Only in York County

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Ask Joan: The “Big changes, but not really?” edition


In big news, this week marks my last at the YDR after working here in varying capacities for 15 years. I’ve accepted a job at the Penn State College of Medicine at Hershey Medical Center, supporting the web operations for the research department. It’s a big job, but one I’m REALLY looking forward to. And I loved it when, while cleaning out my closet, I found the two hoodies I’m pictured with above, which I thought were a fun way to note the change.

In “but wait, it’s not really that different!” news, I’m proud to say I’m going to continue writing the Only in York County blog and the Ask Joan column in the York Sunday News, as a freelancer.

So keep those questions and memories coming! In the next few weeks, you’ll see me trying to clear out a backlog of older items as I try to get myself off to a manageable start for the freelance situation!

What’s inside

1. Where can you find smierkase?
2. Memories from York Haven area
3. Schnitz, knepp and ham question
4. Do you remember gas explosion?
5. Sharing thoughts about The Web

1. I have (a) question prompted by your blog post of PA Dutch Guidebook and the subsequent PDF on PA Dutch Cooking. The article mentions “smiercase.” My grandparents always had this at the breakfast table. I remember the brand was Pensupreme. Grandma would always put jam or apple butter on toast & then smiercase on top. I loved it. Some mornings I will have toast with jam and cottage cheese. Very good, but not the same as smiercase, which was smooth & creamier.

I have often wondered if it’s still available, and what name it goes by as searches for smiercase have been fruitless. I wonder if it’s possible to buy it anywhere or if it could be made from another readily available product, like making your own yogurt.
– Connie Pickard

I have had Connie’s question in my inbox for a while, and I’d asked a friend who works in downtown Lancaster to check out the Lancaster farmers’ market for this when he was buying lunch, but to no avail! I will say that I’ve had SLIGHTLY better luck online finding “smierkase” with a K instead of a C, but even then, I’m mostly finding recipes, and they all seem to be more cottage-cheese-ish than what I also remember as smierkase, or, as I always thought of it, smeary-cheese. (Which sounds terrible, but…!)

Any ideas on where Connie might be able to purchase it, or a good recipe that isn’t too cottage-cheesy?

2. When I was a child I used to live in the York Haven area, not in the town but in Newberry Township just beyond the borough line. Does anyone remember the two small grocery stores in York Haven operated by the Latshaw and Brenneman families? The Brenneman store was in the middle of town along the main street, and the Latshaw store was on the same street near the York Haven Library. My family used to shop at both stores when I was a kid.

Does anyone remember the old elementary school in York Haven before the new school was built on Cassel Road in the mid- to late 1950s? How is the old school building used today? I remember attending fourth and fifth grades there. Does anyone remember the one-room schoolhouse on Cassel Road? Has anyone written a history of the York Haven area?

I’m in my mid-60s now and remember my childhood days living in that area.
– Lynda Shaffer Pendergraft

I’m interested to hear other people’s memories of the York Haven area as well. There is a fairly detailed history of the town’s early days as part of Gibson’s History of York County, but of course as that is an 1886 book, it’s not exactly, say, recent history, of the type Lynda is describing!

3. Have been eating schnitz & knepp for 40 years on trips to the area. Decided to make it myself. Bought some tart schnitz on a most recent trip down. Every recipe calls for it to be cooked with ham. Every time I have had it there has been no ham in the dish and it is served as a side dish to the main courses.

Is the ham served separately and that is my problem? Is there a non-ham version of schnitz & knepp that I am missing?
– Mary Johnson

Mary, I will say I’ve pretty much ONLY had schnitz and knepp with ham. Most often, I’ve had it served with a large slice of ham, kind of on top of or beside it, but I’ve also had it where there were thin, small slices of ham right in with the apples and dumplings, and then either a different main course or just that served.

That said, I’m certainly no expert, but I don’t find any recipes without the ham either, and I am going to guess the salt of the ham is largely what I like personally!

Any thoughts or ideas for Mary?

4. My question is not about a place, but an event that happened when I was very young. It was probably around 1950.

We (were) awakened by a loud roar and a glow in the sky. Most people on my street thought the Russians had dropped the bomb. That was when we were taught to get under our little desks as protection from a nuclear attack. Turns out it was a gas line explosion close to Davidsburg. The line crosses Route 74 where the movie theater and the Dover auction house were. I thought they had to close down because they were too close to the pipeline. I must be wrong because Jim and Nena’s is built there now.

Maybe some other senior citizen would have better facts then I can recall.
– Jerry Erb

I’d be interested in hearing more about this event too, Jerry! I can’t turn much up on it but I’m hoping others can point me in a more specific direction!

5. Does anyone remember a place called the The Web? It was on East Market St. between Queen and Duke St. You went down the steps. They had black lights, flashing lights and burning incense. It was back in the ’70s.
– Kathy S. Conley

Kathy, I’m pleased to say we have a neat collection of memories of The Web to share! You can check those out here. And I’d love to hear more about what others remember about this hangout.

Got any questions? Ask Joan using the form at right. I’ll attempt to answer 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!

2 comments on “Ask Joan: The “Big changes, but not really?” edition

  1. I found this sign in my friends basement how can I get a picture to you to see if is from York haven

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