Dear Dr. Scribblerball:
What are those basketball-like structures on wires beneath the Route 30 bridge over the Susquehanna River at Columbia? They’re the color of basketballs but slightly larger.
Dear I.N. Quisitive:
You may find this hard to believe, but those basketballs were over-inflated with the air that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady removed when he under-inflated footballs before an AFC championship game two years ago.
Just kidding ... probably. Here’s the real scoop on those “basketballs.’’
They are there, according to Columbia Borough Manager Greg Sahd, to prevent the electrical cables running through them from touching each other.
“They are placed all along the underside of the bridge to prevent electrical blackouts from occurring should the cables touch each other during periods of high winds,” Sahd adds.
The force of such winds, the Scribbler suspects, might be of the magnitude that produces “keyhole snows.” (Please see next item.)
Dear Dr. Scribblerblow:
I was talking with Earl Groff at Groff’s Vegetables at Central Market after last week’s snow. He called it a “keyhole snow.” What he meant was that the snow comes down so hard and fast that it goes sideways and right through the keyhole of the door.
I’ve never heard that phrase. Have you?
This is news to the Scribbler, who grew up just north of Bird-in-Hand, not far from Earl and Edith Groff’s farm. The Scribbler talked with Groff at his market stand last Friday. He says he has been calling wind-blown snows such as we received last week “keyhole snows” all of his life.
“Of course, we don’t have old locks like that anymore,’’ he says, “but you learn where the other holes are in your house.’’
The difference between a “keyhole snow’’ and an “onion snow,’’ Groff adds, is that an onion snow is here and gone in a day. But remnants of last week’s keyhole snow, a foot deep and weighted down by sleet, will be here for a while.
Ach, well, spring has sprung and here’s hoping that snow — keyhole, onion or otherwise — will go the way of the cherry blossoms that got blasted last week.
Dear Dr. Scribblerwhit:
Growing up on Route 772 on Rothsville Road near Lititz, I was told I lived on the “racetrack.’’ Please expound on those early racing days in the late 1800s/early 1900s, and especially on the festivities and meaning of Whit Monday.
Those races occurred long before the Scribbler arrived in Lancaster County, but Cory Van Brookhoven, president of the Lititz Historical Foundation, knows about them. He described them in his book of photographs of “Warwick Township, Lancaster County.”
The track operated from 1886 to 1917 on land behind the White Swan Hotel. Sulky races were the main attraction, although bicyclists also raced there, according to a Sept. 5, 1890, notice in the Lititz Record Express.
The seventh Monday after Easter, the Christian holiday known as Pentecost, is also called Whit Sunday. The following day, Whit Monday, was a public holiday a century ago. So thousands of people gathered to watch sulky races at the track.
“Once the races had ended for the day,” Brookhoven writes, “visitors to Rothsville used the track for personal racing and betting. Wages were placed and oftentimes too much alcohol was consumed, with an occasional fistfight breaking out.”
Several other racetracks operated around the county at the turn of the 20th century, before we had 24/7 cable television and presidential tweeting and door locks that do not allow snow to blow through them.
Jack Brubaker, a retired LNP staff writer, writes “The Scribbler” column twice a week. He welcomes comments and contributions at firstname.lastname@example.org.