules when visiting.  Besides, "Dancing with the Stars" with a young girl from the Disney Channel was on the menu.  Finally, collapsing into bed in total exhaustion.  "That's why God planned for the young to have children," my wife told me.  Amen!!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

The "Incredible Monarchs" Story

Monarch butterflies making their way south.
It was an ordinary day.  Sorting through a small crawl-space in one of our bedrooms when I came across a small cabinet that I had built for my youngest son Tad when he was a young boy.  He loved insects of all kinds, but especially butterflies.  The cabinet was about two feet long by one foot wide and three inches deep.  Had a sliding Plexiglas top on the larger dimension side of the box that allowed entrance into the cabinet.  On the bottom of the cabinet I took a piece of one inch thick Styrofoam and covered it with felt.  The perfect box for a collection of insects, primarily butterflies.  One of the most common butterflies we have in our area of the world is the Monarch.  Really neat looking butterfly that is easily found and great for collecting.  Tad, as well as myself, did some research on the monarchs and found their interesting tale.  Seems that in the fall every year millions of monarchs migrate from the eastern United States and Canada to the wooded land of central Mexico, a journey of 2,000 miles.  The beautiful butterflies arrive in Mexico in late October and early November to hibernate in fir trees, clinging together like clusters of fall leaves.  In February they start to awaken in the sun and begin the search for their mates.  This generation of monarchs lives four or five months, but the life cycle of the butterfly seems to be a mystery of sorts.  Most monarchs live only four or five weeks, but the generation that makes the long migratory journey to Mexico is the generation that lives four or five months.  They breed, the females lay their eggs on the road north and die along the way with the males.  The new generation finds their way to eastern United States and Canada and again, after five generations of new monarchs, they use their built-in GPS system to find their way south again.  The numbers have been diminishing recently due to logging, insecticide and environmental issues.  I hope that the amazing monarch never becomes extinct.  When our children were young, my wife Carol and I made a fall weekend trip to Ocean City, New Jersey while my parents kept the children.  We timed it for the monarch invasion along the shore.  Amazing is about the only word I can think of.  As we stood on our porch of the Stingray Motel, looking out over the endless waves of the Atlantic Ocean, the air was filled with the colors of orange and black, for you see, it was the time of the year for the generation of monarchs to make their southern journey to Mexico.  Nature is a wonderful and colorful thing.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The "Shoes with a bit of Radiation" Story

The shoe-fitting fluoroscope.
It was an ordinary day.  Mom and I are heading to the department store to buy a pair of shoes for me.  Seems that I outgrow them so fast these days.  Sometimes have to travel downtown more than once a year to get outfitted with a new pair of shoes that will be good for school and church.  There are a few different department stores downtown, but mom and I like to head to Garvins because they have a really neat x-ray machine that you can check to see if your shoes fit you OK when you try them on.  The machine has a low platform that you stand on and stick your feet into the machine and look through a viewfinder to see your feet.  The machine was called a shoe-fitting fluoroscope and allowed me, mom and the salesman to see if my new shoes were the perfect fit.  If they fit, mom got a certificate that she could show to dad.  They actually used radiation and although it was directed at your feet, a substantial amount would scatter or leak in all directions.  Shielding materials were sometimes displaced to improve image quality.  This resulted in a whole-body dose that was more harmful to the salesman than to mom or me, since he was getting blasted with the x-rays all day.  Garvins was a great store and they sold plenty of shoes in the basement of the store so the salesmen were getting zapped quite frequently.  The machine was used from the early 20s until the early 70s, believe it or not.  In 1948 a scientific study evaluated the machines and sparked concern about the radiation dosage that people were receiving.  The study found that the machine was ineffective for fitting shoes, but stores were reluctant to get rid of them because parents felt it was a good way for them to see how well the shoes actually fit their children.  I imagine if there are any salesmen left from that era who may have contracted cancer, they might be looking for a personal injury lawyer right now.  Garvins eventually got rid of the machine and my mom switched to a store closer to home to buy me shoes.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Eye pieces on the bottom were for mom and the salesman while I looked in the eyepiece on top.
Certificate that mom would get to prove the shoes fit.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The "Lancaster Towns with unique Names" Story

Lancaster County's very own "Unique Town" name.
It was an ordinary day.  Tuned into one of the travel forums that I  regularly check to see what was is going on in St. Martin where Carol and I will travel to in the coming months for some needed sun and relaxation.  One of the links on the SXMTravelForum is titled "Funnies" and I usually click on it read the jokes or funny stories that are posted.  Today there was a story that struck close to home.  Story titled "Unique Town Names" appeared and it was about five towns in the United States that had very unusual and unique names.   I read a short paragraph about the first four and then when I scrolled down to the fifth town, there was a photo of the town sign that I have in my iPhoto library.  Wow, one of the five towns featured in the story is five miles from my house called Intercourse, PA.  The remarks about it tell how the town got its name.  Goes like this: "Another theory concerns two famous roads that crossed here. The Old King's highway from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh (now the Old Philadelphia Pike) ran east and west through the center of the town. The road from Wilmington to Erie intersected in the middle. The joining of these two roads is claimed by some to be the basis for the town 'Cross Keys' or eventually 'Intercourse'.  A final idea comes from the use of language during the early days of the Village. The word 'intercourse' was commonly used to describe the 'fellowship' and 'social interaction and support' shared in the community of faith, which was much a part of a rural village like this one." The reason that it made the list though is not because of the reasoning above, but because of the sexual connotation it references.  Other towns in the story were: (1) Hell, Michigan where in the winter you can actually watch Hell freeze over; (2) Boring, Oregon which calls itself an exciting place to live and work; (3) Truth or Consequences, New Mexico which carries its name since Ralph Edwards of the radio and TV quiz show of the same name offered to air his show from the first town that renamed itself in the program's honor; (4) Bugtussle, Oklahoma which gained fame by being mentioned on "Petticoat Junction"; and (5) Intercourse, PA.  I have lived all my life near Intercourse and it isn't as unique as it once was to me.  Same goes for the following towns that are a short drive from my house and certainly are just as unique as some of the other four that were mentioned in the story: (1,2 and 3) The three "Bs" from the Amish country being Blue Ball, Bareville and Bird In Hand.  You go through them and finally reach (4) Paradise; (5) Governor Dick; (6) Falmouth; (7) Lickdale; (8) Fertility; (9) Virginville; (10) Raunchtown; (11) Fearnot; (12) Jugtown; (13) Beaverdale; (14) and the one that is a little longer drive and harder to find, Climax.  What do you think?  Pennsylvania have a few towns that rival or top the list that was presented in the link on SXMTravelForum?  You betcha we do!!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The "Afghan Mona Lisa" Story

 It wan an ordinary day.  Adding a few photos to my Pinterest board titled "Faces of the World."  I was searching for famous faces on  Pinterest's search engine when up popped this haunting face that I knew from years past.  I read the info under the photo and realized it was on the cover of the June 1985 National Geographic Magazine.  It is perhaps the most famous photo ever to appear on the cover of the magazine.  What makes it so remarkable are the young girl's eyes.  The girls name is Sharbat Gula and the photo was taken in December of 1984 by National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry.  Gula was living in the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in Pakistan during the time of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.  The village were she had lived with her parents and siblings was attacked by Soviet helicopter gunships in the early 80s, killing her parents and forcing her, her siblings and grandmother to hike over the mountains to the Nasir Bahg camp in neighboring Pakistan.  She was approximately 12 years old when Steve took her photo on Kodachrome slide film.  Her photo made her the icon of the Afganistan struggle to the people of the world.  At the time that Steve took the photo, he did not know her name.  It wasn't until 2002 after the Taliban had been removed from Afganistan that Steve began his search for the name that went with the photo he had taken.  He returned to the refugee camp where he first photographed her and, after a few false leads, discovered whom she was and found someone who knew Gula's brother and was able to send word to her hometown of his interest in meeting with her.  She was located in a remote region of Afghanistan.  By using biometric technology she was positively identified by matching her iris pattern to those in the photograph.  Sharbat had never seen her famous photo before viewing it in January 2002 when she was reunited with McCurry.  At first she was very reluctant to expose her face to the photographer, but with some prodding she finally agreed to another series of photographs.  In April of 2002 she was once again featured in National Geographic with a story of her life as well as being the subject of a television documentary entitled Search for the Afghan Girl.  In recognition of her, National Geographic set up the Afghan Girls Fund which is a charitable organization with the goal of educating Afghan girls and young women.  Later, the fund's name was changed to Afghan Children's Fund to also include boys.  Steve McCurry's photograph of the Afghan Girl has been likened to Leonardo da Vinci's painting of the Mona Lisa and is sometimes popularly referred to as "The Afghan Mona Lisa.  I still get chills every time I look at the photo and think of what this young girl must have gone through as a child.  What a beautiful face for such a young spirit.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Below is how Sharbat now appears.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The "Just Peckin' Away" Story

"Peeps" for my 3 grandkids
It was an ordinary day.  Just got back from the grocery store.  One of the few times in the last couple of months that I didn't have to spend over $100 to get my groceries.  And to top it off, I even managed to buy a couple of boxes of "Peeps" with the groceries.  You know, the marshmallow candy that looks like and reminds you of a baby chicken.  Easter is approaching and they are always a favorite in the baskets that Amah and Tampah hide around the house for our grandkids to try and find.  This will be the 60th year of the "Peep" which is made in nearby Bethlehem, Pennsylvania at the just Born factory.  What a neat name for a company that makes the marshmallow confections.  But "Peeps" were actually born in Lancaster, PA when Roscoe Rodda opened a candy company in the city in 1910.  Roscoe was the confectioner behind the Rodda Candy Company which introduced a small line of marshmallow chicks and bunnies and hired dozens of women who had to hand-squeeze them out of pastry bags.  The women gained great strength in their arms because of all the chicks and bunnies they had to squeeze from the pastry bags.  It was in 1953 that Rodda sold his business to Sam Born and the Just Born Candy Company.  Bob Born, a family member who was a physicist and engineer, automated the hand process in the mid-50s and a form of the machine he invented is still used today.  Just Born produces (hatches) five million "Peeps" a day and one billion per Easter season at their plant in Bethlehem.  "Peeps" are more than a treat to some.  It was said that in the '84 Olympics, Olympic medal winner Carl Lewis' diet consisted entirely of "Peeps. " When I was a child in the late 40s my mom and dad would buy me a couple of peeps every Easter, but these peeps were alive.  Dad would get out the chicken wire and place it in the yard and I would have a great time every Easter with the yellow chicks.  After a month or so my Grandpap would stop at the house and he and I would take the chickens to his brothers house in Brickerville, PA where he owned a chicken farm.  I suspect that one or more of those peeps probably found their way to our dinner table.  "Peeps" now have penetrated the pop-culture consciousness in a very different way.  You can eat them, smash them, microwave them or roast them on a stick.  There are art contests that feature them, recipes that feature them and even blogs that are about them.  Some like them fresh out of the package while others like them stale.  Some people report that they like to place a small slit in the plastic wrapper of the "Peep" wrapper, put them on top of their fridge for two days and then eat them.  Two days max seems to be the best for the perfect "Peep." How about you.  You like "Peeps"?  If so, I hope you get lots and lots of "Peeps" in your Easter basket this year.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The "'The Four Diamonds' Fund" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just threw some change and a dollar bill into the metal can that some pretty girl was holding at the stoplight.  Don't always do that, but when I can see that it is for Penn State's THON I don't mind.  Twice Carol and I have traveled to State College to visit with our friends Jerry and Just Sue during THON weekend.  Amazing sight to see all those kids dancing and having a good time in Bryce Jordan Center.  But, I was never quite sure what they did with all the money that was raised until this past Friday when an article appeared in the morning paper titled "A jewel of a story."  The story told about an Elizabethtown, PA eight-grader who wrote a story for his English class titled "The Four Diamonds." His story inspired the fund of the same name that benefits Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital located nearby his home in Elizabethtown.  The teacher was Shirley Deichert and she asked the students in her accelerated English class to write their autobiographies.  Chris Millard, one of the brightest kids in the class didn't want to write about his life, since it was filled with sorrow and grief because of his struggle with cancer.  His teacher, being so understanding, told him he could write about anything, knowing full well that he would excel at any assignment.  So in 1972 he wrote a tale of a knight, Sir Millard, who would complete difficult tasks in order to earn diamonds of courage, wisdom, honesty and strength.  Chris died later that year and his parents sent the story to a Hershey Medical Center official who was beginning to establish a fund to help children who were battling cancer.  And the rest is history, as they say.  I never knew the origin of the fund that helps so many children and I certainly didn't think that it could have been the story written by a young local boy with cancer that would inspire the fund.  While other students were writing about their childhood experiences, Chris was writing a tale that was planted in his head by his grandmother who had shown him their family crest.  His father, Charles, was a music teacher at Elizabethtown High School at the time and said that his son never showed him the story while he was working on it, by does remember him running out of his bedroom the weekend before it was due and telling him that he got another diamond!  Pretty heavy stuff this boy who was struggling both mentally and physically.  His teacher said she never saw any drafts of the story, but when Chris submitted it for his requirement, she was amazed at the tale.  When grading the story she sensed she should not make grammatical or punctuation changes on Chris' copy, because she knew the attention it was going to receive in the future.  One of the few things she did write on it was to mark it with an "H" for honors and under that added: "Very well written.  You ought to be a writer. By the time you're a senior, you'll be writing novels!"  The story about Chris and the THON was in the local paper recently, since Elizabethtown High School was having a Mini-THON, as so many other high school are doing in Pennsylvania.  Part of the early funding for "The Four Diamonds" fund included the sale of the story written by Chris which was published in Chris' original longhand as a booklet, which had illustrations by an industrial arts teacher in the Elizabethtown School District.  So far "The Four Diamonds" fund has raised over $89 million.  I am proud to say I have contributed to the fund many times when I toss my money in the can of a young adult who may be standing at an intersection or along the curb at a stoplight.  My only regret is that I never had the chance to purchase one of Chris' booklets that started the whole "The Four Diamonds" fund.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The symbol for "The Four Diamonds" fund with dancers in the background

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The "The Black Art: A Family Tradition" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Looking over the sheet of paper that my son had spread over our kitchen counter.  The latest job that he had run for Intelligencer Printing Company located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Tad is a pressman for the commercial printing company.  My older son, Derek, happens to be a pressman for Donnelley Printing Company in Lancaster.  Donnelley, which is based in Chicago, has plants spread throughout the USA and is the second largest printer in the USA behind the United States Printing Office.  Funny how both my sons ended up in the printing trade, since I had both of them as students at Manheim Township High School where I taught, among other things, printing.  Printing has a rich history in the city of Lancaster dating back to the mid-1700s.  In 1751 Ben Franklin partnered with Quaker printer James Chattin to start printing in Lancaster City. Ben probably provided James with a printing press and type, and sent James here from Philadelphia.  Ben typically paid one third of the expenses in exchange for one third of the profit, as he did with other printers in New York, New Haven, Annapolis and Charleston.  Eventually, in 1952 Ben sent German printer Heinrich Miller and printer Samuel Holland to Lancaster to replace Chattin, who returned to Philadelphia.  Miller and Holland printed the first item in Lancaster City history when they printed an 11-page, German pamphlet titled Circular Letter of the United Reformed Preachers in Pennsylvania. Later that same year they printed Lancaster's first newspaper, The Lancaster Gazette. It included the same stories in both German and English text.  Eventually the shop failed so Franklin put William Dunlap in charge of the shop.  It was during this time that Willam's nephew, John Dunlap, arrived in Lancaster from Ireland to apprentice in the shop and eventually became one of the great printers of Lancaster and the first to print the Declaration of Independence.  In 1957 Ben moved to England and moved William Dunlap to Philadelphia to replace him as the postmaster, and the printing shop closed. Eventually Francis Bailey who had learned the printer's trade at the Ephrata Cloisters located north of Lancaster.  He set up shop in downtown Lancaster at the site of what is now the Lancaster Newspaper on the first block of West King Street. Francis printed some of the great iconic works of our Early American nation.  A few of the printing firsts for him are:  First printer to name George Washington, in print, as the Father of Our Country; first to print the official U.S. constitution (the Articles of Confederation); first to print the major book of poetry of the "Father of American Poetry," Philip Freneau, also known as "The Poet of the Revolution"; first printer to print government securities for the first opening of the New York Stock Exchange in 1792; printed many historic imprints including Thomas Paine's "Crisis No. 4"; and the official printer of the U.S. Congress and the state of Pennsylvania.  His shop was located in downtown Lancaster from 1773 until 1780 when he moved his shop to Philadelphia.  In 1794 the site where Francis Bailey had his shop became home to The Lancaster Journal.  The Journal was published and edited by William Hamilton and Henry Willcocks and eventually merged with the Intelligencer, which was founded in 1799, to form the Intelligencer Journal, which is today the thirteenth oldest newspaper in the United States.  In 1877, the right-leaning Lancaster New Era was added and in 1923 the Sunday News began.  They still all share the same building on the site where Bailey first started his print shop.  The Intelligencer Printing Company where my son Tad now works is the descendant of the first company by the same name, but now located on the outskirts of Lancaster.  I'm proud that both my sons have followed in my footsteps and have kept the "Black Art" of printing alive and well in our family as well as Lancaster.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.   

Historical Sign outside the Lancaster Newspapers Building

Friday, March 22, 2013

The "The Real Truth About Whoopie" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just got back from Roots Market where I learned the honest-to-goodness truth about those great sugary delights, the Whoopie Pie.  Stopped at one of the Amish stands where I saw a sign declaring the items behind it to be Whoopie Pies.  Only a novice would need the sign of course to know what the chocolate cakes with creamed icing in them are called.  Only a buck and that happened to be what was left in my pocket, so ....... yum!  The elder Amish woman I bought it from had to give me the true tale about where the first Whoopie Pies were made, and her story was very interesting.  She said that a bunch of her friends and her were snowed in during the big snow in February of '58.  They were visiting with one another and working on a quilt for one of their friends to give for a wedding gift.  The snow never let up and they were forced to stay overnight at the farmhouse.  Matter-of-fact they were snowed in for five days.  Didn't deter them from finishing their quilt as well as baking cookies.  Some got tired of dabbing iced cookie dough on a sheet and decided to put the icing between two pieces of dough.  When the oven was opened one of the friends yelled "Whoopie!" and the Whoopie pie was born.  This all happened in Bart Township in the middle of Amish country according to the woman who had just told me the story as I stood there eating my Whoopie pie.  There have been other tales much the same as the woman had given to me and even one published in the Old Order Amish newspaper of the Amish community which featured a poem written by one of the friends titled "The Blizzard of 1958" and told the tale about the making of a new treat called a Whoopie Pie.  And, this all happened in Bart Township, Lancaster County, PENNSYLVANIA.  You hear that Maine!!  Your claim to the discovery of the Whoopie Pie just went the way of the blizzard of "58.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.   PS - sorry for no photo of the Amish woman, but ...... And the one I have of the Whoppie pies is rather poor.  I was in too much of a hurry to eat the one I bought.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The "The Nose Knows, or at least it Should" Story

It was an ordinary day.  But, I'm still smelling skunk every time I blow my nose.  We recently had a skunk make a visit to our back door where he got in a altercation with a possum over the dish of cat food that's outside our back door.  I think the skunk won because there is no way anything could have survived the smell that filtered in through our rear door.  It's a few days since that happened and I still can detect that odor every time I blow my nose.  This smelling feature that I seem to have goes against what most people over age 60 should still have in their arsenal of physical gifts.  The sense of smell is said to be joining the list of balance, flexibility, muscle mass, strength, vision, hearing and hair that many may be losing on the downside of their life.  It was reported in the Wall Street Journal that our sense of smell degrades as we age, reducing both pleasure and safety.  By the age of 60, half of us will experience some reduction in nose function and by the age of 80 that increases to three-quarters of us.  To see how you fare with your sense of smell, hold your nose and close your eyes and taste both chocolate and vanilla ice cream.  If they taste the same, you're in trouble!  I have a couple of friends that seem to have loss, or never did have, the sense of smell.  Not being able to smell a turkey cooking at Thanksgiving or a batch of chocolate-chip cookies any time of the year would be a real downer for me.  And not being able to detect a gas leak or  spoiled food is a danger.  Not being able to associate the smell of a certain type of food with it's peculiar taste would really change my eating habits.  Just like color blindness, you can also be smell blind to various scents, which drastically affects taste.  Those who hate cilantro do so because they say it smells like soap.  For those who are classified as a "supertaster," bitter foods like black coffee and some vegetables come across as especially pungent and unsavory.  I have always been proud of my nose.  As soon as the fridge opens, I can detect if something is wrong inside.  When I put a glass of milk to my mouth, I can tell before even taking a sip if it is spoiled.  And, my keen dislike for the smell of cigarette smoke would have given my kids away in a second.  For those who may be losing the scent of smell there is hope.  Believe it or not, there are exercises that sharpen the olfactory function the way crossword puzzles do your brain.  Put aside small jars of spices, pencil shavings and even leaves of plants and sniff them regularly to kick start the receptors in the brain.  Experts say do that 30 minutes a day.  Yeah, right!  The sense of smell is closely tied to memory.  The smell of creamed-peas and eggs on toast on the table always reminds me of my childhood.  The smell of buttery popcorn reminds me of movies when I was young.  But, your sense of smell is not noticeable to others like your  sense of sight or the fact that you are losing your hair.  No one has to know but you.  But I do feel bad for those who can't smell the salty ocean or a newly mowed lawn.  I have some loss of hearing and I'm sure some feel bad for me that I can't hear certain sounds.  That's why we old people need to lend a hand or an ear to help a friend.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The "Another Disease to Conquer" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Sitting with my family doctor trying to figure what to do to avoid Dengue Fever.  Carol and I are heading back to our favorite vacation destination in a few months so I started checking out the couple of forums devoted to St. Martin/Sint Maarten.  Doc is stumped.  The Dengue Fever thing was not my only reason for my visit today.  I wanted him to make my shingles, that have been with me for almost a year now, go away.  He's stumped about that also.  He did take the article that I printed from the SXM Travel forum and looked at it.  In the article it tells about Dengue Fever being in an epidemic phase at present.  Residents of St. Martin have been asked to take necessary precautions to protect themselves.  Action will be taken on three fronts: general mosquito fogging with insecticide over the whole territory affected, intensifying awareness on measures to protect individuals from mosquito bites, and reinforcing surveillance on the epidemiological situation.  The article went on to tell residents to use repellent and creams and wear long sleeve clothing and long pants in the evening; install mosquito nets on doors and windows and sleep with mosquito nets to prevent bites, especially to children and elderly persons; remove any stagnant water collecting anywhere in the yard or in the house from flower vases and old tires; cover the water cistern with a mosquito net or breed the Golomine fish that eat the mosquito larvae; regularly clean out rain gutters especially after heavy rainfall.  Hey, I'm going to be on vacation and laying on the beach in a bathing suit.  I don't even take long pants or long sleeve shirts with me.  And ........ I allegedly am elderly!  After the article were a few comments that were made to help you understand what is happening.  Mr. Mister SXM said to call him since he has the best customized mosquito control regimen.  He has the best equipped arsenal of mosquito killing and preventing techniques in the Caribbean.  Misting systems, foggings, water and ground treatments, etc.  The island is half French and half Dutch.  The article I read came from the French government.  Another comment wanted to know what the Dutch side is going to do about the fever.  There will be a large parade on the Dutch side the week before we arrive and someone wanted to know if the French government will want the parade to stop at the border so the mosquitoes don't come into the French side.  I'm not quite sure what to expect.  I plan to take plenty of bug spray with lots of DEET in it.  My doctor did give me a list of symptoms which included fever, headache, pain behind the eyes, joint and muscle pain, feeling tired, rash, stomach problems, cough and sore throat, swollen glands, red eyes and possible bleeding.  You know, the kind of stuff I have all the time.  A blood test can tell if you have it and the treatment is ........ there is none!  You can receive a blood transfusion if you have bleed too much and they can give you fluids with an IV if necessary.  Wow, I'm going to be on vacation.  "Is it worth it?" my doctor asks.  "Sure, I wouldn't miss vacation for anything.  If I get it there I probably will have to stay on the beach for a few extra days to recuperate."  He looked at me and smiled.  He knew I was telling him the truth.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The "Life's Lessons Through Pets" Story

My friend, "Horny" the horned toad.
It was an ordinary day.  Passing through center city Lancaster on West King Street and saw that the front of one of my all-time favorite stores in the city was up for sale.  Hasn't been the first time that if has been sold in the past 30 or so years.  Today I even noticed that the large display window and the door are covered with bars.  Sign of the times on inter-city stores, I guess.  Sixty years ago Antes Pet Store, in the second block of West King Street, was a favorite stopping point.  Some Saturday mornings I would ride with my dad to Meiskey's Jewelry Store where he worked.  My one and only reason to go with him was to walk the half-block east on King Street to Antes to visit with the animals.  They carried just about every animal that a young boy could hope for.  Dogs, cats, fish, white mice, hamsters, guinea pigs and naturally horned toads.  The couple who ran the store, I'm assuming it was the Antes, were just the nicest people.  I questioned them about all the animals and at times they would let me take the animals from their cages and hold them.  At noon I knew it was time to trek back up King Street for my ride home with my dad.  Every now and again dad would tell me he would meet me at noon at the store and I could pick out a new animal to take home.  I can still remember the white mice that my dad bought me that would climb up the two foot fire engine ladder on my toy firetruck into my hand.  The mice would also crawl in one shirt sleeve, across my body, and emerge from the other shirt sleeve.  (You know this is too cool for me to ever make up a story like this)  But, I believe my all-time favorite pet from Antes had to be the horned toad.  About eight inches in length with a head and scales that made him look as if he was right out of a monster movie.  Even used by large magnifying glass to hold in front of his head to try and scare my friends.  Mom wouldn't even look at him and really gave it to dad for letting me get him.  I would let him roan free in my room and have a good time trying to catch him when it was time to put him back in the cage.  Loved lettuce and spinach as well as the pellets that we got for him at Antes.  I have many good memories of all my pets, but don't remember what ever became of them.  I assume they died or maybe my mom found a way for them to conveniently escape.  As I was writing this story I was talking to my wife about Antes and she too remembers all the good times she had at the store.  When she was in high school her parents bought her a Chihuahua puppy as a pet.  Not sure if her mom and dad bought it at Antes, but she does remember picking out a really neat blue coat for "Buddy" at the store.  Had to take him to the store with her to see which coat he preferred.  Carol and I were both lucky that our parents allowed us to have pets, since I believe that the pets taught us many life lessons that could not have been gained any other way.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The "The Birds: My Take On It" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just finished cleaning up the remains of last evening's meal that was scattered in the gutter and street along the side of our driveway.  Seems that the crows somehow managed to tear a hole in the construction grade trash bag and help themselves to the chicken carcass and potato skins.  This seems to be the time of the year when the enormous black birds fly into town, as they have been doing since I was a child, to gather with their friends and pick on the neighborhoods of Lancaster.  It was reported that between 15,000 to 30,000 birds take up temporary residence here and make considerable noise and dirt.  How do they know that Lancaster is a great place to live and decide to return and be obnoxious.  Carol and I have a large bird feeder at the rear of our deck and it is always a busy place, but never frequented by the crows.  They prefer to land on our deck and stride to the bowl of cat food that we supply for the homeless cats that have been dropped off in our neighborhood by mindless residents of the Red Rose City.  I don't even mind that they eat from the bowls, but I get really POed when they peck holes in the trash bags and spread trash over the street.  The birds are beautiful creatures.  Their wing-span is impressive and their shiny black feathers glow brilliant in the sunlight.  They are said to have more intelligence than dogs, pigs, and non-human primates.  Some I'm sure are borderline smarter than various humans that I know.  I found a video posted to YouTube that shows a crow retrieving a broken nut after he dropped it and allowed a car to crack it for him.  I have included it at the end of my story.  In Lancaster we have formed a Crow Coalition website to help in the humane, nonlethal and environmentally sound approach to managing the crows.  Killing them is illegal so other methods need to be used.  Stuffed artificial crows that can be made to look dead will scare the crows off, since they fear the place is not safe for them.  The Park City Center shopping mall has permission to set off cannons at specific times to scare them from the center's parking lots and roofs.  We can hear the cannon booms from our home, but the crows tend to leave Park City and head to our neighborhood.  Crows mate for life and form lifelong relationships with friends, siblings, aunts, etc.  The group of crows that I saw sitting in the trees who had punctured my trash bag were probably a family.  I know they have to eat the same as I do, but is is still annoying to have to clean up after them.  I did find that if I take a large lid from a pot or pan and strike it with a wooden spoon, it will deter them from frequenting my trees and back deck.  At first I used a starter pistol, but my wife thought the neighbors might call 911 and report gun fire so I reverted to the pot lid.  And as for the droppings they leave all over my driveway, they are not dangerous, but are tough to get off the car and riding mower.  Actually you can get more germs from pushing a shopping cart or opening the door of a public building than from the crows.  I guess I'm going to have to break down and buy the stuffed crow that I saw on Amazon.com.  Might be the best way to scare them from spreading my garbage in the street.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The "Vitamin D Dilemma" Story

Can you have too much fun in the sun?
It was an ordinary day.  Reading the health section of my Sunday News and found an interesting article about Vitamin D and seniors.  I guess I am starting to fall into the "seniors" classification even though I fear that to be called a senior means I'm old.  In high school it was neat being a senior, but …  Anyway, an 89 year old woman wrote that her husband is concerned that she is taking too much vitamin D along with all the other pills she takes.  Seems she takes a "Centrum" tablet of 1,300 IU of D every day as well as a fish oil tablet for her cholesterol.  The column advisor is a woman by the name of Linda Buch who once lived in Lancaster, PA and is now a fitness trainer in Denver, CO.  If you don't know what IU stands for, it means International Units which is just a standard of measure that the scientific community adapted to standardize the measurements of some vitamins and minerals.  If you go beyond the RDA (recommended daily average) you are taking in too much and it will just go to waste. There is no harm really in taking mega doses of vitamins, assuming normal kidney and liver functions are OK because you just poo and pee the excess away.  Some populations are at risk for getting too little Vitamin D.  Those who live in the northern hemisphere in winter, populations with dark skin and the elderly who do not get much natural sunlight.  The use of too much sunscreen can interfere, but you need a balance between protecting your skin from skin cancer and getting the vitamins you need.  Five to ten minutes of unprotected exposure to the sun is all anyone really needs. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means a certain amount of fat in food helps the body to utilize it for its primary functions such as building and maintaining bones, regulating the immune system as well as cells and promoting calcium absorption in the gut. Getting enough vitamin D also can help prevent osteoporosis and reduce the risk of fractures, help prevent falling, can be used to treat parathyroid problems, hypertension, some cancers, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and overall mortality.  Wow, a cure-all vitamin!  Vitamin D is unique in that, unlike other vitamins, it can be stored by the body when we spend time in the sun.  But, your body has only a limited capacity to store vitamin D and the effects of sun exposure on vitamin D levels only last a week or two at most. So, sunbathing in the summer will not get you through the winter.  Darn! I was hoping that if I laid out in the sun for three weeks, as I plan to do on an upcoming vacation, I could store that away somewhere in my body and ration it out as I need it.  According to the article I was reading, that isn't going to happen.  How do you know if you get too much Vitamin D?  Vitamin D toxicity symptoms include poor appetite, nausea and vomiting and kidney problems.  I imagine it could be a toughie to diagnose. With the amount of Vitamin D that the woman was taking, it is highly unlikely that she will create  Vitamin D toxicity in her body.  As for me, I am still hoping that I can find a place in my body to store the sun's rays for more than a week or two.  I need a socket on my body to plug in some sort of device that can store an infinite amount of Vitamin D to last until my next vacation. The Vitamin D gets stored on the device and I program the device to allow a certain amount into my system as needed.  Something like a zip drive or a floppy disc.  Maybe would be better if it were a zip drive, since I already have enough of floppy things on me.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The "Cheerleading: Fearless or Feared?" Story

Granddaughter Camille
It was an ordinary day.  Just cut out an article from our local paper titled "The fears in cheers."  Page and a half detailing the vast amount of injuries that are occurring in cheerleading which is primarily a female activity.  Notice that I didn't say sport, even thought it probably is a sport, because high schools throughout the country have not yet classified cheerleading as a sport.  There is a push by many to have cheerleading classified as a high school sport so that there can be some regulations and rules instituted to protect those who participate in the sport.   I cut the article out of the paper to send to my daughter and granddaughter.  Hope they will read it and take the necessary precautions needed to stay safe.  My granddaughter, Camille, has been involved in cheerleading for over 3 years and is only 8 years old.  She just loves it and can fearlessly do unbelievable moves that were never associated with cheerleading when I was in high school.  I guess the days of standing on the sideline, chanting and clapping your team to victory, are long gone.  Today's cheerleading requires you to be a gymnast and performer.  Camille can do a one-handed cartwheel, back-hand spring, hand stand, head stand, round-off, back walk-over, front walk-over and front hand-spring.  I'm sure that there are others, but she couldn't remember the names of them.  And she is 8 years old!!  All of these routines look, and are, dangerous to some degree.  She practices them daily in her basement where she has mats that she got for Christmas this past year.  My son-in-law, Dave, is a high school football coach and recently had the head coach of Nebraska make a visit to his house to view video of one of his players, and while the coach was watching the videos, Camille was in his line of sight practicing her moves.  He told Dave that she is an excellent athlete for her age.  She attends a one-day-a-week tumbling class at present and the instructor of the class told my daughter that Camille should have individual lessons, since she is doing so well and would benefit from the extra attention she would get.  And, Camille ...... she just loves it.  My question for my daughter would have to be, are the coaches that Camille now has qualified to teach her how to do routines that could possible injure her for life?  The article I read said that the majority of the injuries suffered in cheerleading are a result of improper training or lack of experience by the coach.  Last year there were over 27,000 injuries reported from cheerleading.  How many more weren't reported?  Some injuries are minor, but some injuries have caused catastrophic results as well as death.  Two-thirds of all injuries to high school female athletes are the result of cheerleading.  Unbelievable!  That is why many are pushing for rules and regulations for cheerleading and by classifying it as a school sport, it could be controlled better with qualifications needed to be a coach and necessary equipment provided for safety.  The newspaper story documented the life of a young girl in our community who was injured recently in cheerleading.  She had been involved in cheerleading since 3rd grade.  She was a member of a "base," the group of girls who have the responsibility to catch the "flyer" when they fall from the top during a routine.  It is the responsibility of a "base" to catch the "flyer" no matter what.  While doing a routine that she had performed many times, something went wrong.  The "flyer" came down and landed on her head which eventually struck the floor.  The resulting injury caused shock, a concussion and severe headaches for  2 1/2 months.  She is on the road to recovery and excitedly anticipates her return to cheerleading.  Would you let her return if you were her parent.  Tough decision, isn't it?  Her private coach is extremely qualified having trained as a gymnast for 18 years and also coaching cheerleading for 16 years. But accidents can happen.  I realize accidents happen even if you aren't involved in a physical activity.  The routines that are used today in cheerleading require superb reflexes, timing, training and equipment.  Anything that can be done to insure that qualified individuals are leading the participants has to done.  I only hope that the status of cheerleading can change to accommodate the requirements I listed before more are severely injured.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.   PS - Camille's Urbana, Maryland Hawks Junior Ponies team video from competition this past fall follows.  She is a "flyer" as well as one of the girls who run back and forth in the front doing flips.  Their team placed second in the Maryland State competition.  


Saturday, March 16, 2013

The "I'm not bettin' on the Pope" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just arrived at work and was greeted by Tony who works for Larson/Juhl Framing Co.  Tony was sitting in his panel truck in the parking lot of Grebinger Gallery as I pulled into my usual parking space.  Within minutes he was dropping off the mat board and framing lengths on the counter next to the workbench where I will mat and frame the weekly jobs that have come in to the gallery.  Tony is a Philadelphian and is of medium height and stocky.  Strong as an ox from carrying those heavy boxes of mat board and glass every day.  After talking about the weather, he asks me who I think will become the next Pope.  Since I haven't been following the situation closely, I tell him I really don't have a preference.  Then naturally, I ask him the same question.  "I'm betting on the black guy to be the next Pope," Tony tells me.  I stared at him and responded, "What do you mean you're betting on him?" Then he goes on to tell me what the odds are in Las Vegas for more than a half-dozen Cardinals.  "People really are betting on who will become Pope?" I asked him.  "Sure, you can bet on just about anything if you want to," he tells me.  Then I take another look at him and put two and two together and say to him, "You're Catholic aren't you?"  "How'd you know?  Was it the name?" he said.  "Nah, the halo around your head gave you away," I replied.  He told me about a few of the best bets and how much he would win if the black guy became the Pope.  I didn't even ask him where you go if you want to place a bet on the Pope.  Probably better off if I don't know.  Well, the black guy didn't win and Tony will be depressed when he arrives next week at the back door.  By now we all know that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from South America was named Pope of the Catholic Church.  Took the name of Pope Francis I, after St. Francis of Assisi.  A Lancaster priest said that the choice shows clearly that his heart lies with the poor and the marginalized.  Pope Francis has a great history in the church and he will be a good model.  He now lives in a modest apartment and takes the bus to work every day.  That will change quickly, but he should still have a feeling for the average person.  As my wife and I watched TV, which was rebroadcasting the white smoke rising from the smokestack, we talked about our trip to Italy a few years back and our visit to the Vatican and Assisi.  We stood in the courtyard and looked up at the window where the Pope addresses the people.  Saw the chapel where all the Cardinals marched the evening before on TV and also managed to visit the Sistine Chapel which is unbelievable.  We traveled to Italy with a group from our church and was lead by our retired assistant minister, Mary Lou who had visited many times before.  On the day of our trip to Assisi it was cold and blustery as we stood outside one of the churches in the city.  We were listening to a priest, who was standing on the steps of the church, tell us the history of the architecture of the church when the sleet and freezing rain began to fall.  Carol and I were dressed warmly, but our friend Melissa, who was shivering from the blowing ice, was dancing around trying to stay warm.  She looked at us and gave us this forlorn expression and Carol had to burst out laughing.  Reminded me of the Seinfeld episode where a girl friend of George is playing the piano and Jerry makes Elaine laugh with his Pez dispenser.  (If you never watched the show, my last sentence is meaningless)  I grabbed Carol's arm tightly and told her to knock it off.  Tough to do, I know.  Well, the priest evidently never heard the laughing and continued on with his talk and ..... yada, yada, yada ....... the church was beautiful.  Here's hoping that Pope Francis can help the plight of the homeless and poor in his ministry.  It certainly would be a welcome change in the papacy according to Tony.  And for you Tony, here's hoping you will do better the next time the white smoke billows toward the sky.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The "Remembrances of a Piano Teacher" Story

Ethyl Reidenbaugh
It was an ordinary day. Talking with my wife, Carol, about the death of a good friend and co-worker, Ethyl Reidenbaugh.  Ethyl worked at the Hamilton Watch Company for 14 years and then became a secretary in the Manheim Township School District for many years along with her sister Nancy.  She worked for years in the high school where I taught and then for the Superintendent in the District Office.  I printed most of the in-house supply needs so I got to know her in that capacity as well.  She was an extremely loyal and efficient worker and was respected by those who worked with and knew her.  Ethyl and I both graduated from Manheim Township High School and then returned to our Alma mater as employees.  But, my family got to know Ethyl in a very different way.  My daughter decided that she wanted to play the piano when she was in fifth grade and I asked Ethyl if she could instruct Brynn on the piano.  I knew that she gave lessons, but wasn't sure if she gave lessons to children.  Wasn't long before our daughter was playing "Clair de Lune," or at least it sounded like that song.  But, Brynn was not meant to be a pianist and we decided to stop the lessons after almost 2 years.  Since we still had the old upright piano in the living room, Carol decided that Ethyl was going to teach her how to play the piano.  And play it she did!  Enjoyed many evenings listening to Carol play on the piano as our dog Arnold howled along.  Carol actually recorded a tape with songs to give to our son Derek as a Christmas gift.  On one of the songs you could hear the mailman open the slot on our front door, throw the mail in the door, and a barking Arnold bounding down the stairs to try to grab the mail before it hit the floor.  Not sure what ever happened to that tape, but after three years, Carol found that raising three children didn't allow her to spend an hour or two at the piano every day.  We have many fond memories of Ethyl and her family.  One of the elementary schools in the school district was name Reidenbaugh Elementary in honor of the Reidenbaugh family.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The "Architect of the Red Rose City: Part II" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Trying to decide which buildings I should post today to give you an idea of just how prolific architect C. Emlen Urban really was when it came to designing the city of Lancaster, PA.  Yesterday's story featured a few private residences as well as the parish house of my church, St. James Episcopal and Lancaster's iconic Griest Building which stands on center city square.  Urban has been credited with many great works and is said to have created many more buildings that he was never given credit for designing.  As you view the following structures you will see just how important Urban was to the designing of the Red Rose City.  It was another ordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Every time I drive by this location at 100 South Queen Street in downtown Lancaster I am more and more amazed that it was designed by a kid who was 25 years old.  You may not classify 25 years old as I kid, but then you aren't as old as I am.  Urban got his first commission for a large-scale building, the Southern Market, in 1888.  Just before the markethouse opened, an article appeared in the local newspaper calling it "one of the grandest in size and appearance in this city."  And ....... the kid was 25 years old!  The building is of Queen Anne style with three floors, 90 foot wide headhouse on the east side of the building facing South Queen, and a two-story market house extending west 250 feet along West Vine Street.  The corner towers define the building's Victorian character.  The market was eventually purchased by the City of Lancaster in 1951 who closed it as a markethouse in 1986, ending 98 years of market operation.  I can remember going to market as a child and my mother telling me tales of her pushing me to market in a baby buggy in the mid-1940s.  
This building was originally the Post Office of Lancaster when Urban designed it in 1891.  He redesigned it in 1931 to serve as City Hall.  It is located in the heart of Lancaster at 120 North Duke Street.  The building was built of Indiana limestone in a modified Venetian Renaissance style.  When Urban redesigned the building he only changed the interior of it.
This Gothic style church, Grace Lutheran, was built of dark brown sandstone and features a prominent square tower at the corner of East James and North Queen Streets, five blocks north from center city square.  It was designed in 1906 and when the cornerstone was laid a newspaper article said: The new Grace Church will be an imposing structure, 80 feet in width and 132 feet in depth.  The church auditorium will seat 850 and the Sunday school 900. 
The Stevens School is located at 355 West Chestnut Street at North Charlotte Street and was designed in 1906.  The school was built in the Beaux style with details inspired by the French Renaissance.  The building opened in '06 as the Girls' High School, but when the new J.P. McCaskey High School was opened in 1938, Stevens became an elementary school.  As you can see by my photo, the building is now a series of apartments.
Standing tall in the first block of North Queen Street at 44-46 is the 1911 Reilly Brothers & Raub Building.  The Beaux Arts style building is the only downtown commercial building to use Indiana limestone and copper as the primary materials.  Above the large three-part transom is the original metal signage reading "Reilly Bros. & Raub."  This building served as one of Lancaster's most prominent hardware stores.  This building replaced the former hardware store that was destroyed by fire the previous year.
This is the Hager Building at 25 West King Street and was designed in 1910.  It shows signs of the Beaux Arts influence, referred to as French Renaissance in contemporary descriptions.  It measured 64 feet on West King Street and wrapped around onto Market Alley for 100 feet.  The store was one of my mother's three favorite department stores in center city Lancaster along with Garvin's and Watt & Shand.  Today the store is lined with smaller establishments inside of it with a restaurant at the rear of the building.

Harold's Furniture Store was designed in 1921 and is located at 4-6 West King Street.  It reflects Urban's interpretation of the Perpendicular Gothic Revival style.  The six-stories tall building has a first-floor facade that features plate-glass display windows resting on a granite base.  The sign which you see at the top of the first floor arched window is in gold-colored metal letters.  The original owner was the Keystone Furniture Company which was purchased in 1945 by Harold's.
Another of the many schools that Urban designed is the 1929 West Junior High School at 605 West Walnut St.    It was built in the Gothic Revival style using light gold-colored brick with patterned brick panels.  This was Urban's last major public building that he designed by himself.  It is known now as Reynold's Middle School.  
This is an old postcard that I found of the Woolworth Building located at 21 North Queen Street.  Urban designed it in 1900.  The building was constructed of steel, iron, stone and brick and was five stories tall with a roof garden and two gold-domed towers that rose 45 feet into the sky.  Urban maintained an office in the building along with someone named Jennie, as shown above.  The store closed in 1949 and was torn down to make way for the 5 & 10 cent Woolworth store.  Recently torn down again and is now part of the Fulton Bank building.  

Other buildings of importance that I have not shown are: The Unitarian Church, Buehrle Elementary School, F&M Stager Hall, North Market Street Quilt Museum, Gunzenhauser Bakery, Darmstaetter Building, Keppel's Candy Store, Garvin's Department, Demuth's Tobacco Store, The Heritage Center, Kirk Johnson Building, Fulton Market and Hotel, Lancaster Press Building, Darmstaetter Building, Weber Store, Lancaster Storage Company, St. Paul's Church, Strawberry St. School and too many residences to list.  I believe you get the width and breadth of C. Emlen Urban's importance to the city of Lancaster, PA.  One of his most famous commercial properties was the Watt & Shand Building in center square where my mother would take me to buy shoes and clothes for school, to eat lunch in the basement cafeteria, and to watch Santa arrive at Christmas.  There will be more to follow in a later story about Watt & Shand.  Priceless memories created by Mr. Urban.  And .... the kid started it all at the age of 25!! 

PS - a few of the photos and some of the information for my stories on Mr. Urban came from the booklet "To build Strong and Substantial.": The career of architect C. Emlen Urban which was produced by the city of Lancaster, PA and the Lancaster County Historical Society.