Wednesday, September 30, 2009


My friend Eileen McHugh of Montreux, Switzerland, came to visit this week. Eileen and I studied together at the Université de Montpellier, France, in 1966-67. A Pennsylvania native, she has lived in Switzerland for several years and is chief translator for the Rolex watch company.

This morning we jumped into the Box and headed to Hershey for breakfast at the Hershey Pantry, a pleasant little restaurant on the road to Palmyra. It reminds me on the outside of the some of the buildings of the chatauqua at Mt. Gretna, further to the southeast in Lebanon County.

We enjoyed real coffee as we awaited our breakfasts, which were delivered in a flash. Susanne had chosen poached eggs and home fries, and I hankered for a cheese omelette and home fries. Eileen ordered pancakes and scrapple.

Imagine Eileen's surprise at the size of the pancakes -- there was a stack of three as large as the dinner plate. I offered her $10 to eat the whole thing, because I knew it was impossible! She dutifully sawed away at them, but most came home in a styrofoam box. Why do American restaurants serve more food than one can eat? They often force you to waste. Anyway, the food was delicious, and the service was good.

We took a ride past Milton Hershey's mansion, his one-room school, and the Derry Church Session House that he had enclosed in glass, then past the roller coasters of HersheyPark. Then the Box chugged up the hill to the Hotel Hershey to see its fabulously beautiful new approach and the cottages build behind the hotel for visitors. We had a nice glimpse of the town in the distance and the Hershey Gardens opposite the hotel. The sky was dramatic -- dark and cloudy over the mountains behind the hotel and clear to to the south.

Next stop, our favorite antique/junque shop on the Hershey Road. I bought a wooden rack to display redware. A bargain! Susanne bought some very interesting pumpkins and a sprig of bittersweet. Eileen enjoyed seeing a lot of "treasures" that she remembered from her childhood. She told us she is not in the buying mode, since she wants to consider moving back to the U.S. in two years. In fact, she said, she likes the idea of making her guests take something home with them so her house empties out before she starts packing!

Before heading home, we drove past our old house on Linglestown Road. Then Eileen packed up and headed back to Philly, where she will visit with relatives until returning to the Land of Watches and Chocolate.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Art and antiques called us, so we headed south beyond York to Shrewsbury, just north of the Maryland line.

Our first stop was for lunch at the Mason-Dixon Restaurant, just south of the town center. It was a great little place in a strip mall and had plenty of parking for the Box. The sandwiches and salads were fresh and tasty. We even got treated to an impromptu floor show from one of the waiters. (He didn't know we were watching!)

Next came a stop at a fine antiques shop on Main Street to buy some quilt squares and then a sprint across the street to the John Stevens Gallery, where we watched the artist put a few strokes onto a new painting and admired dozens of other prints.

With only a half hour left, we hustled to the Shrewsbury Antique Center, where Susanne managed to find two more tin pieces for her collection of strainers, drainers, and colanders.

With only a few raindrops falling, we made our way up the back road through York to I-83 and home.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Today I got up a little late, so I rushed through a shower and shave, got all gussied up, grabbed some lunch food, and hustled the Box though the bucolic countryside from our house to the other side of Hummelstown to "greet" at Charter Homes' Southpoint Meadows (top photo).

When I got there the place was locked up tight. I called the boss, who was on vacation, called three other people, then drove to the neighboring model home at Deer Run (bottom photo) and found out I was not needed today. Imagine, all dressed up and nowhere to go!

I said to the Box, "Box, what shall we do with our free day?" The answer came, "Go home and annoy Susanne for a couple of hours."
So that is what we did. Now we're on this machine trying to stay out of her way!

Sunday, September 20, 2009


By accident, I discovered that today was Fort Hunter Day, a festival organized by Dauphin County parks and recreation at historic Fort Hunter Mansion and Park, just north of Harrisburg.

There was food, of course, tours of the mansion, arts and crafts sales, historical interpretation, kids' games, wagon rides, and lots more.

The PHMC's archeology program was digging near an 18th century ice house next to the mansion in search of the foundations of the British Fort Hunter, constructed during the French and Indian War (1754-1763). Pictured are my former cronies from the Bureau for Historic Preservation, and the Box in its primo parking spot.

Friday, September 18, 2009


By the time we got past Philadelphia yesterday and headed west on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, we began to feel the need for a stop. We got off at the Reading-Lancaster exit and drove a mile or so to Adamstown, where we chowed down at the old Zinn's Diner, a childhood favorite of Susanne's.

Unfortunately, times change, and the Zinn family is nowhere to be found, nor is the huge statue of Amos the Amish man that stood in front of the place. The lunch was fun and just hit the spot.

We took a short sidetrip further down the road to the Country French Collection, where we walked reverently through the old barn housing wonderful piece after piece of antique European furniture and home accessories and new pottery and fabrics straight from Provence.

We made the remainder of the trip back to Harrisburg without incident and gave the Box a well-deserved night's rest as we ourselves collapsed into our easy chairs.

Click on any photo to enlarge it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


On the way home today, we caught a glimpse of the SS United States from the Walt Whitman Bridge at Philadelphia. The ship has been "parked" here for years as a buyer is sought.

To capture a foggy image through the rain, Susanne risked life and limb leaning out of the Box's window as I maneuvered through the bridge traffic.

The ship is famous for being the fastest trans-Atlantic ocean liner of its day, but that fact is perhaps eclipsed by the fact that yours truly sailed to France and back on this ship in 1966-67.

Unfortunately, air travel put most ocean liners out of business in the late 60s and early 70s, and the SS United States was sold in 1969 for scrap, partially dismantled, and now awaits final disposition. In 1999 the ship was named to the National Register of Historic Places.


On Wednesday evening, Susanne directed the Box (via back seat driving) up the broad boulevard from Stone Harbor to Avalon, where she was anxious to share a favorite dining place.

Along the way we saw millions of dollars in vinyl-clad and -railinged beach houses, interspersed with older, smaller, and only a little less expensive ranches and cottages.

I felt sorry for them. One of these days they will be swallowed up by a bigger and newer house. Apparently, Avalon is the resort of choice of wealthy Philadelphia residents.

The restaurant was closed (just like the one Susanne had chosen for lunch) since all the beach lovers had gone back home after Labor Day. We found a place nearby with a nice interior but only adequate food. In its favor, the rest rooms were spectacular!

Still craving something sweet and a little window shopping, we headed back to Stone Harbor and parked across from the movie theatre, toured the shops, watched some dazzling candy making, and stopped at Springer's Ice Cream for what may have been the best ice cream I've ever had.

Then we headed back to the motel, enjoying the night breeze in its central courtyard as we pulled up, said goodnight and 'lights out' to the Box, and headed indoors to watch some liberals on television.


While Susanne enjoyed the solitude of the beach, the Box and I
headed south to see what civilization had brought forth at the far end of the island.
It was interesting to see all the flat wetlands, with houses on stilts and boats tied to the back porch, and white egrets standing about looking pretty much at home.

There were also several toll bridges to be crossed. For the first one, I had only a $20 bill, so I got $18 change -- in ones!

In Cape May, the first place that caught my attention somehow seemed appropriate for someone who writes about riding around in a silver Box. Morrow's Nut House has been on the boardwalk there since 1956, so I dare say there have been a lot crazier nuts that have gone through there.

Right across the street from Morrow's was a famous row of seaside Victorian villas, a great example of historic preservation. Two that caught my eye were not exactly Victorian, but perhaps a little later, I'd say "Colonial Revival" in style, but then what do I know.

The one on the left was being painted inside and out, from the look of things, with the painters running around like busy bees. I managed to get at least one picture without them.


Yesterday, the Box whisked Susanne and me down the Pennsylvania Turnpike, onto the Atlantic City Expressway, south on the Garden State Expressway, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean at Stone Harbor, New Jersey.

We met our friends Debbie and Bill Bavington for lunch. They are staying in Ocean City and were poking around Stone Harbor when we got there.

Susanne wanted to see and feel her beloved waves and wind one more time this year. She spent the afternoon in her beach chair with her favorite book while I drove around the region seeing the sights.

We stayed at a lovely small motel called the Colonial Lodge, just two blocks from the Atlantic.

Stone Harbor has the distinction of being 47th in a list of the richest zip codes in the U.S., based on median home sales price of $1,320.050. It must hold some sort of record for vinyl trim and railings, too. (Our beachside villa is under contruction as we speak.)

I noticed that the Box now gives a little "start" when spotting another Scion, something perhaps akin to hyperventilating.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


When there is an old house for sale, the Box likes to roll over and check it out. Here we're visiting the manse at Paxton Presbyterian Church in suburban Harrisburg. The church was founded in 1732, and the present stone meeting house was constructed in 1740.
The manse, built in 1855 of grey limestone matching the church, has presumably housed all of the ministers of the church from that time until a few years ago. It served other purposes for a while and now is to be auctioned off.
I hope the new buyers will enjoy their very quiet neighbors, as they are surrounded on the side and back by the graveyard.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


The Box parks outside the New Brighton Aquarium, operated by the Darnleys, to visit the sole occupant of the enormous glass tank.

The poor lonely fellow has been circling that bowl for quite a while now. Some sort of mutation has caused the fish's tail to turn red; the exact cause is not known.

We spent Labor Day weekend at the Darnleys' house in New Brighton, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, where we enjoyed all-terrain vehicle rides, a holiday picnic, and lots of Chutes and Ladders.


There is no other donut in the world as good as a donut from Oram's. They're made in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, and the Box loves to stop by (it gets to park diagonally) and buy a few.

The huge cinnamon roll is a favorite, as is the white cream donut with buttercream frosting, and the order always includes at least one donut with sprinkles for Princess Chloe.

If you love donuts, you owe it to yourself to visit this shrine to dough and fillings.

While you are there, notice the Carnegie Library and Geneva College. Beaver Falls was the fictional setting of the television sitcom Mr. Belvedere. It's the real hometown of football great Joe Namath.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


The Box went to see Hampton National Historic Site in Towson, Maryland, the first National Park Service site to be added to the system because of its architectural value.

Hampton was the largest house in America when it was built in 1790. It was occupied by the same family until 1948. You can see the mansion house, gardens, fields, farm house, mule barn, log house, dairy, slave quarters, and family cemetery. And it's free.

That's the mansion house in the background between the tall trees, as seen from the farm house road. Oh, and the little silver box is the xB.