Letters to the Editor

Another bar exists in Swarthmore

To the Editor:

Recently the liquor referendum passed by popular vote, but the pro-alcohol supporters do not get the final word. Nor does Borough Council have the final say in this issue. Both may yet be thwarted by Mr. Clement M. Biddle (1838-1902).

In 1891 Swarthmore College sold a tract of land to Mr. Biddle, who was on the Board of Managers. He soon sold the tract to Rev. John A. Cass, who was owner of The Swarthmorean [The Swarthmore, 1893] newspaper and secretary/treasurer of the College Tract Residence Company. Mr. Cass subdivided the tract and created what are now the separate parcels in the core of the business district. Mr. Biddle’s deed had numerous restrictive covenants including prohibition of making, selling, or distributing alcohol, except when prescribed as “medicine.” Any breach of the covenant provides for “forfeiting the title” to “Mr. Biddle his heirs and assigns.”

Restrictive covenants run with the land and are legally enforceable, so ultimately it will be for a judge to decide whether alcohol can be sold on the Biddle land parcels even if all property owners are in agreement. Covenants in the non-Biddle commercial zones, if any, are concerns for those deed holders. But the sobering reality is that the community and borough council may only sit in the rear of a courtroom, while the Biddle property owners negotiate among themselves and wait for a judicial decision. Only when the first action is taken to remove the Biddle covenant will the debate be renewed, but for now there exists a prohibition of making, selling, or distributing alcohol on the Biddle tract and the Biddle property owner does risk forfeiture of title, at worst, and the cost of a legal challenge at a minimum.

The public debate has ended, but a legal bar still exists on the Biddle properties to be settled in court. But before expending large sums of money on a liquor license and legal fees, perhaps the 10-15 Biddle property owners should just walk across the street and discuss the matter over a drink (or not) in the Broad Table Tavern?

Patrick Flanigan

‘W.H. Auden Would Be Proud’
Swarthmore Liquor Referendum Four to One Vote

From 1942 to 1945 W. H. Auden lived in Swarthmore
Leaving his native England during the Second World War
He arrived in the village of Swarthmore
A Professor teaching poetry to the Swat students
His classes were very popular
Writing a poem every three weeks
His favorite place to eat and write was the corner pharmacy and luncheonette on the corner of Park Avenue and Myers Avenue
As he ate and wrote daily his poems the juke box kept playing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”
Driving him crazy during the holiday season
The college of 500 students loved his class
His great disappointment living in the village was lack of a movie theatre and liquor store
Frustrated, Auden would take his suitcase to Philadelphia on a frequent liquor run
An English tradition of Happy hour had to be honored
Gin and tonic with a slice of lime
Accepting a poetry class to the young ladies of Bryn Mawr College
This weekly class helped maintain his liquor supply from that town
Why did it take so long for a public vote on liquor?
Now four to one vote in favor, seventy-two years too late!
Anyway! W.H. Auden would be proud!
Now a referendum on a new movie theatre would be nice!

 Kenneth E. Gelzhiser, Pastor
St. Mark’s United Methodist Church

Bob Holm (top left), Millard Robinson (top right), and Hannah Mathews (bottom right) were an integral part of Swarthmore High School’s “Golden Age” in the second half of the 20th century.

Bob Holm (top left), Millard Robinson (top right), and Hannah Mathews (bottom right) were an integral part of Swarthmore High School’s “Golden Age” in the second half of the 20th century.

Bob Holm, the Pied Piper of Swarthmore

To the Editor:

Today, whenever I listen to music, which is often, I can tell what instruments are playing, when they are playing, and why they are featured at that moment. In my mind’s eye, I can picture each of them. At one time I held some of them in my hands. It is immensely satisfying to have this insight. Music feeds my soul and enriches my life.

From 1945 to 1974, Bob Holm, Swarthmore High School’s legendary music director brought the joy of music to the students of Swarthmore schools. He was unflagging in his efforts to get us involved in his comprehensive music program. For those of us who were members of his high school band and orchestra, it was an opportunity to experience music as it is performed, under the direction of one of the best.

Upon his discharge from the Navy in 1945, Bob was hired as the band and orchestra director for the Swarthmore School District. He would remain there as director of music until his retirement in 1979. Before he left, he would have the virtually all of Delaware County, playing (on their instruments), listening, marching, or dancing to his music. Bob Holm was part of the triumvirate of some of SHS’s greatest educators, who together ushered in what was to become the golden age of the Swarthmore school system. Millard Robinson, Phys. Ed director, and Hannah Mathews, chair of the English Department, were the other two. Each one of them infused their students with a love of learning and the importance of hard work and thorough preparation.

Upon his arrival, Holm started recruiting music students in Swarthmore’s two elementary schools, establishing orchestras in each school, which although a little hard on the ears, were wildly popular with parents. In high school, his band and orchestra concerts featured classical and popular composers, filling the stage with musicians and the auditorium with parents.

Some of his football halftime shows were legendary. On Saturdays, Bob wore another hat and led the Swarthmore College band onto the field at college games. On Friday and Saturday evenings, his dance band “A Family Affair” including his son, Bob Jr., and his wife Ruth, played at weddings, concerts, and galas throughout the entire tristate area, from Wilmington, Del., to Egg Harbor, N.J. Bob played melody on his sweet sounding trumpet. Even after his retirement from Swarthmore, Bob kept the music going as director of the Chester City Band.

In 1998, at the age of 86, his dance band gave its last performance at an Abington retirement home. Two months later, he died suddenly at his home in Marple Township.

He was beloved by his students and was my mentor and friend. We would have followed him anywhere.

Barry Gwinn
Goodland, FL

Barry graduated from SHS in 1956. He was captain of the SHS marching band in 1955-56.

Think music, think Swarthmore

To the Editor:

While we try to find ways to increase attendance and businesses at our Town Center, maybe we need to look at what we already have and build on it. The May 28 concert at war3house3, featuring Bohemian Mule and Mostly Kosher (LA), was packed. Every show at WH3 I’ve been to has been well-attended and word of mouth suggests this is usually the case. Both bands knew how to rock, though each vibe was totally different.

Bohemian Mule was founded in Philly in 2012 and describes its music as “timeless psychedelic rock.” As someone who lived through the original Psychedelic era, there was enough in their music to provide flashbacks of groups experienced at the original Electric Factory, etc., while also hearing their new original tunes. For more information, see their Facebook page.

Mostly Kosher is an LA-based klezmer band making their first East Coast tour. The war3house3 gig was their only suburban gig. Their music includes a wealth of influences and goes from rock to “My Yiddische Mama.” The seven members allowed for various instrumentation including accordion (when was the last time you heard rock accordion. When was the first time?), with one of the standouts being their female violinist, Janice Martner Markham. This group reminded me of, among others, Blackthorn, in that you couldn’t not move to the music, even if you weren’t Irish. Same deal here. For further information, see www.mostlykosher.com.

Some suggestions to build interest:
• There could have been some cards or flyers from Town Center (I know printed stuff is old school but it still works) and, possibly, the latest Swarthmorean for visitors to pick up.
• There could have been a mention of any other events coming up in the Ville, especially the excellent upcoming Thursday Night Music Series (is this the Parking Lot Music Series?).
• There could also be a rebranding, something along the line of “Think Music, Think Swarthmore.”

We know Hobbs also presents music from time to time, along with the Farmers Market music series, and music sponsored by the library. We do have a unique brand of music and venues here and one thought is we should build on this. Possibly there could be a website and/or Facebook page devoted to music in the Ville as one suggestion.

Bob Small

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