Saturday, September 16, 2017

"Another 5000 Views" Post Quiz Contest

Earlier this year, thanks to you, my readers, I got to celebrate 50K page views on this blog. As a means of expressing my appreciation I gave away a special prize package. 

Seven months and 54 posts later, page views have now surpassed...
 In fact as of the writing of this post it's over 55,700. 

This means that there are more of you reading my posts on a "regular" basis than ever. I can't say how much I appreciate this. 

As I branch out more and more into the through social media and connecting to friends and family, using technology, the more along for the ride the better it will be.   

To thank you for your loyalty and help get some of my newer readers acquainted with some of the things I've posted about in the past I am announcing a contest.

It's a 5 question quiz whose answers can be found in the posts published 5 years ago during the months of September and October 2012. 

Here are the questions: 

1. Where in Chicago did I unexpectedly find a Realistic brand cassette tape recorder?

2. While in Chicago, Paula and I went to see the Yankees play the White Sox. What Yankee had 4 hits in that game including a home run?

3.This is a two-part question. 
A.What is the name of the fountain I saw in Grant Park while visiting Chicago? 
B.On what 1990s TV show was the fountain seen as part of the program's opening?   

4.In September 2012 I got a new job. In what town was my new job located? 

5.Whose story did I share in my last post of 2012?

The prize to be awarded to the winner of this contest will be a $15 I-Tunes Gift Card. 
If you find the correct answers and send them to me, you will be entered in a drawing to win.  
Now the entry instructions and rules:

Put your answers in an email and send it to: Put "55K Contest" in the subject line. Include your answers, your name, mailing address and as an optional favor to me tell me how you found out about my blog and what you like or dislike about it. (constructive criticism please, trolling will get you disqualified for the contest) 

Emails must be received by Saturday September 23, 2017 at midnight CST. 

Shortly after the deadline, from all the correct entries, a winner will be chosen at random and announced on this blog and Facebook. The winner will be contacted by email as well. 

Thanks in advance for entering the contest, good luck. I hope you enjoy some of my previous posts.  

Next on RHFactors blog is a series of posts with the details of how I spent my birthday weekend with my wife and some of my family in one of our favorite vacation spots. Watch for "Part 1" of this series soon. 

Remember, enter the contest by next Saturday September 23 at midnight CST.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The 2017 Indy Dis Meet

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am a Disney fanatic. I listen to podcasts, read books, and watch TV shows that have to do with the Walt Disney Company and Walt Disney all the time. 

Two years ago, through a Disney podcast, I discovered an annual fund raising event held by a group of Disney fans in Indianapolis, IN.

The "Indy Dis Meet" raises money to help support the "Give Kids The World" village in central Florida. If you're not familiar with what "GKTW" is here's a link that will introduce to this amazing place.   
Give Kids The World Website

I went to the event in Noblesville, IN for the first time in August 2015. I had a good time and it was great to hang out with fellow Disney fans. 

In addition, I got to meet a couple of the ladies who were part of one of my favorite Disney podcasts, The Dis Unplugged. 
Theresa Echol
Kathy Werling
I intended to go back again in 2016 but instead I had the chance to take my first solo trip to Walt Disney World for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. 
Going to both places wasn't in the cards so I skipped the Indy Meet. 

As I watched the Indy Dis Meet Facebook page over the course of 2017. I saw that a popular Walt Disney World Resort entertainer and some of my favorite Disney podcasters were going to be there this year. 

So on the morning of Saturday, August 26, I left Kentucky for the 2017 Indy Dis Meet. The 4 hour drive was rather uneventful. The trip was basically a straight shot on I-65 north. 

I arrived at the fairgrounds in Noblesville about 20 minutes before the "official" start of the event. 
 I registered at the table just inside the door of the hall and then got my free raffle ticket. The hall was still relatively empty. 
But believe me, the place would be pretty crowded by the time the event came to an end. 

I walked past a table covered with raffle prizes to the one where volunteers were selling additional tickets. I bought a few more to increase my chances. Even if I didn't win anything, I was contributing to a great cause. 

The back right corner of the main room was the area hosting the information expo. There were tables set up where you could find out about various travel agents and meet the hosts of several podcasts. 

The 3 hosts of the "Be Our Guest" podcast would record an episode at the end of the day. 

I met Chris and Danny hosts of the "Behind The Ears" podcast. They're two friends who live in different parts of the country (Indiana & New Jersey, respectively). I asked them for some advice in regard to starting a podcast. They were very helpful. Later in the day I would go into an adjoining room and be part of their live podcast recording. 

The next podcasters, I saw, are a pair I've been wanting to meet for a while. They were one of the main reasons I decided to attend the event: Len Testa & Jim Hill.

These two Disney experts are the hosts of the Disney Dish podcast.  
Len Testa is a guy with a plethora of accomplishments involving Disney to his credit. 

He is co-author of all the "Unofficial Disney Guide" books, creator of Disney touring plans, and head researcher for the Touring website and the "Lines" app. The foundations of those last two are the algorithms Len developed as part of his doctoral thesis. 

I first came to know Mr.Testa as 1 of 5 co-hosts of the WDW Today podcast. He was part of that program until recently. The last original host to retire from the podcast. 

I asked Len what he was up to lately. He told me that he was busy developing an algorithm to help doctor's find the right combination of medications to give diabetic patients. 

Currently, there are 6 million combinations and it's difficult for a physician to hit upon the correct one for individual patients without a "trial and error" period. 
Here is a link to an article published recently about Len's involvement in this medical research. Len Testa: Disney Fan To Diabetes Researcher

Just goes to show you how intelligent this man is. And nearly all of his accomplishments stem from his fascination with Disney. 

I am honored to have finally met and had my picture taken with him.   

Jim Hill, to me, is the ultimate Disney insider. He has a "college of knowledge" when it comes to all aspects of the company's past.  

Of all the Disney experts I know, only, author Jim Korkis comes close to knowing as much about Disney history. But as far as insight or information about the present and the future is concerned Jim Hill has no peers.

I talked with Jim a bit about his most memorable "Wow" moment in his vast array of Disney experiences. 

He said it happened when he was a part of the press corp during the 30th anniversary celebration at Disneyland. 

It was at that time he and all the other members of the press were allowed to walk on top of the buildings on Main Street USA and look down at the other guests. Truly, a once in a lifetime experience. 

Again, I am really proud of this picture. 

One final thing about these two guys. They are well known and highly respected authorities in the Disney fan community but they are really just down-to-earth friendly guys with a good sense of humor. They don't take themselves too seriously. 

I will be sharing a video featuring them later in this post. I'm sure you'll see what I mean for yourself.

Also part of the Expo was an author named Jeffrey A. Barnes. He is a professor at California Baptist University in Riverside, CA where he teaches a course called "History of Disneyland." 

He also has written a couple of books under the title "The Wisdom of Walt". His first book explores success strategies and life lessons gleaned from Disneyland. 

His 2nd book, which will be released in October, covers the same subject but from the perspective of Walt Disney World. 

I am very interested in these books and look forward to reading them in the near future.  

After I made my way around the Expo, I got in the line for some food. There was all kinds of things to eat. The plentiful pot luck set up was a combination of dishes and desserts brought by guests and catering from various sponsors. These included: Chik-Fil-A, Papa Johns Pizza, Perkins Restaurant & Bakery, and KFC. There was even a table giving out free dole whip drinks. And it was all free!!! 

I shot a couple of narrative videos throughout the day. I have posted them on You Tube. Here's the link to the first one; recorded while I was in line to get some food. (at the 40 second mark, take notice of the guy sitting at the table. I think he looks a lot like Star Wars creator, George Lucas) Indy Dis Meet: Part 1

Speaking of Star Wars, there were some of the characters from the "galaxy far far away" there. They interacted with the crowd and posed for pictures. 

Although I didn't get a picture with any of the Star Wars characters I did get to meet one of my favorite droids. Here's the link to the video of that "close encounter. Meeting R2-D2

I did take a picture with a few characters. One of them didn't seem to be getting anywhere near as much attention as I thought he should. But I was more than happy to get my picture taken with Herbie, The Love Bug. 

Some of the Disney fans at the meet dressed for the occasion. While waiting in line for food, I met this family dressed alike, celebrating the Epcot character,"Figment", with the father displaying a little "madness". 
Next I took a picture of the only guy I recognized from the last time I attended the event. As I sat enjoying my lunch at a table near the food, I saw him waiting in line.  
 I talked with him a bit. I found out his name is Scott and he is the co-host of a podcast called "Disney, Indiana." Check it out out if you get the chance. You can find it on I-Tunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or on their website:

After I had some free food, I decided to take a walk into the kids area and see what they had to entertain the younger set of Disney fans. Kids Room Tour

I had my picture taken with the princesses who were there. 
They weren't exactly the "best" cosplay princesses that I've seen; but the kids seemed to like them. 

Up next was a special Q&A session with Jim Hill and Len Testa. For reasons I've already explained, just the opportunity to listen to the speak in person and ask questions of these two guys, would make my day. 

But as a bonus, Mr. Hill brought along a piece of Disney history that hardly anyone has ever seen. It was given to him by a friend from Disney Imagineering. 
It's a map of the "original" plans for the Indiana Jones attraction in Disneyland. Here's a link to a video with Jim explaining little more about what Imagineers wanted guests to experience. It all started out on the Jungle Cruise. Jim Hill Talks About Indiana Jones Ride

As I sat around waiting to hear at least one of the numbers on my set of raffle tickets called over the PA system (BTW that never happened) I decided to walk around the tables with the silent auction items. I wrote down bids for several things including a pair of Lu La Roe leggings with Minnie Mouse on them. I figured Paula would like them.  

Here's an update I shot about 3PM, when the meet was at it's peak. Everyone was having fun and waiting for the event's special guest

With the hall buzzing like a hive of Disney fans and activities, the afternoon was building
to a crescendo. It would be a performance by someone who, in addition to Jim Hill & Len Testa, was one of the main reasons I was there.   
Bob Jackson, aka "Yeeha Bob", is a legendary entertainer who regularly performs in the River Roost Lounge in the Port Orleans Riverside resort in Walt Disney World. 

He is an excellent pianist and a gangly kinetic performer. To say that the hall full of hard core Disney nerds was excited about seeing Bob on stage 1000 miles further north than usual would be an understatement.  

Bob's show was full of his version of Disney classics that included: Main Street Electrical Parade theme, The Bare Necissities, Let's Go Fly A Kite, You've Got A Friend In Me and more. Of course the crowd sang along with each and every one of them. 

One of Bob's talents is that he gets the audience to actively participating in the show. 

Here is a video link where he gets the kids in the room to be part of a song that gets them up and moving. YeeHa Bob & The Kids Exercise

Once Bob finished taking his bow during the standing ovation there was only about half an hour left in the event. 

I still listened intently to the raffle numbers being announced but again came up empty. 

The last thing on the "official" schedule was the recording of a podcast by the "Be Our Guest" podcast, one of the event's major sponsors. 

I decided to stick around and be a part of it. The trio of hosts chose to discuss with the crowd a subject that I really am not interested in: table service restaurants at Walt Disney World. 

Out of respect I stayed through the end of the recording. But then it was time to go. 

The last thing on my agenda was to check and see if I won anything in the silent auction. 

As it turned out I did win the Lu La Roe leggings. I got in line, paid for them and left the hall.

My day at the Indy Dis Meet was over. I left with a gift for my wife, a belly fully of free food, and the satisfaction of having contributed to a very worthy cause. 

Now it was time for the 4 hour drive back home. So a little after 7:30 I got back on I-65 and headed toward Kentucky. 

I am so glad that I decided to go to the Dis Meet this year. It's grown so much in the last two years. Getting together with other Disney fans and doing some fun Disney related things and having it result in raising money for a great cause is just about the perfect equation. 

Those who were in charge of organizing this wonderful event did an excellent job. The corp of volunteers in their purple t-shirts were outstanding in their service throughout the day. 

Making something as big as the Indy Dis Meet takes a lot of time, planning, and teamwork. To find out how that happens, I would like to interview those responsible for making this great event happen before the next event. Something to put on my "to do" list. 

Next year I'm going to ask some other Disney fans I know to come along with me. If you are interested in going too, go and "Like" the Indy Dis Meet Facebook page. Then you can watch for the news and information about the 2018 Indy Dis Meet. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Friend To Many

Because we shared a birthday cake for most of my life, I feel it only fitting that I put up a post about my mom on what would have been her 87th birthday. 

Yesterday, my wife and I stopped at a Chik-Fil-A in Lebanon, TN. 

We were enjoying our lunch when one of the employees came over to our table. She asked us if everything was okay. We assured her it was. The name on her employee tag was "Gloria." 

Seeing her name got me thinking about my mom. Once I was back on the road, I started thinking about all the friends Mom had. 

There were a few who are part of my earliest memories. Judy Klaus, Joyce Able, Penny Castiglia (my sister Peggy's Godmother). A lot of these friends I was taught to call "Aunt" even though they weren't blood relatives. 

As I look back I realize these people played a part in my mom's life before I was born. She really cared for them. For those reasons alone they deserved my respect.

No matter where we lived Mom was always friends with our neighbors. 

Because she was friends with them, my dad and the rest of the family were usually friends with them too.  

I've already mentioned mom's friendship with Bessy Kish in a previous post. Over the years we lived on Green Street, I can remember mom was friends with: Natalie Barron, Lois Deihl (pronounced "Deal"), Judy Brunieo, Ethel Kegly, Ann Walker, Andrea Vaughn, and Clara May Hammerstone. Those were just a few I can remember there were more.  

Even after we moved away from "the new projects", Ann Walker, Judy Brunieo, and Lois Deihl remained lifelong friends.  

When we moved to Brainard Street my mom became friends with Lynn Van Syckle and Joann Gilbert. Lois Deihl and Judy Brunieo also moved to Brainard Street and their friendship continued. 

When I was about 9 or 10, my parents started going to and became active in church. This resulted in my mom making new friends. She became best friends with Carol Casterline.

Mom even made friends with people she met through my social contacts.

When I was in kindergarten I took a liking to a little girl in my class named Vickie Tolerico. 

One day, without permission or any adult knowing before hand, I decided to walk home with Vickie instead of going to my house.

Her mother, Lillian, was very surprised to see that her daughter had brought home a little boy. She had to call my mom and let her know I was there. I don't remember getting into much trouble for doing that but I probably got some kind of punishment. 

Nevertheless, from that initial contact, the two mothers became friends. Eventually, Lillian and Rex Tolerico became my parents' best friends. More about that a little later. 

One summer, when I was a teenager, I helped out a friend of a friend from church, with their Vacation Bible School. 

Linda Brazille, whose two young daughters went to the VBS, gave me a ride to the church and back during those two weeks. My mom became friends with Linda. 

Gloria Havens was a very social person. My parents, as a couple were very social people. 

They loved to play board games and cards with their friends and family members. 

As I was growing up there were an uncountable number of nights that my aunts and uncles, cousins, and their friends got together at someone's house to play cards (pinochle, and hearts were their favorites) or Pokeno. 

Pokeno is a game similar to Bingo but uses the values of playing cards that are drawn as players try to cover poker hands on their game boards. They made it a little more interesting by playing for money. Don't worry it was only pennies. 

I mentioned the Tolericos earlier. Lillian and Rex were the friends that mom & dad played board games with the most. 

Both my sister, Shari, and I have memories of playing with their kids, Vicki; Rex the 3rd; and Mary, in their basement while our parents played games at the kitchen table on a Saturday night. 

As the years went along and they got more involved with the church, mom and dad's social life involved spending time with fellow members.  

As my mom got older and her health declined, especially her ability to walk due to her "bad knees" and her eyesight. She was somewhat limited to what she could do outside of the house. 

But that didn't stop her. Her involve-ment as a "social worker" type of friend to some and a close friend type to others. 

For Mom, the telephone had always been a means of staying connected with friends. But it was mostly just for conversation. 

If my mom was at home, there was a good chance she was on the phone with one of her friends. Most of the time it was with best friend, Carol. 

As she got older, the phone became a means for my mom to stay connected with everyone. This was in the days before smartphones and the internet. She just couldn't get around much anymore but she still stayed in touch. 

I can only imagine what my mom would do with the social media technology of today. She would be a pro at it. 

I have only skimmed the surface when it comes to the pool that was my mother's social life. The friendships I've mentioned are but a fraction of the people whose lives she touched with friendship and service. 

Although she's not here, I can truthfully say that my mother's example of extending the hand of friendship and caring about others has been carried forward by my sisters and their families.     
As for me? Well, I'm no where near as social nor do I have a whole lot of close friends. 

But I am trying to get better. What I want to do in the near future will require me to be social on a level close to that of my mom's. It's a little bit out of my comfort zone. 

I am blessed by the fact that, I still have her example to guide me.  

Thanks for the legacy, mom. I love you and miss you everyday. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Going Back Part 5: The Pigeon Palace

Hey everyone! Thanks for checking out my blog. If you are first timer or a returning visitor, I appreciate you dropping by. If you are a loyal RHFactors reader, I thank you for taking time out of your busy day to come back again and again.  

In the final post in this series, I want to share something that will shed some light on my personal fascination the Fox Theater pipe organ I expressed in my last post. 

It has to do with the building where I went to church for about 3 years when I was a teenager. 

Let me take you back in a couple of ways. First geographically, I want to go back to the town of Easton, Pennsylvania; a town just across the Delaware River from Phillipsburg, New Jersey, where I grew up. All my life, my family attended the Assembly of God Church there. 

Now let's go back in time to 1976. It was a year of change for the church. As a means of accommodating the growth in attendance, our church leadership spearheaded by our young pastor, moved our services to a building called the Eastern Star Temple. To this day this prominent building still stands at the corner of 5th and Church Streets. 

My church only rented the building so we could only use it on Sundays & Wednesdays. There were two things about this church that I found quite fascinating. 

One was the clock tower. I don't think the clock was still working at the time but I was still curious about it. 

One time, my youth group leader, Gene; John Plante, a good friend and fellow church member; and I found ourselves alone in the church on a Saturday afternoon. We decided that it was time for us to explore the clock tower. 

There were 2 levels we had to go up to get to workings of the clock. The level with the big shutters was infested with pigeons. Due to boards missing on several of the shutters the birds (which have been referred to as "rats with wings") had free access to the clock tower and they made it their roost and nesting place. 

Subsequently, pigeons found their way into other areas of the building. It was not uncommon to find a dead feathered friend sanctuary or in the stairwells. A lot of us who were in the church quite often nicknamed it the Pigeon Palace. 

The very large 2nd floor sanctuary only had pews set up along the side walls. So in order to have Sunday services there, folding chairs had to be set up in front of the fancy decorated platform and pulpit. They also had to be taken down each weekend. 

My dad was one of the church leaders at the time so he had a key to the building. I went with him on Saturday nights to put up the chairs for the next morning. 

The other thing that fascinated me about the church was the pipe organ. One of the benefits of helping my dad was getting to sit at the organ and play with it no one else around. The echo of that sound bellowing through an empty building was amazing. I didn't really know how to play a keyboard but I knew enough to have fun. 

The memories of the Eastern Star Temple's pipe organ rushed back into my mind when I saw and heard the one at the Fabulous Fox Theater in St. Louis in July.  

Speaking of the Fox Theater organ. As I promised in the my August 5th post (Fabulous Fox Theater Part 2) here's little more about the guy who was the official organist at The Fox for several decades; musician and comedian, Stan Kann.  

They're a couple of links with info about him. One is a tribute from a local St. Louis TV station. The other is an actual tour of the organ and it supporting hardware from Kann, himself.  Stan Kann Tribute
Stan Kann On The Fox Theater Tour

I was surprised to find out there was an aspect of Stan Kann's talents that I never knew about until we went to St. Louis. Just goes to show you that you never know what you don't know. I think it's fascinating to find those things and learn about them. 

In the days following my trip to Missouri and prior to my leaving for Pennsylvania, I thought a lot about that old church in Easton, the pipe organ and everything else that made the place unique. I made it a point to try and go back see the "Pigeon Palace" once again. 

It is now owned by a church known as "The Rock Church." It's located only a couple of blocks from the Center Square downtown area, near the State Theater and across from the Easton Public Library. Here's a Google Maps screenshot to give you perspective. 

On the same day that I walked around downtown Easton with my niece & nephew, I drove up Northampton Street and turned right onto 5th street. There it was, the Pigeon Palace.  

In the 40 years since Easton Assembly of God was a tenant, the place hadn't changed. At least on the outside. 
I had to get a picture posing in front of it. 
But just seeing it from the outside wasn't enough for me. I became obsessively curious. I needed to see the inside. How had Rock Church changed it? Was the pipe organ still there? Did it still work? 

I mentioned to Bobby & Teejai that I was really interested in getting into the church to look around. My niece said that she knew the pastor's son because she had attended the church's youth group a few years ago.  She would use her contacts to get me info about the church and it's service times. 

Late Sunday morning, right after going to breakfast with my family, I went back to "The Palace" to take a look around inside.

It was about noon when I got to there. I was told their service started at 10. I was hoping someone was still there and that I hadn’t missed chance to go inside. 

The door into the basement was unlocked. Someone was still there. I walked in and immediately noticed a difference. The big open downstairs area that served as my church's fellowship hall, was now walled off into a lot of smaller class rooms. 

Given recent event and the overall attitude in this country regarding strangers entering churches I didn’t go wandering around. I just headed for the stairs that I knew led to the main floor. I could hear that the preacher was still giving his sermon. I was hesitant to go up because I didn’t remember where the stairs would enter the sanctuary. 

Just then a woman came down the stairs. She looked at me with a combination of wonder and caution. I asked, “Is the service still going on?” She said “yes it is”. 

I went up and found myself in the back left hand corner of the sanctuary. Although my exact recollection was kind of fuzzy, I knew the place wasn’t anything like I remembered. 

It was not the big open cathedral like room I remembered. It was remodeled and decorated to looked like a small modern church. There were pews (which were littered with a few dozen attendees), a platform, a pulpit, and an elevated baptistery centered against the back wall.  

Because the pastor was still preaching, I quietly made my way to the first pew that was open. I would wait until the service was dismissed to take pictures. Here are a few I took. 


As I looked around I noticed something that was quite disappointing. In the front left corner was an area with some individual instruments including a drum set and a guitar. 
The reason I found this so disheartening, was because that was where the pipe organ used to be. 

After the service was over, I made my way to the front to speak to the preacher. I thought his name was Chris. I told him who I was and dropped TeeJai’s name. He said his son had text him about me coming by. 

As it turns out our experiences with this historic church building mirrored its timeline over the last 45 years or so. 

He told me that his dad, Sam, was pastor of the Rock Church back in the last 70s/early 80s. He rented the building shortly after my church group left. They eventually bought the property and started renovating it. 

I told him that the main reason I there was to see the pipe organ again. I was disappointed when I realized it was gone. 

He said, the church couldn’t afford to save the pipe organ so they sold it. He didn’t know who bought it though. 

We then talked about the building. This included the level with the pigeons and the clock tower. Chris told me that he and 4 other guys have cleaned out that pigeon roost 4 times over the last 30 years. Better him than me. 

I thanked him for the hospitality and then I took pictures and left. 

When the fact that Pastor Chris had told me he'd been doing things at the church for "30 years" came back to me, I realized that my hopes for what I was going to see upon my return there that day had been completely unrealistic. 

In my mind I thought I was going to see a place that was very much like it had been 40 years earlier. But churches don't exist in a vacuum. 

The building was in desperate need of repairs and remodeling back it was my church. It would only seem reasonable that for a church organization to continue services there it would have to be fixed up and changed. 

Those changes and improvements would be for safety and building code reasons as well as functionality as a church facility. 

But there were elements of the building that was still the same and seemed very familiar. I looked at those as glimpses into the past. A brief visit back to an exciting time for me in my younger days. 

One of the things that remained the same were the stain glass windows. 

This, the final picture I took that day, will always be a reminder of my return to the Pigeon Palace.   

My visit to the Rock Church was my last attempt to walk down memory lane during my visit back "home" in August. 

It was a microcosm of what I took away from the entire trip. Time and change does not stand still for anyone. It's not a profound or new observation but a realization that becoming more and more relevant the older I get. 

Technology, pop culture, politics, the 24 hours news, movies, TV: all, at times, make me feel like I'm living in a totally different world that I don't recognize. 

To get along and stay "relevant" in today's world I must adapt to and embrace changes as much as I can; while sharing the world I used to know with those who weren't around to experience it. I guess that's my responsibility to them. Storytellers are always relevant. That's all I have to say about that. 

Thanks for reading this and all the other entries into my "Going Back" series. I am really humbled by the response to some of the posts. If you keep coming back I promise to do my best to stay interesting and relevant. See you next time with some more RHFactors.    

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Going Back Part 4: Stepping Out Downtown & Back In Time

It may be September but I've got more to share about my August trip to visit my family in Pennsylvania. 

First I must thank all of you who took the time to read the "Retracing My Steps" post. Because of your support and sharing on social media, on August 30th I had the most page views of any single day in the 9 year history of my blog. Again, thank you to both the new comers and those who are loyal readers.

In this post I'm continuing recollections. This time I'd like to share with you both old and new experiences I had in Downtown Easton.  

On Friday, the first full day of my visit, I went with my niece and nephew, Teejai & Bobby, to visit the revitalized historic district of the town that stems from the Center Square and it's traffic circle. 

Here's a bird's eye view looking north into the square. As you can see the centerpiece of the area is the soldiers & sailors statue surrounded by a fountain. 
In the 7 years since I'd been there, the downtown area had experienced both a physical and cultural renaissance. 

Let's start with the new city hall and the parking garage. This view of the brand new, to me, buildings is from the parking lot of the hotel I stayed in. 
 This complex is built on land where the Eric twin screen theater (the place I first saw "Jaws") and Perkins restaurant (where I ate 19 1/2 pancakes in 15 minutes as part of a radio station contest) had once stood. I spent many hours and happy moments in both of those places.  
After finding a spot right next to the elevator on the 3rd level, we exited the parking structure and headed for the side entrance of The Crayola Experience. The family friendly attraction opened in 1996 as a means of improving the downtown area. 

It was such a success that over the last two decades there have been 3 other locations opened: Plano,Texas, Mall Of America in Minnesota, and Orlando, Florida.  

We entered the building from Pine Street. Technically it's the back entrance with an ADA ramp. 
As former employees, both Teejai and Bobby were not exactly thrilled about going here. They are always telling me stories about what a terrible place it was to work. 

Twelve years ago, during a visit to PA with my wife, we took my son, and all the kids in the family to what was then known as "The Crayola Factory". Everyone had a good time. That's my only point of reference for the place. 

The attraction has expanded since that first visit. This is the first floor gift shop the only place we went. 
The place was so crowded with day campers that we didn't stay very long at all. 

We stepped out onto the square and walked over to Northampton Street. We walked to the alley known as Bank Street. 
There's a section of the street between Northampton and Pine that is just a pedestrian walkway. Nowadays there are a couple of shops including an ice cream shop. 
When I was younger it was just a bricked walkway with mural's on the wall. 

I told TeeJai & Bobby that this was the place where I impressed my 8th grade buddies by going up to a girl walking by and talking to her. They were in awe of me the rest of the day. 

What I didn't tell my friends was that I actually did know the girl. She went to my church and was already a friend. 

The innocent scam got me so much "cred" with my peers that it's one of my best "downtown Easton" memories. 

By now, we were all a little hungry and it was time for a late lunch. At Teejai's suggestion we went into the Easton Public Market. 
This is a very unique place that I can only describe as a hybrid of a community center that hosts workshops and classes; an indoor farmers market; a gallery of artisan and specialty shops; and an upscale food court. 

The three of us took advantage of the variety of specialty food items for our lunch choices. Bobby got an Asian noodle dish with really spicy type of meat. 

Teejai and I ordered from this brick oven pizza place. 

Here's a double-selfie of us waiting for our number to be called. 
And finally it did and we got our lunch. It was delicious.  
Once we finished our lunch and the kids got themselves a coffee drink, we left the market. 

We made our way toward center of the circle in the square that has the fountain and the statue. Along the way we stopped into a shop that was a combination collectible card shop and an video arcade. 

Most of the video games weren't turned on but the 3 pinball machines at the back of the room were. TeeJai and I each played a game on one. 

We returned to the street and we crossed the traffic roundabout to what the locals call "the circle." I looked around noticing some things that were different but a lot of it was the same. 

Our time for browsing was growing short because Teejai had to go to work later that afternoon.

There was one last place that I wanted to go. I will share that with you in a moment. Right now I want to share with you what I took away from my visit to the revitalized downtown. 

Because of the very short time I had to spend in the new downtown Easton, I only got a very small sample size of what it has become. 

The way I would describe it is that it's a destination for people who are college age and up to enjoy a relaxing time with friends and get a good meal. There are a lot of small specialty restaurants and coffee shops. 

Easton is the home of Lafayette College. It's a liberal arts school with an enrollment of about 3000, which is about the equivalent of about 11.5% of the city's overall population. 

The downtown area seems to be, at least to a certain extent, designed to draw the students there amplify their contribution to the local economy. 

From what I saw in the area that we spent our time in, there seems to be very little shopping opportunities. But my nephew tells me those increase the farther away from center square you go. 

The Crayola Experience brings a lot of school field trips and summer camp groups into the area. But it's only a 1/2 day's worth of activities. There's not much in the area to fill up the rest of the day. 

By my observation, if you are a family with kids from pre-school to high school age; you might find it difficult finding anything they are interested in after Crayola. But that's not true all the time. 

Downtown Easton specializes in hosting festivals. Throughout the year there's a garlic festival, a bacon festival, Heritage Day that end with a fireworks display.

Perhaps the most compelling event for families is the "lightening" of the Easton Peace Candle each Christmas holiday season. 
For more about any of these events and more, do a Google search. 

Now on to one place in downtown Easton that made the afternoon worth the trip. In the northeast corner of the square (diagonally across from the Crayola attraction). 
The Carmelcorn Shop been located in Center Square since 1931. Not only is it an important part of downtown Easton history; it was an important part of my childhood too.  

The snack shop is located just 3 blocks from location of the two movie theaters I used to go to when I was a kid. 

The State Theater is located in the 400 block of Northampton Street. It was a showcase theater while I was growing up. Today it is a center for creative arts. 
(Blogger's Note: In this picture you can see part of a building that will be the subject of my next post in this series. Can you find it? Take your "time" finding it.) 

There was also the Boyd theater on North 3rd street less than a block away from Carmelcorn. 

The Boyd was closed in May 1972 and leveled for parking later that same year.  
These two theaters were I went to see movies from the time I was a pre-schooler until my mid teens. 

As I write this post, I realize that I have a lot of memories to share about my experiences going to the movies in downtown Easton. I'll share them in a future post. 

Every time we went to the movies it would be preceded by a trip to the Carmelcorn shop. This was back in the days when theaters would allow you to bring in your own snacks.   

With a dollar in our hands we got a large bag freshly made popcorn coated in fresh melted butter from top to bottom. So much so that the grease bled through the white paper bag. 

At 50 cents a bag the price of popcorn allowed me to get some type of candy as well. My choice was usually chocolate but occasionally I'd get licorice or something chewy. 

Once we made our choices and paid for our snacks my cousins, friends, or whoever I was with would shoot out the door and head to the theater. Once there we would see the latest release by Disney or kids movie was playing. 

But the theater experience, which was a much bigger event back when I was a kid than it is now, started off with stop at the Carmelcorn shop. 

Now as nostalgic as those last few paragraphs are, you can understand how excited I got when I looked across the downtown Easton circle and saw that Carmelcorn was still there and it was open. 

I hadn't been there in years but I had to go by just to see how it changed.      

Now let me try to explain what I was about to experience in the most "geeky" way I can think of. 

On the TV show, Star Trek: The Next Generation, they had something called a "Halodeck". A starship Enterprise crew member could use this room to create or recreate any place or time they wanted to. They'd speak their request from outside, wait for the ship's computer to confirm that the room was ready and then they'd walk through the door into the world they requested. 

Walking into the Carmelcorn on that Friday afternoon was like walking onto the Enterprise's holodeck. 

The second I walked in the door of that old candy shop, my mind started reeling. It was like I had been transported back through time. 

The place looked exactly the same as it always had. 

The visual alone was enough to bring back the feeling of being a youngster again. It looked exactly the same. 

Based on how I felt at that moment, I wouldn't have been surprised to walk out of the shop and find words  "Walt Disney's The Aristocats" on displayed in gigantic letters on the marque of the Boyd Theater. But what I saw that wasn't the factor that awed me. It was the aroma. 

The delicious smell that was a combination of all kinds of bagged sweets, display cases full of chocolates, and freshly popped popcorn grabbed me and threw me into the past. It was like I was in my own personal time machine. 

I immediately started "gushing" with words and emotion in an effort to convey to the "kids" and the two ladies behind the counter, what I was feeling. 

I can't say for certain, but I am pretty sure, that the shop owner, Sia Bassil, was one of the workers busy behind the counter.  

I started telling her about the connection and between her little shop and my childhood experiences. 

Teejai bought a bag of popcorn. I had a couple of handfuls later. It still tasted the same. I bought some of the handmade chocolates and a bag of gum drops. 

Although I could have used a credit card to pay, I used cash to preserve the nostalgic atmosphere just a little bit longer. Soon it was time to "transport" back to the present and leave the shop.  
As I stepped outside and I saw Bobby close the time travel portal (aka the shop's door) behind us; I just couldn't bring myself to walk away from that corner of the square. 

I sat down on the bench just outside the shop to just spend a few more moments still awashed in the waves of nostalgia. That may seem a little too melodramtic but its the only way I can describe it. 

Before leaving downtown I also revisited Joe's Market & Deli, just 1/2 a block away from Carmelcorn. I was delighted to discover that they still make Italian hoagies on hard Italian bread like they did when I was 12. 

While the store still looked, basically, the same I didn't take me back the way the candy shop had. But that's okay; I was still on memory sensory overload anyway. 

We browsed through an antique shop on South Third Street on our way back to the parking structure. My car spiraled down exit ramp and we headed back toward the Southside hill. 

Our afternoon touring downtown came to an end. But I had made a whole new set of memories connected to downtown Easton as it is today.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to read the experiences I feel I need to share with you. 

I have one more story to share with you in regard to "going back" this past August. 

As I hinted earlier, it has to do with a building that has been prominent in the city of Easton's skyline for decades. 

I will share my connection to that building from both a "then" and "now" perspective in my next post. Hope to see you then.