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Yet more memories of downtown York from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s

Continuing on with my attempt this spring to share as many of the memories I’ve received by mail and email as possible, today I have some follow-up thoughts on downtown York in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s from many faithful readers. I hope you’ll check them out, as well as some of the previous posts of memories of the city, if you missed those!

Previous posts
· Dec. 20, 2010: More memories of stores in downtown York
· March 5, 2011: An amazing treasure trove: A walking tour of historic downtown York
· March 15, 2011: Downtown memories from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s
· March 29, 2011: Memories of shopping on West Market Street, and a wonderful gas price of 17 cents a gallon!
· April 29, 2011: Letters about even more downtown stores and restaurants
· April 30, 2011: Remember our downtown walking tour?
· June 18, 2011: Mail call: A downtown map and thoughts on Green Stamps from the Staub family
· Oct. 21, 2011: Some possible additions to our detailed map of downtown stores
· Feb. 21, 2013: Business advertisements from the York High Weekly in the early 1940s

And now, the memories! There are many, so I hope you’ll settle in and enjoy, and comment with your own memories and thoughts!

In response to some of these, my brother-in-law Mike Smith, a lifetime Yorker, noted, “I remember hanging out at the bowling alley and the pizza shop in the late ’60s. Was it 20th Century Bowling Alley? Renda’s used cars was beside the bowling alley. We also would hang out at the old ice skating rink on Friday nights.” He also added, “I also remember the Moose Club being on the east side of George St. right near the Post Office. My friend and I worked in the little bowling alley they had in the basement setting up the pins. It was in the mid ’60s, we made a dollar an hour plus free soda.”

Some of our previous posts spoke of car dealers, and reader Scott C. noted, “A J.W. Richley auto dealership was located on East Market Street until the late 1950s. The 1921 showroom is now part of the York County History Center’s Historical Society Museum.”

And John Loeper added, “That Pontiac dealership on W. Market Street was there into the ’60s. Also, Carl Beasley Ford was located on the south side of W. Market near where Carlisle Ave. begins.”

He added, “Also on South George Street across from the Post Office was the Alcazar ballroom on the first floor and the Knights of Columbus on the second floor. I also think York Jr. College was located in that same building as well in the ’50s. Back up the street, the bar that was mentioned next to the Hub was Pat Patterson’s. And going south again on the east side of the street was D.E. Stetler Dodge. Someone mentioned Sunny’s Surplus store at the corner of King and George streets. I was a young boy when that store was there and I thought they had the coolest stuff for sale. I wonder if anybody remembers the TV show they had Monday through Friday evenings on Channel 2 in Baltimore. The theme song was ‘The sunny side of the street.’ I watched it often when I was a kid.”

John also mentioned, “I recall there was also White’s Record Shop on the north side of the second block of W. Market St. in the ’50s and ’60s. Also, on the east side of the first block of S. Beaver St. (across from The Bon-Ton) there was Mountford’s Corset Shop and next to it was the Christian Science Reading Room. On the other side of Beaver Street there was also a store called Carnes (sp?) although I haven’t a clue what they sold.” Any ideas on that for John?

John continued with a memory of another downtown shop. He says, “I wonder if anyone but me remembers Rehmeyer’s store on the southwest corner of W. Market and Belvidere Ave.? While I am at it, there was a radio/TV store on the south side of W. Market Street. My parents bought 3 TVs there in the ’50s (a 1950 Admiral 12 inch… a 21-inch RCA black and white in 1954, and in 1959 a 21-inch RCA COLOR set). I remember a guy from that store coming to our house from time to time to fix those TVs. I can’t remember the name of the store.”

Dexter Sternbergh noted, “My dad (Don Sternbergh) bought me my first (Motorola 6-Transistor) portable radio at that appliance store on W. Market Street in 1958. The store was a few doors East of the Hiway Theater. The York Diner was located from 1939 through 1949 on an empty lot just south of the Penn Hotel, on the East side of N George St, directly across from the Strand & Capitol Theatres. Later the York Diner was physically moved to E. Market St. across from the Brown mansion and Haines Rd. When Memory Lane was aligned to meet Haines Rd., it passed too close to the Diner, so it was moved again, further east next to The Barn Garden Store. After just a year all the nearby businesses on the north side of E. Market St. were demolished to make way for McCrory’s Warehouse. The York Diner was by then too frail to be moved again, so Dad remodeled my grandfather’s home (at 2810 E. Market St.) to become The York Dutch Restaurant. Some years later, the York Dutch Restaurant passed into other hands… And Don Sternbergh became a roving reporter for The Daily Record, with a daily on-the-spot interview column which ran for many years!”

Garnet Taylor wrote and noted, “How wonderful to know there’s someone else who appreciated this era. I walked home from Bill Penn on Market St. to home on Carlisle Avenue 1948-1951. Bennie’s Restaurant was the place to go after games for their burgers-fries-Coke; the 5-and-10 across the street carried lotsa items close to home without going uptown; Rehmeyer’s was a supermarket for furniture/appliances; the Hiway Theater was packed on Saturday night (where I had a huge crush on an usher in uniform); the Acme Markets trained me as a cashier for my first full-time job at the new Acme Market opening on Roosevelt Avenue. All that you mentioned happened in an era of innocence that will never come again but remains in our hearts of a better-time-better place!”

From Linda E. Roelke, I heard: “Last night for some reason, I had about 3 or 4 places I thought about asking if you remembered. These memories could be from the 1950s when I was only 4 1/2 to maybe 10. One was a little donut shop located where I think The Junior League dress shop is on the corner of West Market and Lafayette. My mom would give my sister and me a dime for 1 or two day old donuts -not sure if they were a nickel apiece or not. I was also going to ask if Mike’s Nut Shop was next to the donut shop or across the street in or next to what is now The Golden Plough Tavern. I remember the bag of nuts and the stove. But then boy, was I shocked to see your entry … and the picture of Mike’s Nut Shop. What a coincidence! Also, did York ever have an underground public restroom that would have been at the square on the corner of East Market Street and South George Street?”

Indeed it did, Linda, and actually, Jim Shindler noted, “While I read about the downtown theaters such as the Rialto and the Ritz, Melvin’s BBQ, the Orange Top and White Swan and, of course Bear’s famous sugar cakes and Bury’s hamburgers, I do not recall any mention of the public restrooms that were located beneath the southeast corner of Continental Square. As I recall they were quite lavish with marble floors, had an attendant present and the men’s side had a shoeshine stand along the right wall. The facilities were a safe and welcome place for downtown workers and shoppers alike.”

Kathleen Campbell Beaverson also noted that a previously mentioned jewelry store between York Bank and Trust and the Lafayette Club, on the first block of East Market St., called Rittenhouse Jewelers, was owned by Uncle Ritt and his wife, Jessie. She adds, “Also we can’t forget about Sol Kessler’s on the second block of S George St, that was the place to goo for all the new records. And thank you for remembering Shaffner’s Jewelers! … My father, Frank Campbell, used to be the watchmaker and jeweler at Shaffner’s Jewelry Store that was located at 6 E. Market St. and then moved across the street to 9 E. Market St. My childhood memories consists of Babe’s on the corner of S. George St. and E. South St., the neighborhood’s hangout; Gehm’s Bakery, who made the best Butterscotch Buns in York; Fisher’s Grocery Store, George’s Stationery Store; and Papa Dino’s on the corner of S. George and W. College Ave.; and of course St. Mary’s Parochial School, which I attended.”

Nancy also said, “I was going to mention Sol Kessler’s, too – I only went there once or twice with my dad when I was a kid, but I do remember it! One really picky quibble with (some of the earlier recollections) – I’m pretty sure the Bon-Ton tea room was on the mezzanine floor, only because it was the first time I ever encountered that word, and I am sure I knew it because they served a soft drink called a Cherry Smash, which I loved. I don’t remember anything about the food I had there, but I definitely remember that maraschino-colored Cherry Smash!”

Paul Ilyes Jr. writes, “To add a few things, there was a hotel on the corner of N. George and E. Philadelphia Street, and next to it on Philadelphia street was the Pennsylvania garage. On S. George there was the Duke Hotel I think next to the Colonial and then there was a grocery store on the northwest corner of S. George and King with the Hub store on the southwest corner of S. George and King. On the other side of S. George there was Reineberg’s Shoe store and on the northeast corner of King and N. George was Sunny Surplus. Further up S. George from King was International Jewelry Store. Further back in time the York Lincoln and Mercury was on the southwest corner of S. George and Country Club Road. A gas station is there now. There was a big Plitt’s Ginger Ale sign on top of Newswanger’s store in the square and the street curb in the square was on a radius. I believe you can see some of it yet in the joints in the sidewalk. This is why the railing to the entrances of the underground restrooms are radiused. Oh, and don’t forget the Tropical Treat on S. George as you go up the hill to what is now Apple Hill medical center!”

Bern Bevenour mentioned that in one previous column, we’d noted Walker’s Men’s Store as being on West Market Street, but he says, “I remember Walker’s being on the southeast corner of King and George prior to Sunny’s Surplus being there. Am I wrong?” Would love any ideas on this!

Yvonne, who had written earlier, said, “You have me thinking about downtown York again and I missed a store on North George St., Lady Jayne Dress Shoppe. And going back to restaurants… Did you know Joe Bury had a restaurant chain long before McDonald’s even thought about it? He had a diner on East Market St., East King St., and West Market St. Also I guess my cursive writing wasn’t too clear on the leather shop on N. George St. It was Smutz Leather Goods.” My apologies, Yvonne, I should’ve know that too!

A commenter listed as Hellam Girl wrote, “Sue Deffendall mentioned a store in York called Leeds. It was located on E. Market St. across from the old courthouse. If I remember correctly, the owners were Mr. and Mrs. Burke. They were in the store every Sat. when my mother and I went shopping there. They sold women’s apparel and treated their customers like royalty. This store was still in business in 1973 when my mother died. I believe it was destroyed by fire a few years later.”

Anna Marie Johnson asks, “What was the name of the food store on the corner of S. George and College Ave.?” She also wonders who remembers the Ideal Restaurant.

From Roger Stabley, I received this follow-up to a previous column: “It brought back good memories of years gone by since I worked at Kyle Printing, 140 South George Street and was very familiar with that neighborhood. In the first block (east side) there was Futer Brothers, Hanover Shoe, Concino Shoe repair, Sievers & Devers Jewelry and Kay Jewelry. Beyond Mason alley after Christ Lutheran there was Abe Rizika’s Men’s Clothing, Murray’s Men’s Furnishings, Reineberg’s Shoes and Walker’s Sons Clothing. Beyond King Street there was Union Clothing, Fair & Square Shoes, Haines Shoes and Pep Boys. After Newton Alley there was Forner’s Paints, York Sandwich Shop, Shuey’s Restaurant (York High’s basketball team would eat there before away games), a leather goods store and Cohen Brothers Sporting Goods.”

Roger adds, “On the first block (west side) was the Colonial Hotel and the Colonial Grill. After Mason Alley was the Ritz Theater, Drovers Bank, Crane’s Clothing, Hotel Brooks, Rothert Furniture, Famous Restaurant, Kranich Brothers and International Jewelry. Red Kain worked there and was also a radio announcer on WORK. In the block after King Street there we a lot of buildings that housed many apartments. There were some stores – Smotkin’s Men’s Clothes, Pen-Mar Paint, Fulton Mehring & Hauser, and Ideal Lunch.” (That’d be the Ideal Restaurant that Anna mentioned!

Then, Roger says, “After Newton Alley there was Reliable Shoe Repair, Mort Feder’s Newsstand, Kyle Printing, White Rose Candy Shop, John Mooradin Oriental Rugs and Runkle Furniture. In the next block, across from the Post Office, Lou Hollander’s Appliances was on the corner, Hain’s Pipe Shop, Thompson College and the Alcazar Dance Hall. In 1943-44 that dance hall became the Teenage Club (TAC) and it was ‘the’ place for teenagers to take a date or go there and find one!”

Speaking of Fulton, Mehring and Hauser, by the way, Bob Rudisill notes, “They were located at S. George St. before moving to North Beaver St., my father was a contractor for many years and bought many things from them, I went with him and remember best the time he bought me a new Schwinn bicycle which I rode a lot.”

Phyllis DeStephano-Krall mentioned that one previous column referred to a “rough tavern” on the third block of South George Street. She notes, “That ‘rough tavern’ belonged to my father, Carmen DeStephano. He owned it from 1946 until his death in 1993. He was the sole proprietor. The bar itself was called YOUR TAVERN but everyone called it CARM’S. I will go on to say that there was never any trouble associated with the bar or its patrons. My father didn’t put up with B.S. If there was any he would escort you to the door.”

Jane Mercer writes, “Reading these stories about downtown York, Pa. was really cool. I as a child went with my mom to Bear’s department store, The Tea Room at the Bon-Ton, Newswanger’s shoe store to get my shoes, we also went to the Tally House for lunch. As a child I was so excited to go to the places. My daughter remembers also going to the Tally House for the baked fish. Thanks for the memories!”

Shirley Cover also remembers Bear’s. She says, “Remember going there to get shoes, CAPEZIO’S, must have the style when I went to school. Went every week for new styles, also sugar cakes, the best around.”

Roy Flinchbaugh mentioned, “You wrote about the Peoples Drug Store where there is now a bank. There was another drug store across the square (NW corner) called Whelan’s. I know it was there in the ’30s and ’40s, but I can’t tell you how long it was there.” Roy also added, “I want to note that the Ramona (which was next door to my Dad’s clothing store) made the best peanut butter sundaes ever! The restaurant was owned by Judge Cassimatis’ father and (I think) his brother-in-law, Pete Calopedis.”

And Pat Weber writes, “Don’t forget The Deb Shop which is where I purchased my first John Romaine handbag and Paragon Shoes. Both were downtown almost across from Wiest’s Department Store. They were very popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s.”

My friend Betsy Baird mentioned, “I did forget to tell you another thing about Reese’s on corner of Philadelphia & Beaver Streets. Sometime after they closed, a Pat Leppo Foltz had a gift shop there. Pat and I were playmates some years before that. She liked to make things. Had artificial & dried floral arrangements & hats. I think her Mother had paintings (she liked to paint) in the store, and other similar things and novelties.”

Back to jewelry stores, Pat Nesbit Meckley notes, “Archie K. May was a friend of my parents. I still have some of the beautiful jewelry he made for my mother. I think Charles H. Shaffner used to carry china & crystal as well as jewelry. If my old brain doesn’t fail me I remember getting my wedding china & crystal there. We were born/raised in York from late ’30s to early ’50s when we moved away for 40 years. Retired back here in ’93. And they say you can’t go home again! It was a great move for us.”

Jackie Harkins notes, “My sister, brother and myself worked at G.C. Murphy Co. after school in 1956-57. The part next to Commonwealth Bank was the toy dept. Downstairs in the mail building were dishes, pots and pans, kitchenwares and clothing. When you went in the front from Market St., there was the candy counter and to the left the lunch bar. Across the street was Futer Bros Jewelers and the Hartman Building which was seven stories high and had an elevator complete with operator. On the corner was Newswanger’s shoe store and next to that was National Central Bank and the old courthouse. Bear’s Dept. Store was on the NW corner and Peoples Drug Store on the SW side along with Mumford’s corset shop, and next to the corset shop was McCrory’s 5 & 10. … We had hat shops and shoe stores all over the downtown. Also dress shops and restaurants. We had the Colonial Hotel, The Penn Hotel and apartments above the various businesses. Downtown was the place to be on Friday nights and Saturdays. We would walk downtown from the 1400 and 1500 blocks in West York. We would walk to one of the 7 or 8 movie theaters. The Hiway, the Strand and Capitol, the York Theatre, etc. Those were wonderful years.” (I am guessing that we’re talking about the same corset shop John mentioned above, which he recalled as Mountford’s; any clarity from anyone on Mumford’s or Mountford’s would be excellent!)

Jane Nelson followed up on an earlier post and said, “I read your article about the Morris Drug store and thought that you would be interested in knowing that the store closed in the early ’60s. At the time I was working at Webb & Wolfe, a sporting good store located at 15 E. Market St., and the drug store was just several shops away. Morris Drug was going out of business and they were selling everything in the store. At that sale I bought a table that was used in one of the booths in the store to use as my kitchen table in my first home. Many years later I am still using that table as my kitchen table.” Oh, how cool, Jane!

Michael David King said, “I am contacting you in regards to my grandfather, John D. King, who was the owner of King Oil Service on North Beaver Street back in the 1960s. It was demolished during the Northwest Triangle (project). He was my grandfather and a very kind-natured person.” I would love to hear more memories of King Oil Service!

Kitty Everard noted, “The article about Kauffman’s Art Shop brought back a lot of memories. I can continue the story a little. Jean and her husband John sold the framing business and building at 625 W. Market St. in 1986 to Ed Bievenour (Bievenour’s Photography). Jean’s brother-in-law Donald “Crash” Martin was employed at Bievenour Photography for about 5 yrs. before retiring. Ed Bievenour continued owning and operating the photography and framing business until 2005, when he sold the building only, to a management company. After that several other business were in that building. If you wonder how I know this little bit of history, I worked for Ed B. for many years. I knew Jean, John and Crash. I also knew Archie K. May the jeweler, and his wife. They lived above their shop. Their last name was not May, it was Maul (sp?). I’m not sure if May was a relative or they just bought the business from him. Archie and his wife are both gone. Across the street at 618 W. Market was Larry Bievenour the florist. He was there for many years, and lived above his business. You brought back many memories about the 600 block of W. Market St. and the people who lived and worked there.”

Jim Fahringer noted, “I found the advertisement for Dale & Co. Drug Store at 25 North George Street very interesting. I do not remember it being there. The Dale & Co. Drug Store that I remember was located on the north side of the first block of West Market Street. It was located at either 33 or 31 West Market Street. I used to work at Thompson’s Book and Stationary Store which was located at 35 West Market Street ant Dale and Company was either next door or two doors away. Fluhrer’s Jewelry was also either a door or two doors away. I can’t remember which was which anymore. It sticks in my mind that Dale & Co was next door at 33 West Market Street. Dale & Company always had this huge glass Pharmacist’s Apparatus in the window filled with cobalt blue water. Passers by would immediately focus on this huge beaker type glass filled with cobalt blue water. It either hung to the side of the window or it was sitting on a special iron rack. It did not have a flat bottom and it could not stand upright by itself. It may have been some kind of universal sign that identified a true pharmacy in early days. I believe Dale & Company at this West Market Street location closed sometime around the middle to late 1970s. When did the location on North George Street close and when did the store on West Market Street open? Were there two stores operating at one time?” Any insight would be awesome!

And Terry Parr added, “I remember Dale & Co. I dabbled in chemistry in the 60s and bought a lot of my chemicals and equipment there.”

And finally today, Robert Goldsmith notes, “I’m not sure this is the right place for this, but having grown up in York, I get nostalgic for the old downtown. My mother used to shop at Bear’s all the time and two dress shops farther east on Market. I believe they were Dudley’s and Alice Hoffa’s. The whole family got shoes at Newswanger’s. The Hotel Yorktowne garage used to have validated parking so my mother always parked there. She hated parallel parking, a trait I inherited from her. If the Yorktowne garage was full, we went home. I used to like to buy Matchbox cars at Crider’s across the street from the Yorktowne. There was probably no restaurant in York and its surroundings that we didn’t eat at. And every Friday when my father got home from work, off we went to the Eastern Market. In those days, it didn’t open until 3 p.m. (I believe). We always brought home a Grove’s cake. We all thought they were better than Knaub’s (sorry Knaub’s). Thanks for letting me be a bit nostalgic.”

Thank YOU, Robert, and as I told him: I have to laugh – I WILL NOT parallel park. I’ll walk 10 blocks first. So you have a kindred spirit here!

6 comments on “Yet more memories of downtown York from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s

  1. Does any person remember the York Opera House that later became the Telephone Company ? When I was a child, I always thought that the front of that building was so beautiful! It was on Beaver Street across from the Bon Ton.

  2. I was born in York in June of ’50. We lived in an apartment above a drugstore named “Babe’s” on George Street and later moved to what I believe were duplexes on 2nd Ave. I went back to York in ’87 to see what I could see and the place where we lived on George Street was boarded up, but till there.

    Does anyone know who Babe was and are there any pics of that corner?


    1. Hi Terry, I worked for Babe from 67 to 69. I think an Italian couple lived above Babe’s at that time. I can’t remember their names but they invited me up a couple of times. He made rose wine with petals in the wine. They allowed me a taste and as I remember it was good. Babe was killed behind the counter a few years after I left his employment. He was a good man. I only have a picture in my mind of the store and the building looks way different now. He had an awning out front and a rack of newspapers to the right as you walk in. I remember one evening he went to bring the rack in and lost his balance and fell to the street and cracked two ribs. He was a tough old guy.

      1. My brother and I use to stop at Babe’s and get soft pretzels and Pepsi before School at St. Mary’s. I remember that he was so nice and we loved his ice cream. I remember that he was robbed and killed in his store. We lived above the Firehouse.

  3. Also across from the Bon Ton was Polly’s Hats. She sold many brands but was famous for being a “Mr John” designer. Mr John…..NY, London, Paris, Rome, and York ! These were the hats you saw on the old black and white newsreels in the theaters at Easter

  4. My Mother worked at The Ramona, The Stop Lunch and Ideal Restaurant. We lived above the Firehouse on George St. and my brother and I attended St. Mary’s Church and School. My Dad did the maintenance at the underground Rest Rooms in the Square. We loved Bury’s Burgers and ate there often. I worked at Grant’s that was in same block of Market St as McCrory’s and Greens. I also worked at The Stop Lunch with my Mother.

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