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Memories of Smutz’s Leather Goods, Gingerich’s Music Store and more

Today’s admittedly late-in-the-day post comes from memories shared with me by Betsy Baird. Betsy and I frequently email back and forth about York’s past, and her memories are amazing! I can honestly say it makes my day when I hear from her.
One of her earliest notes to me was about Smutz’s Leather Goods at 24 N. George St. in York, which was first mentioned to me in a note from another pen pal, Yvonne Leiphart, in a letter earlier this year.
About Smutz’s, Betsy writes, “I remember that place very well… I would buy my pocketbooks there, when I went to school. They had a certain type I liked best. Mother and I also bought leather dog straps and collar straps there. And the leather – forget what they were called – woven chew straps for our precious dog, Nixie. Nixie and I would pull at opposite ends of that strap, playing. And it was something she couldn’t chew to shreds right away. You could really get the smell of clean leather in that shop.” (Gordon Freireich wrote more about that smell earlier this year.)
And, keeping it in the neighborhood, Betsy wrote, “You mentioned … about the pet shop in the 500 block S. George St. Well, that’s where we got our ‘baby.’ $7.50 – Dad said they ‘give dogs like that away.’ A mixed rat and fox terrier. But with perfect pedigree markings.”
As the proud owner of a dog that, um, probably should’ve been given away – and yet that I paid through the nose for – I appreciate that!
One other downtown memory from Betsy came in regard to the question of music-lesson memories. She writes, “Gingerich’s Music Store was in the 300 Block West Market St. After I became deaf – stone deaf – I wanted to play the piano. Mr. Gingerich told Mother he couldn’t teach a deaf person! Well, anyway, I started going to him. We lived a block away. He found I could do it. He had a way of tapping his foot on the floor to indicate the beat and how fast I should play. I could do only by the music book right in front of me. I did play in the talent show at school. I stopped taking lessons. It became too hard to do that and do my school work. Also, the vibrations of the piano were hurting my ears. I taught myself new pieces. Eventually, the vibrations, as well as the arthritis in my fingers made it too hard And, I’ll admit, I needed new lessons from a teacher! I sold the piano. Think Mr. Gingerich had died by then. He also taught violin, accordion, I forget what all in his store.”
She concludes, “Gone are the days of the old stores like that, which included Julius Music Store in 100 Block West Market St., where Agency on Aging had been. A girl I played with went there to take her own piano lessons!” Even today, Betsy says, she still likes to look up old songs, especially those of the “Big Band” musicians.
See, there’s something in addition to my York County fascination that is maybe unusual for someone my age: I love the Big Bands too! Those Glenn Miller/Benny Goodman standards are some of the first songs I can remember really getting into.
Thanks, Betsy, for bringing them to mind!

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