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, January 16, 2014

Remembering John

21 years ago today

on January 16, 1993

John Ettline passed away.

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

 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. What a beautiful tribute, Shady. You are doing a wonderful job of keeping the memory alive of these two people who were so special to you.

    1. Thank you very much, dear Jeanie! Shady Dell owners John and Helen Ettline profoundly influenced my life. I consider it a privilege to keep memories of them alive here on SDM&M. Again, thank you for your kind comment, dear friend, and enjoy your Thursday!

  2. Hi Tom. Once again, we have to say how good it is that you keep John and Helen's memory alive. I'm quite sure that they never thought for one minute that their names would live on through your Shady Dell blog. Nor indeed just what an impression the place had on you. They were obviously a very special couple and hats off to you for these lovely tribute posts.

    1. Hallo and thank you. dear friend Thisisme! You're right. John and Helen never dreamed that I or anybody else would someday be keeping their legacy alive by means of a blog. There was no such thing as a blog back then, no internet... I could go on and on about how different the world was for us all. I remember John and Helen telling me how surprised they were to see me doing the news on television a couple years after I "graduated" from the Dell. One never knows the surprises life holds.

      Thank you again, dear friend, for your kind visit and comment as we remember a great man, Mr. John Ettline.

  3. Lovely, fitting tribute to an honorable, dignified man with a huge heart. I'm so glad I know him through you, my friend~

    1. Hi, Shelly! You've been with me for a few rounds of these annual tributes. As always, I thank you very much for being here to help us celebrate a life well lived, the life of John Ettline, King of the Dell Rats. The song says it all. John did it "his way."

      Thank you again, Shelly, and have a nice Thursday evening in Texas!

  4. Since following your blog this past year I've come to know, in a small way, these 2 remarkable people. It's too bad the next generation of kids were not really worthy of his devotion to the Dell...but he apparently thought they were worth his efforts. Not every good person gets a monument in their honor...but you have done that simply here on your blog for the Ettlines. The song seems a perfect tribute..and I do love Frankie Sanatra!

    1. Thank you very much for all you expressed here, dear YaYa! It's depressing when I realize what John had to deal with during the 1980s, the last full decade the Dell was in operation. Times had changed. Heavy metal music played on a jukebox that once housed sweet, innocent love songs. Kids of the 50s and 60s respected John and Helen. After 1984 there was only John, an elderly gentleman who no longer received respect from some Dell patrons.

      Looking on the bright side, it makes me very happy to know that people all over the world are learning about John and Helen via this blog and that a new crop of Dell rats loves and respects them.

      Thank you very much for your comment, dear friend YaYa. Bundle up, give Eddy a biscuit, have a happy Friday and a great weekend!

  5. I actually feel moved by the video. I've never liked Frank Sinatra, nor that song. Maybe I'm getting old. It's sad that John had to be without his dear wife. I thought I would be married the rest of my life, but it turned out I'm happier not married. Maybe John found some peace, as I have.


    1. Hi, Janie! Please don't worry that you've turned into your grandmother just because you enjoyed Sinatra and one of his signature songs. I enjoyed it, too, and I'm not much of a Sinatra fan either.

      The last time I laid eyes on John Ettline and had a chat with him was March 1984 a few weeks after Helen's death. John was subdued. Spring was just around the corner but for John it was the start of a long, hard winter without his wife. I never saw him again after that night and I have no way of knowing how well he adjusted to life without Helen. I doubt it was easy for him, especially during those long, harsh Pennsylvania winters.

      I want to tell you how much I admire your strength, Janie. You aren't merely surviving on your own. You're thriving on your own. I'm happy to know you!

      Thank you very much for coming tonight and helping me pay tribute to a fine man, a leader and a mentor, John Ettline.

      Good night, dear friend Janie. Happy Friday and have a fabulous weekend, too!

    2. How very kind you are. No wonder you're popular.

    3. If I may borrow the title from a John Travolta movie, Look Who's Talking! You, Janie Junebug, practically invented popular with your straight shootin' approach to blogging. However, I thank you very much for your return visit and sweet remark. Have a great weekend, Janie!

  6. Yes, Shady, John was a special man, indeed! I believe he just didn't want to give up the "music & memories" despite the disrespect he endured those last years. He would have loved this blog! But, for now, it can be a beautiful chronicle for his friends and family, one that preserves his memory and memories of the Dell's heyday!

    1. Hi, dear Toni! I think you are absolutely right. John took over the Dell in the mid 40s and turned it into one of the most popular teen nightspots in Central Pennsylvania. The 50s and 60s were the golden years during which John got to know hundreds if not thousands of young men and women who were like family to him. How do you give all that up? Even when the glory days were far behind him, John pressed on because he couldn't bear to put an end to something great that he and Helen had built, something that was very much a part of him.

      Thank you for expressing your thoughts here this evening, dear Toni, on this the 21st anniversary of John's death.

      Long live the Shady Dell!

  7. Hi Shady! What a moving tribute to Mr. Ettline, and with the great Frank Sinatra. I'm sure John was a lover of all types of music, and Sinatra truly inspired many to do things "their way".

    It is sad to think of how John must have struggled to carry on the Dell without Helen, but, it was his love too! He tried to keep alive his memories with Helen by keeping the Dell open. I would like to think that he did smile and laugh when he gazed around the Dell, and, recalled the jukebox blaring, the roar of teen laughter, Helen behind the counter serving up cokes, and smoke from the exhaust of the '57 Chevs and '53 Plymouths out in the driveway of the Dell. Those are the kinds of memories that keep our hearts full!

    "One man, one wife, one love through life...memories are made of this." ~Dean Martin

    Thanks Shady, have a wonderful weekend! See you soon. ♫

    1. Hi, Suzanne! What a great comment, dear friend! I especially enjoyed your use of the lyrics to that Dean Martin song. It was one of my favorite records when I was a boy. So was the B side, "Change of Heart":

      If the icy winds that blast us in December
      Can in April bring the blossoms to the vine
      Why can't you oh why can't me
      Have a change of heart and be my valentine

      You painted an exciting portrait of the Dell of old, dear friend. It's as if you had been there. In the late going, memories are all that John had left because the fun and laughter and oldies on the jukebox were all gone along with Helen. Like John, the Dell was nearing the end of its life and when John finally closed its doors in the fall of 1991, it took only a little more than a year for John to expire.

      Thank you very much for your kind visit and comments, dear friend Suzanne. Keep warm over there and good night to you!

  8. 21 Years, I remember it like it was yesterday. I was home from a trip when I learned of John's passing. This happen during my truck driving days running back and fourth across the country. I passed away a lot of long nights on the road getting lost in my memories of the Dell and thinking of John and Helen. I know John and Helen will be there waiting for us just like they all ways were. John truly did it his way. Keep up the good work keeping the story of the Shady Dell alive. Your friend and A Dell Rat All Ways Greg

    1. Thanks a million, Greg! The years are rolling by. Guys like us are already older than John was when we started going to the Dell. It's been 21 years since John died and it'll soon be 21 years since the bulk of the Dell's furnishings, housewares, benches and signs were sold in the big auction held in the spring that same year. I agree with you that John and Helen are waiting to roll out the red carpet and welcome all their kids back to our home away from home. If there's a rock 'n' roll heaven, John and Helen will be right there with us.

      Thanks again for coming to testify about John and Helen, good buddy. Have a great weekend and visit again soon!

  9. Tom, I was just thinking of John a few days ago when I read that the father of a dear childhood friend of mine had passed away. He ran a similar 'hangout' or teen club in New Orleans for many years. He was a wonderful man and instructive in making so many young lives happier. I never of course new John Ettline but am always grateful for men and women like he and Helen for being there for our young people. The teenage years are so full of strife and anxiety and so many holes they can fall through. It is wonderful that people like them heed the calling to be a port in the storm. Much love and hugs today!

    1. Hi, dear Sush! Thank you very much for showing up for John and for contributing your own personal story to the dialogue. I'm sorry to learn about the death of your childhood friend's father. Surely there are many middle aged kids who were influenced by him that are now mourning his loss. It would be nice if somebody somewhere is remembering him on a blog. That's what I intend to do for John and Helen as long as I draw breath.

      Thank you again for your kindness, dear friend Sush. I hope the new year is off to a great start for you and your delightful family. Take care, have a wonderful weekend, and please come back and see me again soon!

  10. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJanuary 17, 2014 at 5:23 PM

    Last week, I witnessed the Ettlines' legacy anew in a very coincidental, small-world way.

    I accompanied mother to a nursing home/rehab center when she was discharged from the hospital after surgery from her second hip fracture. Sitting in the transport van with her was an elderly gentleman who sat quietly in his wheelchair, going to the same place.

    The driver asked me about Mother's life, and I told her that it began at a place within view of the hospital - in Violet Hill. By the time we reached our destination, I had told her about the Shady Dell, my grandfather who built it and Mother's early years there. The driver had heard about the Dell but never visited because she was too young.

    After we got to the nursing home and my brother was filling out the admission paperwork, the other passenger in the van was brought in and his wheelchair placed next to Mother's. The driver introduced him to us and told me that he wanted to tell us something.

    I had chills go down my spine when he turned to us and said in a weak but expressive voice, "I went to the Shady Dell when I was a teenager during the fifties. It was a wonderful place and John and Helen were the greatest." Then a nurse wheeled him away down the hall.

    I hope to find this aging Dell Rat's name and visit him sometime during Mother's stay. I'll show him the blog on my iPad and ask him to relate more of his memories. This chance but moving encounter proves once again how the Ettlines live on in the hearts of so many.

    1. Hello, dear Kathleen! What an incredible story that is! "It's a small world after all." I hope you can track down that mystery man and find out who he is and if he remembers anything else about our alma mater as it was during the fabulous Fifties.

      In the meantime, I will continue to pray for your mother Margaret's full and speedy recovery from her fracture. This is the first announcement posted about the mishap and I'm sure those who read it will join my prayer vigil. Please stay close and continue to keep us updated on Margaret's progress. I hope she can return to her comfortable home in the very near future and never again have to endure this kind of pain and inconvenience.

      Thank you very much for thinking of John at this time, dear Kathleen. I hope you and all your loved ones have a good weekend.

      God bless!

  11. Hi, Tom! Today I finally got to see what you've been up to, after having fought a computer virus for over a week. I was taking a nap after lunch today, and I was dreaming that I was at the Dell, before dark, talking with John. He was showing me how he was remodeling the place. Before I had a chance to ask him if he'd heard from you lately---I guess, for your blog---the phone rang and wakened me. I don't normally have dreams like that and, it was like Mr. Ettline had substituted for Toni DeRoche. I was surprised to see that yesterday was the anniversary of his passing.
    Tom, I read a comment of yours about John and Helen seeing you on the news, and wondered what station you worked for at that time.
    Also, I was speaking with my cousin, Tom, who is ten years my senior, last week over the phone. I know he had helped out at (Earl) Brown's Orchards in Loganville many times, having been born in that town. I was telling him about your blog and how our classmate (and his son-in-law), Jeff Folkenroth, who retired from managing Earl's store, might be interested in knowing about the family's history, even though I doubt he ever set foot at the Dell. Tom was surprised that Earl's father built the Dell and immediately started reminiscing the fireplace and the many years he spent, hanging out there, before we had even heard of it.
    I don't know if either of them have a computer, but I'll set them up somehow to read Margaret's story, even if I have to print off the screen.
    I hope you're not soaked in Florida. Also, I think Suzanne said it pretty well in why John kept the Dell alive.
    In John and Helen's memories, have a great day!
    Dell Rat Ron

    1. Hi, Ron! This is a very pleasant surprise, good buddy. "Hello stranger. It seems like a mighty long time."

      How surreal that John Ettline came to you in a dream so close to the anniversary of his passing. One never knows.

      To answer your question, I worked at WGAL in Lancaster from 1971 until 1984, the same place I went as a cub scout years earlier to sit in the studio audience and watch Marijane Landis and her puppet show, Percy Platypus and Friends. I remember appearing on or producing newscasts in which Marijane was the weather girl.

      I think the fireplace your cousin remembers from the very old days was the one out by the patio which apparently dated way back to the earliest years of the Dell. We never pinned it down, but those of us who puzzled over the timeline of events believe John constructed the dance hall annex in the late 50s. Before that, patrons hung out in the house and on the patio, weather permitting.

      Our Florida weather's not too bad, Ron. The mercury dropped close to freezing last night and will do so again tonight. The strawberry farmers are spraying their crops with water to protect them from frost damage, but we've seen much colder nights than these. I remember the temp bottoming out in the upper teens one year when I lived in Tampa in the late 80s. We haven't been rain "soaked" in quite a while and what rain we've had in recent months has been welcome here in the land of perpetual drought.

      Thank you very much for coming to pay your respects to John again this year, Ron. Please stick around because our next edition of Dueling Doo-Wops is coming soon!


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