Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Naming Your Hometown, Part 2

In response to a reader outpouring of over six requests to continue my completely fictional look at how the boroughs of Delaware County got their names (and ignoring the one request begging me not to), I submit the second chapter:


This borough was originally to be named “Colleen” in honor of Irish tavern owner Colleen Flanagan, who purposely sickened occupying British troops with spoiled ham and cabbage in what became known as “The Great Regurgitation of 1780.” However, in an unfortunate confluence of events the reader of the official proclamation had a barely noticeable speech impediment. In fact, it was not noticeable at all, except when pronouncing one single word … you guessed it … Colleen. Before anyone could change it, the recorder of records had written the name he'd heard spoken (using that feather pen ink that's almost impossible to erase). And so today we have the borough of Colwyn.


Until 1926 this borough was known as Unicorn Springs. Ever since the founding fathers (and apparently mothers) came up with that, however, there had been a backlash about being named after a mythical creature. (Worse yet, one that was considered vaguely unmanly in some circles.) From 1926 until 1936 the town was called Hitlerburgh, but that name proved to have its own set of problems. In 1936 an overwhelmingly popular self-improvement book called How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie was published. Its pointers and sayings were on the lips of people wherever you went. Amid this fury of popularity one of the phrases that became common was “I'm calling Dale!” Most likely originating in a Vaudeville sketch, this was thought to be a funny response to almost any comment or situation. One example of this still exists in the comedy library of famed showman Benny “Big Cat” Bennigan, who closed his act with this line, found decades later in his journal: “What? You say my daughter has eloped with a [insert local ethnic group here]? I'm calling Dale! (Wait for laugh). Town leaders were anxious to ride the coattails of the phrase's popularity, but Callingdale was too obvious. So “a” became “o” and Collingdale was born.


Corporate sponsorship is not a new idea. Today many sports stadiums bear the name of companies that have paid millions for that valuable advertising space. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was common to name entire American cities with the hope of promoting products. Thus you have Madison, WI (named after the Madison Shoe Company), Baton Rouge, LA (named after a company that made red batons), Tampa, FL (named after a feminine hygiene product) and so on. And we all know the tobacco roots of Winston-Salem, NC and Newport, RI. So just as the beef industry has done in our time (“Beef, it's what's for dinner”), back in the day salt manufacturers lobbied the public by naming places like Salt Lake City, UT, Sault Ste. Marie, MI and the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. It was in this naming frenzy that Morton Salt Company dabbled in naming a very small town before trying a big city. Alas, no one ever associated Morton with salt and they never did go bigger. But if they had, we just might be talking about the plight of the poor Baltimorton Orioles throughout this baseball season.

Chester Heights

General Chester L. Heights was George Washington's invaluable but little-known “decoy general” during (but quite a distance away from) some of the pivotal battles of the American Revolution. Washington had made it a point to champion the battle prowess and strategic genius of General Heights in dispatches that he knew would be intercepted by the British. (No evidence of this prowess or genius has ever been found, but neither has it been disproved.) Once alerted, the Red Coats followed Height's every move, sure that he would be in the thick of any the major offensive. And so during the Battle of Trenton, Heights' army was in Harrisburg. The famous Battle of Cowpens saw him on Long Island. His mission was thus stated: “To be as far away from any serious Continental Army offensive as would be plausible to the Brits.” At the war's end, Heights and his army were awarded fake gold coins (as a joke that none considered funny or really even got), a firm handshake from Washington and a grant for the land we know today as Chester Heights.

Clifton Heights

Although you might well think that this borough was named after Clifton Heights, the younger brother of the above mentioned General Chester Heights, nothing could be farther from the truth. (Then again, that's kind of a silly expression, isn't it? I mean, if I told you that aliens named the town or that it was the original Garden of Eden of biblical fame, those would be farther from the truth, right? But I digress.) Actually, by complete coincidence two unrelated families, both named Clifton, moved into the same area at the same time. Naming the place Clifton was a no-brainer, but bad blood between the families caused them to keep changing their section's name to be better than their rival's. East Clifton, Clifton Eastwood, Clifton Gardens, Clifton-by-the-Sea, Clifton Parmesan, Rio de Clifton, Clifton Island … until finally, just as if the music had stopped in a game of musical chairs, the state of Pennsylvania decreed all town names would be made permanent on January 1, 1908. It just so happened that Clifton Heights was the name on that particular day. I might have gone with the Parmesan one, I think.


In the early 19th century, the Beemer family of Chester was ruled with an iron fist by the father, Edward. His four sons stayed pretty much in line, having seen the wrath of Edward when he spent four hours berating a neighbor's dog who had almost chosen the Beemer front lawn to deposit his daily dung. But the peaceful Beemer home blew to high heck one sunny Saturday when Edward forbade the boys from going to baseball practice. He said it was so they could re-do the chores they did so poorly last Saturday, but everyone knew that he was just being his usual self, mean as a drunken pirate. Naturally the boys were disappointed, but only “Little Eddy” Beemer dared to utter a “Aw, geez,” that could be heard just above his breath. Predictably, papa Edward, veins popping and spittle spurting, jumped all over the youngster, yelling over and over “I do not care for your tone, boy.” And those words appeared to strike a chord in the lads. That one sentence seems to have given them a backbone. No longer would they stand silent at their blustering father's demeaning rants. With those few words the boys had become men. Bristling with their new found confidence, just three months later all four brothers moved out and founded their own borough, and in honor of that landmark Saturday and the expression that had changed their lives named it “Eddy's Tone.”


This town name is a tribute to Mady Darby, whose contribution to baseball and to the Union Army's victory at Gettysburg during the Civil War has been largely overlooked with the passing years. Few people realize that Abner Doubleday, the reputed inventor of modern baseball, was a major general and division commander of the Army of the Potomac during the famous battle. Today his reputation as a general is mixed. Some say he held his position to buy time for the victories of other brigades, sort of a sacrifice bunt. Others insist that he was slow to attack and incompetent, the equivalent of striking out looking on three pitches. In either case, Mady Darby was Doubleday's “personal nurse,” a position that seems to have no official equivalent in today's armed forces. Although unhurt in the morning's skirmishes, the major general failed to show up for the afternoon battles. Years later it was revealed that Mady had “slipped a mickey” into Doubleday's canteen. Her intentions are unclear to this day, but she had solidified the Union victory and ensured the invention of baseball as we know it. And so borough leaders decided not to name their home town Nightingale, as had been planned, but chose Darby instead.

And just a reminder … none of this will be on your final test.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Naming Your Hometown (Sort of)

Have you ever wondered how that little patch of Delaware County that you call home got its name?

(For purposes of this article, it would be best if you answered “yes” to that.)

Well, so have I. And it would be easy enough to go to my local library or legitimate Internet reference site to find that out, but I have another idea. In the tradition of “you can't really believe everything you see on the Internet,” I thought I'd guess.

This seems like a lot more fun (and frankly much less taxing on my brain).

And so I give you the fictional origins of a sampling of the boroughs of Delaware County, in no particular order. Remember any brush up against truth in these shot-in-the-dark histories is completely accidental and unintentional. And boys and girls, please don't try this at homework:


Today is not the first time in American history that the two major political parties seem entrenched in their ideologies and unwilling to compromise. Back in 1843 the Whig Party had gotten a reputation that the Republican Party is trying to avoid today … that is, they were becoming known as “the party of nay.” Ever since they had been voted out of power, Whig candidates had blocked legislature meant to encourage many popular activities, including friendship, Italian food and cat ownership. In 1845 a group of Whigs gathered in protest shouting “No more nay, we say yea!” and right on the spot the Delaware County Neo-Colonial Council, moved by their passion, awarded them the land on which they stood, renaming it “Yeadon.”


In the early years of the 20th century (and forever before that) women's “unmentionables” were quite a cumbersome undertaking. Bloomers, bustles, knickers, petticoats, chemises, pantalettes, corsets and on and on. By the second decade of the century there was a movement to simplify the contraptions built for supporting the female form. You might call it a movement to restrict movement of certain feminine parts. As part of that trend, Shhh, a ladies underwear company based in this small Delco borough leaped to the forefront and created a small, easily manipulated “girl's first bra.” Soon the new product came to be known as the “trainer bra,” and was so wildly successful that the town adopted that as its name, dropping the “bra” part some years later.


You might think that this borough was named by either optimists or people who enjoyed living on the higher ground, but that is not the case. Back in 1654, a man named Uriah Pendragon was unjustly convicted of stealing. To be more accurate, he was convicted of stealing glances at his neighbor's wife, a capital crime at the time. So he was hanged. Three days after the hanging a physician who could not make it to Uriah's trial in time informed the court that Mr. Pendragon had an eye condition which caused him to appear to be leering. Of course, this was highly embarrassing. To make things right the surviving family was given real estate, now renamed Uriahpendragonland, later shortened to Upland.


There are times in history when people believe that anything is possible. Such a time was the early 19th century, when railroads, canals, steam engines and factories changed the way that men and women lived their lives. These were giant ideas which resulted in giant changes in the human condition. Not every new idea was that ambitious, however. In 1819 three good friends, Dan Wheeler, Dan Fletcher and Dan Anderson, came to the conclusion (in the back of Duffy's Pub) that their great friendship was the result of their all being named Dan. They contacted Regional Governor Dan Albright and before they even sobered up the borough of “Alldan” was born. The next day Dan Fletcher suggested they come up with a more traditional founding story and “get the L out of there,” and so today we have the borough of Aldan.


For decades and decades there had been senseless bigotry throughout the early American colonies aimed at women named Brook. (In those days, “Brook shields” were actually homemade wooden barriers used to taunt these women in conjunction with hurtful sayings and jingles detailing the horrors of Brook cooties, which is what the common cold was known as in some circles.) Finally, in the late 17th century, one man had seen enough. Joseph Haven purchased a small plot of land, declared it safe from Brook bigotry and named it “Welcometown.” Minutes later it was renamed the borough that we know today.


Although it had been around for over a billion years, the borough that is today known as Folcroft remained unnamed until Native Americans of the Shawnee tribe called it “Mahalla,” which has been loosely translated as “Delmar Village.” When English settlers arrived they decided that the place needed to sound more like home for them, and so they renamed it after the Earl of Folcroft, who had recently won a famous duel with the Duke of Darby. Today you can still find descendants of the Earl living in Folcroft, acting like they're the boss of everyone and apparently thinking that their waste material has no odor.

Prospect Park

Before the 1820s, salesmen were generally thought to come in one of two varieties … fast-talking city slickers or snake oil-pushing charlatans. The idea that someone might suggest a product that could actually benefit a person was poo-pooed (if you'll excuse my language here) by respectable people everywhere. In those days you went to a store to get what you needed and anyone trying to convince you to buy something could actually be legally bludgeoned. But that all changed in 1826 when Robert “Honest Bob” Robertson gathered a group of families who had an almost religious commitment to a new concept: Sell us stuff. Soon a community of receptive “prospects” formed and salesmen came from far (but oddly enough, not wide) to service them, forming today's Prospect Park. Ironically, soliciting is forbidden through most of the borough today.


Okay, the real legend about this one is too good NOT to share. According to a sign on Morton Avenue that Wikipedia shows on its site, Rutledge was named after the one true love of Abraham Lincoln, Ann Rutledge. Abe stole her from her fiance, but she tragically died of typhoid fever at age 22, throwing the future president into a major, years-long depression. This borough-naming story is probably no truer than the others here … but how many myths get an official-looking sign to perpetuate them?

Sharon Hill

To this day many people will tell you that there was an actual person named Sharon Hill. I'm sure there are many around the world, but none of them is related to this town. The truth is that in William Penn's time the Quakers named every hill and valley in Pennsylvania. This was a way to keep busy and avoid impure thoughts. Most places got new names when people less particular about their thoughts moved in, but Sharon is one of the very few remaining Quaker-named hills. I have heard there is a Bambi Hill in Western Pennsylvania that has been attributed to the Quakers, but that seems unlikely.


Old English was a funny little language. “Fullsome” meant plentiful, “prithee” meant please and “swarth” meant bacon. And so it's easy to imagine a patron at the olden times version of IHOP asking, “Prithee, good sir, may I partake of a fullsome portion of swarth?” It turns out that bacon was the yogurt of its day. It was thought to promote good health, the reasoning being that since bacon already contains so much pig fat it would not be converted to human fat. After all, pigs could not be converted to humans, right? With this in mind, “vittles entrepreneur” Oscar Mayer managed to corner the swarth market. He cornered it right at the very location of the borough that is today still known by Mayer's famous slogan, “Swarth More! Swarth More to Live Longer!”

So there you have it. Let me know if I've omitted your hometown and you'd like to see a faux history … but don't get me started on the townships.

Monday, April 19, 2010

My Brain on Age

According to a certain old saying, we live and learn.

I have found that to be true for the most part, but not entirely. Sometimes we just live.

So, using the tools of fading memory and blind faith so vital to the completely unqualified amateur scientist, I've compiled a series of topics, circumstances and reactions that illustrate how the years have educated and/or baffled me. (If you followed the twists of that last sentence, I promise the rest of this article will be child's play.)


My 1970s High School Brain: “So the plan is: graduate high school, head to college, then law school and in no time I'll be solving cases like Judd for the Defense on TV.”

My 21st Century 50-Something Brain: “Now that I'm laid off and watching TV 15 hours a day I wonder if I should start my second career at the University of Phoenix, IT Tech or that Harley-Davidson repair school.”


My 1970s High School Brain: “This week we play Darby-Colwyn and Yeadon, and I'll get to start because our second baseman is out.”

My 21st Century 50-Something Brain: “I coughed and now my back is out.”

Sex on TV

My 1970s High School Brain: “Can you believe what they said on Three's Company last night?”

My 21st Century 50-Something Brain: “Can you believe what they showed on Cinemax last night?”


My 1970s High School Brain: “Short skirts or hot pants? I can't decide which I like most!”

My 21st Century 50-Something Brain: “Short tempers or hot flashes? I can't decide which I've seen most!”

The Prom

My 1970s High School Brain: “Color My World … what a great prom theme. (That's why my tux is nine different colors of blue and my ruffled shirt is pink.)”

My 21st Century 50-Something Brain: “Why do all the girls look 25 and all the boys look 12?”

Gym Class

My 1970s High School Brain: “So, exactly what bizarre set of circumstances will force me to climb a rope that just happens to be hanging from the center of the ceiling?”

My 21st Century 50-Something Brain: “Do they still have to wear white gym shorts and T-shirts while they play Wii-volleyball?”


My 1970s High School Brain: “Dave reserved a half hour online time tomorrow at 3 a.m. to test his 200-punch card program on the giant computer at West Chester.”

My 21st Century 50-Something Brain: “My 10-year-old niece taught me Facebook.”


My 1970s High School Brain: “I can't wait to see Clash of the Titans.”

My 21st Century 50-Something Brain: “I can't wait to see Clash of the Titans.”


My 1970s High School Brain: “I'm generally more liberal, but I do believe in the conservative law and order agenda.”

My 21st Century 50-Something Brain: “I'm a stickler about never missing an episode of Law & Order in the 20 years it's been on TV.”


My 1970s High School Brain: “I never thought I'd see the day when an actor could be elected president.”

My 21st Century 50-Something Brain: “I never thought I'd see the day when a Hawaiian could be elected president.”

As Jerry Garcia (not to be confused with former and possibly future Eagles backup quarterback Jeff Garcia) once said … “What a long, strange trip it's been.”

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cheesesteak Confidential

The cheesesteak is the best evidence I know of that a higher power exists in this universe.

I'm willing to admit that I may be biased on this topic, the result of my 50 year love affair with the magical concoction I discovered at a very early age.

Meat, dairy, grain, grease … all the major food groups are represented, and you can even add tomatoes, lettuce or just about any other veggie if you care to rationalize that you're eating healthy.

In a perfect universe each cheesesteak eaten would have the equivalent effect on the body of an hour of cross-training in the gym. Add mushrooms and onions to get the benefits of a two mile run, and sweet peppers for a short cardio workout.

Hmmmm …

Sorry, I was lost in my little fantasy world there for a second.

I first encountered this perfect sandwich in the early 1960s at Joe's Steak Shop at 58th Street, just above Wheeler Street in Southwest Philadelphia. A large cheesesteak at Joe's was $1.25, and I calculated that I'd need to make no more than $2 per day (with chips and a soda) to be perfectly happy for the rest of my life.

So cheesesteaks taught me the value of a dollar.

Delaware County takes a back seat to no area on Earth when it comes to getting a fantastic cheesesteak. (That “on Earth” part was really just for dramatic effect since we get very little cheesesteak competition from places like China, Chile or Chad, for instance.)

We moved to Folcroft when I was 10 and it took me about 15 minutes to find a new favorite spot. It was Romano's, a small restaurant in the Delcroft Shopping Center in Folcroft. You could sit at a counter and eat your cheesesteak at Romano's (Joe's was strictly takeout), and it was there that I first saw the little red plastic baskets that all eat-in cheesesteaks must be served in. (The red baskets may not be a law, strictly speaking, but I wish I sold them because they're everywhere.) Of course, there was a counter server there who needed to be compensated.

So cheesesteaks taught me the art of tipping.

Soon I became acquainted with Leo's Steaks and fell in love all over again. First it was at the Sharon Hill trolley station, but moved to a building just down Chester Pike that you can't miss today due to the giant “Leo's Cheesesteaks and Hoagies” painted on the building. I believe there is more meat in a large Leo's cheesesteak than fed the entire Revolutionary Army during its winter at Valley Forge. I sometimes took meat out of a Leo's cheesesteak to make two more sandwiches for later in the week.

So cheesesteaks taught me how to stretch a budget.

The truth is that you can hardly go wrong just about anywhere you choose to go in Delaware County for a cheesesteak. Bad sandwich shops don't last very long. Finding a new one that does a top shelf sandwich is always a thrill. I have had fantastic cheesesteaks at The Little Hut in Ridley Park, The Pepper Mill in West Chester, Coco's Pizzas all over the county and a dozen other spots.

So cheesesteaks taught me the value of trying new things.

Today I live in Bethesda, MD, where you can still see the dreaded “steak and cheese” on some menus. This is the kiss of death to any hope of an authentic cheesesteak. Apparently, as soon as you get 15 miles out of the Philadelphia area, rolls turn to dried-out clumps of cardboard incapable of holding together for anything more substantial than a slice of baloney.

There is one spot in Bethesda called “Philadelphia Mike's” that offers what I would rate as a slightly below average cheesesteak by Delco standards. However, since it's far better than the local competition I go there every chance I get.

So cheesesteaks taught me that sometimes the oddest things can make you miss home.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Day of the Tumbling Nuns

The following story is true. At least as true as a 40-year-old memory can be.

In 1967 San Francisco had “The Summer of Love.”

A few weeks later Folcroft had something completely different from that.

I was attending St. George Catholic School in Glenolden and playing football for the Folcroft Boys Club 115-pound team, along with two or three of my 8th grade classmates.

On the Glenolden Boys Club 115-pound football team were about ten of my classmates.

You see where this is going, right?

The Folcroft-Glenolden game scheduled for November was a hot topic of conversation from the very first day of school in September.

We had never heard of “trash talk” back then, so I think we may have invented it in those weeks leading up to the game. (I checked and it's too late to claim royalties.)

Rumors of secret plays, last minute all-star ringers, shoes that make you faster, steel-reinforced helmets … lunch and recess were disinformation sessions designed to strike fear in the hearts the opposition.

As the day of the game drew closer and the tensions ran higher, the nuns at St. George (they preferred we call them “sisters”) decided to calm the mood by engaging us to explain the game to them. They took time out from class to ask us questions to which they actually didn't know the answers. This was highly unusual.

Four of the sisters showed a real interest in what they saw as “good, clean fun,” and promised to actually go to the game. Players on both teams were surprised to say the least, and (if truth be told) motivated to impress them on game day.

And they were nuns of their word, as they did show up.

It was a bright, crisp autumn day, and just before kickoff they found a spot at the end of the bleachers at Delcroft Field in Folcroft, and settled in for the fun.

The game started well for Glenolden with a long kickoff return and a few first downs, but we stopped them and took over on a punt. The sisters cheered between plays (so as not to disturb the players, they explained to their fellow spectators).

It was hard-fought as you'd expect a rivalry like this one to be, but over the course of the first half we'd scored twice for a 13-0 lead. The sisters moved from the Glenolden side to the Folcroft side at halftime to show impartiality (just like the President did at Army-Navy games).

About half way through the third quarter Glenolden was on a fairly long drive when one of their running backs crashed hard into our sideline as he went out of bounds.

Our coach picked up the Glenolden player and said one of two things (depending on who you believe). Either:

Good hit, young man!”


You dirty little %^&#*!!!”

And that was all it took.

Within three seconds the Glenolden coach was halfway across the field, which we all thought was very impressive for a man in his 40s. Why he was running across the field had not quite hit us yet. His coaching staff was right behind him and they all dove headlong into the Folcroft sideline as if it were a giant wave on the beaches of Wildwood.

What came next was right out of a John Wayne western. Thirty to forty adults swinging wildly at one another, knocking over benches, water buckets, collapsible chairs and yes … the four good sisters who had come to see their first football game. They tumbled head over heels over head over heels in a wild blur of white and black that looked a lot like a spinning yin-yang symbol.

The players stood in stunned silence watching the unbelievable happen, until one of my Glenolden opponents/classmates had the presence of mind to say “Can you believe this s***?”

While the melee was in full bloom, my dad, who in those days was known to throw a punch or two in a good cause, was stuck on the Delcroft School roof filming the game. Someone had had the presence of mind to kick the ladder out, stranding him there. My mom still denies that she did that, although her movements for that particular time period have never been confirmed.

As the fighting started to die down just a little I could see the nuns getting up and dusting themselves off, flustered but apparently unhurt.

Unaccustomed to finding themselves in the middle of a football riot, however, they failed to realize that the first priority was to get clear of the action. And so it was not a great surprise to those of us watching when they went down a second time.

This time they got mixed up in what, to this day, is the only six-mother fight I have ever seen.

Eventually the battles did end. I'm not sure whether it was because everyone just tired out or whether the referee's threat of an unprecedented “mutual double forfeit” did the trick.

We resumed play, but without the sisters. I caught a glimpse of them climbing into their baby blue Ford station wagon, drawing straws (I'm imagining this part) to find out who would tell Mother Superior the whole sordid tale.

On Monday morning, each teacher and sister in St. George School read a statement to her class:

A disgraceful event took place over the weekend. It would be best for all involved if not one word about it were ever spoken again.”

Of course we spoke of nothing else all day.

It turned out that 95 percent of the kids who had heard that short, sweet statement had no idea what it was about. So players from both teams had a field day exaggerating a story that needed no exaggeration.

But I'm afraid the good sisters had oversold it in their official statement. Most of my classmates were hoping the “disgraceful event” was more than a fight, no matter how epic it was to those of us who had witnessed it. Eighth graders were a tough audience, even back then.

Oh, we won the game by 20 points. (Sorry, Glenolden guys, I couldn't resist.)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Wonder of Wawa

Ever feel the need to baffle and confuse a friend who doesn't live in a state near you? (And who hasn't?) I recommend this sentence:

I'm off for a Wawa hoagie. Want one?”

If your friend doesn't happen to be a resident of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland or Virginia that statement will sound very odd.

Of course, after decades of confusion with terms like hero, sub, zep, torpedo, blimp, blimpie (and even The Dagwood, believe it or not) most of America has come to understand just what a hoagie is. That battle is won.

It's the Wawa part that will have your friend scratching his head. I know it sounds very normal to Delaware County folks, but to get an idea of how that sounds to non-Delco ears think of the first time you heard of the supermarket chain called Piggly Wiggly. You're smiling, right?

First reactions to the word Wawa usually are some meant-to-be-funny variation of baby talk for “water.”

Can I get a glass of wawa at the Wawa?”

More sophisticated comments center on a fairly well known George Harrison song or the actual Native American origin of the word (it was their term for the Canada Goose that was found in the Delaware Valley.)

The company actually started as a New Jersey iron foundry in 1803, but really took hold as a dairy farm in … that's right … Delaware County's Wawa, Pa. That was in 1902.

By the 1920s the demand for milk skyrocketed and so did Wawa home milk delivery, bolstered by the hard-to-resist slogan, “Buy Health by the Bottle.” (I might have emphasized having health delivered to your door, but what do I know about advertising in the 1920s?)

When the demand for home delivery dropped (I have no idea why, since that seems like a pretty cool system to me), the Wawa Food Market was born. The first store opened on April 16, 1964 in Folsom, at MacDade Blvd. And Swarthmore Ave.

I remember walking into a Wawa for the first time in the mid-70s and being very impressed. Try to imagine Apu's Quik-E-Mart from The Simpsons … then think the opposite. It was clean, had good quality lunch meats, rolls, (naturally) milk and was not extremely expensive for a “convenience” store.

When I realized it was a local enterprise I was all the more willing to go a little out of my way to get the better quality.

Soon I didn't have to.

Wawa was popping up everywhere. Today there are three stores within a two-mile radius of my old house. And they have come a long way from their milk-only roots.

Every time I come back to Delco for a visit, Wawa is doing something new. It started with them promoting the coffee (I think they were ahead of their time on that one). Then the hoagies. I was skeptical, but yes … they serve a Philadelphia-quality sandwich, which I believe is the highest hoagie standard.

And now it's gasoline. I haven't gotten Wawa gas yet, but I have no doubt it will be a huge success. I believe the day is coming when you may never need to go to any other store. I have seen the future and it consists of Wawa sofas, pets, cars, shoes, lingerie, computers, books, real estate, dentists, barbers and lawyers.

They will all be high quality. They will all be Delco-based. They will all make our non-local friends giggle a little.