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

Monday, January 16, 2017

Remembering John

January 16, 1993,

24 years ago today...

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, endure the hardships of winter
and keep the Shady Dell in operation even as
teenage patrons became increasingly rough,
rowdy and disrespectful. How many of us
could have stood up to that challenge?

If there is one song that reminds me of
John it is this one written by Paul Anka.

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 nice tribute to John Ettline on the 24th anniversary of his death. It is remarkable that John kept the Shady Dell operating well into his 80’s-- even after Helen passed away. He must have been so lonely without her. To make matters worse some of the kids disrespected him-- I can't imagine how he kept going all that time.

    I am familiar with the version of My Way sung by Frank Sinatra-- It is nice to hear Paul Anka doing it for a change.

    You are sweet to remember John and Helen year after year on these special anniversaries.

    1. Good morning, Kathryn!

      Thank you very much for helping me remember John Ettline, King of the Dell Rats, on the anniversary of his passing 24 years ago. The years are rolling by, but for as long as I keep the blog going, John and Helen will be remembered and honored.

      Paul Anka penned "My Way," and this performance of the song, delivered when he was quite a bit younger, is a great one. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

      Thank you again for being here today for John and have a nice day, Kathryn!

  2. Tom, WOW, John lived nine years passed his wife! That is amazing. Usually, older couples will pass within a couple of years, if not sooner, following their spouse's death. DH's dad is going on year three since his wife and my MIL died. My FIL will be 94 in March if the Lord allows him to see that birthday. Unfortunately he's dealing with UTI about every month or two that lands him in the hospital. I wonder how much longer his body can take doing this. It's so sad to see those we love deteriorate. Your song choice, "My Way" is that's bittersweet and it definitely pulls at my heart. What a lovely remembrance of a fine man! Have a good day, my friend and thank you for stopping in today and this weekend! :)

    1. Hi, Cathy!

      Thank you very much for coming by and helping me mark the 24th anniversary of John Ettline's death.

      Yessum, I have read several accounts of spouses passing away within days or even hours of each other. John forged on the nine years after he lost Helen. Thank you for sharing your own personal stories. I hope your father-in-law reaches his 94th birthday and enjoys many more.

      I'm happy to know you appreciated Paul Anka singing his song "My Way." It is "my way" of honoring John every year at this time.

      Thanks again for your kind visit and comment, dear friend Cathy!

    2. Tom, I think it's awfully nice how you honor both John and Helen on site but then that's where you get your inspiration, right? I'm sure they look over each Shady Dell Rat from above making sure each are safe. Be well, my friend and have a good day!

    3. Hi again, dear Cathy!

      Thank you very much for the sweet words. Yessum, my inspiration to get into blogging in the first place is linked directly to the Ettlines and my 1960s experiences as a teenager at their Shady Dell. I have often said that I consider myself very lucky to have known John and Helen and to have been part of the Dell scene back then, to the extent that I wouldn't want to trade places with anybody.

      Thank you again, Cathy, and have a terrific day!

  3. And a Veteran. He was brave to face the pack alone, let alone do it without his wife. Most men don't make it much longer if their wife dies first.

    1. Hi, Alex!

      Thanks for joining me in paying tribute to John, good buddy!

      Yep, John served in the U.S. Army. According to family members who shared background info with me, John was in a communications unit. The men in 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 hit in the head with shrapnel and ordered to go home, but he reportedly refused to leave his men.

      My dad lived nearly 7 more years after my mom died and he was five years older than she, but I agree that many spouses die soon after the death of their partner.

      Thanks again for your comment, Alex, and have a great week!

  4. I would imagine as hard it was, it was also comforting to have the company of all the kids. I think its so sweet you honor him and deservedly so!

    1. Hi, Holli!

      Thank you so very much for making time for a visit as you deal with your own sense of loss this week.

      John had the company of young people but, sadly, many of them disrespected him in those later Dell years, the 80s and early 90s, making it even more of a challenge for him to press on without Helen.

      Thank you again for your visit and comment, dear friend Holli!

  5. Hi Shady. John and Helen were two of those certain people especially picked to make a difference in quite a few lives during their time here on earth. Because of their desire to share with the younger generation, they were able to fulfill some of their own dreams. And, you, did profit from their efforts. You are the reigning "Wolfman Shady"! LOL! Well, not totally. But, John and Helen's influence took you worlds away from your bloody nose days at the Dell. And, your great memories continue to nurture you, and guide you to share those experiences with fun and entertaining stories. I for one, love to read about the Dell, and see the old photos of the kitchen and dance area. In addition to the 'wild tales', (lol) we are introduced to older and newer recording artists, and their beginnings in the business.

    A fine tribute to the Ettlines, and, to John for his perseverance and loyalty to the youth of the day.

    Thank you, Shady for keeping the Dell alive and reigning as the hottest teen spot ever!

    Take care, I will see you soon! ♫

    1. Hi, Suzanne!

      How wonderful it is to see you today, dear friend! Thank you very much for taking a look and a listen as I present my annual tribute to John on the date of his death. It's hard to believe that it has now been 24 years.

      Thank you also for expressing all that you did in this comment, Suzanne. John and Helen certainly did influence countless youth of the 20th century, from the mid 1940s until the early 90s. In fact, Shady Dell alumni like me are still feeling the Ettlines' influence today. We are inspired to keep their legacy alive and preserve the Dell traditions. At the top of my blog page, Shady Del Knight is quoted as saying, "MORE THAN A PLACE, THE SHADY DELL WAS AND WILL FOREVER REMAIN A STATE OF MIND." How true! The old dance hall has been torn down, but we don't need a physical building anymore. We have the Dell inside us, all of us, and we can gather here in this virtual Dell any time we want, to mix and mingle, make small talk, joke around with each other, listen to music, sing, dance and have fun just like generations of kids in Central PA did all those years ago.

      You are one of the Dell's most prized patrons, Suzanne, and I thank you again for coming by and sharing your thoughts with us today.

      Have a fine week and God bless!

  6. A very lovely tribute to a person who obviously lived a full and meaningful life. When we say, "Until death do we part" we're usually youngsters and have no concept of what that means. It's only later as we come to the end of our lives that we understand one of us will go forward in time without the other.

    1. Hi, Cheryl!

      Thank you very much for coming by, dear friend, and especially for expressing yourself so eloquently on the anniversary of Shady Dell owner John Ettline's death. As a newcomer to the SDMM family, this is your first exposure to my annual tributes to Helen and John on the anniversaries of their births and deaths. All four of those special dates fall within the first two-and-a-half months of the year.

      It takes courage unknown for a person to go on with life after losing a spouse of many years. John was a strong man and he survived nine years. Dell rats, the kids who knew and loved John, wish his final years could have been happier ones.

      Thanks again for your visit and lovely comment, dear friend Cheryl-Lee!

  7. This man must have missed his wife deeply but he was also strong because he lived a long time after her death and kept the Dell open. I bet he could handle some of these brats even though he was older...he was in the army and that means he was tough and saw a lot more than those kids. You show a wonderful respect to this man. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    1. Hi, Birgit!

      How are you, dear friend? Thank you very much for coming down again this year as I mark the anniversary of John Ettline's death.

      Yessum, John symbolized strength. He had a stocky build and never backed down from a bully. John carried a billy club on his belt as a reminder to trouble makers that he wouldn't hesitate to use force to maintain order. Keep in mind, however, that John was in his 80s those last few years, and that some of the Dell patrons during that period were punks who disrespected him. It couldn't have been an easy time for John facing the daily stress of dealing with unruly teenagers and enduring cold, snowy winters alone w/o Helen. John finally died on a day in mid January but, as long as I keep SDMM running, he will always be remembered.

      Thank you again for your kind visit and comment, dear friend BB!

  8. What a wonderful person he was along with his wife who kept the Dell open for you all.
    Today that seems just a memory of a quieter time.
    How nice that you are keeping their memory alive.

    cheers, parsnip

    1. Hi, Gayle!

      Thank you very much for coming over and paying respects to John Ettline - King of the Dell Rats - 24 years after his death.

      Yessum, John and Helen were wonderful people. They helped and guided countless teenage boys and girls of the 1940s, 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, including young Shady. I cherish my memories of those quieter years, of the Ettlines and of the Dell.

      Every day's a holiday
      and every night is Saturday night
      Oh those Shady days
      Shady Shady days
      And then those party lights
      Shady Shady nights

      Thank you again for being here, dear friend Gayle. Take care of yourself and thehamish and enjoy the rest of your week!

  9. What an incredible man. Can't believe he ran the Dell until he was in his 80s! That's amazing. I know how tiring it is running a bar so I can't imagine running an establishment at that age.

    Very nice memorial tribute to your friend. I like Paul Anka's version of this song.

    Long live John Ettline!

    Michele at Angels Bark

    1. Hi, Michele!

      How nice of you to drop by and write a few kind words in honor of Dell owner John Ettline as we observe the 24th anniversary of his death.

      Yessum, with your background I'm sure you can relate to John's challenge, his plight. I'm not sure, but at some point after Helen's death in 1984, John probably closed the snack bar. He might have replaced his fast food service with vending machines that dispensed snacks and soda. The snack bar space itself, located on the first floor of the Dell house, remained open for people to pass through or sit and chat with John as I did in 1984, the last time I went inside the Dell. The dance hall, with its pro grade oak dance floor, was a separate building attached to the barn/garage complex, and it needed to be kept clean, the fire in the fireplace kept going in winter and the jukebox maintained. There was also a third public area, an outdoor terrace with concrete dance floor and nearby fireplace, that John would have needed to patrol. It was a lot of daily and nightly responsibility and I doubt that he had much help if any.

      I'm glad you enjoyed the video of Paul Anka singing the classic song he wrote, "My Way."

      Thanks again for dropping by, dear friend Michele, and enjoy the rest of your week!

  10. What a lovely tribute for such a deserving man, dear Shady. Bless his heart for carrying on so long without an integral piece of himself. I can't bear to think of anyone disrespecting such a kind and noble man. Instead I'll keep thinking of the light in his eyes and his charming smile. I hadn't heard Paul Anka's exceptional rendition of the classic song before and appreciate that you shared it. I'm sure the hearts of two special angels are soaring, thanks to you!

    1. Hi, diedre!

      Thank you very much for coming by, dear friend, and for sharing and caring.

      Leave it to you, diedre, to express so well, so ideally, what all Dell rats were thinking and feeling this past week as we remembered Helen on her birthday and seven days later paid tribute to John on the anniversary of the day he died. Some of us think there is a connection between the two. I believe that John's heart took a beating and was filled with sadness every year when Helen's b-day rolled around. Perhaps that week in January 1993 proved too much for him, his sense of loss too great to bear, and he succumbed one week after Helen's special day.

      You are also right on the mark in feeling Dell rats' pain as we think about that kind, generous and noble man being disrespected in his later years by the rough, unruly teens who invaded the Dell and set up housekeeping. Decades earlier, out of the goodness of their hearts and their love of young people, The Ettlines had thrown open the doors of their home. Over the years they entertained thousands of kids and 99% of those kids appreciated having a place to go and dance - a home away from home. John didn't deserve to be mistreated by a group of druggie punks near the end of his great life.

      You're the best, diedre. You understand. You get it. You take time to express it. That's what I am looking for in a friend. Thank you very very much! :)

  11. I can't imagine the pain of losing your life partner the person who makes you feel complete and to go on for years without them. Also love that song

    1. Hi, Jo-Anne!

      How are you, my dear Aussie friend? Thanks for coming over!

      Yessum, there is no way of knowing for sure what it feels like unless and until you experience the loss of a long time partner. John persevered for close to a decade w/o Helen by his side and I only wish he would have been treated better by the Dell clientele during that tough period.

      I'm pleased to know you enjoyed Paul Anka's version of "My Way."

      Thank you again for being here for my tribute to John on the anniversary of his death, dear Jo-Anne, and enjoy the rest of your week!

  12. RIP Mr. Ettline as you and your beautiful wife spend eternity together where nobody can hurt you or separate you two. I can't imagine the pain and sorrow of going on trying to make life the same after losing your life partner. I get so angry when I hear about young people who take advantage or do horrible things to the elderly. I wonder if he felt he was honoring Helen by keeping the Dell going or if he just didn't know how else to live his life. All the service he rendered to the youth in that area for so many years deserved a special medal! Thanks for this tribute Shady!

    1. Hi, dear Yaya!

      Thank you very much for coming by again this year and generously sharing your thoughts on the 24th anniversary of John Ettline's death. You have been following me for years now and have seen this cycle of birth and death observances repeated again and again. I deeply appreciate having you here!

      This is a wonderful comment, YaYa. You hit the nail on the head. In some cultures around the world the elderly are revered as a source of great wisdom. When I started going to the Dell in the mid 60s, young people were still, by and large, respecting their elders. Surely most of us respected Helen and John. By the 1980s society had changed. Heavy metal played on the Dell jukebox and some of the teenagers who hung out there were punks with no sense of Dell history and Dell rat heritage and no respect for John. It is an outrage to think of anyone treating John poorly as he struggled to go on with life after Helen's death. Sometimes life isn't fair and what happened to that proud man in his final lonely years is evidence of it.

      I think John loved the Dell and all it stood for and he was so attached to it that he couldn't bear to let it go. When he finally closed the doors in the fall of 1991 he probably lost the will to live because he only lasted a little more than a year after that.

      Thank you again for coming here and expressing yourself so eloquently on the subject, dear friend YaYa. John and Helen would have loved you!

    2. Just a side note that I thought you might enjoy. Today I met Annette Beard from Martha and the Vandellas fame. She lives in Ashland and is married to a nurse (Dan Simmons) that I know from various health care facilities. She is a lovely lady who looks absolutely amazing for being 73! (18yrs older than Dan!) It was a fun encounter! She's a sweet and very humble woman who still performs with the other Vandellas.

    3. Hi again, Yaya!

      Wow, that is an exciting anecdote, dear friend - a real "brush with greatness." I would be starstruck and tongue tied. Martha and the Vandellas were very popular at the Shady Dell with their monster doublesider "Jimmy Mack" b/w "Third Finger, Left Hand." For you to come face to face with one of the original founding members is quite an honor. To top it off she is practically your neighbor there in Ashland!

      Your comment prompted me to review the Vandellas' bio. Over the Motown girl group's long history there were personnel changes, lawsuits and deaths. In the new millennium Martha has fronted a group with new members that still carries the name "Martha Reeves and the Vandellas." Meanwhile Annette Beard and another original member, Rosalind Ashford, perform with other vocalists and call their group "The Original Vandellas." It's wonderful to know that Annette is still looking good and is a sweet and humble lady.

      Thank you very much for adding this update, dear friend YaYa. I appreciate your input so very much. Enjoy the rest of your week!

  13. My granddad survived 10.5 years without my mom-mom. Most were shocked because like other commenters wrote, most survive only a few years. Nan died 19 years after my grandfather died.

    Anyway, this is such a beautiful tribute! You were so lucky to have the Ettlines. Wish there were more places like the Shady Dell today.

    1. Hi, Jessica Marie!

      It's great to see you, dear friend! Thank you very much for coming by on the 24th anniversary of John's death.

      Thank you also for sharing your personal stores, Jessica. Spouses have been known to die within hours of each other or days or weeks apart, but there are also cases where a surviving husband or wife will outlive their partner by many years. One such example is 104 year old Margaret Schneider, "The Oldest Living Dell Rat," who has been without her husband for decades now.

      I'm glad you appreciated this tribute to John. We will be observing the anniversary of Helen's death next month followed by John's birthday in March and Margaret's birthday in April.

      I have often fantasized about winning the lottery, buying the Dell, erecting a new dance hall and reopening the place to teenagers but, you know as well as I, that it could never be the same as it was. Time has marched on. Being a young person in today's world is a completely different experience. Fortunately we, the old original rats, still have our memories of the people, the place and the times of our lives.

      Thank you again, dear friend JM, and enjoy the rest of your week!


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