Cherrie Visits the Big House

Connie, Candy, Cherrie, Ann and Mickey.

After traveling east through Ohio, we spent several days staying with our friend Connie, who lives just outside of Philadelphia. That’s one of the great things about traveling — it gives you a chance to catch up with folks that you haven’t seen in while. We also had a chance to have lunch with our other friends, Ann and Mickey. Everyone was happy to meet Cherrie. Here’s a photo of us all in the parking lot after our lunch date.

As it so happens, both Ann and Connie are travel agents who specialize in accessible travel, so we also had a chance to talk a little business. Ann wanted me to autograph my latest book, which is why she is holding it up (prominently) in the parking lot photo.

Cherrie in the "Big House".

We also had a chance to fit in a little sightseeing while we were in the area. And believe it or not, one of Cherrie’s favorite stops was at the Eastern Pennsylvania State Penitentiary. It hasn’t housed prisoners since the 1970s, but it’s open for tours today. And thanks to the addition of a few portable ramps, Cherrie had no problems wheeling around it in her wheelchair.

The penitentiary was built in the 1800s, and they had a much different concept of rehabilitation back then. In fact, the name “penitentiary” comes their view of rehabilitation — they wanted the prisoners to pay a penance and reflect about the crimes they had committed. It was a very solitary life at Eastern Pennsylvania State Penitentiary. The prisoners were not allowed to talk one another, and whenever they left their cells, they had to wear a black hood, so that they wouldn’t see anybody else. In theory, this gave them more time to reflect and think about the bad things they had done; however it was later found to be a very ineffective (and even inhumane) way to treat prisoners. That’s why we don’t do that today.

Connie, Cherrie and Candy at the Eastern Pennsylvania State Penitentiary.

In any case, if you happen to be in the area, it’s a fascinating tour; and Cherrie and I highly recommend it. Although there were a few cells she couldn’t access because of large steps, she could still get a good look at them from the corridor. They also have a great audio tour, which includes stories told by former guards and prisoners.

And as we left, we were glad that we were only visitors!