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 21, 2015

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. Dear Shady,

    What a nice tribute to John today. A measure of success in life is how well one loves and to me it looks like John had that in spades. As he never had children of his own, it is wonderful that you and the other Del Rat's keep his memory alive.

    I was fortunate enough to marry a man who turned out to be a wonderful father. He changed nappies, he stayed up nights walking the floor with a crying a baby and he quit his job to stay home to raise our daughter so she never had to be taken care of by stranger. He has the most important trait in a father of all.-the ability to love unconditionally. So I shall be spoiling him rotten on this day, his day, Fathers Day.

    Have a happy Fathers Day Shady. I hope you have some time with your own children and maybe even your grandchildren.

    1. Hello, dear Anne! Thank you for being the early bird today and for helping me remember John Ettline on Father's Day. The testimonials of original Dell rats published here paint a portrait of this great man and I am grateful to Jerre, Ron and Greg for sharing their memories with all of us.

      I already knew that your husband is a lucky man to have you, Anne. Based on what you wrote here today, I can tell that you are lucky to have him as well. Men like your husband, men who love unconditionally and commit to being the best husband and father that they can be, are far too rare these days. Thank you for telling us about your man. I wish him and you a very happy Father's Day, Anne. Thanks again for coming, my dear friend!

  2. A wonderful tribute to the many Dad's that have inspired you. The song is wonderful and of a by-gone time that really should be brought back because it brings so much to the table of what a Dad means to most people. My dad has been dead for 27 years. He has been dead longer than I had known him since I was 23 when he passed. He was in his 60's when I was a teenager and had a tough time with me growing up so sometimes he was unfair to me to be honest. I was unfair to him as well but the age gap and time he grew up in was so different from my time. In the end, he was and is a great man who was greatly respected and fair-minded overall. If given the chance, we would have been great together and to this day, I miss him so. He would be 102 if he were alive and oh how I would love to talk with him again.

    1. Hi, dear Birgit! Thank you very much for coming today and for this wonderful comment. That clip of Paul Petersen singing "My Dad" on the The Donna Reed Show in the early 60s is the quintessential Father's Day song, one to which nearly all of us can relate. I'm sorry to learn that you lost your father when you were in your early twenties. Our fathers must have been born the same year because my dad would have been 102 this fall. I invite you to take a moment, dear BB, and glance at the tribute I published for my dad on what would have been his 100th birthday:

      Thank you again for making time for a visit today, dear friend Birgit. Thank you for helping me to honor John Ettline. Thank you for telling me about your dad and for allowing me to share with you memories of my own dad this Father's Day. Bless you, dear friend!

    2. You are right! My father would be 102 if he were alive today. he was born in March 1913. I will check out the tribute to your dad

    3. That's very kind of you, dear BB! :)

  3. I don't really feel qualified to speak here, but I wanted to say this...

    The post prompted me to get around to reading the Shady Dell story down the side of the page (yeah, yeah, I know). That story and this post gave me a glimpse of a very amazing person, a man of a patience and courage not often seen in this world of men.

    That also got me to searching out (just a little bit) the Shady Dell 100. It would never be my 100, but it's not supposed to be. My Shady Dells weren't a place a person or a time, and yours were all three. Mine is made up of house parties, nights spent alone in my bedroom, summer days in the back yard. The birds sing different songs, yet they sing everywhere. It is good to know that we the hearers find ways to make them sing on long after the birds themselves have flown. Happy Fathers day.

    1. Hi, Chris! Thanks for coming over and for expressing yourself so eloquently. I'm happy to know you were inspired to delve into the sidebar story of how I became a Dell rat. The sticky post gives you a brief outline of the Shady Dell's history as a restaurant and dance hall from the mid 1940s until it closed in the early 90s and allows me to convey my impressions of an extraordinary couple, Dell owners John and Helen Ettline. As I discovered in recent years, the Shady Dell had a rich and colorful history decades before my buddies and I went there to dance. At least two other families lived at the estate in the first half of the 20th century, the Browns who built the house in 1912 and became the Dell's "First Family" in 1913, and the Spanglers, who lived there in the late 20s and 30s.

      "MORE THAN A PLACE, THE SHADY DELL WAS AND WILL FOREVER REMAIN A STATE OF MIND." Shady Del Knight wrote those words atop this blog in 2008. Four years later, the Shady Dell dance hall, where thousands of kids celebrated their youth over a span of nearly 50s years, was bulldozed to the ground. The building is gone but the spirit lives on. Like you, Chris, I am not anchored to one specific place or time. My blog, like yours, is a collection of music and memories gleaned from many different sources over a lifetime. By keeping our music and memories alive, we keep ourselves alive and preserve our youth. We are living an "endless summer," as I call it.

      Thank you again, Chris, for helping me salute John Ettline, every Dell rat's dad, this Father's Day. Have a great week, good buddy!

  4. Hello Shady,

    You've done the name proud with this post. Good to see the experiences you had at the Dell shaped you for the better and I get the impression you considered John a role model to you and to those who maybe did not have any other role models around at the time. Such people are always an important link when entering adult life to help and be a good influence.

    That's all for now


    1. Hi, dear Allie-Millie! How's your Monday morning going so far? This is a very nice comment from you, dear friend. As you can see, John Ettline was a positive influence on all of the young patrons of the Shady Dell. Now, decades later, three of those kids have come here to share their memories of the man. It's true. Some of the young men and ladies who attended the Dell didn't have good role models in their lives until they met John and Helen Ettline. The Dell became their home away from home and the Ettlines became their surrogate parents.

      Thank you very much for your visit and generous comment, dear friend Allie-Millie, and enjoy the rest of your week!

  5. Nice tribute! In a different time and place I am sure I would have visited the Dell.

    1. I wish you could have been there, Mike. You would have made a great Dell rat. Thank you very much for checking in and helping me salute John Ettline on Father's Day!

  6. This warms my heart to read such a moving tribute to these men. I miss goodness, responsibility, honor...when did it becomeso rare?

    I believe we all need to do our part to turn the spotlight on people who do good things for our entire. community - particularly those who who impact young people.

    This is a wonderful post, friend. Sorry I arrived late! Busy with family today. Your blog is the only one I checked! Glad I did. :-)

    1. Thank you very much, dear Cherdo! I was thrilled when these three original Dell rats volunteered to write testimonials about John Ettline for Father's Day. As you can tell, John touched the lives of many young people and the example he set continues to inspire us now that we are decades older. In fact, every one of us is now older than John was when we went to the Dell in the 60s and regarded him as a father or even grandfather figure - something to think about.

      Thank you again for making time for me and for John tonight, dear friend Cherdo. Have a great week!

  7. What a lovely tribute to a special man and a special place.
    The Shady Dell sounds like a great hangout! My kind of place. ☺

    1. Hi, Debbie! You would have made a great Dellette, my dear friend. Thank you for taking a look at my post honoring Dell owner John Ettline, the man who served as a positive role model for generations of young men who frequented his establishment from the 1940s through the early 90s.

      Thank you again for coming, dear Doglady, and have a wonderful week!

  8. Hi Shady! My Dad passed on in 2010 - so reading and watching this tribute had it's own joyful moment for me, as well. This is so sweet.

    1. Hi, Dixie! Thank you very much for coming, my dear friend. Yesterday must have been difficult for you having lost your father so recently. I'm sorry. My father passed away in 2001 and I still miss him and get the blues on Father's Day, on his birthday and at Christmas because he died on Christmas day that year!

      I hope the testimonials provided by original Dell rats enabled you to learn more about a great man and a major influence in all our lives, John Ettline.

      Have a wonderful week, dear Dixie!

  9. Tht was so interesting to hear form some of the Dell Rats! He was certainly a special man. :)

    1. Hi, Rita! Aren't they terrific testimonials? I was delighted when these original Dell rats came forward with praise for John. Their words echo mine. John was a great role model for young men and his wife Helen a great role model for girls. Together they formed a unique couple, misunderstood by some segments of the community, but universally loved by the teenagers who knew them.

      Thank you very much for coming down, dear friend Rita, and enjoy your week!

  10. A father figure to so many. But, there's one person who loved and admired him the most and that is you, Tom Anderson, a.k.a.,Shady! Thanks to you his legend and legacy will live on and on. Happy Father's Day to you, Tom, and to the father of all Dell rats, John! Gone but never forgotten!

    1. Hi, dear Toni! This is such a sweet comment. Thank you! You're right, John is gone more than 22 years now but he will not be forgotten, not if guys like Jerre, Ron, Greg and me keep his memory alive. As long as I live I intend to do just that.

      Thank you again for coming to testify, dear friend Toni, and enjoy your week!

  11. They say it takes a village to raise a child. For the Dell Rats it took a magical place and two extraordinary people...the Ettlines. They certainly left a mark as deep as any parental influence could..maybe more depending on individual circumstances. What a great movie the Shady Dell would make! Happy Father's Day Mr. Ettline. I never knew you personally but I feel your spirit here on this blog and through the words of the Dell Rats! What a blessing to be remembered so lovingly.

    1. Hi, dear YaYa! Thank you for coming, sweet friend! This is a wonderful comment, one that sums it up perfectly. I have often dreamed of making Shady Dell: The Movie. You would be in it (and Eddy). It would be very difficult to capture on film that special feeling, that sense of family, of belonging to something, that Jerre, Ron, Greg and I shared.

      Thank you again for helping me to remember the great John Ettline this Father's Day, dear friend YaYa. Have a wonderful week!

  12. It is great when a child has such great men in their lives, I was lucky to have an awesome dad and one bloody great grandfather

    1. Hi, dear Jo-Anne! I'm happy to know about the great men in your life, your dad and your grandfather. John Ettline was like a father to thousands of young men including the ones who showed up to share their impressions of him in this post.

      Thank you very much for coming, dear friend Jo-Anne!

  13. This is a wonderful tribute to John. I would bet the Shady Dell he created kept many a boy from getting into real trouble. Teenagers need a place to go when they are bored and John not only gave them entertainment but a role model to follow. I'm sure he touched thousands of lives with his kindness, acceptance and example. Happy Father's Day to John, your father and also to you.

    1. Hi, dear Belle! These are such sweet and wise words, my wonderful friend. You're absolutely right. Instead of hanging around on street corners getting into trouble, kids headed up the hill to the Dell where they could blow off steam and find acceptance in a peer group. We all policed each other because we knew the Ettlines had created a unique place for us, one that could easily be shut down if things got out of hand. The Dell was like an amusement park. You could sit on a bench next to the admission booth and watch cars coming and going. You could sit on a patio and enjoy the warmth of an outdoor fireplace. You could dance on the patio to music played through remote speakers. You could go in the house and sit in diner style booths and be served a full dinner by a waitress. You could sit on a stool in the snack bar and keep Helen company while enjoying a cheeseburger or a sub. You would listen to the jukebox, watch TV, play pinball or go down to the "barn" and sit by the fire and watch TV or move to the big room and dance to the jukebox. All those choices plus the company of 100 or more of your friends who came there from all over the county. They were simply great times and I cherish the memories.

      I also cherish you, dear friend Belle, and thank you for joining me for this special Father's Day tribute again this year. God bless!

  14. There were some good fathers back then. I know I had a good one. And reading this I see I wasn't the only one.

    Shady Dell sounds like the makings of a good weekly TV series.

    Wrote By Rote

    1. Hi, Lee! Thank you very much for reporting in from the road, good buddy! You and I were both lucky to have had good fathers. John Ettline never had kids of his own but he became a father figure, earning the respect of thousands of young people who passed through the entrance of the Shady Dell. Thank you again for making time for a visit in the middle of your cross country journey. I hope you are enjoying this chance to see the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet. Take care, Lee!

  15. As an outsider, I can feel the love and gratitude that you and fellow Dell rats have for John and his wife.
    I want a Dell that I can hang out in and listen to music and dance. How wonderful that you had a place that was such a huge influence to you. Hope your fathers day was wonderful.

    1. Well hello, dear Holli! I'm very excited to see you again, my friend! This is a great post for you to be reading because it gives you the first hand accounts of three original Dell patrons of the 60s, testimonials that reinforce the things I have been writing about John Ettline over the last seven years. Most of us agree that a place like the Shady Dell could not exist in today's America. It was a product of another time and, truth be told, unique even then. I am very happy that you are taking an interest in the Shady Dell story and getting to know the extraordinary folks who ran it, John and Helen Ettline.

      Thank you very much for coming, dear friend Holli, and enjoy the rest of your week!

  16. What a lovely tribute! Your gratitude and genuine fondness of the man, the place, the time are so very tangible through your words. And no wonder! I can't think of a more wonderful place to make lasting memories.

    1. Hi, Diedre! I am very happy to see you, my new friend! Thank you for taking an interest in the Shady Dell and the mom and pop couple who operated it for decades, John and Helen Ettline. I feel very fortunate to have been born at the end of the 1940s and was a teenager and able to attend the Dell during its golden years, the 60s, when the place was filled to capacity every weekend and business was steady most weeknights. John and Helen made an indelible impression on me and on countless thousands of other boys and girls.

      Diedre, once again I thank you for coming over and for these kind words. I hope my enthusiasm about the Ettlines and the Dell are infectious and that you will continue to join me here as I celebrate the good times and great music of my youth. I have a very special 3-parter starting this Saturday and running through mid July. I cordially invite you to join me. Bless you, dear Diedre!

  17. Maybe in not having children of his own, it allowed him the opportunity to "parent" all of you. Some people are just born nurturers. Mr. Ettline sounds like one of those people. Happy Father's Day sir!!!

    1. Hi, dear Robin! Thank you for swinging over, my Florida friend and neighbor! I think you're right and most Dell rats would agree with you. Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees. That applies to many parents. John and Helen were able to remain objective and use their wisdom and experience to guide young people. Occasionally that meant giving them breathing room, allowing them to test the waters of approaching adulthood, make mistakes and learn from them without being judged.

      Thank you for adding your message to the annual Father's Day salute to John Ettline, dear friend Robin!

  18. I can't believe how late I am this week. Good thing I can't get pregnant. I love that Paul Petersen clip. He was such a cutie, and that song is so sweet. Franklin was glad to wish a tail wagging Happy Daddy's Day to Willy Dunne Wooters. God bless John Ettline and every Dell Rat.


    1. Hello, dear Janie Junebug! Don't worry about being late to the party. It's better than being late to the potty! :)

      Yessum, that Paul Petersen song works perfectly as a Father's Day tribute song and always brings a tear to the eye. I am always amazed at the subtle facial expressions exhibited by actor Carl Betz who played Jeff's dad, Dr. Alex Stone. If that was an acting alone, then it was an award winning performance. It's sad to note that Betz died at an early age, only 56, and interesting to note that he married an actress with the stage name "Stone" (same as his TV character), namely Gloria Stone, and that she passed away a year ago at age 85 having outlived her husband nearly 30 years.

      Thank you very much for your visit and comment, dear friend Janie!

    2. I didn't know what happened to Carl Betz. I know Donna Reed has passed away. Paul Petersen works hard to help protect child actors. The last time I saw him on TV he was still very good looking.

      I like it that John treated you as adults with Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith and Mr. Knight. That's a smart and respectful way to help kids. I had a college professor who did that with all of us. Then I became his grader and got to know him better, and he called me Janie. Oh, the other kiddies were jealous because I was the professor's pet!

    3. Hi again, dear Janie! (We gotta stop meeting like this. People are gonna talk. :)

      Yessum, as Shady Del Knight stated in the right column cover story, and I quote, "I didn’t get it at the time but later came to realize that John’s presupposition that we were 'gentlemen' was a clever and tactful way of admonishing us to behave accordingly." (SDK doesn't mind me quoting him as long as I give attribution. :)

      Carl Betz died of lung cancer at age 56. In my research I have come across a shocking number of actors and actresses from my favorite 60s TV shows who died young. Another was Sue Randall, the pretty woman on Leave It To Beaver who played Beaver's grade school teacher Miss Landers. Sue also died of lung cancer and she was only 49! Diane Brewster, who played Beaver's teacher Miss Canfield, was only 60 when she died of heart failure.

      Thanks again for coming, dear friend Janie. FYI - I have a rare Saturday post coming tomorrow morning. It is a time sensitive post marking a 50th anniversary and it launches a special three-part series. I know that you will be especially interested in Part 3. Please join me for my special three-parter beginning tomorrow, Saturday. Thank you, dear friend Janie!

  19. Happy Father's Day to all the father figures in your life, and to you. I'm sure you've "fathered" some people with your influence. :)

    1. Thank you so much, dear friend Lux! Those are very kind words from you. I appreciate your visit. I was fortunate to have a great biological father along with a great father figure, Mr. John Ettline. Thank you again for being here to read this special tribute, dear Lux, and enjoy your weekend there in the Philippines. God bless!


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