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

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ghosts of Christmas Past: Yule Love These Dell Holiday Classics!

Big John ambled into the barn 

carrying a fifty pound log.

The King of all Dell Rats knelt before the fireplace and
with a mighty heave tossed the massive chunk of lumber
onto the bed of glowing embers.
Encouraged by a fresh supply of fuel
the blaze quickly sprang to life.

Light danced merrily on the walls of the TV room
as flames devoured the wood.
 The room was bathed in a cheery glow as
soothing warmth radiated to Dell rats gathered 'round.
Comforting crackles, pops and hisses from the fire
blended with the sound of familiar tunes
playing on the jukebox.

'Twas the most wonderful time of the year...

Christmas time at the Shady Dell!

Some of my fondest Dell memories
recall the colder months, especially the
December holiday season.

Whenever a snow storm struck John sprang into action. Equipped with a winter busting arsenal that included
 jumper cables, chains, sand and ice scraper, Mr. Ettline
was Johnny on the spot when a Dell rat encountered
car problems. Armed with his trusty shovel,
John wasted no time clearing the front steps
and the walkway connecting the house to the barn.

On cold December nights Helen was busy
preparing treats to warm the tummy.
My favorite cold weather order was a plate of
sizzling French fries and a steaming mug of cocoa.

Next stop - the barn, and John had it handled
down there, too, with the fireplace burning
and records that kept turning.

During the holiday season 

no place on earth made you 

feel more welcome, more at home 

or more alive than the Shady Dell!

In keeping with tradition our online version of the
Dell will remain open for business through the holidays
 and I loaded into the jukebox the Dell's
two most popular Christmas classics.

For your viewing pleasure I decked the halls and
covered the walls with vintage seasonal soda pop ads.

The two holiday songs I'd like you to hear
were released back-to-back on the same 45,
one of many two-siders to enjoy popularity at the Dell.
Both sides of the platter were enduring seasonal favorites.

"Jingle Bell Rock" first became a national hit
at Christmas time 1957. Every December thereafter
the song magically showed up in the Dell’s
dance hall jukebox just in time
to engender a festive holiday mood.

"Jingle Bell Rock" - Bobby Helms (December 1957)

You might think that the Dell's inner circle would have avoided this old countrified Christmas classic, dismissing it
as square. Instead, the gang eagerly got into the spirit of the proceedings and made it their own.

The record’s B-side, a nursery school ditty entitled
"Captain Santa Claus," produced an extraordinary response at the Dell. The beginning of the song consists of a series
of bizarre and instantly recognizable sound effects.
Naming that tune in seconds flat, the Dell crowd would
erupt in gleeful, childlike laughter and jubilant rats would
leap to their feet, head out on the dance floor
and skip around the room hand-in-hand
like merry little elves. At the Dell, even the
coolest kids were capable of letting their hair down
and acting silly, particularly during Christmas break
when Bobby Helms was serenading us.

"Captain Santa Claus" - Bobby Helms (December 1957)

The popularity of Bobby Helms' perennial holiday classics allows me to once again make an important point.

Those of us who attended the Dell in the 60s eagerly embraced the music of the past, welcoming the opportunity to preserve the traditions of our 50s predecessors. In that respect I believe we could be called "the last great generation" of Dell rats.

Oh what a night

Late December back in '65

I was happy just to be alive

As I remember what a night.

Have yourself 

a Shady little Christmas!


  1. Now you all truly knew how to get into the Christmas spirit and set a festive atmosphere!

    Those songs are classics now, too. I love that you all back then gave tribute to the past; it's something we should always do, not to dwell in it, but to honor what is good from it.

    Have a very Merry Christmas, you and all the others in the virtual Dell, my friend!

    1. Hi, Shelly! It seems to me that we had a different mindset back in those days. Instead of shying away from that which was "old school" we embraced it, experienced it and appreciated it. Thank you very much for sharing yule love this morning, dear friend Shelly, and may you and you family have a wonderful Christmas!

  2. What a great post leading us up to Christmas dear Tom! Again, I love the vintage advertising. The photos of The Shady Dell in the snow are really beautiful, and those are wonderful memories that you have of your time spent at the Dell at this special time of the year. Love that song by Elvis, "What a Night"! I do hope that you and yours have a very happy and peaceful Christmas over there in uptown Florida!!! Take care. Also hope that little Toto is continuing to do well.

    1. Hallo, dear Thisisme! Yes, the Dell in winter was a very inviting place, particularly when it snowed and at Christmas. It felt great to get in out of the cold and huddle by the fire or warm your innards with a steaming mug of hot chocolate up in the snack bar. Toto is doing very well, thank you. It is a blessing that she has made such a remarkable recovery from her cancer and the toe amputation surgery. I wish you a safe trip to France, my dear friend, and a joyous holiday with G-T and her clan, including my buddy Alfred. I hope you'll take lots of pictures. Sending hugs and smooches your way, dear Thisisme!

  3. That sounds so lovely! I wish I could go back in time and hang out at the Dell, especially now, with the warm, inviting atmosphere, fun christmas music and snow on the ground...

    1. Hello again, dear Alabee! You would have made a splendid Dellette. I wish you and I could hop in a time machine and go back to December 1965 at the Shady Dell. I'd love to show you around my home away from home. When the weather outside was frightful that fire was so delightful and at Christmas the place was pure magic. You would have enjoyed the atmosphere, the music and the people. Thank you very much for visiting, dear friend Alabee, and Merry Christmas to you and everyone close to you!

  4. Merry Christmas Shady! I have heard Bobby Helms' Jingle Bell Rock several times this year...wouldn't be Christmas without it. And I do remember 'Captain Santa Claus'. Two great and fun songs!

    What beautiful photos of the Dell covered with snow, the Ettline's continue to smother us with love, even so many years later. They were so special, anyone left out there like them? Just once, I would like to have met them.

    I really enjoy the vintage coke and 7-up pictures you present for Christmas...ah, the memories! I loved Christmas parties in the 60's with the holiday music, being silly, like you said, and dancing with everyone! And, the girls would always wear a Christmas dress or skirt for the occasion! Don't forget the mistletoe, I stayed away from it, lol! Not really!

    Well, I've come down with a nasty cold, and, we're picking up Scooter tonite for a couple of days. I've been doctoring myself up, don't want to give it to him. Hope you're doing well Shady. Your post is very festive! Wishing you and Mrs. Shady a wonderful Merry Christmas!

    1. Hi, Suzanne! Golly, poor Scootie just recovered from an illness a short time ago. I hope he doesn't catch your cold! I am very sorry you're not feeling 100% but there's still time for you to bounce back in time for Christmas. I certainly hope you do. I think you and Karo would have felt right at home at the Dell and would have liked the Ettlines. They were honest, down to earth people just like you guys. Thank you very much for coming to see me and for the holiday wishes. I wish you and all your family a very happy Christmas as well. Please take care of yourself, dear friend, and we'll talk again soon!

  5. Jingle Bell Rock is one of my favorite Christmas songs. It brings back memories of the movie "Home Alone", when the kid sets up the cardboard cutouts on trains to dance around the living room to make it look like a holiday party.

    I hope you have a very Merry Christmas, and if we don't get a chance to talk before then, a Happy New Year!

    1. Hi, Ashton! I'm happy to know that this Bobby Helms holiday classic is also a favorite of yours. I also want to thank you for being one of my oldest (longest running) blog friends. You and I go way back! (LOL) It's so nice of you to come by with Christmas wishes and I wish you and your new husband and family a wonderful Christmas and all the best in 2013!

  6. This got me right into the Christmas spirit! It's just not Christmas without Jingle Bell Rock. The other one I'd not heard before, but the picture in my mind of all the Dell Rats behaving in a festive way put a smile on my face. Have a wonderful Christmas with Mrs. Shady and I'm sending my best wishes for a wonderful new year as well!

    1. Oh, you are so very sweet, karen, and I really appreciate your visit and Christmas message. Yes, the secular favorite "Jingle Bell Rock" was a huge hit with the Dell gang and it never seemed jarring when the next record on the jukebox turned out to be the Doors, Jefferson Airplane or Electric Prunes. We loved it all! Thank you very much for coming to see me, dear friend karen, and may you and your family have the best Christmas ever!

  7. Replies
    1. Hi, Gingey! It's so kind of you to pay me a visit and offer Christmas greetings. I wish you and your family a very merry Christmas as well, dear friend Sharren, and many blessings in 2013!

  8. Shady Thanks for the trip back to the Dell at what was all ways the best time of the year. Your trip in the time machine is the best gift I could get in light of the year we have had. I would give anything to just one more time walk thur the door to the barn and shake off the cold and feel the heat and hear the sounds of the fireplace, I still can"t belive its gone. The pictures of the house with the snow on bring back such warm memories of the place we knew as our home away from home. You and Toto have a great Christmas and lets all hope and pray for a better New Year. Merry Christmas to all are Dell Rat friends around the world I hope you will all be well and safe in the comeing year. Peace & Love A Dell Rat All Ways Greg

    1. Greg, your words are the best Christmas present I will receive this year. I remember the sights, sounds, smells and warmth of that old barn/dance hall as vividly as you do. It's as if it all happened yesterday. When I look at the pictures Toni took for us of the graffiti and artwork it is hard to believe the walls came tumbling down this year. You are right - 2012 was a tough year for Dell rats and yet there are many other people across the country and around the world who suffered much greater loss this year. We need to follow the example set by John and Helen Ettline and remain stoic and stouthearted. Thank you very much for your Christmas wishes and thoughts of Toto, good buddy. I wish you and Harley a merry Christmas and all the best in the coming year.

  9. Wishing everyone a healthy, happy holiday season every day of the year. Tom, I still don't recall "Captain Santa Claus" but I confess that my perennial favorite song has been John Lennon's "Merry Christmas (War Is Over)" for many years. Thinking of kids in war zones brings tears to my eyes. I'm glad to hear about Toto. I've been following the blogs, but not commenting. Best to you and Mrs. Shady!

    1. Hi, Ron! Good point. We need to remember the men and women in the military service who are separated from their families and children during the holidays. I'm glad you're still following along. You've been missed, good buddy. Merry Christmas and happy new year to you!

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