Only in York County

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Ask Joan: Well, I’ve got black cats edition

Happy Halloween to those who mark the day today! We’re not super-big into Halloween in our family, in part because Oct. 31 also commemorates the dates of some less-fun family events, but we do have one thing going for us.

Of our five cats, four are mostly black and three are entirely black. Built-in decorations! And my husband is always willing to help “become” a decoration. Here he is in last year’s non-mobile “costume,” complete with very mobile and very freaked out feline friend Mr. Bill.

Chris and Mr. Bill, Halloween 2010

What’s inside

1. Get Smart with our magazine
2. Required question: What’s that smell?
3. The ‘Roy’ in Ben Roy

1. (I) want to subscribe to Smart Magazine.
– Fern Downs

I was so glad to hear from Fern, and even gladder to hear she likes Smart! Smart, for those who don’t know, is a glossy women’s magazine we publish, edited by my awesome friend Kara Eberle.

You can check them out in their brand-new online home,; there, you’ll get daily updates from a bunch of Smart ladies around our office and beyond. You can also subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter on that page. To subscribe to the magazine, which is published bimonthly, fill out the form here.

You can also check out Smart on Facebook at Happy reading!

2. We have only lived in York County, Pa., for a few months … but have noticed a strong foul odor … where is this coming from? Are we near a landfill? Zip code 17408.
– Debbie

I called Debbie’s query the “required question” for folks new to York County. And Debbie, let me be among the first to welcome you to the area! The smell you’re mentioning is one lots of people notice when moving to the area; you’re not alone! It comes from the sulfur used in the pulping process at Glatfelter, a large paper mill in Spring Grove (a little bit south and west of where you live.) I’m going to guess it seems more noticeable on overcast days or really humid ones.

It actually used to be much worse, before the company poured a good bit of money into reducing its sulfur emissions. The York Daily Record did a series titled “The odor around us: What’s that smell?” back in 2000. At that time, one thing we mentioned is that the state Department of Environmental Protection had more information on the Glatfelter company’s papermaking process and the smell. I am guessing that still is true.

A couple of websites you can check out:
State DEP
Local chapter of DEP, where you can call or email for more info

I hope this helps answer your question. Thanks for writing – and while I know it doesn’t help just now, I can say on behalf of a lot of longtime Yorkers that it really does become less noticeable after a while. We always joke a little that if you ask a lifelong resident, they’ll say, “What smell?” Maybe our noses have just adapted?

3. Today’s last question is actually via Jim McClure’s York Town Square blog, thanks for information from Carla Reinecker.

Back in August, Jim had written about the small hamlet of Ben Roy, a little settlement along Camp Betty Washington Road in York Township, thanks to information from Carla, whose father is Carl Billet, the “mayor of Ben Roy.” You can read more in Jim’s post, but the short version of the question is: Where did the “Roy” in the name come from?

The town was formerly named Strickler or Stricklerville for Ben Franklin Strickler, who operated the town post office in his home until 1914. He later lent his name to the “first half” of Ben Roy, which is sometimes spelled Benroy, but does anyone know who Roy was?

Foundry in Ben Roy
Carla Reinecker provided this photo, circa 1905, from Ben Roy.

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, so it might take me a while, but I hope to be able to answer as many as possible!

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