MIDTERMS: Terrific turnout

Whether you're happy or sad with the results of the midterm elections, you have to be both (1) relieved that you're not getting any more political mailings and (2) impressed with the voter turnout. Usually midterms are a pretty slow affair, but turnout was well over 60% in all the local municipalities that I checked.

Newlin had 74%, Pocopson 70%, Londonderry 68%, Highland 68%, and my own township, West Marlborough, had 69%. Kennett Square's three precincts had turnouts in the low 60s. Kennett Township's four precincts were in the high 60s, with an amazing 79% in the third precinct (not coincidentally, home to the Kendal retirement community). East Marlborough's three precincts had 65%, 67%, and 73%.

Note to candidates: it's time to take down your signs.

CROSS-COUNTRY: They run this town!

Huge congratulations to the Unionville boys' and girls' cross-country teams, who both finished in sixth place in the Pennsylvania cross-country championships on Nov. 3 in Hershey.

Medalists (meaning they finished in the top 25 in the whole state) were junior Cole Walker and senior Cole Driver for the UHS boys and senior Madison McGovern and freshman Sarah Coates for the UHS girls. The team coach is Mark Lacianca.

No matter where they finished, I'm in awe of any athlete who finished this pain cave of a race. The course ends in a grueling hill and the footing was muddy and slippery due to the pouring rain the night before.

Coaches, parents, teachers, friends, and siblings of the athletes from dozens of schools were on hand on the windy, intermittently sunny day. We overheard one boy saying that it was easy to spot his teammates in the crowd because they have distinctive orange uniforms. They'd be in trouble, added his friend, if they had blue uniforms.

We happened to be standing at the finish line with a philosophically minded group from La Salle College High School in Wyndmoor, who were discussing the life lessons, like endurance and hard work, that running cross-country teaches.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: A more rural mode

The November meeting of the West Marlborough Township supervisors was a brief one.

Supervisor Bill Wylie said the board met with PennDOT officials on Nov. 5 to talk about traffic conditions in the township. West Marlborough wants the state to reduce the maintenance level on some of its roads in an attempt to quell speeders and discourage drivers from taking back roads. Mr. Wylie said although no promises were made, "we're hopeful" that the roads in question "will be maintained in a more rural mode going forward."

Mr. Wylie and supervisor Hugh Lofting Sr. discussed Frank Lordi's plan to build a house on Byrd Road near Route 842. An electric line will have to be extended to the property, which sits on a narrow gravel road that forms the boundary with East Marlborough Township. The supervisors noted that part of the property is designated on the township's zoning map as a possible site of archaeological significance (as is much of the township); Mr. Lordi will have to get that resolved before breaking ground.

Mr. Lofting said that work on the bridge on Runnemede Road has started and completion is expected by Christmas.

Township secretary/treasurer Shirley Walton reported that, after she complained, the township's bank has stopped charging a monthly "lack of activity" fee but has not refunded the $45 in previous fees as promised.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Indian Hannah

Dennis J. Coker, principal chief of the Lenape Tribe of Delaware, will speak about the life and death of Hannah Freeman ("Indian Hannah") at London Grove Friends Meeting after worship on Sunday, Nov. 18, from 11 a.m. to noon. The meetinghouse is at Newark Road and Route 926.

Thank you to Grace Pfeifer for sharing this information.

HUNT CUP: Thanks, Kathee!

I suspect Kathee Rengert had something to do with the perfect weather -- warm and sunny -- that we spectators enjoyed for the 84th running of the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup on Sunday, Nov. 4. (Kathee, the longtime executive director, died on Oct. 6.)

But due to the heavy rain we received on Nov. 2, the carriage parade was cancelled--the ground was just too muddy for the heavy carriages--and for safety's sake two of the jumps in low-lying areas were eliminated from the race course.

No matter what the weather, the Hunt Cup is always great fun, as it attracts so many local folks who come out to watch the races, socialize, and eat and drink. Our table groaned with Royal Farms fried chicken, brownie cupcakes, veggies, chips and berry crumble. Dearest Partner's favorite parts of the afternoon are taking photographs and making friends with every canine he sees.

The talk among the foxhunters was about how Opening Day for every local club was cancelled due to the aforementioned downpours. As one friend in our party said mournfully, "I spent hours washing, and brushing, and polishing, and braiding, and getting everybody's finery together -- then I got the email."

"She burst out crying," added her husband. Both were quick to note, however, they realized it was a First World, even One Percent, problem.

The sidesaddle race (the Mrs. Ford Draper Side Saddle Invitational) was amazing to watch -- what incredible riders those women are, and they look stunning in their vintage black riding habits. For the race they wore modern body armor and helmets (I wonder if, for safety's sake, that rule shouldn't apply throughout the day). The winner was Julie Nafe on McCradys, owned and trained by Lauren Schock. After the race the riders and their horses posed in front of a bevy of photographers like it was a Hollywood premiere.

Usually we are so cold that we leave before the final race, the Athenian Idol (won by Robert Law-Eadie on In It to Win, owned by John E. Teas Jr. and trained by Michael W. Dickinson) but the weather was so glorious that we just hung out, ate and enjoyed each other's company.

The winners:

In the Lewis C. Ledyard Memorial Race, the winner in a very close finish was Hooded, with Darren Nagle up (owned by Irvin Naylor and trained by Cyril Murphy).

The Arthur O. Choate, Jr., Memorial Race was won by Riverdee Stable's Biedermeier, trained by Todd Wyatt, with Mark Beecher up.

And the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup winner was Frank Bonsal Jr.'s Stand Down, trained by Joseph Davies, with Eric Poretz up.

WEST CHESTER: A favorite returns

Who remembers Strato Moriello's Pizza Gallery on State Street in downtown Kennett? I loved his pizza and was a frequent customer in the 1990s before, sadly, it went out of business.

I was delighted to see that Strato is back: he has just opened Strato's Pizza Kitchen in the Parkway Shopping Center, 929 S. High St., in West Chester. We will be making a visit soon.

They're also looking for delivery drivers, cashiers and kitchen help; apply in person, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

KENNETT: Christmas and axes

Kicking off the Christmas season is the annual Light Parade through downtown Kennett Square, which kicks off at 6:15 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 23 ("Black Friday"). You might want to get there early to snag for a good spot on the sidewalk. People around here really get into parades, and this one is especially fun, with folks decorating their fire trucks, tractors, hay buggies, and just about every kind of vehicle you can think of.

And yes, the very popular Kennett Square Holiday Village at the Creamery on Birch Street is a "go" for 2018. The dates are Dec. 1, 2, 8, and 9, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. Like last year, there will be merchants, musicians, artists and food.

In other Creamery news, an axe-throwing range called The Chop Shop will soon be opening. Their website explains who exactly does axe throwing: "All the cool kids with closed-toe shoes!" They will offer coaches for the non-lumberjacks among us, and they plan to set up a competitive league starting in early 2019.ids with closed-toed shoes! Our expert coaches will train you in correct techniques and have you throwing bullseyes in no time! For more experienced throwers, Chop Shop KSQ is a fantastic place to hone, improve your throwing skills and compete regionally!

MARSHALLTON: A footnote to history

Social media can be a huge time-waster, but occasionally something fascinating pops up, like the fact that Nathan Simms (1851-1934) is buried at Bradford Cemetery in Marshallton.

According to the tombstone, Simms is "the slave boy who helped Booth escape the night of Lincoln's assassination, but told the Union soldiers the next day the direction Booth took, thus aiding in his capture."

I did some online research and found that there's a dispute over whether Simms was a slave or an indentured servant. Either way, on April 14, 1865, he was a 14-year-old stable worker at Surratt’s Tavern in Maryland (owned by Mary Surratt, a co-conspirator in the assassination plot) when John Wilkes Booth stopped during his escape to eat, pick up weapons and change horses. As Simms put it, Booth, despite his leg injury, "rode down the pike as if a whirlwind was pursuing him.”

When Union soldiers arrived at the tavern the next morning, Simms learned of the assassination and told them which way Booth had ridden off. He was not charged.

At age 19, Simms moved to Marshallton (history doesn't record why), where he worked as a laborer but died destitute in the county poorhouse in 1934. His headstone was installed by local Boy Scouts in 1960.

NEW GARDEN: Lyceum Hall program

New Garden historian Peggy Jones was good enough to alert me to an upcoming program about the township's Lyceum Hall. She writes:

"Five years ago the 166-year-old Lyceum Hall was moved from along Rt. 41 to the Township Park and the Historical Commission was given the responsibility and the funds to renovate the building for use as a park clubhouse. The exterior is finished and the interior will be completed this winter. This historic building, which has served not only as a lyceum hall, but also as a school, as a refuge for runaway slaves, as a Township building and polling place, is, to my knowledge, the only remaining lyceum hall in the County which was built exclusively for that purpose."

Speakers will discuss the hall's history, its restoration "and even the graffiti on the walls."

The program, sponsored by the township Historical Commission, will be held at the New Garden Township Building on Starr Road at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15.

Write to Tilda at uvilleblogger@gmail.com. Thanks!

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