Extraordinary Stories

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Monday, September 30, 2013

The "Oldest House In Lancaster" Story

My Polaroid print of the Hans Herr House.
It was an ordinary day.  Decided a year or two ago that sometime I was going to make a visit to the Hans Herr House in southern Lancaster County and write a story about the place.  Many years ago I had taken a trip to the Hans Herr House and took a Polaroid of it to manipulate and add to my collection of photos that I offered for sale.  For some time it was my most popular photo because of all the colored flowers that surrounded the front of the house.  But my mission today was to learn the history of the place in my hometown and to share it with you.  Easy to find right off of Beaver Valley Pike (Rt. 222S) to the south of Lancaster City.  Weather was beautiful, sun was shining, air was warm, but the humidity was almost non-existent, making for a pleasant day.  Parked my car in the lot and headed to the door that said "Open."  Walked in the gift shop, looked at all the photos and paintings of this historic site and decided that I was going to usher myself around the grounds.  Sign did say that everything was free except the guided tour.  I exited the gift shop and walked around to the rear of it, which I found out later was one of three houses on the property; the Herr House, the Huber House and the Shaub House. Two of the homes, the Herr and Huber, were on the side of the road where I was and the other was across the road.  
The Hans Herr House built in 1719.

I wandered part of the 15 acres that comprise the property, wondering what it would have been like back in the late 1600s and the early 1700s in Lancaster County.  Many of the original settlers in this area were from Germany.  They, along with a variety of Native American tribes, lived a rather peaceful existence during this time.  In 1709 Hans Herr arrived in Philadelphia with his family.  He purchased land from William Penn at 25 cents an acre and journeyed in 1717 with his third son Christian, who was in his early thirties at the time, to Lancaster to view the 530 acres he had purchased.  Depending upon his actual birth date, Hans probably was sixty or seventy at the time he arrived in Lancaster County, rather old for that time in history.  
This is the second barn that was built near the Hans Herr
House.  The original one was a Swiss type barn built
in 1892.  In 1929 it was destroyed by lightning.  The
original stone walls were used for the one pictured.
In 1719, Christian built the Hans Herr House which to this day is the oldest building in Lancaster County.  The house served as the family residence as well as a congre- gational meeting place for the Mennonites in the area.  Hans most likely would have lived in the house with his son and family, sleeping in either the stoveroom or the small chamber next to the kitchen.   The house is a 1 1/2-story, rectangular sandstone Germanic dwelling which measures 37 feet, 9 inches, by 30 feet, 10 inches.  
This stone above the front door has initials for
Christian H. Herr with the date 17 on the left preceded
by a symbol meaning "in the year of our Lord", and
a 19 on the right.
The Hans Herr House features many of the features of Germanic architecture such as a massive central chimney, steeply pitched roof, casement windows, plank shutters, side-lapped wooden shingles, flat head dormers, chevron doors and one feature that is purely Pennsylvania German architecture, the date stone.  Christian died around 1749 and his son Abraham and his family continued to live in the house.  Abraham died in 1756 at the age of thirty-six, seven years after his father.  His will left the house to his daughter Barbara with only one condition.  If his pregnant wife Veronica had a son, it would go to him and not Barbara.  Well, Veronica had twin girls and Barbara inherited the house.  Barbara eventually married Henry Shaub who then became owner of the home.  Henry then died leaving Barbara a widow.  
This is the Shaub home built in 1835.
She sold the house to her son Christian, then lived with him and his wife Anne in the home until 1835 when Christian built what is now known as the Shaub house for her to live in.  Once his mother moved he rented the Hans Herr House, thus never living in it by himself.  As I mentioned earlier in this story, the Hans Herr House served as a congregational meeting place for the Mennonites in the area.  When Barbara moved, so did the church.  A long row of hat pegs appear by the door in the Shaub home where Barbara lived.  Christian's son, Christian W., decided to be a veterinarian so when he inherited the Hans Herr House, he sold it to David C. Huber.  David C. Huber had a son, named David H., who inherited the Herr House and the surrounding seventy-five acres along with the Shaub house where he was born.  
The rear of the Huber Home built by David H. Huber in 1892.
David H. built the Huber House in 1892, together with many of the outbuildings on the property.  The house sits near the Hans Herr House.  David H. had a son named Mark who was born in 1896, left the farm when he married, but moved back to the farm in 1929.  He eventually inherited the Hans Herr House in 1955 and then sold it to the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society in 1969.  They are the current owners of the home.  Now, how do I know all of this. I guess I could have "Googled" it, but my source was Dave Huber, a personable gentleman who happened to be sitting on a rocking chair at the entrance to the Gift Shop when I returned from my photo tour of the property.  Dave's grandfather built the Huber house which we are standing in front of at the moment.  We had quite a conversation as you can observe from my writings. 
This is the blacksmith's shop on the property.
Dave lived in the Huber house until 1954 when he married and moved out of the home.  He is a tour guide for the Hans Herr House and didn't mind sitting with me and giving me the history of just about everything around the area.  My notes are sketchy on some items, but I believe I have the majority of the facts correct on the history of this beautiful house and property.  Then I asked Dave a question about  the Longhouse that I had seen on the other side of the road.  He hopped off the chair and through the door into the gift shop saying, "Follow me and I'll show you something."  And, that's another story for tomorrow.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The "Sparkling Little Beach Gems" Story

It was an ordinary day.  We're headed to Cape May for a day of fun.  The "we" would be my wife Carol, by brother Steve, his wife Kathy and myself.  Well, after we were all shopped out in town and had filled our stomaches at the Lobster House, we headed toward "the end of the world" as my brother called it.  
Steve looks at Cape May Diamonds that another
beachgoer has found.
 Sunset Beach is the south-western most spot in New Jersey.  After we parked the car, the girls headed to the Sunset Beach Gift Shop while Steve and I headed to the beach.  Not to swim, but to scour the beach for Cape May Diamonds.  The Kechemeche Indians were the first to find the stones that were thought to possess supernatural power that would bring success and good fortune.  I have spent time before searching for the little gems and told my brother all about how much fun it is to find for them.  
Brothers search for gems for their wives.
 He was ready to go so we first approached a woman who was sitting on the sand, sifting through it.  She showed Steve what he was looking for as I began to look.  Cape May Diamonds are pure quartz crystals that are found in a variety of sizes.  They are from the upper reaches of the Delaware River, some 200 miles upstream where for thousands of years swirling waters have loosened pockets and veins of quartz crystals.  
My Cape May Diamonds
 The crystals begin their long journey toward the ocean which takes thousands of years before they end at the mouth of the river.  The offshore sunken concrete ship "Atlantus" causes them to direct their course toward the beach where Steve and I are currently searching for them today.  
Cape May Diamonds made into earrings.
 Hard to think that the small semi-clear crystals we are picking out of the sand have been traveling for thousands of years to reach us.  These crystals, when polished in a tumbler for days and then faceted, have the appearance of a real diamond.  Before scanning equipment was available, many a jeweler was fooled by people such as Steve and me.  I can see the excitement on my brother's face as he finds a variety of different sizes from the beach.  We stop to compare our finds, than continue our search.  As our wives arrive we tell them the news that we have found them the gems they have been searching for.    
Steve and LDub after a great day searching for
gems with the concrete ship in the background.
 Didn't seem too impressed with our discoveries, though.  Steve tells me how much fun he had and that he is going to return another time before they leave at the end of the week.  Also going to buy a tumbler so he can make them appear like real diamonds, then sell them in groups on eBay.  Now why didn't I think of that?  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.   

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The "Lancaster County's Fall Harvest" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Traveling around some of the county roads trying to find some interesting photos of the fall harvest to share with you.  This year has been a fantastic year for crops in Lancaster, County, PA.  This year farmers have planted 175,000 acres of corn, 27,000 acres of soybeans and 9,000 acres of tobacco.  Believe it or not, tobacco is still a money crop for the farmers in Lancaster Co. As of today the tobacco harvest is about 80% complete with the leaves valued at $9,000 an acre.  Another cash crop for the farmers is alfalfa which has been profitable this summer.  One farmer told a local newspaper reporter that his neighbor just started cutting for the fifth time.  May even be able to get another cutting if the weather continues as it has been.  But, the biggest cash crop is corn.  Every so often I hop out of my car to take a photo and I am dwarfed by the size of the corn along the roads.  They have to be close to 7 feet tall in most fields.  The ears are also large on most of the corn plants which adds quite a bit of energy and protein to the silage.  Silage is made either by placing cut green vegetation in a silo, by piling it in a large heap covered with plastic sheet, or by wrapping large bales in plastic film.  Corn silage is a popular forage for ruminant animals because it is high in energy and digestibility.  Neat to see the large combines going through the corn fields, but it is even neater watching the Amish farmers use their equipment that cuts the corn stalks and throws them onto a wagon that is next to it which is being pulled by mules.  Some farmers also air-dry their grain corn and store it in corn cribs a little later in the fall.  As the corn comes off the fields I notice that the farmers are replacing it with cover crops that will help with soil enrichment for next spring.  Many also cover the fields with solid or liquid manure.  As you probably suspect, my journey today takes me through parts of the county that produce not only the crops, but some very interesting and ungodly awful smells.  Hope you enjoy the results of my travels.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - remember that you can click on any photo to enlarge it.
One of Lancaster County's many farms.  Soybeans in the foreground and corn to the right are some of the crops grown on this farm.  You can tell which farms are Amish farms by checking to see if any power lines travel back the farm road toward the farm.  Amish farms are not connected to electric lines.
Tobacco leaves that are ready to harvest.
This photo shows how the tobacco stalks are placed on tobacco sticks for transporting to the tobacco barn for drying.  Photo by my grandson Caden.
This entire field is stacked with tobacco on tobacco sticks.
The tobacco barn.  The tobacco is strung from the ceiling in this barn for drying.  Pieces of the barns siding can be removed or opened to allow for better air circulation.
This is showing mechanical harvesting of corn.  The harvester is to the right of the truck and it is chopping the corn and sending it through the large arm into the truck.  
This Amish family prepares to harvest their corn at one end of the rows of corn.
This process is a very dusty process as can be seen in this photo.  Workers cut the corn and place it in the metal unit which stacks it on the wagon that is pulled by the mules.
Another view of the Amish harvesting of the corn.
The corn is towed by the mules to the farm along county roads. Notice the wash hanging from the wash line at the barn.
Spreading of fertilizer on the fields that have been harvested.
Preparing the field for winter cover.
Conventional spreading of liquid manure.
Amish harvesting what is probably alfalfa.
Amish farmer mowing the grass along the side of the road with his mules and manual mower unit.
Favorite means of transportation for the Amish.  Easier that harnessing the horse to the buggy.
Amish farm with the buggy.  Most Amish farms are kept in immaculate condition.  The buggy is parked by the farm house. 
This Amish farm in the south end of the county has a wash line strung across the road from the house to the barn.  The use of a wheel and pulley are needed to run the wash across the road.
One of a herd of camels that I found on one of the Amish farms in Lancaster county.
This shows a round bale of hay sitting next to the silo on this farm.  I just had to show this so I could tell you one of my dad's favorite jokes.  Goes like this:  Why don't cows like to eat from a round bale of hay?  Answer: They can't get a square meal.  And every time I'm with someone and see a round bale of hay, I have to tell the joke, just for dad!

Friday, September 27, 2013

The "Oh, the pain .......... the pain!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  About two-thirds up the 217 steps on the Cape May Lighthouse in Cape May, NJ.  My brother Steve and I decided that it would be neat to visit the lighthouse and walk to the top, but at this moment, I'm not so sure.  The pain has set in!  
The legs are felling like rubber at the moment.  Our wives are seated in the car waiting for our arrival on the walkway around the top of the lighthouse.  The same walkway where someone from our hometown of Lancaster, PA jumped to his death in the late 1980s.  Not gonna happen today, since the bars that have been put in place after the jump are impregnable.  Well, we did finally make it to the top and what a view.  You can see for miles and miles.  
The 1823 Cape May Lighthouse.
 This lighthouse is the third such structure since the first one was built in 1823.  That lighthouse was 800 more feet out into the ocean than from where we are now standing.  Unfort- unately it was erected on unstable sand and was eventually washed away by the mid-1840s.  In 1847 another lighthouse was built further inland which was 78 feet tall.  
The base of the 1847 Lighthouse made into a barn.
 It was so poorly constructed that it was torn down and eventually replaced with the structure we are standing on top of at this moment.  This lighthouse was built in 1859 and stands 157 feet, 6 inches from sea level.  The walls are actually two layers thick with the outside wall, which is cone shaped, being 3 feet 10 inches thick at the bottom and 1 foot 6 inches thick at the top.  
The steps that cause the pain!
 The inside wall is a cylinder with 8.5 inch thick walls which hold the spiral staircase we just managed to navigate.  The walls are said to be able to withstand winds several times above hurricane force.  Guess so far they have worked!  The spiral staircase is made of cast iron with each tread an individual landing that is joined to a center post.  The small diamond holes in each step allow for ventilation and to help hear from top to bottom.  The closer you get towards the top, the less wide the stairs become.  The outside of the steps are supported with pins into the cylindrical inside wall.  The steps originally were navigated without help from railings, but in 1865 the wall railing was added and in 1988 the inner railing was added to help senior citizens, such as my brother and me, have a way to pull ourselves to the top.  
Every 30 steps yields a landing with a view.
 After every 30 steps there is a landing, thank goodness, which allows you to look through a small hole to the outside and allows you to rest.   The ceiling above each landing is an arch made of brick, known as a barrel vault, which adds support to the entire structure.  The light itself used to be an oil vapor lamp which had multiple wicks and required the lighthouse keeper to replenish the lamp kerosene on a regular basis.  
View of Cape May looking north.
 In 1893 an Oil House was built next to the lighthouse to store the kerosene to prevent fumes and chance of fire.  In 1933 the light was electrified.  The large lens that magnified the light was originally a Fresnel lens that used a series of prisms to reflect, bend and magnify the light.  
The rotating beacon in the lighthouse.
 In 1946 a rotating beacon light replaced the Fresnel lens.   The light is still operated today by the Coast Guard and is visible 24 miles out to sea.  Flashes every 15 seconds.  When Steve and I exited at the top we talked with the guard about the 1989 death at the lighthouse.  At the time the bars on the top of the cage were farther apart and he managed to get through them.  In front of us is a sign that says "No Shouting."  Guess the neighbors would get annoyed if everyone started yelling to their friends below.  Well, we waved to our wives, walked around shooting photos for a few minutes and made the decent to the bottom.  That was a piece of cake.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

The ....... sssshhhhh ....... quiet view from the top.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The "Lunch with a River View" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Beautiful early fall day with a bright sun high overhead, the temp- erature in the low 70s and a slight breeze blowin'.  Good day to be alive, as they all are here of late.  Sky is dotted with light wispy clouds and a few disappearing streaks from long-gone airplanes.  Straight ahead of us is the mighty Susquehanna River which seems rather calm today.  
View from our table at the John Wright Restaurant.
Must have been anticipating our arrival!  We're sitting under a brite yellow umbrella on the patio of the John Wright Restaurant located in his namesake town of Wrightsville, Pennsylvania with our friends Pat and Dale.  John Wright Company remains America’s oldest continuously operating manufacturer of cast iron products having been founded in 1880.  

Carol's meal.
A few years ago they converted their original silk mill into offices, a store and restaurant.  Not long  ago Pat suggested we make a voyage to the restaurant which was one of her favorites when she worked near York, PA.  Carol and I have been meaning to eat here for years, but ... you know how that goes.  Fishermen are casting their lines in front of us and kayakers are making their way between the Veterans Memorial Bridge and the Wrights Ferry Bridge, which can both be seen from our vantage point.  The menu looks interesting with a note that they always use the freshest ingredients available.  They use cage-free chicken eggs as well as buy from local farmers when in season.  
LDub's meal.
Their chef has run restaurants in New York, Los Angeles and Houston.  I'm sure Wrights- ville, PA will add another

prestigious feather in his hat. Well, today Carol decided on the John Wright salad which was a homemade Chicken Salad and Small Salad with a Corn Muffin and Fresh Fruit.  
View of the restaurant from the water.
I had for starters a cup of one of the best Cream of Crab Soup I have ever had.  It had pieces of asparagus blended into the soup.  For my lunch I chose the John Wright wrap with Turkey, Ham, Bacon, Smoked Gouda, Homemade Cole Slaw and Honey Mustard.  
Carol and Pat enjoying their lunch.
Great choices for both of us to go with our glass of ice tea.  Service was fine, but the star of the lunch was the panoramic view we had of the mighty Susque- hanna.  As we ate, two workers prepared the grassy area in front of us for what looked like a wedding.  Too bad we couldn't have been a part of it, but we decided to walk the grounds of the 
restaurant, then head towards Long Level, PA to take in the views that are offered there.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The "Service With A Smile" Story

It was an ordinary day.  My wife Carol and I arrived yesterday at the house on 116th Street in Stone Harbor, NJ.  My brother Steve and his wife Kathy had rented the house, which was 3 houses from the beach, for a week and had invited Carol and I to spend some time with them.  I am sorry to admit that I hadn't been on vacation with Steve since the 1950s when our parents would take us to the Chesapeake for a week of fun every summer.  I am five years older than my brother and when I entered high school we kinda went different ways with friends, jobs and schooling.  Over the years Carol and I would go on vacations with our children while Steve would go on vacations with his children.  Always got together for birthday parties and holidays, but never managed to spend a summer vacation together.  Well, that has all changed now because of his offer.  And, I foresee more vacation time together.  We had the best time even though it was only three short days due to work schedules for my wife and myself.  Well, after arriving we headed to the beach and there they were, sitting next to a large pile of sand along with their three grandkids, daughter and son-in-law.  They saw us coming and gave a wave.  Kathy headed back to the house with us to help us unpack.  I backed the car to the curb in the angled parking spaces and began unloading.  We quickly grabbed our bathing suits headed back to the beach.  Eventually their kids and grandkids headed back to shower and take off for home, since they had school and jobs to attend the next day.  We sat on the beach for some time, then also headed back.  The next door neighbor, probably the only other living person on the beach block due to the time of year, warned me about parking with my car backed in instead of forward.  I thanked him and went to get my car keys.  As I entered my car I saw it!  Yellow piece of perforated index under my windshield-wiper.  A PARKING TICKET!!  Now, I'm the only car parked on the block and there aren't more than a few dozen other automobiles in the entire town, but I got a ticket for backing into the space.  "Where's the sign that says I can't do that?" I ask anyone who can hear me.  Seems there is a small sign at the end of the street that tells me I have to pull into the angled spaces.  Showed it to Steve who is already laughing as loud as he can as we try to figure out how much it's going to cost me for the convenience of getting about 8 feet closer to the front door.  "Kathy told you to pull into the driveway right next to the house," he said.  "Yeah, I know," I responded.  Well, as we walk around the town today, I tell everyone I'm going to head to the Police Station to pay my ticket.  Carol says, "But you don't have it with you."  "Don't worry, they'll take my money even without it," I replied.  Steve headed with me to the station to make sure I didn't get in any trouble. We approached the window after entering the door.  Three officers who looked like high school students were watching football highlights from the day before.  I tapped on the glass to see how thick it might be.  "Yeah, it's bullet-proof," one of the officers told me.  About this thick as he held his finger apart to show me."  "I don't have my ticket I got for no reason at all, but can I still pay for it now."  He laughed and asked for my car license plate number.  "Now who knows that?" I asked him with an annoyed voice.  "The ticket even had the wrong color of my car on it," I told him testily.  We finally figured out which ticket was mine since they had only a few to check and he told me the citation number on it.  I had to walk around the corner to the Municipal Office and head to the second floor for the Court Offices.  Young girl greeted me from behind another bullet-proof piece of glass and asked what she can do for me.  Eventually told me with a smile that I owed $25.00.  Payed the fine and as she gave me my receipt she smiled again as she said thank you.  Tough to get angry with her!  She didn't park the car!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The "Dock" Story

The marshlands with very little of the once visible "dock."
It was an ordinary day.  Just finished down- loading a few photos and scanning a few others that are all part of my story today.  Earlier this week my wife, Carol, and I visited with my brother, Steve, and sister-in-law, Kathy, at Stone Harbor, NJ.  One of the many things that we did in the three days we were with them was take a land tour of some of the marshlands that make up the shore area along the New Jersey coast.  One particular location we visited is on the street known as 96th Street that exits Stone Harbor toward the mainland.  Along that stretch used to be a narrow wooden dock that seems to begin and end nowhere.  There was no platform attached to either end of it, but it was an interesting walkway in the middle of the marshlands that always attracted my attention as we passed by it over the years.  When we saw it today I stopped the car, walked across the near-deserted street and snapped a few shots with my Sony Alpha DSLR.  Tried a few exposures in the auto mode then a few more in Aperature Priority. Most of the interesting wooden walkway that was there years ago has rotted away, but the remnants of the wooden posts still were a reminder of the original dock.
My daughter Brynn's award winning black and white image of the "dock."
It was back in the early 90s that I stopped for the first time at the same spot with my daughter Brynn to take a photo of the "dock."  The sky was soft with scattered clouds and a dim sun, perfect day for photographs.  Brynn had been the first one to see the dock as we entered Stone Harbor
 for vacation that year and wanted to capture the shot with her Minolta 35mm camera.  She positioned herself, made the aperture and shutter adjustments to the manual camera she was using and took a few shots. The following school year Brynn was part of my photography class I taught at Manheim Township High School, where she was a senior, and during the class eventually developed black and white Kodak Plus-X film, made a proof sheet, made the print and matted it.  Gave her an "A" for the project, but not because she was my daughter, but because the print was fantastic.  She eventually  entered the photo in the National Scholastic Arts and Photography Contest and won a "Gold Key" for her entry.  
My Polaroid creation of the "dock." 
It was the following summer that I returned to the same spot to try my luck with my Polaroid SX-70 Camera.  I had been taking photos with the camera for some time and
mani- pulating the resulting prints with a tool used for forming ceramic pieces which the art teacher had given to me.  I began selling the prints and thought the marshland photo would be a good addition to my collection. The dock was still there and looked pretty much the same as the year before, but the tide was in and there was more water around the wooden walkway.  Snapped off a couple of Polaroid shots and returned to the rental to manipulate the results.  Rubbed the sky with the rounded end of the tool to create clouds and then took to the grasses with the pointed end of the tool to make them look more realistic.  My print eventually became one of my biggest sellers at the William Ris Gallery on 2nd Street in Stone Harbor as well as stores where I sold my prints along the Chesapeake Bay.  Over the last twenty years the marshland has started to swallow the intriguing sculpture that was once our "dock."  What might it do by next year?  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.