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, April 27, 2012

To Dell and Back: Rat Packers of Old Make Historic Pilgrimage to Mecca!

 "The parking lot hasn't been this full in a 

 looooong time!" exclaimed Toni Deroche. 

 I agree, Toni! 

 I'm thinking the 

 last time was 

 the 4th of July 

 weekend 1965. 

 "Well over 300 people attended," Toni continued. 

 "My mother-in-law counted 46 cars in the lot at one time. 
 People couldn't get in or out and some had to drive by." 

 Wow! Just like the good old days, Toni! 

 They all were gatherin' here from far and near 

 up at the Function at the Junction 
(intersection of Starcross & Shady Dell roads).

Shady Dell owner Toni Deroche threaded the needle, picking a rare weekend in April that provided gorgeous weather for both days of her open house. The plan came together and the good times rolled!

 Let's have a look at some 

 candids snapped at 

 The Thrilla on the Hilla 


The familiar sounds of music and laughter echoed across Violet Hill on April 14th and 15th, 2012, when once again the doors of the Shady Dell swung open to the public.

Scores of Dell rats scurried up the hill to revisit their old stomping ground and relive golden memories of their youth.

It was an opportunity for everyone to explore the Dell and see the results of two years of renovation work.

Nearly a century old but looking like new, the Shady Dell is

currently for sale by owner, the Deroches, Toni and Tom.

The candid camera was clicking all weekend as Dell alumni returned to their venerated alma mater.

The Walk of Fame (sidewalk) leading to The Magic Kingdom (the Dell) looked like the Red Carpet on Academy Awards night as cars pulled up, celebrities disembarked and made their way to the gala.

Who's that making his way down the paparazzi line wearing an original Shady Dell approved natural color Baracuta? Is it George Clooney?

No! It's my cousin, Bill Lewis, bass player for the popular York doo-wop group The Sting-Rays, posing above with wife Sally and another dignitary, the Dell's First Lady Toni Deroche.

My old buddy and fellow Dell rat Tom Landis (in the blue shirt) is a vocalist for the Sting-Rays. Tom assembled his men in the barn and entertained the crowd singing doo-wop songs a cappella. During the mid 60s Tom and I worked together at Weis Market on Edgar Street and gave each other rides to the Dell.

Here's one of John Ettline's nieces, Lynne Beck. Lynne is the daughter of John's sister, the late Louise E. Eppley, and the sister of my good friend Nancy Rae Sieling. Lynne posed next to the recently created collage of Dell memories that hangs on the wall of the great room which was once the snack bar.

There were Dell rats from the 1980s...

Dell rats from the 1970s...

 (above) My Della Ratta fraternity brothers 

Dell rats from the 1960s...

Dell rats from the 1950s....

There were even a couple of rats that hung out with Helen and John in the 40s. However, the Guest of Honor made those 80-somethings seem like baby Dell rats.

100 year old Margaret Elizabeth Brown Schneider, the oldest living Dell rat, arrived Sunday afternoon with her entourage. In no time, Margaret attracted a crowd.

Margaret was the center of attention, surrounded by curious visitors, fans and the news media.

Margaret, who lived at the Dell as a little girl, explored the first floor of her old home and noted how different it looks nearly a century later. She remarked that it is "beautiful." Memories flowed. In the front room, Margaret told daughter Kathleen, "That's where we had our couch, and over here is where the piano was."

Margaret made her way down the path to the barn and took a peek inside the old garage where she once played.

She also took a look around the barn/dance hall.

For the first time in decades rats packed the barn and music filled the air.

My good friend Greg "a Dell Rat All Ways" Gulden (above left) did an excellent job of summing up the historic Shady Dell Open House of 2012.

 This was a weekend I will not 
 forget. Not only was Toni's 
 open house a success but a 
 new chapter has been added 
 to the history of the Dell. 

 When I got to the Dell Sunday afternoon it took me back 
 to the golden days. The lot was full and I had to make my 
 own spot to park. There were cars with out of state tags 
 on them, It was just like the old days. 

 The best part of the weekend was meeting Margaret Brown.
 She is 100 years old and her father built the Dell house the 
 year she was born. She is one of the most beautiful ladies 
 you will meet. 

 I spoke with her son about the stories she would tell about 
 growing up in the Dell house and playing on the grounds. 

 When she saw the inside of the house she said its just 
 not the same. It reminded me of a saying, [You can 
 never go home again, only in the memories of your mind.] 

 When I walked in the barn the Sting Rays were singing. 
 It sure was good to hear that sound again in the barn. 

 I talked with Toni on Saturday and she said she hoped 
 the right person would buy the house, someone who 
 would take good care of it. 

 I think the right person already owns the house. 

 As my wife and I set out on the old outside dance floor 
 she looked at me and said there's something about it here 
 that makes you want to stay and not leave. 

 I told her that's the magic of the Dell. 

 Thanks again to you, Shady...
 and to Toni for making this journey possible. 

 A Dell Rat All Ways, Greg Gulden 

 Thank you, 

 Dell Rat Greg, 

 for helping me 

 to recap this 

 historic event... 

 The Thrilla on the Hilla 


(Margaret reads all about it in the newspaper) 

Have a Shady Day!


  1. I do not know when I've read a more hert warming, satisfying story, my friend. Who would have thought all those years ago, that you all would be able to gather today and honor John and Helen, the Shady Dell, and the camaraderie you all had with each other?

    Margaret is a true jewel and that has to be the crown of the whole weekend, that someone with memories even preceding the Dell was there with all of you.

    I love how she was able to recall even where the furniture stood from her day.

    I'm so glad you and your wife were there to relive those wonderful memories.

    I saw York, PA in an article yesterday listed as one of the top small town main streets in America. It was a grand day, indeed!

  2. Hi, Shelly! I was there in spirit but I did not make the trip home to attend. The section highlighted in purple was written by Dell Rat Greg Gulden who was there with his wife. Yes indeed, it was a magic weekend. April weather is iffy in Penna and Toni couldn't have picked two nicer spring days for this important event. Thank you very much for coming over for a visit, dear friend Shelly, and have a wonderful weekend!

  3. Sorry, Tom- I guess I got so caught up in the excitement of reading it I just pictured you there. It does sound like it was a wonderful gathering, really a once in a lifetime event!

  4. Wow, if only the Dell could talk it would be singing praises of that happy time and memories. So many people covering such a span of time sharing their love for the Dell. I am so glad we had a chance to see the great pictures and to be a part in this celebration. thanks.

  5. Shelly - I pictured me there, too, believe me! (LOL) I keep talking about the weather because it could very easily have been a chilly day or a wash out. If there had been inclement weather, our dear Margaret would never have ventured out of the house and those priceless moments would not have taken place. Thanks for checking back, dear friend!

    Odie - It was an amazing day filled with Kodak moments and Toni, Greg Gulden, Kathleen Schneider and the York newspapers all did a great job of taking pictures to preserve these memories. Thanks for visiting, good buddy, and have a fantastic weekend!

  6. How wonderful the Sting Rays sang in the old barn! And people dancing there once again too. I didn't remember your cousin was in the Sting Rays. Music is in your family's blood I think.

    What a great reunion, Tom. I love the little drawing of the Pied Piper calling all the rats. The house is so beautiful they should have no trouble selling it. I love to see old places restored instead of torn down.

    I'm looking forward to Margaret's stories. Love and hugs.

  7. Hi, Belle! Yes, my cousin Bill has been a part of the Central PA music scene for decades and he was also a Dell rat. I'll tell you this, Belle. I was never much of a reader before but I've been looking at upcoming chapters of Kathleen's In-Dell-ible Memories and I am absolutely riveted to the story of Margaret and her family. Every chapter includes ultra rare pictures dating back as early as the start of the 20th century. Chapter One of Kathleen's series is slated for May 14th so please stay tuned. Thank you very much for coming by, dear friend Belle, and enjoy your weekend!

  8. Wow, I really enjoyed this, Tom! I wish I could hang out at a place like the Dell, and especially with all that history, "Geez", that just makes it something special, eh?! Margaret Brown is so cute by the way. I wish I could meet a 100 year old woman like her, but I'd probably talk her head off, haha!

  9. Hi, Presley! When I went to the Dell in the 1960s I never thought of it as anybody's home. To me and hundreds of other kids it was just a place to go and let off steam and have fun. I never dreamed it had such a rich history extending back to 1912. Wait till you read the chapters of Margaret's diary as they are presented here on the blog. Her family's story will amaze you! Thank you ever so much for coming over today, dear friend Presley. I really appreciate it. Have a fabulous weekend, too!

  10. Tom you brought all your memories, and Margaret's to life! I know John and Helen were dancing in Heaven and smiling with joy knowing the Dell had been lovingly restored and their 'kids' were enjoying it again.

    Lovely Post...thanks for sharing such an important moment in history with us all!
    Wish you'd been able to be there in person but you and Greg did a wonderful job bringing the story to life!

  11. Sush - Thank you very much, dear friend. The stars and planets aligned, the weather cooperated, and generations came together for a magic weekend of celebration. It makes me happy knowing that you care about this place, these people and this incredible story which continues to unfold. Thanks again for being a great friend, Sush, and have a wonderful weekend!

  12. Hi, Tom!

    Wow! I sure enjoyed seeing a crowded parking lot at the Dell, as well as the crowd of people. My cap's off to Toni, Margaret, Kathleen, your cousin Bill, and you for a wonderful return trip to the Dell. Special thanks to Greg for all his pictures and his first-hand narrative of the visit, and the essence he presented with it. I'm glad he got to use the dance floor with his wife. In my mind I'm sitting on a bench at night, underneath the Japanese lanterns, listening to "Close Your Eyes" and "Island of Love" and scoping out all the lovelies as they walk by, occasionally striking up a conversation. Have a great weekend, Tom, and all Dell Rats everywhere! If you're a follower of SDM&M, and have never been there in person, you're still a Dell Rat in spirit!!!


  13. Hi, Ron! I remember seeing those glowing lanterns from a distance as I drove toward the Dell. They put me in a festive mood even before I arrived at the entrance. Thanks for expressing your appreciation to my contributors. Toni, Kathleen and Greg all sent me pictures to use in this post and they all did a fine job of capturing the exciting event. Greg's narrative was excellent and I know that Kathleen and Margaret will appreciate his kind words. My next post will contain even more rare photos snapped by Toni, Kathleen and Greg. Join us as we go on a tour of the "other" Dell, the one never seen by Dell rats. What surprises await us as we explore the nooks and crannies of our old hangout? Stay tuned! Thanks so much for your visit and comments, good buddy, and have a fabulous weekend!

  14. Hi dear Tom. Forgive me for being late to the party! I'm sorry in a way that you couldn't have been there in person, but perhaps it's better to remember The Shady Dell as it used to be. What a wonderful couple of days that must have been though, with all the cars in the parking lot and dancing again in the Barn. Toni and her husband have certainly done a fantastic job in renovating the old place, and I really do hope that someone will buy it who will cherish it for years to come. As you say, thank goodness the weather was so kind, so that Margaret could be the star attraction. It was good to have Greg's own personal reporting of the event. Great post my friend, and I'm happy to be able to share in with all the excitement!

  15. Thanks to Dell Rat Greg for providing us with this great trip to the renovated Shady Dell! It's so great that so many people got to see the place, I can't imagine what it must have been like to be back there and reminisce!

    Emma x

  16. Thisisme - Hello, dear friend! Did you make it in with your comment before I changed my settings? (LOL) Yes, in a way it is better for me to remember the Dell as it used to be. I am very protective of my original memories. If miracles could happen and the Beatles could reunite I wouldn't want to see their show because it would tarnish my memories of them in their heyday. It was a small miracle that the weather was perfect the day that Margaret was slated to visit the Dell. It's a satisfying completion now that she was able to visit her old home once again. Thank you very much, dear Thisime, for coming over to see me. I hope you will get some rest and bounce back to full strength soon. God bless!

    Emma - Hello, my Irish friend! When I see pictures of you and your friends I realize how much fun all of you would have had at the Dell during it's prime in the 50s and 60s. Most of us enjoyed clowning around and celebrating our youth just as you and your friends are doing. When you see images of older people please remember that a youthful spirit lives on inside each one of them. Thank you very much for dropping by, dear friend Emma, and have a terrific weekend!

  17. Tom First thing I want to say is thank you for letting me be part of this great event.It was a pleasure to give our Dell Rat friends around the world my personal veiw of Dellapalooza the thill on the hill. I wish Emma,Odie and the rest our new Dell Rats could have been there so they could have felt the magic. Dell Rat Ron hit a soft spot when he mentioned the bench.I remember setting on that bench many times, it would help ease the problems of the day. Again thank you Toni And Tom for makeing this all happen, it seemed a few years back the Dell house was dieing and with the love it recieved from Toni you can see her comeing back. As we hunted for her history she would not reveal anything to us, but as Toni and her family worked to bring her back she started to let us see more and more of her past. There is much more to be told to us by our dear new friends Kathleen and Margaret and I will be here waiting to hear all of it. A Dell Rat All Ways Greg

  18. Hi, Greg! Once again your words ring with truth and wisdom, my friend. A few years ago the Shady Dell seemed lost in obscurity. There was hardly a mention of it in the media or online. Today, thanks to the dedication of Toni and her family and the supporters of this blog, we are putting the Dell back in the news on a regular basis. The community is buzzing about it. People are talking about it around the water cooler. As long as you and I stay alive we'll be keeping the memory of the Dell and the Ettlines alive. Thanks, Greg, for all you're doing to help the cause. Stay tuned for more of your pictures in my next post on Tuesday!

  19. Hi Tom, After reading this, I am really sorry I missed the open house. It looks like everyone enjoyed the day and I am sure I would have. They might not have been able to pry me out of the barn, especially with live Doo Wop. I should have changed my other plans in order to attend. If given the chance, I won't make that mistake again. Jerre

  20. Hi, Jerre! I agree. You would have been in your glory had you attended the function at the junction. Did you recognize any old friends in these pictures? I thought I might but I didn't. Anyway, I'm so glad you saw this post and realize that now more than ever "the pack is back!" I want to thank you for your long time support of this blog. Together we're bringing it back alive. Thanks again, Jerre, and remember there's much more excitement to come during this Spring of Surprises!

  21. April 15th certainly was a special day for the four generations of my family who joined the other Dell rats at the reintroduction of this wonderful house to the world. We were both surprised and delighted with the Shady Dell's facelift.

    While Mother found it vastly changed from her childhood memories, she appreciates it having a new life for the next family who will enjoy its charms. We are fortunate to first of all be a part of its story and now 100 years later to acquire so many new friends because of the part it played in their lives.

    Many, many thanks to Toni and Tom for the kindness and caring shown my family and the restoration of our ancestral home to its rightful glory! Their appreciation of its virtues and long hours of hard work have erased the ravages of time. Their efforts brought the Dell house back out from behind the shadows and into the spotlight.

    From my family to them, and all of you as well for your enthusiasm and support - thank you. Because of all of you, the magic lives on!


  22. Kathleen - Thank you for conveying in such an eloquent manner what it means to you, your mother and the rest of your family to be part of our Dell community. I can't wait for you to continue with your series about your mother's and the Dell's earliest years. None of us could have predicted all of the exciting new developments that have taken place in recent years. I will be forever grateful to you for coming forward with your mother's story and allowing me to present it here on my blog. Thank you again, dear friend Kathleen, for everything you are doing and have already done to add to our pool of knowledge and to enhance the Shady Dell mystique.

  23. Hi Tom,
    This beautiful reunion is bittersweet and touching. I enjoyed seeing the Dell Rats enjoy the grounds and the dance hall. I have a hard time going home to my old places, especially my school and the country roads I used to walk when I was a young person, needing to be independent and free. I didn't appreciate the simplicity of that time when I was in it; the way the air feels and the sounds of life. I'm sure that it was a very moving experience for those in attendance to share the nostalgia.

  24. Hi, Jenny! So nice of you to come by. "Youth is wasted on the young," observed George Bernard Shaw. I agree that we can't fully comprehend all that we have when we are young. For most of us of a certain age it meant strong, healthy bodies; simple, low-tech games and amusements; a relatively carefree existence and all the time in the world ahead of us.

    It's that second time you hear your love song sung,
    Makes you think perhaps, that
    Love like youth is wasted on the young.

    "The Second Time Around" (1960 song)

    Thank you very much for joining our celebration of the youth that remains inside us, Jenny. Enjoy your Sunday, dear friend!

  25. Another fabulous get together at the Dell! Margaret is a superstar! Thank you for sharing my friend. Great photos. xp

  26. Hi Tom. It's 3.40 p.m. here now on Sunday afternoon, and I've been waiting for the second one of Margaret's daughter's posts to come up. Anyway, I just dropped by to make sure that I hadn't missed it. I'll post this comment and then let you know about the word verification. Hope your Sunday is going well dear friend.

  27. Brilliant! My comment was posted really quickly, and certainly no word verification anymore. It really is SO much easier without it. Thank you!

  28. Katie - I agree that Margaret is a superstar; yet she is a humble woman and can't seem to understand what all the fuss over her is about. Stay tuned for more great pictures of the Dell coming up Tuesday! Thank you very much for being here, dear Katie, and have a super Sunday!

    Thisisme - Hallo, dear friend! I'm glad you were able to comment with ease. Surprisingly I didn't get any spam overnight and that pleases me. If I start to get lots of spam mixed in with friends' comments I will need to go back to blog moderation or word verification. The second guest post by Kathleen Schneider, Chapter 1, is scheduled for Monday, May 14th. As you recall I introduced Margaret on her birthday, Wednesday, April 18th, followed by Kathleen's first post "In-Dell-ible Memories Introduction" the following Sunday. That might be what you're thinking of. I'm sorry for the confusion but I assure you that Kathleen's chapters are well worth the wait. I hope that you are "sitting in an English garden waiting for the sun" and feeling rested and restored. I also hope that my buddy Alfred is doing much better today back home in France. Thank you very much for your dedicated friendship, dear Thisisme, and enjoy the remains of the day.

  29. that must have been a blast for everyone to get to hang out again and relive their Dell days. It was nice to see Margaret again too. She looks like such a sweet lady with so many interesting and fun stories to tell. I wish we could have seen her boogie a little :)

  30. Well good morning to ya, Amber Girly Bird! It was so sweet of you to think of me first thing on a Monday morning. I really appreciate it, kiddo. Margaret doesn't understand attempts to cast her as a superstar but she is just that in my book. Interesting stories to tell? Yessum! Just wait till you read about the Dell's (and Margeret's) early years. There's plenty of drama and pathos, that's for sure. Stay tuned for a creepy tour of the Dell coming in tomorrow's post! Thank you again, dear Amber, for reminding me what a great and dear friend you are. Have a fantastic day and week!

  31. Hi Shady! I got to read and bask in this post last week, but, could not stop to say hello! It actually brings back memories to me of exciting days of long ago, wondering how it would be to reunite with old dance comrades. This reunion was a smash, wasn't it! And, to hear a band that you used to dance to...I would probably swoon!!! A perfect day for a perfect event-congratulations to all involved for making this possible. A wonderful post, Shady! Have a smashing weekend!

    1. Awww, that's so sweet of you, dear Susan. Indeed the open house was a smashing success but it could very easily have been a huge disappointment if the weather had turned sour. As it was there was perfect spring weather for two days straight, something I don't think Central PA has enjoyed since then. Thank you very much for being such a great friend, Susan, and have a wonderful weekend!


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