Black marks from discarded chewing gum spot the sidewalk on the fist block of north Queen Street in downtown Lancaster.

Dear Dr. Scribblerspot:

What are the black dots on the concrete sidewalks? A friend insists it is chewing gum, but I know that is not the correct answer.

Rolf Rickman


Dear Rolf:

And the correct answer is: gumballs, bubble gum, stick gum. In other words, Rolf, your friend is correct: chewing gum makes those black dots that mar white concrete. The culprits are those who litter sidewalks with their castaways.

Other persistent stains are caused by coffee, cola and other acidic liquids, but the spots are made by squashed gum. Mechanical sweepers employed by the Downtown Investment District cannot remove gum.

Twenty years ago, the Downtown Investment District Authority began power washing the sidewalks twice a year with equipment spewing 4.6 gallons of water per minute, at 3,400 pounds per square inch of pressure, heated to 250 degrees. That power was guaranteed to separate every alien substance from sidewalks.

David Aichele, the district’s executive director, says sidewalks have not been power washed since at least 2007, although the group is considering renewing the practice. The organization’s “clean teams” do remove loose trash, leaves and graffiti every day. The gum sticks.

“No one else has mentioned the spots to us, but they have mentioned the cleanliness of downtown,” Aichele says. “So maybe they are overlooking the spots because everything else is looking good.”

In any case, the best solution is for those who chew gum to deposit the residue in trash receptacles or carry it home and stick it on their bedposts overnight.

Dear Dr. Scribblerlace:

The author Lawrence Sanders, in a theatrical reference, states there once was a Fulton Theatre in New York City. Sometime later, it was renamed the Helen Hayes Theatre. A group of diehards wanted her to change her name to Helen Fulton! Could you confirm this?

Dr. H.C. Stouffer


Dear Doc:

The Fulton Theatre, not to be confused with the theater in Lancaster of the same name, opened in 1911 at 210 W. 46th St. in New York. It was renamed the Helen Hayes Theatre in 1955. The theater was demolished in 1982, and the former Little Theatre became the current Helen Hayes Theatre.

The Scribbler can find no reference to anyone ever suggesting that Helen Hayes change her last name to Fulton. That seems a very strange proposition.

Lawrence Sanders was a novelist, not a historian. So the idea that anyone would suggest that a famous actress — better known in her time than Robert Fulton or any other Fulton — would change her name to accommodate some reactionary theater-goers seems to have been a Sanders’ fiction.

Dear Dr. Scribblergoyle:

You asked in your June 12 column what happened to the gargoyles at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Lancaster. They were sold at auction on premises when the church was being torn down. I went to that auction to bid, but the good ones were more than I had to spend. The New Era had an article and photos at the time.

Tom Schell


Dear Tom:

You are absolutely correct, Tom. The church’s four cast-iron gargoyles, smaller stone figures, stained glass windows, oak pews and other elements were offered to the public at set prices in September 1981, before the church at the corner of Duke and Orange streets was demolished to make way for condominiums.

At least one of the four gargoyles did not sell. On Nov. 19, the New Era reported that the head of that gargoyle had been stolen from the church, which was finally being destroyed that week.

That must have been one heavy head to cart off clandestinely through the darkened city.

Jack Brubaker, retired from the LNP staff, writes "The Scribbler'' column every Wednesday. He welcomes comments and contributions at