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Trolley tracks are seen entering and exiting York’s Continental Square in the heyday of York County’s street railways in the first third of the 20th century.

May festivals and other memories from the 1920s and 1930s

A little while ago, I had a letter from Frances (Graff) Crerand, who wrote about May festivals, which I last mentioned in a November 2018 column.

It’s with sadness that I report that Frances passed away earlier this year, before I could publish her letter.

But as we near the end of May, I want to take the time to share her memories about this time of year and her childhood in York.

When Frances wrote, she began, “I enjoy reading your columns and since I am 96 years old and have lived in York my entire life I am familiar with almost all the events and places you write about.”

She noted that the column in which I talked about May festivals “brought back many fond memories. I even know all the words to the song ‘Molly Molly May!’ Two big events at most festivals were the crowning of the May queen and the Maypole dance.”

She continued, “From 1928 to 1932 I was a student at Hartley Elementary School, which was located at the corner of Princess Street and Richland Avenue. The organization which today is known as a PTA used to be called the Mothers’ Club at that time, and my mother was a very active member. About two weeks before the May Fete, each student was given 10 tickets that they were to sell to family and friends. The tickets cost 10 cents each and could be used to buy food, drinks or small toys at the Fete. The tickets were not always easy to sell because it was the start of the Great Depression and families were hurting. Also at that time 10 cents could probably buy a loaf of bread.”

Frances went on, “A few days before the Fete, a group of mothers would meet in the school basement kitchen to make baked goods and candy to sell at the festival. Five pieces of fudge sold for 10 cents. I wonder if anyone is still out there who remembers ‘The Taffy Lady’ – Mrs. Finneyfrock. She did a brisk business at her 752 W. Poplar St. home selling small cakes of different-flavored taffy for two cents each. I was a frequent customer.”

She continued, “My home was in the 700 block of West Princess Street and we had a wonderful, friendly neighborhood. As a child I knew everyone on the entire block. The majority of neighbors had to walk past my home on the way to the grocery store. Many would stop by just to say hello to my mother and grandmother or maybe they would even come in for a cup of coffee.”

She also wrote, “There was Goodlings’ Grocery Store at 801 W. Princess St. and Stambaugh’s Grocery at 901 W. Princess as well as Shewell’s Butcher Shop at the rear of 900 W. Poplar. This location later became the home of Senft’s Potato Chips. Then there was the Welcome Cigar Store at 801 W. Poplar, where some of the neighborhood men got together to play cards.”

Reader Allida Carroll shared this photo of the former Hiway Theatre. Note the neat misspelling of “Laural” and Hardy!

Frances continued, “The most activity in the west end was in the 600 and 700 blocks of West Market Street. There was the Royal Fire Company, the Hiway Theater, a car dealership, Rehmeyers Appliance Store (which also had a substation inside), Lincoln Grille and Benny’s Restaurant (both popular kids’ hangouts), the 14 Carat Room (adults only), a newsstand, Guises’ Ice Cream Parlor, a drugstore, the L&H 5&10 and Yingling’s Ice Cream Store. There was also a fortune-teller and a Veterans’ Association building where, after the war, they had a band and entertainment every Friday and Saturday night.”

Then she wrote about something that we have talked about before in this column – York’s streetcar service, seen in the photo with today’s column.

Frances noted, “If I was in this area and had to walk home alone, I would often decide to wait at the corner of West Market Street and Belvidere Avenue for the first streetcar that came along. If I was lucky and the first car was marked PRINCESS ST., for a small fee it would take me east to the square, south on George Street and west on Princess Street, where I could get off directly in front of my home at 755 W. Princess St. If I had to take the trolley car marked MARKET ST., then it would only take me to the square. Before I got off, I would ask the conductor for a transfer, which was a small piece of paper. Then I had to stand in the square and wait until the PRINCESS ST. car arrived, and when I gave the conductor my transfer, it allowed me to ride the rest of the way home for free. The streetcars stopped at every intersection when someone wanted off, so sometimes it took me an hour to get home.”

I would like to conclude today by noting that, in her letter, Frances took the time to give a “shout-out” or hello to several of her friends, saying, “With all the years I spent growing up and living in York, I am fortunate to still have friends and bridge partners in my age group.”

She listed several: Mareece (Senft) Gibbs and Doris (Meckley) Shewell (both 97 at the time of Frances’ letter); Janet (Conway) Biros (96); Dolores (Kitzmiller) Quickel (95); Dorothea (Graff) Zimmerman (93), Frances’ sister; Ruth Zemaitis and Doris Breishner (91); and Dolores Zellers Dellinger (90).

Unfortunately, Dolores Quickel also passed away, in March of this year. My condolences to her family and Frances’; I am grateful to be able to share some of these memories, even if later than I would have liked.

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.

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