Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring Sports Opening Day

     It was opening day of the local spring sports season for me yesterday. I got lucky with temperatures hovering at seventy degrees. That's the way I like to cover the beginning of outdoor sports. Plus, the first game would be a boys lacrosse match between Perkiomen Valley and Owen J. Roberts.
     I change gears shooting spring sports in general moving out to the breezy environment. Indoors, with tight sidelines, I'm sitting in one spot in the gymnasiums most of the time. Outdoors give me a chance to change my perspective when shooting. I get to move around to different locations.
     Lacrosse is one of the fastest moving team sports. This was a good way to start. Action is non-stop with limited breaks and timeouts. Lacrosse is one of my favorite sports to cover.
     But it takes time to get used to being outside again. Players are speeding down larger fields flipping the ball quickly between teammates. It doesn't take long to capture a photo worthy of the front of the sports page. But I need to concentrate to keep the lens focused at times.
     With the little ball pinging around from stick to stick so quickly, I don't always hold the camera to my eye. Depending on the action, if the team is setting up a play, I look out over the top of the lens watching the player behind the net while spotting the attackers cutting toward the goal for a shot. Sometimes this works, other times I can be slow on the shutter and miss some of the action. But soon there's another drive and more opportunities to photograph what I need.
    Early in the season, players are still working to find the rhythm to mesh. Basically working to get the rust off and play the game smoothly as a team. I'm working the bugs out too. It takes some time to get back in the flow when changing from sport to sport.
     Perkiomen Valley got two early goals to take the lead. But Owen J. Roberts turned up their intensity and aggressively took control of the ball and field position turning things around and reeling off a number of scores. It was a challenge for both teams and made good action photos for The Mercury.
     Today's another day on the field. I'm covering girl's softball and the game will start and stop with every windmill delivery from the pitcher. A different pattern of action for every type of game. Spring-Ford and Pottsgrove girls will be the competitors with colder temperatures predicted in the mid fifties and wind over twenty five miles per hour. It's only March and that's part of going outdoors. It's not always seventy and sunny but it beats sitting at a desk. I wouldn't want it any other way.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Jazzy Time With the Groovemasters.

Bennie Sims playing bass with the Groovemasters.

     I look forward to the month of March for two reasons. First the middle of the month signals the beginning of Spring and the other is the Berks Jazz Fest.  I've gotten to a number of events in Reading,  traveling to listen to a variety of musicians. The last couple of years my brother Gary and I attended the kickoff event at Jimmie Kramer's Peanut Bar.
     The Groovemasters have opened up the jazz fest for years, only I was too busy on a Friday afternoon to get there. I made it a point to take the time as Pottstown High grad and friend Bennie Sims is part of the group. We grew up in the north end of town playing sports on the playground and field at Franklin Elementary School.

Bennie with 'Baby'

     I knew Bennie liked music as he and his brother Victor tried to teach me a four step crossover dance move at their house when we were teenagers. Lets just say that I lacked the skill to pull it off. My friends and I would see him as part of area rock bands at dances we'd go to as teens. After some years, he moved to Wyomissing and followed his dream playing bass guitar as a jazz musician. We lost touch as you do with many friends and only recently connected again.
     He's traveled the world and recently toured in Japan. He along with Curt Harman, Erich Cawalla and Cliff Starkey put out a powerful sound. I'm not a music critic but I know what I like and these musicians sound good. Soloist Jenifer Kinder sang a Whitney Houston number hitting the high notes that brought the crowd to their feet with a standing ovation. Bennie and Curt Harman also formed the group New Foundation writing the lyrics and music for their CD titled 'Goin' Places'. It was a labor of love as the pair worked in the production studio for several years to get the sound they wanted before releasing the album.

     My brother Gary also has a passion for music and played brass instruments in the junior high band. After years of not playing he decided to pick up the guitar and has gotten so proficient that he's performing on the acoustic guitar as part of the Sunday worship band at the New Hanover United Methodist Church. It's quite a big stride in his life. With a full time job it's hard to commit to all the practice to be good enough to get up on stage. He puts in many hours in a small room he renovated for all his musical gear.

Erich Cawalla, Cliff Starkey, Bennie Sims & Curt Harman.

      Last year we snuck up on Bennie in between sets. At first he didn't recognize us and then the big smile appeared. With a hug he was glad we came out to watch him play. We caught up on bits of life over the years during his break and then he was back for the second set. Bennie and the group have a large following and the show is like a reunion of friends.
     This year he brought 'Baby' onto the stage at the Peanut Bar. Baby is the name of his upright bass he has been seriously playing for over a year. His band mates tease him about playing the 'oversized violin' but he's up to the challenge of trying something new. I shot some photos for keepsakes.
     We stayed for a couple more numbers waved to him to say goodbye and we were on our way home. But not before making plans to get together again next year for our annual spring ritual.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Travel - 75th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge

View of the Golden Gate Bridge in 2010.
   Residents of San Francisco will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the completion of the Golden Gate Bridge. Various events have already taken place in 2012, but there is one big part that will be omitted from the May ceremony. There won't be a bridge walk on the historic span on the special day. I haven't seen any reason, but I have my own ideas why officials decided to forgo the walk.
   The walk twenty-five years ago was more about standing still, people packed together like sardines. Once on the bridge you couldn't move. Officials underestimated the number of people who would attend. They stated a figure of possibly 80,000. Instead, 800,000 showed up in the area and 300,000 revelers were crammed onto the bridge. I don't think they want to repeat that mistake. But, all that's stated on the itinerary of events is 'No bridge walk this year.' Even with the large crowds and tight conditions I was still glad to have been part of the crazy festivity.
   In a brief history note, workers at The Bethlehem Steel Corporation, with Pottstown home to one of the plants, fabricated the steel. The work on the bridge began in January of 1933 and was completed four years later. The 'Pedestrian Day' was held on May 27, 1937 and the bridge was open to vehicles the next day. And being that the steel was fabricated in Pottstown, an idea was born to send the award winning Pottstown High School band as part of the celebration.

The Pottstown High School band on the Golden Gate in 1987.
   I attended the hoopla on the 50th anniversary bridge walk in May of 1987, sent by The Mercury to photograph the band as they marched and played their music. The musicians were guests of honor along with band director Charles Dressler in the City by the Bay. Everywhere they went, former area residents came out to greet them. They visited various parts of the city and were treated to a highlight dinner and a lion dance in Chinatown. They were quite the celebrities.
   The next day the band was up early and on buses headed to the Golden Gate Bridge to perform as part of the anniversary bridge walk. The band began to play and marched along the ramp onto the bridge. People attending moved to the side and cheered as the musicians passed by. The band was in top form as they continued along until they hit the bottleneck near the first tower. Walkers were crowding in from the other end of the span.  
A huge crowd gathered on the bridge in 1987.
   The band was stuck on the bridge with no where to go as thousands continued to jam their way onto the structure behind them. The group was cutoff and forced to stand together holding heavy instruments as the crowd pressed in. There was no ceremony at the podium setup at the middle of the span as was originally planned.  The only voice we heard over loud speakers stated 'The bridge walk is over, please clear the bridge!'
   That was it. The walk was over. After a while the sea of humanity started to move and the musicians made their way safety back to the buses. The tired band relaxed for a while, regrouped and played on. They headed to Chrissy Field along the San Francisco Bay and performed several numbers for crowds in the park.
   Shortly after that I headed to the Associated Press downtown office and developed film and transmitted several photos to The Mercury before the east coast deadline.
   The following day the group traveled by bus, this time making an easy crossing of the Golden Gate. They headed into the wine country for another anniversary parade. More accolades for the teenagers as they concluded their last performance in style.  The trip ended on a high note and was a successful adventure for the students.
Deb and me at the bridge in 2010.
   It took me twenty three years to return to San Francisco, this time taking my wife Deb with me. It brought back all those memories. I really enjoy San Francisco, with so much to experience. On the day we were spending at Fisherman's Wharf, we decided to make the five mile trek along the bay to the Golden Gate Bridge. The weather was perfect, fog was shrouding the tops of the bridge towers.      
   We took our time enjoying the sites and crowd as we walked. Young adults were everywhere, playing volleyball, riding bikes and jogging. I saw a group of unicycle enthusiasts peddling along. Out in the bay was the distinctive Alcatraz Prison. We continued through the Presidio and up the steep hill onto the Golden Gate Bridge.
   There were other tourists walking and posing for pictures. We asked a bicyclist to shoot our photo for posterity. I returned the favor snapping one for him.
   Deb and I continued on and stopped near the first tower. This was as far as I needed to go. Looking at the traffic lanes where I stood with the band over two decades before, brought out a smile as I replayed the events of that day in 1987. I marveled at the 'Made in America' icon and touched parts of the steel proudly knowing that it came from Pottstown.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

American Homecomings

   Digital First Media, which includes The Mercury, is putting together a narrative on American Homecomings with stories on military personnel who have returned home to the United States. Several are on going pieces written about service men and women trying to get back into the normal day to day activities of civilian life and the tough times that go with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and fighting in a war.
228th Engineering Company returns home to Spring City.
   I admire these people who give up a relatively safe life in the states and put themselves in a position where they can be in a deadly fire fight on many days of their deployment. The ability to turn off the kill or be killed mentality has to be the most extreme difficulty of returning to American society.  I will never know their thoughts as they return to civilian life because I didn't have to go off to war. But, I have seen a lot of the military since I was a small boy.
   I grew up in a military family with a father who left his home town in Ohio and joined the Marines during World War II. From that point, the Navy trained him as a corpsman and he fought and treated wounded men during battles in the South Pacific theater. He made the military his life long work. He became a career man in the Army spending over twenty years in active duty. He was also sent overseas to fight in the Korean War. He retired from the Army reserve while stationed at the Valley Forge Army Hospital in Phoenixville at the same time men were being drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. He died a year later in 1968 shortly before my twelfth birthday.
Sgt. Anthony Pezzetti with his son.
   Our family lived in Pottstown, but we spent many hours at the army hospital. My mom would take us to the commissary and the PX to do our shopping. Whenever we were sick or needed inoculations that is where we were treated. This is where I came face to face on the cost of war. Once inside the walls of the infirmary I saw the casualties. These young men just out of high school were in the same hallways as me waiting for treatment. Only their injuries had life changing consequences.
Sgt. Crystal Walker with her kids.
   Many I saw were walking with crutches or sitting in wheelchairs missing a limb lost in battle. Others were bandaged.  Once, as we drove,  I heard my mom take a deep breath and tears fell from her eyes. I looked over and saw a double amputee and his buddy making their way across the base. She didn't hide this from me. I believe this was part of the reality of life that she wanted me to see. There was a quiet strength about my mother as she continued on in life as a widow. She didn't say anything but let the moment speak for itself leaving a lasting impression of how precious life is.
   There were times when we were on base that I asked her to drive over to the helicopter landing area. We saw a number of injured soldiers flown into Valley Forge and carried to waiting trucks with the red cross painted on the side. It had a big impact on me. Even as a boy I had a great respect for these warriors.
Michele & Tim Rooney an emotional reunion with son Gary Anoushian.
   I would get a chance to talk to some of these men as they recovered. Even in their injured state they would come over, smile and say hi to me. I wasn't afraid. I seemed to be drawn to them even if for only a few minutes. As I got older I took my mother to Valley Forge until they closed the hospital.
   As a photographer at the Mercury, I have the honor of shooting photographs at the homecomings of service men and women. Many of these are happy reunions but there are times when you can see some of the sadness in their eyes thinking of a friend who didn't make it home.
A Hero's Welcome Maria Hyland.
   But the Pottstown area has a strong bond as Vietnam Veterans and Warrior Watch Riders make sure that those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan aren't forgotten and get the welcome back that they deserve. These former servicemen and families hop on their motorcycles year round in all kinds of weather to lead the procession giving the service personnel a positive memory as they return to the United States.
   Area resident Maria Hyland continues the work of her daughter Marine Lt. Sharon Hyland-Keyser who started 'A Hero's Welcome'. Constantly sending out emails, she lets people know when and where to greet the next one home. It takes a lot of sacrifice as the group volunteers their time to do the work for a cause they feel strongly about. She attends many of these homecomings and gives each a certificate of thanks. There are a number of chapters across the country.
56th Stryker Brigade Sgt. Edward Cox holding his daughter.
   I put together a gallery of eighty photographs of these military welcome home events. It will be my part of the nation wide project. Visit the series once the project goes on line and read about some of the lives that have been changed by war. It will include a link to various resources that are available to former servicemen and women.
   And when you are out and see someone in a military uniform take a minute to say hello and thank them for serving their country. They will be glad you did.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Is It Really Spring

The worst snowstorm causing damage happened in October.
   In most years as the calender switches to the month of March, I would be whipped and dragging from winter. Looking forward to spring days the icy weather would try to hold on as long as possible. But this winter was anything but normal. I'm not complaining. We did get a couple of weeks of cold but for the most part temperatures were mild and not freezing. But, I'm still waiting for Mother Nature get her revenge.
   I usually get up early in winter clearing snow from my sidewalks and then drive off looking to shoot snow pictures. I photographed one snow event this past winter. No slogging around in the deep stuff with a biting wind freezing my face. The season progressed from December through February and I waited for the worst to happen. Thinking, after a warm day or two, we are going to pay for this. One of these days were are going to get dumped on with feet of snow. But it has yet to come true.
   No ice, no melt off in March, no salt covered highways. Now it's birds chirping and lazy varmints sunning in the fields. Flowers are blooming several weeks early. But I can't keep thinking, it's only March and in this month anything can happen. Look at the blizzard of '93 where we had one of the biggest snow events on record.
Flowers are blooming earlier this year.
   Several people have told me they bought snow blowers this year for the first time and are disappointed not getting get a chance to use them. After I got mine I waited a year until a sizeable snowfall had me running the machine. It's a relief that I have one if I need it and here's hoping that I don't.
   But I'm out looking for a different photo than usual this early in the month. The elusive enterprise or stand alone photo of people enjoying a warm day. Some days are better than others when I drive around hunting these pictures. It seems that kids would rather stay inside and play video games than get out in the fresh air.
   It takes time and patience to find something good for the front page not settling for an average shot. To me, finding the unstaged shot is like going fishing. Sometimes you don't catch anything other times you get your limit. This past week was a filling your stringer kind of day. It takes some patience to find these shots. The beautiful warm weather and light breeze had people out everywhere. I could have shot a number of easy general looking pictures but wanted one that told the story of the day.
Warmer weather in March has people outdoors.
   That's when I came across a woman and her granddaughter out in a park. She was teaching her how to fly kites. The shoot started out slowly as the four year old was a bit bashful and hid behind her kite. After some time passed, the breeze picked up and the kites flew out in front of them making for a nice photo. I've taken a number of these photos but most have the kites high the sky and I'm basically shooting pictures of the kids holding strings looking up.
   I shot some supporting photos to go with it and combined them making a layout that was good for the next days paper. I'll keep holding my breath and continue to think that we will dodge the nasty weather until we get to March 20th, the first day of spring.
   I will gladly stuff that snow blower back in the corner of the garage where it belongs and roll out my lawn mower for the warmer days ahead.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Running on the Next Call

  Sunday, my cell phone rang and the call was a tip on a fully involved structure fire in New Hanover Township. It was my day off, but I learned long ago that news doesn't happen 9 to 5 Monday through Friday, so I made the decision to run out and cover it. It's never easy to leave the house, but I'll decide to go if I feel the incident is serious enough.
   We were having a nice afternoon, my daughter was taking her 3 year old to her first movie to see the Lorax. My son-in-law and I took the younger ones to the Elmwood Park Zoo. The kids had fun and when we got back home it was warm enough to keep them outside to play on the swings and the princess house that my wife Deb got for them. We have a play room on the back of the house filled with toys to play with. I love the noise of them screaming and laughing while they run around. They wear me out but this keeps me young. After things settled down, we all had dinner together. That's when the phone rang.
   I was almost finished but I got up from the table and scraped the rest into the trash. My son-in-law asked if I was on call and my wife Deb said to him that I'm always on call. I didn't have to answer she and my girls have been dealing with me running out for years. I have to pick and choose. There are times when I want to run but have to hold back. But when news is what you do it's tough not to go. This fire was one I felt I should cover. The three year old looked at me and said "Poppy don't go, stay here." I looked at her and said , "I have to go to work baby but I'll see you soon." They are too small to understand but it breaks my heart to leave.
   The phone rang again while driving to the scene and I found out that it was looking like a possible arson and someone was seen running from the area. I drove over a hill toward Gilbertsville and could see black smoke venting into the sky.
   With my car parked, I hustled down a long driveway to get to the fire scene. I could already see the large hole in the roof where fire burned through. Flames were still licking out from the building as New Hanover, Sassamansville and Gilbertsville firemen kept water on the blaze preventing it from spreading to dry fields surrounding them. The house was abandoned, but the story is that there's someone out there setting fires regardless of the value to the property. We need to get that message out, and to show the firemen also giving up their family time to volunteer and put themselves in harms way to fight these fires.
    I shot photos and video of the action around me. I stayed on the scene about thirty mintues and headed back to the office to download images and process the video for the website. Finishing up, I talked to the desk editor, told him to call if he had any questions and I was out the door.
   When I got home shortly after 8 p.m. the house was quiet again. All the toys were picked up. I smelled of smoke so I took my clothes and threw them out onto the back deck. I asked Deb how the rest of the evening went and she smiled saying that it was great, telling me the girls went down the sliding board a hundred times, and played with every toy in their play room.
   She asked about the fire and I said that the home was totaled and it was looking like a suspicious blaze. End of story. We settled in together for the late Sunday evening and flipped on the television and relaxed watching a show on grizzly bears in Yellowstone.
   Quiet is good, but we look forward to seeing all of our grandkids soon, bringing their endless energy that keeps me smiling. Hopefully, the phone won't ring.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Travel - Rapid City, S.D., Crazy Horse & Mt. Rushmore

Deb standing with statue of George Washington
   Rapid City, South Dakota was a great place to begin a seven day adventure that would take my wife Deb and me across Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah. We flew out of Philadelphia to the airport in Minneapolis. Caught a connector flight and landed in Rapid City by noon. We were able to check in early at the hotel, threw our bags in the room and headed out to explore and grab lunch.
   The pace out west seemed calmer to me or maybe it was due to the fact that we were on vacation, but residents and workers we encountered were helpful and friendly. We walked the downtown Main Street section of town. On every corner is a full size statue of a United States president beginning with George Washington up to George W. Bush. The current president in office doesn't receive a statue until several years after he completes his term. We walked around and tried to see and name as many as we could. I thought how much of a disappointment I'd be to my former history teachers if they saw how many I failed to identify without looking at the name plates.
Downtown Rapid City, S.D.
   This gave the town a unique character along with a variety of other aspects including graffiti alley where the walls along several blocks of a back street are covered with spray paint. Not just tags but various artwork, faces, colorful scenes, cartoon characters and poems. It's weird, not something you'd see in every town, but it's a way for artists to express themselves.
Graffiti alley
   There was a wide range of restaurants to try and I always research the internet and pick about five which we can choose from. We decided on the old Firehouse Brewing Co. As the name suggests it was a former fire house and is decorated in fire equipment, old photos and memorabilia. They also brew their own beer and we tried a local pint along a big cheeseburger and fries. Vacation is a great time to stray from my regular diet.
   After our late lunch we were out exploring again and headed over to Memorial Park. Its at least four times bigger than the Memorial Park in Pottstown with a long trail which we walked for several miles. We hopped onto their trolley and for only a couple of dollars you can tour around the city and look out at the sites. At the top of Skyline Drive you can see for miles. Dinosaur Park is located here and kids can enjoy the full sized concrete creatures setup along the drive.
Closeup of the completed head of Crazy Horse
   We took a break and went to our hotel room to relax after a long day. Later that evening we wanted some snacks so we walked a couple of blocks to a restaurant called Sanford's. Yep, just like the Sanford and Son television show. The place was a hodge-podge of stuff filling every nook and cranny. There was even an old rusty pickup truck balancing in one of the corners overlooking the dining room.
   The bartender was really friendly and we chatted about his hometown. A tour guide couldn't have done a better job. We munched on tasty appetizers and a pint of draft beer was a buck. Now this is my kind of place. We went back the following evening for dinner.
Overview of Crazy Horse Monument
   In the morning we made our way along the highway to the Crazy Horse Memorial. This is the world's largest mountain carving that is still under construction. We arrived early and got our first views of the huge work of art from a quiet overlook next to the Indian Museum of North America. The only part completed is the 86 foot head of Crazy Horse. Work is now underway on the twenty-two story horse's head. The painted outline shows the location of the horses ear and eye. Millions of tons of rock have been drilled and blasted from the mountain which was started in 1948 by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski. After his death in 1982, his family continues his dream to complete the work.
   We paid several dollars and took a ride on an old yellow school bus along a dirt road to get a closer look at the colossal carving. The guide filled in many fascinating details and Native American history not learned in a classroom. Peering up at the bluest sky above the sand colored completed face, I snapped a number of photos. Deb and I promised ourselves to revisit the memorial in ten years to see the progress made in a decade.
Profile view of George Washington
   Next, we wound our way through the Black Hills of South Dakota to the carving of Mount Rushmore. The hillside views are stunning as you get closer to the monument. There is a pull off area before arriving at the gates. This is a bonus location which gives you a profile view of George Washington's head. Since we were part of a tour, our guide and driver made sure to stop. If I was driving myself, I probably would have been in such a hurry to get to the memorial that I would have missed out on this special spot.
Walking through the Avenue of Flags at Mount Rushmore
   Once you drive around the mountain the four presidents come into view for the first time. Sculpture Gutzon Borglum had the vision to carve the masterpiece of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.  A workforce of men using bosun's chairs hung out over the mountain and began hammering away in 1927. Borglum oversaw the work for the next fourteen years. Only six of those years were spent carving the mountain. The rest of the time work would stop until more funds were secured by Borglum. Washington's 60 foot head was the first completed and was dedicated in 1930. The final bust finished was Roosevelt in 1939. Borglum died in March of 1941. His son Lincoln Borglum supervised the completion of the monument.
Mount Rushmore photographed from the Grand View Terrace
   I photographed the granite presidents from various angles on top of the Grand View Terrace. Then, Deb and I hiked down the Presidential Trail to take in the views from below. We got a close look at the giant boulders that were blasted and rolled down the hill to their final resting place. From this spot you look right up at the faces of the historic figures. Not many people ventured down the walkway as it is a steep climb back out. At the base of the hill is the Sculptor's Studio with displays and tools used in the carving process. More history lessons that I was glad to learn.
   We took advantage of the remaining time and treated ourselves to an ice cream cone. The concession is noted for their raspberry flavor. We sat silently as we looked again and again at the granite faces, in awe that hands and sweat could fashion such a perfect monument. That was the tastiest ice cream cone I ever ate. With a view like that there was never a doubt.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

More Roll Over Crashes Involving Oil Tankers & Another CMERT Detail

Crash on Rt. 724 in Union Twp. involving an oil tanker.
   I planned to get paperwork done at work in the morning but that didn't happen. The fire company siren sounded as another roll over crash was happening in the area.  The accident was on a stretch of highway on Rt. 724 in Union Township Saturday morning.
   On arriving at the scene, debris was scattered across the roadway and an oil truck was laying in a ditch by the side of the road. The front end of the car involved was smashed and the fire crew was moving the driver to a waiting ambulance.

   The oil tank was leaking and firemen from Birdsboro and Monarch Fire Companies used absorbent materials to contain and soak up the fuel to prevent it from reaching a tributary of the Schuylkill River. The man driving the car heading west drifted across the center lane. The oil deliveryman tried to swerve to the right but they still collided. The tanker truck rolled over three times. The driver of the tanker was injured and taken to the hospital. They both survived the serious crash.
CMERT called in by Pottstown Police.
    I was out early on Monday at 6 a.m. after hearing about another CMERT incident. The SWAT team was called in to back up the Pottstown police on a high risk warrant service for a suspect allegedly wanted for an assault involving a weapon. Unlike the last CMERT detail which took twelve hours, this was over within fifteen minutes as the man surrendered immediately. I scrambled and shot various photos quickly before police cleared the scene. Getting into my car, I got a call on a vehicle crash on Rt. 663 and Swamp Pike in New Hanover Township.
   Arriving at the scene I could see another overturned oil delivery truck. It's an amazing coincidence on the roll overs that are happening that the crash was another tanker. This one takes the count of roll overs in the last several weeks to eight. The New Hanover and Sassamansville Fire Departments were containing leaking fuel. Both drivers suffered only minor injuries.
Two vehicle crash in New Hanover Twp. involving an oil tanker.
   It can be quiet for long periods of time and then these spot news incidents happen in bunches. And within days of hustling around to cover all these collisions and police details there won't be another for weeks.
   Tuesday, Brandie Kessler and I were out again as police were conducting warrant sweeps rounding up summary offenders with unpaid fines and individuals with criminal warrants.
  The next thing we hear is another roll over crash involving a four wheel drive vehicle on Shoemaker Rd. in Pottstown. The driver was able to get out unhurt. They hooked it to the wrecker and towed it away. That takes the count to nine.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Spring-Ford Girls Are District One AAAA Champs

   Villanova University was the site of the District One AAAA girls basketball championship pitting North Penn against Spring Ford.
   But first, I had to make it to the Pavilion in a Friday night rush hour traffic jam, driving through the re-engineered bottleneck that replaced the old bottleneck where Rt. 202 merges onto the Schuylkill Expressway. I left early and sat in traffic but arrived with time to spare. Driving to an event can be half the effort that people don't think about.
   I believe the Villanova field house is one of the best venues for a high school championship game. The floor is awesome, the crowd practically hovers over the court and for a photographer the lighting is perfect. The house was full when I looked around from my spot on media row. This is where I would transmit photos back to the Mercury for the Website and paper. I was also shooting for our sister paper The North Penn Reporter.
   Up in the stands, I saw my neighbors Joe and Louise Greene waving to me. Joe is a current assistant coach for Pottsgrove High's girls basketball team. He is also a die-hard fan. Their daughter Katie and my daughter Jan played basketball for a Pottsgrove team coached by Jan Fritz. Of course me being biased, that team is my all-time favorite and they used to battle Spring-Ford coach Jeff Rinehimer's team when they played. His assistant coach Micky McDaniel's daughter was on that team and was a good player. A childhood friend of mine Jeff Mast is another assistant coach for the Rams. We always chat a bit before the start of the games if I get there early.
   But this current crop of Spring-Ford Rams is probably the best girls team, running the toughest, tightest defense out there. They can trot at least nine players onto the floor whenever they need a spark or someone needs a breather. Any given day a different player will step up. The big word for this group is unselfish.
   I don't see pouting when one is pulled off the floor. They sit and cheer for their teammates. As competitive as they are it's probably very hard to be back on the bench. Rinehimer runs them in and out wearing down opponents. The team is deep and gives them a distinct advantage.
   After shooting the opening ceremony, I headed back to my spot on the floor when I heard my name shouted. Here was long-time friends Kevin and Dee Strange watching from the stands at mid-court. Kevin was an excellent multi-sport athlete in his day and continues to attend games and helped coach teams over the years. I gave them a quick wave as it was tip-off time and I needed to be court side.
   It was a close contest for the first quarter and they matched points. Spring-Ford's Mariah Traywich, the niece of North Penn's head coach Maggie deMarteliere got an uncontested basket on the first play of the game. The score was even at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter defense by Spring-Ford proved to much for their opponent. The Ram's relentless pressure finally got to North Penn and they made bad passes and mistakes that cost them points. Spring-Ford had a comfortable lead at the half.
   I fired up the laptop computer at halftime to transmit early action back to the office. The North Penn paper had a very early deadline and needed art asap. I worked on five game photos, tweeked, captioned and transmitted which took me into part of the third quarter.  As the minutes ticked down in the third quarter, I was okay as the first half gave me enough good pictures to cover anything both papers would need.
   By the time I got back on the floor Spring Ford had opened up an eleven point lead. The Rams kept the pressure on. As the time wore down I started looking for emotional photos on the sidelines. Snapping pictures of coach Rinehimer, he kept his own intensity up too, never cracking a smile.
   There wasn't any relief for the players until the final buzzer and I followed them by camera lens as they hugged and celebrated their district championship. But I also snapped away at the North Penn girls who were quietly suffering their loss. A class act even in defeat.
   Once the hoopla settled down it was back to the computer as fans filed out of the arena. I was far from done. I scrambled to get North Penn an agony of defeat shot right away so they could possibly stuff it into the next days paper before their deadline. I had more time for the Mercury and transmitted several post game shots showing cheers and happy smiles.
   A sports writer court side asked why I didn't head back to the media room and the quiet to send my photos. I had to be honest with him saying I wanted to watch some of the Lower Merion vs Chester boys final for a few minutes as I packed up my gear. They didn't disappoint either. On the first play Lower Merion was on a breakaway and slam dunked the opening shot. Chester returned the favor as they got the ball and jammed for their first points. The crowd was getting their money's worth.
   As I walked from the court to the lobby I looked at a mural on the wall of former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino and his charges after they won the NCAA national championship thinking how good area hoops teams are from high school through college.
   Spring-Ford girls have a change to make more history of their own. This team has a good shot to go deep in the PIAA state championship. We'll see how the ball bounces.