Only in York County

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

Musical memories of York County

Earlier this month, I had the honor and privilege of going to see Mary Poppins performed as Dover Area High School’s spring musical. I’m a Dover grad and a former musical participant, so I always enjoy that, but this year’s event was extra-special because it was the last to feature the direction of Jaci Keagy and the vocal coaching of Andy Apgar, both of whom have been helping Dover’s stage productions look and sound great for the past 25 years.

As a tribute, alumni were asked to attend the March 4 show and join the Mary Poppins cast onstage to sing Mrs. Keagy’s favorite musical number, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel. I dug out my 1998-99 cast T-shirt from “The Music Man” and wore it with pride to participate. You can see us in the video above.

Anyway, relatedly, I thought it might be fun today as a follow-up to that event to both ask you to share any of your memories of participating in York County’s various high school or community theater programs, as well as to share some general memories about York County music!

Reader Jerry Akin noted another related topic for memories. “You should ask folks what local bands they used to go hear back in the day,” he says. His list? Del Chords, Soul Clinic, Disciples, Citations, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, Blue Image and many country and western bands.

Gloria J. Anderson of the Stewartstown area recalls listening to The Mitchell Brothers Orchestra. “Those were the days,” she wrote, “Those wonderful Friday and Saturday nights at Fawn Grove Community Building, Shrewsbury Fire Hall, Stewartstown VFW and Kellers Park in Dallastown. Round and square dancing, the good old-fashioned kind that brought a house full of people just hear/dance to the Mitchell Brothers. Paul Jones dances had almost everyone on the floor.” She explained the Paul Jones dance, a mixer in which you dance with your partner until the whistle blows, then join in a circle until the whistle blows again, with men going one way and women the opposite, and then you dance with the new partner in front of you until the whistle blows again. I actually looked this up when working on calendar items for the YDR featuring singles dances!

Gloria continued about the Mitchell Brothers, “There was Austin, the leader, playing lead guitar, Frog on the drums, Ernie on the violin and I have forgotten the other one’s name – Erwin sticks in my mind, but I am not sure. … The orchestra played whatever you wanted to hear and they did it well. One of the all-time favorites was ‘Pennies From Heaven.’ Some say that Frog slept while he played the drums – of this, I am not sure – but he sure could beat the heck out of them. The whole Mitchell family was well thought of – they worked hard and were kind and friendly to all. I don’t think those men ever had a lesson in their life but they were in big demand in that era! You could not find nicer people anywhere!”

I heard about the same group from Ed Keller, who wrote, “Harry Keller was our father and along with our mother operated the dance hall in Dallastown until it was dismantled in about 1954. Our dad would call for square dances and our mother sold refreshments. Our family has old home movies of the Mitchell Brothers playing music and people dancing. This group performed before this at our parents’ general store in Freysville.”

How great to hear about this orchestra!

Then, I heard from longtime reader Jim Fahringer, “I love to hear about obscure York music groups and record labels. I would love to find out more about the following groups and their York County record labels.”

He continued, “I came across a 45 RPM Record on eBay that was manufactured right here in York, PA. The name of the record manufacturer was J. Smith. The record says, ‘J. Smith Records – York, PA.’ The ‘J.’ in ‘J. Smith Records’ may stand for Jane. The name of the song on one side of the record is ‘Someone Waiting Somewhere.’ It is sung by a group called, ‘Dee – Lynn and the Graduates.’ I would imagine this record to be from the 1960s or 1970s. The genre is ‘Northern Soul.'”

The other one Jim found was about a 45 rpm record he found listed on eBay for $146. “This record carries a local recording label of D/B Windsor, PA. The name of the group was ‘The Romans.’ The songs on the record are copyrighted 1965. On one side of the record you have the song, ‘The Drag’ by Leach, Elicker, Reisinger (these may be the singers). On the other side you have the song, ‘After You Go’ by Elicker (this may be the performer). Evidently the performers and the writers of these two songs are the same people. The song, ‘The Drag’ is copyrighted 1965 by T. Reisinger and T. Henry. The song, ‘After You Leave’ is copyrighted 1965 by Leach and Elicker. The genre of this record is Garage Rock.”

Finally today, a last note about records. This comes from reader Beverly Fidler, who writes, “I have a 33 1/3 LP album of a Gospel group named ‘The Missionaires’ from Windsor, PA. I tried searching for more info but couldn’t find anything. There is no date on the outside but I can’t check the album itself because the album has never been opened. The group consists of 5 women and 3 men. On the back of the record is the names of the producer, engineer, etc.” Beverly is really hoping for more info on The Missionaires, so if you have any, please do let us know!