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Friday, July 31, 2015

The "Moneybags Benson: Revisited" Story

This photo of Carol was taken at the
Lancaster Country Club in 1974.
It was an ordinary day.  Checking out the headlines from the last few days that read: Money & Murder and A Life Behind Bars.  Both were written in the Lancaster Newspaper and both were written by a former student of mine, Cindy Stauffer.  It was on Sunday, August 2, 2011 that I first wrote about a female friend from church whose brother murdered her mother and brother and almost murdered her.  Carol Benson's family were members at St. James Episcopal Church in downtown Lancaster, PA and Carol was in my Sunday School class for a few years in the late 1950's and early 1960's.  She suddenly stopped coming to Sunday School, but we didn't think much about it at the time.  One of my best friends, Barry, who was in the Sunday School class also, told me that he knew her from school and that she had tons of money and was well liked in school.  All the guys thought she was really neat, and I must confess I thought so also.  Seems her family owned Lancaster Leaf Tobacco Company in Lancaster, PA at that time in history when smoking was at it's height in popularity.  Seems that Carol happened to disappear for a few months to go away to have a child which was adopted by her mother as her own.  So the family consisted of the mother, son Steven, daughter Carol and adopted son Scott.  Strange situation, to say the least.  
Carol's brother Steven who was charged with murder.
On July 9, 1985 two pipe bombs exploded in a Chevy Suburban in front of their home in Naples, Florida killing mother Margaret and son Scott.  Carol survived the explosion, but was severely burned.  On August 22, Steven, age 33 at the time, was arrested and charged with the murders of his mother, age 63, brother, age 21, and the attempted murder of his sister.  The evidence was pretty revealing, but it took just about a year to bring him to trial and convict him of his dastardly deeds on August 7, 1986.  His motive was to inherit the company fortune.  He received two consecutive life sentences and spent the last 30 years of his life in jail until his death July 3rd of this year.  
Jail cell similar to the one that housed Steven.
The trial attracted national media coverage and a series of TV specials and books.  Only O.J. Simpson's trial gained more publicity than the Benson trial.  Carol was one of the people who testified against her brother and was said to be responsible for getting his sentence to be consecutive rather than concurrent.  During the last 30 years Steven Benson was moved 11 times from prison to prison and saw his life of luxury go from owning just about everything to not even owning a bath towel.  He held various jobs in prison from working in the laundry to working in the prison library. In 1991 he was stabbed by another inmate, but the records of that incident have disappeared.  Records show that his wife and three children didn't visit him and during the final years of his life he had no visitors at all.  He went from living on a 17-acre horse farm in Lancaster to living in a prison cell in Florida.  
Photo of Steven from a few years ago.
He was reprimanded in prison many times for things such as having an unauthorized radio to taking ketchup and mayonnaise packets from the cafeteria to having too many shower shoes to standing on a chair to change a TV channel.  He devoted most of his prison life to filing grievances about his prison life such as how many minutes water came out of the shower head to the number of days salt and pepper were served to prisoners.  His last grievance was filed in April of this year and his response was received by him on May 6, exactly two months from his death at age 63, the same age that his mother was when she was killed.  His cause of death is unknown.    This classic case of greed and murder was played out in the newspapers and on TV all over the country.  Who would of thought that a story with the notoriety of this one would have began in Lancaster County, PA.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The "The Story of Grandview Heights: Present Day" Story

Wide tree-lined streets are the norm in Grandview Heights.
It was an ordinary day.  Looking at sturdy brick homes sitting close together on wide streets lined on either side with sidewalks and large trees that at times touch each other as their branches stretch across the streets.  Streets with names such as Helen, Louise, Martha, Janet ….. daughters of the original owner of part the land known today as Grandview Heights.  
One the early photos from the mid to late 1920's.  The
corner Grandview Apartment Buildings in the bottom center
shows New Holland Pike (State Rt. 23) to the right and
Grandview Boulevard to the left.  Very few homes are
seen in the background in the photo.
The main boulevard, known as Grandview Boulevard, was given the name since it sits on farmland that was once known as Grand View Farm.  I can only imagine what the land must have looked like over 100 years ago.  Corn standing six feet high, peach trees lining the edge of the lane leading to the farm where and cows grazed in the open fields behind the farm.  
The same corner as seen today.
This all changed when Samuel R. Slaymaker bought the McGrann and Rohrer farms in 1925 and turned them into a housing develop- ment for those with moderate means.  My mom and dad saved for years so they could have a little plot in Grandview Heights which was finally realized in the mid-1960's.  Mom loved her back porch and it was so hard to tell her late in her life that it was time for her to move to a retirement home for her safety and have to sell the place.  
This photo shows what the interior of one of the
apartments was like when they opened.
She did realize that her loving family was correct and reluctantly sold it along with many years of memories in her house in the 900 block of Janet Ave.  For years Carol and I lived up the street from mom and dad in a semi-detached home on the other side of the street.  Many a day she would call and ask us to cross one of her grandchildren so they could come and visit with them.  Also wasn't unusual for Carol to cross our dog, Arnold, so he could run down the street to visit with Grandma and Grandpa.  
Our house at 925 Janet Ave. as it appears today.
Carol and I lived in our house on Janet Avenue for 29 years before we moved to our "Beach House" a few miles away.  I spent some time recently roaming the old neighbor- hood known as the Heights to take some photos to match some from a CD that was given to me by my friend Mike.  Mike and his wife Anne met at nearby Schaeffer Elementary School where they taught, married then moved to Janet Ave.  
Our house was at the far end on the right in this 1930's pix.
They raised their three children in Grandview Heights where one of them is now teaching in the same school where her parents met.  Grandview Heights just seems to get in your blood.  Old and young alike inhabit the 500 or so homes in the neighborhood where everyone knows your name and lends a helping hand. While taking the photos for this story I met a few of the neighbors who were more than willing to take time to talk with me.  The following photos show some of the homes and places pictured in CD that was given to Mike by our mutual friend Matt who was in real estate and moved from the area.  My photos accompany the old photos so you can judge for yourself if the homes have changed that much in the last 100 years.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - Click on any photo to enlarge it.

Some of the earliest homes in Grandview Heights are these row homes on Pleasure Road which is the street to the far north of the development.
The same row of homes, but seen from the opposite end.
This was Kilheffer's Store at the corner of Martha and Fountain Avenues.
Corner as it looks today.
Houses in the 800 block of Janet Ave. in the 1930's.
Same two houses as seen today.
This beautiful home in the 900 block of Grandview Boulevard has young trees in the front yard. 
The same house as seen today.
This house was located at 710 McGrann Bouvelard.
Same house as seen today.
This photo shows a double house along Martha Avenue.  Notice the old car in the background.
Today's view of the same house.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The "The Story of Grandview Heights: The Beginning" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Pulled the book titled From The Beginning - A History of Manheim Township off my book shelf and began looking through it to find the origins of a place called Grandview Heights.  The book was written by a good friend, C. Nat Netscher and the layout and design was done by Larry W. Woods.  Wow, that's me!  Yep, back in 2003 Nat called and asked if I was interested in working with him on the book that tells the story of the locale where we live.  Soon we were busy with meeting after meeting working on the book.  My story today begins with the emergence of Lancaster County in 1729.  It was at that time that a new county was carved out of Chester County and given the name of Lancaster after Lancashire, a county in England.  The new county was divided into seventeen townships, three of which eventually became part of Dauphin and Lebanon counties.  Of the fourteen that remained, Manheim Township, named after a city in Germany, was to the north of Lancaster and was reconfigured through annexation several times during the 1940's and 1950's by it's larger neighbor, Lancaster City.  Throughout the 1700's the township grew, mostly with farmers and mechanics from Germany.  Religion was a big part of their life and in 1767 a "Great Meeting" was held in the barn of Isaac Long near Landis Valley.  At this time a new congregation, the first born on American soil and called the United Brethren in Christ, was begun.  Years later it was decided to establish twelve urban villages throughout the township with each village holding services for it's residents.  
An aerial photograph showing the layout of Grandview Heights.  The building on the bottom left is the  Pleasure Road School which is now apartments. Click on photos to enlarge.  
One of the villages was called Grandview Heights.  In 1925 Samuel R. Slaymaker cleared the way for the village when he purchased four hundred acres of farmland from the McGrann and Rohrer families.  
Some of the earliest equipment was pulled with horses.
Wasn't long before surveyors, engineers and landscape architects had completed their designs and began construction of the village.  In April of 1927, steam shovels began the chore of building the streets, water mains and sewer lines.  
Asphalt laying equipment is in use in this photo.
The first houses were completed in late 1928.  The house that Carol and I purchased after getting married was one of the first built.  While working on renovations in the bathroom of 925 Janet Ave., I found the date 1929 stamped on the back of the medicine cabinet.  
On the bottom of the photo at about 7:00 you can see the new Schaeffer School Building.  The road above it is McGrann Boulevard.  Follow that one block, turn left and you will see a few houses in the center of the block.  Our house is the first one in line. 
On an aerial photo of the area dated the same year, you can see two sets of semi-detached homes in the 900 block of Janet Ave.  One of those home was the one we had purchased.  
Close to the center of the photo is a house with an awning on the front porch.  Our house is directly to the left of that house with the chimney free-standing along the side of the roof.
The Grandview Heights Corporation had an office building at the intersection of McGrann Boulevard and Janet Avenue.  It was removed when housing was place on the location.  The CD that I talked about in yesterday's story has over 100 images showing the construction of the homes in Grandview Heights.  

This was the playground and park for Grandview Heights.  It was about a half-block from my house at the intersection of Janet Avenue and Cameron Avenue.
 What a great way to see the development and housing structures of Grandview Heights.  The road that borders to the north in the Heights, Pleasure Road, had a school that was built in 1859, long before Grandview Heights was started.  The school, known as the Pleasure Road School was to educate the children of the nearby  village of Rossmere.  The school was razed in 1906 and replaced with a new and larger school.  That school building was closed in 1937, but still remains on Pleasure Road and is now known as the Schoolhouse apartments.  
The new Nathan C. Schaeffer School on Pleasure Road.  Our children walked about a block and a half to reach school each day.  They all spent hours in the summer playing in the playground behind the school.  That was back in the 1970's and you didn't have to worry about your children playing away from home.
On March 8, 1937 the students of the old Pleasure Road School marched down the street and into a new and modern school named the Nathan C. Schaeffer Elementary School.  It was named in honor of Mr. Schaeffer who was a former state superintendent of schools.  All three of my children walked the block from our house to Schaeffer school throughout their elementary years in school.  
This was the row of homes across from the school on Pleasure Road.  They were some of the first homes built in Grandview Heights.
My good friend, Mike, who has worked with me on in-house school printing for the Manheim Township School District for over 40 years now, was a teacher in the school and had my children in class.  Grandview Heights remains one of the premier places to live in Lancaster County.  It's tree-lined streets and well-kept homes reminds one of towns depicted in TV shows such as
Leave It To Beaver.  Carol and I lived in the Heights for 29 years and only after becoming empty-nesters did we venture to another part of Manheim Township.  
The trolley came from Lancaster City and through Grandview Heights on Fountain Avenue which is the western most street in the Heights.
Life in the Heights is still welcoming for those who call it home.  The last couple of years a few new homes have been added to the east of the Heights on a farm that was sold for development.  It is still called Grandview Heights in that area, but will take years to be a real part of the Grandview Heights community.  My parents worked hard to earn their home in the Heights and Carol and I raised our family in the Heights.  Wouldn't have done anything different if we'd have had a chance to do it all over again.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.   PS - Tomorrow's final story will show you more of the photos depicted on the CD Mike gave to me with current photos so you can see the changes, if any, from back in the late 1920's and 1930's till the 2000's.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The "The Story of Grandview Heights: The Big Move" Story

Foreword:  A week or two ago I was given a CD by my summer printing partner and long time friend, Mike, who said that he was recently given a box of old photos by Matt, a real estate agent and friend of both of us.  Matt was moving from the area and thought Mike would enjoy viewing all the old photos of what is known as Grandview Heights in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Mike has lived there for over 40 years while I moved to the Heights with my parents in the mid-1960's and Carol and I bought a home in the Heights in 1968 and spent 29 years in the same home until we moved to our dream house we call "The Beach House" in 1997.  The CD Mike gave to me was made by a neighbor to whom he loaned the photos who scanned and titled all the photos which he placed on the CD he called "Early Grandview Heights".  Today's story tells the tale of how I came to live in the Heights and why it was so hard to finally leave our treasured home in the Heights.

LDub standing on the porch at 929 N. Queen
It was an ordinary day.  A day back in the late 1940's when my mom, dad and I moved from our city rental on West Orange Street in the city of Lancaster, PA to our first home on North Queen Street on the north side of Lancaster, a block past the city limits in what is known as Manheim Township.  Mom and dad had saved for a few years before they purchased the semidetached home that had three-bedrooms, one bath, living room, dining room, eat-in kitchen and full basement.  The roof was flat, covered with rubber and a layer or two of pitch.  As I grew older mom and dad often talked about saving enough to be able to move to the Heights, since that is where those who had "wealth" lived; at least in their minds.  Many of my friends as well as friends of my brother, who was five years my junior, lived in the Heights so we did get to visit the area during our junior and senior high school years.  After graduation I entered Millersville State Teachers College while still living at home.  During my sophomore year mom and dad made the announcement that they had bought a place on Janet Avenue in the Heights; a single home to be exact.  
Mom and dad saved for years to move to the Heights
Neat little place that had a living room with a wood-burning fireplace, small dining room, very small kitchen and large screened-in rear porch which was mom's pride and joy.  There were three bedrooms on the second floor and a full basement with outside entrance.  Mom and dad had one of the bedrooms while my brother and I shared the other.  The third was very small and served as a TV room as well as an office for dad.  Mom and Dad were in heaven now that they lived in the Heights.  Dad had a big front and back yard to mow and loved taking care of the property.  There were concrete walks throughout the Heights with grass between the walks and the street.  The trees through Grandview Heights were for the most part mature and provided plenty of shade for most properties.  Grandview Heights was still one of the most popular neighborhoods in Lancaster County in which to live.  
925 Janet Ave. - Our home in the Heights
Well, in 1967 I got married and moved out leaving just the three of them in the house.  Didn't take long though before I was back in the Heights with my new bride.  Just before our first year lease had expired on our rental apartment, we purchased a home in the Heights ….. Janet Avenue to be exact …. in the same block as my mom and dad, but at the other end of the block and on the other side of the street.  
Bringing our second child home from the hospital
Place was a semi- 
detached English Tudor that was one of the first properties built in the Heights.  Had three bedrooms, one bath, living room with fire-burning fireplace, dining room, small kitchen, full basement, full third floor and a one-car garage.  All three of our children were born and brought home to our place in the Heights.  I had a front yard and back yard to mow and a home that needed constant painting.  I can still remember moving into the house and on the first night laying in bed and wondering if we had made the right move.  Heavens, we must have because we were in the Heights!  Carol and I had every intention to make it our first home, a starter home, and eventually move to maybe a single home.  Well, we lived in the Heights for 29 years in the same house and only moved out when we became empty-nesters.  
Our Chesapeake Bay house in Lancaster
We had always wanted a place along the Chesapeake Bay, but after finding we needed at least a million for anything nice, we settled for a home that looked like we lived near water.  Only problem was it wasn't in the Heights, but we love what we call our "Beach House".  We loved our time spent in Grandview Heights and will cherish the memories of those years of raising our family in perhaps the best neighborhood in Lancaster County.  For the next few days I will give you a look at what and where Grandview Heights is located and how it all came to be and this was made possible because of the CD that Mike gave to me recently while at work.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The "An Antoine Chapon Addition" Story

LDub and Antoine Chapon talk about his work at his home/studio.
It was an ordinary day.  Walking the streets of Marigot in St. Martin, French West Indies, looking for just the right memento to take home with us to help us remember our latest trip to our favorite vacation spot in the Caribbean.  Walked into a small art gallery and as Carol searched the jewelry counters I looked through the many displays of artwork.  We have quite a few pieces of art from local artists, but one of my favorites is a fellow by the name of Antoine Chapon.  
The home gallery of Antoine Chapon in St. Martin.
Antoine was born in France in 1952 and sailed to the West Indies in 1981 where he settled in a tiny village known as Colombier on the island of St. Martin.  Then in 1995 he moved to the French Cul de Sac Bay area where he opened a gallery in his home.  
Our first and largest print titled "Reflection"
Carol and I were lucky a few years ago to visit him in his home/studio and get to see him at work.  At that time we purchased our first print from him called "Reflection" which features a dory reflecting in the crystal blue waters.  Very simple, but I love the colors and the watercolor techniques which he uses.  Wasn't long before we returned and purchased our second, but much smaller print, from him titled "Grand Case" which is named after a small town lined with restaurants along the water's edge.  
Our second and smallest print titled "Grand Case"
The town is considered by many to be the culinary capital of the Caribbean.  This watercolor print also displays the soft Caribbean blues and aquas that make his work so calm and peaceful.  Two years ago while walking the streets of Marigot once again we discovered Antoine had opened a new gallery in the city and made yet another stop and purchase from him.  This watercolor is titled "Dream Anguilla" and is perhaps my favorite.  
My favorite Chapon print titled "Dream Anguilla"
I framed it and have it hanging in our entrance way with about a dozen other favorite prints from our travels to the Caribbean.  I never tire of looking at his wispy brush strokes or his beautiful Caribbean colors that he illustrates in all his painting.  We found he has closed his gallery in his home and now sells his prints just in his studio in Marigot.  
Our fourth and most recent print titled "Lazy Day"
This past May we once again purchased another of his prints in the same art gallery near the Marigot market place where we made our first purchase of one of Antoine's prints.  This small print is called "Lazy Day" and reflects the title in it's entirety.  I have just finished framing this print and have it handing in my office below his print "Reflection."  Will we purchase another one?  Maybe not, since there are so many other artists who we enjoy so much on the island of St. Martin, but we have said before that we need to look elsewhere for a print, but are always drawn towards his soft colors and gorgeous seascapes.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The "Lawn Art Revisited! Story

Photo of lawn art taken on a previous visit to a neighbor's house.
"Creativity Takes Courage" shows on a sign in front of the display.
It was an ordinary day.  Just walked a few blocks to take a photo of a neighbor's idea of art that is stationed on his lawn on Roseville Road in Lancaster, PA.  It was less than a year ago that I posted a story about the same lawn and alleged art gallery that the home owner has placed along the road for all to view.  He was given air time on our local TV station and commented that he studied art when he went to college.  
Photo taken a few days ago of the same lawn.
I'm sure the college was so glad that he didn't mention it's name on the air!  The display that he featured when I first photographed it for a story slowly deteriorated in the winter weather since it was partially panels that he had purchased that were used for some type of indoor play or musical.  Since then he has made many new additions to his display, much to the chagrin of his neighbors who more than likely don't agree with his idea of art.  A home across the street from the lawn art took forever to sell when it was listed for sale.  Any guesses why?  Well, I have included an overall look at the yard and individual photos of most of the pieces in his yard.  My only question I guess I have for him is ..... how do you mow around all that stuff?  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - remember to click on photo to enlarge.

Even is mailbox is an alleged  piece of art!
His pink sports car with a window box full of flowers on the passenger's side.  
This is rather cute and does draw a chuckle from motorists I suspect.  Notice that this piece of art? has a light in front of it.  Most of the artwork? is illuminated at night.  At times it causes traffic to slow while passing his house.  
You have to click on this to able to appreciate it!
And, this one was just added a few days ago.
The bed of flowers was actually very creative, but certainly not what I would call art.
And this is my favorite.  A pink night stand with accompanied sign.  Pretty tacky art, to say the least!