Not welcomed in Chestnut Hill

As I have done for many years, I stopped and photographed the beautiful fall foliage in Chestnut Hill on my way home from attending church in the community.

This particular sunny Sunday morning in October, I was approached by an incredulous and unkind member of who said he was with the neighborhood town watch. He drove up in his SUV flashing his headlights to draw my attention. I had just finished taking several photographs of the streetscape from the center of the road with a long perspective of the road and brilliant foliage. There were no residences in my pictures.

He told me that there have been robberies in the neighborhood and that he wanted my name and he was calling the police to report my license plate number. I offered to show him the photos I had just taken to assuage his concerns that they could be used as part of a scheme to case houses in the neighborhood.

He continued to convey an unwelcoming attitude and was not interested in anything I had to say. He made it clear that my presence and activity was suspicious to him and justified his actions.

If he suspected that I was up to no good, as a town watch member, it would have been more circumspect to drive by and record my license plate and continue on his way.  However, I felt his actions were racially motivated in his approach to make sure that I knew I was being watched in his neighborhood and unwelcome under any circumstances.

I began to realize during this encounter that I may be at risk standing there alone while he was in this state of mind. I began to feel unsafe, so I ended trying to talk to him and drove to my home in Mt. Airy about two minutes away.

I have been taking photographs in the Mt Airy/Chestnut Hill area for 12 years.  People have inquired about what I was photographing; was it for the print media or an appraisal, but never have I been accused of taking pictures to case houses. No one had ever come up to me to say that they were taking my license plate number to report to the police. I attend church in Chestnut Hill and support businesses and community events in the Mt Airy/Chestnut Hill areas.

To my knowledge, town watch volunteers are there to observe, document and report. I wasn’t aware that town watch members have been empowered to approach, confront and convey that some people are not welcome. This kind of blatant town watch behavior is reprehensible and intolerable. Who is responsible in Chestnut Hill for monitoring the actions of town watch groups?

This matter needs to be redressed through effective training for persons with misconceptions and other motives. The person who confronted me needs this training and counseling as a town watch volunteer. I am probably not the only one that has been treated in this manner. There needs to be accountability and positive action to bring about change.

Van Williams

Mt. Airy

Editor’s note: We do not doubt Mr. Williams’ story here one bit, but we do not know who the man is or if the was indeed a member of town watch.


Keep your opinions about SCH “abroad”

As a Springside Chestnut Hill Academy parent and Chestnut Hill resident, I was less than pleased that Eleanor K. Houston Smith Morris chose to interrupt her life “abroad” and share her self-important, hyperbolic and grudge-inspired opinion (“SCH tree removal is vandalism”).

The recent construction activity at SCH – implementation of the first phase of the Campus Master Plan – is long overdue and addresses two key objectives: (1) providing students with first-rate athletic facilities to match the school’s first-rate academic program, and (2) better connecting the now formal combined Springside School and Chestnut Hill Academy campuses.  SCH parents commend the SCH board of trustees and executive team for moving forward with this important project.

Through its website and proactive communication to the community (e.g., letters and meetings), SCH leadership made abundantly clear its commitment to campus green space. Working with environmental advocates such as Friends of the Wissahickon and Morris Arboretum, SCH has developed a plan to replace the 24 trees removed with 226 new trees, a ratio of nearly 10 to 1. Busy drafting her unilateral fiat, Ms. Houston Smith Morris apparently failed to make any effort to learn about SCH’s positive environmental stewardship.

While in many places “abroad” lineage and inherited wealth often define a person’s status and weight of opinion, here in America we continue to value most the opinions of those who work hard for what they have and contribute their time, talent and treasure to society.

Perhaps Ms. Houston Smith Morris should visit more often and constructively contribute to community discourse rather than taking the easy route of playing the uninformed critic.

Adrian R. King, Jr.

Chestnut Hill


Will Avenue trees be replaced?

I was gratified to read the recent letter from Eleanor K. Houston Smith Morris (among others) about the trees that were removed from SCH to facilitate the field renovations. It motivated me to write this letter which I’ve been contemplating for several months. Frankly I’m surprised I hadn’t read something about this sooner.

Trees are very important to our quality of life for the many reasons mentioned in the letter and highlighted by the Plant A Million tags that have shown up on some of the trees on Germantown Ave. These tags struck me as particularly ironic since I’ve noticed that a number of trees have disappeared along the Avenue over the last year or so to be replaced with flowers planted in their place. Flowers are lovely and they can co-exist with trees, but they don’t provide the ecological and aesthetic benefits of trees.

Trees help make Chestnut Hill the attractive, livable community that has been recently recognized nationally. In that respect, the Avenue trees are probably even more crucial to the image of Chestnut Hill that the trees at SCH. I remember that a few years ago there was a campaign to restore the lights to the trees on the Avenue as they enhance the shopping district, especially during the holidays. It’s hard to put lights on non-existent trees.

Can anyone shed light on why these trees have been removed? Are there plans in place to restore these trees? If so, what are they?

Judy Muenzberg

Chestnut Hill


Plus one for new hospital wing

Upon leaving for a vacation on Oct. 19, I told a physician friend at Chestnut Hill Hospital that I was sorry to be missing the public tours of its new emergency room and that perhaps I could take a private tour upon my return.

That scenario played out unexpectedly the following weekend as I was experiencing chest pains on Sunday morning, having returned home a day early due to the impending Hurricane Sandy.

First impressions mean a lot, and the private free parking area, spacious new lobby with flat screen televisions, a friendly greeting by the receptionist and a decent array of magazines was giving me a good first impression.

However, I didn’t linger in the lobby very long as I was quickly assessed and taken back to the new ER patient rooms. Once an EKG was taken and blood work was drawn, I settled back to watch one of my favorite shows, CBS Sunday Morning, on a flat screen monitor complete with a remote control to mute the barrage of political ads.

I was then taken to X-ray where you could see the sparkling new machinery that still glimmered with its newness.

Back in my room, it was a brief 20-minute wait to see the doctor and share my symptoms and medical history. It turns out I was experiencing inflammation of the chest wall and was discharged less than three hours from the time I walked through the doors.

Thanks to the friendly and professional staff, I was able to rest a bit easier as Hurricane Sandy made its way toward the Philadelphia area, knowing that I was not experiencing any serious cardiac issues.

Having been given the gift of “peace of mind” in a professional and aesthetically pleasing setting, I would highly recommend the new and improved ER services at Chestnut Hill Hospital.

Barbara Sherf



Why Jim Harris?

In all of my 30 years of living in Chestnut Hill and subscribing to Chestnut Hill Local, only three times have I sent a Letter to the Editor, this being my third but very much like the previous two letters.

For reasons you have not yet explained, as in my earlier letters, I continue to wonder why you give such coverage space to Jim Harris. His attempts at humor are worthless, both in laughs and substance, and yet time after time his mutterings get broad coverage. Case in point, his Oct. 25 partisan nonsense on “Obamaween.”

As one who takes seriously the election of our next president and as one who is still undecided, making partisan foolish fun of one over the other serves no purpose unless it is to announce his own choice. My subscription to the Chestnut Hill Local is not intended to learn what Mr. Harris thinks but rather to hear the rational voices of our community on a very important issue, the election of our next president.

Demeaning one of the candidates over the other doesn’t cut it for me and shouldn’t cut it for others. It calls for respect for both that they have offered themselves up to lead this country of ours at a very challenging time in our history. That’s serious business, Mr. Harris, not tomfoolery, as you have offered up.

John McMeekin

Chestnut Hill


Article on Stan Diamond a gem

You wrote the best article about Stan Diamond (“Beloved Mt. Airy teacher, author, activist dies at 80,” Oct. 25). He truly was “a Diamond in the rough!”  His wife Bev loved all that you wrote plus the pictures. It was wonderful to see Stan so healthy and full of energy (in the photo on page 21). Their daughter, Jodi Finkel, is sending it to everyone! This tribute to Stan meant a great deal to Bev and all their family and friends, including me. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Margie Gleit



‘Great job’ but with two errors

I’m writing to thank you for such a well-written and thoughtful piece about me in the Local (“Wyndmoor author helps other writers unlock talent,” Oct. 18). I felt you brought across very clearly who I am as a person and a writer. I felt understood.

I would like to request a couple of corrections from the first two paragraphs. I would have been on this sooner, except for being away.

The essay I published in Philadelphia Stories was “My Charlie Manson,” not “My Charlie Mason.” And the correct link to purchase “Casual Day at the Crazy House” is It is not Bookstogo.

Thanks again for a great job, Lou (Mancinelli)!

Helen Mallon



Princeton on the Wissahickon?

Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill are changing. Of course, everything changes. But as a long-time resident, I’m in a unique position to compare 1970 to 2012. The obvious changing is the youthifying of the neighborhoods. Now walking the streets are young couples pushing strollers with a dog on a leash.

Another big change was at Stagecrafters last Thursday night. In previous years, the auditorium was partially full, always with senior citizens. This is understandable. People who need baby sitters and those who move out early in the morning to go to work are not attending the theater mid-week.

This past week there wasn’t an empty seat. Two busloads of students from Chestnut Hill College joined the elderly. Their attendance was a course requirement. The interactivity between the college and Chestnut Hill is positive socially and economically. Realtors should consider stores that will attract our new population. Is it possible Chestnut Hill could become Princeton on the Wissahickon?

Maggie Wollman

Mt. Airy