For almost two years I have been telling my true story here on Shady Dell Music & Memories. So has Dell Rat Jerre, and Jerre will be joining the discussion shortly because we're flashing back to his halcyon days...the pre-Beatles era at the Dell.
To help get you in the mood I have peppered the post with vintage record label scans representing classic Dell songs of the period.
The star of the show, however, is Dell rat Lynn B. who brings us one of the most important finds in Shady Dell history. It gives me great pleasure to present to you exclusive photographs that Lynn and her friends took inside the Dell barn in 1961! Before viewing the pics please allow me to set the stage.
Lynn found herself a bargain or two at the Dellapalooza barn sale earlier this month and followed up her nostalgic pilgrimage to Mecca by offering to recount some of her Dell memories. "We went to the Shady Dell from about 1958 through 1963 or '64," Lynn remembers. "It was such a great place to meet other kids and dance our little hearts out."
Along with her stories Lynn made available for our inspection an amazing pair of candids showing her and her friends mixing, mingling and dancing in the Dell barn!
"This, as I recall, was on a Sunday afternoon," Lynn wrote. "John used to open on Sundays once in awhile. As you can see, I don't think the fireplace was lit since we all have our coats on. Obviously, it was in the winter."
The Shady Dell has been called many things over the years, but the appellation that Lynn came up with is a doozy. "I had the back of these pictures labeled The Country Club - 1961," noted Lynn with amusement. "I labeled the pictures Country Club in case my mother saw them, hoping she wouldn't put it together and know I was at the Dell."
Maybe it's a good thing your pics were never discovered, Lynn. I haven't been to many country clubs that looked like a dusty old barn!
Lynn reminds us that John Ettline was a generous, good hearted father figure who knew and cared about his young patrons. No money? No problem! If John liked and trusted you he let you pay off the Dell admission fee on the installment plan! "John charged twenty-five cents to go into the Dell," Lynn continued. "There were times when I didn't have a quarter and he would let me in on credit until the next time." I'm sure that every Dell rat will agreee that John Ettline was always giving young people credit of one kind or another, right Lynn?
"He would make sure to tell us if our friends arrived yet," Lynn recalled. "We had a lot of fun at the Dell and you couldn't beat the music. John would come down in the barn and feed the jukebox and let the kids pick out what they wanted to hear."
I remember that, Lynn! John struck me as the kind of person who loved to play host and entertain. Keep in mind that he once managed York's famed Valencia Ballroom. I got the impression that John dreaded silence. He always wanted to keep the music playing to preserve the Dell's festive atmosphere. I think John kept the Dell open no matter how late the hour because he never wanted the party to end! Maybe that also explains why the Dell was still operating when John was in his 80's.
Lynn's second photograph is a stunner for several reasons.
It might be the only photo in existence that shows Dell rats in action on the dance floor. This ultra rare photo also offers a glimpse of one of the benches that provided seating around the dance hall. Those benches have long since disappeared, presumably sold in the 1993 Dell auction. What I find most exciting about this photo, however, is the portion of the wall visible in the background.
A cropped image with a brighter exposure reveals the familiar musical cherub art motif, but there appears to be very little in the way of graffiti on the wall back in 1961! Compare that to the image below showing how the wall looks today!
"I do have to say we had some great times and met kids from Lancaster and Harrisburg that came every weekend," Lynn remembered. Her testimony corroborated my earlier assertion that the Dell was a gathering spot, not only for Yorkers, but for teens from all over Central Pennsylvania.
Lynn continued a thread started last year by Dell Rat Jerre in which he described what the well dressed Dell rat of the late 50's and early 60's was wearing. "We also dressed to the nines," Lynn wrote, "dresses and heels on Saturday night. There were two sisters from Harrisburg that were always dressed like they were going to a cocktail party." The sartorial splendor that Lynn describes was a far cry from the dust coated Baracuta, tattered jeans and worn out Jacks that constituted my official Dell uniform in the mid and late 60's.
Like so many of the Dell faithful, Lynn's visits to the so-called den of iniquity were conducted on the sly. "I was never allowed to go there and spent every Friday and Saturday there, but only until 11:30 unless I stayed at a girlfriend's house. I had a curfew at midnight."
"My friends and I would meet at Teen Can Teen at the YMCA. When the dance was over we would get a taxi (up to the Dell) because none of us owned a car or had access to one. We would split the cab fare. We would all find transportation home (from the Dell) without any strings attached."
Parts of Lynn's story closely resemble the reminiscences of Dell Rat Jerre. Jerre Slaybaugh, who attended the Dell during the same time period as Lynn, rushed, pledged and joined Phi Della Ratta over the objections of his folks. "My parents were originally very anti-Dell," Jerre recalled.
"I only got to the Dell with older friends that had a car and then only before my 11:00 curfew. After many discussions, eventually my parents started to believe me when I told them that John and Helen were good people and tried to keep out trouble makers."
Jerre also hit some of the other dance venues that Lynn and her friends enjoyed. "The music was amazing," Jerre told me.
(1963) "Chapel Bells" - released on Wilkes Barre's Debra labelinitially as by The Palisades. Conflict with another Palisades act required the Scranton group to change their name to The Magics (aka The Precisions).
"I started going to dances in junior high at such places as Teen Can Teen, YWCA, and record hops (Buddy Holly era)," Jerre wrote.
"The typical stuff you see in the movie American Graffiti was for real..."
"...the loop around York going out Market Street and back Philadelphia and past the Hiway theater..."
"...playing the car radio, listening to the Heartbeats, Shirelles, etc. I really enjoyed the Doo Wop groups."
Thanks for the memories, Jerre! Quick question:
Did you ever challenge Milner to a drag?
One of Lynn B's favorite memories has to do with a phenomenon that every Dell rat experienced at one time or another - the unnerving false alarm. "The very first time I went, we were sitting in the restaurant and we heard sirens. I thought, oh boy am I ever in trouble. We thought (the Dell) was getting raided.
Nope, it was just the show Highway Patrol on the TV! We had quite a few years of fun at the Dell. The sad part about all of this is you can never go back. You can just reminisce about an easier happy time."
That's a big 10-4, Lynn! Thank you very much for sharing your Dell memories and those rare and wonderful photos. You have contributed some very valuable pieces of the puzzle! Same to you, Jerre!
How about you, brother rat? Are you a man or a mouse?
If you have Dell rat tales to tell or vintage Dell photos to add to our gallery please share them with the world! Submit a comment to any of my blog posts and include your email address. Your email address will not be published. I will simply use it to contact you. With your permission I will publish your Dell memories like I did Lynn's, Jerre's, Ron's, Greg's, Lubie's and those of others who knew and loved John, Helen and the Dell. We are building a library here, a reference source for future generations. With your help and support, people of all ages can experience vicariously what you and I experienced first hand...the magic and wonder of the Shady Dell. I look forward to hearing from you soon!
Have a Shady day!