Emlen Tunnell Broke Barriers on the Gridiron

First published in the July 26th issue of The Spirit Newspaper

By Katie Kohler


Jackie Robinson is largely know for breaking the color barrier when he became the first African-American in the major leagues when he played with the Brooklyn Dodgers. With a career batting average of .311, Robinson became the first African-American inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, his first year of eligibility.

Delaware County native Emlen Tunnel may not have the universal name recognition as Robinson but he broke down similar barriers becoming the first African-American player voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the first African-American to be a scout and the first African-American on a coaching staff.

He is currently the only player from Delaware County elected into the NFL Football Hall of Fame.

Born in Bryn Mawr, on March 29, 1925, Tunnell grew up in a multi-ethnic Garrett Hill neighborhood. Tunnell was an outstanding all-around athlete at Radnor High School, where he was All-State in both football and basketball, and was given a scholarship to the University of Toledo to play football. As a freshman, he suffered a neck injury so severe that when he awoke in the hospital, a priest was administering Last Rites. He returned to Garrett Hill in a neck brace that he wore for several months, and was told that he would never play football again. He played basketball for Toledo instead. He wanted to enlist but the Army and Navy both rejected his attempts. He was eventually accepted by the Coast Guard, and spent two years of service there before returning to play football for the University of Iowa. While in the service he saved the lives of two of his shipmates on two different occasions and was posthumously awarded the Coast Guard Silver Lifesaving Award.

img_9101He began his pro career in 1948 by hitchhiking across the country from Iowa to New York City to meet Jack Mara, son of Giants founder Tim Mara.

“He used to thumb it all over the country. It was a unique thing in 1948 for someone to pick up an African-American off the side of the road,” said Rich Pagano, author of “Delaware County Sports Legends.”

Tunnell played his first 11 seasons with the New York Giants and the last three with the Green Bay Packers. He moved from the Giants to the Packers when Giants offensive coordinator Vince Lombardi took over the head coaching duties at Green Bay and in 1961 assisted the Packers in winning the NFL Championship against his old team, the Giants. He retired after that season with a record that included leading the NFL in punt return yards twice, in 1951 and 1952 and playing a then-NFL record of 143 consecutive games.

In 1952, he gained more yards (924) on interceptions and kick returns than the NFL rushing leader. He was a two-time NFL champion and voted to nine Pro Bowls. He finished his career with 79 interceptions (2nd all-time).

Philadelphia Eagles fans who love retired safety Brian Dawkins would have appreciated Tunnell’s style of play.

“He was a big hitter,” commented Pagano. “When he would hit receivers they thought about it later in the game.”

Tunnell was also a multipurpose player (he returned kicks and punts) and was referred to as “offense on defense” for scoring touchdowns off of his interceptions.

He was elected as the first African-American and defensive specialist in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967. Tunnell became a scout and assistant coach with the Giants, and died from a heart attack in Pleasantville, New York during a practice session in 1975.

In July 2017, NFL.com senior analyst and personnel guru Gil Brandt named Tunnell the top safety of all-time.









Michael’s Deli, Upper Merion, closes its doors after 36 years

UPPER MERION – “Where else does the rabbi, priest and minister meet?” asked Eileen Centrella, owner of Michael’s Restaurant and Delicatessen.

It isn’t the set up to a joke. She is describing the diverse clientele who have filled the restaurant for their expansive menu highlighted by corned beef and Reuben’s, all-day breakfast and pickle bar.

“It’s not just the food sometimes. It about the tradition, family and the cooking,” said Centrella.

The 36-year-old Upper Merion staple and it’s beloved pickle bar will be having a last call as it closes its doors on Saturday, May 13th due to owner Michael Centrella’s declining health and the lease coming up for renewal.unknown

“Michael’s health has been deteriorating over time. It just felt like it was the right time (with the lease coming due) so my mom can spend time taking care of him, and we can spend more time as a family versus being here. Health and family absolutely come first for us,” said Sissy Morelock, manager, and daughter of Eileen Centrella and step-daughter of Michael.

“We are truly touched by the community’s reaction. If I could find a way to physically do this ten more years I would. I can’t even begin to tell you how much the community has stepped up …” said Centrella holding back tears.

Since announcing the impending closure, customers have filed in to get a “last meal.” Top sellers over the years included corned beef special, Reuben, hungry man breakfast special, nova and lox, cheeseburger royale, cheesesteak, and Italian hoagie. Michael’s was also noted for their expansive offering of over 500 beers from around the world which included the latest craft brews and domestics.

Their clientele was diverse as the menu. Not only did it literally include all clergy denominations, but age groups from toddlers who teethed on the pickles to the senior citizens kibitzing over a bagel with lox.

“There is such a variety with the menu. The people are so nice and friendly and so is the atmosphere. I’m going to really miss this place,” said Susan Leonardo, Upper Merion resident and customer for 25 years, who orders the tuna melt.

Added Leonardo’s friend Carroll Mace of Audubon: “The food has always been good. We’ve made friends with the staff and it’s always been a comfortable place any to come any time of day.”

Michael Centrella purchased Perry’s Delicatessen in 1981. They expanded the restaurant on Mother’s Day 2002. Michael’s did minimal advertising; instead they regularly supported local causes through sponsorships and donations. Their meeting spaces hosted twenty to thirty regular monthly meetings, which included writers groups, Rotary clubs and other community-oriented gatherings.

Michael’s address on Town Center Road was fitting for a place that was the go-to spot for meetings and regular breakfast groups. Morelock and Centrella said since the announcement, customers have filled boxes with notes and well wishes. The thank you’s don’t stop at the door. Upper Merion Township will honor Michael’s with a proclamation at the June 15th Board of Supervisors meeting. A “Michael’s Deli Tribute” was created on Facebook by Tori Conicello-Emery.

“This whole situation is bittersweet for everyone. We know we provided a service for the community. We’re sad because a lot of our customers are family to us. They understand why we are leaving but are said to see us go,” said Morelock.

“Everybody has a memory and a story about Michael’s,” said Centrella, scrolling through her phone of pictures customers sent her of their children teething on pickles. “It makes me feel wonderful. I’m so touched. I feel like everybody’s mom. I’m speechless.”

Francis J. Dube, with son, George Dube, enjoyed an early dinner on Wednesday, and their fourth meal of the week at one their favorite spots.

“I come here because of the people who work here. My neighbors worked here. Absolutely, I’m going to miss it,” said Francis who has been a regular since the first days and usually orders the fried seafood combination or fried shrimp.

“They have the best coleslaw in the United States of America,” raved George Dube. “And they serve real good steak fries. It’s a Jewish deli you don’t see anymore and it’s going away after all these years. It’s a tradition in King of Prussia.”

Morelock credited the restaurant’s longevity to their reputation of serving quality products and their committed clientele. Centralla praised her staff over the years calling them loyal, honest and caring. She stressed the importance of each position from the dishwasher to the front of house staff, which some diners asked for by name.

“There is a good set of customers and regulars. They are like family. So are the co-workers. I’ll miss a little bit of everything. This place is like my second home,” said Amy Mack, who has been a server at Michael’s for seven-and-a-half years.

As Saturday, and on this day, the dinner hour inched closer the sweet and salty aroma of the pickles still hung in the air. More diners arrived greeting Centrella with a hug. It’s been a week filled with hugs, tears, and questions of “where am I going to go for breakfast/get my pickles?”

“I can’t tell you how many customers said this feels like their second home. It’s such nice compliment customers can give us. I’m so proud my mom and Michael instilled that atmosphere here and that’s what I’m going to miss,” said Morelock. “It’s so humbling to see Michael created this institution. He did a great thing for King of Prussia.”


SpringHouse Revival’s “Second Chance,” a Deep, Personal Album

By Katie Kohler

Writers write. It doesn’t matter where or when.

Gordon Glantz worked in journalism for twenty-five years covering a wide range of subjects. He wrote at crime scenes. He filled his notebooks from the sidelines detailing athletic feats. As managing editor, he penned a weekly column.

Today, Glantz is a freelance writer and a lyricist/producer/arranger for SpringHouse Revival.

“I get to write freelance which is fulfilling and I get to do this which is pretty close. I’ve been writing songs since high school. It’s part of who I am that I suppressed for a long time,” said Glantz. “To be able to balance both and knowing there is a format for it, even though it takes a few years, is great.”

In high school Glantz, jotted lyrics in his notebook instead of the subject matter of the class. He taps out lyrics on his iPad now, whenever inspiration strikes. It can come from the ripe tree of socio-political issues, an observation, or a feeling of empathy.

“It’s how I express myself. I think it helps me cope with things,” said Glantz.

Second Chance, SpringHouse Revival’s second album, tells a number of different stories, but not just sixteen title tracks. There is plenty going on in between the lines that beg for the listener to look beyond the surface.second-chance

The music, as with most of Glantz’s work, is close to his heart. The first track, “Time of Day,” was recorded while they were putting their debut album, Return to Nothing, to bed. It was slated to be the title song until “Second Chance” was recorded and proved to have the strength of a title a title track. Released on January 1st, 2017, “perfect for a second chance,” says Glantz, the album has folk-rock vibe with thoughtful deep undertones.

Much like his column and personal accounts on his website, Glantz does not shy away from serious issues or politics. He makes no secret what he feels about the current political administration in “Leader You Follow.”

“A lot of these songs unlike the first one are things that are happening to me now. The first album, some were songs I wrote 20-25 years ago. It reflects everything I was feeling, the highs the lows are all there,” said Glantz.

Terri Camilari is the composer/vocalist. She considers Glantz’s references and tries to merge the story and what musically tells the story

“I change very little of his words and beyond a few articles or contracting words I ask about it before I do. In the studio with the musicians, the overall vibe of my original demo and musical choices need to get the stamp from both of us; sometimes we have to hash it out,” said Camilari.

“At some point they become “our words” and the music becomes “our music.” On rare occasions he will share the inner workings behind his lyrics,” added Camilari. Usually he says ” ‘open to interpretation.’ That allows me some freedom but I try to find a common ground.”

For Camilari, Second Chance is different from their debut effort in that many of the songs speak from a “certain age”, some experience under the belt, and starting again.

“SpringHouse Revival through Gordon’s words points out the reflection that comes from loss, experience, hypocrisy faced in smaller, more personal ways than in the debut CD, Return To Nothing,” said Camilari.

Glantz’s and Camilari’s both respect the craft and pay homage to their musical influences.

If you read Glantz’s work or know his musical taste, or even if you listen to Second Chance multiple times it’s easy to identify their musical influences of classic rock.

“Dylan is my head. Springsteen is my heart,” admitted Glantz. He added that one goal for this release is enhancing SpringHouse Revival’s digital presence. In addition to a web site (springhouserevival.com) and Facebook page (SpringHouse Revival), there is a YouTube Channel featuring of all the bands songs – including the single “Reality Is Fiction” that was withheld from “Second Chance” because it didn’t quite fit the vibe and a presence on Reverb Nation.

Glantz is also hopeful for more listeners/followers on Spotify, and the CD can be purchased at iTunes, CD Baby and multiple other online sources (Amazon Music, iHeart Radio, Sony Music, etc.).

SpringHouse Revival is rife with Montgomery County connections. The tracks are recorded at Morningstar Studios in East Norriton. Bass player Chico Huff (Norristown), Piano/keyboard John Conahan (Ambler), Camilari (Lansdale), and Glantz, (Blue Bell) are among the contributing talents.  Peggy Becker-Dellisanti, longtime owner of now-closed Main Street in Norristown mainstay, Main Changes, lends her vocals to the “Ballad of It.”

My Picks for Top Tracks

“Ballad of It” – Stellar prelude, sets up rock ‘n roll duet with Camilari and Becker-Dellisanti.

“Million Dollar Words” – Love those drums.

“Recovery Road” – Nice driving tune.

Winnie the Pooh vs. 4G

This essay first appeared in the March 2016 issue of Main Line Today magazine

Is this ride over yet?” said a young voice behind me.

I whipped my head around to see a pair of 6-year-old girls in a honey pot on Disney’s Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. As the other riders disembarked, I noticed many were smiling. But some—mostly kids—appeared to be thoroughly unimpressed as they fiddled with their electronic devices.

Maybe it’s just me, but I can derive an inordinate amount of joy from tooling around in an oversized jar—though perhaps it is less exciting for two girls dressed like Elsa and Anna. 


The Jerry Spinelli Factor

This essay first appeared in the February 2016 issue of Main Line Today magazine

There are times when my fingers move over the keyboard like Mozart’s did across the piano keys, words spilling out as if from a broken spigot. Other times, I stare at the screen and type a string of lowercase Hs.

What made me think I was a writer?

It had to have happened when I was young, as puberty wasn’t kind. In fourth grade, like so many kids from this part of Pennsylvania, I read Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.


My Love Letter to the Bryn Mawr Hospital

This essay first appeared in the October 2015 issue of Main Line Today magazine

Some places you never want to visit but often do anyway—7-Elevens, turnpike rest stops, the random relative who still doesn’t have cable or Wi-Fi.

The emergency room.

After all, no one ever says, “You know what would be fun? WebMD’ing the searing pain in my abdomen while trying to contain my nausea.”