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

Sunday, June 16, 2013

John Ettline - Every Dell Rat's Dad

 Just in time for Father's Day 

 some friends dropped by 

 to offer a few words about 

 John Ettline, every Dell rat's dad. 


 How I remember John!  John was always the first one 
 to meet you when going into the Dell. He would be in 
 his booth waiting to get his quarter. I don't know how 
 many times he forgot to take my quarter so I could 
 spend it on the jukebox. I do know he always said  
 hello by being formal and using the last name and saying 

 "Hello Mr. Slaybaugh". 
 He would often have 
 some type of joke or 
 remark such as you're 
 early or late tonight. 
 Somehow he knew all 
 my close friends, also 
 Dell Rats, and would 
 let me know who was 
 already there and who 
 was missing. Of course 
 John was always in 
 control and had rules 
 that the "gentlemen" 
 were to follow. 
 My friends and I were not trouble makers and John knew 
 that. He also knew we would back him up if he needed it 
 to keep the peace. We respected him and we had earned 
 his respect. I guess that is why he often forgot to take our 
 quarters. I think he treated all the regulars that he knew 
 well as if they were his own kids. Somehow he learned 
 enough about the regulars to know them, their back- 
 ground and their friends fairly well. I know I always 
 looked forward to talking with John and made it a point 
 to say good night before ever leaving. It was not common 
 for teenagers to have good friends that were "old". But 
 John was a good friend to me and if he would have had 
 kids he would have been a great Dad for them. He was 
 just a great step-Dad for all the Rats. - Jerre Slaybaugh 


 John was the kind of man 
 that I think we all wanted 
 for a father. He wasn't 
 condescending, always 
 commanded and gave 
 respect, treated you like 
 an intelligent person. 
 If anything happened 
 that you screwed up 
 and got victimized, 
 he would resolve it to 
 his best, and pass on 
 advice to you without 
 making you feel stupid. 
 He would take time 
 out during the day if 
 you had to leave your 
 car there the night before 
 because it wouldn't run, and would help you with it---
 even to the point of advising your own Dad, inspiring 
 respect from parents that had previously thought ill of 
 the Dell. I can only say good things about John. 
 Wishing him a Happy Father's Day for all the teens 
 he "fathered". - Ron Shearer 


 I'm trying to write some 
 words to honor John for 
 Father's Day. It's hard to 
 put down in words your 
 feeling about someone 
 that, if only for a short 
 time, played such an 
 important part in your life. 
 I cannot write this without 
 saying a few words about 
 another great man, my 
 father Clair N. Gulden. 
 These two men never 
 knew each other but they 
 both came from that great generation that fought a World 
 War in hopes that generations to come would never know 
 war. In my eyes these were the two best men I've ever 
 known. John never had kids of his own but was a second 
 Dad to hundreds of Dell Rats over the years. Whatever 
 made this man decide to devote so many years of his life 
 to having a home away from home for hundreds of kids 
 we may never know, but all of us that became Dell Rats 
 will all ways be grateful to John. He gave us his home 
 and then stayed in the background and let us make it 
 what we wanted. We all had a great deal of respect for 
 John and his words of advice when we needed them. 
 The Dell that I knew during the 60s was a place of pure 
 magic, you could feel it when you walked in the door to 
 the barn. John made the Dell a special place for all of us. 
 So to John and my Dad Thank You & Happy Father's Day 
 to all. - A DELL RAT ALL WAYS Greg Gulden 

 John Ettline never had children 

 of his own, but every Dell rat agrees 

 John would have made a great father. 

 Please play this video as we honor 

 John Ettline...every Dell rat's dad! 

 Happy Father's Day, John! 

 We love you and miss you! 


  1. What a lovely tribute Tom! Happy Father's day to all the father's that are no longer with us! Gone but never forgotten!

    Emma x

    1. Thank you very much Emma. That would include my own father who passed away in 2001. I miss him very much. Happy Father's day, dad!

    2. Indeed! my brother in law lost his father when he was just 13, and as you know my own grandfather died earlier this year. They were both sorely missed today, as was my mother's father who passed away in 1995, my dad gave me footage of him today that I had never seen before along with lots of other home movies he has spent the last few weeks transferring to a digital format. I got very emotional hearing my grandpa's voice and seeing him for the first time in a long time. I'm so thankful to have this footage of him! Hope you had a lovely weekend Tom!

      Emma x

    3. Hello again, dear Emma! I'm sure our friend Kathleen Mae Schneider would agree with me that your father was very wise getting that priceless old footage transferred to digital. It's the kind of thing we tend to make a low priority in our busy lives until suddenly, one day, it's too late. I know it was an emotional experience for you to view images of your lost grandfather and listen to his voice again but, as you observed, you will be thankful to have this record of him as the years go by. Thank you very much for the return visit, dear Emma. Ours is a friendship I treasure more than you'll ever know. Have a terrific week ahead!

  2. What a terrific man! He may not have had biological children, but just the fact that this is a Father's Day tribute to him says he was a very real dad to countless sons and daughters.

    What a legacy he has left. Just goes to show the love a person pours out is never wasted.

    Have a wonderful week, my friend!

    1. Hi, Shelly! As long as I'm alive and kickin' I intend to use this site to remember Mr. John Ettline, King of the Dell Rats and a father to us all. Thank you very much for helping me acknowledge John again this year. Have a great week, Shelly!

  3. Hi Tom. I knew we could rely on you to do such a loving tribute to John for Fathers Day. It was a shame that he never had children of his own, but I expect he looked on all the regulars at The Shady Dell as his own children, and what amazing tributes from the three Dell Rats today. I like how Greg has also paid tribute to his own father here. Lovely post my friend. I'm sure that John and Helen would be so very touched that their memory is living on like this, via your Blog.

    1. Hallo, dear Thisisme! As I told Shelly, I hope to continues these tributes to John and Helen (and Margaret) for the rest of my life. Every year on Father's day I post that same Paul Petersen performance on The Donna Reed Show because it's just perfect for the occasion. I can never watch it without getting a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. Thank you very much for coming, dear Thisisme. I hope you are feeling better today. My thoughts and prayers are always with you, dear friend!

  4. Such a lovely tribute! John sounds just like the perfect father, who I'm sure some people would have looked up to. I'm not sure what fathers were like in those days - strict or unrelatable maybe? I dunno, I can can only know from other peoples stories. But for those without a fatherly figure its good that there are those people who come along in our lives to offer that stability. We celebrate Fathers day in September here in Australia. I think it has something to do with pagan sun gods - September being the return of the sun in our spring and fathers being linked with the sun in ancient worshiping rituals. Something like that!

    Thanks to you and your fellow rats for the write up!

    1. Hello, dear Catherine, and welcome to Shady Dell Music & Memories! Isn't it ironic that John Ettline - the man who played host to thousands of teenagers at the Shady Dell over a span of more than 40 years - a man who could relate to the problems of young people better than most parents, teachers and clergy - had no children of his own? He would have made someone a great dad and he was indeed a surrogate father to us all. Some of the kids who attended the Dell had troubled home lives. As you pointed out, John was a positive role model who offered them stability, acceptance and guidance. Who knows how many young lives John and his wife Helen transformed over the years?

      I am delighted to have you as a new friend and follower, Cat. We will learn a lot from each other. It's funny. I'm enduring 90+ degree heat here in Florida, U.S.A., while winter is approaching in your part of the world. Thank you very much for popping in for a visit, dear Catherine. I wish you a wonderful Monday, dear friend, and I'll be connecting with you again soon!

    2. No worries Shady Del Knight. It took me awhile to figure out Google friend connect! Yes its very cold here! 6 degrees this morning. Enjoy your sunshine!

    3. LOL, Hello again, my new friend! It's hard to enjoy the Florida sunshine in summer because it's too darn hot. As I told Suzanne in a reply below, we are being invaded by giant mosquitoes that are like something out of a horror movie! (LOL) I love it when friends return for seconds and thirds, dear Catherine. Thank you for being so great and enjoy your Tuesday.

  5. What a wonderful post...I wish I could have known Mr. Ettline...this tribute has brought him to life for me. He is a good example of how we can touch the lives of kids in such good ways, even if they aren't born to us. You all were very lucky to have had him in your life. The song brought tears to my eyes..I remember it well and the Donna Reed show was one of my favorites...I hope you have had a wonderful Father's Day too.

    1. Ah, thank you very much, dear YaYa! John Ettline set an example for everyone to follow. We're all in this together. We can all do our part to help steer young people in the right direction. They don't have to be blood relations. I can't watch that Paul Petersen clip without reacting the same way his TV dad did in that wonderful scene. It's a classic and just right for Father's Day. Thank you again, dear friend, and have a safe and happy week!

  6. Well, Shady, here's another wonderful commemoration for one of your and many other Dell Rats' favorite people.
    If only John was here to read this tribute , he would be so honored.
    The testimonials speak so highly of this man that I never had the pleasure to meet but, wish I had!
    After seeing that picture of him in uniform, we salute(in remembrance of) John and all the other Father's out there.
    Happy Father's Day!

    1. Thank you so much, dear Toni! That is such a great picture of John and Helen and I want to once again thank John's niece, Nancy Rae, for sending it to me along with several other Dell pics and artifacts. When I read these testimonials submitted by Jerre, Ron and Greg and remember other comments posted by Lubie, Adrienne and other original Dell rats, I come to realize that we all saw John the same way, as good, decent, strong, caring and giving. How many times in life do bunches of people all agree on something or someone? Not very often. It speaks volumes about Mr. John Ettline, every Dell rat's dad. Thank you very much for your kind words, dear Toni, and have a great week!

  7. There's something very special about a man who takes so many young men and women under his wing, and has a personal interest in their welfare. You are all so lucky to have known him - he sounds like a great man, indeed.

    1. Thank you very much, karen! How many people today would open their doors and hearts to thousands of strangers the way John and Helen did? Their benevolent deeds become more apparent with every passing year. Thank you again, dear friend, for joining original Dell rats as we honor a man any one of us would have been proud to have as a father.

  8. I'm always glad to hear about John and Helen. Boys need a good man to admire and copy and John was that. It is a beautiful legacy to leave to the world. I so admire people who are kind and respectful to teenagers and children. It takes a special kind of person to act like that. It is wonderful you remember John on Father's Day.

    1. Hi, dear Belle! You made a good point here. Too many authority figures keep young people on a short leash and try to control them. John and Helen gave young people freedom and space and 9 times out of 10 it worked just fine. Greg Gulden hit the nail on the head when he noted this about John: "He gave us his home and then stayed in the background and let us make it what we wanted." That's incredibly powerful if you think about it! Thanks a million, dear friend Belle, for coming down to share your own thoughts and feelings about the Ettlines. I'll be connecting with you soon over at your place.

  9. Happy Monday Shady...a day late, and a dollar short I am, I am! But, I made it over here. We had a busy Father's Day with Scootie on board! I hope your day was fantastic!

    So...what a great Father's Day (gosh, I don't want to say tribute today!) How about calling it a great Father's Day legacy, this is so nice! Each of these guys, Jerre, Ron and Greg, oh-and yourself, had special experiences with Mr Ettline. He did make a difference, didn't he? There is some sort of saying about touching someone's life...don't recall how it goes exactly, but, John wrote the book on it, I believe. You know, it's rare that folks, fess up to how one individual made an impact on his or her life when they were younger. And, this post of your wonderful friends proves that John still shines!

    We're moving into the summer of '13, Shady, and, I hear that your mosquitoes have gotten even larger than last year, lol! Take care...I'm glad to have visited today! ♫

    1. Hello, dear Suzanne! I'm happy to know everything's AOK with you and that you had Scootie over for Father's Day.

      Yessum, all the Dell rats that have come out of the woodwork in recent years to testify about John Ettline seem to have the same impression of him and the same memories of him, right down to John waving kids through the gate when they didn't have the quarter admission fee. 25 cents seemed like a lot in those days, didn't it? I get the feeling John would have paid us for the joy he derived from entertaining young people at his estate.

      Supposedly Central Florida is being invaded by giant mosquitoes that are 20 times the normal size! They are said to be aggressive (like killer bees), bite through clothing and are resistant to insect repellent. It's like a bad 50s sci-fi movie! I blame radiation from the government's nuclear testing program! (LOL) So far I haven't seen any of those critters and haven't been bitten, and I'm not looking forward to it. We've got 90+ degree heat each day and are in need of rain (again).

      Thank you very much for swinging by, dear friend Suzanne. Enjoy the rest of your week!

  10. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJune 17, 2013 at 10:22 PM

    Hi Tom,
    You know, while you and hundreds of teenagers were spending time at the Shady Dell on the southern side of York, I was studiously practicing Chopin several short miles away on the north end of town, so I never got to meet John.

    Nonetheless, last year during those magical visits before the barn and dance hall disappeared, I felt his presence there.

    Where my grandfather once operated his car repair garage 100 years ago, a blue counter taken from the Ettlines' snack bar stood silent witness to a long ago shake and hamburger being slid across its surface along with a hearty "There you go, Mr. Knight!"

    In the dilapidated nearby tack room, I imagined John guiding his favorite horse through the large door and lifting a heavy saddle off a rack, placing it onto the horse's back, expertly slipping the bridle in place and leading him outside into the sunshine.

    Small things, such as a decorative metal horse on a screen door, and in the stable area below the barn, a cobwebbed shelf with a faded "Medicine" label spoke of the affection and care this man showed his animals.

    The desolate much-grafittied dance hall smelled musty and the roof leaked, but the fireplace still holding soot, the strings of lights above and the wall-mounted heater all revealed the care John took for the comfort and enjoyment of his young guests.

    I could hear the music in my mind and wondered what songs were his favorites. I imagined him standing at the door, staying out of the way but making sure everyone was safely having a good time and behaving appropriately.

    I suspect you guys were not the only ones blessed by this arrangement. You must certainly have kept John and Helen young and became another family for them to love. You gave them the opportunity to touch a future that they would never get to see.

    So I guess I did get to meet John after all. Not the way you did, but from exploring the Shady Dell in her last days while remembering your and other Dell rats' accounts of her heyday and your special relationship with the man. It all came together in a very real way and I'm so glad to have had the chance, all these years later, to make his acquaintance!

    1. Hello, dear Kathleen, and thank you very much for writing this extraordinary essay. Wouldn't it be fun to compare synced up films of your youth and mine and note the points in time when our paths nearly intersected or perhaps did intersect? I'm thinking you might have been the girl who dropped that volume of War and Peace on my foot at Martin Memorial Library. :) Nearly every Friday night during the early and mid 60s my parents took me on the long journey to the north side of town to get ice cream sundaes and milkshakes (and pretzel rods) at Rutter Bros. Dairy. You might have been there at the same time. When I went to White Oaks Park there's a chance you and I came within a stone's throw of each other. It actually would have made more sense for you to hang out at that venue since it was much closer to your house then the Dell. My aunt and uncle also lived on North George St. and my family visited them often. My father's office was also located on George St. on your end of town. I wish I would have known you back then, dear Kathleen, but I am proud and honored to know you now.

      I'm not sure I could have walked through the old dance hall, barn, tack room and garage as you and Lis did w/o breaking down, overwhelmed with emotion. Tears came to my eyes just now when you reminded me of all the Dell artifacts you encountered last year and how they now exist only in our memories and in the pictures taken by you, Toni, Blake, Greg and Lynn.

      I hope all my new followers read your comment, dear Kathleen, because it is a cover story that will give them of sense of who we are, who the Ettlines were and what the Shady Dell was - the people, the place and the times of our lives. Thank you again, dear friend Kathleen, and have a terrific Tuesday!

  11. Here I am , late again. I all ways like to read what others post before I have a say. Kathleen you did it again, I had tears running down my face as I was reading you words about John and the barn. You really do know John and Helen as well as any of us. john put love into every thing he did at the Dell. There was never anything fancy, every thing John did he did with things that he had on hand.He seemed to know just what we needed. I like to think of the DEll as being perfect for that time the 60's. My Dad and John were the two best and strongest men I have known and I wish them and all fathers a happy Fathers Day. When the barn came down it left a large hole in my heart and A pain that will never go away. As I set here writing this I am looking at my piece of block with a small part of the dancers picture on it,this block and my memories and some pictures are all that I have left of the best time of my life. Kathleen thank you again so much for haveing Toni and I over to vist with mother, and thanks again for the surgar cookies.That was a very special day for me and one I will never forget. And let me say that our friends that follow mothers story are in for a lot more great reading comeing up. You gave Toni and I a look into whats to come and there will be lots of surprises ahead.Tom thanks again for keeping the Dell a live thur this blog. May be you should get a AR in case those bugs get to big. Take care my friend and keep up the good work and the Dell will never good the way of the barn. A Dell Rat All Ways Greg

    1. Thank you so much, Greg! You are absolutely right when you say that Kathleen knows and "feels" John and the Dell as much as any original Dell rat. Her writing always brings tears to my eyes, too. It is very touching that you salvaged a concrete block from the rubble of what was once the Dell's historic dance hall. No one can take that block from you and no one can take your memories from you. As long as I live I hope to do my part to keep the memories alive and pay tribute to John and Helen. Thanks again for coming to testify, good buddy. Please come back for another visit soon!

  12. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJune 19, 2013 at 8:44 PM

    My goodness Greg! I'm sorry my words brought tears, although I know what you mean about the memories bringing sadness.

    I owe it to you, Tom and the other Rats for making the Shady Dell of your time come alive for me with your descriptions. I only know what Mother's era was like from her stories. These helped my imagination fill in the blanks, helping me realize during my visits the rich legacy that John and my grandfather left behind.

    I'm eternally grateful for Toni for preserving the house and Tom for this blog, a safe place where we can continue the good that happened there for over a century. We can rest assured that the most important part of the Shady Dell lives on, not in the blocks, mortar and wood of the barn and dance hall that couldn't last, but in the history discovered and life lessons learned there that we carry like treasures into the future through our friendships and words.

    Mother and I really enjoyed spending part of an afternoon with you and Toni. The flowers and candy were much appreciated and you are most welcome to visit again.

    Thank you for your heartfelt comment and also for promoting the next chapters of In-Dell-ible Memories!

    1. Thank you, dear Kathleen, for stopping by to reply to Greg's comment. People of all ages around the world can learn from the example set by Toni and Greg when they took time from their busy lives to visit your mother. They can also learn from the example set by you and Margaret. Each of us has the ability, the power, the opportunity to make someone's day and make the world a kinder, gentler, safer place by sharing ourselves with others and giving them validation, support and encouragement. Thank you again, Kathleen, for modeling excellence and always caring.

  13. Wow, I was feeling badly I came so late to the party, but I wouldn't have missed Kathleen's, Tom's, Greg's and again Kathleen's comments for all the world. It is a rare good fortune for young people to have a 'safe haven' to go to, and one that is fun to boot. And for Kathleen to be able to bring the Dell full circle like she does and then back again with her description of right before demolition how powerful!
    I am always so heartened that people like John and Helen existed in this world and we still do have good, strong people willing to give of themselves to help make our youth happier and better and stronger.
    Thanks again for a lovely tribute to John and your very special 'Dell', Tom.
    You are one of those very special people the world needs more of...

    1. Hi, dear Sush! The party never really starts until you arrive, my dear friend. Thank you for being here and for your kind and generous words.

      I often shudder to think that I intended to "retire" Shady Dell Music & Memories at the end of 2010, believing at the time that I had told all there was to tell about the Ettlines and the Dell. Then came people like Phil Spangler, whose family lived at the Dell in the late 1920s and early 30s, Lynn B, who contributed the Holy Grail pictures of Dell rats mixing, mingling and dancing at the Dell, Nancy Rae Sieling, the niece of John Ettline who contributed rare pictures of John and Helen and an original Dell menu, and Kathleen and her mother Margaret who opened up an exciting new chapter of Dell history with their In-Dell-ible Memories series which chronicles Margaret's childhood at the Dell in the early years of the 20th century. These people all came forward and contributed new pieces of the puzzle - personal stories, priceless pictures and valuable new information that solved old mysteries and raised new questions.

      I learned my lesson. SDM&M is a work in progress and it is worth continuing. I welcome this opportunity to bring people together from around the world and offer them a safe place where they can relax, unwind, listen to music, chat and form lifelong friendships.

      "More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind."

      I treasure our friendship, Sush, and I thank you for taking time to visit and share yourself with us again today. Have a wonderful Thursday and a safe and happy weekend, dear friend!


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