Sunday, September 27, 2009


About 10 miles north of Lancaster Pennsylvania on Rt. 501 is the small, sleepy town of Litiz. Just a dot on the map Litiz is an old town with some interesting architecture. There is really nothing electrifying about the town and if you just happen to pass through there is little to catch your attention, except of course the large brick factory on the left just past the railroad tracks in the center of town. Emblazoned across the front of this building are the words, “Wilber Chocolate Co.”

CHOCOLATE! Certainly got my attention! Across the street is a parking lot that is shared by several small businesses but there is usually a space or two to be found. The gift shop/museum is open to the public and I believe the opening time is 10:00 am. There is no factory tour per say but the gift shop and museum offers many displays on the history of chocolate and the Wilber Chocolate Co. Antique candy molds are everywhere and there is a huge display of oriental porcelain chocolate jars. Behind a glass partition you can watch chocolate artisans work their magic making confections for the gift shop and the special orders placed for birthday, anniversaries, graduations and other special events.
Of course the gift shop is abundant with Wilber products including cocoa, candy bars, and my favorite— dark chocolate “Wilber Buds”, tasty little morsels without the foil wrapper to contend with. Buds also come in milk chocolate but I prefer the dark.
There is no amusement park next door or pseudo ride through the factory and your entire visit to the museum and gift shop can be accomplished is an hour or so. But that’s plenty of time to stock up on chocolate and have an enjoyable morning or afternoon. Not so far out of the way from Lancaster if you are in the area and it surely will make you want to return just like I have done many times.

Click on "CHOCOLATE" in the title of this post to be taken to the Wilber Chocolate Co. site for more information, some history of the Company and to order Wilber products. Enjoy!

Left: Chocolate Castle created by the on site artisans.


Monday, September 21, 2009

The Road to Paradise.

What is a trip to Lancaster Pennsylvania without a ride on the Strasburg Rail Road? I have made this short trip many times and when I return I shall surely do it again.

The railroad was founded in 1832 and was used for passenger and freight service. The main purpose of the railroad was to interchange freight with the Pennsylvania Railroad. After WWII highways were improved and truck transportation became more of the norm for freight and, as happened all over the country, the Rail Road's usefulness diminished. In 1957, quite a bit of track was destroyed or severely damaged by storms and the owners were unwilling to invest in the necessary repairs and so a petition to abandon the service was formulated. However, two rail fans, Henry K. Long, an industrialist from nearby Lancaster, along with Donald E. L. Hallock, led the formation of a group of interested individuals to save the railroad. After repairing 4 1/2 miles of track and acquiring locomotives and rail cars the Strasburg Railroad opened to visitors in 1958 and has been running ever since. Much more of the history of the Railroad can be found by clicking on the title of this post. Hours of operation, direction to the site, ticket prices and events are also listed there. The round trip ride usually takes about 45 minutes with a stop at the picnic area and a brief visit with the ghost of a long lost train. Yes, it's really there and you can hear it in the distance. Your conductors will be happy to fill you in on the details.

When we purchased our tickets we chose the open air car and the ticket agent directed us to the first or second car in the station. When we got the second car the staff was assisting a wheelchair patron board the train car with a lift designed for that purpose. (they are very accommodating here) so we went to the first car. I thought this might be a good idea because I would be able to see inside the locomotive cab and watch the working of the engine has it happened. Bear in mind when we boarded the train the locomotive was well behind us on the switch track. When the locomotive came along beside the train to switch over to our track I noticed it was facing the cars instead of away from them. So much for watching the engineer and fireman do their work! Instead we had the pleasure of all the clanking, and banging, and chugging of the engine, not to mention the fact we were very close to the steam whistle and all the smells of smoke and burning wood. It was really wonderful!

Once we arrived in Paradise the locomotive disconnected from the train and used another switch to get on a parallel track. Then he moved to the opposite end of the train and re-coupled for the return trip. This put us on the last car and the ride was much quieter but now I was 7 cars away from the engineer and still did'nt get to watch the operation in the cab of the locomotive. It's a beautiful ride through the Lancaster countryside where the old meets the new. You pass real Amish farms and modern housing. Cornfields and tobacco fields and barns, horse drawn farm apparatus and tractors, and if your lucky, while you are waiting for the antique locomotive do it's switch in Paradise a modern Amtrack will come roaring by with the engineers of each train saluting one another with whistle blasts. We missed the Amtrack on this trip but we did get to see one on a previous ride.

There are shops and a small cafe at the station back in Strasburg and barely 1 1/2 miles away is historic Strasburg with Lancaster just a few mile more. Directly across the street from the Strasburg Railroad in the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum. It is a huge building and it's easy to spend hours there if you wish. The museum is always a work in progress so there is always something new to see. Well worth trip anytime. I have also ridden the Strasburg Railroad in the winter when snow was on the ground and that gives all the sights an entirely different perspective. Going to Lancaster to shop the outlets? Figure in an extra day or even half a day for the railroad. You won't be sorry.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Can You Be Johnny Today?

I received this from a dear friend today. I thought it was well worthwhile to pass on.

Click on the title of this post to see the short, but moving video.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Zouaves--Colorful Civil War Soldiers

On July 18th I posted an article titled “The Blue, The Gray and the Green?” referencing the uniform colors of Americas Civil War and I spoke mainly of the Union green uniforms of the United States Sharpshooters commanded by Hiram Berdan. There were also many other uniform styles during the war and probably the most colorful were those of the Zouave (zoo’ahv) soldiers. I had seen many examples of these uniforms over the years but until a little research I was unaware of how extensive the Zouave concept really was. All told there were more than 50 Zouave units formed during the Civil War with the majority of them belonging to the Union. Although many of the uniforms were similar each unit had its own distinctive style and color scheme. The most common example is with bright red pantaloons, a waist sash, short jackets with an array of gold or red trim and braid and head gear consisting of a turban or fez.

First a little background on the real Zouaves. The original Zouaves were from the North African natives of the Zouaoua Tribe mixed with French settlers and served with the French army in the 1830’s. Their native dress of baggy trousers, short, tight jackets, and fez became the benchmark of the Zouave uniform and changed little over the years even up to the first world war when the conspicuous uniforms attracted more than their share of enemy ordinance. The bravery and courage of the Zouaves was legendary and they were the subject of many paintings and illustrations of the era.

Just prior to the Civil War a military enthusiast, Elmer Ellsworth, began the Zouave craze by forming the “United States Zouave Cadets” from a company of the Illinois State Militia. Basically this was a demonstration drill team that performed for the public. Newspapers lauded their performance and it was said that women swooned at the sight of Ellsworth and his band of Cadets. Maintaining this team proved to be expensive and in time it was disbanded however the Zouave craze had begun and Ellsworth was not finished.

At the onset of the Civil War Ellsworth headed to his home State of New York with the idea of raising the first Zouave unit to serve the United States in the war. He felt that the bravest of the brave should compose this unit and he promptly began a recruitment of the fireman in New York City. The response was overwhelming and in 48 hours the rolls for the 11th N.Y. were full. In May of 1861 the Fire Zouaves were in Washington and ready for action which occurred on the night of May 23. The 11th entered Alexandria VA. in order to seize the town. Seeing a Confederate flag flying from a local tavern, Ellsworth entered the establishment to remove the banner from its place of prominence and as he descended the stairs he was shot dead by the tavern owner who in turn was dispatched by a Zouave corporal that had also entered the building with Ellsworth.

It seems that many Zouave units were formed around a common denominator. There were a number of units consisting mostly of fireman as well as units being formed around Irish, German, or English ethnicity. The 10th N.Y. National Zouaves boasted mostly members of the Masonic Fraternity and were nicknamed “Machesney’s Zouaves” after their drillmaster.

No less than three Zouave units fought at the battle of Gettysburg in July of 1863. The 44th New York Infantry, whose Gettysburg monument is shown at the right, helped defend Little Round Top on the second day of the battle while the 73rd N.Y., also known as the second fire Zouaves fought in the Peach Orchard.

The 72nd Pennsylvania (composed of Philadelphia Fireman) was in reserve at "The Angle" on the third day of battle but was called up to help repulse Picketts Charge at the stone wall. Their monument on the battlefield is that of a Zouave Soldier using his rifle as a club very close to what is known as “The High Water Mark” where the futile Confederate charge was halted and the tide of the war was turned.

Zouave history is a bit complex due to various enlistment terms of the soldiers, units being decimated in battle and merging with other units and many other issues that arose during the course of the war. “American Civil War Zouaves is an excellent book by Robin Smith and Bill Younghusband and has a fairly detailed history of the Zouaves. The book contains many photos and drawings and is available from Amazon Books on the web.
A noted Southern Zouave unit was “Wheat’s Tigers” officially know as the 1st Special Battalion Louisiana Infantry. This may well be the subject of a future post as General Roberdeau Wheat has a unique history all his own.

"Remembering Our Boys" 1st Annual Memorial Poker Run

The Knights of St. Florian Motorcycle Club and the Mardela Springs Vol. Fire department will be holding a memorial poker run on September 19th, 2009. All proceeds will support the Wicomico War Memorial Wall in the name of Walter F. "Trae" Cohee III & The Michael J. McMullen Emergency Services Medical Memorial Fund at Wor-Wic College.
Registration for this event begins at 10:00 a.m. at the Mardela Springs Volunteer Fire House.
Please click on the poster to the right for more information about this event and to read a brief biography of these two brave soldiers that gave the supreme sacrifice for our country.

Friday, September 11, 2009

343--Never Forget

September 11, 2001.

343 F.D.N.Y. Firefighters answered their last alarm.

Never Forget.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Chad Spicer, Georgetown PD R.I.P.

On Wednesday Sept. 2, 2009, Patrolman Chad Spicer of the Georgetown Police Dept., Georgetown DE. was violently gunned down while on patrol and in the performance of his duties. Patrolman Spicer is the first officer in the history of the dept to be killed in the line of duty.

Two of the suspects in the shooting were apprehended immediately while the third suspect escaped until Friday Sept. 4th when he turned himself in.

Patrolman Spicer was 29 years and old leaves a daughter aged 3. Services for Patrolman Spicer will be held on Tuesday September 8th at Crossroads Community Church located at 20684 Forrest Road, Georgetown DE. beginning at 2 p.m. A visitation will be held prior to the service from 10 a.m. till 2 p.m. Interment will be in Cokesbury Cemetery on Cokesbury Road and Seashore Highway.

A fund has been set up for Patrolman Spicers daughter. If anyone should wish to contribute you may do so by mailing you contribution to:

Aubrey Spicer Fund
c/o Norman Spicer
Wilmington Trust Bank
139 S. State St.
Dover, DE. 19901
Contributions may also be dropped at any Wilmington Trust Branch.
Rest in Peace Patrolman Spicer. God be with You.