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 17, 2018

John Ettline - Every Dell Rat's Dad

It's Father's Day...

time to honor


"Every Dell Rat's Dad."

John didn't have kids of his own but,
as every Dell rat knows, he would
have made a great father and he
was like a dad to us all. Again
this year I am proud to present
that classic Father's Day scene
from The Donna Reed Show as
Dell rats everywhere remember
a great man and father figure,
Mr. John Ettline.




  1. He was obviously a great example to all of you.

    1. Hi, Alex!

      Early bird honors go to you again this week, good buddy. Thanks for stopping by!

      This is your third or fourth year of joining me here to pay tribute to John Ettline, every Dell rat's dad. That he was, Alex. Over a span of nearly 50 years, John served as a great example for generations of Central PA youth.

      Thanks again for your comment, Alex, and happy Father's Day!

  2. Happy Father's Day to you, friend Shady … Love always, cat.

    1. Hi cat!

      How are you, dear feline friend? I am very happy to see you on this Father's Day!

      Love to you as well, dear friend. Enjoy what's left of your weekend and have a wonderful week ahead!

    2. I took note of how baffled you were with my last post … didn't mean to scare you, friend Shady … but it is what it is … ya … Love always, cat.

    3. Hi, cat in the hat! :)

      I don't mind being baffled or scared. Art sometimes confounds, confuses or disturbs the beholder and you, dear friend, are an artist. The content of your posts always fascinates me even though I usually don't know exactly what you're expressing.

      Thank you for returning to chat, dear friend cat!

    4. … its about handing over the reigns and showing respect … ya … Love, cat.

  3. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJune 17, 2018 at 9:09 AM

    Even though you sometimes never meet a person in real life, you can learn an awful lot about them - as John Steinbeck wrote - by what they leave behind.

    Such is the case with me. In addition to your stories and memories here, seemingly very mundane clues found during those wonderful visits to the Shady Dell with my husband and daughter before it changed hands, allowed me to "meet" the real John Ettline. So much was obvious:

    He fulfilled his and Helen's dream of what the Dell could become by making it into a place where they could both indulge their passions AND employ their many gifts to the benefit of others.

    From the long-idle, Formica-topped snack bar counters stored in the barn with their menu holders still intact, to the smoke markings above the fireplace in the dance hall, to the tack room with riders' name plates on the saddle racks and the equine decoration on a screen door, it was easy to see what John loved.

    He could have easily considered the Dell merely as a way to make a living. Like so many in society, he could have taken advantage of its location, its unique landscape and the plethora of young customers available in southern York County.

    Instead, he expressed his personality by showing love for his horses, his dear Helen and of course all the hundreds of young people whom he welcomed to his home, allowing and structuring it to be a rare oasis in an often cruel and uncaring world.

    He made of it a rare place of acceptance and shelter where they need not be anything other than themselves. (He even addressed some, I hear, by custom-tailored names; i.e., Mr. Knight perhaps?)

    Now that I think about it, I wonder if the 'fathering' he did to all you Rats in the Dell's glory days was informed by his experiences with horses. After all, in order to get a horse to become all it can be as a companion and helper, and allow humans into its life, it must be trained by first giving it what it needs and then treated with both gentle caring and firm discipline.

    From what I hear from you, Tom, and the other "grown up" Dell Rats I encounter frequently, John instinctively understood the scores of typically impulsive and often unruly teens who showed up at the Dell. Like the best fathers on earth, he engendered cooperation from his "children" using the same combination with which wild horses are taught to trust, obey and achieve loyalty toward their owners.

    Because of that exemplary fathering, I know John Ettline best by the most telling gift he left behind in our world - the guidelines for living a truly good life based on self respect and an authentic way of caring for others that so many learned from him and continued in their lives.

    This blog shows how much those gifts and an undying love for this man remain in their hearts to this day.

    John, and those of us who still learn from him without ever meeting him face-to-face, thank you for keeping his memory alive and continuing the good he demonstrated so well!

    1. Hi, Kathleen!

      Thank you very much for being here again this year as you have many other years, to express so eloquently (far better than I) the important role Johm Ettline played in my life and in the lives of generations of young men and women across the Susquehanna Valley.

      I totally agree with you that we can learn life lessons from someone even if we never come face to face. John left our world in the early 1990s, yet he lives on in the minds and hearts of Dell rats, not only the ones who knew and loved him back in the day, but the new crop of friends and followers who drop by to hang out here at SDMM. Time and time again the newcomers, the millennial Dell rats, have testified that John is an inspiration and that they feel as if they know him.

      As you took me back to the days in 2012 when you and members of your family toured and explored the Shady Dell just prior to its sale, I pictured vividly the Dell artifacts you encountered, the old snack bar counter, the dance hall fireplace, the tack room name plates (generously donated to me) and the iconic horse head on the screen door. Memories like those will never fade away.

      John Ettline gave respect, earned respect and got respect. John didn't rule the Dell with an iron fist. He gave kids some breathing room, a chance to test their wings. He remaining flexible and compassionate, and remembered what it was like to be young, how easy it is to have a lapse in judgement and screw-up.

      Thank you again for composing such an extraordinary Father's Day message for us, dear friend Kathleen. I wish you and Bob a delightful daddy's day and a safe and happy week ahead!

  4. What a wonderful Father's Day tribute to your hero, John Ettline. It's obvious that he was an amazing father figure to so many of the teens there in York, PA. How fortunate that all of you Dell Rats had such a kind, loving man to help in navigating those often confusing teen years. He and Helen provided a home away from home for many. I bet that lots of Dell Rats today are thinking of him on this Father's Day.

    Thanks for sharing him with us Tom. Happy Father's Day.

    Michele at Angels Bark

    1. Hi, again, Michele!

      You're right. As we think about our fathers today, both the living and the departed, I along with other original Dell rats like the ones you met in my previous post, Ron, Jerre and Greg, think of John Ettline as well. No man set a finer example than John. No man taught us the value of strength tempered with kindness better than he. We were lucky to have been at the right place at the right time to know John in his prime. We will remember him always.

      Thank you again for visiting my two posts today, dear friend Michele!

  5. Again, I'm impressed by just how much the proprietors of the Shady Dell meant to you.

    The closest thing I had to a teen hangout growing up was a shake shop owned by the Mayor. I think maybe he wanted our parents votes.

    1. Hi, Kirk!

      Thanks a lot for coming over on your Sunday, good buddy!

      Yes, as I am sure you can tell by now, the Dell and its owners John and Helen Ettline, meant an awful lot to an awful lot of young people. Why else would Dell rats old and new feel compelled to come here to pay their respects year after year?

      Thank you for letting me know about that shake shop owned by the Mayor. Ever since starting SDMM, I have wondered if anybody anywhere had a hangout that in any way resembled the Shady Dell. After nearly ten years of meeting people and eliciting their stories, I haven't found many that can say they did.

      Thank you again for coming by, good buddy Kirk, and enjoy your week!

  6. Happy Father's Day, John! Thank you for being a great example to all of the Dell Rats. Your kindness and contributions will never be forgotten.

    Shady, lovely tribute and I love the song you used. Have a great Father's Day!

    1. Hi, Jessica Marie!

      How are you, dear friend? Thank you for popping in again this year to see my Father's Day tribute to John Ettline. He was indeed a great role model for the youth of Central PA for nearly half of the 20th century.

      I hope your dad had a great day today, dear friend JM. Thanks again for coming and have a terrific week!

  7. This is always a wonderful post t9 your second dad who meant so much to you. As a result, we have learned about the family at the Dell and can almost feel as if we have been there with you. Thank you for posting about your beautiful memories and the people who touched your soul

    1. Hi, Birgit!

      How are you, my dear Canadian friend? Thanks for coming by!

      You have been following SDMM long enough to see this same tribute to John several times. Paul Petersen's hit single "My Dad" is the quintessential Father's Day song, and therefore I see no reason to change the post.

      I am happy to know that you feel as if you were there with us as a Dellette of the 60s and 70s. John and Helen would surely have embraced you.

      Thanks again for being here, dear friend BB, and have a wonderful week!

  8. Tom,

    What a nice tribute to John! I know if he were alive he'd be so honor that you and the other Dell Rats thought so much of him. He sounds like a very special man. Have a tunetastic week and belated Father's Day wishes to you, my friend! :)

    1. Hi, Cathy!

      Thank you very much for joining other Dell rats past and present, old and young, as we remember Mr. John Ettline the week of Father's Day.

      Over the years friends like you have often concluded that John, if still alive, would be honored by these annual posts. I'd like to think so, too.

      Thank you again for coming over, dear friend Cathy. I wish you a tunetastic week as well!

    2. Tom,

      There's no question about it, John would LOVE your posts! Have a grand week, my friend!

  9. There's no way I can watch that I dearly love..and not shed a tear. It would be a different world if everyone could sing that song about their father. It would be a different world if there were more men like John Ettline who were willing to give time, talent, love and good times to young people. Families, and especially parents are portrayed on TV and the movies as dumb, silly, and totally not connected to their much smarter and worldly kids who rule the home instead of parents who should guide it. The kids at the Shady Dell were lucky indeed and so are we because you choose to give tribute to a man who knew how to father without having any children of his own. It takes a village to raise a child..and in York, Penn, you had the Ettlines to help! Thanks again for a sweet and memorable post. I hope you had a lovely Father's Day Tom! Enjoy your week!

    1. Hi, Kathleen/YaYa!

      I can always count on you to express yourself eloquently when this annual Father's Day tribute to John rolls around. No other friend realizes more than you the value of having a father who serves as an excellent role model. You had that kind of father, one who sadly was not blessed with a long life, but surely with a great one, and he left behind a great wife and children.

      I agree that old fashioned respect is becoming a scarce commodity and that too many TV series and movies depict parents as clueless boobs, easily tricked and manipulated by their cunning kids. This has been going on for decades and it is hurting us.

      I never grow tired of watching that scene from The Donna Reed Show as Jeff Stone (Paul Petersen) sings his hit song "My Dad." It works so well on this occasion that I see no reason to change the post from year to year. I am so glad the song touches your heart as it touches mine.

      Thank you again, dear friend YaYa, for being here again this year to experience my Dad's Day salute to John Ettline!

  10. What a wonderful tribute to the man who was like a second father to you! I love that you do this every year.

    Hope you had a wonderful Father's Day!

    1. Hi, Sherry!

      Thank you for being here this year as you have been for the last several years, to help me remember John Ettline on Father's Day. Yes indeed, John was like a second father to me and to thousands of other teenagers across Central Pennsylvania.

      I did have a wonderful Father's Day, and thank you again for your visit and comment, dear friend Sherry!

  11. A wonderful tribute to your 2nd dad, Shady! I believe most of us have had someone in our younger lives...well, I suppose as we grow older too, that we consider close and dear enough to qualify as a 2nd parent. And, it is also possible that as we are older, some of us are reversed in the role, and become someone's 2nd parent! Did you ever consider that?

    I remember the song Jeff sang to his dad on the Donna Reed Show. Gosh, it was so touching, and really fitting for a Father's Day tribute! I would have been in tears myself.

    I am sorry to be running late, Shady. Our Father's day was kind of drole without our little Scootie, but we made it over that hump. I've had some bad hip pain and went to the doctor yesterday. He thinks it's a lumbar thing? I have prescriptions and will follow up with the Doc at the end of the week. Hopefully, it will subside.

    Thank you for this sweet post and remembrance of Mr. Ettline. As he had no children of his own, he channeled his passions and love on your youth in a time that most of you needed it. And, BRAVO to John...he succeeded in making your lives memorable!

    Have a wonderful week, dear Shady! ♫

    1. Hi, Suzanne!

      Thank you very much for coming over to join other Dell rats, old and new, in saluting John Ettline the week of Father's Day. Think how lucky original rats were to have had a second dad in John and a second mom in his wife Helen. A childless couple, the Ettlines gave their all to young people over a span of nearly 50 years.

      I never get tired of watching that iconic scene from Donna Reed. Actor Carl Betz as Dr. Alex Stone gave an extremely convincing performance as he reacted to the words sung by Paul Petersen (Jeff Stone). I choose to believe that the emotion written on the dad's face was real and not the result of acting. I get a tear in my own eye when I think of Betz's early death from lung cancer at the age of only 56. A trouper, Betz kept the terminal diagnosis secret so that he could keep working until the end.

      I know you Miss Scootie. I hope he contacts you from time to time to let you know how he's doing. Oh Suzanne, I am very sorry to learn that you have hip pain! I hope it is something minor, temporary and curable. Let me know if the prescribed meds helped.

      Thank you again for your faithful friendship and support, dear friend Suzanne. Please take good care of yourself and enjoy the rest of your week!

  12. You were so lucky to have two wonderful Father's. I was wondering if you would post about your Shady Dell Father again. Nice post as always.

    cheers, parsnip

    1. Hi, Gayle! Hi, Winston!

      How are you, dear friends? Thank you very much for coming over to see my annual Father's Day tribute to John Ettline - "Every Dell Rat's Dad."

      I pledge to continue running these special posts honoring John, including those published on his birth and death dates, for as long as my blogging career lasts.

      Thank you again for being here on this special occasion, dear friend Gayle. Enjoy the rest of your week!

  13. You're wonderful to honor someone who gave you so much during your early years. He sounds like a great father.

    1. Hi, Cheryl-Lee!

      Oh, thank you, dear friend! When someone leaves an indelible mark, as John did on me, it is only natural to want to tell others. I will continue to tell the story of the Dell and to honor its owners John and Helen Ettline for the rest of my life. John was a great man, like a father to every girl and boy who knew him.

      Thank you again for your kind visit and comment, dear friend Cheryl-Lee!

  14. Nice to read and hear about a super person. Sweet old memories:)

    1. Thank you very much, Weekend-Windup, and welcome to Shady Dell Music & Memories and my annual salute to Shady Dell owner John Ettline on Father's Day! I hope to see you back here again soon.

      Thanks again for your interest, W-W. Have a great day and enjoy the rest of your week!


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