Due to the coronavirus, the last interview I had the opportunity to do face-to-face was 100 Women of Phoenixville with Dodi Shrunk. In the upcoming weeks, one of the 126 weekly interviews that were previously published will be shared.
Jack Ertell is all about history. He graduated from Albright College in Reading, where he majored in history and political science.
Jack landed his first teaching job with the Phoenixville School District. He taught social studies from 1966 to 1973. In 1973, he became the athletic director and served A.D. while teaching until retiring in 1998.
When Jack took the job with the Phoenixville School District, he had plans. He would teach a year or so until he figured his life’s direction. I would say he found it.
Retiring from teaching in 1998 in Phoenixville, he went to teach at the Montgomery County Community College at the Pottstown campus and the Delaware Valley Community College in Exton.
After 50 years of teaching, he retired in 2016.
Jack and his wife Janet married in the spring of 1967. They have three children. James lives in New Jersey, Deborah lives in Telford and Suzanne in Hawaii. There are two grandchildren. An interesting fact is that there is a 26-year age difference between the two grandkids.
Jack and Janet started out their married life living in Phoenixville. First living on First Avenue then moving to Hall Street but the town’s parking situation led them to move to East Pikeland.
They travel often to Arizona, as they have family living there, including Jack’s 96-year-old mother. They even have a room in their home decorated with Arizona décor.
The Ertells became members of the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area shortly after the society was established in 1977. Jack became an active volunteer after retiring from teaching at the high school.
Jack became super-involved and spends a great deal of the time at the society’s facility. Located on the corner of Main and Church streets, it is an old church that was first built as a Mennonite Church. Later better known as Central Lutheran Church before it was vacated.
Jack served as president for 5½ years. The first year-and-a-half year was to serve the remaining term of Pete Bamberger after his death. Jack went on to be elected for two two-year terms. Jack is currently on the board of directors, chairman of the archives committee and editor of the society’s newsletter, as well as a program speaker on area history.
The society holds public meeting quarterly. The society offers research, museum exhibits and flea markets. Call 610-935-7646 for a schedule. Or go online to the Historical Society of Phoenixville.
Its mission statement is “to collect, preserve, interpret, and disseminate material information pertaining to Phoenixville area history in order to assist and educate the public in understanding and appreciating their Phoenixville area heritage and how it relates to their lives”.
Jack as a sweet tooth and has many favorite desserts. But the Red Velvet Cake is his very-very favorite.
JANET’S RED VELVET CAKE
Vegetable oil for the pans
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring (1 ounce)
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil and flour three 9” round cake pans.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In another large bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla. Using a standing mixer, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined and a smooth batter is formed. Divide the cake batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. Place the pans in the oven evenly spaced apart. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through the cooking, until the cake pulls away from the side of the pans, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
Remove the cakes from the oven and run a knife around the edges to loosen them from the sides of the pans. One at a time, invert the cakes onto a plate and then re-invert them onto a cooling rack, rounded-sides up. Let cool completely. Finish with your favorite cream cheese frosting.
This column was originally published Dec. 18, 2018. Update — Sadly Jack’s mother passed away in October 2019 — 3 month short of her 98th birthday.