Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Last Saturday was the birthday of my old PennDOT crony Bob, so I decided to go with him on his regular jaunt to what is called Saturday's Market, on Pa. 230 between Middletown and Elizabethtown, Pa. (Befitting its whole persona, the market's website is worth a visit just to see digital garishness.)

We drove past the Harrisburg International Airport then the campus of Penn State Harrisburg, with its new boxy dorms overlooking the street, and on to  center city Middletown, where I spied this state historical marker. Middletown was an important place in the nineteenth century. There is no mention on the marker of the famous -- or infamous -- Simon Cameron, who had a house and adjacent bank building that we passed. Cameron, you will recall, was Lincoln's first Secretary of War and Ambassador to Russia. He was sort of a bad-ass (pardon my French) politician and patronage boss in Pennsylvania. He owned the mansion where the county Historical Society has been headquartered since 1941.

The market calls itself "Pennsylvania’s premier Market," and "Pennsylvania's Largest Indoor-Outdoor Farmers and Flea Market."
This picture is from the market's website.
This may sound like hyperbole, but when you get there you pretty much have to believe it. Even on a cloudy and chilly Saturday, the parking lot was filled with shoppers and with vendors of all types of dollar store stuff. Bob has a handicapped permit, so we found a spot right by the door. I stopped to take a picture before the next wave of shoppers appeared. When they did, we were swept along by the crowds and deposited inside the cavernous market building.

Of course, we made a bee line to the bakery stand, where some well-scrubbed Mennonite girls and women were peddling perfect pastries to us pedestrians. Bob had ordered ahead a dozen cherry-filled and iced donuts for us to share. You may recall this donut from an earlier blog post. I paid for the donuts as part of Bob's birthday extravaganza. We also looked at the long johns, donuts, apple fritters, and whoopie pies. This stand, too, like the one in the West Shore Farmers Market the week before, had chocolate-covered whoopie pies.

Bob's favorites are the cherry-filled donuts, seen through bullet-proof glass.
The iced cinnamon buns look tasty, don't they?
Here's the obligatory whoopie pie picture.
Sands tarts always remind me of my dear Aunt Helen, who made them at Christmas.

The apple fritters were not too shabby, either.

Not to be outdone, however, another stand was offering deep fried Oreos. Just kill me now. I have not had an Oreo in years, so I know one of these would be enough to do me in.

Really, when is enough too much?
After wiping the drool off the thick and scratched glass of the pastry stand, we turned north toward the meat vendor, passing the pretzel twister and the "sticky bun lady."

The sticky bun lady also offered these plump sandwich rolls, fresh from the oven.

Or, how about one of these primo lemon meringue pies, with their spikey hairdo?

Now what guy doesn't like lemon meringue? (You know who you are!)

On the way to buy some bacon, we found tee-shirts with some music icons. This was only a foretaste of the flea market treasures that awaited buyers.

Since I know a number of Korean-Americans from my church, I was drawn by this Korean foods stand, something I have never seen before. The best part was the sign promising that their treats were "not fattening." Come to think of it, all the Korean folks I know are pretty slender. Hmmm. I may have to turn Korean.

Finally we arrived at the butcher shop. As Bob ordered up some bacon ends, I perused the less savory items on sale. I don't think I'd like "tongue souse" or anything else that could lick me back. Even more appallingly, it is sometimes called "head cheese." What secret animal parts lay in the "pan pudding" I cannot speculate.

A few feet down the aisle was a "plain" woman selling pies of all sorts. These "half moon pies" looked interesting. They had various fruit fillings, and the man in front of me had just bought one. He recommended that I try the "snitz" filling, which was dried apples made into a sort of heavy apple butter and baked in pie dough.

This stand also sold chocolate chip whoopie pies. I guess there is no end to the variety of this favorite. Not only do the cookies vary from the basic chocolate with white creamy filling, but the fillings now come in flavors such as peanut butter and cream cheese.

One stand was packed with fresh produce and flowers.

Pansies smiled as we passed.
The lettuce will make a great salad.
The radishes were pretty in pink, but I don't care for them.

We did not venture too far into the flea market side of the operation. Stalls offered everything under the sun. I am sure there would be something to interest everyone reading this, including a face-down massage.

Merchandise galore!

Before leaving, we stopped at a stand for Bob's birthday lunch -- a sausage sandwich for him, and a steak sandwich for me, accompanied by luke-cool diet Pepsi in a can. Unfortunately, my hands were too messy for a photo of this class affair. Finally, when we asked for napkins, the vendor picked up a roll of paper towels that no doubt should have been in a machine on the men's room wall, peeled off a generous couple of feet, and then dragged the ends across the floor and handed it to us.

It was fun, though, to watch this little girl, who reminded me of my granddaughter, flitting about the food stand doing all sorts of small tasks and hopping up and down from her milk-carton perch.

On our way out, I could not resist taking this last picture. These things kill me. The seller and a customer were talking about their various babies and their names, and their outfits, and where they "lived." All I could think of was, "get a life." (Now that I type it, that sounds a little harsh. So I take it back.) These little ones are incredibly realistic, I must say.

Goo, goo.

Soon we were headed back to Middletown, and Bob dropped me off where the Box had been patiently waiting. One more "Happy Birthday," and I was on my way home. 

I decided to take the scenic route, as you know I like to do, so continued on Rt. 230 north through Steelton and south Harrisburg. In Steelton, I took note of the district office of state Representative Patty Kim, a fine young woman who represents the city of Harrisburg and surroundings, and in spite of resentment and jealousy on the part of her party's so-called "leadership," she is running for re-election and will win. She is very popular around these parts!

Ms. Kim's office is in this attractive historic building along the main drag of Steelton.

Inching further north on Cameron Street, I caught a glimpse of a big blue ball ahead on the left. It is a tank that captures the methane gas produced by the digesters at the Harrisburg Sewage Treatment Plant, of which I was an employee in the summer of 1963 or 64. I was one of two "lawn boys." This tank was not here then, so we had to mow around a small tower that burned off the noxious gas day and night, a spectacle that we enlightened lawn boys (the other one is now retired after serving as a university president) called "The Eternal Fart."

The next interesting feature on the street was the main portal of a large manufacturing building that has long stood unused and derelict. Rather monumental, don't you think, and beautiful in its decaying state.

Continuing northward, I turned east onto Market Street. Just beyond Thirteenth Street, I stopped for a moment to admire this unusual little building that seems to have popped up out of nowhere. Its shiny metallic fa├žade and Caribbean colors stood out in this neighborhood of older row homes.

Just across the street was this enticing locale. Fortunately, I have no need for beauty or a discount. And we all know they mean 5 & 10 dollars, not cents. I wasn't born yesterday, you know. Not by a long shot!