First, let's get "What Is It?" out of the way. I run these mystery items every other Wednesday on my blog at themorningcall.com. When they also appear in the Sunday paper's Best of the Blogs feature, I need to follow up in the paper by explaining what they actually are.
It's actually a Hoop Driver. This is used for setting and tightening the hoops around a barrel, including today's whiskey barrels. You set this thing on the rim and hit it with a hammer to drive the hoop down tightly around the barrel staves.
I posted a new item last week, so go to the blog to check it out. I'll run the answer Wednesday.
You may recall that I did a couple of columns last year about a group of Cleveland Elementary School fifth-graders in Allentown. The class of teacher Rebecca Bodnar decided a hedgehog would make an excellent pet for their classroom, but they discovered they are illegal in Pennsylvania, one of six states to ban the cute little quilled animals. The Pennsylvania Game Commission considers non-native species such as this one to be a threat to public health and safety , as well as to Pennsylvania's native wildlife. I pointed out in the columns why at least some of the concerns were groundless.
The kids took hedgehogs up as a cause, preparing a terrific presentation and taking it around the state, including to the state Capitol. Their efforts helped enlist support for House Bill 1398, which among many other things strikes hedgehogs from Pennsylvania's list of exotic wildlife, paving the way for their potential importation. Among the co-sponsors was local Rep. Jennifer Mann.
The bill was tabled last summer, and that was the last I heard about it until a reader wrote me the other day to find out what happened with the class and the hedgehogs.
Bodnar confirmed my assumption that those children have moved on.
"The kids do have different teachers and are actually all at middle school," she wrote. "They do stop back to see what is going on with the bill and we go online to check. It looks like it is still tabled and nothing has been done for a few months. I am hoping once the bill is passed, I can get a few kids to come back. Jenn Mann had mentioned having our kids go back to Harrisburg for the signing of the bill."
I went online myself Friday and saw that it passed unanimously a couple of months ago in the full House and was reported a couple of weeks ago out of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee to the full Senate, where it has had its first reading. So it's still alive.
Even if the kids don't get that return trip to Harrisburg, they've received a terrific hands-on lesson in the legislative process and political action.
Finally, I'll offer another request for your nominations to this year's class for my Hall of Fame of the area's most colorful characters. I can tell things have been a little slow just by the fact that my colleague Paul Carpenter only has received one nomination so far, same as me. On merit, he should have several by now.
Other nominees include former Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent Joseph Lewis, the Lower Macungie Planning Commission and supervisors, Macungie Mayor Rick Hoffman (getting strong support), WAEB radio personality Bobby Gunther Walsh, former Slatington Councilwoman Kris Burek, Allentown landlord and Crocodile Rock owner Joe Clark and West Easton activist Tricia Mezzacappa.
One historian sent me several names for consideration by the veterans committee, and there were some outstanding ones in there. They included Harold and Judith Fulmer, former Lehigh County Executive Jane Baker, former Allentown Councilman Fred Hawkins, former Gov. Ed Rendell, would-be Easton real estate magnate and later convict George Switlyk and long-ago Bethlehem City Councilman/convicted criminal Anthony Sakarakis.
I knew Sacky a little bit, and I feel confident in saying that if his heyday had coincided with my column-writing career, he'd have long since been in the Hall. Switlyk, whose failed schemes did long-term damage to downtown Easton, is an excellent nominee.
I hope this list inspires some of you to submit your own nominations.
Bill White's commentary appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.