MODERN MALE, SELLERSVILLE, PA, FOURTH OF JULY WEEKEND
(A recent Pearl S. Buck pilgrimage took a friend and me also to surrounding towns in very rural Pennsylvania. Sellersville was a curious combination of past and present. We had to turn to Wikipedia to learn some of its past.)
EMMA, OUR CHARMING GUIDE TO NEARBY PEARL BUCK ESTATE
Sellersville was founded in the early 18th century. It was centered on a major road known as Bethlehem Pike that connected Philadelphia to Bethlehem and the rest of what was then far Western Pennsylvania.
(Wikipedia is rather voluble about this tiny burg surrounded by farmland, hills and almost-mountains of the appropriate shade of violet.)
(We had begun our Pearl Buck-quest at a delightfully vibrant and lively farmers’ market in Perkasie. First peaches joined healthy cabbage, vibrant tomatoes and a rainbow, so to speak, of fresh ‘greens’, sold by the farmers themselves.)
The ‘shank of the day’ was spent exploring the Pearl Buck Estate on nearby Dublin Road.
WELCOME TO SELLERSVILLE
Our finale was a bountiful and gracious late lunch at Sellarsville’s remarkably sophisticated Washington Inn, in what most people otherwise might describe as ‘a backwater’. The name of that Inn was just part of the constant Fourth-of-July references that peppered our adventure, –none planned and all greatly appreciated–, on our Country’s sacred Birthday weekend.)
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DEAR AMERICA, FROM SELLERSVILLE
The town was very small and was called Sellers Tavern. Its most notable feature was a large inn. The present Washington House in Sellersville, however, was not Sellers Tavern.
HOW WASHINGTON INN LOOKED FROM MAIN STREET IN ITS PAST
The town grew slowly over the years until the Industrial Revolution. In the 1860s the North Pennsylvania Railroad was built, running parallel to Bethlehem Pike: this stimulated the growth of light textile industries and brought a wave of population growth.
PROUD PAST – SELLSERSVILLE’S MAIN STREET
The East Branch of the Perkiomen Creek runs through the town, connecting it to an adjacent town of Perkasie. This creek was dammed in the early 20th century, creating a small body of water known as Lake Lenape. (So, even in Pennsylvania, places are named after those who were destroyed — these first settlers — in order that ‘progress’ might take place…)
Along the length of the lake, a park was built on Perkasie and Sellersville lands. In the 1920s and 1930s this park housed a carousel, a roller coaster and several other amusements.
The railroad brought hundreds of people from Philadelphia in the summertime. It became a well known vacation spot for blue-collar city workers.
SELLERSVILLE THEATER, 1894
The town was also home to the Radium Company of America, which was the largest uranium milling facility in the world at the time. (There seems to be no notice of the human toll of uranium milling, or the “luminescence” to follow. At Wheaton Glass Museum in South Jersey, the human toll of luminous glassware is frankly declared.)
TURRETED TOWN OF SELLERSVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA
The United States Gauge Company originated in Sellersville in 1904. It became a prominent manufacturer of gauges for military use, many of which were coated with radium-based paint for nighttime luminesence. The company later became instrumental in the production of nuclear weapons, leaving behind a legacy of industrial and radioactive contamination that has been well-hidden by local, county, state, and federal government agencies for decades. (Ironically, my friend – who had planned this intricate excursion- and I were actively speaking with longing of the healthy air, the healthy lives these fortunate residents must have!)
CLEMATIS EXUBERANCE, WASHINGTON INN
Today the town is still relatively small, sandwiched between a ridge line and the larger town of Perkasie. The center of town still runs along Bethlehem Pike, now called Old Route 309.
THE WASHINGTON INN, 2017
The Washington House still stands and has recently been restored to become an upscale restaurant.
HOTEL AND RESTAURANT: WASHINGTON INN
Next door to the restaurant was a livery stable, which was converted into a theater (later a movie theater) in 1894. It has since been restored. It was reopened in 2001 as Sellersville Theater 1894 as a live music venue. (The Washington Inn and the Sellersville Theater cooperate in evenings of food and drama. My friend and I signed up for chances on “A Big Night in Sellersville — involving gastronomy and theatre and ‘a night in the Tower.’)
PARISIAN CHAIRS, WASHINGTON INN, SELLERSVILLE, PA
The creek is still dammed but only the carousel in Perkasie remains of the amusements.
The textile industry has long moved out of the area. Sellersville has become mainly a residential town for people working in the many urban centers that are only a short commute away.
The town is surrounded on three sides by open country and spread-out housing developments.
TURRET OF YESTERYEAR, SELLERSVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA
Is anyone else more impatient than usual for autumn crispness? Do others feel as though that “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” will never arrive? Might you be “making a list and checking it twice” of early proofs that there really is such a thing as fall?
I have begun my own Autumnal Chronicle. Despite assiduous attention, however, this tally is pretty meager. It is particularly challenging this year to differentiate between the season for which I am longing and the effects of drought. Sycamores are turning. But, these puzzle-trunked beauties require ‘wet feet’, almost as urgently as willows. No New Jersey trees are receiving sufficient moisture in dire 2016. Shocked by dessication, sycamores began dropping huge loud leaves in August.
I’m seeking first wild spurts of scarlet and crimson: Virginia creeper, otherwise known as woodbine; and its usual neighbor, poison ivy act as restaurant signs for migrating birds. These vines employ the most vivid hue the minute they’re ripe enough to nourish. In nearly mid-September, both species remain relentlessly forest green.
My fall list begins with the very loud, entirely too audible, crunching of crisp leaves under my car wheels along Fackler Road in Lawrenceville.
I was forced to acknowledge autumn as I passed the Lawrenceville Community Garden. Every towering sunflower is bent and spent, like people who neglect osteoporosis.
Driving past Loews to reach Trader Joe’s, there was the first inescapable bank of mums.
As I carried TJ purchases back to my car, however, I thrilled to an endless river of dark birds, coursing and coursing as though they fleeing an impending storm.
I realize that none of these examples contains the ecstatic outpouring I would expect from myself as the season turns. And that NJWILDBEAUTY readers have come to expect from me.
This year, the coming season is marred by the very serious illness of my 20[year-old great nephew, James Weitzel. His heroism is striking. But this shining young man; this consummate, initially intuitive musician (percussion especially); this person who’s touched the heart of everyone with whom he interacts in Springfield, Illinois, has been abruptly stricken in his prime. Now James has a bald head, and not because it’s chic. Now James has to relearn the very simple process of walking. So my own heart and feet are not skipping.
Autumn meant new beginnings, for this foolish one who couldn’t wait for school. I lived for first lavender smoke rising from chimneys, and especially from towering bonfires of leaves we’d raked all day.. And harvests were the heart of the matter.
Today, I’ve tried to fill a treasure chest of autumn memories. Maybe it will lift NJWILDBEAUTY spirits, as well as my own. Maybe you’ll even comment on favorite aspects of this laggard season for you.
Parties meant bobbing for apples and sipping new cider. Popcorn turning white and sometimes a little black in the long-handled black corn popper over coals in our family room fireplace. New loves began at pep rallies and the subsequent Homecoming Ball. Happiness swirled in on every fresh breeze.
Maybe, seeing these NJ fall views, you’ll get out on (preserved, of course) trails, and create new memories.
Maybe it’s color for which I am longing.
Or is it that September and October represent constellations of change?
As New Jersey skies increasingly disappoint me, –resembling the inside of a vacuum cleaner bag–, my heart and memory leap back to the Berkshires and the Green Mountains. OK, I’m this big New Jersey booster, but I’ve had it with gloom.
This is how Vermont skies looked, immediately on the heels of a Nor’easter. Deb and I headed over to Bennington from the Cozy Corner Motel, along Route 7. The Apple Barn is a key ritual of my trips to this region — for a cozy family place, with unbelievable vistas, and the best aged Vermont cheddar of my life. Ditto mountain apples. Baked goods aren’t bad, and the maple syrup is worth of the journey.
However, I’m giving you a feast for the eyes:
To the left, at another picnic table, a family was having a lovely outdoor feast, when the rain had hardly dried upon our windshield.
One time, when I was alone at Cozy Corner and at a corner cafe in Bennington, I was the only person in there who had not seen the moose.
They do to moose what Hopewell just did to oxen:
A few moments later, at a mansion near the Bennington Monument, we came upon this artistry.
Even the gloomy isn’t gloomy in this neck of the woods.
Can you see why I feel, it’s always beautiful in the Berkshires and Bennington?
I’ve always loved autumn, for its hues and fragrances. And the light — the only time New Jersey light approaches that which bathed me in my year (and other visits) in Provence, is when September unfurls.
However, this year, I’m not ready for it.
What with nights in the 60’s most of the summer, and a very challenging job at D&R Greenway Land Trust, with few vacation days, I am one of those inclined to blurt, “WHAT summer?”
So I wasn’t thrilled to waken to 40-some degrees on my front-door (Lawrenceville, NJ) thermometer this Sunday.
NJWILDBEAUTY readers know I’m always on nature quests, early and late, any season – you NAME it –, even in the middle of the week – scheduling every scarce day off for a jaunt to NJ’s WILD BEAUTY.
Even today, I’ve marinated ruby-rich tomatoes from Salem and Cumberland (assorted) farmstands. I’ve cooked my very first fresh sage-green limas from the pod, from Lillian’s fruits and vegetables next to the Mauricetown Diner on Buckshutem Road south of Millville. I’ve cut hand-sized peppers of red, green and variegated, into bite sizes for friends who are coming shortly for the last swim of the season. First we eat, then we swim, not like childhood. O, yes, and there’s merry berry pie from the hillside farm market in Lamberville (across the road from Rago and all that art…)
But out there, on the trails, after our swim this eveing, autumn awaits us. It’s not only a number on a plexiglas thermometer.
It’s assorted swirls of scarlet and crimson, twining up tree trunks near the red barn of the Pole Farm — announcing that autumn’s bounty is ready for the birds, in the form of woodbine and, yes, poison ivy berries. Poison ivy in particular really nourishes migrants on their interminable (often night-time) flights to other continents.
It’s buzzing and whirring and tingling of insects, getting their last songs in before frost.
It’s spiciness and fruitiness all along that entry trail. Spiciness as though it were Thanksgiving or Christmas, in the kitchen, nutmeg, and clove and other more exotic almost puncturing fragrances. Fruitiness among the varied vines so intense that it can knock me off my stride, and even feel intoxicating.
It’s meadows awash in brassy tones of tick-seed sunflower, leftover brown-eyed Susans, and first goldenrod, heavy on its stems.
Autumn, the poets insist, is that season “of mists and mellow fruitfulness” The latter is present along Pole Farm’s sunny trails. The mists I’ve, so far, only encountered once. I wonder what the function of mist is, to Mother Nature. For me, it’s enclosure, it’s wrapping, it’s transformation, and it hides any traces of hideous technology, such as some brutes are now attaching to poles along Cold Soil Road. Through the mists, I can see and sometimes hear the dark sheep. I do not see or hear the cattle lowing, but know they are near, off to the right, as I drive through morning fog, ground fog, to save New Jersey Land at D&R Greenway.
Autumn is the end of the plants in my tiny new garden. I’m down to three nasturtiums and four white petunias and one geranium — blooms, not plants. The basil has come and nearly gone, although its final leaves adorn those Salem and Cumberland Tomatoes from the stand where you put your money in a locked tin container and drive away without having spoken to anyone.
Autumn used to be school, which I loved, oddly enough.
Frankly, I don’t know what autumn is any more.
I think the trails, in Island Beach on Tuesday, and at Pole Farm any day, hold my answers.
I’ll keep you posted.
Smiles, and SAVE THIS PLANET! in all seasons