Only in York County

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Remembering Bierman’s and York’s streetcars

Trolley tracks entered and exited York’s Continental Square in the heyday of York County’s far-flung street railways in the first third of the 20th century.

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a note from reader Sis James, who was wondering about Bierman’s.

Today, I have some information on that restaurant to share, as well as some memories of York’s former downtown streetcars, like those pictured. I hope you’ll enjoy them!

Bierman’s

My information – and another question – about Bierman’s comes from reader Joan C. Smith (I always love hearing from other Joans!)

Joan writes, “I grew up in Baltimore County, circa 1940s. My parents were avid archers, belonging to the Oriole Archers. Every Sunday there was a tournament, Baltimore, York, Lancaster, Washington, D.C., and points north and south. My younger sister and I were drug along on many a Sunday.”

She continued, “The York Archers set up at Small’s Athletic Field. These were all-day affairs, with a break for a picnic lunch. After the shoot we would go to Bierman’s Restaurant for a meal before heading home… They had absolutely the best clam chowder, like none other I ever tasted before or since.”

Joan added, “Moving on to the ’50s, at one of the tournaments in York, a handsome young York archer came over and said ‘I would like ask you out on a date, but I don’t drive and you live in Maryland.’ I responded, ‘Well, the last I knew, buses ran between the two.’ To make a long story longer, I married that young man and moved to York. Bierman’s also had take-out and I, or my husband, would stop often for a quart of that chowder. Then the restaurant closed, sometime in the 1960s, maybe the ’70s.”

She continued, “Time marched on and I had to invent my own version of the chowder. I got pretty close and it was a favorite with my family. While the ingredients are simple, the process is not. Recently my daughter helped me make a batch and enjoying it, rolled away the years. I began to wonder what happened to that wonderful eating establishment. I tried to find the street it was on, but nothing looked familiar. As I recall it was somewhere west of South George Street; Lafayette, Maple? So if you are still with me… Do you have a clue? I would so love to add its history to my recipe.”

Well, some digging and some help from eBay pointed me to an old matchbook cover for Bierman’s, advertising both ice cream and oysters, at West Cottage Place and Cleveland Avenue, just a little farther south than the Maple/Lafayette area Joan mentioned. There’s also (which I didn’t know until I started looking this up) an alley/small through-street officially known as Bierman Avenue that runs from West Cottage to another alley, Butler Avenue. A jaunt through the area didn’t turn up any street signs marked as Bierman Avenue that I could see, though I could certainly have missed one and would love to know if there are any!

At any rate, I think that West Cottage/Cleveland location is our winner, Joan and Sis, and I’m so grateful to you both for sharing your Bierman’s memories!

Streetcars

It’s been about a year since we last talked about downtown York’s former streetcars.

Since that time, I received more streetcar memories that I’d like to share today. The first came to me by way of Trena Howard, director of Susquehanna Senior Center. One of her members, Lester Laucks of Windsor, shared with her the following story, which he asked her to share with me:

“My name is Lester and I have some fond memories of the streetcars from York. The route I remember from the late ’20s and early ’30s traveled from York to Spry to Dallastown to Red Lion to Windsor to Bittersville. In the early ’30s the streetcars stopped traveling to Bittersville and ended at Windsor. Approaching Windsor, you could hear it coming with a clanking noise and you could see the sparks from the electric cables and the rod coming off the top of the streetcar. My buddy, Max Kopp Jr., and I put copper pennies on the rails to smash them. I sure do miss seeing them around.”

Lester, I wish I could have seen those! I would certainly miss them too if I had grown up with them, I’m sure.

I also heard from longtime reader Roy Flinchbaugh, who wrote, “I remember the streetcars in York. A line went right past our home on West Jackson Street and I often rode downtown (early on with my mother and later by myself). I also remember that our church had a picnic at Springwood Swimming Pool and, as a group, we’d take an open-air streetcar to get there. Those open-air streetcars also ran on the city routes in the summer. Some of my mother’s family lived in Reading, and my mother spoke of riding the streetcar to Lancaster when she was a young person, where she transferred to another streetcar to get to Reading. I also remember watching the workman tear up the tracks on Jackson Street (I had a “front-row seat”) after the streetcars stopped running (in 1939, I believe).”

I’m so grateful to both of you gentlemen for sharing those memories!

Have questions or memories to share? Email me at joan@joanconcilio.com or write to Ask Joan, York Daily Record/Sunday News, 1891 Loucks Road, York PA 17408. We cannot accept any phone calls with questions or information.