Only in York County

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Ask Joan: Some recent letters about Cho Cho bars, the Valencia and train stations

Today, I thought I’d share some of the more recent letters to come my way.

What’s inside

1. Do you remember Cho Chos?
2. Sharing memories of the Valencia
3. … and York’s railroad hub past

1. My grandfather had a store in Bull Run which is close to Long Level, and he used to get popsicles and ice cream bars in that were called Cho Cho. They had a malt inside them and on the outside was chocolate and chips of malt or maybe almond. Do you know anything about that ice cream bar? Or when I can sent a letter to get some or if they went out of business? I don’t know the name of the company.
– Bonnie Shaffer of Wrightsville

Funnily, as it turns out, I am not the only question-answerer to field a similar question! Uncle Phaedrus, Finder of Lost Recipesshared information for a reader of his about the Cho-Cho here. These malted ice-cream treats are well-remembered and there are many recipes for making your own, though few if any still-available commercial versions.

I did find a couple of pictures of wrappers of different Cho-Chos, but I have to say I’m opposed wholeheartedly, because both this one and this one feature a clown. And I’m afraid of clowns.

Does anyone know any place that sells a modern Cho-Cho? Would love to hear!

2. Reader Bud Rodgers recently wrote to me, “I have lived in the York area for 86 years. I write true short stories of happenings in the old days, in the York area.”

He was kind enough to share some of his memories, including this note about York’s Valencia Ballroom.

“During the big dance band golden era, 1940-1950, this dance hall booked the best bands in the country. The Tassia family had their frozen food warehouse on North George St., and the ballroom next door. They used the refrigeration equipment that cooled their locker plant to convert to provide air conditioning for the ballroom. The Saturday night dances were discontinued as the regular patrons aged and the type of popular music changed.”

He continued, “The Valencia was put up for sale in the 1980s. A local group considered buying the Valencia. They asked me to examine the building and quote on what would be required to pass the then-current building codes for a public building. I could hardly wait to go into that building, where I went every Saturday night, sometimes with a girl friend, sometimes alone, to listen and to dance. I stood in the rear of the auditorium and looked at the stage. It had not changed. I could vision those great bands, crowded on the stage. Saxes in the front row, then the trombones, next the trumpets, then wherever they could find room the piano, bass, drums and guitar.”

Bud added, “The only items that were missing from the room were the pictures that once covered the entrance walls and the lighting fixture that hung in the center of the ceiling. The very modest dressing room near the stage was intact. The musicians’ names were still written on the mirror frame and walls. I went down the steps to the only men’s room. As I stood there I realized that I was using the same facility that was once used by Harry James, Sammy Kay, Russ Morgan, Benny Goodman and many more great musicians.”

Finally, Bud said, “The best Jitterbug dancers were the Italian boys and girls. The boys wore Zoot suits. Long pants, tight at the ankles and baggy at the knees. A long key chain that hung from the belt down to the floor and back up to the pants pocket. The suit jacket hung to the knees and was fully cut. If the boy was really ‘hep’ he wore a hat that had a wide starched brim. After a group of fast dances they would dim the lights and play several slow ballads. This is when you would hold your girl very close. She would lay her head on your shoulder and close her eyes. This was the time to fall in love.”

Bud, thank you so much for sharing those neat Valencia memories!

3. Bud also shared a note with me about York’s time as a railroad hub.

He writes, “The storm and flood named Agnes, in 1972, was the end to passenger train service from York, Pa. It destroyed the track and bridges of the Penna. Railroad, between York and Baltimore, and the track and bridges of the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad, between York and Delta, Pa.”

But, he added, “Before that storm and flood, you could take a train from York to Harrisburg, Lancaster, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore or Washington and connect to a train going to any town served with passenger service by the Penna. Railroad. The PRR station is still standing on North Street, across from the ball park. Train, ‘The General,’ left York daily at 7:35 p.m. and arrived in Chicago 8:45 a.m. next day.”

Bud continued, “The Washington section of the train, that came through York, contained a dining car. You could eat your supper on the way to Harrisburg, where the train added the New York section. It included the sleeping cars. When you woke up the next morning, the train was standing parked, in the Chicago Station Yard.”

Then, he says, “Wake up at your leisure, have breakfast in the dining car, then work all day in Chicago. Go back to the train that is waiting in the station. Have a delicious, but expensive, dinner in the dining car. When you are ready, ask the porter to make your bed and shine your shoes. Go to sleep whenever you want to.”

Finally, “You will wake up in the middle of the night and realize that you are on your way home. You will arrive back in York at 7:50 a.m. If you can’t catch that train that left Chicago at 4:15 p.m., catch the Penna. Limited that leaves at 10:10 p.m., and arrives back in York at 3:51 p.m. the next day.”

Bud, how cool! I love trains and would love to think of going to Chicago by rail!

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!

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