Columnist: Going back to colonial times

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 14, 2015

Loran Smith

Syndicated columnist

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Arriving here at the 30th Street Station — from Penn Station in New York, I am overwhelmed with reflections. First of all, the train ride from New York took a little over an hour, smooth and efficient, bringing about frustration that we don’t have more train service across the country.

History’s influence reminds you of the many Philadelphia landmarks that you never tire of visiting. The Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Philadelphia Mint, the Betsy Ross House and the “Old City,” known as America’s Most Historic Square Mile.

You can see how people lived and worked in Colonial times. It is not advisable for NBA players to make this tour — they would have to move about on their knees to tour the dwellings which make up this charming area.

Not many visitors are so keen on visiting Bartram Gardens, but it is a place not to be overlooked if you have Georgia roots. The Bartrams, who explored several places in the South including Georgia, named a tree they found on the Georgia coast for the elder Bartram’s friend, Ben Franklin. They named it the Franklinia tree in honor of the great American statesman. You can only find the Franklinia tree at Bartram Gardens. It is extinct in the wild.

You may have heard of real estate deals that are mind boggling, but nothing quite like the deal William Penn got when he settled in what is present day Pennsylvania. King Charles II of England owned Admiral Sir William Penn a debt which was paid off to the younger Penn with the gift of the aforementioned land.

The value of the property today would have to be in the billions. Back then a king or an emperor could send his troops to take over new lands and then parcel it out to whomever he wanted. You didn’t even have to stake out a claim. Just tell the Indians to get lost, cut down some trees, call for a log rolling and then plant corn.

I like the names of rivers in this part of the country. Schuykill and Susquehanna. Those names must have come from the Lenape Indians who were hanging around the countryside when William Penn settled in.

Philadelphia is big and expansive and has plenty of attractions, especially with the Eagles, Phillies and Flyers and the awarding of the Maxwell trophy. I prefer its history, however. Philadelphia was the site of the First and Second Continental Congresses.

The temporary capital of the United States, Philadelphia would become the biggest city in America. The City of Brotherly Love has had its problems with gangs and Santa Claus was booed at an Eagles game in 1968.

The story goes that the Eagles fans, who somehow or other seem to show up even when the team is bad, were going to be treated to an exciting halftime show.

Seems as though the guy who had been contracted with to play the role of Santa did not show up. To make matters worse the fans were being overwhelmed with snow. When fans arrived, they had to clean off their seats. They were in a sour mood from the start. The Eagles had won two games that year. Nothing like the home team losing and embarrassing you as a fan.

Snowball fights broke out everywhere . On top of that the Vikings scored early which made the fans feel that their miserable day was only going to intensify.

Eagle officials recruited a fan to play the role of Santa for the halftime show. Not only did Santa get booed, he was the victim of a fierce snowball pounding. He survived and was asked by an Eagle official if he would consider the job next year. He quickly demurred and exclaimed, “No,” noting that the next year the weather might be favorable and the fans would throw beer bottles at him instead of snowballs.

That being said, foul weather, losing teams and rude behavior are trumped by Philadelphia’s illuminating history.

Loran Smith is an athletic administrator at the University of Georgia.