The Phoenix Reporter and Item (

AT THE TABLE WITH: Mary Jane Mitchell

By Bette Banjack

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Why do people bond and get drawn together? It is hard to tell.

Mary Jane Mitchell and I met in junior high school. I lived one block from school, and she road the bus from East Pikeland. I was an only child, and she was one of nine. The Mitchell family became an extended family to me — and remain so until this day.

In her senior year, Mary Jane started to work for American Lacquer in Perkiomen Junction. It was a part of a work program between businesses and the school. Those chosen went to school in the morning and went to their jobs in the afternoon. She rose from the simple tasks of the job to being the chief financial officer with a seat on the board of directors. Along the way, the company name was changed to American Ink.

She was a working mother long before it was the thing to do. She was amazing, arranging her work schedule not to miss one event in her very active children’s lives.

She and Dennis Wagner were married in 1968. They have three sons — Ed lives in Royersford, Ron in Ohio, Brian in Plymouth Meeting — and eight grandchildren, seven boys and the oldest one a girl. Boys are dominate in the Mitchell family. The nine children of Frank and Bessie Mitchell produced 16 grandchildren — 11 boys and five girls.

The Mitchell clan started out living on a farm in East Pikeland between Phoenixville and Spring City. They relocated to a house on Schuylkill Road (Route 724). The house was a mansion in size compared to the farm. In the new house, there was enough room for everyone to sit down and eat at one time, as well as any stray visiting kid or kids.

For 10 years after retirement, she worked in the business office of Fecera Furniture near her home in Royersford. Along with enjoying her family (especially the grandkids), she has been a longtime member of two card clubs and a lunch club.

Most people bond because they have the same values and lean toward the same kind of humor. For all these years, Mary Jane and I have remained friends — not always on a day-to-day basis, but we were always there for each. There is a bond that will never dwindle.

I would like to mention that many of you may know her as “Janie,” but I always call her by her full name — Mary Jane — just like the candy ... sweet and chewy with a soft center.


2 lb. potatoes (6 medium-size)

2 medium onions — sliced thin

3 tbsp. flour

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

¼ cup butter or margarine

2 cups milk

1 can of Spam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash potatoes; peel and remove eyes. Slice potatoes into thin slices to measure about 4 cups. In a greased 2-quart casserole dish, arrange potatoes in four layers. In a small bowl, mix flour, salt and pepper. On top of each potato layer, put the thinly sliced onions and some of the flour mixture, along with dotting each layer with butter chucks. Heat milk just to scalding. Pour over potatoes. Cut the Spam into ¼-inch slices, then cross cut to make strips. Arrange on top of casserole in desired design. Cover; bake for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake for 60 minutes or until potatoes are tender and the Spam crispy.


Let Better hear from you: Search YouTube for “Look Who’s Cooking with Bette Banjack,” as well (search bar: Banjack) for this column. Find Bette on Facebook by searching “Bette Banjack’s Downtown Kitchen.” Her book, “2 Cups of Yesterday,” is available at Gateway Pharmacy or by contacting her.