Only in York County

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Musical Memories from York County, PA: A miniseries on Only in York County (

Musical memories from York County, PA: A fall miniseries, Part 3

Often in my columns, I try to jump around to a variety of topics – talking about restaurants one week, stores another, particular towns another, and so on.

But now we’re coming into fall, which will always be most notable in my mind as marching band season, and I wanted to talk some more about local music memories. This is the third installment of a series of musical memories from York County; you can read the first one at and the second at

I hope you’ll read on today for more of readers’ memories and photos on a variety of local musical topics.

Today, we’re focusing on local bands, which we’ve talked about recently as it relates to Happy Johnny’s Gang and the bands of Valley View Park, including the Prairie Pals.

Reader Arlamae Bolton shared this photo, on the back of which was written "Happy Johnny and Family."
Reader Arlamae Bolton shared this photo, on the back of which was written “Happy Johnny and Family.”

I received a letter last year from reader Arlamae Bolton, in response to a question from Bradley Buchar, who’d wondered if anyone remembered “Happy Johnny,” who had performed on WORK radio in the early 1940s.

Arlamae sent me a wonderful note and photo, which I am excited to share today. She writes, “We didn’t have a working radio, but every Saturday night we walked two miles to Heidelberg Grove to hear Happy Johnny and Handsome Bob and their two wives sing. Johnny played a guitar and Bob played a bass fiddle. During a silly song, Bob would roll his eyes and snap his suspenders and rock back and forth on his feet. He wore trousers that were two sizes too big and rolled the legs up above his socks. At the end of the evening was requests. Someone would always ask for the coupon song, which Bob would sing.”

Arlamae described the song as going “I’m saving up coupons to get one of those… My wife, she is making some cute baby clothes. I don’t know who told her, but somehow she knows. I’m saving up coupons to get one of those.”

“That’s all of the song I remember,” Arlamae said, “But I wish I could hear it one more time.”

I was very excited to be able to find a recording of the song as well as the full lyrics on Youtube.

Arlamae, I hope if you’re reading this in print, you can find someone with a computer to show you the video at!

She also recalled the Finchers, who we’d talked about in past columns, noting, “During the 1940s, Shorty Fincher and Sallie lived in North York and he parked his station wagon (with the big steer horns on the front) on the street in front of their house.”

Back to the subject of Happy Johnny, though, Arlamae shared the picture you see today. “This is a very old picture I had… On the back it was written ‘Happy Johnny and Family.’ I am not sure where it came from. It could have belonged to my mother, who passed away in 2006. She may have sent to WORK for it; or got it somewhere else. Not sure how or where we got it.” Arlamae, thank you so much for sharing that!

I also had a letter from Earlyn Baker “Curly” Repman about another local band, the Prairie Pals. She wrote, “My family were friends of all the Prairie Pals. THey came to our farm – Dillsburg area – we visited with Shorty and Sallie when they lived on Fifth Avenue in North York. Rawhide (Fincher) lived on West Philadelphia Street – I think 318, not sure. My sister and I were friends of Sue and Eddie, two of his children. I think there were 2 or 3 more children; they were younger. Last time I saw Rawhide, he was speaking in a church. He became a Christian and committed his life to sharing the Gospel.”

She also recalled that Slim and Ginger, who we’d also talked about before, were with the North Carolina Ridge Runners from 1945 to 1948.

Finally for today, I have two more letters about Valley View Park. Paul Ilyes wrote of the park, “As a kid, our parents took us there many times and the one time that stands out is when we went to see Gabby Hayes in person. Also at that time, my brother was eating a snow cone when a bee stung him and the snow cone went everywhere.”

I’m sorry to hear about your brother’s sting, Paul, but I bet that was pretty funny to see!

Last, I heard from Doris Shearer. She wrote of Valley View, “I too have many memories of that park. I grew up on a farm at the bottom of Valley View hill, about a quarter-mile back a dirt road. In fact, the land the park was built on was once a part of that farm. You could walk up the big hill (cow pasture) in back of our house and right into the back of the park.”

Doris continued, “I do not know who first owned and operated the park, but the name George Long comes to mind for some reason. I began going to the park as a young teenager in about the year 1941. I had an older brother and he and some of his school friends and myself and some of my friends went to the park almost every weekend. We were at the park the day that Shorty Fincher and the ‘Prairie Pals’ arrived. They came in a station wagon with Texas Longhorns mounted above the windshield. I remembered the name of the people in the group. They were Rosalie Allen, Sallie (who later married Shorty), Johnny Huey, Clyde Fogle, Rawhide (the comedian and big bass player, who was Shorty’s brother) and Shorty Fincher. I still find it hard to believe that as a young country girl, I got to see and hear people that later appeared on national television.”

Doris added, “To name a few that I saw were Loretta Lynn, Jean Shepard, Minnie Pearl, Wanda Jackson, Grandpa Jones, Little Jimmy Dickens, Roy Acuff and many more, plus a number of local groups.”

She concluded, “The most famous person that was at the park was Roy Rogers and his horse, Trigger. Unfortunately, I did not get to see Roy Rogers. My parents had made arrangements to go someplace that day. My brother and I wanted them to allow us to stay at home, so we could go to the park, but it didn’t happen. Needless to say, we were not happy campers. When you get to be my age, you have lots of memories, some happy and some sad. These were some of the happy ones.”

Doris, sharing the happy memories is pretty much why I do what I do in this column. Thank you so much for being willing to share yours with me and everyone reading!

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.