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

Friday, July 23, 2010

From the Creator of Night of the Living Dell and Day of the Dell Comes the Ultimate Shocker: Introducing Dawn of the Dell!

I didn't see it coming. I was still reeling from the mind boggling photographs sent to us last month by Lynn B.

Lynn's super rare pics captured Dell rats chatting and dancing in the barn in 1961. I was busily preparing for our blog's second birthday celebration when I was blindsided by another windfall - a startling new set of photos that show what the Dell itself looked like at two years of age!

We have Phil Spangler of Gettysburg to thank for sending us these remarkable photos taken in the 1920's and early 30's when his father lived at the Dell as a child.

As Phil explained, the Dell was built in 1924 and his grandfather bought the property and moved in when the house was just two years old! "My grandfather Howard A. Spangler and his family purchased the Shady Dell in 1926 and lived there until 1932. There were at least eight people living in the house: my grandfather and his wife Margarete Tipton Spangler as well as their four sons, Eugene, Samuel, John and my father Richard E. Spangler. Also living in the house was my great-grandfather June Francis Tipton and his wife Ella Mumma Spangler. A relative, David Oyler, lived with the family on occasion."

Phil noted that his great-grandfather June Francis Tipton had been an eyewitness to history. Mr. Tipton was on hand at the start of the Battle of Gettysburg, the turning point of the American Civil War! "Grandpa T, as we called him, grew up on the Rogers Farm located on the Emmitsburg Road in Gettysburg. He witnessed the arrival of Union General
(John Fulton) Reynolds Corps as it came into Gettysburg
on July 1, 1863."

General John Fulton Reynolds, a native of Lancaster, PA, became one of the first casualties at the Battle of Gettysburg. He was shot and killed later that same day
by a Confederate sniper.

Phil revealed another interesting fact about his great-grandfather. Decades before Dell rats danced to the songs of Penguins, Robins, Cardinals, Crows, Meadowlarks, Falcons and Flamingos, the barn was alive with the sound of a different bird species. "June Francis Tipton raised pigeons in the barn and sold the baby birds (squab) to local restaurants," Phil explained.

Squab, the meat of all pigeon and dove species, is a cheap and readily available source of protein and is often cooked as a delicacy. Young birds are harvested for eating at one month of age when they have reached adult size but cannot yet fly.

According to Phil, the Spanglers also owned horses. Presumably, the hayburners were housed in the stables on the lower level of the barn.

The Shady Dell has always been steeped in history. This is what the newly built Dell house looked like when Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover were serving their terms as President, during The Roaring Twenties, Prohibition, The Crash of '29 and The Great Depression. It would be many more years before John and Helen Ettline would arrive on the scene and transform the place into what thousands of teenagers came to know as the Shady Dell!

This Spangler family group photo was taken on the side of the house that later became the Dell's parking lot and entrance. Notice the long porch that was later enclosed to create the Dell's restrooms. Notice also how the house appears to have been built on a rather steep slope until it was filled in and graded years later to form the parking area.

This picture of the Spangler family circa 1930 was taken from a different angle on the same side of the house. Visible in the background are the undeveloped rolling hills across
S. George St. in the area that is now the densely populated Strathcona Hills, Tri-Hill, Greendale, Edgehill and Hillcrest neighborhoods.

"My grandfather Howard had moved his family from Gettysburg to York in 1926," wrote Phil. "Howard owned an auto parts and tire business located at 2030 N. Penn Street in York. He was a Fisk Tires dealer. The boys attended Violet Hill School. My father had fond memories about living in York. He remembers the boys rolling a truck tire down the hill behind the house and it crashing into a neighbor's chicken house."

Sounds familiar, Phil. For generations the common refrain among Dell rats has been I found my thrill on Violet Hill!

"My grandfather sold the house in 1932," explained Phil, "and moved his family to Harrisonburg, Virginia."

This picture was snapped from Starcross Road/Old Baltimore Pike as the Spanglers posed in front of the hedge bordering the patio that would someday be swarming with barefootin' Dell dancers. In the lower right corner you will notice a large wooden frame beyond the hedge. A zoom in gives us a closer look at the framework and hints at its probable use.

The Grapes of Rat

40 years before Dell rats heard it through the grapevine the Dell had its own vineyard. "My grandmother always grew grapes wherever they lived," wrote Phil. To meet Margarete Tipton Spangler's grape expectations, it seems likely that an arbor was erected on this part of the courtyard - a wooden latticework trellis or pergola that supported grapevines and other types of vining and flowering plants and provided shade and privacy. If you look closely on the left side of the photo you can see part of the brick fireplace that warmed generations of teenaged Dell visitors. That old fireplace was finally dismantled a few months ago during phase one of the Dell's historic renovation.

Phil says his father remembered riding his tricycle around the porches and playing on the Dell grounds. "The boys all had bicycles and loved to ride down the hill. My dad carried scars on his knees from crashing his bike."

It's positively surreal to see the Spangler children of 80+ years ago frolicking at the spot that decades later became the heavily traveled rat route between the Dell snack bar and dance hall! It's interesting to note that the stairway leading down from the second floor porch had not yet been built when this picture was snapped. When the porches were rebuilt in recent weeks that flight of stairs was removed because it used up too much space on both levels. Having come full circle, the Dell porches are once again ready for tots and trike traffic.

Phil, we can't thank you enough for providing these incredible photographs of your family living at the Dell while it was still in its infancy. You have contributed valuable pieces of the puzzle and you have earned the title of honorary Dell rat! Thanks again, my friend!

Who owned the Dell
between 1932 and 1945
when the Ettlines
bought the place and
set up mousekeeping?

Who turned the
residence into a
private, upscale,
members only drinking,
dining and dancing
club...and when?

Who were the very first
Dell rats on the scene
after John and Helen
assumed ownership
in the mid 1940's?

What did our Dell rat
ancestors of the 40's
experience during
those early years?

If you can answer any of these questions please do what Phil Spangler was kind enough to do. Share your story and your photos with Dell rats who care!

Have a Shady day!


  1. Wow, even I don't go back that far. It sure would be great if you got responses and could fill in the missing years, the family tree of the Dell. Some of my mother's friends are still alive and might be able to provide info on the original restaurant. They all went to the old Valencia ? dance hall in the one block of north George and might have even gone to the Dell. My mother did not, but maybe they might have some info. I will ask.

    It is too bad we didn't have cameras in our transistor radios. There might have been more pictures of the Dell rats available from the sixties. I don't have any pictures of my old gang of friends that were not taken by parents. None from the Dell, Oaks, Zimmies, the rocks down at Long Level on the river or other favorite hang outs. I don't remember ever seeing anyone taking pictures in the Dell.

  2. Now that you mention it I don't remember ever seeing anyone taking pictures at the Dell either, Jerre. As Ronnie Dove reminded us in his "Happy Summer Days" recording, "let your heart keep taking pictures"...and that's what we all did. When you think about it the pictures that linger in our memories are greater than any tangible ones. Thank you very much for your comment, Jerre!

  3. It is definitely neat to see the history of the Dell, and the family/families that lived there. Violet Hill looked amazingly like new frontier, and I never knew they they had their own school---one room, possibly?
    While I never saw a camera in use at the Dell, the fact that we did go there to drink under age (not inside, of course) among other legal activities, I always thought the lack of paparazzi was because "what happens at the Dell, stays at the Dell". That privacy was always appreciated, as long as we weren't infringing on John or Helen. It seems to me I recall occasionally being visited by local police checking up on us.

  4. That's how I remember it, Ron. John and Helen gave us a certain amount of latitude. They allowed us to police ourselves so that when the real police came a calling the cruiser would make one quick circuit around the lot, shine the spotlight here and there, pull back out onto Starcross and disappear down the hill. At the Dell it was all about taking responsibility and learning from your mistakes. If you continuously failed to do that, you were out. Thanks so much for your comment, Ron!

  5. Fascinating history, Shady! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about it. They sound like an amazing family!

  6. Hi, Shelly! Yes, the Spangler family saga is fascinating and I was elated when Phil came forward with his anecdotes and rare pictures. As you might have read at the end of the post there are still a number of years in the Dell's history that I know nothing about. A reliable source told me that it was a "speakeasy" of sorts in the years before the Ettlines purchased it in 1945. Maybe someday somebody will surface with that part of the story. Thank you very much for reading and commenting, Shelly!


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