Only in York County

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Ask Joan: Elmwood the Grilled Flamingo edition

No, I would not grill a flamingo. I actually really love flamingos, thanks in large part to my eighth-grade history teacher, Charlie Crescenzi, who believed the liberal application of pink birds to a classroom could make history more enjoyable. (In fact, it did.)

But I digress. Today, I’m following up on a restaurant that was at various times in its history “The Flamingo” and “The Elmwood Grill.” Hence grilled flamingoes. See what I did there?

These memories came in response to a question we shared back in October from Kate Sharpe. In this Ask Joan, Kate wrote, “My parents got married 50 years ago and had their reception at a restaurant that was located near York Little Theater, behind Bentz’s furniture. Do you know what the name was in 1961?”

George M. Trout Sr. was the first to share with me that the restaurant had not one but two names. He writes, “As I recall, it opened as the ‘Elmwood Grill,’ and later was called ‘The Flamingo.’ It was a popular spot when TV began to spread across the land. Early on not many homes had TV, but the owner of the above installed one, the biggest he could find, and set up chairs in his main dining room. On the nights that Milton Berle was on TV, every kid in Elmwood, including me, packed the place. You had to be there early to get a seat. He was a good guy and didn’t raise his prices.”

My friend Betsy Baird writes, “It was the Flamingo. My Mother and some friends would meet there for luncheon at their birthdays. I would be with them. One woman’s birthday was the day after mine. I remember the cake they brought out for our birthdays! Mother and Dad and would also meet with Mother’s friends and their husbands a few times at dinner. Ray … forget his last name… had the place. And did have very good food. Ray was manager of a lot of good places in York.”

Jim Fahringer also remembered that manager. He wrote, “Thanks for reminding me of Ray, the manager. His name may have been Ray Bahn but I forget. He would walk around and make sure everyone’s meal was to their satisfaction.”

And finally, I also heard from C. Scott Buchart, who said, “We moved to Elmwood in 1949. At that time the restaurant was the Elmwood Grill consisting of a room in front with a lunch counter and some tables, and a room behind which I presume was the kitchen. On special occasions, maybe if I behaved, my mother would give me fifty cents to get a hamburger, french fries and a glass of milk at the grill. However, they also had a pinball machine that cost a nickel and paid off in nickels. As anyone who played these machines knows, when you play enough, you learn how to jostle the machine without it ’tilting’ and you could win. With my fifty cents invested, I won a lot. Soon the owner changed his policy and winning only got the customer free games.”

Mr. Buchart continues, “Moving on, sometime in the 1950s a banquet room was added. Also in this time frame, Maurice Greenewalt, a very reputable used car dealer who owned Greener’s Used Cars at the corner of Hill Street and Third Avenue, bought the restaurant, expanded, and it became the Flamingo, a fine upscale place. Since then, there have been many owners and names on the building.”

He adds, “Cattycorner from the grill was the Elmwood Theater, later York Little Theater. My father would give us children the twenty-five cents to go to the Saturday matinee just to get some peace in the house. North of the theater they built the Belmont Pharmacy and the strip expanded throughout the mid ’50s, culminating in the Belmont Car Wash. On the corner of Market and Belmont was John Kinneman’s Sunoco. He was a kind man who fixed our bicycle tires for free.”

And going on, he says, “Behind this complex was a miniature golf course. The last hole swallowed the colored golf ball, but we kids always tried to outwit the hole and keep the ball. There was an older gentleman who watched us like a hawk but still, every kid in Elmwood had at least one ball. There was a batting cage next to the golf course. When it was opened, it had no nets. Guess what? Every boy in Elmwood had several rubber-covered baseballs. Soon the nets went up.”

“Another interesting activity behind the theater was the shuffleboard courts. I don’t remember how many there were, but there were several and they were concrete. In the winter, they were flooded and we could ice skate on them.”

Mr. Buchart had a question of his own, too, about the same neighborhood. He asks, “Alfred Bentz had the furniture/decorator store at the corner of Market and Belmont. Prior to that, the building was, I think, a food store, the supermarket of its day. Does anyone know the name of that store?”

Any ideas? I’d love to share more about this neighborhood!

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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