Monday, June 30, 2014

West End Town Hall TONIGHT (plus you can help catch some burglars)

These 3 broke into Selma yesterday. Help us catch them.
Okay, this is short notice, I know, but if you live in the West End and are free tonight, Representative Sanders is hosting a Town Hall Meeting tonight from 6  to 8 pm at the Hancock Fire House, 820 W. Airy.

This was listed on the Town Calendar as a Town Hall with Police Chief Talbot, and the agenda will include the issue of West End violence. Also on the agenda: upcoming events.

I can't get to the meeting, but I hope they also discuss other West End police matters, like break-ins, robberies and vandalism.

The Dragon Boat Club has been fixing up Riverfront Park since the flood, only to have their flower containers stolen, flowers and all. We aren't talking little flower pots either. These are metal trash cans filled with dirt and flowers. No way could one person move them alone without spilling all the dirt out. And yet they've been stolen twice. Really? Someone needs trash cans or flowers that bad that we have to give up having a nice-looking park?

Selma Mansion had a break-in yesterday. The alarms went off and neighbors photographed the burglars as they left the building. The photo is above. If you recognize the people in it, contact Norristown police at 610-270-0977. If you live in the West End and see them, remember, they might break into your house or apartment next so keep an eye out for them.

No matter where you live in Norristown, please help out your neighbors by watching out for strangers on the block taking too much interest in houses or cars. Like the neighbors of Selma, you might be able to help lower Norristown's crime rate simply by taking a quick photo.

UPDATE -- this just in from the Dragon Boat Club. I'm quoting it directly from their page:

"What the Heck !!!!! ok, I must say I am quite disappointed here. I have not decided what to do with the flowers but today I go to practice only to find some one cut the cable and took our John boat. Some on held that boat for us for over two years until we had the monies.We just put the boat in this spot maybe a week ago I am sure It was not any one that frequents the park on a regular basis. Maybe it was one of the bullies that come in break things every once in a while or some one needs some funds so they scrap it. Who was hurt by this? Your kids.Some one knows who took the boat but of course no one wants to say. I have been around the park long enough to know that talk goes on and some one knows. I don't care who took it just bring the dam boat back. Oh yes, it is insured but that is not the point.It's about believing, trusting and respecting each other. I believe in you, I trust you and I respect you. I/we have been in the Riverfront Park's corner for over year. Taking the community out, helping to keep it clean and everything else we can do to help the park, I defend the park and the Riverfront Ranges with everything I have.

"We all know that Riverfront Park did not have the best reputation in the past. I, you and the dragon boat club have been working hard to make a difference and I think we are making a difference.

"I am asking if any of you know who took the boat to please ask them to bring it back. We need that boat to take the community kids out, your kids. It's a safety factor. We may get some insurance monies but it will not cover the purchase of a new boat. Monies that was ear marked for new paddles and life jackets that we were going to purchase because we lost them in the flood.We need that boat along with paddles and life jackets to take the kids out on Riverfest day in September."

Come on, Norristown. Help nip this new crime wave in the bud.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Events All Week Leading Up To Independence Day

As I said in my Diary entry the other day, we've got 3 all-day events in Norristown on Saturday. Well, actually, we have 4. Odds are, if you step outside your door and wander just a few blocks, you'll bump into one. And those events aren't the ONLY things happening either. If you don't want to do anything, my advice is to stay in your bed with your head under the pillow until Monday. Or maybe even until July 7th.

Before I get to the highlights, let me remind you that there are kids events nearly every day at the Library and things like Open Mics and Happy Hours at our coffee houses and restaurants, and the Farmer's Market downtown. Check the complete listings on the TNP and Municipal calendars by using the links in the righthand column.

This is the last weekend for "The Fantasticks" at the Centre Theater. 8 pm Friday and Saturday nights, 2 pm on Sunday. This is truly a community show and has been getting raves from everyone who's seen it. Get your tickets at

Saturday from 8:30 am until 2 pm, the Norristown Men of Excellence is presenting a free Football Clinic for kids K-12 at the Norristown Youth Eagles Field, 1001 Sterigere St. Registration begins at 8:30 am. Parents must be present. Lunch will be provided for all campers.

Saturday from 10 am until dusk, CADCOM is celebrating its 48th anniversary by hosting a Community Day in Oak Street Park. Basketball tournament, free health screenings, prizes, food, and more. Contact Heather Lewis at 610-277-6363 x166 or at

Also Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm at Selma Mansion, 1301 W. Airy St., the Norristown Preservation Society hosts the History Day Festival. Living history demonstrations, interactive singing and dancing, fiddler Ken Laskey, displays, food by Main Street Water Ice, vendors, Buck Jones and his horses, and psychic readings by Rosalyn Bown of the SyFy channel's Ghost Hunters' Academy. Adults $5, Students 6-12, vets, and seniors $3; kids 5 and under and active duty military FREE. All proceeds go toward the restoration of Selma Mansion.

AND Saturday from noon to 6 pm, on West Marshall in the vicinity of Kohn St., the Norristown Business Association presents the international Gran Festival. Music, food, vendors. Note that W. Marshall St. in that vicinity will be closed Saturday.

Elmwood Park Zoo will close at 1 pm on Saturday in preparation for their "Beast of a Feast" celebration of the zoo's 90th birthday that night. The Feast is sold out.

Saturday night, 8 pm to 1 am, Pennsylvania Underground Paranormal Society will hold a paranormal investigation of Selma Mansion with special guest Rosalyn Bown. Come meet Selma's ghosts. $20 per person. Reservations a must. Call 610-597-3619.

Sunday at 7 pm, The Elmwood Park bandshell concerts continue. This week, in the lead up to Independence Day, Norristown's Verdi Band under the direction of Ken Laskey, will perfom patriotic and other works. Refreshments at the snack stand. Sponsored by The Arcadia Foundation. For cancellations, call 610-270-0467 on the day of the concert.

According to the Municipal calendar, a Town Hall meeting with Chief Talbot is scheduled for Monday night at 7 pm at Hancock Fire House, 820 W Airy. I haven't heard anything else about this anywhere so I'm not positive this is taking place.

Tuesday night is the Municipal Council Meeting. The Municipal calendar says 7:30 pm, but lately the meetings have taken place at 6:30 so I'm not sure which is right. I'll let you  know when I find out. No agenda posted yet, but I heard that Temple University will present the findings of the sustainable food survey of Norristown that they did a few months back.

Wednesday from 2-4 pm, you can attend a FREE Basic Computer Skills Class at Montgomery County OIC, Arch Street. Participants will learn basic computing skills and applications of Windows. Space is limited to 8 per session, registration is required. Call (610) 279-9700 to register.

N. Cameron Chandler
Thursday night at 7 pm, Christ UCC Church at Noble and W. Marshall presents their annual Independence Eve Concert in the church parking lot. The Concert will feature The Song Sheets, N. Cameron Chandler, and special guest Josh Myers. Bring a lawn chair. Refreshments will be available.

Next Friday is Independence Day! There will be events all day long-- a 5K run, our annual parade, concerts. I'll post them all next Thursday.

Meantime, get out and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Planning Events In Norristown

Yesterday at the Norristown Business Association meeting, it became very apparent that Norristown is a place where things are happening. During announcements we realized that there are 3 big all-day events in town this Saturday: History Day at Selma, the international Gran Festival on West Marshall St, and CADCOM's Community Day at Oak Street Park.

I'm don't really think they'll compete with each other. They're in different parts of town and we have enough residents that no one event should lose out. We could even encourage visitors to festival-hop from one to another. Hey, if you're out and about Norristown for one event, why not check out the others, too?

But the comment was made that we end up with major events on top of each other because our groups don't communicate.

The thing is, communication is hard enough in Norristown when you're trying to get the word out in the weeks before your event takes place. When you're planning your event, maybe months before, in most of the organizations I'm in, it's hard enough to find a day all your members are available. Everyone's relieved when you finally hit on a good day. You tend to not even think about every other group in town.

So I'd like to make 3 suggestions.

1. If your organization has a major annual event, try to have it on the same day each year. For instance, the Arts Hill Festival is the 1st Saturday in May. Riverfest is the 3rd Saturday in September. Ghost Tours at Selma is the Friday night before Halloween. Everyone should know not to schedule other events those days. If your group claims a day and sticks to it each year, it helps other groups who are planning events.

2. Next, post your events to the OIC/TNP community calendar at AS SOON AS YOU KNOW THE DATE. Shae Ashe has set up this calendar so that it's incredibly easy to use. You can post your event at the bottom of the page. Even if you don't know all the details, reserve the date and email all the information when you have it.

3. When your group is planning a new event, chances are someone at your meeting has a smart phone or tablet or something that connects to the internet. Take a moment to check the OIC/TNP calendar before setting your date. Don't get discouraged if other events are planned the same day as yours. Ask yourself if the audiences they attract will be the same. Or partner with the other group -- maybe have your event right before or after theirs, so the attendees can be encouraged to go to both. Or combine the events and get twice the attendees.

Now, take a moment to realize how amazing it is that so many great events are taking place in town this weekend. If you've been checking out my weekly event blogs on Friday, you know our weekends have been packed for a while now. Start telling your out-of-town friends that Norristown is a place where good things are happening.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Lesser of Two Evils

Tonight is the monthly Zoning Board Hearing at Municipal Hall at 7 pm. Nothing really earth-shattering on the agenda, but one of the items had me thinking how often Norristown has a choice of options, none of which are really good for our community.

In this case, at 672 Kohn Street, our choice is between an abandoned neighborhood bar and too many apartments in too small of a house.

The landlord, Santiago Ramos who lives outside of Norristown on North Whitehall Road in West Norriton, wants to convert the vacant downstairs bar of the house to a 3-bedroom, 2 bath apartment. The house already has 2 other apartments on the 2nd and 3rd floor. (Looking at the photo, you can imagine how small the 3rd floor apartment must be.) The apartments, as far as I can tell, are accessed by fire escapes at the rear (see the photo below).

Mr. Ramos is the new owner (as of April). You can tell from the photos that the old owner didn't take great care of the property, from the uneven bricks under the 3rd floor windows, to the odd pointing job next to the door, to the crumbling sidewalk and blacktop at the back. I would hope Mr. Ramos would fix up the building a bit and make it look nicer.

Though my point today is simply to look at the uses of the property. Neighborhood bars, since "Cheers" was on TV, have been romanticized a bit, but the reality is, especially in neighborhoods where there's no buffer zone between the bar and the closest houses, is that most people wouldn't move in next to a bar. Unless they're extremely well-kept, their presence lowers the property values. All the more so if they look like as rundown as 672 Kohn St. Where we could use an extra bar and more nightlife is downtown near the theaters.

But in Norristown, so many of our small rowhouses are already triplex or larger multi-family dwellings. Our parking is maxed out. Trash, when that many families live on top of each other, is so big a problem that the alleys are filled with it 7 days a week. Sometimes our streets, too.

On that block of Kohn Street, no matter what time of day, parking spots are filled up. Kohn is one-way toward the river, so you have to go around several blocks to get back to the 700 block of Kohn to look for parking there. Oak Street seems to only have parking on one side in that block.

In the photo of the rear of 672 Kohn, you can see that there's room for only about 2 parking spots behind the building. With 3 units inside, the requisite amount the owner must provide is supposed to be 6 spaces. So that would be another variance.

But, still, assuming Mr. Ramos fixes the place up and that his rentors are responsible people, an occupied apartment is probably better than a bar, and far better than anything vacant.

So, a choice of two evils. Which seems to be the norm in these situations.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Come to the History Day Festival

This coming Saturday, June 28, from 11 am to 6 pm, Selma Mansion (1301 W. Airy) and grounds will be opened for the Norristown Preservation Society's History Day Fest. Here's why you should come.

Each year, the NPS has been hosting a History Day to show off Selma Mansion, present historic and educational programs to the public, and raise funds for the restoration of the mansion and the ongoing mission of the society to preserve the history and historic architecture of Norristown. This year, though, they've turned the event into a larger community festival.

As you drive up Airy that day, look up on the hill as you come to Selma St. You'll see tents and tables on the mansion's lawn, and Main Street Water Ice's big truck. They'll be there all day selling all kinds of food, including chicken, ribs, barbecue, hot dogs, drinks and, of course, water ice.

You'll see a 13-foot maypole topped with flowers and streaming colored ribbons. Around it will be the Midsummer Revelers of Historical Harmonies, dressed in traditional costumes, performing the songs and dances that have welcomed spring and summer for centuries. They'll even teach you the dances if you want to join in. Accompanying them will be Ken Laskey, who many of you know either as music director at Stewart Middle School or as director of the Verdi Band. What a lot of people don't know is that the man is crazy and plays a mean fiddle. The Revelers will present half hour programs at 11:30 and 1, and impromptu entertaining between other programs.

Other vendors include Strategic Wear, who'll be there with their N-town t-shirts and more, Tastefully Simple will have an assortment of their foods and some baked goods, too. Mystical Rodeo will be on hand with really cool (and reasonably priced) handmade jewelry. Among others. (Vendor spaces are still open--if you're interested, email

Around back, in the shade, you'll find Norristown's own Urban Cowboy, Buck Jones and his horse, helping to give you an idea what Norristown must have been like when the streets were filled with 4-legged, instead of 4-wheeled, vehicles. Also represented with be some of our community's great non-profits, like The Norristown Project, the Norristown Business Association, and the Opportunities Industrialization Center.

Inside the mansion will be the main attractions: Living history interpreter Maryann Buser will be on hand all day to chat about the history of Selma's famous residents. Artisan Cindy Pierson of Angel's Wool Farm will do ongoing demonstrations of wool spinning. There will be all kinds of displays of historic interest.

At 2 pm, historian Mary Reynolds will present a program on Civil War Battlefield Medicine (we may possibly see an amputation--volunteers from the audience?). At 3 pm, historical architect Doug Seiler will show the tricks to how an old house can be restored and brought back to life. At 5 pm, Lisa Terio of the Pennsylvania Underground Paranormal Society, will discuss Selma's resident historic ghosts and how paranormal investigations of the mansions are done.

Special guest Rosalyn Bown, of the SyFy Channel's Ghost Hunters Academy, will be on hand all day doing psychic readings. Yes, that's right, you can get a psychic reading.

If you're brave enough, you can even come back to the mansion from 8 pm to 1 am, when Rosalyn Bown and PUPS will conduct a History Day paranormal investigation. Reservation necessary for this program--call 610-597-3619.

Admission for the daytime festival will be $5 for adults, $3 for veterans, seniors and kids ages 6-12, and FREE for active-duty military and kids 5 or under. (Additional fee for psychic readings.) The evening program is $20.

Why the fees, when some other Norristown festivals are free? The proceeds will go toward the restoration of Selma Mansion and toward things like buying that parking lot next to the mansion to make life easier on guests (right now the apartment complex owns the lot and residents park there--for next Saturday, park on Selma or Main or Forrest Avenue and walk). You can drop off handicapped visitors at the parking lot.

You'll also be able to view the restoration progress at Selma. Since last fall the exterior woodwork on the 2nd and 3rd floors has been repaired and painted. As I write this, painters and carpenters are working on the 1st floor exterior woodwork. Plans for this year (pending grants) include installing a heating system before winter, improving the electrical system, repairing windows, removing loose stucco and pointing the stonework beneath.

Restoration will be a long process, but the end result will be worth it. Norristown will have a working public historic site to attract visitors, and a crown jewel of architecture overlooking the town, instead of simply a large, derelict old house. Not to mention having a permanent organization that will keep Norristown's history from being forgotten and who'll go to bat for other endangered buildings in our beautiful community.

You can help support the effort by coming to the History Day Fest and other events at Selma. Besides, Saturday will be fun (I'll be there with flowers in my hair. Say hi.)

Want to do more? Give a $10 or more donation to the NPS now and they'll give you a half-year membership (through December 2014). You'll get a monthly email newsletter keeping you informed, plus invitations to meetings and to the summer picnic at the mansion. Make checks payable to the "Norristown Preservation Society" and send to Norristown Preservation Society, P.O. Box 2097, Norristown, PA 19404.

NPS also has a great Facebook page. Check it out. (They have 297 LIKES. Help them get to 300 before Saturday.)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Events for the Next Week

To everyone who posts event info on online calendars, and to anyone who shares or retweets event info on social media, PLEASE double check your information before you post. In the last few weeks, I've seen and in one case passed on, incorrect information. In several instances, starting times listed for events have differed from different sources. Today I noticed discrepancies between the town and OIC calendars. The good news is, we've all gotten MUCH better at disseminating info. We just have to check our facts, okay?

"The Fantasticks" continues at Centre Theater (208 Dekalb) tonight at 8 pm, Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm. Only 6 more performances. This is a great family musical and truly a Norristown community endeavor. Don't miss it. Tickets, $15-22, can be ordered at

WARNING FOR EVERYONE: Harding Blvd. will be closed for southbound traffic between Sterigere and Markley Streets on Saturday, June 21st from 11 am to 3 pm for the Greater Norristown PAL Youth Rally, according to the Municipal website. The sign on Harding Blvd implies that the whole road will be closed (it'll be a nightmare if that's true, with northbound Markley closed). Not sure which is correct. May be best to avoid the area unless you're going to the rally. 

Saturday from noon to 3 pm, is the PAL Youth Rally, the Greater Norristown Police Athletic League will hold their annual Youth Rally. Great opportunity to see what programs PAL has available to the youth of the Norristown Area and also to volunteer. Activities, games and free food.

Saturday from 1 to 4 pm, you can view a baseball game for free at Pennypacker Mills Historic Site, 5 Haldeman Road, Schwenksville: the Athletic Base Ball Club of Philadelphia vs. the Harrisburg Keystones. Never heard of them? That's because they play vintage base ball, using rules from the year 1864, when no one wore baseball mitts, the bats were thick-handled and heavy, and there was no such thing as whacking one out of the yard for a home run. Out of the yard was still in play. Members of the Athletics will also show children how to play “Town Ball,” the precursor to modern-day baseball. Bring a chair or blanket on which to sit. I played 1864 ball at a living history event once and I'm posting a photo below to prove it. These vintage games are loads of fun and a great place to take a family of baseball fans. Pennypacker Mansion will also be open for free tours that day from 1 to 4 pm. It's a Montco historic site, so go see what your taxes are paying for.  For more information, please call 610-287-9349 or visit the website at

Sunday night at 7 pm, "Flower Power" will be onstage at the Bandshell at Elmwood Park playing 60s and 70s rock.  Food/drinks available at the snack stand. Any questions call 610-270-0467. (If the weather is iffy for any of the concerts, you can call the number for cancellation info.)

Monday Movies begin this week at the Norristown Library with a showing of "Frozen" at 1 pm, Monday afternoon in the community room. An adult MUST accompany children under 8. If you have any questions, call 610-278-5100 Ext 4. For a listing of the Monday Movie schedule go to 

Now that school's out, the Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library has events for kids, and some for adults, EVERY DAY. Crafts, movies and more.  Go to their calendar at this link--the entries in red are all at the Norristown branch on Powell and Swede. The library is a great, free place to hang out when the weather's too hot, even if you just go in and read a magazine for an hour or so to cool off. Good for seniors.

Tuesday morning from 8:30-9:30, the Norristown Business Association will hold their monthly meeting at Casa Bonita (Dekalb and Oak, next to Thiftway). The NBA has been active this year in bringing town organizations together and helping to promote our businesses. Come to the meeting and see what the group is all about.

OPEN JOB FAIR, Tuesday from 10 am-3 pm, Greater Norristown PAL, Harding Blvd. If you are interested, you must have ID, be at least 17 years of age or older, arrive early and in professional clothes. Info, call 610-278-8040, ext 223 or see

Tuesday night at 7 pm is the monthly Zoning Board Hearing. The agenda is at 

Wednesday from 2 to 4 pm, Montgomery County OIC (Arch and Basin) will offer a FREE computer class on website management and coding. Participants will learn how to build a basic webpage and add codes to customize it to their preference. Class is limited to 8 students per session and will meet on the 4th Wednesday of each month, all other times by appointment. Call (610) 279-9700 to register.

Wednesday afternoon at 3 pm at Barton Partners (700 E Main, #301), the Norristown Schuylkill River Action Team will hold their monthly meeting. Even if you can't make the main meeting, the team is currently forming the following committees: Art On the Trail, Funding, Programming (which will develop river and trail related activities for kids, bikers, paddlers, etc.), and Marketing and Promotion (for outreach to the community). If you're interested in joining a committee, contact Lizzie Hessmiller at 267-479-6107, or Remember, developing the recreation use of the river can only help Norristown's economy in the long run.

Wednesday and Thursday, 5:45 pm, interest meeting and open tryouts for the Community Step Team at GNPAL, 340 Harding Blvd. For youth 13-19, male or female.  For more info call 610-278-8040 ext 223

Next Saturday, the 28th, Norristown Men of Excellence will host their 3rd Annual Free Football Clinic from 9 am-2 pm, Norristown Youth Eagles Field, 1001 Sterigere St. Kindergarten-12th grade. Registration begins at 8:30 am. Parents must be present. Lunch will be provided for all campers.

Also next Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm is the History Day Festival, hosted by the Norristown Preservation Society at Selma Mansion, 1301 W. Airy. Demonstrations of Civil War Medicine, spinning,  paranormal investigations, interactive folk dancing and period music, vendors with food and wares. More info next week..

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Update: No Juneteenth This Year

Sorry. I was given some old info. A year old to be exact. No Juneteenth event at Centre Theater this year.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Come to Juneteenth!

Tomorrow, June 19th, is the day that has been called Juneteenth for more than 140 years. It's the oldest known commemoration of the end of slavery in the US. Why that day? On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers finally arrived in Galveston, TX and told the surprised residents that the war had been over more than 2 months and that the Emancipation Proclamation had ended slavery 2 and a half years earlier.

The anniversary of that day has been celebrated by the descendants of those slaves, some of them making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston for it, and by other descendants of slaves all over the US. Like Independence Day, most of the celebrations are marked with picnics, barbeques and baseball games, but the history of the day, of the events leading up to Emancipation, plus education and achievement, have always been stressed as well.

So maybe you're asking why more than, say, a third of Norristown's population should care anything about Juneteenth?

Thing is, in a way, Juneteenth kicks off all of our summer cultural observances. We'll have Italian, Irish and Mexican celebrations before the summer's over, and probably a few others. The more we learn about each others' heritages, the more likely we are to get along. And getting along means we can build Norristown up together without the obstacle of cultural divisiveness.

I might be Italian Catholic, but I go to Jewish seders to join friends in celebrating an end to slavery in Egypt. Why shouldn't I go to Juneteenth to celebrate an end to slavery in my own country?

The Centre Theater has been holding an annual Juneteenth commemoration for years. This year, for the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation, the Iron Age Theater Company will present an evening of music, poetry, readings and personalities from history. You'll probably recognize some of the names of the cast: Richard Bradford, Maurice Tucker, Buck Jones, Seidah Hill Durante, Michael Way, Tiffany Joyner, Walter DeShields, Richard Rogers, Alaina Nelson and Gary Giles. (Come on, wouldn't you go just to see Buck Jones?)

Best of all the event is FREE. That's right. FREE LIVE THEATER, Thursday night at 7 pm at the Centre Theater. Reservation are strongly suggested, though. Reserve tickets by emailing or call 610-279-1013.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Noises Off

In the summer, the majority of Norristonians seem to enjoy outdoor activities, and they enjoy bringing the outdoors in by opening their house and car windows. So it's a good time to review the noise ordinance. Some of you don't know there IS a noise ordinance. (Actually, it's very apparent with every set of new neighbors moving onto my street, that they don't know Norristown has laws at all--can we remedy that somehow? Make the link to our General Laws part of a Welcome Wagon packet for new residents?)

Anyway, if you go to the "N" part of the General Law Index and click on "Noise," you'll see several entries dealing with the topic--everything from noisy dogs to noisy motorcycles to noisy manufacturing. For instance, ice cream trucks need a special permit or else they're in violation of Section 215-1 that says you can't use sound to advertise from a vehicle.

A lot of the provisions carry curfews saying when you have to stop making noise. This even covers things like trash collection, which isn't supposed to take place before 6 am or after 6 pm on weekdays. Likewise, construction shouldn't take place after a certain time of evening, so if your neighbor's roofer shows up at 9:30 pm (like my neighbor's did a couple weeks ago), tell him to take a hike.

As for cars, yours can't emit music or other ongoing sounds that can be heard 25 feet or more away from the vehicle. Honking your horn is okay in short spurts. Leaning on it isn't unless it's an emergency. The basic rule of thumb is, if you're making noises loud enough to prevent you or nearby motor vehicle operators or pedestrians from hearing emergency vehicles, pedestrians, other cars, or other warnings, then you present a hazard and you're in violation. If you hear drivers do any of this, you're within your rights to report them.

Possibly the most misunderstood, or at least most ignored, parts of the code are Section 225-6  and Section 229-4, which apply to public residences as well as behavior in parks and other gathering places that we frequent more in the summertime. You can read the section at the links for each, but here are some quotes:

"A. With the exception of Municipal-sponsored concert events, the only music-playing devices which shall be allowed in Municipal parks shall be common, personal-sized radios, compact disc players or other devices designed for the enjoyment of individuals or small groups.

"B. Music devices shall not be so loud as to be heard beyond a thirty-foot radius: nor shall they create excessive bass vibration so as to disturb park users or residents adjacent to the park.

"C. No music equipment designed for amplification across a large area, including large speaker systems commonly used to amplify music in large group or concert settings, shall be permitted."

"It shall be unlawful for any person to make, continue or cause to be made or continued any loud, unnecessary or unusual noise or any which either annoys, disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, help, peace or safety of others within the limits of the Municipality of Norristown. To be a violation of the law, the noises must either be excessively annoying, loud or unusual.

"C. Festivals, carnivals, parties and other gatherings, whether on public or private property, shall be prohibited from generating music, singing, or prolonged noise of any kind whatsoever between the hours of 9:00 PM and 10:00 AM Sunday through Thursday and between the hours of 10:00 PM and 10:00 AM Friday through Saturday.

"D. Parties and gatherings at private residences in Norristown shall not be so loud as to create noise that can be heard by  adjacent neighbors at a distance of 25 feet or greater."

Violations can carry fines up to $300. If you default, you can be imprisoned 5 to 30 days. And these codes can apply to church and non-profit activities as well. Make sure you let the borough know, say, that your church is hosting a concert in their parking lot.

I try to cut my neighbors a break in the summer. There was a party a couple doors away Sunday afternoon. They were way too loud, but it broke up around 7 pm. If it's a once-a-while thing, I can live with it. I have a friend on Lafayette St, though, who says her neighbors play loud music at all times of the night and day, in all seasons. I can't say I'd be too patient with that. As for the groups who show up in Elmwood Park some weekends, with 50+ people, a DJ and a huge sound system that, a tenth of a mile away, makes my brick house shake, I'm not forgiving at all, especially when my tax dollars have to pay to clean up after them the next day.

As for private parties, my best friend has a mantra about that that seems to be the best advice--"Always invite the neighbors." It goes a long way toward thanking them for putting up with your noise and taking up all the parking spots on the block.

To report a noise ordinance violation, call the Norristown police at 610-270-0977.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Don't Let Mosquitoes Ruin Your Summer

One of our county services that gives us our tax dollars' worth is the Montgomery County Health Department (MCHD). If you visit their website, you'll find that they offer free flu shot clinics, rabies clinics (one coming up at the end of this month), and shingles vaccines for those over 60. There's also info on things like hepatitis and the MERS virus. They also post info about upcoming events and health alerts on their Facebook page.

Last week, they issued a notice about mosquito-borne illness. We've probably all heard about West Nile Virus, but this year, a new mosquito illness has come to the US called Chikungunya. Symptoms include fever, headache, chills, sensitivity to light, and rash, vomiting and severe joint pain. It's not fatal, but nasty nonetheless, and so far, there's no vaccine. No cases in PA yet, but 6 other states, mostly to the south, have reported it. Still, Rhode Island had 2 cases last month, and it's hit Indiana.

MCHD listed these tips for protecting yourself and your family from mosquito bites:

1. Wear light colored, loose fitting clothing.  Mosquitoes are attracted to darker colors, especially blue. (Light colors are also good for discouraging ticks.)

2. Use insect repellent. Follow the label for application. Consult a doctor with questions or concerns.

3. Mosquitoes need stagnant water for their eggs to develop, so dump out bird baths, kiddie pools, and anything else that holds water every three days. Mosquitoes can go through their life cycle in as little as five days when conditions are optimal. Eliminating standing water stops mosquitoes dead in their tracks.

4. Drill several holes in the bottom of recycling containers so water can drain from them. Trash containers should be covered so no rain can accumulate in them.

5. Make sure roof gutters drain properly and rooftops are free of standing water. Clogged gutters will breed mosquitoes.

6. Aerate ornamental ponds or stock them with fish.

7. Clean and chlorinate swimming pools, outdoor saunas, and hot tubs. Keep them empty and covered if not in use; drain water that collects in pool covers. A swimming pool left unmaintained for even a week can breed thousands of mosquitoes.

8. For areas that cannot be managed with the above methods, there’s always larvicide. Many of the big box stores, home improvement centers, landscaping outlets, and even some pet stores carry consumer products that can be safely used to kill mosquito larvae. Again, read and apply according to the label.

9. Educate your neighbors. If you notice that they may have some stagnant water on their property, respectfully discuss it with them. They may be unaware of the mosquito hatchery in their own backyard.

10. If all else fails, contact the Montgomery County Health Department (MCHD) and register a complaint.  Property owners are responsible for maintaining their property in a condition that does not breed mosquitoes. The same is true for publicly-owned property, so don’t forget about parks, schools, and ball fields. All complaints received will be addressed. To register a complaint, call 610-278-5117 or email

MCHD will be setting traps and running tests on mosquitoes. They'll be applying larvicides to publicly-owned mosquito breeding areas and performing adult treatments in areas where West Nile-positive mosquito populations need to be controlled. If all else fails, they've done aerial spraying in the past (usually mid- to end of summer--and they give notice when they'll be doing it), though I've noticed that Norristown is usually last of the areas to be treated.

As for West Nile, if you see dead birds or squirrels that don't have evidence of trauma, DON'T touch them. Use a shovel or the like to put them in the trash. If you see more than one dead animal or bird like this in your neighborhood in a week, don't dispose of the second one, but leave it and contact the MCHD to see if they want to do testing.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Events EVERY DAY This Coming Week

So much is happening in N-town tonight alone, you have no excuse to sit home watching reruns. As always, check the calendar links at the right for a full list of events. And pray for no rain tonight, since 3 of the events below are outdoors.

Tonight at 6 pm at Elmwood Park Zoo, the Father's Day Campout begins. Discover what happens at the Zoo after the sun goes down. First-time and experienced campers welcome. Tickets are $50/person and $30/member (kids under 3 are free). Price includes admission, dinner, activities, a movie, s'mores by the campfire, and breakfast in the morning. Space is limited. For more information, contact Guest Services at 610-277-3825 x 222 or email

Tonight at 6:30 pm at Riverfront Park, the Dragon Boat Club and Norristown Business Association will host an International Wine, Beer and Food Festival. Live music, vendors, and food from some of Norristown's best restaurants, including Sessano's and Taqueria la Michocacana. Plus a Surprise Fashion Show by some of Norristown's least inhibited residents. $20 (adults only). For advance tickets, go to

Tonight and Saturday at 7:30 pm, come to Montgomery Cemetery for a "Death By Moonlight" lantern-light tour. $10 admission includes tour and a wine and cheese reception after. Adults only. Call 610-272-0297 for info.

Also tonight at 8 pm, "The Fantasticks" continues at Centre Theater. Also Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm. Tickets $15-22 at this link.

Saturday at 10 am, Habitat for Humanity of Mont. Co will hold their orientation session for their summer projects at their office located on 533 Foundry Rd. in West Norriton. Volunteers can learn valuable skills while having a fun and rewarding experience. On-site parking. Please click on the VolunteerUp link below to register. For more information, email our volunteer coordinator at Bring a friend!

Saturday, starting at noon, is the Summer Reading Kickoff Party for kids 4-12 at the Norristown Library (Powell and Swede).  Make a musical instrument, then enjoy a concert at 1 pm. Register for the Summer Reading Program, pick up a Summer Reading log from the Children's Dept. and start reading. For every 2 hours you read, you get a free book, plus a chance to win a $50 Barnes and Noble gift card or a bike. Program lasts through August 16th. For more information, call 610-278-5100 x 205 or stop by Children's Dept. Registration for the noontime instrument making session is required.

Sunday at 7 pm, the Summer Concert Series continues at the Elmwood Park Bandshell. This week enjoy the do-wop sounds of the Norristones. Snack stand will be open. Call 610-270-0467 for info.

Monday at 3 pm at Siloam Baptist Church (downstairs), Willow Street, will be the organizational meeting for the National Night Out in August. Businesses, organizations and volunteers are needed to begin the planning stages.

Tuesday night at 7:30 pm, Municipal Council meeting at Town Hall, 235 E Airy St.. No agenda posted yet.

Wednesday, 5 to 8 pm at the Norristown Library, The Small Business Assistance Center will present the seminar "Close The Gap: Increasing your Company's Cash Flow" Moderated by Scot Fields of Norristown SBAC. Come meet and network with like minded business professionals before and after the event. Parking is free. The 1st 25 people to arrive will receive a complimentary future business technical assistance counseling session.

Thursday at 7 pm, is "Juneteenth: A Celebration of Black History" at Centre Theater on DeKalb Street.  An evening of music, poetry, dramatized personalities and readings from history. This year to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Iron Age Theatre brings the show into the house to share an intimate look at the African American struggle. Featuring Richard Bradford, Maurice Tucker, Buck Jones, Seidah Hill Durante, Michael Way, Tiffany Joyner, Walter DeShields, Richard Rogers, Alaina Nelson and Gary Giles. NAACP Youth Council member act as tour guides. This is a FREE event but reservations are suggested. Reserve tickets by emailing or call 610-279-1013.

Fox Chase Cancer Center's Mobile Mammography Van will visit State Rep. Matt Bradford's Norristown Office at 1846 Markley St. on Friday June 20th at 9 am to offer free breast cancer screenings.Women must be 40 or older--bring the name and address of one of your doctors, prescription from your doctor. You may not be breast feeding nor have breast fed within the last 9 months, must not have had a breast cancer diagnosis within the past 2 yrs, must not be under treatment for breast cancer, must not have had a mammogram in 12 months. To schedule an appointment, call 610-222-3490

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Markley St. Headaches / Free Skin Cancer Screening

First, from the "Tell us something we don't already know" category, I received a robo-email from Rep. Matt Bradford yesterday saying that the construction on Markley Street was being extended north so that they'd now be working "between Wood St. and Johnson Highway." Any of you who travel that corridor regularly know that there's been work going on in that stretch for months. But, apparently, PennDoT is about to take it up a notch. This new phase is expected to last until November.

Rather than make Markley one-way between Johnson Highway and Roberts, they've decided to keep two-way traffic, either using tight lanes to one side of the construction, or flag men, depending on the situation. The reliable assumption is that traffic patterns will change often. If you're just trying to get through town, either north or south, use Harding, Pine, Powell or Dekalb instead. The less traffic on Markley, the better.

If you need to get to one of the business in that area, you can still avoid Markley. Logan Square is accessible from Johnson Hwy and also from Pine St., so you can still get to Plymouth Produce, Rite-Aid, etc, and there's no need to deny those cravings for Sessano's pork. Astor Plaza is accessible from Logan St. If you drive through the lot to the far side of the Citgo station, you can get to the cleaners and Zachary's from there. Or simply park in Astor Plaza's lot and walk to Zachary's. The exercise will help you burn off the calories from the sweet potato pie. As for the businesses between Johnson and Logan on Markley, like Nick the Tailor, park at Astor Plaza or at the little lot on the corner of Johnson and Markley, or at the Dunkin Donuts, and walk.

What's important is that we keep patronizing the small businesses in that area and don't let the traffic woes keep us away. We can't afford to have any of them go out of business.

Second, Mercy Suburban is hosting a FREE skin cancer screening this Friday, from 8 to 11 am at their Cancer Center at the hospital on Dekalb Pike in East Norriton. I'm telling you now because you need to pre-register and make an appointment (I just got the notice so for all I know, they might already be filled up). Call and find out at 610-278-2504. If they are filled up, ask if you can get on their mailing list for next year.

In the past, the notices have said the screenings are for those over 50. This one doesn't say that. If you have a family history of skin cancer, or you burn easily, or you've had at least one bad sunburn in your life, and especially, if you have a lot of moles, or any that are odd shapes or colors, you should have a screening. You should also have one if you're over 50 and have never had one, to establish a base line for future exams.

I've had two of these screenings. They're easy and don't take long. They look mainly at your face and arms, and they'll check any questionable moles you have. And they usually hand out free lotion and other goodies.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Preventing Floods Without Major Engineering

The photo is the view from my window of yesterday's flood. The thing is, I've been seeing this view more and more often in heavy rainstorms.

Now, I've been living in this house for more than a half century, and I can remember angry torrents running down the gutter, maybe half a car's width wide. I'm near the bottom of the hills of the North End. Every drop of rain that falls on a non-absorbent surface uphill--every roof, road, sidewalk, driveway--makes its way down the streets that lead toward the creeks. One inch of rain on top of the hill adds up to many feet of water at the bottom.

I don't remember runoff ever coming up onto the sidewalk and covering the grass like it does in heavy rain now, becoming a stream that extends halfway across the street--never before, not even in the worst of hurricanes. I remember Sterigere Street through the park being closed many, many times in the past, but Harding Blvd very rarely was submerged. Now, in the heaviest rain, it's almost to be expected.

What's changed in the last 50 years? There's been little new construction uphill. Most of the houses in the North End are at least 80 years old. But more than a handful of those houses have become multi-unit rentals in my lifetime, and households in general now own more cars. Homeowners have paved parts of their back yards for parking spaces. You can't blame them. Parking can be hard to find on the street. Our family did the same, adding two spaces in back. This extra paving creates extra storm water runoff.

Still, I don't think that's the main factor. Much of the North End--and a lot of other areas of Norristown--used to have tree-lined streets. When I was young, our street had 1 or 2 trees in front of each house. Now there's only 4 trees left on my side, and the other side has none. Trees are great for storm water management. Their canopies act like umbrellas, slowing the rainfall, spreading it out. Many species of tree have leaves that actually absorb some rainfall, so less reaches the ground. And of course their roots act like sponges--those with surface roots can be especially good at absorbing rainfall because they don't have to wait for the water to soak into the ground. Thing is, the ones with surface roots, like the big sycamore in the photo, tend to be the ones we cut down first, as their roots push up our sidewalks.

Another trend I've noticed is the tendency for new homeowners to rip out established gardens in favor of grass. This has happened all around my neighborhood, especially when the houses are bought as investment properties. The landlord doesn't want to deal with maintaining a garden--just wants to mow a lawn--so all the shrubs and perennials are removed. A healthy lawn may be good for preventing erosion (the grass underwater in the photo bounced back this morning looking as if nothing had happened), but grass isn't as good at absorbing water as trees and shrubs. And, as you can tell by the color of the water in the photo, the greater and faster the runoff, the more erosion you'll have, too.

Consider the way the Markley Street improvements are paving the areas that used to be the grass strips along that road. PennDOT removed all those big sycamores along Roosevelt. Even if they improve the storm drains, well, that water has to go somewhere eventually--into Stony Creek and the Schuylkill, to create floods downstream.

As I think I mentioned in a prior Diary entry, the overflow hose from my rain barrel waters my side garden. I have 2 trees there--a Japanese maple and a redbud--plus a few azaleas, hostas, ferns and other perennials. The trees absorb an amazing amount of water during storms, every drop that falls on the back half of my house, which yesterday was at least 200 gallons.

If homeowners in Norristown planted one tree or bush, if commercial property owners could line their parking lots with trees and bushes, if vacant lot owners could be made to plant something besides grass, and if our municipal government would do the same on their properties, all this would go a long way toward solving our increasing storm water runoff problems.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Communication--The Ongoing Stumbling Block

In our never-ending debate about whether Norristown's a city or a small town (with me always saying neither and no one else seeming to believe there's an in between possible because we'd rather have something to argue about), I'd have to say our communication problems prove we're not a small town In a small town, everyone knows everyone else's business. In places like that, word of mouth is an art form. Information gets passed around.

In a city, though, communication is more difficult, so the city compensates by having more than one type of media--at least one newspaper, and commercial radio and TV stations that concentrate mainly on news for that city. Being so close to Philly, Norristown is at a disadvantage. The commercial stations listened to or watched by most of our residents focus on Philly and we hardly ever get a mention, unless it's negative news. State College only has about 10,000 more residents than we do, but they have their own commercial TV and radio stations. Same for Wilkes-Barre.

Back in the '60s and early '70s, everyone in N-town seemed to listen to 3 radio stations: WNAR, WFIL, and WIP. They carried weekly announcements about things happening in Norristown. Now the stations have all moved or been turned into Christian radio stations. They might be great about broadcasting the Good News, but none of them seem to help spread Norristown news. Even if they did, their audience is a lot smaller now. We have local access cable stations, but really, how many of you ever watch them?

I've been thinking about this problem we have with publicizing Norristown events for the last month. When the Dragon Boat Club and Norristown Business Association did their Flea Market, many people come only because they saw us there as they drove by, or as one woman said, "I came over to Pizza King for lunch and saw you here." They wanted to know why it wasn't in the paper. Well, it WAS, and not just in the back under "Happenings." The Times Herald ran an article on page 3 a few days before the event. They put it online, too--links made the rounds on Facebook and Twitter. Yet it wasn't until the day after, when the Times Herald ran an article on page 1 with photos from the Flea Market and the cleanup afterward at Riverfront, that people came out of the woodwork asking why they hadn't been told about it.

Honestly, do our groups have to go door-to-door? Or hire a skywriter?

The same thing happened Friday night for the Family Feud at Caffe Galileo. Very low turnout, yet the next day when photos of the event hit Facebook, people were saying they didn't know anything about it. Yet, notices for it had been around Facebook for the last week. How did they see the photos, but miss the pre-event posts?

On the bright side, we've gotten better in the last year on posting notices. A year ago, half the time you wouldn't see a notice for an event until the day before or the day of. Now you see online flyers at least a month before most events. But people still don't seem to be reading them. I try to spread news of events I hear about here on the Diary each Friday. Shea Ashe posts events he hears about on the OIC community calendar. Still, we can't force people to go to our sites and read them.

I don't know the solution to spreading the word about Norristown's events. This week I'll be doing press releases for the History Day Fest at Selma Mansion on June 28th. I'll send them to the Times Herald, Montgomery News, the Lansdale Reporter, King of Prussia Courier, Main Line Times, the Plymouth Colonial and the Phoenixville Phoenix. I'll post it to 4 online community calendar besides the OIC calendar and our Municipal calendar. We've already begun spreading it around Facebook and Twitter. I'll put notices on Next Door. Regardless, after the fact, people will say they knew nothing about it.

How do you usually hear about Norristown events? How do you WANT to hear about them? Please don't ignore these questions. Communication is too important to our continued growth. What are your ideas?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Update about the Save-A-Lot Opening

PennDOT in their infinite wisdom chose today to work right in front of the entrance to Astor Plaza, and they have the entrance partly closed off. You can get into Save-A-Lot's lot from Markley going south, but you might have to wait for the flagmen and it's a pain. If you're coming north from Roberts, turn left before the Citgo Station. Otherwise, you can get in from Logan Street.

I don't know if PennDOT will still have it blocked for the big Grand Opening Day tomorrow or on Sunday.

I checked out the store today. Reminded me a lot of the old Mad Grocer store that used to be there. Simple shelving, and BYOB (bring your own bags). Though, if you're one of the first 100 people the next 3 days, you can a really nice tote free. Mostly packaged goods, but their produce looked decent and they have a limited assortment of meats and dairy. The store looks great inside--new and bright.

Best of all, new jobs for Norristown.

Get Out and DO Stuff!

How can you NOT get excited by how much is going on in Norristown? You can sit home and be negative or you can try a few of the activities for the coming week, listed below.

This is going to be a beautiful, sunny weekend. Saturday is National Trails Day and we've got a great walking/cycling trail that goes right through town. You can access the Schuylkill River Trail by parking on Lafayette near Franklin and go up the walk toward the old train tracks, or at the Dekalb Train Station, or park on Lafayette near Barbadoes (there's a little trail that leads toward the railroad bridge over the Dannehower Bridge), or park at Riverfront Park and climb the stairs near the entrance. Bring your family out to get some exercise, enjoy nature, and see what our trail is all about.

But first, tonight at 7 pm, come to Caffe Galileo's (307 Swede) to watch the champion Norristown Men of Excellence take on the Norristown Arts Council in this month's Family Feud bout. Free admission. Guaranteed fun.

Also tonight at 8 pm, "The Fantasticks" opens at Centre Theater. This great family musical will run every weekend through June 29th, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets are $22, seniors, $20, students, $15. Go to this link for tickets or call 610-279-1013.

This is the last weekend for "Hitchcock's 39 Steps" at Theatre Horizon. Tonight's performance is sold out. Last chances to see it are Saturday's show is at 8 pm, Sunday at 2 pm. Tickets start at $35. Go to to order or call 610-283-2230.

Saturday morning from 9 am-3 pm is the Montco Electronics Collection at Norristown Area High School. Bring old small appliances, TV's, computers and accessories, etc. Drive-thru--they'll unload for you. For a complete list of items and more info go to the Montco Recycling website.

Saturday from 10 am to 12:30, the Norristown Ladies Basketball League will hold registration at the Norristown Public Library. They'll also hold sessions Sunday from 1:30 to 4:30 pm at the State Hospital Football Field, and Tuesday and Thursday at the Library at 6 pm. Minimum age, 24. $50 per athlete, for a 5 week tournament, sponsored uniforms. Further details, call Crystal Smith at 484-358-2145 or Rowan Watson at 484-213-0744.

Hey, we've got another supermarket in Norristown and Saturday is the Grand Opening Celebration. From 11 am to 3 pm, visit the new Save-A-Lot at Astor Plaza (on Markley, across from Logan Square) for special deals and a chance to win prizes.

Sunday night at 7 pm, Summer Concert Series presents Allen Reynolds Band. Elmwood Park Bandshell. Bring a lawn chair or ground cover so you can sit on the concrete steps. Bug repellent is a good idea. Food/drinks available at the snack stand. Sponsored by The Arcadia Foundation.  Any questions call 610-270-0467.

Tuesday night at 7 pm is the Planning Commission Meeting at Municipal Hall. On this month's agenda is the plan to turn the top 2 floors of 1 West Main into 16 condominiums.

Wednesday, from 2 to 4 pm at the Montgomery County OIC, Arch and Basin Sts., you can take a FREE class to learn how to use Microsoft Office. Participants will learn functions of Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Publisher, Access and Outlook. Looking for an office job, or a job upgrade? You need this. Registration is limited to 8 spaces per session. To register, call 610-279-9700.

Thursday from 11 am to 3:30 pm, the Norristown Farmer's Market takes place on East Main in front of the courthouse. Sponsored by the Municipality of Norristown, Montgomery County Commissioners, The Food Trust and CADCOM, Phone: 610-277-6363 x144. Every Thursday through Oct. 30th.

Remember, next Friday (the 13th) is the International Food and Wine Tasting Gala at Riverfront Park (1 Haws Ave) from 6:30 to 10:30 pm. Admission $20. Wine and beer tasting, hors d'oeuvres from some of Norristown's finest restaurants, local entertainment, a Lion Dance performance, a passport raffle, and a silent auction, PLUS a fashion show by some of N-town's most prominent citizens dressed in some pretty outlandish get-ups. Come if for no other reason than to welcome Puff the Magic Boathouse Dragon home from its sojourn down the river. 21 and over only. Information at

Many, MANY more events are listed on the Norristown Project/OIC calendar. Check it out.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Electronics Recycling

Got things like old broken cell phones or TVs or printers taking up space around your house? This is the week to get rid of them.

This Saturday (June 7th) from 9 am to 3 pm, the Montgomery County Recycling Program will host an Electronics Collection at Norristown Area High School (enter from Whitehall Road). You can download information at this link -- the 2nd page lists all the items they'll accept, but here's a rough summary:

Any kind of TV
Computers, laptops (hard drive will be shredded for security)
Anything that attaches to computers (printers, keyboards, mice, monitors, etc.)
Copiers, fax machines, electronic office equipment
Anything that attaches to TVs (DVD, VCR, game consoles, etc.)
Audio equipment and attachments
Telephones, chargers, etc.
Small appliances (toasters, microwaves, blenders, vacuums, etc.)
Portable or window A/C units and dehumidifiers

If it plugs in or is charged by something that plugs in, and it's small enough to get into a typical car, you're probably safe in bringing it. Remember to take things like paper out of printers and CDs and video tapes out of players. DON'T bring light bulbs or smoke detectors.

If you haven't been to one of these collection events, everything you need to know is at the MontCo Electronics Recycling website. The drive-thru drop-offs are really easy, but expect to wait in line, especially in the morning. (Last week's hazardous waste collection took about 30 minutes.)

Some notices have been passed around Facebook saying the collection is Sunday, June 29th. This is wrong. June 29th was last years' collection (on a Saturday, as usual) and likely the dates got mixed up. There IS NO collection on June 29th. MontCo recycling events are always on Saturday.

Now, let me go gather all my old electric typewriters....

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Preserving History With Alcohol

Everyone knows you use alcohol as a preservative for food. We have a new venture coming to Norristown that hopes to preserve history as well.

Some of you also know that last year, due to a lack of volunteers, the Humane Fire Company (founded in 1852) was forced to merge with Norristown Hose Company, leaving the Humane Fire House at 129 East Main empty. The firehouse was built in 1888.

This past week, Five Saints Distilling (John George and Louis "Jay" Rachelli) came forward with their plan to convert the firehouse into a micro-distillery that will produce aged bourbons, whiskeys, vodka and other spirits. The top of their homepage on their website states that they'll be opening in fall of 2015. Toward the bottom, it says January 2016.

In the next year and a half, though, Five Saints claims that they will host community events and, to celebrate key milestones in the construction process, they'll give tours of the distillery-in-progress.

Best of all, they intend to restore the old firehouse and preserve the historical memorabilia left behind, like the original fire pole. Once the distillery opens, the firehouse will be open for tours. Five Saints also plans to sell merchandise with their logo and proceeds from that will help support the Norristown Fire Department.

The project will need $100,000 of public funding in the form of a job creation grant from Federal Community Development Block Grant funds, which will provide the financing for distillery equipment. In exchange, Five Saints must create at least 3 full-time jobs.

I think most of Norristown tends to hold their breath when projects like this--especially those using public funding--are announced. We've had so many go bust in the last couple decades. No one wants to get their hopes up too high. But, though Five Saints website isn't fully functional yet, they do seem to support Norristown and our revitalization efforts. A few things worry me--that there's no information about the owners on their website at all, that there's no way to contact them by phone (one number given is directory assistance, another is an international exchange that seems to be connected to a place in Albquerque, NM), and that their website is vague and has conflicting information. I'm hoping this is all just organizational growing pains, but I really would like to see bios of the owners, at least.

If all goes according to plan, Five Saints should bring jobs and a few tourists to town, as well as adding to our tax base, plus be a delightfully unique addition to our community. I wish them all the luck in the world and hope they have the business sense to pull it off.

Their first event will be June 13th, when Humane Fire Company publicly transfers the ownership of the firehouse to Five Saints. No time was given for the ceremony. I'll let you know when I find out.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Men of Excellence v. Arts Council

No regular blog today. I need to finish a manuscript that my editor wants this week. But I did want to mention one item that I found out about after I posted Friday's list of events of this week.

Norristown Business Association will be hosting yet another in their series of monthly Family Feud nights this coming Friday, June 6 at 7 pm. As you might know, Municipal Council was finally defeated last month by the Norristown Men of Excellence. This month the champion Men of Excellence take on Norristown Arts Council. The bout will take place at Caffe Galileo (317 Swede, across from the Courthouse). Admission free. Lots of free street parking.

If you haven't been to one of these Family Feud nights, I guarantee you'll laugh. It's also a great way to get to know the people behind Norristown's resurgence of activity. These are the folks who believe in our community and are helping to make great things happen here. Come out and cheer them on, and have a good time in the bargain.

See you then.