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

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Helen Ettline: The Mother of All Dell Rats


Yes, it's my 300th blog post and the timing couldn't be better because we're observing Mother's Day by paying tribute to Helen Ettline, the mother of all Dell rats! Three of our good friends have joined us and have a few words they'd like to express about the Dell's First Lady.


It's that time of the year the Dell would be waking up from those cold nights of winter that we spent in the barn staying warm by the fireplace and watching TV on the old black and white. It's also time to remember Mom and to a Dell Rat that means remembering their second Mom Helen. Helen was always there to talk to about things you might not be comfortable talking about at home. The girls could go to Helen with a broken 
heart or something more personal like being pregnant. The guys could always count on Helen for a shoulder to lean on or some inside advice with the ladies. Helen was always there for me with that cheeseburger and cherry coke that
I must have ate hundreds of as a hungry teen. 50 years have gone by and I can still see Helen like it was yesterday.
Happy Mother's Day Helen and till I see you at the big Dell in the sky I will all Ways love you.


I love reminiscing about Helen and the treats she whipped up in the snack 
bar for us hungry Dell rats.
I remember her big boys, sub sandwiches, and fries 

in those red plastic baskets lined with wax paper. Also her CMPs (chocolate, marshmallow, and peanut sundaes) which most people are familiar with these days. Always sweet and lovable.  I don't think 
I ever pissed her off, but I remember she wouldn't take any guff and could make a man feel pretty small for trying to give her crap, and she didn't have to raise her voice to do it. I don't think any woman was ever over my shoulder as many hours as she was as I played a pinball machine all those years. Helen Ettline was a fine lady! Ron 


What did Helen mean to me? She was always in a good mood and a friend when needed. She always smiled and helped lift my spirits when I sat on one of her stools for a soda. Helen didn't care if you were 
rich or poor, she treated everyone with respect and kindness. She did not put up with trouble makers, but did not interfere with your activities as long as you respected her and John. She knew all the regulars and would sometimes joke with us. She wouldn't play jokes on us as much as John, but she still added to a good time when at the snack bar. Once my real mother discovered that the Dell was not a den of troublemakers, she started calling it my home away from home. She never met Helen or John face to face, but she learned to know that they acted like a good mother and father for all their adopted kids. Helen was the light and life 
of the snack bar. Jerre 

Helen Ettline didn't have 
any children of her own. 

In a way... 

we were 
all her 
kids and 
she was 
our mom.

Clearly Helen and John loved kids. Why else would they have put up with the aggravation all those years? The Ettlines believed in kids. They enjoyed counseling and helping kids.

Helen always greeted me with a warm smile. She was an attentive listener. When I had good news to share or a funny tale to tell, Helen often made me feel special by calling John over and urging me to repeat my story for John's benefit. Helen made me feel like family. She made me feel like I belonged. She was a very special lady.

In observance of Mother's Day, I picked out 
a video that I think Helen would enjoy. 
Helen, this is for you: 

Happy Mother's Day, Helen! 

We love you and miss you! 


  1. That was probably the sweetest, most touching tribute to any mother. It's perfect. :) :)
    Helen Ettline sounds like a wonderful woman. I wonder if she had anything to do with the way you make everyone feel special with your beautiful comments.. I'm sure she did. :) :)
    The song was beautiful as well. It isn't often that we hear such a soothing melody. A perfect selection. :)

  2. Helen sounds like she was an amazing women and you are all very lucky to have known her and her kindness. I'm sure she would be very proud of how she touched you all and would be hounoured by your comments today.

    Such a lovely and touching post Shady.

    Happy Mothers day to you all stateside. x

  3. PencilGirl - It's always a pleasure when you visit me. I've missed you! I selected that Johnny Mathis video for Helen because it represents a bygone era - an age of innocence and romance that existed when Helen was growing up, when she married John and founded the Dell, and which lingered through my boyhood. The song itself and Johnny's sweet, sincere, calm, composed performance of it reminds us of how much we have lost. I believe we can get it back. Happy Mother's day, P-Girl!

    Kelly-marie - Yes, Helen was a remarkable woman and a positive influence on me and my friends. Helen was old enough to be our grandmother but we could relate to her better than we could to our parents. Helen was a listener, an adviser and sounding board. She remembered what it was like to be young, something too many adults forget. Thank you very much for your comment, Kelly-marie, and Happy Mother's day to you!

  4. That was one of the most awesome tributes I have ever experienced and makes me wish even more I could have known her.

  5. Helen's life is a portrait of the good one person can do. She touched so many lives with her love.
    I remember you said she and her husband took teenagers in to live with them when they were in trouble. Amazing love.

    I have always loved the Johnny Mathis song. He had a beautiful voice and the song fit your post so nicely.
    I remember seeing Johnny Mathis on Johnny Carson Show. He was extremely shy and seems very sweet.

  6. Odie - Your feedback means a lot to me, good buddy. Thank you very much! I'm glad that the memories shared in this post by Greg, Ron, Jerre and me are giving you a sense of the fine lady that was our Helen. Happy Mother's day to you and yours, Odie!

    Belle - That's right! I remember seeing Johnny Mathis on The Tonight Show. Entertainers like Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole and Paul Anka sang simple, straightforward songs about mature romance and innocent puppy love. They epitomized the ideals of the WWII generation and the post war 50s. Those singers and others like them were models of decency and I don't have to tell you that decency rubs off on impressionable young people just like sleaze does. You're also right about Helen and John. They went out of their way to help people. They made room in their home and in their hearts for friends (and strangers) in need. They voluntarily did the good work that agencies and organizations are expected to do today. Thank you very much for coming by, Belle, and Happy Mother's day!

    Katie - Yes, it started in 2008 with an idea and a commitment and here we are 300 posts later! Thank you very much for your ongoing friendship and support, Katie, and Happy Mother's day to you!

  7. Shady - First of all, congratulations on getting to 300 posts. That's quite an achievement dear friend! Just imagine if Helen was looking down today and reading that tribute from you all. She would be one happy lady of that I'm sure. It just goes to show that the saying "as ye sow, so shall ye reap" couldn't be more true. She gave you all so much, and look how much it meant to you all. Wonderful tribute and even better to post it for Helen on Mothers Day. Your caring personality just shines through your posts Shady, and I am proud to call you a dear friend. Johnny Mathis looked so young in that little video clip, but what a lovely gentle song.

  8. Thisisme - Your comment means a great deal to me. Thank you for looking beyond the pipe and seeing the real me. Your friendship is a gift that I cherish each and every day. Happy Sunday to you, dear Thisisme!

  9. Odie I wish all of you could have known Helen and John. I know I am a better person for the time that I spend with them.Its people like Helen that helped make the world a better place to live. The world could use more like them. A DELL RAT ALL WAYS Greg

  10. Greg - The world could use a few more like you, too! Thanks for your comment and for your touching testimonial about Helen, good buddy!

  11. A very nice tribute to a VERY nice lady. I saw Johnny Mathis a couple times in the Santa Claus Lane Parade in Hollywood, Ca., riding on the back of a VW Bug, but hadn't realized the purity, innocence and trust that he demonstrated in his singing when I was VERY young. That was a VERY FITTING SONG for Helen. I always admired and respected Helen, but didn't confide in her as much as you, Greg and Jerre. I can still feel her warm personality, I just wish I had been more open, and more giving to her. Shyness can be selfish. HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY, HELEN!

  12. Ron - When we look back on our youth we all wish we could have some do overs. I am sure Helen appreciated your Mother's Day message and she, John and I thank you for your immeasurable contributions to our Shady Dell blog! Thanks again for testifying and have a wonderful week, good buddy!

  13. Shady, Greg, Ron and Jerre, these are such special remembrances of Helen. The 'rat' images you used were perfect and made me smile. The beautiful voice of Johnny Mathis was perfect for this tribute. Shady, I noticed you used the word "listener" twice in this post, I see Helen had that most admirable trait. Don't we all want someone to listen to us. Such love in this post!

  14. P.S.

    Congratulations on your 300th post!

  15. Cindy - I am delighted that you had a chance to see this post. You are one of my newest and best friends and a post like this one gives you an understanding of who Helen was and what she meant to us. Helen was a good listener and you're right, that's a rare and important trait. She also spoke softly but with authority. She was one adult that teenagers were eager to listen to and to connect with. Of course, her husband John was another. Thank you very much for making time for me today, dear Cindy!


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