Thursday, December 31, 2009


Predicted sleety rain surprised everyone by being snow instead . . . David Hoffman braved the weather to deliver some more autographed copies of his book. We were all but sold out . . . The Bare Wall will be closed until Monday so there may not be any posts here before then. Depends on how bored I get just sitting around and working on the store ledger . . . On the big day I watch football in the family room while Bob stays in the kitchen with the Philly Mummers' Parade. Between divisions he suddenly appears with some wonderful treats he has concocted; what is a kitchen for but to whip up something delicious? . . . Didn't think anyone would be interested in seeing what my new dishwasher looks like, so I am substituting a snapshot of the Earl Blust painting that Bob got for Christmas . . . Please, everyone, be happy but safe and come back to visit in 2010. HAPPY NEW YEAR . . .

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


The Bare Wall will close around 3 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday) and will not reopen until Monday at 10 a.m. The weather is to be iffy through this period, so please travel safely . . . We begin our inventory processing next week. This is the very best time of the year for bargains at The Bare Wall. There are always several items we do not want to carry over and we make these available at exceptional discounts. And if you don't like the price, make a reasonable offer. You might be surprised . . . The few remaining boxes of mints are reduced to $12. Many ornaments are available at half price. In fact, you can talk us into reductions on almost anything until it is counted . . . And that darn heavy brass floor candlestick is still here !!!!! . . .

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Still catching up . . . Ty Cowell and his guitar performed professionally earlier this month at a club in St. Augustine called Rendezvous (I think). Wife Pam reports that the crowd was very supportive and there was a nice turnout for Ty's effort . . . I had introduced you to Syd Summerhill's sculptures some weeks back, but I didn't know that he was an artist as well. Bob received a 'thank you' note for a tea and crumpets get-together he had recently and we were pleasantly surprised to see that the card was adorned with one of Syd's paintings. Thought you would like to see it as well . . . I really like this week between Christmas and New Year's Day because it allows us to play a favorite CD of ours. Bob discovered it some years ago. It is a recording of a broadcast to our troops in WWII wishing them a Happy 1945. We hear a lot of big bands and singers doing the pop songs of the day. I wish we could play it more, but Bob rightly insists that it go back on the rack once the New Year is celebrated. It has become a Bare Wall tradition of sorts . . . Do any of you remember Milkman, Keep Those Bottles Quiet? . . .

Monday, December 28, 2009



Hope you all had a wonderful holiday. I’ve been relaxing myself, so we have some catching up to do. Santa Bob visited JJ and Cecilia Christmas Eve with a bountiful bag. JJ couldn’t believe it and summoned his parents. “These are all for me!” he exclaimed. Santa and he went through a pile of trucks, magic markers, a train (Santa forgot the batteries!) and a toy computer which was especially welcomed. (But the kid is a whiz on a real one, so don’t know how long the fascination will last) . . . We spent Christmas day quietly, lamenting the fact that TV generally ignored the holiday; even the shopping channels were hard at work pushing their goods. We reminisced about the Bing Crosby-Perry Como-Andy Williams et al Christmas specials which were so much a part of the season celebration years ago. Finally watched some of the (taped) Harrisburg holiday parade and remembered that its original purpose was to attract people to the big stores downtown (yes, there were such things). Santa would dismount at Pomeroy’s and their animated windows would be revealed. The burg actually felt like a city back then . . . Oh, yeah: Bob got an Earl Blust painting and Santa Bob got me a dishwasher . . . Lazed Saturday while Bob prepared for Sunday’s family “do” and then we joined the neighbors at Elizabeth and Mickey’s open house. What a lovely event. The women will be moving to the suburbs soon, but they surely will miss their historic Briggs Street building; what a beauty. If you are looking for a place in our neighborhood, be sure you eyeball this one . . . Sixteen members of the Deibler clan descended on Bob’s house on Sunday. Lots and lots and lots of eats: food, football and fellowship in roughly that order (go Steelers!) . . . and we have a holiday tradition of our own—tonight Janet Reed and Angela Lawson will join us to pick through the leftovers; the girls will be happy: there’s a lot of their favorite cold stuffing to enjoy . . . More to come, but want to remind you that there are still a few bayberry candles available for your New Year’s Eve celebration . . .

Thursday, December 24, 2009

. . . and to all a good night !
MERRY CHRISTMAS
(we will be back in a day or two)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


The Fates are conspiring to scuttle my boat. First a snowstorm on what should have been The Bare Wall's biggest day of the year and now a major gas leak in the next block that has closed our street . . . Hello, retirement! . . . Happy to report that Eric's beloved glove has come home again . . . Angela Lawson has all the kids giddy with excitement. She has given them a packet of glitter mixed with oatmeal. All they need to do tomorrow night is to scatter it on the lawn or sidewalk and Santa's reindeer are sure to flock to it. Bob's neighbors Felix and Sabrina can hardly wait for the moment to sprinkle their bait . . . JJ looked like a proper English gentleman for his trip to The Residence; the Governor even had a present for him . . . we have received a lot of hokey Christmas e-mails over the past several weeks, but none is as much fun as this one from Lee Spitalny: http://www.sundog.net/carolofthechins/flash/card.swf . . . just type in a song title and the kids will sing it to you--maybe. It is even fun when they don't know the tune . . . My favorite is The Twelve Days of Christmas . . .

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


'Tis the season for goodies . . . Judy Robinson delivered yesterday; oh, those sugared pecans! . . . Michelle Freed sent her dad Ed with a beautiful array of cookies; her "coconut sandies" are a big hit this season. but JJ prefers the ones with a Hershey kiss in the middle . . . Mary Ann Furedi slipped some tasty-looking baked treats to Bob late this afternoon; I haven't had a look-see there yet . . . Yvonne Brown came by with two boxes of candies so Bob and I don't fight over who gets what; she and Bob have exchanged chocolates and fresh pears so often that it is practically a tradition. Yvonne's husband Wes celebrated his 90th birthday on Saturday. The five children are scattered and were prevented by the weather from travelling so daughter Claire in Ohio arranged a conference call. It was a heart-warming event Yvonne says . . . Angela Lawson and granddaughter Addison are baking cookies too, the slice-and-bake kind. "Good grandmother and no mess," Angela says . . . I am helping out Eric and Joanne by eating some of the wedding cake left-overs. Eric has lost one of his beloved blue Penn State gloves somewhere in the neighborhood. If found, please drop off at The Bare Wall . . . JJ is attending the Christmas party at The Residence tonight; he was barred from last year's celebration for some now-forgotten reason . . . The picture is a seasonal postcard from Dan Beard and Jon Hulka's home in Fulton County; they obviously got a better taste of Saturday's storm than we did . . .

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Bare Wall will be closed on Saturday, Dec. 26, so that Bob can prepare for the annual Deibler holiday party on Sunday. Ronn will pretend to help but will be concentrating mostly on whatever football game might be in progress at the moment. We will reopen Monday with bargains for those still in the holiday mood . . . We are hoping to see a horde of people in the next three days to salvage the season interrupted by the storm. Every other retailer is hoping for the same thing. But you late starters, don't panic. Remember we gift wrap everything for free . . .

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Very nice reception for the newlyweds at Joanne and Eric's house today; we were also celebrating Joanne's birthday . . . My thanks to Bryan, Craig and anyone else who helped out the old man by clearing his sidewalk these last two days . . . This was to have been JJ's big sightseeing weekend in Washington, D. C. Rockets and dinosaurs and everything in between was on the menu. JJ was game despite the weather, but the dumb adults closed everything down. He and sister Cecilia had to make do playing in the hotel a la Eloise at the Plaza . . .

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Disastrous snow storm just days before Christmas will certainly bury several small businesses. I just hope we aren't one of them, but the forecast for the next couple of days is not helpful . . . Opened for just a few hours, saw no one and spent the rest of the day watching football and taking cat naps . . .

Friday, December 18, 2009

It is OFFICIAL: Joanne and Eric were married today. Congratulations!!!!! . . . Angels seem to be orphans this year; Santas and snowmen are selling well, but angels are languishing . . . I guess every retailer on the East Coast is deeply worried about the predicted snow storm that is to begin later tonight. A white weekend just days before Christmas can turn black days into red ones . . . Hope our creditors will be understanding . . . But we will be here if you can safely get to our door. Please be careful . . .

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Every holiday season we have one day on which business screeches to a stop; hopefully that day was today. We had but one customer between one and four this afternoon. We assure ourselves that all is not lost by creating excuses: this was Office Party day; there was a carol sing at Strawberry Square; it was tree-lighting time somewhere. And we feel a little better . . . only 15 packs of bayberry tapers left; don't miss out . . . Bob gets angry with me when I shift the merchandise at this time of year. He can never locate anything once I have redone some of the displays. I like to keep things looking fresh so that the next customer will feel he is the very first to step inside the door . . . I guess that all began years and years ago when The Bare Wall was very new and not so well stocked. Paul Wambach was helping out that Christmas, and one morning a week before the holiday we both agreed that the store was looking shabby and “picked over” so we went to work on it. A display table was sacrificed and carted to the basement, a few wall shelves were removed and our wares were redistributed; some empty lower shelves were filled with what appeared to be wrapped gifts awaiting pick-up. When we were finished the store looked attractive and inviting and we were very self-satisfied with our effort . . . a short time later a relative of Paul’s who was “above” patronizing our meager enterprise stopped in. “My, my,” she said, casting a disapproving eye about, “you guys are loaded. So sad! I was just at such-and-such a store and they are all but sold out. Shelves and tables empty, empty, empty. I feel so sorry for you” . . . Paul and I could not contain ourselves. We fell into each other’s arms laughing like two crazed hyenas. Our “customer” stomped out in a huff . . . “her” store should have taken a lesson from us. It was out-of-business a year or so later . . .

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Some sunshine at last, though it is turning colder . . . After about fifteen years on Briggs Street Joe Turley has moved uptown a bit. But he wants his old neighbors to know that he is still available for their occasional chores. Just call the Bare Wall and we will put you in touch with him . . . The new windows at Bob's house have been installed and he says he can already feel a difference. We will see if the first heating bill confirms that . . . Have complained herein about cars not being moved for street cleaning and the fact that the fine is too low; well, the rumor is that all parking infraction fees will be going up after the new year . . . There must be a train lover out there who would really appreciate these heavy metal bookends. The two pieces are attractive ornaments even if they aren't supporting your favorite books . . . (click to enlarge)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

These gray overcast days are suitable to the season I guess, but what I really need is a bit of sunshine . . . It was one of those days in which I did a lot and yet have nothing to show for it. Cannot think of a single encouraging word tonight except "keep on shoppin'" . . .

Monday, December 14, 2009

Spent the day repairing the delightful damage to the tables and shelves after the press of people at yesterday's tour. Place is looking good again; you wouldn't know that anything is missing . . . Am fighting the sniffles; think I stood too close to that aromatherapy candle for too long yesterday. Not suffering a cold . . . It has been pointed out that I have promoted Odin's new recording of Vivaldi's Four Seasons several times now without mentioning the price. It is $16 . . .

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Nasty weather did not discourage visitors on the house tour. We were busy most of the afternoon and everyone was obviously having a very good time. They destroyed our supply of cranberry soap. Must admit that I am weary and planning to retire early . . . Lucille has sent ten new silks in bright colors--reds, rusts and orange . . . Fred Imhoff's new glass jewelry also is here. Beautiful selection of colors. Alert for husbands/boyfriends: Fred has provided four superior necklace and earring sets that any special woman would covet . . .

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Busy day. Lots of fun. Almost everyone asked about JJ . . . Neighborhood looking nifty. Even houses not on the official candlelight tour are decorated. Jaime and Bryan have done up their entry; North Street is aglow with lights. Have sold 93 tickets thus far, the last to a delightful couple from Waynesboro who read about the event on the net and decided to attend. So sorry the weather isn't cooperating . . . It is fun to be a retailer when things are going well, but I am so busy I haven't had the time to enjoy my foreign radio and TV broadcasts. I am sure I am missing a lot of holiday programming that I would enjoy . . .

Friday, December 11, 2009


Bitter cold today but the garland is up around the door. Several hardy shoppers . . . thus far we have sold more than 70 tickets for Sunday's house tour. Bob and I got a free preview of Dr. Bob Coldren and Jack Barnett's home this evening; truly lovely (with all those Bare Wall candles). Lots of paintings of area scenery by local artists . . . if you missed Odin's "release party" for his new CD tonight do not despair. We will have copies for sale here come Monday . . .

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Frantic activity on our block as the owners of four homes rush to be ready for the Candlelight House Tour on Sunday. And who is the laggard? Me, of course. Bob begged me to hang our garland while the weather was nice and I didn't. Guess I will brave the elements tomorrow . . . A reminder that tickets are $12 through Saturday. Late-comers Sunday will pay $15 . . . Had a very busy day with a lot of good-natured people in the holiday spirit. Had intended at the outset of the season to mention them all by name but now realize how impossible that would be. A simple "thanks for your support" seems inadequate but it is the best I can do just now . . . Mary tells me the Lingus fig tree is now "under wraps" for the winter. Its survival is always iffy, and it certainly will be tested when the temperature goes down to 15 tonight . . . Brr . . . I'm having a bowl of Bob's chili and he and some hearty friends are bundled up and caroling tonight. Bet they cannot wait to finish the last fa-la-la so they can get inside to the mulled cider . . . Last year their big night was beset by an icy blast that made walking impossible, so they sat around the punch bowl and telephoned their carols to people in the neighborhood . . . Ingenuity par excellence!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ugly a.m., snow and rain . . . Was impressed with the speedy efficiency of the staff at Harrisburg Hospital. Everyone very personable. Jeremy did my scan, Steve took the x-rays. No prognosis yet, of course. I was hoping they would find a sponge marked "Property of Hbg. Hospital" left over from my gall bladder operation 20 years ago. No such luck, apparently . . . Shared the elevator with two ladies who had braved the elements so they could enjoy the "snowscape" from Seven Bridges Restaurant on the top floor; they were disappointed to find the place closed--the hospital staff holiday party was today . . . Sold several of Lucille's scarves after last week's posting; Lucille is sending more to help pep up her display . . . Fred Imhoff has promised that more glass earrings are on the way. His selection is dangerously thin at the moment. Women tell me the earrings are especially comfortable to wear . . . If you are coming for House Tour tickets, please be advised that they are available by cash or check only; no credit cards accepted . . .

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Quiet news day. Pleasant times with shoppers. JJ came, raided the cookie jar and went off to grandma's for noodles. "But I'm not hungry now," he told his mom, having had a cookie, a gummy worm, some Lucky Charms dry cereal and several chocolate-covered dried cherries . . . tomorrow is my morning at the hospital for tests, so we may be a tad late in opening; give us an extra half hour just in case. More concerned with the icy weather than the sonogram thingy . . .

Monday, December 7, 2009

Damp and chilly day . . . Amy and Doug Hill are back from Paris and working frantically to get their house ready for Sunday's house tour . . . Wife Kimberly has informed me that violinist Odin Rathnam will have a "release party" for his new CD at Barnes and Noble in Camp Hill on Friday from 7 - 9 p.m. . . . Bob helped me set up the new Comcast TV boxes this evening. We had a "mechanical malfunction" that made the project arduous. (I don't dare say that Bob stuck the plug in the wrong hole.) Now I have to figure out a new remote. Have a basket full of those gadgets and can't remember which operates what . . . With telephone, computer, TV, DVD/tape player, radio, several table lamps, etc., my house has so much wire that it looks more like it is under construction than a cozy nest. And I have run out of outlets . . .

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Relaxing Saturday evening with friends Dan and Jon from Fulton County. Bob made a regal meal with his "Millersburg Chicken" as the entree; topped it off with pineapple upside down cake, the one dessert Bob can do really well . . . don't wait too long to pick up your bayberry tapers for New Year's Eve; our 2-pack is $7.25 and we usually sell out early . . . Susan Henking, a college professor from the Finger Lakes region, is in the Harrisburg area for a bit and came shopping yesterday. Her interests include cooking and cozy mysteries, particularly those dealing with food. She invites readers to visit her blog: http://www.cookingwithideas.typepad.com/. Scroll down to the entry for November 11th to see her "take" on the Broad Street Market . . . some lucky gent is going to get this large metal British touring car for his office or den. Bob thinks it needs a couple of small Christmas packages in the back seat to really dress it up. Only one, $38 . . .

Saturday, December 5, 2009

First flurries of the season has infused all of us with the holiday spirit. Nicely busy day with all in a good mood. Have some things to share with you in the next few days but am posting late tonight since we are hosting out-of-town guests. Sorry to be brief, but here is a wish that you can enjoy for the rest of the month . . . copy and paste this into your bar above:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUD-J_6l160&feature=related

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pleasant day. Renewed acquaintances with some old customers thanks to the article in TheBurg. Breathing easier since the urgent order for the coffee collection was answered today . . . Pre-wrapped more bluebirds ($9.50) . . . we are burning one of Root's tangerine-lemongrass candles; what a pleasant aroma . . .

House Tour Addendum

Yesterday's post stirred a lot of memories; thanks for the e-mails. This year's tour on Dec. 13 has 22 official stops. Other places like The Bare Wall have become "unofficial but desirable" that people return to year after year. So how does that compare with the first tour in 1973? Well, there were only nine sites back then and for the record, here they are:
M/M Terry Summers, 711 South Front Street
Ronald Shepler, 631 South Front Street
Mary Rinehardt, 547 South Front Street
M/M Robert Young, 329 South Front Street
Cathedral House. St. Stephen's, 215 North Front Street
Office and apartment, 114 South Street
The Bare Wall, 712 Green Street
Harry Courtright, 218 Herr Street
Glenn residence, 224 Verbeke Street

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Slowish day so had time to chat with Lonnie Kerr, Bonnie Wallace and Ken Frew . . . Searched the closets and found some more angels we had forgotten about . . . pre-wrapped more coffee collections and boxed some pottery to speed things up when busy . . . A nice e-mail from Lucille in response to our post about her silk scarves yesterday. She has just shipped a large assortment to the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. Very excited, as she should be. We are very happy for her. We still have a nice selection, but don't wait too long . . .

Candlelight House Tour c. 1973


The Historic Harrisburg Association annual Candlelight House Tour was the brain-child of Frank Pines. When he first proposed the tour to fellow board members we were not enthusiastic--but we were quick to share the accolades when the December 9, 1973, event turned out to be a rousing success. (Cost per ticket:$3.) . . . The blueprint for the early tours called for one renovation in progress, one Jewish home, an example of alternate use (The Bare Wall on that first tour), an apartment on occasion, several established homes and a church to host the public reception. Because people then didn’t decorate as early as they do now, each participant received a large poinsettia for the entry hall and the Jewish family got a blue, white and silver Hanukkah bouquet . . . (Interesting sidelight: The Shipoke home of Bob and Eileen Young was on the first tour; this year they are showing their Herr Street residence.) . . . The first several years of the tour were quite fashionable: men in suits and ties, the women in their Easter morning finery (plus furs). The Great Ladies of Harrisburg in long gowns and family pearls presided at table and poured tea or coffee for the touring public at a formal reception. St. Stephen’s was the host church that first tour and those of us on that first committee were deeply indebted to the late Betty Murray who showed us how to throw a fabulous reception and get most of the munchies for free! We did “the Murray thing” for the next several years . . . Amenities were soon added: a jitney to circle the tour area, strolling carolers, a full-sized program with advertising. At the peak of success (and having no ‘house tour’ competition) up to 1800 tickets were sold . . . the day ended with a dinner and get-together at the church for all home owners and volunteers . . . future committees would add to and subtract from the original plan that Frank had laid out and today’s event has been greatly expanded and changed; but for us old folks it is not the intimate event it once was. However people still bundle up and brave 20-degree weather to enjoy this Harrisburg tradition . . . This is HHA’s 36th house tour, and some wiseacre is going to figure out that there is a year missing somewhere; well, there is: One HHA board decided to discontinue the event. Members were dismayed and in rebellion. The “Old Guard” leaped into action and that year produced the “Snowflake” holiday tour. (If anyone remembers the date, please let me know; my living room was the site of this Les Miz uprising.) The general public didn’t know the difference and the next HHA board was quick to reinstate the celebration. And to show there were no hard feelings (well, that is putting it mildly) the profits from the Snowflake tour eventually went to HHA . . . (click the program to enlarge)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Today's rainy afternoon didn't deter shoppers. They had everything on their lists: cards, soaps, candles, wooden utensils, ornaments; kept Bob and me hopping to wrap the goods and refill the shelves . . . It is fun to be busy though we don't always get to chat as much as we would like . . . If early ticket sales are an indication this will be a very successful Candlelight House Tour . . . Our cute polar bear figures ($12) want to introduce you to Lucille's hand-marbleized silk scarves ($36). You saw them here first, but Lucille's work has now been accepted by the gift shop at the Boston Museum of Fine Art. The package also comes with a guide on the art of scarf tying . . .

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sunny day and people are getting serious about the holidays. Made an urgent call to our supplier for twenty-four more coffee collections ($17.50). These are selling faster than expected . . . Nothing alarming in my doctor visit but more tests are required . . . For those of you out of town with no access to a print copy of our story in TheBurg here is the link: www.theburgnews.com. You can read the entire paper by clicking DOWNLOAD on the right. You will see the Governor's Residence on the cover; scroll down to Page 8 and there we are. There is a magnifier at the top of the page that will allow you to read it easily . . . Thanks to Bob and Jack's NetFlix connection I got to see Grey Gardens this evening. The story of Jackie Kennedy Onassis' aunt and cousin who fell into poverty. Good production with Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore. I recommend it . . .

Monday, November 30, 2009


TheBurg's December issue debuted today and The Bare Wall is the subject of a feature article. The phone has been ringing off the hook; I didn't realize that there were so many avid readers although we have been advertising with the paper for a few months. Peter Durantine truly captured the essence and ambiance of the store like no other writer in our 37 years--and we've enjoyed several very good write-ups in the past. I assume the story will be available on-line at their site in the not-too-distant future and if so I will post the link for you out-of-towners . . . Placed another order for our chocolate mints; the first shipment is flying out the door. I am beginning to see the awakening of the holiday spirit . . . JJ had his first sip of (non-alcoholic) eggnog tonight. We weren't sure he would care for it, but when no one else was looking he suckered Bob into filling his little paper cup a second time . . . There are some very good buys on the soaps and lotions table thanks to our suppliers; some items are being discontinued and we are down-sizing some others. Thanks to the Euro, the French rounds have gone to $6. so we are selling out the remainder at $5 and will bring in the smaller less expensive bar . . . This picture was taken a week ago so the current stock many not be as extensive as it appears here . . . (click to enlarge) . . .

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Nice visit with Richard Hebbard on this beautiful day . . . Two tourists from Baltimore area were looking for a place to eat; thought Restaurant Row looked uninviting and a little seedy . . . My tree is up, all four feet of it. Kim and Erica next door have theirs up too. Bob decorated the courtyard and has a magic clicker to turn the lights on and off. We aren't telling JJ--he discovered the clicker at the other place and--presto--the neighbors thought Bob had installed blinking lights . . . Kevin and Kevin and Bob and Jack spent the day getting their homes ready for the Candlelight House Tour--a lot of effort but for a good cause. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 on the day of the tour, Dec. 13th. Get yours at the Bare Wall . . . The set of ceramic reindeer normally sell for $48; we are offering our last one for $32 . . .

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A discouraging day. Traditionally should have been one of the better income days of the year, but the street was quiet; thanks to the neighbors who did turn out . . . on the brighter side--we sold several house tour tickets . . .

Friday, November 27, 2009


A very quiet "black Friday" as is usual here. Traditionally you flock in on Saturday and Sunday of this weekend. Hopefully you will do so again. We think we are ready for you . . . Still have several Delft tiles which we have reduced to $10; some are framed for wall decor but most are suitable as trivets for hot serving dishes and plant holders . . . Yesterday's picture circa 1965: Bob Rook and I had borrowed dad's car for a few days' meandering in the Shenandoah Valley, but dad neglected to tell us that the gas gauge was erratic. We were on a lonely narrow country lane miles from anywhere when the Caddy just drifted to the side of the road. We quickly diagnosed the problem but it was almost an hour before Bob could hitch a ride with a family from New York City who was visiting relatives in the area. Another half hour and Bob returned with a grizzled and amused mountain man in a rusty pick-up; he refused our financial reward with a chuckle but got us on our way. After such a hairy adventure I think we stopped every three hours to "top off the tank" just in case . . .

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


THE HOUSE TOUR TICKETS ARRIVED LATE THIS AFTERNOON . . . Had a nice visit with Terry Robinson; we hadn't seen him for some time . . . My age is showing but I was sad to learn via the Pat-News that today's young people use Thanksgiving Eve as an excuse to get blitzed and that bars encourage them to "drink up." Maybe I am just an old-fashioned romantic, but I think of this as a time for quiet conversation with family and close friends: soft music, flickering candles, cider and gingerbread, and tantalizing aromas wafting from the kitchen with the promise of a tasty meal on the morrow. And I always envied those with a fireplace filled with crackling logs. How lonely one must be to opt for raucous music and getting blotto at such a time. I bet they are great company on the big day . . . The tile clock on an easel is one of six designs (we have one of each) for $28 . . .

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Guess it is time to remind everyone that we will be open on Sundays from noon until four between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Let's hope we don't have a repeat of last year when we were robbed on one of those special days. Come keep us company . . . The British press now refers (fondly) to Susan Boyle as SuBo. If I am reading the news release correctly she sold 139,000 copies of her CD in the first few hours yesterday. Wasn't clear if that was just England or worldwide. Expected to be the biggest one-week sale of any album ever . . . The Times of London has named the French film Cache (Hidden, 2005) as the best film of the decade. Has anyone seen it? Thought perhaps it might have played at the Midtown Cinema . . . He (pictured) is not a migrant worker but JJ who labored really hard to help his dad with the yard work. His reward was a heck of a good time rolling in the leaves once the pile was assembled . . .

Monday, November 23, 2009


Our friend Yvonne Brown was up early-early to join the queue at Barnes & Noble so we were the first on the block to have the Susan Boyle debut CD. We cannot thank Yvonne enough. The music is varied and lovely and you will probably be hearing it when you come shopping . . . The whole country has gone wild for Susan; there has been nothing like this since The Beatles came to town. If you missed the Today show as I did you can still see all the clips on MSNBC. Be prepared for the screaming mob . . . As it turns out, Jacquie was amused by my posting of her Thanksgiving adventure. She may not know much about cooking but she is a wow when it comes to selling real estate . . . Thanks to Susan Boyle I have developed an e-mail acquaintance with Paul Evangelista, a barber in a Glasgow suburb (I think). Paul has a beautiful Gentleman's Shop with deep green walls and solid wooden racks for shaving mugs. If you get up early enough (I seldom do) you can watch him at work live; otherwise check out his site--a tape plays when the shop is closed . . . http://www.evangelistas.co.uk/barbershop-webcam.htm . . .

Sunday, November 22, 2009


It seems that no one sings Over the River and Through the Woods at Thanksgiving anymore. It was a staple in my childhood although we never went "to Grandmother's House" in a sleigh , , , My father was a jeweler and gift shop owner and back then one didn't decorate in the middle of August. The shop wasn't magically transformed until we opened for business on the Friday following Thanksgiving so that day was given over to decorating in earnest. Our "dinner" was a late supper with everyone too exhausted to enjoy it properly . . . I have no great Thanksgiving tales to tell, so I am stealing one from Jacquie Kirby Hensel's monthly Re/Max newsletter. She will probably hate me for this, but it is so cute it deserves to be passed along . . . Jacquie writes: I hope you all have a very Happy Thanksgiving. I am not a cook!!! I don't have the time, the patience, or the knack, but the one day out of the whole year that I like to cook is Thanksgiving. I can actually make stuffing and get it in the turkey, and with Glenn Miller's and Spike's help, pull the rest of it together for a fairly festive dinner!! You'll all get a laugh out of this little story about last year. There were to be only 3 of us for dinner, so I decided that we should buy a crock pot and a little turkey breast for a change. There was a mix-up at the farmer's market, and when I looked at the turkey breast early Thursday noticed that we had been given the Henry's order, and Mrs. Henry had ordered a whopper. It looked like a very fat football!!! But it was wrapped in this nice string netting which I decided to leave on to make it easier to lift this huge breast out of the crock pot at dinnertime. I can hear you guys laughing already. The plastic smell that became more pervasive and acrid as the day wore on, I attributed to the new crock pot. I could not, however, figure out what the little popping sounds were. I know you're not supposed to take the lid off, but I couldn't stand the suspense any longer. Well the breast was growing, the RUBBER netting was disintegrating and we had dinner at TJ Rockwell's, the only restaurant open at 7:00 pm on Thanksgiving night. Hope I made you all laugh. Think of me on Thanksgiving morning when your turkey's humming along in the oven. Jacquie

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Surprisingly quiet business day when one considers that the town was jammed with people attending the holiday parade. The generous souls at St. Michael's Lutheran Church on State Street fed the chilly crowd for free . . . Paid a quick visit to the fire-pit party at Mary Ann Furedi's and Rick May's. Lots of food and drink; I suspect this will be a late-night affair . . .

Friday, November 20, 2009


Happy to report that the store is looking quite festive. The mess has been cleared away and the merchandise is decently displayed. Remember that the city's holiday parade starts tomorrow at 10 a.m. Expect traffic problems . . . Joined Facebook a few days ago and am trying to get a handle on how it works. Just the wrong time of year for me to tackle this--I don't have time to search for lost friends. Thankfully a few have found me. Somehow I already suspect that doing this blog will always come first out there in cyberspace . . .

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Very nice "do" at Victoria's tonight. She has her new digs looking lovely. This teetotaller even had a sip of wine . . . The Root Candle holiday order has arrived. Some nice scents--bayberry, balsam, candy cane. The popular two-pack makes a return at a lower price: $16.50. Each tall decorated jar burns for 50+ hours . . . Friends of the late Nick Whitmore are gathering at the Civil War Museum Saturday night from 5:30 - 10 p.m. What a wonderful remembrance; Nick was steeped in every phase of the conflict. Congratulations to those who planned this memorial . . . I bend to JJ's every whim while Bob remains aloof--NOT. Heard JJ tell his Uncle Bob last night that all the grape juice was gone and--presto--when I opened the fridge today, there was the juice. JJ also told Bob that his wasn't a real Christmas tree because it didn't have a star on top. That sent Bob to his basement, and today the family star now graces the Bare Wall tree . . .

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Victoria Zellers back from St. Thomas; was tempted to post her picture with a colorful Caribbean cocktail but decided to be a gentleman . . . You will remember my dismay at the loss of trees on Briggs Street a few weeks ago. Well, Chris Lingus has informed me that his family has replaced the diseased one they had removed. "October Glory" the new one is called . . . Bob was amused by my post yesterday. He recalls that when "we became rich enough to afford the plastic ones" he and his brothers burned down the old cardboard Christmas village (outside, I hope). It took all of 37 seconds, Bob said. Now, he says, those old glittered houses from the fifties go for $20 to $30 apiece at public auctions . . . talked to my sister by phone a bit later and mentioned the fact. "Those old things," she said. "There's still a big box of them in the cellar." Guess she could retire from Wal-Mart if she could find the right buyer . . . Today's photo is a collection of Bill Campbell pottery. Sorry I forgot to remove the price stickers before making this snap . . .

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


The goat milk lotions arrived today. Some goods at very nice prices--hand cream for just $5.50 unboxed (regularly $7.50). Combined with the French soap close-outs that arrived last week this makes for a very interesting and economic cosmetics offering . . . Bob Coldren and Jack Barnett are planning their decorations for the Candlelight House Tour. Over the years they have assembled quite a collection of lighted houses--enough to duplicate all of London, I suspect, complete with trees, vehicles and people. They cannot utilize all of them; not enough space. Bob is selecting some not seen by friends and neighbors for a few seasons for this year's street scape . . . the discussion led us back to our childhood when one bought tiny paper houses for under the tree--25-cents at G. C. Murphy's 5 & 10. Getting the light bulbs to stay inside with a minimum of exposed wire was a chore and a disaster if one used "series" lights (one goes out, they all go out). Designing and constructing our family panorama was always my job, and if you click on the picture you will see that I missed my calling as an urban planner . . .

Monday, November 16, 2009


I apologise to all of you who responded to the Historic Harrisburg Association mailing and came today to purchase tickets for the Candlelight House Tour. The tickets have not yet arrived, but be assured I will blog the fact the minute they do . . . cannot believe that the state government is gutting the Historical and Museum Commission after it decimated and practically destroyed the State Library. The library lost half its workers, the commission over a third. Surely there are other places to look for cuts; our educational and cultural heritage should come first at all costs. These moves do not bode well for Governor Rendell's place in history, and the candidates for his office had better offer to repair the damage pronto if they want my vote . . . Every young fellow should have a dog. Mine was a mutt named Mike. We were devoted to each other. Every holiday season we would scale the ridge behind our home and descend into the valley to gather greens and stems of red berries to decorate the house. Mike made the first half of the journey with no problem, but being a small pooch he found the return up the mountain daunting. He would collapse on the trail, a little smile on his face (no kidding) and wait for me to kneel. Then he would wiggle his way into the game pouch on the back of my red Woolrich hunting jacket and hitch a ride the rest of the way . . . I guess he felt betrayed when I went off to Juniata College. Mom said Mike trotted outside to tinkle one morning and never came back . . . (click to enlarge)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I was saddened to hear that Larry Kirkhuff"s mother, Ginny, passed away early this morning. She was 98 . . . Just learned that there was considerable street vandalism Friday night in the area of Mangi Qui on North Street. Plants destroyed, urns smashed . . . There was a pleasant essay by a Widener professor in the Pat-News today; discussed books that featured young people growing into adulthood. Spotlighted To Kill a Mockingbird among others . . . Have a cute story about Harper Lee and her prize-winning book that made the publishing business rounds in the late sixties. May or may not be true, so perhaps I am perpetuating a myth. Anyway, it was rumored that the initial manuscript was a series of short stories that publisher J. P. Lippincott & Company wanted framed into a novel. Ms. Lee apparently worked with editors in the company's downtown Philadelphia offices, sweating through a hot summer of preparation. The book went on to be a sensation and Lippincott's only volume to reach Number One on best seller lists. When she returned a year or so later, she discovered that all the offices had since been air conditioned. "Oh," she cooed in her best Southern drawl, "did I do that?" . . . Ms. Lee made several false starts but never wrote another book. A close childhood friend of Truman Capote, she did contribute (uncredited) to Capote's In Cold Blood . . .

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Ty Cowell back in the state to visit family and make some presentations at his old school. He and Pam are enjoying their new digs in St. Augustine, Fla., and have become dedicated beachcombers. They have amassed a huge collection of fossilized sharks teeth dating back a million years . . . Authoring a popular site has put friends on the defensive when we are talking. Can't tell you how often the conversation begins: "Now this is not for the blog, but have you heard . . ." I don't get as much juicy gossip as I once did . . . Bob's tree is gorgeous and loaded with a ton of new ornaments but it doesn't photograph all that well. You will just have to come and see for yourself . . .

Friday, November 13, 2009

Spent the day developing more holiday spirit. Bob decorated his tree and after a few hours agreed with JJ: "This is boring." We have a lot more ornaments this year than we have had in a decade, I think. We are scrambling for places to display them . . . Have already started to worry; you are buying up the coffee collection faster than I anticipated. Should I order more? . . . Best news on this Friday the 13th is that we sold the beautiful spice cabinet which freed up a lot of much-needed space . . .

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Post number 145 . . . the store is a complete mess as we go about the decorating. Bob bought a larger tree since we have so many more ornaments this year. Hoped JJ would get a kick out of helping, but he hung just one ornament before declaring "This is boring. I would rather we color." He and Uncle Bob are striving to outdo Rembrandt . . . Carol Bostian and Ernie Kepner braved the general wreckage to do some shopping . . . My intended tongue-in-cheek posting of an old Army picture generated more e-mails than anything I have ever written. Guess I will do a little essay on my Ft. Knox adventures one of these days . . . The little guy pictured wants to remind you to come for boxed Christmas cards while there is an ample selection . . .

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Veteran's Day . . . and who is that chow-hound? A six-months'-wonder at Ft. Knox, Ky., in 1960 and a tank gunner, no less . . . Quiet day but with a nice visit from Terry Sneed and Richard Williams . . . Bob on the ladder decking the halls while I continually shift the merchandise and hope there is a place for everything that is here or expected. As most of you know, we pre-wrap a lot of things so I started that this morning . . . The late Howard Spitalny, a Bon-Ton buyer and exec, gave us the same advice every year: Stack it high and watch it fly . . . well, it is stacking, but I recently checked my credit card balances and all I can say is: It had better fly soon . . .

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Well, we had the leaves nicely stacked in the street so the city could cart them off, but as usual and despite our signs some horse's head parked illegally and our block didn't get totally clean. I have said it before--fines for such parking should be doubled at least. That is one tax I would be happy to see council impose . . . Bob spent the day cleaning up the leaves and other fall decor in the shop; the holly and poinsettias will be making an appearance in the next several days . . . I placed a last-before-Christmas order with Root Candles. New scents for the season and dinner tapers for the table . . . The tug-o'-war bookends are among the most popular designs ever forged. Heavy metal, $84 . . . (click to enlarge) . . .

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sad to hear that Robert's Flowers, Second and South Streets, is going out of business. One less retail outlet in center city and there aren't that many of us left. Businesses feed off one another; the loss of one hurts us all. Robert's had a good relationship with Glitz and Glitter when it was across the street. It was torn down for a hotel that never materialized . . . There have been several vehicle break-ins in the area of Green and Harris. Bob awoke this morning to find a vandalized car in front of his house. We repeat the oft-stated warning: don't leave anything in the car that can be viewed from outside. Even a closed paper bag hiding its contents can be tempting . . . And another warning for drivers especially at this time of year: never park on piles of leaves assembled for pick-up; your warm muffler can ignite the pile and imperil your vehicle . . .

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dizzy, sinus-y headache all day. Did boring paperwork . . . Bob did my laundry . . . Our "best buddy" has been sick all weekend, a real concern these days but his doctors say it is "just something that is going around" . . . most of us have the Weather Bug on our computers, but if you are into weather you might find more info than you can use at www.wunderground.com/US/Pa/Harrisburg.html . . . provides long-range predictions and a lot of stuff I don't even understand . . . (UPDATE at 6:30 p.m.--visit from JJ; danced on the furniture, stood on his head, played on the computer, demanded orange juice and wrestled Uncle Bob. Rapid recovery, our worry wasted--thank heavens!)

Saturday, November 7, 2009


It was "Old Home Week" at the Harris Street Church spaghetti dinner tonight. So many familiar faces that I couldn't begin to name them all. Food was fine and Cecilia and I had a good time drumming on the table with our spoons . . . Artist and former Harrisburger John Fischer, now living in Philly. was visiting in town today. He is still painting and sells prints of his works on the net these days. You can access his work at http://www.johnfischer.etsy.com/ . . .

Friday, November 6, 2009

Our holiday shipment of Bennington soy aromatheraphy jar candles arrived today. Price is still $14.50 and there are 24 blends that burn up to 70 hours. If you have a favorite, call or e-mail us to reserve yours . . . Dr. Coldren remembers Goldsmith Furniture for its exceptional customer service and asked if I also recalled the now-departed Earley's of Carlisle (I didn't). However this talk did awaken memories of the unfortunately named Burns Furniture which was just off the square on South Second. It was destroyed by fire one night and the flames were so hot they reportedly set off sprinklers in the motel across the street. How's that for your "wake-up" call, Madam? . . . Forgot to mention that I had fifteen seconds of fame in the October 9th issue of the Central Penn Business Journal. Nothing worth researching, but there was a picture of The Bare Wall sign just over my shoulder . . . A lot of you were amused by my fascination with the Susan Boyle saga. (She is the Scots singer who became a YouTube sensation when she appeared on Britain's Got Talent.) Well, I won't say that I get the last laugh, but I am happy to report that her debut CD is due later this month and it has become the biggest pre-ordered item in the history of Amazon.com . . .

Thursday, November 5, 2009


A raw day with no customers, and we are so eager to show off all the new stuff. Slowly but surely our holiday offerings are emerging from the closets. Lots of new soaps and lotions are en route even as I write . . . Lee Spitalny has reminded me of yet another game with apples that we played as children. The fruit was suspended above us on strings and we stood on stools, hands behind the back, and tried to trap the goodies with our teeth. Not so easy as it sounds, and more than a few of us fell off the stool. Break an arm playing one game or drown playing the other. How did we ever live to tell the tale? . . . Despite her loss I want to congratulate Bridget Montgomery on her campaign to become a Dauphin County Common Pleas judge. Bridget has been a long-time customer and I worked with her mother, Malie, for many years at the State Library . . . Had a high-spirited phone call from John Goldsmith today. He is really enjoying his new life as a condo owner in Palm Springs, California. The complex is teeming with social life--a party almost every night. John sent numerous pictures of his new environment, all just ten feet or less from his front door. I chose the one with flowers (of course) with the pool in the background . . . And speaking of John, are there readers who remember Goldsmith's Furniture Store on Market Square? It was THE PLACE for home decor with a host of designers to help with the selection. John, Scott Geiger and Glenn Lyons are names which come to mind . . . and John, you never did find me that apple green ripcord bedspread that I wanted some thirty years ago . . .

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Election Day over, the results being absorbed. The city strangely quiet as if in a coma. Many find the character and ability of the new mayor suspect and life seems to have stumbled to a halt temporarily. The prophecies of doom could be self-fulfilling if the paralysis continues for long . . . we must remember that we have an able-bodied council to direct and oversee accountability and other highly-qualified persons in our government who can intercede when necessary . . . we all expect confrontation, I guess, and with a decade or so of it nationally we are all tired and short-tempered . . . Jacquie Kirby Hensel in today for her annual cartload of Christmas cards . . . Joe Theurer is 86 today . . . congratulations to Jon Carfagno who got enough write-in votes to become Judge of Elections in our ward . . . Pictured: a sample of our Thanksgiving cards . . . This Saturday, 4-7 p.m., Harris Street Methodist Church is holding a spaghetti supper to benefit its food pantry . . .

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Election Day. I am posting before the polls close so that my elation/dismay doesn't color this entry . . . Got a sneak peek at Ken Frew's book on Harrisburg architecture. Beautiful and elegant. A twenty-year effort, Ken says, not entirely joking. He can be proud of his accomplishment. Pricey, but I suspect it is worth it. Loads of photos . . . Our popular holiday mints arrived today. Priced at $15 per box this year. A great hostess gift and so yummy you will want one for yourself. Very pretty (click to enlarge). Because of the uncertain economy we cut our initial order by half; give us a call or e-mail to reserve yours. I still have time to order more if the demand warrants . . .

Monday, November 2, 2009

Down with the Halloween cards, up with the Thanksgiving ones (and some Christmas). Suddenly time is on a tear and we'll be hearing there are just so many shopping days left before Santa arrives. I am not yet ready for this . . . Since you seem to prefer the larger sized bottle of goat milk lotion with a pump, we are discontinuing the purse sized 2 oz. bottles. Those that are left are on sale for $2.50 at the check-out counter. The larger bottles will be here shortly . . . Please vote tomorrow for whomever you wish, but vote. Thank heavens this signals an end to mail box clutter; hopefully the jumble of signs littering the streets will disappear as well . . .

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Back to standard time; dark at five p.m. We will all be in a funk for a while until we become accustomed to it . . . Mary, Chris and Mom Lingus have shared their bounty. After an iffy summer the fig tree burst forth with fruit and they shared with us . . . Eric has posted a really fine review of Harrisburg's mayoral campaign (link at left); too bad that so few people will get to read it. This is the kind of review we had expected from the Pat-News editorial board . . . St. Michael's Church, our local polling place, will be offering soup and baked goods for take-away on Tuesday . . . If you are getting a last look at fall foliage in Mt. Gretna, Eric Battisti's Taxi Service is the way to go--environmentally friendly and cheap according to JJ . . . (click to enlarge) . . .

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Rainy but warm enough to leave the doors open and air out the house. Possibly the last chance this year . . . Last day of our 37th anniversary sale. Not a big deal, but not bad when one considers the economy. Had expected to sell more boxed Christmas cards at bargain prices but was surprised by the interest in our candles and gift items; you never know . . . Thanks to our neighbor Joe Theurer three people are recipients of our $25 gift certificates. This year's winners as determined by Joe's turn of the cards are Matthew Meehan (a Iraq vet), Deb Ritchey and Councilman Dan Miller . . . Cecilia says: look at all those silly people in their hilarious costumes. They should be fashionable like me in my pumpkin outfit . . . Happy Halloween and welcome to November . . .

Friday, October 30, 2009


Several of you have tried to post comments on this blog and have been faced with the need to establish a Google account before you can do so. Most of you have backed off, which I can easily understand. To make your comments, simply e-mail me (address on the left) and I will add them to the next day's post. It is always nice to know that someone is reading these golden words . . . apparently several black churches are playing fast and loose with the IRS non-profit rules by opening their pulpits to speeches by mayoral candidate Linda Thompson and then endorsing her candidacy. I had not heard of this, but WITF radio did a report on the matter. The link button to the left will lead you to Eric's blog where the program can be accessed . . . These actions may be unethical if not illegal but are not unheard of. My affiliation with organized religion ended in 1959 because of it . . . my hometown (pop. 2000 at the time) had many places of worship but no Catholic Church or Jewish synagogue. The weekend before the presidential election that year members of the local ministerium collectively warned their congregations that a vote for up-start JFK was a vote for Rome; the Pope would be ruling the White House from Day One. Anyone Catholic could not be trusted. I had not attended church for such a hateful message and was especially offended since my best friend was one of the few Catholics in town . . . in the last quarter century the religious establishment has become more of a political forum (abortion, gay rights, etc.) than a place of comfort and hope. I need the old traditional activities that united our neighborhoods and brought us all together . . . I could rattle on about this for quite some time, but enough . . . "Hoppy Halloween" from Judy Robinson's pet rabbit Milagros (a/k/a Millie) . . .

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Went trick-or-treating with JJ and Cecilia and am almost too exhausted to write; up hill, down hill, into the make-shift graveyard to feel the brains of a fractured skull. Amazing decorations in his small neighborhood enclave--a real slice of Americana as portrayed by painters of "primitives." And I cannot say enough good things about the youngsters--droves of them--looking out for each other while their parents exchanged local gossip and World Series expectations. Very respectful and with a "thank you" at each house they visited. Most amazing was the fact that the home owners who were away or did not wish to be bothered simply left a huge basket of goodies on the porch and each child helped himself to a piece. Were I to do that on my stoop the goodies--and the basket--would be gone in a flash, pilfered not by children but some eighteen-year-old ghoul. The suburbs are looking better and better to both Bob and me. Jacquie Kirby, are you listening?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Happy birthday to Sarah Battisti . . . Ah, shucks. Thanks to yesterday's Halloween post I have learned that kids can't bob for apples anymore; it is deemed an unclean activity that can spread germs. Don't know how I managed to reach 73. I remember we played with our Easter Eggs until they became so crackled that there was nothing left to do but to eat them . . .

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tom and Diane Neiper (JJ's grandparents) home safely after leading a tour through the Vermont countryside. Leaves were just past their peak Diane reports, but the visit to the Von Trapp Lodge was a highlight . . . A reminder that the big bargain-laden bazaar at Harris Street Church (Harris at Third) is this Saturday. Eileen Young, majordomo, promises lots of good stuff . . . as an old newspaper man I thought today's Pat-News editorial on the mayoral candidates was a sad piece of business. Either the editors endorsed both candidates or neither; it is hard to say. With "reporting" like this it is no surprise that newspapers are failing left and right . . .

My Halloween c. 1943

As a child of the ‘40s my Halloween was confined to one night of pranks . . . Nights were very dark (wartime blackouts) unless there was a moon . . . History says we tipped over outhouses, but I never knew of one being up-ended. We threw shelled corn at windows to frighten the people inside who were huddled around their radios. Some adventurous souls scribbled on windows with a sliver of soap. Trees were bedecked with rolls of toilet paper (a wasteful use of a valuable wartime commodity) . . . But the best prank was exchanging porch furniture and watching the next day as people wandered the neighborhood with a foreign object. “Is this your chair (swing, plant, rug)? No? Do you know whose it is?” . . . Sometimes a group of men would hide in the bushes to protect their property and scare the be-Jesus out of us when we came close. They would give chase and we would scurry for our lives. Being scared instead of scaring was part of the thrill . . . We made all our decorations and costumes. Orange and black construction paper was scarce but we always managed to have a couple of pieces for witches and bats. We carved pumpkins and found short ends of candles which lit them up for at least a couple of minutes. Most of us wore sheets to parties and envied the kids who had “real” costumes—pirates and princesses were popular. Strangely I don’t recall anyone masquerading in military garb; I guess that was too real to us . . . there were parties with both adults and kids in the crowd. Cider and gingerbread were staples, and “bobbing for apples” was the game of choice. (Fruit floating in a washtub that you had to grab with your teeth for you young readers who never tried it; more difficult than you might expect and you always got wet) . . . parades were subdued afternoon affairs and usually consisted of we costumed kids marching around the school a couple of times; if parents could get free from their wartime jobs they would be there to cheer us on . . . the idea of paying ransom in the form of treats to avoid the pranks didn’t take hold until after the war; of course, in my early days there wasn’t any chocolate in the stores anyway. A Hershey bar was the manna of the gods and was adored in its wrapper for a few days before the paper came off and we shared it (very reluctantly) with other members of the household . . .

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bob spent much of the day dismantling the courtyard garden. We moved A LOT of leaves into the street . . . hopefully the neighbors will respect the "No Parking" signs and the street cleaner will get the chance to do his job . . . It is a frightening and moving look at the effects of climate change. A small Alaskan island is being inundated by rising water and the government has yet to prevent the erosion or relocate the native population. The 10-minute film now in a German competition can be seen at http://www.dw-world.de/dw/0,2142,266,00.html. On the left click on Video on Demand and when the page comes up, click on Arts 21. The film begins about 13:45 in if you don't want to see the whole program . . . very unsettling. Disaster is perhaps just months away . . . You have just two or three days before the program changes . . .

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Slept late, watched the Steelers win their game. Nothing else. Guess I am beginning to enjoy old age.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Warm and rainy . . . A lot of nice people came shopping today and we thank them all for their support. You still have another week to take advantage of our 15% discount and to sign up for our drawing . . . I am still savoring the memory of JJ and his "monster" cookie. He truly relished it. Of course, we all could have done without his graphic descriptions as he chomped away. "I just bit off the nose and now I am eating his eyes," he said gleefully. Is this a sadistic child a la The Bad Seed? Let's hope not, though he knows that one flash of his impish smile and he can get anything he wants--at least with his Godfathers . . .

Friday, October 23, 2009


I am 73 today as of 7:30 p.m. I am beginning to feel it and it certainly has begun to show . . . There are certain moments, even seconds, in life that are unforgettable and will be with us forever. One such occurred this morning. I answered the doorbell to find a grinning JJ, his arms stacked with boxes. He was so excited and eager to show what he had chosen for my birthday. The boxes contained decorated cupcakes and cookies all of which he had picked out himself. He pointed out the merits of each and was especially taken with a "Frankenstein's Monster" cookie. "I would even like that myself," he said a little sadly, giving away something he would have enjoyed himself. The moment was heart-warming and charming. I said perhaps I would share after school. I guess he thought of it all day. When Daddy Eric picked him up at day care the cookie came immediately into the conversation. He was sure that the cookie was so desirable that Uncle Ronn would have eaten it. What a delight to find that it was still waiting for JJ to claim when he reached The Bare Wall . . . sentimental, perhaps, but so wonderful to see a happy child . . . my post about trees elicited a response from a neighbor facing the probability of removing another tree in our area. I thought I would share it: "I know it's Thursday and I'm responding to Tuesday's blog . . . Much as I love trees, they do invade sewer lines. Little ones, like Lindsey, Guy, and Mike's, will take a generation or so. Others are happening now, and sentimentality doesn't change reality. Since the City of Harrisburg apparently doesn't have arboreal expertise, it behooves the home owner to know just what to plant and where. The growth requirements of shade trees and the growing conditions of city streets are mutually exclusive, to some extent. Something to do with urban planning, perhaps? Or maybe just the fault of the trees! After all, they were used to living in a forest! What do they know about urban culture? It'd be a lot easier if we just lived in Bellevue Park or maybe Camp Hill." . . . My thanks to all who have made my birthday very special this year, especially to Bob who has prepared my favorite dinner . . .

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Street still closed, but Judy Robinson from Honey Grove and her Mom managed to get here to wish me a happy birthday. Yvonne Brown from Mechanicsburg managed as well. Traffic disruption is not what I was looking for during our anniversary sale . . . The popular glass earrings by Fred Imhoff of Portland, Ore., have had a slight price increase . . . Halloween excitement seems to be building . . . Politics, too, is heating up . . .


Our History -- An Aside


One December afternoon some years ago a mugging took place just outside the store. I pursued the villain, forgetting that I was wearing the Santa hat I always wear at the holiday season. The police dispatcher must have thought the city had gone crazy. People kept calling in to report the location of “the guy in the Santa hat.” A squad car picked me up in Fox Ridge and we eventually caught up with the perp at Calder Street. The policeman jumped out to pursue on foot and I was going to help until I discovered that, once in the back of a police car, you are locked in until the office lets you out . . . one Sunday afternoon last Christmas two drunks came into the store to do their “shopping;” I spotted the empty shelf right away and demanded whatever the fellow had under his coat. It was a clock which, unfortunately, fell and smashed into pieces. Bob screamed at me not to pursue the crooks, but then he discovered they had made off with his leather jacket and the car keys. After that it was “go get ‘em.” I passed two workmen during the chase and one joined in. We lost our quarry, but were sent back to the store by a policeman for an interview with other cops on the scene. My jaw dropped when the workman said he knew who our thief was, that the fellow had dropped by the work site just a week before looking for work and had given his name. Minutes later the radio crackled; our man had been caught. The coat and the keys were returned pronto and the fellow got a place to warm his toes downtown. In all, seven different officers had taken part . . . and people continually complain that you never can get the police to respond . . .

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Street still closed but Lorraine Kleppel navigated the terrain and introduced me to her brother Bruce from Saskatoon, Canada. He also owns a gift shop . . . Janet Day and Tom Leonard will show their Edwards Street home during the Historic Harrisburg candlelight house tour . . . wonderful new potpourri is giving the store a pleasant aroma . . . neat new spoon rests, trivets, cutting boards, utensil crocks and tabletop clocks . . . We all know that parking is at a premium in our neighborhood. We know and accept the fact that more parking permits are sold in our area than there are spaces to accommodate every vehicle. (CAN is currently seeking more spaces.) Generally, we are good neighbors and try to park precisely so that no car hogs two spots. Over time, we have learned that on a portion of Green Street east we can squeeze four cars into the space between parking signs. We have been doing that for years. So why, I wonder, do we recently have tickets being written for "too close to the crosswalk?" Not "in the crosswalk" but "too close to crosswalk." And how close is too close? Is it a judgement call on the part of the officer? Well, the pictured auto was ticketed as "too close" and it is offered here as a warning to other CAN neighbors . . . Arts at 510 at 510 North Third Street is holding a "meet and greet" for mayoral candidate Nevin Mindlin tomorrow evening from 5:10-7:10 p.m . . .

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Just what we needed: our anniversary sale is in full swing and utility maintenance crews closed Green Street for the whole day . . . Still, the delivery men were able to find us and we were blessed with three major shipments. More about all the new goods later in the week . . . A grand old sycamore in the 200 block of Briggs Street which was raising the sidewalk was taken down today. (A maple was also sacrificed, but it will be replaced with another tree.) The ugliness resulting from this loss will take some getting used to. The void sadly deteriorates the neighborhood esthetically . . . In the '60s ours was an ugly streetscape devoid of foliage. Our small group of activists (which was to become the nucleus of the Historic Harrisburg Association) involved itself in a lengthy discussion with City Hall; we wanted trees and while we were promised they were on the way they never materialized. Joe Russian of North Street finally got tired of the belly-aching and took it upon himself to acquire and plant trees throughout the area. (Donations from home owners gratefully accepted.) It was Joe more or less who provided the leafy neighborhood we have all enjoyed . . . A few decades later the late Dr. Carolyn Dexter gave funds for yet more greenery. And recently Guy Kehler, Lindsay Mills and Michael Ennis put in new trees in their area of Briggs . . . No need to extol the value of trees here; we are all aware of the benefits they provide . . . Did you know that Harrisburg was once known as "the city of trees?" It had a large department devoted to greenery and even its own nursery! And Capitol Park once boasted at least one specimen of every tree native to Pennsylvania. I doubt that is the case today . . . Dutch Elm disease decimated a lot of trees along Front Street a few years ago, and we are warned that a worm that eats ash trees is on the way. But we are all responsible to some extent. To "sell the view" the new Riverside Apartment condo complex destroyed the lovely trees surrounding it and left a devastated landscape in its wake. And I have already noted the denuding of State Street , , , Perhaps the time has come for some legislation to protect our leafy habitat . . .

Monday, October 19, 2009

Finally, a little sunshine . . . Melissa Herman of Bethesda, Md., in town to visit with friends in the Governor's Office and came by to greet Bob and me. Older readers will remember Melissa (a Millersburg native) as the weather girl on WHP-TV some years ago (I won't say how many, gentleman that I am). She also had an evening talk show on WHP that focused on arts and culture and I was fortunate to be a guest several times. We were always well prepared before airtime, but somehow we could never stick to our agenda. What fun. WHP was really a meaningful asset to Harrisburg back then. The staff, particularly Ron Drake, held our hand through the Agnes crisis, and there was a lot of coverage (for which read "promotion") of the arts back then. Melissa still doing Bargello needlework when she can find supplies . . . "No Parking" signs went up in the 200 block of Briggs Street this afternoon. If you are parked there, better go take a look . . . Not into politics on this blog, but there are several Harrisburg sites that have been burning up the net with an investigation of the mayoral candidates, particularly the Loveship non-profit of Linda Thompson. Eric's blog (link on the left) will lead you to some of the commentary . . .

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Slept late. Goofed away the rest of the day. Finished a puzzle. Surfed the football games. Hope your day was a lot more exciting . . .

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cold, rainy, raw. A generally unpleasant day . . . Had a note from Ken in Sunbury acknowledging yesterday's post . . . Learned that Bob and Eileen Young's Herr Street home will be on the house tour . . . Started a new puzzle . . .

Friday, October 16, 2009


Good news! Thanks to Bob who sacrificed his Friday routine all the sale postcards are in the mail. Most of you will receive them tomorrow and the sale is on immediately! . . . Harrisburg made the list of the 55 smartest metropolitan areas in the USA; good news, bad news depending on how you look at it. We placed 50th on the list. The fact that the Pat-News reporter misspelled some words in his report seems to bear out the legitimacy of the survey . . . Another cam stream to bore you with: if you are curious as to what the Susquehanna River is doing upstream go to http://kenguide.camstreams.com/. It will show you the fabric dam at Sunbury . . . I mentioned earlier how nice the fall displays are at houses throughout the city. Bob's front porch is a perfect example . . . Neighbors and passing motorists reportedly foiled a would-be purse snatcher in the Grace Methodist Church parking lot, 241 North Street, at 5:15 this afternoon . . .

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Melancholia seems to have gripped everyone; is it the cold rain, general gloom and the knowledge that summer is gone? . . . Finally tried our caramel apple cider; not bad on a chilly day but I think I like the cranapple better . . . Our 37th anniversary sale starts on Monday. You will save 15% on anything not already marked down and we will have our usual drawing for gift certificates. Unfortunately there was a glitch at the printer, so you won't be receiving your sale notice postcard until next week. But no matter, come anyway. The sale is open to everyone, not just our mailing list, so you don't need to bring the card this time . . . This 24-inch solid brass floor candlestick has been here so-o-o-o long that it practically qualifies as an antique. Meant to be sold for $150 and we have marked it down to $75 without any luck. Bob is tired of polishing it. Any offers, however reasonable? (Didn't photograph well; nicer than it looks in the picture.) . . . happy to report that my latest bargain jigsaw had all its pieces . . .

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Painters did their work on the house today; the front door especially needed attention. Looks great . . . the fabric order arrived today. Throws, dish towels, sparkling gems for decoration, napkins and place mats; the color palette has changed a shade--if you were collecting a particular color for your table, please come by soon. We still have some of the old colors in stock . . . JJ and I went "to see the bones" in Collette's graveyard this evening. He was so impressed that he ran back to the store and insisted Mom, Cecilia and Uncle Bob come too. He gave them a guided tour of the whole display . . . I've already mentioned my fascination with "streaming cams" on the net. Was surprised to find an active one in a Mt. Gretna back yard. It takes a moment to load http://albertsutcliffe.camstreams.com/ but was a welcome curiosity. Tried to access it later in the day but it was inactive at that time. But give it a try--supposedly the deer roam the area morning and evening . . .

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Jerry Oster and his Fresh Look painting crew are working on several neighborhood properties including mine . . . Gloomy day for the most part. Did some ordering on-line. I find that very clumsy no matter how well designed the site is . . . There still is nothing better than a catalog to mull over at leisure. Some of us are old enough to remember Sears' Wish Book; what a treat that was with the promise of the holidays just ahead . . . Now we receive dozens of catalogs, all with the same items at ever-inflating prices . . . I can't imagine a world without books but, alas, I fear their future is in doubt . . . For kids, Halloween just isn't Halloween if you don't carve a pumpkin. But first you have to get beyond that squishy stuff . . .

Monday, October 12, 2009

Columbus Day, overcast and definitely chilly. . . Bob and his niece, Trish, went to a public sale where her dad (Bob's brother) was the auctioneer. Bob came home with a new pitcher. We really, really needed another one (hah) . . . Tyler and Lelia Simmons spent their day off from school helping mom Sharon and Victoria Zellers rake up the leaves. They truly devoted themselves to the work; I rewarded them with packages of cheese crackers, Lelia's favorite . . . the town was empty, but everyone who came by The Bare Wall today bought boxed Christmas cards or tree ornaments. I guess the weather induced a seasonal mood and reminded us that the big holidays aren't all that far away . . .

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lingered in Jon and Larry's kitchen this morning. They were baking sweet tortilla chips, a tasty treat I had never had before . . . Listened to the program for farmers on Welsh radio (a shortage of trained sheep dogs there) and wrote a couple of checks. Ordered potpourri for delivery in two weeks and worked on my jigsaw . . . Bob made me clean up my environment (but helped) . . . finally but reluctantly turned on the heat . . . Productive day but low-key . . .

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Julie Vinson of Hatboro in town for a big family do (her son's 30th birthday) at the Maennerchor; also a chance to visit with Mom (Rhea Maff) and sisters Madeline Burridge and Angela Lawson . . . the tree in Wednesday's post was virtually denuded by rains overnight . . . really nice to see all the mums and pumpkins on doorsteps throughout the city . . . Bart and Collette put out some of their Halloween decorations today. JJ will want to "go look at the bones" every time he visits The Bare Wall; it was practically a ritual last year . . . the "beer and pretzel" puzzle featured a few weeks ago will land in unsuspecting hands this weekend; it really is a toughie . . .

Friday, October 9, 2009

I may "do lunch" but I usually don't "do politics." However, we all make exceptions occasionally, and today is my day . . . I was very impressed with the Thursday entry on Eric's blog (see link to the left). It was the first sensible discussion of the mayoralty campaign that I have encountered. We could use a lot more information of this kind from both candidates. Thompson's proclaimed presumption that she is already elected was a major gaffe; we may actually have a contest here . . . My memory may be faulty, but I think that back in the '50s nothing was certain when it came to elections. People were not the sheep they seem to be today; neither were those elected. Proposed laws were in doubt until the actual vote. There were parties of course but not the "block voting" like today that leaves the state without a budget for 100 days . . . And voters also were thinkers, preferring their party candidate but rebelling when a better person emerged on the other side of the ticket . . . Oh, well, we will all have the chance to have our say in November . . . The candidates have been invited to a Town Hall meeting Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Midtown Book Store and Mindlin will have a "meet and greet" session from 7:30-10 p.m. Thursday at the Strawberry Cafe . . .

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Alberto Weller came by to add to his video library. We still have about 600 titles to dispose of. Most are in the $2-$4 range . . . Deb Ritchey begins a new job with the city next week . . . Ken Frew's book Building Harrisburg: The Architects and Builders 1719-1941 can be pre-ordered through the Historical Society of Dauphin County for $79.50 tax included. (You can use the web link in yesterday's post to reach them.) There are 416 illustrated pages and there will be a book signing event Thursday, Nov. 5th, at the mansion . . .

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Windy day. Audrey Trussell came shopping anyway; plans to try her hand at making hats thanks to our earlier post about the lack of same at churches these days . . . My latest flea market jigsaw puzzle bargain was a bust; three pieces missing . . . Found a neat new post on the Historical Society of Dauphin County website. Curator Stephen Bachmann plans to post regularly a "photo of the week" showing scenes from the county's past. The link below will take you directly to the photos but you may want to stay and explore; you can see interior pictures of the John Harris Mansion, for instance . . . the picture to the right is something of a sham. The green ash tree on Green Street is always a herald of autumn but this year it failed to produce its usual splendor; turned mostly brown and dropped its leaves much too soon. This is how it looked last year . . . http://www.dauphincountyhistory.org/research/photos/weeklyphoto/