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Ask Joan: Mack the Fire Horse and more

Happy “Are You Dug Out Yet?” week! I hope everyone stayed safe during the storm. The kindness of friends and neighbors was really what got our family through it, and I was thrilled to hear so many stories of other York County kindnesses. That’s what makes me proud to be part of this community.

What’s inside

1. Revisiting Mack the Fire Horse
2. What happened to popcorn machine?
3. Photos of giant carrot sought
4. Sharing more memories of Yoe

1. Earlier this month, I received a question from Vicki Trcka, who wrote that her father, Murl Hoke, who is almost 91 years old, recalls asking Vicki’s mother to marry him in 1946 in front of a white statue of a horse near Rathton Road in York. Vicki said he thought it might have been at or near a fire station in that area and noted that he wanted to revisit it, if it is still there, or wondered if any info existed. “My mother has passed away and father is losing eyesight. Would appreciate anything you can find for me,” Vicki added.

Well, not a fire station exactly, but I happened to remember that we’d talked in previous columns about Mack the Fire Horse, who pulled the fire wagon for Rescue Fire Company in the days before mechanized fire trucks, being buried in Baumgardner’s Woods near Penn State York before being disinterred during a campus expansion, and I thought… hmm…

So I found a quick photo online of the statue of Mack that used to be along Rathton Road near the college and sent it to Vicki, explaining a little about Mack’s history and wondering if that might be the right statue.

If so, I told her, Mack’s remains and his statue were moved to the fire museum at Carlisle Road and Market Street right inside the York city limits coming from West York, and her father might enjoy a visit there to see it.

You can guess I was pretty excited when I heard back from Vicki, “Showed the picture of Mack the Firehouse horse to my father. It was in front of this statue that he asked my mother to marry him. He was very pleased to find the location and we will take him there to see it.”

I was even more happy when Vicki replied one more time and shared this photo:

Murl Hoke of Manchester sees the statue of Mack the Fire Horse for the first time in 70 years. Murl proposed to his wife, the late Virginia Evans, in front of the statue at its former location near Rathton Road in 1946.
Murl Hoke of Manchester sees the statue of Mack the Fire Horse for the first time in 70 years. Murl proposed to his wife, the late Virginia Evans, in front of the statue at its former location near Rathton Road in 1946.

“My dad saw the monument after 70 years,” Vicki wrote. She added that her father lives in Manchester, where he’s resided for 60 years. Her mother, Virginia Evans, was from Chambersburg and met Murl through her sister, who lived in York. The couple had two daughters. “My sister and I are caretakers for our father and are proud of him,” Vicki noted. “He served in the Marine Corps and was also a police officer.”

I’m so glad to be able to help Vicki, Murl and family find “their” statue again!

2. Replying to a previous column on former businesses in the Hanover area, I received a note from Bob Hahn, who writes, “You posted about the popcorn machine at the corner of Broadway. I worked for Wayne Kroh, the father of Victor, who started and owned the taxi business and the shoeshine shop and the popcorn and peanut machine. I shined a lot of shoes and also ran the popcorn machine. They roasted the peanuts in the back room of the shoeshine parlor. The parlor was a great hangout for many of the younger crowd. This was during 1937 to 1939. Vic took over the business when his dad retired and later moved in the storeroom in the Hanover Hotel with the popcorn machine and candy business. Later he and his wife bought a home on Princess St. and opened their candy and popcorn store in the rear of their property. Does anyone out there know what ever happened to the popcorn machine?”

I’d be very interested to know more about what happened to it as well. Any ideas for Bob?

3. So a popcorn machine and a horse statue… those are interesting “what happened to them” questions, right? But what about this one, which came from a Facebook message to the YDR from Kelly Barrett: “Does anyone remember the giant carrot standing outside a restaurant on Leader Heights Road, just off I-83 north? I’d love a picture of it.”

I know a series of restaurants existed in that location – Pappy’s Pizza, Mr. Bill’s Quarterdeck, Duets Chop House and Speakeasy and the Leader Heights Diner – before the building was torn down. I’m assuming the carrot-haver was one of those, but I can’t guess which one. Any insight for Kelly – and photos for all of us who are now unable to picture anything but a giant carrot?

4. Finally, today, just a fun memory to share from reader Terry Frey, who recently emailed about growing up in Yoe, a topic we’ve talked about in past columns. Terry writes, “I was born and raised in Yoe and proud of it. I grew up there in the ’50s and ’60s. Back then it was like Mayberry. There were about 725 people and you knew every one of them.”

Terry adds, “From our home at the end of Pennsylvania Avenue (up against the Yoe Park) I could see to the other corner of town and see if anyone was at the ball diamond or look down at the meadow where the Fire Company now stands and see if anyone was down there playing football. When you played football there you definitely knew the boundaries. One side was lined with briar bushes to stop you from running onto the street and if you went out on the other side you would be in the creek.”

Terry concluded with a memory about Gibby’s Store in Yoe, which we’d talked about in those previous columns. “What I remember most about Gibby’s store could only happen in Yoe. One of us would drop off a shopping list on Friday morning and Gibby’s daughter Dot and her husband Jim would pull the order and deliver it to our house. We left the key in the milkbox and they would take the groceries in and even put the refrigerated stuff away. Mom would stop in after work and pay the bill. Those were really the good ol’ days and I’m glad I grew up there.”

Terry, thank you so much for sharing those memories with all of us!

Send questions, memories or responses to, comment at Only in York County at or write to Ask Joan, 1891 Loucks Road, York PA 17408. We cannot accept any information by phone.