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, January 31, 2010

Grab Your Torch................................ The Tribe Has Spoken....................... Our Dell Alliance Can't Be Broken!

Dell rats are coming out of the woodwork! I am delighted to read your feedback and your stories and to get to know some of you as friends.

Your input is not only welcome, it is very important because it helps us to expand our knowledge of the Dell, the Ettlines, and related topics of interest. I would like to take this opportunity to share with all of our readers some of the wonderful comments and anecdotes that I have received.

In response to my
January 16th post
honoring the memory
of John Ettline...

TheLubeFaerie, a wife, mother and fellow blogger who lives in South Central PA shared some fond memories of John.

"Brought a tear to my eye," she wrote. "John was a person I could never forget. He helped me do a school project one year about WWII and he sat and talked to me for hours about it. He and I would talk for hours anytime. Such a great man. Once he gave me money to go with everyone else to the fair. What an awesome human he was~"

Thank you, Lubie! Many of us have similar stories about John's generous nature - a generosity that went far beyond financial aid. John offered shelter and protection. He was generous with his time. He imparted wisdom and advice without lecturing, preaching or pontificating. He listened to us. John was willing to give every kid a second chance. He made every one of us feel important. Thanks again for your comment. It is greatly appreciated! I urge everybody to check out TheLubeFaerie's blog Karma Payment Plan by clicking here.

Long time Dell goer Adrienne (aka A.J.) says she dreams of owning the Dell jukebox someday. Like countless other Dell rats A.J. also fantasizes about buying the Dell itself and reopening it as an eatery and dance hall for teenagers.

"I would love to own (the Shady Dell) and open it for kids to keep John's legend alive," A.J. wrote. "I went there for many years. I loved John dearly. I would sit and talk to him for hours. He was like the grandfather I never had. I went to his funeral and we were allowed to go up there for one last night and that was one of the saddest nights I can recall to know that a very important piece of my teenage years was gone forever."

Thank you, A.J. Many of us feel exactly the same as you do about the Dell and the incomparable Mr. John Ettline!

Dell Rat Ron, who started going to the Dell in 1963 at age 14, offered some feedback about the John Ettline post.

"Your bio and tribute to John was very moving and well done," Ron wrote. "I like the way you researched him, and the song 'My Way' has always been a favorite of mine. Very appropriate. I also liked your praise of Helen on the previous blog."

Ron also presented a plausible theory about the timing of John's death. "You know, I don't think it coincidental that (John) passed away roughly a week after one of (Helen's) birthdays. I think it was another special day out of the year that he couldn't stand celebrating by spending time without her, and he just wanted to join her, and pined away his last."

Thanks, Ron! I never put two and two together in that fashion but your explanation certainly has merit. Perhaps I can also speak to that. My final visit to the Dell came in March of 1984 less than a month after Helen died. I was living in Lancaster at the time and never even got word that she had passed away.

When I walked in and found John by himself in the snack bar and asked "where's Helen?" I was met with an awkward silence and noticed that John suddenly had a wistful, far away look in his eyes. I was stunned when he informed me of Helen's death. It's well documented that the loss of a spouse takes a very heavy toll as do yearly reminders of the loss like birthdays, wedding anniversaries and death dates. John died one week after Helen's birthday and less than six weeks before the anniversary of her death. He had just spent another Christmas and New Year's without her and Valentine's Day was only four weeks away. All of those painful reminders might have been weighing on John and contributed at least in part to his demise. It amazes me to know that a man John's age was able to keep the Dell operating by himself for seven-and-a-half years after Helen died, enduring harsh winters and dealing with rowdy guests! That, my friends, is a profile in courage!

"Keep up the good work on your blog," Ron wrote. "John and Helen were special people. They had a lot of love, for themselves, each other, and countless of us. You really do a fine job paying homage to the Ettlines and the people they helped to grow up, as well as helping us to look back and see where we've come from and what's a part of us."

Thank you very much for your comments, Ron!

Finally, here's the clean-up hitter...our old friend Dell Rat Jerre. Jerre is a 1961 graduate of York High who started going to the Dell in 1959 and was a Dell regular from 1961 to 1965. Jerre told me he's enjoying my countdown of The 10 Most Exciting Records...Ever!

"Just wanted to let you know that as usual, I really enjoy your Perfect Storm series. You have already listed several of my all time favorites.

'I Love You' - Volumes (Very big at Haar's Roller Rink)
'Need Your Lovin'' - Don and Dee Dee (I can't believe you had this one. I dug out my old 45 just to listen to the scratches.)
'Village Of Love' - Nathaniel Mayer (I recall this as a big hit at Zimmy's swim club)"

Aaaaaah yes, Zimmy's pool, located between Spry and Dallastown! I went there for years, Jerre. Around age eleven I suddenly outgrew my goggles, fins, snorkel, ear plugs, nose plugs...and Dimples the Dragon, my inflatable plastic pool toy.

(Dimples was my very bestest friend in the whole wide world and I just loved to hug him and squeeze him for hours and hours and hours!!!) Wait a minute-No! mistake! That Dimples thing happened later age 35. Anyway, I went from cowboys to girls. I gave up the trappings of youth and started spending most of my time at Zimmy's watching bikini clad lovelies jitterbug to juke tunes on that canopy covered dance floor. On more than one occasion I completely forgot to go swimming!

Jerre also kindly shares with us a few of his memories of John, Helen, and the Dell.

“Before 1961 I was at York High with no car and only allowed out on weekends and yes my parents were originally very anti-Dell. I only got to the Dell with older friends that had a car and then only before my 11:00 curfew. After many discussions, eventually my parents started to believe me when I told them that John and Helen were good people and tried to keep out trouble makers. After 1961 many very late nights (actually very early mornings) were spent at the Dell.”

I asked Jerre to describe how the kids dressed at the Dell in the late 50s and early 60s. According to Jerre, the list of clothing essentials for the well dressed Dell rat started with a genuine Baracuta jacket from Lehmeyer's.

“I had at least 5 over the years,” Jerre recalled. “Tan, Blue, and the longer style."

"And yes," Jerre continued, "(Jack) Purcells were big. Other items that were must haves were Weejun penny loafers. (No socks allowed.)"

"Khaki pants with the penny loafers and no socks was in," Jerre remembers. "Shorts were not as popular for the guys as they are now. Another must item for the winter to replace the Barracuta was a jacket that could only be purchased at the Army Navy store across the corner from the Hub on George St. I believe it was Navy surplus. The jacket was an olive green canvas type with fuzzy collar. They were extremely 'in' with the guys. It was also 'cool' to wear V neck sweaters without a shirt under it. As I recall blue jeans were not the fashion statement at that time.”

I asked Jerre to address the subject of the Dell’s perennial bad reputation. “Most of the regulars, people that John would wave in free from his booth, were not trouble makers and were just looking for a place to hang out with their friends and meet girls or guys,” Jerre explained.

“Yes fights happened, but mostly in the parking lot along with the drinking. I actually think there was more drinking done in the parking lot in my early years and the police patrols sort of ended that. It was not a rarity for the police to cruise the parking lot. I often felt bad for John as I felt he did the best he could to keep it a clean safe place for the kids. I would like to think that the majority of the trouble was caused by the outsiders and not the regulars. Most of the people just wanted a place to go and be with other people, especially after other places were closed."

"When White Oaks was open," wrote Jerre, "everyone started the evening at the Oaks and those without a curfew ended the night at the Dell after the Oaks closed. It was always the place to go late in the evening after other activities.”

Jerre, as always we thank you very much for sharing your recollections of the people, the places, and the times of your life!

My friends, I sincerely thank each and every one of you for your comments. You are all valued members of the Rat Patrol! By contributing to the dialogue here on Shady Dell Music & Memories you are helping to fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle. You are helping to keep memories of John, Helen and the Dell alive and we are all having loads of fun reminiscing. Thank you once again for your participation!

Have a Shady day!


  1. I feel very lucky to have caught the tail end of the Dell years. I didn't even start going until '88. I always felt that the end of the Dell, was an end for John. I really think it kept him going. He still had us to make up a little bit for losing Helen. I wish I would have met her. FYI~ we have a facebook page too!
    THANKS for the memories and the plug!

  2. You introduced what is probably the chief factor that precipitated John's death. He closed the Dell in the fall of 1991 and died a little more than a year later. John had poured his heart and soul into the Dell for 45 years. When he finally had to close its doors he lost his reason for getting out of bed in the morning; he lost that which defined him for nearly half a century. When you lose your passion you die. Thank you for adding this very important line of reasoning to our discussion, Lubie!

  3. I wish I would have spent some time at the Dell during the 70's and 80's. It sounds like the place didn't change much, only the Rats and the songs. Of course I would have been to old to fit in with the rats, but Helen and John would have kept me company.


  4. I was so glad to hear from Lubie who went to the Dell in the late 80s. She's a welcome addition to our Dell reunion. You started going in '59, Dell rat Ron joined the crowd in '63 and I made the scene in '65. It would be great to hear from people who hung out at the Dell in the 1970s and early to mid 80s. The ultimate thrill would be to hear from the original Dell rats who made it their home away from home in the 1940s and 50s!

  5. My brother was a Dell Rat in the early 80s. I know the barn was open when he first went. I wish my son, who is 16 now, had a place like the Dell. We had the circuit and downtown to. Things sure have changed~

  6. Lubie, are you saying that the barn was no longer open to guests in 1988 when you started attending the Dell? Did John still have the fooseball table in the front room of the house next to the snack bar or had he replaced it with a pool table by that time? Could you still order food and drink? Were kids still dancing outside on the concrete slab? What did they do in the winter time? If the barn was closed was the jukebox in the snack bar still in operation along with the pinball machine and TV? Thanks so much for filling in the blanks for us, Lubie!

  7. By the time I started going the barn was closed and the jukebox and the pool table were in the house. John had cans of soda and chips and candy at the snack bar. He had stuff everywhere and I don't think I honestly ever knew there were working soda fountains and kitchen equipment there. There wasn't really much dancing involved, unless you count the constant brawls. They called me the peacemaker because I was always stepping in between guys trying to fight. We sat around at the tables outside when the weather was good. There was a lot of hanging out in the parking lot. I think the most played song on the jukebox in our days was Iron Man by Black Sabbath. It was definitely the dark end days of the Dell years. Nothing like your Golden Years~

  8. Very interesting, Lubie, and at the same time troubling. Somehow heavy metal doesn't seem to go with the Dell as most of us remember it. When I visited John in 1984 and walked down to the barn to have a look around I could already sense that the Dell's glory days were behind her. Thank you again for providing important information about our Shady Dell in "stage 4."


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