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This building at 517 Carlisle Avenue in York, PA, was formerly Wilson Elementary School. (Image from Google Street View.)

Ask Joan: Following up on Wilson School and more

Last week’s column mentioning a school on Carlisle Road in York got a large number of responses VERY quickly! I want to share those this week as well as another follow-up to a previous column.

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What’s inside

1. Following up on Wilson School
2. Memories that jog other memories

1. Following up on Wilson School

Last week, among the questions I shared was one from Ray W. Hamberger, who wondered the name of the school across from the fairgrounds entrance on Carlisle Road in York.

Many, many people were able to quickly give the answer to that question. The building at 517 Carlisle Ave. was Wilson Elementary School, one of several former York City School District entities.

From frequent commenter Tom Keasey of York Township, I heard: “While I attended Jacob L. Devers elementary school, located a little further northwest in the city, I had several friends who attended Wilson and later on, we’d all trudge up the hill to attend Edgar Fahs Smith Junior High School. Schools in the city tended to be named for presidents, historical personages of national or local stature. In the case of Wilson, I am guessing it was named for President Woodrow Wilson, while Devers was named for Four-Star Gen. Jacob Loucks Devers, who was born in York on Roosevelt Ave. (West York St.) and served in World War II directly under Five-Star Gen. and later President Dwight Eisenhower. I could list more of the schools, but, I am afraid I’d miss one or two.”

Tom also noted that June Lloyd, who writes the excellent Universal York and who is librarian emerita of the York County History Center, had a column a year or so ago where she listed all the schools that were once a part of the York City School District. That must have been quite a list!

I also heard from Carolyn Bare of West York, who said she went to kindergarten at Wilson in the early 1950s. Carolyn was the only person to try to guess my “pop quiz” from last week. I wanted to see if anyone knew the name of the first school I attended, which was only a few blocks away from Wilson. Carolyn thought it was Stevens Elementary on Philadelphia Street, where she went herself for first through sixth grades.

That was a good guess, but nope! I began school at West Side Christian School, run by West Side Baptist Church and formerly located on Madison Avenue. I attended kindergarten and second grade there before going to Dover Elementary in third grade when West Side was closed because of asbestos.

Back to Wilson, Jeff Miller said he believes it closed in the early or mid-1960s.

Maggie Hengst said she never went there, but her sisters did. “I believe there were only four classrooms – grades 1 through 4,” she wrote. Edwin D. Hamilton recalled the same, noting that each corner of the building was a classroom.

Reader John Kennedy said, “I lived nearby on North Hawthorne Street and in the early ’60s worked at Wilson as a Playground Director. It was a morning/afternoon program, overseen by the City Parks Department. The basketball court was a popular year-round neighborhood spot.”

Cathy Nace wrote about Wilson, “I did not attend there but my grandparents and aunts live about halfway up the block on Florida Avenue and we sometimes were allowed to go down there to play when the family gathered at their house. There used to be a big metal sliding board that we liked!”

And finally, I heard from longtime Yorker Jeri Jones, who wrote, “The school was Wilson Elementary with grades 1 to 4. I attended there when President Kennedy was shot.”

You may be familiar with Jeri from his work with York County Parks and as a geologist. Jeri and I will both be participating in an event Nov. 28 – York History Storytellers Night at the Belmont Theatre. The two of us and several other York County history aficionados will be sharing our thoughts on some of key photos that depict York, and taking “Stump the Historian” questions. You can get tickets at Would love to see you there!

2. Memories that jog other memories

The other thing I want to share today is a letter from Greg Ness, who wrote after reading some of the memories shared by Betty J. Massa.

Greg wrote to me just after reading the two columns featuring letters from Betty with some fond memories sparked by her memories. Unfortunately, just a few days after I received Greg’s letter, Betty passed away. So I was particularly happy that Greg’s follow-up note arrived when it did. Greg said his parents, Wilmet and Anna Ness, were friends of Betty’s.

Greg wrote, “I thoroughly enjoyed the letter sent to you by Betty (Ruff) Massa. I am also a lifelong resident of Dallastown and have many fond memories of the area and people Betty spoke of. Firstly, the mailman she mentioned was my great-uncle Samuel Ness; the Mann or Manny Ness was his brother Emmanuel Ness. These men were my grandfather’s brothers. The Ness family home was the farm on the right as you entered Red Town, Rye or Red Front from Dallastown. Many former students of Dallastown High/Dallastown Area High School will remember this farmette as the home of Mr. Don Abbott Thomas, the art teacher that many of us had in school.”

He continued, “The house on the southeast corner of the intersection, known as Red Front, became the home of the Eberlys (Ken and Mary), my family’s cousins. The Eberly, and my grandmother’s, homestead was to the right at the intersection (toward Jacobus) and halfway down the hill on the right, later owned by the Gembe Family. The garage at Red Town, next to the store, was owned and operated at some point by a Mr. Grove and later by a Mr. Raffensberger.”

“As to the farm at Wyndridge,” Greg concluded, “it was owned by William and Gladys Raab; that is where I kept my horse. Dr. Phillip Hoover bought the farm from Bill and Gladys and Dr. Groff is now the owner. If my memory serves me correctly, Betty Massa’s father had the greatest collection of clocks I ever saw in my young life. At that time, they lived on Main Street in Dallastown.”

Greg, it was nice to hear from you, and I’m so glad Betty’s memories could spur your own!

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.

2 comments on “Ask Joan: Following up on Wilson School and more

  1. I think I attended first grade here in 1962. We lived on Madison Ave. at the time and I remember walking to school.

    Nope, I was wrong. I went to Madison Elementary.

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