Wednesday, July 13, 2011


We've been on the move again, celebrating the birthday of our nation, interviewing potential host families for the French kids, and checking out some historic places in Derry Township, also known as Hershey.

On the Fourth of July, the Box pulled up at the John Harris-Simon Cameron Mansion at 219 South Front Street, Harrisburg, to hear a reading of the Declaration of Independence by a reenactor portraying John Harris, Jr. Harris had read the Declaration from his front porch in 1776. A number of other reenactors portrayed frontier folks and Ben Franklin. The event was planned and executed by Friends of the Harris-Cameron Mansion, whose mission is to make the mansion accessible to the public and to provide hospitality, programming, and tours.

The local newspaper sent a reporter, published two photos, and uploaded a video to their Web site. Every television station in town, four in total, recorded part of the event for broadcast and Web site use. More than 100 people heard the readings and toured the mansion afterwards. It was a really successful event, and all involved are to be commended.

Home in Florin Hill at Mt. Joy.
On July 9, I drove to the small northern Lancaster County town of Mt. Joy, where I met a delightful mother and her three daughters who will host a French girl for three weeks in August. They live on the remnant of the family farm. Mt.Joy is a pleasant town, and having three girls to show her around pretty much assures a fun visit for the French student.

On the north end of the town is a development called Florin Hill. It's being built by Charter Homes, which I admire for their land use and "neighbohood" concepts. I stopped by to see the progress being made since visiting there a couple of years ago. They had a snazzy new model and were starting to rent retail space near the entrance to boutiques and small businesses. There will be residences "over the store," as well. I am thinking about what I could sell there. Let's see, looking at our garage and basement, I think perhaps a Junque Shoppe.

When I got home, I found son Matt, his wife Marylee, and our grandson, Ian. They had come to attend the birthday of a friend in the evening but spent the afternoon with us. Ian was active (to say the least), and M&M showed us online photos and floor plans of a house they would like to buy. Ian made me laugh by asking me, "Play with me!" so I went into the yard with him where we used little shovels to dig in the dirt and then tried out the garden hose. He is way into trucks and spent part of the time playing with a basket full of toys we keep for him. We hated to see them go and look forward to another visit soon.

Father William.
On Sunday, July 10, I drove over near Mechanicsburg to meet an old friend who was visiting his parents. Bill is a doctoral candidate at an Episcopal seminary in Virginia and had just completed his course work. He is an Episcopal priest in Florida. Bill was a Lutheran pastor when he lived here in Harrisburg. I was the organist at his church, and we have kept in touch over the years. Whenever he visits, I drive over, pick him up, and head for Rakestraw's ice cream shop in Mechanicsburg for a double-dip cone (I had only one dip!) and some conversation while sitting on the retaining wall in the parking lot; it's très chic, I know.

Rakestraw's is a stone's throw from an Episcopal church, so of course we had to stroll around to check out the building. The house between the shop and the church is a Victorian, and we had a pleasant conversation with the owner, who was watering her extensive garden.

On the Eleventh of July, the Box and I drove to Hershey to meet yet another potential host family. On the way out of town I stopped at a couple of the area's historic buildings to add to my collection of photos of Dauphin County historic sites.

Hocker House in Derry Township
The first stop was the Hocker House on the corner of US 322 and Fishburn Road. I was most interested in the stone work, noticing how the early 19th century builders used local brownstone on the front and sides of the house but filled in with cheaper limestone in the rear, making for an unusual mix. The owner of the building, mistaking me for a Scots-Irish terrorist, came out and asked what I was doing. We ended up having a nice conversation, and she told me to "click away."

Next stop was the Old Session House, a log structure where the leaders of Derry Presbyterian Church met in the 18th century. The structure was enclosed in glass by Milton Hershey. You may have read about this elsewhere in this blog. It was hard to photograph this because the glass reflected everything around, including me. It's allegedly Pennsylvania's oldest log building in its original location.

Milton Hershey's one-room schoolhouse.
Final stop was at the stone one room school house that Milton Hershey attended as a youth. Apparently, his family moved around a lot as his father tried out a series of unsuccessful businesses, and when Hershey built his High Point mansion, he had this school moved near to his home. It's in beautiful condition and perfectly landscaped, like everything to which the name Hershey is attached.  I was right in front of a trolley giving visitors a tour and had to keep moving to stay out of its way.

Well, I lied, because that was not our actual last stop. That was at Cocoa Diner near Hummelstown, where I enjoyed a lunchtime meal of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and cole slaw. Susanne was over at Messiah Village visiting her mother, and sometimes she stays for dinner there, so I wasn't sure what dinner plans would be.

Opera fudge.
The diner was spotless, and the food was, well, diner food! I noticed the servers all sneaking into the over-the-counter cooler to reach into some small white cardboard boxes. I asked the server what was in there, and she told me "opera fudge." I had tried that confection just the previous week in Brickerville. It's like a butter cream but richer and creamier.

Apparently, some guy brings them by every couple of months for the staff. The server offered me one, but I told her I had had enough carbs, so she'd have to eat it. I thought she would bite off her own fingers, because that is how fast she popped that thing into her mouth!

 Frontier man at the Harris mansion.

 Reenactor David Biser reads the Declaration.

 TV station abc27 sent a videographer.

 The troupe of professional reenactors.

 Florin Hill house--classic simplicity.

 Streetscape at Florin Hill.

 Ian keeps busy.

 Marylee shows Susanne her favorite floor plan.

 Ian flashes his famous smile.

 The Session House at Derry Church.
 Milton Hershey had the enclosure built.

 The grounds at High Point Mansion.

 The Box, having outrun the trolley, rests at the Cocoa Diner.

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