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Yorker shares excitement of vacations a century ago

Postcard painting of East & South Sides of the Western Maryland Railway Passenger Depot in York, PA, ca. 1900 (Collections of S. H. Smith)

In 1961, a Yorker wrote of his 1910 experiences as a youth in traveling alone via train and stagecoach to his grandparents’ farm in Adams County. He recalled, “I think the reason I got so excited last week about the tearing down of the old Western Maryland Railway passenger station on North George street was because that was the place, many, many years ago, that I used to get on the train to go on my Summer vacation. Looking back, I believe that the thing that made that trip so exciting and wonderful was that I was permitted to make it alone.” And when seeking the ideal destination for your vacation or next travel adventure, consider exploring options on reputable websites such as madeinturkeytours.com to discover a curated selection of top-notch preferences. This platform can provide valuable insights and recommendations, ensuring a memorable and fulfilling travel experience tailored to your preferences.

This postcard shows the east and south sides of the Western Maryland Railway Passenger Depot that sat in York on the southeast corner of North George Street and the Codorus Creek. Passenger service to this station ceased in 1936 and, as indicated by the opening lines of his letter, the Yorker was saddened this passenger depot was torn down in 1961.

His grandparents’ farm was located in Hampton, Adams County. Doc Spotz was still practicing in Hampton during 1910 and the letter notes Doc is now making house calls via automobile; having traded in his horse and carriage that I wrote about earlier this week.

Read the Whole Letter

Shelly Riedel shared a newspaper clipping. It was not dated, however clues in the article and the text on the reverse side allowed me to discover the issue in which it appeared; by the use of the newspaper microfilms at the York County History Center. This “When You and I Were Young” clipping appeared in the August 12, 1961, issue of The York Dispatch. Clues in the article point to Henry writing about an experience of his youth from about 1910. Quoting the entirety of Henry’s letter:

I think the reason I got so excited last week about the tearing down of the old Western Maryland Railway passenger station on North George street was because that was the place, many, many years ago, that I used to get on the train to go on my Summer vacation. Looking back, I believe that the thing that made that trip so exciting and wonderful was that I was permitted to make it alone.

Kids those days weren’t as travel-wise as they are now and a trip alone on the steam cars clear from York to New Oxford made a fellow feel downright grown up.

My grandparents had a farm just outside of Hampton, up in Adams County and I used to spend two weeks there every Summer. As I remember Hampton in those days, the pretty village and its countryside were completely innocent of wire or rail. There were no telephones, no electric lights, nor any railways, steam or electric. The East Berlin Railroad ran from the Western Maryland tracks at New Oxford to East Berlin, but if you wanted to go to Hampton, as I did, you would take the mail stage. It wasn’t really a full-fledged stagecoach—just a covered spring-wagon with boards for seats, but the driver was a pleasant man and the fare was only 15 cents and you had the privilege of arriving in town along with the morning mail.

Here is a map of the railroad route Henry took from York to East Berlin. I’ve highlighted the route on this section of an 1895 Railroad Map. Railroads in red are those under control of the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR). Those railroads not under PRR control are in black. Henry was traveling on railroads consolidated into the Western Maryland Railway System between York and Berlin Junction; located just before reaching New Oxford. In Berlin Junction, Henry would have changed trains to travel to East Berlin, on the East Berlin Railway. The final four miles to Hampton were on the mail stage.

1895 Rail Road Map of Pennsylvania (Source: Library of Congress)

Continuing with Henry’s letter:

I wonder if it would be possible, these days, to find any place in the world as untroubled and as unhurried as Hampton seemed to be then—no roaring trucks, no screaming tires, no wailing sirens—only the pleasant clip-clop of hoofs upon the soft country roads as the townspeople and the farmers drove here and there upon their several errands.

I remember one evening shortly after nightfall we were all sitting on the side porch looking across the meadows toward town when a pair of headlamps showed up on the road. The conversation stopped as we all watched the progress of the headlamps in the darkness. Then my grandmother spoke up:

“That,” she said, “must be Doc Spotz. His has lights.”

I tell you this story just to show you how the automobile, which had already started to worry the police and the lawmakers in York, hadn’t made much of an impact up Hampton way, except when one turned up unexpectedly to frighten the wits out of the horses.

And, by the way, the “Doc Spotz” my grandmother referred to was the late Dr. G. Emanuel Spotz, who shortly was to leave Hampton and come to York, where for many years he enjoyed a wide practice. If I remember correctly, he had his offices in the Lehmayer building on East Market street. I’m pretty sure this is so, because I often used to see him in the elevator when I was on my way up to the third floor to see what was new in the offices of the York Chamber of Commerce.

But as I was saying before I got sidetracked—

Spending two weeks vacation on a farm is a very fine and healthful thing and a city boy is bound to learn a lot of things he didn’t know before. One of the things I learned—the hard way—is that you can’t take a calf for a walk on a leash as you can a dog. I tried it. It just won’t work.

Well, this is the way it happened. I was out in the barn one afternoon currying the cows—an occupation which the farm folks regarded as silly but which the cows seemed to enjoy—when I decided it would be nice to take one of the calves for a walk. I picked a nice big one and untied his rope from the stanchion and said, “Come on, boy.” Boy came, but he came too fast. The rope snapped out of my hand and before I could pick myself up out of the straw that calf was running and bawling around out in the barnyard. I guess, maybe, he was looking for his mamma.

I don’t know whether that calf outweighed me or not, but I know he had a lot more traction than I had, because he dragged me around that barnyard half a dozen times before I finally euchred him back into the cow stable and got my end of the rope tied to the stanchion again. I had to take my bath and change my clothes out in the yard that evening, because you know how a fellow looks and smells after being dragged around a barnyard by a contrary calf.

After that episode, I have never had any qualms about eating veal. Signed: Henry.

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