Extraordinary Stories

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The "Seneca Cannery Antiques Mall" Story

The Seneca Cannery Antiques Mall in Havre de Grace, MD.
It was an ordinary day.  Sitting in an overstuffed lime green chair next to Jerry, who happens to be sitting in another mute colored chair, reading magazines and waiting for Carol and Just Sue to finish roaming the second floor of the Seneca Cannery Antiques Mall in Havre de Grace, Maryland.  
A view of the rear of this amazing building.
A few days ago I wrote about our visit to the town known as the "Haven of Grace" to have lunch and explore the town that sits along the Susque- hanna River flats at the head of the Chesapeake Bay.  After lunch at the Tidewater Grill, we drove the streets of Havre de Grace looking at the architecture and historic buildings that line the streets in this quaint little town.  One of the stops that the girls wanted to make was at the Seneca Cannery Antiques Mall which has been a favorite for us for quite a few years.  The historic cannery dates back to the post-Civil War era.  
The first floor of the antique mall.
The three-story brick structure was built in 1875 and measures 225 feet by 40 feet in size.  The cannery was equipped with the latest machinery and equipment that was powered by four steam engines that were more than likely housed in the basement of the building.  Stephen J. Seneca was the inventor of the equipment that could make a complete can with soldered top and bottom, all at one time.  
The second floor of the mall.
30,000 cans would be made in a day using the 100 horsepower created by the steam engines.  Stephen and brother Robert owned and operated the cannery until their deaths in 1918 and 1931.  The canning business occupied the basement and first floor of the building where they canned tomatoes using the name on their label of RED CROSS.  The second floor of the building was used for the Seneca brothers hosiery business which they began in 1891.  T'he business manufactured all types of seasonal stockings while employing 80 to 90 skilled workers who made about 700 dozen ribbed stockings weekly.  The latest equipment was used which included 15 higenbothom robbers, 27 keystone knitters, knitting machines, loopers and winders all run by steam power produced by the four steam engines in the basement.  
The label that was used on the tomato cans.
After the death of both of the Seneca brothers, the cannery continued to operate as the American Cannery Co. until the 1950's.  Since that time the building has been used for warehousing, boat making, fund raising activities and even as a haunted house.  
Historic District marking on on the front of the building.
I'm sure the creaky floors and cob-web covered walls acted as a great backdrop for scaring the bejeezus out of the town folk.  About 15 years ago the building was purchased, renovated and opened as an antiques center.  Today there are more than 50 quality antique dealers who sell to customers that travel from around the country to visit this town that is the birthplace of Baltimore Orioles legend Cal Ripken, Jr.  I enjoy walking through the stands and reliving my life over and over again, but after a while I tire of that and find the overstuffed chair a safe haven while waiting for my wife and her friend.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The "A True Blue Spectacle" Story

It was an ordinary day.  My posts in the recent past dealt with the grounds, buildings and plantings of Longwood Gardens in Kenneth Square, Pennsylvania.  It was on July 20, 1906 that Pierre du Pont purchased the farm that was largely covered with woodland.  His reason for the purchase was to prevent the 1,077 acres of forest from being destroyed.  Little did he know that his purchase and future preservation of the land would lead to the beautiful grounds that are now known as Longwood Gardens.  
On over 4 acres of that land now stands the Longwood Gardens Conser- vatory which is one of the world's greatest greenhouses.  Carol and I made a recent visit to the gardens to see thousands of orchids that are being featured until the end of this month.  Although they are an outstanding part of the Conservatory, the hit of the show had to have been the simple Blue Poppy.  I had never seen anything quite as beautiful as this simple flower.  As we meandered throughout the 4 acres of greenhouses, looking at the more than 11,000 different types of plants and trees, we came to a very small part of the display that was closed to the public as they finishing the plantings they were doing.  
I took a look and saw these beautiful blue flowers that they were planting.  About an hour later Carol and I passed the same location once again and there, in front of the same bed of blue flowers, were a dozen or more people with their cameras and tripods capturing memories of the Blue Poppy.  Wow, just gorgeous!  I waited my turn until I could also take a few photographs.  Just standing in front of the 15 foot long bed of Blue Poppies seemed to make the entire Conservatory come alive with color.  They were so blue that they looked surreal; coloring that looked as if it had been painted on the flowers with a brush.  Neither Carol nor I had ever seen this species of flower before in our lives. After returning home I downloaded my photos onto my computer and had another chance to see the glorious True Blue Spectacle.  A few notes about the flower:

  1. It is the National Flower of Bhutan.
  2. Meconopsis (flowers name) is a genus within the Papaveraceae or poppy family. 
  3. Native to the high elevations of the Himalayan Mountains.
  4. They thrive in northern regions of the US, Europe as well as Canada.
  5. Blooms are on average 4 inches in diameter.
  6. The blue color may change slightly based on the stress the plant may suffer.
  7. Longwood Gardens forces the flower to bloom in March each year.
  8. If visiting Longwood Gardens, you can find the poppy in the Nectarine House and Garden Path through the month of March.
  9. Blue Poppies do not produce opium.
  10. First seen by Westerners in the 19th century.
  11. The plant usually grows above 10,000 feet, so the feat of growing in in the Longwood Gardens is quite a feat.
  12. It is said that seeing the bloom is like being transported into the color-skewed Land of Oz.
So, just how does Longwood Gardens force the poppy to bloom in March.  They pot them in a free-draining soil mix, place then in a darkened cooler and keep them at 34 degrees until early January.  The flowers are fooled into thinking they have gone through a winter.  They are then potted and brought into a cool greenhouse where temperatures are 45 to 55 degrees.  The blooms this year have more purple on them than is wanted, but that was caused by the higher temperatures that were needed in the greenhouse to melt the snow on the roof of the greenhouse this winter.  Well, I hope my photos have inspired you.  I have a few new screensaver photos to go with all the beach shots I have. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The "Blessing of the Palms …… or Pussy Willows" Story

Jesus entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday
It was an ordinary day.  Palm Sunday!  And, the symbol of today is, naturally, the palm branch carried on Palm Sunday in the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  To me the palm branch symbolizes victory, triumph, peace and eternal life and sets the stage for Holy Week's emotional Easter celebration.  The depiction of the palm on the tomb of Christ means to many that a martyr was buried there.  In Judaism, a closed palm frond of the date palm is part of the festival of Sukkot.  In our church, we traditionally get a piece of palm branch as we exit church on Palm Sunday.  At times it is a long palm frond while other times it may be a small cross tied in the center with a piece of twine.  
The sewn cross
But, where do the churches get the palm pieces that they hand out today.  Many are shipped here from tropical regions with them coming from Mexico, Central America and Tanzania.  During our many visits to the Caribbean we have seen an abundance of beautiful palm trees of varying types.  The Catholic churches in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Diocese buy their palms from Majestic Works in nearby Elizabethtown, PA.  The small company delivers palms to more than 1,000 churches in this area.  
Palm frond hanging in my home.
There is another company in nearby Olney, Maryland that distributes African Palm crosses that are made by villagers in Tanzania.   This year the Maryland company will sell $70,000 worth of hand-sewn folded crosses throughout the United States as well as some churches in Lancaster county.  $70,000 makes more than 1.5 million crosses.  Another company, Eco-Palms, located in Roseville, Minnesota, sells palm crosses that are purchased from Guatemala and Mexico and are harvested in areas to protect the local forests and give the locals a continuous source of income.  But, now wait!  What if your church doesn't give out palm branches.  I found out that some give out pussy willow branches or olive branches.  In western Christian churches the palm fronds are blessed and distributed while in eastern Christian churches the pussy willow catkins  are blessed and handed out.  A mile or two from my home in Lancaster is a Catholic church that hands out pussy willow catkins that to them symbolize new life.  The pussy willows are bundled with bright string or ribbon and handed out to parishioners.  So, no matter what is handed out in your place of worship on Palm Sunday, it will more than likely carry the same connotation that the palm frond does in my church.  Anyway, have a happy and worshipful Palm Sunday!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The "Faces of Strangers: #25" Story

Volunteer Roger
It was an ordinary day.  Taking a photo of the master staircase in the Pierre du Pont home in Longwood Gardens which is located in Kenneth Square. Pennsylvania.  It was a tricky photo since the stairs began in a corner and I couldn't stand behind my camera to make sure I got the entire staircase in my photo.  So I revolved my viewfinder to get a better field of view.  That's when this gentleman startled me with, "Pretty clever camera you have there."  We began a conversation about the staircase and the house in general.  I could tell he knew quite a bit about the mansion and then I saw his name tag telling me he was a volunteer by the name of Roger.  Neat guy dressed in a long-sleeved dress shirt wearing a blue hat.  Reminded me of myself and I could just imagine that he also had no hair under that hat.  I asked him if he volunteers all the time and he said he usually does it once a week.  Took him some time to get to know all the idiosyncrasies of the place, but he felt he could help most people with the questions they may have about the du Pont home.  Carol and I got to talking to him about the house and asked him about the five flags that are positioned at the one end of the conservatory (greenhouse).  
Flags in the distance
He told us the flags on the far right and left were the English and French flags.  Next to them on either side were the the flags of Pennsylvania and Delaware and the one in the middle was the USA flag.  He told us that one very young girl pointed out to him that the reason the flag in the middle is the most important one was because it had a bird on the top of it.  We talked for the better part of a half-hour about just about everything and then he pointed out a few things about where we were standing.  The window above us was the bedroom window of Mr. and Mrs. du Pont.  I asked him about the many window panels at the side of the Conservatory and he said, "You used to enter through the center one, but when the home was opened to the public, they had to make one entrance and one exit for safety purposes.  
Pierre du Pont's bedroom window.
And, if you look carefully at the panels you will see chains running up and down on the side of the panels.  The floor below the panels can be opened and the panels can be lowered down into the basement under the Conservatory."  Now that was really neat considering the panels were close to eight feet tall and over four feet wide with curved tops.  Also told us that screened panels can be switched with the glass ones in the basement so that when they are raised once again the room will have ventilation for the summer.  Roger knows all the neat little things that makes talking with him more interesting.  We asked him about the very large cat that was reclining in one of the chairs of the mansion and he told us it was named "Belin" after Mr. du Pont's sister.  Roger said, "Someone took the cat a few weeks ago, but finally returned it when they realized the cat had a tag on it and was not the stray they thought it might have been.  We finally  thanked Roger and headed out the exit door, looking for a place to have lunch.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.




Friday, March 27, 2015

The "Down by the Bayou" Story

My altered Polaroid print taken of the Bayou Hotel
 in Havre de Grade, Maryland about 20 years ago.
It was an ordinary day.  Visiting the city of Havre de Grace, Maryland with our friends Jerry and Just Sue to have lunch and explore the city which is located at the mouth of the Susque- hanna River and the head of the Chesapeake Bay.  The city was named after the port city of Le Havre, France and means "Haven of Grace".  Carol and I have visited the city a few times a year for the last 30+ years and at one time i sold my altered Polaroid photographs in the small town.  
My digital photo taken today of the old Bayou Hotel.
Last year Havre de Grace was honored by the Smithsonian magazine as one of America's 20 best small towns to visit.  The weather today is in the low 50s with just a wisp of wind.  After eating lunch at the Tidewater Grill, we hopped in the car for a tour of the quite city.  As we reached the southeastern most point in the city, we saw what probably was at one time the most majestic building in the city, The Bayou Hotel.  
The rear of the Bayou which faces the Susquehanna flats.
Construc- tion of the hotel began in 1917.  It was built with solid 18 inch Hartford County fieldstone walls and 14 inch wooden beams.  The hotel opened its doors in 1921 with an upscale clientele.  The hotel featured a large lobby and 60 guest rooms with baths.  The main dining room was located on the first floor and opened onto a large terrace where those dining were treated to a fantastic view of the head of the Chesapeake Bay.  
What a view it would have been from one of these chairs.
I can imagine watching the sunset with a cocktail in hand, wearing a top hat or veiled hat and sampling the fare caught just offshore in the Susque- hanna flats.  Close by stood the Concord Point Lighthouse, second oldest lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay.  With the stock market crash and a devastating fire in 1929, the hotel was forced to close it's doors.  Wasn't long before the Francis Sisters bought the grand hotel and converted it into a senior home for women under the name St. Francis Villa.  
Aerial photograph taken from the "Bing" website
which shows the boardwalk of Havre de Grace winding
it's way around the rear of the Bayou Hotel.
It remained that way until 1953 when a Dr. Foley purchased the villa and began renting apartments in the building.  During this period the Bayou suffered yet another fire due to criminal behavior.  Then, 23 years later, the City of Havre de Grace was given the building.  In 1983 the National Park Service, in conjunction with the Maryland State historic Society, designated the Bayou as a National Historic Structure and directed its conservation.  A year later the once famous hotel was  transformed into high end condominiums.  As I walked the grounds today, taking photos,  I realized I was infringing upon a large flock of geese who evidently call the property home, based on the huge amount of geese poop I realized I was walking through.  As I stood, looking out over the head of the bay, I could see why the Bayou is such a beautiful place to call home.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.




Thursday, March 26, 2015

The "Eaglets Have Arrived!" Story

Adult Bald Eagle sitting on the nest.  This was taken from the
Eagle Cam yesterday.  The quality is not perfect, but you can
still see the nest.  Click on photos to enlarge them.
It was an ordinary day.  Watching the Pennsyl- vania Game Commiss- ion's Eagle Cam located near Codorus State Park in York, Pennsyl- vania.  The second of two eggs has just hatched.  It was back on the second of March that I wrote a story and posted it on my blog telling about the two eggs that were in the huge nest of Liberty and Freedom, the two Bald Eagles that have called York County home this year. The first egg appeared on February 14 at 4:44 PM with the second arriving three days after the first.  The incubation period is approximately 35 days and the watch began to see when the eggs would hatch.  Bald Eagles have been calling this part of Pennsylvania home since 2005.  Since that date eaglets have fledged seven times.  The Eagle Cam that I have been watching daily was installed in December of 2014.  The camera is about the size of a soda can and causes no motion which would scare the eagles and cause them to vacate their nest.  Our local cable provider has been providing the internet service for the camera.  People from all over the world have tuned into http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1592549&mode=2 to watch the activity associated with the nest.  
Here the adult is spreading it's wings with
the furry eaglet beneath it.
When I tuned in yesterday I found that the site was down.  Found out shortly later on our local TV station that the Eagle Cam had too many hits and it knocked out service for a short time.  In the afternoon I was able to tune in once again and see the nesting eagle (both the male and female look alike) rise from the nest and expose the newly hatched eaglet.  I snapped away with my camera at my computer screen and was able to get a few shots to share with you.  The adult eagle lifted it's wings as if to fly, but remained on the nest.  Around the edge of the nest could be seen parts of a few fish which were the recent remains of a meal for the nesting adults.  Today the news on TV was of the hatching of the second egg.  The parents will begin to bring little bits of meat and place it into the eaglets mouth.  
Here the gray eaglet looks to be saying something to
it's parent.  The other egg is still unhatched in the photo
and is beneath the adult Eagle.
You can watch that if you tune into the link I listed.  The eaglets are voracious eaters and it will take both parents to feed the pair.  It takes about 65 to 75 days before the eaglets are strong enough to take flight.  Since there are two eaglets, they will compete for the food that is brought to the nest.  Usually, if there is a few days between hatchings, the older eaglet will get more food since it will be larger.  This could cause the youngest eaglet to die or be eaten by the other eaglet.  These two are only one day apart and hopefully will both survive.  This is still a dangerous time for the hatchlings since one may fall to the ground or a predator may invade an unprotected nest and eat the eaglet.  The two eaglets are scheduled to take flight sometime in late June or early July and you can bet I'll be watching to see that event.  Maybe you will also!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The "New Look!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Looking at my latest blog story, tempted to click on the Autohaus Advertisement that popped up next to the top of my blog story.  The new look for my blog is a trial run to see if I like the type of ads that appear and if it causes readers to tune out from reading my stories.  For almost six years now I have resisted allowing Google to add small ads on my blog, but after reading a recent article in the local newspaper combined with my wife recently retiring, I thought I would give it a try.  The story in the newspaper told the stories of four women bloggers who were stay-at-home moms and thought they would begin a blog.  Wasn't long before they were bringing in a second income to their family by way of their blog.  A few of the notes on the story of the four girls were: (1) 19 million women blog, (2) 20% of those women make no money from blogging, (3) 70% of those women turn some sort of a profit from their blog, and (4) 10% who make a six-figure income.  WOW!  Six figure income!!  Kinda made me re-think the ad thing.  So the next time I opened my blog link I clicked on AdSense and followed the directions.  A few things I found out about adding advertisement.  I get a small amount every time someone clicks on the ad to read it.  The amount varies depending on the product being sold.  Some clicks give me a nickel, others a dime.  I was also warned not to click on any of the ads myself.  Maybe they would deduct money or bill me for clicking.  Google would decide what ads to place on the blog based on the type of stories I post.  So, when the first ad appeared I was amazed it was for picture frames.  The same company from which I buy frames for my altered Polaroid prints I sell.  Now, how did they know that?  Kinda spooky!  As of now I am waiting to see what my first check from Google will yield or if I forget the ads.  I might click on the ad myself and see what happens. Might get a nasty notice.  If that's the case, you will notice the ads disappear from the top right of my blog.  Here's hoping I fit into the (4) category above.  I'll probably throw a big party for all my readers.  But, don't expect me to pay for room, board and plane fare for those readers from one of the 50 or so countries who read my daily blog.  Oh yeah, thanks for being so loyal and reading my life's stories.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The "A True Talent and Great Friend" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading about a new art exhibit that is appearing at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Features seven artists who are all abstract artists.  One of the artists attempts to explain how one should approach viewing abstract art.  He tells viewers that they should be patient and look at an abstract painting and ask why are these two colors together and why is this form so far from another.  Eventually something will "find you".  For me, I enjoy abstract artwork, but many, including my wife, just can't find it.  
HIgh School teacher Neil Dreibelbis
I can remember when I taught graphic arts at Manheim Township High School and in the classroom next to me was art teacher Neil Dreibelbis who was the master of abstract painting.  Directly inside his classroom door stood an easel which held his latest piece of artwork which was always abstract.  I enjoyed watching his progress 
and standing back from it and telling Neal what I thought it looked like to me.  That always got to him!  "It doesn't have to look like anything," he would tell me.  "But it looks like a train engine," I remember telling him about one of his paintings.  Next time I walked in the room he had painted over most of the painting attempting to take the train engine out of it.  When Carol and I moved into our "Beach House" in the mid-1990's we purchased one of his prints to hang above our living room sofa.  
Neil's print that now hangs in the second level of our home.
Very interesting original that Neil titled "Panis Angelicus" (6th stanza of the hymn Sacris Solemnis by Thomas Aquinas). Then, when I retired, the school bought one of his paintings from him to give to me as a present.  Today Neil is the owner of the Upstairs Studio Artists Cooperative in Phoenix- ville, PA which features the work of more than 15 artists from the Philadelphia, PA area, many of which are abstract artists.  I checked out his website and as I was viewing the paintings he has for sale, saw the print that hangs in my living room.  
Print that I was given when I retired from teaching.
Under it was printed "SOLD".  Pretty neat to think he valued that print enough to place it on his website even though it no longer is for sale.  Neal studied art at Skidmore College in NY, Western Michigan, University of Alaska and the International Art & Music Workshop in Switzerland.  Also, studied dance at the Louis-Nikolai Dance Theater, NY, theater at HB Studio, NY and art history at Penn State, Kutztown University and Skidmore College.  
Neil at his studio in Phoenixville, PA
His resume includes exhibits throughtout the east coast and fellowships in NY, PA and Colorado.  Talented guy who I loved teaching next door to and enjoying lunch together for over 10 years.  Carol and I have it on our "To-Do" list to make a trip this coming summer to visit him in Phoenixville and catch up on the last couple of years.  I'm sure it will also include an invitation to visit with us so he can have another serving of Carol's famous oyster pie.  The three of us finished off one of her 10" pies the last time he made a visit.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.


A few more of Neil's paintings from his website follow:

 



This is a print Neil gave to me titled "Sangre de Christo."

Monday, March 23, 2015

The "Orchid Extravaganza: Part 3" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Second day of photographs taken at the Longwood Garden Conservatory.  The  Orchid Extravaganza is in full swing with thousands of blooms.  The show ends on March 29 and many of the orchids that were on display will be sold to the public April 1-4 in the Longwood Gardens shop and visitor center located in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.  The photographs that I have posted today are of the many other blooming flowers that fill the four acre Conservatory.  Follow with me as I take you on a tour through the lens of my camera.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.


Aeonium 
African Daisy
Amaryllis
Angel's Trumpet 
Anthurium 
Asiatic Hybrid Lily
Bird of Paradise 
Blue Potato-Shrub
Bonaire Wind 
Bottle Brush 
Bromeliad Cup 
Guzmania 
Canterbury-Bells
Clivia 
Erin Rachael 
Freesia 
Freycinetia
Heart-Leaf Pelargonium
Lipstick Palm
Night Fire
Oriental Hybrid Lily 
Oriental-Trumpet Lily
Stem from a Philodendron
Pineapple
Flame-Pea
Scarlet-Plume
Spiny Dioon
Aeonium
Yohib 
Swiss Chard 
Tea Rose 
Yellow Lily 
Urn-Plant 
Venus' Flytrap