Happy Sunday everyone! It’s Eagles game day, the first real one of the season. Look for the Birds to showcase an improved offense led by QB Carson Wentz, along with a defense that’s hungry to prove itself. Further below, we talk with Inquirer reporter Katie Park, who’s tasked with traveling around large swaths of the burbs to find stories we often don’t hear about in the city.
Each week we go behind the scenes with one of our reporters or editors to discuss their work and the challenges they face along the way. This week we chat with Katie Park, who travels around Philly’s suburbs to learn what’s happening outside the city, often in towns and neighborhoods that aren’t top of mind.
What have been some eye-opening revelations you’ve experienced in your time covering the suburbs?
There’s a lot. There’s so much history in this part of Pennsylvania, plus an impressive number of people who are fascinated with uncovering and teaching others about that history. Without those people, how else would I know there’s a tree in Bala Cynwyd that’s been here since William Penn arrived? Or that a cemetery in Upper Darby is recognized by the National Park Service as a stop on the Underground Railroad? I’m continually blown away by the amount of Southeastern Pennsylvania history that’s endured — through literature, art, museums, artifacts and oddball objects, architecture — and I’m excited to write about it when I can. On a more tangential note, I’m still taken aback by how huge Pennsylvania is. This is coming from a New Jersey transplant.
You recently did a story on a thriving Mexican ice cream shop located in a town where “nothing ever lasts.” How did you hear about this place and what did you learn about the town in the process?
I found out about La Michoacana Homemade Ice Cream, a really charming little shop in downtown Kennett Square, last winter when I was researching mushrooms for a different story. La Michoacana only opens from spring to fall every year, so I set out for that story this summer. I knew that story was something I’d wanted to do for a while, even though I wasn’t entirely sure what the narrative would be. Like most great stories, this one started with thoughtful, honest people. Noelia Scharon, one of the shop’s four owners, told me how she opened the place in 2003 with her friends because she and a lot of the area’s Latino immigrants missed traditional Mexican ice cream and ice pop flavors, like avocado, mango, and tamarind. She also told me that she’s noticed fewer Latino immigrants coming by the shop because of increased undocumented immigration enforcement. The story added to what I had been learning about Kennett Square for a while — that while there are people and new businesses that are thriving, there are others who don’t have the privilege of feeling unafraid in public.
Covering the suburbs brings a wide spectrum of stories you could pursue. What captures your attention as you traverse the region?
It is a spectrum. Like my other (suburban reporter) colleagues, I cover court stories and breaking news, the real bread and butter stuff. Though, I have a soft spot for endearing and offbeat people, places, and things. There’s a guy in Essington who makes and sells bikes entirely out of wood, just because he likes it. There’s an 85-year-old lady in Kennett who’s been picketing with political signs in front of her retirement home every summer and winter for the last decade, up to two hours a day. There’s a car wash in Elverson that’s known for its huge field of sunflowers. My favorite tales happen when I drive a lot, find something or someone that makes my heart skip a beat in editorial excitement, and have candid, effortless conversations with people. Then the words just flow from my head onto the screen (or paper, if — gasp — there’s no internet.)
What’s been your favorite story to tell and why?
Last summer, I happened to discover the abandoned, once-waterside village of Fricks Locks in Pottstown. It was built in the 1740s and, for a long time, it was prosperous when boats passed through on the nearby Schuylkill Canal (now also abandoned.) When Peco began building the Limerick nuclear power plant close to Fricks Locks in the 1960s, it ended up buying the land around the plant, including the village, and the remaining residents had to leave. I ended up finding one of the families that once lived there and found out they’ve been village tour guides for their now-decrepit childhood home in Fricks Locks for the last seven years. It was a great story, brought to life with photos by Kriston Bethel. Plus, it’s a lasting reminder that good stories come from people generous and thoughtful enough to want to share their time and thoughts with you.
How long until the Birds pull out this “special” play again? Thanks @jbarmash for sharing this!
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One readers’ question: Why Pennsylvania jury duty pays $9 per day?
The answer: A bit of digging for this answer unveiled the set compensation is written into a section of state law.
Give the Key cards away for free. You load the card with your $2 on the initial purchase and get that first ride. Problem solved in two sentences. Scammers are out of business. SEPTA ALWAYS makes things more complicated than necessary. Don’t push the cards on everyone and then complain that profits are down on cash fares. — Dhb on SEPTA Key cards bring a new twist to an old subway hustle