Reader Allida Carroll shared this photo of the former Hiway Theatre. Note the neat misspelling of "Laural" and Hardy!
Many memories from Eugene Bowman
A couple of years ago, I shared a great, long letter from Eugene Bowman of Windsor Township about his memories of being a market basket-carrier.
I have another letter to share from Eugene today, which delves into many memories around York. I hope you’ll enjoy hearing all Eugene can recall!
“Growing up I was born and lived at 608 E. Market St., first floor. Every Saturday my mother, Mary Hoff, gave each of us kids… 25 cents to go to the movies, 20 cents to get in and 5 cents for a candy bar from the pull-handle machine. It was almost always a Western movie – Roy Rodgers, Gene Autry were my favorite cowboys. I have many DVDs, about 3,000 or so, and about 100 are of them. When I watch them it takes me back to a happy time in my life going there every week from 5 to 12 years old.”
He continued, “Coming out East Market Street, right before the York Theater, was a railroad track, and every day the train went through carrying coal, and we as young kids would walk the tracks for two blocks from Market Street to Chestnut Street at the old York County Jail, then back on the other side of the tracks, with burlap bags to pick up pieces of coal that had fallen off of the train cars. We had to do this each day as this was how we heated our apartment. As we got older we would jump onto the train and just go for a ride, dumb thing to do. Sometimes we rode all the way down to the Springwood Swimming Pool on Springwood Road because my mother, who worked as a waitress, didn’t have extra money to give us and it cost 10 cents to ride the train.”
Eugene noted that the York Theater was part of a large building about three-quarters of a block long, which also contained a newsstand. “As kids, we would go in and look through comic books and the owner would tell us ‘If you’re not buying them, get out of here.’ There was also a roller skating rink in this building, I can’t remember if it was in the whole upstairs or in the back of the building,” he noted.
“Across the street,” Eugene continued, “was Joe Bury’s burger restaurant. My stepdad Ervin Hoff worked as a cook after World War II, first on the first block of East King Street and then on East Market Street.” Eugene noted that when I shared pictures of the old Joe Bury’s and its workers at the York Fair, he was one of the men pictured.
About movie theaters, he added, “Other movies I used to go to at some time in my life were Ritz, 100 block of South George Street; Southern, on West Jackson Street; Rialto, 138 W. Market St.; Hi-Way, 800 W. Market St.; Strand and Capitol theaters, 92 N. George St.; and drive-ins, Stoneybrook in East York and Lincoln on Route 30.”
Eugene also saw a previous question asking for the name of a club on the 600 block of East Market Street. That, he says, was the 615 Club, named for the street address number. “It was the hip place to go,” he said. “My job in 1961 was as a WearEver Cookware and Cutco Knives sales representative, later to become a division sales manager. In 2017 I started my 57th year with them. I worked every day – no Sundays – back then nobody did business on Sundays. From 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. I worked, then I went to the 615 with my brothers… and we would dance every dance and rest when the band took their 20-minute break each hour. It was always packed and we knew most of the people. We danced every night ’til 2 a.m. six nights a week.”
He added, “We did all the current dances, but the main dance was Chubby Checker’s The Twist. I still have a record he signed for me when he was in York on one of his tours… A hot spot was the Starlite Lounge on South Duke Street. My friend Tony was a bartender there. All the bartenders knew we didn’t drink but they wanted us to come because the girls would come as they wanted to go where the good dancers were and of course wherever the girls were, more guys would come and that was good for business.”
So, he said, “Whenever the Roaming Bowmans (as we three brothers were known) went to leave the owners tried to keep us there. They knew when we left the girls went to where we went and the guys would follow the girls. The Starlite had dance contests every week. I had a great dance partner, Faye Kinard from Wrightsville. She was so good I had to work like a champ just to keep up to her. We would win the trophies each week. It got so bad people would ask us ‘Are you guys dancing?’ and if we said yes, then people wouldn’t dance. We also did dancing exhibitions at different clubs such as Elks, Eagles, Rotary, for their members. We went to the President Hotel in Atlantic City, N.J., and won top trophy. I even thought I could be a pro but I got into the business world and as I look back I know I really wasn’t good enough to become a pro. So the owner of the Starlite, and Tony, asked us to be judges to give other people a chance. So we did, but along with the other judges, we all agreed the best dancers were – guess who – my brothers, who were great dancers.”
Eugene continued, “How did I become and have a love for the fun of dancing? It was a girlfriend right out of high school who just passed away, Kay Yingling, who took me to Teen Canteen and the Shady Dell. She taught me how to Jitterbug and how to become a better ballroom dancer. I also dated two girls who worked for Arthur Murray dance studio and my high school sweetheart Barb Somers taught me slow dancing.”
And, he concluded, “The other hot spot in York was the Town Tavern, 75 N. George Street. This was in the ’50s and ’60s and rock and roll was hot music. This was a special place for me as a 33-year-old single guy, as I met my future wife. Neither of us drank, we were there for dancing.” He said he and Gloria celebrated 45 years of marriage in March 2017 with three children and six grandchildren at the time he wrote his letter… “That’s why it’s my favorite hot spot!” he said. He also added, “We’re still dancing only a little slower.”
Eugene, thank you so much for sharing these memories with us! I hope you keep right on dancing.