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Memories of York’s American Legion shows

Last year, a reader named Anita in North Carolina asked if anyone remembered the American Legion shows that were formerly held in York during the 1950s and 1960s at Post No. 127. Anita’s family owned the Ramona restaurant in downtown York.

I did have several responses from people who remembered the shows and the entertainers at them, which I’m thrilled to share today! I also have a few “bonus questions” that I’m hoping to get some answers to in order to share in future weeks, which I’ll get to at the end of today’s column!

Reader Bob Liebhart had details on two specific shows. In 1960, he said, the show was “Bells are Ringing,” the 37th annual Legion show. He noted it was directed by David Tihmar with cast members Elva Rusher, Kathy Tarras, Isabel Zortman, Gene Hoke, Clair Rusher, Ray Mears, Kenneth West, Ron Bupp, Stuart Glatfelter, Greg Hunter, Irving Berger, Jin Smith, Howard Glatfelter, Saylor Creswell II and more. “I had a small role – what memories!” Bob wrote.

In 1961, he said, the show was “The King and I,” this time directed by Bertram Yarborough with cast members Kathy Tarras, Bud Schlosser, Julia Wolf, Ron Bupp, Maretta Hamme, Alan Gross, George Long, Gary Miller, Clair Rusher, Ben Mosser, Jerry Myers, Joyce Curry and Elaine Burnstein. He noted he also had a small role in that show!

“Both directors were from New York as was the producer of both – Denis Du-For. I was about 20 yrs old and had a blast doing LIVE theater – also doing these shows was an old friend Denny Bender – we did have a blast!” Bob noted.

Roy Flinchbaugh, a longtime reader, noted that he remembered both the Ramona and the shows – adding, “By the way, the Ramona made the best peanut butter sundaes on this planet.” Yum, Roy!

Janet Runk Shaffer, of the William Penn Class of 1948, wrote, “I grew up on on Green Street and went to Princess Street School, 1935-1940. The Ramona was my favorite place to eat. I don’t only remember the American Legion Shows, hosted by York Post No. 127, I was in the Ladies Ensemble and was cast as Little Eva in ‘Bloomer Girl,’ 1952, with Ethel Barrymore Colt starring as the leading lady. Also, ‘Finian’s Rainbow,’ 1953, starring Harry Stockwell and ballerina Bettina Rosay, which I also was in the Ladies Ensemble.”

Janet continued, “We practiced at the Valencia, second floor, and Jewish Community Center, West Market Street, from January to March with the shows running four to five nights every year. I met my husband, Philip W. Shaffer, who belonged to Post No. 127 and he also performed in shows.”

And, she added, “I still have programs from the shows including ‘Rio Rita,’ 1939, and ‘Blossom Time,’ 1941, which York Post No. 127 presented. I will never forget them. Thanks for allowing me to take a stroll down memory lane.”

Janet, thank YOU for those details!

I also received a note from Ann Manser of Wilmington, Delaware, writing on behalf of her father, Ken Petry of York. She noted that he remembers the Legion shows from even earlier times. “While a student at York High – he graduated in 1942M (midyear graduation; I believe they staggered the classes at that time – he was in the Usher Society, ushering at various events held at the school. He especially remembers the American Legion shows because they were the only event for which the student ushers got paid – 50 cents a night (!) for the five nights the shows ran. He remembers that they were very popular, and the ushers weren’t allowed to seat anyone after the show started until the first intermission. He didn’t realize that the shows continued into the ’50s and ’60s, but they were certainly being offered in the early ’40s.”

Ann continued, noting, “After graduation, he went on to become a bomber pilot in the Army Air Corps, flying missions out of England, and then after the war went to Penn State and became a mechanical engineer. He never joined the American Legion and doesn’t know what happened to the shows during the war and later.”

Ann and Ken, thank you so much for sharing that info!

Finally, from a March 6, 1957, edition of YDR predecessor The Gazette and Daily, I found this:

“York Post 127, American Legion presents ‘Plain and Fancy,’ a musical play with book by Joseph Stein and Will Glickman; lyrics by Arnold B. Horwitt and music by Albert Hague; opening tonight at 8:30 p.m. at William Penn Senior High school to run through Saturday. Produced by Denis Du-For, staged by Bertram Yarborough, choreography by Eric Schepard. … ‘Plain and Fancy’ will be coming home to Pennsylvania Dutch country tonight when it is produced as York American Legion post’s 34th annual production. The musical of course concerns some doings of the plain people and where except maybe in Lancaster county could the former Broadway hit find a more sympathetic audience? Back as producer is Denis Du-For, managing director and producer of the Iroquois Amphitheater in Louisville, Ky. Bertram Yarborough, who staged last year’s ‘South Pacific’ and ‘Paint Your Wagon’ three years ago, again is director. Last summer he directed a chain of Music Circuses in New Jersey. An all-local cast is featured. Clair Brenner directs the orchestra, with choral direction by Ralph Woolley and Annette Roussel Pesche the pianist.”

So now we can fill in the 1957 edition as well!

Meanwhile, as promised, here are…

A couple of bonus questions

Helenita Ziegler writes, “I have been meaning to ask about the coconut ice cream balls with a small red candle on top. We always had them for Christmas dinner. For several years I have tried to find them, to no avail.”

Helenita, I don’t know of a place to buy these, but I did find a pretty simple recipe for them at by searching for coconut ice cream candle, so if anyone is interested in giving it a try, certainly let me know how they turn out!

Sandra Robison wants to know “Does anyone know anything about the motel named Rustic Cabin located in York RD5? The time frame of late ’50s to early ’60s?” Would love any info on this as well!

Finally for today, Sue Duke wants to know when the Hills Department Store on East Market Street closed. I don’t know the exact year, but I know you can see a great photo of it by search Hills Department Store York PA on Pinterest! Any info would be great.

Have questions or memories to share? Ask (or Tell) Joan using the form at right. I’ll attempt to answer or share them in a future “Ask Joan” column on this blog. I get a large volume, but I will feature three each week and answer as many as possible!