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

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Remembering John

20 years ago today

on the 16th of January, 1993

John Ettline passed away.

John spent the last nine years of his life without Helen.
Imagine the strength and courage it required for John,
a man in his 80s, to go it alone, enduring the hardships
of winter and keeping the Dell in operation even as the
clientele became increasingly rough, rowdy and disrespectful.
How many of us could have stood up to that challenge?

 Things to know and remember about John: 

 John never had any children of his own 
 but he loved kids and believed in them.

 John was the oldest of eight children, 
 four boys and four girls, and took on the 
 responsibility of caring for his siblings. 

 Shortly after marrying Helen in Texas 
 John enlisted in the U.S. Army. Nearly 
 40 years of age, John was one of the 
 oldest enlisted men in WWII. He was 
 promised the cavalry but, as fate would 
 have it, he wound up in a communications 
 unit. John’s unit referred to him as Pops

 John attained the rank of sergeant, served 
 in the European Theatre, and participated 
 in the Battle of the Bulge.

 John was struck
 in the head with 
 shrapnel and ordered to go home but 
 he reportedly refused to leave his men. 

 John was a card shark, a gambler and 
 a wheeler dealer, a larger-than-life type 
 of person, a colorful, loveable, and 
 memorable character.

 Am I my brother’s keeper? 
 To that question, John Ettline boldly 
 answered “Yes!” To John, a friend 
 in need is a friend indeed was more 
 than a familiar old proverb. It was a 
 policy statement. They were the 
 words John lived by. John was 
 known to give financial aid to friends 
 who were down on their luck or owed 
 money to unsavory individuals. 

 Neighbor helping neighbor was the 
 John Ettline philosophy. John and 
 Helen opened their doors and opened 
 their hearts to troubled youth, battered 
 and pregnant women and others who needed 
 their support. John and Helen walked their talk. 

 As a member of his family expressed it, 
 "John was loved and respected by 
 everyone he came in contact with... 
 especially his family. He offered love, 
 guidance and advice to anyone who 
 would give him the respect and listen.” 

 Please take a moment and watch this video 

 as we honor the memory of Mr. John Ettline. 

 John, you were the King of all Dell Rats

 If we have anything to say about it 

 you and Helen will always be remembered. 

 We love you and miss you, John! 


  1. He is a true example of a life well lived. I love how he and Helen gave of themselves so generously, and that is the part of them that lives on now. Amazing legacy. Thank you for sharing them with us, my friend!

    1. Shelly - be remembered as fondly as John and Helen are remembered. They are an inspiration to all of us and I am so glad you can sense their greatness through words and pictures. Thank you very much, dear Shelly, for being with us today as we mark this anniversary. Have a wonderful Wednesday!

  2. What a beautiful man and a beautiful couple. He was a very giving, good man and didn't ask for much in return. He enjoyed life and enjoyed those kids, (dell rats). John deserved a lot of respect. Yes, I can remember a young woman telling me that she felt for John (in the 80's) because there were some kids who were disrespectful and called him names. Didn't they realize how wonderful he was to share his dell along with his knowledge with them ? Because of him , they had a place to go and hang out w/ their friends? Kids can be so cruel, I only see it getting worse. Yes, Shady, the 50's and 60's were definitely the "hey day" of the dell. Wish we could bring those days back!

    1. Hi, Toni! I always tell myself I'm turning into my father or grandfather when I grumble about young people today. Maybe older Dell rats are guilty of viewing the past through rose colored glasses. Yet, I'm pretty sure we're getting it right. I remember the Dell gang of the mid 60s and I can testify that 99% of them respected John and Helen 99% of the time. Perhaps John became an easy target when he was in his 80s. It makes me very sad to think of how it made him feel to be disrespected after all he had done for young people all his life, including taking care of his large family of siblings. Thank you very much for coming by to share your thoughts with us this morning, dear friend Toni. Have a great Wednesday and please come back soon.

  3. Replies
    1. Hello, Milex! I hope that "wow" means you are curious to learn more about the Ettlines and the Shady Dell. Stay tuned, my friend!

  4. Hi dear Tom. This is another lovely post in memory of John. As Shelly said, a life well lived indeed. You are such a dear, sweet man to keep their memories alive like this. Take care. We have snow forecast for Friday here in Devon.

    1. Hallo, dear Thisisme! How well I remember the exact moment when I first laid eyes on John Ettline. It was fall 1965 and seems like only yesterday. The 20 years since his death have gone by in what seems like a heartbeat. As long as I am able I will continue to keep the music and memories alive for John, Helen and all the kids who loved them.

      I am still running the air conditioner in a desperate attempt to keep cool. I don't ask much of you, dear friend, but I beg you to send me some cooler weather. Snow is optional. (LOL)

      I know you must be shaken by the helicopter disaster there in London this morning. Horrible!

      Thank you very much for your comment, dear Thisisme, and good evening to you there in South Hams!

  5. Replies
    1. Hi, Keith! Your comment is greatly appreciated. I invite you to stick around and enjoy music and memories with your new friends around the world. Take care!

  6. John was such a wonderful man and did so much good in his life. That is a rare thing in this world. I am also glad you keep the memory of John and Helen alive. They are an inspiration to others.

    1. Hi, dear Belle! He might not have been a John of all trades but Mr. Ettline mastered many. Clearly he enjoyed playing host and showing people a good time. As long as I am alive I will keep his and Helen's memory alive. Thank you very much for coming down to visit and comment, dear friend Belle, and have a happy evening in B.C.

  7. Hi Tom,
    I'm always touched by your tributes to John and Helen. What a legacy they've left and how wonderfully you honor that legacy.
    I do believe you are following in his footsteps by doing things, 'Your Way' in a grand way.

    1. Hi, Sush! Kinder words were never written, dear friend, and I thank you. In some ways John reminds me of Frank Sinatra. John was a man's man, a lady's man and his own man. I am privileged to honor his legacy here on SDMM. Thank you again for being here with me on this occasion, my good friend. Happy Thursday to you, dear Sush!

  8. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJanuary 17, 2013 at 7:17 AM

    Although I never met them, your wonderful posts dedicated to John and Helen Ettline make me feel like I have!

    They were only two people, but by living what they believed, looking for the best in everyone they met and modeling high standards of behavior, they demonstrated in both small and large ways how we can influence our world for the better. How fortunate that they came into the lives of so many people at such an impressionable time in their development as human beings!

    That they are remembered with much love is a testament to their commitment of caring for others. They let our planet better than the way they found it and although they are gone, they live on in us when we are inspired to continue their kind and accepting ways toward everyone we meet. Like Mahatma Gandhi, they exemplified the belief that "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

    Their influence on you as a young man is obvious to everyone who visits this blog, Tom. John and Helen would be so proud and happy to have their lives remembered and honored in the best way possible: by your returning and multiplying the love they showed you.

    Your warm and welcoming blog and all the hard work and long hours it takes to maintain its quality goes way beyond the Shady Dell's dance hall, snack bar and jukebox on Starcross Road. The friendship you found there as a young man now reaches out around the world and helps to heal its pain with music and humor. That's the way the Ettlines would want it, and it is the best tribute to their memory.

    I can almost hear John's booming voice now, saying "Well-done, Mr. Knight!"

    1. Oh my, Kathleen, I am all verklempt after reading your kind and generous words. Thank you so much for this mandate. It reminds me that I have a legacy to protect and a standard to meet. I will continue to strive to make John and Helen and all their descendants proud.

      I am very happy to announce to my other readers that Kathleen's exclusive blog series, In-Dell-ible Memories, resumes one week from tomorrow on January 25th. Don't miss it!

      Thank you again, my dear friend Kathleen, for your unwavering support and encouragement. Have a wonderful day!

  9. What a wonderful, kind man he must have been. It's obvious he was a great inspiration to you and to many others. Thanks goodness for our memories!

    1. karen - To me, John was a rare combination of power, strength and compassion. He could unleash his temper and take on any bully yet he was gentle, mild mannered and accessible to most of us most of the time. Thank you very much for paying your respects to this great man today, dear friend!

  10. Tom this post is particularly emotional for me when I think about my grandfather and how ill he is. I wish he and my grandmother had had the relationship John and Helen seemed to have. It's great to know that no matter have insignificant we feel, there are people whose lives we affect everyday and hopefully they will remember us fondly and tell people about us when we are no longer here. I hope you are keeping well!

    Emma x

    1. Your comments are so sweet, dear Emma, and very much appreciated. John and Helen had a deep rapport with each other and it showed. In the mid 60s when I went to the Dell they were already old enough to be my grandparents, yet they related to me and the other kids better than parents, teachers and clergy. Thank you very much for your kindness, dear friend Emma, and good night to you in Dublin town!

  11. Hi Shady, I bet it doesn't seem like 20 years has passed in your heart. And, my goodness, how John handled his later Dell years, with as you said, the rough and disrespectful clientele. But, he must have been driven to try to keep that great thing going. I have great admiration for him. And, he MUST have loved kids to have offered such an exciting getaway for them! It's wonderful...a real treasure, to have you and your Rat friends remember the Ettlines, and, keep their special contributions to our generation so much of themselves unselfishly. Most of us cannot tell a story so compelling, and, with the greatest of emotion as this one you have given us Shady!

    God Bless John and Helen-the memories will always be there. Thank you Shady-beautiful post. Take care...see you soon!♫

    1. Hi there, Suzanne! How are you feeling, dear friend? I hope you are back to 110%. We're finally getting a blast of the cooler weather that you have been "enjoying" there in Texas.

      I really do believe that John was driven by a passion for hosting and the benevolent desire to give kids a place to go to keep them off the street and out of trouble. At least that was the plan. Admittedly it didn't always work because there were scuffles at the Dell from time to time. You can't expect 100 or more kids from diverse backgrounds and different (rival) high schools to assemble night after night in a confined space without a nose being bloodied now and then. Yet, fights were no more common at John's establishment than at any other teenage night spot.

      Thank you very much for coming for a visit, dear friend Suzanne. Please stay well and I will be chatting with you again soon!


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