happy may day!

Photo from St. Peter’s May Day celebration early 1970s.

When I was a little girl I went to St.Peter’s School at 4th and Pine in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia.  We celebrated May Day as a school.

May Day was something all of the kids looked forward to.  Somewhere I have photos my mother took, but the first photo you see in this post and the last were given to me a few years ago by my childhood and adult friend Anthony. What you see in the photo was some of the dancing we did along with the dancing around the Maypole which weaved beautiful and bright ribbons into a lovely pattern as we went round and round.

May Day was such fun! There was the dancing around the Maypole and the other dancing which included dancing over clay pipes – a very Celtic/Gaelic dance.  

I was never coordinated enough to do any of the fancy or specialized dancing but I loved the magic of the Maypole and all of May Day.  In my minds eye I still have a little flickers of memory of these May Day events. I swear today I can hear echoes of the music and clapping!  I remember as a little girl it was the one time I wanted to have the right dress for May Day celebrations. 

Two photos are from when I went to St. Peter’s but the  other photos are old photos I have found on the Internet so people can see what the celebrations were like.

Caroline Seamans, the Headmistress of St. Peter’s when I was a girl instilled some wonderful traditions. It was a great place to be a child.  It wasn’t perfect, and like any school had issues, but was a pretty cool place.

May Day is known also as International Workers Day and today the news in our area is showing demonstrations of public school teachers in front of City Hall in Philadelphia. But that’s not the history of May Day I remember as a child.

May Day is a traditional spring holiday in many cultures, to this very day. Early May Day celebrations started with ancient Romans who celebrated the Festival of the Roman Goddess of flowers, Flora. Ancient Romans held on April 27. Germanic countires celebrated Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries and in the British Ilses was the Pagan holoday of Beltane, held around on April 30.

As time marched forward, all of these celebrations got folded into May Day celebrations. These May Day celebrations which have had increasingly waning popularity which I find so truly sad given the innocence and beauty wnd fun of May Day used to mean these May dances and Maypole.

There was also once upon a time a lovely tradition of May baskets – little baskets of spring flowers and treats left anonymously with a glad heart for neighbors. England and Ireland still maintains a lot of the May Day traditions from what my research has indicated, and there they crown May Queens as well. In Finland they keep the tradition of Vappu, their May Day street festival and carnivals.

May Day was lovely as a child. We felt so grown up and special dancing around the Maypoles. I am so glad I have those memories.

Here is a link to a video of a celebration in a village in Cornwall – CLICK HERE. And Bryn Mawr College has a big May Day celebration as part of it’s traditions – CLICK HERE. At Bryn Mawr College they also have Morris Men who dance.

Anyway, happy May Day and rabbit rabbit.

Maypole St. Peter’s School Philadelphia – early 1970s

prom season means prom reminders

Victoria Pan, a senior at Downingtown East High School, earned the grand prize in the Positive Prom Message contest. This is her image as published on Facebook. See https://www.facebook.com/chestercountyAVOID/  https://www.facebook.com/DowningtownAreaCTC

It’s prom season. And well, prom is a lot different then the “good old days”. This beautiful illustration was the Positive Prom Message winner and Miss Victoria Pan at Downingtown East is the artist.  I hope Victoria doesn’t mind me featuring her art in this post – it is a beautifully executed and powerful piece of art that demonstrates maturity beyond her high school years.  Plus I just like it.

A lot of these proms are not close to home.  They can be at venues quite far away.   Lots of schools have parent group sponsored after prom activities,  instead of after parties of glory days gone by.

No matter how time has passed, it is still a terrific night to be a teenager and a nail biter of an evening to be a parent.

You want your kids to have fun. But you want them home in one piece. Proms need ground rules.

Who is driving to the prom? Who is picking up from prom? When do they come home?

What is the distance between the prom venue and the after prom event and to the various domiciles of kids? How long are these after prom events that schools and parents sponsor? I know of one that runs from 11 pm to 5 am. So, if a kid has a Cinderella license in PA and drives to prom, how are they supposed to drive legally to one of these post prom events? If parents are doing the chauffeuring, when do they get to sleep that night of prom?

When did prom get so complicated?  Or was it always this complicated but when we were teenagers we just did not pay attention to other than who we were going with, who we were sitting with at a table at prom and what dress were we wearing?

Yes, my junior prom way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth….

I do remember the whole dress shopping of it all.   We didn’t show a lot of skin back then, and the heels? Well our mothers made sure we could walk in them if we wanted to wear them. And there was a lot of “no” when it came to dress choices and parental eye rolling that we even suggested wearing a dress that made us look like hoochie koochie mamas.

Today if my friends and I were teenagers and we wore what we were allowed to wear back then, we would have looked like we were sporting Morman “modest ” clothing.

I also remember my mother and her friends rotated dresses between them – so if we were going to more than one prom it was like the mom version of “rent the runway.”  We borrowed someone else’s dress so we had no prompeat dresses from school to school. Who knew it wasn’t a new dress? (we’d never tell!)

Now prom is a big business and well half the guys don’t wear tuxedos anymore.  And what is with this trend that the guy’s tie and/or cummerbund matches the girl’s dress color? Is this like prom Garanimals? Sorry it is a trend I think is dumb.  It’s like yo Barbie, Ken will match you. And a great deal of the girls’ gowns do indeed look like Barbie inspired clothing, which I do not know is a good thing. It just is.

Girls are doing wedding caliber hair and make-up and nails.  How much does prom even cost today?

And then there is the whole promposal thing.  You can’t just ask someone to prom. It has to be this whole production.  Prom bombing a kid’s car to ask them to prom is one way to do it.

I saw this in 2011 and snapped a photo

These promposals have gotten competitive…and expensive.  At Bucks County’s Pennsbury High School they have been banned during school hours.

And wow, these promposals whether you are male or female seem like big pressure to me.  And what happens if someone turns your promposal down? Then what?

But once we get past the where the proms are, where the after parties and events are, and who is wearing what and who is going with whom, it boils down to kids being safe.

State Representative Duane Milne sent around a sober reminder today via e-mail.  I close with that because well, have fun kids but stay safe.  And take pity on your dear “old” parents who now understand why our parents were glad prom season came but once a year for a brief window of time!

 

 

when articles appear that tell but half a story

6876843369_4fcfdf5e31_oSeptember 4th an article appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer about East Whiteland.   Written by a reporter who actually interviewed me about growing roses in 1997, Alan J. Heavens.  I respect him a great deal and would love to know the impetus for this article.

The cynic in me thinks maybe it was placed as PR for the Great Valley Corporate Center or someone similar.

Now this article is well written, and the Inquirer sent one of their best photographers to capture some key shots of East Whiteland, including a very old farmhouse in a bucolic setting, ironically.

25960549603_96081cb1df_oBut the article neglects to mention the non-corporate residents of the township watching their way of life disappear one development at a time.  We live in Chester County because we choose not to live in a city or on the Main Line.  Yet development by development, what makes Chester County unique, even what makes East Whiteland special, is quickly disappearing.

27685291670_2d629ed33d_oJust the other day I wrote about the new fake General Warren Village over near the behemoth of ugliness called Atwater. In my post I mentioned a comment I had received on another blog post about East Whiteland:

The “Suburban Landscape” County planning category promotes infill and appropriate density. County buzzwords for “put all the crap in this part of the County so we can keep some parts of the County green.”  East Whiteland is already written off as far as controlling development….the more here, the better in the County’s eyes. The prior issue of County Plan had existing homes obliterated by corporate park….so their intent has been clear for a long time. All very sad.

 

Now this article.  This article had to have been placed by someone because people in regional newspapers don’t just arrive at the topic of East Whiteland just because.  East Whiteland is a place most people just drive through without even thinking about the non-corporate residents in the township. East Whiteland barely has it’s own identity and doesn’t have a town center so most people know nothing of East Whiteland. They have heard of Malvern, they have heard of Frazer, they have heard of Great Valley High School. But mention “East Whiteland” to most and you get a blank stare.

So this article paints this great picture of all those corporations everyone has  to thank for our way of life in Chester County, apparently. Something along the lines of on the 8th day God created Corporate America perhaps? Ok that’s great, these places are employing folks from all over. Some of whom live in East Whiteland, but a great deal more live elsewhere.

cornfieldEast Whiteland is not just a place people drive through or go to work.  It’s home to real people year ’round.  East Whiteland is also home to Immaculata University and Villa Maria which also deserves credit for employing so many folks. And truthfully, they are better neighbors than corporate America and they respect the local history, heritage, and keep open space.

22015047366_4dd7b6d264_zThe article quotes a Narberth realtor, John Duffy of Duffy Realty. Why quote a veritable Auslander? They also have a St. David’s office.  But they aren’t Chester County realtors, they are based in Narberth and may have branched out to St. David’s, but if you look at their listings, the ones for Chester County with the exception of some rental unit at Raintree in Malvern Borough are all listings that mention SUB-DIVISION, So they are moving west like the developers but are they really the voice of Chester County Realtors now?.

Snippets from their listings on their website include:

  • 1 listing on Flowing Springs Rd in Chester Springs – it’s lovely but oh yes, possibility of sub-division.
  • 2 Juicy sized properties on Willann Road in Phoenixville – 15 and 17 acre parcels and yes, sub-division is possible.
  • 1 10+ acre property on Hickory Grove Road in Owen J Roberts School District “Possibility of four prime building lots on 10.2 gently sloping and wooded acres. Take advantage of sweeping southeasterly views across the Kimberton Golf Club”

The article mentioned East Whiteland Historic assets Gunkle Spring Mill and Lapp Log House. It doesn’t mention some of my favorite places like Duffy’s Cut (site of the massacre of Irish rail workers in the early 19th century), Linden Hall which is still rotting while the townhouses rise,  Loch Aerie, and the ruins of Ebenezer AME on Bacton Hill road which is nearly as old at 184 years as the AME Church itself which just turned 200. The article wouldn’t know how to find local landmarks like the Women’s Lib Barn. It certainly doesn’t mention the trailer parks and the itinerant worker housing seen on and off Route 30 near the Wawa and so on.

17047192442_1b07ce4e3d_oThe article touts the businesses as being responsible for a real estate boom, but neglects to add up all the living units currently in progress and being planned in East Whiteland and any potential/probable impact.  When all is said and done, East Whiteland will be compeletely overwhelmed by not hundreds, but thousands of  additional living units. The article states East Whiteland is 11 square miles, so think about it – a couple thousand new living units is a VERY big deal.  And no one wants to talk about how that will affect schools, municipal services, traffic, infrastructure, open space.  It’s not all happening in a vacuum and who is to say this zeal to build one cram plan after the other won’t affect residents detrimentally down the road? And who is to say economically East Whiteland can actually sustain so much development long term?

Oy vey. And it mentions two historic assets that I am sorry are darn lucky to be left standing in a township that doesn’t really do much with historic preservation even though the historical commission is headed now by a very knowledgeable and caring gentleman (and they posted minutes for August 2016!! ), legislatively the commission has no teeth because there is nothing in East Whiteland to give them teeth (much like Tredyffrin Township as well, yes?)

17045432081_e515193eb2_oThe realtor Duffy says he doesn’t recognize the names of the developers in East Whiteland.  

“Newly constructed homes are available, of course, but most of the builders are younger and their companies and developments smaller than the big names, Duffy says.

“In fact, when I’m asked by agents if I know anything about these builders, I have to call them,” he says.”

Funny, I find quite a lot of them familiar names as I first heard about them on the Main Line. The ones that actually develop, and others who get things approved but then sell their approved sites to other developers and even one or two who got approvals but thus far have done nothing and the names don’t ring a bell? And here I thought savvy realtors were always out and about?

You know O’Neill, Kahn, Pulte, Ryan Homes, Benson, Liberty Property? And if you don’t recognize their names there are others like Toll, JP Orleans, Bentley and more within spitting distance of East Whiteland because why? Oh yeah you can’t swing the proverbial dead cat in Chester County these days without hitting a developer, can you?

I realize you can’t fight city hall on everything, but this sundae with a cherry on top bubble view of East Whiteland doesn’t reflect the people who have lived here in some cases for decades who are terrified by the sheer volume of development and other things like gas pipelines which are coming at so many Chester County residents at a fast and furious pace.

16841236827_7e282e76de_oSo are there a lot of positives to this article? Yes but it still doesn’t mean East Whiteland needs to drown in development so it turns into Bensalem or King of Prussia, etc.  Open space is a real thing, and Chester County is losing it daily along with historic resources and equine and agricultural heritage.

The development which is occurring shows little architectural design aesthetic, aren’t exactly being built to withstand the test of time, and there is just too much of it.  Every square inch available is getting gobbled up. It’s insane, quite literally.

The Inquirer article neglects to mention all of this or the feelings of the existing residents and those in neighboring communities affected by all this development.

26774787724_76108f4124_oSo while the folks at places like the Great Valley Corporate Center are running around patting themselves on the back and realtors who aren’t truly representative of Chester County spout facts anyone with a computer can research on the Internet, there are the quiet voices of everyday people living in Chester County communities like in East Whiteland and elsewhere who are grateful for the commerce but don’t want to lose a way of life, open space, history, and so on.

What is this game we play? Bully for business and real estate developers and damn the existing residents, open space, agricultural heritage, and history?  Doesn’t seem like a very fun or fair game to me. Is moderation in growth really so goddamn difficult?

Here is the article:

Companies congregate here, drawing buyers

Updated: SEPTEMBER 4, 2016 — 3:00 AM EDT

by Alan J. Heavens, Real Estate Writer @alheavens

It’s high time we headed over to East Whiteland for a visit.

After all, without this 11-square-mile Chester County community, a good many folks in this region would be unemployed.

There are so many corporate headquarters in East Whiteland that every weekday, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., the township’s population of 10,650 increases by more than 23,000.

Those companies include Cerner Corp. (formally Siemens Health Services), Vishay, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Ellucian Higher Education, Janssen Biotech (formerly Centocor), and Acme Markets.

Think Great Valley Corporate Center, five million square feet of office and research-and-development space on 700 acres – Liberty Property Trust’s largest domestic suburban project….

“It is a well-run township that cooperates with those around it, is convenient to everything, has a top school district and low taxes,” he says.

“Who can ask for more?”

 

The “more”  folks could ask for include slowing down the pace of development, open space and true historic preservation.  There are more than businesses living in East Whiteland Township.

The race for open space used to be just a tag line about saving it in Chester County. Now it describes every developer who gets their paws on a few acres.

moon over immaculataHappy Labor Day from the land of development, err Chester County. I really hope my feelings about this development are in the end proven wrong, but the reality is I have this sinking suspicion that when I am a very old lady I will be able to say I told you so and I won’t be happy doing it.

27311559801_8d66f5b8fb_o

reject the mariner 2 east pipeline

reject

Reject the Mariner East 2 pipeline! (click on hyperlink to go to Sierra Club initiative)

Normally I do not pass these things on. But I hate Sunoco (and am not enthralled by the other gas line companies either, but they are more polite to deal with if you have to call and ask questions like I did today). Out here we are on wells and they put us, our families, our pets, our neighbors, our wildlife, our environment, our drinking water and more at risk.

Sunoco thus far seems to bully, lie, and intimidate their way through Chester County and elsewhere, raping the landscape as they go.

21784458790_3b3b49f6a6_oNone of use should  want them stealing any more land belonging to anymore individuals thru their B.S. Eminent Domain practices because they are not doing any of this for us….ever. With big oil and big gas, it is always and always will be….about them.

They put toxic, highly flammable, and highly combustible products too close to homes, and they are NOT protecting water sources or wildlife, let alone people.

This is NOT about us and our energy supply. They are just stealing it for other people. They don’t even adequately compensate people for what they do if you want to make it solely about money and it is so much more than that. And thus far the majority of local officials just bend over and give it up without much of a fight.

In the past two days I have had conversations with people from East Goshen and West Goshen Townships who both do not know each other and their experiences as related to me were virtually identical.

They were threatened with eminent domain and they felt they had no choice but to give them an easement; and both hired attorneys that cost many thousands of dollars!

21349816844_28eba2ef09_oThey feel the worst is yet to come as they haven’t started the pipeline invasion yet. They have heard that townships may give them rights to work 24 hours a day, which if true is insane!

So much for East Goshen and West Goshen townships… These folks both tell tales of strange men and women with Texas and Louisiana car plates on their properties TRESPASSING before they even had legal easements.

It just isn’t right and the elected officials are of no help at all.

One said to me (and I quote):

What many don’t know is how in the end our property values will be affected and it is my belief that my property value ( and all on the pipeline path) will go down because of the easement… But the same monies will be needed to support the town budget so everyone else’s taxes will go up to provide the same tax base . We are all losers.

 

We are all losers.  Yup.  I received a pamphlet recently from Spectra Energy about pipeline sapipelinefety.  I have not previously received any pipeline info before where we currently live.  So I called.  I spoke with a very nice man named Don in Gas Control.  And wow, we do not have a gas line on our property or in our immediate neighborhood, but wow, pretty darn close.
Another election year issue on a national scale.  Please sign the above petition and add your voice.  And for those of you tired of trespassers, call Andy Dinniman’s office in West Chester .  There should be rules as to when they can access easements and they should provide advance notice.

Anyway, that’s it. I hate pipelines and I hate what they are doing to our area.  And for what?

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remembering chris thompson

Chris Thompson. 2011.

Chris Thompson. 2011.

Today I have something sad to share.  Someone I know who was a friend who had moved away passed away suddenly from a heart attack in June, and I did not know until today.  His name was Chris Thompson.  I thought he deserved more than a paid obituary locally so I have decided to write something today. He was a really good guy and extraordinarily talented.

A lot of you would remember him as Christopher Arthur Thompson as the former Director of Land Preservation from 2006 to 2009 at the Willistown Conservation Trust.

Or simply as Chris Thompson who lived in Berwyn.  Or as in Chris Thompson who used to own a sustainable food business, a true farm to table venture called Panache Foods.

Celestial Blue by Chris Thompson. Photo courtesy of family.

Celestial Blue by Chris Thompson. Photo courtesy of family.

To me he was just Chris, father of Alexandra and Margaret.  He was the former husband of my dear high school friend Sandra Hitschler Thompson (also Shipley 1981).  He and Sandra had divorced after their move back to the Midwest around 2011, and at his death he was married to Jennifer Drackley Thompson. To all of them I send love and condolences. The dynamics of couples you know change over time, but that doesn’t mean you stop being their friends or thinking about people and remembering them fondly.  Such is how I feel about Chris.  He was just a good guy.

Writing about the death of someone you knew and liked is so darn difficult.  I liked Chris a great deal and his former wife and daughters will always be close to my heart.  When I heard about his passing I thought not only of his career in land stewardship and conservation, but his art.  Chris was an accomplished artist and his work hung all over the Midwest and East Coast.  His art was powerful and lyrical and always blew me away.

 

Violet Eclipse by Chris Thompson

Violet Eclipse by Chris Thompson. Photo courtesy of family.

Christopher Arthur Thompson, 56, late of Three Oaks, MI and formerly of Berwyn, PA Joliet, Ill., passed away suddenly on Friday, June 3, 2016.

Chris in his element, Photo courtesy of Chikaming Open Lands Conservancy

Chris in his element, Photo courtesy of Chikaming Open Lands Conservancy

Born January 27, 1960 in Joliet, he was the son of Arthur and Marilyn (Smith) Thompson. Surviving are his wife, Jennifer Thompson; two daughters, Alexandra and Margaret; his mother, Marilyn Thompson of Joliet, IL; two brothers, Jeff (Nancy) Thompson of Joliet, and David (Carla) Thompson of Coal City, IL; one sister, Marianne (Joe) Haake of Joliet; his former wife, Sandra Hitschler Thompson; and several nieces and nephews.

Chris was previously employed by Willistown Conservation Trust, and worked as Executive Director of the Chikaming Open Lands Conservancy in Sawyer, MI for the last five years. Chris Thompson joined Chikaming Open Lands in 2011 at the conclusion of a nationwide search for an executive director.

He was also the former owner of Panache Foods which was based in Berwyn, PA until a move back to the Midwest in 2011.

 

Panache Foods launch March 2010

Panache Foods launch March 2010

Panache Foods offered locally sourced local Chef prepared foods and offered CSA boxes seasonally.  Panache had partnered with Kimberton Whole Foods at the time and local Chefs like Chef Francis Pascal (Trzeciak) of the Birchrunville  Store Café and introduced me to my now friend Deb Street Davitt of MacDougall’s Irish Victory Cakes.  I had actually photographed the launch of this business at the time, and my friend Caroline O’Halloran wrote about it when she was with Main Line Media News.

I mention this business not to diminish any other aspects of my late friend’s career but because this business at the time was at the head of the class when it came to CSA and locally sourced food. The so called Locavore movement was just revving up in our area when this business began in my opinion.  There weren’t many businesses like this in existence if at all at the time. There were folks who were offering CSA shares, but not a direct to the consumer’s home business like this.  This wasn’t pizza delivery, it was much more and they offered catering connections and introductions as well. It is through Panache I also made the acquaintance of  the now very popular Chef Jennifer McCafferty, owner of JPM Catering in Ardmore, PA.

Panache Foods and Chris participating in Foodapalooza for First Friday Main Line in 2011

Panache Foods and Chris participating in Foodapalooza for First Friday Main Line in 2011

For 18 years while living in the Chicago area, Chris owned Event Management. He offered many jobs to local youth who helped him with the Food and Beverage at the Taste of Chicago. Those were challenging, but very fun times. That was part of the inspiration later in his life for Panache Foods.

He attended Joliet Catholic High School and received his undergraduate degree in Art and Anthropology, and Masters of Fine Arts degree from Northwestern University.

Chris, as I mentioned, was an accomplished artist. He was the recipient of the Scholastic Gold Key Award, a Scholastic National Gold Medal for painting, the Rotary International Scholarship for Art, the Ford Foundation Arts Fellowship, the Quita Brodhead Memorial Award from the Wayne Art Center, and the Squirrel Gallery Award of Excellence. Now as a related aside, the Squirrel Gallery was the brainchild of the late mother of my friend Averil Smith Barone (also an accomplished artist)  named Valerie Lamb Smith.

Chris Thompson in his role as Executive Director of the Chikaming Open Lands Conservancy in Sawyer, MI. Photo courtesy of Chikaming Open Lands Conservancy.

Chris Thompson in his role as Executive Director of the Chikaming Open Lands Conservancy in Sawyer, MI. Photo courtesy of Chikaming Open Lands Conservancy.

Chris will be remembered for his dedication to preserving the natural beauty of both Chester County and Southwest Michigan and his appreciation for the arts. He was a wonderful husband, father, son, brother, athlete and most of all friend. He loved life and was a warm and welcoming and inclusive person by nature. He was so truly multi-faceted that on some levels he could be considered a true Renaissance man.

Chris was also a Board member of  Michigan’s Heart of the Lakes Center for Land Conservation Policy.

Memorials in his name may be directed to the Chikaming Open Lands Conservancy. For information please call (815) 741-5500 or follow their donation and gift instructions on their website.

( related: ChrisThompson notification letter to supporters of COL )

Father, artist, husband, friend, conservationist. Chris Thompson was that and so much more.  He will be missed.  Rest in Peace, Chris.

Chris Thompson's cool vintage truck when he lived in Berwyn, PA

Chris Thompson’s cool vintage truck when he lived in Berwyn, PA