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Ask Joan: The writing-long-letters edition

Long letters, like this one from Virginia Lease with memories of York’s former trolleys, bring lots of Ask Joan questions and memories.

In the day of text messaging as primary communication between many people, I have to admit: I love getting actual long-form letters. Don’t get me wrong – they can be digital (a long email is still a “long letter” in my book) – I just like the idea that someone sat down with purpose to compose a set of thoughts, rather than sending you three words while they’re waiting in a checkout line. It feels more connected.

In that spirit, today I want to share some nice letters I’ve received from readers. These all happened to be of the handwritten-and-mailed variety, but I love the detailed emails you all send too!

What’s inside

1. The Avenues and the trolleys
2. Airmail, 1940s-style
3. Better information on a music memory
4. Downtown in the ’40s

1. The Avenues and the trolleys

Today’s first letter comes from Virginia Lease of York, who writes, “In the ’20s and ’30s the Avenues trolley came out Roosevelt Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue, turned left and went to Carlisle Avenue, turned left and went to Linden Avenue, turned left and went back to Roosevelt, then back to the square. When the open-air picnic trolley came out Roosevelt Avenue it stopped just before Pennsylvania Avenue and the conductor got off and did something at a pole in front of Dr. George Weaver’s childhood home so the trolley went straight out Roosevelt and not up Pennsylvania.”

She continued, “My question is, where did the trolley turn off Roosevelt Avenue to go to Brookside Park and Dover? Beyond Faulks’ grocery store at Roosevelt and Maryland Avenue there was mostly farmland; there was no Lincoln Firehouse, no Lincoln Park Pharmacy, no laundry. Did it go in front or behind the old, old trolley barns on Hartley beyond Maryland? Did it skirt the stone quarry? Where did it cross Willis Run? (More questions.)”

And, Virginia concluded, “I remember it did go close to the big white farmhouse (Smith’s?) which was torn down to widen Route 30. I remember seeing embankments and electric poles in the fields near West Manchester Mall before Trolley Road. Hope someone can remember this.”

I am also hoping that! If you have any information on this trolley route, please do comment and let us know!

2. Airmail, 1940s-style

My next letter today comes from Mary Myers Inners of Manchester Township, writing in response to a previous column in which reader Jean Scantling asked about York’s airmail service in the 1940s.

Mary noted, “I remember the airmail delivery in York at Pottery Hill west of the borough of West York. My father, Claude E. ‘Butch’ Myers, was a butcher in North York with butcher shop, attached slaughterhouse, barn and chicken yard on Laurel Street, North York. Having been diagnosed with heart disease, now known as cardiovascular disease, he was advised by his doctor to retire from the butcher business and seek a job that required fewer hours and heavy lifting. He not only worked in the slaughterhouse but delivered the meat by horse and wagon in North York borough.”

She continued, “Upon retirement in 1938, he became an airmail delivery person. He picked up the mail pouch at the York Post Office, drove to Pottery Hill, climbed to the top where he attached the pouch to cables where the airplane would fly over, hook the pouch, put in plane and drop a pouch with mail to be taken to the York Post Office for delivery. The top of the hill was flat with poles for cables, similar to a football field.”

And, Nancy concluded, “My father’s helper was Dwight Shoemaker, a deaf-mute teenager from North York. (There was no schooling for children with that disability.) Upon my father’s death in 1943, my aunt, Beulah (Mrs. Kerwin) Sipe took the job. I don’t remember how long the airlift continued at that spot… I went to the site at times when my mother assisted Dad and enjoyed seeing the pilot wave to us. At that period, Pfaltzgraff had a pottery retail store across the street and slightly west. Now it’s a laundromat.”

Nancy, I LOVED hearing about the airmail system so much that I walked around my house telling all my family members how airmail used to work, so thank you for sharing that!

3. Better information on a music memory

Jamie Frey of Red Lion wrote to me in a bit of a shorter letter, but one I still wanted to be sure I shared, with an update on a previous column, in which reader Palmer Bortner recalled a time when Alabama was a new band, standing in for another at the 2+9 in the former Delco Plaza.

Jamie noted that Palmer had said Alabama was standing in for Boxcar Willie. She wrote, “Alabama did stand in that night, but it was for Willie Nelson, who was ill. Alabama and Boxcar Willie performed (separately, of course) that night. My sister, Joan, and I attended that show, because we both LOVE Willie Nelson, and were so disappointed.” She credited Joan’s good memory for noticing that discrepancy.

Jamie, thank you for adding that additional info!

4. Downtown in the ’40s

Today’s last letter comes from Arlamae Bolton of Hellam Township. I’d actually shared a different excerpt from the leter she wrote to me in a September column, and today I’d like to share the rest.

“I read your column every Sunday and love the things you write about,” Arlamae began. (Thanks!) “I worked downtown in the ’40s. W.T. Grant was a junior department store. I worked in hardware. About once a month a few of us had lunch at The Bon-Ton Tea Room; that was high-class eating for us.”

She continued, “My sister went to the New York World’s Fair in 1939. She bought a paperweight of the Trylon and Perisphere to bring home.” (You can find some cool examples of this, which I bet many readers have seen even if they didn’t know what they were called, by searching eBay for 1939 New York World’s Fair.)

And, Arlamae added, “When I worked at Kline and Myers sewing factory in the ’40s, we made wool shirts for the Navy. No air conditioning. The lint stuck to your arms like glue, every inch was navy blue fuzz. The York Safe and Lock was diagonal across the street and York Cone Co. They made ice cream cones. York Ribbon Mill (was) on the other side of the street.”

She concluded that she is in her late 80s and can remember lots of the things we talk about in this column, both from her time working in York as well as living in Foustown from 1928 to 1948. Arlamae, I’m so glad you wrote with your memories!

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.