AT THE TABLE WITH: Barbara Burns McCann

Barbara Burns McCann
Barbara Burns McCann

Barbara Burns McCann is my oldest friend in terms of length of time. We met in Sunday School when we were about 4 or so at St. John’s Lutheran Church on Church Street in Phoenixville. Between church, parties and school, we bonded and were in the same graduating class at Phoenixville Area High School.

While still in high school, she started to work at W.T. Grant’s luncheonette at Bridge and Main streets. After graduation, she remained there, moving upstairs to the office. Even after she married Jim McCann in 1962, she worked there on weekends. She worked only weekends as they lived in Royersford and only had one car.

Barbara lived in the same house on Prospect Street all her single life. Her mom, Grace, was a stay-at-home mom with the assistance of her dad, Fred. His mother died when he was 8, and he felt to have a mom at home all the time was important. Fred worked full-time for Philadelphia Water Co. at Moorehall Ram, along with several part-time jobs when they could fit in.

He made deliveries for Thomas’ Grocery Store, where he got paid a carton of Lucky Strike cigarettes a week.


Her brother, Fred, was eight years older. His first job was a paperboy for the Daily Republican (now The Phoenix, Reporter & Item). When he was old enough, he got a job as stock boy for J.J. Newberry’s on Bridge Street.

The whole family loved vacations with yearly stays at Atlantic City and occasional trips to Canada.

Barbara and Jim McCann started out their 55-year marriage living in Royersford. They moved to California, back to Pennsylvania and finally on to Florida in 1980. Today, they live in Palm Harbor, Fla.

They have two children — Gayle lives in Tennessee and Jimmy in Florida. A son named Mark died shortly after his birth. There are four grandchildren — two girls and two boys. Three of them are in college. Jessica, the eldest granddaughter, is a nurse in a bone marrow transplant unit in Florida.

Barbara and Jim are avid travelers. They prefer to travel on big cruise ships and small ships when in Europe. They have been to New Zealand, Australia, Alaska, Hawaii, four Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, Russia, Italy, Germany, France, Canada, Mexico and all of the Caribbean Islands. I think that may be it for now, but I am sure more countries are yet to come.

The last time I met up with Barb and Jim was about 2½ years ago for lunch and an afternoon outing while I was in Florida. We keep in touch through the (snail) mail — now through email and Facebook.

It is due to Barbara’s words on a Christmas card over 20 years ago that I became part of the food world. She encouraged me put something together and to share it with others, which led me to my first book.

Her most favorite recipe that everyone loves is very simple — a coconut cake.

Coconut cake

Prepare a white box cake as directed adding in one cup of coconut. The icing is a standard butter cream with a regular size container of Cool Whip add in. It comes out light and fluffy. Cover the entire cake with coconut.

Barbara likes to make up a chocolate cake mix according to package directions. Add 1 cup of peanut butter to a butter cream icing recipe and frost the cake. If you serve right away, top with shelled peanuts. If you don’t eat the cake within a day, the peanuts get soft.


Let me 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.”