Memories of Valley View Park and the Finchers continue
I’ve shared many memories in the past of Valley View Park in Hellam Township, run by a couple known as Sallie and Shorty Fincher and featuring many country music acts.
Since that time, I’ve not only received many notes tied to the history of the park and the musical acts, but also, longtime reader and genealogy researcher Audrey Lerew did a bunch of research to find out more about the Finchers and singers “Slim and Ginger,” in particular tracking down the legal names of all those people, and I’m excited to be able to share her research today along with many other comments on this topic!
For those looking to do some digging on their own about Valleyl View, Ed and Martha Rudisill sent me a note, stating the following (I’m not sure if it’s from Ed or Martha):
“I had a book from Valley View Park from probably back in the 1940s that I donated some time ago to the Kreutz Creek Valley Preservation Society. I thought you might possibly be interested in the Valley View memorabilia that they have. The museum is located in the old one-room school below Hellam. The address is 5345 Lincoln Highway, Hellam, PA 17406. Telephone is 717-755-3777. The curator is Ealora Holland. Email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. The museum hours are limited so suggest making an appointment if you plan to visit.”
While the Rudisills sent me this some time ago and I haven’t yet made it to the museum, I am certainly still hoping to visit myself and wanted to share the info for anyone else who might be able to get there!
I also heard from Brian Fincher, who said he’s the oldest of Shorty Fincher’s three grandsons. Brian noted that his father, Jim Fincher, died April 11, 1993, and said his mother, Susan Fincher, has a lot of Valley View Park memorabilia as well.
A couple of years ago, I’d heard from one of “Rawhide” Fincher’s grandsons, Paul J. Fincher. Rawhide was Shorty’s brother, also active at Valley View, and his grandson Paul had shared some memories, thanking those who shed more light on his family’s past. Once Paul shared that, I received a note from reader Michael Wickham of Spring Grove, who had some photos of Shorty and Rawhide and their parents at Valley View he wanted to show to Paul. Michael said his photos came from working with the WORK radio station in York from 1940 to 1946. Michael wrote, “Shorty then moved ‘Prairie Pals’ operation to Waynesburg, PA, and on May 4, 1947, set up Golden Oaks Park and worked with WWVA out of Wheeling, WV (which became a CBS affiliate on June 15, 1947, but it was known in December 1946).”
The Prairie Pals are one of the musical acts we’ve talked about in the past. Reader Monty Cowan wrote that Shorty Fincher was his great-uncle, and “Bonzy” Fincher was his grandfather. Monty is looking for Prairie Pals records, if anyone knows where to find those. Outside of random yard-sale finds, I’ve always had the best luck finding local records by talking to Jim Lewin at The York Emporium – can’t promise he has these specifically, but he often gets his hands on very York-centric albums.
Another entertainment act in the vein of the Prairie Pals came up following a past column: the Young’Uns.
I heard about them in a note from Logan Roush, who wrote to me as president of the New Berlin Heritage Association of New Berlin, a small town between Lewisburg and Selinsgrove, PA.
He wrote, “We are featuring our town’s carnival on our annual Commemorative Block and are running a very small – one panel – exhibit on the carnival. At a local sale my parents purchased an old New Berlin Carnival advertisement that advertised ‘Shorty and Sallie Fincher and the Young’Uns.’ And after an initial Google search I turned up your column and several references to Shorty and Sallie and the Valley View Park but no mention of the ‘Young’Uns.’ From what I gather I assume this was an old time country western band. But I also get the feeling it may have been a sort of variety act with comedy included… I wondered if you had any information you could share with me or any more leads!”
Logan, that’s my guess too – I have found several names of acts that may have been iterations of the same group of singers, including the “Cotton Pickers,” and I also show that there was some comedy/variety element to most, but I have no details on the Young’Uns specifically. I’d love to hear more if any readers do!
And there was more to Valley View Park than the music, as I heard from reader Robert Runkle. Robert wrote, “I grew up at Valley View Park. My mother and father, Jeannine Hoffman and Roy Runkle, ran the snowball stand. My great-grandparents Ducky and Minnie Hoffman ran several stands, and my great-uncle Joe Hoffman did the basketball game and my great-grandfather guessed weight and ages. By the way, my mother met my father at the snowball stand.” That’s awesome, Robert – thank you so much for sharing so we can add their names to our Valley View memory collection!
And finally for today, I have the information I promised from Audrey Lerew. Audrey has more than 34,000 people identified in her own family tree, and works to photograph grave markers in local cemeteries for the FindAGrave project. And, in her spare time, she does a lot of research at the York County History Center on some history mysteries that interest her.
She worked at Valley View Park for several years as a teenager, and so had an interest in researching Sally and Shorty Fincher! “I did a big research on Sallie and Shorty. I talked with the daughter-in-law who lives in Harrisburg. Shorty was married twice. Four children to the first wife and only James to Sallie… I found all of Shorty’s siblings except one brother. I know he died in Tennessee but do not know where he is buried… Their son is on their gravestone but is actually buried in Harrisburg. Shorty’s parents and Sally’s mother are on the back of the stone. They are all at Prospect Hill.” Also, Shorty’s given name was Luther, and Sallie’s was Alexandra.
Audrey did a lot of work to get all this information, including photos of gravestones and photos of the family, on the FindAGrave page, which you can find at https://new.findagrave.com/memorial/98997090/luther-clark-fincher. Other FindAGrave users have contributed information there as well.
Audrey noted, “Someone mentioned Rawhide, and he is listed he is Hamilton Elijah Fincher.”
She also noted that Clyde Fogle, who was part of the Prairie Pals musical act and later ran Valley View after Shorty’s death, can be found on FindAGrave at https://new.findagrave.com/memorial/125498629/clyde-r.-fogle.
Audrey also did some digging on “Slim and Ginger,” who were also part of the Prairie Pals. Thanks to help from the Finchers’ grandson, she solved the mystery; their full names were Kenneth “Slim” Novin and Joan “Ginger” (Chico) Novin. Hey, a Joan! Extra win. Slim passed away in 2000, and his son died in 2009, Audrey added. She wasn’t sure if Ginger was possibly still living or not, even after communicating briefly with one of her family members. Audrey shared her work with the York County History Center, so if you want to see more, certainly go to the archives and ask for the file on the Novins!
To confirm that and close out today’s memories, I want to share a post made by Robert Leaman from 2007 on The Steel Guitar Forum. Note that he uses “Sally,” which I see used almost interchangeably with Sallie, but her gravestone does use Sallie as Alexandra’s nickname.
Robert, from North Carolina, had written, “I suppose there might be some who remember Shorty and Sally Fincher who operated Valley View Park at Hallam, PA. Hallam is midway between York and Wrightsville at the Susquehanna River. I played steel guitar for Shorty until his death from a heart attack in the early spring of 1959… The show staff featured Slim Novin on bass, Ginger Novin on Martin D28, Clyde Fogel on fiddle, Shorty on 5-string banjo, Sally on Martin D28, and me on steel guitar. Shorty booked local acts, WWVA Jamboree acts, and Nashville acts. The park opened on Memorial Day and closed after Labor Day Monday.”
He continued to confirm what Audrey found. “For those who are interested in history, Shorty’s first name was Luther, Sally’s name was Alexandra, Slim’s name was Kenneth, and Ginger’s name was Joan. Clyde Fogel was a watchmaker by trade and Slim worked many years at Caterpillar in York. Shorty had a DJ radio program at Red Lion, PA, for years and earlier in York at WORK. It was somewhat traditional that Shorty and Sally played a show at Himmelreich’s Grove the Sunday after Labor Day and that ended personal appearances for the year. All except me have gone to the Great Jamboree and at my age I expect that it won’t be long before I can pick again with Shorty and Sally.”
So, we can add Robert too to the list of people who were part of the great Valley View music scene!
Have questions or memories to share? Email me at email@example.com 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.