Only in York County

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Ask Joan: Cool caverns and lovely Legos edition

Here’s some extra-bonus Ask Joan for you this weekend. We’re spending our weekend visiting Indian Echo Caverns and then the Lego store at the King of Prussia Mall. Lots of family fun!

Today’s Ask Joan is a special set of memories about crabcakes!

1. In an Ask Joan last year, Terry Parr asked about an East Princess Street crabcake shop. Terry was seeking the name as well as others’ memories of it.

Brother-in-law extraordinaire Mike Smith said, “The crabcake place was Reikert’s as I recall. It was in the first block of East Princess St. The crabcakes were served on a large cracker, and it seemed like the crabcakes were as big as a hamburger. They were a treat for us in my family when we were growing up in the south end of York.”

And Jim Fahringer said, “I remember Reikert’s. The crab cakes were wondereful and you knew that they were made from real crabmeat. They were also well seasoned. I remember them being served on a cracker. To this day I always eat my crabcake with a saltine — a roll overpowers the taste of a crabcake. In the mid to late 1950s we often bought crabcakes there. My grandmother loved those crabcakes. While she was on her deathbed she heard me talking about eating a crab cake. She wanted one so badly but was not allowed to eat one because of her physical condition. I felt so badly bringing it up. That was in 1958. I believe that Reikert’s continued into the early 1960’s but I believe that they must have gone out of business by the middle to late 1960s. These crabcakes were delicious and in the evenings the store was very busy.”

Reader Thad recalled, “As a very little boy in the early ’60s I don’t remember the name of the crabcake place or the ‘on the cracker’ that other replies have mentioned, but I do remember that it was in the first block of East Princess and I remember we went to a back window to pick them up and that the women who worked the window was older (maybe some of this is just made up in my longing for my youth). I think the building is what is now Granfalloons (assuming that is still in business – I don’t live in York anymore) or near
that location (maybe a house that stood where their parking lot is now). This memory is another of this area as I remember going with my dad to the Pep Boys on the nearby block of S. George St. I can still smell the new tires and the Manny, Moe and Jack on the roof.”

And Audrey Lerew found a variation on the spelling of the name, the one I actually believe is probably the correct one. She writes, “Rieker Crab Cakes at 35 E. Princess St. in York, that was all they sold. They were all meat, very large. They put them on two saltines and I (and I have asked others) believe they were 3X3 inches. Only time I ever saw any that big. I was talking with June in at the historical society and she said she was talking to David Stauffer one time and Stauffer’s bakery made the cracker crumbs and she believes the saltines as well. The crab cakes were larger and they hung over all four sides and we would say they were 1 inch thick. The BEST you ever ate and only a quarter. Now this was in the ’50s. I tried to find some additional info for you at the Historical Society but I only found the obit for Mr. and Mrs. Rieker. He actually died at the age of 45 in 1935 and her obit in 1976 says she owned and operated the former Rieker Crab Cake Restaurant. So I don’t know when it actually shut down. They are buried at Prospect Hill. His obit says he was a restaurateur and well know Republican leader in the first precinct of the First Ward. They called him ‘Polly,’ I don’t know why. They had tables so you could sit in and eat or take out. Can you even begin to imagine that for a quarter?”

I also had that spelling of the name confirmed from Phil, who writes, “The crabcake place was at 23 E. Princess. It was run by the mother of Richard Rieker, who taught chemistry at York High into the early 1970s. He and his wife lived at that address with his mother.”

Rick Moul writes, “I am too young to remember Rieker’s but, does anyone remember the crabcake place in the alley behind Farmers Market? That was always a treat for my family.”

And Joyce Moul says, “Just sitting here reading YDR online and saw the mention of the crab cakes on W. Princess St. My parents took us there often as kids and they were delicious and only a quarter each as I recall. I grew up not even knowing that everyone didn’t eat crab cakes on a big cracker!”

Jim Herman writes, “The article about crab cakes brought back memories. Mrs. Reiker’s son was my math teacher at York High. Class of 1952. The boys (my friends from high school), we would often buy the crab cakes from Mrs. Reiker’s residence in the 100 block of East Princess Street. They were not lump crab meat but they were big & delicious. They cost 25 cents, all carry-out and they were served from her kitchen in a brown bag. There were no mustard packs. If you wanted mustard on your crab cake you had to order it on the cake.”

And reader Ron wrote, “I was her milkman in the early ’60s and had my first crab cake there.” How neat!

Jim Crimmel said, “I remember going there to get crabcakes in the mid to late 60s. Very good to eat on a large cracker. I would also like to know if anyone remembers Adam’s Crabcakes located behind the house at the corner of Market & Newberry Sts.” (I’m guessing that’s the one Rick was talking about!) Jim continues of that place, “I used to go there in the mid ’60s with a lot of other people to buy them and ride my bicycle to east York to sell them at break times at the factories in town.”

Mary Swank said Reiker’s was on Princess Street, “around where Granfallons is now. The restaurant was in the front of the building with about 10 long tables and chairs so you could sit there and eat. The crab cakes were only a quarter and they were bigger than any hamburgers I have seen lately. The crab cakes were made by hand and if there was any filler, you couldn’t tell it. They were served with huge crackers or bread. The best time to go was on a Saturday when they were freshly made. I have never seen anything like them since.”

Even MORE memories… Carolyn Woodring said the crabcakes were delicious (and she wonders if anyone remembers Stell Holland’s candy in Shrewsbury? “That was another yummy treat way back when,” she added.)

Jane Snelbaker said, “I talked to my parents, Ralph and Hester Henise. 84 years old now. They took me there when I was very little. It was on East Princess Street not West and the crab cakes were a great treat for us because they were 25 cents each. At the time a hot dog was 5 cents each. I remember carrying them in a brown paper bag and it got grease marks on it on the way home. Big square crackers and a wonderful crab cake.”

And finally, Sally Bailey Pomraning writes, “They were wonderful and so were the (Reikers). My Dad would bring them to us as a treat through the years. And the prices were great, can’t recall the price but do remember that they were a bargain. Also I remember Howards Grocery store on Eberts Lane. I grew up in the area and my parents shopped there for almost everything. Of course that was before the super markets. I can remember Mr Howard delivering groceries to our house on Eleventh Ave when I was a little girl, before we had a car. He would bring the groceries in bushel baskets and Mom would unload them. Can you imagine that today?”

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!

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