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

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

360 Degrees in the Shady: the Club, the Attic, and the Secret!

Toni and Tom Deroche, the current owners of the Dell, have already shared with us a wealth of photographic evidence revealing what the premises look like today. Now, the Deroches are coming through again with exclusive images that are even more intriguing - pictures snapped in parts of the Dell house that were off limits to customers and never before seen by the vast majority of us.

The newly-released photographs from the Deroche collection will give me the opportunity to tell the amazing true story about a secret that was kept at the Dell for decades. It was a carefully guarded secret known by only a few of the Ettlines - concealed from the rest of the family and the general public. The secret was hidden way up there in the attic on the third floor of the house.

The attic is our destination today as we continue our grand tour of the Dell.

Let us begin by going up the stairs to the second floor of the dwelling where we will pause briefly to take a look at the apartment that once belonged to the Ettlines.

It was here, above the restaurant, snack bar and living room, that John and Helen spent what few hours were left of each day after entertaining the hordes downstairs.

The rooms that were occupied for decades by the Ettlines are today a bright, colorful, and tastefully furnished living space, thanks to the Deroches.

I hear some huffing and puffing as we climb another flight of stairs and arrive in the attic on the third floor.

Notice once again the colorful, comfortable looking appointments on this top level of the home. Feel free to look around up here as I deliver my docent lecture, but please don’t touch anything.

Dell rats of the 50s and 60s might recall that John Ettline routinely carried a nightstick as he made his rounds of the Dell. The logical explanation would be that John armed himself with a billy club in case a scuffle broke out in the parking lot or barn and he needed to subdue unruly guests. According to a family spokesperson, however, there was a another reason for the club.

John was equipped with a club because he and Helen were secretly operating a safe house…a shelter for battered and abused women! Helen herself was a fugitive from an abusive marriage when she married John. The Ettlines allowed battered women to stay up here in the attic until they could find permanent shelter elsewhere.

Imagine, Dell rats, while the rest of us partied down below, women in crisis were hunkered down in the attic, trying to stay out of harm's way. It's mind-boggling! If you think about it, the Shady Dell provided the same services to female abuse victims that Access-York and other women’s help organizations offer today.

Only a handful of Ettlines knew that the Dell doubled as a secret shelter for women. It was feared that if too many people knew about it, word would inevitably leak out and male abusers would come to the Dell, confront John, and try to drag their women home. To prepare for a worst case scenario, John Ettline spoke boldly and carried a big stick.

Following the attempted assassination of President Reagan, I was fascinated to learn more about the Secret Service. When shots ring out, most people instinctively move in the opposite direction; but SS agents are trained to move toward the sound and to place themselves directly in the line of fire.

If you think about it, John & Helen were much the same. They moved toward trouble and need, not away from it. Instead of sitting back and waiting for some social service agency to step in and handle the problem, the Ettlines assumed the responsibility themselves. As James Brown might have put it, they “got up, got into it, got involved.”

John and Helen didn’t wait for the holiday season to get into the spirit of giving. They opened their doors and they opened their hearts. Their kindness, compassion and generosity kept the holiday spirit alive all year ‘round!

Have a Shady day and a Happy Thanksgiving!

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