KEY­STONE QUIZZO

IN WIL­LIAM ECEN­BARGER’S NEW BOOK, WEIRD AND WON­DER­FUL STO­RIES TELL THE TALE OF PENNSYLVANIA.

Philadelphia Style - - Contents - BY SARAH SOW­DEN

In Wil­liam Ecen­barger’s new book, weird and won­der­ful sto­ries tell the tale of Pennsylvania.

In Pennsylvania Sto­ries— Well Told, for­mer Philadel­phia In­quirer Mag­a­zine jour­nal­ist Wil­liam Ecen­barger presents a dozen unique, off­beat tales about the Key­stone State. Here, he talks about driv­ing with author and Read­ing na­tive John Updike and tour­ing East­ern State Pen­i­ten­tiary.

What was the in­spi­ra­tion for the book? “A cou­ple of peo­ple had ap­proached me over the years to put to­gether some of my best In­quirer ar­ti­cles into a book. And that in­cluded my for­mer ed­i­tor, Art Carey, and my wife. I came upon a time in my life when I had some time to do this, so I just spent three or four months work­ing on it.” You ded­i­cate a chap­ter to the Pennsylvania Turn­pike. How would you describe this 450-mile road in three words? “Root of his­tory. The turn­pike was the orig­i­nal US su­per­high­way, and there was never any­thing like it be­fore.” Tell us about your time with John Updike. “He was very con­ge­nial and had a nice sense of hu­mor. He was a lit­tle bit re­luc­tant at first— his mother set up the in­ter­view with me—but then as he got go­ing he was quite en­thu­si­as­tic. He drove my car so I could take notes.” If you penned a book called Philadel­phia— Well Told, what’s one story that would make the cut? “I wrote a story about East­ern State (for the In­quirer) when it was get­ting ready to open to the public. It was a cold Fe­bru­ary day, and we got locked in Willy Sut­ton’s cell. This was be­fore the age of cell phones. So we had no way to get out. We waited an hour be­fore some­one found us.” Joseph Fox Book­shop, 1724 San­som St., 215-5634184; fox­book­shop.com

“JOHN UPDIKE DROVE MY CAR SO I COULD TAKE NOTES.” — wil­liam ecen­barger

In his chap­ter about the Pennsylvania Turn­pike, Wil­liam Ecen­barger (in­set) talks about the his­tory be­hind the high­way. “It was built right be­fore WWII so we could send ma­te­ri­als quickly to the ports of New York, Philadel­phia, and Bal­ti­more,” he says.

One of Pennsylvania’s most un­usual places is Fair­mount’s East­ern State Pen­i­ten­tiary, re­garded as the world’s first true pen­i­ten­tiary, and where Ecen­barger ac­ci­den­tally got locked in a cell.

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