High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Monday, September 12, 2011

York Fair Diary Part 2: Pride and Prejudice

John and Helen Ettline are linked to
the York Fair in a number of ways.

1950s photo courtesy York Town Square
For years the Ettlines operated a Shady Dell concession in back of the grandstand.   The Ettlines also had a stand at York’s Central Market where they sold their baked goods.

Helen and John were horse lovers. According to a family spokesperson, Helen was an accomplished equestrienne
while John rode for pleasure. The barn annex that housed
the Dell’s dance hall was in close proximity to the horse stables. (Hope those hayburners liked loud music!)

When fair week rolled around, John often entered horses in the harness races.  Given his reputation as a gambling man, it is conceivable that John occasionally placed a friendly wager on the outcome.

While certain old songs are permanently linked in my memory to the Shady Dell, there are some that immediately transport me back to the York Fair.

 Memories of Fair Week 1958: 

"Ginger Bread" - Frankie Avalon 
(September 1958, highest chart position #9) 

 Memories of Fair Week 1962:

"Let's Dance" - Chris Montez 
(September 1962, highest chart position #4) 

 Memories of Fair Week 1964:

"It Hurts to Be in Love" - Gene Pitney 
(September 1964, highest chart position #7) 

 Memories of Fair Week 1965: 

"You've Got Your Troubles" - Fortunes 
(September 1965, highest chart position #7) 

 Memories of Fair Week 1968:

"Harper Valley P.T.A." - Jeannie C. Riley 
(September 1968, highest chart position #1) 

However, the song that most reminds me of the 1968 York Fair is James Brown’s “Say It Loud - I’m Black and I’m Proud.”
If you read my cover story in the right colum you already know that I saw Helen and John on the grandstand at the James Brown concert that year. There's more to the story that I’d like to share with you including an unfortunate twist that haunts me to this day.

From the moment James Brown took the stage that afternoon the hardest working man in show business
was forced to earn his reputation. During Brown’s opening song, an untimely cloudburst poured rain on him and the unprotected stage on which he was performing. The rain tapered off at times, but downpours continued to plague much of Brown’s concert. My girlfriend and I were seated
far enough back to be sheltered by the grandstand’s overhang. John and Helen were even farther back and
they too stayed dry. James Brown, on the other hand,
got soaked. I worried that he might get struck by lightning, electrocuted by the wet microphone, or that he might slip and fall on the wet stage while executing his high energy dance steps. Mr. Dynamite, however, didn’t miss a beat.
A consummate professional, the Godfather of Soul performed valiantly in the driving rain.

Brown whipped up the passions of the racially mixed audience when he sang “Say it Loud” a black pride anthem that had just begun climbing the record charts. Throughout the call-and-response style song, Soul Brother Number One turned the microphone toward the audience, inviting them to chant “I’m black and I’m proud” every time he shouted “Say it loud…” We all joined in. It felt good. It felt right.

“Say It Loud - I’m Black and I’m Proud” - James Brown 
(September/October 1968, highest chart position #10) 

The presence of John and Helen Ettline at the James Brown concert spoke volumes. It erased any doubt that they were young at heart. Moreover, by lending their support to one of our generation’s leading spokespersons and activists, the Ettlines demonstrated that they were tuned-in, socially conscious and actively involved.  Simply put, John and Helen Ettline were part of the solution. They walked their talk.

By the time the show ended I was on a natural high. As my girlfriend and I left the grandstand I was lost in thought, replaying highlights of James Brown's performance. I felt proud to have been part of what transpired. It seemed like
a pivotal moment or at least a brief glimpse of what America could be. Black folks and white folks had come together as one voice chanting a slogan aimed at advancing the cause of freedom, equality and justice for all. I felt empowered by the notion that progress had been made that day toward healing the racial divide.

We exited the fairgrounds and began walking to the parking lot. What happened next came as a total shock, a rude awakening that jolted me out of my blissful trance and brought me back to harsh reality. Out of nowhere a young black man came charging at me shouting racial slurs. I was absolutely stunned. Speechless. What was unfolding in front of me simply did not compute. It took some time for me to fully comprehend that I was in the midst of an unprovoked racial confrontation with a stranger. For a while it seemed certain that the agitated youth was going to throw a punch. Eventually his lady friend was able to cool him down and pull him away from me. We went our separate ways but that disquieting incident forever tarnished the memories of an otherwise perfect day.

In the 43 years since that episode I have often wondered what was going on inside that fellow to make him boil over and lash out at me the way he did. Was he filled with anger? Hate? Righteous indignation? How could he assume that I was the enemy? Obviously, ugly moments like that were a sign of the times. Books were judged by their covers and there were offenders and victims on both sides. How far have we actually come in the last four decades?  Has the situation really changed all that much?

Although it is very painful for me to go there, I must consider
the very real possibility that a bitter irony played out that afternoon. Could it be that only minutes earlier that angry young man and I had been singing together in harmony on the grandstand?

Have a Shady day!


  1. Oh my, I loved the Shady Dell concession stand at the fair! How charming! We continue to learn new things about Helen and John, what an amazing couple. I didn't remember "Ginger Bread"...the video was cute. How long has it been since I heard "Let's Dance". Thank you, Shady! "It Hurts to Be in Love" made me realize how much I miss album covers. The other day I heard "Harper Valley P.T.A. on the radio, human nature doesn't change. Yes, Shady, I've read your cover story about seeing the Ettlines at the James Brown concert. You hit the nail on the head, they "'walked' the talk". I find that rare today. Very sad story about the angry young man charging you, just glad you weren't hurt.

    You asked the question, "Has the situation really changed that much?" I have to say, no, in some ways it has gotten worse."

    Fantastic blog post, Shady, it is greatly appreciated!

  2. I remember James Brown from Rocky IV ("living in America" with the participation of Carl Weathers).

  3. Wow- what a bizarre happenening for that fellow to unleash his hatred on you, especially just after hearing that song. You can just never tell what will set someone off, though.

    Now that you mention James Brown singing in the rain, I've always wondered what keeps those singers from getting electrocuted when they are holding lives mikes and getting soaked. Kudos to James Brown for sticking it out.

    On another note, I can remember when I was a very little girl one of my teenaged aunts singing Harper Valley PTA while I rode with her in her convertible with the top down. Now, every time I hear that song, I think back to that moment. Amazing how songs tie into our memories so tightly!

  4. Cindy - Thank you very much for these lovely compliments! It's interesting to note that "Harper Valley" (a women's lib anthem) and "Say it Loud" (a black pride anthem) were both on the charts at the same time in 1968. It was a year of change in the middle of a decade of change. A couple of years later the groundbreaking TV series All in the Family premiered and explored the feminist movement, race relations and other social issues in a humorous manner. I believe you're right, Cindy. In some respects the gains made decades ago on a number of important fronts have been erased. Thank you very much for your attentive reading and your intelligent comments, dear friend!

    Wanilianna - Yes, I saw James Brown in Rocky IV, yet I prefer to remember him from his more youthful years when he was at the top of his game. In my opinion, the best James Brown material begins at the beginning with his Federal recordings of the 50s and continues until the early 70s including "Payback" and "Papa Don't Take No Mess." Thank you very much for coming over from Poland, dear friend Wanilianna, and have a wonderful week!

    Shelly - If you were riding in a convertible with the top down and listening to your aunt sing, then it was obviously a moment when you felt happy, alive and free. That's how memories are installed and the song she was singing, "Harper Valley," is now the triggering mechanism that allows you to re-experience that pleasant moment anytime you want. Thank you very much for reading, listening and commenting, dear Shelly, and have a great week!

  5. Hi Tom, my dear friend. Here I am! That was a super photo of the Shady Dell concession stand. I really feel that I know so much about The Shady Dell and, indeed, Helen and John, because you always describe it and them so very well. Very interesting story about the James Brown concert and thank goodness that the young man's girlfriend managed to calm him down before it got really nasty. I can imagine that it must have really shaken you though. You've picked some of my very favourites there today with the music. Lets Dance, It Hurts To Be In Love, and You've Got Your Troubles are all on my jukebox here at home. Fantastic to listen to them all together in your post. Have a good week my friend.

  6. Thisisme - You are very kind, dear friend! That is a marvelous shot of the Dell's food stand at the York Fair, isn't it? I wish I knew the exact year it was taken. If you enlarge the image you will see a young looking and Helen and John there inside the stand waiting on customers. Pictures like that are surreal to original Dell rats. I'm glad to know that you regularly bop to some of these records over there in South Hams. Thank you very much for visiting, dear Thisisme, and please have a safe and happy week!

  7. Let's Dance" by Chris Montez will be my next purchase on Itunes. I had forgotten how much I liked that song. As for the situation that unfolded after the show, all I can say is wow. I often wonder what prompts such rage in people. I'm glad the situation didnt escalate and that you were able to leave unscathed. I think the situation has gotten a lot better but there is still a ways to go.

  8. Amber Blue Bird - Thanks, dear friend. It was a disconcerting event. Racial tension was running high in York and around the country at that time. To some, the wrong color skin automatically identified you as the enemy. I don't lump people together. I take it case by case, assume that everybody I meet is my brother, sister and friend, and treat them accordingly. Enlightened young people like you offer hope for the future. Thank you very much for listening, reading and commenting, dear Amber!

  9. Great post! I remember most of these songs and liking them a lot, especially "It Hurts to be in Love". I liked all Gene Pitney songs.
    Why that young man attacked you verbally is most likely anger over how he had been treated all his life. He hadn't learned yet not to generalize. He painted all whites alike.
    Having lived in Canada since I was 17 I have nothing to gague whether things are better or worse. I know when I left California businesses were starting to hire people of other races. I was shocked when I had a black lady wait on me at a dress shop. I realized how stupid I had been not to notice that before this they had only worked on the elevator.

    My sister Liz joined the Marines around 20 years ago and when a fellow Marine said he was going to the bar she said, "I'll come with you." He said, "You can't. There are black bars and white bars. I'd be killed if I went in a white bar and you can't come into mine." She was shocked. This was in North Carolina. I was shocked too and deeply saddened.

  10. Hi, Belle! Thank you very much for making time to come over. Did you read the book The Help or see the movie yet? Did you ever hear the joke about Joe Blow searching in vain for a parking space at a crowded mall? Every time he found a space somebody else pulled in ahead of him. This went on for quite some time and Joe became frustrated and angry. Eventually another space opened up and Joe and another motorist got to it at the same moment, arriving from opposite directions. When the other motorist politely waved for Joe to go ahead and take the slot Joe shook his fist at the other guy and shouted "WELL, IT'S ABOUT TIME, BUDDY!" Rage blinds us. Love opens our eyes. I hope you are doing well, dear friend Belle. Again I thank you for blessing me with your visit!

  11. I haven't read the book and don't really go to movies any longer. I've heard good things though from other bloggers.

    I remember once being angry at my hubby and then giving a driver the finger. He didn't even do anything that bad, I was just full of rage and I took it out on him. I guess a lot of angry people are like that. You are right, love solves the problem.

  12. Belle - I can't picture you doing that but if you say you did I believe you. That incident of mine 43 years ago was obviously a misunderstanding and I don't feel anything except compassion for that angry young man. He must have had his reasons. It reminds me of a 60s song that's applicable to that incident, the hippie vs. the businessman, young vs. old, male vs. female, Democrat vs. G.O.P. or what have you. I believe I posted some of these lyrics on your blog a long time ago but here's a different verse from Joe South's "Walk a Mile in My Shoes."

    And yet we spend the day throwin' stones at one another
    'Cause I don't think or wear my hair the same way you do
    Well, I may be common people but I'm your brother
    And when you strike out and try to hurt me it's a-hurtin' you

    [spoken] Lord, have mercy

    Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes
    Yeah, before you abuse, criticize and accuse, walk a mile in my shoes

    Thank you very much for following-up, dear friend Belle, and have a pleasant evening!

  13. I love this post Tom,especially when you say "Black folks and white folks had come together as one voice chanting a slogan aimed at advancing the cause of freedom, equality and justice for all." It must have been a great experience,I wish I was there. I think that happened later is just a sign that stupidity knows no colour ....

  14. Katia - You're right, stupidity knows no colour. As I stated there were offenders and victims on both sides, black and white. It was a very tense time and there was unrest in my city and many others. I wish that you could have been there on the grandstand to witness unity and harmony among races. I'm glad you were not there to witness the harsh realities out on the street. Thank you very much for paying me a visit, dear friend Katia!


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