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Consumers Corner # 37


Color-coded moving mist
tracks trains running below

By Jim Murphy

 Starting this July, you’ll see Centre Square’s impressive water and rail history portrayed in a unique, colorful public art display at Dilworth Park titled “Pulse.”

As three SEPTA train and trolley lines pass under Dilworth Park, you’ll spot four-foot curtains of atomized dry mist trace their paths across the park fountain in real-time … and in the corresponding color of the line.

Green will go first!

The mist colors of “Pulse” include:

  • Green: Subway-Surface Trolley Line
  • Blue: Market-Frankford Line
  • Orange: Broad Street

The green mist will start sometime in July. Other phases will follow as additional funds become available.

Described by noted sculptor Janet Echelman as “a living X-ray of the city’s circulatory system,” the green, blue and orange mists will zoom across the fountain in tandem with the trains below.

Remembering the steam that powered Philadelphia

The experience evokes both the steam emanating from the city’s first water pumping station – located on the site from 1800 to 1815 – plus steam from trains at the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Broad Street Station that once stood across the street.

A recent $325,000 grant from the William Penn Foundation and $20,000 from the National Endowments of the Arts are helping bring “Pulse” to life this summer.

Paul Levy, president and CEO of the Center City District (CCD), which has spent over $55 million renovating Dilworth Park, said infrastructure for “Pulse” and its complex fog-creation system was embedded into the fountain during construction. Completing the revolutionary project required additional funds.

Besides celebrating the site’s rich history, “Pulse” employs cutting-edge technology that provides real-time transit information. The system will trace quickly moving trains and trolleys with colors that are visible by day – and glowing at night.

CCD is requesting donations to help complete the remaining two phases.

If interested, contact: Katie Andrews, Director of Development,Center City District Foundation at 215.440.5529; email: kandrews@centercityphila.org



The number of people in Philadelphia who fail to show up for jury duty each year. That’s more than one-third of those called. Wonder how those missing-in-action citizens would feel if there were no jury of their peers to weigh in on their guilt or innocence? Or that of their family members?

Source: philly.com

8 billion

That’s how many cooling units (air conditioners, fans, and dehumidifiers) the International Energy Agency forecasts will be used by 2050 – up from the 3.4 billion units today.

Most of the increase is expected to come from India and Indonesia, which have air conditioning in just 5 and 7 percent of their homes respectively. For the U.S. and Japan, the current air conditioning numbers are close to 90 percent. I wonder what more air conditioning around the world will do to global warming?

Sources: The Financial Times and Significant Digits, a FiveThirtyEight email.


The increase in the number of people transporting service or support animals on American Airlines between 2016 and 2017. As a result, the airline has published a list of animals banned after July 1 of this year.

Among the newly banned: amphibians, ferrets, goats, hedgehogs, birds of prey, snakes, animals that smell bad and more.

Sources: CBS Dallas and American Airlines




While reading the biography of “Ed Bacon: Planning, Politics and the Building of Modern Philadelphia” by Gregory L. Heller, I learned something that blew my mind.

Heller says Billy Penn’s curse may have helped cause the MOVE bombing in 1985. If he’s right, this moves the curse … if you believe in it … from just sports to the real world.

Here’s the backstory:

After great success in the 1980 season, with all four Philly pro sports teams playing in championships, our teams simply stopped winning.

Some fans noticed that this lack of success coincided with a critical decision by now-deceased city developer (or villain) Willard G. Rouse III. His crime: Rouse broke a long-standing gentlemen’s agreement not to build anything in center city higher than our founder Billy Penn’s hat – which sits on top of his statue at Philadelphia’s City Hall – 548 feet above the ground.

No longer top dog

Sports enthusiasts felt the championship drought was due to the curse of Bill Penn, who was obviously offended at not being highest in Philly anymore.

In 2008, to soothe our Quaker founder and counteract the curse, Comcast CEO David Cohen placed a small statue of Billy Penn on top of his company’s building, then the city’s tallest at 975 feet.

Evidently it worked, because the Phillies won the World Series that year.

Last November,, a small statue of Penn was placed on top of the new Comcast Technology Center as it passed One Liberty Place as the city’s tallest.

When finished, at 1,121 feet, it will also be the tallest building between Manhattan and Chicago.

When Billy Penn assumed his place at the top, the Eagles were 10-1 and Comcast did not want to jinx the Eagles. As most Philadelphians know, the Eagles beat the hated New England Patriots and became Super Bowl champs in February of this year.

But the Bacon biography takes us back
to a horrible moment in May 13, 1985

That was the day Willard Rouse and his company broke ground on One Liberty Place – and broke the gentlemen’s agreement not to go higher than William Penn.

Aghast at this affront to Billy Penn, city planner Ed Bacon chose not to attend the ceremony.

Later that afternoon, Philadelphia police dropped a bomb from a state police helicopter onto the headquarters of MOVE, a radical group in West Philadelphia.

The result: 11 killed, including five children; and 61 homes destroyed when the fire went out of control.

Coincidence? Or Billy Penn’s curse?  No one really knows. What do you think?

Note: There now are now at least 12 buildings in center city taller than City Hall and Billy Penn. But as I learned from a tour guide while taking a Mural Arts bus tour, Penn can’t see them. His statue atop City Hall faces northeast toward Penn Treaty Park, the site of his reported treaty with the Lenape Indians. So the buildings are at his back.



Watch your mailbox:

New Medicare Cards that no longer contain Social Security Numbers are now arriving in area mailboxes. The hope is they will eliminate identify theft and make it harder to obtain your Social Security Number. Good advice: carry the new card and destroy the old Medicare card. And if you are in a Medicare Advantage Plan or Medicare Supplement Plan that requires their cards, carry those with you as well.


Tiny hotel shampoo bottles are going away:

To save money and plastic, some hotels are phasing out those mini-bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash. What you’ll start to see: wall-mounted bulk dispensers. Why? Environmental concerns. The Wall Street Journal reports that billons of half-bottles get thrown away every year. One estimate: 1,000 bottles for every hotel room, multiplied by 5 million hotel rooms. And that’s a lot of space left unfilled at landfills around the U.S.


More Mistakes from Wells Fargo:

A “system set-up error” by the company allowed it to improperly pocket $47,000 since 2010 that should have gone to the Chattanooga Fire & Police Pension Fund. My question: how come these “errors” always seem to go against customers and in Wells-Fargo’s favor?



By 1831, Washington Square – or the original Southeast Square – served as an arboretum to help educate the public about horticulture. As such, it contained over 50 varieties of trees, including seven that were European. Two of the native varieties were introduced by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark from the Rocky Mountains.

Photo Credits

“Pulse” photo, courtesy of the Center City District. Billy Penn photo by Jim Murphy.


Jim Murphy is a direct marketing copywriter who has run his own consulting business since 2004. For nine years, he wrote and edited “Choices,” an award-winning credit union magazine with a circulation of 80,000. Now a certified member and vice president of the Association of Philadelphia Tour Guides, Jim also writes historical articles for the Queen Village Neighbors Association magazine.

Any comments made are Jim’s opinion, and not necessarily those of the Old Pine Community Center.




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