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More readers recall downtown York’s past

Bon-Ton downtown postcard
This postcard is of The Bon-Ton’s former location in downtown York. It’s a “Commercialchrome” card published by Fair & Square Bargain House of York, PA. It was mailed by Lucy Snyder of East King Street, York, to Freda Hatt of Annville, Ohio, with a postmark date of Oct. 18, 1917. Postage cost? One cent.

This week’s column comes to you as I finish up a weeklong “staycation,” marked by a lot of yardwork at our family’s new home, some fun day trips around the state, and, most fun of all, very little working (except a break to write this column)! In the spirit of relaxing and going with the flow, I just picked a few of letters at random from my letter file to share today, and they happen to be about varied memories of downtown York’s past businesses. I hope you’ll find it as relaxing to read them as I did!

Reader Diane Miller of Mount Wolf wrote to me a few months ago to tell me her memories. “I grew up in center city York,” she began. “I moved in the summer of ’69. (Even though I lived a block away from Hannah Penn, my parents didn’t want me going to junior high there because of the riots.”

She continued, “Anyway, as a teenager I vividly remember our hangout was the 20th Century Bowling Alley on S. Pine St. It was within walking distance from where my best friend and I lived. I lived across the street from Girard Park.”

Diane noted, “I went to elementary school at Jackson. I can remember on nice spring days us neighborhood kids would walk home. In doing so, we would always stop at the Franklin Discount Store and get a soda at the snack counter. My favorite was a vanilla Coke! (Yum.)” She added that she could go on reminiscing for hours, but wanted to help answer of the 17 reader questions that kicked off 2017. She recalled that Keyboard Studios was the music store one reader was recalling in the 800 block of East Market Street, adding, “My friend used to take organ lessons upstairs on the second floor. Outside it had a big ‘K’ arrow on the building. Also back in those days, my family doctor was across the street beside the fire station.”

She also recalled the Holiday Theater and 615 Lounge, which we just talked about last week. Diane also recalled the 615 being called “The Numbers,” which other readers had mentioned as well.

Another reader, Marian, wrote after hearing about some readers’ requests for memories on a variety of topics, including a shoe-shine shop named Rufus’s and shopping at The Bon-Ton downtown. Marian recalled Rufus’s and said, “I not only knew of the shoe shop but I knew them as good neighbors when I lived on West Jackson Street. Especially when Mrs. Rufus would come over at Christmas time with a big tray of Greek cookies.”

She also recalled a special moment at The Bon-Ton. “I do not remember the date, but I do know that one day I walked downtown to The Bon-Ton with my son, and it so happened that the soloist George Beverly Shea sang in the store, ‘How Great Thou Art.’ The whole store literally stopped business, even the change containers that would go up and down stopped. Everyone listened intently. A sight I will always remember.”

Marian continued, “Off the cuff, talking about stores. Remember Wiest’s Department Store? They always had a parrot in their store that talked and I would bring my children in just to see and hear the parrot.” She also recalled McKinley School in York, including its principal for many years, a Mr. Contino, as well as roller-skating at Playland. “My husband and I would spend date nights there,” she said.

And, she noted, “As a young child, my parents would treat us children by taking us to Julius’ dairy. They had big windows that you could see the operation going on inside. The ice cream was good too.”

Finally, Marian concluded, “White Oak Park – I spent a lot of Sunday school picnics there. They even had a merry-go-round, which always fascinated me as a child. How well do I remember White Oak Park? Well, it so happened I got engaged back in 1946 on the third of July, and July 4 we had our Sunday school picnic there and I remember only too well I walked around showing my ring on my finger to whomever would talk to me.”

Marian, I’m so excited that one of your most important memories ties into the park about which so many people have shared memories – how truly awesome!

To wrap things up today, I have a letter from Mary Keller of Seven Valleys, who writes, “Wonder how many people my age remember Krout’s Restaurant? The restaurant was in the 400 block of West Market Street across from the Lutheran church – Mrs. Krout was the grandmother of John Krout, one of York’s mayors. I still smell and taste the meals this lady made – all homemade and from ‘scratch.’ Her Sunday chicken dinners were out of this world. Most fantastic sweet potatoes. Evening was her homemade chicken corn soup. That restaurant was full on Sunday. Church let out and Krout’s filled up.”

Mary said she is now in her 80s and is hoping more Yorkers also remember Krout’s!

Have questions or memories to share? Email me at 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.