Only in York County

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The Bon Ton (a poem by Lynn Fetterolf)

Editor’s note: The following poem by Lynn Fetterolf about The Bon-Ton was shared with me in 2016 by reader Sandy Ludwig.

The Bon Ton

Named in a day when Bon Ton was synonymous with fancy,
the store that anchored the corner of West Market & Beaver,
two of the most desirable addresses in York, Pennsylvania,
was a cornucopia of merchandise. The whole town was
thrilled when they installed the first escalator.

Their imposing entrance bisected windows beautifully decorated
in accordance with the season. Christmas windows were magical
with moving figures, changed yearly. Children stared in awe.
It was part of every child’s Christmas to visit and enjoy each December.

Each Department held its own aura. Lovely hats in many colors and fabrics
on velvet pedestals were common wear for ladies. One would never be
seen in church on Sundays without these fancy head coverings and
gloves on posing marble hands reminded the unsophisticated that gloves
were de rigueur in society. No lady would be seen in public without them.

The notions counter was a gold mine. Those tiny snaps and hooks & eyes,
ribbons, buttons, threads and even stays for girdles were to be found there.
Cosmetics were rather heavy. No light as air powders to be brushed
over imperfections. Eye makeup was a luxury to be admired but seldom worn.
Most lipsticks were in delicate shades of pink. Of course when Revlon
introduced Fire & Ice Red in the 1940s Bon Ton was the first to offer it.

The balcony boasted a fine Tea Room serving the various salads popular in
that time; egg and olive, chicken, potato, tuna, cole slaw. They also featured
mouth watering desserts of every variety.

There were departments for women’s wear, men’s wear, children’s wear,
lingerie for everyday and negligee sets mainly meant for brides.
All ladies wore girdles to flatten and hide the sway of buttocks
or corsets sturdy enough to disguise the most abundant flesh.

Bears & Wiests were similar department stores but the Bon Ton was the prize.
Downtown was filled with specialty stores to supply our every need.
The streets were crowded with happy shoppers and happily a bathroom
constructed in black & white tiles was open down under the square.

A visit downtown was an adventure, pure pleasure. The Strand & Capitol
featured the latest from Hollywood and everyone ended up there on
Saturday night snacking on huge pretzels also available downtown for a nickel
and the churches were filled on Sunday morning at the ringing of their bells.