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Betsy Baird, a longtime Ask Joan reader who has since passed away, in 2013 shared this former Sunday News clipping of locals, including a Mark Gillespie, swimming in 'The Swamp,' a swimming hole on Barshinger Creek, south of Dallastown.

“A result of an afternoon of remembering” – Part 1

This week and next, I want to share the contents of a letter I received a little while ago from Betty J. Massa. Betty, who lives at Normandie Ridge, is a longtime Yorker, but I recognized her name from another context; she is the grandmother of one of my close high school friends, Chris Massa. Those kinds of connections are one of the best parts of getting to share memories through this column.

Betty wrote several notes, and mailed them together with a small note that said “The enclosed is a result of an afternoon of remembering.” I was thrilled to receive those memories, and I’ll share some with you today and the rest next week.

She began by saying that she enjoys reading this column, which often brings back memories for her. Her first letter came about after she read columns on Avalong’s and the Innerst farm outside of Dallastown, site of a 1960s plane crash.

Near the Innerst farm was a swimming destination known as The Swamp, which was in turn near an area that locals called “Red Front.” Reader Bonnie Kenny-Strayer had wondered about that Red Front name in a column last fall.

Betty recalled, “It was ‘Red Town’ to my family and neighbors, although I had heard it referred to as Red Front… This is what I can recall about Red Town: There were three livable dwellings. The home of Pete and Ida Grove. The home of Sam Ness (our mailman) and Man Ness, the area barber. A residence on the corner of the intersection – as I recall the occupants changed frequently.”

She continued, “There was a grocery store (owned by Pete Grove). No supermarket, just the basics, such as coffee, sugar, bread, flour, and there was an area for storage (chicken feed, etc.). In this same area there was a garage – minor repairs, state inspections. I believe there was a gasoline pump in front of the store.”

Betty added, “There was a little cottage (still is) southeast of Dallastown named Adamsville but also known as Arbor and Pinchgut. This little village was home of Meadowview Dairy, owned and operated by the Sam Sheffer family. I knew the area well, as my father had a herd of dairy cows and he (accompanied by me) would deliver our milk to the dairy. A road from Adamsville would eventually reach The Swamp.”

I’d mentioned that I’d heard this area called Rye in the past, and she wrote that she’s heard of that name, but “cannot put it on my ‘remember’ map.” She did continue with some great memories moving outward from this area and onto a topic of great interest to me – one-room schoolhouse learning!

Betty writes, “Leaving Red Town and driving toward Dallastown, there was a one-room schoolhouse situated on the edge of what is now South Pleasant Avenue. This school was Kohler and was demolished several years ago. The school was directly across the road from the John Brant farm. John and Lola Brant provided bed and breakfast to teachers who had to stay overnight because of a snowstorm (no snow days).”

She continued, “Daily, two of the ‘lugger’ boys would go to the Brant farm and return with a pail of water to fill the water jug, which had a little spigot – used to fill your cup, which was kept on the shelf nearby. The teacher was the custodian, who built the fire each morning. The big boys brought in the coal and carried out the ashes.”

Then, se added, “For my eight years of elementary schooling, I had two teachers: My first five years, Elizabeth McDowell, and the last three, Flo Welcomer. Some years there were no students for some grades.”

“Sometime during the school year, there would be a gentle rap on the door. There would be the County Superintendent of Schools. He was there to observe our teacher at work – teaching. Eighth graders went to the Spry Elementary School (a four-room, two-floor building now demolished and replaced by the United Methodist church). You took a test and if you passed this test, you could go to high school. Then you waited, sometimes a week or two, until you received the news if you passed.”

She added, “No snow days, no school buses, you walked regardless. Parents didn’t drive you to school or pick you up after school. There were usually a number of students going the same direction walking. No cafeteria; you carried a lunch pail. There was a huge furnace situated in the corner of the room. A shelf on top of this provided a place for a container of soup, etc., a place to roast potatoes – white or sweet. A screened window provided a sill, a place for jars of milk. By lunchtime, on a cold day, you would have a cool, sometimes icy drink. I cannot recall any child who had a Thermos.”

“There are many roads from here to there that reach The Swamp. As I think of this area – roads have been improved. No speed bumps on the Stine Hill Road (ditches were dug diagnoal from side to side to control the rainwater from washing out the road). Landmarks are gone; only memories remain.”

Betty concluded that part of her letter with a note saying, “These are just a few of my memories. Some time ago I complied a book – ‘All About B.’ Beginning from my birth to the present. Memories, memories, hopefully preserved for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

Betty, I’m so glad we could also be a part of your memories. I can’t wait to share the rest of them next week!

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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