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, March 12, 2017

Happy Birthday, John!

John Ettline was born

111 years ago today on

the 12th of March, 1906.
John loved music and dancing. At one time
he worked as a music agent scheduling bands
for local clubs. John also managed various
York clubs including the historic Valencia
Ballroom, America's first air conditioned
dance hall.  This year as we mark John's
birthday I selected a rare 1958 doo-wop
performance that I think John would
have enjoyed. I hope you like it, too.

"I Wonder Why" - Dion & the Belmonts
(July 1958, highest chart pos. #22)




  1. This is another nice tribute to John Ettline— and different from the ones you posted other years as I recall. I can see how John’s earlier jobs paved the way for him to buy the Shady Dell and turn it into a place where teenagers could listen to music and dance. That is an exciting performance by Dion and the Belmonts— I never saw it before. It looked like the audience was made up entirely of girls— lol.

    111 years is a staggering figure— but time marches on, doesn’t it? I’m sure you made John smile again today with this special post.

    1. Hi, Kathryn!

      Thank you very much for joining me today for another birthday salute to John Ettline, King of the Dell Rats.

      Just think. There's a good chance that the picture in last week’s post, the one we think shows John shoveling snow, might have been taken a week before his 54th birthday. At the time, I would have considered John an old man. Today, much older than 54 myself, I would consider him a young man.

      Yessum, I decided to do something different for John’s b-day this year. For several years in a row I used Baz Luhrmann’s “Wear Sunscreen” and Les Crane’s “Desiderata,” but this year I picked some classic Brooklyn doo-wop, Dion & the Belmonts. Did you know that Dion & the Belmonts were part of that tragic Winter Dance Party tour during which Boddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash on their way to a gig? As the story goes, Dion decided he didn’t want to spend the money to ride the plane and so he didn’t get on it, thereby cheating death.

      Thank you again, Kathryn, and have a great week!

  2. John made an impact.
    The first air conditioned ball room? Can you imagine dancing in summer without it? My wife says that's why people continued migrating west. They hit that Southern and Midwest humidity and said to heck with this.

    1. Hi, Alex!

      Thanks for stopping by to help me pay tribute to John Ettline on what would have been his 111th birthday.

      I grew up in PA in a house w/o A/C. (How's that for using lots of abbreviations? :) We were rarely exposed to a/c, regarded it as a luxury, and never missed it. A shopping trip to department stores downtown was a treat because the buildings were air conditioned. The new bowling alley built near my house circa 1959 became a summer hangout because it offered a/c. To answer your question, I can't imagine dancing in summer w/o it, although I think in the early days of the Dell there were only electric fans to cool the dancers in the barn. There was a second dance floor - an outdoor concrete slab. John rigged remote overhead speakers out there so that anything that played on the barn jukebox could be heard loud and clear on the terrace.

      Thanks for adding that tidbit about westward migration. Makes sense.

      Thanks again for your visit and comment, good buddy Alex!

  3. Happy Birthday Mr. Ettline! 111 is impressive and it reminded me that on Friday one of our patients was 102! I think that's the oldest one I've ever helped on. Anyway, I wonder what John would think of the young folks today and how the world is going as far a music is concerned. I know he carried on into early 1990 and probably could see how changed the kids and music were heading. That's part of watching the video you posted that made it fun for me..the way the kids looked and the styles of clothes and hair. To think that most of those kiddos are now elderly themselves. I loved the music and video and I bet Mr. Ettline did too! Hope your week is a good one Shady!

    1. Hi, YaYa!

      Thank you very much for coming to visit as I celebrate the 111th anniversary of John's birth. I think this might be your 5th go-around as we make our way through the calendar year and observe the special dates of John and Helen, all of which fall within the first three months of the year.

      It must have been an honor for you to serve in the OR as a 102 year old person was treated. Next month we will be celebrating the 105th birthday of Margaret Schneider, "The Oldest Living Dell Rat," and I know Margaret and her daughter Kathleen will be looking forward to your b-day greetings as they have for several years now.

      On occasions such as this you and I have discussed the changes in music and in the world, and we have both wondered what John would make of them. I think, like many of us, he would miss the kinder, gentler songs of the past, songs that celebrated love and fidelity, songs that lifted people up. Sadly, the type of youth that hung out at the Dell changed during the 80s and so did the music. Heavy metal replaced silly love songs on the dance hall jukebox, a trend that actually started in 1966 when psychedelic rock and garage sounds started to overtake pop and, around the same time, funk started to replace sweet soul music at the Dell.

      Yessum, the cut-aways of the audience during the Dion & the Belmonts performance offered clues about the way young people dressed, wore their hair and conducted themselves in the 50s. Most of those teens are now well into their 70s and some are approaching 80 by now. It's sad to realize that a good number of them are probably dead and gone.

      Thank you again for coming through for John and for me again this year, dear friend YaYa. Take good care of yourself and have a great week!

  4. HI Shady! I read your Birthday post this morning, and just getting back. Had network problems this weekend, so I'm typing on Scootie's tablet. UGH!
    HAPPY BIRTHDAY to John! With his previous background, he was sure to be successful with the dell. And he had the perfect partner didn't he? Helen brought just the right mix to the scene.

    I love Dion and the Belmonts. What a great group! The video was cool! Thank you for the birthday invite Shady! It's good to see you. Please excuse any typos if you find them. It's my first time blogging on a tablet. Have a great week!

    1. Hi, Suzanne!

      Thank you very much for finding a way to comment even though your are having technical difficulties. That's the mark of a great friend! I'm so glad you could be here for John's birthday.

      Yessum, John and Helen made a great couple, and I can't imagine any other people presiding over the Shady Dell.
      It was a "perfect storm," I guess you could say. The stars aligned over Starcross Road and the result was a unique experience for thousands of youth in Central PA. I feel very lucky to have been there during the Dell's golden era. The words to "MacArthur's Park" also come to mind: "I'll never have that recipe again."

      I'm pleased to know that you enjoyed that performance by Dion & the Belmonts. As I reminded Mrs. Shady, it was shortly after this 1958 performance that the group went on tour with Buddy Holly. Dion and his guys could have lost their lives if they had hopped aboard the ill fated plane that crashed, killing Holly, Valens and Bopper. Makes you think.

      Thank you again for joining the celebration today, dear friend Suzanne. Say hello to Scootie Potter for me and have a safe and happy week!

  5. the song u played is a bit b4 my time, but i can sense the happiness, friend Shady ... Love, cat.

    1. Hi, cat!

      How are U, dear feline friend? Thank you for joining the rats and attending my annual birthday party for Shady Dell owner John Ettline.

      Yessum, that 1958 hit single by Dion and his doo-wop group The Belmonts was light years before your time. I hope you enjoyed it.

      Thanks again for being here, dear friend cat, and have a super week ahead!

  6. Tom,

    My paternal grandma was a few years younger than John. She passed away in the early 80s with cancer. Anywho, I'm sure John would love your doo woop ditty you selected to honor him with on his 111th bday. I think it's really nice how you pay tribute to both of the Ettlines. :) I hope someone remembers us on our 111th birthday the way you remembered John. Have a good day, my friend and God bless!

    1. Hi, Cathy!

      It's nice to see you, dear friend! Thank you very much for dropping in for John's 111th birthday celebration.

      Thanks for sharing that tidbit about your grandma. My dad was 7 years younger than John. John died 2 months before his 88th birthday and my dad died 2 months after his 88th birthday. Meanwhile our dear friend Margaret Schneider, "The Oldest Living Dell Rat," was born 6 years after John and she is still with us and ready to celebrate her 105th birthday next month!

      Thank you again for your visit and your kind words, dear friend Cathy. Have a super week!

    2. Tom,

      I had forgotten that Margaret is still alive. WOW, she'll be 105 next month! That's amazing! She must have some super duper genes, huh? I think attitude has a lot to do with some who live long lives like this, don't you agree? Have a good day, my friend!

    3. Hi, Cathy!

      Thanks for stopping by again today, dear friend!

      Yessum, I'm sure a good attitude is one of the building blocks of longevity, and Margaret has a great attitude. She doesn't dwell on the disappointments, setbacks and tragedies she has endured. She has learned to let go and live in the present, appreciating life's simple pleasures and giving thanks for all she has.

      Thanks again, dear friend Cathy!

  7. Do-Wop! And you chose a great example that I'm sure John would have loved since he loved music and dancing. How wonderful that you continue to remember and honor him on his birthday, especially with these great photos and music videos.

    1. Hi, Cheryl!

      Thanks for swinging by, dear friend! I'm happy to have you here for the second post in a row focusing on the Dell and John Ettline.

      Yessum, for as long as I keep SDMM chugging down the track, I will continue to remember and honor the Ettlines.

      I'm pleased to know you appreciate this doo-wop ditty by Dion and The Belmonts.

      Thanks again for coming and have a great week, dear friend C-Lee!

  8. I won't say I hope John had a great birthday because you know he didn't because well you know why but if he could have read this post he would have liked it

    1. Hi, Jo-Anne!

      How are you, my dear Aussie friend? Thanks for popping over for a visit!

      I enjoyed your comment, dearie... just sayin'... :)

      I'd like to think that somehow, some way, John and Helen are aware of all the fuss we've been making over them and their Shady Dell for more than 8.5 years now, and that they approve.

      Thanks again for your visit and comment, dear friend Jo-Anne!

  9. Happy birthday, John!

    I love the song you chose, dear friend!

    1. Hi, Jessica Marie!

      Thank you for checking out my annual birthday tribute to John Ettline.

      Yessum, this year I picked a different song and video for the occasion and I'm pleased to know that you like it.

      Thanks again for your support and enjoy the rest of your week, dear friend JM!

  10. Hi Shady!

    I'm sure John would have loved your song choice. I know I did ;-) Such an impressive resume he had - calls to mind "Choose a job you love...". Running the Dell was probably a dream come true for him.
    The need for A/C in PA would never have occurred to me. We had evaporative cooling, which was pretty sticky during monsoon. I'd love to see the Valencia Ballroom, do you have any pictures to share?
    Happy Birthday, John! Have a wonderful week, dear Shady!

    1. Hi, diedre!

      Thank you for joining the celebration as we mark the 111th anniversary of the birth of John Ettline.

      Yessum, John was a man fortunate enough to be able to do the things he loved and make a living from them. The culmination, his crowning achievement, was the Shady Dell which remained in operation the better part of half a century and served as a home away from home for generations of teenagers throughout Central PA. When the Dell "died" (closed it's doors) John's dream surely died with it and he gave up his life soon thereafter.

      If you Google "Valencia Ballroom, York, PA" you will be able to view vintage black and white pictures of the famous venue. As this article in the York newspaper explains, air conditioning came to the Valencia in 1931:

      Thank you again for your kind visit and comment, dear friend diedre. Here's wishing you a wonderful week as well!

  11. This is a great tribute to a man you greatly respect. Today is my dad's birthday and he would have been 104 so I'm listening to this music thinking of my dad who, honestly, liked the big band era more. He always said we were related to Gene Krupa and one day, I want to find out if this is actually true. He also claimed we were related to Liberace! Now I would love to learn more about that air conditioned dance hall and the history of that place.

    1. Hi, Birgit!

      Thank you very much for joining me for my annual b-day salute to John as you also observe the birth date of your dad 104 years ago. Keep in mind that Margaret Schneider, "The Oldest Living Dell Rat," will be blowing out 105 candles one month from now and you are invited to her party here on SDMM.

      I hope you can find out how you are related to Gene Krupa and/or Liberace and run a post about it. It's an exciting thought! I went to see a live Liberace show in Hershey, PA, in 1983.

      Check out the link I provided in my reply to diedre above. It's a newspaper article running down the whole history of the Valencia.

      Thanks again for being here, dear friend BB!


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