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, May 2, 2010

Dell Rat Feedback

Dell rat Ron sent me some feedback in response to recent posts extolling the virtues of John Ettline. Ron has his own words of praise for John and he shared them in the following anecdotes.

Johnny on the Spot

"I remember one night I was unable to get my Sprite started in the parking lot," recalls Ron. "I had to get a ride home, possibly from my Dad. The following day, a Sunday, my dad and I came back up to the Dell to retrieve the car but, unfortunately, Dad knew almost nothing about stick shifts. John came out to help us, and after some trial and error, suggested pushing my car and popping the clutch. Well, it worked. I wound up getting a new Bendix for my starter, but we wouldn't have gotten the car started had it not been for John. It was shortly after noon on a Sunday, and he just came out, concerned and always willing to help without having to be asked. A terrific guy, indeed!"

Right you are, Ron! Winter, spring, summer and fall, John had the essential gear to handle car hassles of all kinds, and he never hesitated to get involved and play the role of good samaritan to a Dell rat in need.

John the Enforcer

In another Dell rat tale, Ron reports that John took necessary and appropriate action after Ron became the victim of an altercation in the Dell parking lot. "John resolved a problem for me one night when I got rolled getting into my car which was parked just outside the fence near the barn.

I had my wallet stolen. John found the wallet in the men's room trash can and returned it to me, minus the money, and also discovered who had taken it and banished him. Yes, John was amazing. He just always seemed to be able to do the right thing at the right time, and seemingly knew most of what was going on at the Dell all the time."

I had my own close encounter of the unkind at that same spot in the parking lot, Ron. A couple of burly perps accosted me and my buddy one night as we got out of our car. Hindsight allows me to see that the anger those unknown assailants directed our way had nothing to do with me or my friend and everything to do with that pesky nuclear arms proliferation debate making news at the time. When I suggested to the wild-eyed hulk nearest to me that he could conquer his rage if he took a look inside and got in touch with his inner Dell child he celebrated the breakthrough by dancing on my face!

Speak Softly and Carry a Big Nightstick!

As I revealed in a 2008 post, John Ettline walked around the Dell with a billy club inside a holster around his waist. John carried the baton in case it was needed to break up a fight or face down a bully. There was another reason. As the Ettline family told me, John and Helen also harbored battered women from time to time on the third floor of the Dell house and John wore the club on his belt in the event that an abusive spouse or boyfriend learned the woman's whereabouts and came looking for her (and for trouble) at the Dell. No doubt about it: John Ettline was an authority figure; but he was the kind that commanded respect and obedience, not rebellion.

Ron speaks for all Dell rats when he reminds us that John, the man and his temperament, were solid...solid as a rock. "You know, John never got redfaced, angry, condescending, or anything like that," Ron writes. "He always remained calm, never made you feel stupid and could give you advice without hurting your pride---all as smoothly as a duck swims on water. What he could have taught our dads about relating to us!"

Ron, thank you very much for your comments! The memories you imparted here match those of many other Dell rats who knew and loved John!

Have a Shady day!


  1. Tell Ron that popping the clutch while rolling and in a low gear is a very common way to start a small car. Reverse works extreme well. I used the technique several times in the Dell lot with my MG when I couldn't afford a new battery. I bet he wishes he had that Sprite now, especially if it was a bugeye. Have a Shady Day and park on a hill. Jerre

  2. Hi, Jerre! Actually, that was the first time I had ever encountered that way to start a car, thanks to John. I've used it many times over the years, however. Unfortunately, it wasn't a bugeye. It was 1964/65 Mark IV, fire engine red. I do miss it, but not as much as the blue 1968 Camaro Rally Sport that went to college with me. I had the Sprite for a year and a half, and when I traded it in, it had 80,000 miles on it. I can't conceive of doing that kind of driving today. But on yesterdays gas prices. (Sigh). I'll bet you miss your MG, too, Jerre. Was it an MGA, MGB or Midget, by any chance? Any two people with sports cars always felt like a family back then. And I haven't run into people in any part of the country that had a sports car and blue-eyed soul culture like York did in those days.

  3. Hi Ron, 1965-66 I had a BRG MG Midget with wire wheels. When I came back from Nam in 1969 I bought a new MGB because you could no longer buy Austin Healey 3000s. I liked the B and kept it for 185,000 miles. I then bought a Fiat 2000 Spyder. It did not last that long. I did buy another one and it is the garage with the top down and in great shape. Thanks for your comments. Jerre

  4. Gosh, guys...I wish I could join the conversation, but I drove my dad's nerdmobile!

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