That is a photo of a history book about Lower Merion Township from 1988. It was this great book that was privately printed that only had 1000 copies ever printed on the original publication, and this is the first time I’ve ever seen this book out there for sale other than on eBay. I bought it for $10 at an estate sale.
Inside the book was a treasure trove of articles mostly about things in Lower Merion Township but one about Radnor Township as well. The articles were from The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Main Line Times when it was still advertised as an independent newspaper.
I have only just started to read the book but I am sharing screenshots with all of you fellow history buffs that I hope you will find of interest. One thing I loved in particular is a screenshot about things in Gladwyne. it was obviously an old map and it was lent to the folks who put this book out by the father of a childhood friend.
There is so much about the history of the Main Line and Chester County the disappears year-by-year. This is why I love when I can get my hands on one of these really good local history books. I don’t know who owned this particular copy of this book but it’s a wonderful book, and the articles are fabulous.
This is what community looks like. This is what it truly looks like when people come together for a greater good, and to support friends and neighbors.
Geoff Partridge is still missing.
Last evening it was bitter cold down on the Schuylkill, and still they came one by one to Flat Rock Park in Gladwyne for the Candlelight Vigil for Geoff Partridge. People who could not be there lit candles in their own home and posted photos on the event page.
A candle in Phoenix, AZ burned brightly last night during the Gladwyne, PA vigil. Courtesy photo from candlelight vigil for Geoff Partridge event page.
Last night you saw an example of the best kind of humanity. It’s the week before Christmas, and I don’t know about you but I’m praying for a Christmas miracle.
If you know anything concerning the whereabouts of Geoff Partridge please contact police.
And Philadelphia area media? Especially the television stations? Would it kill you to keep showing Geoff’s face on TV? I have seen what you have done with other missing persons, so please help his family out.
Lower Merion Township? I realize you all are not happy with this publicly but this is someone’s friend, son, husband, family member, neighbor and so on. And you know what? If this was someone beloved in your families these people would do the same for you. That is the thing about this community. I have seen it over the years.
True community like this is magical. Seeing these photos made tears well up in my eyes.
1974 taken by ACME Newspapers (a/k/a The Main Line Times) – Head House Crafts Fair Society Hill- and yes even then I loved the art of quilting. We actually still lived in Society Hill at that point so I am not quite sure how I ended up in a photo for a suburban paper.
Growing up on the Main Line there are just things you grow up with. Namely the local society pages. Historically, sometimes what has kept a local paper afloat wasn’t necessarily local news, but the society pages.
It was like a rite of passage: you go to nice private schools, you have nice Main Line parents who do their share of volunteer work and from the time you are little you get your photo taken occasionally.
My friends and I had it drummed into our heads that society editors were to be respected and revered. You always were polite and you never asked to be in a photo, you were invited to be in a photo.
When I was little, the queen of the society editors was Ruth Seltzer from the Philadelphia Inquirer. She was formidable to say the least. She was a society editor first in the original Bulletin and then Walter Annenberg lured her to the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she remained until her death in 1986.
Ruth was the high bar that the other society editors had to reach to meet. My mother knew Ruth and I remember in her later years my parents giving her rides home from social events on their way home. Her society columns were just that columns with maybe a photo or two. Not like today which are mostly photos with captions. You would read the columns and she would have descriptions of parties and who was wearing what and maybe a photo or two. She was an encyclopedia of who was who in the Philadelphia area.
It was always a huge deal to make it into a Ruth Seltzer column. But you didn’t ask to be, she decided. She was a force of nature. A lot of people didn’t care for her. I was still kind of young when she died, early 20s. I loved reading her columns.
Ruth Seltzer was such an institution that you would find her mentioned in books about Philadelphia and her columns re-quoted in various newsletters. I remember when someone I knew’s father wrote his autobiography he wrote about Ruth Seltzer when recounting a tale of when he first came to Philadelphia.
When she died the whole structure of society columns changed. The Inquirer had a few different people take on her society column, but it was never quite the same. It was an end of an era, (If you want to read something amusing, read this little piece written in 2010 which was written by a writer who was basically Ruth Seltzer’s gofer for years as a first job it sounds like. My first writing job JUNE 28, 2010 BY SUSAN PERLOFF)
At other papers, namely the suburban weeklies for the most part there was a certain jockeying for position after Ruth Seltzer died. One now deceased society editor in particular thought her ascension to the top would occur after Ruth died. It didn’t happen. She never got over it and grew increasingly more miserable and mean spirited.
So enter this new era: all these society editors from other papers jockeying for position and readership. If one took your photo, another one wouldn’t. Or you could play a game and see if you can outwit them. I will admit that some of my friends and I had an enormous amount of fun seeing if we could get more than one society editor to take our photo at the same event.
But we never asked to be in photos. We were invited to be in photos. You see a couple of these society page folks in particular so did not get along that they would often appear at events to cover them at different times so their paths did not cross.And that would make chairs of non-profit events more comfortable anyway since a couple of these other society editors expected exclusives.
When it came to the point that I was volunteering and even co-chairing non-profit events I never played the exclusive thing. I invited whomever was doing society for whichever newspaper and told them flat out everyone was invited from the society press. After all, it wasn’t about them, it was about the institution we were volunteering for, right? And there was one editor in particular who would not take a photo of a person who did not live on the Main Line, including one time the then Maestro of The Philadelphia Orchestra, Ricardo Muti. (So for decades you would have seen photos of people you knew lived elsewhere who were suddenly from Bryn Mawr.)
I did my volunteerism thing fairly devotedly as I was expected to up until 9/11. After 9/11 I decided the world had changed enough that I wanted to still be active in my community, but the bloom was off the rose for the countless black tie events. And people and the events were changing too. It just wasn’t as much fun.
It used to be that black tie events were exclusive. You got dressed up and you felt special. All of a sudden there were what felt like thousands of them. And the people were changing. It became less of a who’s who and more of a who was buying a corporate table. I noticed that first at Opening Night of the Philadelphia Orchestra. All of a sudden there was this super emphasis on corporate tables and they were filled by people who really didn’t know or appreciate the Philadelphia Orchestra but their company bought tables, so they got dressed up and went.
Society and what defines society has completely changed. Slowly from the late 1980s on you saw a shift. No longer was it the norm to be asked to be in a society photo, you told the society editor whom to photograph. And if that didn’t work, you just hip checked someone out of the photo quite literally so you could be in it. That actually happened to me at a black tie that the old Chester County SPCA used to hold called the “Growl Scratch and Sniff” (yes that was the name of the party and it was a lot of fun!). Anyway, this woman wanted to be in a photo and some of my friends and I had been asked to be in a photo and we literally got hip checked out of the photo. I remember just moving off to the side and kind of just standing there a minute because I could not believe someone had done that. Today at the rare occasions I am at one of these things any longer the water buffalo-like jockeying for position and “take my photo” is somewhat astounding to observe.
As what defined society changed, so did the newspapers. Newspapers had also started consolidating and even closing as the Internet and how it was used grew.
On the Main Line for a while there were three papers with society editors: Main Line Life, Main Line Times, Wayne and Suburban. There was also a City Line paper that no one ever wanted to be in. Then on the other side of the river was the Chestnut Hill Local. And other even smaller papers sprinkled everywhere.
When the Main Line papers consolidated it became like the Hatfields and the McCoys with the two remaining society editors. Then they got rid of one and eventually the other one died.
Which brings us to today. You have a really nice man who does most of the Philadelphia area events and a smattering of surviving society editor folks. Main Line Media News still has a very nice lady who does what is left of the “society” pages, and there are others, including a former Main Line area society editor who does photos for her own website. Only when you run into that one these days she is not as pleasant. Fairly unpleasant as a matter of fact. And that is even when you are just saying hello for old times sake, and have absolutely no desire to be in a photo. Truly, it is very sad.
Some ladies I know whom are slightly older than myself say that something must happen to these women who survive at this now somewhat archaic tradition of the society page. I have had more than one say to me how miserable a lot of them get, even while they are still on the job.
I look at the society pages now and I marvel at how I no longer recognize any names. In the good old days you recognized the mothers, the daughters, the grandmothers and so on. It was a tradition after a fashion.I also remember I loved to look at the photos because I loved to look at the gowns.
Today? Not so much. And it is not just that there are different people in the photos that you wonder who the heck they are, but more often than not the event is not dressy and you look at the photos and wonder why they wore that not wow what a gorgeous dress. That and people no longer seem to really know how to stand for those photos, or arrange themselves so the photos flow.
Anyway, this is just something that has been rattling around in my head: what passes for high society today? Should we care?
Yesterday was a study in contrasts. Started out my morning in Chester County, and headed up to New York City for the day.
New York City in October is very alive and bustling. A cacophony of sights and sounds and smells. I worked in New York for a few years when I was younger and fall and spring were my favorite seasons. It is such a contrast now to go from the quiet of Chester County to the very definition of urban.
From the east side to the west side, New York City is a sea of constant motion…and taxi cabs. It’s beeping and honking and massive waves of people bustling across giant intersections.
It is one of my favorite places to take photos, but yesterday there wasn’t time for that. I appreciate the beauty and the urban canyons of Manhattan, but I truly am a Chester County person now….I love getting back to the trees and fields.
From New York City it was back to Ardmore for the last First Friday Main Line. The event was the Happy Howl O’Ween dress up your dog contest.
Since 2006 First Friday Main Line has been there to bring art and music to every day life ; bringing local artists, musicians, and small businesses together. Inspired by the Old City (Philadelphia) First Friday, First Friday Main Line has had people discovering art in unexpected places.
Because Ardmore doesn’t really have gallery spaces, the art and music were tucked in alleys, store fronts, restaurants and on the street. All of this was done by Executive Director and Ardmore business owner and resident, Sherry Tillman. These were never Lower Merion Township as in municipal sponsored events. Many municipalities are deeply involved in the First Friday celebrations of their communities, but the extent of Lower Merion’s involvement was basically collecting permit fees.
But change is inevitable. Sherry called me a couple of months ago to let me know she was putting First Friday on hiatus. I had stopped actively participating because of my move to Chester County and new life here. I was sad to hear her news, but understood. She wanted to focus on different kinds of art events and get back to creating on her own. Sherry is an artist in her own right.
Coming back to the last First Friday Main Line was a bittersweet, yet sentimental journey. I had spent so much time in Ardmore between First Friday Main Line and the community activism I was part of a few years ago. (Lower Merion Township had once to seize part of the historic business district via eminent domain for private gain.)
Coming back to the area I once called home is now like being a stranger in a strange land. What once was home, is now just a place I used to live. The contrast was very pronounced to me this visit. I loved seeing all the old and in many cases beloved familiar faces, but I see everything now through different eyes in a thanks for the memories kind of way. I no longer belong to these old places, I belong to Chester County.
Part of the contrast which was sad to see is just well, how grungy and almost worn around the edges Lower Merion Township seems to look. And that isn’t just the business districts. When I was a kid Lower Merion really was a beautiful place to live. Now it is just an expensive place to live, which is not the same thing.
What I observed was a lot of the sense of community and neighborliness no longer seems to be self evident. A lot of strangers bustling by, and I wonder are there still people stepping up to foster a true sense of community? Or maybe it’s no longer that kind of place?
I have to be honest I do not miss the congestion and traffic of the Main Line nor do I miss the constant development. I felt really old passing by locations where I remember the house and the people who lived there, only now planted on those spots were condos and McMansions and such. All of what replaced what was in these spots are built out to the last possible inch with no real attempt at human scale let alone compatible style. In fact, no real style at all, these projects between Wayne and Ardmore scream nothing more than “new”. Sad.
Down the street from where my parents used to live, I read recently about a house which has a property which is now the subject of potential development. I knew it as the Woodruff House.. The super family which once lived there is long gone and sadly mostly passed away. Realistically, the development will probably happen. There is no zoning and planning to prevent it even if it is a ridiculous and vastly inappropriate spot for infill development.
But it has been almost 40 years at this point since Lower Merion Township had a comprehensive plan update, and the lack of planning is showing. What worries me about what is happening on the Main Line is the same developers snapping up whatever they can there are also in Chester County.
Take Downingtown, as in the borough. If they don’t watch it, they will make the same mistake that Malvern Borough did with Eli Kahn and Eastside Flats, which should really be seen from the rear too. An article appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer recently:
…..In addition ……..the archdiocese said that it had an agreement to sell a 454-acre property in Northampton County for $5.5 million, and that it had sold 55 acres in Chester County for $3.7 million.
The $3.7 million from the sale of excess land at the St. John Vianney Center in Downingtown, a behavioral-health center for clergy and women religious, was deposited into the archdiocesan priests’ pension fund. That fund previously had a $76.3 million deficit.
The buyer was Woodbine Partners L.P., a partnership of Chester County developers E. Kahn Development and J. Lowe & Associates.
Stephen Sullins, Downingtown’s borough manager, said the expected mixed-use development was significant for the town, which covers just two square miles.
“It looks like it is going to expand our tax base somewhat. We’re looking forward to some new jobs,” Sullins said.
During a discussion…at….Malvern Borough Council, resident Joan Yeager asked a related question:
“Once the King Street project is completed, how much additional money is going to come into the borough? In taxes and all,” she said.
“Something in the neighborhood of $60,000 a year,” council president Woody Van Sciver said, citing a financial feasibility study done before the project was approved.
“That’s it?” Yeager replied, expecting a bigger payoff from the several new businesses and hundreds of new residents that will be moving to the east end of the borough.
Downingtown can afford a development misstep even less than Malvern Borough. And I love Malvern, but if there is some benefit to having that Christ awful development once you get beyond having Christopher’s there and Kimberton Whole Foods moving in, I haven’t seen it. And the development looks like giant Lego buildings (with about as much finesse) plunked down in Lilliput.
There are a lot of empty store fronts in Eastside Flats and the borough itself, and last time I was there to have lunch at Christopher’s there were cigarette butts all over the sidewalk in front of the nail salon. Of course I also wondered why such “high end” and new real estate could only get a nail salon? And have you ever see Eastside Flats from the rear? It shows it’s backside to a lot of Malvern residents over the tracks and wow, a little landscaping might help. But do developers like this care about the existing residents?
My travels yesterday merely reaffirmed the true contrast between urban, suburban, and Chester County. And suburban doesn’t have to and shouldn’t be the mini-me to urban, and well for us out here in Chester County, we shouldn’t want developers to spin their tales of the Emperor’s New Clothes out here and give us the awkward new urbanism fairy tale or hybrid cross of what they are shoe horning in everywhere else. Maybe that is NIMBY (not in my back yard) of me, but heck I have lived with bad projects and bad planning in my back yard–it’s one of the things I was happy to leave behind on the Main Line when I moved to Chester County.
I still believe Chester County is incredibly vulnerable to these projects, and these tiny towns and boroughs need to think carefully before jumping to the extremes of these very dense developments. Places grow and evolve and not all development is bad, but there is just way too much of it. The pace needs to slow.
The open space and gracious rolling farm lands,fields, and forests which make up Chester County are worth preserving. So is the way of life which accompanies it. Thanks for stopping by today. I know this post has rambled along, and when I started out with my original thought of contrast I wasn’t quite sure where this post would lead me.
Lower Merion police say a woman was driving intoxicated with her 2-year-old child and two dogs when she crashed her car into a utility pole in the Bryn Mawr section of the township Friday.
As a result, the woman is facing numerous charges in connection with the case.
Grace Tuten, 32, of the 1000 block of Clover Hill Road in Wynnewood is facing charges of DUI, endangering the welfare of a child, reckless endangering another person, driving under a suspension, careless driving and related offenses….At police headquarters, Tuten recorded a blood alcohol level of .28, or more than three times the legal limit of .08.
Tuten’s 2-year-old son was a passenger in the car at the time of the crash, shortly after 8 p.m. He was found inside his child seat in the rear of the vehicle. The child was taken to Bryn Mawr Hospital for a precautionary evaluation. Two dogs were also found in the rear cargo area of the car.
Here we have another sad state of affairs and the commonality is kind of eerie. Both Main Line born and bred women and products of fine private schools and good colleges. Both married. Both have small children. Tuten is 32 and Williams-Earle is 30.
What has gone wrong here? How do families not know if someone is having issues? Do that many people really in this day and age routinely drive around comfortably numb? Where was Tuten coming from? It was 8 p.m. on a Friday so where was she coming from or going to and where was her husband? And who exactly let her get behind the wheel of a car? With a blood alcohol level of 0.28 was she visibly intoxicated? Who lets a young mother get into a car with her child and two dogs?
To me this is an alarming issue. And with two to hit the news a couple months apart , I truly see this as an issue. But if we are honest, by varying degrees this is not a new issue. It’s just not one discussed in public as much as whispered down the lane.
These women like Grace Tuten need help and they need our compassion. I said that when I wrote the post titled “deadly decision”. I see another young mom in crisis here.
Who is listening to these women? I wonder if these women had postpartum or other depression? Or are they simply experiencing pressures of being a modern Main Line mommy?
Since I have moved to Chester County I have even encountered some similar mommies, closer to my own age. One woman in the Giant a few weeks ago literally reeked of alcohol when she passed me with her cart. A friend said I should have called the police, but where was my proof? I did not see her drink. We live in such a litigious society that can it be considered a real Catch 22.
Alcoholism is an awful disease. I have friends who have been “in the program” for years. Including now not so young moms. Some have been successful working their programs, others not so much.
I have no idea what was going on with this woman Grace Tuten but I do believe the pressures they experience as young moms and wives in an affluent area are very real. And as a little girl, I remember the moms who were my mother’s generation who tippled. One in the mid 1970s called her popping pills with a cocktail chaser a “mommy’s pick-me-up”.
Grace Tuten lives in Wynnewood but was in the Bryn Mawr close to Gladwyne area with her child and her dogs, so she was somewhere she knew people really well perhaps? Or at a local restaurant?
I don’t know the motive, don’t know the woman but I feel for her because as a friend of mine said today who is a mom who had postpartum that she believes mothers just don’t intentionally put their kids in harm’s way. So I am going to stick with that.
The path to parenthood is not necessarily an easy one. I know many women who didn’t make easy transitions from working girl to SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) or did the whole motherhood and career thing easily.
I can tell you as a stepmother in training to an awesome now teenager, I have not had it all come easily. The love is there, but here I am in my late 40s becoming a parent for the first time. It is hard work to be a parent. And while I have enjoyed my transition from a woman who worked her whole life to being in essence a mostly stay at home parent, it is not as easy as it sounds. It sounds lovely, it is lovely, but it is a major life transition. And wow can you feel guilty for keeping house which is a job in and of itself.
But with age comes life experience, so in some ways, I think it has been easier for me than some of the younger mothers. With these younger women, they are not so many years removed from their single and young married party days. Most of their Facebook pages tell that tale rather readily. So here they are in a fairy tale life to some that on the inside for whatever reason might not be such a fine fairy tale. So do they drink socially and then it becomes drinking to take the edge off of the reality of life? Or do they just do the mommy pick me up to take the edge off and it gets out of hand?
I don’t really know. All I know is this is yet another case of a well-educated, well-bred young woman ending up with a DUI with her child in the car. I am hoping this is a topic that mom bloggers in the area will take up. Why? Because I think there needs to be a conversation.
The pressure to be the perfect woman is a very real thing. And the sooner we, as women can learn to stop beating ourselves up for not being paragons of perfection, the better. And yes that is a lesson I also have to learn and accept. (Some days are just better than others and self-perception is a tricky and cheeky devil.)
I wish life and fixing life issues was as simple as Cher’s infamous line in “Moonstruck” – you know – “Snap out of it!” – but it’s not. It takes work. Relationships take work, families take work. Yes there is love and all the good stuff, but you get the good stuff by working together, don’t you?
So mom bloggers out there, I hope you will take the time to talk about this issue. Not to be a salacious gossip, but to discuss how we can, as women, address this. And offer support but not enabling to those we might know who are in need.
This is just sad, and like I was sad for Meredith Williams-Earle, I am sad for Grace Tuten. So young to have screwed up so much. And the last thing to consider are the people who never think this will happen to them. The “I’ll just have one drink” theory.
This morning I received one of those phone messages you don’t want. The “call me when you get this” kind of message.
Last night a lot of us lost a very special person, our friend Jim McCaffrey. I had written about him in March when we discovered he had been diagnosed with MDS or Myelodysplastic syndrome, a malignant disorder of the bone marrow.
For years Jim covered our news up and down the Main Line and in Philadelphia. Via Main Line Times, the Then Wayne and Suburban Times and also for the Bulletin. Jim was so much more than a terrific reporter and amazing writer, he was an incredible human being. He was just one of those truly good people it was an honor and privilege to know.
When we saw him at the fundraiser we threw for him this past spring to help defray his medical costs and upcoming bone marrow transplant at Stanford University Hospital in California, I was struck once again by how damn lucky we all were to know him. He greeted us all with big hugs and that wonderful welcoming smile he had and moved us all to tears when he spoke towards the end of the fundraiser. He is just one of those rare people you meet who are just that innately good. He is one of those people that can inspire others to pay it forward in life.
Since the fundraiser we had all been following his progress at Stanford via his Facebook page and website and email updates. Many of us, myself included swapped text messages and emails with him. He fought so hard and was so positive in the face of something so daunting that we thought he would just survive this. Alas that was not to be.
Yesterday, on his birthday, Jim quietly passed away in California with his family at his bedside. The tears roll down my face as I write this, but I know deep down inside how lucky I was to know him. He was just an awesome human being.
Sleep well, Jim. You fought a brave fight and we will miss you. Thank you for sharing your world with us. We are all better for having known you.