Only in York County

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Mail call: Ruminations from the desk of an ‘ole geezer’

Today’s foray into the mailbox comes from Wayne Breighner of Red Lion, whose letterhead reads, as my post today is titled, “Ruminations from the desk of an ‘Ole Geezer.'”

Wayne writes, “I have lived in and about York County, Pa., my entire life. These things I remember from being there, done that.”

“My grandparents lived on Carlisle Ave. across the street from the Royal Fire Co. (now the fire museum) in the early 40s, during the war years. The Acme store was the place we took the renderings from cooking, cleaned cans, metal foil for recycling for the war effort. I remember seeing the trolley tracks, but I don’t remember the trolleys. I have been told a trolley from York was in the collection at Steamtown in Scranton, Pa. … near the Steamtown mall.”

The image of the former Royal Fire Company station, now the York County Fire Museum, is from, which also showcases some of the building’s distinct architectural features.

Regarding movies, a popular topic to be sure, Wayne writes, “The Hiway Theater was noted for its Saturday morning ‘kiddy’ shows; these were a real treat because it had multiple cartoons, a serial such as Frank Buck Bring Em Back Alive, or Buck Rodgers, or Captain Winslow fighting the axis powers and their spies and a ‘good guys win’ feature movie, usually a western with Gabby Hayes, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry or John Wayne, oh, yes, and the latest news reel. If a fellow had the courage to ask the girl out on a movie date, it usually included a stop at Bennie’s for a hot roast beef sandwich with gravy on the fries and fountain soda. Two people could eat and you got change from a dollar.”

(Remember this photo of The Hiway Theater in the 700 block of West Market Street, submitted by Allida Carroll and featured in a post last week?)

On other shopping in this area, Wayne writes, “H.M. Rehmeyer’s was a place where you could buy tires for a car, buy bicycles and parts and lots of other hardware. They also were the local post office substation where you could mail parcels and buy postage. The owners were known for humor also; they had a sign at the checkout area that said they would pay $10.00 for 1945 pennies. The first time I saw this sign I knew I was rich as I saved pennies and I rushed home to get my penny stash and rushed back with a hand full of 1945 pennies, and I had plans for this anticipated windfall. I could see that new Schwinn bicycle with the knee action shock absorbers and those new Lionel train sets with the ability to actually smoke and one of the new diesel engines and lighted cars. After hearing the resounding laughter from the person behind the checkout counter as I laid my pennies on the counter and said I was here to collected and pointed to the sign, and the clerk called other employees to see what was so funny… meaning me, as I found out the sign did not mean 1945 pennies but one thousand, nine hundred and forty-five pennies from any date. I left the store but I was not a happy camper!”

“Before we leave the Carlisle Ave. area,” Wayne continues, “I remember when this street was the staging area for most parades, especially the Halloween parade, held on the last Saturday night before or on Halloween.”

Wayne continues, “I was a member of the Goodwill F.D. drum and bugle corps (station on East Market St.) This drum corps was a sponsor of the parade and members were involved in forming the parade. We always were the last unit to march after we finished forming the parade; this group of adult men were noted for the bizarre attire they wore or almost wore. i wore a barrel; some wore diapers; some cross-dressed in odd female attire (i.e. undergarments remodeled in such a way as to be comical and with outrageous makeup) and some marched barefoot and as the horse riders and horse-drawn floats were directly in front of us, so the other parade participants did not walk in the road apples – as horse (BLEEP) is also known, but our barefoot marchers were noted for their efforts to walk in all the droppings they could find. It supposedly kept your bare feet warm!”
He continues, “People stayed to see this crazy group, even though our musical ability was limited, but we played the entire route from Carlisle Avenue and West Market St. to Tremont and East Market St.”

Wayne brings up another business in the downtown area that wasn’t much mentioned here in the past: Gehly’s Furniture and Carpet House, which he lists at 9 W. Market St. “This business was noted for quality merchandise and for having excellent interior decorator services,” Wayne writes. “Mr. King was the owner in the 1950s, Mr. Donald Hoke was the decorator; I worked there as a seasonal employee in summers on delivery trucks and assisted the flooring crews if they needed a helping hand. My direct supervisor was Clint Roderick Jr., who later was a travel consultant with AAA.”

He adds, “Another business I have not seen mentioned was Bud’s Drive-In, formerly Fitz Brothers Tropical Treat in the S. George St. area known as Violet Hill (near Marlboro Estates). Bud’s was the home of the Bud-Burger and the Bud-Mobile. The Bud-Burger was similar to McDonald’s 2 all-beef patties run through the garden with special sauce. (Run though the garden means lettuce, tomato and onion.) The Bud-Burger was before any McD’s in York. The Bud-Mobile was a small car with a bigger than life sandwich look-alike on top. The business was owned by Harry and Marilyn Markey; it was a fast food eat-in restaurant open year-round. I worked there part time in the early 60s. It had soft-serve ice cream and soda fountain service, great food, good jukebox selections… In later years, it was ‘Father John’s,’ an adult beverage establishment that mysteriously was blown up one early morning, no one hurt but lots of rumors as to why it was no longer operational.”

Wayne continues, “Other businesses I am familiar with are Provenza’s grocery store, which was owned by John and Frances Provenza, this was a typical neighborhood store with limited selection of grocery items, fresh-cut luncheon meats and cheeses and specializing in fresh produce and quality fruits. Produce was displayed outdoors on Saturdays… The offered store-to-home delivery Saturdays. I worked there on Thursdays after school, stocking shelves, and Saturdays as a delivery service using a little red wagon. This store was on the corner of West Market and Dewey streets in West York borough.”

He adds, “Sometime in the early 50s, the first Food Fair supermarket opened very near that location. That store was in later years occupied by Print-O-Stat.”

“Chet Patterson’s sporting goods started in the 1100 block of West Market Street on the south side, and after a few years due to business increase moved across the street into what was a defunct ‘Flying A’ gasoline station and auto repair business. The area today is just east of the Hess station,” which he adds used to have a three-story apartment building with a first-floor barber shop. At the western end of the 1100 block of West Market, Wayne says, just before the railroad tracks, was a Sunoco gas station.

He continues, “Across the street and a little west (1200 block of W. Market St.) was Black’s Hosiery, a knitting mill manufacturing men’s stockings. During WWII it was a defense manufacturing facility for government-issued socks to our armed forces. In peacetime, Black’s men’s hosiery was noted for ‘6 months wear or 6 new pair’ as the stockings were sold in boxes of 6 pair to the box. Later the property was a Franklin Discount Store and recently it is a Giant grocery store. My mother worked for Black’s until the business closed.”

Wayne also wrote about one other local business, but we’re going to save that for a post in a week of two, along with some other readers’ memories!

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