Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Today the Box (aka the "LECmobile") was shivering in its boots as it waited for me outside Chevrolet, Honda, and Nissan dealerships on Harrisburg's Paxton Street, where you can buy almost any brand of car from numerous dealers.

I was just curious about what cars similar to the Box were like. We all know I love that little car and its boxy shape. Still, it's entering middle age, and one must think ahead.

First I went to look at a Chevy Equinox. "Matt" opened the showroom door for me. I could have sworn I heard someone in the back office calling out, "Next victim." I told Matt that at Toyota, they come out and open your car door. Anyway, he found me an Equinox to try, but it felt a bit claustrophobic.

Next stop was the Honda dealer to see the Element. There, "Mykel" rushed to claim me. Apparently the new thing is to get as much information from a potential customer as possible before allowing him or her to sit in the vehicle. I was tempted to sign in as "Norman Maine," which I often do at real estate open houses.

The Element is a bit larger than the Box but almost as boxy. The sample I saw was a "dog friendly" model, with dog bones embossed in the rubber flooring, and a special covering on the back seat. It was supposed to repel dog hair, I think. Where does it go, then? The Element was cool, I have to admit.
Further down the street, the Box waited patiently as I looked at the Nissan showroom. The salesman, "Craig," was nearly as tall as I am and persuaded me to try a sedan in which he was comfortable. Again with the claustrophobia.

Instead, I gravitated toward the Cube, which looks like a Scion that ate a little too much and "filled out" a bit. It was roomy inside, had some cool gadgets, and the best of all, a side-hinged back door instead of a door that lifts up into the same space your head wants to occupy. I think I would like to go back and test drive that one, and the Element, too.

At least I would not have to change the name of this blog. Who wants to read www.whereintheworldisthelowslungaerodynamicallyshapedcar

Sunday, April 25, 2010


After several false starts, Susanne and I climbed into the Box late this afternoon to journey past the city of Harrisburg, into Cumberland County, and finally into York County and the town of Hanover. There reside our good friends Jane and Doug West.

Doug is head of Revelation Design, a Web, graphic, and print design firm. Jane, a former teacher, is an accomplished artist. Doug and I worked together at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in Harrisburg for a number of years. Actually, he was my boss, and I did all the work. He felt it was a good arrangement. I'm not so sure.

Anyway, Doug and Jane inherited a lovely duplex in Hanover, which they turned into an even lovelier single home for themselves and their kids, Bryn and Dylan. We always like visiting to see what's new. Jane is very modest about her wonderful design and decorating skills, but she willingly gave us a tour of the house to see what had changed since they had become empty nesters (Bryn is married and Dylan is off at college). Above is the "grand escalier," the wide stairway that stands where a wall once divided the two houses.

We were greeted next with delicious chips and dip made of cheese and onion. Yum yum. Next came a cold martini, my first in about a year. It was refreshing and intoxicating. The first sip cleared my sinuses, and before long I was unable to feel my legs. We spent a few minutes admiring the new lighting fixture in the kitchen. It would be perfect in our house, too!

Soon enough, we were called to the elegantly-set table for a meal of chicken salad on a bed of lettuce, steamed asparagus, and fresh bread. The martini came along, too. We had a great time chowing down and catching up on our families' news. Next came coffee, brewed to perfection by Doug, and my contribution, Madame Albert's Cream Puff Pie.

We enjoyed this sweet confection as we discussed current events and politics. Thank heaven we are all on the same wave length, politically speaking! We trashed those who don't agree with us and discussed who were our favorite television pundits. From time to time we drifted to HGTV and which shows we liked or didn't.

Too soon, it was time to leave. Our friends graciously walked us to the car and reminded us of how to get out of town. Or were they telling us to get out of town? No matter; we had a wonderful time and look forward to the next get-together.

This unusual wooden bowl on legs
descended in Jane's family.

 Jane painted this beautiful still life
of an ironstone bowl and pitcher.

Susanne reports to the table while chefs
Doug and Jane put the finishing touches
on the meal.

Madame Albert's Cream Puff Pie was a hit.

There was a lot of time spent after dinner
talking about world events and politics.

Pepsi, the family pet, was a friendly face all evening.

Madame Albert's Cream Puff Pie

Boil together one cup of water and 1/4 pound margarine or butter. When boiling, remove from heat and add one cup flour. Add four eggs, one at a time, and blend each thoroughly. Spread the dough in a 9x12 greased pan and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Mix together:
8 oz. softened cream cheese
2 small boxes vanilla instant pudding
2 1/2 cups of milk

Spread on top of crust. Complete with a layer of whipped topping. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Today brought another trip to Hershey to pick up a donation from the Hotel Hershey for the Historical Society of Dauphin County's silent auction this Friday night.

There is not much to tell about the trip, but I did see some wonderful sights there at the hotel, and I want to share them with you. It's become quite a place in the last few years, with a spa, new restaurants, and guest cottages.

They also have a number of shops, one of which features items for the home, and another with beverages and baked goods.

Ok, food first. That's what we're all here for, right?
These are red velvet mini cupcakes.

Mile-high pink icing on cupcakes.

Chocolate cupcakes with a twig? 
Maybe the woodchipper was broken.

Killer confection, name unknown.

Cupcakes are the theme -- here are 
charms in cupcake papers.

A lovely flower arrangement in the corridor.

This one was in the main lobby.

One of the shops carried colorful 
Italian ceramics.

I thought these candles imitating spring bulbs were cool.

Tulips and pansies live in harmony in all
of the flower beds leading to the
main hotel entrance.

Yellow tulips.

Now you can see the pansies.

These burnt orange tulips were first in line.

The Hotel is part of the National Trust for Historic
Preservation's Historic Hotels program.

Purple pansies stand in for faded tulips right near 
the front door to the hotel.


There's a cool Web site called The Historical Marker Database at www.hmdb.org. It shows thousands of historical markers and plaques in this country and others, too. What I really like is that they allow you to add photos and remarks. So I added some photos of our area where they were needed.

Not too long ago, I was contacted by Bill Pfingsten, who is one of the Web site editors, responding to my offer to take any photos that were still needed. He gave me a list, and yesterday Mr. Box (who recently underwent an inspection and 90,000 mile check-up) and I ventured into the Hershey and East Hanover Twp. areas to photograph some markers for which the Web site had no pictures at all. (On Sunday, I photographed two places on South Thirteenth Street in Harrisburg and some French and Indian War markers along Linglestown Road).

Our route took us east on US 22 to take a picture of the Union Canal marker near PA 39. There are two --  one on each side of the road -- that refer to the Canal at Union Deposit to the south. When I was director of the state historical marker program, I found that there were in many cases a marker on each side of the road. That would be a tremendous luxury today!

Turning south on PA 39, I headed toward Hershey. This used to be a meandering country road but has recently been transformed by housing developments, including apartments and townhouses, and all of the attendant stuff like convenience stores, gas stations, and strip malls. I took the cut-off through Union Deposit to check on the Union Canal marker located there. There was a large earth-moving project going on there, and I hope it does not swallow up the marker.

I drove further down the road toward the Giant Center and Hersheypark in an attempt to reach the Wilt Chamberlain's Scoring Record marker. It's located at the old Arena building, right at an entrance not used by the public. It's a really dumb location, if you ask me. First of all, it's not accessible by the general public unless there is an event at the Arena. I had to pass through a guard station to gain access to the marker. I could swear that there's a trash can tethered to the marker! That marker should be out by the road so everyone can see it.

Next up, the Pennsylvania State Police marker on Cocoa Avenue. It stands where the first State Police Academy once stood. Across the tree-lined street are very attractive small houses and behind the marker are the athletic fields of the high school. Just down the street are the Hershey Public Library and the community pool. This is a lucky marker -- it's in a pretty upscale neighborhood.

I made a U-turn and headed back through Hershey to go up PA 743 toward East Hanover Twp. On the way, I made two stops. The first was at Derry Presbyterian Church, where there is a beautiful church campus and a historic graveyard. What is most interesting to me, though, is the church's Session House, a log building that was enclosed in glass by Milton S. Hershey. It is claimed to be the oldest log building on its original site in all of Pennsylvania.

The second stop was at the new State Police Academy. It is a sort of rambling building on the top of a hill near the amusement park and the shopping outlets. I could hear gunfire from the shooting range and noticed a new small building that is serving as a museum of State Police history. The view across the valley from the hill was delightful.

When I reached US 22 again, I turned right to the Hanover Resolves marker. This was the very first marker ever installed by the state, way back in 1946, the year I was born. I am wondering if it is the same marker, or whether it was replaced at some time during these years, after the original was mowed down by some semi or snowplow. The plaque does lean eastward, however, a telltale sign that it has been assaulted by snow thrown up by a plow.  Anyway, I always get a charge when I see that marker, knowing that it was the first one.

I turned back on US 22 and drove a short distance to the Hanover Church marker. It used to be on a concrete pole very near the intersection, almost obscured by road signs. A couple of years ago, it was installed a short distance from the intersection on a new hollow aluminum post, which is deemed to be safer as it will break away if struck. I was a little surprised that the new post is so tall, however! Maybe because the other one was so short.

I decided to drive the "about two miles north" that the marker indicated to find the site of the church. There was a well-preserved cemetery there with a newly-restored wall. I walked through the cemetery and read some of the inscriptions. I was especially attracted to a carving in stone of some flowers, including a tulip, which is a Pennsylvania German favorite motif. These were Scots-Irish and English Presbyterians, however.

One thing I noticed about the marker itself was the need to move an 'f' that bumped into a 'g' in the line above. They were competing for the space in between the lines. When the marker plate is made, actual three-dimensional metal letters are placed on a sheet of metal to create the text, so there is no adjusting like a computer might be able to do. You can watch a short video about how such markers are made here. Pennsylvania's markers are made in Erie.

Well, that was the end of my little sojourn. It was a beautiful spring day, and the area I covered is very pleasant. It was fun to work with the markers, again, too. This junket reminded me of the times the Box and I drove all over Washington and Dauphin (and other) counties surveying every state marker's condition and photographing it.
 This is a marker used in the city of Harrisburg. You 
can see an old photo of the place and look right at
it to see how it looks today.
Here's the same building on 13th Street today.
Oh, and the Box!
The Barnett's Fort marker has one
of the worst locations in the state! 
There should be a "no post" zone 
around markers so they are not 
inundated by neighbors.

This earth-moving project along the road to Hershey 
near Union Deposit might endanger the Union Canal 
marker. Contractors sometimes remove the markers 
without permission and then "forget" to put them back up.

 Here's the State Police marker in its cushy location.

Derry Presbyterian Church has a beautiful campus.
The second building, now a chapel, is at the right.
The current church is in the background.

Not only is the Session House itself on the National
Register, but so is the enclosure built by Mr. Hershey.

 Now tell me that PennDOT hasn't whacked
this marker a few times with some nice wet 
and heavy snow.
The Hanover Church marker is now in the
foreground of the forest of signs. You can
see the original short concrete post in the
distance, nearest to the intersection.

Here is the flower motif in the Hanover Church 
cemetery that I was telling you about.
Someone with some style painted these chairs in the 
Hanover Church cemetery. Patriotic and very useful 
for visitors. The newly-restored wall is in the background.