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November 2010
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December 2010

Navy SEAL reservist encountered on sledding slope


"Tracker" Dan is a reservist with the United States Navy SEALS and has served on active duty in Iraq where he had a months-long assignment guarding former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Dan, who is part Cherokee, teaches nature and survival skills that he was first introduced to as a child by his parents. He can be reached at

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“SEAL” stands for sea, air and land. So we train for all of our ocean stuff which is diving with re-breathers, where there’s no bubbles. So being able to insert to either get somebody out or do reconnaissance that kind of thing. Or to disable a ship in a foreign port which we’re trying to keep from escaping to somewhere else. There’s the small inflatable boat stuff for inserting over the beach. And of course we have all our air ops, free-fall, parachuting into the ocean, getting into a boat and taking that to an objective. Getting hostages out of a situation or doing reconnaissance. Or for boarding ships and taking them over and turning them around if there’s an embargo or something like that. YOU TEACH SURVIVAL SKILLS, TOO? That’s something I did before I went into the military. I teach survival skills to the SEAL teams as a civilian and I did it when I was activated as a reservist. I taught them jungle survival down in South America Then of course we have our land training too which is all our marksmanship, patrolling and room clearing.- being able to take down a house safely and get hostages out or clearing it of bad guys or going in and capturing bad guys. That involves sniper work and communications, a lot of radio type stuff. It’s not always this way but the army generally has the highest ranking officers so they are in charge of SOCOM which is the joint operations between all the U.S. military. They’re basically the administrators. They say you guys can do this job; you guys can do that job. When we’re over in war areas, the Army’s in control, so it’s very important for us to be good at comms. Because they’ll use us for reconnaissance and stuff like that. They like to take the good jobs because they’re in control. They’ll give us everything they don’t want to do. We have to very good on the radios to let them know where we’re at, where the bad guys are at, and what’s going on.


AAA's Evelyn Houck rescues stranded Christmas Eve drivers

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Evelyn Houck, a blond haired, blue eyed, AAA flatbed truck driver and mechanic whose home base is in Southwest Philadelphia made a call late Christmas Eve afternoon to a customer in Chestnut Hill. Houck jumpstarted the car to the delight of the customer who needed to pick her dog up at the pet store where it had been left, apparently, for a Christmas “do”. Houck expected things would get busy very shortly when some shoppers making last minute purchases at the Cheltenham Mall would return to their cars to sadly discover that they didn’t have their keys or had a flat tire or couldn’t start their car for one reason or another. This is the third consecutive Christmas Eve Houck has worked. She enjoys rescuing stranded drivers. Watch video here.

YOU’RE WORKING CHRISTMAS EVE.  Unfortunately, yes I am but you know what? At least I’m out here helping the people get on their way – [pointing to customer] saving your dog… You know everybody’s at the mall doing their Christmas shopping. So probably around 6 o’clock, that’s when the mad rush starts- getting home from the mall to their house – car didn’t start, car keys in the car locket out, flat tire, overheat, you know, all that fun stuff…I’m the only one in my shop now that’s a female doing this job but there are a couple other tow operators that work for different companies that are in this business, too.  AND HOW DO YOU GET THE HONOR OF HAVING THE FLAT BED? I love it. It gets the job done. Let me tell ya, this baby gets the job done. Cars with broken axels, ball joints, tie rod ends. Trying to get those babies up there is a hassle but ya know what? I get them up and I get them down. Rollovers, flip-overs, all those, yes, I do everything…. Some people don’t understand when they have a car, some dealerships don’t even show them where the spare tire is and they’re usually underneath the vehicle. You have to pop open the back, get underneath, and you have to see for yourself that there’s a spare. AND YOU HAD ONE TODAY? Yes, I did, and she was very happy that I didn’t have to tow her.  WAS SHE SURPRISED? Oh yes, she was very surprised that I jumped out of the truck… The big muscular guy – I get out of my tow truck and he just says one word “Gimme the jack.” It takes him twenty minutes to kindly walk back over and say, “Can you give me a hand?” I gave him a hand, showed him how to do it and now he went on his way. And now he’s probably going to call back triple A and ask for a guy now.”


Jason Chuong leads Jenks Bucket Drumming Ensemble

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"So please give a hand for the Jenks Bucket Drumming ensemble!...During the school year I start the kids with learning technique, with learning how to read music, music literacy and at the end of every period I have an enrichment section, lesson. They learn bucket drumming or they learn drum set, improvisation, composition. And basically the kids do bucket drumming. We compose pieces together, we improvise ….. I got an idea from the University of the Arts. I attended the University of the Arts. We started an experimental bucket drumming ensemble there that kind of took off. And now it’s developing all over the city. I have seven ensembles in the city that I started and it’s just taking off! That’s what we do here at Jenks. Each bucket is about two dollars and thirty seven cents. And it’s immediate gratification for the kids. So instead of spending months learning fingering and armature and technique for a saxophone or clarinet, you pick up a pair of sticks and immediately play and you sound OKAY." Philadelhia School District Music teacher with the J.S. Jenks Middle School bucket drumming ensemble at the winter concert.

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Heavy traffic at "Snorkel" mail box



Despite the surge in email and corresponding drop in postal mail, "snail mail" is far from a thing of the past. Especially at holiday time, many people prefer to send greetings or gifts that their recipients can hold in hand.

In recent years, in response to the decline in letter mail, the Post Office has removed many corner collection boxes and, according to spokesperson Cathy Yarosky, periodically conducts density tests to gauge use. A box will be removed if there are fewer than 25 items deposited [daily] during the test. “It costs the Postal Service money in fuel and time for our letter carriers to drive to that mailbox and collect the small amount of mail. Removing the box is simply good business sense in that respect.”

The so-called “snorkel” box at 13 West Gravers Lane is the only one of its kind in the the Chestnut Hill collection area and very popular with drivers such as Kathleen McDevitt and Rose Malley who work nearby and swung by one afternoon to make deposits.

Customers can deposit envelopes either through the regular, pedestrian-side mouth or from a car window through the street-side extension slot. Pedestrians sometimes unnecessarily walk into the street to use the opening meant for drivers.

Letter collector Patrick McKenna arrived about 5:30 pm one recent evening shortly after a customer was seen to have trouble stuffing her envelope in; he emptied a box crammed full to the top. The box is three quarters full other times of the year, McKenna said.

McKenna was unconcerned about handling stamped packages weighing over the limit in violation of the “13 ounce rule” affixed to the box which says that due to “heightened security,” mail over the limit must be taken to a retail service counter or will be returned to the sender  For security reasons, Yarosky would not comment on what makes a 12.9 ounce package inherently less risky or how postal employees avoid risk when they handle mail weighing more than 13 ounces.


House hunting on the Hill

Prudential, Fox and Roach realtor Pam Thistle shows houses to prospective buyers Dabravka and Moritz Ritter who are attracted to the Hill's Avenue, shops, trains and not "too suburban" feel.



Moritz Ritter: We live in center city and we are looking for 3, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, quiet street…

Dabravka Ritter:..close to the transportation.

Pam Thistle:  … because they have no car, nice walkable location


MR: Oh, we like it up here! We’re looking for something that doesn’t have too suburban a feel [laughter]DR: Germantown Avenue’s a plus, the shops and the trains


MR: Yes some things we’ll think about.PT: Just starting out, getting a feel for the neighborhood. DR: First trip.

Dabravaka and Moritz Ritter with Prudential, Fox and Roach realtor Pam Thistle.

Watch video here.

American flags and a boombox on his bike to work


Fifty-three year old Gregory Johnson of the Philmont section of Philadelphia has been riding and outfitting his bicycles ever since he was nine. I spotted him braving heavy traffic in Northeast Philadelphia on a cold fall day with American flags affixed to the rear of his bike waving high in the air and when I pulled over to chat with him saw that that his bike is outfitted with a boom box radio, toO. He was on his way to the Willow Grove Mall several miles away where he does landscaping and handyman work.

Watch video here.

Tractor Trailer O' Trees Arrive on Hill


The unit block of East Evergreen was bustling one afternoon earlier this week. Andy Peszka of the Top of the Hill Market managed  workers  unloading a tractor trailer load of Christmas trees on the north side of Evergreen Avenue as customers shopped for trees at thestore on the south side.  Catriona Briger, holding daughter Hazel, let son Oliver pick out the most appealing and not too tall tree for their modestly sized Benezet Street home. The Market's Rosie Cortez assisted them with their purchase.

Peszka was taking stock on five varieties of fir just cut and delivered from Lehighton, Pennsylvania, an hour and a half a way. He estimated it would take 2 or more hours to unload the truck and his workers appeared to be steadily unloading about 8 of them each minute.  Peszka also has some but not many customers for living, balled trees which he expects to take delivery on.  Those who buy live trees customarily bring  them inside for the holiday and  have room to plant them outside in the spring when the ground thaws. He expects to sell out all of his trees by the week before Christmas.


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Vintage motorcycles ship to England


They’re all heading to England.There’s a big craze there right now with these older Japanese motorcycles forrestoring. So we traveled around North Jerseyand bought ten and were heading back. AND HOW DO THEY COME TO BE HERE INCHESTNUT HILL? I live in Wyndmoor. A friend of mine is a motor cycle dealer in England so hesent me on a mission to get 10 of these old bikes. It’s taken me about twomonths but I found them. HOW OLD ARE THEY AND WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT THEM? Theoldest is 1970 and the newest is 1976. They’re all two-stroke engines which youcan’t buy anymore because of the emissions. And they’re becoming rarer andrarer. Some just rot away in garages. Others get in accidents and stuff andjust by attrition they get rarer and rarer. So they got some real value to themnow. HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT FINDING THEM? Mostly through caigslist. I got a coupleon eBay but almost purely on craigslist. But then you have to do a phoneinterview and really get down to nitty-gritty and asking prudent questions andfinding out what they have and then maybe it’s worth traveling 100 miles topick them up. AND WHICH IS YOUR PRIZE HERE? I would say these two.  It’s purely a money thing although I’d like to keep them. WHAT ARE THEY WORTH? Here they’re probably not worth more than$2000; in England,$5000, maybe 6 if you get the right buyer. Each of them cost about $400 to getto England and obviously there’s a profit to be made. Marc Bagwell, left,a contractor who lives in Wyndmoor with his brother-in-law Jack Leamy, of Chestnut Hill.
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Wearing blue booties: 2010 Chestnut Hill holiday tour


On Saturday morning, scores of people were walking around Chestnut Hill carrying their blue booties on their way to tour five houses decorated festively for the holiday season. The annual holiday house tour benefits the Community fund which distributes money to community organizations. Barbara Braxton of Wyndmoor and Bert Asbury of Mount Airy, above, were seen along Germantown Avenue. Braxton described a beautiful place setting in the house they had just visited. They had not yet been to the Glazer residence but Braxton's description of a beautiful place setting they had just seen aptly fit the one to be seen at the Glazer house where interior designer Patricia Cove and placemat creator Sandra McFarland were on hand to talk about their work.

Watch video here.