Memorial Day Snaps: A Truck and a Quilt

Catchy caption needed. Your suggestions please!

Just as every issue of The New Yorker features a cartoon in need of a caption, today’s post offers a photo calling for your input. There’s one below to get your wheels turning, but I think there are other possibilities.

Even eighteen wheelers have patriotic ties.
Even eighteen wheelers have patriotic ties.


The back story: This photo was taken in 2005 when Cliff was in the Chicago area doing his art/music shows. Most likely our son Joel, who was in graduate school in the city at the time, was driving as Cliff snapped the picture of this truck on the Interstate.

*  *  *

Carl Stoneseifer was one of my dad’s best employees at Longenecker Farm Supply in Rheems, PA. He was both personable and competent, as my dad would say, a “crack” mechanic. I remember how sad Daddy felt when Carl moved on.

His wife Helen was a talented quilter. On May 20, 1976 Helen’s picture and write-up appeared in our hometown newspaper, The Elizabethtown Chronicle. The quilt, in honor of the American bicentennial, was a cooperative effort by her sister, her daughter-in-law, and another friend. However, the designs featuring various patriotic symbols were her own.

1976_0520_The Chronicle_Elizabethtown_Bicentennial Quilt

Memorial Day is a time to remember all those who sacrificed for our country. This weekend also heralds the first official holiday weekend of summer.

How do you observe it?

Can you provide a caption for the photo? I’m excited to see your suggestions!

Coming next: Purple Passages: Secrets of the Grimké House, Charleston


Root’s Country Market & Auction: Your Personal Tour

Are you hankering for chocolate-covered bacon, do you want to buy a rooster for your flock? A hat for the next Downton Abbey gala? Welcome to Root’s Country Market and Auction, a fixture from my childhood my sisters, husband, and I re-visit near Manheim, Pennsylvania.


Root’s, with over 200 stand-holders, is the oldest single family-run country market in Lancaster County. Beginning as a poultry auction in 1925, Root’s “has evolved over the years to become a piece of Lancaster County heritage.” Come walk with me along the aisles of stands, some housed in long sheds, others outdoors under awnings.

Did I say you can get all gussied up for next Downton Abbey series? At our first stop, we try on funny Brit hats rivaling those of Princesses Beatrix and Eugenie we remember gasping over at the William and Kate’s royal wedding.

purple hat

From fancy we meet plain at many of the produce stands either selling or buying vine-ripe tomatoes.



Here is a trusting book-selling, my new online friend, Kathy Heistand Brainerd, a distant cousin, whose mother Esther Longenecker is the author of Pitchforks and Pitchpipes, a pictorial and narrative portrait of one branch of the Lancaster County Longeneckers.


Yes, there are household items and books galore, but many stands cater to shoppers wanting fresh meats, produce, deli and bakery items–and flowers. This farmer boasts fresh blooms from his Manheim farm.


I promised you chocolate-covered bacon. Here is a look at a taste-tester. Yes, I had a bite too!


Then on to pickles, funnel cakes, and shoofly pies with wet bottoms satisfying the sweet and sour tastes:


Root’s is a market, and yes, we buy from not just photograph the vendors, but the market is also an auction house. Walking from one of the parking lots, we spy a warning sign urging bidders to uphold the integrity of the auction:


Wanna bid on a coop of roosters?

Our tour ends with Rosa, who graciously invites me to sample and buy one of her multi-colored angel-food cakes, pies, or whoopie pies at Miriams’s Pies. All home-made, of course. That’s the only way in Pennsylvania Dutch land. When I asked her permission to photograph and promote her wares, she admits with shy pride, “One of our customers put us on Facebook!”


I wonder . . . is there a piece of your past you want to re-visit? We are dying to know the “what – where – who” of your story. As always, you are invited to be part of our conversation.

Just for Fun: Signs around E-town



In June, my sister Jan and I visited our Longenecker kin in Elizabethtown and the village of Rheems close by. One morning we took a stroll around the square in E-Town and found that though the town clock was still planted in place, the merchants we knew had disappeared. Dorsheimer’s News, Bishop’s Photography, Moose’s Five & Ten, The David Martin Store, and Zarfoss Hardware had changed into something else entirely: a bakery, a coffee shop, a train specialty store, and further down Market Street, an antique shop about to open.

These signs caught our eyes at the opening-soon antique shop:

Not-so-discreet advice: Notation reads July 14, 1941 Reno - Las Vegas
Tactful notice: Notation reads July 14, 1941 Reno Hotel Association, Las Vegas


Pay up! Notation reads: Virginia Beach, VA  1943
Pay up! Notation reads: Virginia Beach, VA 1943

Next we visited The Shoppes on Market, brim full of signs and mottoes for sale:


Then we admired the always festive store front of Flowers in the Kitchen Cafe all gussied up for the Fourth of July celebration:

Flowers in the Kitchen Cafe with patio dining. Used to be
Flowers in the Kitchen Cafe with patio dining. Used to be

Greek Gus @ Gus’ Keystone Restaurant tweaks his menu to suit Pennsylvania Dutch palates. Dried beef gravy on mashed potatoes, Wenger’s ham loaf, pork and sauerkraut any day, and pig stomach just on Wednesdays. As I snap this photo, one obliging soul obligingly rubs the belly of the greeter.


Less than a mile from Bossler’s Mennonite Church, the truck on the Kevin Charles farm delivers fresh bounty from the field. We buy 2 boxes of strawberries, a pint box of sugar peas, and 5-6 stalks of rhubarb. (See recipe for rhubarb sauce below.)


Miniature tractors for sale at Darrenkamp’s Grocery Market near Mt. Joy, PA


* Mom’s Rhubarb Sauce Recipe

Soak 5-6 stalks of fresh rhubarb

in water to “cut the bitterness,” Mom says.

Drain off the water.

Add fresh water.

Cut up stalks into 1/2 inch chunks and bring to a boil.

Add sugar to taste   “. . . until it’s sweet enough”

and 2 tablespoons of tapioca  “. . . just what you think,” Mom says.

Mixture will thicken as it cools.

  *  *  *

Have you returned to your home town recently and found it changed?

How have these changes affected your memory, your emotions?


♥ Coming next: Happy Birthday to my One and Onlies

Two Vignettes: Mom’s Green Stamps & E-town’s Rexall Drug Store

All images: Google Images

“Mare – yun,” my mother calls (yells, actually), “It’s time to lick the green stamps again. The books are on top of the kitchen table.” Mom likes to interrupt my reading. To me time with my books is serious business but to her it’s play. Not working. Wasting time with books unless it’s homework, she thinks.

As I moisten the stamps with my tongue, the glue tastes gooey and sweet. Mom usually receives one Green Stamp in exchange for every dime spent at check-out. I fill the two or three green books until they are fat, each stuffed with 24 pages of unevenly gummed and incompletely perforated paper rectangles. Books of these items can be redeemed for gifts. Mother gets a catalog from the stamp company’s showroom, then matches the item she wants against its price in stamps, paying for it with stamps rather than with cash. She probably has something picked out already. I notice the cover on the ironing board has lots of scorch marks and is wearing thin, so I guess she’ll get an ironing-board cover with one of the books.

Illustrations: Google Images
Illustrations: Google Images

The gifts are usually household items like a set of mixing bowls, an ironing-board cover or something big, as writer Phyllis Tickle describes when she traded her green stamps for her daughter Nora’s baby stroller:

Surprisingly cheap is usually just cheap in premium exchanges, I have found. It certainly was in this case. The thing was made of aluminum so light and thin that the frame itself could not have weighed in at a full pound. The whole stroller did not weigh in at two. The wheels were scarcely a half-inch wide and definitely not a quarter-inch thick.


The sides and back of the contraption were of a plasticized, loosely woven plaid fabric neither Sam [husband] nor I could identify. The result was a kind of sling-on-wheels that had grown less and less appealing to my maternal instincts as I had become more and more of a mother and less and less of a mother-to-be. However, we did have a stroller. Hmmmm . . . .


Later, she concedes though “those were the good old days when strollers were strollers and not miniature, padded tanks.” (294).

A shoppers’ rewards program for loyal customers, the Sperry and Hutchinson Company dates as far back as 1896. During the 1960s, the  company issued three times as many green stamps as the U.S. Postal Service. After a series of recessions and the decreasing value of the stamps most house-wives didn’t think saving stamps was worth the trouble. However, green stamps still persist in popular culture. In A Hard Day’s Night (1964), starring the Beatles, John Lennon mentions Green Stamps when joking to Paul McCartney that he’ll get the best lawyer they can buy. In the hit “Speedy Gonzales” (1962) by Pat Boone, Mel Blanc sings the final words of the song in Speedy Gonzales’ voice, “Hey Rosita, come quick, down at the cantina they’re giving green stamps with tequila!”

*  *  *

Mother doesn’t drive to the Green Stamp showroom on her own to redeem her stamps because she doesn’t have a license.  But there’s a Lancaster – Elizabethtown bus that goes right by our house along Old Route 230. She knows when to tell me to pull on the cord over-head that buzzes to tell the driver where to stop in town. We’ll go to the W. T. Grant store because it has most of what she needs. Our next stop is  the Gladdell Shop with pretty dresses. In the window I see a sleek, lavender dress made of chiffon fabric on the mannikin. It’s pleated at the waist and has a belt with a rhinestone-studded buckle. I imagine jut how slithery and cool it would feel gliding over my skin. I would be instantly chic and stylish, not plain. But Mother is completely blind to the fancy frocks and heads for the lingerie department. A night-gown? Some hosiery? (She always orders a boring shade called “gun-metal.”) No, she has picked out a smocked, tricot bed jacket in blue with a bow to wear in the hospital over her gown when Mark is born and visitors appear.

The shopping trip gets even sweeter near the end. Mom will check her watch, so that we will have just enough time to go to the Rex-All Drug Store before the bus picks us up heading back east. Dr. Garber usually dispenses pills in little white envelopes from his office, so we are not interested in the pharmacy at the drug store.

ice cream soda

Instead we head straight to the soda fountain which is as close to theatre as I’m going to get. Stepping inside the chrome rails that mark the fountain area off from the rest of the store, we sit on the red leatherette cushioned stools that spin. Fluorescent tubes of light above the fountain equipment advertise bubbly ice cream sodas with a straw. Above it like rays from the aurora borealis but stretched around the perimeter of the fountain area is a glow of bluish-purple lights illuminating the walls. Then I look up and see stars sparkling from the ceiling. I’m in heaven. Until the bus comes all too soon.

What story can you tell about green stamps or soda fountains?

Something you can add about a different memory from the 1950s or 60s? 

Disappearing Images: 7 Items Missing in Mom’s Bedroom

Mother Longenecker still lives in the same house she and Daddy bought soon after they got married in 1940. Their bedroom looked the same for decades, but it’s changed over the years. Here’s what is missing . . . and what I remember from so long ago.

1. The Art Deco inlaid-wood vanity where Mother sits on a bench to comb her long, glossy black hair before twisting it into a bun topped with a Mennonite covering.

Courtesy Google Images
Courtesy Google Images

2. A matching wardrobe smelling of moth balls and a copy of Sane Sex Life, with a dust cover of scarlet red and white. Black and white pen illustrations included. Eyes wide in wonder.

3. The chenille bedspread. I love the fluffy texture and the furry feeling under the pillows when I smooth the spread as I make my parents’ bed.

ChenilleBedspread 4. A skinny box with a silky slip inside wrapped in white tissue, brought home from a shopping trip to Hagar’s, Garvins, or Watt & Shand in Lancaster. We sometimes call them petticoats.

5. Evening in Paris cologne. Did Mom buy it for herself or was it a birthday gift from Daddy?


6. A jar of Noxzema. Sticking a finger deep in and gouging out a spoon of cleansing cream that feels cold on my skin even in the summertime. Can you smell the camphor and menthol just now? Maybe a touch of eucalyptus?

7. Daddy. He died in 1985.


Postcript: What is still there? Hanging on the wall above a highboy, a framed pastel-tinted print by Wallace Nutting. The title on the left reads “Wig Wag Churning” (girl seated churning butter). A phrase on the right: “Wallace Nutting.” As a youngster, I kept looking for a boy named Wallace cracking nuts. Much later I figure out Mr. Nutting must be the artist.


What images or scents do you associate with your mother?

Another loved one?

Story of Hope: A Killer’s Wife Speaks

When I bring 5-pound bags of Wenger’s famous ham-loaf frozen from Pennsylvania to Florida, the plastic-coated tubs of meat are wrapped in newspaper and then shrink-wrapped in plastic. The wrapping on one of the packages (we need two to feed the clan now!) revealed the riveting story of Marie Monville, the widow of Amish school house shooter Charlie Roberts.


What Happened

In a story that brought international attention to Lancaster County, Charles Roberts methodically shot ten Amish girls inside a one-room school-house, killing five, injuring five others, and then turning the gun on himself. Roberts’ wife Marie learned of the impending massacre through a letter Charles left for her directing her to his final phone call, which revealed the unresolved feelings he harbored after the deaths of two of his daughters, one a premature birth and the other an ectopic pregnancy. Though the couple went on to have three healthy children, the loss of Elise and Isabella, he says in the letter, “changed my life forever. I am filled with so much hate, hate toward myself, hate toward God, and unimaginable emptiness.”

Immediately After

Because he hid his clinical depression so well, Marie had no signs her husband was so deeply disturbed and headed for a psychotic break-down. Even the police queried, “Were there any signs of violence before the shooting?”  She also feared what the public may be thinking: Are you a liar, covering up a failure to act? Are you an idiot, blind to the obvious? But Marie had been blind-sided.

Her own family and her husband’s family were “stalwart,” Marie writes. “A beloved aunt and uncle gave her family a place to hide out from the media in their own home in Lititz, Pennsylvania, comforting and feeding them in their darkest hours.

Forgiveness from the Amish Community

1. Just hours after the horrible shooting, Marie’s father greeted a group of Amish men who knocked on the door. She writes: 

An Amish man with a long gray beard stepped toward my father and opened his arms wide. My father fell into those arms, his shoulders heaving, held and comforted by a friend. Grief met grief.

2. Shielding the family from the media, “the families of the slain girls went to the cemetery for Roberts’ burial. They also went to a meeting at the Bart Fire Hall for families and first responders, sharing their feelings” and saying they were praying for Marie and her children.

Her Book

Marie Roberts Monville intersperses her account of the tragedy with the story of her own life in rural Lancaster County and tells as a teen-ager meeting Charlie Roberts, the grandson of a church friend, at a dinner one day. After marriage, they had three children, aged 7, 5, and 18 months old at the time of the tragedy which occurred over seven years ago at Nickel Mines.


One Light,” written from a Christian perspective, shows how the author’s faith in God has sustained her through unimaginable grief and brought healing. Now re-married, she is a stay-at-home Mom and blogger on whisperandwonder with the subtitle “quiet musings from my heart.” Marie wrote the book to tell her true story of how horror and tragedy met love and forgiveness. She also seeks to connect with readers who are in the midst of suffering by posing the question:

What is your story? Mistreatment, injustice, torment, suffering, grief or even the worst that humanity can do to one another? Receive the gift of love. And when again the lights go out, you too will see that one light still shines.

Though her experience is similar in some ways to that of Marina Oswald, wife of President Kennedy’s assassin, Marie Roberts Monville has refused to become a pariah, but now lives life to the fullest, sharing light and hope.

Question Mark w border1_1x1_300

Do you know someone who has survive trauma and grief?

Do you have a story of survival of your own to tell?

Mom and Gus: PA Dutch Fare

My mom’s sacred space is her kitchen where she offers the sacrifice of her heart and hands to those in need and indeed her family. On my last trip to Pennsylvania, Mother made chicken corn soup from a recipe in her head. When I ask her how much of this or that, her quick reply is always, “Just how you think.” I don’t know what to think, so I always try to extract some measurements out of her. Her current “guess” for our favorite harvest soup:

Mother Longenecker’s Chicken Corn Soup

Cook 5-6 pieces of chicken, breasts or thighs. Set aside.

In broth from cooked chicken, add 1 ½ – 2 pints of corn, fresh or frozen.

Dice 4 hard-boiled eggs.

Now, add chicken breasts, chopped up

Season with salt & pepper to taste

Mom's Chicken Corn Soup without Rivels
Mom’s Chicken Corn Soup without Rivels

Rivels: dough-y lumps can be added to soup for more texture

1 beaten egg

Add enough flour to make a moist doughiness of the mixture.

Break into small dumpling-like pieces and add to soup.

 *  *  *  *  *
About 2 miles east of Mom’s house near Mt. Joy is Gus’s Restaurant. Gus is Italian, but his eatery is in Lancaster County, so aside from spaghetti, fish dishes, and fancy desserts on the menu, he offers ham loaf and pork and sauerkraut dinners with mashed potatoes for hearty Pennsylvania Dutch appetites.
A heavy meal, this dinner will give us enough fuel to make it to the Philadelphia Airport and then home to Jacksonville. Gus’s food is tasty, but Gus’s is a public place without a hoard of cooking aromas and shared memories from Mom’s Kitchen, her sacred space. In fact, it’s not a fair competition at all.
There’s no contest!
What favorite recipes do you savor during the fall season?
What are your memories of special dishes around the table with friends or family?
Coming next: Old Friends, New Friend: Homecoming @ EMU
Your thoughts welcome! I will always reply.

Up and Down Anchor Road: Secrets

Home for me is bracketed by the two houses we ping-pong between: our parents house and Grandma’s house on Anchor Road. Her house is at the bottom of the hill and ours at the top.

1989RuthieHouse          HouseMom

Both houses are along side Anchor Road, between Elizabethtown to the west and Rheems to the east—centered between Harrisburg, the capital, and Lancaster, the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. Not long ago the road didn’t have the status of a real name. It was just Rural Delivery # 1 on the mailman’s morning route.

Why the name Anchor Road, so far inland and nowhere near water, unless you count the Susquehanna River? Years ago, Anchor Inn sat down the street, a welcoming grey hostel for guests with a barn and cornfield.


In years to come, it would sprout legs and walk backward about 200 feet propelled by huge trucks, announcing its wish for privacy as a single family home.

At the edge of the nearby village of Rheems, a bridge of concrete separates the sprawl of Heisey’s Limestone quarry on either side.  On the bridge, there is a keystone-shaped metal insignia and below it inscribed the name of Rheems.


Here the road makes a hard right under the railroad overpass and on around the corner to Grandma’s house, a turn-of-the-century Victorian homestead where the extension of our family, Grandma Fannie, my Dad’s mother, and Aunt Ruthie live. On these acres is a stately house with a slate roof, sloping lawn with oaks and a birch tree for climbing, two gardens—one with strawberries and vegetables, and the other for Silver Queen sweet corn. Between the house and the railroad tracks is a woods bordered by a hill my sisters and I climb up to for raspberries in summer and sled down on our Flexible Flyers in the winter. We come here to Grandma’s when my mom says it’s rime to “sca-doo!” Sometimes my dad brings home a big kettle of pot pie from his mom’s stove for our supper.

Halfway up the hill from Grandma’s is the Hoffer’s. The place seems like a dairy farm, but I think they have only two cows, one Guernsey and one Holstein, whose milk and cream they share with us. Granny Hoffer is plainer than we are: large prayer covering with silky ribbons tied under her chin but, oddly, tiny gold-loop earrings on each lobe.


Granny pours the just-drawn milk and fills my bluish jar to the very top. Cream always dribbles out because Granny doesn’t want to give us one fraction of an ounce less than two full quarts; she calls it gospel measure. I see their dog Queenie and a lazy cat Minnie. Mom says they don’t need any more animals around the place because Granny’s son Amos and daughter-in-law Bertha fight like cats and dogs. What secrets lurk inside these walls?

Secrets revealed next time:

1. How do Lancaster County women rein in their girth in the 1950s?

2. Why do the Rentzels have a red light glowing on the porch?

3. Why did Daddy have to pull a Rheems resident from the wreckage of his car?