Reading, PA- Mayor Wally Scott must have been having a bad day.
During his remarks at the City Council meeting last Monday night he noted how easy it is for some folks to be negative.
During the first eight months of his administration he has overseen the decriminalization of parking tickets, changed the water shut-off rules of the Reading Area Water Authority and is in the process of cleaning up the city by developing a new trash collection system.
“People will no longer go to jail for a parking ticket or get thrown out of their homes because they can’t afford to pay their water bill,” Scott said. “These are the things we should be talking about. But instead, for some of us, there is only the negative.”
Scott should have gone to the Front and Schiller Playground on Thursday night.
A group of about 80 gathered at the playground for the unveiling of the third in the Unsung Heroes series of murals. It’s a partnership between the city’s Reading Beautification Inc. and the Olivet Boys & Girls Club’s Mentoring and the Arts Program. A mural was dedicated in 2014 to Frank Gilyard, pioneer of Reading’s African American Museum, and to Harvey Kimble in 2015. Kimble was known as the mayor of Hollenbach Street.
This year, Olivet dedicated its mural to Paul Keller Sr. Fittingly, the mural of Keller was installed on the back wall of what for 20 years was Keller’s malt shop and is now the Magic Wok restaurant at Front and Buttonwood streets. The mural overlooks the playground where so many children over the years would play and then go around the corner to Keller’s Classics, Paul and Donna Keller’s 1950s-style malt and sandwich shop.
The shop was a refuge for local kids through the 1980s and ’90s. The kids loved the Kellers and their love was returned, many times over. During their 40 years of marriage, Paul and Donna raised a family on West Buttonwood Street. They also served as foster parents to 75 neighborhood kids.
Steve Harrity, director of Reading Beautification, served as emcee for the dedication ceremony. He put his arm around Donna Keller and thanked her for being a mentor herself in the program for many years.
Jessica Alexander, an art teacher at Conrad Weiser High School, painted the mural with the help of kids like Kristin Bryan, 17, a student in the Arts Academy at Wilson High School, who said she heard about the project and volunteered. There were also at least a dozen neighborhood kids who got involved through Olivet’s Mentoring and the Arts Program.
“Donna already was a mentor when I joined the program 10 years ago,” Alexander said. “So it gives me great pleasure to do this for her.”
Crystal Ortiz, 18, a student at Reading High, painted the ice cream cone at the bottom right of the mural. Also in that corner, three Swedish Fish swim by a box of Dots.
“I feel great about this,” Ortiz said. “It came out really nice and I had a great time doing it.”
The same is true for Adam Rivera, 14, a student at Reading Intermediate High School.
“I helped with the overall project, some of the painting,” he said. “I like drawing and painting and when I heard about the mural project I was drawn to it.”
When Donna Keller finished her comments she was literally swarmed by the kids, who wrapped their arms around her and each other in a spontaneous group hug. You could tell the kids loved the mural project and the idea that they did it for Donna in memory of Paul.
My heart swelled at the sight. And there were no nattering nabobs of negativism in sight.