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

Sunday, September 28, 2008

----- 360 Degrees in the Shady ----- “If Benches Could Talk”

As I mentioned a while back, 360 Degrees in the Shady is a new feature that will make a panoramic sweep of the mid-60s Dell. In a series of posts, I will accompany you on a virtual tour of the place and we will revisit some of the spots that made the Dell unique.

The first installment of 360 takes you up the steps of the Dell's entrance and past the admission booth. Stop! Now turn, march forward a few paces and you'll find yourself at a place where I spent a great deal of my time. No, not the men's room! Wrong way! I meant for you to turn to the right and rest a spell on the bench overlooking the parking lot.

That old bench was a great spot to relax in the late afternoon or at sunset and enjoy some peace, quiet and solitude before the noisy crowd arrived to break the spell. It was a perfect vantage point for people watching, for observing the break-ups and make-ups prevalent in the lives of teenagers.

On brisk fall evenings, I'd often plant myself on the bench, zip up my Baracuta, and monitor the arrivals and departures. I'd often wonder where everybody was coming from or going to. Were kids in the incoming vehicles swinging by the Dell after the football game, wrestling practice, or some other school function? Had they finally reached the summit from Base Camp-1(Bud’s Drive-in) on the other side of Violet Hill?

Were the outbound heading off to catch a movie at a theater or miss one at a 'passion pit'? Were they on their way to East York for a bite to eat at Gino’s or Avalong Farms Drive-in? Were they taking George downtown to the Ramona restaurant? Were they destined for the north side of town to have a shake or banana split at Rutter's Dairy Store or to dance to the music of local bands at the Oaks?

I found out where one of the guys was going when he stopped by the bench on his way out and hit on me for gas money. It was a Saturday, and while everybody else was having fun, all this prince of a guy could think about was helping others. He was in a hurry and I didn't get the whole story but, near as I could tell, some basketball players were stranded in Maryland and needed him to drive down I-83 and give them a ride home. Yessir, I remember exactly what he told me. He said that he was goin' down to the line to pick up a carload of tall boys: Bud, Mick, Bo and Gunther. As I filled the guy's palm with dead presidents, I got a little misty-eyed knowing that I was contributing to such a worthy cause.

That was then. As the Association sang, "the psychodramas and the traumas gone" and now, so to is the old bench that witnessed it all - the bench that eavesdropped on so many private conversations as it stood guard in front of the Dell all of those years. That bench was sold to the highest bidder in an auction, I'm told. Where is it now? One thing's for sure: on sunny days as well as Shady nights, I spent many hours...

“Sittin' on the Bench at the Dell”
(sung to the tune of Otis Redding’s
“Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay”)

Sittin' in the mornin' sun,
I'll be sittin' when the evenin' comes.
Watchin' the cars roll in,
Then I watch 'em roll away again.

Yeah, I'm sittin' on the bench at the Shady,
Wishin' that I could find a lady.
Ooh, I'm just sittin' on the bench at the Dell,
Wastin' time.

I left my home, took George street,
Headed up Violet Hill way.
I heard the Dell was the place for
Findin' somebody to play.

So I'm just gonna sit on the bench at the Shady,
Wishin' that I could find a lady.
Ooh, I'm just sittin' on the bench at the Dell,
Wastin' time.

Look like nothin's gonna change.
Everything still remains the same.
I can't do what Ann Landers tells me to do,
So I guess I'll remain the same. Listen,

Sittin’ here restin’ my bones,
And this stable fly won’t leave me alone. Listen,
2,000 yards I roamed,
Just to make the Dell my home.
Now I’m just gon’ sit on the bench at the Shady,
Wishin' that I could find a lady.
Ooh wee, I’m sittin’ on the bench at the Dell,
Wastin’ time.

(Whistle me off, Otis)

Have a Shady day!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

25 Years Ago Today: The "Incalculable Loss" of Broadcast Legend Jim O'Brien

It was one of those "do you remember where you were?" events.

On September 25th 1983, 25 years ago today, Jim O'Brien, the wacky, wildly popular weatherman on WPVI Channel 6 Action News in Philadelphia, perished in a skydiving mishap.

Jim's death was a devastating loss for tens of thousands of loyal viewers who loved him, not only in greater Philadelphia, but in York, Lancaster, and throughout Central Pennsylvania.

The tragedy unfolded on a beautiful Sunday afternoon:

That day marked the end of what I consider to be the golden era of Action News.

The show must go on and it did without Jim. Channel 6 Action News continued its reign as "the Delaware Valley's leading news program." Yet, one thing is clear, at least to me. As Jimmy Webb wrote and Richard Harris lamented, they'll "never have that recipe again."

Why was Jim O'Brien loved by so many? It was because he was a regular, down-to-earth guy, natural and relaxed - the kind of guy you'd like to have a beer with. (Where have we heard that before?) Jim was an exceptional communicator. When he wasn't earning his title as the Delaware Valley's favorite weatherman, the former WFIL radio boss jock was anchoring the noon or 5 o'clock news or hosting Primetime. Jim O'Brien did it all and he did it with class. He will never be replaced and he will never be forgotten.

So here's remembering the Action News dream team of the 70s and early 80s: Jim and Jimbo, Gary, Tollie, Marc, Dave, Chris, Lisa, Cathy, Vernon, Rob and all of the other big league talents who made Action News in Philly the finest local news program I have ever seen.

25 years? Say it ain't so, Jimbo! Say it ain't so!

I miss you, pardner.

Monday, September 22, 2008

200 Greatest Hits of the Shady Dell Part 6 (#150 to #141)

Betcha thought that I forgot about the countdown. No way! We're back in business, picking up where we left off at #150. First things first, though. Let's remember a few of the other Dell ditties that didn't quite make it into the Top 200:

Bubbling Under
The 200 Greatest Hits of the Shady Dell

248. "Let's Go Baby Where The Action Is" - Robert Parker (May '66)
242. "Barbara Ann" - Beach Boys (January '66)
229. "When You're Young And In Love" - Marvelettes (May '67)
213. "Lady Jane" - Rolling Stones (July '66)
208. "All You Need Is Love" - Beatles (July '67)

This week’s Name that Tune challenge should be a slam dunk because gazillion sellers abound. Ready? Go!

get out of my life
and let me sleep at night

When I needed sunshine I got rain.

you're daddy's rich
and your mommy's good-lookin'

I'm in way over my head;
Now she thinks that I love her

Whenever he calls me I come runnin' on the double

I have to turn my head until my darkness goes

Without you I had no consolation
But with you I have appreciation.
Darlin’ can’t live this life without you.
I love everything about you.

Got spring and summer runnin’ through me

I know what your thinking,
You're alone now, no love of your own

Gonna live each minute
Fill the hours and days
Til I`ve had my fill

(end of clues)

Remember the grading scale:

All 10 right – Congratulations! You’ve been appointed dean of the College of Musical Knowledge

7-9 right – Licensed lyric lover

4-6 right - Lyrically challenged

1-3 right – Sign up for remedial classes at the School of Rock

0 right – You just dance and hum along!

Now, let's have a look at this week's Shady Dell countdown songs:

150. "You Keep Me Hangin' On" - Supremes (November '66)

149. "I'm A Believer" - Monkees (December '66)

148. "Summertime" - Billy Stewart (July '66)

147. "I Saw Her Again" - Mamas & Papas (July '66)

146. "My Baby Loves Me" - Martha & The Vandellas (February '66)

145. "Paint It, Black" - Rolling Stones (May '66)

144. "You Got Me Where You Want Me" - Emperors (March '67)

143. "98.6" - Keith (December '66)

142. "Reach Out I'll Be There" - Four Tops (September '66)

141. "Hungry" - Paul Revere & The Raiders (June '66)

Do you have a Shady Dell Top Tunes list of your own that you would like to share? I'd love to see it, especially if it covers a different period of Dell history. It doesn't have to contain 200 songs; even a Top 10 would be interesting and instructive. Submit your Dell's Greatest Hits list in the form of a comment and I'll get it posted.

Have a Shady day!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

100% Pure Adrenaline! - Part 2: Johnny, James and Jungle Jim

I must have heard Mitch Miller and the gang sing “Yellow Rose of Texas” a hundred times. It wasn't because I was glued to his Sing Along show on television.

"Yellow Rose" and other country and western tunes played over the p-a system at Susquehanna Speedway, ushering spectators to their seats prior to the start of racing and to the French fry stand and restrooms at intermission.

Susquehanna is where you could find me on many warm Saturday evenings throughout the 50s and 60s.

Dirt track auto racing was tantamount to a religion for many of us back then, just like NASCAR is today for thousands across the country.

Hardcore fans could make the rounds of area tracks and get their racing fix every Friday, Saturday and Sunday while the season lasted.

Susquehanna Speedway near Newberrytown was an easy half hour drive up 83. That's why my parents took me there most often.

Over the years, however, we also hit several other tracks around the region: Bowling Green...


Williams Grove...

and Selinsgrove.

Susquehanna was the setting for some of the best times of my youth. I vividly recall the sense of anticipaion as hundreds of noisy, enthusiastic spectators surrounded me on the grandstand. I rarely sat down on those wooden benches - not because they were uncomfortable - but because I was way too excited.

Eager to spot a winner and place an imaginary bet, I used binoculars to get a close-up view of the race cars as they emerged from the pit area and ran warm-up laps. Over time, I became familiar with the cars and memorized the names of many popular drivers:

Bobby Hersh - Calvin Culp - Leroy FeltyDick Tobias - Ed Showalter - BUD FOLKENROTH

Gene Goodling - Lynn Paxton - Ken SlaybaughBobby Abel - Dizzy Dean - PEE WEE POBLETTES

Slim Devilbliss - Ray Tilley – Smokey SnellbakerAND DRIVING CAR #65...JOHNNY MACKISON

The one car that commanded attention like no other was #65, driven by Johnny Mackison of Delta, PA. Mackison absolutely burned up the track with that car, negotiating turns with maximum efficiency and accelerating down the straights at incredible speeds. A crowd favorite, Johnny Mackison stands out in my memory as one of the winningest drivers at Susquehanna.

As I got to know the cars and drivers, I added auto racing jargon to my vocabulary:

"on the pole"
"pace car"
"qualifying heat"
"powder puff derby" (all female drivers)
"consolation race"
"figure 8"
"caution flag"
"under the yellow"
"victory lap"
"the pit"
"banked turn"
"semi late"
"late model stock"

As thrilling as it was when the checkered flag waved at the end of the race, it was the green flag that really got my blood pumping. As any fan will tell you, there’s nothing as electrifying as the start of a race, especially the 50-lap feature.

I get a rush all over again when I remember what it was like: 25 rows of brightly colored race cars sit silent and motionless on the front straightaway while our national anthem plays. As the music ends, every engine roars to life and the tightly packed group of racers follows the pace car slowly around the track.

As the field of cars reaches turn three on the second or third pace lap, the roar grows louder and the cars begin to speed up.

Coming out of turn four, the pace car suddenly makes its move to the infield, the flagman frantically waves the green, and tons of steel rocket past the grandstand at full throttle.

The din is earsplitting. The hot wind generated by the angry horde nearly knocks me off my feet. I'm already sweating and shaking and the big fun has just begun!

By far, my favorite racing movie is Howard Hawks’ 1965 cult classic “Red Line 7000” starring James Caan as stock car racer Mike Marsh and featuring the late Laura Devon in what’s gotta be her greatest career performance as the soulful Julie Kazarian. Click on the links below and “meet the speed breed!”

My favortie line of dialogue from Red Line 7000:
Pat Kazarian: “Ever see a tire iron split a man’s skull?”

If I wasn’t at one of the oval tracks, perhaps I was making the scene at York U.S. 30 Drag-O-Way located at the York airport in Thomasville. As I soon found out, drag racing had its own roster of driving legends, including:

“Big Daddy” Don Garlits - “Jungle Jim” Lieberman
Don Prudhomme - Bill Jenkins - Dave Strickler

Sox & Martin - "Dyno Don” Nicholson

Dandy Dick Landy - Ed Miller -Bill Stiles - Jere Stahl

The sport of drag racing also had a whole new set of words and expressions for me to absorb:

"smoke the tires"
"Christmas tree"
"e.t." (not the lil "phone home" dude)
"super charged"
"turbo charged"
"nitro burning"
"fuel injected"
"wheel stand"
"super stock"
"pro stock"
"top fuel"
"funny car"
"rail dragster"
"alcohol dragster"

WSBA radio ran those power-packed promos:

“Saturdaaaaay! Saturday night and all day Sunday, it’s the biggest drag racing showdown of the year at York U.S. 30 Drag-O-Way!

See a star-studded lineup of drivers go head-to-head in flat-out competition at the Super Stock Nationals!

When the dust settles and the smoke clears, who will wear the crown of Mr. Top Stock Eliminator? It's all happening this weekend at the Super Stock Nationals. The action starts Saturday night at York U.S. 30 Drag-O-Way, Route 30, six miles west of York!


Tickle me pink, color me gone, and have a Shady day!

Monday, September 15, 2008

100% Pure Adrenaline! - Part 1: Jack, Joie, Junkers & Jalopies

I want to thank Hell Driver for commenting about my recent post recalling Jack Kochman’s annual shows at the York Fair.

I’m continuing the thread because automotive sports and exhibitions were an important part of my experience growing up in York county.

One of the most exciting parts of Jack Kochman’s show was when five or six Hell Drivers in late model cars maneuvered around each other in tight formations bumper to bumper at high speed. Weaving back and forth, in and out, the speeding cars would come within inches of each other, a heart stopping spectacle.

To wind up this segment of the program, the drivers were individually introduced as they raced past the grandstand in single file. As each driver's name was announced, he would jam on the brake, send his car into a sideways skid, and dangle his leg out the open door as the vehicle slid to a halt. To top it off, the cars all ended up in a neat row, equally spaced within a few feet of each other!

Let’s not forget two of the most important members of the Hell Drivers’ team: Happy the clown and the invisible yet indispensable booth announcer. In addition to introducing the various drivers and stunts, the announcer served as Happy's straight man.

The announcer also had to relay Happy’s punch lines to the audience because Happy didn’t wear a microphone and few in the audience could hear the clown when he delivered his one-liners. Happy, meanwhile, put his life on the line several times during each show, making us laugh while performing extremely dangerous stunts.

I neglected to mention one of the Hell Drivers’ most impressive feats. A car was driven up one side of a ramp causing it to tilt up on two wheels. The stuntman then made a complete lap around the track with the vehicle balanced in a nearly vertical position. Back in front of the grandstand, he gently brought the car down on all four wheels in front of the astonished audience. Kids, don’t try this at home!

The Joie Chitwood Thrill Show was another major stunt driving franchise that I remember going to see on several occasions during my youth.

Equipped with their own branded fleet of cars, trucks and motorcycles, Chitwood’s squad of daredevils was equally skilled at performed the two wheel stand and all of the other tricks of the trade.

At the end of every Chitwood or Kochman show, I always insisted on going down to the track for a close-up inspection of the crunched cars.

I was in crunched car heaven whenever I got to witness a demolition derby. What an awesome spectacle: 50 or more clunkers with funny slogans painted on them crashing and bashing each other until only one vehicle was left running.

Dramatic story lines typically unfolded. Some cars gave up the fight for survival after a single tap, while others somehow kept going with twisted frames, pushed in grilles, smoking engines, crushed fenders and flat tires. At least one car would end up riding on the wheel rims and throwing off a continuous shower of sparks. Of course, there was always one driver who tried to win the contest by playing it safe and avoiding contact with other vehicles. The crowd would boo the weasel until he finally got cornered, rammed, and put out of commission. By the time a winner was declared, the scene resembled a war zone - the ground littered with twisted metal and burning oil and rubber shrouding the arena in a smoky haze.

The dozen or more demo derbies that I saw were usually part of the entertainment package at local auto racing tracks. That’s where I’m heading in my next post. You'll find out why the numbers 65, 7000, and 30 were significant in satisfying my adolescent need for speed.

Have a Shady day!