The show is over; Solar panel blitz; Flavia Alaya on Bertini building; Cat poisoning; Deanna Speranza-Murphy feeling good; Pepsi Pete passes


The column that says it’s time to get out of the radio business and concentrate on the blog because it’s a lot cheaper and you don’t have to worry about guests treating it as a lunch date and not showing up, although the guests have taught us so much over the last four-plus years, but we could never turn it into a profitable venture, so last Saturday was the last show on 92.1 FM.

By Jack Hummel

Radio: 92.1 FM WVLT Saturdays noon to 2 p.m.


Phone: 856-237-6645

U.S. Army: RA13815980

Google all columns at jackhummelblog

Good evening!

Never let the world know you might be interested in solar panels on your home.

When one company finds out, they all do and it doesn’t matter how many trees they see on the overview of your property on the Internet, they still call because there’s always a chance you can save a few dollars on your electric bill by cutting down $6,000 worth of trees.

And even though they know we won’t do that, they call and ask anyway, even agreeing with us. So why call? Do they get paid by the call?


We’ve had three visits, one by an acrobat who climbed everywhere to take measurements, checked the inside of the attic and convinced us he should be the head of the company out of California.

Another caller drove and hour and a half on a Saturday afternoon, knowing the trees are there for a reason. The only place trees aren’t welcome is downtown Bridgeton because they’re rooting up the brick sidewalks.

We’ve discovered the answer to, “Where has the time gone?”

When we were at the News, we  not only worked in a building with no windows, but we worked so many hours scheduling interviews and covering games, including football on weekends, that looking forward to the spring meant nothing as far even laying out in the sun on the beach, or even in the backyard.

It was always on to the next story, later in Woodbury and Salem. Years flew by because you were only concentrating on work, including delivering newspapers every morning for 22-plus years.

The last thing you do is eat right. Six packs of Lance crackers and a diet Coke do not a meal constitute, but it’s better than what’s on view on the counter at the nearest pizza shop.

Don’t do that, young people. You wind up in your 70s looking at the faces of doctors wearing grimaces.

But back to business …

“Jack Hummel asked on Facebook if I was sad about the loss of the Bertini …
“Each of us might answer that question differently, but my answer is, of course, yes.
“Of course, it is not a contradiction that the answer is also: No.
“Such mixed feelings come from knowing what I know: That, after so many years of economic slide and disappointed possibilities (and some of the personal struggles owner Tom D’Arrigo shared with me along the way), lacking a reconfiguration of the lot, there was no possible future for that building that made both reasonable economic and zoning sense.
“I told Jack Hummel, and I will say it here, as well: That I wish Tom had had the camaraderie to share his dilemma with his CHABA colleagues, and bring it ’home.’
“After all, it was the hope of saving and repurposing the building in 2008 that helped birth the organization. We’d have had a vigorous discussion, for sure. But I think we’d not really have quarreled about demolition, and— together — we might have structured a creative conversation about loss — and gain — and the future of that important site.
“And if its demolition was before the HD Commission, as I assume it was, I could have wished the leadership there had asked us to appear to say some of what I’m saying here.
“Now, in a spirit of both mourning and (let’s call it) ‘morning,’ I hope we can be allowed a share in the plans for the future of this site. Because what was true of it then is still true: That the Bertini, when it was whole, was a gateway structure, a visual marker of the edge of Bridgeton’s downtown, its tall turret marking the portal of entry or exit to and from the city.
“It was where (someone who had lived as a child in the upstairs apartment once told me) the parades coming up Laurel Street symbolically ended, having reached their drumming, horn-blowing, flag-waving apogee at the top of that hill.
“With time and degradation, the Bertini tower had of course also become an unwelcome marker of some of the desperation and dashed expectations of this city in the third decade of owning the largest historic district in the state.
“We tend to think we are sternly practical people in these parts. But we have a deep-rooted regard for symbols. And in this we are right: Symbolism is a powerful, even critical, factor in the death and life of cities.
“It certainly was then, in 2008. It is now. Tom, himself an architect and artist, knows it. I have heard him thinking out loud about a creatively designed repurposing of that space. He knows the positive visual freight the Bertini carried in its earlier life is still a symbolism we need there.
“Someday in our storytelling, we may have the courage to remember as well the dark family tragedy that once blighted its story, long ago, and may in the end have helped bring it down. But whether we mourn or celebrate its death, let’s also think forward — creatively— again and begin preparing for new ways of telling history in the history of this city.
“It’s what good citizens, as well as good preservationists, do.”
— Flavia Alaya
The Center for historic American Building Arts (CHABA)
The Bertini building lasted so long because the state would not let it be torn down in the 1990s.
Flavia, when NO ONE comes forward “in the largest historic district in the state” to even talk of saving it, we’re mixing “largest historic district in the state” with “largest historical interest in the state,” which we don’t have.
One is a simple entry on a piece of paper. The other is monetary input in a city where 43 percent of the population don’t know what a Bertini building means.

And, last but not least, we apologize to Mr. Bertini and his family because he was far from the only owner of the building, and had nothing to do with its downfall.

From Pennsville …

“Good afternoon,

“I am a very concerned pet owner in the area of North River Drive. Over the past two months, there have been several deaths, including my own indoor/outdoor cat who never stays outside after dark.

“My cat was poisoned and others have been found with bags on their heads. I received another concerning text from my neighbor today. Her indoor/outdoor cat was poisoned.

“Are these just random incidents? I do not think it is. I just wanted to put an awareness out there to keep other families aware there is someone in the neighborhood that is not animal friendly and to keep their cats inside when possible.

“Both my cat and my neighbor’s cat had collars on, very friendly, and displayed no intent to harm. This is not only heartbreaking to us as adults, but also the children have been hysterical.

“Is this monster going to target loose dogs next? This is not expected of a quaint little town … the town I call home. This is ridiculous.

“I would prefer to remain anonymous, but I wanted to inform the area before this happens to their four-legged family member. Thank you.”

— Pennsville resident

These people are out there. We knew about one in Millville. There was the same problem in Carneys Point.

Best news ever … 

“Good news today I am in a good remission. Blood work is normal. Weakness and tiredness should get better over time. Let’s pray it stays this way! All of your prayers have worked well so far! Thank you!”

— Deanna Speranza-Murphy

“P.S. Micheal’s driving today was superb!”

And finally, Pepsi Pete has passed …

A little history

Jan. 29, 2013

They called him “Pepsi Pete.’’

Few knew his real name is Randall Garrison.

Any day of the year, you would see him walking the streets of Bridgeton tossing a Pepsi can from hand to hand.

To be downtown was to see him.

They didn’t know where he came from.

And, then, in the late 1980s, he was gone.

When the Bridgeton “Down Memory Lane” Facebook group found him before Christmas, all 2,100 members lit up like Christmas trees.

They all thought he was dead.

For the last three years, he has been living at Extended Care Nursing Home in Bridgeton.

Down Memory Lane threw him a Christmas party, complete with presents.

They made a Christmas tree out of Pepsi cans.

They gave him a Phillies hat and clothes and watches.

And an Eagles wallet.

He loves gadgets.

He loves to take them apart.

Last week, Alan Ayars and Gailyn Ward revisited the man who is the star of the nursing home.

“All the nurses knew him as soon he came in here,’’ said nursing home assistant administrator Stephanie Ridgway. “They remember him helping to load groceriesinto cars at Shop ‘n’ Bag.

“Even in here, he helps out people.’’

When Gailyn Ward used to go downtown “to hang out’’ when she was a teenager, Randy would always stop and talk to her.

“One time when he was swinging his Pepsi, he missed and it went through a store window,’’ she said.

Coralee Halter, out of Dr. Mark Levitsky’s office, found him in the nursing home.

After lunch last week, they ushered him into the nursing home conference room.

Gailyn handed him two boxes of candy, including one with a Teddy bear attached to it.

“Are you having a happy day?” Gail asked him. “We always want you have a happy day.”

“Do you want a new watch band?’’ asked Alan. “I brought you a new watch band.’’

Randy handed him the watch, but the pins to hold the band on were missing.

Randy loves to take things apart.

“It needs a new battery,’’ he said.

He handed him a key chain that was part of fundraiser for Down Memory Lane.

He took off his Phillies hat and kept pointing to the shiny button inside.

All the while, cameras kept flashing.

“Is this going to be in the paper?” he focused. “Would you send me a picture?

“Framed,” said Gailyn. “We’ll bring you a big framed picture and a copy of the paper.”

“I would have been a good pitcher, wouldn’t I?” said Randy about his Pepsi tossing prowess.

“For the Phillies,’’ said Gailyn.

He doesn’t drink Pepsi anymore, just coffee and tea at the home.

And Gailyn doesn’t hang downtown anymore.

Ruth Hall, Randy’s niece who lives in Florida, filled in the missing blanks.

“Our family lived at 71 Myrtle St. and then at 226 Bank St. 20 years ago,” she said in a phone conversation. “Randy stayed with us. My dad, his brother, took care of him.”

Then he lived with Ruth’s sister in Upper Deerfield for 10 years.

“They called him Pepsi Cola Pete for his drinking of Pepsi sodas,” said Hall.

“His sister, Helen Stidham, says he used to rock in a rocking chair and used to hit his head on the wall.

“The school system stopped him from going to school at the age of 6 because of his mental state … .

“His parents fought get him back in school and lost.

“He used to smoke cigarettes for short period of time.

“He fixed appliances at home.’’

She said the places Pepsi Pete hung out included Fisher’s Meat Market, Stanley’s Deli and candy store, Chick’s Corner Store, Capt. Bill’s.

“Randy would go to Immaculate Conception Church on North Pearl Street every Saturday and hold the door for parishioners,’’ she recalled.

“Then he would go across the street to Benny’s Pizza and get pizza and a soda.’’

It was the same at the town A&P.

“He would hold the door again and help senior citizens load their groceries and they would give him a couple of dollars,” she said.

Warren Robinson remembered Randy riding his bike through the city park.

That led to his niece remembering a dark moment.

“They beat him up and took his money one day when he was riding in the park,” she said of some local thugs. “He always carried about $200 in one-dollar bills with him. They left him for dead.”

The next morning at home, his brother, as he did every day, went to Randy’s room to check on him.

He wasn’t there.

Police located him injured in the park and he was taken to the hospital.

“They caught the guys who did it,” she said. “One got seven years, but got out in five.’’

That was in the early ’80s, she guessed.

The family attended Sunday services at the Salvation Army.

“He would hold the door for people there, too,’’ she said.

Back at the nursing home, Alan Ayars attached the keychain to Randy’s belt.

“Take out your wallet, Randy,” said Alan, handing him a dollar.

The cameras continued flashing.

“Your picture will be on Facebook,” Gailyn told him.

“We’re coming back on Valentine’s Day. And we’re definitely coming back on his birthday, May 4.”

Memories of Bridgeton came flooding back.

“We skated at Cubby Hollow and when the pond would get low, Mr. Schrank would fill it back up,’’ said Gail.

“And he had a fabulous sleigh. When it snowed, he would hook up a horse to it and go around the neighborhood.

“And, of course, Mr. Schrank had the fairgrounds on Fayette Street.”

“Pepsi Pete,’’ now 82 years old, does that to you.

YOU CAN BOOK ITFirst the Bertini building and now Pepsi Pete.

The show is over; Solar panel blitz; Flavia Alaya on Bertini building; Cat poisoning; Deanna Speranza-Murphy feeling good; Pepsi Pete passes

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