Only in York County

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Ask Joan: Follow-ups and mailed questions edition

The Dinky train is seen as it appeared in a York Sunday News article on Jan. 3, 1954, the day before the train’s last trip to Lancaster and back to York, in this photo courtesy of the York County History Center. It’s the subject of one of the Ask Joan questions from a reader that I’m sharing today.

Today’s Ask Joan is an attempt to clear out the mailed-in letters folder slightly before I go this week to pick up my next batch of mail at the YDR’s offices. I’m sure I won’t make a lot of headway, but I found some really great notes I wanted to be sure to share, and I hope you’ll enjoy them!

What’s inside

1. Even more Franklin School memories
2. Following up on Zech’s Bakery
3. Seeking photos of the “Dinky”
4. Leave a penny in a bowl?
5. Correcting apple pan dowdy recipe

1. Even more Franklin School memories

We started off this year with some reader requests for memories of the former Franklin School in York, and I was able to share one response in late January.

I also received a few more Franklin School letters that I wanted to be sure to share before more time went by, so I’d love to start with those today!

Reader Burnetta (Huff) Kohler wrote, “I started first grade at Franklin Elementary School with a cousin, Juanita Fowler, when we were 6 years old. My mom, 4’11” tall, entered me and left immediately for home. Juanita’s mom had to stay all day at school, because Juanita would cry every time her mom wanted to leave.”

She continued, “Our teacher was Mrs. Baumeister, very nice. Then we entered second grade; our teacher was Mrs. Oats, another nice teacher. I don’t remember anything taking lace in second grade. Now comes third grade, Ms. Plitts, a very pretty young teacher. I only lived a few blocks from school, so I would go home for lunch. When I returned there were some boys around Ms. Plitts’ chair, and about that time, these boys tilted her chair backwards and Dick Wasser in our class gave Ms. Plitts a kiss. Dick Wasser has since passed away.”

Fourth grade, she said, was also taught by a Ms. Oats, this time a sister of her second-grade teacher. “That grade I had to go to a special reading class, because I had trouble pronouncing words. THe class would laugh at me every week I went. My mother couldn’t help me with reading; she was deaf since the age of 11. I said I would never read after I got out of school because they laughed at me, but I do.”

“Fifth-grade teacher, I can’t remember her name, but I showed her a piece of needlework I was making and she thought it was so good for my age,” Burnetta recalled. “Sixth-grade teacher was Ms. Conway. She would wear floor-length dresses, always in blue, her hair combed back in a bun in the back. We had a fellow in our class, tall for his age, always getting in trouble. She would make him sit in the hole under the desk for punishment. When he came out, he would be bent over. How could I forget all those events?”

Burnetta, I loved hearing your memories, though I’m incredibly sad that your classmates had made fun of you – but so glad you did not give up on reading. Burnetta also mentioned clipping and saving these Ask Joan articles for her 10 grandchildren and over 26 great-grandchildren to read; I’m very honored!

I also heard from Virginia Mitchell-Price of York Haven, who wrote about Franklin School, “After all these years, I still have good memories of my time spent there – I lived close and would you believe I still have some of my report cards and also remember some of my teachers’ names. Each day I looked forward to walking to school – then we didn’t start school until we were 7 years old. Fond memories, I’d say!”

Virginia, I agree! I was also someone who enjoyed going to school each day, and couldn’t wait to start when I was younger! (My daughter, now 17, does not share this feeling, and laughs when I tell her I begged to go to school!)

Virginia also wrote back later, another letter, saying that after she wrote the first one, she got her report cards out to check them! “They are from 1928, 1929, 1930, 1933 and 1934, and my teachers were Reba M. Lutz, Margaret E. Troutine, B.N. COnway and Florence R. Landis.”

She continued, “I lived close to the school at 272 S. Albemarle Street and lived in the same house as when I went to school until 15 years ago, when I moved to York Haven. Good memories of my stay at Franklin School!”

2. Following up on Zech’s Bakery

We’d also talked about Zech’s Bakery earlier this year, and I received a letter in the mail from Sheila M. Miller of Red Lion, whose husband had showed her the previous article.

“I was raised in Yoe and knew Jean and Joan,” she wrote about the sisters whose parents, George and Elsie Zech, owned the bakery. “How I remember the trips to the bakery where they would share the bakery goodies with some of us going to the four-room school building, now apartments. Precious memories!” Sheila recalled.

“As a child, Yoe seemed the place to be – Yoe as it once was.” She also described working on my grandparents’ farm as a schoolgirl as part of those “good old days!”

3. Seeking photos of the “Dinky”

In January of this year, fellow columnist Gordon Freireich wrote about riding the Dinky, a commuter and connector train from York to Lancaster that ran from 1942 to 1954.

After that column was published, I received a note from reader Bob Finke of Seven Valleys, who wrote that the column “has prompted me to inquire if any of your readers would have pictures of the Dinky that they would share.”

The only photo of the Dinky I have ever seen is the one with today’s column, which came from an old edition of the York Sunday News. I’d love to see more, so if you have any, please do share!

4. Leave a penny in a bowl?

A reader named Gloria Martz of Manchester wrote to me with another question I hope our readers can help with.

She says, “Do you know anything about the original of, I believe, a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition of placing a shiny coin in an empty bowl you are returning to the neighbor or friend who gifted you with a bowl of food? I remember my mother doing that years and years ago. I like the idea and I continue to do it much to the quizzical looks from the one receiving the bowl. Thank you for any information.”

The only thing I’ve turned up – and it’s not specifically Pennsylvania Dutch – is that it had been previously considered good manners not to return an empty dish, which could certainly be part of how the specific coin tradition started. I’d love to hear any further thoughts on this practice!

5. Correcting apple pan dowdy recipe

Earlier this year, I shared a recipe for apple pan dowdy from reader Phyllis (Gerber) Wolgamuth, a 1953 graduate of Dover Area High School and the 1952-53 winner of the high school’s apple pan dowdy contest.

Phyllis later wrote to me with two corrections in the recipe that I want to be sure to share, so please, save this one for your future apple pan dowdy-making needs!

Place in a small baking dish 1 quart apples (peeled and sliced); set aside.

In a saucepan, put 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup water, 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar. Heat until thick, stirring often. Take off heat; add 1 tablespoon butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla.

To make topping:

Mix 1 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt; cut in 2 1/2 tablespoons shortening; add 3/4 cup milk and mix. Spoon on top of the apple mixture.

Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes.

Phyllis, thanks again for sharing this and sending me the corrected version!

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.