Saturday, January 11, 2020

In Your Back Yard January 2020- ~ Haserot Angel

 Now that the holidays are officially over and the kids are back in school, a sort of blah often finds its way into daily life. Maybe it was a trip to the mailbox for the new credit card statement that contains all the impulse holiday shopping purchases or maybe it is just the realization that Easter Break is over 3 months away. The shorter days and the weird northwestern Pennsylvania winter weather we are having will likely contribute to the dull drum which seems to be contagious. It is definitely a great time for a road trip to get out of the funk and do something unusual and fun. Like always, grab a camera and some snacks, fill the gas tank and prepare for a free adventure.
Cleveland Ohio is just a hop skip and a jump from Meadville and is home to Lakeview Cemetery (12316 Euclid Ave Cleveland, Ohio 44106). The cemetery hosts an amazing amount of interesting headstones including a life size man sitting playing guitar at the side of the lake, a five foot tall juke box and too many others to mention. It is a photographers dream location.
Many notable people also have made Lakeview Cemetery their final resting place such as John D Rockefeller, the Standard Oil Tycoon and Elliot Ness, who was given credit for helping take down the infamous mob boss Al Capone in Chicago.

President James A Garfield, one of Cleveland’s favorite sons, is memorialized in a 180 foot tall monument which is open to the public. Inside this impressive building is a statue of the former President in a room filled with stained glass and golden mosaics.James Garfield served as a major general in the Union Army when he was elected to represent Ohio in the House of Representatives. He holds the distinction of being the only sitting House member to be elected to the Oval Office. As the 20th President of the United States, he was shot by an assassin’s bullet and lay mortally wounded in the White House for 3 months as the doctors struggled to find the bullet lodged in his back.Alexander Graham Bell was even called in with his newly invented metal detector to help but to no avail and he died from infection and internal bleeding. His short 6 1/2 month term made him the second shortest presidential term in US history. His life and his presidency is definitely worth a Google search a bit of reading. Downstairs is the former President’s casket draped in a US flag beside his wife Lucretia also in this room are two urns which contain the remains of his daughter and her husband. It is a solemn room and unique for the fact that it is the only presidential casket on full display to the general public.

 If famous people and a presidential memorial aren’t enough to entice you to visit, let me tell you about possibly one of the most interesting head stones which belongs to canning baron Francis Haserot and his family. The statue of an angel seated on a marble headstone is titled “The Angel of Death Victorious”. The bronze statue is often called the “Haserot Angel" or due to the name the “Angel of Death”. The life sized statue is impressive with wings spread wide holding an extinguished torch upside down to represent life extinguished and the bronze has the green patina of age. One of the most interesting aspects is the black stains under the angel’s eyes which make it appear to be crying, thus giving the piece its other name, the “Weeping Angel”.


The Weeping Angel is located off the roadway a little bit in Section 9 Lot 14. Maps are available at the main office of the cemetery and also at the Garfield Memorial. The closest marked grave on the map is the Hanna Mausoleum, but even that took a bit to find. My biggest tip is this, if you drive around the little lake, then start up the hill to Section 9, it will be on your right and if you make it as far as the dam then you have gone too far. It was a very cool thing to see and well worth the time it took to find it.

As you drive and explore the grounds, remember that not all who wander are lost.

Monday, December 9, 2019

In Your Backyard December 2019 ~ A Christmas Story

With the Holiday Season fast approaching it is the time for all those traditions and for families to gather together. Many will be watching the favorite holiday classics of the Grinch who Stole Christmas and Rudolph the Red nose Reindeer. Possibly even more will be watching two holiday staples It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story. Did you know that both of this holiday favorites have ties very close to Crawford County? So sit down with your family and watch the films then be inspired to get your egg nog ready, pack some cookies and head out for a little behind the scenes movie magic.
First we will head to our west into the city of Cleveland to the original house that was used in the filming of A Christmas Story. We all can sympathize with Ralphie and his plight
of the pink bunny pajamas and the quest for the one perfect Christmas present. Although I never asked for a Red Ryder BB gun, there were other things on my list that I am sure Santa probably thought twice about. The home has been completely restored to original movie splendor by a super fan and offering tours to the public. Located at 3159 West 11th St., Cleveland, Oh. The information on hours and fees can be found at their webpage www.achristmasstoryhouse.com. This time of year the fans of the film come out in full force for a tour of the Parker family home so be sure to come early and then plan a route home that will take you on some scenic Ohio byways that go past some of the covered bridges and homes decorated with holiday lights.
For a little extra addition to your Ohio trip you can google “Christmas themed stores” and you will find gift stores and Christmas tree farms throughout the small towns on the eastern side of the state. Maybe you will find some little thing for that hard to buy for person on your list, or maybe you will just have fun strolling through the small towns which really do some wonderful holiday displays.
Next, we will head to our east into Indiana County, birthplace of Jimmy Stewart who was nominated for an Oscar in his role of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. There is a Jimmy Stewart museum, a statue in his honor and many themed movie events throughout the holiday season. The museum does have an entry fee but the gift shop is free of charge to enter. The facility offers extended hours during the season so it is a great time to take a trip over. Indiana Pa is also nicknamed the “Christmas Tree Capital of the World” with many local tree farms that you can go and choose your own tree and also cut it down. It is a wonderful place to get your inner Santa on and do some inspired holiday shopping and sightseeing. More information on the museum and the events of this neighboring county can be found at their webpage www.visitindianacountypa.org. While you are racing around this winter make sure that you take a minute to remember the reason for the season and listen for the sounds of bells. As the iconic line from the movie goes “Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings”. As I write my article this month I have to chuckle a bit as Ross the cat sprints by sporting his bell collar and jingling up a storm.
Often times when watching the classic holiday movies you see things like roasted chestnuts, and homemade fudge. I can tell you that my daughter was inspired by this once and decided to make homemade fudge and we actually ended up throwing that pan away. I have since found that there are recipes on the internet for microwave fudge, hard tack candy, and even roasted chestnuts. So don’t let those holiday goodies daunt you- you can still enjoy them with your family even with just a bit effort. Leave the often stressful times behind as you remember one other famous quote from the film, “No man is a failure who has friends”. So fill your car on your journey this year with family and friends and wander (not lost) together over the fields and through the snow.As Seen in Meadville Tribune

Monday, November 4, 2019

In Your Backyard November 2019 ~ World's Largest Rubber Stamp

“World’s Largest Anything” is not what you would expect to find close to Meadville, and yet there is a world record object not all that far away. So before the snow begins to make travel across interstate 90 a nightmare, why not head out for a cool day trip that will be a wonder for even the most grumpy of your travel mates. 
Located in Willard Park in downtown Cleveland is the World’s Largest Rubber Stamp that has the word FREE etched on it. Originally commissioned for Standard Ohio of Ohio in 1985, it was to be placed in front of their building directly across from the Soldiers and Sailers Monument as a tribute to the soldiers of the Civil War and the end to slavery. Before the work on this monumental structure could be completed however British Petroleum took over Standard Oil of Ohio and the new company refused to allow the stamp. Apparently the word “FREE” now took on a different connotation in regards to the lack of corporate freedom for the prior Standard Oil of Ohio. Even though that was not the reason for the stamp, it was banned from the British Petroleum property and left to sit in a warehouse. 
In 1991 the giant stamp was released to the public and found a new home in Willard Park and is still very near the Soldiers and Sailors Monument of Cleveland which is well worth the few blocks walk. 
The parking in Cleveland is on street parallel metered parking and I can tell you from experience that driving around looking for an open spot is nerve wracking. So take my advice and just head straight to the Willard Parking Garage and pay the $2.50 for the hour. You will possibly spend more than that in fuel driving around aimlessly looking for a space especially during the day on a weekday. 
I have to warn you though about the garage, it is situated just a bit different from the other parking structures I have dealt with. You enter at street level, and will be amazed at just how many cars are actually in there. You can follow the signs for more parking and keep looking for a spot until you seriously have no clue where you actually are. Once you leave the vehicle is when it gets really interesting. First TAKE YOUR TICKET WITH YOU or you will be heading back to get it to pay. Some garages are like this and some are not, but most of the time if you need to pay before you go back to your car there are a gazillion signs telling you that. Now in all honesty, there may have been signs but I was too focused on trying to figure out which way to turn at each intersection to find more parking. Here is where my story takes a significant “what the heck” turn. Having left the vehicle I went to the stairwell and like most garages headed down the stairs. Getting to the bottom I find there was no way out. In all of my twists and turns and concentrating on find a spot I did not dawn on me that I was actually going below street level. For at least 10 mins I wandered around (although I was not exactly lost) until I found the elevator that was working on the West side of the structure. It was one of those “head smacking” moments, but the 49 foot tall stamp and the Soldiers and Sailors was worth all the aggravation. 
There is also a large statue of Abraham Lincoln and the words to the Gettysburg Address are inscribed below, so it maybe a good little history lesson for the kiddos. I tell all the parents this ahead of time so they can read up on some Civil War Trivia and astound the kids with their intellect and knowledge, or at least feel like they did. 
There is much to do and see in Downtown Cleveland if you are making the journey over so plan a day of it. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, and the Museum of Natural History are just a few of the attractions. Why not take a little time to see what the city has to offer while you are there. 
Once your trip is done, it is time to find your car so just keep repeating, “Not all who wander are lost, not all who wander are lost”

Monday, October 14, 2019

In Your Backyard October 2019 ~ Kinzua Sky Walk and Leaf Ride

As the air begins to turn crisp in the evenings and the leaves start to take on their fall colors, it is a great time to take a leaf ride and view the patchwork quilt of colors in the Allegheny Mountains. I grew up in Warren County Pennsylvania and every year during the fall I try to make the journey back to visit and see the leaves. I particularly love to go to the Allegheny National Forest area and the Kinzua Dam which has the combination of water, leaves, scenic overlooks and peaceful byways for a wonderful outing that is less than two hours away. 
Two of the best places to view the leaves is the Rimrock and Jake’s Rock areas in the park itself. The higher elevation of the area means the leaves change earlier than they do here, and they often are in full color early October. For maps of some of the best driving trails through the area for the better views and more information you can visit the National Forest webpage at www.visitanf.com. 
One of the coolest places to visit in the National Forest is the former Kinzua Viaduct which is now the Kinzua Sky Walk. There is a great visitor center there with lots of information on the history of the original viaduct. It is an impressive engineering feat and the display is very interesting for the young and young at heart. It is located within the Kinzua Bridge State Park at 296 Viaduct Road, Mt. Jewett, PA 16740 
One of my favorite memories of the area is a camping trip with the three kids one Memorial Day weekend in 2003. The kids were very young at the time and it was a fairly ambitious adventure and anyone from northwest Pennsylvania probably has a clue how this all turned out. We went to sleep in a rain storm (finding out that the new tent leaked) and we awoke to a snow storm. Since we were not to be deterred from the family outing we checked out the KOA in the area and rented a cabin for the remaining time. With a good 2” of snow accumulation we decided that a warm car ride was in order so we went to check out the then viaduct. I have some very cool photos and memories of that day, and was saddened greatly to hear that a tornado took the center section of the viaduct within the next few months. 
The grand old structure has since been repurposed as a walking trail and observation platform. The leaf view is amazing and the plexiglass floor in the observation platform area will give those who like to live on the edge a great view of the former pieces of the viaduct which are far below your feet. In fact the center of the structure was 301 feet above the valley floor, to give you an idea of just how high that is, the Statue of Liberty is 305 feet and 6 inches tall. Needless to say, I am not one who likes heights and it takes a whole lot for me to step out on the Plexiglass surface. 
Which ever road you chose, and however long you make your excursion, you will begin to notice the colors and the wonderful designs on the hillsides as soon as you enter Warren County which begins just on the eastern side of Titusville. Make sure you pack the kids some snacks because there are many cool picnic areas and have a camera with you for some great photos. The Visitor Center located at the Kinzua Dam area has paper maps and is a great viewing area for Bald Eagles. In the past I have seen multiple pairs soaring in the sky, and landing in the treetops not far from the parking lot. 
As you drive be aware there are areas that cell phones GPS is a bit spotty, so a stop for the paper map or printing one out from the website is not a bad idea. I want you to wander, but I do not want you to get lost. 
As Seen in Meadville Tribune

Monday, September 9, 2019

In Your Backyard September 2019 ~ 911 Memorial

Eighteen years ago I was holding my infant son watching in horror as the World Trade Center buildings fell. He was only two weeks old and I wondered what kind of world I was bringing him into. As the day unfolded it was clear to me that his world would be much different then mine was growing up. Although I was born during the Cold War Era, I watched the news as the Berlin Wall fell and the former Soviet Union once again became Russia. My childhood had a sense of impending peace and I was afraid that my children would have a sense of impending doom. 
Well, as the years went on, it seemed the only times we were reminded of that fateful September morning was once a year on the anniversary or if you decided to fly on a plane. Even air travel started to get back to somewhat normal and pretty soon the 11th of September began to pass for much of the country as just another day. 
Many of us do not live in the areas which were affected directly by the tragedy so it is not foremost in our minds. About three years ago however, in completely unrelated and unplanned trips, I was given the opportunity to visit all three memorials within a 12 month period and I wanted to share that experience. 
First was the Pentagon as we were coming back from a family vacation and traffic was very light since it was the middle of the night. I had a GoPro mounted on my dashboard driving through the capital and past the monuments when I got the idea. Well, there are 2 entrances to the Pentagon and I chose the one (not knowing any better) on the opposite side of the memorial. Let’s just say that Pentagon police are swift responding and I was told that photography was not allowed and there sits my dash camera blinking. Luckily I must not have appeared to be much of a threat and was allowed to proceed to the memorial with a police escort. (They also stayed the entire time we were there). I am positive that this event is where my FBI file starts. For those who get the chance, the memorial is designed with lighting and water that is definitely best viewed after dark. The direction of the “light benches” on the ground will let you know who was in the plane and who was in the building and they are arranged by age, with the exception of the youngest victim who was age 3 and she was surrounded by her family. The 184 benches are a striking reminder of the loss of life. Just be sure to do some homework ahead of time to know which entrance to go in (I believe it is the North Entrance- but best verify). 
Shortly after that I had the opportunity to go to New York City for the first time, and I went to the World Trade Center memorial. By this time, construction of the memorial was completed and the footprint of Tower 1 and 2 are now a somber display of recirculating water which seems to fall into an abyss below. Surrounding each is a railing with the names of all the victims from each of the three incidents on 9-11 and also the six which died in the 1993 bombing of the towers. Over 3000 names can be read as you walk around the pools. It is a humbling experience. 
A few months later I was traveling from Virginia and saw the sign for Shanksville that I had passed so many times in the prior years. This time, with the recent visits to the other two sites, I felt compelled to take the detour. This was ultimately the most difficult museum to visit. Inside there was a wall with telephone handsets that you could pick up and listen to the voicemails that were left on loved ones answering machines from the passengers of Flight 93. They were gut wrenching and I admit it, I was bawling as I listened to their goodbyes. It is a 3 hour drive from Meadville to the memorial, and I suggest the road trip for any family with an 18 year old. Let them listen to the voices of those who sacrificed themselves to ensure there would not be more than the 3000 names on the list of victims. 
For many, a trip to the memorials themselves is out of the question. But there is a way to still pay your respects far more locally. A beam from the World Trade Center is part of the Erie 911 
Memorial and is located at the Blasco Library and the Maritime Museum in the Bayfront area. The beam is outside and can be visited at any time, there is a display inside open to the public during library hours. There is much to do in the area so plan a day to take in some sights as well. 
It was the philosopher George Santayana that stated "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. As my son celebrated his 18th birthday last week, I know he could not possibly remember, and it is my job to teach and to remember. “We Shall Never Forget” As you wander through your life, please make sure your history is not lost. 

Monday, August 12, 2019

In Your Backyard August 2019 ~ Buttermilk Falls

 As August is in full swing and the temperatures steadily reach into the 80s the kids can get a bit cranky when the humidity rises as well. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining a bit about the heat. In fact, I am enjoying the flip flop weather immensely and will sad when we return to the weather which contains the “s” word that shall not be named. But, if you are looking to beat the heat, pack the family and a picnic for an air conditioned car ride to a fantastic swimming hole located at the end of a quick but beautiful stroll in the shade to a cascading waterfall. Before the big box stores started selling the quick set up large pools, the local swimming hole was a great summer gathering place. Bring a bit of nostalgia and a few stories of your own childhood years with you to tell the kids. 

Buttermilk Falls located in Beaver County (Route 18 & 1st Ave Homewood Bough, Beaver Falls, Pa 15010) The name Buttermilk Falls was reportedly given to the falls by a group of civil war soldiers and their wives in 1870 as they made a toast with glasses filled with buttermilk. While buttermilk would not have been my first choice for a beverage, it does make for a neat story. The Falls are often called Homewood Falls due to its location as well as there being several other “Buttermilk Falls” in the state. 
The 20 foot sandstone rock formation sends water and sometimes people over the edge into the pool below. Let me be very clear, I am not condoning nor encouraging jumping from the top, but I did witness this happening. I just wanted to give a warning to swimmers to keep an eye on the top just to be sure no one happens to be jumping in the area you are swimming. 
From a small parking lot located just off the main road on the left there is a short but scenic walk up to the base of the falls. This is the much easier way to access the bottom portion as well as the swimming hole. You will walk through the former quarry that supplied the stone for the Western Penitentiary in Pittsburgh as well as the roads and tunnels that are in the area. If the lower parking lot happens to be full or you want to see an overlook view of the falls then continue up the road just a bit until you come to a church on your left. There is another parking lot that is graciously provided by the church and nearby is a great vantage point for pictures. There are very steep pathways leading down to the bottom from this area, but I was not looking to twist an ankle in my flip flops. I suggest just walk down the road to the lower access to reach the bottom of the falls area. 
Both the top and the bottom of the falls are worth the effort, even if you are not swimming. The top gives a great view and photo opportunity, but the bottom area allows you to actually walk behind the falls. Several rocks have carvings on them, and many of the dates go back to the early 1900s. It is amazing that such a seemingly untouched area of nature has not been overly developed. You can even bring a blanket and spread out on one of the many large rocks near the base for a quick snack with the roaring of the waterfall for a romantic backdrop if you happen to go with your sweetie. You will likely be sharing your romance with the excited squeals of children splashing and playing, since it is a popular local watering hole, but I was told that it is a popular place to “Pop the Question” if that is your motive for the trip. 
While you are in the area you can also check out Brady’s Run Park (121 Bradys Run Rd, Beaver Falls Pa) which offers picnic facilities, biking and hiking trails and a playground for the kids. You can also visit the Air Heritage Museum (1043, 35 Piper St) also in Beaver Falls. The museum is open to the public free of charge from 10am to 5pm Monday through Saturday. It houses a great display of aviation and WWII memorabilia. Whatever you chose to do on your journey remember that not all who wander are lost. 

As Seen in Meadville Tribune

Monday, July 8, 2019

In Your Backyard July 2019 ~ Fountain of Youth

The Fountain of Youth has enticed people since 500BC when it was mentioned in early writings and Conquistador Ponce De Leon scoured Florida for the fabled waters in the 16th Century. But they were all apparently looking in the wrong location because in 1938 in North Park near Wexford, Pa the Fountain of Youth was found. They were so sure they had the correct location that a large stone header was placed over the opening with the name right on it (that or it was quite possibly a draw for tourism). 
Either way, the Fountain of Youth located in Wexford remained in operation until the pump handle was abruptly removed in May of 1955. The former spring house is still standing and is a unique structure worth the drive and the exploration. Although it is quite dark and musty smelling inside, it is not unpleasant and the lure of the famed waters was obviously worth the grand stone opening into the hillside. The sounds of running water gives tribute to it’s glorious past as you step inside. 
The kids will love exploring the springhouse and the creek with a little waterfall that runs directly in front of the Fountain of Youth. The adults will no doubt be curious at its origins as they watch the kids or grandkids play with a seemingly endless amount of energy. Possibly even wondering or hoping that the waters still hold their claimed powers. 
Time is unforgiving to the human body as it approaches middle age (the time the age starts to show around the middle). As the years fly by at an alarming rate, we are often wondering if our warranty has run out as joints ache and doctor visits become increasingly more frequent. I could not resist the temptation to dip my toes in the creek on the off chance there maybe something to the old tales. 
The Fountain of Youth is located at 10100-10170 Kummer Rd in Wexford, Pa. There is a pull off on the left side of the road for parking and the spring house is visible from the roadway. Once you have visited, take the opportunity to explore the surrounding area of North Park with over 3,000 square acres of trails, picnic areas, a 65 acre lake, swimming pool, and all around family oriented fun. More information can be found at www.alleghenycounty.us in the visitors section. 
The legend of healing waters is often a draw for people to gather. Even in Meadville back in the late 1800s, when the once fabulous Oakwood Park was in its glory. For 5 cents visitors could ride the trolley to West Mead Township for a dance hall and lake. The trolley would drop you off at the Ponce De Leon Spring where, you guessed it, people would claim medicinal values of this mysterious water. Once the trolley line made its way to Exposition Park in Conneaut Lake however, Oakwood Park could not compete with the excitement of an amusement park and this began its demise. 
Nothing much is left of the grand old park, and in 1950 the sons of John J Shyrock erected a brick memorial which bears a plaque "Ponce de Leon Spring This building erected in Memory of John J. Shryock 1950”. The memorial is located on Spring Rd just outside the city limits near the area of Tamarack Lake. While in the area, be sure to check out the progress on the lake as it starts to refill. Now that the repairs are complete on the dam, this area will once again be a great location for visiting with the kids. 
So you see, the Fountain of Youth and the man who once searched for it have long withstood the test of time. From the writings of ancient philosophers to the stories of the Native Americans and from the coast of Florida to the rural areas of Pennsylvania. Fascination with youth has given many a reason for a journey, and now the history of these locations calls to the modern traveler. Remember as you take your trip that life is short, so it is best lived to the fullest and not all who wander are lost. 

In Your Back Yard January 2020- ~ Haserot Angel

  Now that the holidays are officially over and the kids are back in school, a sort of blah often finds its way into daily life. Maybe it ...