Eilis’ class had a field trip today into Philadelphia. The first stop on the trip was at the Mummers’ Museum, followed by a tour of Termini Brothers Bakery, then a visit to Betsy Ross’ house. I’ll tell you first about the Mummers’ Museum and Betsy’s house, and then I will ramble on and on seemingly endlessly on how much I love Terminis and why.
We left school about 8:30, and arrived not too long afterwards at the Mummers Museum. Located at 1100 South 2nd Street in Philadelphia, the museum is dedicated to the merry band of marchers who has welcomed in the New Year in the city of Brotherly Love for more than 1000 years. Inside the museum, you will find costumes, photographs, and Mummers memoribilia from years gone by. They also have a large banquet hall that can host events for up to about 200 people. Our visit here began with a 15 minute video tape of parade clips from various years, followed by a very brief tour of one of the exhibit halls (it may be the only exhibit hall, I’m not sure). The kids had an incredibly short demonstration of how to do the Mummers’ Strut, but it was way too crowded with all of those kids in the small space they had for dancing. We followed that up with a craft break, where the kids were given masks and feathers, and they decorated with crayons and glitter. They seated us at long tables in the banquet hall for that, so don’t worry – you won’t encounter any historic Mummers costumes with a few oddly placed feathers or non-matching glitter anywhere. When we were finished our craft, we headed back out to the bus for Terminis.
After Terminis, we went to the Betsy Ross House. Located at 239 Arch Street in Philadelphia, the 250 year old house was home to Betsy Ross from 1773 until 1785. The courtyard outside the house was crowded with other tour groups on a gorgeous spring day in Philadelphia. We waited in line, lunch bags in hand, and did a very quick tour of the house, 10 people at a time. Our group did the lightening version of the tour, and we were out of the house in less than 10 minutes. The kids were starving, and carrying their lunches made the house so much less appealing than what was in the lunch bags! Once you were done your tour, you could go back out to the courtyard and eat. We also visited Betsy herself, who made paper 5 point stars for the kids and talked about the different textiles she worked with back in the 1700′s. We saw a show about the Wonder Girls of the American Revolution, performed by Molly Pitcher and Debbie Sampson. There were a few other Revolutionary characters wandering around, but the gift shop got most of the attention from the kids. We left Betsy Ross’ house at about 1:30 for our 2 o’clock return to school.
But the highlight of the entire day was our stop at Termini Brothers Bakery! There is and always will be a soft spot in my heart for Termini’s. My dad used to take us there when we were kids to pick up desserts once in a while or to buy tea biscuits for my Grandmom Fee; Jim and I had our wedding cake made at Termini’s; everytime we brought one of our babies in, they were given delicious Italian cookies to teethe on; and anytime we bring one of the kids, they are given a big cupcake with sprinkles. It helps that everything that comes out of the kitchen at Termini’s is delicious – from the cookies to the cannolis; the light as air lemon cooler cake to the creamy and delicious Italian rum cake.
Walking into Termin’s today was like walking into your Italian Grandparents’ house on a Sunday afternoon. As we piled out of the bus and into the store at 1523 South 8th Street in South Philadelphia, we were greeted by the staff at Termini’s and Mr. Termini himself. The counter ladies passed a huge tray of Italian cookies to the adults, and a tray piled just as large with chocolate chip cookies to all of the children. Mr. Termini stood in front of the kids and told them about the history of the bakery, his father and his uncle coming from Italy to make the American dream come true for their family. He talked about his own 40+ year marriage to a girl he met at the bakery – she was a 19 year old counter girl when they met and married, while he worked with his father and uncle in the bakery. And he spoke with great pride of his sons, both in the business, and his daughter, a hospice nurse. He told the kids of his new venture, a coffee shop located across the street in the shop that was the original Termini’s bakery. And then he welcomed us all into the kitchen. We watched a group of about 8 men making cannoli shells for the famous and delicious pastry that will be sent not only to all 5 Termini’s locations from this store, but shipped all over the country. They let the kids watch up close and personal as they mixed up cake batter in giant mixers. And when they were finished with that, they were escorted into the decorating room, where a large, white sheet cake stood as a blank slate. The cake decorator whipped out icing in the school colors and decorated the sheet cake for the kids to take back to school, where they will enjoy it as a treat after the field day activities tomorrow. When all the questions were answered and everyone was satisfied that the decorator knew how to make roses, leaves, borders, and other assorted icing decorations, we began walking back out toward the bus. But wait! No one leaves Grandmom’s house empty handed! Each child was handed a bag with a large cupcake with sprinkles on it, and each mom, dad, and teacher got a goodie bag containing a freshly made cannoli.
You know after this visit why Termini’s is an institution. You know why your grandmother went there, your parents went there, you go there, and you take your kids there. This business is a family – from the woman who for the last 16 years has packed up the orders to be sent out to the other stores to the man who has spent 23 years decorating cakes for this bakery. We were welcomed into the store like we were family, and when we left, we were made to feel that they were glad we came and they looked forward to us coming back.
Maybe I’ll do just that. I’m hoping to do a little Memorial Day grilling on Sunday. I think the highlight of the barbecue for my kids would be a big bite of lemon cooler cake. Or a freshly made cannoli. Or their very own sprinkled cupcake. It doesn’t matter. It will all taste good, and we will know it was made with the ingredient that will keep us coming back for generations.