On the Highway to Dell
Never having heard of the Shady Dell, Phil Spangler left his home in Gettysburg one day last spring and drove to York. Phil was determined to find the three story brick house on the hill where his father had lived as a child.
Phil was equipped only with his father's boyhood photos. Other than that he was flying blind because he didn't know the address of his family's old homestead. He knew only that it was located in an area of York called Violet Hill. With so little to go on it's remarkable that Phil had surprisingly little difficulty finding the Dell.
Phil arrived to find the Dell undergoing its spring facelift and was given a tour of the house and grounds by current owner Toni Deroche. It was through Toni that Phil found out for the first time about the Shady Dell, learned about our blog, and generously offered to contribute his stories and vintage photos for all Dell rats to enjoy.
Is the Dell's barn as old as the house?
A closer examination of Phil's newly discovered 1928 photo seems to provide the answer to that question: yes and no! Yes, the white structure on the left side of the photo matches the white barn that is still standing at the Dell.
Nowadays the old white structure, its peak rising up behind the dance hall in this photo, is used primarily as a garage and storage facility. However, the gray colored cinder block dance hall clearly visible in the foreground of this picture is absent from the 1928 photograph above it! Therefore, the structure that Dell rats refer to as the barn was not built until sometime after 1928. I believe it was built many years later. Over the last two decades published reports have stated that John Ettline converted a portion of his existing barn into a dance hall. Based on Phil's latest photograph, that part of Dell history might need a slight revision.
All indications are that the Shady Dell's dance hall was not part of the original old barn at all.
I know what happened!
When the rock 'n roll era got underway in the mid 50's and growing numbers of teenagers began to flock to the Dell, John recognized the need to accomodate them. Dancing outdoors on the concrete slab was okay for a while, but what was a Dell rat to do when spring and summer thunderstorms threatened or the cold, windy, snowy days of winter arrived? John decided to give his expanding family of young Dellions their own clubhouse... a space where they could congregate, dance, watch TV and conduct the all important business of youth with a greater degree of privacy.
Drawing upon his experience as one time manager of York's famed Valencia Ballroom, John designed and built what we now refer to as the barn.
John fashioned his Violet Hill ballroom to include a large oak dance floor, bench seating around the perimeter, wall length mirrors, strings of festive party lights, a jukebox and several sets of speakers including remotes above the outdoor patio and at the top of the steps at the Dell's admission booth. For Dell rats who weren't into dancing, John added a partition in the new barn annex to create a cozy space with a fireplace, sofa and televison.
John put the finishing touches on his teen danceteria by commissioning an unknown artist to paint the distinctive cherub murals on the walls.
And the rest, as they say, is history.....
The Phil Spangler story is a win-win proposition. Phil's anecdotes and pictures have contributed tremendously to our knowledge of the Dell's earliest years. Now that Phil and his family members across the country know that their ancestral dwelling evolved into a popular hangout for generations of young people, they are imbued with a sense of pride. "We feel very special to be a part of the Shady Dell history," wrote Phil.
Phil, thank you very much for your kind remarks! It is an honor to have you and your entire family join the gang as honorary Dell rats! (You too, Petey!)
And now you know the rest of the story.
Paul Harvey...........................good day!
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